I do not own and have no rights to Kristen Britain's published work. Green Rider and its universe belongs in its entirety to her. I have nothing but enjoyment from playing in her world. Thank you, Ms. Britain!
She tried to sit up, but bumped her head on stone. She explored around herself with her hands. Smooth, cold stone all around her. She was enclosed in a rectangular box.
Seized by panic she screamed, kicking and hitting the sides of her prison despite her broken wrist. Warm blood trickled down her forearms from shredded knuckles. No one responded to her cries for help. She tried to force herself to calm down, her breathing ragged.
She would suffocate, expire in some unknown tomb. No one would ever know what happened to her, or where to look. Was she still in Blackveil? Elsewhere? What had the shattering of the looking mask done with her?
Taking another shuddering breath, she realized she probably would never find out.
-excerpt from Kristen Britain's "Blackveil", pp 663
Her father would be beside himself with grief when he found out she was missing. He might hold out hope of finding her for a little while, but eventually he would have to acknowledge that she was dead. She had never really been open with him about her life as a Green Rider and now she would never get that chance. Remembering the letter she left for him was cold comfort.
The Clan legacy would die with her as well, for he had no other heirs to continue his business. His grief might even turn to anger against the Riders and the Crown that she served. Hot tears seeped slowly down her cheeks. Surely Captain Mapstone would persuade her father that anger was useless? Karigan had agreed to go of her own free will after all.
"Come back safely, Rider. To me." King Zachary's last words whispered in her memory and with a low cry of anguish, Karigan pushed away all thoughts of him. She couldn't bear to think of him right now. It hurt too much.
Other faces crowded into her thoughts and she wondered if they might miss her when she was dead. Garth, Tegan, Connely, Dale...even Fergal. She would miss seeing him reunite with his Rider colt and watching their bond form. She would miss coaxing Mara out into public. Would she continue training at staves with Donal? What of Brienne and Fastion? They were the first Weapons to call her sister-at-arms. She thought of the Captain next, and all of the ways that woman guided and protected the Riders under her command. She would miss Captain Mapstone. She would miss them all.
For the first time since descending the D'Yer Wall into Blackveil Forest, Karigan thought about her best friend Estral and the bond she had found with Alton. A sluggish ghost of the old hurt curled up around her heart, but for a change she was able to think through the pain. It wasn't so much the fact that they found love with each other that hurt so much. It was Estral's betrayal of her confidences and Alton's desire to hide the relationship from her that had hurt so badly. She hoped that they would forgive her childish behavior at the Wall and not grieve too long nor feel too guilty. Maybe they would comfort each other.
Hazily, she realized that it was getting harder for her to breath. The air was still and stale. Her breaths rasped in the dark silence. Karigan could not remain calm any longer. She started to cry out and scream again, kicking and hammering against the stone walls of her prison again. The wounds on her legs broke open again and new ones opened on her knees and elbows, but she could not make herself stop this time. She was going to die in this box, but she did not have to die quietly. She scrubbed her cheek roughly on her shoulder. Something scratched her chin; her brooch. Would her brooch one day find its way back to the Riders?
Her movements became slower and more sluggish, her screams quieter. Her thoughts felt muffled, as if a dense blanket had been thrown on top of them. She was close to the end, then. Her eyes drooped shut and a few more tears trickled down her face. Here at the end she could no longer repress her thoughts of the one she loved. Zachary's serious almond-shaped eyes gazed at her sadly in her memories. If her letter to her father brought little comfort, at least her letter to her king brought some peace. He would finally know that she returned his feelings. She imagined a rare smile curving his lips as he read her revelations, only to see his face crumble with grief as he remembered that she was lost to him. No, Zachary, she tried to say. You mustn't grieve for me.
Karigan, you must come back. To me, he pleaded. Her eyes were so heavy. She could no longer to lift them up to look at him. Karigan!
Goodbye, Zachary, she sighed in her mind. I love you so much. Know that I love you.
"Karigan!" the cry seemed a little less far away this time. Curiosity stirred, but she just did not have the energy to find out what he wanted. With a little sigh, she heard the last of the air leave her lungs and felt Westrion's wings open up to enfold her again. Don't leave me this time, she thought.
Love washed over her, along with regret. I have never left you, the great clarion voice whispered deep in her heart. I will never leave you. You are not yet done with the mortal world, child of mine. There was a final feeling of comfort before even that left her and she felt nothing.
Lhean worked his way over the rubble as quickly as he dared. He carried his muna'riel with him, of course, but the light only served to make the broken stones cast deep shadows that even his keen vision could not easily penetrate. He paused for a moment at the base of a cracked column, listening for another sound to let him know where his companion was. He was positive it was Karigan. It sounded like she was in trouble or in pain. Given her wounds and his observations of her character during their journey, Lhean would not be surprised if both were true. The human woman was ridiculously prone to finding herself in dangerous situations.
"Karigan!" he called again. "Karigan! If you hear me, call out!" His only answer was dirt sifting through the dim glow of the moonstone. He turned, holding his hand up high so he could see as much as possible. He was evidently underground somewhere, among ruins hundreds of years old. The floor was natural stone. In some places it was worked smooth and in some places left rough, but everywhere it was covered in a deep layer of dust and dirt. There was no life flowing down here to attune himself with. It was a worrisome sign.
He turned again, trying vainly to determine where he had heard Karigan's cries. At the very edge of the circle of light, a massive wall stood. Rising up from the moving shadows, a carving of the human's Death God and his steed stared out over the ruins. At the base of that carving stood a plain, unornamented tomb of smooth stone. Karigan's gift was to stand on the threshold between the layers of the world. Could her brooch have taken her here, to this place of death?
He rushed through the ruins. There was no sign of anyone inside, but Lhean could feel the faint ribbon of mortal life fading from the waking world. If she were not inside, it was too late to find her. He braced his back against the carved wall and settled both feet on the edge of the tomb's lid. Dust fell around him from the wall, and he spared a moment to thank Laurelyn that the wall was not in as much disrepair as the rest of the stonework. Slowly, he increased the amount of pressure he was putting on the stone, until it felt like his back might become a part of the wall itself. With a heavy scraping moan, the lid slid back several inches.
Not pausing to catch his breath, the Eletian shone his muna'riel inside. The light illuminated Karigan laying motionless inside. "Karigan!" She was not breathing, but he could see that blood still seeped sluggishly from the worst of her wounds. Life had not completely left her yet. He managed to shove the lid back another inch, but then ran out of leverage.
Casting around for something solid enough to use as a lever, his eye fell on the staff under the Rider's body. Lhean eyed it. He did not want to touch that staff, to feel the death flowing through it. Was it not bad enough they were in a place of death already? He longed for the life and light of his forest. There was nothing else to use, though. He could leave the Rider in her tomb or he could free her.
Karigan had chosen to save what she could of his people in Argenthyne. He would not do less.
Taking a deep breath, he braced himself and grasped her staff. He had just enough room to get the staff out through the opening he had already made. With the staff as leverage, it was just the work of a moment to slide back the lid enough to free Karigan. He slid her out as carefully as possible, although there was no way to avoid breaking open some of her wounds and making the others worse. He lay her out on the floor next to the tomb. He pressed very firmly on her chest before leaning over and sharing his own breath with her. After a moment, he pressed on her chest again, then gave her another breath.
All of a sudden, Karigan started choking as she tried to breath on her own. The fit subsided on its own, but fresh tears of pain welled up in her eyes. She shielded her eyes from the light of the moonstone. "Westrion?"
Lhean couldn't help but sigh. He would never understand humans. "No, Galadheon. I am Lhean."
"Oh." After a moment, she pushed herself up to sit against the tomb. "I thought I was dead. How did you find me? Where are we? When are we?" She watched as the Eletian started to catalog her injuries. His face remained as serene as ever, but she had some sense of him after their journey and she could feel the concern he had for her as he started to bind the worst of the wounds.
"A valid concern, especially with you," he said dryly. "However, I believe we are in the proper time and somewhere in Sacoridia."
"How do you know..?" She clamped her mouth shut as he pointed to the giant carved wall depicting Westrion and Salvistar.
"As for how I found you," Lhean continued, "I heard you screaming. I almost did not reach you in time. You were not breathing when I pulled you out of his tomb." He yanked out a large shard of the looking mask from her calf and wrapped a dirty piece of cloth around it. Neither of them had anything resembling clean bandages.
"It may still be too late," she said. She could almost feel the blood leaving her body, although she was too cold and numb to really feel anything except the fiery pain radiating from her wrist and thigh. With his help, she managed to get to her feet. A few careful steps proved that she could walk so long as she could lean on her staff. Not for the first time during this journey, she blessed the Black Shields for their gift.
"What will be, will be, Galadheon," Lhean said softly. "You have already given the Eletians the greatest gift any of us could imagine. I will not leave you now."
Karigan felt her throat close up. "Thank you," she forced past the lump. "I think if you can hold the light I can follow your lead. Do you have any idea of which way to go?" Silence was her only answer.
The Eletian started to pick his way slowly across the broken stone. He was careful to slow his pace to something he thought the Green Rider could manage, but she still had a hard time keeping up, especially when they had to scramble over ruins. All around them, heavy layers of dirt proved that this place was lost to mortal memory. Time passed interminably. There was nothing to distinguish one moment from the next and no way to tell how long they had been scrambling in the buried city.
"Enough." Karigan wearily slumped down on a jagged outcropping of rock. "I can't go any further. Go without me."
Without a word, Lhean reached down to haul her to her feet. With his support on one side and the staff on the other, she managed to continue limping forward. The whole experience became a living nightmare for Karigan. She felt weaker and weaker and the pain from her shattered wrist grew worse. She knew she had to still be losing blood at an alarming rate. Pretty soon, there would be none left and Karigan would be spread out across these buried ruins for an eternity. She giggled helplessly at the thought. She must be close to death again for something like that to be funny.
She gradually allowed the world to slip further and further away. It hurt less that way, since her body did not really seem to be hers anymore. Maybe she should have stayed in the tomb and let Westrion take her. But he didn't want her yet. Somewhere she found the strength to cry a little bit more over that until the floor fell out from under her and she seemed to float, drifting in a thoughtless haze.
Lhean wrapped both of his arms around her Karigan's waist to help keep her upright. She no longer seemed aware of their surroundings, but she still stumbled forward, following his lead. Their pace slowed to a crawl. The Eletian was badly wounded as well from the breaking of the mask and supporting his weight as well as the Rider's was taking its toll more quickly than he had hoped. If they did not find help soon, they would both die in this forgotten city. He suppressed a shiver. He did not want to die underground surrounded by this unliving stone. Lhean took some comfort in the dim light of his muna'riel, but that too would be gone soon.
"Laurelyn, watch over those you have touched with your light," he murmured, bowing his head in remembrance. Feeling subtly reassured, as he always did after the rote prayer, he continued to support Karigan as they forced their bodies to keep moving.