Ascent – The After

This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.

She wasn’t sure if she was alive or not. 

Everything seemed to be hazy through the filtered light that appeared in the Tower.  The darkness had retreated, and all that was left was the crystal, and the master of the Tower.  Though his face was marred and broken, he looked at her with genuine compassion and concern. 

It was all so foreign that Amon would ever feel these things for her, but she could tell it was not an illusion. 

She pulled herself up with a groan, staring at his saddened eyes.  She could see him focus on her, wincing as she flinched away from his outreached fingers.

There was regret.  A regret for the past and everything that happened.  It seemed so real, so strange to see him this way.  

She found herself reaching up to his face, and putting her hand against his cheek. 

She wasn’t sure why she comforted him, whether it was out of healing reflex or something completely different.  But it felt like something she would do for a friend.

“Amon…”

She sighed as he gave the most sorrowful gaze, knowing that it couldn’t have been easy to give up the power which he had known for most of his life. 

Amon’s gaze took in the crystal spires and arches around them for but a moment. It was strange – he’d been there all that time, but the power he’d held on to had only obscured the Tower from his vision. Now that he’d released it, he could see his old home in all of its glory.

Something ached within as he knew this would probably be the last time he’d be graced with this vision. Then, he reminded himself of the oath he just made… and knew that it would take everything he had to hold on to it and not slip back into temptation.

Instead, he focused on Scylla.

Seeing that she was alive, though battered from the struggle, made him feel warm and hopeful. Strangely, that feeling eased the void that he’d created when he cast the rest out.

Perhaps, there was hope for him to heal, too. One day.

Though Scylla had been the one harmed in the midst of the darkness, now she was the one comforting him. It was so odd, and something he still didn’t understand. Why did she have any compassion for him at all?

Instead of questioning it too hard, he accepted it. He was feeling too tired to do otherwise. 

“Are you alright? ‘Twas not my intention for you to be attacked.”

Then, when he realized she was once again looking at his unmasked face – How did that happen to come loose? – Amon withdrew, turning away.

“Please don’t look at me.” His voice and hands both shook. 

“Shhhh…”

Scylla reached around and turned his face back towards hers, brushing his hair away from his brow.

“It’s hard to not look at you when you fill up the room.”

“For once, I wish I didn’t.” Amon gave a weak laugh at that. “I didn’t realize that I wasn’t myself…”

His fingers fumbled, trying to pull the mask back on. 

“AMON!”  She yelled, pulling the giant mask away with her hand.  With all her strength, she stomped on it, causing it to shatter away into light. 

She pulled his face close, putting her forehead against his. “Scandal…”

He found himself smiling slightly, in spite of himself. “A Princess and a Scoundrel? Incomprehensible!” 

“Inconceivable.” Scylla corrected him.  “You messed up your own line.”

“No, I meant it as I said it,” Amon felt his limbs growing heavy, likely from his steadily draining aether. “Haven’t you ever heard of improv?”

The world shifted around him, growing larger… or perhaps he was getting smaller… the last of his draining aether shimmering around him.  As the peaceful feeling of slumber began to take him, he found himself once again of proper size, with Scylla’s gentle hand on his cheek.

Then, with the last soft glint of the sunset’s light on the Tower’s spire, Amon of Allag closed his eyes.

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