Home > Darklight 7: Darkfall

Darklight 7: Darkfall
Author: Bella Forrest

1

 

 

Lyra

 

 

It was surreal to be back inside Un’s estate. Only this time, Dorian and I were here as guests.

Strange. We seemed to have a knack for turning organizations over to our side. The arbiters were not unlike the human institutions we’d had to convince in the past.

About half of the arbiters who had been at the cliffside after the dramatic end of our final Games were here. We sat around a long table inside a fancy dining chamber. One of Un’s many rooms, it boasted gold crown molding and pastel pink wallpaper. The cherub proxies floated aimlessly in the background. One plucked a strange instrument that looked like a tall, incredibly elongated harp. Xiu gave the devilish cherub a weary look.

“That’s quite enough,” Xiu said. Un snapped his fingers, and the cherub stopped its plucking. “We’ve gathered here, thanks to Un’s generosity, to further discuss our plans for moving forward. It’s considerably more comfortable than staring at the vortex with gnawing dread pushing us to the verge of irrational thought.”

Dorian, Ruk, and I sat at the head of the table beside Xiu. Sen sat across from us, along with Un and Pik. Xiu had kept her humanoid form. Her ethereal beauty and firm voice made every arbiter, orb, and humanoid at the table pay attention. Some appeared to have been shocked into silence by what we’d witnessed at the edge of the Higher Plane.

It was incredible to me that we’d managed to transition from a near-death victory to a seat at the head of the table. The arbiters had refused to listen to us for so long, but we’d finally managed to demand their attention and convince them of the terrible state of the interdimensional tear. It was a vortex that grew with each passing moment. Even if time moved strangely in the Higher Plane, the tear melded all the realms together. The Higher Plane could no longer ignore it.

Dorian’s hand squeezed my knee reassuringly under the table. This was worrying. Even though we had won the Games, solved Ruk’s debt problem, and gained the promise that the arbiters would send us back to the lower planes in order to stop the Immortal Council… we still needed to iron out the details of returning home. I’d been so focused on our trials in the Higher Plane that the actual task of defeating the Immortal Council loomed larger than ever as it came back with a vengeance.

Xiu spread her arms.

“We need to discuss the support that we’ll be offering the mortals,” she announced. “Starting with these.” Two small trays materialized before us. They floated a few inches above the glossy surface of the table. On each tray sat a necklace, a metal cord that fastened with a sturdy-looking clasp. They looked more akin to collars, judging by the length. I raised a brow at Xiu, though she probably wouldn’t even understand why that was insulting.

"You've learned to harness extraordinary abilities in the Higher Plane as lower beings, but those powers will slip away when we send you to the lower planes. We've all discussed how best to support you in your effort to quash the brewing war in the lower planes while still maintaining our position in the Higher Plane. We’ve come up with a few ideas." I eyed the other arbiters, wondering if they’d decided all this at the cliffside, or just now. “We can’t all go down there ourselves, due to the Separation, but we can send part of the Higher Plane with you. We can only spare enough energy to allow one arbiter to go with Ruk.”

Dorian rolled his shoulder, flexing his newly healed body. They’d fixed us up good as new after the Games. “Ruk, these aren’t secretly shock collars, right?”

Ruk gave an amused smirk. “Not a chance. Xiu speaks the truth, from what I can tell. It’s excellent craftsmanship.” He looked right at home with his fellow arbiters at the moment. Indeed, he crossed his arms and gave the necklaces a look of approval.

“You’re welcome,” Krysh said with a secretive smile. “I had copious amounts of study notes to draw from after watching you in the Games.”

Sen leaned forward in her chair, still in humanoid form with a bald head and sea-green skin. “Put them on,” she urged. I reached for mine. If Sen and all the other arbiters were excited, my interest was piqued. I snapped it around my neck. The metal was cool against my skin, but there was a certain comfort to it. I glanced at Dorian.

“Everything okay?” I asked, as he fumbled with the clasp. His clumsiness seemed more about reluctance than dexterity, to me.

He gritted his teeth and shut the necklace. “You’ll forgive me if I’m not keen on necklaces after our experience in the sanitarium.” He directed his comment more to Xiu and the others. I nodded, understanding completely, but the necklaces gave me a far different vibe than our old shackles. My muscles twitched excitedly as I brushed my fingers over the metal.

“The size is not meant to be restrictive,” Xiu said smoothly. “Just difficult to lose, and difficult for an enemy to try to pry off you, unless by decapitation.” I grimaced at the idea of losing my head. Arbiters were unskilled with human social skills such as… well, not mentioning the potential loss of body parts before sending people off into danger.

Sen eyed me with a dreamy look. “We thought it best to give you each the power you mastered best. Lyra, your use of universal energy seems especially powerful when it comes to your emotions. We want to give you the power to call down weather in the Immortal Plane. You’ll be able to use lightning and wind. We imagine the results will be less colorful than they are here, but equally powerful.”

A rush of exhilaration ran through me. The idea of actually being able to use my weather powers in the Immortal Plane? It was like being handed a new, high-powered gun, except I was the gun.

Dorian smirked. “Not bad.”

“I’m sure you’ll be more than happy with what we’ve gifted you, Dorian,” Xiu said. “You will have the ability to jump distances quickly, the same way you did during your time here in the Higher Plane. It will likely feel akin to teleportation, but there are limits on how far you can travel, just like in the Higher Plane.”

He nodded. “I appreciate it. Thank you for providing us necessary support. It’ll help in our fight against Irrikus and the Immortal Council.”

We need all the help we can get. It was nice to finally have their backing, after our harrowing journey in the Higher Plane. I’d thought this moment would never come.

“We’re satisfied with what we’ve been able to do with these necklaces. It’s of utmost importance that you end the war in the lower planes and restore the balance while we get to work on our problems,” Xiu added. “It’ll be a relief to know that we can count on you. We’ll be able to work on our own vortex tear and the damage to the afterlife entrance from here. I must warn you, there are some limitations to the necklaces. The accessories allow you to gather universal energy while in the Mortal and Immortal Planes, but the powers will be drastically reduced compared to what you’re used to. Furthermore, they will drain your own energy when used, so reserve them for emergencies.”

That made sense. But why not just use their amazing powers to alter us directly? “Is there a reason you don’t want to change us? Like you mentioned, it seems a little risky to put these kinds of powers into something that can be taken from us.” I paused a beat. “Not that I’m ungrateful. I just don’t understand.” The last thing I wanted to do was offend them now that we were all on the same page.

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