Chapter 17: Tears Of Blood
With only a couple hours till sunrise, Ra’venna tries to absorb the starlight while it lasts. Sleep has evaded her for the past eight days. She and Helio have not spoken since the Helix. Every kill usually comes accompanied with a dull pang of guilt. The kills in the Helix have turned a dull pang into a gnawing pain. She can’t sleep without seeing the faces of the lives she’s taken as the light flees from their eyes.
Her hands curl into fists; her nails digging into the coarse flesh of her hands. How dare these ghosts haunt her? How dare Helio be the reason?
This bond with Helio is bringing sides of herself to the surface she had long buried. It’s what has kept her alive. Mercy and hesitation are dangerous traits for a mercenary to have.
Ra’venna rests her back against the window and allows herself to slide down it. The cold from the window seeps into her scalp. The coldness is relaxing, familiar; it reminds her of the Nether that dwells within her. It itches to be unleashed, to destroy, to devour. Ra’venna shuts her eyes and takes a deep breath. She soothes the raging element like one would soothe a temperamental animal by caressing it and uttering promises of destruction.
She stands up and pads across the room to the bed. The cloak Helio gave her lies strung over the end of the bed, cleaned. She caresses the fabric. Such darkness broken by light, if only she could break her darkness. Perhaps than she could have a chance at redemption.
Ra’venna runs her hand through her waves and snags the cloak from the bed. Instead of tossing it in the wardrobe she drapes it over the back of the desk chair.
She crawls back into bed and pulls the covers over her body. She at least needs to try and sleep for the sake of her sanity.
Ra’venna’s startled from her sleep just as the sun is beginning to peek over the horizon. She lies in bed, staring up at the ceiling trying to calm her racing heart. Her body is slick with sweat. She kicks the covers off her and goes to the bathroom.
She slips off her pajama shirt and pants and then discards her undergarments. She runs her hand through the cold water of the magically prepared bath before stepping in.
This time it was a Griffin Baroness she killed almost a year ago. She dreamt the woman’s young daughter witnessed her crime. The nightmares are getting worse.
Yesterday is was the Elf woman she was hired to kill by her husband. She took the contract without hesitation. She didn’t even feel guilty after the act was done.
Sighing, Ra’venna steps out of the bath. She snags the towel from the rack and dries herself off before wrapping it around her. She strolls over to the wardrobe and pulls out a fresh set of clothes to change into.
Ra’venna passes by the guards as if they’re not there and barges into Helio’s chambers without knocking. She freezes upon finding Helio sitting up in bed with the covers pulled to his waist and his chest bare. In the chandelier’s dimmed light she can see something she never noticed before-a Dragon tattoo printed over his right breast.
Her breath catches in her throat. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you would be awake.” She curses herself for stuttering.
He chuckles. “Then why did you come in?” He inquires. Ra’venna glares at him.
“I wanted to use your balcony.” She confesses. Helio gestures to the glass doors.
“What are you doing awake this early?” She questions, ignoring his invitation.
“Can’t sleep.” He mumbles, shrugging. She’s not sure if she was meant to hear it or not.
He shakes away his misery and glares at Ra’venna. He can feel her searching for words of comfort as he has felt her torment for the past week. The guilt and sorrow has nearly brought him to his knees multiple times. Every time he opens his mouth to say something, but comes up blank.
“You’re not a monster Ra’venna.” She scoffs.
“You don’t know all I’ve done. The crimes I committed in the Helix are nothing.” Helio’s jaw clenches. He doesn’t like her referring to her actions as ‘crimes’.
“I don’t care. You’re not a monster Ra’venna.” He insists. Tears weld up in her eyes. He witnessed her murder three creatures and still... How can he see the blood on her hands and still see goodness in her?
“Why?” She whispers.
He slips out of bed and walks over to her. He takes ahold of her elbows, igniting them in a pleasant heat. “You’re not a bad creature, I know it. I’ve seen the good in you. Even if you don’t see it, I do.”
A genuine smile spreads across her face. “You don’t know how much that means to me, Helio.” He smiles back at her.
He opens his mouth to say something, but is interrupted by a knock on the door. Helio releases her and steps back. The heat vanishes. “Come in.” He orders.
Two pages enter. They bow lowly and then rise. They do not make eye contact with the Prince; they know they are not worthy of that honor.
“I will give you privacy.” Ra’venna mutters.
She hurries out of Helio’s chambers to her own. She slams the door shut behind her and places a hand over her racing heart. Could this be another side effect of their bond?
Love incites your heart to race at unnatural speeds.
Her mother’s favorite saying rings through her mind. No. She can’t love. She surrendered that piece of her long ago. The lives she’s taken have robbed her of that right. It doesn’t matter anyway; she is here to protect Helio and kill his brother. Helio is the Crown Prince of the Quvanian Empire. He is destined to marry a noble Dragon and assume the throne. She is a mercenary; destined to kill and kill until someone does the same to her or her guilt devours her.
Ra’venna is hit by a faint, familiar magic. She follows the trail to the desk; lying on it is a scroll stamped with the seal of the Order of Kamara.
Ra’venna’s breath hitches. She practically bolts to the desk. She picks it up and after a brief inspection, breaks the seal. It unfurls. As Ra’venna suspected it’s from K’marie.
Etrien. Two days. I need to see you. It’s important. You know where to meet.
She lowers the parchment and steps away from the desk. K’marie wouldn’t risk a message unless it was serious. How will she explain this to Helio? Ra’venna releases her power and watches as the Nether devours the parchment, leaving nothing, not even ash.
Ra’venna slams her palm into the desk. K’marie has always had the worst timing. She can’t leave Helio, not with Terdar scheming and this unknown ‘bond’ between them. At the same time she can’t ignore K’marie’s summon.
Ra’venna raises her hood and storms out of the chamber. She bursts into Helio’s without knocking for the second time. The two pages are attaching Helio’s cape to his shoulders. “Get out.” She barks at the two. They jump and begin violently quivering.
“Ra’venna, what-” She cuts Helio off with a sharp glare.
“Do not make me repeat myself.” The pages flee the room.
Ra’venna turns her attention to Helio and finds him watching her with a mixture of amusement and wistfulness. She pretends not to see it.
“I need to leave for a few days.” She states. Helio absentmindedly adjusts his vambraces.
“Why?” Ra’venna diverts her gaze.
“Personal reasons.” Helio raise a brow.
“I didn’t realize you had a personal life.” He muses, smirking. Ra’venna responds with a fierce glare.
“I don’t have to explain myself to you. I only wanted to inform you.” She growls. Helio approaches her and gingerly takes ahold of her arms. Despite every trained instinct telling her to pull away, she is unable to. Fire engulfs her arms. It soothes her anger.
“What’s going on?” His voice is soft and delicate.
“I have to meet someone. I can’t tell you more than that.” She bites the inside of her cheek. She has no reason to feel guilty. K’marie’s secret is safe.
“I’ll have a ship prepared for you. Where’re you going?” She meets his gaze. Within her soul is war between the Fairy that begs for her to believe him and the mercenary that demands suspicion.
“Etrien. This meeting is private and must remain so. Please, keep it a secret.” Helio nods.
“Of course.” He drops his hands from her arms. They are instantly cool. He starts to walk away, but stops and turns. “Ra’venna, I would never abuse the trust you have placed in me, you know that, right?” He questions.
“Yes,” she replies, after a heartbeat.
Only after he leaves does she realize she means it.
Ra’venna spends the two days on the ship below deck, safe from inquisitive eyes. The sailors don’t dare disturb her. She spends a majority of the days thinking about K’marie and what she could possibly have to tell her. Her mind runs through a number of terrible scenarios. By the time the ship arrives she is eager to get off. The captain tells her they will be waiting and she vanishes.
Etrien is barely recognizable from the grand, Fairy kingdom it once was. It’s a wasteland of ruins, death, and pain. The beauty, music, art, and dance that defines the Fairy culture is all but gone. Etrien was known around the world for its beauty and art. Now it serves as a reminder of what happens to those who oppose Quvania.
Ra’venna walks down the sidewalk. She passes her fellow Fairies and watches as they shy away from the Dragons. They’re grounded by invisible chains. Their freedom stripped from them. The Dragons are an infestation within her home kingdom. She can’t do anything for fear of word finding its way back to Terdar or his parents. Even Helio doesn’t know of her connection to Etrien and she wants it to stay that way.
She stops and stares at the ruins of Voltrea Castle in the distance. What was once the gem of the area has been reduced to rubble. When Quvania invaded they destroyed the estates of the nobles and killed them and their families. They left no survivors.
Almost no survivors.
She pushes the images from her mind. This isn’t her home. This was the home of Duchess Ra’venna Voltrea and as far as the world knows she met her end at the hands of Quvanian soldiers.
It doesn’t look like anyone has been there since it fell-nine years ago. The overgrown grass reaches well above her waist and vines crawl over the ruins. To think this was once her home.
Ra’venna leaps over a pile of fallen boulders, her violet cloak quivering and shaking behind her.
“I was worried you would refuse to come.” A silky voice calls from the shadows. Ra’venna turns to see K’marie emerging from the shadows.
K’marie is a rather short woman and by all means unassuming. She has copper skin, startling, sapphire eyes, and short hair as black as the abyss. She’s clothed in a black, short sleeve kurta that reaches her calves with silver patterned lines that twist themselves down the front and along her shoulders. The flowing material opens and spins with her every movement. Underneath she’s wearing loose, black pants fastened around the ankles and black sandals decorated with silver gems. She’s not what one would imagine the leader of a secret order of assassins to be, but Ra’venna knows better. K’marie could very well be the most dangerous creature on Tevata.
“Why did you summon me?” Ra’venna asks, lowering her head. She has no need to hide from her.
“I have a few questions for you first.” K’marie counters. Her milky voice fills the open air. “Why are you protecting the eldest Dragon Prince?”
Ra’venna averts her gaze. At least K’marie doesn’t know about their blood bond. She’ll have her head if she finds out. “His brother hired me to kill him then betrayed me. Helio offered me the chance to kill him in turn for protecting him while he works to take down his family from the inside.” She recites it without emotion.
“It has already begun then.” She states, frowning.
“What are you talking about K’marie?” Ra’venna demands, her voice rising.
“Things are happening Ra’venna. Things that were set in motion aeons ago and you will play an integral part in it all. I have seen it.” A chill runs up her spine.
“K’marie, what are you talking about?” She pushes, fear clear in her voice.
“Darkness is rising. The Storm Children are coming. You must prepare to face your destiny. You must protect the Dragon Prince.” She proclaims.
“I don’t want any part of whatever you’re talking about.” She turns away, K’marie snags her arm.
“It’s not up to you. History has already carved out a place for you.” Ra’venna swallows back the lump forming in her throat and turns around.
“I don’t have a destiny.” She struggles to keep her voice steady. K’marie releases her, but keeps her eyes locked with Ra’venna’s.
“Every creature has a destiny. For some their destiny is decided at birth. They’re the lucky ones. For the rest of us, it sneaks up on us like a shadow in the night.” Ra’venna shakes her head.
“I’m no hero. I can save no one. I can’t create. I only destroy.” Her voice cracks. Helio’s words have begun to get to her. She can almost believe she’s not a monster and K’marie knows it.
“You have always tried to see the worst within yourself.” K’marie observes. Her voice is soft and mother-like.
“Why would destiny choose anything for me?” Tears rise in Ra’venna’s eyes. She blinks them away, refusing to look any weaker than she already does.
“Anyone can stand in the light. Not everyone can venture into the dark.” K’marie lays her hand on Ra’venna’s cheek. “I know that despite all I have said you don’t believe me. Listen well, my little warrior. I am a Banshee. We are death incarnate. It sings to us. We know its approach and weep tears of blood. Death is coming. Lots of it. You can stop it. You have been trained for it.” Tears finally spill over onto Ra’venna’s cheeks. They fall from her face onto her cloak.
“You forged me into a weapon. You made me a killer.” She cries. Ra’venna drops her hand from Ra’venna’s cheek.
“I didn’t forge you into a weapon. I forged you into a warrior.” K’marie corrects.
“I-I don’t understand.” She croaks, stumbling backwards.
“The rest of the Order of Kamara are weapons I have trained to be at my disposal, but not you. You were special. Have you never wondered why I let you leave?”
“You said my training was finished.” Ra’venna replies meekly.
“It was a believable enough excuse.” K’marie shrugs.
“What makes me special?” The cryptic answers are beginning to enrage her. None of this makes sense.
“Now you’re asking the right questions, my little warrior.” A fond smile spreads across her face. “You are the daughter I never had I couldn’t be more proud.” Ra’venna’s eyes narrow.
“Why does this sound like a goodbye?” K’marie continues to smile as if she hadn’t heard the fear in her voice.
“I found you on the streets, struggling to survive. You struggled so magnificently. Never giving up. There was such rage and conviction within you. You were steel waiting to be forged.” Ra’venna shakes her head, confused.
“And so you forged me into a killer.” Ra’venna growls. The face of all those she’s killed flash through her mind like a seemingly endless mirage. Yet, there is no judgement or resentment in Ra’venna’s voice.
“I gave you what you would need to survive. You needed to be hard and merciless. The world would accept nothing less. I made you into the perfect warrior.” K’marie stares at her as if she’s a finished masterpiece. Ra’venna looks away.
K’marie grabs her chin, forcing her to look her in the eye. “Listen to me. Whether you believe me or not ancient forces are in motion and they are rising quickly. You will need your Prince. More importantly, you will need to believe in yourself. You doubt the goodness that lies in you. Don’t. In the end it may very well be the thing that saves you.” She releases her and Ra’venna moves away.
“He’s not my Prince.” Ra’venna insists. K’marie’s lips curl into a knowing smirk.
“You seem attached to him. Perhaps by a magical bond...” Ra’venna throws her head back and groans.
“How could you possibly know?”
“Knowledge is what has allowed the Order of Kamara to survive this long. He shared his blood with you. He cares for you. Deeply.” Ra’venna shifts uncomfortably.
“He saved me because he needs me.” Ra’venna denies.
“No, he didn’t. Dragons are greedy creatures. He wouldn’t share his blood lightly. He care for you and you care for him. You can’t run away from this. You’re bound forever.” Ra’venna’s eyes snap to Ra’venna.
“This is permanent?” K’marie nods.
“Blood sharing is a deeply spiritual and personal act and the bond it creates is unbreakable.” Ra’venna shakes her head, running a hand through her hair. “Stop denying your feelings. Stop denying your goodness. Let the Dragon Prince in and you may be surprised what you find.”
“What would he see in me?” Ra’venna whispers.
“He sees who you are beneath the denial and pain. He sees who you pretend not to be.”
“What if he’s wrong?” What if you’re wrong?
“He’s not.” I’m not.