The air itself seemed to rip like worn-out silk. The rending burned across Gar’s brain. He had kept his face pressed to the floor since Merrida left. Abandoned him. The ache threatening to disintegrate his bones seemed like the just punishment for his blindness and stupidity. “I ruined the world,” he said in a keening voice heavy with misery. “I have ruined everything.”
Chunks of the workshop’s limestone walls cracked loose and fell. The screams of terrified citizens rang as loudly as the roar of misspent magic, upsetting the atmosphere. Dragging his head up, Gar called to the mystical forces, “I was supposed to fix everything. I was going to be the leader. The savior.” He let his head fall forward onto the stone tiles with a smack that shot stars across his vision. “I’m no leader,” he murmured. “Who was I fooling? I can’t even tell a woman I love her.”
A hand pressed against his back, right between his shoulder blades. Even through a shirt and cloak, Gar sensed it was Merrida. His taut sinews loosened under her touch, but he still could not get his tongue to move. The scent of patchouli tickled his nostrils when her ringlets of hair brushed his cheek.
“I brought someone to help us. Gar? Can you hear me?”
Gar turned his head enough to see thin, amber feet in golden sandals, faintly luminous. “She is Kindra, the gold. You’ve brought the youngest to save the city.”
With a great effort, he rolled onto his back. It was not to see the filmy dress of the Lightbringer. It was to stare into the face of sweet Merrida, who had returned to his side to help him even after he committed an unthinkable wrong.
She held out a sphere of glowing wish putty. “Why?” she asked him. Her reflective eyes were not angry. “Why did you douse the light? I wish to hear the truth, Gar.”
That truth, summoned so plainly, fought its way through his clenched jaw. “So that you would see me, love me for my power. It was wrong, and I am sorry.”
“But I already saw you, Gar. You remain in my mind’s eye both in darkness and in light.” A subtle smile creased Merrida’s lips as she addressed the Lightbringer. “It is as I told you.”
Kindra nodded solemnly. “Can you help us fight the darkness, Sorcerer?”
“For the sake of truth, love, and Merrida? I can.” Gar marveled at Kindra’s fantastical aura. “Will it cause you pain, Lightbringer?”
He could barely hear her answer: “Yes.”
Kindra spun. The darkness twisted around her neck like shards of glass woven into twine. Yet on she spun, arms out to her sides. She listened for the counter-spell. The words would only have power if Kindra kept spinning. Above the Central Navel, above gloomy Rennis City, she knew she must keep spinning. For her sisters. For the citizens. For light’s future and the future’s light.
Gar and Merrida raised their voices in unison, calling out the words Kindra had taught them: “Light the air, light the stone, light the water, light the blood, light the heart, light the soul.”
After she’d heard the text three times, Kindra could breathe more easily. After three more times, the pricking pain in her ribs dulled to a scratching. Thrice more, and the heat of light warmed her as it thrummed through her veins. Twelve times they said those words. And the last time, they added a line. “Lightbringer, bring the light!”
Kindra spun. Golden rays poured from her hands. Rennis City shone. The ancient chant of the Songbringers rang out, echoing through the streets. Kindra’s sisters blew her kisses from the ground. And near them, two sorcerers embraced as lovers. She saw them clearly in the blessed daylight.
Anne E. Johnson is a Brooklyn-based writer of all sorts of things. Nearly a hundred of her short stories, mostly in the science fiction and fantasy genres, have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. In addition to several science fiction novels, she has written two mystery novels, both of them historical fiction for kids, Trouble at the Scriptorium and Franni and the Duke. She also writes arts journalism, including regular columns about classical music from before 1750 as well as contemporary indie music for Copper Magazine. You can find her online at her website, as well as Facebook and Twitter. Her books are available on Amazon.