Olivia couldn’t comfort him even if she wanted too. His sad eyes lowering their gaze to the ground. His shoulders slumped. Hands stuffed in his pockets. She didn’t want him to get the wrong idea, but Lythil must’ve known about Lady Ola’s brutal ways toward her, preventing her from socializing with the world. Then again, maybe he did. Maybe it was all an act right from the start.
Olivia frowned, it seemed too real, his affections and constant desire to have her attention on him didn’t seem like an act. If he really liked her, felt feelings beyond a friend, why would he try to kill her?
Her was body cold and numb, too numb to feel the slightest ounce of pain. At first, she was glad she couldn’t feel it, she didn’t want the pain of watching her parents be murdered in front of her. But after a while, she felt empty, ripped of life and replaced with dullness. She wished to feel something, a pinch on the cheek from her father when she was being cheeky or feel the stinging pain of scrapping her knee on the hard ground. Olivia wished to feel something, anything just to feel alive. Nothing happened.
Black. Pitch black. Olivia stood, not knowing what to do. Everywhere she looked there was nothing in sight. Faintly, she heard laughter, a child’s laughter. Olivia turned around with a summer breeze greeting her. It felt all too familiar. She was standing in her old village, Keolia, the warm sun fell upon her face yet she felt nothing but coldness.
Her father was in front of her, crouched down to the young Olivia as they stood in a meadow next to their house. She wore a smile that Olivia hadn’t worn in years. A tear fleed into her eye as she watched young Olivia poke her tongue at father which responded for him to do the same.
Young Olivia giggled and pointed at him with a chubby finger. “Naughty, daddy. Momma said you aren’t allowed to poke the tongue. It’s rude,”
Father rolled his eyes playfully and pinched her cheek. “Well, don’t tell her, Olive.”
Young Olivia smiled cheekily. “I’m going to tell her!”
The little girl in a yellow shirt and blue trousers turned around and began running away from father. He chuckled and began running after the squealing girl. “Olivia, you naughty girl, I’m going to catch you and tickle your tummy!”
The image blurred and faded. Olivia stood there, the tear escaped her eye and rolled down her cheek. She couldn’t help as another fell. Her heart ached with misery and pain, the pain of wanting one last moment with her parents before they were taken away from her. A cold breeze prickled at her exposed neck and made her shiver, interrupting her thoughts. The meadow was in front of her again, but it felt strange, it felt grim. A scream suddenly shrieked through Olivia’s ears and had her cringing in fright.
Olivia snapped her head around. As soon as she did she screamed in terror. Tears glistened in the lit fire torch of the image in front of her and Olivia couldn’t stop the tears streaming down her face. She covered her hand with her mouth, keeping herself quiet as young Olivia crawled away from her older brother, Cly. He held a weapon, a sword that dripped with red liquid, blood, their parent’s blood.
Cly was angry. Young Olivia had never seen him so mad before, so evil, so twisted. He stepped closer to their parents who staggered back. Mother was crying hysterically, making Olivia’s heart clench with sorrow. Her father stood in front of her with a deep cut to his cheek. He stepped forward and Olivia widened her eyes in horror. She had seen the memory more than she could count. She knew what was coming.
“Father, no!” she cried out hopelessly.
Angrily, Cly swung the sword at their father, slicing open his chest. Both Olivias screamed in agony as blood gushed out of their father’s chest. He fell to his knees with a strained grunt, a splatter of blood dripping from the side of his mouth. Cly put his boot on father’s chest and kicked him back harshly. Olivia flinched. Father groaned with pain as mother came to his side, screaming and shouting at her husband’s pain.
“Shut up, you stupid woman!” Cly growled.
Olivia’s lip trembled as she fell to her knees. Young Olivia was quivering violently; tears streamed down her puffy red cheeks as she stared with eyes full of horrible fear.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Cly demanded.
“C-Cly, honey, please,” mother begged.
“I said shut up!” Cly yelled.
Mother fell silent, clutching onto father’s hand as his head rested limply on her lap. He was near death, it was only a matter of time.
“You lied to us. How dare you imposter our real parents! Do you have any idea how much we trusted you? We believed you were our real parents!” Cly shouted, swinging the bloody sword around in both anger and frustration.
Young Olivia couldn’t stop herself as she sobbed loudly. “Momma,”
Cly turned back with an evil glare. “Do not call her that, Olivia. She isn’t our mother. She’s an imposter!”
He turned back to their parents and pointed the sword at them. Young Olivia’s eyes widened as Cly swung the sword at mother, cutting deep into her shoulder. Mother screamed in sheer pain and collapsed to the ground, blood pooling around her shaking body. Cly clenched his teeth as he pointed the blade at her again.
“It is true?” he asked in a low, dark voice.
Mother shook her head hopelessly. “No, baby, please listen to —”
“Answer the question, damn it, woman! Am I part demon?!”
Mother only lowered her gaze and spoke in a crocky, strained voice. “You’ll always be my baby boy,”
Cly growled, a growl so demonic and evil, both Olivias shivered. With a swung of the sword, mother’s sobs and cries were silent. Father twitched in pain, grunting as tears rolled down his red face.
“A-Alana,” he cried, turning his head toward his dead wife. Her lifeless body grew pale as more blood oozed through the slash to her neck.
“Shut up, you fool,” Cly mocked and lifted the sword again.
Olivia shook her head, eyes widening as she stood up. “Cly, don’t,”
Cly lifted the sword higher.
Olivia began to lose her breath. Her heart clenched and ached with great pain and misery. “Stop it, brother. Please, stop it!”
Cly heard nothing as young Olivia cried loudly. Then he brought the sword down, stabbing father through the chest.
“Cly, no!” Olivia screamed in a pathetic cracked voice.
Father’s head rolled to the side, eyes dull and dead as they stared at Olivia, haunting her. She breathed heavily, staggering back yet unable to tear her eyes away from the brown eyes of her dead father.
The image blurred and faded. Olivia was alone yet the darkness taunted her, embraced her with it’s cold, wet hands. She screamed in torment, clutching the sides of her head as tightly as she could. She was useless, pathetic, a waste of space.
“No! No! No! No! Father!” she screamed again and came crashing to her knees.
The memory replayed over and over in her head. She couldn’t take it as another screamed tore through her throat. She wanted to escape the nightmare she was in. She was being driven to insanity. The horrible pressure of watching her brother turn against her parents built up inside her. The darkness was closing in, the air insufferable to breathe.
She gasped, clawing at her throat, banging her hands on the black surface, tears freely flowing down her face. She screamed at the ground. Her head pulsed painfully as if about to explode.
“Momma!” she screamed in hopeless agony. “Daddy!”
Her ears throbbed. The echo of her screams was painful and bounced back at her with invisible walls. But the anger, the pain, the despair all built up every minute that seemed like an hour and Olivia couldn’t stop as her lungs burst, letting another scream tear through her. Her throated tightened but she couldn’t stop. Her hands clenched against the sides of her head as it pulsated; like something was smashed against her skull repeatedly. Her breathing went labored and shallow, screaming quietly with each strangled breath she took.
She wanted it to end. She wanted the nightmare, the pain, everything to end. But she knew it wouldn’t, not as long as the haunting memories of her dead parents awaited her every night. Another breeze blew past her, it was warm with a little chill at the end. Olivia heard the familiar child’s laughter followed by a grown man’s laugh.
“Daddy! That tickles!” squealed young Olivia.
Olivia’s eyes widened and her breathing went short and chocked out. Slowly, she forced her head toward the sound to find an image in front of her again. Through the iced-over window, it was nightfall. A fire crackled and burned brightly to light up the dark space. Her father and young Olivia were in the living room as father tickled her sides.
Olivia turned away and slapped her hands over her ears. Though the laughter only got louder by the second as father tickled young Olivia more.
“Daddy, stop! I-It tickles.”
Olivia shook her head furiously and threw her head back, screaming as loud as she could. ”Someone help me!”
Screaming herself awake, Olivia shot up from her spot, gasping, whimpering, crying as both tears and sweat moistened her face and body. Her body shook uncontrollably. The nightmares lingered in her mind, haunting her with the cherished memories of her dead parents.
A quiet scream slipped past her trembling lips and Olivia snapped her head to the voice. Rykal stood behind her, alarmed and tired. Olivia stared at him, the cherished memories twisting in her head. She couldn’t help but crawl into a tight ball, burying her head into her knees as she rocked herself back and forth. She didn’t realize she was still crying. Her eyes were wide, petrified with cold, familiar fear that held her tightly.
“It was a nightmare. It was a nightmare. It was a nightmare. . .” she chanted over and over again quietly.
She heard whispers and low voices. They were familiar.
“You go back to sleep. I’ll deal with her,”
Silence. Olivia quivered and started banging her head softly against her knees, trying to empty her mind of the screams echoing down her ears. She was being tortured with her past memories that were meant to be cherished for as long as she lived, not be twisted and manipulated to haunt her every night. It was horrible. Her childhood memories broke her heart and made her wish she could forget it all, she would rather forget about her past than watch the brutal death of her parents nearly every night.
A hand was placed on her shoulder and Olivia shot her head up, terrified and alarmed. It was Rykal. He gazed at her with concern as he crouched down next to her. She followed his eyes, somehow gazing them yet she didn’t process them being there. The blue swirl of his eyes might’ve burned with passion, but to her, they were empty and dull.
Rykal tilted his head to the side before he held out his hand. Olivia forced her head down and looked at the hand. It looked so warm, so calm, so inviting. Though, Olivia didn’t want to take it. She looked up at him again and met his wary gaze. He looked tired with the faint purple circles under his eyes. She felt bad that she had woken the group with her nightmares. She wished she didn’t have to go through the same nightmare every night, disrupting the others.
Looking at the dragon shifter a bit longer, Olivia had the urge to do something else. The memory with young Olivia and father in the living room in front of a lit fire started to faded slowly from her mind the more she thought about something else. Tears started to blur her vision and instead of taking his hand, Olivia lunged at the dragon shifter, holding onto him tightly.
Rykal gave a surprised grunt as he fell back from his crouched position. Olivia only held him tighter, curling herself into a ball between his legs. She was timid with his reaction to her bold move, if not afraid. She hoped in her head that he wouldn’t push her away whilst giving a disgusted look or move her off him. She would feel awkward and embarrassed and thinking about it made Olivia bury her head into his warm shoulder.
The temptation to hug him was unbearable and she couldn’t endure it much longer. To hug him was sweet to her, she felt so settled and secure, like nothing she had known to feel before. Even though she hadn’t been hugged or embraced in years, the feeling of embracing Rykal felt right. It was weird since she knew hardly anything about him. But he made her feel things that she never thought were real or existed.
As the long seconds went past, Olivia was dreading the thought that he was going to push her away. To her utter shock, Rykal responded to her and wrapped his arms around her, embracing her as she with him. He rested his chin atop her head and gently stroked his hand through her hair.
“Rykal. . .” Olivia whispered tenderly, her throat faintly throbbing.
Rykal turned his head into her hair and nudged it. “Are you okay?”
Olivia turned her head to the side, staring at the wall as she rested her head on his shoulder. She answered softly, “It was just a nightmare. It happens,”
Rykal lifted his head, seeming to look ahead. He was silent. Olivia thought about glancing up at him but thought otherwise. Her grip remained tight and she could feel every ounce of heat radiating from his body to hers. It kept the cold at bay and the feeling of safety and comfort was like nothing she had experienced before. She didn’t understand it, yet she welcomed it.
“Rykal,” Olivia whispered again.
He murmured, “I’m here,”
Olivia grabbed his shirt in her fists. There was something she wanted to know, something she needed to ask. “Why did you save me? I was better off dead.”
Rykal was silent for a few seconds. His hand stilled. “You wouldn’t understand if I told you now,”
Olivia frowned. “Why wouldn’t I?”
Rykal settled his head on hers again and spoke in a low voice. “You thought I was a myth a week ago. How do you expect to understand why I saved you when my reasons involve my kind’s traditions which you know nothing about?”
Olivia remained silent. His answer left her confused. What did he mean she wouldn’t understand his reasons involved in his species tradition? It sounded weird in her head, like the only reason he saved her was to sacrifice her to a dragon or because he’d use her to conceive a child.
It was the absurd and barbaric reasons that were written in the books of mythical creatures. Olivia was certain they were made up. She was also certain they were false accusations on dragon shifter’s traditions just to fill a gap in the book. Though she also thought Rykal was a myth, and he wasn’t. Did it mean the accusations were true after all?