Challenge Three

"What," Jasen started before pausing, "what is it?"

It was a pillar of iron, worn somewhat smooth at the edges, but dominated by straight-line angles as it stretched out of arm's reach. Several stumps of iron surrounded it, other pillars that had been hewn.

What set it apart was its placement, a solitary sliver in the centre of the iron elves' enclave. Cresthelm had been littered with the shining obelisks, practically built around and among them.

"It is a monument," Yulevi said. Before Jasen could ask what for, she answered. "We have sung memories into it for generations, imbuing it with our pains and sorrows."

A silent moment passed, climaxed by a slight smile on Yulevi's face.

"One day one of us will cut it down, and erase those sorrows from our city."

Jasen remained silent, unsure how to view the structure.

"Touch it," Kellendil stated, a warm command.

Looking up at his new friend, and then back to the iron pillar, he reached out a wavering hand. He didn't know why it quivered, but he couldn't arrest the shaking.

As his fingertips met the metal, followed by the pads of his fingers and then his palms, he knew.

"Mama!" a girl cried, flames crackling around her voice. Jasen suddenly felt uncomfortably warm and dizzy.

"Asa, run!" another voice answered, coming from both sides.

"No, Mama!" the girl insisted.

The heat became too much, and Jasen fell faint to the floor. The cold stone was a comfort against his naked cheek, but his body still burned. His eyes fell closed with fever.

And then he saw them.

A young girl, an iron elf from the tone of her skin, stood with arms wrapped around an iron pillar. A now familiar sight, several other such structures lanced into the sky around her, static. Golden orange light danced across their sides along with flitting shadows. While the iron must have been hot to the touch, the girl seemed not to notice.

The source of the second voice, her mother, was nowhere to be seen, but could be heard all around. She was desperately protesting, howling and screaming at something. Other screams erupted all around, but the mother's elucidations were somehow distinct, recognized deep down.

Other elves stumbled into sight, and the field of vision swept from side to side of its own accord. Bloodied iron elves ran, pursued by their stone cousins. Some fought, most were defeated by the better armed stone elves.

One stone elf, golden armor glinting in the fire light, approached the small girl, who was now sobbing.

Jasen felt his throat contract, felt a roughness there. His lungs felt empty, and then they were filled with fire.

As the golden stone elf pried the girl from the pillar his skin sizzled and smoked. She had resisted wickedly, and, though he was easily stronger, wresting with her arms and legs had caused him to touch the hot iron.

The fire in Jasen's lungs burned stronger, and the rawness of his throat burned even more fiercely.

Jasen felt a sensation like running, though he knew had collapsed, and before he could question the strange feeling there was wetness on his skin. It was a warm dampness, different than the radiant warmth of the fires. It was the warmth of blood.

"Jasen," the darkness coaxed.

He felt his eyelids flutter, and the solid blackness gave way to a somehow fuzzier one. As his name rang out a second time the single fuzzy blackness split into two smaller patches, and then the patches grew defined edges. Three times his name was called, and the patches now had heads atop broad shoulders.

"You can wake up now," one of the black busts said. Behind its words he still heard frantic whispers.

"Who's talking to me?" Jasen groaned.

"Kellendil," the bust answered, slowly growing defining features.

"No, before."

"Our memories."

"Whose?"

Silence.

"Whose?" Jasen asked, more forcefully.

"Mine," Kellendil surrendered, and then faded out of Jasen's vision.

The End

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