This story is a sequel. I recommend to read the following first: Zikel's Pride, Yustiel's Heart.
~ Several hundreds years ago / few months before the Cataclysm ~
"He's suffering, we can't hold him locked inside anymore, he needs to meet other people," a woman with black hair and black eyes said.
"But if we do that, others will know," a ginger haired man objected. "And what's worse, Aion himself will know. We broke his law."
"Then we have to beg him for forgiveness," she decided. "If Aion will want to punish someone, let him punish us. But not him. He's innocent."
"I don't care if anything happens to me, but I couldn't stand losing you," he embraced her. "I love you."
"I love you too," she looked into his luminously blue eyes. "But we broke the law. We have to face justice. Please, come with me to Aion. We have to get mercy for our son. If we don't, we will lose him."
"You're right," he kissed her. "He can't stay there. I love you both. Let's go."
Before they could spread their wings and fly back to the Tower of Eternity, they heard thunder from the hidden playground they built for their son. Immediately they turned and flew there at their highest speed. They were late. The aether barrier was shattered and only ruins remained from what was once a great structure.
"No," she breathed out in horror and started to turn every stone, searching for her son. After few hours they gave up. The boy was nowhere to be found, his aether trail disappeared. She fell to her knees and tears ran down from her eyes. "No! Kahrun!"
After her scream's echoes vanished and rain drops started falling, her heart became stone and she disappeared into shadows.
~ x ~
~ Eighteen years ago ~
"It's always an honor to meet one of the Seraphim lords in person," Kahrun descended from his throne to greet a man clad in heavy plate armor and smiled. "What is the occasion of your visit, lord Nezekan?"
"I wanted to meet the leader of our new allies in person," the Lord of Justice smiled too. "Thank you for saving the lives of our people."
"I am sorry, I wasn't there earlier."
"You were in time, we delivered a severe blow to Tiamat and Veille is recovering well. We've lost good soldiers there, it's sad, but we're at war. And that's one of the reasons I came here. I want to discuss the unusual terms of our alliance you sent us."
"Sure, come to my office," Kahrun becked him and led him to a room he used for meetings, dealings with paperwork and other duties of leader. "Wine?"
"Thank you," Nezekan nodded and got a goblet full of dark red liquid. It smelled good. "You seem very insistent on the peace with the Asmodians here in Sarpan."
"Yes. I'm not going to make a compromise about this condition."
"And Asmodians agreed?"
"They are not far from agreement. But the final meeting regarding this decision will be held for both, Elyos and Asmodians so you can ask their representative directly."
"Who will that be?"
"I don't know," Kahrun folded his arms on his chest. "I would prefer lord Azphel and lady Ariel, but I won't reject any Empyrean lord. So far I've been dealing with lord Marchutan, as he's in charge of Asmodian forces in Balaurea. In fact, I was expecting to meet lord Kaisinel today. What happened?"
"I told you, I wanted to meet you in person," Nezekan replied seriously. "You've grown into a strong, good leader, Kahrun. And even if I don't agree with all your opinions, I'm proud of you."
"Thank you, father," Kahrun said after a moment of silence. "That means a lot to me. I hope you can forgive me one day."
"There's nothing to forgive you. You did nothing wrong. I should have raised you and taught you instead of giving you meaningless toys. The one I will never forgive is myself."
Nezekan clenched his fist and then relaxed it.
"We haven't really talked to each other since you left. When she saw the ruins, it broke her heart. And then the Cataclysm happened," he sighed. "I think she feels the same guilt as I do, even though she'll never admit it. And I bet she was already here to see you."
"She wasn't here."
"She's master spy and she cares about you. I know her. She's been here, watching you without being seen. She's happy to see you alive and is also proud of you. She's not as heartless as she tries to pretend."
"You speak so nicely of her," Kahrun smiled. "Almost as if you still loved her."
"I'm glad to hear that. You have one more reason for the peace with the Asmodians."
"No," Nezekan frowned. "I can't let my feelings and my personal affairs to interfere with the interests of Elysea."
"Maybe they are not that different," Kahrun objected. "But that's up to you to decide."
Someone knocked on the door and after being allowed the reian messenger entered. He gave his leader a sealed scroll and with bows and apologies he left.
"Can we continue this conversation tomorrow?" Kahrun asked after he read the scroll. "There's something I have to take care of urgently. I'll have a room ready for you and you can join me for a dinner."
"I'll gladly accept."
~ x ~
Nezekan sat on the edge of his bed. The dinner ended a long while ago, but he still couldn't sleep. His son was alive. That was one of the two things he could think about. The other was...
"Why did you say that?" a woman's voice quietly echoed his room.
"Why did I say what?" he asked and looked at the window. She was there, dressed in tight black leathers, her hair of the same color was bound into a ponytail and her onyx eyes were watching him closely.
"That... Why did you tell that to Kahrun?" she asked again and her voice was shaking slightly. "You didn't have to lie to him, he's already grown up, he would understand..."
"All I said to him was true. And I would say that even if I knew you were there too," he replied and got up from the bed.
"No, you're lying," she refused his answer. "You can't appear after all these centuries of leaving me alone and tell our son that you... you..."
"I love you."
"I was waiting for you," she wanted to say bitterly, but her voice betrayed her. "But you never came. After the Cataclysm, I thought you died. And when I finally saw you alive in Reshanta and looked into your eyes, I... I realised you will never come."
"I'm sorry it ended like this. After you disappeared from the ruins, I thought you never want to see me again, I failed to protect our son. And I didn't have enough courage to talk to you. I know I will never deserve forgiveness, but I want to tell you this," he came closer to her and caught her shoulders. "I still love you, Triniel. I've never stopped," he said seriously and looked into her eyes.
She stood there speachless. Upon discovery their son is still alive and well the stone covering her heart cracked and she was overwhelmed with feelings she thought she'd forgotten a long time ago.
"I love you too, Nezekan," she finally managed to say and tears filled her eyes. "I love you too."
He wiped her tears gently and kissed her.
~ x ~
~ Present day ~
Nezekan knocked on the door and waited for reply. As he expected, none came. He sighed, opened the door and entered the room. He saw the same scenery as before. The curtains were drawn and a lone woman was siting on her bed and holding something that looked like a green dress.
"I had your things to be moved here," he said without greeting. He knew she wouldn't respond to that.
"Yes. I know," she replied silently. "Thank you, l... Nezekan."
"How are you feeling?" he asked with concern. It's been five days since she got the Power of Life and she still wasn't able do anything but being closed in her room and mourning.
"I... miss him."
Nezekan twitched. This was a change. Until now she's been talking only about Yustiel, never mentioned her memories or anyone from Asmodae. He didn't exactly hate the Asmodians, there was no place for hatred in justice, but in his eyes they were the ones who betrayed lady Ariel and he couldn't stand them. Especially one certain Shedim lord.
"I remember wearing this dress when lady Yustiel found me," she continued. "It was... a present from him."
The Lord of Justice resisted the urge to take the dress from her and tear it apart.
"I thought he had forgotten about me and then he sent me this. And in the end it was me who forgot about him," her voice itself was telling him she was grieving.
"Stop this," he raised his voice. No matter how deep her grief was, he didn't want to listen anything about that one. "Don't you remember your oath?"
"I do..." she sighed and looked at him. "I'm not going to find him, Nezekan. It's just... I remember being with him and then I woke up in Eltnen. I wish I knew what happened in between. Is he looking for me? Or does he think I'm dead? Or..."
"This might help," he gave her an envelope with her name written on it. "Yustiel wrote this for you."
"Do you know what's inside?"
"I didn't open it. But she told me some facts about you, so I can guess what could be there."
"Thank you," she hesitantly took the envelope.
"Your house will be ready for you by the end of the week. Until then, you can stay here, but you should pull yourself together. Soon," he continued. After she became Lady of Life, the other lords insisted she had to live in a building that matched her status. Temporarily she was moved into a guest room in Nezekan's house and servants were preparing the house of lady Yustiel for its new owner.
"I don't want it. Can't I have my studio in Oriel?"
"No. You're going to have a new life. It's a life full of duties and seldom you can do what you want. Get used to it," he was slowly losing his patience.
"Even if I do, your people will never accept me."
"They are your people too."
"I can't do this," she sobbed. "I... I'm scared. What if I fail?"
"Everyone makes mistakes."
"I don't remember you being such a coward in the Reshanta back then," he couldn't even believe the one in front of him is the same person. Yes, she had the same face, but this frightened girl was someone completely different than the determined daeva defending a fallen Shedim lord.
"You..." she looked at him in surprise. "You remember me?"
"If Yustiel hadn't told me about you, I wouldn't put it together. But it's hard to forget someone who stands against two Empyrean lords at once. Even though I thought you died from Vaizel's poison."
"I should have died," she saddened again. "If I did, nothing of this would..."
"If you wish, I can make that happen," he affirmed.
For a moment she sat there silent and motionless. Then she slowly shook her head.
"It's too late. He is hurt, lady Yustiel is dead and I am alive. It's..."
"Precisely. You are alive. So stop being sorry for yourself and do something. Yustiel believed in you, that's why she entrusted you her will. And you made an oath to be faithful to Elysea. By hiding here in this dark room and crying you're not adhereing to either of those. Get yourself together," he said irritatedly. Then he took a breath to calm down and added a bit gently: "Read that letter. It might help you."
He turned and went to the door.
"Wait..." she hesitantly stopped him. "Who... knows about me?"
"Will you... tell someone?"
"No. Unless you decide to betray us."
"Thank you, Nezekan. I will..." she had to force herself to say these words. "I will try to... to be worthy of lady Yustiel's trust."
He nodded and left the room. When the door closed, he sighed and replayed their dialogue in his mind. He didn't like being a baby sitter for a Lady of Life, but there was no other option. She needed to be guided and he was the only one who could do that. As the guidance of this sort required some knowledge about her past, Kaisinel or Vaizel in his current role never ended well. If Kaisinel knew she used to be an Asmodian, he would kill her, Lady or not. And Vaizel would only blackmail her to tell everyone her secret unless she goes with him to bed. And although Nezekan bore no love for Asmodians as a whole, he could judge characters of individuals pretty fairly. And she was neither bad nor stupid. In time, if she was determined she could replace Yustiel almost fully. But first she had to deal with herself. And as he found out in the last days, this was the biggest problem.
~ x ~
"I want that information," Triniel said coldly to her underling. "I don't care how many spies you have to send, but I want to know who the hell she is and how did she became a Lady of Life."
"Lady Yustiel gave her all of her power, my lady," the man replied without even thinking about it.
"Why?" Triniel's eyes flared red, but her voice was still colder than winter in Beluslan. The higher ranked spies knew the Ladies of Life and Death were sisters. Sometimes they wondered if it influenced their leader's actions, but lady Yustiel never participated in the war and there wasn't any communication between them. Sooner or later everyone came to a conclusion that relationship is no danger for Asmodae. But after learning of her sister's death, lady Triniel became... emotionally unstable. It wasn't an eye catching change, but those who knew, have noticed. And they weren't happy about that.
"I will find out, my lady," the senior spy bowed deeply.
"You have two weeks to gather every possible information about her."
"Yes, my lady."
"But they will expect it. They will strenghten the defenses around her," she commented her thoughts. "That means they will not be as vigilant in other places. Send also someone to the Inggison outpost. Something is amiss there."
"As you wish, my lady."
~ x ~
I am sorry for placing such a burden upon you and for leaving you alone with so many questions unanswered. I am writing this letter two days before the council. Your action of freeing the Asmodian prisoner was the last thing I needed to know about you and your character. Now I am truly convinced that you are the right person for being a Lady of Life. You proved you have a compassion, which is the quality this title needs the most.
Please, do not blame yourself for what has happened.
I do not know if your memories will return, so I shall write you what I know. It was the truth that I found you in Eltnen and saved your life. But it is only part of the truth. On that day I witnessed true miracle to happen. Zikel, the Shedim lord of Destruction, came to my camp and asked me for help. Even before the Cataclysm he never asked for anything. He only ordered people around him. So when he asked, I followed him. He led me to you and told me that even the best healers of Asmodae cannot help you. He was so worried about you, because he loved you. Unfortunately, his love was the cause of your illness. His aether was too strong for your body to sustain it. And because he loved you, he was subconsciously giving himself to you. There was no other way to save your life than giving you my essence. I sent Zikel away and transferred it. But I made a mistake. Your own aether was already too weak and with my essence and the Power of Life your body changed. You were an Asmodian and your name was Alia. I still do not know why your memories vanished, but when I found out, I was scared. Scared of what would happen if you knew, if you would go back to Asmodae or remain here. So I gave you a new name so you could begin a new life as a daeva of Elysea. I sent Zikel a note telling him I failed, letting him believe you died.
But as you are a Lady now, you deserve to know the truth. This is why you are much more important than I am. Your bond with Zikel is much stronger than mine with my sister. You are our greatest hope for peace between Elysea and Asmodae.
I am not seeking forgiveness for what I have done. But I hope you will understand.
Aion watch over you.
~ x ~
The spy commander wasn't in his best mood, the orders from lady Triniel appeared to be quite impossible to carry out. He simply didn't have enough good spies he could sent to both, Elysea and Inggison, without calling back those who were in the middle of important long term missions. He already assigned everyone capable and available to the Lady of Life cause, but he lacked spies for Inggison. He knew this time he would also have to participate in terrain. And he didn't like it. Not because of his abilities, he was good, lady Triniel would never promote him if he wasn't one of the best. But no matter how good he might be, there was always risk of being captured and interrogated. And he possessed knowledge of half of Asmodae's spies. That meant he could go only as a long distance observer. And he needed someone, anyone, to go to the outpost.
He looked at the folders of his underlings who were still available. All of them were humans. In his profession, to be human was mostly a disadvantage, but he knew humans were useful. They didn't live the long lives of daevas and they didn't grow bored, there was less danger they will betray. And because of their short lives they didn't encounter too many secrets, if the enemy captured and interrogated them, they had almost nothing to tell. And of course there was their mortality. They couldn't be tortured by being killed and resurrected over and over again. Their first death was also their final.
One of the folders attracted his attention. It belonged to a young woman, some could also say a girl. Seventeen years old, orphan and was trained as spy since her six years. In her civilian life she worked as a tailor's apprentice, because of it she could go to various places legally and her reports had very high standards. Her attention to details and observation skills were at a level of a high ranked spy. If she ascended and gained some experience, she had a potential to become really good.
Was it worthy to send her there with the risk of her being killed? According to lady Triniel's orders it had to be.
~ x ~
May hypnotized the paper in her hands. She's read it twice already and still could not grasp all of its meanings. Zikel loved her so much he sought help from his greatest enemy. And she was too weak to accept his love. And lady Yustiel sacrificed all of her power and her life for a person she'd never seen before for reasons only she knew. May cried. Again. Tears were flowing from her eyes and she couldn't stop them. Rationally she understood why lady Yustiel did it, but her emotions refused to admit it. If she really got a life to live, why it was so hard?
"I've brought a lunch for you, my lady," a young servant girl said from the door. May twitched her head and looked at her in surprise. It took her few seconds to realize who just came to her room. And then as if some switch in her mind changed over.
"Thank you," May forced herself to smile. "Please, put it there," she gestured to a small table.
"Is something wrong, my lady?" the girl didn't expect the new Lady of Life to react. She was used to her blank expression and simple nods without even looking at her. This change could mean the Lady was displeased with her service. And also the tears were a very good sign of something being out of order.
"No, nothing is wrong," May said after a moment of hesitation. "Tell me your name, please."
"Mirri, my lady."
"Mirri... can I... can I have a bath?"
"Yes! Of course, my lady! I'll let you know once it's ready!" the servant gabbled out, apparently she was happy about such a common request.
The girl bowed and left the room at incredible speed. Only at that time May realised she was hungry. She faintly remembered she'd eaten something over the last days, but couldn't recall what was it. She got up, threw the letter to the fireplace and for the first time since lady Yustiel's death she ate her meal fully conscious and aware of what she's eating.
~ x ~
This was one of the days she really hated. Master Zyakia was displeased with everything, the floor was not swept well enough, the twine was too tangled, the textile was creased, the apprentices were noisy. Nothing was good today. That meant she had to stay late and after all others have left tidy up all the work room and the shop. Then she had to put every material and semi product to order in their shelves and almost sort them by structure and colours. Being the only human apprentice had many disadvantages. But she didn't complain. Even though she was the last person here in the tailor's shop in Pandaemonium, compared to her life in the Morheim orphanage it was much better. For the last three years she even got her own studio in Pernon. The rent and expenses for the teleporter took most of her wages, but the contributions from her so called part time job made up for it, she was content. Not happy, she wanted to be more than just tailor's apprentice, but she knew she was still young even for a human and waited patiently for her opportunity to come.
She locked the shop and walked though streets of Pandaemonium. Even after the close of business they were still full. Nobles and commoners, daevas and humans, soldiers and civilians. Everyone who meant something visited the capital of Asmodae as often as they could. And those who wanted to mean something usually came into the city and only those lucky ones ever returned back to their villages and fortresses. She liked watching the people, their faces so often in contrast with their clothes. She learnt to tell apart various types of them just from their expressions, poises, gestures and movements. And she liked the smell of the aether when she got close to some powerful daeva. When walking through the Pandaemonium, she saw everyone, but no one saw her. She couldn't hide in the shadows like assassins could, but she mastered the art of acting like she belonged to almost every place and thus being noteless. She called it just a different kind of invisibility.
She reached the teleporter, paid him the little coin she had prepared and within several minutes she entered her studio. And stopped at the doorstep. There was a faint scent that didn't belong into her room. She scanned the surroundings and her gaze fell upon an envelope lying on her pillow. To any other person it would look like a love letter, but she knew better than that. She closed the door, checked no one is watching her and carefully read the writing. Then she pinched her cheek and read it again. The text was still the same, so she lifted her pillow and found a purse with enough kinah for travel to Gelkmaros and back and other expenses.
Master Zyakia will be really displeased tomorrow, was her first thought after she accepted the fact she's been just sent on a scouting mission into Inggison.