AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth story in my series and it takes place after The Biggest of Lies, The Darkness Within, Rules of Succession, Origins, and Love Will Leave You Crying. I originally published this story on May 31st, 2001, right after I graduated from high school. This story was inspired by the X-Files episode 6x10 "Tithonus". The main purpose of this story is to examine what would happen if someone really did attain eternal life and how someone would react to it. As usual, I've included many references to TV shows and movies that I like. Some are obvious, but others may be more subtle. I'll point those out at the end. As always any comments and criticism are welcome.
By: Kasuto of Kataan
Both women carried torches in their hands, the glowing light illuminating the dark path in front of them. They walked through the low-ceilinged tunnel deep under the ground. They had been searching for years, trying to find the treasure. Over time, their quest had turned from a simple hobby to their life's work. Now it was more of an obsession. They had given up all their possessions and spent all their money for this search, and they were now closer than ever. They could both feel that they were getting close. As they turned a corner, both women let out loud sighs as they came upon a dead end.
One woman raised her arms in frustration. "I can't believe it," she said. The woman was about average size and relatively skinny, her small frame hiding her well-built body and above-average strength. She pushed back her shoulder-length hair, which was starting to turn gray after all these years. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and sighed again.
"It has to be here," said the other woman. She was slightly smaller than the gray-haired woman, and wasn't nearly as strong. She was relatively young, and had short, auburn hair. This particular woman was an apprentice to the older woman, and had decided to join her in her search for this treasure.
"Oh be quiet," said the older woman. "If I'd had my way to begin with, I'd be doing this alone."
"You know you need me," said the auburn-haired woman. "I was the one who discovered the scroll in the first place. Besides, we can both benefit from this. We can be goddesses."
"Yeah, we can...if we ever find the damned stone," said the gray-haired woman cynically. She pulled the folded piece of paper from her pocket and held it to the light emanating from their torches. "The map says that the entrance to the cave is right at the end of this tunnel." She pointed to the corresponding line on the map. "And I don't see it anywhere."
"The entrance has to be here somewhere. We've spent so many years, and this is definitely the right map. Let's just look more closely, look for cracks in the wall or something that might hint to a passageway."
"You're right," agreed the gray-haired woman. "I'm sorry, I'm just a little tense right now. I have been searching for the Stone my whole life, and time is starting to run short. The stars will align in only a few days, and if we miss that our whole lives will have been wasted."
"I understand that. Trust me, we'll find it. I'm not going to let this get away. We are meant to find this stone, and we will."
The gray-haired woman nodded and began searching for the entrance to the cave. She looked around the end of the tunnel, trying to find an hint as to where the entrance to this cave might be. It had to be here somewhere. She had exhaustively researched this treasure for most of her life. It was in this cave, and no one but them knew about it.
"Wait a minute, I think I've found something," said the auburn-haired woman, bending close to the ground and staring at the floor. She poked at a tiny crack in the floor of the solid-rock tunnel. She could see the faintest hint of a blue glow coming from behind the crack.
The gray-haired woman smiled broadly and patted the auburn woman on the shoulder. "Good work, Lani. What would I do without you?"
"You definitely wouldn't be here," replied Lani with a smirk. She picked at the crack once more, small pieces of rock flaking off in the process. "How do you suppose we'll get this crack open?"
"I think this'll take a little brute force," said the gray-haired woman. She stood back and picked up a stone-headed pickaxe from the spot where she'd placed it.
"Kisei-the-mighty," laughed Lani.
Kisei held the pickaxe over her head and prepared to hit the crack in the wall. "Hey, sometimes brute-force can get you things that intelligence and book-smarts can't. You never learned that."
"Well, I never liked exercising," said Lani. "Go ahead, do it."
"I'd stand back if I were you," said Kisei. Lani stood up and backed a few steps away from Kisei. She prepared herself as Kisei swung the pickaxe and slammed it into the crack in the wall. There was a large crash and some sparks as the point of the pick bashed a large hole into the rock. The area with the crack was weaker than they'd thought. Instead of being solid granite like the rest of the tunnel and the mountain, the cracked area must have been made of a weaker substance like sandstone or limestone. It was as if someone had intentionally patched up a hole in the tunnel.
"I've gotta admit," said Lani, "that's some nice work." She bent down and examined the large chunks or rock that had shattered from the wall. Lani picked up a rock and examined it closely, trying to figure out what it was.
Kisei also bent down and picked up one of the rocks. "This is definitely sandstone. You can crush it with your hand." Kisei squeezed her hand tightly causing the seemingly sturdy stone to crumple into dust. "This definitely isn't supposed to be here. Sandstone wouldn't form in a mountain of solid granite. And this sandstone isn't even very old. It should be a lot sturdier than this."
"Well, then we know this hole is supposed to be here," said Lani. "You going to widen the hole for us?"
"Of course," replied Kisei. She gently laid the pickaxe on the ground and smiled. "I don't even need the pick for this." She extended stepped up to the still small hole and administered a powerful kick to the edge of it. More of the stone disintegrated into a shower of sand, causing the hole to widen so that a person could enter. The bright blue light from beyond the hole spilled into the tunnel, causing everything to reflect an eerie azure glow. Both women looked through the hole, nearly awestruck by the sight before them.
"That's beautiful," mumbled Lani. What they saw before them was a seemingly endless dome-shaped cavern, completely bathed in a blue glow. The light, although seeming to come from everywhere, emanated from a small pit in the center of the cavern. "You think we've finally found it?"
"I know we have," said Kisei. She folded up the map and put it in her pocket, while removing a different piece of paper from her other pocket. "The scrolls said that the first thing we'd see is the blue light. I think this definitely qualifies. Well, would you like to step in first?"
"Gladly," replied Lani, stepping in front of Kisei and through the significantly widened hole. The sides of the cavern sloped steadily downward toward the center, making it relatively easy for them to walk from the hole at the top to the bottom. Kisei and Lani reached the bottom of the cave and looked down the shallow pit. Inside the pit, about five feet deep, were two blue stones. The stones were both equal in size, about the size of a fist. Lani and Kisei jumped into the hole and approached the glowing stones. The light coming from them was almost blinding, but strangely calming. Upon closer inspection, they realized that both stones were identical.
"You never told me that there were two stones," said Lani.
Kisei shrugged her shoulders. "I didn't know that there were two stones," said Kisei.
"I thought you knew everything about the Hateru Stone."
"I thought I did," said Kisei. "But I guess I don't. We did everything right, and one of these has to be the Hateru Stone. I do have a theory, though. Remember when you read the original scroll? It said that the Stone would come with both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps one of these stones is real, and one is fake."
"I never thought that it would be this difficult," said Lani. "It was hard enough just finding the stone. Now we have to pick the right one? This isn't fair. How do we tell the difference? They both look exactly the same."
"There has to be a way," replied Kisei. "But we shouldn't worry about that now. Let's take the stones with us and we can look at them at home." Kisei took the knapsack from around her shoulder and opened it up. She gently placed the glowing stones into the bag and tightened the rope to close the bag. Although they were confined in the knapsack, the brilliant glow of the stones still showed through the fabric of the bag.
"That's definitely a little too conspicuous," remarked Lani.
Kisei sighed and looked at the bluish-tinged bag. This would definitely catch people's attention if they went anywhere public. "Yeah, I know. But we have to get these back. We'll just have to avoid the main roads and not go through the town." Kisei slung the bag over her shoulder and began to walk back up the slope and towards the hole they entered through. Lani and Kisei both hoped that they could make it back to their house without anyone noticing them.
Lani and Kisei stood at the very peak of Death Mountain, with nothing but the dark ground beneath them and the starry sky above them. It was such a beautiful night, and this was the night they would find out if their life's work had been in vain. "Well, this is what we've been waiting for," said Kisei. She was nervous and shaking, a cold sweat covering her body. She had never felt so anxious in her life. Lani too was trembling, and the brisk autumn night didn't make it any better. Both women looked at the two glowing crystals that lay on the ground.
"Which one is real and which one is fake?" asked Lani.
"I don't know for sure," replied Kisei. "Both of them may be real, and both of them may be fake. I hope that at least one is real."
"Well, we have a bout an hour to make sure. And the only way we'll find out for certain is once the stars align." Lani looked to the sky and gazed at the constellation that she had watched all her life. The stars had only appeared a few weeks ago, and, until then, she never fully believed that they would ever appear. But now they were there, brighter than all the other stars in the sky. The constellation consisted of five stars arranged into the vertices of a pentagon. To the naked eyes, they looked aligned, but it would still be about an hour until they were aligned absolutely perfectly.
"I've been thinking of how we can determine which stone is which," said Kisei. "But I don't know if the idea is any good. I remember reading the scroll, and it saying that whoever finds the stone will be faced with the possibility of choosing the treasure or the curse. One of these stones is the treasure, and one is the curse. And I don't want to know what'll happen if we pick the wrong one. It might very well kill us."
"I'm willing to take that risk," said Lani. "A fifty-fifty chance is good enough odds for me. So, how will we choose? I want to go through this together."
"Maybe we shouldn't," countered Kisei. "I would be foolish for us both to die, or be cursed or whatever, when we could ensure that at least one of us will get the treasure."
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I hope so," replied Kisei. She pulled a copper coin from her pocket and held it in her hand. "We can flip a coin to see who tries the first stone. That's the only fair way to do it." Both Lani and Kisei didn't like the idea of only one of them surviving, but it made a lot of sense. It would be illogical for two people to die taking a chance when one could be ensured survival. And flipping a coin would be the only fair way to determine who would be the test subject. "Okay, I'll pick heads, and you can take tails. We'll go best three-out-of-five. Whoever gets their side of the coin facing up three times has to be the test-subject. Does that sound okay?" Lani nodded. This method was as good as any.
Kisei rubbed the coin between her fingers for a moment, then tossed it into the air. A point of blue light from the stones reflected off the coin as it tumbled through the air and landed on the ground, causing a tiny cloud of dust to fly into the air. Kisei leaned over to see the likeness of the king staring up at her. "Heads," said Kisei. "One vote for me." She took a deep breath, picked up the coin, and flipped it again. The coin landed, revealing the head once again.
"Are you sure you don't want me to..." mumbled Lani.
"No," interrupted Kisei. "This is how we decided it. It's the only fair way. We'll do what the coin said." Kisei flipped the coin once more, not breathing as the shining circle twirled through the air and landed on the ground. This time, the seal of Hyrule looked up at them. Kisei breathed a sigh of relief. "That's two for me and one for you," said Kisei.
"This is getting a little tense," remarked Lani, trying to consciously control her sweating forehead and pounding heart. "Go ahead." Kisei flipped the coin and it landed on the tails side again. "Now we're even," said Lani.
Kisei picked up the coin and looked at Lani. "Well, this is the moment of truth. Whoever get this one has to go first. You sure you want to go through with this?"
"Yes, I am," replied Lani. "Now flip the coin before I die of nervousness." Kisei smirked and flipped the coin for the last time. It was like slow-motion watching the coin travel through the air. Both women held their breath, their hearts pounding like jackhammers. The coin slowly drifted to the ground and spun for a moment, finally resting tails-side-up. Both women let out loud sighs.
"Well, it looks like I'm going first," said Lani. She finally felt calm, and her heart was starting to slow down.
"Are you sure you're okay with this?" asked Kisei, knowing very well that she just might watch her best friend die tonight.
"Don't look so glum," said Lani. "You keep thinking that I have a fifty percent chance of dying, just remember that I also have a fifty percent chance of living."
"You're right," admitted Kisei. "I just don't like the idea of losing my only friend."
"Hey, we both went into this whole adventure knowing that it might cost us our lives. Besides, we don't know for sure that the curse will even be death. Maybe I'll just turn into a leper or something, and I can live with that. Besides, I'm sure that I'll pick the right one."
Kisei looked up at the sky and stared at the five stars. Their bright blue color was beginning to change to a reddish tinge. "It's almost time," said Kisei, pointing to the sky. Lani looked up and smiled. She bent over and tried to decided which stone to choose.
"Eenie, meenie, miney, moe," said Lani, picking up the stone on the left. She held it in her hand and smiled. "I think we're gonna have good luck tonight. I can feel it." Both women's attention was taken by the sudden flash of red light in the sky. They looked up to see the five stars now glowing brightly red. They felt a strange chill come upon them, the wind beginning to pick up.
"It's time," said Kisei. "I've waited for this my whole life." Lani grasped the stone tightly, which now glowed as red as the stars. It would only be a few minutes before the stones did their work. "The stars will be aligned for only a few minutes, but that should give us enough time. Hopefully, the stones will take effect before the stars unalign so we can find out which is the true Hateru stone. Now, the Hateru Stone will only work if you're holding it in your hand. So, if your stone works, give it to me when you're done and we can both live forever. And if yours is the wrong one, then I'll take the other one. I really hope yours is the true stone."
"Me too," laughed Lani.
Kisei put a hand on Lani's shoulder. "If you don't make it through this, I just want you to know how much I care about you," said Kisei, trying not to let herself cry. Everything will be fine, though Kisei. Kisei opened her arms and gave Lani a tight embrace. "We'll be friends forever, no matter what happens."
"Of course," said Lani. Their moment was interrupted by a rumbling. The rumbling grew into a roar as the ground began to shake. It wasn't like a normal earthquake, but more like a low vibration. They felt the slight breeze turn into a driving wind.
"Here it goes!" shouted Kisei over the almost deafening roar. Now she would find out if her life's work was a failure. The five stars glowed brightly, and the stone in Lani's hand began to glow even brighter. The red light in her hand was almost blinding, but the stone didn't even feel warm. It was the most exhilarating experience Lani had ever felt. The feeling she had right now was like nothing she had ever experienced before. If she did die because of this stone, she would die happy. Lani had never felt such bliss in her entire life. She could feel the stone's energy coursing through her body.
Kisei took a few steps back as she watched the whole display. The stone's red glow began to engulf Lani's body, causing her to glow as well. Lani and the stone were one now two inseparable entities. The deafening roar grew louder and the wind blew almost like a hurricane, but Lani and Kisei stood firmly, the wind not seeming to affect them.
Suddenly the wind stopped and the roar grew silent. Lani looked at Kisei and smiled. "I feel it," said Lani. "I think this is the right one. I can feel the power! I can...I..." Lani stopped, the expression on her face turning from one of bliss to one of pain.
"What's wrong?" shouted Kisei. "Oh dear gods! Don't let it be the wrong stone, take me instead!" Kisei now realized that she didn't want to watch her friend perish. Lani's body became stiff, she no longer felt unbridled euphoria, now she felt pain, intense, searing pain. It was as if every point inside and out of her body was being prodded with thousands of red-hot needles. Lani realized that she had willingly done this, and was thankful that Kisei would survive.
"Friends...forever..." mumbled Lani with her last breath. She showed one last smile as her body shook violently and collapsed onto the ground like a sack of flour. The stone rolled from her dead hands and turned from a brilliant red glow to a deep black.
"I'm sorry," said Kisei, wiping a tear from her cheek. She kneeled down and kissed Lani's lifeless forehead. "I promised I would do this for you." Kisei walked to the other stone and picked it up. Immediately, the blue stone turned from its normal color to a bright red. The glow engulfed Kisei's body, causing the waves of energy to course through her body. This is wonderful! she thought. Kisei heard the wind pick up and the roar become louder again. The roar became far away as her entire being was engulfed by the stone. She felt nothing but the incredible power of the Hateru Stone. She wished that Lani could experience it, but Kisei would have to experience it for her.
The incredible high that Kisei felt suddenly stopped as the world came crashing back to her. Kisei fell to the ground and took a deep breath. The exhilarating feeling she'd just had was replaced with sheer exhaustion. Kisei smiled as she realized that she was still alive. Her legs shaking and her body trembling, Kisei mustered enough strength to stand. She looked at Lani's lifeless body and cried. "I'm sorry...I didn't want this." A large bang startled Kisei and she turned around to find its source. She saw the two blackened stones glow blue once again and hover above the ground. This wasn't in the scroll, thought Kisei. The stones slowly rose until they floated ten feet above the ground. Then, with a brilliant flash, the stones shot into the night sky, leaving fading blue streaks behind them. The star formation turned from their brilliant glow to nothingness. The stones and the stars vanished into the vast, empty expanse of the Universe. Kisei kneeled beside Lani's body and cried for her dead friend.