Part 6 - Hidden Pain
Elian spent the rest of the morning outside, in the palace gardens, trying to figure out what to do and what to tell Denar. It wasn’t as if he could prolong his stay in Everlyn much longer without seriously worrying those back at home. But somehow the thought of simply going back left him empty, with the feeling that he still hadn’t accomplished anything. And yet what else could he do? First and foremost, what had he hoped to attain by traveling to that place?
He went back inside by lunch time, not wanting to be a hindrance to the routines of the palace. Contrary to what he’d expected the main hall was empty, and so he contemplated the idea of returning to his room, in search of Denar. When he became aware of what he was doing, however, a huge white door, its wooden carvings delicate and complex, stood right in front of him. He had noticed it the night before, since it was the only door that presented such intricate wood work, much like all the doors from his palace, in Mithir. But since it had been closed he hadn't dare open it.
Looking around to make sure he was alone, he gave it a push and a wide room opened before him. All painted in white, with heavy velvet draperies flanking the windows, it was mainly occupied by a big oval table, surrounded by high back chairs lined in dark blue velvet.
The Council room, Elian concluded, similar in almost everything to the one he knew all too well from all the boring and tiring meetings he had had to attend back at home. Which was kind of funny, he thought, taking into account just how much both palaces were different. And yet there was nothing there, nothing that could shed some light on the many questions he couldn’t ask. Nothing that could teach him a little bit more about that Kingdom, or about the reasons behind his father’s decision, fifteen years ago.
He was about to leave when the sound of a soft sob made him stop, frozen in place. He waited in silence, wondering if he’d heard it right and, for a moment, thought he had imagined it. At the sound of another sob, however, Elian walked around the table, stooping down in order to look under it. His heart jumped a beat at the sight of her, seated on the floor, her face hidden by a cascade of blond curls.
With a shudder he woke from the stupor of incredibility that had befallen him, and stooped even lower so that he could face her.
“Your Highness …” he called again, reaching out for her, but she avoided his touch. “I’m not going to hurt you. Please tell me what happened …”
Allana wiped her face before looking up, her eyes still glowing with tears, and Elian raised his hand to touch her, to touch her reddened cheek, but she avoided him once again.
“Was it him? Did he do this to you?” he asked quietly, though something inside him burned furiously, and the lack of an answer made him stand up, as if fire ran through his veins preventing him from simply standing still. “I swear! He’ll never touch you again!” he stated angrily, turning to leave the room, and Allana seemed to wake up from the dullness that filled her mind, jumping to her feet in order to reach the door before him.
“No! Please!” she pleaded, preventing him from opening the door, and her small body between him and the only way out.
“No?! What do you mean, ‘no’?!” he asked, raising his voice at the sight of that red mark. He didn’t understand, he couldn’t understand why she would want to stop him!
“He is nothing but a coward! And I can’t forgive something like this!”
“Please, just listen. This is nothing. Nothing serious,” she pleaded again, running a shaky hand over her bruised face, and rubbed her eyes, drying new tears. “I’m alright.”
Elian turned his back on her, passing back and forth across the room, trying to subdue the anger that left him with little more than an acute desire to simply beat that idiotic Lord to a pulp. And Allana watched him anxiously, making sure she didn’t take a single step away from that door, in case he decided to leave in search of Heric.
Elian took a deep breath and looked at her, at her small figure that looked even smaller as she watched him apprehensively. He wasn’t helping her at all, he decided. He had to calm down and at least allow her to speak.
“Would you please explain to me what happened?” he finally managed to ask and the girl looked away, embarrassed.
“It was nothing, really…”
“Hardly nothing, won’t you agree?” he retorted, annoyed again.
“If I say it was nothing, than it was nothing!” she declared, facing him as if she were ready to fight him, her eyes glowing coldly, her expression one of absolute determination. That was the other Allana, he concluded observing her. The strong one, the fierce one … the survivor … but also the one that hurt the most, because that Allana wasn’t allowed to be in pain or to even cry. It was incredible, the way she completely changed from one moment to another.
“Why protect him?”
“Because it is my wish to do so! And if you’re thinking about telling anyone about this, I’ll tell everyone just how much of a liar you really are!”
“A liar …? Me?”
“Am I wrong? Your whole identity is a huge lie! You can’t fool me! The best you can do is to leave Everlyn by tomorrow morning!” she told him coldly, leaving him quite puzzled. And so,when she tried to leave the room, it was his turn to push the door with one hand, closing it again.
“Do you know … who I am?”
“I don’t! And I don’t care! And now, if you would excuse me, I’d like to leave!” she demanded haughtily. “Open the door or I’ll scream!”
Elian looked at her, at her resolute eyes. No. The time wasn’t right. If he told her now she would never listen to what he had to say. She had closed herself to him, regarding him as if he were the enemy. He wanted to know how she’d found out about his lies. Unless Dana had recognized him. But, if that was the case not only Allana but the entire palace would know the truth. Be it as it may, he couldn’t detain her any longer.
Her reddened face still roiled him up but, as things stood, there wasn’t much he could do. And yet he had started to understand the origin of that hidden sadness she carried, no matter how hard she tried to hide it. How long could she withstand it? Was that really the kind of guy she was destined to spend the rest of her life with? His little Allana?
With a sigh Elian opened the door and left the room leaving her inside. He would look for Denar. He was starting to miss his cheerful and unconcerned personality that always managed to pull him up whenever he was feeling down. But he didn’t go far.
As soon as he had entered the main hall he found himself face to face with the young girl he had seen that morning, in the dining room. Her expression was rather serious and he couldn’t help find it intimidating, the way she looked at him, with a kind of sharp and pure straightforwardness. After all, he had been raised accustomed to other people lowering their heads whenever he walked by. Obviously that girl was completely oblivious to his true identity, but the self-confidence with which she bore herself left him wondering if it would had made any difference had she known.
“Hum, that’s a very nice room. Perfect for holding a Council meeting,” he declared, smiling politely as he tried to justify the fact that he had been caught exiting somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be in the first place.
“He hits her a lot” she simply declared as a matter of fact, breaking his casual tone, and his smile immediately faded away. “I overheard you talking, though you may find it rude having me listening behind the door.”
He stood silent, not knowing what to answer, although the girl’s words hadn’t really surprised him. In fact he found himself thinking that he had actually expected something like that from her. She didn’t fear him, and she probably wouldn’t fear anyone, which led her to convert her thoughts into words without hesitation.
“I guess … I was kind of … impolite,” he finally sighed.
“Kind of impolite doesn’t quite cut it. More like hasty? My name is Selina,” she introduced herself once again.
“Although Allana seems to think that that isn’t your real name. Well, I really couldn’t care less. You could both be War Lords, for all I care. Everlyn hasn’t seen guests in many years and maybe an outsider, such as you, will be able to make her see the madness she’s about to undertake. Since no one listens to me anyway.” Selina turned, walking away, and invited him to accompany her, which he did. Her childish look and airs of innocence seemed to be the perfect cover to hide her true character. And even Elian, used to see beyond what I eyes could see, was forced to admit that he had been deceived by her child-like demeanor, that morning. Selina was no child, even though she was slightly younger than Allana. Quite the contrary. And Elian could easily foresee how dangerous she could be if antagonized.
“Did she tell you? That she’s planning to marry him?”
“And that it’s for the good of the Kingdom? Did she tell you that as well?”
“She told me something like that, yes.”
Selina took a deep breath and shook her head in clear disapproval.
“No matter how hard I try, I’m unable to make her give up on this madness. True Heric is a good ruler. But he’ll never be a good husband. All you have to do is look at the way he treats her!”
“I’m sorry … But why tell me all this?”
“Well, everyone can see. Every time she sees you her eyes seem to glow, as if a renewed breath of life has been poured into her. You represent all she doesn’t know and, at the same time, all she wishes for; a whole new world waiting to be explored. Allana is curious by nature; she’s always been like that.”
“I still don’t understand …”
The girl faced him with a serious expression.
“Use the power you hold over her, the fascination. Use it to make her see that this Kingdom isn’t worth the sacrifice of her happiness. I know her all too well. She’ll never survive for long, married to him. He smothers her and drains her light as if he were a sponge. He’ll end up destroying her.”
Elian was left at a loss for words, though what she had told him had only reinforced what he already knew.
“Selina? What’s taking you so long?” the voice of a woman woke him from his thoughts and Selina smiled innocently towards Dana.
“Sir Denon was outside, in the gardens,” she promptly answered and Elian couldn’t help feeling amazed at how even her tone of voice had changed.
“Ah! And how did Sir Denon find Her Majesty’s gardens?” Dana asked, approaching them.
“Oh, they’re beautiful. The clearings amazingly bright,” the Prince replied, forcing himself to forget Selina’s words for the time being. Dana seemed pleased with his answer and started leading him towards the dining room.
“I am happy to hear that. Selina, please go ahead and tell the servants they can start serving lunch,” she asked the girl and Selina smiled politely, excusing herself and leaving them obediently, her small steps dragging her blue dress across the white stone floor.