Chapter 9 - Part 2

Sitting by the fire in much the same manner as they had done that first night, the only difference being that Alyxandra was now the one preparing to listen intently, an understanding, gentle look upon her face and a softness in her amber eyes, there was a temporary silence. Before Alceren had a chance to begin, she said,

“Thank you, Alceren.” He smiled.

“For what?”

“For the kindness you have shown me. You listened to me speak as I burdened you with my past, and the nightmares have left me now, left me to sleep in such peace!” Alyxandra sighed in happiness as she said this, before adding, “I only hope that I can do the same for you, Alceren.” Alceren smiled, replying,

“I am sure that you shall do your best.” At this, he cleared his throat, and took a sip at a half consumed goblet of wine. Having done this, he turned to face Alyxandra properly, and, after a few false starts, began to speak in a voice drenched with pain. “In my twenty second year, three years ago, I was stationed in Valston. With my identity hidden, having fled the large, cold home of my childhood, I was nameless, without that high birth that would prevent me from fighting alongside my fellow elves, men and dwarves. As such, I began my work for Yalandir trying to assist her in the siege. I was given the same patrol, the night watch, as one other elf. Her name was Zelandria.”

At the mention of her name, Alceren’s voice crumbled, and he placed his hand across his eyes so that Alyxandra would not see him cry. Alyxandra however, carefully moved his hand from his face and held it tightly for a moment, tightly. She smiled, as if to say, ‘I am here, and I am listening.’ Having regained some of his composure, he continued to speak.

“For the first few nights, there was silence between us, but gradually, we found ourselves making conversation. She told me of her desire for peace, her eyes filled with such pure, raw emotion, I must confess that it almost drove me to tears. It was then that I confessed my identity to her. She treated me in the same manner she had done before after that, still as an equal, still as a friend. After some weeks, I found myself with a new emotion, so strong, of the extremity that I had been told to fear and discard from a young age. And yet, it had found me, consumed me, opened my eyes to the way her hair fell about her face, called to attention the earnest sincerity in her smile-”

He broke off for a moment, looking into Alyxandra’s face, “It brightened for me the honesty and compassion in her eyes. I was able to put a name to those feelings, a name overused, abused and dragged through pretense.”

He gasped, half choking on the words, finally confessing, “I was in love with her.”

Alyxandra nodded to remind Alceren that she was still listening, smiling still, while the beginnings of a tear formed in the corners of her eyes.

“Go on,” she said, in a half whisper, her voice beginning to feel the strain of what she was being told, having tasted that same pain.

“One night, as we were on patrol, talking as usual, I had it in mind to confess everything, praying to our High King and Queen that she might feel those same things too. It was then that they came.”

Again, Alceren stopped, approaching the most difficult part of his past, now wishing he had held his silence, held on to his pain and allowed it to continue to poison him. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she begged, as clearly as she could,

“Please, continue.”

“There must have been at least forty of them involved in this attack, the sons and daughters of Darkness came upon us like wolves to the doe and stag; even as we signaled for help, they encircled us. We fought as best we could, but we soon tired, and as all hope was lost, our reinforcements falling to the ground, their blood pooling about them, a figure approached the two of us. As my vision blurred, I reached out for her hand, and she took it, fear written into her beautiful face. The figure now stood but a few feet away from us, and as he lowered his cowl, we were stunned into silence.” Alyxandra gripped his hand all the tighter; his shaking and trembling could be felt in her arm.

“Yes?”

“Before us stood the Prince of Darkness, Erebus Sablesword himself, his hair as dark as ebony and eyes red, like blood, his skin an almost sickly pale. Some of the daughters of Darkness might have gone as far as to say he was handsome. We lay, powerless, upon the city walls, our weapons taken from us and our strength drained. As I lost consciousness, I tried to grip Zelandria’s hand tighter, when Erebus, living up to his unholy name, forcefully speared Zelandria’s breast. Her beautiful face was twisted into an expression of agony, and she released a scream so disturbing that it haunts my nightmares to this very day, filling my ears, reminding me that I failed to protect her and that... I failed to tell her how I felt. I wish sometimes that he had killed me too, for the last sound I heard before the world went black was that very scream and the last I saw was the sickening smile upon his face.”

As soon as he had uttered those words, Alceren stood up, having completely lost control of his emotions, and lost his desire for dignity, taking his stool and throwing it into the fire, watching it burn, as he sank into a sudden, painful silence, burying his head between his knees.

The End

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