Ember Light

By Seathe Linden

Fantasy / Drama

Ember Light

He watched the light fall on his outstretched hands.

It was such an immature thing to do. Yet he continued to watch the sunshine dance between the cracks of his fingers and his knuckles almost sparkling with whiteness as he clenched his fists. It was a fascination born out of utter boredom.

With no real objective in mind, for he could have none he followed the pale, yellowing rays intruding the cell to its source. He stared at it for a moment as if trying to make his actions meaningful and then began shuffling towards the opening. The chain shackled to his ankle clanking across cobbled slabs.

He found himself wishing he could grasp the bars like a real man. His manacles on his wrists were attached with only three links of small chain which was just as bad as if they were wound together by a length of rope. Still rising to kneel he grasped one section of the grate as hard as he could, savouring the grind of metal as he looked through the squarish gap.

The view of obscure mountainous landforms and mist told him little of the nature beyond, as it always did. The only thing truly real to him was the light of the outside world. He let go of the grate and opened and closed his hands once again mulling over how the light was and wasn’t clasped in his hand.

How the only thing he owned was this light. But really he had nothing.

“Oritel? W-what are you doing?”

If his ears could perk up they would have. He almost didn’t recognize the drained voice. With the gait of a scolded child he whipped around and stared at the woman far from him.

It was the first time she had spoken to him for weeks. But that almost seemed insignificant in comparison the year they had spent together since their forced interment. Could have been longer or lesser than that. But it was still long he could tell.

They were in close proximity towards one another even if crossed bars did keep them apart. His hands once again on the grated window but his face turned to his fellow captive, in that twisted kneeling position his mind suddenly drifted to contemplate the room they were trapped in.

Technically it was one room, only they were separated by a set of unsealed cage walls, bolted into the stone sides and appeared to make two cells. An aisle of sorts ran between the cells and led to a thick door, the only point of entry and exit.

The two grated windows on both sides were the only sources of light.

At first the layout of his prison mattered little to the fallen king who had fought against the every aspect of the notion he had been brought this low. It wasn’t as though he was a stranger to being a captive. Before, when a similar situation had happened, he had been literally a trophy constantly paraded to the leers of his enemies; their mockery and inability to tame his soul with their constant harassment, only affirmed his greatness.

But now his friends and foes alike could continue to live their lives while he would be unshielded from watching himself waste away. Here, away from the eyes of the world, not immune to the passage of time, he was truly no one and forgotten.

This was how the small prison had been instrumental in breaking him and keeping all of the pieces that were him from falling away. And slowly he had begun to wonder if there were two light sources on either side of the room, just where were they really.

But not even that really mattered anymore. He wasn’t entirely sure what was.

“Oritel?” She pressed again, her tone carried a strange motherly sound despite its clear weakness.

“N-nothing, Marion.” He said studying at the figure lying on her side. Her ankle and wrists were shackled similarly to his. But instead most of the time she kept her hands clasped together as if in constant fruitless prayer.

For any youth she may have had, in such a short time, his queen had managed to age in more ways than one. And it seemed that he and his wife were destined to spend day after day, night after night trapped in such a manner, even as their fine clothes tattered and their hair greyed further.

She in turn watched him in the way she felt he had come to regard her. She never felt more helpless and useless to the barefoot man clad in garments on their way to being threadbare. But she couldn’t even take care of herself.

Regardless she began opening her mouth trying to think of something worthwhile to say that she could not for months now. Then the loud unbolting of the metal door leading into their isolation silenced that notion.

At the sound of groaning hinges and solid footsteps his feelings of aimless pondering dissipated if only momentarily. He pressed his back towards the wall hard eyeing the slender feminine figure carrying something. He could see his wife’s eyes glazing over before she closed them and brought her hands to her forehead. It was her only way to deny the girl’s existence.

“One more thing,” The girl turned again to person at the doorway continuing the conversation that neither of the captives had heard. “When you’re done the Emperor will want you present in his chambers afterwards. Don’t be late.”

The girl showed no outward signs of recognition, as always. She proceeded to put whatever she had been carrying on the floor and begin unpacking it. Her companion clearly didn’t approve of her silence.

“Don’t be late. Okay?” he repeated again quite dejectedly before he slammed the door.

Once again neither of them had any idea about what was really going on. But they had accepted it was always going to be that way with matters that appeared to revolve around the girl. Their only living connection to the world beyond.

Not that it mattered at all.

He looked distrustfully as she opened the way to his cell holding what would be his meal for the day. He had noticed for some time now. She had stopped leaving it at the edge of the cage and now set it quite close to him. He almost let himself frown at that. He may have stopped trying to escape at every opportunity but his feelings towards her were far from warm.

Then again he wasn’t sure anymore. He could never be sure.

Day in and day out she conducted herself in the same kind of silent fashion regardless of how he used to express his anger just at the sight of her. But that slowly ground to a halt over time because it had affected his wife in a way he didn’t really understand and just maybe…

As if one small thing within him snapped back into place his eyes and mind rushed to the person on the other side. The girl by this time had already closing his cell door and was opening the other side, which in his deprivation began scaring him.

The girl had only ever gone near the woman when she was asleep or beyond consciousness. For all that the girl was she wasn’t a fool, what was she doing?

He couldn’t yell about it though yelling was pointless, had become pointless.

Marion did her best to avoid whatever the girl was doing setting down plates and other things. The woman nearly surprised herself at how little resistance she was able to offer as the girl drew her manacled limbs out even if she in her mind could not really resist.

The girl picked away the shackles and isolated a single arm holding it down for a second as the woman drew her other back to herself. She began undoing the bandages.

The wounds on that arm had never really healed. But the woman had stopped really worrying about what her injuries actually meant. She could do nothing for them.

Swallowing hard, Marion for the first time in a long while looked at the person in detail. From her soft black garments to her neatly arranged crimson hair. Not too long ago the sight of the girl’s striking similarity to herself was something that she had vehemently denied and avoided to the best of her ability.

After she had resurrected their once dead planet.

Suddenly, the woman remembered the girl appeared to have comrades then. And the girl’s inexpressive countenance slowly began tearing at the woman’s mind. With nothing really to do she had caved in with wonder about what had really happened instead of just assuming it. Like both of them had when everything was at their fingertips.

“…You…” She tried to say.

At the sorry sound the girl’s eyes relaxed further displaying a strange apathy that quietened the former queen. The first clear warning the girl had ever given them to not speak to her.

Having completed dressing the wound and re-binding it she re-shackled the woman’s wrists together. And left her immediate proximity with no further acknowledgement. They both watched the girl begin to scrub around their cells.

At first he had bent his will to not only deny but destroy any feeling or understanding of the child who was his but whom he had never raised. It wasn’t too hard; he hadn’t even been there at her birthing busied with the grand business of war. His eldest, Daphne, had cajoled him for it. Always cajoled them for it. The last time they had seen their child, trapped in her spirited form, the only thing she did in the end was cajole them. And then she was lost to them forever.

For the first time he wondered if he had been responsible for the girl’s deliberate silence.

They had barely gotten past five years of trying to rebuild their kingdom before they found themselves imprisoned again. To be fair their kingdom despite being a formerly dead world had put up a better fight than the rest of the realms. Nonetheless they were outmatched by the power of the figure who only referred to himself as the Emperor and his army of billions.

It was only when they had been dragged before his presence did they see the girl by his side again.

The first thing that came to his lips was of course blame. That was the second and last time the girl ever looked as though his words affected her. He couldn’t tell as the guards began to pommel him with the butts of their spears in response to his blabber striking him harder the more he carried on. His wife began shouting for him but was swiftly hushed with a binding of the mouth. Through his newly shed blood he could see the amusement on his enemy’s distant face and with calculated and cold precision began their deconstruction.

The Emperor began to inform them of the girl. His twisting words implying that their refusal to acknowledge their lost child and saviour had driven her to his side and also into a vow of silence. When this appeared to have no impact on either of his high-born captives he tantalized them further.

After they had openly denied their true heir, not only her so-called friends, supporters and even her lover, but all the realms branded her a traitor in response, despite the girl having betrayed no one. Stripping her of any honours that she had rightfully gained as a result of saving all of them several times, saving everyone from all of the evil that they themselves could never defeat, they banished her to the fringes of creation. His speech inferring that instead of swearing vengeance on anyone the girl defied public expectation and gone into a pitiful state of self-loathing.

Even then her husband remained quite stubborn. Blind with some kind of pride to her splintering, as well as his own, thinking he could just mow this god of war down with denial-laden words. The amusement on the Emperor’s face became far more apparent and set fright well in her veins.

But this time the Emperor had no ambiguity about his statements. No, the girl hadn’t told him anything when he had found her, scratching out a miserable existence in the desolate wilderness. No, that curious information came from the gang of thugs attempting to hunt her down possibly trying to rape her as a side objective.

Their enemy nearly laughed at that memory. If the girl could become more silent then she already was, she would have.

Even after banishing her the realms wanted to capture her again so they could have someone to blame for the problems they were creating for themselves and she was the most appropriate candidate. Even as she was reduced to what she was the girl was uncertain if she wanted to help him in his desires.

When he had proven to the girl beyond the shadow of a doubt that no one wanted to see her as she truly was any more she joined him. And it was only because he was the one strong enough to shape some purpose for her to follow.

“And now she will be mine and mine alone, forever.” The thin smile that crept on the Emperor’s lips was etched into his memory.

He couldn’t forget it even now. The horrifying implication of the words evaded him then, evaded him now, even if he could faintly grasp their meaning.

A wheezing cough he had never heard before or at least paid heed to brought him back. He saw the woman struggling to move as if her body could take no more torment. He hadn’t realised that his wife was really this weak.

The girl noticed her difficulty as well fully aware of her small intents. She stopped cleaning without as much as a hesitation but that could be hardly described as enthusiasm. Opening the woman’s side of the cell the girl closed in on her carefully almost carrying his wife to a sitting position. The gentility and lost tenderness burning in her fingers. Uncertainty still carried in the woman’s eyes though even as the girl spoon-fed her sustenance.

Only then he allowed himself to be aware of the irreparable holes puncturing his soul.

They had accepted their defeat but only in part because they themselves had not even fully realised how much farther they had to fall. And they had expected their sentence to be death. Their mangled bodies paraded to destroy any hope their now enslaved people may have secretly hidden away.

But no the Emperor didn’t care about what they meant to them. The crowd of one nation was just as great as another mob from the opposing realm. That was too glorious for a true defeat, for a real hell which he could provide. They were to be locked away, the girl would serve as their jailer, to be forgotten by everyone including him. They would be inescapably confronted by the culmination of all of their failures. And it would eat away at them far slower and more psychologically damaging than if he had skinned them alive. He promised them.

Had he delivered on his promise…

Everyone knew this wife and husband better than they did themselves. Especially the Emperor and the girl. The Emperor knew exactly how to really torment them. But the girl knew even more, the source of their suffering, and she used it well.

Was this her real revenge? Sadly, it did not anger the woman at all. She could not be angry anymore her husband failing to notice the lost glint in her eyes as the girl laid her down on the floor once again. The glint so akin to the one he had developed as he played with the light.

The light was almost gone for the day though.

Like with a final scuffle he changed tactics and tried to justify it. As the girl finished cleaning up. She looked quite ready to leave but then stopped and stared at the man studying him from his feet upwards. She remained seemingly transfixed on his wrists as she opened his cage one more time.

“What I did, I did without choice.”

He remembered trying to justify everything he had done up to this point in time with that. But by the way the girl looked at him as he thought that...maybe she could as well.

The girl bent over him, some metal rustling in her pocket.

His eyes dropped away from her face and looked down as she picked away the shackles. As she did so, something inside just stopped struggling.

Rising, and clamping the fetters to one of the bars of his cage, the red-haired girl then left the man alone again to play with the light shining through his fingers. The woman in the adjacent cage wordlessly watched him stretch his arms into the fading beams, before nestling into her rags and descending into an unimaginative slumber.

The woman dreamed of the girl holding her with her burning hands once again.

Author notes: When I first posted this on FanFiction.net I stated in my boredom, I’ve read a lot of fanfics that have Oritel and Marion caught again by Valtor or some supreme ruler of the universe after being freed, and never really bothered to flesh out what it was like being imprisoned again, I’m pretty sure it would have adverse effects on them. This is my revenge.

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