Legends of Belariath

Morrigan Steel

Into the Beyond Lands

The Pass of Destiny – Part Three

Was it a moment, a day, a month? The paladin wondered as her next thoughts of realization found her opening her eyes lying atop the barren ice field again with a large purplish mountain just before her. The sun shone brightly, yet the wind howled and seemed to be almost palatable as it swirled about her still form, so much so it seemed to cast shadows about her and over her. Yet she was not chilled and felt rather rested of soul.

As she moved to stand upon the slippery field she felt as if she was being watched and her gaze moved towards the mountain, but she spotted no one there. Her gaze dropped to its base where it met the icy field where movement caught her eye in this sunshiny maelstrom. As she stared it the wolf seemed to appear from the white ice at the base of the mountain and padded towards her while she struggled to get over her disorientation of waking in a different spot from where her conscious thought had drifted from as well as finding her clothes upon her once more.

The wolf stopped several feet before her then plunked his haunches down on the ice, seemingly unconcerned. His paw lifted and he languidly drew his pink tongue over his paw ever so patiently while she waited almost impatiently.

As she was about to break the silence, in her impatient way, his eerie blue eyes lifted and fixed on her’s and his paw flicked towards the mountain. “As part of your boon you were spared some of the harsher portions of the journey as you have already had those within your service to me. Find the pass and remember my teachings, Morrigan. Do not look back lest here you remain. Go.” The smooth voice of the wolf informed her before both his paws dropped to rest before him on the ice, the dark claws sending small sprays of ice around them. No mention made of the previous sharing between them.

She bowed her head to him, the gold of her hair spilling forward before she lifted it. “Thank you, my Lord. I shall not fail.” She turned her gaze to the mountain and started to gingerly pick her way the short distance to it, when she heard the wolf’s soft chuckle, tempting her to look back, yet she did not.

“Whether or not you fail has yet to be seen Morrigan.” His voice now swirling about her like leaves caught within a windstorm. Her shoulders stiffened as it gave seed to the stubborn nature within her. Perhaps that was his intent, she knew not, simply that she would –not- fail! Her honor, nay, her very soul’s eternal resting place was at stake.

She fell several times upon the ice as she crossed it, slashing her hands and knees open, yet they did not bleed. They simply ached. She thought about this as she made her way. She was dead, she could not bleed, yet she did not have a body of flesh, per say, but of spirit. She was allowed to suffer pain that her body might have taken to further test her will, her abilities and strength and whatever else the Tester/Torturer desired to throw at her to keep her for himself and to deny her even the Golden Plane of Rest. She could not be seen by mortal eyes she remembered from the teachings she had imprinted on her soul, nor bleed like a mortal, but she could suffer like one, or worse! She shuddered...she didn’t want to think about that!

As she reached the mountain she twisted her ankle upon a piece of jutting ice having failed to see it. It sent her tumbling and added more ‘injuries’ in the way that might have been cuts and bruising that transferred into more aches. A voice like silk covered her as she struggled to get up…”Stay with me and you shall have all. End this misery for you have earned much honor to be fighting this hard for so little. If you give up now I’ll give you a place at my side...”

“To rule over a realm of barrenness? Twice of nothing is still nothing. Nay. I cannot thrive on that.” She remarked to the Tempter as she lifted her hand to the side of the mountain and pulled her aching body up, the sheer frozen cold of it cutting through the warmth Lord Abracus had covered her in and tore it instantly away. She shivered till her teeth clacked together.

Howls of anger scoured about her, picked up bits of ice and slung at her back as she followed the base of the mountain. The cold sapped her strength; the ice was like tiny daggers in her back as her hand slipped through the mountain to reveal the hidden pass. She stumbled inwards and the pass sealed shut behind her and cut off the shards of ice and the worst of the wind, but it was still just as cold here and with no sunlight to guide her, but a dim light as if she now walked between the twilight that came betwixt night or day. At least here the ice was less and the traveling easier. She wrapped arms about her as her teeth chattered and onwards she pressed, through the narrow pass.

“M-m-mus-s-st….be..th-e-e..Pas-s-sss..of..Des-stiny.” She chattered as she walked, muttering to herself as she was chilled to the bone. The silence about her broken only by the sounds of her walking upon the barren pass and the crack of rocks about her from the cold. She walked for hours this way, or was it days? She wasn’t sure but every time she stopped to give her a soul a rest the chill and eeriness about her forced her to keep going. She was beginning to drag from the strain when she first heard it. The whispers from the twilight about her.

“Help us, please.” Came from her right, no her left. A figure emerged from the side of the pass, then another. Soon a number of the mysterious silhouettes were about her.

“In what manner do you require assistance?” she wearily asked as she looked to each figure, not recalling anything about such an occurrence in the teachings she had often read.

“We have earned our way into Sapphireus but as each of us started to pass through its entrance, the Tempter trapped us here. A warrior can only have one chance at the Great Warrior, and we all have succeeded, yet the Tempter was enraged and sought to keep us from our glory. If you could but see clear to hold the Great Warrior when you defeat him long enough for us to pass by…” the first figure explained as she stepped closer to the paladin, her hand stretching outwards ever so slightly as to be missed by the paladin’s wearied state.

“That sounds reasonable, but cannot Lord Abracus simply reclaim you?” she queried, puzzled at their entrapment. Perhaps she had missed something within the scrolls after all.

The figure worked her way closer still, disguising the movement of her hand as she grew closer; as did the others grow closer as she further tried to convince the paladin of their plight. And so it did seem to be tugging upon the compassion of the paladin as she listened further. “He cannot enter this pass as the Tempter has free reign here. The only way is for a warrior such as you to assist us.”

Almost too late the paladin realized how close they all were getting, her mind somewhat befuddled by the soul deep chill of this realm. “No. He would provide a way if you were worthy!” she shouted and instantly pushed by the hands that rose to grasp her, to fight her way free to run and slip towards the end of the pass.

Howls erupted about her as the beautiful warriors disintegrated into horrid creatures that attempted to thwart her escape, yet their desire to stop her was not as great as her desire to please her god and so her freedom from the Pass of Destiny was won as hands tore emptily at the air where she had been by moments before, then the pass snapped shut behind her amid their great wailing.

The tall paladin landed with a thud upon her knees upon the ground outside of the Pass of Destiny, breathing heavily at her near escape. She half expected the wolf to be waiting here as her gaze lifted and she surveyed the area around her from upon bent knees. Somewhere ahead was the Great Warrior which she must face and he had to be near as she could now plainly see Sapphireus ahead and above her on another mountain. Yet, despite her expectations, there was no confirmation as to her passing another test, so all she had now was …faith.

Her soul ached from the punishment thus far and now fresh pains as if she had been lashed could be felt. She then realized it must have came from those hands that had tried to grasp her and doom her within that pass…she shivered…and scrambled to her feet. She urged her feet onwards towards the glorious mountain that lay just ahead…but where was the warrior…?