The Forbidden Village

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Chapter 38

I was starting to get a horrible sense of déjà vu almost every day now. It felt like I had a never ending headache. I knew that Aquaphira could tell that something was wrong, I’m just glad that she never asked about it. As the days went by and the weeks dragged on into months my heart continued to ache and my mind never seemed to wander too far from Avin. More and more I kept worrying if he was really doing okay or if something had happened to him. No one seems to have seen hide nor hair of him in almost two months which was only making my worrying worse. Add on top of that the nightmares, the stress of my job, the secrets about my memories, and the painful sense of déjà vu that I got every day, and you have insomnia mixed with bad migraines.

Most days I was too scared to go to sleep. The dreams weren’t just about the war and Avin anymore. They were starting to lean more towards my childhood, my family, my home village, and my people. I didn’t have such a happy childhood if my dreams were any sort of indication of what had actually taken place in my past. As the days went by I was slowly starting to get answers to my questions about who I once was. There was just a few questions that still remained unanswered, and one really big question that I didn’t even have the glimmer of an answer. How did I wind up on Earth as a baby in a wooden basket in the first place?

I was gaining back a lot of my memories, some of them weren’t exactly all that pleasant in regards to my childhood. Especially after having to deal with the death of my parents and then having to ascend to the throne at a very early age. It seemed that all of the really good stuff didn’t start happening until after I had met Avin. After that had happened I had a lot more happy memories, not to say that there still weren’t some bad ones too, the happy ones just outweighed the bad ones.

There were the occasional memories that I wish that I hadn’t remembered, I didn’t want to think about them because it involved things like what King Regalis had done to me during my days at the castle, when he was still alive. Some of the things though were worse than what he had done to me. I tried not to dwell on those thoughts much though because they just distracted me from the present. I comforted myself with the thoughts that they couldn’t get to me anymore. Not exactly nice thoughts, I know, but it kind of helped to keep my anxiety under control.

Before I had even realized another two months had gone by. Everyone in the healer camp was in the dark a lot about what was going on in the war. The only things that we heard about was whatever the wounded soldiers told us which sometimes wasn’t much. The people who were staying at the camp were starting to get agitated and anxious about what could be going on out there in the battlefield. Even I didn’t know much about what was going on. The threat from the voice had practically faded to vague memory, it just didn’t really seem all that important right now.

Today was an especially slow day, which made everyone a bit more on edge because we couldn’t really do much. It’s been raining for the last couple day which has stalled a lot of our working projects. The Construction Elves haven’t been able to work outside at all, and the Guard Elves and the Garden Elves didn’t stay outside for any longer than they had to.

As for me, I just stood outside under the barn overhanging as the rain thumped endlessly on the roof and splattered on to the ground just in front of my feet. At this point in the day everyone else was inside trying their best to keep dry. Personally, I reveled in the feeling of being outside in the rain. The water washed away the harshness of the day before, and brought along a fresh new beginning. The rain also managed to bring back some more memories for me, and I felt more whole as I now had most of my memories intact. The only thing that I didn’t know still was how I had wound up on Earth and what had happened a short time before that. There were a couple smaller blanks in my memory but they didn’t seem to be too important.

I looked up at the dark sky as the rain continued to pour down on us. The rain didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon. I took a step out of the barn’s overhanging and into the downpour. Within seconds I was drenched from head to toe. The rain washed away the dirty and grimy feeling from my body. There was no extra water around here so we rarely ever got a chance to wash up completely.

I looked around the camp and was happy to see that the water collecting barrels were still out, collecting extra water for us to use later. This war has made a lot of the water undrinkable and unusable for healers. Any sort of extra water that we could get was a great help to us everywhere on the camp.

I walked away from the barn and towards the centre of the camp. I wasn’t ready to go back into that stuffy barn just yet. I walked over to the corral and climbed up onto the wooden fence. The animals were all inside the barn today because of the rain, so the corral was empty. I hung my feet on the inside of the corral and stared out at the blurry line between no-man’s-land and the sky. The black barren land looked a little more peaceful today than it normally did. Nothing moved out there, and there was no noise besides the rain that pelted against whatever surface stood in its way.

My mind began to drift to thoughts of Avin again. I slumped on my perch and clutched my chest with both hands. I really didn’t think that it would be this painful to miss him, and these memories that were starting to come back to me only made the pain of missing him worse. Tray would sometimes come up to me on the verge of tears, asking if Avin would ever be coming back. It absolutely tore me to pieces to see him so broken up about it, especially with all of the rumors that were flying around about how bad things were at the frontlines.

I took a deep breath in through my nose to try to focus on savouring the peacefulness that the rain had brought with it. I knew that it wouldn’t be too long until something would go wrong or be in need of my immediate attention. Being the leader of the camp meant that I barely got any time to myself. When I did manage to get time to myself I was either sleeping or being haunted by my memories as I walked around at the forest’s edge. Of course I couldn’t get too far away from the camp just in case someone needed my help. I would also visit Mirage whenever I managed the time. I sometimes even took her out to the forest when I went just so that she could get some time out of the stables. No one else was able to take her out for a ride, because as soon as they got close to her with a saddle she would either lunge at them with her horn or try to bite them.

Maybe I should go get her and we could go look around no-man’s-land, because the silence was starting to make me a little bit suspicious and uncomfortable. The guard Fae were all inside the buildings at the moment due to the bad weather conditions, so what better time to check things out for myself? I swiveled around on the fence as I prepared to jump down and go get Mirage, but a mangled sound ripped through the air freezing me to the spot. That did not sound like thunder.

I whipped around and looked out towards no-man’s-land in the direction that the sound had come from. Nothing appeared to have changed, besides the fact that the rain had let up a bit. What could that sound have been? Perhaps it was just someone within the camp that was yelling, because this place did have a bit of an echo. I turned around again and braced myself to jump down when I heard the defining noise again. This time though it sounded a lot closer. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind now. That noise was coming from no-man’s-land.

Without a second’s hesitation I launched myself down off the corral fence and sprinted towards the animal barn, trying not to slip in the puddles of water that were littered all over the ground. We didn’t have a house made for the rest of the people at the camp yet, but the construction crew had been hard at work building one. But the bad weather has delayed their plans, so everyone else has been taking shelter in the animal barn for the time being. I threw open the doors to the animal barn, and noticed that they were all sitting around and talking to each other. Normally, I would’ve loved to have taken part but I had a dreadful feeling about what was making that noise.

“I need two of the guards to come with me now!” I called as I ran past everyone and down to the stall which held Mirage. “Something is happening out in no-man’s-land and we need to move out there now!”

Before I had even finished my first sentence everyone was rushing about to saddle up the horses. Inka and another guard, whose name escaped me, expertly climbed onto the backs of two of the saddle horses while I mounted Mirage. I hadn’t bothered to close the barn door when I entered so I just gave Mirage a swift kick to spur her forward and we galloped out of the barn, with Inka and the other guard hot on our heels.

The hooves of our horse’s squished and splashed in the mud and puddles as we rode out to no-man’s-land. As we got further out we could hear a high pitched noise coming towards us from out in no-man’s-land, and a large shadowy figure appeared in the fog. The sun was just starting to come out so we could just start to see the things around us more clearly. The figure I knew was not that of a humanoid, it was much too big, and it was quickly gaining ground on us.

Inka and the other guard drew their weapons preparing to attack the thing once it got into range. But there was something about that creature that looked familiar. I looked down at Mirage just as the creature made that eerie noise again. My eyes widened, I knew exactly who and what that creature was.

“Elijah?” I called out towards the shadowy figure, it stopped moving and made a couple snorting noises. I trotted the remaining distance between us before jumping off of Mirage’s back. The fog had lifted enough that I could see him more clearly. Elijah looked horrible when I got close enough to see all the details. He was covered in wounds and sores that looked like they were on the verge of getting infected, and he was trying not to put pressure on his back left leg. He was still wearing his bridle and saddle, but the saddle was empty and hanging off of his back, clinging together by mere threads.

“What happened to you? Wait, where’s Avin?!” I asked him quickly, now feeling my anxiety grow to the point where I felt like I was choking on the growing lump in my throat.

“We were ambushed just as we were on our way here to get patched up for some scraps that we had gotten in a previous fight,” Elijah told me as he pranced around on his front hooves. I could understand him perfectly but to the others it probably just sounded like a bunch of noises. He nodded his head to an area behind him before he continued. “Avin is just over that way. I thought that the best thing for him was to go and get help, but I stuck around for a while just to make sure that the attackers weren’t going to come back.”

Elijah sounded fearful for the welfare Avin, as was I. I mounted Mirage again, intending on going in the direction that Elijah had pointed to as the area where Avin was located. From the sounds of things it didn’t sound like things were going too well for Avin, and if he was looking anything like the way Elijah was right now he was in some big trouble.

“I need you boys to take Elijah back to the camp to get patched up first,” I told them as Mirage started to walk away, twitching with the need to move faster. “After that you can come back out and help me.”

I didn’t bother to wait for the objection that was sure to follow my command. I just gave Mirage a light kick and she took off in the direction that Elijah had shown us. I was almost stunned that Mirage had stayed silent that entire time that I had been talking to Elijah. Frankly, I would’ve thought that she would’ve said something by now, either to Elijah or me. Her silence was bothering me. But it also allowed me to do some more thinking.

If Avin had the parasite then that would explain his rapid decline in health, but if it wasn’t a parasite than I wasn’t sure what it could be that was causing his decline in health, except for perhaps a gaping wound or a poison. I wouldn’t be able to bring Avin back to the camp until I had figured out what the real problem was with him. If he was gravely wounded that would also cause more complications in what I was going to be able to do with him.

My heart was thumping in my chest as we rode out further into no-man’s-land. I hoped and prayed that it wasn’t too late, that I would get there just in time to still be able to save Avin. This wasn’t going to be easy for me to be able to work on him. Liking the person that you’re working on never made things easy, especially when making life and death decisions.

I saw a shadowy figure seated on the ground, leaning up against a rock a couple feet away from where Mirage and I were trotting. Considering that all the other bodies that we had seen up to this point were all sprawled out on the ground or in pieces, I assumed that this figure must’ve been Avin or the very least another survivor. I jumped down off of Mirage as she slowed her gait to a brisk walk, and cautiously walked over to the shadowy figure.

I took in a sharp breath as I saw Avin curled up in the fetal position, his arms folded tightly across his stomach and his eyes were squeezed shut. His snow white hair had grown much longer since the last time I had seen him, and most looked like it was tied back into a ponytail. Avin’s face was covered in dirt and dried blood. As I got closed I could see patches of red in his white hair. I let my sword slip out of my arm and brought it to rest just under his nose to make sure that he was breathing.

I let out the air that I was holding in and breathed a sigh of relief. I was so relieved that Avin was still breathing. I pulled at his arm and sighed heavily when he wouldn’t budge from his position. I tried to look over his body as best as I could manage with him staying in this position. Avin had a lot of very dangerous wounds that if left untreated could be fatal, but thankfully he didn’t have any parasite bruises that I could see. The only other big issue that I could see was that Avin had blisters and some sort of bubbly rash on a lot of his exposed skin, including parts of his face. Even I almost gagged at the sight of the numerous, and sometimes bleeding, blisters. It didn’t look like it was from a curse or anything, but it looked like it might’ve been an allergic reaction or an acid burn from something that he either touched or came into contact with.

Pretty much his entire body and his clothes were covered in dried blood. There wasn’t much left of Avin’s shirt, his pants which used to look regal on him now looked like shredded shorts, and there was absolutely nothing left of his armour. Avin’s sword was still strapped to his hip and clothed in its sheath, seemingly untouched. My gaze softened as I realized what that meant. He never got the chance to pull his sword and fight back.

I gently touched Avin’s cheek with the back of my hand, affectionately brushing across his cheek with my knuckles. My heart stuttered in my chest letting on to exactly how much I had really missed him. I regretfully pulled my hand back and tried to get my mind back on to how I was going to get Avin back to the camp so that I would be able to get him the help that he needed.

There was no way that I would be able to carry Avin, he was much too big for me to be able to pick him up. I was starting to regret sending both of the boys back with Elijah. The only thing that I could think to do was to start to heal Avin up right here where he was curled up. At least until one of guard fae showed up to help me out, that is if they came back at all.

The rash could wait, but some of the other wounds could not. Avin had a large gash across his chest. It wasn’t too deep but it was in a potentially dangerous spot. It didn’t take me too long to fix up that wound, and then quickly move on to the next one. Avin had so many other deep wounds on his chest that it took almost three-quarters of my energy to be able to heal them up completely. I looked up from my work, panting, when I heard the recognizable sound of thundering horse hooves coming towards me. I looked towards the noise and saw Inka galloping towards Avin and me, with the other guard hot on his heels.

“Miss Lucy, is he alive?” Inka yelled over to me as he got closer to us. He was fairly close so I just waited until he had stopped and dismounted off of his horse before responding. I didn’t really feel comfortable with yelling across an open plain like this. I didn’t want to alert anyone who was out here to know of our whereabouts.

“Yes, but just barely,” I told Inka once he was close enough that I wouldn’t need to raise my voice to talk to him. “He appears to have lost a lot of blood, and he has a lot of deep wounds that still need to be healed. I’ve healed up what I could get at but with all of these wounds it’s going to be more than just a one person job to heal him enough so that he’ll be out of danger. Oh, and please don’t draw any more attention to us than necessary, I don’t like being out in the open like this.”

Inka didn’t look too pleased about me telling him what to do, but he nodded anyway. When does he ever like me telling him what to do? We just really couldn’t afford any sort of extra attention or arguments right now. Now the only problem left was to get Avin back to the camp. Hopefully the guys wouldn’t have too much trouble with lifting him up. I knew that I was in no condition to be helping anyone right now, so I was also hoping that we wouldn’t run into any problems on the way back as well.

I didn’t feel as lightheaded as I had thought that I was going to, but that probably because I had had a couple minutes of rest to recover some energy. However, I still didn’t feel too good. My head was pounding to the point where I thought that I was going to throw up, and my legs had this weird almost fuzzy sensation. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to be able to stand on my own, let alone walk all the way back to the camp.

“Is it safe for us to move him?” Inka asked as he looked down at Avin with wary eyes. I looked back to Avin too. I wasn’t too sure if he could be moved but we didn’t really have much of a choice at the moment. I was getting very concerned about the lacerations to his head and back. He had to get him back to camp.

“No, but we don’t really have much of a choice because we can’t stay out here too much longer,” I told Inka as I glanced around at the very open and barren landscape. There was no place for us to hide or even anything that we could use remotely as shelter if we needed it.

“Alright, let’s get moving then,” Inka told the other guard. To my ears it sounded like Inka was trying to take control of the situation. I guess it was only natural considering that he had to have some form of military leadership background in order to have that kind of sword attached to his hip.

Inka reached his hand out to me seemingly to help me up, but I hesitated. I had no idea what would happen if I did try to stand up. Inka opened his mouth to say something, but I grasped his hand before he could. I wasn’t about to hear a lecture from him about getting help when needed. Inka pulled me to my feet and for a second I felt perfectly fine. Just as I let go of Inka’s hand the dizziness and headache hit me like a tidal wave, nearly knocking me back to the ground. As I was falling I felt something strong, warm, and fuzzy push against my back. I tried my best to breathe normally, but for a couple minutes it just came out in short pants. Slowly though my breathing began to return to normal, and the dizziness and the pain in my head lessened.

“Well…I suppose that that could’ve been worse,” I commented as I took in a deep breath through my nose and stretched out my arms.

“How could that have any worse?” this was coming from the other guard, who I had forgotten was still with us.

“I could’ve passed out, slipped into a coma, or died,” I told him with a shrug. I wasn’t too concerned about the dying part because I was fairly sure that I hadn’t used up that much energy to heal Avin. But I have to admit that I had used up more power than I had previously thought.

“But are you alright now?” Inka asked, and for a second there he actually looked concerned for me.

“I’ve got a nasty headache and I feel like I’m going to throw up, but other than that yeah I’m alright,” I told Inka honestly as I absently patted Mirage’s neck to show her that I appreciated her catching me. I heard her grunt behind me and gave me a light push on my back to get me back into an upright position.

Inka signalled to the other soldier to come over towards him, and they walked over to Avin who was still slumped over on the ground. They grunted as they picked up Avin and carefully put him on the front of Inka’s horse. Inka mounted up first so that the other soldier and I could make sure that he was okay before we got on our horses. The soldier and I kept in close proximity to Inka as we rode back to the healer camp. As we neared the camp, I noticed that a large crowd had gathered on the edge of the camp boundary. It appeared as though they were waiting for us to return. I could see Aquaphira and a couple of the other healers standing in the crowd. I was also able to see Blossom and a couple of the gardeners standing in the crowd as well. I’m not really much of a fan for crowds but in this case we needed as many people as we could get to help out with Avin.

As soon as Inka the other guard and I got within a few feet of the border the healers ran out into no-man’s-land running in our direction. I watched as Aquaphira separated from the group of healers and came over to me, while the other healers went straight to where Avin was dangling off of Inka’s horse. Avin still looked like he was in really bad shape as he hung limply off the back of the horse just behind the saddle. It looked like my healing efforts hadn’t had any kind of effect on his state.

“Lucy, what the heck is going on here?” Aquaphira asked me after I had dismounted off of Mirage. I noticed that she was staring at me funny for a second but before I could open my mouth Aquaphira beat me to it. “Jeez woman, you look paler than your horse. What happened to you?”

“Used up too much energy in one sitting,” I told Aquaphira as she gave me a quick once over. I waited until she was finished before I continued talking. “Avin appeared to have been ambushed on the way to the camp and then they either thought that he was dead or left him for dead.”

I explained to Aquaphira, Avin’s condition when I had arrived on the scene and what I had managed to heal up as we walked the rest of the way to the campsite. The other healers had already left with the guards carrying Avin to the healing barn. I let Mirage wander on a head of us, I knew that she was worrying about Elijah’s condition and wanted to check up on him.

The wariness and anxiety that I felt towards Avin was starting to really kick in as he was now out of my sights and out of my care for the time being. Even though I was exhausted and my legs felt like they would collapse underneath me at any moment, my anxiety kept me trudging forward and my mind on alert. When we got to the healer barn there were what looked to be three people all gathered around in one of stalls that was supposed to be vacant. That must be the stall that they had put Avin in. I would’ve gone to the stall to check up on him but Aquaphira pushed me towards another vacant stall and urged me to at the very least take a nap to recover some of my energy. The worry lines around her eyes only magnified the concern that I could see written in her eyes. Even though I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep, I would do my best to humor her. I raised my hands in surrender to Aquaphira and walked into the empty stall that she had led me to. I walked towards the corner of the stall where there was some hay piled up and practically collapsed on to the pile, it was surprisingly comfy for old hay.

I don’t even really remember falling asleep, but the next thing that I knew I was being shaken awake. I opened my eyes into slits and glared up at the person who had woken me up, irritated. The person gasped and let go of me, quickly. My vision was still blurry so it looked like it might’ve been one of the healers that had woken me up, and from the way that she was cowering I guess my glare was a bit harsher than I had meant for it to be. I sat up slowly with my eyes closed, and took a deep breath before opening my eyes again. My vision was a bit clearer now and I realised that it wasn’t one of the healers that was trying to wake me up.

Tray was standing a couple feet away from me, staring back at me with wide eyes. He had changed a lot since the first time I had met him in that forest fire. Tray was taller than he was back then and he had put some weight and muscle back on so that he wasn’t as skinny as when I had found him. The remaining burn scars were barely visible now except for a small discolouration on his skin in small patches on his arms, legs, and back. Tray was quickly welcomed into the healing community and was thrust into helping out however he could, which kept him busy a lot of the time. His hair had gotten lighter and I didn’t know if that was due to the sun because he was outside a lot, or if it was because he was a fox demon. Tray’s eyes had also changed to this almost liquid amber gold colour, which was mesmerizing to watch.

“Sorry if I scared you Tray,” I told him quietly, feeling more than a little bit embarrassed. “What did you need?”

Tray seemed to relax a bit after I spoke to him. He stood back up, and shuffled a bit closer to me. Tray crouched down beside me and was silent for a moment as if he was thinking something through.

“Miss Aqua asked me to come get you,” tray told me quietly, almost like he was afraid of being overheard. This confused my still slightly fuzzy mind.

“Did she tell you why?” I asked Tray as I sat up on my knees. He shook his head slowly, but I could tell that he was hiding something from me, so I waited. Tray looked around quickly before continuing with what he was saying. “I-I think that it might have something to do with him waking up while the healing people were working on him.”

“Did something happen?” I asked Tray both very worried and intrigued. What could’ve possibly happened that Aquaphira would need my help so bad that she would need to have someone come wake me up? Tray just shrugged.

“I just heard her screaming at the other healers to get out, and then she yelled for me to go and wake you up,” Tray told me as he quietly demonstrated seeing all of the healers run out of the stall and the murmurs that he had heard from the healers as they left.

“Is he still in the same stall as he was in this morning?” I asked Tray quickly as I got into a crouching position. I suddenly had a bad feeling about what might’ve happened between Avin and Aquaphira. Had I overlooked something in my rush to keep him alive? Tray nodded quickly. I jumped up from where I was crouched, ran out of the stall and down the hall to the stall where Avin was supposed to be staying in until he was healed.

“Hey Aquaphira, Tray said that you needed me for something but he…didn’t…say…what the heck?” my speech began to slow as I stared over the stall door in stunned disbelief. Avin had Aquaphira on the ground with his hands around her throat, trying to choke her out. The fact that she wasn’t out yet was the only thing that made me hesitate for half a second as to me thinking that maybe Avin was hesitating but even still I had to do something.

I launched myself over the stall door and side tackled Avin to the ground so that he would let go and get off of Aquaphira. I kept my eyes on Avin and my back to Aquaphira as he slowly got to his knees, but I could hear Aquaphira take a deep breath in before she started coughing. As much as I wanted to check on her I couldn’t turn around to check on her because I didn’t want to take my eyes off of Avin. Something was seriously off about him and I was having trouble putting my finger on it. Then looking into his eyes made me stop cold in my tracks. They weren’t the bright lavender that I had grown to love, Avin’s eyes were an empty black.

“Okay, well that’s a first,” I muttered to myself. I had never seen anything like this before at the camp or in any of my recovered memories. What the heck was going on with his eyes? My heart was beating a mile a minute in my chest, from the adrenaline and my anxiety. What the heck was I going to do? I had absolutely no clue what was going on with him so I had no idea as to how I could help him, if I even could.

Avin positioned himself like he was going to attack both Aquaphira and me, but he didn’t move an inch after that, just stared. I was worried about what would happen if he did attack. I don’t think that I could really bring myself to hurt him, even in the defense of someone else. I was just glad that he didn’t attack us, for the moment at least.

There was blood all over the dirt floor, and from the way that Avin looked most, if not all, of the blood was his. Blood dripped down from his arms, legs and chest and onto the dirt floor. There was dried blood still on his face and some blood that would occasionally still drip down from red patches in Avin’s silver white hair. I was pretty sure that he had ripped open some of the already healed wounds when he had attacked Aquaphira.

“Are you well enough to be able to explain to me what exactly is going on?” I asked Aquaphira as I tilted my head in her direction. I still didn’t dare to look away from Avin. As much as I cared for him, I just didn’t trust him when he was in this state. Especially since I didn’t even really know what it was that was going on with Avin.

“It’s a type of paralysis spell,” Aquaphira explained from behind with a rough voice. “When used on the limbs or the body as a whole it causes the person to freeze up or lose the function completely. But when a spell like this is concentrated on a smaller area like the ears, eyes, nose, or even specific organs the effects are more dangerous. In this case Prince Avin can’t see us or anything for that matter. I figured that part out the hard way.”

“Is this kind of spell permanent?” I asked her as the panic started to rise in my chest.

“No, it should only be temporary,” Aquaphira told me and I felt her place a hand on my shoulder. “You have the closest connection with Prince Avin. He trusts you the most. Perhaps you would be able to get him to calm down?”

That’s why she wanted me down here? How was I supposed to do that if Avin wouldn’t even let me get close enough to him without him attacking me? I definitely need to try talking to him first before I even attempt to get any closer.

“Avin, you’re okay now,” I told him quietly, and watched as his head jerked over to where I was crouched in front of Aquaphira. Staring into those black orbs made my heart hurt knowing that he couldn’t see me, or where he was. He must’ve been feeling so scared and alone in the darkness. “Avin, you’re at the healer camp. It’s me, Lucy, you know the girl you dropped off at the camp like a long time ago but never came back to visit.”

I was trying to sound like I was joking around, but it was also true in a way. I was hurt that he had never come back to visit me. Heck, even Mallon and Sally had come down to visit me. Val visited as well, even if it wasn’t for very long. I mean I knew that no one could stay very long because of the war, but it was nice to know that they were still alive. I had never gotten an inkling of information on Avin whatsoever while he was away on the battlefield. No one had apparently seen or heard from him after he had left the camp, not even Val or Sally. Avin’s face looked a bit puzzled, before it slackened into an expression that resembled something that could’ve been taken for as sad.

I turned to look back at Aquaphira. I could see that she was starting to get some bruising around the sides of her neck from where Avin had had a hold of her. Knots began to form in my stomach as guilt started to settle in as I looked at the bruises around Aquaphira’s neck. I felt bad because I feel like I could’ve stopped this in some way, even though I knew deep down that there was nothing that I could’ve done to prevent this. Even so, I needed her to leave the stall because I didn’t want her to get hurt any more than she had been. I gestured with my head for Aquaphira to leave but I put a finger to my lips so that she would know to leave quietly. She nodded and, quickly and quietly, left me alone in the stall with Avin.

I turned back around to look at Avin, only problem was was that he wasn’t in the same place that he had been when I had turned around to look at Aquaphira. Avin was crouched right behind me, only a breaths distance away, staring directly into my eyes. I was barely able to swallow my scream in time. I swallowed hard and tried my best to slow down my heart rate. How had he known exactly where I was crouched?

In the back of my mind I had this urge to reach out and touch Avin, it has been far too long since I had last been in his presence, but I was a bit nervous about how he would react to that. I couldn’t really think of what to do so I just sat on the floor still as a stone waiting for Avin to make a move. For a long moment he just sat there and stared back at me with the black void eyes.

I glanced down when I heard some shuffling along the ground, and noticed that Avin was dragging his hand along the floor slowly approaching me. I dropped down to my knees so that it would be easier for him to find me and because honestly my legs were getting sore. Avin’s middle finger nudged my left knee, the contact making feelings swirl in my stomach. I was still ticked off that he seemed to have forgotten about leaving me here, but I couldn’t help the undeniable butterflies that fluttered around in my stomach, the jerk. Avin moved his hand up my thigh, up my side and across the top of my chest sending a tingly sensation through my body. He stopped with his hand around my throat. I watched him and waited patiently.

To anyone who would look over at me they would only see the calmness that I was allowing to be expressed on my face. But inside my chest, my heart was beating at a crazy fast pace and I knew that he could feel it through the hand that he had wrapped around my neck. Avin wasn’t squeezing or threatening me as his hand rested lightly on my neck. Avin appeared to be confused about something as he squeezed his eyebrows together, then his expression changed. I had never seen him look at anyone like that let alone me.

“Hold still,” Avin whispered to me as he dipped his head down to the spot on my neck where his hand had been. He dropped his hand to the ground in front of him as support as he leaned over to get closer to me. I felt my face turn a bright red as he took a deep breath in through his nose. I probably smelled like blood and dirt, and his nose felt cold against my skin. I couldn’t stifle the shiver that ran through my body as I liked him being this close to me, I liked him touching me. But Avin was engaged and he was still very badly wounded.

“Avin, we really need to get you patched up,” I breathed into the air since I couldn’t really move my neck with his head there.

“Just…just give me a couple more minutes,” Avin begged quietly as he drew his hands around my back and held me close to him. I could feel his heart racing through my fingers as they pressed against his chest. My blush intensified but I gave up and relaxed against his body.

“Okay,” I whispered and put my arms around his lower back to make sure that he didn’t wind up hurting himself, or at least that’s what I wanted to think to try to convince myself. We stayed like this for what felt like hours but was probably only mere minutes. Avin released me from his hold and tried to shuffle backwards in his crouched position, but just wound up falling onto his tailbone. I rushed over to his side as Avin whimpered and shifted around on the ground like he was in pain.

“Aquaphira!” I called as I crouched down next to Avin. A couple seconds later I saw her head pop up in the stall’s doorway. She was glancing around the stall slightly suspicious.

“Has he calmed down?” Aquaphira asked as she took in the sight of Avin on the hay covered floor breathing heavily. She was smiling but I could tell that she was still nervous. I would be too if after someone tried to strangle me I’d have to go back in the room with them.

I smiled knowingly at Aquaphira, and nodded. She unlatched the stall door and walked inside, but stopped a couple feet away from Avin when he stiffened. This was not going to get anywhere this way. I sighed and poked Avin in the shoulder to draw his attention back to me.

“Avin, Aquaphira and a couple other healers are going to come into this stall and start inspecting and healing your wounds, okay?” I told him so that may be he would be able to calm down a bit when he started to hear other voices and other hands touching him.

“Why can’t you do it?” Avin asked me confused and a bit disappointed. I opened my mouth to respond to his question but Aquaphira jumped on it before I could even get a word out.

“She did. It’s the only reason that you’re still alive. She healed you to the point where it was dangerous for her,” Aquaphira said shooting me an accusatory glare, I just stuck my tongue out at her. She shook her head but continued talking to Avin. “She passed out in a stall literally seconds after getting back to the camp, so Lucy’s not exactly up to par yet.”

Avin had looked startled when he had first heard Aquaphira’s voice but waited quietly and listened to what she was saying. Once she was finished explaining Avin nodded, content with the explanation, and relaxed.

“Very well then,” Avin replied, he sounded different than what I was used to. He sounded a lot more like a royal and less like the fun guy with the relaxed sense of place that I had grown used to being around. I wasn’t too sure if I liked it. “Gather who you need and let’s get this over with. Lucinda, I would like to request your presence for this procedure so that I won’t harm anyone unnecessarily.”

I almost started laughing at what he had said until realized that he was being dead serious. Did he honestly think that he might actually hurt someone while he was blind like this? Well, he did try to strangle Aquaphira just a little while ago. I guess that I had hesitated too long because Avin reached out towards me and grabbed my left wrist. I was surprised that my arm didn’t start to heat up when he startled me.

“Please,” Avin added in a quieter tone. Confused as to what had caused him to start talking like an actual royal and then revert back to this way, I looked around the stall. I vaguely noticed that Aquaphira had left. But even this quieter demeanor was different than when he had first dropped me off here. Avin was very weak at the moment so perhaps he didn’t want to show his weakness to anyone else.

“Alright, what exactly do you want me to do?” I asked as I smiled down at Avin. I was just glad that he couldn’t see how I was looking at him right then, it would’ve been much more embarrassing if he had been able to see me.

“Could you support my head please? So that I can feel your presence and use it as a reminder of where I am,” Avin told me as he looked in my general direction. I was surprised to see that on Avin’s face he had a tinge of pink on his cheeks. My stomach did a little flip and I sighed as a way to hide my excitement, but the smile never left my face. I scooted around the floor on my knees until I was directly behind Avin’s head. I carefully lifted up his head and shuffled my knees underneath.

“There we go, is that a bit better?” I asked Avin as I looked down at his face for some kind confirmation. Avin sighed in contentment, which I took as a yes.

The door of the stall creaked open slowly. Avin stiffened in my lap as I looked over to the door to see who that was coming in. Aquaphira walked in first followed by the rest of her team. I gently played with Avin’s hair to get him to calm down as the healers approached us. Without a second’s hesitation they began healing the rest of Avin’s wounds. Which made Avin start to panic a little bit. I was barely able to keep him calm enough for them to work without him interrupting their work. I was surprised that he really did need me to help to keep him calm.

It felt like we were in that stall working on Avin for hours. I’m not sure of that was really all that accurate but it felt like that because of how much effort it took for me to keep Avin still and calm. Once the healers had finished, they bandaged up the minor cuts and left the staff just as quietly as they had arrived but much more slowly because of how tired everyone was.

Aquaphira paused at the door of the stall after she had latched it closed, and turned to look back at me. Suddenly a huge grin flashed onto her face and she giggled gleefully as she left. I started after her for a moment, confused. What was she so giggly about?

I looked down at my lap to Avin who had fallen asleep. I smiled and chuckled the thought of how cute he was when he was asleep. I sighed, he has been through a lot of shit today. I yawned and stretched my arms and back, feeling sleepy again. All the stuff that had happened to me today was really making me sleepy too.

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