Leaving the bridge, they passed through a veil in space and time and entered the Land of the In-Between. The cityscape wasn’t that of London, nor of Brysail, but somewhere directly in the middle, a dark place, at first glance abandoned, with fallen-in buildings, weed-ridden cobblestone streets, and skeletons of skyscrapers rising from the ground like strange dead plants. Some ways away, a shadow resembling the London Eye loomed over the Thames/Murkintir, near a collapsing structure that had once been Brysail’s famous South Caligard Street Bridge.
“This is much better,” Elnias remarked, casting an appreciative eye upon Moriba’s handiwork.
“I thought it might be more to your liking.”
They walked on, once more in silence, but this time, save for the occasional howl or tormented shriek, the city reflected their quiet. The human garb faded from Elnias’ body, and he resumed his normal, shadowy form, while Moriba’s clothing morphed and stretched to become her customary ragged white dress, and a crown of metal spikes grew from nothing atop her head. Rats scurried about their feet; the only difference between these rodents and the ones that could be found in both Brysail and London was that these particular ones had small, pink, bat-like wings sprouting uselessly from their backs.
The Lord of Darkness and the Queen of the Living Death reached, at length, a battered door, which the Lady Raven pushed open, revealing a small, rectangular chamber from which four pairs of eyes stared out at them. There was Aita, his blond hair streaked with silver now, his solid frame crumpled to the floor by the coming of winter. Beside him, with her arm about his shoulders, sat his sister Viviane, Queen of the Living, and at their feet was Lowryn, the wolfish earth spirit, quietly humming a single pitch. On the other side of the room, nearly hidden in a gloomy corner, stood Mortua, driven away from the rest of the group by Aita’s mere presence.
And thus the Original Six were gathered together, however reluctantly, for the first time in since time immemorial.
“What a miserable group we are!” Aita commented weakly, attempting a wry smile.
Elnias knelt beside him and took him in his shadowy arms, holding him tight. “We have always been a miserable group.”
“In the beginning, we weren’t,” Moriba pointed out.
“And yet I can scarcely remember the beginning,” sighed Elnias. He let go of Aita, who had begun to shiver violently, returning him to Viviane, whose body was warm, not cold like his own. “Those bygone days when we were young and mortal—now, I have forgotten the feeling of happiness. I cannot properly recall the beginning without understanding the emotion that so often shaped it.”
“Are we gathered here to reminisce?” Mortua demanded from the corner, still set apart from the rest. “For if we are, I have no need to remain here any longer.”
Lowryn directed his mismatched eyes toward the Queen of the Dead and ceased humming, instead contorting his humanlike body to scratch his ear with his foot. Such thoughts do not rightly qualify as reminiscences, he pointed out. But I, too, would like to know wherefore the Lady Moriba hath called us to this place.
“I think you all know,” Moriba replied.