A Dying Breath (Past)
“Good night, my little king.” Aerith said.
“Please, just one more?” Sora asked.
“No more tonight.” his mother grinned. She leaned over and kissed Sora on the forehead. “Now I want you to sleep.”
Sora hid a frown and nodded.
Aerith took the burgundy quilt folded over neatly at the beds end. It was thick and weighty, embroidered with fine laces of silver and gold. She pulled it over the silk sheet covering Sora and tucked him in tightly, then reached and extinguished the lamp sitting atop a rosewood table.
The faint sounds of the festival could still be heard from outside. Music, laughter, and the crowds clamor. The joyous occasion and arrival of the miraculous Nim prodigy and he was sentenced to bed.
“Mother?” Sora mumbled.
“Why can’t I go to the festival?”
“You know how your father is,” Aerith said, noticing her son’s blackened eye in the dimness of candlelight, “I’m not sure what’s happened to him. Besides, it’s quite late.”
“Why is everyone celebrating over a boy?”
“Most are only celebrating for the free food and drink,” Aerith laughed, “But it’s said that he can heal your father.”
“He’s that powerful?”
“Of that, I am not sure, but you saw what he was capable of.”
Sora nodded. “Mother?”
“Yes?” she sighed.
“One more?” he asked again, his eyes big - innocent.
Aerith smiled. “Okay, one more. Then promise me you’ll sleep.”
Sora returned the smile. “I promise.”
Aerith ran her fingers through her son’s dark hair and began singing a tune.
There lies a land, beyond the stars
Between the sky and sun . . .
As she sang, Sora closed his eyes and rolled over and before she knew it, her son had drifted off to sleep. She kissed him on the forehead and eased out of the room, being mindful of the squeaky door of his chamber. She walked around the hall and stopped beside the inner circle’s northern stairway. She looked up at the wall to examine a portrait that hung there. A newly painted portrait in fact; a family portrait. Out in front with eyes of blue and red was her precious boy, Sora. To the right, her, and on the left, stood Azrael. She noticed how the artist captured Sora’s big, mischievous smile perfectly, and as she looked at herself, it jarred her to see how well the painting seemed to capture her as well. She could see the pain behind her fake smile and the sorrow in her faded blue eyes. In Azrael’s, she could see his rage, could sense animosity even through the painting. She hated it. She flipped it around and went down the stairs into the outer circle and continued straight toward her chamber at the end or the corridor.
She heard grunting, moaning, and sounds of flesh against flesh that became louder as she neared the chamber. No guard was posted at the door, and she knew why, as it wasn’t the first time this had happened. She proceeded into the chamber with clenched fists and as she suspected, there stood Azrael deep inside a woman bent over the bedside. The woman caught a glimpse of her and quickly tried to stand - startled.
Azrael saw her as well but paid no mind. He grasped the woman around the neck and violently shoved her back into the bedside. “I’m not finished with you, whore,” he groaned. The young woman screamed and resisted and tried to push him away.
“Azrael, let her go!” Aerith cawed.
Azrael scowled, snatched the woman by her hair, and slung her to the floor. “So be it then.”
The woman pulled herself to her feet, gathered her garments, and stormed out of the room, speaking briefly as she ran past Aerith. “He threatened my family, your Grace. This was not my intention. Please forgive me, I beg.”
Aerith said nothing and nodded her head in a get out of here gesture. Azrael staggered towards her, completely naked and reeking of wine. The pungent smell of booze made her cringe as he spoke.
“And what is it that you want?” Azrael slurred.
“You are a sick man,” Aerith said, “An absolute disgrace to your family, and to the people of Eden.”
“Oh, piss off!” Azrael spat. “You come into the King’s chambers and ruin a perfectly good fuck to chide me? Why not a young, stupid whore? As if I’d get any pleasure from you,” he hiccupped and ran his thumb along Aerith’s chin. “Or am I mistaken?”
Blinded by her anger and disgust, Aerith shoved him back. He stumbled and fell over a table sitting in the center of the room twisting an ankle in his inebriated descent. He struggled to his feet, enraged. Spitting curses and grimacing from the pain that shot through his ankle and up his leg.
Aerith immediately regretted what she had done. She could see the rage boiling in his glassy, bloodshot eyes, set in his humiliated face, but oh, how gratifying it felt in that moment. She watched as he turned and limped over to a wall bracing himself against it. Two symbolled, beige tapestries hung there and, in the center, a mounted sword. He pulled it from its hold and pointed the blade towards her. It swayed in his trembling hand. “Azrael?” she said. The feeling of regret seemed to set in even more; although she was unmoved and tried not to show it.
“You would strike your King?” Azrael taunted through gritted teeth, “Do not think I wouldn’t kill you here where you stand, bitch”
“And you would kill me?” Aerith asked, “You wouldn’t let your fear-driven, brainwashed elites do your dirty-work? Drowning in my own piss would be a more honorable death than dying by the hand of Azrael Ryzael. You are no longer the man that I married, what has become of you? You spend more time drunk than all else. You’d rape, kill, and threaten the lives of the people who keep you in power? The people of Eden don’t kneel to you out of respect, they kneel out of fear you would have their heads severed on the doorstep of their mourning families.”
“As they should!′ Azrael roared and began coughing violently.
“It’s sickening,” Aerith said. A tear rolled down along her cheek. “Had I only listened to my mother, but I think not even she knew what would become of you.”
“And why would anyone listen to your mother’s miserable ramblings? She’s a deranged, feeble-minded whore. As is her pathetic daughter and your worthless boy.”
Aerith clenched her fists again, this time so tightly her knuckles turned white. “Leave our son out of this, Azrael.”
"Our son?” Azrael laughed, “That wretched boy is no son of mine, he’s weak -- frail, just like his mother. He will never amount to anything and by the gods, he will never be king. I’ll make sure of that. Once this caster restores me, I’ll be rid with the lot of you. You, your whore mother, and that bastard boy can all rot in the bastille for all I care. Eden is mine and mine alone!”
As Azrael rambled on, Aerith reacted. She picked up a piece of pottery from one of the shelves along the wall and hurled it at him. It collided, the pot shattered and left a nasty gash in his forehead. He went backwards yet again, dropping the sword and spewing more curses as he fell against the wall. Warm blood trickled down his sickly face. Running along the crease of his nose and over the crest of his lips. “You bitch!” he wailed. Between the wine and a very sobering hit, disorientation veiled his vision and he never saw her coming when she lunged atop him.
She struck him with a relentless assault of fists using every ounce of strength the gods bestowed into her meager body. “I’ll risk being executed.” she yelled. “If it means the best for my son and the people of Eden I will kill you myself!”
Azrael blocked as much as he could and fought to get her off, but she held fast. She dug her knees into his legs and didn’t let up. “Weak and frail?” she yelled, “Weak and frail is what you’ve become, Azrael!”
Azrael swayed and swung and finally managed to connect with a fist of his own, driving it into her right temple. His blow although weakened, was enough to pause her assault if only for a moment. She saw him glance towards the fallen sword. She knew it was out of reach. He looked to his right taking keen notice to a pair of laced boots next to the raiment he had taken off, but without hesitation, she was back atop him. He croaked when she clasped her hands around his throat. Blood poured from his wound immensely now as well as a newly acquired busted, and bloody nose. He wriggled and squirmed to break free her grasp.
This truly wasn’t her intention, but it had come to this. If she didn’t kill him, he would kill her, and if she wasn’t around, what would come of Sora, or even the people of Provenience? She squeezed --squeezed as tight as her grip would allow. Sora, please forgive me.
“D-Damn you,” Azrael rasped, battling for air. He shifted his eyes towards the boots again and at the dagger sheathed into their side. He looked at her and spit a mixture of blood and saliva that unpleasantly met with her face. She braced and turned against it while he quickly seized the dagger.
She saw it coming, “Oh no you don’t--” she raised an arm to block, but it was too late. The dagger sank deep into her throat. She inevitably released her grip and fell. Azrael gasped for breath while she laid, convulsing, her hand clasped around the blade in a frenzied state of hysteria and morbid panic. Inaudible words bubbled from her mouth, and her fierce expression, now consequentially distraught. “A-Azrael,” she gurgled, vomiting thick clots of scarlet blood.
Her sight became blurred and dim as her head slammed against the harsh floor. She looked up at the man she once loved. His eyes lay tainted black in their sockets like voids of an endless abyss. In a sickening pass, he licked the blood running over the crest of his lips, forming a morbid grin. Her hands loosed from the dagger and her vision faded. Her thoughts were of him the moment she took her final, dying breath.