A Moment of Darkness

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Broken Promises

A soft snick of slaws had my eyes flying open. Oryn’s arms tightened around me.

Right.

I had fallen asleep in Oryn’s arms.

I clung to him now, not sure how much time had passed since we dozed off. Every part of my body hurt from being cramped in the small space with Oryn. Yet despite the discomfort, I didn’t dare move a single inch.

Snick, snick, snick.

The claws raked against the floor outside the door, the hound sniffing on the other side. My nails dug into Oryn’s arms, my breath held in my chest causing fire to rise.

I tried to keep everything under control, to keep the power contained. I focused on that well of power within me and forced it to shut off, forced it all inside.

Oryn’s hand came to rest on my mouth, covering the fast breathing that was starting to sound. He leaned in, whispering in my ear.

“When I say run, you run.” I had a hard time hearing him over the pounding of my heart in my ears.

We listened to the scratch of the claws as they made their way down the hallway, the unmistakable sounds of a hound sniffing crept under the small crack at the bottom of the door. A soft scratch on the door, the sound of the claws raking down the iron, had the hairs on my arms standing on end. Goosebumps rose on my arms causing a shiver to run down my spine.

“Oryn?” I heard a male voice whisper through the door. “Oryn are you in there?”

Oryn loosed a breath, his shoulders relaxing as he said,

“Damn you, Edward.” He said, letting a shaky chuckle release. I sat frozen, my breath seeming to have halted altogether. Oryn reached up and pulled on the lever, letting the door whine open. Light slammed into me, making it difficult to keep my eyes open. I squinted up from my sitting position, which was practically in Oryn’s lap to find a tall, lanky boy standing over us. His thick brows pinched together over stormy eyes as he looked between Oryn and I.

“Well, this is interesting.” The boy said, his voice soft and musing. He looked from me to Oryn, and back.

“You bastard. I thought you were the Guard.” Oryn began to stand, helping me stand on shaking legs. They were so numb from sitting that it took me a moment to even begin to feel them. I looked from Edward to the form that peeked out behind him and almost yelped with surprise. Oryn must have felt me jump because he reached back, grabbed my hand, and steadied me. He followed my gaze to the hulking form of the wolf that now stepped from behind Edward.

“This is Brina.” Oryn said, “She’s not a hound. Well, I mean. Technically she is a hound…” Brina looked to Oryn with intelligent eyes, letting a soft snarl ripple from her, her ears pinning down. “Never mind. She’s not a hound. She’s a wolf.”

“A very smart wolf,” Edward added, looking to Oryn. “She wanted me to tell you she’s a very smart wolf that could take you down in two seconds flat if you ever call her a hound again. She says it’s insulting to be linked with what she calls dirt piles.”

“Point taken,” Oryn says with a light chuckle. There was a soft gleam in his eye as he looked from Brina to Edward, one that I had recognized many times when Tristan looked at Carena and I, when he looked at his family. I let go of Oryn’s hand, confused by who Edward and Brina were to Oryn. A feeling of foreboding settled over my bones.

“This is Edward,” Oryn says, motioning to the boy that now was watching me with keen interest. Oryn hesitated before he said, “He’s a friend from Abberton. And I’m not sure why he is here.”

“I’m saving you…obviously,” Edward muttered, turning to walk down the hallway towards the staircase that would lead us back up to the manor. “Brina and I were patrolling the forest when we caught the scent of the hounds. We were close to the manor, and after I made sure the hounds were well taken care of, I came to check on you.”

“How did he know you were here?” I asked Oryn, keeping my voice low to make sure Edward wouldn’t hear. By the way, Brina’s gaze shot to Oryn though, I knew that she would hear no matter how quiet I tried to be. Oryn looked to me then, his hand squeezing around mine as we followed Edward.

“I’ll explain everything in a minute. For now,” He said. “Let’s go meet with Tristan and Carena.”

Right. Tristan and Carena.

It’s not that I had forgotten about them, but everything from the night before crashed into me.

The way we had fled to the closet, the threat of hounds, the dance, the kiss.

I looked down at our joined hands and marveled at the warmth that seeped into my hand from his. I still couldn’t believe that we were here, alive and safe. I reminded myself that everything was okay and that we had made it through the night.

I let out a shaky breath, Oryn’s brow raised as he glanced at me.

We followed Edward up the stairs to the main floors. It was a relief to see that it was still dark outside, meaning that we were only in that closet for a few hours at most. Yet glancing at the clock in the main foyer, I could tell we were about two hours away from the dawn. Edward cracked open the front door of the manor, peeking outside as if he were looking for someone.

“How did you even get in here?” I ask the boy, who only shrugged as he continued his way about the foyer, checking behind closed doors.

“Edward has a way of figuring things out quickly if need be,” Oryn says. I look from Edward to Oryn, and then to the wolf that I still wasn’t convinced was a hound.

And then it all clicked.

Edward was Marked.

I looked back at Oryn, that sense of something wrong creeping in ever more slightly.

Oryn nodded as if understanding my train of thought.

I let go of Oryn’s hand, taking a step back.

The manor seemed quiet, eerie almost.

There were no guests that remained from the ball, no servants that rushed about. It was as if nothing had happened the previous night. No evidence remained that there had been a party just hours ago.

“Where is everyone?” I whispered to Oryn. He froze, looking at me and then at Edward. I spun, not thinking as I opened the dining room doors with a bang against the silence. I stood in the doorway, finding that all the chairs had been flipped over, the paintings flung off the wall.

“No.” I whispered, “No, no, no.”

Images flashed through me, the paintings on the ground, furniture toppled over, rugs bunched up on the floor. A strange sense of deja vu settled over me as I ran through the Manor. I rushed up the stairs, taking two at a time as I yelled for my sister.

“Carena!” I screamed through the manor, only finding silence as my answer. I could feel Oryn at my back, his shoes pounding along the wood floors.

“Carena!” I continued to yell, my voice becoming desperate as the seconds ticked by. “Tristan.”

My heart hammered, my breath caught, my hands shook.

This could not be happening.

I slammed into Carena’s room and fell at the sight of what I saw.

Her room was demolished. Clothes were strewn about the floor, half the mattress of her bed on the floor, her blankets about the room. Tears were flowing down my cheeks as I stood and rushed down the halls, not even knowing where I was going.

Oryn chased after me, calling my name, but it didn’t stop me.

I reached Tristan’s study and ripped the door open, halting in the doorway. Oryn nearly knocked into me, his breath catching as he saw the sight before him.

“Tristan,” I whispered, rushing into the room, towards the form that lay on the floor. His frail body was leaned against his toppled desk, papers strewn all over the place. Books were torn to shreds, ink-stained the carpet. A pool of Tristan’s blood puddled around him, claw marks raking down the front of his chest leaving ragged tears in his ornate clothing, his skin.

I gagged on the scent of blood as I knelt next to Tristan, reaching for his hand. I didn’t care that I would be covered in it, I didn’t think about what I was doing.

“Aurelia…” He whispered, his eyes fluttering as he watched me sink next to him. Tears streamed down my face, my chest not able to get enough air. He reached out, his hand shaking as his fingertips caressed my cheek. “I thought they…took you.”

I shook my head, grabbing his hand before it fell back into his lap. His blue eyes were dull as he tried to smile up at me.

Blood coated his teeth.

“What happened?” I ask, clutching at his hand. My voice would hardly work, my tears clogging my throat. “Where’s Carena?” It took a moment for Tristan to comprehend what I was saying, to understand the questions. I had to ask him a few more times before he began to speak.

“They came…she’s with them.” He swallowed, his eyes rolling as he fought to remain conscious long enough for him to tell me what happened. He looked over at Oryn, who was now kneeling on the other side of him, his face grave.

“Who took Carena? Where is she?” I asked, scooting closer to Tristan to garner his attention yet again. Tristan’s head sagged a bit, his chin dipping towards his chest. I reached out, forcing him to look at me. He smiled, blood dripping down his chin now.

“You look…like her.” He whispered, a far-off expression settling over his features.

“Tristan,” I say with more force, trying to hold off my emotions long enough to find Carena. In a moment of clarity, Tristan spoke up, his voice filling the space a bit more.

“Listen…” Tristan coughed more, “You have to find…Marilla. Tell her I said…to explain everything. I should have…have told you the truth.”

“What truth?” I ask.

“Your mother…my daughter…you are strong…” He started to make no sense, his words mumbling as he spoke. “Find Carena. Go to the mountains…it’s where she wanted you. Go with Oryn. He’s with…the Marked Guard. He knows…what to do.”

I turn to look at Oryn, that sense of foreboding now completely wrapped around me. Oryn’s gaze was guarded, his expression a mask of steel as I realized the deepness of his betrayal, at the secrets he hid from me.

“Stay with Oryn,” Tristan whispered, coughing more. I looked back to find Tristan watching me, pride shining in his eyes. “Your mother…would be proud.”

Tristan’s hand slipped from my grasp, his head resting on his shoulder, and like a gust of wind slapping me in the face, I could feel his last breath leave his body. I watched Tristan, my mind not catching up with my eyes.

He was gone.

“Tristan?” I whisper, not caring to notice that Oryn was gone. I reach out, my hand shaking, as I closed his eyes and right his glasses that sat crooked on his nose.

I felt nothing inside of me as I looked at him.

I felt nothing as I bunched my skirts in my hands.

Nothing but darkness enveloped me as I heard Oryn speak from the doorway.

“Aurelia?” He asked, his voice tentative and soft. I didn’t take my eyes off Tristan as I said,

“You promised.”

He had promised to keep us safe, to keep Carena safe.

And now Tristan was dead. Carena was gone. And he had lied to me.

He had kissed me, knowing he was lying to me.

I turn to look at him, his face a shade of white as he took a step back. I stood, feeling nothing as darkness filled my vision.

“Aurelia, listen to me.” Oryn started, “You have to listen to me.” He held his blood-soaked hands up before him as if he was trying to placate me. I could almost have laughed at that.

I could have laughed at all of this.

I felt only darkness, a cold, slithering thing wrapping itself around me, my heart.

“You tricked me.” I seethed, my voice was steadier than I felt. “You lied to me.” I took another step, testing the strength in my legs.

“I never lied to you.” He says, “Just let me explain, let me fix this.”

“It’s too late, Oryn,” I say, his name feeling like poison on my tongue. “There’s nothing you can do to fix this.”

I lunge at him, the darkness propelling me forward. I slam into his firm body, wrapping my hands around his throat, screaming as I did so. We fell to the floor, rolling as I unleashed my fury upon him. I punched and kicked, thrashed, and screamed as we rolled across the floor.

I felt nothing but power, strength, darkness, cold.

I let it flow through me, into every punch, every kick.

Oryn grunted as his weight settled over me, as my fists caught his jaw and eye. He pinned my arms above my head, but I didn’t feel any of it. I didn’t feel his weight, his strength. All I felt was the darkness that rolled off me in waves, filled me, pushed me.

“Aurelia, you need to calm down.”

“Like I’ll listen to you ever again.” I writhed, trying to buck my hips so he would get off me, so I could get as far away from him as possible. Oryn looked panic as he spoke quickly, trying to fit as many words in as he could.

“Think it through. Something isn’t adding up here, and if you would just think for one second, you could see it too!” He said through gritted teeth. Tristan was dead and he wanted me to think?

Not a chance in burning hell.

I yanked my right hand free, landing another punch to his jaw. I laughed, a hysteric sound filling the hallway. Oryn grabbed my hand again, pinning it down.

“The hounds don’t want Carena. She’s a human, not a Marked. They came for you, but when they couldn’t find you, they took the next best thing.” I froze at that, some form of sense settling back over me. I had to find Carena. I looked to Oryn, that darkness starting to ebb away.

“Why would they want me? Why would they want Carena?”

“Because girls have been disappearing all over the Kingdom, girls that look like you.” He said, pain filling his expression as he spoke.

“How do you know this,” I say, tears threatening to spill again. That darkness flowed away, exhaustion starting to fill my body.

“I work for an organization called the Marked Guard. A few months ago, Marked girls were being taken to Tricine by the Guard. We have been intercepting the exchanges and taking the girls to the mountains where they can find safety. We have reason to believe that the King’s Guard has been looking for you.”

“Are you saying this is my fault?” I ask, my voice sounding more normal.

“No, never,” Oryn said, his grip starting to loosen on my hands. “They took Carena hostage in hopes that you will come blazing after her. It’s the only thing that makes sense at this moment.” Oryn looked back at Edward, who stood some ways off, a dagger in hand.

“I have to get her,” I say, struggling against Oryn, that darkness starting to threaten again. Oryn sensed the rise and settled his weight completely over me. His face was now mere inches from mine as he whispered,

“If you walk out that door, they get what they want and Carena becomes collateral damage. This doesn’t work as a normal hostage situation. You think they will let her go if you hand over yourself?” I meet his gaze, those blue eyes clear as day. “You’re wrong. They will kill her and take everything you’ve ever loved. Carena will die and you will be right where they want you. You have to understand that they don’t care what you want. To them, you’re an abomination with no wants or needs. They will do anything they can to get you.”

“Who are you?” I whisper back, my heartbreaking as I realize that everything I thought I knew about Oryn was a lie.

I had kissed an absolute stranger.

“I’m still me.” He said, pain lacing in his gaze.

“No,” I say, anger and hatred filling my heart as I look at the man who was supposed to protect us. Just like all those years ago, all that time ago. Everything seemed to be repeating itself and I was foolish enough to think that this time would be different. “You’re the man who broke his promise.”

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