The next morning, they were off, traveling through the desert, weaving through canyons near sixty feet high. They were striped with reds and pinks from the rain shaping them out. It was beautiful, making Kiaran feel as though she were only the size of an ant.
She continued to wear the clothing the Chastins gave her, however, she wore her boots and belts and bits of her armor over top. She had her chainmail beneath the shirt and wore her bracers. Her hair was pulled back, swinging messily from the tie.
The ground was more stone than sand, making it easier to set up camp. The sky was dark as night settled in around them, the air feeling frigid through their clothes. Kiaran sat with Torin and Stella, laughing with them and listening to their stories once more. She found it was easiest to ignore any discomforts by finding amusement with her friends. And at this point, she was no longer angry with Stella.
Davin watched her from a few fires away, Alana beside him. Kiaran’s face was lit up as she conversed with her friends. Alana looked at Davin, his face focused on the young woman. He was not stern or angry or happy, but…rather lost. Lost in Kiaran.
She smiled a little. In all the years she had known and worked with Davin, never had he given any woman such attention. She had always pictured him falling for an overly sophisticated girl--which was believable considering his high standing in society. However, he was drawn to Kiaran.
Alana sighed and stood beside him. “Go talk to her,” she commanded.
He moved his gaze to Alana, saying, “About what?”
“What do you mean?” she retorted, “She and Torin have plenty to talk about, and you do not? You have been gone for months and you have nothing to catch up on?”
“True,” he nodded. “I just don’t want to interrupt them. Besides, we’ve already chatted about our lost time.”
She rolled her eyes as she took a bite of her bread. “Well, Davin, you need to act on this, or you’ll lose her.”
He stared at her, saying, “That isn’t accurate at all. I cannot just snatch her up and expect nothing to happen. Besides, I’m not even sure what I want from her.”
“Figure it out, then,” she said.
“By getting to know her as your brother has.”
There was a long pause before he shook his head. Taking a seat, he began eating his cold meal. He didn’t like this feeling...He loved it--loved being around her, seeing her, hearing her. But he hated when her attention was elsewhere. It left him feeling void.
Torin continued to glance over to his brother as he and the two women enjoyed themselves. Leaning into his view, Stella asked, “What is it?”
He shook his head, narrowing his eyes, “I am not so sure.”
Kiaran’s arms were crossed as she followed their gazes to Davin. Nurra stirred slightly in his sleep in her lap. “He seems troubled,” she finally said.
“Seems more than that,” Torin huffed.
It grew late as everyone laid out their beddings. Kiaran spread her blankets out smoothly, Nurra curled up in the center of them. She glanced to Torin who rested atop his blankets, his head on his hands. Moving to his side, she sat beside him, watching the clouds sail above the massive walls of stone that surrounded the scattered camp. In the dark, they were blue and purple.
Finally, her voice cut through the silence, “I am thankful that you have been my friend through all of this.”
He looked to her, smiling, “As am I.”
Her lips curled into a large smile as she continued, “Alana and Davin are good as well.”
His smile looked rather forced at that point as he looked back to the sky. “They are.”
“Do you have something against your brother?” she questioned suddenly.
“Not really,” he answered truthfully. If anything, he was the one being unjust. Jealous. Aggravated with his best friend and his brother.
She rubbed her arms vigorously for warmth. Torin sat up and pulled his coat out from beside him. Gingerly, he sat it across her shoulders, wrapping it around her. She threaded her arms through the sleeves, thanking him.
He pecked a good night kiss on her head and wrapped up in his blankets, covering his face from the fire. She watched him for a moment before whispering a good night.
Her heart felt heavy as her senses took in her surroundings. The scent of ash, the coldness of the stone beneath her, the blank taste of water as she took a sip from her waterskin…She lifted her gaze to the sky, her brows lowering. She was unable to shake away the hurt inside of her.
Grace would be there with her…If only she hadn’t hesitated in killing Nathanial the second she was able to. She rubbed a hand over her face and hair as she exhaled heavily. The many people she had killed…allowing Nathanial to kill his daughter…that was the worst pain she had ever endured. To know what she had allowed him to do to that child. The guilt was engulfing her.
Standing, she turned around and faced the massive canyons about them. Taking a deep breath, she silently walked down an empty hall of orange stone, escaping the campsite. Her emotions overwhelmed her and her heart swelled. Tears formed in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall down her cheeks. She walked faster down the path, and turned the corner.
There was a massive opening to the vast world beyond where the camp sat. She stood at the top of a massive cliff overseeing nearly everything. Davin was already there, facing the opening.
She rested a hand on her hip. Her other hand ran through her hair and then slid down her face, stopping over her eyes. She took a deep, stabilizing breath as she leaned against the cold wall.
Hair stood on Davin’s neck as he felt someone behind him. He turned around, surprised to see Kiaran. Her shoulders began to shake as she cried, her face hidden in a hand. He hesitated for a moment before moving to her. She wept, keeping her face hidden behind her hand. He softly took her hand and pulled it away. Her moist eyes looked to him and his heart cracked.
There was no need in asking what was bothering her. It was everything. He didn’t want to bother her with a pathetic question that really had no answer. Her brows creased as she seemed to plead for his voice.
“What’s bothering you, Kiaran?” his voice was as weak as he felt.
She scoffed behind her sobbing, saying, “I was honestly hoping the question would help me understand…”
He held her arm, attempting to calm her, her tears cascading about them. He was at a full loss, feeling awkward and uncomfortable. She pulled away, not wishing for any human contact. She began to leave, but her legs grew heavy so she stopped. Davin walked to her side. “Just talk to me, Kiaran. Whatever is on your mind, you can say it.”
“This is ridiculous. My life is-is great. I have people who praise me, who-who have befriended me. I am no longer killing to survive. I shouldn’t be depressed with anything.” Her voice quivered. She walked toward the ledge, her hands to her sides. “But Gracie…I can never stop thinking that I should have done something sooner for her sake,” she breathed. Lowering her gaze to her upturned hands, she whispered, “It...it was my fault that she died.”
He listened to her, intently wishing he could comfort her in some way. She thrust her hands up, holding her face as she inhaled long and deep. His stomach stung with pain as his tongue lost his language. She sniffled slightly, wiping her face clean. Her hair was hanging in her bun rather loosely just at the base of her head. Small strands of her hair floated about as the breeze moved through them.
Finally, as if against his will, he walked to her. He was standing powerfully, his body tense. He took hold of her arm and turned her toward him. Her reddened face was heart wrenching as he looked her over. She tensed under his stare, her eyes attempting to avoid his. His free hand moved to her neck, his thumb at her jaw line.
“I appreciate being able to talk to you.” She attempted a conversation, one that shown emotion other than anger or fear.
“Well, of course,” he nodded. “You can talk to me anytime that you need. Night or day.”
His hand was so warm against her jaw. She moved a hand to his, feeling his knuckles and fingers beneath her touch. She blinked away her tears as she genuinely smiled, small but warm. “I have been told…that you enjoy stories and artwork.”
“Um, yes,” he narrowed his eyes. He removed his hand and they looked toward the world ahead.
“I do as well…What I could get ahold of, anyhow. I was never told stories, but I read them when I could.”
They moved near the edge and sat. Kiaran crossed her ankles, her knees elevated as she wrapped her arms around them. “I’ve always loved this one writer, in particular. He wrote often about magic and dragons, but we’ve always only seen them as tales…Then the Avestitians show up with their mounts,” he explained.
“Why were you out here?” she asked him softly, sniffing a bit, still.
He shrugged. “I was having a difficult night.” He pointed to the constellations which were half hidden by clouds. “At times, when I get lost in my own head, I look to something. The stars, usually. They hold a beauty and a mystery that often takes all of my attention from my difficulties. Those little specks of diamonds collected in the ocean of sky. How they form shapes and constellations is beyond me.”
She smiled a little. "What are stars anyway? Just balls of light?"
"As good a guess as any," he shrugged.
All she could see was Davin…the way he looked at her, touched his hand to his hair, even the way he spoke…it was beautiful to her. But…why? He lowered his eyes, his lips hesitant to speak. But he finally added, “The stars are not the only beautifully strange things to calm my weakening nerves.”
Their gazes met and they froze. Her heart stopped and he sighed. His eyes were stern as he opened his mouth to speak. “You are the most amazing person I’ve met.” Her eyes widened as she grew numb. “Even the most powerful men are nothing in comparison to you. There are so many things you’ve gone through and yet you are still managing to be happy…to be calm.”
Her breath came with much difficulty as she finally fell into his eyes. Her brows creased as she failed to have a reply. Her lips parted slightly, but no sound came. Finally, she breathed, “How can I trust you?”
His brows lifted and his heart sank.
“You told me that I was released from my prison, but I was broken out,” she said.
“What?” he groaned. “What does that matter?”
“It matters to me,” she pressed. “I was not supposed to have a second chance, but you broke me free. My king sent a group of assassins after me. I was truly meant to be killed, but you seem to not care? Why couldn’t you have told me the truth from the beginning?”
He lowered his head, shaking it. “I…I just thought you deserved something better. Alana saw it too. When King Rolland refused, I questioned him and he became quite enraged. Rather than leaving you behind for the rats, we thought we’d give you a chance in life.” He looked to his hands as they cradled each other in his lap.
Rubbing her hot, damp cheeks, she lowered her gaze. She had nothing to say, her lips attempting to reply. He turned toward her, a look in his eye that made her burn. He leaned in, some of her hair falling between their faces. Once again, her infamous, silver eyes drew him in.
Quizzically, she blinked quickly, taking in everything. It seemed like her mouth was hesitant to work for her as she spoke, “You truly believe I am worth breaking out of a king’s prison?”
He shrugged, smiling slightly. “I’ve always found you…fascinating. But now…” he trailed off.
“Now what?” she breathed.
Slowly, Davin leaned to her, bringing his lips to hers. He was cooler than her, her face burning from crying. Her heart nearly burst as her entire body tingled. His hand moved to touch her hair, though it was hesitant. She placed her hands on his biceps, just as nervous to touch.
The kiss lasted for only a second before she tore from him, shock washing over her, making her body weak. She stared, almost appearing to be appalled…confused. His hands fell to his sides as he watched her, in shock himself.
She bit her lower lip as she turned aside, looking out to the moon shining on them. Adjusting her coat, she cleared her throat and stood. He slowly stood as well, neither of them knowing what to say or do. She briskly walked toward the campsite. She wiped her face dry of tears, her heart racing and her blood boiling. Anger, hatred, fear, pain….everything was hurting her so harshly at one point. Perhaps sleep would help her and Davin, both.
It was sleep deprivation. He was simply confused in what he was truly feeling. Too much sympathy--she laughed to herself, all too frustrated. After seeing her in the beautiful Chastin clothing and her falling so closely to death in his arms…it was confusing him. That is all it was. The only thing wrong with the picture is how it affected her. She should not be as lost as Davin.
As she walked by Torin, she pulled his coat off and tossed it beside him as he slept. She, then, crawled into her blankets. She covered her head, keeping her breathing slow and steady as she forced herself to sleep. Nurra glided from Torin’s blankets to Kiaran, sneaking under the blankets with her. His cold, leathery skin and smooth scales wormed his way beneath one of her hands, trilling softly.