The waves lapped at my feet as I stood staring at the ocean. The riddle I had seen in the reality realm played on my mind.
Whispers you hear in depths of three enter the realm, surrender your soul. Only in death will you find life.
Now, I knew what it meant. It was my turn to sacrifice for Sayeh, to find her essence of life.
Selene strolled up to me and laced her fingers into mine, tears wetting her face. “I know that you will do anything for Sayeh, but…but Akti, I just…we just found each other. What if something were to go wrong?” she stopped herself as though speaking it would somehow make it real.
Turning to face her, I wiped her tears as mine threatened to break free. “Do not worry yourself, love. You trust me, don’t you?” She nodded in response, a pained expression filling her eyes. “Then, know this, I will do everything in my power to return to you.” Her lower lip trembled as she held back more tears. She was trying to be strong for me, to be supportive. I knew what I had to do. I was not afraid of dying. I would die a thousand times over for Sayeh. But Selene, my beautiful Seli, I had only just found her, and I was afraid of losing her.
A puff of grey cloud spread across the evening sky. It reminded me of Sayeh, and the last trace of vapor as it departed her body. I owed her my life, and this was the least I could do.
I lifted the dagger in my right hand, studying it for a moment. A rich curved mahogany handle held the thick eight-inch long blade. The zigzag pattern on the edge of the knife gave it an acrimonious appearance. A copious number of inscriptions ran throughout the handle. I didn’t bother reading the engravings. There was no time to waste. Every minute I spent on this island, Sayeh was getting closer to death.
Selene kept her eyes focused on me. “Akti…,” she whispered.
“It’s alright. You don’t have to watch me.” I said, understanding her anguish. I pulled her into one final hug and kissed her on her forehead. Urania walked up, wrapped her arms around Selene, and led her towards the rest of the group. Athena gave me a nod. It was time. The sun was almost ready to dip into the horizon.
In a swift motion, I brought the blade down, stabbing into my abdomen. The dagger made a loud noise, as though clanging against metal.
Did it hit my silver blade instead of my body?
I looked at myself, and there was no wound. The dagger didn’t show any traces of my silver ichor. Neither did my body. Selene turned to look at me with a mix of confusion and fear in her eyes. I sighed deeply before trying again. Raising the dagger higher, I slammed it into my body, harder this time.
The loud noise repeated with the same results. No wound. No blood. I tried a few more times with no luck.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
The dagger refused to penetrate my body at every turn. Frustrated, I glanced at the group. They looked between each other, at as much of a loss as I. It had taken me hours to convince them this was the only way, and now there was something amiss.
Examining the dagger, I wondered if the blade was blunt after being buried in the cavern for so many years. It was sharp enough, but try as I might, it wouldn’t make as much as a scratch on my body. Selene came forward and pulled the dagger from my hand. I tried to hold on to it but could only get hold of the edge of the blade. I winced as it pierced my skin, leaking silver ichor.
Selene inhaled sharply. “Akti, I cut you.” I glanced at the minor wound, confused by how she was able to do it when I had been unsuccessful every time. She pulled my hand into hers, applying pressure on the cut to stop the bleeding. I took the dagger from her and tried to make a similar incision on my arm, but was unsuccessful.
“That’s interesting! You were able to cut into my skin with it, yet I can’t!” I said, handing the dagger back to Selene. I pulled my silver blade out of the scabbard and slid it across my finger. It cut deep as expected.
“Akti, are you insane? What are you doing?” Selene cried, closing her hand over the new cut.
“Testing a theory, love,” I said, pushing my silver blade back into the scabbard. “Hand me the dagger,” I asked, stretching my other hand to her. She reluctantly handed it to me. I curled my fingers around the handle and slid the blade lightly on her forearm. The dagger cut into her skin, causing her to bleed lightly.
“Ow! I know I found the damn thing for you, Akti, but you don’t have to kill me for that.” She laughed, and I smiled, wiping the tiny stream of ichor from her hand. Bringing it closer to my face, I gently kissed her palm.
“Now, try it on yourself,” I said, handing her the dagger. She took it, considering my ridiculous request. Exhaling a gust of air, she used the blade’s pointed edge and ran it across her arm. The dagger squeaked against her skin but did not cut it.
Selene gasped. “How is that possible?”
Athena, who was observing us from a distance, stepped forward. “Let me try.”
Selene passed the dagger to Athena. Without a second thought, she plunged it into my chest. It was no use. The knife did me no harm through her hands. She tried to do the same to Selene, and the result was as we expected.
“Hmm. Interesting,” Athena said, holding the dagger up to the receding sunlight, noticing the inscriptions on the handle. They were engraved in the ancient Jauqali tongue. Her lips moved in tandem with the readings on the dagger’s handle, while her face betrayed a grim countenance.
“Theena, what does it say?” I asked, concerned by the grim expression on her face.
Athena inhaled sharply before turning to look at Selene. “The curse? Can you repeat it?”
Selene repeated the first few lines softly before she understood the depth of the curse. She gazed into my eyes, speaking the last line of the curse out loud. “May death take them with a dagger in the form of true love’s face until the pearl is returned to my embrace.”
Athena cleared her throat, looking at us. “Everything on this island is laced with mystic, so it’s no surprise that this dagger and the curse is held together by magic.” She raised a hand as Selene tried to interrupt her and continued to speak. “Don’t worry, that’s a good thing. According to the inscriptions, if the dagger were to penetrate an immortal’s body exactly at sunset, it will hold the immortal’s heartbeat. The dagger will start glowing as the essence of the immortal separates from the body. This separation will hold so long as the dagger glows. With each passing minute, the dagger’s glow diminishes, and it will disappear with the first rays of sunrise. If an immortal essence returns to the body before the dagger’s glow dies, their life is spared; if not, their essence is lost forever.” She takes a deep breath, waiting for us to process the information.
“The only caveat,” she said with a slight tremor in her voice, “the dagger will not penetrate a body unless dealt by their lover.”
Selene shifted uncomfortably, glancing between Athena and me. I held her hand in mine a little tighter than I had intended.
Placing her hand on my shoulder, Athena continued to speak. “The timing when the dagger pierces into your heart is crucial. It must be exactly at sunset, which…,” she said, looking at the receding sun, “is about five minutes from now.”
Lowering her eyes, Selene shook her head, having heard more than she could bear. “No, Akti. This is dangerous.”
“No, it’s a good thing, Seli,” I reassured her. “This means I get to deliver the pearl to the Sea Queen in my spiritual form and return to my mortal body before sunrise.”
Selene pulled her hand away from my hold. “And at what cost, Akti?” she asked with an accusatory tone. I flinched, knowing I was about to hurt her in the worst way possible.
“I realize this sounds crazy, Seli, but you have to trust me. I will return to you before sunrise.”
“And if you don’t, then not only do I lose you forever, but I will have to live the rest of my immortal life with the weight of your death through my hands!” Selene paced back and forth on the shore. “At least with the first plan, I hoped that someday you would be able to find me. But this!” She stopped short of me and laid her hands on my shoulders. “Akti, do you even realize what you are asking of me?”
I gazed at Selene, my eyes pleading. “I know I am asking a lot from you, Seli. Trust me, I do! But I owe this to Sayeh, we both do.” I took a quick glance at the sun ebbing at the horizon before asking Selene again, “Forgive me, my dear, but I must ask this of you. Time is of the essence. Please.”
Athena stepped up behind Selene and placed her hand on her shoulder. “Selene, you must trust Artemis on this. I am sure she’ll find her way back before sunrise. We only have a slight margin to make this work. We can’t have come this far to give up on Sayeh now.”
Selene nodded to Athena before turning back to me. She lowered her eyes and muttered her acceptance in barely a whisper. Her shoulders slumped as the depth of her decision weighed heavily on her. It broke my heart to see what I was doing to her, all in the name of love.
With only a minute left for sunset, Selene readied herself, dagger in hand as I stood before her. A solitary teardrop graced her face as she turned dark. When the last of the sun rays left the island, Athena shouted, “Now!” I mouthed the words I love you, Seli, hoping she saw it before I felt the dagger pierce into my heart. A gasp stuck in my throat as the knife started to glow in my heart’s rhythmic pulsing. Selene’s fingers were still curled around the handle of the dagger. She let go of the blade, rushing to hold my body as it crumpled into a heap onto the sandy shore.
Under the veil of darkness, my essence departed from my mortal body. It began with a shimmer of silvery mist in the darkened sky. In a flash, it integrated into a colorless luminescent form. My skin matched the shiny hue of the air as my long silver hair cascaded below my waist. I hovered above the ground, looking down at my body. Selene fell to her knees, crying as she cradled my lifeless mortal form. A thick teardrop like liquid metal escaped from my platinum gray eyes, falling onto Selene’s hand.
Hoping she would one day forgive me for the agony I had put her through, I dove head-on into the ocean.