“Do you even know what it’s like to be an orphan?” Saoirse screamed as she floated above my head. “Do you understand the loneliness or the way people look down on you? I finally have someone that cares about me!”
Saoirse’s eyes seemed to fall into darkness as the whites of her eyes vanished, and tiny spectral shadows stretched from where her eyes had been. Her shadow stretched and writhed as it extended from her. The black tendrils searched for anything to grab on, and despite the translucence, managed to have substance enough to find purchase on the buildings around her.
“Saoirse, stop!” I yelled as a wall began teetering next to me.
The shadow pulled hard, and the wall gave out. I had to roll back to avoid the rubble as it slammed into the cobblestone where I had been standing. Looking up, Saoirse’s face had become a mask of anger and fury as she extended her arm, directing the shadow to the other side of the alley.
“I am powerful now!” she boomed. “Myrkul gave me the power to defend myself and take what I want. I’ll never again be looked down upon or kicked to the curb because of some self-entitled caddywompus who believes that I’m worthless. I’ll go back to the places that never saw my worth and punish them!”
“You don’t have to,” I said, dodging another volley of falling brick and plaster. “You’re better than this, Saoirse. I know you, and I care about you! You don’t have to give in to this.”
“You don’t care about me,” Saoirse said, the tendrils shooting out toward me. “If you cared, you wouldn’t have left me in Dobrigh! You wouldn’t have made me fend for myself again! I loved you, Aubrey. I had given myself to you completely, and you left me there alone to suffer!”
I hesitated a moment too long, and the shadow grabbed me, twisting like roots made of ice around my body. It pulled my arms and legs in odd directions that they weren’t prepared to go, making me cry out in pain. I could feel my joints at their limits burning and screaming as my tendons began to stretch too far.
“I loved you, Saoirse. That’s why I told you I’d be back. I was taken by some bandits on the road to Malton. It wasn’t my choi-” I choked as a tendril wrapped around my neck. The pressure was incredible, and I feared that my windpipe was going to collapse as I fought to breathe.
“You didn’t leave me?” Saoirse asked, the tendrils relaxing their twisting for a brief reprieve.
“No,” I coughed. “I was on my way to Malton to see my friend when the bandits ambushed me. I tried to get away, but they chained me up and dragged me off to Saltash. If I had abandoned you, why would have come here? I went to Dobrigh first to find you, but everyone was gone.”
“I didn’t know,” Saoirse said. From behind her shadow wreathed eyes, I saw a tear roll down her cheek. “It’s too late now. I have to.”
The tendrils twisted again. “No, you don’t have to! There’s always a choice!” I cried.
“What choice is there now?” Saoirse replied. “I’m sorry, Aubrey. I love you.”
The tendrils tightened on my throat once more, cutting off my air. I felt a pop as my shoulder dislocated and would have screamed if there was a path for the air to escape. I watched the odd black and white world in which I had found myself begin to fade from my vision.
From beneath my shirt, there was a flash of white, searing light that made me close my eyes. I felt the warm embrace of something cradling me as the tendrils burned away. There was a scream somewhere far away that made me pause, but my body was in too much agony as it twisted back to where it should have been. I felt a small pop as my arm was put back in place. I opened my eyes as my feet landed gently on the ground once more. Everywhere the light reached showed color once more.
“What are you doing?” Saoirse cried. “I have the power now! I’m Myrkul’s chosen! I am the bringer of darkness!”
“I’m not doing this,” I replied as my pendant lifted out of my shirt and pulled itself toward her.
“Stop it!” Saoirse screamed as her tendrils of shadow whipped out toward me, burning off in the radiant energy of the light.
The light began swirling in on itself, taking a vaguely human shape that blocked the entire street. I stared in awe as it stepped forward, gripping Saoirse’s shadows as it pulled her toward it.
“Please don’t hurt her,” I said to the creature, who’s head turned to look at me. Where a face would have been was utterly featureless as it nodded to me.
Saoirse screamed with everything she had in her as whatever this being of light was pulled her into its embrace. It wrapped its arms around her as though hugging an infant. It was gentle but so firm that Saoirse couldn’t struggle against it. It bowed its head to hers as though it were going to kiss her, but instead, the shadow that inhabited her was pulled from her, forming a tiny dark speck inside the light-creature.
There was no screaming or pain anymore. Only an intense rushing sound like wind ripping through a cavern as the shadow was pulled from Saoirse. My jaw was slack as her body went limp, and the creature set her down gently. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the dark spot that writhed inside the creature. It walked away from me as shadows peeking out from their hiding spaces tried to fly away from it. The creature put its arms out, and in a blinding flash, I wasn’t prepared for, exploded into fine particles that spread like a wave crashing on a beach as it extended itself through the streets and buildings.
I fell to my knees and crawled toward where I had seen Saoirse. My hands reached blindly for her until I heard her even breathing and felt fabric in my hands. My vision cleared as I pulled her into a sitting position.
“Aubrey?” she whispered.
“Everything is good now,” I replied, tears rolling down my cheeks as her blue eyes looked up at me. “Everything will be fine.”
“I’m sorry, Aubrey,” she said, reaching for me.
I pulled her into a hug. “I should have brought you with me,” I said. “I shouldn’t have left you.”
“I’m sorry I was weak,” Saoirse said. “I’m sorry I caused so much pain.”
“You were hurting and desperate,” I said. “Now we can be together, and you never need to feel like that again. I love you, Saoirse. I should’ve married you when we were still in Dobrigh.”
“You want to marry me?” she asked.
“Of course. Wives forever,” I whispered in her ear.
“Wives,” she whispered, brushing her lips on my neck. “Wives forever.”