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Marcel walked carefully over the barren and rocky crags of the volcanic island. He knew from the readings he had been monitoring (before the crash claimed his vessel and almost his life), that the source of his search would be near. The terrain was rough and inhospitable, with small streams of steaming, molten rock flowing in ashen and crimson folds toward the misted sea. Every step he took was considered carefully, his progression slow in the blistering heat. The way forward was a steep climb upward and occasionally the ground would tremble a warning.
On the edge of the Oehn Sea, Marcel Ghostraven concentrated his search. He had hoped to make his first contact more carefully, but circumstance would not afford him such luxuries now.
As he rounded a precarious, jutted ledge of igneous rock he noticed something curious: a tall, symmetrically placed stack of stone that was fashioned and purposed. He did not know what that purpose would be, but the structures were made by human hands not a flow of pahoehoe, and he knew that he was getting closer.
Throughout the day he encountered more of the unusual rock stacks, as well as curious drawings in stones and pebbles upon the ground. As he came upon series of volcanic caves, he began to find carved spear heads, shells, and archaically fashioned tools. Occasionally, he would uncover an almost undetectable trace of campfire or the remains of half consumed sea creatures. He sensed the coming of the evening darkness and sped his footfalls.
It was fully dark when Marcel entered the caves and began searching. The lava streams cast an erie scarlet glow on the black faces of rock and he traveled in darkness.
Deep within the caves he found Emily‘s machine. It was in the perfect center of a cavern that opened to the night sky, allowing the moonlight to dance over the metal and pipe of the modern machine.
Surrounding it were the remnants of Emily’s past life and voyages, all meticulously placed with obsessive detail upon the ground like some strange giant mandala. Pieces of metal, the skulls of small animals, shards of broken glass, rusted and bent pieces of wire and more fanned out around the machine in all directions. From the wings of the fuselage and hatch she had hung photographs from her life in Meiville, a display made gorish by the dried entrails that suspended them in the sweltering breeze.
Marcel moved carefully, placing his toes only in the spaces between the elaborate design, allowing himself to get closer to the time machine without disrupting the glyph. He had no way of knowing it’s purpose or magical properties and advanced with caution.
Once close enough, he carefully inspected the outer shell and the pit, and found that by all appearances it was intact and pilotable. He wondered if the power source, a pinpoint spark of the Light of Dagur stolen directly from TriAnna’s heart, still contained the energy needed to get them home.
As he exited the machine and began his careful tiptoe dance through the surrounding maze of objects, a bladed spear flew passed his head and lodged itself into the ground behind him.
Without placing his foot or disturbing her art, he started and gasped a profanity.
She was standing in the shadows, gaunt and pale, her once vibrant red hair was dull and white and looked as if it had been cut short with a blunt instrument. She was fully nude except for a torn wrapping of gauze that hung like a dirty bandage from her angular limbs.
She walked out towards him animal like, guarded and dangerous. In her eyes, which were barely visible through her wrap, he saw no recognition, no sparkle of intelligence or curiosity. They were vacant black pools of ink, swimming with the arms of Kronos.
“Emily,” he said calmly. “Emily, it’s Marcel.”
He moved to place his foot onto the ground, but she hissed and he realized at once that he was caught on a sort of web. She was defensive and slowing rounding her way to the hurdled spear. He made his words direct and clear.
“Emily, I have come to take you home,” Marcel said gently.
“You’ve come to steal my machine,” She said through her teeth, “You always wanted it. Wanted another chance at the fame and the glory. You’re a bumbling old fool with your toys and your fairy tales. I know who you are.” The snarl of her words was inhuman.
“You always liked those stories, Em,” Marcel said, bumbling, “Especially the one about, about the…” his heart was racing and he knew that it was a chance, but he reasoned that if he could make her remember, he might be able to reach the part of the girl not under the control of the beast.
“The one about Trixie and Nimble,” he forced a laugh, “they didn’t have Birthdays on Lys, remember? So, I gave them a party and I made them a gift. I gave you a gift too, Emily. You were a little girl. Do you remember?”
Emily had continued to be distant and cold, but she had stopped moving toward her spear for a moment, her head lulling from side to side as she took in his words.
Marcel cautiously proceeded, slowly moving his foot forward without disturbing the display at his feet. Very cautiously he placed his foot and regained his balance.
“It was a shiny disk, and you could put your hand over it and it would turn into whatever you were thinking about. It was from Lys, Emily. It was made from stargazer ore, a rarity even on Lys. You loved it Emily. Oh I remember how it made you smile!” Marcel started to brave another step, hoping to inch his way out of her trap.
He did not take his eyes off of the girl for a moment.
She was perfectly still now, holding her face in her hands and he could see the light of recognition coming into her eyes. She was struggling for control, fighting the demon inside of her mind.
If he could pull her through, get her away from his grip, Marcel could use the magic that TriAnna had taught him to bind the beast in a corner of her mind. It would hold long enough for him to get her back to Meiville. TriAnna would know what to do.
It was a worthy plan. He just needed to be sure to survive it.
“Trixie and Nimble loved theirs too!” he continued, calling on a story that young Emily had demanded to hear dozens of times, “Nimble had made hers into a tiny deer and so Trixie turned hers into a dinosaur that tried to eat it.” Marcel laughed genuinely at the memory, a sad sentimentality filling him.
“She did a cricket and Trixie made a shoe to smash it,” Emily said in a sort of daze.
“Yes, yes, very good Emily! Trixie was always being mean, but Nimble always got her in the end, because she was so clever. Just like you!” Marcel moved his foot again, this time though he moved too abruptly and the ink washed back over her eyes.
“You’re foolish. Bumbling old magician, you should have stayed dead!” Emily gnashed her teeth and moved round again placing her hands upon the spear, “It’s no matter. I will pull your heart from your body eat it in front of your damned witch lover.” She turned abruptly.
“Amos!” Marcel started, the adrenaline coursing through him, “You remember Amos? You are like brother and sister! You two would slide down the banister every time you came to my shop?”
“Amos?” Emily stopped again, shaking her head frustratedly. Tears started to roll down her tortured cheeks and she wept. Her tears boiled inside of her and she flew into a rage, screaming and wailing with shrill and deafening sound that echoed through the cavern, “Amos hates me!”
Without any further warning she lunged forward raising her spear with a startling speed and agility.
She aimed directly for Marcel’s heart.