Pale Horse Riders: Chapter 6
(hopefully Photobucket won't pull it)
Pale Horse Riders: Chapter 6
It seemed to take an eternity to cross the Underworld.
Perhaps it did.
The Lady seemed to know their course, and led without hesitation. Lazlo found the way was, generally, easy enough to navigate; it was only that the realm of the dead was so very vast; and they were only two small traveling souls.
Yet they were traveling together, and that made all the difference. As they moved, slowly but with purpose, across the desolate Underworld, the two companions filled the loneliness with long conversations; when too discouraged to go on they would lean against each other for support; on the brink of despair they would hold each other for comfort.
Lazlo found himself growing more and more attached to Gabrielle with each passing moment he spent in her company, and he knew, without question, that he had never felt so strongly for anyone before in his life.
Just my luck, isn’t it, he thought to himself ironically. I finally meet the perfect woman, but I have to die to do it, and she’s an immortal locked into the service of Death. What more could a guy ask for?
Yet, he could not bring himself to distance himself from her. Whatever time they would have here together, he would somehow make that enough.
He had no other choice.
“I know I shouldn’t be tired,” Lazlo commented to his companion as they continued across the bleakness that was the Underworld. “I mean, how could I be, not having a real body and all...” He grinned, and Gabrielle smiled in return.
“The spirit requires respite as well,” she murmured, shrugging slightly. “We can rest for a while if you like. Perhaps some time to gather our thoughts before we come face to face with Death would not be remiss.”
“Oh, man... I’m so glad you said that.” Lazlo said in an exhausted tone of voice. Immediately, he sat down on the spongy, misty ground and looked up at Gabrielle. “Care to join me?” he asked, patting the damp ground close beside him. “You look like you could use a break, too, Gabrielle, and I don’t bite. Well,” he grinned, “not unless you ask nicely.”
There was something in his voice that the Lady had not heard for so long, and it caused her knees to feel weak, even in this domain. She quickly sat down beside Lazlo, and busied her hands by tucking her long hair behind her ears, trying to hide their tremor.
What’s coming over me? Gabrielle thought to herself distractedly. I haven’t felt like this since...since... she shook her head slightly to clear it. She honestly couldn’t remember the last time she had felt like this, even though serving in the Underworld did not cause such emotion to cease. Oh, not whatsoever!
Not being dead, the Lady was not truly a soul, but she traversed that realm often, and Lazlo was certainly not the first mortal soul to be attractive to her in all the time she had spent in this domain, assisting their passage. However, he was the only one who, thus far, had touched what remained of her heart.
Perhaps it was his desperation, or gallantry... or perhaps a little of both; taking his quest to recover his sister-in-law to this extreme. He had explained his purpose in the Underworld to the Lady as they had journeyed together, and although she could not give him counsel on how to accomplish it, she had no choice but to admire his fortitude, and that of his brothers as well.
“I wish I could advise you on how to approach Thanatos in this regard,” she had told him, “but I cannot. This has not ever happened in all my time here, and I can only guide you to him, and stand with you as you do this...”
“Just you being there will be enough,” Lazlo had whispered, taking her hands. “Gabrielle, I...” he could not finish. Indeed, what could he possibly have told her? That he was falling in love with her? What good would that do? Even if his quest was successful he would never see her again! She was not of the living; she carried a damaged soul; and could not return to the mortal world.
Falling in love with her would cause both of them nothing but pain, but damn it all, Lazlo couldn’t stop himself, even if he had wanted to.
And he didn’t. The Goddess help him, he didn’t.
“How much farther do you think it is to where we’re going?” Lazlo asked. He was resting together with the Lady, sitting on the spongy ground shrouded in mist, watching the continually moving souls wandering in the distance.
“Not far at all,” Gabrielle replied, drawing up her knees and resting her head on them. “Just over that next rise, actually...” she indicated with her hand a small hill in the distance, which had been difficult to perceive through the haze. “Death’s abode.”
Lazlo looked, then he lay back on the ground, sighing. Much as he wanted to continue his quest, he also wanted to savor this time with Gabrielle. He needed it. Needed to talk to her... needed to let her know how he felt somehow, even though it would all come to nothing in the end. That thought tore him apart, but it could not be helped. He could no more turn off his feelings for the Lady than he could command the sun to rise in Underworld.
“Tell me about your life, Gabrielle,” he said to her quietly, staring up at the starless blackness above.
The Lady jumped, startled. After a moment, she looked at him with a confused expression. “There is nothing to tell,” she replied. “This is my life, or what approximates it. This... what you see before you.”
“That’s not what I meant.” Lazlo rolled to his side and propped his head up on one elbow, gazing at her. “I meant your life before you came here.” He reached out with his other hand and gently played with the fabric of her dress. “Don’t you remember it?”
Gabrielle frowned, obviously thinking hard and painfully. “Yes...” she said slowly. “I remember some things. I remember my family somewhat. My mother and father... and... siblings, I think. A sister...” she trailed off, looking more pensive than ever. “I know my memories of my sister are not happy ones.”
"That’s too bad,” Lazlo said, laying flat back on the ground again. “My sister is the best. She’s the oldest, you know, out of my mom and dad’s kids together, and was kind of like a second mom. I actually have three older sisters, but I never really got to know the two oldest ones. They were my father’s twin daughters from an... um... previous relationship...” Lazlo smiled slightly, wondering if he should go into the details of alien abductions and what they usually meant for men who experienced them, but decided against it. Perhaps another time...
“Anyway, my dad’s first wife, Glabe, took Chloe and Lola with her when she split, then my dad married my mom and they had all of us. First came my sister Jenny, then my brother Pascal, then Vidcund, and then me. We’re all very close.” He was babbling, and he knew it, but he didn’t want to stop talking. He didn’t want this quiet time with Gabrielle to end any sooner than it had to.
Gabrielle had her hand pressed to her forehead. “Brothers... yes, I had brothers, too.” she murmured. “I remember them... and my lover. I remember him as well.”
Lazlo stiffened at the mention of her lover, although he had known, hadn’t he? She had told him already. Seeing her lover murdered the day before what was to be their wedding day was what had damaged Gabrielle’s soul, wasn't it? Yet, Lazlo couldn’t help but wonder why? Unfortunate as it was, surely the Lady wasn’t the first person to witness such an traumatic event. Why had it affected her so profoundly?
It made Lazlo wonder if there hadn’t been more to it, but he didn’t have to wonder long. Trembling, obviously unsure, Gabrielle continued remembering...
“His name was Malachi,” Gabrielle was saying. “...and he was the light of my life. We were to be married, but something...” she frowned again. “Something happened...” Obviously she had not experienced the memory for some time, and it seemed very difficult for her. Lazlo sat up, scooted closer, and put his arms around her without a second thought.
“It’s okay,” he whispered into her hair, holding her close. “Just let it come.” Somehow, he knew it was important that Gabrielle talk about this. She clearly had not had the opportunity to ever do so before, and some things needed to be expressed before the healing could begin. Lazlo was no psychotherapist, but he did know that much.
“It was my sister!” the Lady gasped, remembrance filling her mist-colored eyes. “My sister seduced my lover... or he could have lain with her willingly, I know not, but I... caught them together, and then, I...” she began to cry. Lazlo held her even closer as she sobbed on his shoulder.
“... and I told my brothers,” Gabrielle sniffed. “I don’t know why I did such a terrible thing. I should have known what they would do, Lazlo... and they did! They burst upon my lover with their swords, and they killed him!
I was there! I had followed them, trying to stop them, but I couldn’t! They killed him, and it was my fault! And... they also killed the woman he was lying with, before they saw or even cared who it was!” She broke into helpless sobs, pounding her small white fists against her thighs. “Lazlo, they murdered our sister and it was my fault! My lover’s and my sister’s deaths were my fault... Mine!”
“They weren’t!” Lazlo tried to soothe her, holding her tightly against his chest. “Gabrielle, listen to me! Whatever wrongs were committed... whatever evil was done, it was their evil, do you understand? The burden should be on their souls, not yours! Not yours, Gabrielle!”
She replied with more choking sobs. “No... if it wasn’t for me, then they...”
“No. You can’t see it that way.” Lazlo argued his point with righteous gall. “Your soul shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of what your family did! You were the innocent in this, Gabrielle... if anyone’s spirit should be intact, it should be yours! You’re blameless! Why is your soul so damaged?”
Gabrielle raised her face to Lazlo’s, tears shining on her cheeks in the phantasmal light. “Because I accepted their evil, but my soul could not.” she whispered. “I felt I had nothing to live for, and so much guilt to hide... my own, and my brothers’... I could not endure it! When Thanatos came for my sister and my lover, he said my soul called out to him. Desperately called, but he could not take it, much as I wanted him to. The damage was too great. He brought me here instead, and here I remain... a... a wraith with but half a soul!”
She covered her face and cried piteously. She could not bear to look at Lazlo now, knowing he would see her as ravaged, knowing she could never be complete again; there was nothing that could be done for her; nothing that could make her whole...
Lazlo gently prized her hands away, and cupped her face in his hands, wiping the tears away with his thumbs. He looked as though he wanted to speak, but he let his actions say what he could not express, bringing his lips to hers and kissing her softly.
“I’m not worried about souls,” he whispered as the kiss ended. “You could never be half of anything to me. Never, Gabrielle.” He sighed and pulled her close, wrapping his arms tightly around her. “I know this is crazy... I know the last thing I should be doing right now is falling in love, but I can’t help it.” He smiled sadly and stroked her raven colored hair. “Can we ever help it?”
“Lazlo, is... is that what you’re doing?” Gabrielle pushed slightly away from him and searched his brown eyes deeply, her expression full of wonder. “...Falling in love?”
Lazlo looked around him at the vast misty wasteland that was the Underworld. He remembered his purpose in all this; to save his brother’s beloved wife, who was also his best friend, from her untimely death. He remembered his mortal body was still lying cold and empty on the banks of the River Styx, with his brothers still waiting... he hoped... for Gods only knew what. He remembered the danger he was in; there was no guarantee he would save Charity or even save himself. He still needed to face Death, and his quest was hardly begun.
He turned back to Gabrielle. “Yes,” he said lustily, pulling her roughly to him for another kiss. “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
Smiling against her lips, he amended his statement, “Well, among a few other things, of course...”
To Be Continued...