Chapter Twenty-Two: Tricky Choices
On finding the annexe, with Vasilios’ unwanted whispers of directions in his head along the way, Kaydence came to tick and obviously heavy doors that blocked his way.
A beam of wood was held in place across the door, clearly, it was to keep his mother inside, it angered him more to know she was forced to stay inside like a caged animal, how long had she been alone for?
Seeing his mother was something he’d never dreamed of doing, it was a miracle in every sense of the word, but not one that should be possible.
Sliding the beam through the metal arms, not caring about the loud clanging that came from it as it dropped to the ground, he pushed the door open just enough to slide in.
A strange odour clung to the air in the room, bitter yet sweet almost like perfume mixed with the stench of rot from outside.
He wished Dalamis could be there, out of the two of them he deserved to see her the most, afterall he knew her better and had the ability to miss her, Kaydence on the other hand never knew her and had no memories with her or of her.
She was a stranger to him.
It hadn’t crossed his mind until he had reached the door, whether she would recognise him or not, despite her first reaction to him which indicated some sort of recognition, perhaps she thought he was someone else unless she had no memories at all.
She had been dead for years so surely there had to be repercussions of bringing her back, besides the obvious imbalance caused.
The room walls were smoothed out rock form within the cliffside, the illumination in the room coming from above from a massive golden chandelier much different from those he’d seen so far.
No bones were incorporated into the intricate design, instead, there were silver vines decorated with delicately made leaves, weaving in and out of the chains that suspended the structure.
The three levels of rings dropped down getting smaller as they went, candles held around the edges at intervals were all lit and bleeding black wax, each one adorned with Vasilios’ signature black roses, some bunched together and others singled out, all of it intricately put together.
Rugs lined the stone floors here and there, all matching the gold, black and silver theme, as did the heavy material tapestried draped over the far wall.
Depictions of men, women and beasts which at a far glance looked to be dancing, as he neared, however, the joy disappeared ad the faces he once thought to be holding smiles now stood contorted in grimaces and shrieks of horror.
The beasts he now recognised to be Dwellers, after the battle in Mater Arbor, with their hollow eye sockets and cave-like mouths, weren’t dancing at all, their arms and claws were raised up reaching out for those fleeing.
Had it happened before? Kaydence wondered, it definitely wasn’t a depiction of their newly fought battle, could it have been a depiction of what happened to Vasilios’ realm when it had all started to die?
“You are right?” a woman’s voice said.
Kaydence looked either side of himself where he thought the voice had come from, but no one was there.
Turning around, however, he came face to face with his mother, pale blonde waves just about resting on her shoulders, her glorious blue eyes that he too held a resemblance to stared observantly at him.
Without moving her lips her voice spoke again “It happened a long time before I was brought back. You are right to think what Vasilios did summoned the Dwellers.”
“How are you talking to me like that?” he asked, unable to move past it without answers.
“Vasilios brought me back with his magic, that of which he draws from a number of sources. His magic now runs through me as does his ability to speak through the mind”
“Can you do anything else that he can d?”
“Unfortunately not, I would have escaped to warn you a lot sooner if I had,” she said regrettably, Kaydence could feel that she had more to say to him so he waited patiently for her to continue, it was an odd feeling to have her in his mind but in a way there was comfort.
“I am truly sorry for the life you have been born into, all of the questions you must have”
“Dalamis has missed you a lot, he speaks of you a lot when we’re together,” he said hoping it would bring her some relief.
Elena looked to him with longing and love, despite her unnatural life she could still wield emotion.
“Does he resent me for leaving him with his father?”
“Absolutely no, he understands your situation and choices. He blames you for nothing” he assured.
“I wish I could see him, one last time”
“You can, we’ll get a message to the King and they will sort everything out with Vasilios and Vallen. I will take you to Evangelis to see Dalamis, you can live with us” Kaydence said in a way promising himself all of those things.
She smiled with adoration on seeing his enthusiasm, but sadness soon dawned upon her face.
“That would be perfect, sadly things aren’t always so”
“What do you mean?” he asked, his hopes too collapsing.
“I am tied to Vasilios, I cannot stray far from him or his magic should I want to avoid becoming a corpse. You cannot forget Kaydence, I am not living, I might look alive but my heart doesn’t beat, my lungs don’t breathe and my mouth doesn’t speak”
“We can keep Vasilios in Evangelis, we will find a way to keep you alive”
Placing both hands on his cheeks, she looked into his eyes “The dead are not meant to walk amongst the living. Magic like this comes at a price and I will not let you nor your brother pay that price”
“So you expect me to just leave you here with them?” he said.
“Of course not, Vasilios can’t be left alone to his own devices again, he’s dangerous and has so far created monsters that could send the world to the brink of collapse, both Arravan and the others through the portals. We must find a way to kill him”
“But it won’t break the spells, he’s told us that already”
“Not If we can find another way”
“It’s impossible. Besides if we kill him doesn’t that mean you’ll-” he said trailing off, not wanting to finish his sentence.
“It is necessary if it means you and your brother can live without peril. It is all I’ve ever wanted for the both of you, yet I could never protect you from it, even when danger took the form of my husband”
“What Vallen did was not because of you or what you did. You did what you could to protect us “
Nodding half-heartedly as if trying to bring herself to believe his words, her eyes saddened a little more.
“I was grieved to hear of what became of Bregan, Vallen told me everything. I didn’t believe it at first-”
“He didn’t seem capable of it all, I know I thought the same thing too”
Looking to the tapestry, Kaydence could hear the wails, the shrieks and gunshots, he could feel the pounding of his heart behind his ribs, feel the strain of his lungs and smell the stench of earth and blood.
It was all so vivid and yet a distant memory, like his dreams.
The last one he’d had especially, he hated the fact that he was growing used to the mental torture.
“Can I ask you something?” he beckoned.
“Of course, but before then, let us take a seat”
Agreeing, Kaydence accompanied her to a black, chaise, lounge, golden swirling patters imprinted over its velvety surface.
As they both became seated comfortably, Kaydence initiated the conversation.
“Can dreams really happen?” he asked thinking that he could possibly have worded it better as to not sound so naive.
“Dreams sometimes holds significant meaning or can portray emotions. I suppose it wouldn’t be completely impossible for them to hold some truth for the following days, perhaps even memories from the past. Why is is you ask?”
“Mayfel, my companion, was severely injured some time ago and so to save him, the healers bound our souls. It was only supposed to be temporary but it didn’t end up that way. I had visions and dreams that I blamed on the bond, even the ones I had before that. Some of the dreams I’ve had, parts of them have happened like Bregan being alive, and when Mayfel and I were attacked by hunters. Vasilios told me that I am a descendent of Ida and that my powers channel through my unconscious mind, he said that my dreams are fate and that they can’t be changed”
Elena listened to each word intently as if it were some thrilling tale, but doubt was in her mind and fear also, fear for her child’s life and his mind with the massive burden bestowed upon him.
“I do not have much knowledge when it comes to magic so it would be hard for me to say”
“I’m going to kill Mayfel. I’ve done it over and over again in my dreams, so if what Vasilios said is right, it’s only a matter of time”
“My son,” she said gently, placing a hand on her forearm “You may have dreamed it, but it’s yet to happen. Vasilios uses fear to control those around him, it would not surprise me if she were doing the same to you. Be cautious when around him, he has a way to influence people to do his bidding”
“I know, it’s just difficult to not believe him when what he says makes sense”
“That’s his speciality, he’s a twister of words and he is also very persuasive.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” he said.
“Do not worry, you are strong and so are your friends”
“They’re not m friends” he stated adamantly
Smiling at his stubbornness she replied “You are persistent, like your brother”
“Speaking of him, he might be on his way to becoming Leader of the High Council” he mentioned, a small swell of pride in his eyes.
“That boy was always the political one, even as a child he was always trying to meddle in Evangelis’ affairs”
Gazing down to his lap at his hands, Kaydence wouldn’t help but feel a little jealous, of his brother mostly but also the way everything had happened.
He would never know his mother as Dalamis did.
“What is is Kaydence?”
“Dalamis has achieved so much already, he’d a leader and is respected, looked up to even. But I, on the other hand, I’m the opposite, I feel as though I have let you down”
Embracing him, her skin cold against his but the gesture warm and one which he had forever dreamt of, being held by his mother when he needed someone to talk to, to confide in.
It was all coming true, but he knew deep down that it wouldn’t last, it couldn’t last.
Like his mother had said, her coming back had shifted the balance of nature, he knew she would be the one to accept the consequences and spare everyone else, he chose to value every second he had.
“I am so proud of the man you’ve become, my son. Who is to say that your life and your achievements are any less than those around you? You are a valiant warrior, a true Harkhallow. You have sustained much more than anyone could imagine enduring and you managed to find love along the way”
“My brother did all that too, he found love and more” he stated solemnly.
“Every single person is different, people manage things differently and you can’t be expected to compete with everyone’s lives. You must find your own path and happiness, pay mind only to your journey”
“Well when you put it like that, I suppose it doesn’t sound as bad”
Taking a hold of his hand she moved closed, excitement radiating off of her as she said “So tell me about the man that holds your heart”
* * *
Solon returned some hours later from the meeting, his composure scarily calm as he walked towards the group waiting for him.
His eyes, however, did narrow when he caught sight of Dalamis who had positioned himself behind Halda, it made Dalamis wonder if Halda would stand against the King should he turn his aggression towards him, or whether he’d step aside and allow Solon to spit words at him.
Although with the way the said King was approaching them, he’d say he would soon find out
“Step out for a moment, I would like a moment alone with Dalamis”
“It is as much my fault as it is his” Halda began, but Solon was having none of it, clearly he had crossed the threshold of his patience.
“Did I not speak clearly?”
There was a darker side to the King as it turned out, not all stories are true, although Dalamis should have guessed that already.
Then again, the King had to be tough when it came to decisions and discipline.
Strength didn’t make him any less of the generous man they knew him to be.
Dalamis could tell that Halda wanted to fight back by the way his lips parted and closed repeatedly, but he knew better than to defy the King.
Had Halda ever suffered the wrath of King Solon?
“Halda Aristaeus, I will not repeat myself again”
Listening to the thunderous boom of his voice, Halda bowed his head and retreated to the safer side of the glass which was closed behind him by Solon, his scowl leaving the gathered group to face Dalamis.
Dalamis knew what was coming but even so it made it no better and he felt no more prepared.
“List the vows you spoke at the trials” Solon demanded, his voice softer than Dalamis anticipated.
“Solon I apologise-”
“Recite the words” was all he said after halting his blabbering of apologies.
With a deep sigh, Zack cleared his throat “I swore to partake in the trial with an unbiased mind and clear judgement and that I would wield the blade with justice in mind and not vengeance”
“Those words are not to be used for trials alone, they are to be used in our everyday lives. To rule, one must do it without biased opinions in spite of the circumstances. What you did and said in that meeting was overruled by emotions” he said sternly
“I know you want me to become Leader of the High Council, but I don’t feel ready, I can hardly hold myself together let alone an entire country”
“No one is ready for such leadership, but you adapt as you would to any situation. You are smart when you are not being irrational, Dalamis”
“Have I ruined everything between us and the humans?” he asked silently crossing his fingers.
“No, the meeting was adjourned. They wish for Nerina and Sorin to attend also, as well as the newly elected High Council Leaders for Lirren and Himiratia. I would very much like for you to accept the position as leader of the High Council and with it accept the ceremony. I would not ask you if I did not think that you were ready or a good candidate” he stated leaning his forearms onto the railing and peering over at the lands beyond the city.
“Can I have time to think?”
“You have had time, more than most in fact. I need an answer by the end of the day so that arrangements can be made for the ceremony, it is not as easy to plan these things as it may seem, it can take months of preparations. It requires all High Council members but also holds an open invitation for the Four Lands citizens”
“That’s a lot of pressure to be under,” Zack said.
“Pressure comes with the job”
“What if I mess up and cause another war? Or if I end up like my father?” he worried.
“You worrying about those things shows you are ready, anyone who is confident going into a role such as this is either lying to themselves or those around them. As I said before, if I did not think you were ready, I would not have chosen you”
“Who will be elected for Lirren’s High Council?”
“Do not worry about that, focus on your own task at hand. You have until the end o the day and if I have yet to hear from you then Himiratia and Evangelis will go without a ruler for months to come until a new leader can be found”
“That is a sly move” Dalamis noted, slightly agitated with his guilt-tripping.
“It is part of the job” he repeated patting his shoulder as he exited the balcony.
The air felt heavier than before.