11. The Pit
Kelu was the first to approach me after Del left. “I could almost be offended if not for the fact that all of what you said is harsh but true” she stated her expression unbothered as it was most of the time. “But unlike me” she continued “my brother shares the exact opposite reaction to those words and now would be the best time to try and take them back.”
She then continued on her way, not caring whether or not I decided to take her advice. I wanted to but felt almost afraid to approach Del after the look of hate I had seen in his eyes. I watched him saunter through the clusters as I willed my legs to comply with going after him.
After taking a deep breath I rationalized my angry words towards him but still, I felt uneasy knowing that if things were the other way around I would have reacted in a more uncivil manner.
Seeing the dark look in his eyes was even worse than having him throw a similar insult back at me. I was close enough to call out to him but I was certain he wouldn’t respond.
“Now wouldn’t be a good time to follow me out into the middle of nowhere. We can’t have the precious Seilie getting maimed by Siths now, can we?” he taunted
The remorse I felt quickly turned to anger and I couldn’t resist answering him, “well that precious Seilie can take care of herself” I threw back at him “and there aren’t any more Siths” I wasn’t so sure. I managed to catch up with him trying to quell my anger while my fear dissipated.
“What I said earlier was wrong” I began.
“Careful you almost sound like you’re going to say something meaningful” he spat lengthening his stride.
I matched his pace while I tried not to get too carried away at the thought of pouncing on him in a frenzied rage. We had crossed the meadow and now trodded through the dark paradise that wasn’t so dark anymore “I said those things out of anger and I’m sure what you said was brought on by similar emotions.”
I looked up at him to see his response but still, his eyes only focused on what was in front of him, “and we should both try to understand why you seem to hate me so much and why everything you say makes me want to punch you in the face...”
He stopped suddenly and I tripped trying to avoid bumping into his shoulder. I landed painfully on my side and instead of offering me help he looked down at me as if I were gum on his shoe. “What are you trying to do?” he asked suspiciously.
I sighed at having to repeat what I had said while brushing away dried leaves from my clothes. After pulling myself up off the ground I spoke, “I thought I was going to apologize but the truth is I’m not sorry” I began knowing I would only make the tension between us worse.
He took off once again letting out a steady breath “I mean I am sorry about how I said it but I only said those things because those are the only things I know about you and you probably said all those things to me because that’s all you know of Seilies.”
“I want to understand why you did what you did because I know that it had nothing to do with your Uncle or being a good liar.” He began to slow his pace but kept walking. “You wanted to see if I was a Seilie that was easy to deal with and one who wouldn’t ask questions, and I’m not. So tell me why you hate Seilies so much, or... is it just me?”
During my passionate declamation of our differences, I ended up walking past him and only stopped because of his hold on the back of my shirt. I turned to him noticing that his stubborn features had faded into something less threatening.
He took a couple steps closer to where I stood, studying my face intently. “Do you always care this much about what people think of you?” he asked coldly.
His question was not what I expected “No..I don’t, not really. I don’t even know why I bothered following you out here when you’re not even... do you even care about anything I just said?” I asked holding on to my last nerve.
“Care is just you getting ahead of yourself, but I was listening... unwillingly” he added.
His brows drew together suddenly and his eyes still held mine without a hint of discomfort. I, on the other hand, looked away several times waiting for him to say his part. He then reached out towards my face and I felt myself stumbling backward self consciously and out of his reach.
His hand then fell on my shoulder steadying me while I looked up at him questioningly. “What are you--?”
“If you don’t want to spend the rest of your day in a coma you better keep still” he ordered firmly before reaching out towards me once more, his fingers steadily brushing my hair. I couldn’t help myself as my eyes fell to his lips, then his gaze which was no longer focused on me.
His presence weighed heavily on my senses as I took in his features at close range. He then lifted his hand from my shoulder, the pressure of his hand leaving a warm reminder that it had rested there just moments ago.
“Poisoned thorn” he warned holding up the glowing blue splinter he had removed from my hair. “One prick and there’d be no telling who would find you out here” he taunted.
When I didn’t respond he flicked the poison thorn out of our reach and asked “You didn’t think I was going to hurt you did you?” he seeming peeved. I was grateful he hadn’t noticed how unsettled I had become by his casual gesture.
“Maybe...” I began taking advantage of him misreading my reaction. “You still haven’t told me what you hate about me?” I finished reminding him of my earlier question.
“I don’t think that telling you why I hate Seilies will change my nurtured hate towards you. Just think of it simply as an after-effect of having to interact with them on too many occasion.” He stated dryly.
There was no point in having this conversation I surmised but I couldn’t help myself. “So you just see the Seilie not the person behind that. I don’t believe that and neither do you. That’s why you can’t tell me what you hate so much about me or Seilies because those aren’t the same thing.”
It seemed as if I had pushed the right button or he got tired of going around my question “Ok so tell me why did you leave when the truth was too much for you. You wanted to know everything and the only thing you got out of that was having the right to damn us all to our fates. Seilies don’t do that, they never do but, the one thing they all have in common is being selfish and that’s what you were when you left the realm, knowing that a threat was still out there” he scolded.
“You thought we weren’t worthy enough to be saved, you decided that for all of us.”
“I may have come off as selfish but I was angry” I replied in my defense.
“I hate Seilies and I still volunteered to be the one who would beg for your help.” He offered, daring me to come up with another excuse.
I wasted no time in making my point “You didn’t beg! You lied about it because you needed my help, no matter the cost, you were selfish because you were angry at me for being another Seilie you had to ask for help.”
“Well, we shouldn’t have to ask for a Seilies help, it’s what you were destined to do. Seilies have been content with watching Aelfe die because for some stupid reason they’re supposed to be a last line of defense to preserve Aelfe history, the Elders, and a few chosen Aelfe.” He clarified.
“I don’t know anything about destiny or Aelfe culture but I’m sure that’s supposed to be the other way around,” I said agreeing with his comment.
" I’m not saying that I’ll jump head first into every threat that comes their way, because I am scared as hell knowing that worlds of Aelfe are depending on me when I’ve barely figured out what being a Seilie Aelfen means.”
He remained quiet taking in my state. “I’m not afraid to say that I wish I hadn’t gotten this gift.”
Del’s demeanor seemed to change after our heated argument and most of the hostility had melted from his tone as he spoke “Being a Seilie isn’t a gift, I don’t know why everyone else sees it that way. It should be earned even after you’ve discovered your power.”
It took this moment for me to realize that this was who I was now, the Seilie Aelfen and I had to decide whether or not I could put aside the unfortunate history of the realm and my family so that the Aelfe of the realms could depend on me when they were in danger or I could become an arbitrator like the Seilies before me choosing who deserved to live and who deserved to die.
“I’m just not willing to try and see you as more than a title as long as you see being a Seilie that way.”
*** *** ***
We passed through the remaining stretch of the dark paradise in silence. And as curious as I was to know where he was going I didn’t dare ask since it was my fault for following him this far anyway. I had no choice it was too late to try to find the way back now.
I also didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me trying to get back to the others and knowing very well that I would be caught in some form of the death trap that had festered within the dark paradise.
Instead, I focused on the unfamiliar territory we had come upon once we turned off of the path that severed the end of the dark cold forest and opened into a similar meadow as the one we had long left behind.
There were more weeds than flowers here and houses which sat upon rocks instead of stumps that had clearly been abandoned. The trees were withered and the tall grass brown from thirst and even though the area was washed in the setting light of the sun it held the same cold and heavy atmosphere as the dark paradise.
I was curious about what happened here but held my tongue hoping that I would remember to ask Kelu or Alen about it later.
The sound of trickling water reach my ear as the path dipped, the weeds and dry grass had thinned out and gave way to moss covered ground and vines. Del paused for a moment in front of the path that was no longer an abandoned community but rows of trees and I looked around him to see what was the matter.
He then slowly descended into a deep cleft in our route and it took me a moment to realize that the ground ahead was unevenly spaced along each fissure which would have made it difficult to get across especially if one didn’t know where they were going.
I walked up to the edge of the low ledge looking down to see water as clear as glass with moss covered earth underneath. Del had continued on steadily not even glancing once in my direction.
I climbed down into the shallow stream glad I had worn my boots as I sloshed wearily behind Del’s rigid back trying not to trip on the vines that threatened to tangle in the buckles hanging off of my footwear.
“Are we walking to the end of the earth?” I grumbled to myself as I watched him in annoyance, brushing off the vines that hung low from the trees and settled on his broad shoulders.
As I was about to swallow my pride and give in to trying to convince him to show me the way back he spoke. “I knew you would sense me coming.”
I paused in my stride wondering if we were in the middle of a conversation I had completely missed out on.
“Of course, you’d be a fool to expect less” a voice replied coolly. I looked around his broad frame to see who it was coming from
“What is she doing here?” the girl asked fixing her unfriendly gaze on me. Her hair was a deep orange the color reminding me of the vines hanging from the trees.
I stepped out from behind Del to get a better look at her not wanting to give her the slightest impression that I would be unnerved by her rudeness.
As I took in her tall slim figure I noticed that the vines that lined the bottom of the stream had somehow secured themselves around her ankles and forearms.
“I didn’t bring her she followed me here” Del replied stepping away from where we stood side by side and continued on his way through the fissures of stone up ahead. The girls scowl deepened as she looked me over and then turning away to catch up to him the vines slithering from her body like snakes and back on to the terrain.
I was deeply offended by his response but there was nothing I could do at the moment seeing that I had no way of getting back on my own. Mentally kicking myself for coming this far with him in the first place made me feel even worse and I wondered if the others had assumed we hadn’t returned because we had ended up sorting things out.
He had to go back at some point I reassured myself as I determinedly kept up with their pace. Close enough to listen in on their conversation.
“Seilies aren’t welcome here, they have never been and never will be.” The girl pointed out firmly while playfully splashing her bare feet in the water.
“She’s not exactly a Seilie so there’s nothing to worry about” Del replied.
“What do you mean? She’s practically radiating Nese. I don’t think it was a good idea to bring her here” the girl countered almost sounding concerned.
“Why do you even care, Seilies can handle themselves. What’s the worst that could happen right?” he asked rhetorically climbing up on the cleft ahead.
We had made it through the maze and now the shroud of trees thinned out making way to a path lined by torches. I turned my attention away from their conversation to the hum of excitement that now grew the closer we got to the torched pathway.
“No offense but I don’t want to be seen with your friend here and get into any problems. Meet you there if you don’t die?” she suggested cheerfully.
“I’ll be there” he promised, returning her smile with a wolfy grin of his own. She then disappeared into the throng of people up ahead.
“Since you have insulted me enough for today there’d be no harm in asking what are you planning to do here?” I questioned unable to keep quiet any longer
He looked over his shoulder at me feigning surprise “Oh you’re still here” he asked.
I mocked his surprised expression and the proceeded to put myself in his path. “Don’t you think you’re taking things a bit too far?” I was never one to hold on to malice for long, Del, on the other hand, seemed to be quite comfortable with our current state.
“Can’t handle the pressure?” he taunted. “No one’s keeping you here and I don’t remember encouraging you to follow me.”
I’d never regretted that decision more than I did now. “But since we’re here and you seem to need further encouragement to leave why don’t you stick around for the tour. I’m sure you must be dying to know where we are” he stated seeming to be enjoying himself.
I pledged to erase any ounce of sentiment that was associated with my knowledge of him. I hated him and couldn’t imagine myself feeling any other way moving forward.
There were no words I could think of at the moment foul enough to wipe the smug grin from his face and only kept quiet while listening to him answer the questions I’d had since exiting the dark paradise.
“Welcome to the Pit, the paradise to all exiled and lesser Aelfe of Elvaraz.” I took in our surroundings with new found interest. The enormous rock formations surrounding the community must have contributed to the name but still, this was no pit. It was more like a canyon of sorts.
“This is where victims of my psychotic uncle were chosen and also where he began his real reign of terror after murdering my father.” His voice rose at the mention of this and soon curious eyes were focused intently on me making it hard for Del to keep my attention.
Soon passersby became onlookers some looks of awe evident in their eyes and others contempt brimming from their expressions as if begging for me to feel the scorn in their gazes. “--this is your Seilie Aelfen...” Del continued in his speech, now having captured the attention of every Aelfe within earshot.
“... she has willingly followed me here I think determined to really get to learn about our kind, you see she’s not from here...” he announced pausing dramatically.
A series of murmurs erupted from the group around us some echoing with gasps of disbelief.
“Why are you doing this?” I snapped only loud enough for him to hear. I looked around uncomfortably feeling like an animal on display.
“Thought it best to address the elephant in the room while people still seemed friendly” he whispered back an amused glint in his eye. He returned his attention to the growing crowd.
“She lived among the Wonted folk since birth and even disobeys orders given by the Elders” I hoped that what he was aiming at would not make me more unwelcome than I felt. A few sniggers sounded at the mention of my defiance towards the Elders.
“So since she’s already here, why don’t we show her the best parts of being an Aelfe” he finished.
“She doesn’t look like she’d be able to handle it” a bulky man jeered grabbing my attention as he smiled at me oddly from the masses.
“We’ve got a challenge!” Del roared and the crowd cheered excitedly. I looked back at Del angrily a bad feeling settling in the pit of my stomach.