The Edge of the Abyss

“Zis!” Mnemia screamed as her lover jumped into the living painting gone black. A moment before the abyssal could barely stand, Mnemia keeping her on her feet while trying to pretend not to. Now she was moving with a speed that surprised the solar, driving one end of her dire chain through the wall near the secret door entrance. And then she was gone; into the obvious trap.

Mnemia was not a smart woman, but she was hardly slow. Still, as Zis was jumping into the painting after the others the Tya was trying to figure out what was happening and how she could help. The spreading blackness was hardly a good sign, but being trapped inside the painting with the others would do them no good. And then Zis was moving and the pieces began to come together. Her partner’s discomfort and now her urgency, the obvious connection this place had to the Neverborn and the Deathlords and now a growing sense of… wrongness Mnemia had experienced once before; when Zis had taken her to Stygia. Beyond the borders of this false fresco lay something touched by Oblivion, if not the great end itself. But coming to terms with the threat still gave her few options for saving those inside beyond Zis’ now clear plan. Stepping quickly to the dire chain she knelt and picked it up, looping it once around her arm, and hoping the abyssal would recover the others before they were lost.

When the chain went taut Mnemia started counting down from five. Just because Zis had reached the end of the line didn’t mean she had managed to find anyone. But if the threat was what she believed it to be, if Mnemia waited too long there would be nothing to pull from the painting. Once she reached the end of her count her caste mark flared briefly as she activated a charm and started pulling hard on the weapon, hand over hand, drawing whatever was on the other side back into Creation.

The first to emerge from the painting was Zis, one hand holding the chain, her knuckles white, the other wrapped around a handful of tearing cloth, dragging something out with her. As Mnemia continued to pull that something else proved to be a pair of forms, blackened beyond belief. One was clearly Zuko, being hauled in by the back of his tunic, his identity clear from all four appendages tightly wrapped around another form. But as they came clear of the painting the solar realized that the second form was not Kadon as she had originally thought. For one thing, Kadon didn’t have a tail.

As that realization struck Mnemia she caught sight of the diamond thread Zuko had apparently wound around himself into some kind of harness, the other end disappearing into the painting. Dropping the chain she leapt forward, wrapping a hand around the thread as it came within reach, the thin wire tearing into her palm through the leather glove she worse. With her free hand she drew the dire lance she had been carrying with her since they had found it. Holding the line steady she worked the grip of the weapon in small circles until the diamond thread was wrapped around it half a dozen times. Then with both hands on the shaft she started to pull again.

Long agonizing seconds ticked by as Mnemia drew the line through the painting. Zuko must have extended it near its full length and Mnemia was starting to wonder if Kadon, whom she hoped was on the other end, would still be alive when she finally recovered him. Her fears were not assuaged as his form came through the portal. Mnemia wasn’t sure how anyone could look worse than Zuko and his tailed friend, but Kadon did. And like Zuko, he wasn’t alone. But unlike Zuko’s companion, this one seemed to cling to Kadon far more than the twilight caste held onto it. No, not it, her. Something about her… Sydney! And apparently unharmed.

A dozen questions screamed for attention in Mnemia’s head, but the mystery of Sydney and the other newcomer would have to wait. A quick triage seemed to indicate that Kadon was the worst off of the lot, so Mnemia dropped the lance and moved over to his still form. She quickly but gently untangled him from the other solar before taking him over to one of the nearby beds, the two pleasure automata her only witnesses. Once she had him set down she dropped to her knees and went digging through the remains of his pack, hoping the wound mending needles were still inside. None of them except Kadon were any good at using them, but he had insisted they all learn the basics of their use anyway.

Though the box was hardly holding together when she found it, the empowered needles inside were still intact. Taking them out Mnemia began to pierce Kadon’s blackened skin with them, hoping she was remembering the location of the essence chakra properly. Once they were all in place she moved her hands above his chest, willing a bit of her essence into the newly formed lattice, hoping to drive what remained of his life force through the guided paths, healing his shattered body. As she did she felt her essence get washed away by the chaotic flow from Kadon’s torn form. Even with the needles his essence was a torrent of energy, the natural flow so thoroughly disrupted it would not sustain him much longer. But Mnemia would not lose him. There was still too much to be done, too many threats to wage war against. If they lost him now Creation may very well follow. Time was too short for even one of them to start over. Her thoughts focused, her conviction lending her strength, she forced her essence into him again. This time Kadon’s spirit responded, the needles bridging the flow and bringing his essence into alignment. Dropping her head and closing her eyes she sighed, a wave of relief passing through her. Now that the needles were in place Kadon would live.

But that still left four others.

Mnemia rose to her feet again and returned to the others. Zis had apparently retained consciousness, but only just so, what little focus she could bring to bear spent on enduring the pain. Coming to Zuko next she decided to not pull him apart from his partner. Even unconscious his grip looked solid. Instead Mnemia picked them both up and took them to a second bed. It was there, as she was setting them down, that she recognized that it was Scarlet in his grasp. Another bit of the impossible, forcing Mnemia to think of her adult daughter sick and waiting for them back in the manse proper. But the distraction would do no one any good, so she chased the thought away and returned to Sydney, taking her to the final bed.

There had been a fourth bed, but they had fed it to a trap when they had first come through here. So with no other option she turned to Zis, took her in her arms and carried her to the vacant quarter circle platform. Taking a seat with her back against the corner she let Zis rest in her arms. She wished she could do more, wished there were more needles, but nothing could be changed now. All that was left to her was to wait. It would take four hours for the needles to help Kadon enough for him to regain consciousness. Until then all she could do was hope she wasn’t watching her friends die.

The Edge of the Abyss

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