Bella looked up at Pacifus’ carefully expressionless face, drinking in each tiny detail. He avoided her gaze, focussing instead on the palace grounds, feigning interest in each mundane occurrence. He engaged each passer-by in polite conversation; no doubt hoping that one would eventually request that he assist them with some task or other, and in doing so free him from Bella’s company. The pair were taking a stroll of the grounds; Bella taking the time to work up the courage to apologize, and Pacifus only there because he had to be. Bella had given him her peace offering of toast and pears, and he had refused them both, insisting he had already eaten.
Eventually, they rounded a corner and came to a section of the grounds that was wondrously deserted. Not a soul was in sight, leaving Bella and Pacifus mercifully alone. Closing her eyes briefly, Bella balled up her fists and took a deep breath. Swallowing her pride, she stopped walking, and put out her hand to Pacifus to halt his progress. He turned to face her, his face drawn and his eyes still guarded. The hurt in his expression caused an uncomfortable tug in her heart, and without thinking she stepped forward and pulled him in to a hug. He stiffened in her embrace, but she refused to relent, holding on as she began her apology.
“Pacifus, I am so sorry,” she mumbled into his shirt. “I meant not what I said; it was said purely in temper. I had not slept well, and you caught me unaware with your questions. I appreciate your concern, but there is nought the matter with me.” Pulling back slightly, Bella timidly turned her face up towards his, in an attempt to gauge his reaction in accordance with his facial expression. He was looking up and away, apparently focussed on the swaying branches of the nearby apple trees, which grew in abundance in the palace orchard. Sensing the failure of her words, Bella drew away from him. He made no move to stop her.
“Pacifus…” she whispered, desperate for any sort of reaction from her friend. She knew that she had overstepped the line with her words earlier in the morning, but to have him entirely ignore her existence solidified the seriousness of the situation in her mind. He had to hate her, there was no other explanation; and the thought of that broke her heart. Feeling tears welling up in her eyes, she turned from him and paced towards the apple trees, dashing an inconspicuous hand across her eyes to rid them of the tears that continued threatening to fall.
“Bella.” Pacifus’ voice rang out behind her, stopping her in her tracks. She heard his footsteps as he approached, and felt the warmth of his strong hands on her shoulders as he slowly turned her to face him. She kept her gaze focussed on the ground, ashamed of the emotions that she could not control, and that threatened to convert her to a sobbing mess. “Bella, I know you’re sorry. I can see it in you,” Pacifus said quietly, the combination of his words and touch causing Bella’s tears to overflow once more.
“I know you didn’t mean what you said. But it is not what you said that upset me in the first place, Bella. It’s what you have done.” Confused, Bella turned her tearstained face towards him. His gaze was clear and intense, grasping her under its spell. “You lied to me, Bellator. You told me the dreams had left you, when I know they have not. I can see them in your eyes; they live behind them, clouding your gaze. You remember when we were young, and I went away? You were 8 summers old, I was 11. Father sent me to stay with a Shaman, a Shaman skilled in the art of reading people. He taught me his skills over the year that I lived with him. He said I was a gifted pupil, and my gift would take me far. He said I would need it some day, to save those that I love.”
Taking his hands from Bella’s shoulders, Pacifus turned away from her and ran them through his hair. He was clearly agitated; Bella felt overwhelmed. That was why he could read her so well? He had stayed with a Shaman? “I knew not of your skills, Pacifus,” she called to him. “Father told me you had gone for training, I never knew what in. But you say the Shaman told you- you would need this gift? To save those whom you love?”
Pacifus kept his back to her, gazing out over the meadow from their vantage point at the edge of the orchard. “He gave me a prophecy, Bella. I never knew what it meant- until now. I have read it in your eyes, about the war. I know that it is coming; and I know that you think you are destined to fight. I know of your plan to escape, too.” He turned to face her with these words, accusation and defiance burning in his light eyes. “You plan to leave us, tonight, when the waxing moon is at its highest- do you not?” He paused and walked towards her, daring her to deny his statement.
Feeling the colour rise in her cheeks, Bella turned away from him, ashamed at having him discover her plans. His face fell as he noticed her uncomfortable disposition, and realized that his suspicions were true. He sighed wearily and pulled her towards him, wrapping his strong arms around her in a warm embrace. “Bellator, you know you cannot do this,” he murmured into her hair. “You have not yet ventured outside these palace walls- you know not of the dangers the world out there presents! You shall not survive out there alone. And yet you are determined to go?”
Breaking free of his comforting embrace, Bella drew herself up to her full height and met his gaze with her own, projecting her determination with her stance and expression. “Yes, Pacifus, I am determined,” she assured him. “I know in my heart that these dreams will ring true- I do not know how, but I must fight to save Terra Pax. It- it is my destiny.”
Studying his face with detached fondness, Bella was surprised to note a steely determination in his gaze. Guessing his intentions, she stepped quickly towards him and clasped his hand in her own. “But this destiny is mine alone; I shall not inflict danger upon others in my own endeavours! I know you wish to accompany me- and I cannot let you. This war is my burden alone to bear, my duty to prevent- you must stay here, stay safe!”
To her immense surprise, Pacifus began to laugh. Confused, she dropped his hand and stepped back from him, embarrassment colouring her cheeks. Sensing her renewed discomfort, he ceased his laughing and turned to face her. “Walk with me, Bellator. I know more of this coming war than you give me credit for.” With this abstract statement, Pacifus turned sharply away and began strolling deeper into the cover of the trees of the orchard. Bella stared after him, her mind buzzing with the possible implications of his words. Did this mean- had he been having dreams too? Confused and overcome with curiosity, Bella hurried under the cover of the trees, eager to find her friend and discover what he knew of the fight they both knew could eradicate their world.