The Loneliest Traid

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  • Published: 2 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 13 May 2017
  • Status: Complete
Love and death and war and Gods and blood and magic and dancing and rest and revenge and kings and fate.
Don't worry, within these three stories you'll know yourself,
And I will put you back together again.

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46. I Never Really Knew You Until Now

“There is a treasure,” Dyrad said, but you know this already, “Crafted by the Gods, and send to be worth more than ever could be imaginable, though what it is, has not been passed down in the rumor.  Angels and men alike speaking of this treasure, and what they tell us is that it is found in the second realm, beyond the boarder found in the lakes by the mountain stretching into Mavros.  Here, a key will be found by those who make the journey.  If we have any hope of winning this war, we’ll need more than we have no.  Which is why I’m sending you two.”

Ichais uncrossed her arms, spinning them around her, gesturing to the empty room.

Dyrad clenched his jaw, “She’ll be here shortly.”

“First of all, I want a ten percent profit, and-”

He laughed.

“And let the late girl catch the tail end of eight.  Next, why ask me?  After all you tortured me, why would I drop everything i have lined up work for you?  I still have those ugly numbered scars on my hips, it’s not as if I can forget, even if five hundred gold might let my memory slip for a while.”

“We tortured you?”

Ichais recrossed her arms, “You are as bad as they say.  Where is this lake?”

“To the west.”

“I want a ship.”

“You can’t have a ship.  I’ll pay you half of the five hundred gold you’re looking for.  Live off of that and rent a boat with the rest.”

“Two hundred silver?  Am I planning on living on the streets until I make it?”

“You have a hundred,” he said, “The other has the same, and any more complaints I’ll put her in charge of the entire fee.”

Icahis groaned, “Fine.  Find mysterious treasure and leave Heaven unscathed, anything more, your highness?”

“You cannot feed until you return.”

Her eyes are blown wide, “No-”

“Not a single drop of blood is to pass your lips until you return with the treasure.  It will scare your counterpart, show your place in Heaven, and look awful if anyone is to know I hired you to go on this quest in my name.  No, it is not worth the risk.”

“You’re a monster.”

Dyrad didn’t laugh.  Neither were sure of it being a joke.

Ichais thought for a while.  She had been living in boats across Lapalpa for months, the rest spent marching across the glittering expanse of hot, red stone to the far north, digging for treasure for batty old fortune tellers who swore they’d pay for pearls and leather gloves and bottle caps that held history.  Ever since the party, that now seemed so long ago, where her boyish head was filled with merry friends and scotch that suited her ancient tongue, she had forgotten what it meant when you cared for someone, and she let her go.  She never minded all that - the curse she had said she was born with, the nose like a penknife and eyes like mouldy bread - and she of course thought that no one minded either.  To see her humiliated like that, and to never see her again…

Ichais pushed her from her mind.  No, not from her mind, but swallowed it like a stone to keep it down.  She would never rid herself of her again, and would change so much if she could go back to that night.

We are like that, I think.  We give the longing for change the same name as guilt, and guilt is only as deep as the blame of a forgiving kind of affection.  After that comes pride, comes arrogance, comes loss, comes guilt.  Is that not true love?

“I’ll do it,” she said, braver, nothing left to lose, “But I want a last meal before I go.  I won’t kill anyone, I just want… Something.”

“Take the skin of our prisoners, Gods know there’s enough of them.”

Ichais smirked, her eyes so dark they twisted even the king’s soul, “Bring me your finest men, let me do what I want.  When they wake, their skin will be healed.  Let me break their hearts and swallow strings of tendons and choke on the petals of what brain the idiots who follow your kind have.  Let me feast, and I’ll bring you your treasure.”

Dyrad’s spluttered, his stomach jerking as Ichais’ starving eyes chased it, imagining the luxury of blood from a fattening-up king spilled over her parched tongue.

“You haven’t changed,” she said.  Sweet, sugar, gas.  It flooded the room and washed out every pang of hunger that resided within Ichais, replacing it with softly wrapped arms around her waist that did not exist, and the sight of chasing ball gowns and torn ties on royal masks, “But I’m not surprised.”

“Estha,” she breathed.

Estha wore her hair longer now, a red ribbon tying it back from her eyes,  a mangled mess of ginger tangles.  Her eyes no longer trailed the floor how they used to, her skin now tinted orange around the edges and clear from so much time in fresh air.  Her dress was low on her chest, her cloak wrapped around her forearms and trailing, a queen’s mourning robe, black silk, enchanting.  It suited her like that, enchanting.

“Hello, Ichais.” she said, so sweetly.

    “What are you doing here?”

    “You are to work together,” the king interrupted, “You will both retrieve the treasure - together, and you will return alive.”

    “What chance is it to meet again, huh, Ichais?” too sweet.  Not her voice.  Not her smile.  

    “Yes…” she said.

    “So, how much did you want, Ichais?” Dyrad ridiculed, “Ten percent?”

    Estha looked away, but she had already been caught, that grin on her lips, her stranger’s lips.

    “Let it be so, Ichais gets ten, Estha gets fifteen, as asked.”

    She looked at her, and smiled politely.  Her eyes were cold.

“But remember,” he pointed to Icahais, “You also get your feast tonight.”

When something is wrong, you rarely know it first.  But if you think of what of what you once loved and it has changed beyond comprehension, something is very, very wrong.  And when you can name it, see the mistakes face and stare at it as it flexes and grows - you will see something new bleed from what you once named as what you loved.

 

That night, the castle was a butterfly print, messy and spilling over the edges of the page.  One half once a ball long ago, dresses sweeping the floor and dances and music and food.  Pressed together by a child’s rushed hand, missing pieces, spilling ink across their sleeves.

The music played on a box the size of an organ, tinted gold, one of the last things still holding the colour after the walls had been washed white throughout the towers.  And of course there were no people dancing, no people at all in fact, but the ten brave men who took places as guests, unsure of their role in all this.

The king stood up, tapping his spoon to his glass.  Fine crystal, silverware from the depths of the land.  Why he needed treasure, they weren’t sure.

“I would like to thank the two remarkable girls making this dinner possible.  I’ll be short, and wish you the best of luck on your journey.  May the feast begin?”

The soldiers all silently raised their glasses, but Ichais shook her head, darting her eyes.  She had been sweating under her corset allnight, her stomach so churned it was unable to think of food.

“Well, let us know.” Dyrad snapped.  He could have told all of the soldiers they were about to be killed and there was little they would do.  They knew the king now, his evil, malicious ways, what happened was on their conscience.  Fool me twice.

The music restarted, Ichais not even aware of its stopping.  The soldiers, who were presented no more than water in their cups and empty plates, stood and began standing across the ballroom floor as if this were the parties they were used to, but instead of dancing, they shot each other worried looks.  

They know, Ichais felt her chest seized up, They know what I am.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, a goblet pressed into her hand.  She sipped it, but it was nothing more than iced water, of course.  The king did not waste expenses.  She handed the cup back.

“Are you alright?  You seem… Squeamish.” Estha giggled.  Like grinding gears, scratching away, sticky, like sugar.

“It’s not that,” she whispered back, “The princes and princesses were all ordered to stay away tonight.  I’m worried about all this, Estha.”

She laughed joyously, “Don’t worry so much!” her glass was empty, and rimmed red, three lines ringing the top.

Ichais looked back.  The king was watching her, scowling.  He was waiting for all this to be over.  This was a taunt, she knew it, and the joke had now ran dry.

“We should go,” she said.

“What about food?”

“I’ll buy you something on the way to the second realm, let’s go.”

“Not me,” Estha pulled back, “What about you?”

She looked at them.  Defenseless men.  Strangers.  Men with families and lovers and secrets and beds to sleep in.  She could envy them for all those things, but she would not kill for them.  Estha sighed for her.

“King Dyrad, thank you for the meal, but it is time we left.”

“But-”

Estha waved her hand, shutting him up effectively, “The sooner gone, the sooner back.”

His scowl deepened, “Go.  Return only with the treasure.”

    Estha nodded and faced the men, “Thank you for your service.”

    They turned and left, Estha a step ahead, not moving to pull her hood around her.  Before they had left the castle gates she half-turned to Ichais and said, lowly, “If something is wrong, Ichais, I will find out.  I’m not risking this treasure for your bloodlust.”

    Ichais was not shocked by her tone, by her cold features.  Estha would have noticed that something was wrong, as it was all over Cardeni that night, but she didn’t.  This was not Estha, and maybe that was the problem.

    When something is wrong, it makes love seem a nuisance, and people walk away from that.  Funny, because no wrong is made right without love.

    But what’s more.

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