ashes and snow

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thirty-one


Her gaze drifted over the dark stone walls, the ravished mattress on the ground, and the man that lay on the other side of the room. He seemed almost lifeless.

Her closed eyes twitched against the darkness in the room. There was so much she had yet to figure out.

Was there blood on the wall that was next to him?

There appeared to be streaks of it on the dry stones, coming up from the ground and upward. She hadn’t come soon enough to see what happened... she had been too focused on Eira.

She shook her head, trying to focus. The horse under her was distracting, moving her from side to side continuously. She could hear the chattering of its hoofs on the ground. There was conversation around her too, even some laughter she couldn’t trace to someone she knew.

Her grip around the reins hardened. There was so much going on around her.

“Aisha?”

Her shoulders stiffened. Her mouth twitched, and she was slowly starting to regain consciousness again. At first, there was only darkness her eyes could see.

Then, only a second later, she blinked against the light. There were fields around their group of horsemen, a broad scenery that showed mostly the green of trees and grass. She breathed in the fresh air around her. In the cell, it had felt like she had been suffocating against the foul smells.

Here, everything was clear.

Her gaze wandered to her left, to the powerful man that was riding beside her. He was taller than all of them, ripped with muscles that couldn’t even be hidden by his big, heavy cloak. His dark hair was curled, reaching his shoulders and like always a mess.

“You know not to interrupt me, Ronan,” she rasped. She had to swallow. It was hard to talk after she came back from another body, almost like her own didn’t know how to function. It always took time to regain her abilities.

He leaned forward in his saddle, almost like he was trying to look at her eye to eye. His dark eyes were searching. “Where were you?”

She breathed in deeply and looked ahead, away from him. There had been a time where she had told him of everything. But she wasn’t sure if she could keep that up. It would cause her own and Eira’s safety to danger.

Her eyes were stuck on the horses in front of them, the men that sat on top. There were four in front of them and four behind them. To ensure their safety and keep them where they were.

The times when she was alone were rare. Ever since she had been born, she had been in the hands of the kings and queens. Her magic was what kept her a prisoner. And her bloodline was old, older than most.

It was what had caused her mother’s death.

“I was far away,” she lied swiftly. A spike of guilt was etched into her, her back stiff against every syllable. She knew that he was trustworthy. They had known each other for years. Had shared so much more than intimacy.

But lies would keep him safe too.

That was the only thing that kept her from spilling everything she had learned these past few months.

There was so much he didn’t know.

And she wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to tell him.

“Where?” he asked again, his voice rough.

Only now she realized how long she must have been away.

She was the only one he talked to on the regular. She wasn’t willing to look at him, but she knew that he was watching. He probably could tell that she was lying. A shudder ran through her.

There was the coldness that often reached her body. Over the years, she had learned that there was still a price to her magic. It had weakened with every new member of their family tree and was now only an ounce of where it came from.

She shook her head. “Another world, and another time,” she whispered. Her eyes closed for a brief second, and she breathed in. She wasn’t lying. A few days before she had gotten the letter from the king, she had seen something different. The other world was nothing compared to theirs.

It was darkness and light, coldness, and burning heat.

She had only seen an ounce of it. But she hadn’t been the only breathing thing.

There had been eyes.

She had felt them staring at her, into her. It was of nothing she had ever seen before. Goosebumps appeared on her skin. She could still feel this strange feeling that had crept up inside of her. It felt like ants under her skin, tiny insects that ate her from inside.

The horse under her reminded her of where she was. She rocked from side to side, reaching forward to stroke over its brown mane. Her breaths came slowly but unevenly.

She flinched when a rough hand touched hers. Her eyes wide, she looked to her left, to Ronan. “What is going on?”

She sighed. She had been too jumpy these last few days. “Nothing, Ronan. I just feel strange.”

“Strange?” He grabbed her arm. His skin lay warm against hers, and she couldn’t help but think how he would feel once his heart stopped beating. He’d be cold, his skin clammy against hers. She shuddered against him. No, she shouldn’t think that way. Nothing would happen.

“Can you feel something coming?”

They were staring into each other’s eyes.

She couldn’t help but feel the hollow beating of her heart as she remembered what she had seen. Where she had been, today and a few days ago.

The guard came to mind. Zandro. She had seen how Eira had tricked him, had gotten him thrown into the cells. She had only been able to smile as she had watched through one of the guard’s eyes.

He had deserved it, she decided. She had seen what he had done when she was only a child, trapped in an old house far away.

She had wept and cried because she had seen everything.

Blood had run over his hands and their skin. Crimson had colored her memories for a long time before she had the chance to get over it. Before Ronan, she had had no one to talk to, no one that could chase away their fears.

But now he was there for her. Though she couldn’t tell him anything yet.

Ronan tilted his head to the side, awaiting his answer.

She shook her head, and her gaze moved forward again, away from him. There was only so little she could tell him, fractures of the things she had seen.

Unlike her mother, she could only see bits of the future and not whole scenarios. But then she remembered something. It was something she had been waiting for for a long time.

A smile grew on her lips. What was awaiting the king, the kingdom was of nothing they could see coming. “I saw a fire,” she whispered loud enough that only he could hear her. It would be the only thing she would tell him without risking his life. Though he was already at risk by being by her side.

“The world will burn.”



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