Transition Finale

(The Soul of Arial #3)

by Wendy Lohr

Arial must choose. The prophecy must be fulfilled or all that is known will end. There is no good or bad, only ugly. With no good options, Arial faces her final destiny. Rulers, winged warriors, and the souls all await her choice. And her fate and life itself hangs in the balance. What is a girl to do?


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Chapter One

As I stepped through the portal from the Void to Aboveworld, I found myself to be a bit nervous about this trip. Sure I’d insisted on coming to Aboveworld so I could observe the souls and converse with the ruler, Morgana. There was a prophecy to fulfill, after all, and if the rulers of this realm had interpreted it correctly, I would have to choose one of them to rule with me for eternity. Having spent more time than I wanted already with Underworld’s sadistic ruler, Mikhiel, it was now time to see what Morgana was like.

Knowing all of that and actually acting on it were two different things, though. I was nervous because I’d heard unsettling things about Morgana from Rayner and his Brothers. And it was hard for me to dismiss their descriptions of the female ruler when each of them said the same things and showed the same amount of unease and dislike when speaking of her. Plus, knowing now what I did about Rayner (him having been created even before the two rulers of this realm and being as old as the realm itself), on top of the creators having apparently assigned him to be my protector and advisor as I struggled to find a way to fulfill this prophecy had me wishing he was coming with us. Unfortunately, he had a lot of things he had to take care of in Underworld and couldn’t get away for an extended period of time.

Because of that, his Brother and the next oldest winged warrior, Auslan, was coming with me instead. And I was nervous about that, but not because I didn’t think he was capable of protecting me; I knew he was. I was nervous because I had recently discovered I wanted to get to know the big gruff warrior in a more intimate way and had decided to maybe try to make that happen here in Aboveworld during our stay.

Hearing someone clearing their throat behind me, I glanced back and realized I was blocking the way. Hastily moving to the side so Auslan could enter, I chastised myself for getting caught up in my own head again instead of paying attention to my surroundings. Releasing a shuddering breath and telling myself to get a grip already, I let my gaze travel around the chamber we’d entered and felt a mix of uneasiness and confusion flutter through me. Uh, what the hell? I blinked several times thinking something was wrong with my eyesight, but the scenery remained the same.

The Aboveworld connection to the Void was a non-descript square room. And I mean really non-descript; the entire room was white – the floor, the walls, and the ceiling. Glancing behind me showed the swirling blue-white portal that connected to the Void, but other than that, there was no color.

“Um, Auslan, why is it so white?” I asked in a near whisper. The huge warrior had come to stand beside me and I tried not to let my libido get distracted by his tanned muscular torso or his bulging biceps or his jet black wings. Crap, he was going to be the death of me, but hopefully I’d be grinning when I went.

“It’s Morgana’s favorite color,” he responded in a low voice, ripping me out of my lust-filled musings. “Why are you whispering?”

“I don’t know. This is kind of creepy,” I uttered, not willing to ratchet up the decibel level yet as I turned my gaze back on the expanse of white surrounding us.

It was almost as unsettling as the black cavern in Underworld that contained the portal to the Void. Almost. But this room with its stark, blinding white appearance was unnerving, assaulting my senses as I strained to find some color other than white. It wasn’t happening, though, and I finally had to settle for looking at myself or Auslan just to get a break from the pristine space.

He chuckled wryly and remarked, “Wait until you see the rest of the world.”

A door opening at the end of the room opposite the Void interrupted us and a tall, lithe female winged warrior stepped in. I was assuming it was Keira, but with the white wings, pale blond hair, and pristine white outfit, I wasn’t entirely sure. After all, it was possible that all the female warriors looked alike. The male winged warriors did, but having spent some time with them, I was now able to tell them apart because of their varying heights and muscular builds.

“Miss Arial, Brother Auslan, so good to see you both. Welcome to Aboveworld,” the female winged warrior greeted cheerfully and then gave Auslan a saucy wink. “Here to pay up on your debt to me, Brother?”

Yep, she was definitely Keira. She’d mentioned something about a debt when I’d first met her in Underworld’s throne room and I wondered again what she was referring to.

“Behave yourself, Sister. I’m here with Arial,” Auslan chastised and even though I knew he didn’t mean it in an intimate sort of way, my libido perked up at his words. Sigh.

“Yes, I know. But you can’t be with her every second of the day,” she teased and I couldn’t help the little snicker that escaped.

“She’s right, Auslan. I may decide to take a really long bubble bath and then you’ll just have to pay up whatever that debt is,” I piped up, unable to resist poking a little fun at the big guy.

Even though I couldn’t hear his thoughts at the moment, his silver eyes briefly raking over my body had me convinced he was actually imagining me in that bubble bath. But instead of responding to either of our teasing, he requested a little gruffly, “Mind if we move this along, ladies? I’m not going to be able to hold this trunk for an eternity.”

Having forgotten he was still carrying my trunk of clothes, I focused on the task at hand and requested, “Keira, could you show us to where I’m staying while I’m here?”

“No problem, Miss Arial. Please follow me,” she replied with an amused grin and turned to walk out of the room.

I followed her with Auslan bringing up the rear and took a moment to admire her immaculate white wings which were impressive but smaller than the male warriors’ raven wings. Striding along at a comfortable pace, I idly pondered how she got the little white vest on over them. Then I decided it was not the topic I wanted to start out with for my first real interaction with her, so I filed it away for another time. As we continued down an equally white corridor, I couldn’t help but notice how graceful and confident Keira’s stride was and wished I had half that poise.

“So where exactly are we right now, Keira?” I asked as we began taking a spiral staircase up. The stairs were made of clear crystal and were about as disconcerting as all the white everywhere.

“We’re within my Mistress’s palace, Miss Arial. The chamber where you entered from the Void is on the lowest level, about ten feet underground. The suite you and Auslan will be staying in is in one of the crystal spires and affords a spectacular view of the palace compound,” Keira explained.

“Wait, what? Auslan and I are sharing a suite?” I asked in surprise.

“Yes. Rayner explained that Auslan was to accompany you and not leave your side while you are visiting. So, it was only logical to put you in a suite together. Is there a problem?” she inquired as we entered a long white hallway with clear windows looking out into an inner courtyard.

“No, there’s no problem, Sister,” Auslan spoke for both of us and I shot a glance at him. Seeing my look, he asked, “What? I was given the task of protecting you, Arial, and I cannot do that if I’m in a different part of the palace.”

I was seriously tempted to debate that with him, but kept my mouth closed. I didn’t know Keira all that well yet and I didn’t want to air any issues in front of her. Instead, I turned my attention back to the female winged warrior and stated calmly, “No, everything is fine, Keira. Thank you for making the arrangements.”

She gave me a pleased smile and we continued to move along the hallway. Glancing back out the windows, it took a moment for me to comprehend what I was seeing. Unable to believe it, I finally stopped and walked over to one of the clear panes. As my gaze roamed the inner courtyard, I just simply couldn’t grasp what was before me.

“Is there something wrong, Miss Arial?” Keira inquired curiously, coming to stand next to me.

“Please just call me Arial, Keira. No Miss is necessary,” I corrected absently. “Um, where’s all the color?”

“Color?” she questioned uncertainly.

“You know… color,” I uttered, fluttering my hands about. “I mean, I see what look like flowers and such, but everything’s either white or crystal. There are no blues or reds or greens or… or any color.”

And there wasn’t either. I was looking out onto a garden that was pure white with crystal flowers. The benches placed in strategic viewing spots were either crystal or white. Even the sky was white. And as my eye moved over the scene, it took in the fact that opposite where we were standing was more of the palace, all white and crystal. Aboveworld was completely devoid of color!

“This is how my Mistress wishes for her world to look, Arial,” Keira shared uneasily.

Okay, my brain just wasn’t wrapping around this concept. I’d never been anywhere that looked like this. Even an ice palace still had a blue sky above it. It was actually hurting my eyes as I strained to see colors that weren’t there. But obviously there wasn’t much to do about this at the moment.

Forcing my gaze away from the window, I uttered, “Oh, um, okay. Well, um, let’s keep going, shall we?”

She nodded in acquiescence and we continued on, turning down several different corridors (all white) until we came to a crystal door set in a rounded wall. Opening the door, Keira led the way up more crystal winding stairs until we came to a wide landing and a set of white wood double doors that she opened with a flourish.

Stepping into the room, I discovered that it was done in white and crystal as well. We were in a sitting room that contained a couch and a couple of chairs situated in front of a fireplace. All of these were white, of course, and the low table in front of the couch was crystal. But the strangest sight was the flickering of white flames in the fireplace.

Pulling my gaze away from that weirdness, I looked around and saw a door that led into a bedroom, another door leading into a bathroom, and the door leading back to the stairwell. Confused, I asked hesitantly, “Um, where’s Auslan’s room?”

“I’ll take the couch, Arial,” he responded before Keira could say anything. “Do you want this in the bedroom?” he asked, indicating the trunk he had yet to put down.

“Oh, yes, just put it anywhere. Thanks, Auslan,” I told him, feeling bad that I kept forgetting he was holding the heavy thing. I was just really overwhelmed by what I was seeing so far of Aboveworld.

“Well, I’ll let you get settled, Arial. My Mistress wishes an audience with you in about an hour. Will that be plenty of time?” Keira inquired politely.

“Oh, uh, yes, that should be plenty of time. Thank you, Keira. I look forward to meeting her and having a chance to talk with you and your Sisters while I’m here,” I responded warmly, trying to maintain a calm façade until she was gone.

“We look forward to that as well, Arial. I’ll be back in an hour to escort you to the throne room,” she informed me. Then she winked at Auslan as he came out of the bedchamber and shared, “Glad it was you that came along with Arial, big Brother. See you soon.”

“Later, little Sister,” he remarked with an indulgent grin and then Keira disappeared. Well, apparently transporting worked here as well, I observed thoughtfully and turned my attention to Auslan.

Taking a steadying breath, I let it out and asked uneasily, “Is the entire world like this, Auslan?”

“See for yourself, Arial,” he responded and motioned to the windows flanking the fireplace. I hadn’t noticed them because I’d been too weirded out by the white flames, but seeing them now, I hesitantly walked over to look out the one on the right.

Shaking my head, I uttered, “This just isn’t right.” As far as the eye could see was nothing but pure white and crystal. Every structure, every flower, every patch of ground and sky was either white or clear crystal. No color.

“It’s been this way since the beginning,” Auslan shared, coming to stand next to me. “And if you notice, everything is geometric in shape. All lines and precision. No chaos or wildness.”

Examining the scene more closely, I began to see what he meant. It was as if everything was laid out on a grid and was designed to be symmetrical with its surroundings. Every building had neat lines with the occasional round turret like what we were standing in. But for the most part, everything was straight with sharp, precise borders or corners. The streets of the surrounding village ran parallel and perpendicular to each other, no curving or winding to be seen. And the surrounding forest beyond the palace compound was comprised of nothing but white and crystal trees laid out in exact rows with no underbrush to be seen.

“Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this,” I shared quietly, completely unnerved by the view.

“Kind of makes you wish to be back in Underworld, huh,” he remarked.

“No, actually it doesn’t,” I rebutted firmly and turned to face him. He looked surprised and I explained, “No, this makes me want to do something to change this world. It’s not natural, Auslan. There should be color, something to stimulate the senses. This… this colorlessness would drive me insane within moments of being here! Thank god I brought my own clothes. At least I’ll be giving some life to this place while I’m touring it!”

That brought on an amused chuckle and he shared, “You would bring life to any place you visited, Arial. I have no doubt of that.”

“I believe I’ll take that as a compliment, big guy,” I bantered back, giving him a grin and a wink. Seeing that I had surprised him with my sauciness, I continued, “Now, I just need to figure out what to wear for my meeting with Morgana. Wanna help?”

I almost started laughing at the stunned look that came over his rugged face. After opening and closing his mouth for a few moments, I decided to give the poor guy a break and joked, “I didn’t mean I needed your help dressing, Auslan. But you can get comfy and let me model a couple of choices for you. After all, you know what Morgana is like and I need to go into this first meeting with a strong impression. Think you could help me out with that?”

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure,” he stammered, shifting on his feet a little.

Before he could change his mind, I exclaimed, “Awesome! I’ll just be a minute.” Then I turned and hurried into the bedroom to start digging through the clothes I’d brought with me.

Opening the trunk, I decided that I needed something that said I was confident yet approachable. As I rummaged through the items in the trunk, I came across something that I know I didn’t pack. Pulling it out, I stared at the item in confusion. Then it hit me what it was that I was looking at – a vibrator. Hmmm… I hadn’t seen one of these since my time in Earth Realm. But how did it get in here? And why were there little black wings attached to it?

Turning it in my hands, I finally noticed the little card that was dangling from it. Unfolding it, a startled laugh escaped me as I read ‘Thought you might enjoy a little something to take you to new heights while you’re gone. Thorgaard’

“Oh my god, that little sneak!” I uttered, unable to stop laughing.

“Is everything alright, Arial?” Auslan called out from the other room.

Hastily shoving the winged vibrator back into the trunk, I called back, “Yeah, everything’s fine. Be out in a minute!”

Putting that little prank out of my mind for the moment, I put my focus back on what I was supposed to be doing. Finding an outfit that I thought might work, I hurriedly changed into it and headed back out to the sitting room. Auslan was pacing back and forth restlessly, but came to a standstill when I asked, “What do you think?”

I twirled around a couple of times so he could see the whole ensemble and then faced him as he replied in his gruff voice, “Uh, yeah, that looks great, Arial.”

“Okay,” I remarked slowly, not exactly going for that response. “But is it something I should meet Morgana in for the first time or not?”

Running a hand through his hair, he replied in irritation, “Yeah, I guess. Arial, I’m not a clothing expert. Just wear whatever you’re comfortable with.”

Frowning a little at his abruptness, I observed him for a few moments. He was definitely on edge about something, so I took a seat on one of the chairs and requested, “Auslan, sit and chat with me for a minute.”

He didn’t look too thrilled, but reluctantly moved to the couch to sit. He didn’t get comfortable, though, and looked like he was ready to spring off the furniture any moment. Settling back in the chair, I asked curiously, “Is everything alright?”

Frowning a little, he shrugged a broad shoulder and responded, “Yeah, sure. Why?”

“Well, you seem a little… um… on edge. Is something bothering you?” I pressed gently, really wanting to get to the bottom of this.

Sighing and running a hand over his face, he shared, “It’s just this place. I’ve never been comfortable in this world, so it makes me fidgety I guess. Sorry. I’ll get a handle on it.”

“It’s okay, Auslan. You don’t have to apologize. I was just worried, that’s all,” I assured him. Then I continued hesitantly, “Um, it seems like more, though. You were kind of like this before we got here.”

“I was?” he asked distractedly, looking anywhere but at me.

“Yeah. Like that whole thing with the food being an illusion. What was that all about? And what did you mean by me changing everything?” I questioned.

“You weren’t supposed to hear that,” he grumbled, shifting around a little.

“Well, Mikhiel heard it and so did I. I just didn’t say anything at the time because he doesn’t know I have this ability. Plus, I didn’t want to call you out on it in front of him. In fact, I’m sorry he said anything,” I told him and he shrugged it off. “The point is, I heard it and I don’t understand what you meant by it.”

“It doesn’t matter, Arial. It is what it is,” he countered. “So is that the outfit you’re going with then?”

His abrupt change of subject didn’t derail me any and I answered, “Yes. Now, what do you mean it doesn’t matter? Of course it does. If I’ve done something to irritate you or upset you, I want to know so I can try and fix it. I want us to be able to work together and be comfortable with each other, Auslan. So, help me out here, big guy, and tell me what’s going on.”

“You’re really pushy, female,” he practically growled at me as he shot to his feet and began pacing around the room again.

“And you’re really stubborn,” I shot back, getting up and trying to insert myself into his path.

“Well excuse me for not wanting to air my issues to you. I’m not that kind of male,” he argued in frustration as he changed course so he wouldn’t run into me.

“Oh, I see. So you’re the big tough guy that never has any emotions and prefers to suffer in silence,” I quipped. “Sorry, but that doesn’t really impress me, Auslan.”

“Who said I was trying to impress you?” he retorted and dodged me again. “And will you quit trying to get in my way?”

“Not until you talk to me,” I insisted, putting myself back in his path again. How we’d gotten to this point, I had no idea, but I was suddenly having fun. And I was determined to get him to admit something, anything to me at this point. I could play the stubborn game just as well as he could. “What’s the matter, big guy? Afraid of what I might say?”

“Dammit, Arial, I’m not playing around,” he warned, shifting course again. But I anticipated his move this time and stepped in front of him, causing him to bump into me. Unfortunately, that was like having a wrecking ball plow into my body and I stumbled backwards from the impact.

Before I could fall flat on my ass, his arms wrapped around me and pulled me flush up against his body. It was like having bands of steel enveloping me and we stood like that for several moments, neither of us even daring to breathe. Then a little voice in my head said it was now or never and I wanted now to happen really badly. So, I shamelessly took advantage of the moment, ran my hands up his well-defined pecs to his strong broad shoulders, and tilted my head up to look at him.

His eyes gleamed down at me and I was startled by the ferocity in them. The sheer animalistic need that glowed from their depths as he inhaled sharply. And then the world was taken off pause and his lips descended on mine with a swiftness and hunger that stole my breath away.

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