It took forty-seven steps down a steep spiral staircase to reach the dungeon. As unnerving as it was to descend into the depths, it took much more energy to climb out. Worldly Duncan had quickly learned that in his visits.
Jeremiah, today's guard, opened the heavy bolted door for him and he almost ran right into the next visitor. "Ah, forgive me," he caught notice of whom he'd almost hit, "Oh, Lumiale-sama. Blessed be." He bowed in respect.
"Blessed be," the Guardian returned the greeting. "How has he been doing?"
"Better. It has been an uphill battle but progress has been made." The young priest had not been assigned to such a drastic case previously and he tried to focus on the positive. "He has learned the prayers easily and has taken to reciting the Decachordon with a prayer necklace."
"That is wonderful to hear, but has he been able to forgive himself?" Something deeper than concern laced the words.
The priest sighed, "Every time I visit he asks for Relief of Attrition. I don't think he would feel atoned after a thousand Decachordons."
Lumiale placed a hand upon his shoulder. "I'm sure that we can help him heal in time."
"He is very lucky to have a Guardian like yourself watching over him." Duncan smiled in earnest. "I have to leave now, but thank you for gracing me with your presence."
Comments like that still sounded odd, but he was adapting to it. "I am happy to have spoken with you."
They parted ways and Lumiale took his turn to descend the stairs. While rounding the corner, he could hear a familiar voice reciting familiar words.
"...May your peace over-shadow
The harshness of my life
And bring me to rest in
"The Prayer to the Guardian of Dark." Lumiale identified it as he took his seat. "It is a beautiful prayer indeed."
Arios nodded weakly. Unconsciously, he kept fiddling with the necklace making the large wooden beads hit each other with soft clacks. The hemp rope already showed signs of wear with its amount of fraying. He glanced at the Guardian, "Can I ask you a question?"
Lumiale smiled slightly in response.
"Do you...do you hear the prayers? I've been wondering if any of the ones I've said have been heard." Evidence of how many he said was in the thick rasp that lined his wavering voice.
He was unsure of how to answer. Often he could feel a force tugging upon his heart, but never had he heard an actual prayer. When he thought about it, that was probably for the best given how many prayers were probably said during the course of a day. But that was not what Arios would want. "We hear them in a sense."
The beads became to move faster. "That's good to know."
"I need to ask you something now. But first, Jeremiah, I have to ask you to leave. I'm sorry but it's official Council business."
After he had gone, the Guardian took a deep breath to ready himself. "Does the name Ellis mean anything to you?"
Abruptly, the beads stopped. That word. That name. So alien and yet powerfully moving. A rapid search for meaning raged across his bewildered mind. And then he saw it.
There upon the cold stone floor among the moss and dirt. Bent, twisted, broken, bleeding, bleeding. Her body almost falling apart with its hanging mangled limbs and shattered form. The white empty eyes boring right into him.
Too grotesque to be real, too moving to be false.
It was too much. Ragged, rough gasps racked his body as the hyperventilation took over. He wanted to scream and retch at the same time but the convulsions pitched him too violently. His mind, his body, everything felt the hot rush of panic and the cold dowsing of sweat. Why? Why did that word awaken this reaction?
His attack blocked out all else, even as Lumiale had a chokehold on the bars as he tried desperately to get a response from his calls of, "Arios! What's wrong?"
Just as he was going to get Jeremiah, the prisoner stopped. For the smallest moment, the Guardian wondered if the sudden stillness came from his heart giving out. But he could still hear shallow collecting breaths and the hand holding the beads shook causing a chorus of clacking. "Arios?" the worry reverberated in his voice and around the dungeon.
Silver locks shook back and forth. "No. Not Arios."
The words registered. "Leviath."
As he turned what little light in the cell seemed to go entirely to illuminating his amber eye. "Guardian. Do not worry, I am in no condition nor any mood to harm you."
He was unnerved but not enough to back down. "Good because I want to speak with you."
"Really? I thought I was nothing but a past nightmare to all of you." Even with a quiet voice he still sent a shiver down Lumiale's back.
"We thought that you had..." Unsure of how to phrase it he simply drifted off.
"Faded away? Disappeared? Died?" A cruel laugh followed. "I know how easily the chains of death can be broken."
A pained pause punctuated the conversation. "And how fragile the bonds of life can be." His voice fell to barely audible, "I would sacrifice all the power I have gained and lost just to repair one of those bonds."
"Is that why you did all this?" The question referred to any and all of his previous actions.
He turned back with that dark light in his eyes. "You give me your reason first."
"What?" Lumiale backed up in surprise, almost running into the stool he had knocked over earlier.
"You must have a reason for becoming entangled in our situation. What is it? What drives you, Guardian?" He stood up and leaned on to the bars as if being a few feet closer would also bring him closer to the answer.
"I don't know what you mean." The other averted his eyes from that penetrating gaze.
"What are you doing this?" The simple question rolled easily off the tongue and seemed to demand that the response do the same. "What is there to be gained by defending us?"
A token of resolve and certainty lined the next words. "I made a promise. One I intend to keep."
"A promise?" The imprisoned Emperor laughed coarsely. "I have no faith in such shallow things. Be honest with me, Guardian. Have you no self-worth beyond what others give you? Is it some twisted masochistic martyr syndrome?" He stopped and almost stared right into the other's soul. "What demons lurk inside you?"
Lumiale stood frozen both from the words and that sinister knowing glint in that golden eye. A hand reached through the bars and brushed his cheek. As he reeled back, the other chuckled. "You are afraid of the demons, are you? Just like he is so terribly afraid of me." Leviath turned slightly, his eyes finally leaving Lumiale. "Until he is allowed to reconcile with me, I will remain separate. Still keeping all of our past both good and bad to myself."
He finally returned to the cot humming a faint melody. A faint frighteningly familiar melody that had haunted the Water Guardian's memory for so many nights. Regaining what little composure he was able to, he tried to return to the original topic. "But, you never told me who Ellis is."
The Emperor's words floated over the melody in a taunting tone. "I'm not about to throw away my bargaining chip so soon...Guardian."
The chapter title itself has meaning. A Doppelganger is a shadow self that is said to remain invisible to all but the owner as to be seen by anyone else is bad luck. The term influenced Jung's idea of the Shadow, which is a sort of counter self that encompasses all the traits which a person rejects.
"Decachordon" refers to a type of Greek harp with ten strings but also bears the meaning of a whole made of ten parts. It seemed to me to be a fitting name for the set of prayers to the Queen and the Nine Guardians. And yes, I am in the process of writing the prayers to each of the Guardians. Relief of Attrition is an interesting term I came up with. It means to be absolved of sins to alleviate the shame and damnation felt by the sinner with no regard for the salvation of the soul in the eyes of a higher power.
To mix up Eastern and Western religions I borrowed the titles of the priests from the Shinto religion. A "Worldly" is a third level priest right below where Leo would be on the hierarchy. This is the highest position attainable by one who is not of a noble class.
Also of note is Arios' hallucination; sufferers of DID may have such experiences when they are in a dissociative state. In a attempt to alleviate the some of the symptoms, many have an addiction they fall back on. This can be chemical, but sometimes it takes the form of a ritualistic action.
And hey, it's Leviath! I adore writing him. I always portray him as a mind-fucker, gifted with perception but with enough perversion to turn it against people. So what do I think about the demons in Lumiale? Oh, I think that they are there. Are they the ones Leviath mentioned? Hmm, well that's my secret, isn't?