Whisper was shaking and trying hard not to.
As much as she had thought she'd prepared herself for the ritual, she'd had no real idea what it would be like in practise. It was nearly over now, at least, and she had managed to subjugate her scream into a mere strangled moan. The words her father was speaking were little more than a low hum she felt more than heard. It didn't matter - she knew that part. Across from her, the eyes of Magus - first her master teacher, then her love, and now her husband - observed her with concern. He hadn't made a sound when the dagger sank in. Not a gasp, not a growl. Nor had he flinched, or even blinked. She must look so weak to him.
They were standing on either side of the ancient altar, the column of stone caked in centuries of dried blood. Blood that had flowed freely from the hands of countless couples. Red-brown rivers streaked the stone and met upon the floor. Now, the mingled blood of Whisper and Magus was painting over it in garnet and black, soon to congeal as the newest coating. Their left hands were threaded together by the blade, her hand under his on the altar's surface. Underneath her palm, Whisper thought, must lie her mother's blood. With their free hands, they gripped the dagger's hilt, his hand over hers. With a look that told her to prepare, Magus applied firm, gentle pressure and liberated the cold steel from their flesh. Whisper took a deep breath in as the dagger slid out, this time making no sound.
But now she was shaking even more. She set the knife upon the altar where her hand had just been and cradled the injured limb in her other hand. Magus stepped around the altar and wordlessly reached for the bleeding hand. He passed his own hand over it with a slight frown of concentration, murmuring occult words. When he released her, their wounds had knitted closed, though Whisper still felt it throbbing. Still, a sense of relief spread through her and the queasy feeling that had been building in her core was washed away. She gave him a small, frail, grateful smile. She still shook, now more for what she knew was to come than for what had just passed.
Her father's merciless voice had resumed. He took his seat upon the cold stone throne behind the altar and commanded, 'Now, consummate.'
I'm still sitting on the floor of this heartlessly homey room. I don't know how many hours have passed, but that's never been a concern of mine, anyway. What does the passage of time mean to someone who resides outside it?
I've tried countless times now to get back there, get back to him, back to Magus, the one I had so recently admired, adored, respected, desired. We had only just begun to explore our possibilities together and now... this. This. Whatever hell this is. Needless to say, all my attempts have failed. I can still slip through my dimension, out of phase with this time and space. But I can't get back to the world and the timeline where I met Magus. And Ali... so like a mother to me when I had none.
I had demanded that I be left alone, so I'm alone. That stupid glowing artefact is sprawling on the floor beside me, staring at me. I threw it there when it gave me the answers I didn't want. I fought the tears but I can hardly breathe. I don't want to be here, but my dimension is so black and cold and there's no one there but Father, somewhere. A man had tried to tell me I was 'lucky' as I was 'higher rank' (whatever that meant) than many of the other newcomers and would find it easier to get answers from the 'Oubliette' (whatever that is). Lucky! I'd like to stuff my luck right down his stupid neck!
I'm holding my left hand in my right so delicately, as though it's a precious and fragile thing. And right now it is the most precious thing I own. And they've ruined it - this Oubliette has ruined it! What was lately a raw red wound, coagulated by my caring Magus' magic is now a smooth white scar. As if the wedding was long ago, as if my love was a distant memory. But it's all so fresh in my mind, like it's right before my eyes! And the emotions I had felt then are still thrashing in my chest. It's not just a memory - he's not. He's still out there somewhere, looking for me. I know it.