tagSci-Fi & FantasyA Bridge Between Worlds Ch. 10

A Bridge Between Worlds Ch. 10

byauguy86©

Word spread quickly to the four tribes of the Jinn, bringing news of the death of King Farzan. In the Palace of the Water Jinn, all the leaders of all the tribes had gathered together to bid farewell to their fallen friend. The courtyard was filled to capacity, and many additional spectators lined the walls and parapets of the palace. With all eyes on the funeral procession making its way to the central tower, the crowd fell silent as Salim, Nadir, Ardashir, and Mike escorted Farzan to the front as his pallbearers. As they arrived, they gently placed his shrouded body on the platform in front of the staging area. After shaking hands with the kings, Mike joined his wife to the side as Salim stepped up to the podium.

"King Farzan the Wise, more was he than simply a great ruler," Salim said, beginning his eulogy. "He genuinely loved his people with all of his heart, and the people of all the tribes of the Jinn as well. He cared for each individual as if they were his own family, from his most trusted advisors, all the way down to the simplest of servant genies. All were beloved by him.

"Far more than that, however, Farzan was the most loyal friend the world has ever known. I remember, over four thousand years ago, the moment that I learned that my father, King Mohammed, had been killed in the Sorcery Wars. I was, understandably, beside myself with grief. Yet, I had no true opportunity to mourn my father's passing, as the mantle of King had passed to me, and my people required strong leadership so that my father's sacrifice would not be in vain. I did the best that I was able to, but truthfully, I was not ready for the power that had been thrust upon me. I was too young, and certainly too naïve.

"Enter King Farzan. This man who, if faced with the most terrifying dragon history had ever seen, would simply smile back at it. He had decided to take me under his wing. He was under no compulsion to do so, yet nothing brought him greater happiness than helping me to understand and anticipate the needs of my people during those trying times. We worked together, trained together, lead together, and laughed together. Though we had differences in regards to various philosophical topics, none of this could possibly break the bond we had built together. I am honored to have known him, as my best friend.

"Make no mistake, my friends, that the entity who has murdered our beloved King Farzan still lives, and still seeks to do more harm. But we cannot, we shall not give in to fear! Our world now faces the greatest threat it has ever seen, one that seeks to destroy it from the inside out, and subjugate Humanity to its will. If we give in to fear... we betray Farzan's memory. If we give in to hate, we betray Farzan's memory. I have heard the rumblings from some of you that this fight is not our own, that the humans must deal with this problem themselves. But I say to you today, if we retreat into ourselves out of fear... then everything Farzan fought and died for will be in vain. That is not something I will allow. The world needs us, my friends. Humanity needs us. Farzan understood this better than any of us. Therefore, we must follow his wise leadership, one last time."

As Salim stepped down from the podium, the crowd erupted in thunderous applause, with many beginning to chant Farzan's name. Salim moved over to the pyre holding Farzan's body, and slowly removed the shroud covering his remains. He then took his place at one of the corners of the pyre, with Nadir, Ardashir, and Selena standing at the other corners. Each illuminated their hands in magical energy and lit each corner in fires of red, green, yellow, and blue, each representing the four tribes of the Jinn. As the flames moved towards his body and began to mix in the center, their combined powers caused the fire to begin to glow white, seemingly purifying Farzan's body. The fires came to life, leaping forth from the pyre and encircling the brass pillar in the center of the courtyard as they traveled towards the night sky. Finally, as the pillar was fully engulfed, the four rulers lifted their hands skyward as the fire erupted into the heavens, scattering Farzan's remains across the Rub' al Khali. Once the flames were completely gone, all were amazed to see that the central pillar had been transformed into an enormous brass statue of King Farzan, his radiant smile shining for the entire world to see.

"Goodbye... my love," Selena whispered, shedding a single tear.

*****

Hiro sat silently in his temporary quarters, Kimiko at his side, stroking his shoulders gently. Though her efforts from earlier had begun to alleviate his guilt and shame from helping Edward's plan, the death of King Farzan had only served to bring those feelings back, now stronger than ever. He blamed himself for all of this suffering, for all those that now felt pain and fear due to his involvement. A quiet knock soon came at his door, but he paid it no mind. After a moment, Kimiko stood and went to answer it.

"Hiro?" a sweet voice asked.

Looking up, he replied, "Melody? What are you doing here?"

"I came to check on you. I'm... very worried. About some of the things Kimiko has told me that you're feeling."

Again hanging his head, he said, "Oh, it's nothing, just the fact that I helped the Antichrist. No big deal."

Sitting on a soft cushion as Kimiko rejoined Hiro on the bed, Melody said, "Hiro, you need to realize that this wasn't your fault. Edward did those things, not you."

"I enabled him."

"Yes, you did, because he forced you to."

"I could have been stronger!" Hiro shouted in anger. "I... what should I have done? Sacrificed Kimiko and myself to save thousands? I wish that I had been... strong enough to do that. But I wasn't. I'm a weak, spineless, pathetic excuse for a man! And now, to top it all off, a King Jinn has died because of me as well!"

"King Farzan chose to put himself in harm's way. He did so because he knew he was one of the few with the power to stand against Edward, and he did so of his own accord. Edward is to blame for his death, not you," she replied reassuringly.

"You don't get it. People say I'm smart, that I'm a genius. Yet, I couldn't come up with some way to sabotage his plans," Hiro continued.

"Because he was reading your thoughts," Melody reminded him. "It wouldn't have mattered how intelligent a person he had captured, Edward would have known the instant they tried anything to circumvent his will."

"I still should have done something. I still should have found a way to stop him, even if it was to give someone else the opening they needed."

Melody smiled with her signature megawatt smile. "You did."

"What are you talking about?"

"Oh, Hiro... have you already forgotten?" Melody asked with a giggle. "You knew that you and Kimiko might become targets one day, so you had a contingency plan ready. You instructed her to leave a trail for Mike and me to follow in the event that something ever happened to the two of you. That's exactly what led us to Edward, thus allowing us to stop his plans. You did that, Hiro. You."

"Me?"

Leaning forward, Melody's face turned rather serious. "Hiro, listen to me. Mike and I know probably better than anyone about unwinnable situations. Every person, whether they realize it or not, will inevitably be faced with some problem where there is simply no clean way out of it, no right answer. No matter what choice we make in such a situation, something bad still happens. You faced such a situation with Edward. Mike faced such a situation within his own heart when he first released me from my vessel."

"What do you mean?" Hiro asked, his mood beginning to brighten slightly.

"When Mike first released me, I was exactly what you'd expect from a servant genie: kind, warm, and completely subservient. My only desire was my master's happiness. While many individuals like such a relationship, Mike felt quite differently. He recognized that, no matter how it was presented, our relationship was still one of a master and a slave. This violated one of the principle tenants of his conscience and his faith: enslaving an intelligent, living being is wrong, no matter the situation. I'm sure you are aware of how religious Mike is in his personal life, so I doubt this surprises you. As such, his first question was to ask if he was able to grant me my freedom. This conversation went just as it does for almost every master and genie servant."

Hiro nodded in understanding. "The only freedom that can be granted is from one particular master, not from servitude altogether."

"Precisely. For most masters, this is the end of the conversation, as they end up keeping their genies, some out of selfishness, but others out of a desire to ensure that their genies do not end up in the hands of a cruel master. For Mike, however, this alone was not enough. He still refused to view me as a slave, no matter what my instincts told me. The only thing he wanted me to be was his companion and equal partner. His wish was for me to gain free will, as much as was possible for me to gain. If I wished to serve him and give him the greatest happiness, as I always have, then I was to be his equal in all things."

"It sounds like he made the perfect choice, certainly in regards to the moral dilemma he faced," Hiro mused.

"Actually... he didn't, which is the point I'm trying to make. Mike was in a situation where he could not avoid doing some harm, either directly or indirectly. If he frees me to absolve himself from participating in my enslavement, he potentially dooms me to a life of pain and hardship at the hands of a cruel master, not to mention the evils that a man like Edward Baldwin would have done with my powers at his command. Conversely, in keeping me, Mike became a willing and knowing participant in my enslavement. Even with the free will he wished for me, that participation still existed, and that weighed heavily on his mind throughout his entire life. In his heart of hearts, he believes he still did wrong, even by choosing the lesser of two evils.

"Forgive me for rambling, Hiro, but my point is this. It is a good thing to feel guilt for indirectly participating in a horrible act, even when you were given only two awful choices, both of which would result in pain and suffering. Guilt means that you have a heart and a conscience, but you should never feel shame. You did not choose the situation; Edward forced you into it. He is the shameful one, and the one guilty of the greatest evil. You, on the other hand, aided him only to save a loved one. You have already begged Kimiko for forgiveness for your actions, and asking for forgiveness is exactly what has already absolved you of your guilt."

"You know this?" Hiro asked, surprised.

"Of course!" Melody said with a grin. "After all, I do personally know the Son of God Himself. I get how He operates."

"Wow, genuinely want to be forgiven... it really is that simple?"

"I know, I felt really dumb the first time I realized it too," Melody said with a wink.

As the trio erupted in laughter, Hiro's mind was finally put at ease. He knew he had a long road ahead to fully recover, but he knew at least that the worst was over. A part of him wanted to try to join the fight against Edward, but deep down he knew that would not ease his conscience. Instead, he resolved to move to San Francisco once it was safe to leave the Palace of the Water Jinn, devoting his life to helping all those affected by the tragedy he had participated in. He would do good, live humbly, and above all, he would cherish every moment with Kimiko. If he could accomplish that, perhaps even he could one day be saved.

*****

"Mike, I must thank you for acting as a pallbearer tonight. Normally, that would have been my place, but I am in no condition for such a role," Selena said.

"It was my pleasure. Any strength I can lend, I am happy to," Mike replied.

"We will need much of it," she muttered.

The pair walked in silence for a few minutes, neither really knowing what to say to the other. Finally, Mike spoke the only words he could think of.

"We will stop him, Selena."

"That is not my concern at this point," she replied.

"What do you mean?"

"We are not the ones tasked with killing Edward Baldwin. I am."

Mike sighed. He had been afraid of this. "Selena, I promise you that Edward will be stopped, but he cannot be beaten by a blind act of revenge."

"He murdered my husband!" Selena spat. "There is only one response to that! You may be God's champion, but you know NOTHING of our laws!"

"Perhaps not," he said quietly. "However, may I share with you a saying we humans have on revenge?"

"Very well."

"Before setting out on a vendetta, one must first dig two graves."

Snorting, Selena replied, "Do you honestly think you can scare me?"

"Not trying to scare you. Just telling you the truth."

"I fully expect to die in this, but I shall take Edward Baldwin down with me," she seethed in anger.

"And what if that's exactly what he wants?"

"What... do you mean?"

"You heard his laughs as he ran away from the battle. He intended to kill you, but he knows damn well the potential impact of Farzan's death on us. He's counting on a splintered response bent on vengeance, rather than victory," Mike replied. "If you go after him alone, you play right into his hand. No, if we want to prevent the End of Days, we must surprise him. We have to respond with resolve, honor, and unity, just as Salim said out there. Nothing else will give us any chance of success."

Selena pondered his words for several moments, working to comprehend everything he had told her. Her heart began to soften the slightest bit, knowing that Mike was likely correct. Despite this, she still desired to watch the life leave Edward's eyes, her hand clutching his throat as he drew his final breath. As she was about to reply, the pair was suddenly thrown off balance by a rumbling in the palace.

"What was that?!" Mike asked, bracing himself against the wall.

"I don't know, be we had best find out..."

*****

"Ah, there she is..."

Edward floated silently through the night, approaching the Palace of the Water Jinn. Though Persephone's powers had been removed from her, he could still sense her presence in the high prison tower to the east. Landing just below the window, he gripped the sill and slowly peaked into the dungeon.

There's Persephone. Only one guard? It's like they want me to break her out...

Chuckling to himself, he summoned up a mass of concentrated energy in his palm, detonating it into the brass wall of the palace. The entire structure rumbled from his entry, so he knew he would have to be swift to accomplish the extraction cleanly. Stepping into the dungeon proper, he saw the solitary guard on his back, bruised but still breathing. Noticing the intruder, he attempted to reach for his scimitar.

"Please, don't get up," Edward said politely, stabbing the guard in the chest before he could reach his sword.

Looking up from the rubble of her shattered prison cell, Persephone could scarcely believe her eyes. "Master! You've returned! Oh, I knew you would return for me, I just knew it! These swine tried to turn me against you, but they are blind to your true potential, Master."

"It is a blessing to see you again, Persephone. Now that we are reunited, my master's vision can finally be realized. Are you ready?"

"More than ever," she replied longingly.

"MURDERER!" came a shout from the entrance of the room.

Turning, Edward was now faced with Selena and Mike, both readying their weapons. Mike was his usual calm and collected self, but Selena had a look of pure rage on her face, just as he had hoped for.

"What's wrong, love? Did I hurt your boyfriend?" he taunted.

"Allow me to show you!"

"Wait, Selena! Don't!" Mike cautioned her.

Selena charged straight for Edward, attacking him with every sword technique she had ever learned. He simply laughed off her effort, evading and blocking effortlessly and kicking her to the ground after a few attempts.

"You really miss him, don't ya? Want to see him again?" Edward asked, a sinister smile engulfing his face. Selena closed her eyes, bracing herself for impact, but was surprised to hear Edward's blade strike against something hard. Opening her eyes, she saw Mike between her and Edward, blocking his sword with a glowing blue shield.

"No," Mike said. "Not her. Not today. You have done more than enough evil, and I won't stand for any more."

Chuckling, Edward replied, "Ah, just as well, then. I've got a date with destiny!"

Disengaging from Mike, Edward scooped Persephone up in his arms and took flight into the night sky, flying across the desert at top speed. Selena picked herself up and fired off several blasts of energy in his direction, but ultimately hit nothing but air.

"COWARD! COME BACK AND FACE ME!" she roared.

"Save it, Selena. He's gone," Mike replied.

"Well, quickly then. We must go after him!"

"I'm going after him; I'm the only one with a chance of keeping up," Mike corrected her. "I'll track him down, and relay the location to Melody once I know where he's headed. In the meantime, get the Council together and ready your forces. I have a feeling we may need them."

"Very well," Selena replied quietly, watching as Mike took to the air.

*****

Edward and Persephone flew at top speed over the Pacific Ocean, the sun beginning to rise in the distance. They had flown throughout the night, and were finally nearing the western coast of the United States of America. Using the Golden Gate Bridge as a guide, Edward finally spied his destination: Alcatraz Island. Over a century ago, it had been used as a prison for the worst criminals imaginable. However, it's troubled history resulted in it being shut down and turned into a museum, at least until World War III. At that time, the island was gutted and transformed into a state-of-the-art training facility for the U.S. Marine Corps. The troops that came out of their training on Alcatraz were consistently some of the most feared and efficient warriors in the nation, resulting in the opposing Russian effort to bomb Alcatraz, leveling the island to nothing but a patch of dirt.

"Yes, this will do nicely," Edward said as he landed on the deserted island. "Alright, my dear, down you go."

Persephone steadied herself on her feet, kissing Edward sweetly on the cheek. "My hero," she said affectionately.

"Persephone, do you still love me?" Edward asked.

"Unconditionally, Master."

"And do you still wish to serve me to the fullest extent of your abilities, even in your powerless state?"

"With every fiber of my being, Master."

"Good," Edward replied with a smile. "Persephone, all the pieces are in place for our final gambit. The great Lucifer has granted me access to enormous power, the power to command his forces, and the most terrifying creatures of Hell in the process."

"That is wonderful!" she beamed.

"Indeed it is. However, in order to access this power, Lucifer first requires... a sacrifice."

"What sort of sacrifice, Master?"

"A... willing sacrifice. The summoning will only be successful if the tribute gives their entire mind, body, and soul over to Lucifer. Persephone... I want you to have this great honor."

"Me?" she said, gasping in surprise.

"Yes. It will of course mean that our time together is at an end. However, it will also be the catalyst that brings about the grand and glorious age we have dreamed of for the Earth. What do you say, darling?"

Persephone didn't even need a moment to consider. "It would be my greatest pleasure, Master Edward."

"Splendid!"

In these moments, Edward truly loved how he had managed to groom Persephone into the completely obedient, subservient woman she was. It made decisions like this one all the more easy. Of course he would miss her beauty and feminine charms, but they were nothing compared to what his master would reward him with for his victory.

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