As Alyxandra, with her body aching and her eyes stinging with the remnants of old tears, ascended the stairs of the tavern that night, she heard Alceren’s last words to her again and again, echoing through her mind. Although she wished that she could erase her words from his memory, willed with all her strength to have composed a better mask, he had, by his mere perception, discovered the deepest secrets of her being and had seen the agony in her eyes. She did not understand how Alceren, barely more than a stranger to her, had effortlessly drawn the words from her throat. It was with this thought that realised something; she knew almost nothing about him, save his name, and place of birth, and yet, as he had sat there patiently, something about him, perhaps his gentle smile or his soft words, had unhinged her.
With this final thought crossing her mind, she reached the bedroom door, a new wave of weariness now resting upon her shoulders. She unlocked the door and made her way inside. It was not a large room, nor was it well decorated, but seeing the simple bed alone brought a weak smile to her face. She sat on the bed, and took off her boots, placing them in the corner, kept in shadow by the dim candlelight. She placed her fingertips at her temples and began to remove the lavender circlet; soon it lay upon the tiny table next to the bed, next to the stump of candle in a bronze dish, there to catch the wax as it dripped down the side of the candle. Before long, her belt lay over the stool in the opposite corner, and her bow, quiver and sword hidden from view under the bed. She hung her cowl on the stool also, before draping her tunic and trousers over the end of the bed. Beneath that, a long shift, that covered her legs down to her ankles and reached her wrists at the arm.
Feeling a little more comfortable, she lay down to sleep, extinguishing the dying candle in one sharp breath. As her eyes closed, and that fateful fire began to dance over her eyes once more, Alceren, in the next room, lay on his own bed, waiting for sleep to come. As L’Eysharia’s servant entered his room, unseen, to close his eyes, she was frozen by the sound of moaning, and unsettled by this, suddenly disappeared. This sound, preventing Alceren from receiving his sleep, unsettled him, for he knew that Alyxandra, bravely but in vain, was again fighting to save her parents from their inescapable fate, hoping in sleep to fulfil the desires of her lonely heart. As each cry, each plea, to bring her parents back caught on Alceren’s ears, it tugged at his conscience, filling him with an ineffable guilt, until he could bear it no longer.
He rose from the bed and, draping his robes over his body, hurried across the corridor, reaching the doorway, the sound muffled a little by its thickness. He twisted the handle, and found it unlocked, entered quietly, and saw her writhing in the darkness, crying into her pillow, tormented by the very thing that was meant to bring her rest and brief reprieve. He came over to the bed, the force at the doorway of his heart once more, close to unhinging the door again, forcing the hero, the elf with no emotion, to kneel by the bed and gently place his cool hand over Alyxandra’s burning forehead.