“My brother has created a paradise for himself and all Guardians after all, then? And that small girl must be Barnama’s daughter,” Atricio thought to himself. He had been watching Lucio from his cauldron using that enchanted flea as a beacon for a few days now. “I’ll admit that he outdid himself. I’ve never seen so many different Guardians before! I must pay him a visit now that I know where he is, but I can’t go alone!” He strode away from his cauldron to face one of the walls of his cottage.
“Slite!” He raked his fingernails horizontally through the air, and a rift into another world opened. But this was not Treomynd. This was a dark parallel dimension that Atricio had created years ago. It was his unofficial dungeon for people he hated or deemed worthless for his uses. The sky was black, the plants were dead, and the sun was a red dot in the sky. The Atrumnus wandered around the dry, dead earth. They were stuck in their black, shapeless forms, but one could see flashes of their old selves come over them every few seconds.
“Barnama! Come forward!” One of the largest black forms floated up to the rift.
“What do you want with me? I am already tortured in this bleak world! I am neither whole nor nothing, and the animals are vicious beasts!”
“But they cannot hurt you!” Atricio chided him. “It’s all you’ve ever wanted! Now be quiet and listen to your master. I have found my brother and your daughter, along with all Guardians known to man, nestled in their own paradise on another world. They have cornered themselves for my own benefit! I will attack this new world and wipe out all Guardians, but I need the help of my friends.”
“What friends do you have?” asked Barnama.
“You, of course. Angnes!” Barnama doubled over in pain.
“Make it stop! I’m sorry!” he shouted.
Atricio whispered “Blódseten,” and the pain left Barnama’s lifeless body.
“What do you want me to do?” asked Barnama. Atricio smiled.
“I will bring you to my brother’s world, and you will do as I command. Nearugráp!” The rift into Atricio’s world closed, and he turned back to his cauldron. It flashed to show an image of Lucio, Lothlorien, Aurora and Renato lounging on green grass.
“I’m coming for you, brother!” He slipped on a black cloak and walked a little ways outside his cottage. Closing his eyes, he began a long and complicated chant that made him fade slowly from sight.
Aurora and Lothlorien lounged on the grass in the Hills a small distance away from the Western Sparkling Forest. The forest was making them feel claustrophobic, and Lucio wanted start tracking Treomynd’s constellations. It was a warm night, so they decided to make a mini camp on top of one of the hills. Renato had long since fallen asleep in Aurora’s arms, and Lucio was sitting at a small table he’d brought nearby. It was covered with papers dotted with constellations. He grumbled to himself for forgetting that it was a full moon, and thick clouds dotted the sky. It was a warm summer night, and Aurora found herself falling asleep as she lay against Lothlorien’s warm shoulder.
A loud explosion echoed through Treomynd from the south near the Endless Ocean, making Lothlorien stand up and Aurora fall flat on her back. Renato awoke and began to cry. Lucio stood up so fast he knocked his table over.
“Shh, it’s alright little one,” Aurora cooed at Renato.
“Something’s coming,” said Lothlorien. Lucio’s eyes grew wide.
“You need to get back to the cottage,” said Lucio. “He’s here! Take Aurora back as quick as you can. I’ll put a charm around the meadow so everyone there will be safe in the meantime. Hurry!”
“Who is here?” asked Lothlorien. “You don’t mean…”
“Yes, I do,” Lucio whispered. “Please, go back to the cottage. I’ll be alright.” He gave a long, tight hug around Lothlorien’s neck before taking off south toward the sound.
“Please come back to us,” Lothlorien whispered as he disappeared into The Hills. She bent down for Aurora and Renato.
“Climb on! We need to move!”
“Wait!” Aurora said while she strapped Renato into his sling. “Shouldn’t we see if Lucio is alright?”
“We don’t have time!” said Lothlorien. She marched her hooves in place and nudged Aurora’s hip with her muzzle. Another explosion sounded off, and they both looked in its direction. They could barely make out a massive black rift near the beach appear and grow in length. A tall, stocky man with a black cloak and black hair stepped through. Behind him came hundreds of forms of black smoke. They floated into a formation behind the man, waiting for his command. Lucio was running toward them with un-human speed. All the Guardians nearby had long since fled.
“Atricio has invaded Treomynd!” cried Lothlorien. Aurora instinctually climbed in her back.
“We should help Lucio!” cried Aurora. “He’s outnumbered!”
“There is nothing we can do! He’s a powerful magician. We need to do as he says and go to the cottage where it’s safe!” She turned and galloped toward the Western Sparkling Forest as fast as he legs would carry her, while Aurora held on with her head turned toward the looming battle.
“Hello, little brother,” Atricio said once Lucio was within earshot. “This world is quite the masterpiece.”
“If you want to escape bloodshed, leave now!” shouted Lucio. “Let us live separately in peace.”
“Ah, unfortunately, I cannot do that. I can’t let my little brother get the better of me, now can I? And you put every Guardian known to mankind in one convenient place for me! It would be so stupid of me to leave you be!”
“Then both of us will pay dearly tonight.”
“No, you will pay dearly.” Atricio raised his right arm in command. “Kill them all.”
The Atrumnus broke loose with one of the largest ones leading the way. They spread all over Treomynd like a river of evil.
“Forhwierfan bera!” Lucio exploded into a cloud of gold dust and emerged as a large bear that stood taller than his cottage.
Atricio did likewise and shouted “Forhwierfan carlcat!” A column of black smoke overtook him, and an equally large black puma emerged.
They stared at each other for a moment, low growls coming from each of them. Atricio lunged at Lucio’s throat, but Lucio blocked the attack with one of his massive paws. The fight of the twins of light and darkness had begun. They moved like lightning, with teeth snapping and claws raining down on their rough, furry hides. Atricio had his strength and agility, but Lucio had his weight and claws. It was only a matter of time until one of them made a grave mistake.
“They’re coming for us!” Aurora screamed when she saw the Atrumnus charge the island. Lothlorien kicked her body into overdrive in response. Renato was hysterical with fear, and screamed into the girl’s neck from his sling. The Atrumnus looked like they were traveling at a slow pace, so Aurora allowed herself to look forward and pacify Renato. She looked back a few minutes later, and the Atrumnus had somehow gained enough ground that they were about a half mile behind.
Aurora let out a loud shriek and yelled something incomprehensible at Lothlorien. The Atrumnus was nearly closing in on them when they were about to reach the edge of the forest, but they caught up with Lothlorien and blockaded their path. Lothlorien grazed her hooves into the grass to avoid colliding with the shadowy blockade, but one of the forms barely grazed her white hide. The Guardian screamed in pain and took off northeast back to The Hills. This time she managed to get some distance, but it only seemed like the Atrumnus were playing with them, like a predator waiting for its prey to tire and give up.
They stopped on the biggest hill where the creation of Treomynd took place and looked behind them. The Atrumnus were continuing their slow advance; they had maybe five or ten minutes before they caught up. Aurora dismounted and took Lothlorien’s head in her hands.
“We can fight them, we have to at least try,” she said.
“There is no hope,” said Lothlorien as she shook her head free. “We are not magicians, and my strength is nearly gone.” The unicorn’s legs wobbled and she collapsed in the middle of the hill. She lay flat on her side with Aurora kneeling by her face.
“How can you think like that? You are the most hopeful Guardian I know. You need to get up!” The Guardian didn’t say anything for a moment; she lay with eyes half closed, breathing heavily.
“Do you want to know one of the Guardian’s greatest secrets? We call it the Mark of Eternal Protection. I will do everything I can to protect you and Renato, Aurora. Lucio can tell you about it when this is over. I want you and Renato to go on and live peaceful lives, so please understand that what I’m about to do is for your own protection.” She got up to face Aurora, who was on her knees with her arms wrapped around Renato in his sling. She pointed her horn at the girl’s heart just below her collar bone and next to Renato’s head. Aurora tried to say something, but all she could do was stare at the Guardian in confusion. Her mind was ready to explode.
“I give you my Mark of Protection!” Lothlorien charged forward and plunged her horn into Aurora’s heart. The girl screamed in pain; it felt like electricity was being injected into her bloodstream. She twitched and gasped for breath until Lothlorien backed away and fell to the ground in a dead faint. Aurora could feel herself slipping too. She watched her vision slowly go black and felt herself falling forward, but she caught herself at the last minute and flipped onto her back so she wouldn’t crush Renato. They both lay unconscious in the grass, while black forms closed in around them.
Atricio and Lucio continued their fight, until it was clear that it was going to turn into a stalemate. They stopped for a moment to catch their breath.
“Not bad, little brother,” Atricio said while still in his puma form. “You might have a chance at defeating me.”
“Don’t worry, I will,” said Lucio. He charged forward with his razor-sharp teeth leading the way. Atricio dodged just in time and lunged for his brother’s throat, only to be tossed to the ground by Lucio’s paws yet again.
“You might be able to fend for yourself, but your friends cannot. Look to the north, you fool!” Lucio thought he was being tricked, so he did not let his gaze stray from the Dark Magician. It was only when Aurora’s scream sounded from the north that he turned around. His eyes fell where Aurora and Lothlorien lay and saw hundreds of Atrumnus clustered on top of the biggest hill.
“They didn’t make it,” Lucio said to himself. He turned to his brother. “You will pay for this!” He charged again at Atricio, who was busy looking at the Atrumnus tear apart Aurora and Lothlorien. He noticed Lucio’s attack just in time and leapt out of the way. The Magician of Light let his anger take over; his teeth and claws turning into deadly knives. Atricio tried one more time to lunge for his brother’s throat, but Lucio knew what was coming. He jerked his head at the right moment and plunged his teeth into his brother’s throat while his claws struck home in his chest. He yowled in pain and scrambled within his brother’s grip, but it was useless. A moment later he hung limp in the air. Lucio dropped him to the ground, and the giant black puma turned back into Atricio. He was a husk of a man covered with his own blood. He let out one final breath, and his body disintegrated into black smoke that slowly dissolved into the wind.
Aurora slowly opened her eyes and let out a loud shriek when she saw nothing but patches of black smoke swarming around her. She braced herself for whatever pain they were capable of, but felt nothing. She opened her eyes, and realized that none of them were able to touch her. They simply stopped a few inches away, wailing in protest. Even Renato was left unscathed, and lay fast asleep in his sling on her chest. She looked where Lothlorien had stabbed her, and a deep puncture wound lay in its place. She could see blood, but it did not pour out of the wound. What had Lothlorien done to her? Her heart sank when she wondered about the state of her dear friend. She looked in her direction and saw the majority of the Atrumnus clustered around her.
“No,” she whispered. “NO!” Her emotions mixed with the fresh magic that was now thriving inside her and turned into a wave of white energy that exploded from her chest. It spread in the shape of a white dome until it reached the ends of Treomynd and disappeared. Most of the Atrumnus disintegrated as the energy passed through them, while others merely shivered and ran into hiding. Aurora sat up and crawled over to Lothlorien. She was still in one piece, but barely. Her face was contorted in pain and her breathing was heavy. What was once her immaculate white hide was now a battle field of wounds and deep red blood. Aurora wept bitterly.
“You saved me,” whispered Lothlorien.
“How did I save you?” Aurora sobbed. “You’re on the brink of death all because of me. If I had hurried more, we could be safe.”
“My dear friend, remember what I told you the night you lost Christopher? All things happen for a reason, even if they break your heart more than once,” she gasped for breath. “You have such a kind soul, always quick to blame yourself. You saved me from being annihilated by the Atrumnus. Now I can live the final moments of my life in peace with people I love. You made my life worth living after we lost MoonStone and Christopher.” Renato awoke and turned to the dying Guardian.
“Lori?” Renato said. He squirmed and reached out to her. Aurora leaned forward to let him touch her face.
“I must move on, little one,” said Lothlorien. “I love you so much. And I promise I’ll watch over you.” Her speech got quieter. “I can feel my soul slipping, it’s time for me to move on. Farewell, my dear friends.” As Lothlorien breathed her last, the moon broke through the clouds and a circular beam of light appeared over her. The Guardian’s entire body disintegrated into a pool of crystal clear water that flowed down the hill and onward into the Endless Ocean. Aurora stayed kneeling in the water holding Renato, both of them crying out loudly to the heavens.
Lucio ran up to the top of the hill shortly after the pool of water had formed. When he realized what had transpired, he let out a shout of anger and fell to his knees. He beat the ground with his fists until they were raw and sore. When he and Aurora had shouted until their voices grew hoarse, they stayed in place for what seemed like ages, refusing to move on.
“Goodbye, my dearest friend,” Lucio whispered. “You didn’t deserve any of us.”
*If you want to experience one of the most tragic nights on Treomynd through my mind’s eye, listen to this video I have below while you read this post again.