Part 4 - The Gold Eyed Monster
Selina sat right in front of her, her eyes alight with amazement and curiosity as Allana described to her the Knight’s Orders of Mithir, their hierarchy and installations. She was tired and wanting for nothing but a few hours of sleep, but Selina had caught her as she left Lidya’s chambers and had demanded a full report of the last few weeks. At first she had almost rescheduled their talk but then … well, she owed her that much, she thought as she sat on her bed facing the other girl’s curious eyes. Besides, talking with Selina always raised her spirits, which she was definitely in need of after the dark talk she had had with her mother instants ago.
“Oh, then she’s a Knight too. Did she get hurt in a fight?” Selina asked and Allana nodded.
“You saw her injury?”
“Yeah. She asked me for some clean bandages and I helped her redo them after cleaning the wound. It’s quite deep. I thought she had been attacked or something, but didn’t want to ask. She’s a bit … unfriendly, isn’t she?”
“Oh, nothing like that. You just have to know her a little better.”
“I still think she’s a bit too cold, only speaking two words at a time. No need. That’s enough. Thank you,” the girl mimicked with frowned browns and a menacing expression and Allana couldn’t help laugh.
“I guess she can be like that sometimes. But it all depends on what is concerned. Elian loves her dearly and they’ve been together since childhood.”
“Oho! I see, I see …” Selina sighed, this time smiling mischievously, which made Allana blush profusely guessing the other girl’s train of thoughts.
“Well, it’s true she’s not very nice, but one can’t deny that she’s quite interesting, as a woman I mean.”
“I said, stop it! You’re impossible!” she scolded her again, her cheeks burning up, and Selina smiled, amused.
“Yeah, right. And you’re too innocent. They’re both adults, after all,” she told her and Allana looked away, crossing her arms, which led to a new round of laughter. “Oh, I can’t believe it! You’re jealous!”
Allana glared at her, her golden eyes flickering in silent threat, and Selina nimbly jumped up, taking a few steps back.
“Just go! Go to your room already!” she ordered but Selina still hugged her and kissed her cheek before she left.
“Only you to make me laugh! That’s why I missed you so much. Rest well, Allana,” she told her and happily hummed a song on her way to the door.
“Hum! Jealous! Me!! With so many important things to consider she can only think of these silly things!” Allana grunted as the door closed and laid back, looking out the window, to the darkness filled with stars that reigned in the sky above her head.
In the silence she just couldn’t imagine that peace and quiet broken by screams and shouts of terror. Almost as if everything that had happened in the last few days had all been a bad dream and she had just woken up.
The knock on her door drew her away from her silent contemplation and the sound of it opening and closing without her permission made her jump to her feet and take a step back as a tall man walked in, unceremoniously.
“We need to talk!”
Allana took a deep breath, controlling the state of alert her entire body had immediately gone into, and sat on a chair, trying to look bored with her uninvited guest. There had been a time when she had feared him deeply and his voice alone had been enough to make her tremble. But not anymore, she concluded as she considered her own emotions. She felt so calm that her mind seemed to be floating above her head.
“What now, Heric?” she asked and he frowned, clearly displeased with her contempt.
“I don’t care where you’ve been this past days, or who those idiots are! I will not stand by as an impertinent little girl like you walks around, giving orders and undoing everything I managed to build through years of hard work! I am responsible for managing this Kingdom, weather you’re a Princess or not! And besides you are my wife to be! You owe me respect and obedience!”
“Heric … I’m tired,” she sighed. “It has been a long day. If you came here only for this, please, leave it for tomorrow. I really need to sleep,” Heric marched towards her but her expression changed immediately making him think twice about his own course of action. “Remember what I’ve told you before. I’m not as patient as you may think …”
“And what? You’re going to threaten me again with that little knife of yours?”
“No. I will not threaten you again. And that’s a promise. And now, if that’s all you want from me …”
He seemed to study her for a moment and then his eyes opened wide in a mix of fear and disbelief.
“You’re not the same! You’re not Allana!” he spat accusingly and she smiled, shaking her head.
“Never heard a bigger nonsense in my entire life. You’re the one who never cared to really know me … and maybe the fault of that is mine, always trying to hide my true self. For believing in what I was told, instead of following my own instinct. You made me believe I was weak, that I would never survive on my own, that without you to guide my steps I wasn’t anyone. That I should keep quiet, that I should silence my thoughts and my feelings because they were wrong. But while in Mithir I learned that I’m able to do anything I set my mind on. I don’t need to pretend to be someone I’m not, always afraid to be left alone. I don’t need anyone to survive! Which means I don’t have to fear anyone either. That which you now see is the true me … And if your problem is our engagement, then …” She stood up, going to her dresser, and opened the first drawer searching it for a moment. Finding what she’d been looking for, she turned to him and threw the golden ring at his feet, the small blood scarlet stones shining as it clattered on the floor before resting unmoving.
Heric looked at the ring at his feet and his eyes burned with fury.
“You can’t do this!!”
“I just did.”
“Your mother gave me your hand in marriage!”
“So she did. To a man that would respect me and love me, if I recall it clearly. And you are neither!”
Heric was on top of her with two large strides, holding her hard by both arms as he pulled her to him.
“You’re mine! I will not allow this! You belong to me!”
Allana felt as if her thoughts were being dragged away, somewhere far from there, just like it had happened before. Her heart drummed harder and louder, filling her ears. But this time she remained aware, or maybe everything was happening slower. Heric was still shouting, although she could no longer hear his voice, her mind seeping farther and farther away, as the world around her became filled with darkness.
“Release me … I don’t want to hurt you …” she managed to warn him in a small voice but if he heard her he chose to ignore her.
Suddenly a heat wave washed over her from the inside out, her heart jumped one beat and then started beating even faster than before, to the point where there was nothing else she could hear. And lastly what felt like a tremendous blast knocked her back, throwing her on the floor as if she had been pushed back by an invisible force.
Silence filled her mind. For a moment she thought she had simply died. But then air filled her chest and, with it, her senses returned, bringing her pain and the feeling of warm tears sliding down her face. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes unable to see. After blinking a few times until her sight returned, her heart almost stopped again, and she pulled her shaken body to a sitting position unable to look away from the sea of blood in front of her.
“No … not again …” she muttered, trembling, and crawled on her hands and knees across the floor, soaking her beautiful gown in fresh spilled blood until she reached him, turning his dead weight around to check the damage she had caused. “Heric?!” she called, trying not to shriek as she touched his pale face, but he remained as still and unmoving as the dead.
The thought made her panic and she tried to understand if, at least, he was still breathing, her gaze floating unfocused over all that blood, until her eyes stopped over a bloodied, bright red piece of open flesh. She took both hands to her mouth, to silence a scream of horror, and jumped to her feet almost falling again when her feet slipped on all that blood.
She didn’t know what to do, she couldn’t think, she couldn’t even breathe. And then Elian’s gentle gaze filled her mind, as well as the words he had told her before, back in Mithir. And she was on the move again, running out of that room and down the corridor.
Breathless and with tears streaming down her face, she didn’t even knock before opening the door that led to the room that had been destined for him, but there was no one inside. She almost threw up, the image of that gashing wound still floating before her eyes, the smell of blood making her sick. The need to find him, her only safe place, became even stronger, and without even thinking about it she immediately knew where to look for him.
Spinning around she went back to the corridor and back to running. She didn’t even slow down before opening a new door, and then finally stopped, breathing heavily, blinking her tears away as she rubbed her wet, reddened face with bloodied hands.
By the light of a dying candle she saw someone sit up on a bed, looking alarmed by her sudden intrusion, and then a woman, right by his side; and she suddenly just wanted to leave that place, either that or fill that room with blood as well, like she’d done with her own. Selina’s words ringed persistently in her confused mind and she took a step back, half conscious of what she’d probably do if she had to remain there for even just another second.
“Allana …?” His doubtful voice stopped her from leaving, filling her with a warm feeling that calmed the fury still raging inside her head. “Allana! What happened?” he asked, jumping to his feet as he became certain of who she was, and Allana backed away, ending up with her back against the corridor wall. Horror tooke over his gentle expression as the light of the many lamps illuminating the corridor fell over her. And behind him she could see Elipson, her cold gray eyes looking at her with a worried expression. Recalling her bloodied hands she quickly hid them behind her back, her eyes filling with tears again, as she couldn’t stop her nervous sobbing.
“Elian … I … I …” she stammered and then he was right in front of her, although she had still tried to keep her distance. His arms held her tightly, hugging her and hiding her safely from the rest of the world, allowing her to breathe.
“Hush … It’s okay. It’s over now. Calm down. Everything’s going to be all right …” he whispered softly and his words cleared away all the darkness that filled her mind, all the fear, and shame, and anguish. “Come …” he asked, keeping an arm tightly around her, and Allana allowed him to guide her back into the room, where he sat her on a chair, kneeling before her. “Tell me … what happened …?”
Allana looked away, her hands closing into bloodied fists, but then his warm hands were over hers and she finally found the courage to speak.
“Heric … I … did …”
“Where?” he cut in, his voice now urgent, and she faced him, tears falling from her golden eyes again.
“You weren’t there …” she told him, recalling once more what he had promised her before, but he squeezed her hands, facing her fiercely.
“Tell me where, Allana!”
“My room …” she sobbed and he dried her tears, forcing a smile.
“It’s okay… everything’s going to be all right, I promise. You trust me, right?” she nodded and he smiled again. Right then he couldn’t think of anything more agonizing than the sight of her golden eyes, bloodshot and filled with tears. “Good. Let’s go see what happen, all right?” he asked softly but she immediately shook her head, pulling her hands away from his. “Just trust me! Everything’s going to be okay!” he insisted, grabbing her hand, and pulled her to her feet, hugging her once again. “I’m with you. I won’t let anyone hurt you. Just trust me,” he whispered, kissing her hair, and she seemed to calm down again, at least enough to allow him to guide her back to her bedroom.
Bloodied footsteps marked the floor stones where she had ran by and, as they reached their destination, Allana stopped by the door, shaking her head.
“I can’t … I can’t …” she repeated, fear filling her inside, almost drowning her as only one thought echoed in her head. He was dead! She had killed again!
Elian looked back at her and gave her a reassuring smile, although he could hardly bear to see her so terrified.
“It’s okay. Do you mind staying here with Elipson, then?” he asked and only then she realized that the young woman had followed them, as it was to be expected, if she had only been able to think rationally.
She nodded, agreeing, and Elipson placed a comforting hand on her shoulder when Elian released her hand to enter the room.
“Everything will be fine, you’ll see,” the young woman told her but Allana shook her head, knowing better.
“No it won’t … I … he …” Fighting back her tears, unable to put into words what had happened, she watched nervously from the door as Elian knelt near the place where she had left Heric.
“Elipson! Get in here! I need your help!” he called out urgently, and Elipson walked past her, piratically running until she reached his side.
“By the Gods!” Allana heard her breathe out in surprise and disgust, and had to hold on to the door jamb beside her in order to keep standing.
“Allana! Don’t worry. He’s alive!” The words sounded like a far away echo in her mind and she wouldn’t have believed them if it hadn’t been Elian’s voice uttering them.
They were now lifting him from the ground and taking him to her bed, and her feet finally managed to step forward as she slowly approached them. She forced herself to ignore all the blood and the red glistening flesh of the open wound, and she finally saw it; his chest, slowly raising up and going down.
Elipson was already tearing his clothes open, putting the large gash on his shoulder as visible as possible, and Allana stepped back as the smell of fresh blood became even more intense. Her mind seemed to float and get hazy every time she smelled it.
“What in the world could have done something like this?” Elipson asked, staring at the wound that couldn’t obviously have been done by any kind of blade or weapon she knew. A piece of flesh was simply missing from his shoulder, almost as if something had taken a bite out of him.
“See? It’s no big deal. Of course he’ll always have this hole on his shoulder as a souvenir. But with my help he’ll be up and about by tomorrow,” Elian told her with his usual smile, but Allana couldn’t stop staring at Heric’s pale face.
“Come on you. It’s better if we let Elian work in peace,” Elipson told her, pulling her back, and Allana followed her as she led her to small coach.
A soft melody filled the air, echoing inside her mind, mixing sounds that couldn’t exist in the real world, and she knew that magical sound meant that Elian was using his gift.
Allana just sat there, allowing Elipson to wash the blood off of her hands and face while listening to that beautiful mixture of sounds. She must have spaced out, since she didn’t notice when Elipson left. When a warm hand touched hers, waking her from her daze, the magic sound had already disappeared and Elian stood beside her, smiling, although dark circles surrounded his deeply, tired eyes.
“Come. You need to rest,” he told her softly as if he were afraid she might break, and gently pulled her to her feet, but Allana’s legs shook beneath her weight, forcing him to hold her against his chest so she wouldn’t fall back.
“Everything’s all right, now. You don’t need to worry.”
“I’m sorry … for waking you … I never wanted …”
“Please don’t do this,” he whispered as he felt her small hands curling, squeezing the fabric of his shirt.
“You should just end this … Do it … do it now …”
He hugged her even tighter. Every time she spoke like that something inside his chest seemed to burn hot, as if wanting to sear its way out through his skin.
“Please don’t talk like that …”
“I’m asking you … Please do it for me.”
He gently pushed her back to face her golden eyes drowning in tears and touched her face, tracing it with the tips of his fingers as it were the first time he looked at her.
“I can’t …” he whispered in all honesty, touching her soft lips, feeling her warm breath caress his fingers, and a bitter smile took over his face. “Come. You need to rest,” he repeated, pulling her by her hand. “You can stay in my room. I’ll stay here and watch over him,” he added and felt her resist his pull.
“No. I’ll stay … It’s my responsibility …”
“You go. And thank you,” she insisted, releasing him, and went back to the bed to stand beside Heric, her gaze locked on his pale face.
Elian took a deep breath. He felt exhausted but knew she couldn’t feel any better. The last time she’d used her … gift, she’d ended up fainting, and he could only wonder what mysterious force had allowed her to remain standing this time.
The door behind him opened and Elipson approached him.
“Don’t look so worried. I’m all right,” he told her, smiling in order to appease her displeased frown. “How’s everything?”
“Everything’s as it should be. No one seems to have noticed anything out of the ordinary. And I already cleaned all the blood,” she added, lowering her voice so that Allana couldn’t hear her, and Elian nodded in approval.
“Elian … was it really her who … I mean …” Elipson tried to ask as she stared at the small girl near the bed and Elian nodded.
“But please don’t say anything to Denar. He already gives me enough pain about all this as it is. You know he hates things that go beyond his understanding.”
“That’s fine by me but … How does she do it?”
“I really don’t know. Neither does she. But from what I came to understand it happens as a result of accumulated tension, when she feels that there’s no way to escape and that something is about to hurt her.”
“A defense mechanism, then. But even so. She’s too dangerous. If it goes on like this she’ll end up killing someone!”
“I won’t try to deny it. But please, don’t tell her that. No one hates this more than her … Anyway, thank you for everything, Elipson. Now go and get some sleep. Your arm needs rest in order to heal. I’ll stay here in case he wakes up. And I’ll try to make her get some rest too.”
Elipson sighed, not at all too happy with Elian’s plan. But knowing she’d never be able to make him change his mind, she simply kissed him tenderly before leaving again.
Elian looked at Allana, kneeling beside the bed, and approached her.
She turned back, startled, and he couldn’t help be captivated by her image; her golden eyes gazing up at him, clear and innocent like a child’s, her blond hair falling down her back in golden waves, the white nightgown Elipson had forced her to change into covering her thin legs all the way to her knees. It was truly hard to believe that a small girl like her had been able to do something as terrible as that … And, somewhere deep inside him, something stirred, and he couldn’t help hating the idea of her, kneeling there, crying and suffering for a man like that!
“I thought you had left …” she whispered as if afraid to wake Heric up, and Elian averted his gaze, ashamed of his own thoughts.
“Not that I care about him, or anything like that. But that asshole may still need me,” he told her, hating that part of him that always had to do the right thing, and Allana smiled at his ‘asshole’, looking back at Heric.
“Will he really be all right?”
“Yeah. He won’t die … for now, anyway. His wound has already closed. I wish Elipson had had his luck. Her injury is far more serious and she’s alive and well, right? You know what they say, the bad ones never die easily. Still, we should let him rest.”
Allana took a deep breath and stood up, her gaze crossing with his for a moment, but immediately escaping towards the open window beside her bed.
“Tomorrow everything will end …” she whispered to the dark sky.
“Allana …” he started, reaching out for her hand, but she avoided him, stepping back almost as if he had threatened her.
“You shouldn’t touch me so freely. Or be so close to me …” she told him, taking another step back, and her words burned him inside, as much as it had burned when she had asked him to kill her, just moments ago.
“I’m not afraid …”
“But I am! I know you think I can learn to … control this, like you do! But I can’t! It’s stronger than me! And I feel like … I’m not me anymore! And there’s someone else giving orders inside my head! Like there’s … a monster living inside me! And everyone around me is in danger!”
“Well, I couldn’t care less!” he told her, a hint of annoyance touching his voice, which surprised him above anything else. “I’ve told you before. I don’t die that easily! And I’m definitely not keeping away from you because of this!” he stated arrogantly, and closed the distance between them in one single stride, holding her hand and pulling her towards the couch.
“But Elian …” she started, tripping as she tried to keep up with his larger pace, but he ignored her completely.
“And one other thing! Don’t ever ask me to kill you again! I will never do it!” he added, making her sit and she looked up at him.
“I’m not afraid to die …” she retorted, her voice calm and firm, and he looked away, dropping on the couch beside her.
“That’s hardly the question.” He took a deep breath as she waited in silence for him to go on. “It hurts … Really hurts. As if something incandescent is piercing my chest.”
She blinked, not really understanding. But then, as she watched him, his bitter expression, she knew one thing for sure. What she had asked of him was beyond his ability to do and, because of that, she had hurt him deeply.
“I’m sorry … I never meant …” she stopped herself, not knowing what else to say. Lately she didn’t seem to be able to do anything right.
Elian took a deep breath and smiled as he put an arm around her small shoulders and pulled her closer.
“Come here …” he told her and Allana hesitated for an instant, but then leaned her head against his chest and closed her eyes, sighing. “Get some rest,” he added, gently caressing her hair; something deep inside him simply happy to finally have her all to himself. And he couldn’t help blush when she innocently crossed an arm over his chest, hugging him back.
“You too …” she mumbled, feeling warm and safe for the first time that night. She felt him kiss her hair, his warmth surrounding her, and the slow beat of his heart lulled her to sleep.