The Forbidden Village

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Chapter 24

When I woke up next, I was in a bed that was not my own. A bright light shone in from the side of me, and I could vaguely hear voices. I took a deep breath in through my nose. I smelled blood and other people. But the blood smell wasn’t as strong as I thought that it would be.

I sat up and looked around. I felt achy all over, and a couple areas were tender, but nothing really hurt. I noticed that I was in an immaculate room. I saw a young man sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. He was staring back at me.

The young man slowly unfolded his arms and got up from the chair. He kind of looked like Val. He stepped towards me, smiling. He looked relieved and happy, for some reason. Oh, yeah that was Val. But there seemed to be something a bit different about him. I couldn’t really place what it was, though.

“Hey, how are you feeling?” Val asked me as he sat down on the edge of the bed, beside my left leg.

“Fine,” I replied in a calm and controlled voice. Hmm…my throat was a little sore too. Oh yeah, I just got into a fight with a demon yesterday.

I felt a question start to bubble to the surface from the back of my mind. There was something that I wanted to ask Val because he looked so similar to someone that I feel like I should know from somewhere else. But I stuffed it down for the moment because there was something else that also felt different.

Something within myself seems to have shifted and filled up while I was unconscious. My mind felt sharper, and I felt like I had more knowledge, of what I don’t know. I didn’t really feel so hollow anymore.

I looked down at my hands. My left arm was covered in tattoos, but my right arm was wrapped in a bloody bandage wrap. I clenched my right hand into a fist and then opened it again to test my pain tolerance. There wasn’t really a need for it because there wasn’t any pain to be felt.

I wanted to unwrap my arm because I could feel that something was different about my arm, and I wanted to see exactly what it was that could be different. However, Val was watching me like a hawk. It probably wasn’t the best time to take it off while he was looking at me like this.

The question was still nagging at me, practically begging to be asked. Would I ever get another chance like this? No, I didn’t think that I would. I probably wouldn’t even see him again, let alone be alone with him like this. I sighed and closed my eyes before I opened them again. I looked Val directly in the eyes to make sure that he wasn’t going to lie to me.

“What’s your real name?” I asked carefully, watching for Val’s reaction. He hung his head and chuckled lightly. He looked up at me, half-smiling.

“You know you are the first person to ask me that in a very long time,” Val commented almost sadly. “Everyone just assumes that my name is Zasal and don’t question it. Well everyone except for you that is.”

Val stared at me for a moment, he looked almost confused. I was thinking that he might’ve been looking for something or perhaps thinking of something. He must’ve figured out whatever was going on in his head because his expression changed drastically.

Val looked stunned for a moment before it melted into joy and pure happiness. He almost looked like a kid at Christmas. Val opened his mouth to say something, but his expression shifted to confusion.

“What?” I asked hoping that he would spill whatever he was thinking about.

“You don’t remember, do you?” Val asked as he narrowed his eyes at me like he was trying to see me better.

“Remember what?” I asked feeling frustrated. What was with all of the beating around the bush? I didn’t like it when people didn’t give me a straight answer. It was just very frustrating and unproductive.

“You don’t remember me, or who you are?” Val asked sounding very troubled.

I wanted to snap at him and ask him what the heck he was talking about. But I couldn’t because deep down I knew that he was right. Then who was I if I wasn’t Kris? I lowered my head and stared at my hands as I tried to piece together what I did know.

“My name is Valerie,” Val commented as he placed a comforting hand on my shoulder, “if that helps at all.”

As soon as his hand touched my skin, I felt like I was struck by lightning. Images, voices, and flickers of memories flashed in front of my eyes like a cheap, homemade movie.

A lot of what I saw looked familiar, from the places that he’d seen to the people that he knew. I saw the girl from my weird daydream in his memories. What was she doing there for? There was a flash of light, and I was back in the room, staring at my hands against the blankets.

“Whoa,” I murmured once my head stopped spinning and I could think clearly again.

“Sorry, sorry I forgot that you could do that when you were exhausted,” Val sputtered quickly as he dropped his head to the bed. Was he submitting to me? Whatever he was doing I barely had time to think about it, because I was a bit preoccupied with going through Val’s memories.

I saw the pieces of his childhood that were at his actual home. It went on for a while so I assumed that he had actually stayed there a long while before being taken in by Avin’s mother, the queen. That girl from my dreams came back into his memories more than once. She was the person who had given Val to the queen. It wasn’t any sort of shady deal or anything like that, and the queen seemed to be euphoric. Could the Queen not have kids of her own?

But that place that Val had grown up in. When I had seen it, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Kind of like the feeling you get when you finally get home after a very long voyage. It was a comforting and homey atmosphere. I really liked it.

“Where were you from originally?” I asked interestedly, as I glanced down at Val, who was still bowing his head. I had never had that kind of homey feeling before, it was addicting. I wanted to know where it was so badly, that it confused me.

Val looked up from the bed thoughtfully. He opened his mouth to respond, but a knock on the door made him pause. He got up from the bed and went to answer the door. Sally and Aquaphira walked quietly and cautiously into my room. Why was everyone so cautious of me? Did it have something to do with the fight that I was in earlier?

Once Aquaphira and Sally saw that I was awake, they started walking regularly. They both smiled as they came up beside my bed. I was a bit more cautious of them, though. Val’s memories had triggered something in me that made me feel different about them.

“How are you feeling?” Sally asked as she sat down on the right side of my bed.

“Not too bad,” I replied smiling as best as I could. I’m sure what I’m feeling is just some weird aftereffect of the fight. They haven’t really given me any reason to be suspicious of them. I could see Sally visibly relax and smile back. I wonder why she was so tense.

“Good,” Sally commented as she looked me over quickly. I was a bit concerned about how she was looking at me, but I let it slide as I looked at the door.

I saddened to see that the one person that I had wanted to be here wasn’t here. I sighed feeling disappointed. I wonder what was so important that he couldn’t be here. I turned to Aquaphira as a thought suddenly sprang into my head. I don’t know why I was just thinking of it now.

“How long have I been out,” I asked as panic started to rise in my chest. I had been pretty drained when I had passed out, and I know that sometimes when I pass out I stay out for days.

“Only a couple hours,” Aquaphira told me as she looked thoughtfully at the roof, then she looked back down at me. “In all honesty, we thought that you were going to be out for at least a month with the amount of damage that you had sustained. You seem fairly active at the moment. Would you like to try standing?”

I hesitated for a moment, unsure of whether or not I’d be able to hold myself up. But I needed to try. I pulled back the blankets and looked down at my bandaged legs. I flexed and clenched my toes to test them out before I swung my legs over the right side of the bed.

I tentatively touched the ground with my feet, but I didn’t feel any pain. I flattened my feet to the ground and slowly stood up. I was surprised that I didn’t feel weak or lightheaded at all. I did feel a little drowsy, though, kind of like I had just woken up from a surprise afternoon nap.

After I was standing I began to stretch out all of my sore spots and stiff joints. I was slow in the beginning because I wasn’t too sure if it was going to be painful or not. It wasn’t, and no one tried to stop me or even suggest for me to take it easy. I felt so much better after I was done stretching. But the bandages annoying and itchy now that I was moving around more.

“Um, do you mind if I take some of these bandages off?” I asked, resisting the urge to just rip them off and scratch my legs.

Sally hesitated and looked to Aquaphira. Probably for a yes or a no because she was a doctor. Aquaphira nodded to me, smiling. I think that she guessed at something that she wasn’t sure that she knew because that’s right where my head was at. I didn’t feel any pain in the areas that I knew should’ve been pretty severely damaged from the two fights that I was in, just stiffness. Could I really have healed up in only a couple hours?

I carefully began to unwrap the bandages that were on me. I removed all of them except for the one that was on my right arm. I hesitated with my hand at the edges of the bandage. Maybe this one could wait a little longer. At least until I was out of the castle and away from prying eyes, also known as Sally, Avin, and Val. I was pretty sure that I could trust Val not to freak out, but I wasn’t too sure about Avin or Sally.

“So when do you suppose that I’ll be able to head out?” I asked as I went back onto the bed and sat directly in the middle, with my legs crossed, so that I could look at everyone.

“As soon as Avin gets back,” Sally replied as she stared at me curiously. I nodded slowly, curious as to where Avin could be. What could he possibly be doing that was taking so long?

We chatted for a bit about my battle and what would happen now that I was the head healer. Aquaphira explained to me that it was a lot of heavy responsibility and that it would take some getting used to for everyone. I tried to avoid the questions that involved anything with me being covered in blood last night. I just really didn’t want to talk about it. I was also hesitant when Sally started asking questions about my sword. Thankfully we got back to the topic of me being the head healer.

“It also means that everyone will be coming to you when they need help with patients, and when they don’t know what to do or how to do it,” Aquaphira explained as she sat to the left of me on the bed. I nodded slowly as what she was saying sunk in.

Oh boy, this really was a lot of responsibility. Will I really be able to deal with all of this pressure? It would be better than having to work under a demon in disguise, I suppose. Besides the healers can be taught better ways to heal the wounds, better and less painful. It would also be better for the healers because some of the techniques would use less energy.

I was fairly sure that most of the healers would be glad to actually heal for a change. I relaxed a bit with that thought and continued to learn as much as I could about my new job, and where I was going.

Just as Sally finished explaining what it would be like at the location that I was headed to, there was a quiet knock at the door. Sally quickly got up to go answer the door, and from the way that she was moving, I was pretty sure that she already knew who was on the other side of the door. She pulled the door open without hesitation.

Avin was standing on the other side of the door. He looked up and into the room where I caught his eye. For a brief moment, I saw him without his mask on. He looked defeated, tired and so sorrowful. But then every sense of emotion faded to nothing and his mask came back.

Why does he do that? Isn’t it just hurting him more when he hides? I mean like eventually you would need someone to talk to so that all of this built up pressure doesn’t destroy you, wouldn’t you?

“Are they taken care of?” Sally whispered to Avin in Elvish. Avin gave her a sharp nod then turned his attention back to looking at me.

Uh oh, I don’t think that I was supposed to hear that. If Sally had asked Avin to ‘take care’ of some things I assume that she meant to kill. Particularly with the way that she was acting, all suspicious and sneaky.

It seemed only logical with Avin being the royal executioner and all. That could also explain his upset demeanor at the door. But why did Sally order him to do all of this? Wasn’t she the one that wanted him to be happy and not to do the killings? Was she really so blinded by the death of King Regalis that she didn’t see what she had just done to her brother, what all of these killings were doing to her brother? I can’t believe that someone who was trying so hard to help her brother feel better would turn around and do something like this.

Sally turned to look at me with a small smile on her face. Acting like she hadn’t just ordered the mass murders of a whole bunch of people. Suddenly I felt very suspicious of Sally. Something was definitely off about her.

“Are you okay to travel?” Sally asked me politely. But to me, it just sounded like she was trying to get rid of me. I forced a smile and nodded as I got up from the bed.

I quickly brushed myself off and walked out the door to where Avin was waiting in the hallway. He gestured for me to follow him. However, he wouldn’t say anything to me. I was going to try to attempt to make conversation on the way to the stables, but every time I tried he immediately shut me down with sharp one word responses.

I stopped trying after the fourth response, feeling a bit defeated myself. As I looked down at the ground, I noticed that Avin had a new limp. He really needs to stop trying to hide his wounds, he wasn’t really good at it.

I decided that once we got to the stables, I would confront him about his limp. I felt compelled, almost, to help Avin. I don’t know whether it was a healer instinct or if it was because of my own feelings towards him. Which even I still hadn’t quite figured out what exactly they were yet.

I mean like he was really attractive even with his scars, and when he didn’t have his mask on he was a pretty decent guy. But how did I really honestly feel? If I’m still going to leave after the war was over, then I shouldn’t get such strong attachments to people here. But do I really want to leave this place? I’ve never felt this at home anywhere else before. Maybe, just maybe, I could stay here.

That thought made me feel a bit better, enough so that I lifted up my head and caught up to Avin. I made sure to pace myself so that I could stay at Avin’s side for the rest of the walk to the stables. I could feel Avin’s eyes on me every once in a while, but he never said anything. Although I think that he might’ve slowed his pace so that I could keep up with him.

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