A Shiver from Beyond

A green haired woman hurried down the library corridor, worriedly clutching at the brooch holding her delicate blue robe together. Tall bookcases towered over her on each side; the seemingly endless hallway barely lit by the occasional torch. The faint light gave her pale skin an almost ghostly appearance. She proceed along at a brisk pace, her long verdant hair and lavender cape streaming behind her. Yet she appeared to get no closer to the end of the hallway. This library held more secrets than those within the musty tomes lining its walls, or at least so she started to suspect. At times, she thought she heard a hushed whisper, as if something was hiding behind the walls.

The maze-like arrangement of library corridors seemed to continue endlessly, defying all logic. The same sets of books, adorned with mysterious sigils and ancient letters, seemed to repeat themselves as she went on. Every turn she made put her in a passage no different than the one she left. She felt as if something unholy was reaching out for her; she could almost visualize an ephemeral hand grasping towards her shoulder.

She whirled around… and there was nothing.

She sighed. “Looks like I’ll never find him,” she thought to herself, as she started to backtrack in the direction she came from.

A navy blue tome with gold lettering caught her eye. Almost instinctively, she pulled it from the shelf, but she did not open it. She continued back where she came from, until the hallway ended. She peered around the corner, and sighed with relief…

A robed figure sat hunched over at a table, surrounded by stacks upon stacks of thick, ancient tomes. Several opened books were strewn across the table in front of him. A pile of neatly written notes was at his side, covered with ancient runes and precisely drawn incantation circles. The flickering flame of a reading lamp barely illuminated the mans bespectacled face; his brow wrinkled as he strained in concentration. His long, swept back purple hair was adorned with the occasional thread of silver, giving him an air of elegant wisdom.

“Canas. There you are!” exclaimed the woman.

The man remained unresponsive, as if hypnotized by the tomes ahead of him

She came closer to him, placing her delicate hand on his shoulder.


He blinked, twitching ever so slightly, as if he snapped out of a trance.

“Oh… I’m sorry, Tali dearest, I must have gotten carried away,” he responded, taking a moment before he moved his gaze from the book ahead of him to her face.

“Carried away? It’s near midnight! You missed dinner, again!” chastised the woman, the pitch of her voice rising.

“Is it? It looks like I lost track of time,” he responded nonchalantly.

“Of course you did, it’s as dark as a dungeon down here! You spent the whole day here!” she yelled, starting to lose her temper. “Hugh hasn’t seen you in days!”

Canas paused, as if stunned into silence. His previously calm composure gave way, his forehead wrinkling as a concerned expression appeared on his face. He turned his gaze back to the books ahead of him, as if to avoid his wife’s angry glare. Another moment of silence came and went.

“I haven’t been a good father to Hugh, have I?” he asked, though his disheartened expression showed that he already knew the answer.

“No, it’s not that. You just get so absorbed in your studies,” comforted Tali, a softness returning to her deep blue eyes as she backed off her previously stern stance.

“What kind of father puts books ahead of his family?” muttered Canas, disgusted at himself. “I’ll make it up to him soon. As soon as we are finished here, I’ll spend more time with him. I promise.”

“When will that be? How much longer must we endure this place?” asked Tali.

“Not long.” The calm confidence returned to Canas’ voice. “I think I finally understand.”

He gestured to one of the sheets ahead of him.

She gasped.

“Surely, you can’t be…”

“Yes… Not only does my hypothesis seem to be confirmed, but it also appears that there are greater powers at work here than I anticipated,” he declared, calmly triumphant.

“I’m just missing one last piece to this puzzle,” he added, cutting his victory short.

Canas looked back up at Tali, and smiled.

“That book. Where did you get that?”

“It was on a shelf over there. It… called out to me,” she answered with unease. “Canas, I don’t like this… I know this sort of phenomena interests you, but I find it all a bit unsettling.”

“It shouldn’t be anything dangerous,” he reassured her, as he took the tome from Tali’s outstretched hand, and placed it on the table before him. The sigil on the cover matched the illustration in Canas’ notes perfectly.

A glimmer appeared in Canas’ eyes. “We can depart the day after tomorrow.”


The sun peeked out from behind the mountains, illuminating the Ilian town of Friege in a warm, golden glow. The town was cozily nestled in a valley between two mighty mountain ridges. A blanket of white snow clothed the buildings and adorned the dark evergreens of the surrounding forest. The lake at the foot of the town, a crystalline azure in the summer, was now coated in a thick layer of greyish ice. The baron’s castle towered atop the town beyond it. Built partially into the mountainside, a single road carved into the mountainside and leading into the town was the only way to reach it. It’s cold grey stones were almost blended into the mountain; its’ tall, thin spires rose far above the rest of the structure. The town had a quaint, scenic calm to it; its remote location setting it far away from the wars and turmoils that so often ravaged the continent in recent decades.

Once, a mages’ guild inhabited the castle, but those days were long gone. The only trace left behind from that distant era was the vast library in the lower levels of the castle. It was this collection of knowledge that attracted Canas to the town; that he had spent so many sleepless nights searching through.

Finally; he had found what he needed.

As planned, Canas and Tali arrived at the stables by the lone entrance to the town at the crack of dawn, young Hugh trailing behind them.

As they walked up to the stable, a young lad ran up to them, carrying a covered basket.

“Pa saw you passing by, and told me to give you this!” said the boy, proud at having completed his errand. “He said you’d might want some more food. It’s all fresh, I helped!” he announced, with an infectious eagerness.

“Thank you. That was very kind of him. Go tell your father that he has our deepest thanks,” answered Canas, smiling at the boy as he took the basket out of his hands.

The boy nodded and ran off, up the cobblestone street that ran through the middle of the sleepy town.

They had made many friends here in the few weeks they had stayed. The people were kindhearted and generous, the hospitality of the northern folk being famous through the land. Canas thought that his family might settle down here for longer. The region was peaceful and too remote to get caught up in the wars that arise every so often in Elibe, the mountain setting was breathtakingly beautiful, the region featured an interesting flow of anima energies that Canas enjoyed working with, and the castle’s massive library could sate his hunger for knowledge for years.

Canas then turned and look at the man standing by the stables, holding a horse’s harness in his hands. He was a tall, gruff northerner with wild, knotted hair and a sizable beard. His face was weathered and worn, his eyes a piercing icy grey. He wore a thick leather coat, blackened and warn, with several layers underneath for warmth. A brimmed hat adorned his head.

“Good morning. You are Volf, I presume?” said Canas as he approached the man.

“Mhm” answered the man, not even bothering to look at Canas’ face, as he re-adjusted his glove.

Volf was a hunter; he lived alone in a cabin he built in the foothills past the other side of the like. He preferred to live in solitude among the wilderness. Once in a while he would come into the town to trade the game he caught for other supplies or foods. No one knew the surrounding forests and mountains better than him. He was a rough, asocial character, but he was the best guide they could find for their journey.

Volf had already prepared the horses; they were saddled and strapped on with packs of supplies for their excursion. He motioned towards the horses, gesturing for Canas and Tali to mount their steed.

“You sure ’bout this?” he asked. “Folk avoid that mountain like the plague. I try and not go there myself. Strange things happen there.”

“Yes,” answered Canas with confidence, unflinching.

“Mom, dad, do you really have to leave me? I want to go!” pleaded Hugh. He was not one bit happy about his parents leaving him behind.

Tali keeled down before Hugh and took his hand. “Look, sweetie, it’s too dangerous for you. We’ll only be a couple days.”

Hugh scowled. “But mom, I’m a big boy now! I won’t slow you down. Dad’s even been teaching me some spells!” he protested.

Tali shot a glance towards her husband.

Canas smiled. “The boy’s curious. What’s wrong with expanding his horizons? The younger he starts learning about the true nature of the world, the better.”

“I don’t want him following down the same path as you. You know that.” answered Tali.

“That will be his choice to make. I’ve only been teaching him the fundamentals of magic so far. No harm can come from that.”

“You know what they say about curiosity… You, of all people, should know what can come of trying to learn too much,” she chastised her husband.

“It is one thing to have a desire to learn, it is another to have a desire to become powerful. The two need not go hand in hand,” rebuked Canas.

“I’m just worried about him following in your footsteps. You know how it is in your family. It is all too easy to fall to madness or fel influences in your type of practice. It is a fine line to tread, and I know you walk this path more carefully than just about everyone, but Hugh seems to have less of your desire to learn and more of a desire to act.”

Volf coughed. “Let’s get going. The earlier the better, if we want to start the climb before the snowfall starts.”

Tali turned back to Hugh, and enveloped him in a hug. “I love you, dear. We’ll see you in a few days. Be good and don’t cause any trouble, ok?”

“Yes, mom.”

“You heard your mother. Behave yourself,” said Canas, as he walked up to his son and ruffled his hair.

Canas turned to Volf and nodded. Tali let Hugh free from her embrace. They walked up to their horses and mounted them, Canas packing the supplies he received from the baker into the horse’s saddlebags.

“Alright, let us be on our way.” Canas nodded to Volf. Volf snapped his reins, and the two began their journey. Tali waved back at her son before turning away and following the men, riding an elegant white mare.

As they were about to leave the village beyond their sight, Tali stopped. She turned around once more. Hugh was still by the town’s entrance. She waved one more time, unsure of whether Hugh was able to see her gesture. Canas halted his horse after a moment, and did the same. Volf proceeded ahead without stopping. They turned around, and continued down the trail the led along the foot of the mountain, leading them into the densely forested foothills, and beyond, into the jagged mountain peaks on the horizon.


Another dawn brought about a gentle pink sunrise, the sun still hidden behind the mountain looming over the campsite the travellers had made at its foot. Two days journey had brought them to the base of the mountain; it would take another day to scale it. It was a chilly morning, much colder than when they had departed.

“Good morning” greeted Canas, as Tali’s eyes opened. The air was so cold that his breath was visible, and a slight layer of frost had began to form on his spectacle.

“Good morning,” answered a sleepy Tali, still bundled up in layers of blankets. “So today we scale the mountain… I can’t believe the things you get me into.”

“I wanted to go alone. You insisted to come with me.”

“You dance at the edge of sanity when it comes to these things. I don’t want you to fall over the line,” she answered protectively.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way. My pursuit of knowledge is never-ending, and I’m glad to have you by my side.” He paused, then looked up at the craggy mountain ahead of them, tall and foreboding, a dark cobalt colour sprinkled with white snow here and there towards the summit. “What a view. What an opportunity this is.”

They heard a crack, and footsteps. A shadow approached from the treeline, moving slowly and meticulously. As it neared, the silhouette of a man emerged.

It was just Volf.

“I’ve scouted ahead. The trail looks fine. None too icy. If we start now, we’ll make it there just after sunset,” he declared gruffly.

“No time to waste then. Let’s get started,” said Canas, the slight inflection in his voice betraying his excitement.

They wrapped up their gear and mounted their horses, making their way to where the trail started. A slight fog hung in the air, obscuring visibility of the ground beyond a few paces. They walked along a small stream cut through the forest. Though mostly covered in ice, the occasional hole offered a glimpse of the dark water rushing through underneath.

As they neared the point of their ascent, could make out the remnants of a narrow staircase carved into the side of the mountain. Eroded through the centuries, it provided just enough of a path to be climbable. It would be a treacherous ascent, the path breaking off at points. But knowledge called, and this was an opportunity Canas could not pass up.


The last of twilight was waning as the trio arrived at the end of the path, the last few feet of the staircase chiseled into the mountain remaining in near perfect condition, almost untouched by erosion. The trail had led them into a small, flat plateau not far from the summit. The rocky clearing had an almost shiny gleam to it, as if the stones were reflecting the moonlight. Only the occasional clump of grass grew out of cracks in the stone here and there.

At the far end of the clearing, there was a door carved into the mountainside. The entrance was surrounded by elaborate carvings, fancy pillars with figures and runes carefully etched into the rocky wall. Several fallen columns lined a path to its entrance. Greyish bricks inlaid into the rock could be seen here and there near the entrance.

“So this is the shrine… Marvellous,” admired Canas, his breath now even more visible in the mountain chill.

He paused for a moment to take in the unique energies of this place. Currents of anima energy danced around them. Like auroras, they formed bands of magnificent blue and green, weaving like ribbons; or at least so they were interpreted by Canas’ mind. The feeling was invigorating; it was like standing under a waterfall, except with magical energy instead of water, detectable only to those attuned to forces of anima.

“Can you feel it?” he asked his wife.

“Yes… it feels so refreshing.” she answered. She shivered from the cold, but on the inside she felt warm and alive.

As Canas stared at the remnants of the structure, taking in the ebb and flow of the anima currents, Volf crept up to the opposite edge of the clearing, a sheer drop off into the other side of the valley below.

Volf’s harsh voice broke their immersion.

“I don’t like the looks of this. Them snowclouds look to be approaching mighty fast.”

Tali followed him to near the edge of the cliff. They could see for miles and miles; jagged rocks and valleys and forests and lakes and rivers extending to the horizon, where the last remnants of the sunset left a pale, yellowish glow. A large crescent moon hung over the mountains in the distance in the east.

In the west, ominous purple storm clouds covered the sky.

“I feel it too. Such cold coming from the west.”

“Better hurry up whatever you intend to do here. We’d best be down the mountain before the snow hits us,” urged Volf.

“A shame. I had hoped to spend a few days here. But one night will do. I will make the most of it,” answered Canas, slightly disappointed. “Let’s go.”

Canas and Tali proceeded towards the shrine after they each grabbed and lit a torch, while Volf started rummaging in their bags and began to pitch the tents.

Canas walked up to the shrine’s entrance and pressed his hands to elaborate carvings surrounding it.

“Remarkable. I’ll have to make a sketch of these in the morning.”

They proceeded inside the entrance. Tali shuddered as she entered, the warmth of the anima currents having abandoned her the instant she stepped foot inside.


He was already several steps ahead of her.

They were in a long, rectangular room. The walls were made of neatly laid bricks; once golden but now having faded to a greenish-yellow. The room was empty but for an altar-like structure at its far end. Drainage canals ran along the floor, one on each side. Perhaps they were once filled with water, but now they were empty. There were no other rooms or doors, or at least, none that they could discern; such shrines were known to have hidden passages.

Canas approached the altar. A simple piece carved out of stone; it housed a single statue carved out of an eerie purple gemstone. The figure was several feet tall, and gave off an unsettling aura, it’s purplish-black lustre glistening eerily. It was difficult to make out what the figure depicted; it appeared to be a creature of sort but one could discern were limbs began or ended, or where the face was. It was meant to depict something living; yet it seemed shapeless and formless.

This was nothing new for Canas, of course. He had come across many such relics in his studies of the ancient world, but none seemed to sparkle with such life.

He turned his eyes to the altar below the figure. He noted the larges sigil carved into its base – it was identical to the one on the book Tali had brought him a few days ago.


“What is it?” asked Tali. “This place is making me feel uneasy.” She felt a tingling sensation on her skin, and a regular rhythm in her ears.

“This isn’t a shrine. This is a tomb,” announced Canas.

“A tomb? Of whom?” asked Tali.

“Of what…” answered Canas.

“Oh no… Look, I knew this would be trouble when you said you wanted to investigate an ancient shrine in the mountains. I was interested in the unique anima currents on this mountain myself. But this is more than I signed up for. We should just let it lie…”

“I appreciate your concern, dear. But I cannot pass up this opportunity,” answered Canas. “The boundary between realms is thin here. What you feel is the pulse of the other side.”

“So this feeling… it feels like a heartbeat,” she acknowledged, a growing feeling of dread inside of her.

“Ah, you feel it too. Then you know what it is I wish to do.”

If Canas turned around, he would have seen the expression of horror on his wife’s face.

“I only wish to speak to it. Nothing more,” he said, anticipating Tali’s reaction.

“Look, this isn’t what we came here for. If I knew it would be like this, I wouldn’t have come. I wouldn’t have let you come.”

“I admit, I didn’t expect to find this either. I wanted to study the energies of this place, that the old mages wrote so much about. I wanted to examine the shrine for it’s architecture and writings… The books didn’t mention anything quite like this… unless I misinterpreted them.”

“Then let’s concentrate on that, and leave this… thing be,” she pleaded.

“I’m sorry, dear. But this is something I have to do. So rare are opportunities to speak with the other side,” answered Canas, an unrelenting firmness in his voice and posture, still facing the statue, his back to his wife.

“Dear… please…” she begged, knowing full well it would be futile. Once Canas’ curiosity was piqued, he would not take no for an answer. His desire for truth and knowledge was beyond an obsession.

Canas turned around and looked her straight in the eyes.

“If I… lose myself…. you know what to do.”


Canas took out the tomes from his bag, and arranged them between him and the altar. He then took a satchel of fine white powder, and began to gently pour it out, drawing the shape of a circle at first, then other smaller circles around, then ancient sigils within them. The magic powder intensified the flows of magical energies surrounding it. It would give him the boost he needed to reach through the boundary between the mortal realm and the void, and commune with the entity that lies beneath, in the manner that ancients here once did.

Once everything was perfectly in place, he sat down in the middle of the largest circle. He opened the blue book with the sigil matching that on the altar, began to chant, cast an incantation, and opened his mind.

He listened. At first, nothing. Then, he could hear it. A rhythmic ticking, like a heartbeat. After a while, he had grown used to it, and he could hear the sinister voice behind the abyssal pulse.

He saw the boundary between his mind and the abyss thinning, and he peered through.

He observed something resembling the figure on the altar. It had no definite shape, or color for that matter. Yet it moved, pulsed, breathed. Three flowing red dots suddenly appeared on the entity. They moved around on it, now moving towards him, now fading away from him.

It terrified him to think that this creature, if such a thing was even created, was once alive.

Finally, it spoke. Not in any human language, but in strange yet startling moans. Fortunately, Canas was prepared. The ancients had interpreted this form of otherworldly communication into sigils that humans could comprehend. If he could translate the thoughts the entity emitted towards him to visual figures, they could communicate.

He listened, seemingly forever… and then it came to him. He imagined a series of circular sigils, inlaid with runes and shapes throughout. Static at first, they began to move on their own. The runes appeared to transform on their own. It seemed like a jumbled mess to him at first, but as he concentrated, it started to make sense. The movements of the circles within the circles, the changing geometric shapes and signals, the glowing and fading of various colors surrounding them…

He was communicating with an entity from beyond, from the other side of the abyss! Never had he been so excited in his life.


When Tali awoke, she was already shivering. She didn’t remember it, but she must have left Canas in the shrine and returned to their tent in the middle of the night. She meant to stand vigil over Canas, lest he fall into the clutches of darkness, but she was so exhausted from the climb that tiredness must have overtaken her.

Canas was not lying beside her.

She scrambled out of the tent. Everything was grey and white, as far as she could see. The snowstorm must have caught them during the night; the snow was already piled almost a foot high, and more was pouring down from the heavens, accompanied by a fierce wind and a biting chill.

Volf was sitting cross-legged by the cliff’s edge, looking out over the valley below.

“Rise and shine. Looks like this storm moved faster than I anticipated,” he greeted her. “We should have headed back a few hours ago.”

“Why didn’t you wake me then?”

“I tried. No can do, you were out cold. Your husband is still in there, and no way was I going near that place.”

“Canas!” she cried out, turning and dashing towards the shrine.

She stumbled into the shrine, out of breath.

“Hello, dear.”

“Canas!” she yelled, unsure if it was really him that she was talking to.

“Oh? Was I here all night? I must have lost track of time.”

“Is it really you?”

“Of course. It was the most fascinating experience, you have no idea the things I learned.”

“Tell me on the way back. We need to get out of here. There’s a snowstorm.”

“Already? Oh, what a shame, there’s so much we could still discover here… Perhaps we can return another day.”

Canas collected his books and notes, and walked up to his wife, putting his hand in hers.

When they exited the gate of the shrine, the snow was coming down harder. This wasn’t just a regular snowstorm, it was a blizzard. The snow was coming down so hard that they could barely see more than a few feet ahead of themselves.

Volf had already packed everything up.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get down in this kind of weather. But we ain’t gonna survive up here,” he said.

“We could take refuge in the shrine,” suggested Canas.

“I’d rather take my chances with the mountain than set in foot in that cursed place.”

Just then, they heard roaring rumble from beyond the edge of the cliff.

“Avalanche,” stated Volf.

“Avalanches? Oh my goodness, what if we get caught up in one?” worried Tali.

“Nah, this side of the mountain should be safe. As long as none of ye slip and fall, it should be fine to climb back down. There’s a cave near the mouth of the stream, that would be a good place to wait out the storm…” his voice trailed off, losing it’s edge for a moment.

Canas picked up on that. “Is something the matter?”

“Well, ya see… a storm like this only comes along once every few centuries. It’ll last for days, if not longer. If we try and wait it out, we might end up starving to death before it ends.”

A grave expression appeared on Tali’s face. “He might be right… the energy of this blizzard is far greater than anything I have ever felt before. The magical energies of this mountain may be amplifying its intensity…”

“We might not even have anything to get back to, at this rate” added Volf.

“What are you talking about?” asked Canas.

“Well, Mount Friege is due for an avalanche. Snow buildup has been real high this year. Would’ve been fine till the spring, but this storm is gonna layer so much snow it’s bound to let go. Whole town might get buried, if they’re unlucky. You already heard one ‘lanche. They tend to go in groups.” explained the hunter.

“Oh gods… Hugh!” cried out Tali.

“Ye… storm will get there faster than we can warn ’em. Everything will seem fine and then crack, the mountain gives way. I knew there was a snowfall coming, didn’t have no idea it’d be this fierce.”

“So let me try and understand our situation here. If we stay up here, we may die because the blizzard is more intense up here. If we try and climb down, we may die in the process. If we do get down, we can try and wait out the storm but might die from starvation if it lasts long. If we try and get back to town, we might die from the cold. And even if we get to the town, it might get buried in an avalanche. Or might already be buried by the time we get there,” summarized Canas.

“Sounds ’bout right,” nodded Volf.

“So the odds of survival are low no matter what we do,” acknowledged Canas.

Tali started tearing up. “I’m not going to get to see Hugh one last time…”

“Don’t worry, dear. There’s always a way out,” comforted Canas.

“The storm’s going to kill us, and Hugh, and the whole town!” she cried.

Canas sunk into his thoughts for a moment. Suddenly, he began to smile, a glimmer in his eyes barely visible behind his fogged up glasses.

“The solution here is simple. What if we stop the blizzard?” he suggested.

Volf gave him a puzzled look.

“You can’t be serious…” responded Tali. Skilled anima mages could unleash short bursts of elemental energy, drastically heating or cooling a concentrated area for a fraction of a second. Such was the basis of spells such as Elfire or Fimbulvetr; focusing such energy into a specific shape and projecting it in a desired direction. But to summon enough energy for a long enough time over a large enough area to calm a blizzard the likes of which the land had not seen in ages was something several levels beyond what even the most skilled mages were capable of.

“A powerful archsage like Athos might be able to stop a storm like this, but we possess merely a fraction of his power, even combined. But what if we use our surroundings? If these anima currents amplify the power of the storm, they can also amplify our power,” observed Canas.

Tali shook her head. “That still won’t be nearly enough.”

“There’s still another source of energy at our disposal,” hinted Canas.

“No…” gasped Tali.

“If I could harness the power of the entity locked away in the shrine, we may be able to stop this blizzard. After all, the forces of darkness tend to overcome that of anima.”

“You know how these things usually end…” answered Tali.

“Yes. There’s no guarantee I can control it. But if our chances to survive are low anyway, at least we can save the town.”

“Moving from seeking knowledge to seeking power has caused the downfall of many a scholar much stronger than you… but what choice do we have?”

“I’m not doing it for my own gain, I’m doing it for everyone in Friege. And for our son.” answered Canas. “Intention makes a difference. It really does.”

“I’m not sure about this.” Tali remained skeptical, as she wistfully stared off in the direction of Friege.

“We might be able to save ourselves, and the town. It will be the ultimate test of our powers.”

“I don’t see a better way…” said Tali. She threw herself at Canas. “I’m scared… No matter what we do. I don’t want to lose you… or Hugh.”

Canas held her tightly. “We’ll get through this.”


Canas walked up to Volf, and whispered something in his ear. He handed Volf a small satchel.

Volf nodded. He grabbed his pack, and began to head back to the stairwell. He turned his head around and said, “It’s been a pleasure. You’re brave folk. I hope we see each other again. Good luck.”

“Likewise,” answered Canas, as the outdoorsman disappeared down the stairwell.

“Well darling, it’s just us now.” Canas look at Tali. She seemed so delicate, so fragile, so worried… “If only I could allay her fears, but alas, I can barely mask my own…” he thought.

“So here is the plan. You stay out here, and channel the energy of the anima currents to create a warming effect. I will step into the shrine, and harness the ancient entity’s power to join with and amplify your spell. If we do it right… we just might be able to stop this storm.”

“Canas… what if we can’t?”

“Then we’ll die trying to save others. I’d say there’s no cause more worthy,” answered Canas.

“I love you…” she said, as she closed in for a kiss.

“I love you too, Tali,” answered Canas, as he closed his eyes and met her lips.

For a moment, they forgot they were in the middle of a snowstorm, they felt warmth and happiness and love in each others arms. But the blizzard let itself be known with a sudden sharp gust of biting wind, and they returned to the bitter reality.

They took one last look at each other, before they split off.


Canas entered the shrine again. His ritual circle was still there. The figure on the altar bathed the room with a pulsing, purple glow mimicking the beat of a heart. He would not need a torch this time.

He stepped into the circle, knelt down, and closed his eyes.

He felt the statue’s energy projecting onto him, and he invited it inside.

It felt as if there was another living being inside his head. They could read, no, feel each other’s thoughts, as if they were his own.

It knew what he was after. He knew what it was after. He desired it’s abyssal power, to connect to his wife’s to fight off the storm. It desired… life. In Canas’ place.

They quickly came to an understanding. A fel contract, agreed upon without words, signed without ink. Use of the power of the abyss, in return for an eternity of use of Canas’ body, to whatever ends it wished.

A deal with a demon, or something similar, was never a good idea. But in the situation he was in, Canas only had poor choices available to him.

And so, Canas shook hands with the entity, so to speak.

A flash of indigo light burst from the statue. Strands of fel energy swirled around Canas. Dark orbs, so black his mind could barely comprehend it, began to orbit his body, like planets around a star. He could hear the whispers of the void, thousands, perhaps millions, of fel entities from beyond, some chanting, some shrieking, some persuading, others yet demanding. But one voice was loudest, a booming roar, echoing through his head.

It came to a critical mass, exploding inside his head.

He felt power. Power beyond his wildest imagination. He felt as if he lower mountains with a snap of his fingers, dry out oceans with the wave of his hand… disperse storms with a single breath.

He knew such a thing was but an illusion, a trick of the entity to lower his guard so it can displace his soul and take over his body and mind. He was well prepared.

He reached out, outside of the shrine, where he knew Tali was waiting. He felt a warm, radiating presence, a feeling so familiar, so comfortable. It reached out to him, guiding him, beckoning him. It could only be described as love.

He could see Tali kneeling, looking up at the sky, shivering but determined.

Canas spoke to her, trying to maintain his composure, all the while remaining vigilant to any attempts the fel entity might make to take over.

Tali responded, not with words but with feelings, at first surprise, then concern, then understanding, then confidence. She took a deep breath, focused, attuned herself to the dancing auroras of anima around her. She listened for their motion as a musician would listen for a beat, trying to feel them out, before joining in their song and dance.

For a moment, everything felt perfect. She was perfectly in tune with both her husband and the anima of the world around her. It was a heavenly feeling, almost seductive, but she knew she could not linger in it.

She began to focus her energy, collect the strands of dancing and weaving arcane currents, as a girl would collect flowers. She carefully arranged them her with mind, according to their element, as a florist would arrange a bouquet. Once everything was in place, she began to weave the energies together, as if weaving a crown of flowers to place on her head. She could feel Canas holding her mind’s hands with every motion.

Everything was finally ready. The anima currents were all arranged, each precisely in place, woven together like a colourful blanket that contained all the colours of the rainbow. She then began to focus, putting the energies into motion, spinning, bending, rotating… Each strand began to vibrate in perfect harmony with the rest.

She could feel the energy rising, growing more upbeat, more exciting, the waves growing more frantic… until she felt a silence.

She projected her thoughts towards Canas. He answered. His touch felt distant and forlorn; barely that of the man she loved so much. But it was him. She could feel the dark power behind me. Canas may have called this ancient magic, but she knew it was only darkness, evil in nature.

Hesitantly, she cooperated with it’s motions. The energy grew more intense, heating up, burning, scorching her as if she were engulfed in flame.

She unleashed the energy they had built up. Then, she went cold.


Canas felt cold as well. In fact, he could feel every singly snowflake, every single movement of the air, every drop of moisture in the clouds. He felt as if he was floating among the clouds, peering down onto the ground below from up above. He felt as if he could direct every single particle. As if the storm was his to control. The elements could resist his fel motions. They bowed to his every command. So this was what was meant in the basic axiom of magic; that dark energy triumphs over anima. The pockets of anima behind the storm felt like particles of sand in the mighty river of darkness that he was about to unleash.

He returned his thoughts to that of his wife, the cold he felt going away, now filling him with warmth, a burning sensation. He could feel the energy building, currents of colorful anima dancing around an orb of perfect darkness, all with a white backdrop, now moving more fervently… and so he detonated it all.

He could feel the storm clouds dispersing, the particles scattering, losing their energy, losing their charge, their power dissolving into the river of darkness…

He felt as if he was drowning. Falling down, down into the abyss. There was only darkness in his mind. It felt unpleasant, as if he was sinking in molasses. He could feel thrusts of energy here and there, as if some creature was swiping at him, a blind predator lashing out at its helpless prey.

He felt its grasp around his feet, then his arms. He could not struggle. He could not move at all. He was paralyzed, immobile, unable to respond in any way. He could feel it pulling, as if something was trying to suck his very essence out of himself, and into a sinkhole, into the endless void, like a black hole.

This was it. Druids danced on the edge of madness. Now it would be determined on which side of the line his lifelong dance with darkness would leave him on. Once he stepped, no, was taken too far beyond the line, beyond the event horizon, he would be finished, sucked into the endless void, a fate worse than death.

For a moment, he felt as if he was floating. He saw the shapeless entity before him, a purple and black collection of energy, formless, its limbs moving meticulously, precisely, manipulating, grasping, pulling towards its prize: life in the moral realm.

He felt himself falling… but he caught himself. He steeled his resolve.

He would not end up like his brothers. Hollow husks, empty shells of men, breathing but not truly alive, their minds long gone to madness, their souls trapped inside, unable to act, unable to escape. Such was the result of a failed possession. He could only imagine the horror of such a state of existence, being within one’s body but detached from one’s body and mind. It would be worse than being trapped in a prison cell with no food or light, for decades, unable to speak, or breath, or feel anything.

He would not succumb. He would fight to end. He would fight off the entity, or die trying. It would be life or death; going mad or having his body possessed and his soul cast into the abyss were not results he would accept.

Then, he knew what he had to do. He had to let go; his purpose here finished.


A bright light filled Canas’ eyes as he awoke, almost blinding him.

He was staring straight into the sun.

“Darling, you’re alive! We did it! We stopped the storm!” exclaimed Tali, as her face entered his view. Her skin was whiter than the snow that surrounded them, her hair covered in snow, her face cracked and red from frostbite, her lips raw and bleeding from the bitter cold they had endured. She was shaking.

“Tali… my love. I told you I would not fall into the darkness.”

He took his trembling hand out to feel her face. He struggled to lift it. It was almost numb. He somehow managed to summon up the energy to reach her.

She was cold. So cold.

He closed his eyes. He felt the energy fading away from him. He had just barely mustered up the energy to come back for one last look at his beloved.

“So… Hugh… the town… they’ll be safe now.”

“Yes. Yes they will!” said Tali, cupping both of her hands over his, shaking, filled with a fleeting hope.

“I… I… can’t stay. I’m sorry. It took too much out of me,” whispered Canas.

“No… No! You can’t!” Tali started to cry.

“Stay strong… Stay strong for Hugh.”

“I can’t… I’m so cold… I can barely move,” cried Tali, her tears freezing as they rolled down her face.

“I paid Volf to take Hugh to my mother if we don’t make it back by the end of the week. He’ll be alright, he’s a strong boy.” Canas moved his hand back to Tali’s face.

“Just know that I fought the darkness… and won… even if it took everything out of me… I remain myself until the end.”

“Canas… no!” He could hear Tali weeping.

He closed his eyes again. He could feel the last of his energy departing. But he did not worry. He did not despair. He spent his whole life seeking knowledge. He fought valiantly alongside Prince Eliwood to save the land from Nergal’s madness. He entered the abyss, harnessed its power, and came out alive and sane… even if only for a moment. He was certain that his son, and the town, would be safe. He knew that only a foolish man, or an evil man, had reason to fear death. He was neither. He felt no fear.

He opened his eyes once more.

“I’ll see you on the other side… my love.”

The sun shone in his eyes. His vision was filled with light, before he closed his eyes for the last time.

He felt a snowflake gently drop on the tip of his nose. Then, he felt Tali’s icy cold tear drop on his cheek.

Then, he was gone.


-XL; inspired by Canas’ epilogue in Fire Emblem 7