Chapter 23 - Calix
My current of time is all mixed up. One moment I’m awakening in an ally, sickened with pain and choking on a mouthful of my own blood. A body swollen and stiff and desperate.
The next moment I am here - in what I think is now - shell shocked with panic and looking for Raines. I am a body capable, but restrained and crippled by gold, for every attempt I make to open my eyes is met with searing sunlight. And each time the pounding of my skull increases ten fold.
Flashes of day spill in. Through each, I force my eyes along the dipping, rolling ground for Rains. Any speck. Nothing. There is nothing at all save oceans of grass. My temple redoubles its outcry of agony. My eyelids slam closed.
There are still soldiers around me, their voices jovial in success. They carry me.
At least he’s safe. At least my Raines is safe from them.
How many more wars will I cause? I did not choose to be caught….but someone has to remove the variable from this equation of war where we subtract lives and add hate.
I keep floating from problem to problem, but become critically unpredictable in each. Someone must remove the variable. If volunteering myself means others are safe, so be it. Azurheim deserves the renewal of peace. As it always has.
Raines would be destroyed to hear my thoughts right now. To know what I am considering. I hear him berating my self-sacrificial instinct. I feel little like I am sacrificing anything, though. It is more a trade. Trade the small good that I can offer for the huge good of peace amongst our lands. I see no sacrifice here.
Rorik will find a new soloist soon. I hope it is Natja. He will be beautiful. Athro Tiernan can lead us to victory.
Them. He can lead them to victory.
Despite everything, it is all I can do to force back the lump rising in my throat, the tears pooling under my lids. I miss them. My brotherhood-turned-family after thousands of dancing hours and twisted ankles and late night silliness.
Bolts of pain spider their way across my skull; the soldiers have dropped me to earth, limp neck allowing my head smack back against unforgiving ground.
A flurry of movements ensue, which I perceive dimly through half-open eyes. Everything has a pale yellow tint to it. Occasionally a soldier’s sword catches the light, leaving shimmering streaks across my vision. Pretty. They’re almost iridescent….
Waking suddenly that night is jolting. Panic rivets me to the ground. I have been granted a single, thin blanket. Tents are pitched about, silhouetted against a star-lit sky. One soldier is on watch.
Deep breath, Cal. Absently, my fingers wander to my swollen temple and come away slightly sticky. Painful, but childsplay in comparison to my first attack.
Parting my drooping eyes, I glance skyward and watch the stars watching me. I know these constellations now. Some of them. Raines and I spent many a Caerinian night beneath them. He mapped them as I watched moonlight and shadows play on this olive skin. He recounted their myths to me in reverent half-whispers.
Here is Cassiopeia, the vein queen. And there I spot Castor and Pollux, lovers punished for the intensity of their radiance by death. Killed for cherishing one another, sacrificed to the sky in perpetuity for the chance to remain together. Raines once likened them to us. “I’ll follow you anywhere,” he had murmured, hand tracing lazy circles on my stomach. “And stay with you always.”
Look at these soldiers. Violence turned silent at night. It strikes me as incomparably human.
I laugh softly. It is a thought Raines would have. Am I channeling him even in distance?
Pulling back to reality, I feel the dense earth cradling my body and tuck my blanket closer. Night eases my headache.
Fear stirs in my chest, difficult to quiet. It snakes around my heart, curling into the empty space normally calmed by the team. There are a half dozen swords within reach of just as many soldiers in only the few closest tents.
Fear does not serve me. I have never been able to hold its hand. I race away from its tangle of barbs, in desperation to defend those I love.