The Wolf & The Phoenix.
Springs of Eternity
The red sky rippled with heat as the wall of flames tore through the forest canopy leaving only the neighboring desolate outlands as the last place left to wander.
Against the blaze, a lone silhouette, shaped like a man trudged like something half-dead. A man, obviously on his last moments if he didn’t at least find water. That would buy him some time. Time for what, he wasn’t so sure, as there seemed nothing be desolation in his future.
The man coated in ash and blood, obviously war-torn; that tattered leathers that hung from his shoulders and waist were going to do nil against the ominous sun that still pressed its unforgiving heat through the glowing red sky.
Chance offered fortune, though, as his head hung low in his enervated state and caught sight of a set of large stones at his feet. Growing up in these lands, he knew these potentially held water. Fighting the weight of his weakness he craned down to pick up the stone and using the last of his strength, raised it above his head and bashed it repeatedly against another. Feeling his body on the verge of giving up, he let out a warrior’s cry as he sent the stone down with all he had. There, lie a broken stone with just enough water to wet his mouth. It was fortune indeed, but fortune too late, as he felt his head lighten it the world grow dark as he fell to dry desolate earth into the comfort of death.
Nature seemed to judge him as a dust storm rolled across the desert in his direction. The winds picked up and began to bury his body in the outland’s sands. But fate would meet its match, for there was a being nearby more powerful than death. A rain of scarlet feathers began to whip around him and a slender hand reached down from the cloud of feathers and graced his cheek.
Lyca opened his eyes to the star-filled night sky. Then it disappeared then… reappeared. He noticed that this novel occurrence, as he looked around to see exactly where he might be, was due to some sort of glowing platform he was on. Still in the desert, it seemed to be something not of this world, celestial even. The splotch of light the ground appeared to be made of, would swell in and out in the light it shone, almost as if it were breathing. When the light would die down, thankfully for his eyes able to pierce the dark, unlike the humans ages before him, he could see there was nothing all the way to the silhouettes of the mountain ranges in the east and the shorelines to the west.
To his side, he noticed a small bowl containing only a small heart-shaped locket on a string-thin chain of silver and crimson. Curious, as it felt slightly familiar, he opened it. From it poured light like sand into the bowl and once there became a glowing pool of incandescenti liquid. Lyca, still extremely weak, felt no reason not to consume it. As he did he felt it’s cooling sensation run though his veins and his strength and vigor return.
In his blissful state, he finally turned his attention to just what exactly was with him within the vicinity of the light platform. There, on the other end some 20 feet away, lie a svelte young woman asleep. Her entire body, pale, odd considering this world barely had a place to hide from the sun and the fact her clothing was nothing more than a thin, silken, transparent-garment and red feathers sparsely laid about her dress and long red hair. She was beautiful, but something else pulled at Lyca. Though, the substance from the locket had returned his vigor, his hunger pained him still. Where Lyca came from, desperate times made the definition of what was “food” much broader than when he was a child.
Furtively, he lie low and moved forward while unlatching a makeshift weapon from the back of his waist and fit it to his hand. A glove of 8-inch claws of bone and metal. He was obvious hunter, with his efficient movement and eyes never leaving his aim.
As he stood over her, he paused for a moment as if her face, at a closer glance, awoke a memory jarring him out of his animalistic state. It was almost as if… he knew her.
The brief hesitation was his folly, for Para’s eyes shot open, and as if her dreams had lent her in on what was happening, she reflexively sent her heel into his stomach launching Lyca to the other edge of the platform, which was now breathing its glow more rapidly than it’s calm steady pace up to this point.
Winded and frustrated, he tried getting up but Para, standing over him, gave him pause, “What happened to you, Lyca?”
Lyca, bewildered, “Do I know you?”
Para looked ominous in the breathing light with her intrepid gaze steady on Lyca, dismantling his preconceived notions of not just that she’d be easy prey, but easy for anything at all.
“Yes.” Para said sternly. Then she turned away and as she walked towards the edge of the light, Lyca could hear her voice almost crack with penetrating sadness,“At least you use to.”
Lyca genuinely curious, searched his mind in earnest.
Para, without missing a beat, said pointedly,
Lyca was putting it together.
Their reticence swelled the space between them.
Para finally spoke, “You once saved and protected me. You saved me from your father and uncle. When we were children.”
Lyca’s expression grew with slight astonishment, “The arrow took you down from the sky?”
Para, in melancholy, “Yes.”
Lyca in gobsmacked revelation, “The Phoenix. Para?”
“Yes.” Para said. “You found me before they could after they had shot me down. You brought me in to your secret underground hideout and took care of me until I could fly again.”
Lyca with a growing warmth in his voice, “You took 3 months to show me that you could change into a human.” Para still with her back to Lyca, looking out into the darkness, “I had to know I could trust you.”
Lyca, “I thought I’d proved that on the first day.” Para with a bit of consternation, “You’re people weren’t exactly the most affable. Barbaric actually.”
Lyca cast a sharp retort, “They were always just doing what they thought best.”
Para now seemed to be growing with impatience, “You’re still on their side.”
“What?” Lyca said, crossed.
“You don’t remember the words you said to me the last day you saw me?”
“I had no choice.” Lyca declared now in full comprehension of what she was referencing.
Para’s, eyes welling up, shouted, “You don’t tell someone you care about that you were only pretending to like them the entire time, and tell them they aren’t worth being in your presence, Lyca!”
“They would have killed you and me if they found you. I had to make sure you left and never came back!”, Lyca returned with the same intensity.
Now the platform’s light had grown red and rapidly breathing and increasing its pace each time Para spoke.
“Do you even hear yourself?! They would have killed YOU! You were siding with the people that don’t even care about you over someone who’d give their life for you and you’re still defending them now!” Para was now seething. Flames swirled in her yes and her dress seemed to be caught by a wind as her hair waved upward and a flame began to encircle her body.
“You hurt me, Lyca. And all I did was—“
Lyca quickly truncated her statement, “NO! No, I’m not dealing with this, I don’t know what you did to keep me alive, but it’s not worth this. I’m leaving!”
With that, Lyca marched off the platform and into the endless dark desert. Cold immediately hit his body, but he did not care. He trudged on in a huff. He could hear Para shouting.
“Lyca! You can’t! Lyca, You’ll die! LYCA!!!”
Now a good 50 yards away, Lyca was met with the unexpected, as his leg felt a terribly tight clenching onto it. He looked down to find a half-dead hand broken through the earth and had chosen him as its first creature to prey upon.
In shock and anger, Lyca screamed swiping his clawed glove across the ground severing the arm.
Not a moment later he heard the soft crunch of sand behind him. He quickly turned around to see an undead human. It’s eyes were large and completely paled over, scowling as if anger was all it knew. It let out a hellacious cry that was a mix of a wounded fawn and angry bear. It’s mouth animatedly grew to an unnatural size with it’s jaw dropping, dead-weighted, to the ground creating a void within his maw sucking in all around him. Within it’s gale, Lyca’s glove went with it and into the undead’s abyss. Then Lyca began to be taken into the void. Other undead began to close in on Lyca as he screamed and for the first time, Lyca felt true terror.
But in a flash, a strip of fire blazed a trail through them and in a blink, Lyca found himself back on the lighted platform in Para’s arms. Para out of breath tears on her cheeks.
Lyca exasperated from all that just happened, got up on his knees to thank para who was leaning on one hand growing weary.
“Para.” Lyca said in gratitude. “I didn’t know.”
Sorrowfully Para proclaimed, “The undead have come.”
Lyca mystified, “I don’t understand—“
Para’s last bit of strength waned as she slumped to the ground the platform’s light blue and dim. Lyca dismayed, cradled her in his lap.
Para, pulling all her strength together to speak, continued, “We don’t have much time. We’re the last people on this world, Lyca. There’s nothing left. Hell is rising and there is only one thing that can stop it. I brought you here to keep you safe you with the last of my powers of protection.”
Lyca in epiphany, “This light?”
Para nodded, “Yes it’s the only way you can stay alive, and they can’t enter it, but it won’t be here for much longer, because… neither will I.”
“Para?” Lyca said crestfallen.
Para continued, “The locket…”
Lyca his eyes welling up refusing to break, “What was it?”
Para continued her voice weakening, “The locket was the gift you gave me when we were children. Inside it… my soul… for you… It’s what gave you this night with me. I wanted us to have one last moment together; because I know you’re still the boy I once knew, and you are the man I am thankful to know. You’re people led you astray, but I know you were the last good man on Earth.
Lyca’s lips began to quiver and a tear left his eye landing on Para’s cheek.
Sorrowfully, “I’m so sorry, Para.”
Breathlessly, “You already have my forgiveness. It’s what the locket was for, and it’s all we need I this world for it to continue.
Lyca leaned in to kiss her forehead then to her lips embracing her deeply tears streaming down both their faces. The light began to flicker as Para’s last breath was leaving and the un-dead could be heard closing in she said to Lyca one last time.
“I’ve always loved you.”
With that flames bloom of flame burst around them and rocketed through the desert in all directions obliterated they dead nearby.
As the rumble of the rolling flame tapered off. The light was now gone and two bodies made of ash, lie in the darkness of an empty world, embracing each other as a if they were a monument to what was once was, when the world was merry.