Living on the Edge
In one swift movement, Cassima pulled out her dagger and held it barely an inch from Edgar's throat.
"All right," she barked angrily, trying to push the fear out of her voice, "Who are you?"
"Please…Don't!" Edgar pleaded, holding up his hands to show he was harmless. He had never seen this person before, but he sincerely hoped she would not be the last person he ever saw…while he was alive, that was.
"Are you on Shadrack's side?" Cassima asked, her dagger hovering before Edgar's neck.
"No…" Edgar replied, even more confused than before. Shadrack? There was another person the prince was completely unfamiliar with who seemed to be part of this assault on his life.
The beautiful woman with the bright green eyes didn't seem swayed by his truthfulness.
"I don't believe you," she snarled. "How else could you have gotten here?"
"Please! It was an accident! You have to believe me!" Edgar begged. This seemed to calm Cassima slightly. She slowly lowered her dagger and seemed to relax.
"You still haven't answered my question," she said in a somewhat less threatening tone. "Who are you?"
"My name is…My name is Edgar."
"Well, how exactly did you find your way here, Edgar?" Cassima asked, putting her dagger away.
"It's a long story, and probably not very important to you," Edgar said. The woman's failure to lunge at him with her dagger again convinced him that she no longer saw him as a potentially deadly foe. He decided to be a little daring by asking her:
"By the way…who are you?"
Her eyes flashed slightly at this, but the rest of her remained at the "slightly wary" mark. Then:
"That's a beautiful name," Edgar said.
"I still don't trust you, Edgar," Cassima replied, her anger completely gone, but her cautiousness still present and making itself known. "Until you show me some sign that you mean no harm, I'm not speaking to you."
"But…" Edgar began.
"I'm not speaking to you," Cassima repeated, turning away.
Edgar looked at the strange, elegant woman that could have ended his life barely five minutes prior. She had thick, black hair covered by a light green headdress and beautiful skin with the faintest shadow of a suntan. Her emerald eyes shone like the greenest fields in the summer sun, and as delicate as she was, she still seemed strong in both body and mind.
At the same time, Cassima stole a glimpse out of the corner of her eye at the strange man that she had suspected of being in league with Shadrack. He was slightly taller than her, with slightly worried deep hazel eyes and a long mane of light brown hair that fell untamed about his shoulders. He was dressed very plainly in a pale orange tunic and a beige cloak with matching trousers. As innocent and frightened as he seemed to be, there was something else about his manner that Cassima couldn't place…but it made her suspect that he was more than what he appeared to be.
As Edgar was gazing at Cassima, he suddenly noticed a flash of blue-green on her chest as she turned. Gaping, he looked closer and realized that she was wearing a mate to the pendant that he had on. If his pendant wasn't a sign that he could be trusted, he didn't know what else could be.
He reached down his shirtfront and extracted the pendant, holding it in front of him.
"Does this mean anything to you?" he inquired tentatively. Cassima looked at the pendant and gasped, her hand leaping to her own pendant.
"Where did you get that?" Edgar asked.
"It…I got it from my husband," Cassima said, deciding to err on the side of caution, her trust in Edgar not quite complete. "He's been having dreams about an evil sorcerer that might be plotting revenge against us."
"Is he that 'Shadrack' that you mentioned before?"
"Yes…but what about that pendant you have?" Cassima asked, beginning to get in the swing of this game of "double interrogation". "Where did you get that?"
"My mother gave it to me. I was trying to get to the kingdom of my beloved's brother to seek his help, but something…well, something went wrong and I wound up here…wherever 'here' is."
"Hmm…Do you know just how these things work?" Cassima inquired, gesturing to her pendant. "I got here more or less by accident too."
"You just visualize a place or setting in your mind, and you're transported there, or the second closest equivalent," Edgar said, repeating the instructions as clearly as he could remember them. He carefully tucked the pendant back inside his tunic. Cassima, noticing this and deciding that keeping such a powerful item hidden from view was a good idea, did the same with hers.
"I see. It all makes sense now," she said quietly. Then she looked deeply into Edgar's eyes, taking a step towards him as she did so. "But finding Shadrack is going to be difficult alone. Edgar…would you please help me?"
"Uh…I…" Edgar faltered. It was hard to look into those gleaming eyes and say "no." Still…was this the right thing to do? He was supposed to be in the Green Isles, looking for advice on how to make himself a worthy husband for Rosella, not groping about in this pitch black no-man's land…but something inside of him eventually prompted him to say:
"Yes. Yes, I think I will help you."
Cassima looked very relieved and overjoyed at this.
"Thank you, Edgar. I'm sure my husband will be grateful to you."
"So, where do we start?"
"I think we should try to see where we are first," Cassima suggested. "Do have a candle or a tinderbox with you? At least find some way to give us some light to see by."
Edgar had neither a candle nor a tinderbox with him; the only items to his name were his pendant and his cloak. He was about to admit that he had no way of producing light when he remembered what he was.
He was a fairy – a supernatural being, and though he hadn't had any formal teaching, he still had magic powers. They were limited, but effective. They had certainly held up in his duel with his evil aunt, Malicia…the duel that came within a hair's breadth of ending his life.
Now he was faced with the much simpler problem of producing light. He focused his energies on the palm of his left hand, willing a light of some form to appear. Within a few seconds, a ball of light was blazing in his hand, casting welcome rays on the featureless landscape. Though the light did little to dispel the blackness, at least it made the ground and the sky a little more distinct. Edgar could see small pebbles on the ground, and there seemed to be mountains some way distant.
"Good," Cassima said. "Now, let's look around and see if we can tell where we are."
She began striding purposefully away. Gently cupping the glowing sphere in his hand, Edgar followed her cautiously, already beginning to doubt whether agreeing to help this woman was a good idea.
Cassima suddenly stopped. Her head was cocked to one side, as if she were listening to something. Edgar walked towards where she was and –
"Edgar, look out!" Cassima yelled.
Edgar stopped abruptly, barely a foot away from the edge of a vast precipice. He reeled for a moment and quickly stepped backwards, gasping.
"What is that?" he whispered.
"Turn on the light!" Cassima hissed.
Edgar realized that the sudden shock had caused him to involuntarily extinguish the ball of light. He cautiously relit it and held it out towards the cliff. Though the black void beyond it made its own blackness hard to make out, it was all too real…and all too deadly, if one ventured too close to it.
"There's some kind of abyss there," Cassima said quietly. "I wonder how deep it is…"
She plucked a pebble from the nondescript ground and tossed it into the chasm. A full minute passed, and neither she nor Edgar heard it hit the bottom. They both shivered.
"You know what I think this is, Edgar?"
"No…" Edgar replied, unsure if he really wanted to know.
"I've heard that the most barren, dark and isolated land in existence is the land near the Edge of the World. If Shadrack is the darkest wizard alive today, this place must also be the darkest."
"Are you sure, Cassima?" Edgar asked in a near-whisper.
"It's the only answer I can think of," Cassima shrugged. "It would explain how I got here…But now that we know where we are, where should we go now?"
Edgar was silent for a moment. The deathly quiet in that silence made Cassima think more strongly than ever that this was the edge of the world.
"Well…" Edgar finally said, "Have you ever heard legends of the Underworld?"
"Why yes," Cassima replied, more brightly than Edgar suspected she would respond. "In fact…never mind. Why do you ask?"
Edgar breathed in deeply and looked away, towards the barren wastes.
"I was there."
"No!" Cassima gasped.
"Yes," Edgar said dully. "It was a short visit, but it was more than long enough. I'll tell you about it some other time."
"If there is another time," Cassima muttered.
"Right. I may not know much about dark wizards, but I think that the Underworld would be a good place to begin. The dead know volumes more than we do, so I'm sure at least one of them can tell you about Shadrack."
"Providing I survive," Cassima said uneasily, but not without a forced smile.
"Okay," Edgar said, hoping that what he was about to do wouldn't result in Cassima's death, "I can tell you what I can remember of that place, and you might be able to go there. Just listen to what I say and visualize it as strongly as you can."
"All right," Cassima said, straightening herself. "I'm ready."
Edgar suddenly remembered something.
"Wait! Where should I go to look for this wizard?"
"Well," Cassima said, gazing heavenward, "Neither of us know him that well, so offhand, I'd suggest going somewhere…close to home."
"Close to home?"
"Yes. Well, start describing the Underworld, Edgar. I'm all set."
Edgar cleared his throat, shut his eyes, and reluctantly began:
"Very well. It's always night there, and the moon is always full. Ghosts are everywhere, and they have to pass through two heavy gates to reach their goal: Samhain's throne room."
He trembled a little at this memory. Malicia had hit him with a ball of energy that would surely have made him a permanent resident of the Realm of the Dead, but Rosella had somehow brought him back to life…but not before he had gone on a short and chilling tour of most of the Underworld…
"The throne room is like an enormous spider's web covering a glowing dome, with a stagnant river below…I almost reached the throne before I was yanked back into the world of the living, Cassima, but I remember what it was like. Cold, eerie and heartless…"
A new memory had suddenly sprung to the front of his mind.
"In fact, I once heard that my beloved's sibling ventured there…hard to believe…his name is…"
A bright light burst against his eyelids. He opened his eyes to see that Cassima had gone. He could only hope that she had made it to the Underworld…and that she would somehow survive. Still, something made him believe that she would. There was something so brave and heroic about her that Edgar just couldn't see her failing in her quest.
Then he remembered that he had promised to participate in this quest. Where should he go now, though? Cassima said somewhere "close to home", but what sort of place would…
Edgar immediately knew where he should go. He focused himself and cleared his mind, taking one last look at the spot Cassima had stood before he began visualizing his destination and vanishing in a flash of light as she had done.
"Who was that woman?" he wondered out loud to himself.
Choose your path: