"Who is he?" Marie demanded. "Stop ignoring me and tell me what is going on, Alyssa."
Alyssa briefly turned her eyes away from Horatio's restful expression, setting aside the damp cloth she had used to mop his brow. She ran her gaze over her elder sister, hands placed firmly on her hips and face formed into a frown.
"I am not sure what is happening," she murmured in reply, turning her back to Marie once more to run her fingers gently over Horatio's cheek, tracing his strong, magnificent features. Anxiety knotted in her heart, her gut feeling tight with worry--what was wrong with him? The life seemed to slip from him after he, Alyssa, and her sisters suddenly appeared in his home. Yet...he still breathed, despite how shallowly he did so.
Obviously her answer did not suffice. Marie strolled up and lurked behind her, staring over the man. "He is your lover, isn't he?" she said blandly. Her voice sharpened, "I don't like the look about him. We should leave now."
Alyssa stood abruptly from her chair at his bedside, knocking it over in her sudden fury. "No," she answered resolutely. "He saved us--we aren't going anywhere."
"Do you have any sense inside that head any longer, Lyssa!" her elder sister's eyes flashed with a returning anger. "You're simply.....you yourself have lost it lately! It is because of him? Why have you kept him a secret from us? Who is he?"
She swallowed, averting her eyes from Marie's. Something of guilt, an understanding at her sister's outrage, filled her as the anger washed away. "Where has Ella gone?" Alyssa said, looking up sharply.
"Where is she?"
"She was just here.....," muttered Marie irritably, whipping around to glance over the room as well.
Alyssa rapidly brushed by Marie, briefly searching the rest of the house. "She's not here; the door has been left ajar," she told her older sister as she returned. Marie moaned, putting her hands to her temples and closing her eyes. "Stay here and watch over Horatio--I will go to look for her."
"What! You're going to leave me here with...?"
"Horatio," Alyssa answered. She gave her a pleading look, "Please, Marie. Just keep your eye on him while I go looking for Ella."
Marie crossed her arms, angrily setting herself on the chair and, for a moment, appearing like a stubborn young child. "Fine," she mumbled, turning her back to Alyssa, also saying a few more things under her breath that her younger sibling was unable to discern. Unsure of what else to say, Alyssa helplessly sighed and rushed from the house.
Confusion hit her just as the faded sunlight did. All around her, stout, wide trees that appeared like the thick legs of giants had their feet firmly planted, roots as large as benches and armchairs for sitting at their base. Fresh, emerald leaves created a thick umbrella through which the fingers of the sun fell tinted a mild color of green. Most breathtaking was the delicate blue blanket of wildflowers, like a million tiny tear drops, upon their high, slender stems, frosting the ground.
Where was she?
Her fingertips brushed over the flower-tops, the skin-soft, sky-blue petals, as she gently stepped through the sea of beauty, wavering and bending with the sweet breeze which carefully caressed their tops. The call of foreign birds, the most amazing sound, like angel's harps and lovely flutes, fluttered from the tree tops to her ears. Jewel colored butterflies floated just over the flowers, coming within a finger's length of Alyssa as if begging her to come join their dance.
Alyssa continued to walk, her eyes wide and awestruck. It was hard to remember why she had come here, or which way was the path back. Her feet moved thoughtlessly forward, drawn by some invisible force or enchantment.
The ceiling of trees broke, the sky opening up before her. The sun and moon seemed to meet in the perfect center, one giving off the golden rays of day and the other the silver falls of night; graceful, light clouds draping one, and stars encrusting the other.
Though what caught her eye was a great tower, half decapitated by the passing ages, its pointed head piercing the sky. She did not pause as she continued to approach an open, doorless entryway.
Veils of different colored light, deep, darkened shadow, and fat dust strolling lazily along in the air hit her as she entered what appeared to be the empty, abandoned place. Ivy crawled along the floor, reaching its spidery hands even to the walls and to the upward-curving staircase, which bent out of site. The whole scene had a magical, mysterious, enticing feeling about it, like the same feeling that Horatio gave her somehow.
Thoughtlessly, up the stairs Alyssa went, following the creaking things higher and higher. Farther and farther she climbed, as if she was looking for something but remembered not what it was.
After a while, the stairsteps stopped, leaving her standing before a mysterious, unknown man.
To her, he appeared just like the facade of the tower--elusive, half-deteriorated with age, yet full of both wonderful and dark secrets. It appeared he had simply been sitting there for centuries, aimlessly waiting....for her?
"Good day, Alyssa," the dark eyes beneath his wide, untamed brow sparkled. A crooked hand beckoned her to a spot opposite him. "Please, sit."
She did as she was told immediatly. He said nothing for a while, giving her time to look about the room. It was small, a circular shape with the stone all exposed. Tall, glassless windows opened to the sky above and the canopy of forest below. Interesting, unknown objects lay scattered around the place in a somehow messy, yet organized fashion. Some things, which Alyssa could not even fathom what they could be used for, appeared as if they had not been touched as long as this man lived.
"You may wonder why you are here," the man started once more, forcing her to return her eyes to his grey, frail form. "I ask you not to attach yourself to Horatio so impulsively."
Alyssa blinked, the trance broken for the moment's time. "What?"
"It is not yet the proper time--severe consequences will be felt if you do not follow the right path of destiny. There is still much to be done before you commit youself so harshly," he said slowly.
A certain anger boiled up in her, and she stood quickly. "Who are you to tell me what I should and should not do?" she snapped.
He smiled, unfased by her reaction. Slowly, and somehow in an unusually graceful manner, he brought himself to his feet as well, going to the window. Turning his eyes to her, he wordlessly urged her to follow after him.
He suddenly grasped at her arm, his hand formed tightly about it. She jumped, alarmed, yet was unable to move away. "Now do not pull away, my dear," he murmured, something of a sly look upon his face.
With his free hand, he pointed his claw like finger toward a star, small and silver like a miniscule diamond. To Alyssa's amazement, it began to grow, brightening as brilliantly as the sun. She realized that it was not growing, but coming nearer and nearer to them, encompassing all in its blinding white light until she could see nothing.
She was falling, twisting, torn limb from limb. Pain, agony made her dizzy and threatened to pass out, but she did not. She wanted to scream but couldn't. All around her spun stars, suns, planets, moons, faster and faster, drowning in all the colors until she sank into black. A hand--Horatio!-- pushed through the shadows, reached out to clasp her, bringing her from her brief distress and yet into another scene. In the light, she met his eyes and was forced into them, sucked into their dark, mythical depths. She felt that same terrible pain, yet it was increased tenfold, her body continually being ripped and even inside it felt like she was hacked at, stitched back together, and torn at again. Orbs of light swirled round her, as if mocking her, and mixing pictures she could not understand flashed violently in her vision. Horatio would appear, reaching to touch her but he only made all hurt more, made her very soul itself feel like it was breaking, cracking beneath his fingers....and he was laughing....
Alyssa blinked open her eyes, her body aching, heart thudding, head feeling as if it was splitting, and limbs greased with sweat. She lay sprawled across the floor, panting uncontrollably, of the tower room, the man staring down at her with gloomy eyes.
"See, you are not ready," he muttered. "You will only kill yourself."
"That--that...why did you do that?" Alyssa whispered breathlessly, her voice incredibly weak.
"No matter what Horatio's intentions are, he fails to see you are not ready to connect yourself," he replied solemly. "I only wished to show you that; so that you may have....second thoughts."
Fydul smirked to himself as he watched from his perch on the window the girl walk away, meeting her little sister out in the field of flowers. Alyssa took her sister by the arm and guided her away, her face still contorted in thought as they disappeared beneath the shield of leaves.
Horatio did not deserve her just yet. It was not just her that was not ready. He was too young and naive of a Guardian Spirit to complete such an action with a fragile, precious being just yet.