I saved my most beautiful topic for today, the final entry in Emmeline’s tale. It’s been an intense 31 days, possibly the most consistently intense 31 days in my life. But I’m glad I’ve done it. It proves a point that in the strangest and simplest of words, topics and themes, that there is always a story to be told. So here we are at the final chapter, about to share our goodbyes over Fee’s subject of the universe.
To repeat, this is Day 31, the last entry. I don’t know why my silly wordpress thinks I published it before The daughter of sacrifice, which you should read first if you haven’t! ^_^ (If you are joining Emmeline’s story today, welcome! It might help for you to begin here.)
A universe without magic. J R Manawa.
Emmeline opened her eyes as the knife came down and watched it halt over her heart. The full moon had reached its zenith in the sky, and Melek stopped to watch as the storm on the stone table exploded, upward and out. The universe tore open and the gap between worlds was revealed, a split of both darkness and light, of nothing and everything all at once.
Melek smiled with wild delight and exultation as he threw Emmeline down onto the stone table.
“You want to know why you were protected for so long, child?” he asked as he gloated over her, holding the knife up to her throat. He did not wait for her to answer, “Erebus knew that the gate was one way, but he never told his son why. When Charon’s soul ferries me across the river between your world and mine, he will cease to exist.”
“You said you killed him,” Emmeline said, between her teeth.
Melek smiled, “I ripped out his eyes. I never said I killed him.”
His words brought a shock of life to her heart. The shock went out from her, and the force of it hit him hard enough that he took a step back.
“Hope,” he muttered with disgust, “will not save you.”
Thinking of teddy bears and exploding crows, Emmeline pushed against Melek’s power again.
Again it took him by surprise, and he stepped back once more. Emmeline could not see it as she advanced on him, but behind her the tear between the worlds had begun to grow.
What she did see, was someone entering the circle of standing stones behind Melek. It was the same drunkard she and Thomas had avoided in the dark on their way up the hill. But now as he stumbled and crawled forward, bereft of magic and the power of his own soul, Emmeline knew who it was.
“Charon!” she screamed, and he began to stumble toward her voice.
Melek turned to see, and his grey lips widened into a hideous smile as he neared the stone table. Utilising her father’s distraction, Emmeline jumped off the table and let out another rush of power. This time she forced it straight at him.
This time also, he fought back. Emmeline was knocked off her feet and he fell upon her in an instant, his knife held high. She was small and weak beneath him but she fought with everything in her, struggling to keep the knife at bay. The entire force and weight of his power was crushing her soul and her will to fight. He had power over anything he touched, and she knew she had to get away.
She turned her head so not to be sickened by the smile in his eyes, and in the grass she saw Thomas stir.
He was alive.
With an angry cry, she push the knife away and flattened her body against the ground. When he came to strike her again, she threw the force within her up towards him, fighting his power like she had fought with the eater. He was flung off her, but she wasn’t strong enough to hurt him.
She ran back to the stone table just as Charon reached it. Without hesitating, she pulled the hood from his head so she could see him. Where his eyes had been, he’d wrapped a strip of his shirt to cover the wound.
“Why did you do it? Why!” Emmeline shouted at him, angry and heart-broken all at once. She placed her hands carefully on either side of his head and held him, but he did not respond. Instead, he pushed her away and began to crawl across the stone toward the tear in the world. “Charon? Charon!” she cried to him, but he did not listen.
In one last desperate attempt that he would know her, she pulled him back and took his face in her hands again, and she kissed him.
His lips were cold and dead against hers. He was gone.
She stood up and stepped backward from the stone in shock.
Blinding pain hit her body, radiating from her left shoulder as Melek’s knife pierced her from behind and ran clean through. She looked down in surprise at the tip of the blade. The pain was excruciating and sudden.
Melek held her firmly as she swooned. She could feel the throb of her own heart shuddering in her chest. He had missed it, but only just. Forcing her toward the table, he pulled the knife out.
She screamed in pain.
Charon had disappeared from her sight. She fought hard with the pain to keep her grasp on consciousness as Melek came down over her one last time with his knife.
Despite the brokenness and pain, she forced all her disorganised emotions into one messy ball inside her, and mustering every last moment of strength she retaliated against the knife as it came down.
The knife exploded, and so did Melek’s arm.
He screamed in agony, but Emmeline had heard a different sound that drew her attention, footsteps on the stone. She looked up, and Charon was standing above her.
“Emmeline,” he said, reaching a hand down to help her.
“Charon!” Melek screamed as he closed in on them, the tattered shreds of his left arm hanging uselessly from his shoulder. “There is nothing you can do now. I have spilt her blood, I have opened the gateway. My price has been paid!” he raised his right hand and threw lightning at them, as he had done to Thomas. Emmeline ducked, but Charon caught it full and confidently in his open palm, buckling under the power of it. But he withstood.
“I am not carrying you home,” Charon said, stepping down off the stone, “and I am not watching you end her life,”
“You cannot stop me!” Melek shrieked. His body had began to shudder and deteriorate before them.
“You’re right, I probably can’t, but I just don’t think you are going to be able to kill her,” he put an arm around Emmeline to help keep her up.
“She will die.”
“I refuse to die,” Emmeline replied flatly, griping the edge of the stone for support.
Melek hit back with another jolt of power, which Emmeline returned ferociously despite the pain she felt. It knocked him over the stone, and he stumbled closer to the gap in the universe. He laughed at his success and threw himself into it.
“No!” Emmeline screamed, but Charon held her back.
As Melek fell into the gap, the world shuddered. The gap shrunk and then expanded, and they watched as Melek exploded within it.
The gap did not close, instead it grew larger.
And Melek was gone.
Emmeline looked to Charon for confirmation, “Is he?”
“Gone.” Charon replied.
“He could not cross the gap without using both your soul and mine to do it. He may have shed your blood, but he didn’t kill you, and I already took my soul back,”
Emmeline nodded mutely, and then collapsed into him.
“It’s over,” he said confidently, resting his chin on her head as he held her.
It was only a moment before Emmeline forced herself up again and looked into his face. “Your eyes,” she said. They were healed, but the storm was gone. They were black and dark, and empty.
He smiled and pulled her in toward him. This time he kissed her, and his lips against hers were soft and full of life. She kissed him back, but only for a moment before he pulled away.
He looked up at the widening gap between worlds and pointed at the cataclysm of light and dark within it. “My eyes are in there,” he said softly. “Once the gate has been opened it won’t close until I pass through.”
“So the gate is actually you?” she asked.
“Sort of, yes. And if it does not return to me, the gap will continue to grow and swallow everything,” he replied.
“You have to go back.”
“Will you return?” she asked, feeling it was an innocent question.
He bit his lip before he replied, “Not for some time no, and not to this same place in time.”
Emmeline glared at the gap in the universe. “What is the point of all this then? Why is there even a gate?”
Charon shrugged again, “I really don’t know, but without a bit of magic your world would seem a little dull and boring, wouldn’t it? I’ve seen the legends and fairy tales we create fuel your human imaginations with fire throughout every age of this world. Every good story comes from somewhere, and what would a world be, without stories to be told?”
Emmeline sighed, and took a step back from him. “Well I guess this is good bye then,” she said, squeezing her shoulder to stifle the pain.
“You won’t come with me?” he asked.
Emmeline’s mouth dropped open, just a little, “You want me to come?”
“If you want,”
She turned to look back at Thomas, Poppy and Gulliver. Thomas was well enough that he had crawled over and untied Poppy and Gulliver. With Melek’s death, the force keeping them unconscious had passed.
“I would never be able to come back,” she said, turning back to Charon.
He shrugged, and offered for her to take his hand.