Visir stared at Arstain’s hand, light dancing across the flesh. What was he saying?
“I have crossed The Divide many times before.” Arstain said, trying to convince Visir. “I know its secrets and its subtle mysteries.”
Visir still couldn’t bring himself to speak. He simply stared at the hand. Was he joking? What was he doing?
“Why?” Asked Visir plainly. “Why are you helping me? I was your prisoner just a minute ago.”
“And you’re still my prisoner.” Said Arstain. “I never said you weren’t.”
Visir didn’t respond.
“I want Runir to be free of the Oppressive One and free of this heavy shadow.” Explained the Darkdweller. “That is what I want. To be truly free.”
Visir nodded, “And you will aid me?”
“If I can.” Said Arstain. “And I can start with The Divide.”
Visir looked back into the flames, listening. He did not know if he could trust this man. He did not know anything right now. All he knew was that he had only two options: become captured or trust this man. He did not know what one was better. But he chose to trust.
“The Divide is not what you think.” Arstain began. “It is not a stonewall, it is not a fence, it is not a chasm, it is not a tunnel and it is not guarded.”
“Then why don’t people just walk right through?”
“It is not that simple.” Said Arstain. “The Divide is a single black wall of mist and murk, created by the Oppressive One himself with the dark magic of Vhrra, the Forbidden Magic of the immortal Gods of Shadow. The wall, once inside, torments the mind with memories and thoughts of both future and past. It reveals all the darkest moments of your life and magnifies them ten fold, filling your head with nothing but grief and despair. It shows you the future in the worst ways imaginable, filled with death and tragedy and depression. The Divide is no physical wall, though is one that is mental and seductive.”
“Then how does it kill? What are its secrets?”
“It torments you from within, making one mad with grief and sorrow and despair. Everything bad crumbles down like the weight of the world and your mind is assailed with arrows of self-doubt and depression. The one who enters is usually killed as they pass, driven mad and deranged with the evil magic. Though also once outside, if one survives the mists, the thoughts take hold of them and they kill themselves afterward as the vision of the past and future still hunt them, inevitably to their deaths. The real battle commences when you are on the other side of the Divide, where you must be strong and resilient.”
“And you have crossed through?” Asked Visir, still unconvinced by the man. “You have braved the torments?”
“Many a time.” Said Arstain. “I have crossed over many times before and from it, I have seen many deaths caused by the dark magic infused into the mists. I have watched the gallant and valiant fall to the murk, and I have seen the wise and sagacious die in torment and sorrow. Though I have seen those who survive the Divide and I know the secrets in order to cross and live a while afterwards.”
“And how can I trust that you are not leading me to my imminent death?” Asked Visir.
“You can’t.” Said Arstain. “It is up to you, whether you want to trust me or not. But know only that it is not me who can pull you through, but yourself. Have hope, Visir, have your petty hope.”
Visir knew now he could not trust this man, and he even told him that he couldn’t. But what other way does he have? What else is there for him if not this? How can he stare into his mother’s grey stone eyes in the shrine and explain that he hadn’t tried? He couldn’t.
“When do we leave?” Asked Visir, looking out into the sky, the crimson mists dancing with dark light.
They did not take the horse, Arstain’s orders. Instead, they walked, sweeping through the eternal darkness forever. Visir had never been this far south, and in truth, he had never wanted to be. He had heard stories of strange creatures that patrol the ash and black. He kept a watchful eye out, apprehensive. The red mist drifted through the air like a ghost, whispering ominously. The sounds sifted into his ears and haunted his mind.
Dangling at his left hip, Frostbite still hung in its leather sheathe, his hand cupped around the pommel. He still didn’t trust the Darkdweller. How could he? Visir kept his other eye fixed on Arstain’s shadowy back, watching carefully, hand ready to slid out his blade. The man walked fast, or faster than Visir and his long robes stumbled along the rocky earth, until the rocks faded to a sandy dirt, the fine granules hissing underfoot.
Still, under the grim and omnipresent mantle, everything was black. A constant black, an oppressive black. It weighed down on both mind and body and the snowy ash laid on the shoulders like cool steel. The crimson lightning played eternally though the darkness, their striking blades contorted and beaming with dark light. The spears of light crackled in a grand chorus, piercing the ears and mists. All was dark and black as pitch.
After a long while, when Visir’s legs had grown weary and his face had been cut by thousands of icy needles, he saw it. It was like nothing else he had ever seen before. It was wondrous and marveling, though at the same time it was sinister and foreboding. It was the only thing that could be both. It was the Divide.
Arstain glanced back at Visir, raising his arm. “There is your divide.” He shouted over the song of lightning. “Now come, best not to allow its grandeur to sway you.”
Arstain was right. The Divide must have been a thousand miles tall and a million miles wide. The thing was massive, a thick wall of black magic wreathed in despair and sorrow. Deep red flames swirled like smoke in its heart, glowing darkly. The red vapor of the veil of mist above seeped down into the wall, and the black was a mixture of grey, black, and red. Arstain urged Visir forward, and on. Though as he walked, there was a great force emanating from the black veil, as if pulling him closer. He could not fight it; he simply let it take him.
Arstain looked at Visir. “Do not think of darkness, or that is where you will go.” And he entered into the Divide, his figure eaten by the wall. Visir gulped hard, he thought of running back to Jaahon, to Ioden, to his stone shrine. But he couldn’t. He had to enter. He had to enter, for his mother and for Runir. So he entered.
The vaporous fingers of grey and black mist wrapped around him, the moment he entered. It was a force he had never encountered, it was neither weak nor strong. It was strange, very strange. He stumbled through, blackness consuming his vision and clouding his mind. It felt like he was walking into a wall every second he took another step, the unyielding force slamming into his face like a hammer blow.
It was then when it happened. It came on like nothing, sneaking into his mind like a sly snake. But when it hit, it erupted like a volcano, his mind shattering a thousand different ways. His skin went utterly cool, as if encased in frigid ice. Though he did not shiver, not once. His skin began to fade away, turning grey and grim until a deep and powerful depression settled over his thoughts.
There on the shifting grey ground, he lay, dead. His body was shrunken and mutilated, and his skin was white as bone and his eyes were like black chasms. Though the worst part, he was breathing, trapped by death. He could not escape it, however much he tried to scream and awaken his dead image. He tried to close his eyes from the pain, but in the darkness of his head, beneath his eyelids, he heard his mother cry a shrill and shrieking tone. The voice echoed through his ears, beating like a drum. He shook his head vigorously, trying to be rid of the torments, but they came again.
In the dark swirling mists of the Divide, a shifting image of Runir flickered in an out of light. There were trees growing, and grass swaying in the wind. The sun beamed in the azure sky and there was no dark. Though suddenly, in a fiery destruction, the living things of the land burned and became shrouded in cloaks of ash and shadow, to be forgotten. It was his mother’s worst nightmare. The sun he saw wreathed in a red and black flame and the sky he saw being eaten by a great black cloud of smoke and death. Runir was then plunged into a complete darkness, and it was then Visir screamed a shattering scream, piercing everything around him. He could not take it. He could not handle the pain, the suffering.
All around him images of death and despair and corruption shifted through the oppressive darkness of the Divide. Visir tried as hard as he possibly could to walk, to move, to flinch, but he couldn’t. He was to fall to the ruin so many others had before him. He was to die. He was to fail his mother and fail the land of Runir itself. He was to fail everyone, even himself.
The emotions fell down on him like the earth itself, and he crumbled to his knees, pleading for life, for mercy. The pain seared hotter than white flame and cooler than the coldest ice. How could the gods be so cruel, to let him die, how could they be so merciless? He prayed again and again, all of them fading away in the thick darkness.
Tears rolled down his face like rivers and collected on the misty floor beneath. He could do nothing. Nothing to end his suffering, the suffering of his own visions, his worst nightmares. Wrong, everything was wrong and there was no way to make it right. The images of death sank in, the images of sorrow and despair as well. He saw himself along in the darkness, a mere mound of black sitting there, wasting away. He was nor living nor dead. He was nothing. Not loved, not cared, not remembered. HE was worse then dead, he was forgotten and nothing.
His shuddering knees crumbled beneath him like loose rock and no matter how hard he tried, he still fell, and there he stay, on his stomach, death clawing at his heart. His life was seeping out of his body; he was traveling into the shadow realm, the realm of no return, the realm of eternal blackness.
But was that so bad? He already lived in an eternal blackness. Runir was dead and so were its people. There was no light, no hope, nothing but darkness.
Maybe death wont be so bad, said Visir to himself. Maybe it is my time, maybe I have done all I can, maybe I am done. And so he closer his eyes, with one last breathe, “I know now.” And everything went black in a great flash of blinding white.
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