9. Promise(verb): A comfort to a fool
Once I had given my aunt a rundown of just how far down the rabbit hole I was taken, her first serious question for me was “You slept under the same roof as three grown men?”
I unfolded my arms and tapped the bridge of my nose with my free hand before answering her calmly “Yes and nothing happened of course, is that really all you got from what I just said?” I asked truly baffled.
“This is important, if anything had really happened it’s not like you would tell me” she fished trying my patience instead of my conscience.
“Well hell aunt Mae, you can keep making your crass assumptions about what I did or didn’t do but that doesn’t change what really took place those past nights” I responded in a brash tone, hoping to ruffle her enough so she would halt her line of questioning.
She cleared her throat as if trying to hide her discomfort “I just want you to be aware that as superior as Aelfe believe themselves to be Aelf kind are just as simple as regular men” she stated plainly.
“Fine, note taken... Now can you just please tell me what reason Erdos would have to kill mom?” I asked still unable to come up with any explanation as to how her death would benefit him. According to Del, he would have tried to convince me to destroy Aelfe kind which seemed to be his number one goal.
“First of all, that is impossible. Erdos has no Nese abilities of any kind and no amount of meddling in arcane procedures would grant that” she clarified.
“But the Elders said, Erdos killed my mother” I reminded her. She snickered unenthused at my claim.
“You do remember that they are the same Elders who mislead you by mixing the truth with lies about your parents.” I sighed feeling defeated.
“I think Erdos has nothing to do with my sisters’ demise. I know you might not want to believe it but I think Gloria’s death might have been unintentional. If someone had truly been after you I don’t see why they would have stopped with her, they could have gone straight for you then, you were vulnerable” she explained carefully.
I couldn’t argue with her reasoning as I had only thought of the possibility of someone wanting to hurt or use me, nothing else. Maybe there really was no motive for what happened that night and sadly no way of finding who had been responsible for such an unforgivable act.
“Don’t take this the wrong way Olivia” my aunt continued “but I think we should really focus on catching and stopping Erdos... not because it’s what the Elders want” she added quickly before I could protest “but because his unquenchable thirst for revenge has stirred up long forgotten tragedies which we rather not repeat in Aelfe history.”
My interest was piqued as I listened “the Aelfe of Elme have tried to record as much knowledge as we could over centuries, simply because we believe it is always best to be in the know especially in situations such as this and, after realizing that the Elders chose what part of history remains and what should be hidden--”
“You mean hiding the real reason you and my mother left Elvaraz, and then twisted the story so that everyone believed you and Ignis to be traitors?” I surmised.
“Oh that was nothing Olivia, they have concealed much scarier truth’s, ones that I do admit would do a lot of harm once spoken, but still could prevent just as much bloodshed if Aelfe knew what they were up against when the danger came” she paused and I listened as she shuffled around before she went on.
“What I mean to say is that those arcane procedures I had mentioned earlier have already been carried out by a curious few resulting in hybrid offsprings. But of course this was not accepted by the Elders and the decisions made ended up backfiring on Aelfe kind, once those offsprings and the Aelfe involved with them were banished by none other than the Elders of Aelfe realms, they became Venators, hunters of all things not Wonted” she divulged her voice swelling with a bit of anger.
“I’m sorry you lost me at me after hybrid ...” I said, needing to interrupt her, she sighed sounding a bit frustrated.
“There are beings like us, worse than us and there are many others similar to Erdos each having their own purpose in the world. Our lives are nothing more than a cycle with uncontrolled histories repeating itself in the same order.”
“I and others had documented this cycle, hoping that one day we could enlighten our people. But then the Venators were led to our realm by Erdos and everything, every piece of knowledge gathered was scattered some destroyed.”
“So is that Erdos’s purpose? To destroy Aelfe kind” I asked my blood running cold at the thought of something worse than Erdos living amongst us.
“Erdos is just one minor piece of the puzzle and he fails to see that he will not be the one to throw the final blow in destroying Aelfe kind, which is what he is aiming for. To put it simply his purpose is to set off a chain reaction of events that will start the malefic cycle born from his insatiable need for revenge.”
“He will end up creating something so dreadful that if not stopped, will bring ruin to all things living including wonted folk. We just don’t know how he’ll do it. And that alone makes him a formidable and relentless enemy to not just Aelfe kind but Wonted folk also, he’s smart and patient” she explained carefully.
I remained quite my mind buzzing with questions I wasn’t sure how to ask. Why did my aunt know him so well, and if Erdos was everything she knew he was then I was sure the previous Seilie would have dealt with him as I was expected to do. “If these cycles have been documented then why couldn’t he have been stopped before he became this way?” I tried hoping that my question hadn’t pointed an obvious finger at her.
She let out a tired breath then, “you’re wondering why I didn’t say anything about it to the Elders?” she said, asking the question that I didn’t know how to.
“If I did I wouldn’t have gotten this far, plus by the time I put everything together, the damage was already done. Only a few people know who Erdos really is and by few I mean the Elders and those who are now either dead or were forced to keep their mouths shut.”
“I met him when I was discovering myself as a... rebel. I was curious and he had told me of the injustice he had experience in his realm, this compelled me to put all my effort into digging up everything I could about our kind and anything relating to it. That’s how Gloria and I came to live in Elvaraz, I wanted to uncover all truths in all realms.”
“At first I thought his story was a lesson learned and one that he wanted to share so that others wouldn’t fall to the same fate” she scoffed her voice thick with regret “it wasn’t, that was just fuel poured upon the evil that was already inside him and one that he swore to pass along to every Aelfe in existence.”
“Well then, I can see why mom chose to leave. That place is like hell on earth” I exclaimed trying to rub away the goosebumps that had spread over my arms.
“It isn’t always like this, it’s the cycle trust me, every place has their time, just as the Wonted have their wars and witchhunts, so do we” she declared trying to reassure me. I wasn’t though.
“I can’t see it, everyone else has, all I’ve seen is death, all I’ve felt is pain and the thought that maybe they brought this on themselves.” The words came rushing out in anger or fear, I couldn’t tell at the moment.
" Look at what happened to your sister? They took every shred of good from her and then forced her to leave what she knew as home, which means there was nothing ‘good’ there” I argued wondering what kind of luck I had that my life would be tied to this chaos. And even as I had gotten the answers, It was hard to face the reality of it all. It felt as though this was happening to someone else and not myself.
“Your mother kept it a secret from you because she didn’t want you to grow up hating a place she loved, the place she found love. And she did leave behind something good...something great. It was you, Olivia. Even though being surrounded by all this darkness is your fate, it’s you who will be able to bring back the light to the realms, that’s your purpose.”
I was silent not knowing how to continue arguing with the resolute hope that filled her voice. I wanted to believe what she said but everything that happened so far pointed in a different direction.
The lock on my door clicked open suddenly and I looked up to see a frazzled Leah enter, her book bag in one hand and a paper bag in the other. “I couldn’t find Ignis and this was all I could get you,” she said plopping the paper bag down unto the desk I was sitting in front of.
“I have to go, I will contact you when it’s safe enough for you to travel to the address that I gave to Leah. Until then take care of each other and let Ignis...nevermind, keep your phone charged” she finished quickly before hanging up.
I wondered what message she had wanted to leave for Ignis but didn’t get to finish the thought as Leah began to badger me with questions “So what did your aunt Mae say? Is she pissed about you missing over a week worth of school? ”
“School is the least of our worries right now and she is very impressed that you kept your promise to her about me getting in contact with her” I answered opening the paper bag to find mini pretzel dogs and some sauce.
Leah smiled proudly at my last comment while chomping away at the contents of her own bag. “Good, so about that boy you told me about last week, I don’t think you have to worry” she began pausing only to swallow before pushing more food into her mouth “I haven’t heard any news on missing people or bodies turning up so he’s either alive or fish food.”
I took in Leah’s words with a newly found respect towards her feeling just as guilty as I had been, even though I had been the one to witness Del’s actions, and finding an almost comical justification for why we didn’t need to worry.
I smiled at her with love in my eyes. “Leah you’re the best you know that” I gushed truthfully.
She just shrugged saying “that’s what friends are for.” I had to tell her everything, I owed her that much for putting up with my depression for the past year.
I didn’t know where to start so I tried to sum up what was my life as best as I could. “Leah that boy I saw jump off the balusters that day, he’s alive and his name is Del. I have been with him and his friends for the past week and I’ve learned a lot about myself that you wouldn’t believe if I told you.”
By this time Leah had stopped chewing and had resorted to staring at me with judgement in her eyes, but I was unable to stop myself so I rushed on ” where he’s from is a whole new world, literally and he helped me find some answers about my mother which you are going to freeeak, knowing that it all started with my grandparents who didn’t tell me they were my grandparents, because they wanted to use me to stop this really evil man who is hell-bent on revenge and murdering every one of his people, and my aunt just confirmed that he is seriously evil like reverse flash manipulative kind of evil and, I... I have to fix everything.” I ended exhausted but feeling like a bit of the weight I had felt since meeting the Elders had been lifted off my chest.
She swallowed now and seemed to be composing her thoughts when she blurted out “Ok so I’m going to need you to take me back to the part about you running off with a supposed to be, dead guy, for a week” she pointed out sounding hurt.
I reached up tapping the bridge of my nose a tad miffed but grateful that she seemed to be taking things in a receptive manner, even though she had skipped over the important bits. I knew that the day would end with me still answering questions that had nothing to do with what was actually important.
*** *** ***
After forcing Leah from my room the morning after as she asked for proof of my abilities, time after time, it seemed to me that she appreciated my new formed identity as a means of mind-blowing entertainment.
I was spent, and grateful that I didn’t have to worry about explaining anything to anyone else. Everyone and everything that mattered was subsumed in my life one way or the other... or so I had convinced myself.
I was disappointed. Regardless of the unpleasant way things had ended upon leaving the realm, deep down I had hoped that Del or Kelu would seek me out for some reason or the other. I wasn’t sure if I was still angry at them or that I could be. It wasn’t their fault I had realized, but we were at an impasse.
They were unable to be completely honest with me so, there was no way I would be able to trust them completely and work together. I made my way to the shower hoping that the warm water would relax me enough to sleep.
I dunked my head under the shower as soon as I got in to try and drown out my brooding and when I pulled back from the water thoughts of Del remained. At first, I chided myself, how dare I think of him this way when I was the one who continuously pushed him away and at the same time conceding that it was my thoughts and only I would be the one to witness them so I gave myself at least that.
As I wiped water from my eyes and reveled in the warm droplets a face rose up from my thoughts and before my eyes. Not holding back I reached out towards it, holding the image of his face there. As my touch grazed the water the droplets shifted away and my hand rested on slick flesh and a smoldering gaze.
My eyes widened as he blinked happily at first then in confusion, I too felt the same emotions.
I screamed beating his face unintentionally over and over in my surprise and then as if just remembering how one showered I paused in my assault long enough to look down on myself and then back up his movements mirroring mine. “I didn’t see anything” he protested wistfully clamping his eyes closed now.
Whimpering in embarrassment I shrieked, “go. Leave!” I shooed my hands crossed over my chest and my body hunched.
“If you didn’t want me I wouldn’t be here” he explained and I noticed for the first time that only half of his chiseled chest and broad shoulders emerged through the water coming from my shower.
I then positioned two fingers on his forehead nervously and shoved, wanting him to disappear or I would die of shame.
With his eyes still closed his disfigured half finally disappeared and I quickly turned off the shower frozen in shock as my mind relived the entire moment over and over again.
*** *** ***
After finally pulling myself together I made my way into my room still dazed and shivering from air drying.
" who were you talking to? ” Ignis’s voice grilled me suddenly causing me to yelp as I pulled my towel tighter around my body.
She regarded me with a look that held many questions and for a good minute, we stared at each other in silence myself panicking as if I were guilty of something.
Ignis finally broke the silence “If you don’t want me here I can leave... ” she began making her way to the door.
“No! Stay, I was just surprised that’s all” I explained watching her reserved reaction.
“Um, ok,” she said uncaringly as she walked over to the bed to stretch out comfortably.
I was about to disclose my fanciful encounter in the shower when she lay a hand over her eyes, turning her face into her elbow and I noticed a bruise extending from behind her ear to her neck.
“Where were you?” I questioned her concerned “Leah and I took turns trying to find you until I figured I would give you another day of being missing before I told your mom.”
Her mouth twisted into a ridiculing smile before she replied, ” what would she have done, run away?” She asked rhetorically.
“You guys really do need to talk to one another.” I suggested to her “at least you still have a mom to talk to ” I said hoping she would get my point.
“At least your mom didn’t leave you behind to fend for yourself in a realm filled with assholes” she retorted seriously ” I’d take your dead mom over mine any day ” she finished making her point which stung a little.
I chose to ignore her comment as I had been the one who started on the topic. ” So where did you go?” I started again unable to take my eyes off the angry looking bruise.
“The Realm,” she answered and after waiting for a few beats for her to go on I pushed.
“The realm of?...” I waited but she still didn’t budge.
" You do know that I know it couldn’t be Elvaraz, I’m sure they closed it off right after we left” I stated not believing my words entirely after what I’d witnessed.
“Elme is permanently unavailable I believe and Termész is, well. You wouldn’t want to go there...”
This got her attention and she turned to look at me. “You think you know so much? Did your friends tell you that Elme is a dead city and that Termész is overrun with barbarians looking to pick a fight with everyone they come across?” She accused.
“Pretty much yea and I don’t see why you’re attacking me about it. ” I replied offended.
“Just a bit of advice for you Olivia don’t believe everything anybody tells you, you can’t just judge people based on what you hear, you don’t know what they’ve been through and you’ve never been there” she argued defensively and I kept quiet feeling the brunt of her words.
Her remake rang true and a sickening feeling ran through me as I was reminded of Sonny and Shine. “Please don’t get all broody on me” she spoke her tone far from apologetic but I knew it was one.
“Your right,” I said finding my voice ” I guess they Elders really are my family” I commented.
Ignis sighed as she sat up in the bed “Can you not take everything I say to heart, I’m just in a really bad mood that’s all” she explained her tone had lost its sharp edge.
“About your mom?” Was all I could imagine knowing what little I did of her. She nodded seeming as if she wanted to hide her face.
I went over to my closet and opened the door blocking off our view of each other and taking the time to get some clothes on.
“I don’t know how to feel anything else but angry at her for leaving me for so long and believing like a fool, that she’d come back for me” Ignis confessed her voice gruff.
“She promised when she left, but then she forgot about me and now she’s suddenly here-- not for me-- and she wants to speak to me” she spouted cynically “It’s so unfair that she gets to disappear for nineteen years and now she decides she wants to maybe show up into my life and I should let her! I thought she was dead at some point because there could never be another reason for her to break her promise to me.”
I finished dressing but still, I remained behind the open closet door fearing that I might not know how to handle the part of her that she was now sharing with me.
“I know I had to be there for my father but I was just a kid, how the hell can you put all that responsibility on a five-year-old telling me to understand and to be brave” she let out a frustrated growl ” ugh I just get so angry thinking about it” she spat.
She stormed off the bed and out of the room slamming the door and I flinched as she went. Her angry footsteps ricochetting all the way down the hall.