Episode 4: Dareth Shiral
6th of Eluviesta
Jeremie had found the infirmary, and he cautiously pushed the door open. The elf inside spun around and gasped when he saw him, and it was clear that he did not know that he was coming. This elf was dressed in red, with archaic designs that, according to the passive memories he now possessed due to Vigilance, appeared to signify healing. 'A nurse or doctor', Jeremie thought as he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. The room had many other doors, all of which were closed.
The elf eyed Jeremie. His hair still had blood in it, and there were still small spaces on his face that he'd missed. His armor was dented in some places and covered in dust and dried blood, especially around his arm where armor was missing and roots grew out. The glass in front of his eyes was bent and cracked. While Jeremie didn't quite perceive himself as a scary person, obviously this elf did. "Is Aelita Durgenbora of the Aloten still here?" The Wise Man asked. The elf nodded, motioning over his shoulder at the door behind him with his thumb. Jeremie thanked him and walked past him, opening the door to Aelita's room. The elf grabbed the chair closest to him and collapsed into it.
Behind the door was a long hallway with long, spotless windows. Most were empty, though he finally spotted Aelita in one of them, sleeping soundly. He wanted to barge in, wake her up and thank her, but she'd had a long day and night, so he entered quietly. Jeremie pulled a chair closer to the gurney and looked closely.
Perhaps because of Vigilance, he saw tiny things about her that he hadn't before, or had forgotten. There were still tiny scars on her face from after he'd cast her out, the ones that made her look like she'd fought an animal, and a scar on her ear as if an earring had been brutally ripped out. But most notably was the red glow of her vallaslin.
His mouth twisted when he realized that watching her sleep was creepy, and he looked for something else to do. Luckily Odd entered, and when he saw Jeremie, he dropped the stack of books he carried. "Jeremie!" He said, and he ran forward. Suddenly he stopped. "Gods, what happened to your face?" The Scout looked around and picked up a hand mirror. He examined his own reflection before handing it to Jeremie.
The Wise Man grimaced. He was pale, and he looked like he hadn't slept in weeks. He was perturbed by the blood left, and he removed his spectacles to look at the shattered glass. He hadn't even noticed--which, he realized, was sort of ironic--and he concluded that he likely no longer needed them. Still, Jeremie was fond of them after so many years, and not wearing them felt strange, so he found an empty basket and pushed the glass out. "It's good to see you, Odd." Jeremie said. He sighed in a sympathetic way, and he added, "I understand that the past few hours have been traumatic."
"How much did Edna tell you?" He asked. Jeremie briefed him, and Odd nodded. "That sounds about right... I do feel bad about killing those slavers in such a horrible way, though. But they were horrible people and the world is better off with you in it instead."
Jeremie laughed. "Are we going to kiss now?"
Now Odd laughed. "Ugh!" He cringed as he stuck out his tongue. "I think your cousin might get jealous. Seriously though, glad to have you back, commander." He bent over and started picking up the books he dropped.
Jeremie helped, looking at all of them as he went. He recognized a few, though he wondered why Arlathan was in possession of human books for children. He commented on the ones he knew. "'The Eagle and the Arrow'! That used to be one of my favorites. 'The Lion in Love'? Mother read that to me." He commented. "What else have you brought?"
Odd reluctantly handed him the books. Among them were other fables such as 'the Thief and the House Dog', 'the Laborer and the Nightingale' and 'the Old Hound'. "Why the sudden interest in fables, Odd?"
First Odd looked to Aelita, who continued to sleep soundly. Then he picked the books and placed them on the bedside table. "Let's talk outside." The Scout said. The two boys walked out of the room.
"What is this about, Odd?"
"When... When Aelita decided that she was going to resurrect you, Edna agreed to help, but her motives why... I don't know, I just don't trust her. Anyway, Tamiya, Edna's new apprentice, gave Aelita a book with the most effective ritual for your circumstances inside." Odd looked tired, but he assumed everyone did. He also saw anticipation, regret and shame on his face. "But when Aelita looked at it, she gave it to me."
Jeremie narrowed his eyes. "Why?"
He threw his hands up, holding them there for a moment until he brought them down to his side. "She needed me to read it for her because it was written in the Common. She doesn't know how to read."
At first, Jeremie didn't believe him. Then, he studied the Scout's face. He still had scars left by silver, and yellow splotches were present in his orange eyes. He could see the small, almost unnoticeable point his ears came to, but most obviously, he saw truth in Odd's words. "There's truth in your face," he murmured, and louder he added, "Why didn't she tell me?"
"She seemed ashamed to admit it," Odd reasoned, "I think she hoped that it would never come up."
"Yes, that sounds like her." He agreed. Changing the subject, he explained that he had instructed Laura to bring the rest of the Heroes to Arlathan, since the magical energy that radiated within it would help disguise them from Xana's eyes.
This left Odd in an awkward situation. "Yumi has been kidnapped by Dhaune. She's probably in Maera by now."
Jeremie cursed loudly, and he tried to contact Yumi telepathically. Similarly to William after Dhaune kidnapped him in Falcon's Bridge, he could not establish a connection. "Perhaps Maera blocks out telepathy…?" He wondered, and then channeled Vigilance. The spirit lent him his enhanced field of vision, which extended the power and range of his telepathy. He could sense Odd's fear for his friends, and the faint whispers and growls of the wolf. He could sense the peaceful sleep of his lover, and even the fear of the elf that he'd nearly scared to death.
The Wise Man raised his hands, focusing on his memories of Yumi to try to find her. Eventually he located her, several hundred kilometers beneath the surface. When he established telepathic contact, he gained her heightened sense. Combined with Vigilance, Jeremie mentally constructed a map of Maera. "Yumi, there is an Eluvian in the Kenval estate. Find it and come to Arlathan."
"Jeremie? You're in Arlathan?" Yumi asked. "It doesn't matter; thank you. I'm going to try to break Xana's hold on William first, but I'll meet you there." Jeremie passed on his mental map to Yumi, and though he feared for her life, he wished her luck.
Jeremie and Odd entered the room again, just in time to see Aelita's vallaslin crack.
Thankful for the map, though questioning how he'd gotten it, Yumi snuck through the alleyways and back roads of Maera. The roads were lit through mushrooms, and there were pulsating electric roots like those leading to the Factory. Yumi could hear water dripping from stalactites, and she could feel the rough brick become smooth granite as they moved closer to the estate.
"Do you know how to get into the estate without being noticed?" Yumi asked her brother. His eyes looked strange, as if they were fighting the vampirism. She wished that he wouldn't, since that would only make it more painful.
"There's a gate out back, but it's always locked." Hiroki said. "It's not too far away, if you think you can break the lock."
"Where would William be?"
Hiroki shook his head. "No. He's never in the same place twice. I've only ever seen him once down here, and that was after Dhaune kidnapped him."
Yumi cursed, and she examined the map. "I would assume that he might be at the barracks, or near the chamber where I woke up. But it's too dangerous to go back that way." She whispered. "If only we could lure him to us, that would make things easier, but we can't risk drawing attention to ourselves. We're powerful, but no match for a mob." She twisted her face in thought, and then sighed. "I guess we have no choice but to head towards the estate and hope for the best."
She took her brother's hands and continued through the back roads. Eventually he stopped and motioned for the gate closest to them. "This is the garden gate, but it's locked, as always." Hiroki said, and Yumi tested the gate. It was a strong lock but not strong enough. She grabbed the gate and pulled on it, veins popping out on her neck before ripping it off of its hinges.
Hiroki, despite fearful of their vampirism, let out a small cheer as his sister tossed the gate aside like paper. "Jeremie mentioned an eluvian. I don't know why the drow would have one since those roots are more practical, but Xana must have some kind of plan for it." She peered around the corner, checking to make sure that the garden was empty before running for the door.
The inside of the estate was decorated beautifully, with high ceilings and tapestries depicting the Destruction Mother and famous Kenval Matrons. Hiroki led his sister through the labyrinthine halls, and Yumi listened for the slight, almost silent chiming that came from the eluvian. Instead, she heard a familiar voice. She silenced her brother and opened a door.
There, surrounded by hundreds of scrolls on shelves far over Yumi's head, stood William, his back turned to her. Yumi entered on her toes, pushing Hiroki between the wall and a shelf. However, he struggled, not wanting to miss the action once again, and several of the scrolls fell.
William turned, and he locked eyes with the Colonist. Neither moved for a long time, and then William summoned his sword. Yumi searched inside her armor for her fans, snapping them open with a single flick of her wrists. The fallen Vanguard charged, ruthless as ever, and Yumi stepped out of his way, kicking his back.
He stumbled, but didn't fall and while Yumi wondered why he hadn't bothered to find ways to keep his balance he became smoke. Yumi raised her guard, never staying still and rotating to increase her chances of spotting him. She heard him materialize behind her, and she spun on her heel, grabbing his arm before he could bring his sword down upon her.
She shoved his arm away and backed up a step, her eyes glowing more fiercely as she summoned her telekinesis to rip William's sword from his hands. The glow dimmed as she nearly broke his arm, and the dark elf cried out in pain. He tried to turn to smoke again, but Yumi lunged forward and threw him to the ground. William knocked her feet out from under her, and she fell. As he scrambled to his feet Yumi scrambled towards his legs, managing to grab on and pull one leg out from under him just as he regained his footing. Again the dark elf fell, and she climbed over him and grabbed his hair.
She roughly pulled his head up, and she bit his neck. William's eyes closed slowly, and she could sense that he would wake shortly. She hadn't turned him into a vampire—she'd wanted to, but didn't want to risk killing him through the turning, since she could sense that he likely would not have survived. Instead she had made him her servant. He was connected to Yumi, and to a smaller extent Hiroki, and if she ever demanded it, he was subject to her will.
She could sense that he was hers, but she didn't stand up until he opened his eyes and whispered, "Yumi?"
"William!" She called out, helping him to his feet before trapping him in a hug.
"What happened?" He wondered aloud, and he was even more confused when he saw her orange eyes. "What's wrong with your eyes?"
Yumi sighed. "Do you not remember anything?"
"I remember… being attacked by Dhaune. There was… fire and…" He struggled to find the words. "I remember being tortured, and then… I remember nothing else. I'm sorry." He narrowed his eyes. "Don't think that I didn't notice you didn't answer my question."
"I'll explain when we're safe. For now, we have to find the Eluvian and escape to Arlathan." Yumi said, calling Hiroki from the shadows.
"Hiroki?" William questioned, turning to see the Nihonjin boy. The Vanguard looked back to Yumi. "Are we in Maera?" Yumi nodded, but she didn't say anything else.
Hiroki led them through the halls, with William at rear guard to try to convince the slaves and servants that all three belonged. They would have to avoid the more prominent members of House Kenval, but they encountered none.
Yumi stopped and pointed at the door. "I think I hear the Eluvian through here." She said. William opened the door, and they saw Dhaune within, standing alone.
"Oh, no. It would seem as though the prisoners are escaping." Dhaune sighed. She turned around and activated the Eluvian as the three fugitives ran inside. "Where do you intend to go?"
"It doesn't matter; you won't be alive to tell your Matron." Yumi threatened.
Dhaune shook her head. "No, I suppose I won't be. But you don't know how to use the Eluvians, whereas I do." When there was no sound, she added, "Listen, it's two against one, and I've… lost faith in the war. If you don't kill me before you escape, Xana will kill me after you escape. So I want to help you escape, and then I want you to kill me."
William seemed confused. "You want to die?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Yes. Is that so hard to understand?" She folded her arms across her chest. "There are lots of things that you don't remember, William. I'm done fighting." Hiroki impulsively told Dhaune their destination, much to Yumi's chagrin. The general used her magic on the eluvian, and the image changed. "Hiroki, William, emma lath… dareth shiral."
William walked past her nervously, and was the first to enter the eluvian. He seemed fine, and motioned for the other two to follow him. Hiroki ran through, and Yumi walked up to Dhaune. "Good-bye, Dhaune." She said, taking the general's face in her hands. She kissed her, and then killed her with a single snap. Dhaune's body crumpled to the floor, and the Colonist murmured the Elven eulogy as best she could before following the boys.
Ulrich met Laura in the dungeon, and he was disturbed by the worried expression on her face. "Are you ready to enter Arlathan?" He asked, and she turned.
"As ready as I'll ever be," She said, looking over her shoulder to him. "How about you?"
"I don't have much choice." Ulrich said.
Laura nodded, and the two faced the Eluivan. Laura took a deep breath and summoned her magic, which activated the mirror. The mirror's image changed, and Laura smiled. "I did it! I actually did it!" Ulrich looked at her, and she flipped her hair over her shoulder. "I mean, of course I did it; did you expect anything less?" She kept her back straight and walked through the Eluvian.
Ulrich followed her, but when they looked around, they realized that they were not in Arlathan. Ulrich had never been to the elvhen capital, but this area was full of mirrors, and around them were tall cliffs and foreign plants. "Where are we?" He asked, looking up at the floating mirrors above them.
"I don't know," Laura said, "but it looks like this is the place where all of the Eluvians meet." She seemed disturbed, but she smiled at Ulrich. "So, we aren't too far from our destination. We just have to find out where the Eluvian leading to Arlathan is."
Ulrich frowned intensely, and Laura looked away. They walked silently, with Laura looking at each Eluvian to try to identify Arlathan's. "Do you know what you're looking for?" Ulrich asked.
She scoffed. "Of course I do!" She rejected the next mirror and next, and then started walking towards the next largest mirror. "That one feels right."
He sighed and followed her, his eyes facing the floating mirrors. One started to shake, and it fell. How it had done so, he had no idea, but he traced its path and screamed. Laura turned in time to watch the mirror crush him.
"Ulrich!" She shouted, running over to the Mercenary. She pushed the shattered pieces of the Eluvian off of him. "Ulrich, are you alright?" She asked as she pulled him out. Blood was coming out of his eyes and mouth, and there were many cuts. There were shards of glass stuck in his skin, but when she tried to touch them, they sank into his skin. The blood vanished, and the cuts healed. "Ulrich?"
His eyes snapped open, his eyes blood red before returning to normal. "Laura!" He shouted. He pushed her away before he looked at the fallen mirror. "I'm fine."
Laura was skeptical, but she couldn't see or sense anything wrong with him. "We should get out of here, before anything else here tries to kill us." She helped him to his feet, and motioned for him to follow her through the eluvian.
Jeremie sensed it when his friends all entered Arlathan. Aelita had not yet awoken, but her sleep was growing restless, and he sensed that she would soon wake up. "Odd, will you go find the others and bring them here?" The Scout nodded, and he left the room. Jeremie kept himself occupied until Aelita shot up. Her breath was shallow, and she held her heart. She locked eyes with Jeremie, and she smiled. She jumped out of the gurney and kissed him, holding him as tight as she could.
"Ma vhenan! You're alive!" She cried out. She started sobbing happily, afraid that if she let him go, he would disappear, or die again. Jeremie stroked her hair, whispering into it.
"Thank you, Aelita." He said, and he forced the two apart so they could kiss again. The door opened, and the other Heroes entered, including William. While both Jeremie and Aelita seemed happy to see to see him, William narrowed his eyes. "Well, now that we're all back together, we should discuss our next plan of attack."
"Capital Lyoko is back under our control. With this good news, I can call upon our allies and request reinforcements. In the meantime, my soldiers will continue to liberate nearby towns." Laura said.
"Good. That will really help us." Jeremie encouraged. "So long as we can maintain control of the area, it should be safer for people."
They spoke for a long time, discussing the area where the Eluvians connected and Dhaune's death. They also discussed what happened during the battle, and they explained gently to William what had happened since he was kidnapped. As they spoke, the elf Jeremie had frightened earlier entered. "Aelita Durgenbora? The Hahrenen have called for mien'harel."
There was silence as a look of terror spread across the Outcast's face. "What does that mean?" Ulrich asked.
"Mien'harel means 'call for judgment'." She translated.
"So, this is what? A trial?" Yumi asked. "On what charge?"
Aelita shrugged as she nervously walked out of the room. "I don't know. I won't know until I get there." Outside, Edna and Tamiya stood, waiting for them. When she saw how Edna stood, Aelita removed the flute form of Samahlin from her neck and handed it to her Hahren. Then, the leader of the Aloten led the Heroes towards the center of Arlathan.
The center of Arlathan was located under the dahl'amythal, which was an ancient tree, and likely the last of its kind in Medieuropa. It stood several hundred meters tall, with its pale yellow blossoms swaying gently in the breeze. Despite it still being very late at night, there were still hundreds of elves in the square, waiting anxiously as the teens walked towards the center. Lots of them, especially younger children, were frightened by the humans. William couldn't help but wonder if the city ever slept. Many regal-looking elves waited in the center, and Edna took her place among them. Tamiya motioned for the other Heroes to stand back as Aelita stood alone.
It was unnerving for so many eyes to be focused on her alone. She rubbed at her glowing vallaslin, wondering what it meant. She looked up as the elves in front of her parted way for the King of Elvhenan, Hanal'ghilan Solas, and the Shaman of Arlathan. Aelita took a deep breath in. "I do not know what this is about." She said.
The king waved his hand, but remained silent. One of the Hahren pointed at her friends and shouted, "Look! She's brought more humans into the city!"
Aelita looked at the Heroes. "This is about my friends?" She asked, "I only brought Jeremie and Odd here because—"
"Halam!" King Solas shouted, his voice deep and intimidating. His vallaslin meant 'pride'. He turned to Edna. "This is your former apprentice, Edna?" He asked.
"Yes, my king." She said. "Aelita is a changeling, born to Anthea and Waldo Sarethari, raised by Eleanor and Lowel Tyron."
"So she is not truly one of us anyway!" The first Hahren to speak shouted. Laura rolled her eyes, remembering the idiots of Halamshiral.
King Solas made a nonspecific noise. "Aelita Durgenbora, you stand before the Hahrenen accused of bringing humans into Arlathan—which I don't have to remind you is treason." Aelita visibly shuddered, but she tried to remain calm. Solas looked at Edna. "What say you?"
"I agreed to help Aelita resurrect Jeremie Belpois in exchange for the staff that she carried, a powerful elvhen artifact called Samahlin. She brought Odd Della-Robbia to help her." Edna explained.
"But there are more than just two humans in front of us, Hahren."
Edna seemed flustered. "They are her friends, but they were not part of the vir sulevanan we agreed to." Jeremie tried to step forward to admit he'd called the others to Arlathan, but Tamiya stopped him. Aelita opened her mouth to explain the situation but her voice was overshadowed by the voices of the Hahrenen arguing. Edna was the lone voice advocating in Aelita's favor; the others were arguing for punishment.
The king stood. "Shaman, her vallaslin looks very strange. Why is that?" He asked the elderly woman who had, up until now, been silent.
The Shaman walked towards Aelita, and she examined the changeling very carefully. She held out her hand, which had long dirty fingernails on it, and Aelita cautiously held out her arm. The Shaman rubbed it carefully, examining the glow. "It is vallasdin—the rejection of the blood writing." Aelita had never heard of such a thing, but obviously it must have happened before now. The Shaman explained that vallasdin occurred when a virtue that had earned the elf their vallaslin was rejected—in Aelita's case, she had refused to endure, and instead resurrected her lover. The old elven woman took two steps back, hit the ground with her staff, pointed the tip in Aelita's face and traced along the vallasdin until it had vanished. Aelita's skin was no longer marked with pink, but instead with cuts and bruises that had never before manifested. It was obviously strange and traumatic for poor Aelita—she started rubbing her arm in disbelief, as if she was having a bad dream. She looked back to the Shaman. "You must earn it again, now." She said gruffly.
"So there is nothing in your favor? No noble house, no vallaslin, nothing?" Solas shouted. "Just the word of your former Hahren, who according to everything we know, you got killed in the first place?!"
"It wasn't like that!" Edna shouted out of turn.
Aelita ran forward a few feet. "Am I not able to speak for myself?" She questioned. "Elvhenan means everything to me! I would never—"
Solas waved his hand once more. "Halam sahlin!" He shouted, silencing everyone in the area. He looked to both his sides at the Hahrenen, then to the crowd, and finally at Aelita. "The Hahrenen have called for mien'harel, and I pass it now! Aelita Durgenbora, da'len Aloten, him harellan!" Aelita jumped, and she pulled her arms close to her chest. "Tel garas uth in Arlathan! Mala u'suledin nadas."
"Hanal'ghilan Solas, ir abelas!" Aelita shouted at the top of her lungs.
"Tel'abelas! Dirthara ma, len'alas lath'din." He spat. Aelita struggled to hold back tears. "Leave before the sun rises." The crowd was silent, and Edna shot a sympathetic glance at Aelita. There were tears in her eyes. Aelita finally started sobbing uncontrollably, falling to her knees. Jeremie and Ulrich helped her to her feet, and they left with the eyes of Arlathan focused upon them.
7th of Eluviesta
Aelita watched as her friends walked one by one through the Eluvian, prepped to take them to Castle Lyoko. "Aren't you coming?" Yumi asked. She replied that she would shortly, but she wanted one last look at Arlathan before she left. The first, and the last, look at Arlathan was tainted by misery. This was the city that she had waited her whole life to gain entrance to, the place she thought she would finally find a permanent home, and within hours they called her a traitor.
Just as Aelita turned to enter the Eluvian, Tamiya rushed in, out of breath. "Aelita!" She called out. The Southerner elf handed Aelita the flute Samahlin carefully.
"Did Edna send you to give this to me?" Aelita asked.
"Yes." Tamiya nodded. "She said you need it more than her. And, for what it's worth… I'm sorry about what happened at the trial. That was… unfortunate and you deserve better."
Aelita looked at the mirror and then to the young elven girl. She murmured, "Did I really?"
"Yes, you did, really." Tamiya said, holding the Outcast's hand. "Dareth shiral, Aelita."
"Dareth shiral." Aelita said before turning and entering the Eluvian. The magic dispelled without a sound.