Chapter: Aftermath

Entry: Oct 17, 2007

"That is not dead which can eternal lie
And with strange aeons even death may die."

— Necronomicon

The only sound was the labored rasps of Kyle's punished lungs.

Too late. Rue frantically wrenched the killing barbs away, but not before Adriana's body bristled like a human cactus. To his horror, she died before she toppled to the floor.

And he had killed her. Adriana's sworn protector, fueled by single-minded zeal, brought her low. Somewhere a paper rustled—part of Adriana's school notebook, scattered by Rue's furious lashes at Kyle's prone body—drifting down from a split rafter along with a goodly amount of dust.

Rue never paid Adriana much attention while she wrote. It was something she loved, as she adored her pet rabbit. But Rue caught a glimpse of the one paper that fluttered lazily to the floor, and his heart splintered. He knew that story. It was distorted in parts, filtered through a host of millennia, but the essence was pure. Rue had almost forgotten the story himself, so ancient were the actors in the macabre fable. It was his story.

Except the page Rue read reflected events which transpired after his kingdom had crumbled, after Loki had tricked him into eternal servitude. It concerned his beloved Hemera, and one final treachery Loki sprung upon them both.

Adriana's death had unleashed something: a melancholy that stilled and dampened his rage, lulling him into reverie, drawing him into her inspiration, and into the past. It was nostalgia incarnate, and more—much more. Kyle, strength ebbing with his blood loss, knew his life was forfeit. Yet as the boy dozed into the comfort of oblivion, he too was ensnared in the divine trance, buffeted along the Styx with a lute and a melodious whisper at his ear.

Both Rue and Kyle slipped into a bygone world and witnessed Loki's cruelest joke; idle spectators in the despondent vision.

"Oh what cruel fate," said a man, "doth harry thee so?"

"Loki!" Hemera spat.

The jubilant god wracked his face into melodramatic pout, wiping a crocodile tear away with a single pinkie, looking upon it like a crystal ball. "Thou doest wound me so, fair Hemera."

"It was you who enslaved Rue, god of dung. You have destroyed us all!" Hemera knew the truth, had seen the visions. Of course, she wasn't the only creature blessed with unusual clairvoyance. Though a hateful thing of chaos, Loki too, knew the consequences of his actions; thrived on worsening the outcome further, if possible.

His presence bode ill for her.

"Hmmm," he said, stroking his chin. "Thou speaks truth, Lady. Only now, do I perceive where I did err." He nodded sagely. "Mayhap I have a word of wisdom, to save those worthy of mine favor."

That was an obvious feint, and Hemera was no fool. Loki had accidentally damned himself along with the rest, and desperately sought some escape. "Leave!" she commanded. "And be glad your end is aeons ahead."

He grimaced. "I shouldst be so daft." Straightening himself, he began to chant a lament singular and void, an infernal bard 'till the last.

"Oh maiden fair, oh silken hare,
shall die as Rue does not.
And oh wilt thou have lives to spare,
while Rue succumbs to rot.

And while thy form be high or low,
thy Rue shall know you not.
Until he strikes the final blow,
he will be sit, besot.

'Till lives are wrung, and time undone,
those breakers of the weave.
Shall face a test, at my behest
'Till none are left to grieve.

"Your poetry is only rivaled by your ugliness," she quipped. She knew that Loki didn't seek to trick her, but revel in her torment. Every line of that questionable prose was a badly concealed barb; his version of a prophesy. The intent was clear enough: he meant to trigger Ragnarök, slaughter Yggdrasil, and Rue would be the engine of his fury.

"He shalt slay you—"

"—and it will destroy him," she finished.

"Alas," said Loki, almost ashamed.

If there was more, neither could see. The mists engulfed them once again, swirling through minds confused and scared, regurgitating them once more into a semblance of reality. Most of the scene was lost on Kyle, but to Rue, it restored every memory he'd thought rendered to dust as his body and mind were ravaged by time.

Her. Adriana was her! His lost Hemera made flesh. Though unfamiliar and distasteful her form, she loved him always. And she knew his name. It was so obvious, so painfully plain it rent him worse than the foulest claw of Hades.

Only then did Rue know true grief. He bellowed an unearthly howl, rich with the bass of an entire mountain of praying monks, but fractured by the high-pitched screech of a squirrel being torn to shreds by a pack of ravenous cats. The cacophony resonated the purest sorrow and loss, a requiem to shattered dreams and ultimate betrayal.

Were Kyle not bleeding to death at Rue's own hand, the grief would be his own. So piercing was Rue's wail, it reached past Kyle's fear of the creature Rue was, and inspired pity for the lives and potential dashed to splinters during Rue's tragic tale. Kyle's own mind sang a eulogy for the rabbit that had been. Though his heart beat sluggishly and his breathing grew shallow, Kyle wept for Rue; shed a single tear for his killer.

If only things had been different.

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