Ageless in the Dark

This is something I wrote about what happened to Nesta Archeron in the Cauldron. Enjoy!

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The water hit her as soon as they bent her over the rim.

No… It wasn’t mere water. This was nothing like she had ever encountered before. This was the vessel that had birthed the lands of the world; this was the womb of creation. And it was filled with a roiling, murky fluid, depthless and fathoming. The Cauldron was life. It was death. And it was everything in between.

And Nesta was afraid.

In the span of that one moment, before her entire body could be submerged in those living depths, Nesta experienced not just fear, but unadulterated terror. She forgot Elain, she forgot the Illyrian with shredded wings, and she forgot about the world. In that moment, Nesta could only fear for herself of the unknown, unnatural object; she had no room for any other thought.

Then she was thrown over the ancient ebony rim, and despite her momentum, her shape parted the liquid silently, without a splash.

The inky layers fused over her head, cutting off any light or sound. Nesta was alone, save for this stifling essence; this lonely darkness that suffocated her and chilled her to the bone. She could hear her heartbeat, churning out seconds of her life in tandem with her name.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

The sound rose above a simple rhythm, and became a whisper, enveloping her in its eerie cadence.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

The voice moaned her name, her identity, in an erotic caress, all the while growing more powerful.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

Now it was more insistent; a lover who would not take no for an answer. There – she sensed it now – a slithering sensation in the recesses of her subconscious, undulating along with the syllables of her name.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

The sensation grew in its presence, demanding to be noticed. It pulsed, then began to ascend from the base of her spine. It was a slow crawl, but reached out to every nerve it passed and set them on fire, bathing her in an intensity she had never experienced. Her legs, her toes, her thighs, her stomach, her chest, her arms, her fingertips, her shoulders, her neck, her lips – no inch of her body was left untouched. Then, just when the pressure became unbearable, and Nesta was sure she would die, it broke free from her skull.

The world – her world, her mind, exploded.

She drew breath, the dark liquid of the Cauldron searing her lungs, and she let it out in a scream.

Exquisite pain and excruciating pleasure mingled until she could not distinguish between them. Discomfort, comfort, pressure, delicacy, roughness, softness, orgasm, torture – her physical self underwent every possible physical sensation. Her mortal body, unable to withstand the experience, began to convulse, drifting in the dark currents, gyrating along with their cadence.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

Her arms and legs were seized against her will by some force and pivoted her like a marionette. Her arms pushed against the deep liquid depths, and her hips swayed to some otherworldly beat, in time with her heart – the rhythm of the seas and the earth and the wind. The rhythm of the universe, of life, of death.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

All the while she trembled, and all the while she screamed. Her lungs would have shriveled, had the Cauldron’s fluid not been keeping their shape, and her throat would have bled, had the Cauldron not forced her skin to remain closed.

Still, for all her terror and all her pleas for help, Nesta made no sound.

Then she felt it, finally – a presence so old but ageless, a force so otherworldly and powerful, a personality so multifaceted and unfathoming.

The Cauldron.

Nesta had only experienced a fraction of its power, and now it unleashed herself upon her, entering her mind and filling her subconscious.

It was a power like none other. She quaked even harder, if possible, at the sheer Otherness of it. It was raw, purest in every sense of the world. It was energy, unrestrainable, infinite, unending, and in control it would have its way with her, whether she embraced it or not.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

The force tore through her mind, and she was overwhelmed with the insignificance of her existence, of Prythian, of the world. This was the essence of the universe itself; she, less than a fraction of atomic. She was insignificant – a cowering worm that trembled before true power.

And so it ravaged her mind, beginning with life, and ending with death. She relived every second of her two-and-twenty years. She experienced her birth, rocking in the miniature Cauldron – the womb of some mortal woman. She relived her infant years – a time when she smiled and laughed. She recalled an experience of her seventh year, approaching a writhing snake with not fear, but curiosity, and twisting it until it snapped with her bare hands, to stop its pain. She relived the birth of her sisters, the days of dresses and riches. She relived that incident, the one that quickened her pulse, and then she relived her desire to protect Elain – gentle, sweet, innocent Elain, soft as a fawn. She relived the days of pain and sharpness in her stomach, while her father did nothing – saw, but did nothing. She relived the day Thomas had forced himself on her – or tried, at least – and the fear she felt has his hand grazed her left breast and ripped her garment. She relived the fateful day, her first glimpse of a Fae, ad Feyre’s return with those beasts she claimed as her new family.

The Cauldron ravaged her for every glimpse, and every moment of her life, stripping her bare of her experience and identity, till her mind and soul lay exposed as newborn babies. Nesta had escaped rape at the age of twenty-one, but this… This was a violation of her very self.

Nesta was vulnerable.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

Then the Cauldron brought an image to the fore of her mind – an image of a chiseled, perfectly sculpted face, with flowing licks like silk and eyes as black as the night. He wore an infallible, lazy smirk, his wings lay sprawling behind him, and his siphons pulsed like seven red hearts.

The figure of muscle and strength, but of kindness and justice spoke her name in a song of promise and conviction.

Then he said it again.

And again and again, till the song transferred from his lips to her soul, and she was reminded of all that had been stripped from her.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

She was Nesta Archeron, and she would not cower like a fawn.

So she let the coil of power, that had imprisoned her in a warped sense of embrace, run its course. She saw glimpses of her possible future. She saw figures with bronze skin and slate eyes. She saw a palace of moonstone. She saw blood, and she saw mist; she saw love and she saw peace. She saw herself kneeling beside a bucket, and she saw her world flash red, hen fade to black.

Then the Cauldron withdrew, and Nesta struck.

She molded her mind into a blade of steel and claws, and she struck the Cauldron with all her mind and might, piercing deep, till she reached the heart of the obsidian vessel that imprisoned her. And she sank her claws and fangs in and ripped out something. Something powerful, that tasted of revenge.

A piece of the Cauldron itself.

And she licked her lips as it fused with her, sending an undercurrent of tingles throughout her newly-forged body.

For though the Cauldron could scream and retch, spitting her out in a missile of pain and incompletion, it could not seize itself back from her.

And Nesta, as she landed on the stone floor of Hybern, felt the changes that had been made to her twenty-two year old body, and her mind that had experienced more than forty four years. She was strong, fast, and keen-sensed. But she could also feel the thrum of energy – a tapestry of newly forming ends and cords that were being cut as well – energy that flowed through everything around her, including the cowering consciousness behind her, that seemed so fragile and tender, and she could feel the rhythm of the song of life and death.

Nes-ta. Nes-ta. Nes-ta…

No, what came out was not what went in.


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