Ravyn's Nights - Book 2

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Chapter 22


The next five years of their lives were actually relatively peaceful. The serpent’s attacks on the settlement’s inhabitants did die down a bit after Haven’s council and their clan members had brought Final Death to literally dozens of his minions in the years since Haven’s rule began. Though, they still had yet to locate or even identify this serpent, so they were not completely at ease; but the cessation of the attacks was a small blessing at least. The only remaining unease was during the few moments before or after meetings when Awsha happened to show herself long enough to cast Sean sullen and angry looks. But overall, it was a time of peace.

The most surprising fact of those five years was that Aidan was still in their lives. Erica was now a grown woman of twenty years and even more beautiful than she had been in her teenage years. And for each of those five years, Aidan was at her side as her lover, apparently having taken Claire’s pleas to heart and not run away, breaking Erica’s delicate mortal heart into pieces.

It was nearing ten that fall evening as their household sat around the kitchen table chatting over the meals enjoyed by Erica, Luke and Isabelle, and the glasses of red enjoyed by Sean, Claire and Aidan.

Erica laughed as some trace of red remained at the corner of Aidan’s mouth after he had taken his most recent sip. She shook her head over at him as she wiped the drop away and looked around the room at her companions, before bravely licking it from her finger, and immediately scowling at the metallic taste.

“Did you forget? You’re the only one here who doesn’t enjoy that, love” Aidan chuckled at her expression.

“You all are so crazy. It’s foul” she teased.

“Tastes vary” Sean returned with a slightly awkward smile.

‘And I think you know we enjoy more than just the taste” Aidan whispered next to her ear.

“Next subject” Claire interrupted quickly as she shook her head and took another drink of her own.

“It’s been five years, and she still squirms when I mention biting her little girl; her twenty year old little girl” Aidan couldn’t help adding as he offered Claire a wry smile, which she just as awkwardly turned her eyes from.

“Five years huh?” Erica beamed over at him, and then her grin turned mischievous “that’s what, half as long as you shared a bed with someone else at this table?”

“All right, let’s go back to talking about blood” Claire interjected even more quickly, which did cause more than a few smirks from her companions.

That was when Erica’s expression turned more serious “I just figured I should know what it tastes like… just in case” she added more quietly, afraid to make eye contact with any of them.

“In case of what?” Sean asked with concern.

“Well I’m an adult now, and Aidan and I have been together for five years already” she broached the subject, Aidan also looking down with another quiet drink.

“And that has what to do with you wanting to see what blood tasted like?” Sean pressed with a bit of discomfort.

“Well we’ve been talking” Erica attempted, looking to Aidan for support “and if we wanted to be together longer…” she dared.

“No, no, no, no” Claire exclaimed as she sat up more straightly.

“It’s something we’d have to eventually talk about, isn’t it?” Aidan dared.

“No, it’s really not!” Claire added more loudly.

“Claire” Sean stated softly, trying to calm her.

“What? You’d be ok with that?” she asked him accusingly.

“I didn’t say that, but it is a subject that of course it going to be discussed when she is the only mortal in the group, and in love with one of us” he added more quietly.

That was when Luke and Isabelle quietly and awkwardly excused themselves from the room as Claire centered another slightly cool look on Sean “Exactly! She is the only pure and good thing here. Why are we talking about destroying that, at all?” she continued in disbelief.

“Please, it’s not destroying that” Erica argued “if I want to be with him, it’s the only thing that makes sense” she added more softly.

“No. It does not make sense” Claire shook her head and then looked back at Sean, “so which is it that you’re endorsing? Her becoming some blindly loyal servant with all that bloodlust and all of those desires? Or her actually dying and never being allowed to see the sun ever again? Not to mention you were really fucking opposed to me embracing anyone, considering Aidan nearly fucking killed me that night!” Claire exclaimed more loudly, causing Erica’s eyes to widen as she looked over at where Aidan looked down guiltily at that reminder.

“I didn’t say I was endorsing either” Sean attempted to put some kind of force into his voice, but found it difficult “I’m just saying I understand why they would actually think of considering either of those things” he stated in the same forced calmness.

“Well I’m not considering either of them” Claire returned, though her voice was weak as she forced her eyes to remain downwards, wrapping her arms around her chest protectively.

Aidan finally spoke up, “Claire, you wanted me to stay here and love her. And I did. I do” he added as he looked back at Erica “now we’re just trying to figure out how we can continue to do that. Those are the only options we have that don’t involve all of those of us who do love her to have to sit idly by and watch her fade away, and out of our lives” he attempted to console Claire as well as not unduly sadden Erica with his words either.

“I never wanted her to become the thing we are. I never even wanted to force our will on her, no matter how dangerous it might have been to us. And now, I’m just supposed to be ok with that?” Claire shook her head “I don’t think I can be.”

There was another long pause wherein the sound of Claire’s stifled sobs were the only sound. Then Sean finally had to speak up, though in a near whisper “You were her, Claire.”

“Excuse me?” she asked as she looked up at him.

“The night you found out what I was; what I had become. You were the human girl who was in love with one of us. What was your decision, then?” he asked her, biting back his own emotion at the memory.

That was when another sob wracked Claire’s body at the truth of his words. She immediately turned in her seat to curl into his arms, hiding her face against his chest as she held him tightly whilst those memories flooded her all at once. Sean simply pulled her close and nodded for Aidan and Erica to give them a moment alone. The two other lovers each swallowed nervously, but followed his cue and left the room.

Eventually, all parties involved decided that it would be better to think long and hard on the possibility of Erica’s embrace, for at least another night and day. Only, the next night brought with it so much more to think on. When Sean and Claire awoke the next evening, the world had once again changed around them. They exited their bedroom at nearly the same time as Aidan had arisen from his own daily slumber and left his. Upon stepping out into the hallway, they were all floored by the fact that their world had changed quite drastically.

Mere feet from their opposite bedroom doorways, a crack of over twenty feet in width and unknowable length, had split the earth, and their home, in two that day. It was pure luck, if one could call it that, that the half of their home that sheltered them during the day was the only half still standing at all. As the entire other half of that home seemed to have fallen into the newly formed pit next to where they now stood. And the other half of that home was now at some unseen bottom of that huge fissure in the earth. And that half was also the very half of the home that housed their servants, Luke and Isabelle, as well as their very mortal daughter.

“Oh god. Please say they got out… that they got to safety” Claire bit back another sob as she looked around desperately for any sign of their missing household members, but found none.

Aidan forced back quite a bit of his own emotion as he moved toward the edge of the huge crack in the earth, using every bit of his superhuman sight to try in vain to see the bottom, and any remnant of their home, or their loved ones. He finally stepped back, joining Sean and Claire as their eyes searched the devastation surrounding them that had touched much more than just their own home.

They continued their search for hours. Haven and many of his own servants came to aid them in their quest to find any sign that would tell them that Luke, Isabelle, and their sweet Erica had somehow made it to safety. But they found none.

When dawn was barely an hour away, they were forced to finally give up their search, along with their hope. Haven, Sean, Claire and Aidan slowly made their way back toward Haven’s house. Their Prince’s home had only suffered the minor damage of a few pieces of roofing being shaken away over the kitchen, which was rarely used by anyone who had a need to be sheltered from the sun anyway.

Haven stepped into the house ahead of them to find Awsha having just come down the stairs, looking rather shaken herself “Awsha, just please don’t” he gave her the quiet warning before his three companions shakily stepped inside, all looking as though their very souls had been shattered that day.

Awsha simply swallowed at the clear threat in Haven’s tone and looked down as their guests entered the house “Is that everyone?” Awsha asked, though her words were quiet, and didn’t seem to be honestly malicious, for once.

“Yes” Haven answered for them, as they all clearly felt another wave of grief at the thought of having to admit that answer “I’ll have the servants move all of the beds to the cellar. If this happens again, I don’t want to lose anyone else” he stated quietly. He then moved from the room to oversee the plans for making the cellar as comfortable and safe as possible for all of them.

It was nearly dawn by the time the beds were moved down to the cellar which had been abandoned for most of the years since Awsha had awoken from her torpor. Sean and Claire were given a bed. Another was offered to Aidan. Another would be shared by Haven and Awsha. While a sofa was brought down for three of Haven’s chosen servants to be as comfortable as possible during what would be sure to be a rather tense day for them, considering the previous one.

Aidan immediately curled into his own bed, turning away from the rest of them and burying his head against his pillow wordlessly. Claire cast him a sad and regretful look before slowly moving to curl herself into Sean’s waiting arms as he pulled her close and kissed her hair, all of them still forcibly trying to bite back tears. Haven slid into his own bed and lifted the cover for Awsha as she first glanced at Aidan with a soft sigh, then couldn’t help her dark eyes turning to linger for a fairly long moment on where Sean and Claire held each other tightly in their own grief.

“Awsha” Haven spoke her name quietly as she finally forced her eyes away from the couple, wiping quickly at the corners of those eyes. She then crawled into bed, also turning away, only to have her eyes come to rest on the doorway to the previously hidden room and the still open coffin that could just barely be seen inside.

When the next evening did arrive, they all started to slowly rise from their beds and even more slowly make their way up the stairs to see if the world had managed to remain for another day or if fate decided to deal them even more misfortune. The final two among them who had yet to head upstairs were Sean and Awsha. Sean was distractedly spreading the bed, his back to where she was distractedly watching him.

Awsha took another long moment before daring to approach him “Sean?” she asked, and though her voice was barely a whisper, it still caused a visible tension to take up immediate residence in him.

Swallowing hard, Sean finished his task and forced himself to turn back toward her, though his eyes remained locked on the floor “Before you say anything, Awsha, you have to know that this is one of the single worst possible times…” he just shook his head, not even having the strength to try and finish that statement.

“I know” she agreed with an attempt at a sad smile before adding anything else “and I just…” another moment “I’ve been bound to Haven for five years now, and” another pause to force the strength to finish her thoughts “it’s made me see things a lot differently than I used to” she attempted.

“You’ll pardon me if I have a little trouble believing that” Sean responded, his own voice hoarse, his eyes still focusing on some random spot behind her rather than on Awsha herself.

Awsha swallowed again, forcing her voice to work “I know you probably won’t believe me, but I am sorry. For Erica, for Claire, for everything. I am” she added in her own hoarse whisper.

As she received no response other than the briefest flash of some emotion across his otherwise immovable expression, she simply got on her tiptoes to place a gentle kiss on his cheek before casting her own eyes downward and slowly moving toward the stairs as well.

Shortly after waking for the night, Haven, Sean and Aidan decided to go help a group of servants who were to spend the evening trying to clean up after the devastation the quake had left in its wake. Though that desire was most likely their way of avoiding the hell of sitting there and letting their minds dwell on the loss that they had suffered. Claire stayed behind though, as she was just too broken to even try to go through the motions of distracting herself.

She was curled up at the edge of the living room sofa, her teary eyes staring a hole in the floor when Awsha entered the room with another broken sigh. Upon hearing the other woman’s approach, Claire couldn’t help letting out a sound that was some mix of melancholy, exhaustion, and disbelief. But even so, she didn’t even have the strength to look up toward the woman who had been the cause of so much of that grief in years past.

Awsha allowed another sigh as she forced her feet to carry her over to the couch as well. She took a quiet seat on the next cushion, trying to ignore Claire’s cringe at her nearness. Summoning all her bravery, Awsha spoke “is there anything….?” But the sound of Claire’s scoff cut her words short before she could finish them.

After another long silence, something else broke inside Claire as she suddenly turned cool eyes on Awsha “yes, there is something you can do” she stated in a forced monotone.

Almost looking afraid of what the answer would be, Awsha somehow managed a response “what’s that?”

“No games, no lies, just tell me once and for all” Claire stated, her voice breaking.

“Tell you… what?” Awsha returned softly, bravely forcing herself to not turn her eyes away.

“Just tell me why” Claire sniffled “why did I deserve all of this? What have I ever done to you, to deserve everything you did to me? I just need to know” she finished with desperation.

That was when Awsha did look down, trying to hide her emotions once more before giving in to answering “you made Sean fall in love with you; something I could never do. That’s all you ever did, Claire” she confessed with her own tear sliding down her cheek.

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