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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25. When The Leaves Die, so do I

“It’s so beautiful,” Gomez said.

    “What is?”

    “The changing weather, the leaves falling from the trees.  It reminds me of the forest from when I was younger.  We would sweep piles of red and orange leaves together and I’d race them with the wind down the end of the garden where we’d grow pumpkins and that.  It was always a nice time of year.  I miss it.  Is that strange?  It happens every year, and is upon us now, and I miss it.”

“That’s not strange.”

“You don’t think so?” he asked.

“No,” Chene smiled, “Not at all.”

“Do you miss anything?”

Chene looked at the clouds, “Stars.”

“There’s stars every night.”

“I miss when they meant something to me.”

“And when was that?”

“Before I made something of myself.”

For some reason, that made Gomez laugh.

 

“Gomez!” Chene said, clawing out for him.  He was pulled away with a knife at his throat, and although the blade pulled at the new scab, he just pushed harder, reaching out for Gomez that stood at the other end of the hall with nothing more keeping him in place than his father’s hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Chene,” he said in a small voice.

“Gomez, you liar!” for a moment he was freed, and ran towards the prince, who didn’t even bother move to the sword on his back.  The knights grabbed him again, and beat him over the head with the end of their knife.  It was then that Gomez gasped and took a step forward, but the king tightened his grip, and he stepped back again.

“Leave him, Rilae,” Dyrad said.

    It was no more than a whisper, “I’m so sorry,”

    “You told me you’d protect me!” he said, “You lied to me, Gomez, you said you’d stay!”

    The palace walls were no longer white and gold and ever changing, but bleak, obsolete.  They turned to dungeons and chains and whips that dug into the columns on your spine.  And Gomez watched on, blind.

 

    “What do you think made you, Chene?”

    “I think I did.”

    “But really.”

    “But really?” he said, resting his head against Gomez’s, “I think that the scars did.”

    “Just the scars?”

    “No, but the house that made them.”

    “The orphanage?”

    Chene sighed, “I wanted nothing more than to be free.”

    “And now that you are?”

    “I want nothing more than to be happy.”

    “And how will that be?” Gomez asked, taking Chene’s free hand.

    He bit down on his smile, “I’m not sure, but I think I might know soon.”

    

    The palace, which once smelled of incense that caught the setting air that painted stories of ore onto the walls, onto the arms of the elven war king, onto the guilty face of his son, was now undone.  The dungeons smelled of fresh blood and death.  The chains were rusted with time, and Chene could feel the rough edges pierce his skin, becoming one with him, never planning to move or free him.  There were no windows in the round room, nothing but a single door and tooth and bone.  The skeleton of a young girl.  The body of one of their own soldiers.  Chene knew he would never see the stars again, and they would never have even noticed him go.

    The poker bit into his skin like a starving dog, carving numbers in elvish, a tag meaning that he would never find home again, and if he did return, it would no longer be home.

    “You’re so scarred,” the torturer noted, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we had to burn you twice more to make it show.”

    He howled out at the second one, his back buckling into the wall, his skin grating against worn stone.  It was covered in nail marks, in nails, in blood.  

    “Did you really think that the prince was going to dote on you because you helped him travel back to the castle?  You jinn are more foolish than we thought.”

    The next poker left his skin blistered, the numbers blurring together, no longer important.  He fell limp, his arms torn apart in the cuffs above his head, hanging like a dead man, like no more than meat scarred and stained and used up.

    “You’re pathetic,” the man spat down his cheek, and left him there, grasping to thin strands of life, Gomez’s pleads and lies still in his mind fueling him, keeping him awake.

 

    “And if you could have anything what would it be?” Gomez said, plaiting dead leaves into the two long ties of hair.  The red and green and gold looked as though he himself had been apart of nature at some point, that he had grown and now was dying and awaiting the rebirth of spring, and yet enjoying this moment nevertheless, in his own way, in whatever way he could.

    “I would have a place I felt that I belonged.”

    “And you don’t have that?  Not in the barracks?”

    He shook his head, “Not for a long time.”

    “You deserve that, Chene.  A real home.”

    “As do you, you know.”

    Gomez laughed, and lay back against his friend, eyes fluttering shut, his hand chasing Chene’s through the long grass, “I hope you one day feel that you always are wanted, Chene.”

    “I think I will soon too.”  He smiled, open this time, rested, trusting.

 

    He found him like that, tied with his back exposed, still bleeding.  He hadn’t healed himself - he couldn’t, not like that.  He was so nearly dead, the small of his back reading intangible numbers scorched by someone wanting him dead.  People wanting him dead, and he was meant to be a part of them.  

    “Chene,” Gomez whispered, “Oh, Chene, I am so sorry.  I am so, so sorry.”

    He did not stir, not even look away.  His knees had given under him, his muscles tough and torn from wear, his hands above his head and parted like the wings of an angel.  

    “I never meant for this to happen, I never would have done this to you.  I-I’m going to fix it though.  Do you hear me, Chene?  I’m going to save you from this place, and I’ll send you home again, I swear by it.  Chene?”

 

    Gomez’s sister ran into the grand hall, holding a letter above her head, “For you, your highness,” but she was stopped by two guards crossing their spears in front of her.  She looked ahead, the king speaking to a coachman she had only seen once or twice before.

    “A letter for the king!”

    “Let her through,” he said.

    “But, your majesty-” the coachman thought it wise to grow quite.  He looked to the sister, and the letter in her hand, its seal and stamp of the forest, of the brother.

    “What does it say, girl,” the king demanded.

    “It is from your youngest, Rilae Ta Oaka,” she said, as if he had never heard the name before, “He sends his deepest apologies and asks forgiveness for leaving his post.”

    “See!” the coach driver said.

    She looked him down before continuing, “He asks for you to stop your hunt for him, that he will return with safe passage.”

    “Make it so.” Dyrad said.

    “But,” the sister shifted her weight, feeling the static in the air.  They had been awaiting this, “My brother brings with him a jinn soldier who has lost his way and means no harm.  He begs you to spare the boy, and to allow him to return to the outpost to the north.”

    “Ha,”

    She dropped the letter to her side, stepping forward, close enough to the king that the knights moved towards her as well, but she paid no mind, “Please, father, this boy is innocent.  Allow him his journey home, he had no more to do with the war than Rilae, and-”

    “And Rilae is a warrior too,” the king said, his voice like cracking thunder in the still of the hall, “He will also be punished for not killing the enemy before he even had the time to speak to him.  Guards, call off the attack, and when the jinn walks through these doors lock him away until I can teach Rilae what this war is really for.”

    “How honourable,” the coachman whimpered pathetically.

    She snarled at the two of them, “But father-”

    “Now go, child, make use of yourself.”

    “You have made the right decision, your majesty, it must have been that jinn that burned down my chariot, and your son that helped him escape from us.  It is time you turned the youngest into a man, if you do not mind my saying.”

    “A man,” the father laughed, “And so I will, if I decide to do so.”

    “Yes, your liege.”

    “Now go, leave me in peace.”

    “Yes, of course,” he said, and stopped before the door, “You will do well to damn those magic-blooded to the third realm, your highness, and the world will thank you for your service.”

 

    “Go! Keep away from me, you are a liar and a crook,” Chene said, pinning Gomez against the wall behind him.  The knife which he used to open the latches to free him from his binds fell to the floor with a clang and neither made a move to grab it.

    “Chene-”

    “You are a liar and a scut and evil of soul, and I will be glad to see you rot,” he spat, “I thought you were my friend once, and you leave me to die here.”

    “No, I-”

    “Rilae, was it?  Rilae Ta Oaka, prince and sinner.  I hope I at least live to see the day where you burn like the devil under your own fabricated fire.”

    “I may be Rilae, but I did not lie about anything more, I was always the Gomez you knew, I just wanted to change from-”

    “From what?  The prince that leaves his friends to be tortured?”

    Gomez hacked, his breathing short and face puffing red.  The guards had left the prince alone, not expecting the son of Dyrad Ta Oaka to be a fool.  And yet he was, but not for freeing Chene - but for thinking that he would not be bound in the first place.

    “Please, I-” he gasped, “I’ll die.”

    Chene chuckled, this time sending ice along Gomez’s spine, “Good.  That will make us both, you coward.”

    “Let go of him!” the guards said, grabbing ahold of Chene’s arms.  He didn’t stop laughing, not even when they hit him over the back of the head again, when they dug their fists through his stomach and ribs.

    “Stop please - you’ll kill him!” but the prince could do no more than watch.  Watch on like all those in Chene’s life who’d called themselves good men, and had done nothing when the blood was before their eyes.

    They burned down into the underside of his jaw where his pulse was strongest.  The symbols marked him deep, symbols like locked cages, meaning the same.  The tightened the ropes again, his chest bare and struck over and over again with a riding crop laced in poison.  Froth erupted from his lungs, spilling from his mouth, his eyes writhing back in his head as his body lurched forward to escape the toxins, and meeting beatings on the way.  

    Gomez watched in horror as Chene was beaten half to death, and how he still lived, taking it as if it were familiar, as if between the lashing and cold embrace of iron cuffs was his home, truly.  And Gomez did nothing.

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