Chapter Eleven: Dreams And Nightmares
With the bitter night upon them, they settled amongst the blankets near the fire they’d managed to set- or rather Mayfel had managed to set- both snacking on whatever rations they chose seeing as some were in need of use compared to others.
The fire cracked and flickered jolting Kaydences sleepy self awake, it wasn’t the first time it had happened and yet it still sounded too much like a twig snapping under a boot.
Mayfel on the other hand seemed quite content with their sleeping arrangements for the night, simply sat idly and admiring the fire and whatever the glow surrounding it showed him as it pushed back the inky sea.
The area was quiet around them which unsettled Kaydence to no end, the assassins would most likely be silent and strike when they least expect it, after all, it was what they were taught to do and would undoubtedly be relentless in their hunt.
One thing that did reassure him was the fact assassins and hunters usually aim for a swift and simply kill, less mess and less noise to alert neighbours and household inhabitants.
All of it seemed surreal, everything was happening so fast and they’d hardly had time to sit back and adjust to all the sudden and quick changes that were tossing them left and right.
For one Kaydence was glad they’d left the capital but was wary and anxious about the road ahead because there was no saying what the shrouded trails hid.
Kaydence tried to imagine what he’d be doing right that moment if he was back in Graylow Village on an average day coming to the conclusion he’d most likely be off gallivanting through the forests gathering an assortment of berries and flowers for no other reason than to brig himself a rare and lonely smile.
The woods were magnificent around that time of the year, luscious and green with so much life and energy, although he was only able to glide with his added appendages it still provided the illusion of freedom as he would often half soar from one tree to the next gripping on to the rough and tough bark with his bare toes and calloused hands that never shied away from work around the village.
Sometimes on the odd days, he’d simply perch on the highest branches he could reach and just relax in a bed of leaves watching the sun sink and melt into the horizon because unlike others, it made him feel less alone like he was still connected to the world.
Kaydence had always known that Bregan couldn’t keep him anchored at Graylow forever, despite their lengthened lifespan over their human species counterparts, Bregan as he grew older would have had to think about who to select next for the position of village leader and he knew when that time came he would have to give Bregan a lot of time and space because a decision such as that could not be taken lightly, after all, it would decide the future of their village.
Or at least it would have, he supposed he wouldn’t have to worry about being a distraction to his fathers work anymore and being out in the big, open world he couldn’t really ask to be any closer to nature and the earth.
Maybe when it all ended he could go back to Graylow and try to rebuild it Kaydence thought, at least it would give him some kind of purpose for at least a majority of his lonely and empty days.
Then again what would be the point? He doubted anyone would want to return to a place where their families were slaughtered and he wouldn’t blame them for saying no but he felt like he owed it to his father, it had been his life since it was passed down to him afterall and knowing Bregan he would have tried to rebuild it and hold it up with his bare hands if he had to.
What if he could get Mayfel to help? They could start up a village of their own, one for people like themselves where they could be free and hidden from judgement, then again were there any others like them actually out there? He understood that he’d never left Graylow and so couldn’t positively say but after the eradication of powers across the four land, it was a very slim chance there were others but then again there was Mayfel who shouldn’t even possess the abilities he does and yet there he was.
“Kaydence you should sleep” Mayfel urged seeing his eyelids slip against his will for yet another time among the countless others.
“Are you sure? I can stay up if you need to sleep first”
“Sleep, I’ll take first watch.” he assured pushing Kaydence gently to the ground with his spare hand.
“Wake me up if you hear or see something” he muttered.
“I will now hush”
Eyes fell heavily closed he drifted off, the orange glow growing dark as he sank further into the ocean of time and space where anything is possible, even the ungodly monsters that writhed beneath the surface.
"Kaydence” he heard a voice call out to him, he recognised the voice but it became distorted, echoing off invisible walls like it would in a cave system slowly growing quieter until it was just a whisper.
"Kaydence” there it was again, it felt closer that time, his name dragged out like the hissing of a snake falling off its forked tongue.
"Hello?” he called back but his voice didn’t echo.
"Why did you do it Kaydence?”
"Do what? I haven’t done anything”
"Why did you kill us? Why didn’t you save us?” it hissed at him from the darkness, everything was black not even a hint of light almost like he was buried deep beneath the earth, maybe he was in a cave he thought.
"Who are you?” he asked spinning in circles hoping to catch a glance of whoever was whispering in his ear.
"Have you forgotten us already?”
Us? Kaydence thought, who could he have forgotten so easily that earned the chance to haunt him in his most vulnerable state? And as for killing someone, the only people he’d ever killed were those who had ransacked and torched his village, he doubted they would have any place in his subconscious or guilty conscious.
"Tell me who you are and I’ll tell you if I remember you or not” he demanded.
"Do you not recognise my voice?”
"No, I don’t” Kaydence admitted
"How about now” the voice said, now he knew it, he knew the voice, it was Bregan’s.
"Why did you kill me Kaydence?” Bregan asked solemnly as he appeared from out of the shadows bringing with him a sinister pale green glow from where there seemed to be no origin but it gave him a chance to see his surroundings which consisted of nothing but what looked to be smooth, black marble.
"I didn’t kill you, I tried to save you I swear. I wish you were still here” he stuttered.
"Then why am I dead?”
"I couldn’t save you” he whispered.
"It’s your fault we died”
"We? Bregan I only lost you”
"You lost me too” Mayfel said taking a stance next to Bregan, he looked just like he had in his other dream, pale and dead or at least on the verge of it.
"Mayfel you’re not dead I wouldn’t let you die” he said trying to make sense of it all.
"You wouldn’t let this boy die and yet you let me die, your own father!” Bregan yelled, he had never yelled in all the time he’d raised him even when Kaydence pushed his limits staying out past curfew and refusing to socialise.
"That’s not what I meant. I don’t want either of you to die”
"It’s too late for that, Kaydence. So tell me, boy, am I to be the one to kill your friend and lay him to rest, or will you?” Bregan asked uncurling his fingers that were forcefully held in a fist producing a gleaming silver dagger out of nowhere.
"I can’t. He’s my friend” Kaydence pleaded hoping maybe he could get through to the old Bregan he knew, the real one or at least the dream version of the real one.
"You would leave him in pain for your own sake than lay him to rest, to give him peace? How is that being a friend? Man up Kaydence and do what’s right” he ordered throwing the knife to him which hit the black floor and slid to his feet.
"You can and you will. Pick up the knife Kaydence!” he barked.
With shaking fingers he did as he said, he was scared of this version of his father, he was unpredictable and dangerous nothing like the real Bregan that taught him to walk and talk.
"Now do what has to be done”
Mayfel approached him with no fear of what was about to be done in his eyes, the purple was dull and misty being just a small reflection of the boy he once was.
There was no emotion, maybe he truly was dead and this wouldn’t even hurt him Kaydence thought gripping the silver dagger a little tighter it was a reassuring thought to keep in mind.
"Mayfel, please” he begged hoping maybe he could avoid the situation.
"Do it” was all he said in return.
"You did it once, you can do it again”
"I didn’t, I haven’t Mayfel I would never hurt you”
"You just did” he whispered not giving Kaydence a moment to process what he said before he stepped forward impaling himself on the silver blade.
With a trembling gaze he looked down at his hands, his fingers still clasped around the handle attached to the hidden blade buried deep in his stomach and yet no blood spilt from the wound instead it was the same eerie green glow.
"Mayfel” he uttered in sheer disbelief, his voice wavering as tears threatened to spill.
A laugh that in no way shape or form belonged to the boy in front of him shook the space they were in soon joined by another laugh and another, more joining in like some sort of public joke until the sound was deafening like the cracking of a mountain.
Everything merged into one building up like a growing wave until it stopped, just as deafening as the cackles, silence rang out quite literally ringing in his ears in a high-frequency whir.
A spark lit up before him turning into a small and controlled green blaze, it’s fiery tendrils reached for an impossible ceiling before their efforts were vanquished and the flames dropped revealing Mayfel.
He looked normal, no knife stuck in him and no death-like features just the boy he knew.
"Kaydence, help me” he called over the fire.
"I will just tell me how”
"You have to wake up, Kaydence help me. Wake up!” he screamed sending Kaydence tripping and stumbling backwards, his body fell and as he held his breath expecting to hit the floor no impact came, he floated straight through until he jolted upright.
“Kaydence help!” Mayfel yelled bringing him out of his stupor.
The fire had been put out leaving only the dying embers and the swirling smoke against the backdrop of dawn.
“Mayfel?” he called out not able to see much other than the silhouettes.
“I can’t see you keep calling out” he said.
“It’s a trap Kaydence run!”
A body collided with his own forcing him to the ground, in the grey gloom it was difficult to make out clear details, what he did know however there was that there was a knife being drawn and the person above him was most likely the assassins they’d been waiting for.
Reaching for the hilt of Acuere he struggled and fought against the weight on top of him rocking his body from side to side gaining momentum to flip them over when the time came.
It reminded him too much of when his father was murdered, the immobility, helplessness and overall build-up of panic, Kaydence hated it and so desperately wanted out.
The metal cool against his fingertips and his palm told him he had a grip on his sword, knowing there was no better opportunity that was showing itself he tipped his body to the left with all his might sending them both toppling into a pile of thrashing limbs.
Acuere sank into the victim beneath him, the warm oozing liquid that pooled over Kaydences supporting hand told him it was safe to move and he only had one thing on his mind that he needed to take care of, the one thing he couldn’t see or hear when calling out to him. Mayfel.
“Mayfel!” he hollered unsteadily making his way to where he remembered hearing his voice.
The more steps Kaydence took the louder a gargling noise became, wheezing breaths and bubbling that sounded as if someone was drowning which was impossible on dry land so far inland.
A body came into view laying sprawled out on the floor, as he neared the ground became littered with snapped and mutilated arrows, Mayfel’s arrows, the ones he made by hand fletching and all.
Kaydences heart rose to his throat, in ways more than anyone could fathom he hoped, no he prayed it wasn’t Mayfel.
There was no way he could take on the weight of everything on his own, not without him by his side.
“Mayfel?” Kaydence muttered getting closer to the body that had stopped moving and breathing.
Never in his life had he been so relieved to see a deceased body.
It was most definitely not Mayfel’s body, being clad in the same uniform as the one that they’d seen earlier and also being a woman just reassured him more.
The deep slash of her throat and the excessive bleeding, that in the rising sun could be seen pooling around her corpse, it was sickening to see even more so when he thought about Mayfel being the culprit of such a savage action.
As the thick curtain of fog began to lift Mayfel came into view, he stood frozen to the spot hands dowsed in blood one of which clung to a silver dagger with which he recognised.
Kaydence neared him timidly although it didn’t seem like he even knew he was there with the way he stared startled at the pool of blood.
“Mayfel, it’s me Kaydence. Everything is going to be okay but you have to give me the knife” Kaydence urged softly reaching his hands out to the blade.
Their eyes met giving Kaydence a chance to reassure and persuade him to hand over the weapon, it hurt him seeing the fright and realisation in the deep purple of his eyes because he himself knew what was going through his head Kaydence had the same thoughts and feelings after the first time he took a life.
The knife out of Mayfel’s hand and now in his own he threw it to the side not even wanting it near him after his dream, he dared not dwell on the fact it was the exact same dagger from his dream because if he did it’d make it feel all the more real.
“It felt different” Mayfel muttered out of the blue as Kaydence tried scrubbing the blood off of his hands with a rag he had tucked in his pocket.
“I know, I know it did but you were protecting yourself that’s all that matters”
“I protected myself” he nodded almost as if he was trying to make himself believe the words coming out of his mouth.
“Yes you did, you were really brave and you’re safe now so take some deep breaths. Come back to me Mayfel” he responded slowly bringing them both to sitting Kaydence making sure to block his view of the corpse.
“Stay here I’m going to get our things okay when you’re feeling a bit better we’ll leave and head for your friend’s village” he stated getting up and heading into the fog to retrieve their belongings.
Mayfel perceived Kaydences nearing figure as a danger, an enemy back to attempt that of which the other failed, the sensible side of his brain screamed at him to notice the wings sprouting from his back but it was a hard task to listen to any sense when he was seconds away from death and committed a crime to save himself.
“Mayfel stop, it’s just me” Kaydence assured grasping both his shoulders and catching his eyes keeping them locked to his own.
“Let’s go yes?”
“Please” he whispered.
“Eat this first and have a drink” with a hesitant nod he complied, Kaydence beside him hoping he’d be able to stomach the food and keep it down because with the long horse ride ahead he was going to need as much strength as he could get to combat the shock and the excessive strain his body would be put through.
With the help of Kaydence, Mayfel took a gulp of water from his canteen, his hands trembling too much for the poor boy to do it by himself.
The shock and overwhelming emotions would pass but until then it would be a rocky road of combatting his conscience and everything he was taught about violence, Kaydence would need to instil assurance in his mind that he did the right thing, it was a deadly game to play with a fifty-fifty chance of Mayfel coming out of the stupor alright and coming out of it self-destructive and plagued by guilt.
Kaydence silently made a promise to himself and Mayfel that they’d both make it out of the mission alive at the very least.
Swiftly mounting their steeds they set off towards the warming horizon and the awaiting bridge granting them passage to Nirvariten and with it the next stage of their unforgiving journey.