by Peter Larsen © 2001

Gardo threw himself at the clawed foot of the statue. "Oh, Nylith. I implore thee," he said, emotion clouding his voice, his vision. "Aid Gardo, your loyal servant in his time of need."

There was no sound save that of the night creatures outside and Gardoís own echoes in the marble pillared temple.

"Oh, Nylith. The Ygori have attacked your temple and your priests. You must aid me."

The marble sate made no sound.

"Please, O Nylith. The Ygori have stolen away with the priestess MíTau. With my love, MíTau. I will do anything if you will aid me now."

"What is it that you would have from me, little mortal?" At last a voice came. Although the statue did not move, Gardo felt the new animation inherent in the statue. A suggestion of motion now present in its three broad wings and in its multiple tails.

"The warriors of Ygori have attacked your temple and stolen away with my beloved. Grant me the power to recover MíTau!"

Suddenly, there was and intense pain in his chest and Gardo knew he cried out loudly. As suddenly as it came, the pain vanished, replaced by a cool rush of power, serenity, and surety. The temple seemed unnaturally quiet, although Gardo could still hear the singing of night creatures. Then he realized the sound he no longer heard was the beating of his own heart. He stood up, not remembering falling.

Looking up at the statue of Nylith, Gardo saw that one of the statueís many jeweled eyes was missing.

"I have made you one of my Nar Dai," Nylithís voice spoke. "A Gem Dai has been put in place of your heart. So long as it remains there, you are immortal and my power shall flow through your veins."

Calmness had replaced Gardoís previous anguish. He felt strong and capable.

"I open a Portal to the Ygori for you that you may find them and bring back your MíTau." An ululating rent appeared in the fabric of the templeís reality and the hot dry winds of the Pyrosphere, the home dimension of the Ygori, bled through it.

Gardo threw himself into the Portal.

The heat of Pyrosphere could not quench the cool resolve that had stolen over Gardo. A half dozen slowly turning Lunum hung in the red and black striated sky. The stony hills and mountains of Pyrosphere stretched out around him, but less than a mile away, Gardo could see the camp of the Ygori. He ran at them, finding his speed and endurance vastly increased.

He fell on them like a comet, drawing slender sword and heavy thorn pistol. The Ygori, thinking themselves safe in their own realm, were for the moment caught by surprise and Gardo cut through their camp with impunity.

"Gardo! I am here!" MíTauís voice came to Gardo and he saw her, in a wooden cage on a two wheeled cart. He fought his way to her.

Drawing together, the Ygori made a concerted stand against Gardo, but they could not stop him. Occasionally when black iron blade, feathered shaft, or gas impelled thorn did find Gardoís flesh, the wounds flowed and healed immediately. Gardoís blade however unerringly found the tusked faces, dark furred limbs, and black hearts of the Ygori warriors.

At last, Gardo had made his way to the cage holding MíTau. He smashed the wooden lock and grabbed the priestess. The Ygori warriors were decimated and made little resistance when Gardo retreated from their camp to return to their native plane through the still open Portal.

Once back at the temple, MíTau fell into Gardoís arms weeping with relief and gratitude.

Gardo was surprised when he felt nothing. Either relief at MíTauís rescue or warmth at her embrace. The coldness that had enveloped him had replaced the love he had once felt.

Later, Gardo approached the statue of Nylith. "What have you done to me?"

The voice of his avatar answered immediately. "I have given you strength and immortality. Did you think such came without price?"

"I do not understand."

"Love is finite. Possible only because you were mortal. Precious only because it is brief. You have chosen immortality and have given your heart to me, thus you may no longer love."

The voice said no more.

Gardo left the temple and settled in to wait for MíTau, mortal and once his beloved, to age and at last to die.

x x x

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