Chapter Two: That Sounds Like A Dream
The Bristling forest, Himiratia’s longest stretch of woodlands and Everette with her newly acquired friend were walking amongst it.
Since their task, given by Ida, to collect materials for the portal, the forest became their place to talk and spend time besides one another.
Stavros had been an unwavering form of support as she mourned Helena’s death, she might have hated Helena, or rather, had wanted to hate her and had wanted to forget their past entirely but she wasn’t a monster, she had a heart and emotions.
She loved Helena in more ways than one, it was true when people say you don’t realise how much you miss something until it’s gone.
Everette had spoken to Stavros about her feelings, how she had given her heart away without even really knowing why or when he’d been understanding, to say the least.
He’d given her ample and insightful advice, even assured her that there was nothing she could have done to change Helena’s fate.
Some love is temporary and some are there to stay, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, but it is so worth it when you find the needle is what he’d said to her.
It sounded like he knew what he was saying as if he had experienced it himself which made her wonder.
Twigs and fallen pine needles from the winter just passed, crunched under her boots, the scent of spring high in the air.
She found her lips moving and her own voice forming words into a question directed to Stavros “Have you ever been in love?” admittedly, it was not the best conversation starter but it was one she wanted an answer for, he was a rather mysterious man keeping a lot about himself secret.
She couldn’t criticise him about it when she was the same, maybe that was why they got along so well, both too scared to admit things to those around them so they turn to each other for support.
She glanced to him as silence accompanied their stroll, a rock sent tumbling across the earthy ground ahead of them by the toe of Stavros’ boot as twigs too were shoved aside, all as if in an effort to distract her from the conversation.
“I fell in love at a young age” he admitted in defeat.
Undeniably curious Everette asked “What about now?” although feeling suspense for the answer warming and spreading in her chest.
“I do not wish to lie to you Everette, but I fear the truth may hurt you more”
Feeling all the more disheartened Everette’s mind reeled, that was until she saw the look on his face, he really did care for her she thought.
His eyes truly held worry, she had always thought of the fair Aer folk as emotionless and cruel, tyrants one might say but Stavros was proof that contradicted it all.
Speaking her mind with a soft voice she said “You won’t hurt me, you could never hurt me”
Her heart began to beat wildly as his hands delicately took her own, his eyes met hers as he spoke with the same gentle nature, curiosity edging at his voice “I see fondness in your eyes when they look in my direction” he said the same fondness all but pouring out of his own eyes “And yet, my heart belongs to another. A woman whom I cannot spend a lot of time with, such obstacles have divided us but I hold out hope that one day we may become closer again”
“I see. Can I ask what her name is?” She asked,d hoping to lessen the awkwardness and the sound of her heart slowly splintering down the middle.
“She shares a name with many. You see, she is a healer and among our people it is a tradition for our healers to go by one name keeping their true name a secret”
“That’s an odd tradition”
Slight sadness adorned his eyes as they flitted down for a second “She goes by the name Salvatoris.”
“And not even you have any idea what her real name is?”
Continuing to walk, breaking away from the somewhat intimate moment Stavros then chose to reply “I am afraid not. It is forbidden and Salvatoris would never defy the rules”
“Not even for you?” she said
His voice falling to defeat he responded with “Not even for me”.
“Tell me more about the healers” Everette insisted
Stavros straightened his posture and took a breath of free air, his view raised to the canopy of trees above them, the light streaming through the branches and leaves that rustled and shivered in the wind.
“Healers of Evangelis believe that dedication to their occupation is the utmost priority, it is an occupation passed down through generations of their offspring. They may only fall in love once and with that partner they will continue the line of healers. Our clan’s beliefs and ways are absurdly outdated and yet no one wishes to change them, besides Dalamis of course. But it is difficult to change that of which has been in place for so long” Stavros explained.
“And what is it you would change if you had the chance?”
Glancing in her direction a subtle hint of the sweet smile at the corners of his lips made something in her chest flutter.
She eagerly awaited his response as he pondered her question, being stuck in such old ways when the rest of the world had evolved and changed couldn’t have been easy she thought to herself.
She’d been amidst the aftermath of the Trinity War and had seen her world change first-hand around her, but Stavros and the others in Evangelis were oblivious to it all and only now had to face the penalisation and numerous changes.
“I would change the future for everyone” he replied his facial features calm seemingly at peace with his answer, continuing on he said “I would allow the healers to love who they wish, how many they wished and presented them with the option for a career so that they aren’t limited to the one they are born into”
“What would you change for others?” Everette queried becoming even more interested in his replies.
“I would make amends with the people of Arravan, I’d repair the alliance and strive for the unity we possessed before the Trinity War”
She’d never thought of Stavros as the dreamer or heroic type, he was more than happy to follow Dalamis’ orders and serve his kind but she’d never seen such an independent and determined side from him before.
“That would be a lot of responsibility” she admitted skimming her hands over the mid-thigh length grass beside the path.
“With you by my side, I would be able to do most things, Everette”
He always knew what to say and how to say it especially when it came to her name, his voice would always fall to a soothing tone when the letters fell from his lips to spell out her name.
“Wouldn’t you want the one you love by your side?” she asked hesitantly, she couldn’t deny the feelings and from what Stavros had said neither could he but it didn’t mean she was going to interfere with a relationship she wasn’t a part of, no matter how strong her emotions were.
“I do not think Salvatoris would be willing to abandon her position as healer, she cares too much for it” Stavros turned his gaze to a nest up in the trees as the birds cawed.
“But she loves you doesn’t she? Surely if she had the chance to be with you and see you more, she’d take it”
Was there a better way she could have asked? Everette thought, had she gotten too caught up in honest questions? Was she too blunt?
He didn’t look to be all too bothered but she knew too well that things could be easily hidden within that didn’t show on the surface.
“She does love me. You have to understand, Salvatoris has been brought up believing it is her one and only reason in life, just as you have been brought up to believe the Aer Clan are Fallen Angels hidden in the mountains. It is difficult to sway from what we have been taught” he spoke.
Attempting to be optimistic she said “But I don’t think badly of you or your people any longer, I changed my beliefs, she could too”
“You changed your views because of me, for Salvatoris her being a healer is a way of life, the only way of life. There is not much I could say that could change her mind”
“What if you tell her how you feel, would she not listen to what you have to say?”
Dropping his head towards the ground a sigh pushed past his lips “I have tried, many times. She is dedicated to er work, there is nothing else to say”
“I’m sorry Stavros, I really am,” she said sympathetically dropping all strings of possible comebacks to his argument.
“Do not be sorry, Everette”.
With silence catching up and matching their pace once again as they sauntered beneath the cascading willow trees, budding silver birches and green Acers, their feet stepping through the awakening tufts of grass.
Fingers found their way around her wrist, a soft tug ensuing as she realised Stavros had halted his steps, without letting go of her hand he softly said “I enjoyed our time here”
“I have too” her eyes fixated on his hand, she wished she had acted as if she hadn’t noticed because on seeing her staring at his hand he removed it and tucked it into his pocket.
“I envy you” he stated
She was confused, if not a little bewildered by his remark, she didn’t see why exactly he’d envy her.
“How come?” she replied, her head tilting to the side a little.
“You’re a strong individual” his sweet smile returned before vanishing as he continued his train of thought “What would you do if you were in my position? If you had a love you could neither see nor spend time with?”
“I would find a way to make it happen, there’s always an answer and a solution you just need to find it”
With a low voice he asked “But what if I cannot find an answer, I have yet to think of a decent place to begin. I have attempted to talk to her many of times but she insists it is her birthright to be a healer and save the injured. How can I possibly argue against that?”
“If she is so special to you then you will find a way to make her listen”
It seemed to do the trick, his reply fell short of words but Everette didn’t mind, seeing as she was gifted instead with his smile, although small and faint.
She caught sight of his left ear, it twitched just enough for it to be noticeable and soon Stavros’ head was pointed in the same direction.
Everette’s own ears began to hear what Stavros’ had, at least a dozen thundering hooves galloping through the Bristling forest.
They leapt across the clearing in front of them, their coats a wonderful array of blacks, browns, whites and mixes of all three.
The herd cantered around the trees, one remaining in the lead as if guiding the way.
Never in her life had she seen such splendid freedom, Stavros envied her because of her strength, was it odd for her to envy a horse for the simple fact they could run wild below the stars and travel to their heart's content.
Amazement took over her, an overwhelming sense of awe held her eyes to the passing herd, although the gentle and sudden sway of her arm drew her attention to a foal that had stopped and made its way carelessly away from the group.
Everette slowly sank to a crouch as Stavros guided her down becoming smaller than the infant that was gradually making its way towards them.
Its gangly legs carried it over, it was clear to her that it wasn’t at all old as it fought now and then to keep its balance, it simply made it even more adorable to watch.
Feeling Stavros’ hand take her own she watched as he raised them out towards the foal's muzzle, it sniffed at her hand its whiskers tickling her palm as did its rapid breathing.
To her dismay, before he could manoeuvrer their hands to the foal's mane, a much larger horse approached.
Its colours resembled the foals with its brown coat decorated with the odd white splodge, that clue along with Stavros’ input she was told it was the foals mother.
The mother stomped its hooves at them in a warning manner as it nudged its child in the direction of the others that had halted just in sight through the trees.
Knowing her child was safe the mother too followed leaving Everette and Stavros alone once again.
“I have not been that close to a horse in quite some time, here in Himiratia horses simply run free, but being locked up in Evangelis I almost forgot about them. It is good to see that even through the years of darkness, life here still thrived and survived” Stavros muttered out as he stared at the duo rejoining the herd.
“Have you ever ridden one before?” Everette asked still in a daze.
“I have indeed, although it was in his childhood. Dalamis and I, along with my parents used to travel through the Bristling as the sun rose, just us, the trees and nature”
“That sounds like a dream” she replied
She envied freedom but she also envied Stavros and the small moments he had with his family. Then again she was jealous of anyone who had that.
“It does feel like one too. Perhaps sometime we too could see for ourselves whether it lives up to expectations” he suggested offering out his hand as he stood up.
Accepting the gesture and standing also, she replied with the words “I would like that a lot, Stavros”