Nightfall in Brahmir: Bloodfall
Chapter Three – The Firstborn
Part Three, Chapter Two: Bloodfall: Worlds Away
Half the town’s guard posts had been abandoned before they’d arrived, which made Orri and Olem’s assigned duty that much easier.
Not that she thought it would be difficult to convince the guards to close off the city gates, but it certainly saved them time. Orri tugged on a large lever attached to the pulley and immediately the gate from the Moonside District out to the wilds began to groan. Behind her, Olem paced.
“What good will this do?”
She stared, watching to be sure the gate came of a complete seal, otherwise the city warding would crack and fail, and whatever remained inside wouldn’t be trapped inside like they’d hoped.
“It will keep everything inside the city. The Warding inscribed on the walls will only activate with all of the gates closed. Each of the three main gates, one here, one in Whitewall and another on the other side of Floumill are the only ones that have ever stayed open. There is one within High-rise, but nestled so close to the mountains and at this time of year, it’ll be locked.”
Olem wrung his hands.
“And then what do we do?”
“We hope Veinar and Ella have done their job. It might be no use to put the Sealed down, they’e come back before but at least it can buy us some time. Most of them need time to come back. You mentioned that Veinar had taken Sorvane?”
The detective nodded as the gate came to a stop, and a white light shone from the seam between the doors.
“If that’s the case, he’ll need time. None of the Sealed can just come back when they want. It’s the nature of the Seals we trap them in. The Breaking Sun developed the method long before they were an organized faith, back before The Night of Knives, even before then. Their first seal was Croom, that lunatic Doctor’s handiwork.”
“How can you be so sure?” He asked, leading them along the city wall to Flourmill, their final gate to close.
“I can’t.” She offered as if it were a condolence. “I can only go along with the plan, because it’s all that we have.”
It was evident that Olem didn’t have faith in their plan. Since the moment they left, he put on a brave face but the constant wringing of hands and incessant questions he’d assaulted her with broke down the thin mask he put up. Olem was afraid.
They all were.
They moved as quietly as they could through the streets, keeping beneath awnings and moving, as much as they could, through the aura of the few still lit Mana Wards. Despite the daylight, it was empty in the city. Anyone who hadn’t been a part of the procession of congregants still remained inside. They knew something had changed within the fabric of their lives.
Orri could feel it, too. Her brush with the Powers left her with a gift. To harness the flame of Vyse into her hands was a matter of training, of calling upon the Powers to fulfill a need. It was no different than Eva’s rapier, or even, though he would deny it, Veinar’s supernatural strength. The Power touched all of them and it offered gifts to those willing to embrace it and accept it.
Orri’s had been useful, but wasn’t one she could show off. She could feel things in the air, the city or the countryside’s response to the events. As if she were connected to the city, or rather, it were connected to her.
Most who came to brace the Powers didn’t realize they had walked away with a new piece to themselves. Orri quickly understood, thanks to her relationship to Sinder, that the Power was connected on some level to the haunting things of Brahmir. If she were honest with herself for a moment or two, she would have admitted that they were born from the same thing. Some spectral force hidden deep within the bones of their world gave birth to both the Powers, and the entities killed by them.
It was only a hunch, but something she’d always believed.
When she’d discovered the Powers within herself in came in the short waves of fatigue she’d feel when there was a change to the city. First manifesting when Sinder became Sinder, when he was just a boy, before she was alive, he was the incarnate of evil. Slaughtering a family friend and incarcerated because of it.
Afterward, he was locked away at Pennyworth Asylum citing deranged behavior. Sometime between then and when he broke out, she felt him. She didn’t know it was him, she never knew who it was or where it came from, but she would get sick. Every time a new Sealed was born she felt queasy. In the later years of her life she’d learned to maintain those feelings and keep the illness to herself. She’d come a long way from the fits of vomitting and crying she felt when Sinder and Korrigan had been awoken. Thanks to years of practice, she could maintain the stomach pains and the dizziness when something new arrived in her home.
She could feel it now.
It was far worse than any she’d felt before, despite her methods to maintain the pain, it gnawed at her. Something was born between their reuniting with the others and splitting apart and it was clawing at her insides, whether it knew it or not, with the help of the Powers.
She pushed the pain away and pretended, like she always had, that it was nothing. If there was another Sealed emerging in Ammon’s Reach, it would be trapped there forever. It wouldn’t be permitted to survive, but she suspected the others had a plan. Trapping them all within the confines of the city wasn’t how she’d have started it, but it was the option they still had.
Her mind bounced from their long, absent walk to Flourmill to their companions and the future of Ammon’s Reach. She dwelled especially on Veinar, the hard edged hunter from far away. He’d never told her where he hailed from. Not that anywhere in Brahmir would have been better, between Barrathie and the things that came from the sea there, all the way to the Hooded Peaks to the west, nothing in her world was safe, but she suspected he’d not come from her world at all.
“Hey, Olem.” She started, her mind dwelling on the possibility. “Do you think there is anywhere we could go? Where we could take all of the people sho make it through tonight and leave?”
He laughed. “Like where? The safest place from the Sealed is Diamond Vale, beyond there, whatever might be out there isn’t Sealed. They have freedom to roam and do as they please.”
“No, I mean somewhere else. Another world.”
The detective ran his hand along the side of a market stall, filled with long rotten vegetables and fruit.
“I just want my daughter back. I’ll stay here. There is no other world. Even if this one is horrible, I couldn’t go without Mayeli. Wherever she is, is home.”
Orri smiled to herself. Despite everything, this all began with Mayeli Kane, and she still hadn’t been found. Over the last few days, she’d forgotten that Olem had been searching for over a month for any trace of the girl, the bags under his bloodshot eyes told her more than enough times that he’d been without sleep for who knows how long, a father with only one thing left to do.
Bring his daughter home.
The pair arrived at Flourmill gate and pulled down on the lever. In the daylight without spirits, Ammon’s Reach was a thriving city, the center of their countrywide commerce, but as the gate groaned to a close, the vacancy of the streets set in, and left them alone with the sound of popping footsteps approaching them.
A group, three or more, came from around the corner and before she could turn to see them, she fell to the ground with a sudden pain in her neck, and the world fell dark.
She awoke with a start beneath the city, her arms and legs bound, and Olem lying beside her. Before them stood a stone altar, and surrounding the altar were a group of figures. She had to squint to see them, but as soon as her eyes fell upon the leather mask, she recognized the first to be Sinder who stood silently beside the altar, the knife he’d stolen from the home of his first victim, Anjie Mays, who had not two years prior survived Styne Manor.
Beside him stood Sorvane, who despite Veinar and Olem’s story, appeared as though he had just awoken for his near annual ritual of slaughter and torment. His machete retrieved from the house of the local curator who thought it would be wise to gather it and keep it alongside other occult objects.
Behind them, stood the Dancer whom she’d seen only twice before. Dressed in the macabre visage of a clown, complete with red makeup on his nose, he watched the last, a grey skinned form in polished leather with numerous cuts and pins littering it’s head, deposit a small ring onto the altar where a form struggled and suffered.
From the far side of the room, two more entered. A young girl whose skin deceived her true form, rotten with blisters and burned as if her flesh boiled beneath it. With milky white eyes and excrement covered hair, she walked alongside a man Orri recognized, A groundskeeper from Ary’s Peak Hotel, a destination site far from town which had long been abandoned. His frozen body shuddered in the lantern-lit warmth of the chamber, and clamped between his frozen hands was a girl.
She struggled against them, shouting and crying as the pair hoisted her atop the altar, the rest of them pinned her down.
“Let my daughter go!” Olem screamed beside her, struggling against his restraints.
None of them so much as looked at him as the nail headed monster slipped the ring onto the poor girl’s finger, and she screamed.
“Let me go!” Mayeli howled as the ring sat alongside many others of near identical design, one for each finger.
“It is finished.” The grey skinned monster stepped back so gently he appeared to be floating.
Kardja looked upon Mayeli as the girl stopped struggling.
“This is the refurbishing of the pact. What has once been dismantled will be reborn, and once more we will rise.”
Orri pulled against the worn, rotten rope which bound her. The knot was tight, but it was still just fiber. She rolled onto her back and drew upon the Powers. Her stomach churned and heat burned from her palm as the milky eyed Kardja came around the altar and addressed them.
“It is a shame, you have strayed from the agreement we’d made so long ago. Such measures wouldn’t need to be taken.”
Orri spit on her. “You took the firstborn of every family. We sacrificed our children for you.”
“And then you stopped, and trapped us in your little prisons, navigating methods to keep us there forever.” She gestured to the side of the room where, nestled in the dark, a large crystal grew from the floor. Trapped within was a man in a long leather overcoat whose exposed chest was a beehive, the swarm of insects frozen alongside him in the crystal.
“You’ll forgive me for not taking it lightly.”
“You’re monsters.” Olem spat.
“We are living, breathing beings just like you. Do we not deserve to live, and eat? Are we unworthy to walk the streets?”
Orri burned the Powers, careful not to ignite a flame in the darkness. Her bonds grew hot and malleable.
“You deserve death for what you’ve done.”
Behind Kardja, from Mayeli’s chest a beam of red light erupted and stretched upward, through the roof of the chamber and out into the air above them.
“Death would have been better, but alas, we cannot die.”
Kardja’s voices spoke in unison, and Mayeli squirmed as Olem tore through his bindings. Recognizing the pop of the rope, Orri lit the flame in her hands and incinerated her own bonds.
Surging to her feet, she caught Kardja by the jaw and channeled her flame.
“We will see about that.”
Drawing deep from the power, flame coursed through her bones and ejected from the palm of her hand, burning Kardja’s body from the inside out, malting away the rotting diseased flesh of the girl. Her eyes boiled in her skull and she fell, a smoldering shell of the creature she had once been, too recently awoken to be sealed and without the help of other Lamplighters, Orri couldn’t save the girl she had once been.
It wasn’t the first time she was faced with such a decision.
Olem rushed to Mayeli’s side, shoving back the other Sealed gathered around the altar and the detective wrapped his arms around his daughter, lifting her from the altar as quickly as he could. The Sealed turned their attention to him before Orri pulled a second time from the well of strength within her and sent a fan of violent flames spreading across the walls.
“To get him you go through me.”
Sinder wasted no time, approaching her with his knife in hand, the same knife which had, so many times before been a threat to her very life.
She twisted the flames from within and channeled them into a geyser, cooking through Sinder’s flesh and burning away Sorvane who stood behind him. She shoved against the Powers, against the dizziness, and channeled the years of fear and weakness at the hands of Sinder into her strike. The room baked, the clay walls insulating the flame as Olem narrowly managed to slip from within.
With no one else in the room to spare, Orri released the lock she’d kept on her power, ignoring the training she’d often given to the new recruits.
“To hold oneself back is the hallmark of piety.” She instructed, year after year. “It is enough to acknowledge, but being consumed by feeling is within itself a sin against the goddesses. The Breaking Sun instructs us to be in total control of our emotion lest we lose control of the rest of our hearts and devolve into a lesser thing.”
The instruction, she believed for years, was invaluable. But the true strength of the Powers hid within control and acceptance of ones own fate. Those who had brushed against the very essence of that which gave life to Brahmir would know. Their Powers, the very tools they used against the dark came from the same place of origin the very things they hunted did. She would never have admitted it to another Lamplighter, let alone anyone uninitiated, but to touch the Powers was to brush ones self against the Soul of Brahmir itself. To utilize them as the Lamplighters did, she’d learned through painful experience, rid them of their haunts for a time…
But not forever.
She screamed as she brought the flames to the surface, forgoing her own instruction to control her fear, her sorrow or her shame, to hide away within the rubble of a life destroyed by the same thing that gave her the strength to move on, Orri launched the Seals surrounding her back, the weaker among them disintegrated against the clay walls. Her own skin bubbled and burned as the heat rose further and further.
“I am not the weak girl you preyed upon in our youth.” She spoke to Sinder, who stood as if unaffected by the flame, the hollow black eyes hidden behind his mask staring dear into her, deeper than the parts of her who touched the Worldsoul.
Sinder knew her. How, she didn’t know, but he did. He was familiar with her in a way she couldn’t have been familiar with herself. Like Linde was to Eva, Sinder stood opposed to her with a greater will than she could fathom, because he was a reflection of her.
Her own will was greater too, than she realized.
Around her, Sorvane and the crystal holding the other Sealed burnt to ash and dust as she screamed out, accepting the lies she’d told herself since she was a babysitter in secondary school. That she would never be rid of the evils of Ammon’s Reach.
She burned away the fear she’d always held of Sinder, torching it like shreds of linen against a bonfire. The sliced apart Sealed who stood near them looked on, unaffected by the blaze and turned to pursue Olem with an unamused expression on its face.
The fleeing Sealed only stoked the flame of rage she grew within her.
Pulling the final sparks to coal she unleashed every droplet of the Powers that lived within her, releasing the fear that she could one day be left defenseless int he face of torment and the flames evolved to white.
Around her, the walls cracked and crumbled and Sinder still looked into her, past her eyes, past her history, past her strengths. He could always see the darkness within her, because he was the darkness.
As the room crumbled around them, she felt the sudden oncoming of fatigue, and forced herself to stay standing. No one left but Sinder and her, alone in the undercroft she intended to burn apart. As fragments of wall crumbled, the heat contained burst through and filled connected halls, incinerating anything hopeless enough to be caught within.
Then, in a moment so fleeing she was sure she imagined it, Sinder stumbled. The hideous masked thing fell to his knees, his very flesh burned away as the mask began to melt around him, and the tremendous heat bored holes through his thin skin.
She screamed, refusing to give in to the dizziness that always came when she felt the Powers, and burned Sinder alive where he stood, free from his reign of terror within her heart.
The chamber continued to cook despite the absence of heat. All of the energy Orri expelled from herself remained within the undercroft to cook the spirits and servants of the Seals. Her head throbbed as she pulled herself to stand, barely able to touch the altar even being used to the tremendous heat she could produce. The bodies of all of the Seals, save for the nail headed one remained in the chamber, little more than piles of ash, save for Sinder, whose body withstood greater flames than even she thought she could produce.
She dragged herself to her feet and stumbled out of the room.
“I hope Olem made it out…” She gasped to herself, looking back at Sinder’s corpse one final time.
She climbed the stairs out and found herself emerging in the gathering room of the Breaking Sun within Moonside. As she ascended, she saw the body of her friend, the old man, dried up and wrinkling as it decayed. The doors of the chapel remained open wide, and standing in the entryway was Olem, with young Mayeli in front of him, a look of gratefulness across her face.
Orri jumped out of the stairwell and began running toward them, amazed they had made it out. As she dashed through the hall, she watched the smile on Mayeli’s face turn as Olem fell to the ground, a long knife jutting from his chest.
Orri screamed and pulled deep, searching for the flame. Mayeli turned to face her with a grin and she realized she could no longer feel the Powers within her.
“What have you done?” She mumbled, coming to a stop ten feet from the girl.
From the walkway that wrapped around the chapel emerged the gray skinned Sealed, floating as he always had.
“What I was made to do.” Mayeli replied, her voice sick, coated in a thick sarcasm. “I was born to be the downfall of your land.”
She summoned the pin headed creature to her side, and grinned.
“It has been my honor.”
Mayeli reached out as if touching something before her, and Orri fell to her knees. The girl clenched her fist and Orri’s heart began to race.
Violent pounding inside of her as she felt the Powers surge back into her, dizziness so profound her eyes grew blurry. She couldn’t keep them open as the pain spread through her body and clamped them shut. Above her, Mayeli approached.
“It is a shame, as Kardja mentioned, that your people were so unwilling to come to an agreement. We could have lived in peace together.”
“It wouldn’t have been peace for us.” Orri spit, rolling onto her side, unable to stay upright as Mayeli placed her foot onto her neck.
“It would have been so much better than what comes next.”
The girl who was no longer just a girl put pressure on her neck, pinching her to the stone as she looked up into her eyes, glowing red with malice.
Orri struggled, pushing against the Mayeli, rotating to keep her windpipe safe as she struggled, barely able to see straight as the girl pushed harder and harder.
“How does it feel, being cut off from us, from your source of power?” Mayeli leaned forward to mock her, and Orri didn’t have the breath left to reply as she planted her palms firmly on the stone and pushed back, fighting for her life until the end.
“Mayeli, if you are in there, you did nothing wrong.” She summoned the words through coughing fits and deep gasps. “Your father loved you until the very end.”
Mayeli cackled in response. “Please, if he loved me, he would have come for me sooner.”
She reached down with a sick hand and traced Orri’s ear with grime filled claws.
The cold of Mayeli’s touch sent shivers through her, and she fought to turn and look up at the child one more time, and behind her saw the sky.
Far above the clouds, the sky had turned to a deep crimson, with a massive eye that stretched from end to end looking down upon Ammon’s Reach, searching for something with the blood red light that came from its pupil. Outside the awning of the chapel, it began to rain.
“This is your final moment, Orri of the Lamplighters. Commander of the Lost, victim to evil once and forever.”
Mayeli raised her foot and gave Orri the brief moment to catch her breath before she slammed her foot back down. The Lamplighter slammed her eyes closed, prepared to give her life, and felt the foot slam into the stone, which cracked under the strike.
She opened her eyes, dizzying as it was, to see Mayeli standing, a look of shock upon her face, and a golden spear jutting from her chest.
“There is no forever, Mayeli. Death is not the end.”
Eva’s voice wrapped around Mayeli as the girl tumbled forward, the golden spear disintegrating into the air.
“You couldn’t.” The possessed teenager coughed through blood.
“Turns out, I could.” Eva summoned the spear and extended her arm to pick Orri up. Behind her, the pinheaded creature approached.
“You have done exceedingly well.” It spoke plainly without inflection. “Perhaps we could reach an arrangement.”
Eva flipped the spear in her hand and thrust it upward, slamming the creature’s mouth closed.
Orri didn’t bother mouthing off to any of them, despite the urge to do so. Instead, she ran to Olem’s side and knelt with her hand on his neck.
To her dismay, she felt no pulse.
“What do we do?” She looked up once more to the sky.
“There is nothing we can do.” Eva held the spear, binding the creature’s mouth closed. It raised a hand and waved two fingers, a simple motion.
Behind her, Orri heard the dragging of chains across stone followed by the plunge of metal into flesh as Eva screamed. She whipped around to see the young Lamplighter suspended in the air by floating chains that seemed to emerge from out of nowhere. A moment later, the same barbed hooks plunged into her, lifting her into the air.
Eva lost focus on her spell as the golden spear vanished and freed the horror, who backed away from them.
“I’ve heard much of you, since my time in between the veil and your reality.” He waved his hand as hooks dug into Mayeli’s body and lifted her from the ground.
“Astounding, your collected tenacity. Times have changed much since last I was here.”
“What are you?” Orri spat, her body hanging more than a foot from the ground.
“I am Philos, the Arbiter of Pleasures.” He waved his hand as hooks emerged, latching on to Olem’s body as he turned away and walked into the city.
“That didn’t answer my question!” Orri shouted. Blood dripped down her back.
“I don’t need to answer your questions.” Philos dismissed them and continued on his way, Olem’s body thumped against the stairs as the Arbiter walked out of view around a row of houses and left them there alone.
“So this is it?” Eva asked, the chains softly rattling above her. “We die like the witches in old days?”
Orri laughed. “We are the witches of the old days, my dear.”
She closed her eyes and focused on the pain, the pain of failure, of being so close to victory and still falling short. Tears brimmed her eyes as she waited for the night to fall, and for her life to finally be silenced.
Behind her, still hanging in the air, Eva called out.
“You didn’t think this was going to be it, right?” She chuckled. “We should have gone to the Doctor sooner.”
Orri the Lamplighter had long been vocal about her distaste for Dr. Fei Lachmann and her… unique methods. Aside from bringing to life one of the most difficult Seals to contain, she was also a champion for the people. Something Orri didn’t want to oppose, but the good doctor chose unique methods to be such.
For instance, her first draft of a design for city defenses included dormant automatons which civilians could step inside of in order to fight against their attackers. The second version was the same, except she chose to add a gun instead of make it so that untrained civilians didn’t have open access to weapons.
Her hair brained ideas had long gotten her in trouble with the Academy, as well as the Observatory of Lumis, which frequently sent requests for her to deactivate her intricate spotlights fueled by ether which were designed to “emulate daylight” and destroy a spirit before it had time to find prey.
The Mana Wards were a more consistent and safer option for everyone involved.
Despite the Doctor’s numerous blunders, Orri could think of no one she wanted to see more than Lachmann when the woman swung down from the rooftop of the chapel on a rope and sliced through the chains, releasing them from their makeshift captivity.
“Good to see you, Madame Orri.” She bowed, her long hair tied into a tight curly pony tail.
“Doctor.” Orri replied as Eva fell to the stones and embraced her.
“I couldn’t have done it without you both.” Lachmann slipped a small cylinder from her pocket and revealed a needle attached to it.
“What, dare I ask, is that?” Orri adjusted her cloak and straightened her trousers while Lachmann pranced around them, bouncing in excitement.
“Well, we know that the creatures that threaten us and the Powers given to the Lamplighters and select others are connected, right?”
She paused, likely hoping someone would answer. Neither of them did.
“I know your secrets, Lamplighters, you can’t pretend with me. That is the case and I am aware of your little secret, it matters little now. Brahmir has a soul, a unique and specific soul, which radiates this unique energy. It is what creates Sinder and Philos and Korrigan and even Croom, I was tapping into this… leyline, we could call it, when I constructed him and wanted to bring him life. Ever since I’ve been studying it, trying to learn.”
She popped the cap back onto the syringe and slipped it into her coat, whipping around to face the massive eye still scanning the city.
“The soul of Brahmir deposits energy into the land and that energy is pulled by Lamplighters and others to materialize for the benefit of the people, and you might be asking yourself where this soul came from.”
“Not really.” Orri quipped.
“Not helpful. The Worldsoul is the congealed mass of energy left over from death. Everyone who dies goes back to the soul of Brahmir, and later, when it has churned through enough of the recurring energy, it spits out another person identical to the one who died, which means, some factors dependent, in the future there will be another Orri, Eva and LAchmann. Obviously they won’t be truly replicas. For instance, the next Eva might be studious, but not have interest in become a Lamplighter, despite the presence of Linde in her life. Similarly, the next Orri might be hyper critical of that which she doesn’t understand, but she might not share the current Orri’s desire to work for a greater good. These things change and warp, slightly, each new version of the past self.”
“So… You are or are not actually Dr. Fei Lachmann?” Orri asked, confused.
“I am, and I will be, and I’ve discovered how I can always be, the one and only Dr. Fei Lachmann.”
“If you had us, you just lost us.” Eva joked, stepping away from the chapel.
“I don’t need to explain it all to you again, do I? Alright.” She took a deep breath. “Every few years, a couple decades or so, someone who dies, regardless of the method, is reborn by the Worldsoul. It constantly changes you and repurposes you until it finds the perfect version of you, few of those exist today and while I don’t have proof of this, I expect that the perfect version of someone would be able to tap in to the Worldsoul itself and utilize the power however they saw fit. That hypothetical perfect person is alive today, and I know where she is.”
Eva cocked an eyebrow. “How?”
“Because I follow the evidence. I started with the Bellringers, what I gather, they are the closest to perfect replicas of themselves that I’ve been able to find. They tapped into the Powers without any training, each of them able to see into the spaces between our reality and,” she gestured to a pair of weeping spirits wandering the streets, hiding in the shadows. “Their reality. So I built a case off of that. The Powers allow you to communicate, in fragments, not in unity. Also not always in sensible ways, Orri gets sick when she uses it, Eva hears voices, others see things and other smell sulfur or other foul smelling things. The Bellringers outright summon an entity from the places between ours and theirs. So, I looked for everyone in Brahmir I could who shared those similarities and what do you know, I found one.”
Orri put her hands to her head, exhausted by Lachmann’s long winded explanation.
“What are you getting at, Doctor, time is of the essence.”
She held a hand up. “See, that’s the thing. It isn’t!”
The Lamplighters shared a look as Lachmann paced back and forth.
“It’ll be a moment yet.” She mumbled to herself. “Any moment soon.”
The Doctor didn’t continue speaking, instead she paced around the entryway to the church and looked toward the alleys, as if expecting someone.
“What is she doing?” Eva whispered.
Orri leaned back and replied, quieter. “Don’t ask her she’d spend all day explaining it.
Then, came a call from down an alleyway.
“That’s the moment.” Lachmann jumped and ran toward the voice.
The Lamplighters followed, Orri reached inside and tried to touch the Powers, but felt nothing return.
“I’m spent.” She thought.
They rounded the corner to find a girl, sitting alone, her frizzy hair bunched in her hands as she wept, crying out against something that was clearly not there.
“This,” Lachmann gestured, “Is our perfect specimen. Kiira Garren.”
Orri put her hand out. “Please don’t call people specimens, Doctor.”
“Right.” She jumped and ran to Kiira’s side. “This girl is suffering from being too close to the Powers.”
Above them, the eye panned its view over them all.
“It is the vessel the Seals wanted, but they were wrong. Mayeli fit almost the perfect description, Kiira is the perfect fit for the Firstborn.”
Eva sighed. Even she was growing tired.
“The Firstborn being what took over Mayeli’s body?”
Lachmann nodded. “You noticed the rings she wore? All of those were, for the sake of quick explanation, balancing apparatus. They stabilized the parts of Mayeli which were not in line with the Firstborn.”
“How did you figure all of this out?” Orri asked, lifting the weeping girl into her arms. She did not resist, or react at all. She only continued weeping.
“I looked back through history. The Bellringers lived and died the same way, the same group of kids with the same unusual aging patterns. Each of them dead at the hands of…”
“The Dancer…” Eva finished.
“Exactly, the Dancer, or something like the Dancer, see, most of the Seals are different. No matter how many times Linde or Sinder return, they will be exactly the same. They aren’t dying, well, not really. This time is a little different, but in their very essence, they can’t be killed. Some of them can, however, like the Dancer, and Philos. There are others, I won’t bother with them. The point is, in Brahmir, if something can be killed, it will come back different. Until it reaches a perfect form. Everything potentially has a perfect form according to the Worldsoul, but Kiira here is the perfect form for the world soul.”
Lachmann led the women to a nearby house, which looked abandoned. A window on the second floor had been broken and blood had recently been cleaned from the alley. She quickly picked the lock and entered into a nicer house among those in the Moonside District, lavish furniture and fineries were on display all over the property. The living room was cluttered and disorganized, and hanging on a wall was a painted crest for the Garren family.
“This is where Kiira lives.” Eva remarked, lying the weeping girl on the sofa.
“Sort of, where she lived. She was the one who summoned Philos, which is why he’s still wandering around the city. After she solved this,” Lachmann picked up a strange golden puzzle box and placed it on the table.
“The Worldsoul, that big eye above us, is attempting to mutate mortals by bringing out all of their past selves, which is why some of them have turned into flesh eating violent creatures.
“They what?” Orri widened her eyes. “I haven’t seen that.”
“Hopefully you don’t, there was an outbreak at Styne Manor, I prevented one in Whitewall where I found Eva. Pay attention.”
The Doctor disappeared into a side room in the hall and emerged with a small bundle of vines.
“Dart Garren, Rest In Peace to be returned soon, was a collector of strange articles. Those articles included this.”
Orri rolled her eyes. “This being…”
“Simply, we plant this seed, and water it with Kiira’s blood, and we can grow a new Worldsoul.”
The Lamplighters both stared in disbelief.
“You can’t be serious.”
Lachmann met Orri’s gaze.
“I’m not, not at all. This will grow a living tree and after a few years of meticulous care with careful planning and preparation would likely kill us and water the soil with our bodies.”
She threw it over her shoulder.
“I took some of Mayeli’s blood, and with it, I’m going to practice a little trick I picked up from that hunter friend of yours. Blood ministration, I followed him around when he got here initially. He uses the blood of others to heal himself, a unique practice to be certain, given how unique we usually all are, but on Brahmir, nothing is unique. Everything came from something, or somewhere else. Veinar and Ella might be the only two completely foreign entities to us and because of that, we can reuse the blood on anyone.”
“What purpose will this serve, Lachmann? Injecting her with blood isn’t going to do us any good, so what if she gets healed, she is still a weeping terrified mess.”
Lachmann drew the syringe from her coat and popped the lid off.
“See, you’re right on almost all accounts. The Lamplighters are taught that the old world Brahmir was brought to peace thanks to the rite of the Firstborn, that the first citizens offered their first child to the night to be taken that they might still be able to live, but that isn’t quite correct.” Without waiting for the other women to help her, she jammed the syringe into Kiira’s neck.
“The Rite of the Firstborn is much simpler, in that the Firstborn in question is not the firstborn of a family, but the Firstborn of the settlement. It was who would one day become our first Archbishop when the Breaking Sun was simply a suite fit to worship the goddesses. The blood of that man runs through Kiira, and the progenitor of the curse, the spawn of the Worldsoul was its own Firstborn, whose blood runs through Mayeli.”
Eva stared at the syringe while Orri caught up.
“So, by injecting her with the blood of the original Firstborn, what are you accomplishing?”
“I am reuniting the pact of the Firstborn and putting a halt to the curse. For years we were told that the hauntings stopped because of the pact, because we sacrificed our own children, but that was never why.”
“Then, what was it?”
Lachmann plunged the blood into Kiira and sighed as the girl’s whimpering came to a quick halt.
“Because the bonding of the Firstborn, the original Rite, created the Goddesses, who held back the darkness until they were put away by the descendent of the Sealed Firstborn. In order to break his Seal put upon him by us, the five Goddesses were banished. Locked away within the lineage, hidden, trapped in the resting place of the First Seal.”
The Lamplighters paused, remembering their studies.
“The First Seal was Croom.” Orri said, more as a question than anything else.
“Incorrect, that was your First Seal, the Breaking Sun. There are older, more dangerous things locked away in the earth even your lot don’t know about. Thankfully for you, you have me.” She withdrew the needle and returned the cap, pressing down on the wound with her other hand. “The original First Seal was located beneath Styne Manor, where our Firstborn locked away the Spawn of the Worldsoul. Where, to this day, the Goddesses remain trapped in an endless prison.”
Kiira’s eyes shot open in a panic. Orri and Eva jumped, rushing across the room to her aid as she gasped for air.
“They’re coming, they’re coming.”
Outside, the red pillar of light projected down to Ammon’s Reach by the eye raced to them from across the city until it stopped, hovering over the house.
Kiira began screaming, writing on the couch as light burst from her eyes and throat, illuminating the room.
The foundations of the house began to shake as long built in dust fell from the rafters.
“What is happening?” Eva shouted.
“They’re coming.” Lachmann replied, reclining on the sofa beside the screaming girl.
Orri turned away, without time to chastise the doctor, and looked out the window as she saw a tidal wave of forms marching down the street, directly toward them.
The group was led by Mayeli, Philos and the Dancer. Linde hobbled, clutching her chest alongside Silman’s Son and others from ages long past, marching in tandem with a horde of disfigured, mutated congregants. The people’s white robes torn and stretched to reveal hideous gnashing teeth and bloody eyes bore down on the house as more Seals emerged from the alleys, with more and more congregants.
“They must have the entire town transformed…” Eva shuttered.
“It won’t be enough.” Lachmann called from the couch, still absently checking her nails.
The rumble grew and rattled the windows as Kiira finally, quickly, stopped screaming.
Lachmann clicked her tongue. “Kiira told you, they’re coming.”
“They’re here, Lachmann!” Orri whipped around and shouted. “And you’re doing nothing to help! There are hundreds of them and you are sitting there inspecting your manicure!” Tears brimmed her eyes. She thought she was ready to die when Mayeli stood above her, weight pressed against her neck, but after having a second chance granted to her from Eva she wanted nothing more than to be free, to escape like Veinar could, like Veinar probably already had, to go to another world. To be free of Brahmir once and for all.
Then, she felt it.
All around her the air grew dense, electrified.
It happened so quickly she barely had time to register it as the crimson light of the eye above grew faded, and then began to glow blue.
“What is happening?” Eva shouted a second time, wrapping herself around Orri for safety.
Above the house a voice called out with glee.
“It feels so good to be back.”
Beyond the fence line, a woman appeared as if from nowhere, with dusty blonde hair and a long dirtied white cloak, a rifle strung around her back.
“Ella!” Eva shouted. “Get inside! Run!”
Then, Orri put a hand on Eva’s head.
This was more than Ella.
The ex-Lamplighter who had been with them as long as Orri could remember took a step forward, crumbling stone beneath the force of her steps. A silver light burned around her, and she unclipped the gun from her shoulder as she stood face to face with the coming horde.
“It is not just Ella.” Orri said softly, watching her old friend step forward as five shadows appeared beside her.
Lachmann approached from behind and slapped her hand on Orri’s shoulder. “See? I told you they were coming.”
Five women descended from above Ella, decorated with glittering fabric and wrapped in all manner of splendor, one of them, an armor clad angel brandishing a heavy blade turned back and winked at Orri.
“Vyse… it can’t be.”
The woman nodded and turned back to face the horde.
The desolation happened in moments. As the six woman faced down the hordes, chaos ensued all around them, lightning stuck the crowd sending the hollow bodies of the congregation into the air. Vyse stepped forward, cleaving into the Sealed with a silver blade wreathed in flames. Ella took to Mayeli, who had emerged from the crowd, and grappled the girl to the ground, shouting in a language foreign.
All around them, the Sealed and the hordes of disfigured mortals were stripped of flesh and burned, the goddesses movements lightning fast, until all that remained were them, and Mayeli, lying on the stone ground, Ella shouting over her.
Orri emerged from the house after the carnage ended, the Powers still distant from her, and approached the detective’s daughter.
She struggled to breathe, and wept with closed eyes.
“Rid me of this pain, father.” She whispered. “I don’t want this any more.”
The goddesses bowed and stepped away, vanishing into thin air, all save for Vyse, who knelt beside the girl.
“You will be healed, child.” She placed a hand upon the girl’s head and Mayeli’s eyes shot open.
She screamed in fear at the woman, and looked around to the rest crowded around them.
“It is over, May.” Orri knelt beside her and took the girl into her arms as she began to weep.
“For now.” Vyse replied, and then, like her sisters, vanished into the daylight.
Above them the sky was no longer red, no longer with an ever searching gaze upon them and those who remained crowded around one another one last time.
The carnage along the thoroughfare in Moonside was unparalleled, hundreds of bodies lay mangled, broken and burned from the affects of the goddesses and as Orri cradled weeping Mayeli, Kiira stumbled from the shack behind them.
“Ella?” She mumbled.
The grilled, hardened woman launched to her feet and ran to Kiira, embracing her completely.
“I’m so glad you are safe dear.”
Beneath the burning sunlight of Brahmir, on that day, they were saved.
It had taken weeks to clean up the results of Mayeli’s disappearance. Orri and Eva had taken to the streets, one corpse at a time, shuffling them into the mass grave beyond the city walls, near the seaside where they might have a good vantage of the open ocean from their final resting place.
They’d found Olem’s body tossed down an alleyway, his heart torn from his chest. He was the first they honored in the rebuilt chapel of the Breaking Sun. Upon the altar they burned him, in prayer that they might one day see him again, if the Worldsoul saw it fit.
Eva and Orri, having been the only remaining Lamplighters realized they had a great deal of work to do when the first night came and they found the city was still plagued with spirits. Though, there was no site of Linde or Sinder or any of the others. With some trepidation, they announced to the few survivors that they could return to business as usual and in the meantime they would handle what arrived, if anything.
In the weeks that passed since the night of the Goddesses return, they didn’t see them a second time. Despite that, Orri and Ella reaffirmed their own faith in Vyse, and Ella rejoined the Breaking Sun. Comfortable once more with making Brahmir her home, not because she wanted to remain, nor because she thought it would be safe, but because it was a place she was needed and whether she wanted to admit it or not, she needed Kiira and her own daughter.
Orri took over the Breaking Sun, abolishing their hierarchical system imbued by, as they discovered, the Firstborn. If parishioners wanted to call her the new Archbishop, she did not deny them that, it would take time to adjust.
Dr. Lachmann, no longer excommunicated from the Breaking Sun for her disastrous affairs, was granted open access to the libraries to discover that she had, in fact been right about everything. The collected histories maintained by the Bishops detailed the far histories of Brahmir in great detail, and she devoted her days to the abbey, doubling the records each day so that they could rebuild the Breaking Sun from the ground up.
Eva, no longer interested in life within Ammon’s Reach, dedicated herself to a new purpose, to search out and Seal any remaining horrors lurking across the countryside, starting with the Witch of Blythe Woods.
Veinar’s body was recovered by Ella and was burned in honor of the sacrifice he’d made alongside Olem, the hunter honored by a small lamp built outside of the Moonside Chapel, smaller than the Mana Ward, but it emitted the same pinkish blue light.
Kiira and Mayeli became fast friends, taken in by Ella and Orri resprectively, they began training in the ways of the Lamplighter.
“The first lesson,” Orri said as the girls sat across from her in the pews. “Is that no matter how dark the night, you must light your lamp and continue on.”
Thank you for reading “Nightfall in Brahmir” — this project has all but consumed me this month, and this is the last chapter in the main story. I still have many, many tales to tell about Brahmir and it’s inhabitants, this is not the last you’ll see of Orri and Eva especially. For now, I’ll be taking a short break to enjoy the holiday, but I’ll see you again soon.