Chapter 10A Chapter by Nicole
Caerwyn is not my favorite character, in my opinion she is far too weepy, but she's an effective storyteller and good for Vayden.
The morning light was faint and gentle through my windows, partially hidden behind a veil of thin gray clouds that pattered a few fat drops of rain across the streets outside. It was early, too early, but I couldn’t sleep any more. I was exhausted, though not so much as before, and my mind reeled at all that had happened and so much more that could. Daevian would be hard pressed to get another shot at me, especially with the fresh reminder of Vayden’s wrath on his face. But that didn’t do anything to ease my fear. I was scared.
Sinking down further into my blankets, I peeked over them to watch the shadows in my room grow short and the shapes of my furniture emerge as the sun grew stronger against the soft veil of spring rainclouds. It wouldn’t rain for much longer, but the arena floor would be muddy and miserable for the riders today and my stomach spoiled as I remembered who it was that Vayden would be matched against. Daevian would ride against Vayden once again, hoping to finally beat him out for a shot at the final victory. It made my nerves draw tight and I shut my eyes for a moment, trying to think about something else other than the evil words that repulsive man had snarled in my face. It made me feel cold and I sat up quickly, gathering the blankets around me. I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep again.
My eyes found it there, sitting on my bedside table, the little mint green bow shining prettily in the morning light. I stared at it, my arms wrapped around my mass of blankets and my mouth open in disbelief. A little box, no bigger than my palm, wrapped in creamy white paper, sat on my bedside table with a bow tied around it and sitting atop a little folded piece of paper.
I knew where it had come from instantly; there was only one person in my life who knew it was my birthday that might come into my room in the middle of the night and leave something ridiculous on my bedside table. I let the blankets go and reached out to take it, holding the delicate little box in my hands and studying it before I grabbed the note with it.
The little yellow paper was soft in my hands, folded over and over to a perfect little rectangle that was crisp and new. For a moment I tried to picture him folding it, sitting somewhere, maybe at his desk, in his nightshirt and riding pants. I couldn’t help how my fingers shook as I opened it, setting the box aside to see what it was he felt he had to say. He had beautiful handwriting. It swirled across the page like little vines, ornate and yet perfectly simple, almost alive on the page. The more I unfolded it, the more I could tell that he had spent a long and laborious time thinking out what he would write. I could see little pools of ink where he had hesitated, stopped to think, and it made me smile.
There is so much to be afraid of, so much that I want to protect you from. You have been strong, stronger than you should have to be. I want you to know that I will make things right. It may ruin me and my ability to care for you as I would like, but if I am the man you love then I make it my purpose from now on to see you happy.
When I took you from your parents, I didn’t want to admit how empty you made me feel. I didn’t want you to know how, from the beginning, you affected me. I knew I was lost, but I couldn’t have known how badly until I met you. You have shown me that the things I thought were the most frightening, the things I thought I would spend the rest of my life hiding from, are things that not even a shoe maker’s daughter is scared of. Not to make light of you, but it’s time I became the man you deserve. You’ve been through so much; it would be horrible of me to ask more of you. But I have no choice. So please don’t be afraid. Don’t lose faith. Be patient.
You know I’m not good with words, especially these kinds. But it is your birthday and so I offer you this and ask that you think of me fondly. My mother loved roses, she set about filling the gardens at my estate with them and they grow there still and remind me of her always. Now I find I cannot think of them and not think of you as well. So please accept this one from me and know that I love you.
I do hope this rose is a little less revolting than the one Lord Jeliele gave you.
Vayden Euchriste De’Monia
He must’ve known it would make me cry, the fool, when I read it. The line about Lord Jeliele, however, made me laugh a little and I couldn’t help but smile. I wiped my face on my forearm, carefully trying not to let one of my tears spatter on the paper and damage his letter. I felt like an infant, sobbing like that, but it couldn’t be helped and I folded the note back up and slipped it into my red leather book before I set about carefully unwrapping his gift. The bow slipped off easily and the box popped open at the top, opening to reveal a little velvet blue bag hidden inside. I opened it too, more carefully than the box, and emptied the contents into my hand. It was a necklace. A glittering silver chain that sparkled radiantly in the morning’s light and felt nearly weightless in my palm. Upon it hung a pendant, no bigger than a fingertip, made of a beautiful milky why seashell carved away into the shape of a white rose blossom. It was stunning and my vision blurred with tears as I looked at it, the little rose glistening like mother of pearl as it reflected the light. I’d never owned anything so beautiful.
It was a bittersweet thing as I put it around my neck and stroked the delicate sterling chain that suspended the pendant at the center of my breast. I would have to think of some way to explain it. A gift from my mother, perhaps. Or maybe a parting gift from my parents. Yes, that sounded better. One they had made me promise to wait and open on the morning of my birthday. I sighed shakily, wiping my eyes again and setting the box and the velvet bag safely inside the drawer of my dresser before setting about getting dressed for the day’s match.
Lirrah came through my door while I was combing out the tangles in my hair, her face somewhat hollow and frightful as if she might scream if someone surprised her. She had taken Daevian’s attack rather personally despite my efforts to assure her it wasn’t her fault. It had been her mirror I’d gone to retrieve and she owned that she should have gone to get it and then none of that would have happened. My efforts to console her were vain.
The reasoning behind the attack was something I’d had to modify for Vayden’s sake and for the sake of our secrecy. I told them that Daevian must have thought I was Lirrah, in the darkness, and was attacking out of her in an effort to rattle Vayden. Eran and Lirrah bought it and built on it with their own suspicions of Daevian’s treachery and just how far he might be willing to go to win. I shuttered; I knew how exactly how far he was willing to go.
Lirrah hovered beside my chair, looking faint and distant as I combed my hair and sifted through my trunk to draw out another drab gray gown that was trimmed in two stripes, one of red and one of creamy ivory, around the base of the skirt and the edges of the short sleeves. It was a plain dress with a squared neck and a gathered waist that fit me snuggly, but I was so relieved not to be wearing a corset. If I ever did again, it would be too soon.
“Did you sleep, Miss Lirrah?” I asked her at last, noticing her strange silence and fearing, as always, the worst.
She shook her head slightly, her arms clutched over her chest where she stood in her pretty little pale blue gown that was beautifully detailed with pink satin ribbon. Her red curls were shining, falling in ringlets around her little porcelain skinned face as she stared at the mirror, at the bruises on my neck, and thought. “I’m so worried, Miss Caeri, I don’t know if you should go today.”
“I have to go,” I said in as resolute a tone as I could, “Lord Vayden wouldn’t be happy to find me not doing my job. And besides, it should be fine now. He made it very clear to Daevian that he was to stay away from all of us.” Us, another little modification to the story, but a small one. It really was in Daevian’s best interest, after all, to keep his distance from us now. The officials at the Tournament had been informed of his misdemeanor and likewise the Governor had been made aware of what had happened in his bathroom. He hadn’t been pleased, but fighting wasn’t enough to get anyone banned from the competition.
“I know, I just worry.” She pressed her pretty little lips together and came to stand behind my stool. I stiffened as I watched her slip her arms around me and rest her chin on my shoulder to stare at our reflection in the looking glass. My eyes caught the glitter of the ring on her left hand, the huge stone atop it sparkling beautifully in the morning light. It made my stomach sour and I felt instantly sick, trying not to gag as I looked away. Vayden said he hadn’t proposed to her formally; I couldn’t help but wonder where she’d gotten it. “That’s a beautiful necklace.” She said suddenly and my blood turned to ice. I froze where I sat, trying not to let my heartbeat run away and leave me behind. “Where did you get it? I’ve never seen you wear it before.”
“M-my parents.” I stammered, stopped, and swallowed to steady myself. “It’s my birthday today. They gave it to me when I left and told me not to open it until the morning of my birthday.”
She didn’t seem too horribly interested in it or suspicious of my answer and nodded, looking at my neck and the bruises there before she stood straight and began arranging my hair absently. “Well it’s very pretty. I wish I had known it was your birthday, I would have gotten you something. Eran would have liked to have known as well, he’ll me most upset that you didn’t tell him. Might I get you something as a late present?”
I blushed and looked down as she began braiding little pieces of my hair and tying them back with a long strip of creamy white ribbon she pulled from my trunk. “I suppose I couldn’t talk you out of it, even if I should try.”
She smiled sweetly, a bit of her old color coming back for a moment, “Absolutely not.”
Eran met us in the lobby with a similarly grave and serious expression on his face, his arms folded formally behind his back as he bowed in greeting to us and examined my bruises with a passing glance, as casual as he could muster, and tried not to let me see how he glared and clutched his fists harder.
“Are you all right, Miss Caeri?” He asked, almost growling between his teeth as he looked down at me squarely.
I trembled slightly at his tone, and dropped my eyes away tentatively. I’d never seen him display this sort of demeanor and it was unnerving. “I’m fine. It’s just a bruise.” I tried, avoiding his eyes for fear that the heat of his gaze might make me tear up.
I felt his hostility fall slightly and he let out a long sigh, like pent up steam releasing, as he reached gently to take my hand and loop it through his arm. Definitely a possessive gesture. “Please forgive me, Miss Caeri, I only worry that you push yourself too hard. I should have been the one to save you from Daevian. If I had escorted you to the powder room as I should have, this all would have been avoided.”
I had my doubts that Eran could’ve matched Daevian in a fist fight, but the sentiment was nice and I tried to smile up at him as earnestly as I could. “It’s not your fault, milord. Don’t worry for me. I’m only glad it was me he got his hands on and not Miss Lirrah. She might not have escaped with just a few bruises, being far more delicate and lovely than I am.”
He didn’t respond but his expression told me that he didn’t agree. He couldn’t rightly say anything to object, with Lirrah standing beside us, but she seemed a thousand miles away as we exited the hotel and waited for our carriage to be pulled around. When it arrived, he helped us both inside and sat in the seat next to me, still holding my arm diligently as if he were set on not letting me out of his sight the entire day. It was disappointing. I’d half hoped I might slink off to find Vayden in the underground tunnels again.
“At least this will all be over after today.” Lirrah sighed at last, breaking the miserable silence in the carriage as we rattled across the streets to the arena. “Once Vayden has beat him we shan’t see any more of him. Then this nightmare will be behind us.”
Eran nodded in agreement but said nothing, watching the streets outside as they filled with people returned to watch the second day of the Tournament.
The sky was still smeared with clouds, a dull mixture of gray and white that threatened rain with winds thick with moisture. It made the air feel heavy on my chest as I pulled in shaky breaths. I was scared and there was nothing I could do to hide it. Daevian had rattled me, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, and the very idea of seeing him even in passing made me nearly faint with horror. I clung to Eran’s arm for support as we arrived at the Tournament, which seemed to suit him since he had no intention of letting me go, and walked close beside him as we made our way back up to our little iron-gated box.
Breakfast was served to us as the officials began reading off the public pronouncement of each pairing for matches, reinstating the results from the day before and announcing the Governor and his wife where they sat beside the panel of judges. I nibbled at the little sweetroll that was given to me, hungry but still sickened by my fear of seeing Daevian, as I listened and sat back in my chair. I couldn’t bear to eat any more of the lavish food they offered me. My stomach wouldn’t stand for that distraction right now.
The arena floor was utter muck, the dirt and dust turned to thick mud by the rain and lingering humidity. The officials pretty white horses were smeared with it and I could see how it hindered their gate. I wondered how it might hinder Lhun while bearing all the weight of Vayden and both their armor. It couldn’t have made things any easier.
My heart thudded heavily to hear Vayden De’Monia’s name paired with that of Daevian Arindir and I let out a long, trembling exhale. I felt Lirrah, sitting beside me, do the same. It would be a relief to us all to have this over and done. Vayden was the better man. I was sure he would win. But until the time I saw Daevian look up at Vayden from the flat of his back in defeat, I knew the overwhelming fear and anxiousness wouldn’t pass.
The sky seemed to grow darker as the matches began, the clouds churning threateningly overhead and absorbing much of the crowd’s rioting as they roared and cheered. There was a definite change in the atmosphere, though, and the crowds all seemed very subdued as if they too waited in anticipation for the match that would be the defining moment of the Tournament.
Riders fell, their mounts kicked up mud and shrieked out shrill whinnies as they toiled in the thickly moist air. It made the armor slick and the rider’s clung to their reins with new desperation as they struggled to stay mounted. All the while the sky growled and churned angrily, looking down on the earth with an unforgiving bitterness to its wind as it snagged at my skirts and lengths of my long hair. A few fat drops of rain pattered across the stadium, but the rain kept at bay, waiting and watching. The air was static with it, the tense anticipation and anxious energy that consumed everyone in the arena. Even the officials seemed skittish and wary, keeping further distance from the riders who dueled in the center circle. It was nearly more than I could bare and I reached to grip Eran’s arm again, just to keep myself steady.
A chilling, all-consuming silence fell over the arena as Daevian Arindir entered from across the arena from our little box seats. His horse, a huge broad-chested stallion of a russet red color, carried him in a prancing gate that sloshed mud everywhere. The massive beast struggled with the pace, the mud caking up high on its legs and the moisture in the air making the thick silver white-stained armor he wore that much heavier. His nostrils flared red, eyes like brown milky marbles wide and alarmed at the tension his rider kept on the reins. The armor clasped about the massive horse was egg-shell white, detailed in blue swirls and runes that had been painted on to resemble a tiger’s stripes and were mirrored by Daevian’s own steel armor that was that same shade of blue and painted here and there with white markings. His helmet was fitted to his head in a classically knightly fashion, the faceguard pulled down and his scimitar brandishing in one hand. It was a long curved blade, probably three feet in length, that was more narrow and light than most of the other weaponry I’d seen. A strange choice.
“Do you see that?” Lirrah sat forward in her chair, gasping and staring at Daevian with her big blue eyes open wide.
“A change of weaponry.” Eran agreed in a bitter growl, sitting forward as well. I refused to move from where I sat, braced back in my chair with my heart threatening to punch past my ribs. “He’s up to something. He didn’t check a second weapon this time. He usually comes in with a secondary scimitar.”
The crowd still made no sound as the horse pranced, its feet pulled high and its haunches sunk down in a showy way, and Daevian finally pulled it to a halt at one of the triangles on one of end of the circle.
Suddenly the silence broke and I felt myself pour a cold sweat from the crown of my head all the way down my spine as the audience of thousands of spectators stood and screamed. Lhun charged from one of the tunnels, barreling through the mud like a great black demon released from the pits of hell, his long mane and tail whipping in the wind like black flames as he pulled up quickly to his respective side of the circle and reared. The mud didn’t seem to ail him as it did everyone else, but Lhun’s legs were also a lot longer than the other draft horses. The black armor seemed to shine, even without sunlight, and Vayden was gripping the reins fiercely to keep the enormous black beast at bay. I had to cover my ears for the sound of the audience, shutting my eyes tightly for a moment in an effort to right my senses and overcome my fear. This was it. It would all be over soon. I breathed deeply, struggling with my overly emotional self, and looked back down as the official on his white horse streaked away from the circle and the siren that signaled the beginning of the duel moaned over the roar of the crowd.
Lhun charged, his head high pulled in tight and his neck arched as his bulky form rocketed towards the smaller horse Daevian rode. It would have been a horrifying sight to see, especially knowing the fury that burned behind Vayden’s eyes and that it would pour through every blow he delivered. I couldn’t imagine that Daevian didn’t fear for his life. Vayden was surely a terrifying sight to behold, even without his massive black monster beneath him. He must have looked invincible. Like a god of war.
Their collision was like thunder, the armored beasts drawing up to rear and kick, Vayden handling his longsword masterfully with one strong arm while Daevian countered. Each scrape and clash of steal was met with a crescendo of noise from the crowd, their noise sounding far angrier than before. Vayden swung, landing blow after crushing blow against Daevian’s scimitar an each time I was sure the force would be enough to shatter the little curved blade. I shuttered with each clash, wanting to look away, to wait for someone to tell me Vayden had won and it was all over. But I couldn’t look away. I had to be sure. I had to see it for myself.
A unanimous gasp filled the air as one of Vayden’s blows struck Daevian’s shoulder, where his chest plate met his arm, and he was jarred such that he sagged in the saddle and seemed to nearly lose his hold upon the reins. I lurched forward in my chair; would it be over so quickly?! Daevian didn’t fall, though it was obvious that the blow had winged him, and he willed his mount to turn such that his disabled arm was kept further out of reach from a second and possibly ending strike.
It didn’t help him much. Lhun pressed in on him fearlessly, keeping the battle close and uncomfortably tight for Daevian’s lesser mount that reared and spooked. The mud flew, the sound of steeling ringing filled the air, and I felt the rain finally break overhead. The thick drops pattered across the arena, softly at first, but with growing intensity. Lighting snapped and sizzled and thunder rocked the stone foundations of the arena, threatening to rattle those ancient pillars. I felt the power in the air scurry across my skin, making my hair prickle and my breathing come in gasps as the skies toiled in unison with the warriors on the arena floor.
Vayden was relentless, he bore down heavily and rained blows that kept Daevian on the retreat for most of ten minutes. But Daevian was faster, able to elude all but the most inevitable of the swings, and his mount was quick to respond to his quick jerking commands on the reins. I stood suddenly, shocked to my feet, as I watched Daevian turn his horse swiftly and begin a streaking gallop away across the arena. It was something no one had ever seen before. A retreat? Vayden would not have him get away so easily and heeled Lhun into pursuit. They rounded the arena, Lhun gaining on him quickly with his large black hooves flying and throwing up the thick mud as the rain fell and soaked the arena floor again. It was like a swamp and Daevian’s horse struggled through it, barely able to keep a canter while Lhun continued to gain at his heels like an approaching black demon. With a swift tug on the reins, Vayden willed Lhun closer to his opponent and galloped alongside him, chasing him down with his longsword at the ready.
I thought he would strike him, we were all sure he would, but I watched in horror as Vayden thrust the longsword down amidst brown horse’s legs and the fleeing beast tripped, instantly, and fell end over end into the mud. The great horse rolled, skidding to a halt in the mud until it lay still and the crowd fell silent.
It was over, it had to be. Daevian crawled out from under his mount, staggering to his feet and shouting curses at Vayden who had turned Lhun around to charge back towards him. A few yards away, he halted, and I covered my mouth with my hand as Vayden dismounted and smacked Lhun on the rump, sending the horse galloping away a few hundred yards before he turned back in confusion at why his rider had sent him away.
The rain was pinging off their armor as Vayden marched briskly toward Daevian, reaching to unclasp his crimson red cape that fluttered to the ground and left it lying in the mud behind him. Lighting cracked like a whip of fire over head, ringing in my ears as I stared through the rain at what I couldn’t imagine had ever happened at Tournament before. But this, I knew, wasn’t just about winning. Not anymore. This was personal.
Vayden shouted as he rushed him, swinging the long blade wide and keeping his stance wide as Daevian sank low to receive. It was so fast, even with the mud, even with the wind and rain, and I was barely able to keep up with the blur of blows as they dueled on foot. Vayden had size and force over Daevian, but speed was difficult with each swing of that longsword being a commitment that it took several seconds to recover from.
Lirrah was sobbing beside me, hiding her face in her hands, but I didn’t sit back down. My feet carried me numbly to the railing of our box, the battle waging only a few feet below me and maybe a hundred yards away. I could hear their shouting, their grunts as they heaved and struck and feinted. I gripped the cold, wet railing and watched, trying to follow every move as they battled and shouted. The wind snatched in my skirt and tangled in my hair, obscuring my vision. The wind and rain made it even harder to see and the crowds rioted and screamed loud enough to wake even the old dead gods. But when it happened, I didn’t see or hear anything else.
They were in so close, too close for Vayden to gather a good hit on Daevian, and in that moment it all changed. I watched him, that treacherous man, twist his arm strangely and as he did a blade hidden up in the forearm of his armor slid out and locked into place. A concealed blade. Vayden saw it, but a second too late. I saw the realization on his face, a flash of horror and surprise. Daevian plunged it down into Vayden’s leg at his knee, wrenching it deep and pulling back to stab again. I heard Vayden’s scream of pain and saw the spray of blood in the air. It was a hooked blade, though I didn’t know that then, and each time he stabbed and withdrew it brought out hunks of flesh and muscle from Vayden’s knee and thigh. Daevian managed three stabs before Vayden fell, crumbling back onto his back and writhing in pain in the deep mud. I screamed and somewhere behind me so did several thousand other people I didn’t know. Vayden tried to scramble backwards, dragging his wounded leg as he yelled at Daevian something I couldn’t discern. Was he begging for his life? I couldn’t imagine that Vayden De’Monia would ever beg for anything. But as tears ran down my face, as I saw that look of twisted insanity on Daevian’s face that spoke words of murder, I prayed that he might just this once.
The judges were on their feet, shouting at the officials to stop the match. The chaos in the sky had finally touched this place and I felt my legs tremble and break as I crumpled to the ground, gripping the bars and staring through them as Daevian moved to stand over Vayden. I couldn’t see his face or hear what they were saying, but I felt the look of sudden mortal horror on every face in the audience as well as my own. Daevian drew up his scimitar, raising it over his head in both hands with the long curved point angled down. I heard Vayden yell out something that was lost to the wind and thunder. The blade plunged down and Vayden’s body jolted, blood coughing past his lips as he struggled, looking down in almost dazed disbelief at the blade that stuck out from deep within his chest before he slumped back and was still.
I threw up. Acid was still burning on my lips and in my throat as Eran came up to my side, kneeling close to me and shouting for help. I could still see in fleeting moments of clarity as the white riders, the officials, flooded around Daevian and brought him down. They stripped his helmet and weapons away, quickly shackling his hands behind him and ushering him away from the crowd’s rioting fury. Vayden was so still, lying there in the mud with the rain falling on him. The scimitar was still protruding from the center of his chest and the mud around him was a dark, murky shade of red. I saw several officials gathering around him, sliding off his helmet and helping the medics as they, dressed in their green robes, were rushed onto the arena floor. Vayden’s silent, still form was lost behind that swarm of white and green robes and tunics, gone from my sight as the world faded around me.
The noises were faint, seemingly far away, and I heard mention that Lirrah had fainted too. I heard the crowds were rioting, calling for Daevian’s immediate death as punishment. I heard Eran’s voice, calm but serious. The clattering of horse hooves on cobblestones as they galloped. The thunder and the rain, hindered only by the occasional snap of lightning. And then it was all silent. I was gone, surrounded with visions of a face I recognized but whose name I couldn’t place. His eyes were like blue stars, bright and piercing, but they looked at me with a distance as if he were a thousand miles away. I was so sure that I knew his name. Why couldn’t I remember it?
It didn’t feel as though I’d actually slept or even been unconscious, but rather that I had been lost beneath the surface of the darkness. Hovering there, I felt as though I knew what was going on. I saw everything as it happened and knew, even before my eyes opened, that Eran was sitting at my bedside with the chair pulled up close.
I claimed my first breath with a deep gasp and bolted upright, my body cold with a chilled sweat as I tried to read in the hard lines on Eran’s face what had happened. I was still dressed in my clothes, still a little wet from the rain, but I hardly felt anything as I tried to catch myself, tried to keep from screaming. “What happened?!” I looked at him as he avoided my eyes, throwing the blankets back from my legs and standing shakily over him. “Tell me what happened! Where is Vayden?!”
“He is alive.” Eran’s voice was soft, somewhat dead, and cold enough that it made me shiver. “That is all I know of Vayden’s condition. They took him to the infirmary and we have heard nothing since. That was near five hours ago.”
He wasn’t lying; I could see it on his face. Something else was eating at him. Something else was making him distant, making him numb and callused. I swallowed hard and sank back down to sit on the edge of the bed, trying desperately not to let the tears fill my eyes that squeezed my throat harder than Daevian ever could have. “And…Daevian?”
Eran didn’t look at me where he sat, staring at his hands that were knitted together in his lap, “He has been apprehended by the Tournament Security Guard. They are holding him for trial. He didn’t check a second weapon, as is required by the rules, before he entered the ring. The blade he used was concealed in his wrist guard, some contraption he must have made himself. They don’t know where he got the poison " ”
“Poison?!” I didn’t let him finish as the word gasped past my lips and I felt my face spasm into a sob, choking it back with all the strength I bore.
“The hidden blade was laced with a flesh-eating poison, probably laedberry.” Eran’s soft brown eyes drifted up, rank with worry and a cold sort of fear that jarred me into expressionless horror. “Daevian will most likely see the death sentence for this, if…if Vayden should die.”
My throat and stomach wrenched in unison, but I had nothing more to throw up. He reached out, his warm hand feeling starkly hot against my cold skin as he closed his fingers gently around my wrist. It has been arranged for us to return to house De’Monia, but Lirrah and I cannot stay at the estate with you for long. You are more than welcome to come with us back to our own house. Honestly, however, I do not think that would be in the best interest of Lord Vayden.”
I felt myself go rigid, feeling his touch as the only warm spot on my skin while the rest of me might as well have been carved from winter ice. His eyes met mine with understanding, reaching to touch the bruise on my neck with his fingertips and trace down to the silver chain of the pendant Vayden had given me.
“I see the look upon his face whenever your name is spoken. I am not so dense as to not see how he favors you. He is good at hiding most everything from everyone, but there is nothing he can do to dissuade or mask his feelings for you. It is that very thing that I know might save him.” His face changed slightly, the look of pained silent agony taking to the corners of his face ever so slightly. “The Tournament has been his refuge from everything, from the pressures of the estate and the malice of his father’s failing mind. This…incident might cost him what has become his only outlet. He will have nowhere else to run. I cannot say how he will handle it, but I do not expect him to do it gracefully. I cannot tolerate the idea of Lirrah suffering through that nor even bearing witness to it. I won’t allow it.” He paused a moment before he dropped his eyes away again, withdrawing his hand from where it cupped my neck and sitting back slightly in his chair.
“I must ask you to please stay at house De’Monia. Knowing how he feels for you and knowing also that Lirrah is not strong enough to save him from himself, it pains me to ask you to please do that which no one else can. Stay at his side and save him, Miss Caeri, so that my sister does not live the rest of her life married to the bitter darkness that has consumed Vayden for so long and now might possess him entirely. I do not fear of your being near to him, even if he does have those feelings for you. If you love me, then you will love me even at his side. If not…there is no word or force I can wield to change it. But you can save him; he will hear you through the darkness because of those feelings. What do you say?”
I couldn’t answer, I couldn’t even speak. My face was blank, utterly bald of expression as the pale silver surface of the moon. I tried to blink, to breathe, to remind myself to do both at once. It was his blatant honesty in all things that was so completely refreshing to me. It was rare and wonderful and utterly pure. The swell of confusion, of wondering how he had been able to read Vayden so clearly when I had thought that I would be the one to give us away with my radical mood swings and emotional explosions, was overwhelming. “It isn’t…I mean I…” I stammered and fell silent, trembling beneath the touch of his hand against my wrist. “I’ll do what I can but Eran, I don’t think I have so great an effect on him as you think.”
He said nothing to that, making no gesture or comment as he stood, grasping the sides of my face gently in his hands for a moment and bending to kiss the top of my head gently. I watched him go to the door, pausing there to look back at me through his feathery golden bangs, “I am not asking that you succeed or let yourself to come to any harm in the process. All I ask is that you try. Pack your things, Miss Caeri, we are departing very soon.” He spoke softly, bowing and leaving with the door falling closed behind him.
© 2010 Nicole
Added on December 3, 2010
Last Updated on December 3, 2010
House of Roses
Wichita Falls, TX
AboutA Numerical Overview: 1) I am physically incapable of keeping any plant alive. I have killed two bonsai trees and a cactus so far as well as the few potted plants I've bought from walmart over seve.. more..