I was tired as I lay in my tent, trying unsuccessfully to sleep.
Whenever I shut my eyes I saw the dead soldier, the locket, the photo.
I couldn’t stand it.
A part of me knew that Purgatory was just as uninterested in fighting as I was. It was a war of pride, a war between stubborn leaders who had no qualms with slaughtering their people.
I started to question myself.
How I could look soldiers in the eye as I killed them, knowing full well that their only sin was being born on the wrong side of a boundary. How I could devote myself to the futility of war. How I could live with myself knowing there were hundreds of pretty women in lockets.
I felt sick. I wanted to sleep, sleep without waking up to face another day of the endless battle.
But battle didn’t leave me.
Even in the black silk tent, lying in a cot, the damned smell of blood surrounded me. It was just as strong as it was amid the oceans of corpses, no matter how much I scrubbed at my skin for it to go away.
I could still hear metal against metal, wailing cries of pain, thundering hooves echoing in my ears. Every few moments I reached for the hilt of my sword out of instinct.
Eventually, out of sheer exhaustion, I fell into a feverish sleep.
I woke up maybe an hour or two later, covered in a sheen of sweat, shivering.
I knew sleep was impossible at that point so I got up, tied my hair out of my face, and stepped out into the night.
I’d been walking a few paces when I heard a voice.
I was momentarily horrified at the idea of having to deal with Cupid or even Lucifer, but turned to see Eversio.
“Yeah, I guess.” I admitted, slowing to let him walk beside me, “Why are you up?”
“I can’t sleep either.” He replied, his lips quirking into a sheepish smile.
We walked in silence for a few moments.
“So, what do you think of war?” I asked suddenly, almost hoping for an opportunity to lighten my burden.
Eversio’s expression dimmed.
“What’s there to think? It’s disgusting.”
I studied him before continuing.
“Do you ever feel like…you don’t know if you’re doing the right thing?”
I was treading on dangerous ground, and Eversio looked somewhat stunned.
But, after a few moments, he nodded.
“I don’t like it. Everything’s…confusing.”
I felt myself remembering what Cupid had said.
“Do you ever think…that we’re responsible for changing the way things are?”
Eversio’s expression shifted, but before he could reply there was another set of footfalls.
Cupid rounded the bend, catching up with a few easy strides and throwing an arm over both our shoulders.
“I find comrades awake in the middle of the night! What are the chances?”
Eversio shook his arm off and gave him a civil glare.
“What are the chances, indeed. Good night, Zara.”
He turned and walked back the way we came.
“Wet blanket, isn’t he?”
I turned to see Cupid smirking, his arm still over my shoulder and the other in the process of fishing out a cigarette.
For a moment, looking at his pale eyes glittering and the chiseled curve of his jaw, I was oddly reminded of Lucifer.
“Sure, I guess.” I muttered, folding my arms as we walked down the path.
“Our second walk by moonlight.” Cupid remarked, “Almost as thought the fates decreed it.”
My attitude didn’t go unnoticed.
“Why dost the nymph cast a cold eye upon her humble companion?”
I rolled my eyes.
“You can stop, okay? Lucifer doesn’t have the time to harass me anymore, and I’m sure you have better things to do.”
“If I remember correctly,” he started mischievously, “You didn’t seem too bored a few nights ago, taking down enough wine to rival Dionysus.”
I blinked, embarrassed.
“I was under the influence of your stupid little enchantment, remember?”
“This little trinket?” he asked, fishing out the pendant on his thumb, “It doesn’t do much. It just…loosens one’s inhibitions.”
That sounded awfully familiar.
“I don’t care.” I sighed, “Go find yourself different entertainment. I recommend Eversio’s great-aunt June.”
“Why do you insist on putting up so many walls?”
I raised an eyebrow.
“You distance yourself from others. Maybe in the hopes that you won’t find yourself caring about them. Because you’re afraid. Of…some kind of betrayal?”
I glanced at him, stunned, and he looked satisfied from my reaction.
“You may be right in acting cautiously,” he smirked, “But, believe it or not, I’m one of the few you can actually trust.”
“Oh, and I should take your word for it?”
Cupid looked amused.
“That would be nice. But look at it this way; we have a common goal –to that end, I am your ally.”
“And what is that goal, exactly?”
"You're a clever one." Cupid smirked, "But let's not venture into the realm of treason."
"I'm not sure if you realize this, but the King owns my soul. I'm bound by contract, for eternity, to his will."
"Oh, I know." he replied, "Let's just say...there are back doors to such contracts."
"I can't tell you that yet," he chuckled, "It would ruin the suspense!"
I narrowed my eyes. Only I was allowed to make dumb jokes like that.
"There's a little too much suspense here." I shot back, "This conversation is ridiculously vague. I can't tell what you want or expect from me, and if you don't clarify, don't expect anything."
Cupid took a long drag on his cigarette.
"You want to end this war?" he asked, blowing smoke rings.
"By any means necessary?"
"By any means necessary?" he asked again, ignoring me.
"Then," he started, taking hold of my scarred hand, "I suggest you and I relieve the King of his duties."