Alyxandra also took a sip from her goblet; her amber eyes closed, as a feeling of momentary comfort passed over. However, as the fire continued to dance over her lids, she shuddered and sat upright, a little shaken. Alceren, having seen her behaviour, began to notice, in the glaring firelight, dark circles beneath Alyxandra’s eyes. Words began to dance about his lips, silently, beginning to force his mouth into various shapes, until eventually, the words escaped.
“You find it hard to sleep, do you not?” Alyxandra’s ears pricked up, and she looked into his face; at that moment the expression etched into her face alone would provide enough evidence to anyone that Alyxandra was tormented in sleep, assaulted in the darkness by bitter memories that granted no reprieve, and had no mercy. That pain, lodged in her heart like an arrow, continued to manifest itself in her eyes. No matter how much she tugged at the arrow, screamed at it, fought with it in the arena of her nightmares, it remained resolute, continuing to corrupt her peace and murder sleep. She forced her mouth into a smile, but it was empty, a broken mask that was weary of being worn. Her pale skin appeared almost translucent, and coupled with her dark eyes, she looked fragile, as though she were made of glass, living in fear of every breeze.
Alceren fell silent, moved by everything he had heard and seen. Although he did not know it, something was at work within him, a strange force that was knocking at the door of his deepest emotions, which when ignored, began to force the handle, then failing in that, began punching a hole in the door with its bare hands, trying anything and everything to release the emotions he had forgotten how to feel. The paradox before him, presenting him with a woman so strong, and yet so weak, filled him with respect and pity all at once, as two desires fought with one another, the one desiring to flatter Alyxandra and the other to assist her in whatever way it could. Alyxandra's forced mouth began to move.
“It has become late in the evening, perhaps we should... rest?” These words, emerging from her tired mouth echoed in Alceren’s ears. As that final plea for succour, that question aimed more at her inner demons than to Alceren, filled his mind, the door was broken down and the feelings he had kept inside crashed over the threshold; he reached out his palm to Alyxandra’s pale, lonely hand, and held it tightly. A sudden rush of empathy flowed through him, as all those unused muscles, compassion, comfort and gentleness began to be flexed once more, bringing to him a gift from within, a sudden emotional bravery. He lowered his voice to a gentle whisper, as he looked up into Alyxandra’s face.
“Alyxandra, in your words you have shown me a bravery of the kind that I have never seen, but in your face, I see fear and torment, and in your eyes, I see pain. If there is anything you would have me do, anything at all, then please, tell me, and I will help in any way I can.” As these words left his lips, the former Alceren began to resurface; he was his father’s son, the hero, the elf who had been taught to remain emotionless in all circumstances. He suddenly felt awkward, felt like a refugee within even his own body; his wide shoulders seemed too large for him and he sank a little under their weight, his hands felt as though they had been shrouded in oversized gloves. Feeling once more alien and distant from all emotion, he dropped Alyxandra’s hand, and walked away, pressing two coins into the landlord’s huge, sweaty palm before ascending the staircase and entering one of the rooms, shutting the door with a loud bang.
Alyxandra, left alone by the fire, and confused by the elf she had met only hours before, cradled her head in her hands; she looked to the goblet that she had almost drained and raised her arm, calling for more wine.