Nightblood

In a world of eternal darkness, the light is slowly seeping in. It’s up to one particular winged warrior to save the Night.

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15. Chapter 15

Chapter 15

 

Carson isn't dead. Well, he technically is, but he's still there. Separate from his lifeless body, thinking of how stupid he is. But his heart is broken and his mind warped, allured by the prospect of finding someone else to love. 

He watched as they dragged his corpse across the Night side, not once complaining it is heavy. He watched as they buried him, a distant spirit in the trees. In the Night, he held no power. But here, in this in-between he now walked. Not life, not death. His spirit is trapped in between, because he'd died in between. 

In between Day and Night. In between life and death. In between hope and despair. 

He watched them bury him, and his heart is ripped to shreds with every thrust of the shovel. It pained him to watch, but he couldn't beer to drift away—for he is nothing but a veil of mist now, a phantom on the breeze—he is stuck there, glued. 

But not all is bad, stuck in this strange state, he can drift between sides. Switch between Night and Day, visit the land of his home, watch his friends and family mourn for him, witness their despair. 

This. This is the cost of his love for Estrie. Being forced to watch the sorrow of others. To have to drift between sides, never truly belonging. 

He has not seen Estrie since, not laid eyes on her, her beautiful face, lined with rage and strength. Defiant to the end, she is. She almost lost her life during that final stand, like he had. Only hers had been noble, and him, his had been nothing. Nothing. Just like him now. He's nothing. And it tears him apart. 

So he drifts. He goes wherever the wind takes him. he doesn't try to do anything more, he is lost in a sea of despair and self-pity. 

He wishes to see Estrie, but she would not see him. He is a ghost, and can only hope that at some point, for some reason, his soul will find its way to whatever afterlife exists, finally having peace. 

➿➿➿

I bide my time, growing stronger in silence. I train, rebuilding my power. Dais is distant, Ryan spends most of his time resting or practicing battle techniques, and I spend my Crossovers training and my Returns weeping. 

Weeping for Carson, the friend I'd never get back. The friend who will always be just that, a friend. 

We still train for battle, for something tells me our worries are far from over. And there's something that's been nagging at me, a plan beginning to form. But I won't risk it yet. I won't dare. I need to speak with Ryan, but he's grown distant. 

Everyone has. When I need them the most, my few friends have started to leave me. Dais first, when I insisted myself healed enough to leave, enhanced Nightblood healing fixing me up in a matter of days, but my Heartmagic remains depleted, weak. 

I can feel something looming on the horizon, I can feel something like I can sense a storm about to break. 

The wet wind before the drizzle, the drizzle before the thunder. My heart, broken as it is, yearns for Ryan. I'll go see him soon, I tell myself, as I pound and hack at a poor tree. I don't kill it, I use my fists, ramming them into the solidity of the trunk until my knuckles are raw and bleeding, a few bones surely broken. 

Ryan. I'll go see him soon. My mind is always straying to his face, his eyes, his hair, his lips. The feel of his lips on mine, a feeling that everything is alright, even when the world is falling apart.  

Yes, I will go see him soon. I will find him, or maybe he will find me, and I'll tell him about the idea that's bloomed in my mind, a terrible, enticing blossom. 

➿➿➿

Ryan is lost in his own thoughts. Lost in a world of dimness, the moon faint, the stars clouded over, his own mind shrouded in a thick fog. 

Estrie. He wants her, with every bore of his body. But he can't be around anyone without getting all on edge, thinking about all the terrible things that could happen. 

An after effect of the battle, he supposes. But he can't stay away. He needs her, as much as he needs air. 

She is his air.

Tomorrow, he will go in search of her. How had he let them grow so distant? How had he left her to start with, returning to the Strennan camp? 

As if summoned by his thoughts, she appears, hair a flapping wave of darkness, eyes a blaze of silver flame, though dimmed. 

“Hello," he's not sure if it's him or Estrie speaking.

➿➿➿

It's him. It's him it's him it's him it's him. Ryan. I resist the urge to rush for him, instead I mumble in quiet greeting. He mumbles in return, shifting awkwardly. 

“How are you coping?” He whispers, voice barely audible. His hair is messy, eyes clouded, barren of familiar kohl. 

“I'm doing alright," I answer, my eyes sliding down over him. He's lost weight, but gained lean muscle. 

As if cleared by some strange force, his eyes snap to focus, a dangerous tint filling them, gleaming almost lupine in the dim light. I swear I could almost see blurry hints of gold around the edges of his irises, but they fade away. 

Energy ripples through her, her Heartmagic stirring. Finally. Finally. It's still there. Relief surges through me, smothering out the flicker of magic. 

I force myself to remain still, not showing anything. After all, I'm in the heart of the Strennan camp, my eyes glued to Ryan, unable to rip them away.  

“Come… sit?” Ryan hoarsely asks, his voice becoming husky. 

I sit beside him, leaning into his strong presence. His solid, unchanging presence. 

“I miss him…” I murmur faintly, speaking of Carson. He's an emptiness, but sometimes as I weave beneath the trees, I can almost feel him. Imagine he's there, smiling over my shoulder, saying he forgives me. That it's not my fault. 

“I know, it's okay," he replies, whispering into the top of my head, face buried between my two horns. 

“It's my fault. I can't help it. I feel like it's my fault, all my fau—” Ryan cuts me off. Doesn't let me finish.

“It is not. You hear me? His choice is not your fault," he insists, not lifting his face. 

Something strange flits about in my chest, my heart doing a faint flutter, skipping a couple of beats. My Heartmagic stirs again, only a flicker, but still more than nothing. It had grown so much stronger before I used it up, what would happen now? Would it be reduced to a faint flicker, or would it return to full strength? Maybe come back stronger than ever… 

And there's always the prospect of— no. I refuse to think of that. Of it not coming back at all. It's part of my very soul, the deepest part of me. It is a flame forever burning, and will light again from these embers. 

“I missed you. I can't be away from you," he tells me, his voice even fainter than my flickering magic. 

“Every Cycle, every Crossover and Return, I've thought of you. My thoughts have stayed on you, I've been unable to rip them away…” my breath has gone ragged, ricocheting around my lungs. My heart flutters like an injured bird, flitting about unevenly in desperation. 

Suddenly the magic surges through me. 

It's like floodgates being open, the Heartmagic returning, flooding back into me in a gushing torrent. Magic, so sweet so pure. I barely notice as Ryan presses his lips to mine, and the magic begs to be released.

“Remember that place by the stream?” I whisper as he pulls away, but only barely. 

He nods and we move without word, vanishing into the trees, weaving between the to dense trunks. 

The stream is a gentle trickle as we lunge onto the rock. At first we chat lightly, and with a nod of consent he leans in, pressing himself to me. His lips graze mine, and he asks before he deepens it. 

I pull away, my magic suddenly pushing to hard against my skin. I can barely breath. It's like my lungs have been wrapped in a tight bind, my heart trying to escape the confines of my chest.

I swallow and force it back, and Ryan asks if I'm okay, and if it's okay if he leans back in. 

I nod to both, and he presses his lips to mine once again, softly, testing. I squeeze my eyes, easing out the power that built up. 

Tendrils of light swirl around us, casting us in white flame. Beautiful, deadly white fire, pure energy. I let out what once would have been barely enough to read by, but now illuminates the whole clearing, make the stream dull in comparison. 

Woah. So much stranger than before. So much. 

“What the!?” Ryan exclaims, leaping away. Heat stains my cheeks, scorching just beneath my skin. 

“It's-s nothing. My m-magics coming back.” 

“I CAN TELL!” He billows, fear glazing his eyes. I try to pull it back, but more keeps pushing out. 

“Run!” I shout as it erupts out, shouting in a blaze to the pale moons, a river I'm unable to hold back. 

He hesitates for a moment, before he turns tail and flees. Good… my mind is growing sluggish, and in minutes I'm able to haul my magic back under control. Keep it inside. It's back at least. So rare, this blessing, this curse. So painful. So brutal. So strong. 

But I contain it. It's mine to control. I master it, and refuse to lose control again. 

Ryan’s gone, and so I sit on the rock, cold, alone, trembling, before at some point slumping over and drifting off to sleep. The wind is a bite that reaches me even in unconsciousness, and I imagine that winter’s moonless night are just around the corner. Has that much time really passed? It appears so, as I feel frost prickle my skin.

➿➿➿

Carson lays his eyes on her and can't tear them away. Sleeping on the rock, her face so peaceful, except for how violently she shakes. 

Shivers, he realize. She's freezing, her lips purple, her pale skin taking on a bluish tint. 

He drifts down, forcing his way against the whistle of the wind. So cold, he realizes, she's too cold. Hypothermia looms on the horizon, yet he doesn't know how to warm her. His body offers no heat, nothing at all. But something around her has too. 

He reaches into the deep recesses of his memory, but comes up empty. Fading, he realizes, his memories are fading away, his life disappearing. 

He searches around, until he stumbles into the Strennan camp. He searches, for something anything. A blanket, lying at the edge of the clearing. Old and stained, most likely there to be washed. 

He grabs it, having to concentrate on keeping solid enough to hold it. It's not like he'd imagined, this in-between.

He's like water, he doesn't slip through it but appears to part around whatever he touches, a stream diverging around a chunk of rock, not going through it. 

He manages to grab it, straining enough to gain some sort of flicker solidity, and lugs it back to sleeping Estrie. He frames it over her spasming form and stands watch until she warms up, the shivering not relenting but dimming considerably. 

He suddenly lets the frayed wind take him again, blowing him to wherever it may.

➿➿➿

Ryan curses himself for leaving her. He shouldn't of, but somehow fear had made him to what he'd vowed never to do. Fear. He is a coward, and a deep self-loathing settles over him.

He should have stayed, waited it out. But he fled. Fled like the cowardly fool he is. But at the edge of the camp he had halted, awash with a vision of another time. 

Estrie, fighting for her life against a small legion of Nightbloods, who'd turned on her. 

As quickly as it came it fades. Exhausted, his mind refuses to acknowledge the vision, to puzzle it out. Instead he flops down and snuggles underneath a thick wool blanket, flinging himself into a sleep devoid of dreams.

Yet a dream takes hold, some point during the Return. A dream of blood. He's drowning in it. It's Estrie’s. because he'd ran instead of saving her when her fellow Nightbloods attacked. Because he's a coward, and did not aid her. 

It's everywhere, a silver tide roiling around him. Suddenly his own joins it, red swirling in glistening silver. 

But all of a sudden it vanishes, and he awakes, his sweat feeling like the blood from his dream.

➿➿➿

Estrie awakes, a Strennan-style blanket draped over her. Ryan came back. He came back for her. It's so cold, but the blanket is her shield against frostbite and hypothermia. 

The wind is a vicious whip of ice and frigidity, the birds crooning the promise of winter. So soon, those moons would dip under the horizon, plunging the shadow-cloaked lands into sheer darkness. Darkness, not even the keenest eyes can pierce. A time of cold, of death. 

A Mithileen bird coos in the distance, it's early call jerking me awake. Fully awake, not hovering in semi-consciousness. I wrap the blanket around me like a cloak, trekking to the Strennan camp. When I reach it, Ryan’s nowhere to be found, so I drop the blanket, murmur my thanks, and flap on aching wings into the sky, lit only by faint stars and fainter moons. 

I fly and fly, until only sheer determination and force of will are keeping me up. I spiral down, having warmed myself against the heavy cold. So cold, it is. It is impossible to deny it any longer. 

Winter is upon them. I must return to the Nightblood camp, or risk frostbite or hypothermia or both. But I will delay it as much as possible, wait until I can speak with Ryan. 

I will wait until I can't, until my wings are leaden with ice, until I teeter on the edge of cold-induced death. I will wait for him, until time runs out, because he'd do no less for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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