Silvak’s Choice

Midreven stood before her, all thirty-nine of it’s unnatural limbs writhing like worms trapped beneath merciless summer sun.
A howl burst from its dripping face with the dull roar of chasm wind twisted together with the high screech of the stork. Silvak
had come far and changed so much to reach this being. The tears she choked to hold back were all that were allowed just yet
to mourn what she had been also forced to sacrifice to meet this unfathomable horror sight to sight. It moved and slithered,
frothing in its own ooze and slippery sound within its amorphous black core. Silvak could make little detail of the beast, as it
seemed the very shadows of the Chamber of Revening worked like diligent friends to hide what they could to whatever end of
deadly surprises. Midreven’s roar brought fragments of the masonry down around them both, stirring up dust more ancient
than the very ancestry of the ChooJook barrister fool-hearty and blindly courageous enough to console a heart murmur from
the ageless wrath that was beginning slowly to sloth toward her.

Silvak did the only thing she still remembered how to do in a moment such as this. She relaxed her mind, her spirit, her
limbs trembling, and spoke as she fell to one knee, “Implore I my behalf peoples’ of my on mercy within you resides still my
kind for.”

It ceased its ominous advance and pondered the maggot so near its early beak. “CALL FIND IT TO YOU SALLOW WILL!!! IN

Goddesses of high and low, of wind and rain, of might and of magic, speak for me into this juxtaposition of doom, Silvak did
beg within her spirit being for a moment of wisdom to buttress her courage. Obedient only to her faith in the intervention of that
which still desired to preserve her kind, her world, her time, would give utterance to the demands of the horror, Midreven; and
that her will not falter to honour their utterance clearly with her poor lips scorched by winter’s bluster.

“d’ohn Vai Jherock, ttrissstk VAI entra entra sum pa Trsh sssshhhhtrinsssifffffthaaassss!!!” The syllables resounded from
Silvak’s utterly shattered voice. Parched by days of frost and exertion, but the offering sufficed.

“Why are you here?”

“I seek counsel with you. To know your intent. To understand why you have returned.”

“My counsel you have. My intent is malice. This world was my playground when I wrote its pages. Why should I not revisit
my imaginations?”

“Why malice, Unchangeable One, for so great an age ago faded the ignorance of our past.”

“Time is the concern of the creation, not the creator.”

“But you did not create. I speak from foolish meat and frost, High Being.”

“Your platitudes mean nothing to me. Your speck of knowledge cannot offend me with its simplicity. Your kind works wars
against itself. What good is that which was created if the creator takes no joy in it? And Midreven, this by which to me you so
mockingly refer is a tiny extension of my being.”

“But the Nine…”

“The Nine into whom I breathed the eternity they squander…” Midreven shifted toward Silvak.

“They call you a deceiver.”

“And they held audience with you? You, the muck beneath the murk?”

“Yes. I have practised and nurtured a great gift within me that caught their attention.”

“Insipid refuse. Courage is no gift. It possesses nothing at all. Not wisdom to guide it, not power to shape it, nor time for
any among creation to weave themselves with it and not envy what is withheld from the loom that it might not unravel. Yet in
the very moment of envy, your ‘gift’ of courage is lost.”

“I trust only in the Nine! Not in myself!”

“For now. I am unchanging, undying, and my desires are few.”

“Then again I ask, Midreven, why malice?”

Hearing its own name from the tiny thing’s broken tongue, Midreven’s ire was provoked.

“Boundaries yet exist that I impose, thing of NO concern! Your boldness need not grow with familiarity or all that is will be
undone by it!!!”

Suddenly terrified, Silvak’s heart pounded. Her heart’s pace had never before faltered, no matter the danger or the rage.
It was her faith that kept its beat ever with the rhythm of her world. The world itself shook beneath her even as she swallowed
hard against gravel in her throat to speak but a few more words to the being Midreven. But the voice was gone. In triumph of
all that ever felt evil, cruel or unnatural and forbidden, Midreven flailed and laughed mockingly.

“The Nine favor you. This I see. But you now see what happens to the bold. The Savant, nay, the Avatar of Courage must
never speak from its own strength! It presumes in an instant that its own rage might suffice where goddesses dare not intervene
themselves! Their extension lops itself off!”

Silvak stood upright, straightened her back and dusted her countenance with a quick shake. She pursed her lips tightly until
they were frozen together. “It will not be by words that your malice is turned back. Time concerns you, deceiver, and your
racing heart betrays you!” The voice of many voices, the consul of the Nine, the Goddesses, resonated through the Chamber.
Tears fell like acid steaming in the deep cold from the hard wizened eyes of the battered champion. These and the retrieval of
her sword from its resting place at her bloody left hip revealed the ruse of Courage for the faith that filled her every fibre of
existence was far from lost to her.

“A Heroine is forged!” Midreven howled in disdain and trepidation. The battle of flesh began.

A hail of rock, dust, ice and black slithering wretchedness descended upon Silvak in an instant. The being without end had
revealed itself to be much more agile than it had originally portrayed itself. The power of the goddesses did not wane, nor did
the faith of Silvak. As bit after bit of ichor and goo fell to the stones and empty ancient braziers of the Chamber, the being
withdrew by the most tryingly slow and steady measure into the wall from which it had stretched itself. Driven back and then
sealed away by a sword dripping with the blood of an ancient god, Midreven’s legends and lies were doomed to fade forever
from its Heroine’s world.

Silvak had seen so much. She had done so much. The horrors that met her nightly in her darkest dreams, the faces of the
friends that had been thrown bodily before her to pave her way in their corpses, had changed her deeply. She walked silently
and stiffly from the Chamber of Silvak’s Faith, so renamed by the whisper of the Nine, and was translated beneath clear orange
skies to her humble farm, otherwise a year’s travel away.

The farm was wrecked and wretched. No crops, no animals, only bad memories of absent friends and a cold that would not
let go of her mind. For the months that remained of the winter, she worked to restore what she could of what had been lost.
So much had been lost. Had it not been for the cautious visits of a nearby blacksmith, she might have forgotten in that exile
of snow her own name, or even her ability to speak.

But the goddesses were good to her. Growing seasons were bountiful. Animals never grew ill or failed to find mate. Silvak
herself, a Legend now, and rarely approached by most who feared what she must possess to have purged the entire world of
its cataclysm single-handedly, found a spark of love forming within her for the kind and gentle blacksmith. He beat iron into
steel feverishly, but his hands, much like steel themselves, were always soft somehow, gloved as if for delicate shaping of
flowers when they dared touch the face of his god-slayer.

As five years passed her, Silvak found that none of the pain within her would leave. There were scars inside of her, not just
on her flesh. The faith and the courage that had carried her, had yet to leave her, nor the tender mercies of the goddesses who
fawned over her as they might have a celestial treasure, nor her brave Blacksmith, nor the affluence that had come to her farm.
Most feared, but none refused the bounty or the beauty of all the Farm of Silvak produced.

She began to seek her own adventures, though. She sought them at every turn. Sometimes years would pass before she
would return. She became more and more renowned, and feared. She seemed insurmountably blessed of gods and goddesses
and even of her own uncanny strength and resolve. The praise and the cautious adoration of many assailed her, and she found
herself becoming as much addicted to the attention as her father had been to hot brandy.

One night in the lonely dark near the den of a thing that had not yet been named, Silvak wondered at herself. Was she so
enamoured by killing? Was it the thrill of the hunt? Was it the reward? Was it… Was it… Her eyes widened. It had been
almost a decade since she had heard the whispers of the goddesses in her ears. Their titillating voices only warmed her when
she was at her farm, or when telling her Blacksmith the freshest of her tales. She began to wonder if the goddesses were there
at all. Had they ever been there? Was the sound of their voices the harbinger of her own madness; a madness which only
now she could put a foot upon as the golden plumes of her camp fire slurped away at the purple night?

Only faintly did the whispers warm her on her farm. She had conquered most of the world’s evils alone, by night or day,
her arms, her heart, her power, had slain the threats of her kind across ocean and continent alike. The people feared her
power. They did not just adore her, they feared her! She began to reel within. Dizziness beset her as she began to doubt
all she had ever truly know. Could it be? The unwelcome stench of blood…the felling blow against some demon…the shouts
of praise…all madness? Her addiction…to death?

No. She craved death of herself, for herself. She cut off heads of horrors that day with the same shouts that she had
mustered when cleaving her way through the armies of the self-damned enraged at the fall of her beloved Artek. Of him a
song was sung by her kind in darkest nights or by most dire circumstances:

Silvak’s love, Artek the brave, was dashed his body for to pave the way to Silvak’s Faith, her handsome wraith to keep her
heart warmed in spite of Midreven’s winter, eternal hate fell back and now from us is hid as Silvak’s will did faithful bid.

Silvak sung it softly to herself. It was more a song about her than the laying down of her life’s love; her reason for not
giving her feet to the lamplight of her Blacksmith.

“Why has it been so long. Nine, divine, I need you!” Silvak screamed.

“You have become death, little one. You have become so great. You were the hand of courage. But now you are the sword
of power. And now you seek the lips and the tongue of wisdom. You have lost your way, precious light. You needed only We
all along to write your songs and fill your life. Those who adore you shower you in the attention you crave out of fear. Though
you aid them, the fear will weight upon the hearts of the simple as oppression. They will turn against you one day, in an instant,
out of fear, out of their tiny minds, out of their need to feel free of the burden of your great and mighty presence. They no
longer believe your power came from We. They fear your power is your own, and your courage has faded with your faith as
you have let slip praise to We for your victories.

“For when you set the eyes and hearts of the simple upon the will of We, your actions are understood, are given meaning and
selfless purpose. They do not fear those things, but they do not either give you praise. They give it to We who strengthen the
hand. We become the sword, and you Our bearer. This is the balance. When you believe in yourself over time too much and
forget fealty to the Greater Good, the Greater Beings, the Escape of the Heroine, then you more and more jeopardize yourself
to the cowardice of the ones you serve in your own name this day.

“To this cause, courage has fled you, for you have found in yourself power enough to do things enough to justify your own
actions to your own self. More and more you doubt. More and more you fear madness. Further and further away resounds
the love in Our whispers for you. You are self-sufficient, or so you have come to believe. There can be no faith if there is no
fear of failure. You have lost that fear. You no longer look beyond yourself, stretch yourself, to meet any new challenge, to
slay any ancient horror, nor to trust the prevention of your fall or the draining of your heart, or the forgetting of Artek, to whom
you once belong and yet who in song now belongs to you, the arms of Yhevu, your sweet, wonderful Blacksmith.

“Rest, and remember clearly. Trust in what you have known and in what you have remembered. Let those who did pave
your way also be remembered and not forever trod upon. Let your Blacksmith love you. Let the softness of your hear and the
trust of your will return to the Chamber of Faith you freed of Midreven by your hand, and not by your might. If you will not
point the blame at yourself, nor point the valour to the Nine, you will fall and another hand shall require the courage to end
your disregard. Choose life. Choose LIFE!

“Rest, and awaken to choose LIFE! To win is sometimes to lose. To lose is sometimes to win. To trust is to have rewarded
that which was earned. To have faith in something beyond you is how you sustain your sanity, the respect of others, the love
and adoration of those who have challenged you to believe in them. You have not rewarded those who have trusted you, nor
rewarded those who have earned your trust. You reward yourself with more victories, and the scorn of the common deepens
all around you.

“Rest, and believe. Believe in what you cannot know. Believe you can do what cannot be done. But know that faith in only
yourself will bury you in darkness, and no shadow will come to warm you, no shade to cover you, no whisper to comfort you,
no chill to remind you. Seek until you have found, even if you never find and die seeking. Only by this will you keep the faith
to have the courage to rest your mind in Our LOVE instead of doubting your sanity, face crushed into the palms of your own
blood-filled hands.

“Rest, and know, this is why so many Hero of the past was required to die. Power was never yours to own. Wisdom is a
gift that addresses a time, a place, a moment, and instant, a person, a situation. It is not for you to possess Wisdom, but to be
used by it. Just as you are used by Power to overcome what no other can. Through courage and simple trust in the will of
whatever may be, whatever IS which or who is yet beyond your knowledge and understanding. Through the Faith of Silvak you
receive the Courage of Silvak! Then the Power of the Nine pushes back the darkness, and the will of evil is undone by the
unbreakable seal of the Wisdom of the Nine! For this alone are you responsible.

“Rest, rest well, rest fully, rest peacefully, and know that LIFE is still a choice but will not always be. For if you choose to
remain Death, remember by your hand you once saw death itself die. You know the hand into which we place a new sword
forged of our Power and Will shall make an end of it again.”

“The Desire of Power becomes the impetus that forges a villain. Love is the Balance, Heroine. Do not change your world to
suit such folly in your heart. Change only what wrongs that which is right. Then there is only the quest. There is only the
search. And the search will never conclude but that matters not! LIFE is in the process not the product. The product is all
consumed, and the process ever alive and moving and changing. This is all the Wisdom you need. To LOVE and be STRONG,
to be JUST and to FEAR NOT. For when you are JUST, your STRENGTH is drawn from We who never wane, and what you
LOVE shall not perish, for you have become the hand of selfless COURAGE that is needed in its time. This is all that you will
ever need to become something wonderfully different in your world. Such a being changes the world wonderfully.

“THUS, allow your child to FALL and to FAIL sometimes. This is why it is important to leverage in their simpler times situations
from which they can deride no win or escape. This is why children who learn to lack respect become villainous or unbearable;
they are not taught the good value of fear and are not allowed to fail. If you fear, you respect. If you have potential to fail,
you respect. If you respect you will be respected. If you do not, you will not.”

“Awaken after your rest, Heroine, Death Which Became Silvak, and renew the world which of yourself you forfeited all else to
become the Mother. Mother Silvak, her Faith found Renewed by the Loving Whisper of the Nine!”

When Silvak awakened her camp fire was extinguished but she was not cold. And far away across a blanket of freshly
fallen snow there was hear the tintinnabulation of familiar notes and whispers of hope. Hear heart felt refreshed, and her
mind livid with the brightness of reflection. She smiled. She impaled breakfast with a stealthy arrow and rekindled the flame
of her camp. Conquest would hold and the horror would know fear for this day’s light.

Nine pillars, each with a wind chime carved from ancient ribs, marks the place of Silvak’s Choice.

© Copyright 2015 – Alecia M. Shepherd
All rights reserved.

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