“Oh mygosh Oli! You look like you’ve been stepped on in a riot!” Leah exclaimed in surprise as she took in my form
She had been curled up in my bed waiting for my return, when I entered my room. ” That’s an understatement” I sighed tiredly making my way towards the bed
Leah hopped off quickly fanning me away “No!” She began, “you look half dead and your bloody” she used one leg to steer me away from the bed and once she was on her feet she shoved me forcefully towards the bathroom.
I took in my demeanor in the bathroom mirror with a worried Leah behind me. Below one of my eyes were swollen and a healthy looking bruise now turning a purplish black along with other small cuts and bruises lining my face. The hair on my head was damp through and through and most of it matted to my head with a thick dark liquid. I was sure it was blood.
My clothes weren’t as torn as I expected but I was sure my flesh was underneath. I didn’t want Leah to see the worst of my wounds so I asked for privacy. “I think it’s best I took a shower” I stated and without any questions she nodded and left me there staring beyond what I saw in the mirror.
Once the door closed softly I whimpered my body feeling heavy as I held on to the bathroom sink for support.
My body soon began to quiver from a cold that could only come from deep within someone and then the tears came.
“What happened?” Leah asked concerned from behind the door. I could imagine her crouching on the floor her head against the door.
“Everything ” came my muffled response. “I’m not sure I can do this ” I continued and I hiccuped wiping away a tear.
“What about your aunt?” Leah questioned, and then and I couldn’t stop the flow that blurred my vision as I began to cry audibly.
I slid to the floor, my bloody hand leaving a trail as I steadied my body while I sat. As I reached up a hand towards my face I could smell the stench of Erdos charred flesh still lingering on my hand and see the dark lines of blood and something else lining my fingernails.
“Oh gosh ” I groaned suddenly feeling a wave of sickness and a cold sweat washing my forehead and my stomach heaved painfully.
I crawled over to the toilet retching but nothing came of it except a stabbing pain in my ribs. The door opened suddenly and I rested my heavy head on my arm while I clumsily flushed the toilet.
Leah quietly patted my back and then after a few moments she went over to the tub and began filling it with water.
When she came back to me she touched my neck and forehead “I think you have a fever ” she mumbled more to herself than me.
She then secured her hands at the tail end of my blouse as she began pulling it above my stomach. I winced unable to raise my arms too far above my chest “c’mon it’s not like you have anything I haven’t seen before ” she teased and I shook my head explaining.
" I think somethings wrong with my shoulder.”
Her mouth then formed into a comprehending ‘O’ as she stood up from where she stooped before me and left the room momentarily before returning with a pair of scissors.
She held them up for me to see before proceeding to cut away what was left of my blouse “it’s not like you were planning to wear this again anytime soon” she commented in a conversational tone.
As she tugged at the parts that seemed to become one with my skin she stopped for a moment taking me in surprised - I guessed things must have looked as bad as they felt- and the stood up to help me to my feet.
I followed as she cut away my pants also and I managed to finish removing the rest of my clothing.
“Aunt Mae...” I tried again my voice cracking on each word.
“It’s ok you don’t have to tell me” she assured signaling for me to go into the bathtub.
As I got in the shivering of my body stopped as the warm water began to soak into my skin.
“She died” I whispered sadly and my throat burned. By the time Leah crouched to my level a rag in hand there were tears in her eyes as if she knew.
“I couldn’t help, I tried... to help her but everything happened so fast” I chatted unable to keep quiet.
She dipped the rag in the now pink water and then dabbed gently at my face.
“He stabbed her right in front of me and I just watched and then she died and there was so much blood. People died everywhere” I mumbled on.
“I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt. I’m glad you’re ok though.” She said gently pulled her fingers through my hair, her hands coming away red with blood as she did this.
“You know it’s not your fault” she stated and I closed my eyes appreciating the warm water cascading down my scalp. That’s what my mother had said I thought.
I mumbled on ignoring her. “I think I have to go back to mom” and hearing this she stopped what she was doing all together.
I opened my eyes to look at her questioning ones then began to explain the manifestation of Siths and wanting to ensure that she was at rest.
She nodded in understanding then once again continued nursing my more serious wounds as I chattered on -of pain and loss and Fantom- and she listened in silence to my words.
By the time Leah had dried and dressed me I was back to my normal self to some extent. “You said you can heal so why don’t you?” she queried.
“If the pain disappears so easily then I’m afraid all of this won’t even feel real” I surmised honestly.
“That’s crazy Oli. And this... ” she began gesturing to my face and arms “... this is too much, you have enough bruises and sprains for the both of us” she argued.
“Apparently not enough, I can’t seem to think of anything else but what happened right in front of me” I responded stubbornly.
Leah snorted quietly beside me “well you look and sound pitiful and I hate that. You’re here and I’m here with you and this is over... right?” she asked.
I started out the bus window without responding to her question. “Well anyway there’s nothing to be afraid of, you don’t have to go back there. Everything is over” she surmised coming to her own conclusion.
I sighed remembering that I hadn’t told her about Erdos’s revelation and who Fantom could be, ‘what a fitting name’ I thought if really I had a sister and she turned out to be the evil that almost killed me and killed our mother.
The bus suddenly came to a halt and we got off making our way out to the pathway that led to my old house. “This house held the best of everything” Leah reminisced softly beside me.
I didn’t stop to go inside. Instead, I made my way straight to the back of the house, where my life had turned upside down. I don’t know what I had expected to see when I saw the scene but I gasped involuntarily as I rounded the corner.
Everything was in place. It was like nothing happened. The broken chairs and tables had been replaced and the ground where a tree had been uprooted was covered neatly, grass grew steadily over it.
Sadness washed over me as I took one slow step after the other towards the storm cellar. I looked beyond the clear glass and saw darkness but as I came closer I saw my reflection in the pane and it was like I was locked away inside once again only now everything was calm.
I reached out to touch its cold surface and felt a burning in my throat. “I’ll just take out everything” Leah assured me and I glanced over at her reflection that was trapped in the cellar also and felt comforted.
I watched her as she took out the vase wrapped in paper that we had stopped to buy by the gas station and she handed it to me. She then carefully removed a single white rose from her backpack and handed that to me.
“How does this work?” she asked.
“It just does, I don’t know if it will since it’s been so long. Let’s put some dirt in and wait” I suggested.
As we filled the vase and waited we sat for a moment in silence. Silence could only last a couple moments between us.
“Rest in peace Mom” Leah whispered.
I wanted to say something but my throat burned so I swallowed until the burning went away. “Why are there so many secrets?” I began after a moment questioning my mother. “I said that I’d go back, but honestly... I’m afraid to. What if I can’t handle the answers to all the questions? And what if I start feeling angry at you.”
I could feel Leah’s eyes watching me while I spoke. “I want to know but... the more I find out the scarier it gets, so I’ll just stop. I hope you won’t be too disappointed in me.”
“She isn’t, I can just tell” Leah spoke.“So I guess it’s not over huh” she guessed sadly.
“If I have a sister it’s not” I confessed waiting for her perplexed response.
“You’re gonna need to start jotting down these things for me. I swear if any more family members start popping up in your life after this I’m cutting you off” she joked trying to lighten the mood.
“I’m not even sure it’s true. I’m afraid to ask” I said.
“Because I’ve already started hoping, even if she might be some kind of evil monster slaughtering people. If she’s not real, or even worse dead. I’m not sure I can handle it” I admitted.
“Yeah, that’s a lot to deal with” Leah agreed. “But like you said you want to know and I know you, it’s gonna bother you forever if you don’t find out” I looked up briefly to smile at her.
“You know you have to do it” she pushed. “If you weren’t scared, what would you do?” she asked suddenly.
“Of course I’d want to know, there’d be no reason to not want to find out everything” I answered her missing her point.
Her eyes shone happily, “exactly! The only reason you don’t want to find out... is because you’re afraid. You can try and find some way through that... it’s just one obstacle. Fear” she finished positively.
“I thought you were glad this wall over” I stated.
“I was, but that was before I knew that you might have an evil sister somewhere. I’ve seen way too many movies to know how this ends if you don’t try and find out if she’s real or not.”
I arrived through the checkpoint portal. The only menacing quality that still clung to this place was the knowledge that so many had suffered and died here.
“Liv” came Ignis’s familiar voice. The moment I saw her the lump in my throat formed but I forced it down as she came towards me preparing to embrace me in a hug then instead squeezing my shoulder.
“Ignis... where are you going?” I asked not knowing what else to say. She let go of my shoulders as if remembering that she indeed had somewhere to be.
“I have a lot of things to take care of, I just need some time... alone” she added quickly. “Just to clear my head, we’ve both been through a lot” she explained and suddenly I remembered the address that my aunt had given Leah to pass on to us.
“Wait but aunt Mae said--”
“I know what she said Liv” she snapped suddenly and I could feel a kind of rift growing between us. “I was there” she continued a bit calmer “I really don’t want to talk about it and I have somewhere I need to be.”
I knew exactly what was on her mind. I was sure that deep down she somehow blamed me and even herself for her mother’s death. I was unable to protect or save her at the most crucial moment. I too felt that her death was my fault. I couldn’t protect anyone before and still, I couldn’t do that now.
I wanted to apologize but that may end up having the opposite effect on her so instead, I said, “How will I reach out to you?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll find you if I need to. Take care of yourself” she finished with a smile that didn’t quite reached her eyes. She continued on her way without another word and I listened as she disappeared through the portal.
I took a deep breath willing myself not to cry or think any deeper than what I knew. Maybe she just really needed some time to herself. I pushed forward acknowledging the familiar faces of the Aelfe patrol as I trudged through the dark paradise and crossed the meadow.
I spotted the Elders house and decided it was best I sought the answers that would cause the most unease sooner than later. I climbed the unusual stairs one after the other until I faced the mirrored surface of my grandparent’s abode.
Grimacing internally at the thought of calling them my grandparents, I knocked twice so that they could be aware of my arrival, which I was sure they were since they could see everything on the outside without effort.
“Come in” It was Sonny’s voice. I still hadn’t gotten used to hearing it so often and lacking contempt.
I stepped through the mirror-like surface that had melted away, the warmth that came with its passing was always soothing. “I half expected you to be here after what happened” he began.
Instantly I felt offended “why? because you still don’t think I’m good enough?” I asked him without holding back the displeasure in my tone.
“I didn’t mean that in the way you thought,” he said.
I scoffed taking a seat directly in front of him “well excuse me for misunderstanding your kind words” I retorted.
He closed his eyes briefly as if to calm himself and then opened them once again an unreadable expression on his face.
“Where is Shine?” I asked suddenly.
“Not here, there are things that we must discuss and that you would be much safer without her knowing” he answered. I stared at him disbelievingly, not about to fall for whatever trick he may have up his sleeve.
“You may not believe this Olivia, but we... Shine and I weren’t always like this” he began.
“I’m guessing it’s something you’re not going to tell me about” I noted knowingly.
“You are correct” he replied looking at me curiously and for the first time, I didn’t feel ready to mouth off at whatever may come out of his mouth next.
“Do you read poetry?” he asked seriously and I paused for a moment trying to process what he meant. He went on without waiting for my answer “I’ve always indulged in wonted folk literature because it made me feel superior to them.”
" When they would confess their truths in a poem or a book I would always think that we Aelfe are greater beings we are better than that even though we may look the same we were very different” he seemed to get more pensive the more he spoke.
“You know how the wonted symbolize angels and demons ...we symbolize light and dark but in the end, I’ve realized they’re ultimately the same thing... just good and evil and that they are very much a part of us, we Aelfe also confess our truth through our experiences. The only minor difference is that we don’t write them in a book or sing them in songs we etch them on our souls and then they become a part of who we are devouring us alive and we don’t even know it...until it’s too late and unlike the wonted we can’t turn back because the demons...our darkness becomes who we are only to be erased through our death.”
His dark words left a chill in the air around us and I took a moment to really imagine him as the complete opposite of who he was now. I came up with nothing.
“Olivia, I can’t say that I’m sorry about what I’ve done because even though it caused death and we spun harmful lies this is who I am now... if you can believe this wasn’t how I always was. If I were to regret the things I have done, then the people I did those evils for and the reasons I did them would mean nothing and I wouldn’t be able to live with that. But I will thank you and be forever grateful for you saving me when you had absolutely no reason to.”
I couldn’t imagine a big enough reason for the things he had done and then the thought of Erdos slithered across my mind. Revenge I thought. The things the Elders had done was bridged on revenge.
It was a bittersweet thing... bitter for the ones who carried it out and sweet for the ones it was taken for and that’s where the difficulty of the decision comes into play because to not indulge in it is to be bitter all the same. My insight had soared to new heights since being here and I wondered if this was another Nese ability manifesting itself because I was a Seilie, or was it something else?
Either way, I felt compelled to repeat Erdos’s words since this seemed as good a time as any. “Erdos found it necessary to inform me that I have a sister and that... she might be the Fantom.”
Sonny’s eyes lit up with recognition momentarily, then he blinked trying to hide it. “Erdos would say anything to try and save himself, whatever he said was just a game to weaken your resolve” he assured firmly.
I chuckled at his unsurprising response. “Call me crazy for not believe you because I knew that is exactly what you would say if you were hiding something.”
“There is no truth to his words” Sonny advised.
“He also told me something else. He said that Elders were required to be Nematons, this law initiated by no other than the Elders of Elvaraz and I thought what would come of the Elder found out to be a lesser Aelfe” Sonny seemed to be growing nervous an unusual reaction for him.
“Even if something like that were to be true there would be no way to prove it” he argued defensively.
“I know but suppose that Elder was forced somehow to prove themselves, like with what happened yesterday when you were left unguarded while your life was being threatened by the person you hated the most but I’m sure you must have been disoriented... maybe even a little frightened who am I to judge the entire thing was actually very traumatic really.” I reasoned.
The disdain I had become used to once again filled his eyes and it was then I knew I was right. I felt drained as if I were bracing myself for disappointment earlier.
“I will not admit or deny your ludicrous assumptions child but you must be aware of one thing. Family or not we will not hesitate to do what we must if our reputation became threatened by someone who doesn’t know their place” Sonny warned.
“I won’t share your secret if you tell me what I want to know” I responded much braver than I was feeling.
He looked away from me and for a moment I feared that he had not conceded. “Yes, you had a sister not have” he admitted.
“Tell me what happened” I urged him not quite accepting his words.
“Your mother gave birth to twins, you and your sister” I kept quiet while I waited for him to continue eagerly.
“I had found out the day our son left for the realm of Elme. The child was silent after being born and its heart beats faint and so Nyx decided to go to the only Aelfe he was sure of would help him in making his daughter well.”
“Why didn’t you just help him if you knew? I’m sure he must have asked” I interrupted feeling a brewing anger.
“He did, but we refused” Sonny admitted without any form fof guilt. “So he left and without warning that day the Venators attacked, no one knows why other than the fact that this riot had a lot to do with Erdos. We were devastated, of course, he was our son, in line to take our place as Elder and so we went to search for him but of course, he was dead and so was his child.”
An emptiness I could not fill troubled me since I didn’t know how to mourn for the father and sister I had not known.
“Are you absolutely sure that my sister died?” I asked “Erdos said--”
“I know what I saw” Sonny interrupted.
“What about the darkness, the Fantom when I touched it grew weaker like a Sith” I tried to explain.
“That is impossible, a Sith can only survive so long without aura to feed off of. And Elme became a realm of ice once the Venators were through with it, nothing living is able to survive there for long” I gave up all hope once he said this.
“His body was torn when we found him and the cloth which he had swaddled the child with was torn and bloodied also, there was no way any part of them survived. We buried whatever was left of them there and we haven’t looked back ever since” he finished.
“What happens after you die and there’s no Elder?”
“We cannot die until there’s an Aelfe chosen to take our place” Sonny answered.
“Just pretend I don’t understand what you mean and explain to me what that means” I insisted with sarcasm.
It seemed as if he had missed my insolence because he proceeded to do just that “Our home, as you may have noticed is different from the others surrounding it. Haven’t you ever thought about why you had to be invited before entering our abode?” he paused letting his question linger.
My eyes widened as comprehension dawned on me, “a portal?”
“A portal to a realm within realms. We wouldn’t be able to last this long without them. It has always been a part of this realm and the others also a symbol of how vital the duty we have to Aelfe kind.”
“Yea, it must be nice to pretend to care for your own kind and then hide in your cage and laugh at their demise how comforting” I commented with crude satire.
“I think that it’s best you leave now, it’s what you are best at” he retorted testily.
“I wasn’t planning on staying,” I said standing to exit the way I had come.
As I reached the entrance to Kelu’s home I stopped contemplating whether or not I should go in. Now that my mind had cleared, the memory of Del’s rejection left me feeling quite embarrassed. ‘Stupid, stupid’ I chided myself over and over as I paced back and forth in front of their home.
“I told them you’d be back but no one believed me” Del’s voice came and I froze in my tracks my back turned to him. “You look much better than when you left” he commented coming towards me.
I grimaced trying to calm myself when my heart sped up at the sound of his approaching footsteps. I swallowed nervously turning to face him watching him saunter over with a smirk on his face.
My palms began to grow sweaty so I looked away greeting him “I said I’d be back didn’t I.”
“Yea we’ve been lied to before, forgive us for not taking your word for it” he joked.
I tried for a smile while my heart made its way into my lungs and staggered my breathing. He came to a stop directly in front of me and I could feel the heat emanating from his skin.
The hate and mistrust from our previous days were missing from his glare and it was replaced with something else. Something close to intrigue I guessed, but I’ve been wrong before. I looked down at my hands unable to hold his gaze any longer.
“I think I see what you mean now. The Aelfen behind this Seilie is very hard to hate” Del commented and I looked up at him shyly not appreciating this feeling or how close he was.
“Disappointing for you I’m sure” I mumbled.
He then reached out and grazed my cheek with the back of his warm fingers making me shiver at his touch. “This is new” came Kelu’s dull tone suddenly and I stumbled my knees going weak from her immediate arrival.
At that moment Del’s hand slid to my arm gripping my arm gently as he pulled me close and crushed me towards his hard body casually “yea I guess I don’t entirely hate Seilies anymore” came his cool reply.
I wiggled out of his grasp to make my way towards the house, breezing past Kelu with a muffled “good to see you” as I tried to hide my unease.
“I say that we venture out to the Pit tonight, after what we’ve been through we could all use a break” Alen suggested halting my retreat and steering me back out the door. Del watched pleased as I emerged through the door to stand where he and Kelu now waited.
“I thought you were against going to the Pit” I pointed out to Kelu.
“For you, not for us” she clarified as a matter of factly.
I had nowhere else to be I reasoned as I followed them quietly while Kelu and Alen chatted away inaudibly.
“If I’m not mistaken...” Del began as he fell behind to join me “I think you tried to kiss me” he said smugly.
“Nope must have been someone else” I lied lengthening my stride but he kept up effortlessly.
“I’m sure it was you. I can’t remember hearing about anyone kissing a Seilie before. I should count myself lucky” he continued to tease seeming pleased with himself.
“Well nothing happened and nothing will so just get over it” I snapped.
“The problem is I can’t,” he said tugging my shirt and stopping me in my tracks.
I started to protest as I turned to face him and then he was there, his face as close as it had been the day before, eyes smoldering and lips slanted into a half smile. My heart thumped erratically in my ears as he held me firmly before him while he lowered his lips to mine brushing them softly with his own.
My heart stuttered in my chest while my eyes fluttered to a close, I could feel his warm uneven breath tickling my lips. I had stopped breathing completely and when his soft warm lips pressed against my own, they parted willingly.
I sighed into his mouth as my hands gripped his shoulders shakily and the heat between our bodies was a force of its own spreading over my skin like wildfire. Before I had a chance to catch my breath he pulled away slowly and I was left wanting more.
“Now that that’s out of the way” Del noted his voice husky. I was afraid to open my eyes so instead I spun around with my eyes still closed and once my back was turned to him I marched off my body jittery from our contact.
He came up beside me seeming quite comfortable as I anxiously thought of ways to prevent any awkwardness from forming between us. “Where’s Val?” I stuttered out.
He seemed to catch on to my discomfort and answered “he already went ahead of us” then silence.
We strode coming upon the pond when its surface broke away all at once and I backed away cautiously from its structure. “No ones coming out” I pointed out after a few moments of anticipation.
“I think it’s waiting for you to go in,” Del said not sounding surprised.
“But I’m not thinking of going anywhere.”
“You don’t have to if your being summoned, I think someone needs you.”
That’s it for now guys! Please leave your feedback and feel free to ask any questions. Thanks for reading and hope you are looking forward to Dark Paradise Book II.
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