Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
Whitewall - The Opener of the Ways
"It is a betrayal and a misdeed." said the Soldier.
"It is an obedience and a display of loyalty," replied the Artist.
"But She has been here ever since Helamakt raised the Tor. She had been nothing but helpful to us. If it wasn't for Her aid we would never have mapped the tunnels and caverns we have so far. Our first scouting party would have been lost forever down there in that maze," said the Soldier.
"Exactly," retorted the Artist. "She is far too helpful and indiscriminate in her help. I will not risk the integrity of my masterwork. No one else will ever get Her help in finding their ways through the tunnels. Remember your oaths and do your duty." Saying this the Artist reached inside his volumnious robes and drew out a long iron key. He held it out to the Soldier.
The Soldier straightened his shoulders and asked another question. "What is that?"
The Artist tossed it up and caught it with the same hand, obviously pleased, as always with his own cleverness. "Why it's a Key of course. Keys may be used to lock things as well as open them." He held the Key out again. "Take it and do your duty."
The Soldier took the Key which weighed even more than its material or size would have suggested. He looked down at it and noticed that the end which would normally go into a lock was pointed and jagged. Strange runes scarred the sides and his magical senses shuddered at what they sensed within it. His hand tightened around the Key and he turned to the Artist. "I shall do this. But this is the end of it. No more oaths between me and you. No more deeds either."
The Artist nodded tight lipped before saying, "So be it." He ostentatiously turned his back on the Soldier. "Now go and do it."
The Soldier made his way through the tunnels burdened by this duty and the Key alike. He followed the green thread that She had showed them how to lay, heart heavy. The threads ran all through the caverns and enabled the workers to travel safely. Higher up in the Tor the tunnels were known and marked and it was impossible to get lost. Not so deep within the Tor where you could still hear the Sea and smell the salt. He shuddered but continued on his way.
Did he notice right away or travel blindly? But there it was, the smell that shouldn't be in this domain of rock and darkness. The scent of dune flowers and rain. There She was in the light of his magic lantern. To the eye she appeared to be a beautiful young woman but he knew better. She was a spirit of the Earth who had moved in ages ago after Helamakt had raised the Tor. She was the only one who knew the twisty tunnels within the Tor. The ones that moved behind you and led you deeper and deeper to some unknown doom. She stood as was Her wont at the intersection of the green threads.
She smiled and danced over to him. "Why so sad?" She asked and She embraced him. He held her tight in his arms and struggled to keep the torrent within. "I am sad because duty is a monster and a man's word can bring him more pain than a heart can hold." She looked puzzled at these words, as She so often was at the words of men, but smiled at him with the love She felt for him. "Is this a burden I can share?" "No. But always remember that I love you." Saying this he held her tight and drove the Key into Her back.
She screamed and with Her inhuman strength threw him away from Her. He was dashed to the ground at Her feet and his lantern hit the ground. He looked at Her in horror as he saw what the Key did. She bent over in pain and he saw the stone begin to creep up Her body covering Her like a shroud. As the stone crept upwards the Key lengthened until it resembled a sword more than a key. She keened as she died and looked at Her betrayer with uncomprehending grief. He noticed out of the corner of his eyes that the threads were writhing like snakes. Starting at her feet they suddenly turned red. The red colour raced along their length consuming the green like wildfire. Off into the dark it raced before the threads crumbled to ash.
He saw Her head sag to Her breast as the stone covered Her. He screamed no and would have risen but his fall had broken something. He stared at Her and surrendered to sorrow. Once he had regained some composure he managed to awkwardly rise and hobbled over to his lantern. He grabbed it and had started to leave the chamber when he stopped suddenly. He threw his head back and laughed bitterly. No more oaths indeed. Oh, the cleverness of the Artist. How well he knew his tools. There was no way he could find his way back without the threads. He was trapped down here. He crumpled at Her feet and reached out his hand to touch Her toes. "I am so sorry. Take me too." And the tears he wept now were of stone and covered him where he lay.
Last updated October 07, 2016
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