Chapter 20: Blood And Stone
Ra’venna can’t make out the words being spoken. There are only two possible ways in or out of the tower the wooden door at the base and arched window at the top. If she folds her wings she should be able to fit.
Ra’venna undoes her cloak for the second time today and wraps it around her neck like a scarf. She opens her wings, shaking the stiffness from them and beats them together. She flies to the window’s side and peers in. There’s no sign of the General. Helio is seated on the floor, his legs spread out before him and his head buried in his hands. She flattens her wings and puts her cloak back on. Ra’venna slides into the window and lands with only a whisper of her cloak.
Helio notices a lurking shadow through his fingers. His head snaps upwards. Standing before him, obstructing the moonlight is Ra’venna.
“Ra’venna,” he breathes her name like it’s an answered prayer. Despite not showing it, relief courses through their bond.
Ra’venna eyes the gold chain binding him. “Don’t move.” She instructs. She kneels before it. An inkling of power slips from her finger in the form of a smoky, violet stream. Helio watches amazed as it chews through the gold band and retreats back into her finger.
Confusion flashes through Ra’venna’s eyes. The few creatures that have seen her power and lived to tell the tale look at her with fear and repulsion. She feels neither coming from Helio. Instead she feels awe and amazement. She forces herself to look away.
“How did you find me?” He asks, standing up.
“I had a...conversation with Vladire.” She replies with a wicked smirk. She draws her sais. The moonlight glistens off the steel, revealing the blood staining them.
Helio should be disgusted by her actions, yet he can’t find it in himself to pity Vladire. “Thank you,” he whispers. She acknowledges him with a curt nod.
“We need to leave.”
Ra’venna free falls from the window, landing with a noticeable thump. She glances back at the door. After confirming she wasn’t heard, gestures for Helio to jump. He lands beside her, claws drawn.
The two start for the woods. With any luck, by the time Seaton notices Helio’s absence they will be far away.
A bolt of lightning strikes the ground between them, flinging them backwards. Helio is thrown into a tree and Ra’venna over the open ground.
Seaton is standing outside the tower, lightning crackling around him. Ra’venna scrambles to stand. She holds out her hands, now cloaked in Nether. He fires another bolt. Ra’venna devours it.
Seaton is stunned. Like others, he had heard tales of the Nether Fairy, but he didn’t think she was capable of devouring magic itself. He glances once more at the Dragon Prince and thinks of his queens. If he shall die protecting his them, than he shall die honorably.
Seaton charges at Ra’venna, his feathered, orange wings bursting from the slits in his armor. He brings his fist down. Ra’venna crosses her arms, blocking his attack. She shoves him back with an open-palmed strike and follows it with a sharp, quick kick to his leg. He grits his teeth and retaliates with a punch to her gut. Her breath is momentarily cut off. She staggers backwards, gasping for air.
Seaton kicks her into a tree and swings out his arm. Ra’venna tries to dodge his talons, but they slice into the flesh of her side. A cry of pain escapes her lips. Ra’venna lashes out at him with a growl as feral as a Dragon’s. Her punch to his throat cuts off his breathing. His hands immediately go to his throat. She knocks the Griffin to the ground and leaps on top of him. Ra’venna wraps her hand around his throat, preparing to devour him.
“Stop Ra’venna!” Her head whirls around at the sound of Helio’s voice. He limps away from the tree; blood trickling down his temple and cheek. “Let him go.” He orders.
She narrows her eyes at the General and releases her strangling grip on his throat, purposefully slamming his head into the ground. He groans.
Helio approaches them, clutching his injured arm. “Go General.” He instructs, his back straight and his head lifted. “Return home.” Seaton sits up.
“Why?” He gasps hoarsely. Ra’venna smirks slightly.
“I have no intention of assassinating your queens. It’s as I said; my brother is the cause of this and I will ensure he pays for it.” Helio promises. The General rises from the ground. Ra’venna’s smirk widens when she sees him wince. Helio shoots her a warning glare.
“You’re an honorable man, Helioson Shalquim, more than your family. I won’t forget this act of mercy.” General Seaton swears. Helio bows.
“I hope we meet again General, under better circumstances.” The two shakes hand and the General hobbles back to the tower, his wings dragging behind him.
Ra’venna reaches under her cloak to the tear in her shirt and the wounds beneath. She cringes as the fingers run over the lacerations. She pulls her hand away to find blood staining them. Helio catches her hand before she can hide it beneath her cloak. His eyes darken at the sight of her blood.
“You’re injured.” He observes.
“They’re only cuts. I’m fine.” Helio ignores her remarks. He pushes her cloak aside and lifts her torn shirt. Helio’s eyes widen and he raises his head. “You’re from Etrien.” He breathes. Gulping, Ra’venna looks away.
“How do you know?” She asks quietly. A heated shiver runs through her body as Helio runs his fingers over the words tattooed over her ribs. In elegant, silver ink are the words: Peace, Equality, Unity.
“I recognize these words.” Helio’s fingers pause over the first word. “I’ve heard it before...a long time ago.” His voice is barely above a whisper. He appears lost in his memories. Ra’venna watches him, bewildered. “Why?” He implores.
“Why agree to protect me? My family brought untold destruction to Etrien. Why not just kill me anyway?” The heat of his touch wanes as if in response to his sadness and guilt.
“It wasn’t your fault. You were as much of a child as I was. Perhaps, that’s what I realized when I met you; that it wasn’t your fault, even if I wanted to blame you. At first, I agreed to help you because I wanted revenge against your family. Now, I’m helping you because the Fairy that grew up in Etrien still have hope.”
Helio stands, his face mere inches from hers. Their breaths intermingle. His scent fills her nose. He smells of cinnamon and the forest; a strangely pleasant scent. Helio leans closer to her until there is not a finger of space between them. Her sides-where his hands rest-are engulfed in a raging fire. Helio’s very essence is fire, Ra’venna realizes. He is a raging wildfire, no matter how much he tries to contain it, she can see it dancing behind his eyes.
A bird’s call startles them apart. Helio’s blood covered hand falls from her side. He clears his throat, a blush spreading across his cheeks. Ra’venna takes a deep breath, trying to dissipate the heat coursing through her and the fluttering in her stomach. “We need to patch your wound until Nlea can take a closer look.” An awkward tension forms between the two of them.
Ra’venna’s assaulted by a myriad of emotions; some hers, some Helio’s. Curse him for invoking such frantic emotion within her. It hurts to feel. To be subjected to what you can never have. No matter what K’marie says nothing can ever come of them. This is the bond speaking, not her. She’s no princess, empress, or hero. She’s a mercenary, a monster.
Helio glances around at the plants surrounding them. Living with Amsyn has allowed him to acquire some special knowledge. He doesn’t have her considerable skills, but he knows enough to help Ra’venna. He spots a jaionta plant growing at the base of a tree a few feet away. He tears off one of the leaves and slices it open using his claws. The gel oozes out.
He approaches Ra’venna, who appears to be deep in thought. There’s a multitude of emotions flooding through their bond. Though there are many the most prominent one is sadness. “Ra’venna,” he whispers. She raises her head, the sadness vanishes.
“This’ll accelerate the healing and keep it from getting infected.” He explains.
“Of course.” She pushes her cloak aside and raises her shirt. Helio smoothes the gel over the split flesh. Ra’venna gasps. The cool gel contradicts the heat of his touch.
Once he finishes, he stands up and tosses the leaf aside with no regard. For a moment he can almost hear Amsyn scold him for it. His guilt for sending her back to the Children of Tevata returns.
“How did you get here so quickly?” Helio asks. Ra’venna tenses.
“I acquired a Hyddstone. It was easy enough after that.” Helio tries not to respond, for fear of driving her into silence, but the chord of surprise that ricochets down their bond gives him away.
“So, you don’t have a flying ship stashes away somewhere?” He questions, teasing, hopeful.
“Sorry to disappoint.” She responses, smiling. Helio laughs, the tension between them is forgotten.
“How do you intend for us to get back to Quvania?”
“We’re going to steal a ship.” She shrugs.
“I’m serious Ra’venna.”
“So am I.” She smirks.
Ra’venna wasn’t joking. She stole a flying ship docked in nearby trading city in broad daylight and over Helio’s protests. It takes a little over a day and a half to reach the palace. They don’t land on the palace grounds for fear of being attacked. They are met at the gates by a squadron of guards.
Helio tenses as the silver doors of the throne room become visible. He’s had over a day to ponder what lie he’ll tell his parents and has yet to come up with anything. He can’t tell them it was General Seaton or they will declare war before he finishes his sentence. Telling them it was orchestrated by Terdar and Vladire is also not an option. They won’t believe him.
Helio’s blood boils at the sight of his wicked older brother standing before the doors. He has his hands tucked in his pockets and his signature smirk plastered across his face. “Brother, what a relief to have you back safe.” He mocks. Aside from a slight tick of his jaw, he shows no reaction.
“Yes, I can see you’re overwhelmed with pity.”
“I can’t wait to see what tale you spin for mother and father.” He signals for the guards to open the doors. He strolls across the lustrous floor and bows to his parents before taking his place on the throne beside his mother.
“My son,” Apollonis gasps. She jumps up from her throne and hurries down the stairs, the train of her snow colored dress trailing behind her. She takes his face in her hands. “I’m glad you’re safe.” Helio covers his mother’s hands with his own.
“I wouldn’t be here if not for Ra’venna.” He says. Ra’venna’s eyes widen and she resists the urge to glare at him.
Apollonis regards her with a grateful nod. Ra’venna continues to stare at Helio. Apollonis kisses her son’s forehead and returns to her throne.
“I’m glad you’re well my son. I was...concerned.” Solus tells him. That is the most emotion Ra’venna’s ever heard in his voice. Helio dips his head.
“Who took you?” Apollonis demands. Gone, is the concerned mother and the hardened general replaces her.
“Helio just shared that with me. It was General Seaton of Sowhait.” Terdar interjects. Both Ra’venna and Helio’s eyes snap to him. Ra’venna glares at him with such ferocity that Terdar looks away.
“This is an act of war.” Solus bellows. His roar ricochets off the walls.
“They’ll pay with their lives.” Apollonis echoes, a light sparking in her eyes.
“Mother, father, perhaps we shouldn’t be so hasty. We don’t know their motivations.” The excuse sounds weak to his own ears, but he must try something. He can’t allow a war to be started on his behalf.
“No, my son, they took you from our own grounds. This can’t go unanswered. They must suffer.” Solus declares. Helio closes his mouth. The decision’s been made. Everything he’s been working towards has failed. Terdar has won.
Helio lowers his head, defeated. Ra’venna watches as a victorious smirk crosses Terdar’s face and resists the urge to hurl a sai into his eye. She can feel Helio’s defeat as if it were her own.
“You’re dismissed my son. Get some rest.” Helio bows to his parents and leaves the throne room, Ra’venna trailing behind him.
She waits until they’re on the third floor before pulling his arm, halting his movements. She steps in front of him-in the center of the abandoned ballroom. “Listen to me Helio Shalquim: you haven’t failed yet. War, hasn’t started. There’s still time to undo Terdar’s actions.”
“You once said there’re some things that can’t be undone. This is one of them.” Ra’venna shakes her head.
“Unless you wish to see the world plunged into war for the next three centuries, you need to find a way to.” She hisses. He scoffs.
“Yeah, maybe.” He brushes past Ra’venna to his chambers, slamming the door behind him.
Ra’venna rests her head against the glass of the window, her eyes fixed on the pin-pricked sky. The four moons are scattered across the cloudless night. It’s perfect. The corners of her mouth curl up to form a slight smile.
A low rapping at the door shatters her thoughts. “Who is it?” She calls.
“Me,” Helio replies.
Ra’venna doesn’t tear her eyes away from the stars on the door opens and closes. The footfalls make their way to her. Only when they stop does she look at Helio. He stands there clothed in his princely garb-crown absent-with his hands clasped behind his back.
“I owe you an apology for earlier. You’re right. It’s not to late and I shouldn’t be so quick to give up.” He bows his head. Ra’venna raises a brow.
“Did the Silver Prince just apologize to me?” She teases. He chuckles, the worry fading from his face.
“I suppose I did. Was it acceptable?”
“I wouldn’t make a profession of it, but apology accepted.” She replies with a light smile.
Helio takes a step closer; Ra’venna’s heart skips a beat. “Stand up and turn around.” He whispers. Ra’venna regards him with suspicion and defiance. “Trust me.”
Her trained instincts scream at her in K’marie’s voice. Never turn your back on an enemy. Helio isn’t her enemy. He hasn’t been for a long time. When did she come to think of everyone as an enemy? Her wings twitch beneath her cloak. Has she forgotten how to be a Fairy? How to feel?
She stands up and turns around. Helio tugs her hood down. He raises his hands over her head and wraps the silver chain around her neck. The cool metal clashes with her skin, eliciting goosebumps. He sweeps her hair aside and fastens the chain. He releases it and the weight falls.
She looks down. Dangling from the chain is a silver, Dragon claw clutching a clear, glowing stone. A Rhogte. They’re special stones with the ability to store the magic channeled into them. The stone is glowing brightly. It’s been charged with magic.
“I-I don’t understand.” She meets Helio’s gaze. He smiles as she twirls the stone between her fingers. There’s a slight smile on her face and-if his eyes aren’t deceiving him-a faint blush accompanies it.
“It’s a gift for everything you’ve done for me. You can’t imagine how much is means to me.” Her smile widens.
“I could say the same.” And she honestly can. Helio’s given her more than he’ll ever know. He’s given her hope.
“I filled the stone with my magic. No matter where you go...or what happens to me you’ll be able to remember me.” She closes the space between them and raises her hand to his cheek.
“I could never forget you. You’ve given me so much to remember.” The heat travels up her arm, alerting Ra’venna to her actions. She drops her hand and backs away.
Helio opens his mouth to respond, but words fail him. “Good night Ra’venna, sleep well.” He says instead.