Chapter 23: Of Legends And Myths
It takes twice as long to return to Gorus from Latrea as it did from Quvania. Most of the flight was spent in uneasy silence, with overexcited nerves. The doomed news is something neither of them wants to admit is possible, but something that is not impossible. What Jebyja told them makes what Quvania is doing, but a child’s dream.
When they finally return to Ta’floon Avdon goes straight to the manor and subsequently to his room. He doesn’t utter a word to Amsyn. She retreats to her own room, where she spends the day and night with Sinnion talking and thinking.
She wishes there was someway to get a message to Helios, to warn him. He doesn’t know what’s happened. He’s probably in a better position to find out more than she and Avdon are. Even with Avdon’s extensive network of spies and warriors, he cannot know what has happened an aeon ago.
How she wishes she was back in Fulor, in the comfort of her cottage. Things were simpler there. There wasn’t the threat of death hanging over her head and lives did not rest in her hands as they do now.
Sinnion seems to sense her distress. He burrows his head into her hair and neck, curling his tail around her upper arm. Amsyn smiles and, without turning her head, reaches over to pet his scaled body.
Escaping is no longer a choice, neither is turning back. She needs to be strong. It is the only way she can finish this. She needs to help Helios...and Avdon. He deserves her help especially after all she’s done. She betrayed his trust and even though he says she’s earned it back she doesn’t believe she has and she won’t stop until she feels satisfied of having earned his trust.
Having had enough of lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, she tosses her legs over the side of the bed and leaves her room. She patters down the hallway into the foyer, hoping to see Avdon leaning up against the window, but it’s empty. She glances up at the staircase leading to the manor’s second floor. Avdon did say if she needed something she could always come up.
Amsyn makes her way up the stairs as quietly as possible. She has no reason to sneak around and yet she feels as if she is invading his privacy. The second floor has a total of four doors. She has no idea which one is Avdon’s as none of them are marked. Something catches Amsyn’s eye. Hanging on the first door is a woven circle, with a combination of beads and feathers dangling from it. The same circle hanging on her door.
The Elf raises her hand to knock, then lowers it. She gathers her lip between her teeth, gnawing at the skin. What will Avdon say? She draws on the courage she has learned from Helios and knocks, once, and softly. She draws her hand back as if it’s been struck and instantly regrets her choice.
Before she can turn and flee back downstairs the door is opened to reveal Avdon. His hair is tangled and there are shadows beneath his eyes. Amsyn can tell he hasn’t slept. What Jebyja told him weighs heavily on his mind. How can it not? The release of The Ancient will only deny the severity of Quvania as a threat. It would make all he has worked for, nothing.
She throws her arms around him. He turns as stiff as a deadman, before slowly winding his arms back around her. His grip is tight. He clings to her as if she is the last breath he will ever have. He buries his head in her hair, inhaling its natural scent. One of his hands dives into her curls, clutching at them as if they are a lifeline.
Through all this, he is still gentle. She cannot imagine how anyone has ever thought Fauns to be feral and savage. Avdon is gentle, painfully so, and kind beyond belief. And so very broken. She can feel the scars that lie beneath his tattoos. She runs her hand up and down his back, using the action to soothe him as well as examine the scars, marring him. She is horrified to think what could have been done to him, to leave such scars, to infuse him with such pain, and to motivate him to launch such a rebellion.
His arms loosen, allowing her enough room to pull back to face him, but not to get out of his arms. He raises his hand to push back her unruly curls. He captures one in his hand, twirling it around his finger, a slight smile on his face. Her vulpine features are flushed with red at the action.
His hands fall from her face to her upper arms. He rubs circles with his thumbs. Avdon caresses her wooden arm as gentle as her flesh one. The gesture causes tears to rise to the Elf’s magenta eyes. He doesn’t care that a part of her is missing. He treats her as a whole creature, not as one broken or fractured. A tear escapes her eye and trickles down her cheek. Avdon’s face contorts with confusion. He raises his hand and sweeps away the tear. She barely feels his touch.
“What’s wrong?” He mumbles. He worries that he could be the one to bring her tears.
“Nothing, I’m just being foolish.” She laughs and wipes the tears from her eyes. He captures her hand.
“You’re crying. Whatever it is, it is not foolish.” He argues. She shakes her head.
“I meant it’s not your fault. It’s just...you are going to think I’m crazy.” He shakes his head.
“You don’t treat me as if I’m broken or deformed. You treat me as if I’m whole.” Avdon’s face turns fierce and he tightens his grip on her arms.
“You are whole. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing broken or deformed about you. You are perfect the way you are.” He declares, his brown eyes pouring into her magenta ones. “When will you believe me?” She shrugs.
“I don’t know, when I can believe it.” She mutters. She wraps her flesh hand around her wooden arm and lowers her gaze to the floor. Avdon sighs. He places his finger over her chin and lifts it.
“Then until you can believe it for yourself I will believe it for you.” He promises. Amsyn tackles him in a hug once again, burying her head in his neck.
“I don’t know what to say.” She mumbles against his skin.
“You don’t have to speak a word.” She steps back dropping her hands from his body. She can still feel the impressions of the scars beneath her palms. She has a desire to ask him where he got them from, what torments him, but she bites her tongue. Avdon owes her no explanation and he has done more for her than she can speak of.
“What are we going to do about what Jebyja told us? I know you said you believe her, but do you really?” Amsyn questions. Avdon steps back, falling to his bed. He lowers his head, as if ashamed. Amsyn sits down next to him.
“For so long I have focused on one thing, only one thing: making Quvania pay, for all it’s done, and all it’s taken. Now...now, it’s like there’s so much more and Quvania is just a drop in a lake. Is that all this is, nothing?” Amsyn places her hand on his bare shoulder.
“No! All you have done is not for nothing. You have saved lives, many lives. You have made a difference. That will never be nothing.” She insists. Amsyn turns her body, to more fully face him, even though his eyes haven’t left his lap. “You don’t have to forget all you’ve fought for, but now you have more to fight for.” He finally raises his head. He peers at her through the curtain of his hair.
“Do you believe that?” She smiles and nods.
“With every inch of my Elven soul.” She replies, smiling. Avdon chuckles. He takes her hand in his.
“How you can doubt yourself and have such faith in everyone else is beyond me.” He says, mostly to himself. Amsyn blushes and lowers her head, allowing her hair to conceal her face.
“What do we do now?” She questions, lifting her head. Avdon tucks her curls behind her ear.
“You said the prince-” “Helios” “-Helios, is preparing to take down his brother, permanently.” Amsyn nods. “We can make our move then. He’ll need help, getting out of Quvania. I doubt his parents will be thrilled that he murdered his brother.” Amsyn opens her mouth to interrupt, to say Helios won’t be killing Terdar, Ra’venna will, but she shuts. It hardly matters who takes his life, either way he’ll be dead. “Princes are taught many things, if we are lucky he will know something of this Ancient. If not...well, we will have to find another way.”
“I know Helios will help. Maybe Ra’venna will to.” She says, hoping to lift his spirits. He rubs the back of her, showing his thanks.
“The Nether Fairy.” Avdon states, staring at the door. “She’s quite a hero to the people of Etrien. They say she still returns under the cover of darkness and brings them good fortune.” Amsyn’s eyes widen. The merciless mercenary, helping people.
“Yes, I dispatched a squadron of the Children to eliminate a group of guards terrorizing a village in Etrien. When they arrived they found no bodies, only scattered weapons and pieces of armor, the rest had been devoured. They talked with the villagers and were told that the Nether Fairy come from the sky, covered in a purple cloak. She devoured them all.” Avdon recalls. Amsyn’s mind flashes back to the blank, soulless mercenary she met. Ra’venna seemed as if she didn’t care who she killed or who died. Perhaps that is what she wishes everyone to think, that she has no heart and no loyalty, except to money.
“She seemed so...heartless.” Amsyn whispers. Shame fills her. She should have known better, no one is beyond goodness, not even a Nether Fairy.
“Perhaps that is what she wants everyone to think. It’s probably how she’s survived.” Avdon utters lowly. He finds a likeness in the Nether Fairy’s plight. He understands what it is to feel responsible for a people, but at the same time to wish no one ever knows.
Amsyn lays her head on Avdon’s shoulder, the exhaustion from the last few days setting in. It’s hard to sleep with so much whirling around in her mind. Her eyes droop and soon enough she has fallen asleep. Avdon smiles lightly. She looks so peaceful, so perfect. As carefully as possible, he slides one arm under her knees and the other around her back. He pulls back the covers of his bed and lays her in. She stirs and turns away from him, burying her face in his pillow. Avdon pulls the covers up and tucks her in. He places a kiss to the top of her head and leaves the room.