Waking to a Nightmare
Deragan woke blearily to a shivering bed. Knowing it was because his wife trembled, he rolled over to offer her his warmth. Reaching to pull her against him he felt the iciness of her body. Sitting bolt upright he shouted. Eyes snapping open.
Rolling her over carefully he found she emitted only weak puffs of air in the frosty cold of the room.
Her skin was deathly gray. Body so limp when he rolled her, her hand flailed pitifully against his knees. Raw agony still glistened in her eyes, which now stared horrified as she gasped desperately for air. Her body racked with pain.
He twisted into a crouch over her. Searching the room for the threat. A glance at the window told him what happened. Swinging wide, the shutters creaked lazily open against the early morning chill.
And he knew.
Tuning into her energy he found it missing that precious piece no human body was designed to survive without.
Her soul. He got what he came for. He’s gone. Deragan’s heart sunk and a lump formed in his throat. If he consumed her soul she won’t come back.
He got her.
She was now a hollow shell absent a soul. Her body dying.
She held on for me. He knew, dropping to his knees in the sheets he drug her across his lap. Cradling her to lend her his heat.
“No. No. No.” He chanted in devastation. Wrapping her in his arms, one hand moved over her helplessly in a hopeless desire to ease her suffering.
“It’s okay.” She choked. Reaching weakly to caress his cheek. “This time will be different. With my last breath I’m going to open doors. Radix’s mistake has given me the strength.” She whispered brokenly.
Because he attacked directly. Deragan didn’t fully understand it but knew that whenever Radix attacked them directly, his consequence was the Watcher’s ability to open doors based on the rules they obeyed.
“They’ll come. Watch for the stars...” She gasped. As her breathing became even more shallow. Rattling with pain.
Frowning in confusion he said softly. “No Sweetheart. Don’t go.” He rocked her. Clutching her tighter against him in an effort to keep her.
Smiling softly made her teeth chatter against the pain assaulting her in waves.
“Don’t give up.” She panted. “Never stop.”
I haven’t. I won’t. But I don’t think you’re coming back this time.
“I won’t.” He shook his head. His eyes roving her face to memorize every agonizing detail.
Stay with me.
“Sebastian!” He cried, making the mansion quake.
Sebastian returned to his library but found Rhyers absent.
Likely in his room. Each knight had their own chamber upstairs for their visits.
The castle helps us heal. Bast was thankful for that.
He ran a palm over his shoulder and chest, feeling the swell of the scars she’d left.
She nearly gutted me. And it was the first time he consciously appreciated his ability to heal nearly as fast as he was injured.
He wondered at her strange defensive reaction.
There’s something about her. Something happened to her once…
He flopped backward in his red and gold chair. Watching the dancing of the fire. His book limp in his hand resting on the table.
What to do with her?
He relaxed as much as he was able. Closing his eyes, he felt the tether he had lashed her with. She was pacing her chamber. Still enraged at her foiled attempt at escape. And confused by his reaction to her harming him…And the fact that he’d survived it.
Sebastian! The desperate shriek from his Captain startled him so fiercely he tossed the book and flew to his feet. Running through the foyer and tossing open the castle doors.
“Rhyers! Something has happened!”
He heard the running footsteps of his friend’s coming from upstairs and Bast launched himself from the raised foyer outside, never touching the steps to the grand doors. His body twisted and smoothed into shining black fur as he landed in the dirt bailey. Roaring as he headed down from the mountains as hard as he could go.
Giving a feral roar as he reached the meadow nearing Deragan’s Manse. Seeing the weather blackened. Clouds blocked the night sky and the downpour was torrential. Sheets of ice dumping over the land.
Deragan’s rage. A dark portent.
I’m coming, My Friend. Sebastian feared what was happening.
Bast will hear me.
Sebastian was one of the rare few that could hear the other knights telepathically without the pendant.
I need you.
It was only twenty-maybe thirty minutes before Deragan heard the feral roar answering him from across the meadow.
Annastacia was giving up.
She’s nothing left to cling to.
The last vestiges of her strength were fading, and her gaze dimming. With a last shudder she whispered something so faint he couldn’t hear it. But he knew, nonetheless.
I’ll always know those words…
She blew a last dusky breath and surrendered. Light exploded from her body. The house rippled beneath an onslaught of light and a sound like someone had tapped on a wine glass rising into a boom that coursed over everything. Flowers burst over the fields. Closed buds blossomed then tossed petals out over grass which rose inches in seconds as the light waved over. Weeds bent over and trees tipped. Animals fell briefly as the air was sucked from them as the wave surged over.
Crying out in the rage of a wounded beast he slammed his fist into the bed next to them, shattering boards under the mattress.
Bast ripped open Deragan’s chamber door, letting it slam against the wall before stopping it with his foot. His gaze traveling from the agonized Captain’s face to the death mask of his young bride. Limp and discolored in the Captain’s shaking arms.
Deragan’s face was blanketed with rage. “In our sleep.” Deragan’s teeth gnashed. “In the bed next to me. I never heard a thing…” He looked at Bast dully.
Sebastian had no words.
Which wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
“In our bed, Sebastian!” His voice turned to outrage making thunder flare above the house. “Not one night as man and wife! Not even that!”
Bast flinched at his roar. “No.” He stepped to Deragan’s side to look down at the body which now appeared so impossibly frail. “What can I do, Captain?” Bast’s hand dropped to Deragan’s shoulder.
Bring her back to me!
Rhyers arrived on Bast’s heels. Taking in the scene he cried out. Shaking his head, he took several steps back and headed out the door.
Determined to find a track. Deragan knew.
“Kill him.” The Captain’s fury entered his voice as he shouted at Bast. “Kill him! We’re going to kill the evil son-of-a-bitch!” His conviction reverberated in his voice.
I want to rip apart with my bare hands and scatter the pieces into the Peril Sea.
“Are you sure we’re ready for that?” Bast’s eyes widened.
I’ve been waiting centuries to get him in my grip.
“We are. You, me, Chavias. We’ll burn him to embers.” Deragan gave a decisive nod.
Blue eyes glowing nearly white, he slowly rose. Tenderly lowering her head to the bedding. Unwilling to take my eyes off her.
Clutching his pendant, a serpent winding a cross, Deragan sent a telepathic call to the others.
They’ll hear my command.
They didn’t hear Radix’s rasping laughter from the trees below Deragan’s window. A harsh sound that sent night-birds fleeing the trees.
Glimpsing the tracker heading out of the castle, Radix’s laughter died, and he made a retreat. Calling in several Sarabi to slow down the bothersome animal behind him.
“Always nipping at my heels.” Radix grumbled as he swung his gray robe into place behind him. Sweeping though the trees until he was far enough away to disintegrate into the fine black mist.
The Fallen once told me she was one of the Watchers. A lower sect of angels. Responsible for the safe keeping of all humanity.
Amongst them, I’m certain, she was their most cherished. As she’s proven to be for us.
The Watchers followed the bidding of the higher divine realms until the day she defied them to protect a band of Poor Boy knights.
She told me they’re always there when she leaves this world, waiting for her. Hovering and longing to help as they watch her struggle lifetime after lifetime.
From the Journal of Sebastian Bodane.