At the very edge of that forest of stone, Rem turned back to deliver a final curse, but Hea Santala faced him and shook her head. Anger colored his face, but there was no time now for a contest of wills. He turned forward and entered the maze.
Reality shifted subtly. A nimbus of light enveloped them both. The sky darkened, lightened, shifted hue, and they stood in a strange and quiet world of pastel yellow-gray where the menhirs were worried and pitted by time and where the desert stretched away in all directions, sandy and lifeless. The sky was saffron, the sand a dead and deadly cream, like ancient bones ground to powder between the teeth of time. Hea shivered as Rem Ossilo paused. Sweat stood out on his face and his age seemed to come and sit grinning on his left shoulder. Then he raised his head and began to speak again.
The next land was rocks and water. Rocks wet and glistening, fog enveloping them on all sides so that she would not have seen Rem Ossilo except for the bulk of his mount. The rocks emitted water, ran with water, oozed water; they were alternately hard and spongy. The menhirs were lost in a myriad of mere stones. In the soft mist were creatures who felt no need to keep their viscera encased in a fleshy pouch. Bathed in eternal mist, they ran with organs dangling, dripping and functioning in naked sight.
Hea Santala began to become angry.
They passed through the land of silver, elfin forest; and then they were in another vast, high forest where life moved, grew, suffered, and died in such profusion that the weight of it crushed her mind. She shrank inward at the cacophony of existence around her as Rem Ossilo moved to transport them again.
She touched him then, broke his concentration, and the vine encrusted menhirs which had begun to fade, reappeared. He turned angrily upon her, but she faced him, saying, “This time, I will choose my own destination and my own destiny.”
She released his shoulder and raised her hands. From the forest, a ruddy half-ape, teeth bared, rushed toward them, his talons tearing at the bog, his eyes mad. She ignored him and said a word . . .
# # #
They sat astride their mounts in a circle of stones of burnished basalt. This menhir stood in the bend of a river, on a soft and grassy floodplain. The sky was turquoise blue; the river was black as it hurried its way toward some sea.
She said, “This is where I will spend my exile.”
Her eyes were soft with sadness as she regarded him. “Despite the years between us,” she said, “I urge you to depart. I have grown old watching your anger, and I am weary. Here, I would rest. Go on to some place suited to madness and dwell there with the devils you conjure.”
He moved to transport, then hesitated. Love and hatred, respect and loathing — all bind; and he was bound to her by the long years between them.
In that moment, Hea Santala could have driven him away with a harsh word, but she lacked the resolution to speak it. The World of the Menhir would suffer much for her weakness.
# # #
So it was that the two of them rode out together into a world temporarily without Gods and into the century of their power. And the century of their striving against one another. It was a vast tale, but we will pass lightly over it. Hea Santala and Rem Ossilo went their separate ways, and each had children, and their children had children, and yet again their children bore children.
Eight decades passed.