A Moment of Darkness

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To Train or Not to Train

“I didn’t ask for this you know,” I said to Oryn the next day, staring up into his annoyingly handsome face. “I only agreed to let Tristan hire you because I needed to know that when the ball happens, there will be someone who can help keep an eye on Carena, not just me. I don’t need someone telling me what to do or suggesting anything else.”

Oryn looked from me to the closed door. He had suggested we take a stroll through the pines, to do something other than sit in the library and read.

“All I said was that it was a good day for a walk.”

“I don’t need a walk,” I say, my frustration growing as I began to walk up the stairs again. “I don’t need you.”

“Of course you don’t.” He says, “Except for the past four slip up’s you had...today. Do I need to mention all the other one’s over the past few days?” I spin on the stairs, finding Oryn trailing after me like a shadow. I had enough of those, I didn’t need anymore.

“You don’t cover for me. I am perfectly fine without you covering for me. I’ve lived twenty-two years without you covering for me and have managed to get by just fine, thank you.” I say, turning and finishing my walk up the stairs. It was late in the afternoon, the sun starting to set, and the hallway was cast in a shadowy haze. The servants had all left for the evening thankfully, so I didn’t worry about anyone seeing as I cleared all the shadows from the hall.

“Why do you do that?” He asks behind me, his vexatious voice penetrating my thoughts. I tense, not bothering to turn around as I say,

“Because I want to.”

“But you do it every time we walk into a dark room. The candles always go on and the shadows always go away.”

“It’s none of your concern.” I seethe, turning towards the door to my room. I was sick of him following me around like a dog and I would give anything for some quiet. I open the door, turning to snap some retort at him, but find the spot where he had been empty. I pause, looking up and down the now deserted hallway finding it empty.

I didn’t care. As long as he was gone.

I walk into my room, closing the door with a satisfying click. Leaning against the door, I closed my eyes and took a long, deep breath.

“Infuriating mountain man...” I say under my breath.

“Mountain man?” Says a deep voice. I open my eyes and yelped, finding Oryn sitting on the edge of my bed.

“Get out!” I yell, going to open the door. Oryn appears next to me, his hand leaning heavily on the door.

“We need to talk.”

“Like hell we do,” I say, going to push him away. But when my hand comes into contact with what was supposed to be his chest, I find nothing but air. I stumble a few steps, turning to find the spot now empty. I look around the room also discovering it to be empty yet again. “Oryn?”

No one responds. I open the door, still finding the hallway to be empty. I look across the hall, at the door that led to Oryn’s room. Tristan had insisted he remain close much to my dismay and no amount of begging had changed his mind.

“Oryn,” I say into the hallway, trying not to let my voice get too loud. I didn’t want Carena asking me why I was calling out for Oryn. I close the door slowly, turning to find Oryn standing yet again in the middle of my room.

“How are you doing that?” I say, gripping the doorknob as if it were a lifeline.

“Illusions,” He says matter of factly as if this single word answered all of my questions. “What you are seeing isn’t me, but rather an illusion of me.”

“Well get out. This area is private. Take your illusion and go bother someone else.” I say, waving my hands as if to shoo him like the pesky fly he is.

“I said we have to talk.”

“And I said like...”

“I know what you said, but this is about the ball,” Oryn says, his fake self-walking around the room, looking around at the personal effects I had left out. He took note of the candles that were scattered about, pointing to one and arching his brows.

“Why does this conversation have to happen here when you had all day to talk to me about it.”

“Because there were unwanted eyes and ears. In here, we seem to have some privacy.”

“Well of course. It’s my room.”

“Making it the perfect location for secrets.”

“Just tell me whatever it is and then get out.” I fold my arms, not daring to step closer to him. It felt odd to have someone else in here other than Carena. If Carena only knew, she would take the gossip and run with it. By the morning, she would have twisted tales of my scandalous love affair with Tristan’s new hire.

“Why is your face red?” Oryn asks, stopping in front of the armoire.

“Nothing.” I say, “What is it?”

“The ball is in just a little over a week. I thought it best we discuss our plan of action regarding your attendance. I just wanted to know what you were thinking, and whether you were prepared.”

“Prepared?”

“Considering our first meeting, when you were oh-so intimidating, I figured it may be best to take some precautions in case of an outburst.”

“And what are these precautions.”

“Training.”

“No,” I say without hesitation. “I will not be training anything with you.”

“We wouldn’t be training to hone your power,” Oryn says, seeming as if he were about to give me a lecture. “We would be training to prevent your power from exploding.”

“I said no.”

“Look,” Oryn says, taking a step towards me. “You’re going to be around approximately four hundred people on the night of the ball. Each one of them has some connection to the King, some connection to the Guard. One mess up and you’ll be exposed. Don’t think you can hide from all of them when they are coming right into your comfort zone.”

“I’m fine with you.” I retort.

“I walked in during one of your little episodes.”

“That was a fluke.”

“And what if you have another fluke in the middle of a dance with a handsome bachelor.”

“That won’t happen.”

“But you don’t know.”

“Oryn, I said no!” I shout, letting my temper get the best of me. The shadows ripple with my frustration. Even though Oryn wasn’t actually in the room with me, he still took a step back. He looked around the room and then back at me, his brows raised.

“Right. Well, when you finally come to your senses. You know where to find me.” Oryn’s image disappeared in a blink leaving me alone in the middle of my room. I shoved the shadows away, rushing around to light the candles scattered around the room pushing the shadows further into the corner.

I didn’t need him or his help.

I sat on my bed, watching the flames of the candle flicker matching the raging tempo of my heart. My chest burned with frustration, growing stronger with each passing second. I took deep breaths, trying to calm down and keep the shadows at bay. I looked to the corner, watching the shadows ripple in time with my heart.

Maybe Oryn was right.

I look down at my hand, pulling my sleeves up to see the markings there. The ink-like marks swirled on my arm, twirling and flowing up the length of each arm. I balled my hands into fists.

No, I didn’t need him.

“Knock, knock.” A soft voice came from the door, floating in through the darkness. “Can I come in?”

I look over to find Carena’s redhead poking in through the door, her green eyes sparkling in the candlelight. Her eyes were full of smile and joy, but when she noticed the candles and then looked at my exposed arms, she stepped in and closed the door. She came over and took a seat on the bed next to me, not saying a word. She set an arm over my shoulder and pulled me into a hug.

I resisted at first, not wanting to be so close when I was so undone. But after a moment, I sunk into Carena, wrapping my arms around her. I breathed in her cinnamon scent, letting myself soak up her warmth.

I was always so cold.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Carena asks.

“Oryn wants me to train my ability with him,” I say quietly. Carena leans back, looking at me with a skeptical eye.

“And how would he know to train you?”

Right.

I hadn’t told her. This was the first I had seen her in a few days. Well, since our blow up at breakfast. I lean away from her, looking down at the floor, and tell her everything that happened with Oryn; the way I lost control, the way he responded, the fact that he didn’t seem to care.

“He’s Marked, Carena,” I say quietly, afraid that the words would slip through the wooden panels and travel to unwanted ears. Carena didn’t say anything, she didn’t even respond as she took in all the information.

“What did he look like when you held him up against the door?” She asks, her eyes sliding to mine. I smiled, a chuckle escaping before I could stop it.

“Like Tristan when you hid his favorite book.” Carena fell back on the bed, holding her stomach, and laughed and deep, rolling laugh. The image of Oryn’s face flashed through my mind, the look of shock and surprise, but also indignation. I giggled at the image, and soon the laugh overtook me.

Carena rolled over onto her stomach, looking at me with watery eyes, the laughing has caused her to cry too.

“I’m not going to say I’m sorry for the other day because you were being completely ridiculous. But, I will accept an apology from you.” She said a mischievous smile on her face. She still giggled as she spoke, as if any moment she would burst with more laughter.

“What for?” I asked, wiping the tears from my eyes.

“Let’s see...For not telling me about Oryn until now, or the fact that he is completely dreamy. Also, the fact that you think that you can just leave and never come back again. Or, you could apologize for that time you ate my muffin last week. There is a very long list that I could continue down, but I’m afraid we’d be here all night.” She looked up at me with her soft green eyes making it nearly impossible to stay mad at her to not apologize to her. She rolled onto her back and sighed.

“Why have you been spending so much time in your room lately? I’ve hardly seen you over the past few days.” She asked.

“It’s the only place he won’t follow me into,” I said.

At least I thought. I thought to myself, not wanting to admit my most recent conversation to Carena.

“What a gentleman,” I swear Carena swooned as she spoke. I rolled my eyes. She reached over and grabbed my hand, squeezing it. If I closed my eyes, it almost felt like we were back at the apartment, laying on our backs in our old bedroom listening to the news story mother spun for us before bed.

“Promise me you won’t leave me,” Carena whispered. I turned my head so I could see her. She was already looking at me, her face slack and full of worry.

“Would it bother you that much if I did?” I asked. I had only thought about how Carena would be safer if I hadn’t been with her. It was only because of her though that I remained in the manor and didn’t sneak out into the night. She was my sister and I didn’t want to leave her, but if it came down to it, I would do what was best for her. No matter how hard it would be for me.

“Are you kidding me?” She rolled over onto her side supporting her head with her hand. “You’re all I have left.” She said. I watched her for a moment, trying to see if she was being sincere. I reached out with my gift, my need to detect the darkness in her words taking over. She spoke truthfully, the heart of her words evident by the way her lower lip quivered. She fell back onto the bed and we looked up to the ceiling.

“Do you ever think about mom?” She whispered. “Or dad?”

“I think about mom all the time,” I said. My hands clenched at the thought of dad. I never thought of him.

“How different do you think things would be if she were still here?” Carena said. When she was younger, Carena used to ask all sorts of questions about mother and father. It came to a point where I had to tell her to stop. She had only been eight when I couldn’t take the questions anymore. We had been walking up the stairs and she asked if mother preferred cupcakes or muffins. I had turned to her and yelled,

“She’s dead! And the sooner you understand that the better off you’ll be.”

I had left her on the stairs and didn’t look back, even though I could hear her sobs echo through the hallway. Tristan was the one who stayed with her all night, telling her every story about mother and father he could remember.

I had stayed in my room.

It was the last time she ever asked about them and it was the last we ever really talked about it. So why she was bringing this up now, I wasn’t sure.

“It’s best not to dwell on the what if’s,” I said gently. She didn’t say a word as we laid on the bed, hand in hand. Even though I had just said not to dwell on it, I found my mind wandering to what life could have been like if mom were still around. I don’t think it would have been much better than it is now, but at least we would have all still been together.

At least we would have all been a family.

“Give it a try Aura,” Carena says, squeezing my hand. “I pray you won’t need to use whatever training he gives you, but maybe he will be able to make it easier for you.”

“Easier?” I turn my head so I can see her.

“I’m not as stupid as I may seem.” She jests. “I see the candles, the clenched fists, the deep breaths. You’re not as secretive as you think. The night of the ball will be overwhelming, and the most you’ve had to handle in a long time. If the training is something that will make it that much easier for you, then I say it may be worth trying.”

I didn’t say anything more as we lay there. And even after Carena fell asleep, and I draped a blanket over her, I still wasn’t sure if it was a great idea. But watching Carena sleep, the gentle rise and fall of her chest, I knew I would take Oryn up on his offer.

I would do anything to keep Carena safe.

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