Elum shivered in reaction to the jolt sent by his sister, Elan, on the invisible canals of light which connected them. Though such transmissions conveyed not words, the sharpness of the emotion, the fear, and the warning caused him to instantly put together what was the matter. The Betrayer was coming, and it was only a matter of moments before he would arrive…
In that same instant, on the canals of darkness, the half-mad human side of Andal heard too a strange call, as of a dark herald announcing a homecoming. Andal knew it meant his own annihilation, and with great force of will, brought his hand up to clutch the handle of his sword. He knew he had only an instant to act…
Seeing this action, and not knowing whether Andal or the Betrayer was in control, Elum notched and let fly an arrow on instinct, with a silent prayer that his aim be true at such a short distance.
In the time it took to notch and release, Andal had unsheathed his sword, and in one single movement severed the tendon behind the knee of Delroy who stood close by, facing away from him. The Betrayer, Andal realized with horror, as if watching from far away, had now full hold of him.
The arrow, whose aim was of course true, did not find its mark however. For the magician Morbat, moving faster than the eye, had closed the gap, and caught the shaft in mid-flight with one hand. Lifting up the other, he broke it in half before Delroy had even let out his cry of pain, and fallen to the ground.
Delrin screamed out, “No!” but did not resist when Elum grabbed and turned her, and forcibly shoved her forward into flight, yelling to cut through her shock, “Run!”
She did just that, and disappeared off-stage. Elum stayed to face the Betrayer who had now horrible and full control of Andal, her father’s former Best Men. The main lights went down, then, and special fires lit around the stage itself. The orchestra paused, and when the last fire was lit, deep horns rang out, reverberating from the orchestra pits on down into the tunnels connecting to the Hypogeum.
Elum on-stage began to circle his opponents, who at this time included in their number Morbat, who stood fully taller than two men, great long white cloak illumined spectacularly by fires on all sides, Andal Betrayer, and the three remaining special guardsmen. The guards, as they pivoted in opposition to Elum, around the central axis of Morbat, and the satellite of Andal, removed their armor and helmets, revealing dark tattered robes, with hoods which they drew up over their faces, as they transitioned into echoes of the one true Betrayer, and arrayed themselves on-stage to box Elum in to meet his doom.
At length, Delroy, who suffered gravely under his wound, spoke up.
“Stop this madness at once!”
His suffering voice lifted haltingly to song, and a quartet of strings broke away from the main orchestra, which died down so they could accompany him.
“I can see now,” he sang.
“That this supposed Great Magician
has not kept his word
and is in league with Dark Forces
which care nothing for lives of men.”
Elum, Andal, and the three other Betrayers continued in their silent circular march, eyeing each other, weapons at the ready.
“I, who have opened my storehouses,” Delroy sang.
“I, who have opened my heart.
Riches untold have been granted to me,
And none so dear as my daughter,
Who flees now from darkness into darkness.
I call on thee, Great Magician,
To remember the oath that we two both
Swore under the antlers of Anthuor.
The terms of the contract are fulfilled.
True love has been found.
The obligations unbound.
Go, ye, in peace, now,
You and your dark allies.”
And pronouncing these words, Delroy fainted straight away.
In this moment, two of the guardsmen-turned-Betrayers managed to get behind Elum, and seize him by the arms.
Morbat, who stood taller than two men, then boomed out his song in response in a marvelous basso profundo.
“Yea, though we swore by Anthuor, who withstands,
There dwell other powers in the Hypogeum.
We who traverse those realms
Know the power of the Changer.
It is Wormwood, not I,
Who released the Deviation.
No vows were broken.
And the clause becomes invalid
Should True Love vanish
Not by my own hand.”
Andal then, as Betrayer, closed on Elum, and raised the point of his sword to the woodsman’s throat, set to pierce it and end his life.
Suddenly, from atop the palace, Delrin’s voice rang out, clear and true, as an enormous torch sprang to life up there to illuminate her.
She sang out, to the sweet accompaniment of flute and lyre:
“Hear, o Morbat,
Who dwells in falsehood,
Who lies about what his eyes can see.
The light of True Love
Cannot be extinguished even in death.
Harm the woodsman,
And I’ll throw myself from this bridge,
Into the weeping waters.
Let him live,
And I’ll consent to marry you.”
While Morbat stood there a moment contemplating, there was heard a whoosh, and seen a white flash, and from the sky descended Lux, the owl of Elum, diving, and swooping her wings about the ears and head of Andal Betrayer. In that moment of shock, the man inside Andal managed for a moment to wrest control from the Betrayer, whipping his arms about, turning, and struck Morbat. Morbat stood motionless and as the tip of the sword touched his garment, Andal was turned to stone. The actor who played him stood motionless, stuck in his attack position. And as this transition was complete, the Betrayer was forced to flee his body, and the spell holding the guardsmen under the sway of the Betrayer broke, and the actors playing the three echoes of the Betrayer tumbled to the stage as though dead.
Morbat then seemed to rise up even taller, and though Lux dove and attacked his long animal face, the magician batter the bird away, advancing on Elum.
Delrin cried out, arms waving wildly about, as if thrown off balance. She had accidentally stepped halfway into one of the traps laid earlier by Morbat himself, and being thrown off balance, tumbled from the palace, where she was caught by strong actors below.
Elum screamed, “No!” and ran toward the place on the rocks where she had fallen from into the Weeping Waters below.
“If you jump, you will surely die,” sang Morbat.
“And if you don’t, I will kill you just the same.
Either way, I will be avenged of my loss,
Even if it means destroying this accursed city
And all those who dwell there.”
By the time he had finished speaking, though, Elum long since dove from the cliff into the falls far below to follow his True Love. And Lux followed close behind.