My eyes fluttered open, blurred from lack of oxygen. When they focused, I started. I was back in my room. How? How had I got home? I needed to get out, I needed to save Willow! Before I could react, a door swung open, and I recoiled in horror. It was this time. My eyes raked unseeing at the scene unfurling. My dad strode into the room, my limp body in his arms. I had no recollection of this- empathy and kindness I had never seen on my father. He laid me on the bed, pushing back my hair to reveal a deep red smear, trailing dark fingers down my cheekbone, and wiped away the blood, slowly, carefully. I pulled my hair back, tracing the scar on my temple I knew came from the scarlet gash on my face, so pale and youthful.
Then, the world blurred, and I was watching the scene I had seen in my dream. The scene this time was not so merciful. I watched myself be struck, thrown back with the force. I heard my mother's screams, and watched myself fall to the floor, like a limp marionette. I knew this was the time I almost died- if the belt had hit me an inch to the left, I would not be here. I couldn't watch as my dad strode to inflict further damage, my mother holding his elbow, as effective as a ribbon holding back a storm.
Faster and faster now, my life came to me, a blur of happy and sad, bloodshed and clear blue skies. My heart ached, and my head swam. Was this all my life came to?A series of beatings and scattered echoes of laughter, like a memory? Then, Willow came to me, the kiss, the meeting in the tree. I dared not blink, in case I broke the reel of recollection screening behind my eyelids. Was I dreaming? Was I dead? I presumed the latter- Fachtna would never allow me such pleasant, peaceful dreams of Willlow. I bit my hand to prevent screaming out her name.
The pain swirled around my head, and jerked me awake and upright. I was alive. The room swam, and I had to lie back down to prevent vomiting. A low chuckle made me leap to my feet, preparing to be tortured, beaten. Elair approached me, hands outstretched. " Peace, Finn. I do not come on his command. I too am deeply sad for Willow. She would not want you to punish yourself this way for her. You haven't eaten for days!" He shook his head, and offered me bread. His eyes were a deep shade of caramel, entreating me. I took the bread, watching him all the while, and ate a corner. My stomach flipped, and I forgot all dignity. I ate furiously, hungrily. "Where am I?" I said, scanning the surroundings for any sign of my location. " We are inside the house", he said, eyeing me cautiously. "Please, do not fight me again. You are safe, and we will find her. " For the first time, I saw a scattering of deep blue bruises across his left cheekbone, and a scarlet split divided his lip.
I ducked my head, ashamed. I vowed never to inflict violence. I promised myself I would never be my father, and I was wrong. " I am as weak as he was," I said, a lump rising in my throat. " No, Finn. You were scared, and filled with indignance. You are noble." I scoffed. " Noble? You are far too kind to me. " Then, the room filled with whispers, and my head smarted. Fachtna strode into the room. His eyes watched me, calculating and rattling like roulette balls in a wheel. " Liars.. liars, the lot of us. Elair, lying for Willow's peace of mind. Finn, lying about.. well, everything. Quite the brave little soldier at home, aren't you? Or is that a punchbag? Either way, you are weak, and a liar. And I? Well, I can't tell you my ace card before the finale. That's cheating," he said, chuckling darkly and wagging one finger. I lunged for him, determined to make him take me there, wherever he took Willow. I was not to be successful. As my fingers connected with his chest, he evaporated into feathers, leaving me to be thrown to the floor, feathers in my hair and in my eyes, a bitter reminder that we were losing.
Elair suddenly yelled out, falling to his knees. His eyes rolled back into his head, returning a cold, cruel green. " Hello Finn. I quite like my new shell.. he's very pretty!" His voice was no longer warm and smooth, but like gravel underfoot, harsh and sharp. " See, you cannot hurt poor little Elair without hurting your precious Willow. They were so much more than friends, you see. Oh, wait, was that a spoiler? Damn, I do hate ruined endings. For you see, my baffled boy, I changed Elair's identity, his face, and fed him lies even he believed in the end. Would you like to know his true name? Really? I'll let you have it, this once. Say goodbye to your dear, precious friend.. Sigurad. " Elair slumped to the floor, his eyes warming to the pure gold they always had been, clouded over, I realised, with the finality of death. My throat closed. Who was Sigurad? Why was that of any significance? Why tell me this? Deep, gutteral sobs broke the silence, and it took me a second to realise they were mine. I had known this man for mere weeks, and yet I saw him as a brother, and grieved for him as family. I had left him fighting, bruising and making him bleed. I never said thank you, for saving my life. I never appreciated him, the dark, warm stranger holding Willow together.
I would find Fachtna. I must. I would find Fachtna, avenge Elair, and rescue my sister, my fucking SISTER, and the girl I had come to rely on for my sanity. He would pay for his crimes. He would know pain, as I have.