Elwin fell through the water, falling. Falling deep, falling through the riverbed. Deep down into the Earth. There was nothing but darkness in every direction. No light, no sound, nothing he could hold onto, nothing for him to grasp. The only thing he could feel was the burning agony in the centre of his chest. A thought crossed his mind: have I died? Has my hearted stopped beating forever? A pain oozed through his flesh as though liquid fire was spreading throughout his body. The pain reached underneath his skin and thousands of sharp hot needles started to jab into his body from every direction. He panicked and tried to flail but could find nothing to push against. Realising his powerlessness against the pain he stopped and just let the sensations wash over him passively.
Acceptance of his torment eased it and soon he discovered thinking again:
“Where am I? I have fallen down somewhere, to someplace deep underneath the surface. I must be deep under the Earth. Yet there is only darkness everywhere I look. Am I in Hell?”
The darkness was complete, but the silence was not. Somewhere in this dark empty place Elwin could hear a voice. A faint distant voice… he could just make it out. A spark of recognition fizzled deep in his memory, a voice he knew very well: Agatha. She was the nursemaid who had been so kind to him when he was very young.
“Come to me…”
Elwin couldn’t believe his ears, after all these years, he recognised instantly the voice of Agatha. He turned his head in every direction but the darkness was still complete. He couldn’t tell where the voice was coming from, he couldn’t tell a direction at all. He decided to just pick a direction and move. Hearing another sound he immediately set forth in that direction as quickly as he could go. The sounds grew louder but these were not the sounds of Agatha. These were the sounds of many different people. People wailing crying, moaning, and thrashing in torment. A red ball appeared in front of Elwin and quickly expanded out engulfing him. He was standing in a field full of jagged stones and rusting metal. Everywhere around him were broken people writhing and crying out in perfect agony.
“This really is Hell,” he thought.
Turning around he ran back the way he came. Curtains of flames poured down from above but Elwin charged through them and at last the final curtain of flame was behind him and he was back in the darkness again. Still he ran and ran away from Hell as quickly has he could move. He heard the voice again: it was definitely Agatha’s. “Elwin… come to me… please!”
He ran forward but as he progressed forward the darkness gained texture and viscosity. He had to push and fight for every step of progress towards the sound of Agatha’s voice. His progress was becoming slower and harder, but the Hell behind him seemed to propel him forward. At last the darkness peeled aside and stars burst in view. He was falling from the stars down towards what looked like a galaxy of lights.
The lights were not random though, he recognised the pattern: twelve spokes of light emanating from a bright centre. This pattern of light trails was from the map of the city he lived in. Elwin realised he was flying above the city now at night time. He traced the filaments of light he knew were the various train lines, like branches from a spider’s web, and found the compound where he lived in the condominium with everyone else. Dawn broke out across the land with a speed far greater than normality would allow and he could see some outlines of buildings now. Many of which he recognised from walking on the ground. However, there were many others he didn’t recall ever seeing before.
Then he heard Agatha’s voice again, calling him, at last he knew where her voice was coming from. The central zone of the city: The citadel. Elwin discovered that far from helplessly falling, he could in fact control his descent and trajectory. He directed himself towards the citadel, the heart of the Kelite colony: A vast forbidden zone which Delphorians were forbidden to enter. Elwin had never seen beyong the large ring wall surrounding the citadel, but he had wondered and longed to see what life was like behind that concrete screen. Now he could finally visit this place.
Beyond the walls were vast green areas with large cube shaped houses. There were streets with every light working and well paved. Kelites walked about everywhere: alone, in pairs, in groups, in whole masses of people. They had complete freedom of movement. There were so many of them, they were all dressed the same as each other and seemed to just meander about in no particular hurry. Although he was floating by them no one seemed to notice Elwin at all, he was invisible to all the people inside the citadel.
Again Elwin heard Agatha’s voice calling to him louder than ever, pleading with him to come to her. He looked to the spire, the great white spire at the centre of the city. He had heard about it, seen pictures of it, and he knew inside there lived the Kelite King. He was the centre of Kelite authority in the region. Agatha must be inside there, Elwin guessed, and so he floated over to the great iron doors at the entrance of the spire but they were sealed and he could not pass through them.
“Elwin, please, come to me!” Agatha called out to him again. This time it was clear the voice wasn’t coming from within the spire, it was coming from somewhere over the river next to the palace. Elwin followed the big old bridge across and found an old sandstone ruin that was inexplicably still shrouded in shadows despite the risen sun. Agatha must be inside of there, Elwin concluded.
He reached the entrance, landed on his two feet outside the structure. He listened once more to Agatha’s voice clearly coming from the other side before he put both hands up against the old wooden door and was about to push when two hands reached out and grabbed his wrists. Before he could struggle the hands pulled him through the doors and the world around him washed away from view.
Elwin found himself cold, wet, in pain, and lying on the hard cement of the canal. Erian was dragging him by his wrists out of the water. He was yelling and cursing at Elwin, demanding that he wake up and stop drowning. Elwin increased his grip, Erian slackened his, and Elwin rolled over onto his stomach to cough and spit the dirty water from his lungs. He slipped a hand underneath his clothes and made sure: the thorn in his heart was gone.