Leyla had to admit, he was impressed by how tireless this girl they had found seemed to be. They had walked across arid desert and exposed rock for the better part of the day. The sun was beginning to set, painting the parched landscape in vivid oranges and black shadows, and while Leyla had called for a break on several occasions, it was clear they were more for his benefit than the girl’s.
“Well it’s to be expected,” Came Derya’s voice in his mind. “She clearly isn’t human, and most spirits have a supernatural vitality to them. If anything her resilience to sunlight is a good thing. Most evil creatures abhor the sun.”
Leyla frowned. At the moment, he rather abhorred the sun himself.
“We should stop for the night.” He told the spirit.
“Oh, why?” She turned to face him.
“Because some of us need rest,” He said. “And it gets cold out here at night. Let’s start a fire and rest a while. We’ll get moving a little before sunrise.”
The girl stared passively, as if considering whether to insist upon continuing or not. Eventually she settled for taking a seat as Leyla went about forming a fire from the meager supply of surrounding scrubland.
Their chosen campsite was built at the bottom of a fairly tall cliff, beneath an overhang broad enough to avoid tumbling rocks striking them in the night. A grotto of sharp and angular boulders rose form the ground all around their camp save for a thin path of flat earth that lead to and from their camp, creating a narrow bottleneck and disguising their presence from any lurking monsters. It would be slightly close quarters, but it was very desirable as a campsite went.
As he went about preparing camp the girl seemed content to crane her neck upwards and stare at the sky. As the sky darkened and the stars began to shine, Leyla could see the pinpricks of light combine with the silver glow of the moon, reflecting in her eyes and in the vanes of her wings. She sat as still as a statue, without any sign of breathing in her chest or a blink in her eyes. Leyla could not help but stare for a moment. Something about her was striking, inspiring, more than human.
“It is a common reaction to the supernatural.” Derya interrupted his thoughts and Leyla quickly looked away before he was noticed.
“I never saw a monster like that.” Leyla thought stubbornly in reply.
“Because monsters are unnatural and built from human fears, they are not born of the world like this girl is.”
“Born of the world?”
“Humans and spirits are inexorably tied,” Derya said. “But there are forces in the world that are older than humanity. When these spirits, those born from the natural forces of the earth rather than human thoughts, choose to take human form, one can see the unearthliness inherent in them. When you observed her, did you not see the spiritual symmetry present in her form?”
“Well…that is one way of calling it. Only humans are born struggling and stumbling for meaning. Spirits are created fully aware of the purpose of their being. Even if it shifts a spirit is always aware of its role in the universe from the lowliest spirits of stone to He of 101 Names himself. You can see it in her, even in the midst of confusion, she is attuned to a single purpose, lacking in any spiritual uncertainty.”
“I just thought she was kind of pretty.”
“Well yes, that too.” Derya added grudgingly. “Though that’s common in spirits as well. Our real focus for now is in determining what kind of spirit she is and how we can remind her of that purpose.”
Leyla returned to sit beside the girl, smiling as he started sorting through his meager rations.
“So any luck working out what you are?” He asked candidly, drawing the girl’s attention away from the stars.
“I am afraid not,” She said. “And I cannot understand why.”
Leyla nodded, doing his best to look understanding even if he couldn’t hope to actually understand what this spirit felt.
“From what I’ve learned all spirits know their purpose, so you not knowing yours is very unusual.”
“It feels…very unnatural yes.” The girl nodded.
Leyla smiled and offered some of his dried meat rations. “Food?”
“Hmm?” The girl looked at it curiously. “No…no thank you. Eating…does not suit me.”
“Well that’s another clue I guess.” Leyla popped the chewy over-salted meat into his mouth. “We know you don’t eat.”
“That’s hardly indicative of anything.” Derya remarked.
“Quiet you. It can only help if she feels like we’re making progress.”
“I suppose that is another clue, yes.” The girl nodded. “I would simply like something more concrete…a name, perhaps, or at least to know what manner of spirit I am. That alone would be a help.”
“Try not to fret too much about it,” Leyla smiled. “Everything has a name, especially spirits. And I’m sure no spirit can go forever without learning their name again.”
“I hope you are right…”
“I know I am.” Leyla nodded assuredly.
“I appreciate how helpful you have…” The girl stopped speaking mid-sentence, and for a moment, Leyla had accidentally led her into some kind for realization before that hope was shattered by Derya’s words.
“Something is coming.”
Derya did not have to say more for Leyla to draw his curved sword and pass control of his body back into his hands, taking the backseat as Derya prepared for battle.
They were not alone this time, however, as the girl also rose to her feet. Though still unarmed, she carried herself straight-backed and defiant as her shining blue eyes scanned the darkness.
They heard the beasts coming before they saw them. The growling that grew at the backs of their throats and the steady snorting and sniffing of monstrous nostrils as they sniffed them out. There was more than one, three if they were counting correctly, coming from one direction. In all likelihood the monsters had been tracking them since they left the temple, and Leyla had known that it would only be a matter of time before they were eventually found by something like this.
When they emerged from the darkness into the dim orange light of their campfire, Leyla saw that they were smaller than the temple monster, but there were three of them nonetheless. They were built like wolves, tall and fierce with pitch black fur and shining red eyes, their fangs and claws oversized past usefulness for a mortal animal. They were common malevolent spirits, taking the form of more monstrous predators. While weaker than true monsters, they were not to be underestimated, particularly seeing as there were three.
Derya’s hand tightened on his sword as he prepared himself. The monsters growled again as they sized up their potential prey. It was a tense moment as both parties waited for the other to make the first move and see who had the advantage.
What came next, however, neither of them had expected. The girl had taken the distraction of Derya to slip into the darkness before taking to the air. The wolf spirits had never needed to learn to watch the skies for predators, and thus never thought to look up before the girl came crashing down on top of the closest one. The beast’s legs buckled beneath it as the weight struck it, for even a slim girl hits hard when falling down with all her strength. As the girl’s hands took hold of the beast’s head, however, her hands pressed against the muzzle and skull, something else began to happen. Cracks began to grow across the monstrous wolf’s head, cracks that spread like glass as radiant yellow light poured from within. The girl held her hands tightly to the monster’s face, light glowing beneath her skin as energy was poured into the evil spirit.
With one last guttural howl the head, neck, and shoulders of the monster exploded in dazzling white light, leaving the rest to disintegrate into so much shadow. While Leyla marveled, Derya did not hesitate, rushing forward to take full advantage of the distraction and terror of the monsters to slice cleanly through the neck of the next closest one, the blade of the sword glowing brightly as it was consumed by holy fire.
Panicking, the last wolf tried to flee, only for the girl to grab it tightly by its tail, holding the huge wolf in place with seemingly little effort. Once more the cracks began to appear upon its body, and within moments it too had exploded into a shower of light and white fire.
Within moments Leyla once more felt himself back in control of their body, sword in hand as the fires began to fade from the blade.
“W-wow…” He managed to stammer. “That was amazing.”
“It was?” The girl asked, looking from the blackened earth that was all that remained of the wolves to her own hands.
“Absolutely!” Leyla nodded. “You just destroyed those monsters from the inside out! That was awesome!”
“You just blew up that monster from the inside out! I’ve never seen anything like it!” Leyla continued, not noticing the silence that had overcome Derya.
“It was…nothing really.” The girl tried to brush it off.
“Nonsense!” Leyla smiled. “You were super helpful. Wasn’t she, Derya?”
“The unmaking of the destructive spirit. The re-ordering of matter into righteous form. The protection of truth…”
“Is something wrong?” Leyla asked with growing concern.
“Yes and no,” Derya said. “But I believe I know what manner of spirit she is now.”
“That’s great!” Leyla said aloud “Hey, I think I might have an answer for what kind of spirit you are now.” He told the girl with a smile.
“Oh?” The girl regarded him curiously.
“What do I tell her?”
“There is a kind of spirit known to us. Until now, we did not know what it truly looked like, which is why we could not identify her by sight. They are creations made by the will of the Lord Ahura Mazda, who chose to come down to earth to suffer evil so that it would not reign over mortals. Guides and mentors of each person in life. I believe she is a Fravashi.”
“We think,” Leyla said. “You’re a Fravashi. Does that word mean anything to you?”
The girl stood stiff as a statue, her eyes widening as she seemed to stare past them and into the infinite as she repeated the word “Fravashi”.
“I think we’re onto something!” Leyla said nervously, watching her.
“Fravashi,” The girl repeated once more. “Yes…that is what I am I once protected the unborn spirits of this world, and I helped and guided them in life along the path of righteousness, and then…I cannot recall.”
“Do you know what’s happening, Derya?”
“I believe something went wrong on a cosmic scale,” Derya said “Every living spirit has a Fravashi, acting like a spiritual guide and protector, which pushes them towards righteousness and goodness in life. Though all people have free will, it is the willingness to heed the good advice of the Fravashi that separates the virtuous from the sinful. When a person dies, they reunite with their Fravashi to return to the heavens or carry out the will of the Lord.”
“So what is this Fravashi doing all alone out here by herself?”
Derya began speaking, and as he did Leyla parroted much of what he said to the girl, trying to pass along the explanation and advice as best he could.
“If you’re a Fravashi that protected a mortal spirit, but you’re out here on your own, it could mean you were somehow forcefully separated from that person.”
The girl nodded. “Yes, that person, the Urvan I was sent to protect…she is lost to me.”
Leyla smiled, now that they had one answer, their mission was more set. “Then we’re going to help you find this Urvan.”
“Of course,” Lela put his hands on his hips. “If you can’t find them it means they’re still out there somewhere, hidden from sight. It might be a Tiamat plot or something altogether different, but one thing is for sure, we’re going to help you fulfill that righteous duty.”
“Thank you…” The girl still seemed surprised, almost in shock. “And…and in return for your generosity, I wish to help you. I can feel the disorder and falsehood in the world. I want to help you set it right.”
The Cities Eternal©2016, Evan Murdoch, Ben Sousa
JP Link: https://www.jukepop.com/home/read/9551?chapter=57&sl=880