All was quiet in the dark halls when suddenly Lord Makar heard a raspy voice calling out his name. He stepped away from his throne and glided towards the iron gates. No horn blew as the Morkrai guards stood in position leaving little cause for alarm. He gazed towards the entrance where he noticed a dark hooded figure standing by the gates. “Makar, my Lord, please let me in!” shouted the cloaked woman as she turned towards him from behind the gates. He watched as the figure removed her hood, revealing a slender face of ivory skin, pale blue eyes and raven black hair. She looked too perfect to be mortal, though from her appearance he could tell she was no Enai. Intrigued by her presence, Makar opened the gates.
“Well aren’t you a sight for my sore eyes?” he whispered softly as she approached. “I am not used to visitors here in my realm. Where have you come from?” he asked keenly.
The Lady responded: “Your father, Lord Ifir sent me. I wish to keep you company for a while if you would let me in.”
Lord Makar smiled at her before responding: “Indeed yes, welcome fair Lady to my humble home. I have little to offer except for my company, but I would be eternally grateful if you choose to stay.”
“Yes I would like that. Thank you.” she replied.
“What may I call you?” he asked.
“I am darkness, I am a shadow, I am made of a thousand tears. But you may call me Morae,” she whispered and held out her hand towards his.
“My dear Morae, so kind of you to join me. It will be my pleasure to be your host.” he whispered.
Lord Makar swiftly took her hand and escorted her towards the halls. Each one was vast and cavernous with bleak, jet black stone walls and stalagmites. The lack of light did not seem to bother her, as they silently made their way through each room, over the sea of pale faced spirits and Morkrai guards. He led her towards the throne room and ordered his Morkrai to bring her a seat.
“Would you sit with me for a while?” he asked.
Morae nodded and sat on the throne placed beside Makar’s own. And there she remained watching. Days went by as Lord Makar returned to his usual routine. The Morkrai would escort dead souls into the halls to await judgment. The Lord would listen and decide each individual’s fate in turn. Most were condemned to remain within his halls, though occasionally his brother Atar would venture out and assemble a few dead warriors to ride with his Enai.
At times, when it was quiet, Morae would sing to Makar. Her voice was low and soothing, so somber that it lulled condemned souls into a trance-like sleep. Yet to the Lord there was no sweeter music than the lure of her song.
As the two became familiar, she asked him to remove his hood so she could see his face. Makar was reluctant to do this and explained: “My face is not a pretty sight, my Lady. I do not wish to frighten you.”
“I am not afraid. There is nothing about your appearance that can scare me,” Morae replied instantly.
Thus, she ordered the Morkrai to fetch her a blazing torch. Flame in hand, Morae rested her palms inside the fire and cast a spell to extinguish it. She then spread her arms causing the smoke to disperse in a circle around them. Sparkles of pallid light swirled, illuminating the ground below.
As the light settled Makar removed his hood revealing his scarred face and damaged nose. Much to his surprise Lady Morae was neither frightened nor disgusted by his appearance. She simply smiled at him and touched his face while stroking his dark hair. “My pale enchantress…” Makar whispered and smiled at her before they shared a kiss. He wrapped his arms around her. There they stood, listening to each other breathe. Oh how he wanted that moment to last. Yet soon the horns sounded again, the smoke vanished and they returned to their seats.
A few days later, he asked her if she wished to stay.
“I want nothing more than to have you by my side. Will you marry me?” he whispered, holding his hand out towards her.
“Yes. I will,” she replied smiling. In all haste Lord Makar asked his mother, the Lady of the skies, to carry out the ceremony.
The following day, a bright glow filled the halls. In answer, Lord Makar pulled a hood over his face and held his eyes shut. The light still stung his soft face and he shrieked in pain. Yet Morae positioned herself before him to help shield from its glare.
As the golden-haired Era-Gragiya entered the hall, unaccustomed to this much light, the Morkrai crawled towards the dark corners of the room, while the souls of the dead turned to face her.
“Please stop this mother! The lights are too much, I cannot see!” Makar cried out.
“Oh my poor boy. Forgive me. It has been so long since last I saw you.” Era-Gragiya uttered gently. She whispered a spell causing the brightness to fade from the room.
“It is gone now, my love. You may open your eyes, ” Morae said softly as she touched his face.
Slowly Makar opened his eyes and took in the darkness. His mother finally approached him and they embraced.
“May I introduce my beloved Lady Morae,” he announced.
“I am pleased to meet you my dear. Any woman able to bring a smile to my son’s face is a blessing.” Era-Gragiya professed. Eagerly she held out her arms and the two goddesses embraced.
“I have brought a gift from your father,” she continued and held up a pale-flamed blue lamp. “It is the faintest light we could find anywhere in the skies. Such a small flame will never hurt your eyes”.
Makar gladly took the lamp and ordered the Morkrai to place it behind the twin thrones. Quickly doing his bidding, they moved the light into place. Then his mother held out her hand revealing two golden rings inlaid with black onyx stones.
“Here are the rings that you requested. Your brother Fiehri sends his regards and wishes you well,” she declared as she offered him the shining rings.
Makar examined them for a time before responding:
“They are perfect. Tell Fiehri of my gratitude. I am forever in his debt.”
“You should tell him yourself someday. Many times he has offered you welcome and suggested you visit him if you wish,” answered his mother.
“You know very well why I am unable to leave my realm,” Makar explained.
Era-Gragiya was left to sigh in response and when Makar offered her a seat, she refused. Instead she had a look around the bleak halls for a while.
“I will not stay long,” she stated. “I know how busy you are. I will never understand how you can live in such a wretched place. Let us proceed.”
Makar and Morae returned to their thrones and Era-Gragiya turned to face them.
“My dearly beloved. I have come here today to join these two immortal souls in holy matrimony. Will you Makar take Lady Morae to be your lawfully wedded wife?” she asked.
“I do, from this day I shall be yours for all eternity,” whispered Makar smiling at his bride.
Era-Gragiya now turned to face Morae. “And will you Lady Morae take Makar to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
“I will,” she responded and turned to face Makar. “From this day I shall be yours for all eternity.”
Instinctively, they exchanged rings.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride,” the goddess declared.
Era-Gragiya smiled as her son kissed and embraced his new wife.
“Thank you mother. Is there any way that I may repay you for this kindness?” Makar questioned, a smile still etched on his face.
“It was pleasure, my dear, always,” Era-Gragiya responded. “All I ask is that you grant me one noble soul to release from your halls.”
“One soul you may take but no more,” he decreed.
So the sky queen walked through each hall appraising a sea of pale faces when finally she stopped in front of a young mother clutching wordlessly to a newborn baby. “These two here. What was their story?” she asked.
The Lady of sorrows eyed the lost souls before responding: “She was a beggar who died giving birth to a stillborn son.”
“Such suffering is too much for any woman to bear. May I have them?” Era-Gragiya asked.
Makar shook his head in answer. “I promised you one soul, not two. You may take the child or the mother but not both.”
Era-Gragiya sighed before responding: “If that is your will, I shall take the infant.”
“As you wish. First he must be cleased.” Makar snatched the infant from the mother’s arms. Then he instructed his Morkrai to fetch some water and a bowl.
“Do you wish to assist me my dear?” Makar asked his wife. Morae nodded in response. Makar handed her the infant soul and Morae proceeded to wash him in the water before entrusting him back to her husband.
Makar placed a hand on the infant’s head and shouted:
“Aesos, son of Eila, I hereby grant you pardon and I release you from my realm.”
The child’s body suddenly lit up in a pale flame. The ritual complete, Makar handed the baby to his mother. There Era-Gragiya held the child in her arms, rocking it gently. The couple watched in awe as it took a breath and began to cry.
“My sweet little one. You are safe now. Never again shall you feel hunger or cold. Sleep now,” Era-Gragiya whispered, swaying the boy in her arms.
“Goodbye my son. I came this day for a special occasion, though I cannot return to this pitiful realm. If you come across any more noble souls, please deliver them to me,” Era-Gragiya uttered her final words before vanishing in a bolt of bright light.
“Goodbye mother.” Makar replied once the light had fled from the room.
He then joined Morae and together they returned to their thrones to await the next soul to enter their kingdom.
Lord Makar art by Megan Johnson https://www.instagram.com/springenfolk/