Chapter 11A Chapter by Nicole
Vayden's appeal as a male is very very grounded in sensuality and a mysterious darkness about him. He's chaotic and impulsive, nearly feral. I've found my female readers think this is sexy lol.
The ride back to the De’Monia estate was silent and miserably long. I prayed for it to end long before the end came. Sitting opposite of each other in the little seats of her carriage, Lirrah and I did not speak for the entire two day journey. It wasn’t for anger or for any kind of resentment; we both knew exactly what was on the other’s mind and so there was no need to speak of it. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I had the strength to speak even if I could think of something to say that didn’t have to do with the man we both loved. It made me cold, made me feel as though the world outside me that burned with spring and the beginnings of summer were a separate place from the one that existed within me. Lirrah still didn’t know how I truly felt, how Vayden truly felt, or about the agonizing and repulsive truth of their situation. I wanted to tell her. I felt the need to tell her stronger in those two days than at any other time. Maybe it would ease her suffering if she knew. Maybe then she wouldn’t feel so entirely cheated of a future if she knew the man she had been betrothed to was her half brother.
But I didn’t tell her. It, like so many of the secrets of De’Monia, was not mine to tell.
The world rolled past the carriage windows for two days without ceasing, pausing only for us to stare at a plate of food without need or desire to eat. I couldn’t bear to think that our faces looked as horrifyingly hollow as Eran’s did as the days progressed. His worry for us was taking a toll on him and I saw the light in his earthen brown eyes grow dim and faint. The idea of looking at my own reflection wasn’t something I was prepared to deal with.
We heard no news of Vayden’s condition or even if he were still alive. It was humbling in ways I hadn’t thought possible, to not even know whether or not he still lived. I knew that Lirrah and I must have been wondering the same thing in that respect; if Vayden did die…what would become of me? I felt horribly selfish to be thinking of myself at a time like this, but with so many silent hours confined in that little space, I thought of many things and eventually myself. I missed my mother for the first time. I wished she were there, with her wise words and her cool skin, to hug me and reassure me that this would pass.
I recognized the rolling grasslands of De’Monia in the late afternoon of the second day, seeing the sparkling of the sun’s light as it danced across the stained glass windows of the four large buildings. Eran, who had volunteered to ride Lhun back, let the great horse gallop on ahead of us to tire him before he was groomed and put away for an indiscernible future. I watched him, his gold hair blowing in the wind and his strong, lithe arms holding on tightly as Lhun ran like a black shadow across the grasslands. It was a beautiful image and it was the first time I felt truly haunted by visions of Vayden’s face. I felt him everywhere, saw him everywhere. It was like walking through the depths of black despair, meeting eyes with all the things I feared the most.
Lirrah and Eran stayed at the estate with me for nearly four days before they finally began gathering their belongings and preparing to return to their house. We’d received a letter from the Governor that Vayden was, indeed, still alive and they were keeping him heavily sedated so that he might sleep through the pain. But the poison and the wounds were significant and his condition was still very delicate. He did not think Vayden would be in any condition to make the journey back to house De’Monia for at least another week.
Reading it sent a chill to every corner of my heart and I set the letter on the little drawing table where I sat, looking at Lirrah sitting on a little sofa in the parlor with me. It was one of the formal parlors, though there wasn’t anything formal about our gathering while we sat waiting for Eran to finish getting all their belongings packed. Our days had been spent in awkward silence that was rank with worry and fear, kept somewhat subdued only by Eran’s hopeful optimism and instance that justice would be served. Lirrah seemed to fade, like an icicle hanging on a house eave, slowly dripping and dissolving away into the shadowed corners and empty rooms of De’Monia. Eran saw it too and I knew it worried him. He wanted to get her out of this place, out of these haunted halls that held that dark pressure that I could neither name nor place. I felt it just as I had the first time I came here; as if something dark were at work.
“Lirrah, we must be going. Father has asked that we dine with him tonight.” Eran entered the room, his voice making me lurch a little at the sudden break in silence. I looked up at him from the little table and chair where I sat, working on a formal reply to the letter from the Governor.
“Just a bit longer, Eran.” She said softly, barely above a whisper, and continued looking out the large bay window where the rose gardens were thrusting force in full bloom their massive blossoms of deep red and pale ivory.
He wasn’t satisfied but he didn’t object, sighing and striding into the room to stand behind me and read casually over my shoulder. There wasn’t anything personal about what I was writing, but it was a little invasive all the same and I stopped, sitting back to wait until he moved on to continue.
We looked at each other in fleeting little glances for nearly five long minutes, listening and waiting as if we could think of nothing to do but sit and hold our breath. I saw concern and fervent worry upon his beautiful face, the gentle curves of his face turned up slightly into a hopeful smile that I knew was only for my benefit.
“I’ll go to the restroom, Eran, then let’s go.” Lirrah said suddenly and stood, the lengths of her gold satin gown falling out and trailing behind her as she drifted silently out of the room and was gone without another word.
I felt myself exhale, shakily, as if some kind of pressure had been released and turned to look back down at my letter. Little lines of neatly, perfectly formed script descended the page like little rows of thorns, but then my penmanship had always been somewhat sharp.
“I will come as often as I can, Miss Caeri, to look after you and make sure that you don’t come to any harm.” Eran spoke gently and I straightened in my chair out of reflex as I felt one of his hands touch the nape of my neck in a less than casual way. “And if it becomes too much, you are always welcome at House SinFaye. Forgive me, but I cannot allow Lirrah to return here until I’m sure that it is a safe environment for her.”
“I understand.” I whispered back, trying not to let him feel how I trembled. I was afraid. The thought of looking into Vayden’s eyes and seeing a stranger was…well, more than I could fathom. More than I was sure I could withstand. “I will write to her, if you think it will help.”
I could sense his smile without turning to see it, “I’m sure she would appreciate that, but don’t put yourself to too much effort trying to see to the needs of everyone else.” He bent to kiss the top of my head again, something that was becoming a habit for him. “See that you stay safe. I will return as soon as I can, so keep in good spirits.”
I didn’t realize I’d attained any good spirits to begin with but I didn’t argue with him as he turned to leave, meeting Lirrah just outside the door and speaking to her in his calm, comforting tone as he escorted her towards the foyer. I didn’t move from where I sat. Protocol and social custom commanded that I see them out, after all I seemed to be the only person here besides the handservants that roamed the halls, but I couldn’t will myself to move. I just set and let the loneliness take me.
The Duke, even after hearing news of what had become of his only legitimate child, did not darken the doorway of his chambers and said nothing as to what should be done to make ready for Vayden’s return. The sentiment seemed to be that he cared little of what became of his house that could very well be crumbling around him. It was as if he wanted to be buried alive with all his treacherous secrets. I couldn’t imagine what I would say, or rather what my tongue would lash out unconsciously with, should our paths ever cross. It was strange that they hadn’t already, at least it would have been in any other house.
Hours crawled by and turned into days. I was a shadow on the walls of house De’Monia, watching the handservants work to keep the it maintained and in immaculate shape, but saying nothing to them. They didn’t offer to speak to me either. There was an invisible line drawn between us, a wall of glass, and it pushed me to the limits of my sanity.
I spent many hours sitting in my room, writing down everything I could remember about what had happened. I watched the gardeners manicure the roses that bobbed in the warm summer winds, cutting away the dead blossoms and grooming the soils for the new shoots. The air was filled with their scent as their thick vines, as big around as my arm, climbed the walls of the estate and grasped the arbors and lattices. The Duchess had planted these roses, Vayden had said, and wanted them well taken care of. I wondered if she had ever seen them bloom like this.
There were days that were harder than others. Days where I was sure the solitude and gripping silence would crush me if I didn’t hear myself speak to someone, anyone. Those were the days I went to the stable where Lhun was housed. I snuck a brush from the tack room at the back of the barn and brushed him, watching the way his dark eyes glittered and flicked back at me. It was as if he could sense something was wrong. As if he were asking me where Vayden was. I rested my cheek against his massive shoulder, all that I could reach with the huge horse looming over me, and closed my eyes to breathe in deeply his thick, musky smell. It soothed me and I felt like a part of the world again, albeit a very small part.
The sound of someone saying my name jarred me and I snapped upright, the brush gripped in my hand as if I might use it as a weapon. I knew the voice immediately, but couldn’t make myself relax.
Eran was standing at the door of the stall, one hand resting on the wall with his deep brown eyes staring into my face with obvious concern written all over his youthfully handsome features. “The stableboy said you had been in here all morning.”
Had it really been that long? I looked down at the brush in my hand; my knuckles were white from gripping it so hard. “ Oh.” My voice sounded strange even to me.
I heard his steps coming closer, crunching on the soft, sweet-smelling hay. “I didn’t want to leave Lirrah, she’s in a similar state. But I couldn’t bare not knowing how you were. Won’t you come stay with us until he gets back? It’s only a few days. I cannot stand to watch you letting yourself wither away here in this tomb.”
I looked up at him, startled at how close he was standing. I didn’t know what shocked me more, whether it was his sudden nearness or the fact that I was standing so close to another person after so many days of solitude. “I…can’t.”
His expression hardened, raking some of his gold hair from his face and sighing in tight frustration, “I’m serious, Miss Caeri, this isn’t healthy. It’s been almost two weeks. There hasn’t been a letter. I won’t leave you here like this any longer. I cannot bear this. I will not watch you putting yourself through hell for him. No one should be worth that.”
My lips parted as I stared up at him, surprised at his stubbornness and persistence but unable to force anything past a thick knot in my throat. I saw his expression change a moment too late, a moment before one of his smooth hands reached to grasp the back of my neck and pull me slightly up into my toes, tilting my head back and leaning in to press his lips lightly against mine. There was no urgent feeling of passion or swelling of intense heat in his kiss, not the way it had been with Vayden, but there was a calmness and a gentle serenity that I didn’t refuse. But I couldn’t bring myself to reciprocate. Thankfully he didn’t make me endure it for very long, looking down at me with embarrassment flushing his face of all but a bright red color as he stepped back slightly and cleared his throat.
The silence was awkward and wrong and I looked down to notice the brush had fallen from my hand. Stooping to pick it up, I heard another voice coming down the hall of the stable, but this one was unfamiliar and panicked.
I snapped to my feet, frozen where I stood as the stableboy came to pant in front of the stall, leaning over to catch his breath before looking up at us both with is wide, childish eyes alarmed. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen, for his gawky long-limbed build, and his voice was not yet deep as he spoke. “There’s a carriage! Not four miles away, coming from GraeMounte! Master Vayden is returned! They sent word ahead to have his room and bed made ready!”
My heart stopped and for several seconds, I couldn’t hear anything but my own gasping breaths. My hands and fingers when numb such that I couldn’t even feel the brush in my hand anymore. Vayden was back. Eran didn’t seem thrilled at this news and his face became very stern from what I could tell by his profile. He nodded to the boy and told him to go on and pass the news on to the main house before turning back to me with his expression unfathomable. I knew what he was thinking. The two most important women in his life were both bound to the same man. But he didn’t know just how severely I was bound. Something about that broke my heart. Tears were rolling down my face, tears that I hadn’t even noticed until that moment and I blinked, surprised, and wiped them away.
“Let’s go.” He said, his words as cold as distant as his expression as he reached for my hand and grasped it tightly, as if hoping he might somehow keep me from Vayden if he kept a hold of me tight enough. It was vain and we both knew it.
The handservants formed a small procession outside as the carriage, the Governor’s private carriage, rolled to a halt out in front of the estate. It was late in the afternoon when they finally arrived, having to keep the pace very slow so as not to jar their delicate cargo any more than necessary. I watched it all from the window of one of the parlors where Eran had stationed me with strict instructions that I was not to leave until he came to fetch me. He was seeing to Vayden’s arrival himself, helping them relocate him up to his room and settle him in and refused to let me be there until it was all finished.
My heart was beating so fast I could hardly keep myself standing, watching out the window as I saw them lower a gurney from the inside of the carriage. It was so near dark, the skies a drab smeared canvas of grey, I couldn’t see his face as they brought Vayden’s horizontal form into the house and began the perilous trek up the stairs to his room.
I heard the voices, scrawling through them desperately for one, the one, I knew I would recognize. But I didn’t hear him. I felt tears in my eyes again as I gripped at my breast, my chest aching for how my heart pounded. The noises of scuffling, grunting, and mumbled instructions faded away up the stairs into silence and I waited. It felt like hours. I paced the floors and did all I could aside from climbing the walls until finally Eran’s appearance in the doorway liberated me. I rushed at him with my cheeks red and my eyes wide and desperate, intending to blow right past him to the room where I knew Vayden was. He stopped me, snapping an arm up to block my path through the doorway.
“Let me go, Eran.” I hissed up at him through glossy eyes that battled back tears, my jaw tight as I prepared to do whatever I had to in order to get past him.
“Caerwyn,” His face was grave enough that I lost my steam, standing next to him with my heart in my throat. “It…It isn’t good. He’s strong and they thought he’d pull through this. But things aren’t’ looking good. The poison did a lot of damage and they had to work very hard to keep from having to amputate his leg. I don’t think you should go in there.”
My lips tightened as I mashed them together, trying desperately not to sob for the mixture of frustration, panic, and anger I felt. “I don’t care. I have to see him.”
Somehow he had known I would say that even before I did and was already moving away from the door, crossing his arms over his fine green doublet and looking at the floor. “Just…Don’t expect too much. They have just taken him off the sedative they kept him under for the journey. He should wake up in a few hours and then he will be in a lot of pain. It will be the first time he’s been truly lucid since the incident. The doctor is still up there, he wanted to talk to you about medication and give you instructions on what will have to be done for him.”
I was already walking away as the last few words left his lips, my steps nearly a run as I hurried up the stairs. My mind raced, trying to picture or gather some kind of preconceived vision of what I would find lying in Vayden’s bed when I entered that room. It was vain. It was foolish. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw there, in that dark impending place.
© 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..