Read Part I (Eizo’s Lore) here
“Look Papa, look!” Beyna said. “I’ve been practicing the shadow animals you showed me. I practiced a lot!”
Beyna’s father glanced at Beyna from where he was sitting, working on the estate’s accounts. “Sure, just a moment, dear.” After a few more moments, he closed the account book and went to where his 6-year old daughter sat on the floor, hands held in front of a lantern.
“See, here is the wolf!” Beyna’s fingers contorted, and a rough approximation of a wolf’s head appeared as a shadow on the wall.
“Very good Beyna, you learned that so quickly!”
“Wait Papa, that’s not all,” Beyna said seriously. “Look at him howl at the moon.”
The shadow wolf suddenly began to move on its own accord. The lord’s eyes widened and his face blanched as it raised its head upward and contorted, mimicking the motions of its flesh-and-blood counterpart.
“Isn’t it neat?” Beyna said happily. Her expression faltered as she noticed how her “trick” had affected her father.
“Witch,” whispered the lord. He immediately got up and went to the door. “Stay here,” he commanded, all warmth gone from his voice. The door shut with a thud, marking the last time Beyna would see either of her parents.
Edwin opened his front door in response to repeated, insistent knocking, hours before dawn. He blearily looked at what appeared to be a lord’s servant, a young girl with a tear-streaked face sniffling beside him.
“Are you Edwin the Warlock?” the servant asked.
“I don’t use that title,” said Edwin. He sighed. “Yes, I am he.”
“You are to take in the lord’s daughter and instruct her in the magical arts,” the servant said. “See that she doesn’t become a threat to herself or the wider community. And if anyone asks, she’s an orphan you happened upon, and nothing more.”
“And nothing more, hmm?” Edwin’s eyes hardened. “And how am I supposed to feed another mouth? Times are hard as it is.”
The servant tossed Edwin a small sack that clinked when he caught it. “They’re all gold; that is for your silence on this matter, and should cover her expenses for years to come. And don’t forget my lord’s tolerance of your presence on his lands.” The servant promptly returned to his horse and rode off, leaving the young girl behind.
Beyna woke up with a start. She was sitting on a chair, bound with ropes, in the center of the living room in Edgar’s cottage. Her eyes widened as she saw the lines of salt forming occult patterns on the floor. As her eyes darted from side to side, she spotted Edger in the corner of the room, holding a magical tome.
“E-Edgar? Sir? What’s going on?” she asked. In the seven years she had lived with him, he’d never done anything like this before. Although, he had gotten increasingly taciturn over the past few months.
“It is the 13th day after your 13th birthday,” Edgar said. “A special time, to be certain. And one that will serve me well.” He started chanting words in another language, phrases he had not taught her.
The lines of salt began to glow with arcane energy. Gradually, a dark energy field converged around Beyna and engulfed her. Although it didn’t seem to have any physical effect, Beyna felt sick – she felt a wrongness to it, as if it were sapping her life’s essence.
Edgar chuckled humorlessly, a greedy cast to his normally impassive features. “A maiden in the bloom of her youth,” he said, “is the perfect vessel for a life transfusion.” A stream of energy began to flow from Beyna towards Edgar.
Beyna felt panicked as the wrongness she felt increased. She was certain she wasn’t meant to survive this ritual. “No, no, no, no no no no no NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” she screamed. Suddenly, a glimmering force field expanded around her, pushing back the vampiric energy. The opposing energies struggled against each other for a few moments, and then Beyna’s force field rushed outward, dissipating the dark energy, scattering the salt, and slamming Edgar against the wall.
Beyna took deep, gulping breaths as the force field faded away. She felt as if she had just run for miles.
Edgar looked shocked, and paler than usual. “Demon,” he whispered under his breath. “W- Well, it seems you’ve passed the test,” he said more loudly.
“What?” Beyna said, hugging herself. The ropes binding her had been ripped to shreds by whatever it was she had done.
“Yes, it was a test of course,” Edgar said, grimacing as he struggled back to his feet. “I felt I might be reaching the limits of what I could teach you, so a trial was in order. And I’m happy to say that you’ve passed with flying colors!” He gave a weak smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
“I’ll send you to Camelot to study with Merlin, he can teach you more.” Edgar fixed his cold gaze on Beyna. “And in case you thought this was anything other than a test, I would keep that to yourself. No good will come out of you making wild accusations. And no one would believe you anyway.”
“I promise to always be there for you, to protect you, and help you, and love you, no matter what happens.” Eizo stepped forward, took Beyna’s hands, and looked into her eyes.
The truth was, Beyna had always adored Eizo. He made her feel confident and alive. He comforted her in her darker moments, even when she couldn’t reveal the origins of her feelings.
But she was afraid of ruining what she already had. Before this moment, she never knew that Eizo saw her as anything more than a friend – and he had a lot of friends, unlike her. And could it be too good to be true? Could she really trust Eizo’s words? Or would it all go wrong somehow, like it always seemed to for her? Would he hurt her or abandon her when she needed him most?
All these thoughts rushed through her head in the space of seconds, and she didn’t have time to consider them fully. “I- It’s a lot to process,” she heard herself saying, as if from a long distance away. She needed more time, this was too important. But if she hesitated too long, Eizo would assume she didn’t feel as he did. I have to do something! Beyna thought frantically. I need more time to think!
Wordlessly, she instructed Spots, her giant ladybug familiar, to fly to the nearest interesting thing. Ever since she had found him on a forest hike a couple years ago, they had shared a non-verbal, telepathic link. She had done it somehow, although she didn’t know exactly how she accomplished half the things she did.
Spots, obedient as ever (except when food was involved) immediately flew off, and she broke the moment with Eizo, running off after her familiar.
The portal was unexpected, but useful. Only a couple minutes had passed, not nearly enough time for Beyna to sort through her conflicting and deep-seated feelings.
“I’d step back though, we don’t know what this thing does, or whether it’s dangerous,” Eizo was saying.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Beyna said, while thinking, I still need more time – I’m sorry Eizo. Her command of shadows had always been strong.
3 years later…
I’ve been reminiscing too much lately, Beyna thought as she approached her targets. She needed to stay alert – capturing three wizards was no light matter.
She hadn’t given herself a lot of time to think about the past since she had teleported to the Runiverse. She’d ended up in a rainforest, by a beautiful waterfall. But Eizo had not appeared, as she thought he might. And moments later, she’d been chased south by a horde of bugbears.
She’d spotted the Dark Sentinel tower, which among other things, housed an association of shadow mages. They’d taken her in and helped her develop her shadow magic skills, without trying to sacrifice or otherwise take advantage of her as Edgar had. The least she could do in return was go on her current mission.
“We need to learn more about the Secret Tower,” the Council Elder had told her the day before. “We don’t even know where it is, much less what its inhabitants are doing. And we don’t like not knowing. We have received information about a trio of Secret Tower wizards who are traveling just north of here. We need you to capture them and bring them back here, alive, for interrogation. Do this, and you’ll become a full member of the Alliance.”
Now, the moon reflected off her robes, midnight black with red trim, as she neared the spot where the intel had said the Secret Tower wizards would be. She patted Spots, who was perched on her shoulder. Scout the area, and find the wizards, she thought to Spots. Dutiful as ever, Spots flew up and over the hill ahead of her.
Beyna closed her eyes and concentrated. In moments, she could see out of Spots’ eyes as he flew. Soon, she saw her targets by a campfire in a hollow surrounded by trees. Two wizards were already sleeping – a young dark-haired woman and someone covered in a hooded dark cloak. The third wizard, a bearded, middle-aged fellow, was keeping watch. I’ll need to get him under control first, Beyna thought.
Using Spots’ remote vision to ensure her targets weren’t alerted to her presence, she crept to an optimal location for her ambush, taking care not to let her crimson hat brush against branches and give away her position. Hefting her staff onto her shoulder, she aimed the end toward the bearded wizard on watch. Making an incantation under her breath, she caused a dark mass of energy to infuse the ruby that crowned her staff. She breathed in, then out slowly. At the end of her breath, she shot an orb of dark energy toward her target. The orb smacked the bearded wizard on the head, and he grunted before falling to the ground, out cold. Control is one of the invaluable things they taught me at the Dark Sentinel, she thought wryly. A dead wizard would tell no tales.
Unfortunately, tonight’s work would not be as easy as she’d hoped. The watchman’s grunt had been enough to wake one of the other wizards, the woman. She saw her comrade on the ground and immediately leapt to her feet. “Who’s there?” she called out. Then she briefly closed her eyes.
Beyna cursed, sensing that her cover was blown. She rushed out of her hiding spot up a tree – closing the distance with her targets was the key now.
“I don’t know who you are, but you’ve made a huge mistake!” the woman shouted. She made a quick incantation; in moments, a few of the boulders around her levitated in the air.
A geomancer! thought Beyna as the boulders started flying towards her. Her robes were not designed for agility, so dodging was out of the question. But as the stones hurtled toward Beyna, her form seemed to shift and meld into the shadows created by the campfire. The boulders flew past and smashed into the surrounding trees.
Beyna materialized on the other side of the campfire. Before the geomancer could react, Beyna waved her staff, and a long, whiplike mass of dark energy emerged from its ruby. Beyna immediately swung her improvised lash, coiling the energy around her target like a snake.
“Eizo, wake up!” the woman shouted before a coil of energy covered her mouth.
Time seemed to slow down for Beyna after she heard that name. Eizo?!? she thought as she tied off the coil of dark energy. No, it must be someone else who shares that name. She quickly turned to the third wizard, looking to incapacitate him before he could react to the warning he’d been given.
However, the spot was empty save for an empty dark cloak. Suddenly, Spots’ thought came, sharp as a razor, Behind you!
Beyna whipped around, staff held in front of her. A gloved hand stopped her staff in its tracks as its owner closed the distance between them.
His other hand held a cerulean blue shepherd’s crook, which matched his shirt, hair, and eyes. He put this arm around Beyna, drawing her closer in a one-armed embrace until their faces were inches apart. “Beyna…it’s you,” he said softly. Somehow, he didn’t sound surprised.
“Eizo…how?” Beyna said. Tears came to her eyes, unbidden. “I thought I’d never see you again.”
Eizo looked a little hurt. “Could you really doubt that I followed you through that portal?” he said.
“Part of me knew you did,” Beyna replied. “I just thought I’d never find you.”
“I’ve been looking for you all this time,” Eizo said. “I never gave up hope. And I haven’t changed my mind about you. I’m not sure what business you’re mixed up in, attacking my friends like this, but I can see you didn’t really harm them. We can figure this out and make it work, together…if that’s what you want.” For the first time, Eizo’s voice sounded uncertain.
Beyna’s heart fluttered at these words as she looked deep into his eyes. Eizo was taller and had filled out physically in the years since they had last seen each other, but his feelings were unchanged. She was determined to let him know how she felt this time.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted, ever since I first met you,” Beyna said, her voice breaking. “I love you. And I need you in my life, always.”
She put her free arm around him to complete their embrace, and raised her lips up to his. This moment in time would be precious, always. For that first moment of passion, but also for the solace of finally finding the home she’d always wanted.