ashes and snow

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Cold and claggy stone surrounded him, keeping him locked in place. He was staring at the stone wall ahead of him, watching as water dripped through the creases.

Time had passed, minutes, days, or even weeks, he wouldn’t know.

They had thrown him into this cell without any daylight, the metal door the only thing that was different from the stone around him. The greyish, old stone was the only thing he saw, and it was driving him insane.

He was laid on a ravished mattress.

The bucket full of his urine stood at his feet, the farthest away from the door. The only light that came inside came from the small window on the door. He couldn’t make it out from behind its bars, but he knew that the light came from lightened torches that hung up on the stone walls.

In a time that seemed to be so far away, he had been one of the highest guards after all.

There was an emptiness inside of him. It felt like something was eating him from the inside. Food and water hadn’t been brought for him ever since he had been to this cell.

And so he had been just waiting for something to happen. Just something... something that could help him focus.

His mouth felt as dry as a desert, and it had gotten almost impossible for him to swallow the anguish he was feeling. His head lay aimlessly on the smelly mattress. He felt tired. So tired.

He continued to stare at the wall, water dripping. And after some time, the need for it was simply too much. He lifted himself up with his arms and cried out. His muscles were burning from the lack of use.

It felt like there was a weight on his shoulders.

He had to pull himself forward with his arms as he was too weak to stand up. The stone beneath him wrecked his skin, ravishing what was already full of dirt. He felt the ugly little wounds, every scratch another sign for his beating heart... for the life he was still living.

The time in this cell had not ended him... he was still here even though he felt like he wasn’t.

Eira had done this to him. The thought came to mind without an explanation, bringing back the memories that he had tried to keep out of mind. She had lied and tricked and used what he could only explain as... magic. He refused to call such a thing his queen. She had manipulated him and his king, maybe even his whole kingdom.

He wanted everyone to know, scream it in their unknowing faces.

“She is a witch,” he rasped again and again. Hoping someone could hear him. Wishing that all of this was just a nightmare he would wake up from in seconds. His breathing turned shallow as his fingers finally drifted over the wet and cold stone wall he had wanted to reach.

He let out a broken chuckle and pulled himself even further until his head was by the wall. He was shaking like a leaf, barely able to keep himself upright. His mouth opened, and he tried to follow the streaks of water, moaning once some of it met his dried out tongue.

It tasted like rubbish, foul eggs.

It all made him gag, but he had no other choice but to continue. He had never tasted anything worse than this, he was sure of it. But the water was what he needed at the moment.

The stone was so rough that he was sure that he could even make out the taste of metal, but he did not feel any pain. He gulped, another moan leaving his lips.

After some time, it got too hard to hold himself up, and he had to lay down on his left side, facing the wall. Water ran down his opened lips. Or was it blood? He wasn’t sure anymore.

He didn’t even care.

All he could see was stone and stone and stone. He panted and raised his hands to his head, his heartbeat quicker with every second. The reality was becoming another thing, another lifeline.

Stone and water, stone and water... driving him to the point of insanity, the loss of everything he was and would ever be. But then, there she was again... Eira... she had done this to him. Her face was blurred, but it was there, the only thing between the nothingness he was becoming.

She was becoming the thing he could focus on.

Dark hair, light skin, eyes that appeared to be made out of gold, and features he imagined as of a goddess... it all was starting to make sense. And the light he had seen in her eyes when anger had consumed her... When she had asked him about his past and gotten everything out of him.

She had been the first one he had ever spoken to about all of this.

A crazed chuckle built up in his throat, getting louder and louder until his voice failed him too. He was ripping at his hair, drawing blood that painted his nails crimson. He rolled onto his back, choking on whatever liquid was in his mouth.

It tasted like bile, burning like acid in his throat. His body convulsed upwards, and he turned again, coughing. He felt tears run down his cheeks- but he needed the liquid.

His hands flew to his cheeks, wiping upwards to catch whatever he could and rub it back into his wide-opened eyes. Everything burned, but he refused to give up.

Time passed, and minutes turned to hours until he couldn’t move any longer. The world was swaying around him, keeping him in just as a mother when she rocked her child. His breath came short and then quick, he couldn’t decide, and then a wave of heat and coldness hit him only seconds apart.

It felt like ants were running over his body, their small legs rushing over his back, his arms, his neck. His hands were shaking, everything was, and then, he heard a voice.

This sweet, young voice... it belonged to Inez. His sweet Inez.

“Silly you,” he heard her haunting laugh. Her voice rang through the air and sounded like music to his ears. He wanted to drown in it. “What are you doing there, Zandro? You’re not supposed to be here.”

So many years had passed... he wondered how she was still able to recognize him. A smile pulled at his cracked lips. He felt liquid fill his mouth.

It tasted of metal.

He breathed out, desperate to hear her voice again. He curled into himself, hugging his knees to his chest. “I know I’m not,” he answered with a chuckle. Everything was a haze, and he was floating. After all these years, he finally felt free.

He could make out her soft footsteps as she made her way towards him. He was desperate to see her, but he was not able to move. Even his eyelids were too heavy for his muscles to carry, so he could only focus on the sweet melody of her voice.

“What happened to you?”

His breath hitched. He couldn’t give an answer if he didn’t know it himself. A sigh left his lips, “I don’t know, Inez.”

A silent second passed.

His shoulders tensed.

She couldn’t have left him again, could she?

She had only-

“Was it her? Did she do this to you?” Her voice sounded nearer, almost like she was standing right behind him.

His body loosened again.

He wasn’t alone.

His teeth clenched once he realized the truth in her whispered words. He knew who she was talking about right away. “Yes,” he answered. His hands clenched into fists. He did not want to have to think about Eira at this moment, but he couldn’t help it.

He was here because of her... but maybe, she had given this to him... This time with Inez...

He shook his head.

That couldn’t be true.

He couldn’t have gotten her back because of this witch.

“You know...” came another whisper of her voice.

He hummed in response, waiting for another lovely tone.

“I was thinking about our little hideout in the woods... You know, the one Basil built for us?”

He could barely remember the old man’s face, the way his voice had always rumbled through him... but he could still feel the heavy blade in his hand, the way blood had run warm down his hands, his wrists.

He flinched, but there was no guilt. The only sadness was for the memories this day had washed away. He had killed Basil’s wife in front of him, only seconds before he had sliced the old man’s throat.

He had wanted him to feel the misery he had, the pain only a lifetime could’ve taken away. He had wished for it to last longer, but he knew back then that his actions would have carried consequences. And so he had fleed before anyone could have found him...

The rest of it all laid in the past.

He hummed and turned, laying on his back. He opened his eyes the slightest, hoping to catch a glance of Inez. But there was only darkness.

“Will you meet me there?” she whispered tauntingly.

He could feel her breath on his cheek, tickling his skin.

A laugh gurgled through his lips, and he began to rock from left to right. He couldn’t feel his limbs anymore... Floating felt pleasant as long as you could feel the loss of gravity, but in this state, he felt gone.

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