White Winged Angel
Another brilliant day.
But of course, most days here in Cyrum are brilliant, why else would so many rich and wealthy people choose this place as their homes making this the booming business town on this continent? I stared out from my window, taking in the view of the awakening harbour city to the fullest. The sounds from the docks of the early workers mingled with the cries from the seagulls, the smell of fresh fish, salty water and expensive spices, giving you the perfect combination of a blooming business city.
Roan could have been ruling over far worse places than Cyrum, the city was marvellous. Not being weighted down by any religious boundaries in the past had come to the Cyrumlean people's great advantage. The death of the gods had almost been completely passed on like old news, barely affecting the routines of their lives. The defeat of Valmar and the death of Granas were in the past for them; none cared because no one wanted to.
Yes, by the way, your eyes do read the right thing. This is my window. Not mine as in my inn room or because of one of Roan's favours, but really mine. I bought the small place above a cloth shop two years ago out of sheer boredom, my reputation as a Geohound had literally boomed after our little adventure with the two bickering gods so cash hadn't been a problem at all. In fact, the stuff was getting to heavy to be carried around so I dumped it off here in Cyrum as this small apartment. Mind you, it's nothing flashy like some romantic would have thought about a god-whacking hero but a regular place with two rooms, one washroom and a simple kitchen.
I never bothered with pricey pieces of furniture either since I seldom was here at all. Today had been an exception since I arrived from the north just yesterday and here was as good a sleeping place as anywhere else. I probably won't be here long before my feet steer me elsewhere again, once a Geohound always a Geohound it seems.
I sighed and looked around in my humble residence, maybe I ought to stay just a bit longer this time since the place was literally falling apart in my absence. There seemed to be dust everywhere when I now glanced around, I must have been too tired to notice yesterday night when I stumbled in and onto the bed.
Oh yeah, breakfast.
The cleaning would have to wait, big deal by the way, it was going to be just as dusty next time I got back as it was now but I needed and wanted to sleep in a decent room for the time I was staying.
The backpack and my sword got left behind as I stepped out on the streets; the tailor who owned the shop below me greeted me hastily as I walked out in my search for something edible. His oldest son waved to me in an excited, boyish way when I walked by; I smiled back smugly and walked on. It wouldn't surprise me if I got to meet the boy sometime in the near future hen I was on the roads. The lad was simply not made for being a simple tailor like his father, he was around Roan's age when we first met and literally bursting of youthful restlessness and travel thirst.
I picked up a pie, which was still warm from the oven in one of the many bakeries in my wandering around the large city, savouring the salty taste of fresh fish from the sea and spicy gravy as I walked on without any particular goal in mind.
Ironically, my aimless strolling took me to the entrance of the royal palace, which I was bound to visit during my brief stay anyway. Well, I guess seeing the kid a few hours earlier wouldn't be much of a difference. Besides, Roan was always good company and I wouldn't be surprised if I found Tio with him in there. The both of them had been inseparable after a few months together as friends. Roan needed a friend who was never trying to use his favours as a king, and Tio was Tio. She was still hooked on her long quest of trying to understand the human heart and mind, a task that really craved a mentor.
And who was better fitted for the task than the kind, optimistic boy king of Cyrum?
A small chuckle escaped my lips at my thoughts, I would have to make myself a mental reminder of not calling Roan a kid any longer, simply because he wasn't. Boys grew into men faster during hard times and Roan had literally been forced into the king position during the crisis of our era.
And besides, the palace guards always pulled that stone face on him whenever I called their king a kid. Did every armoured man in the world have the same bad sense of humour in common? Sure seemed so.
The palace was just as magnificent as ever with the soft aristocratic architecture of white and green marble, the royal flag and banners bursting of colour whenever one looked and enough water fountains to cause a minor tsunami. The guards had let me in with a nod of recognition- most of them knew me by my looks in my earlier visits and those who didn't were bound to know me by rumours.
I had barely entered the great hall before the heavy door of oak which lead to the throne room slammed open and Roan strode out in his formal royal garments. I considered throwing my idea of stop calling him a kid in the trashcan when I saw him. That smile of his could melt a glacier if he wanted to- it really felt like if the room got just a bit brighter when the young king entered it and made his presence known. All the charming innocence of a child was still plastered over his slight tanned face, and his blue eyes shone up like two sapphires on fire when he caught sight of me. His normally unruly blonde hair was combed perfectly aback and well braided according to the royal family's dressing code.
The whole flashy image of the perfect young king was ruined of course when he threw his arms around me in a crushing bearhug that messed up his whole attire. I hugged him in return before pushing him back while still holding him by his slender shoulders. We looked at each other and laughed- me the fleeting vagrant and him the ideal king, what a picture we made. I noticed that he had grown a few inches again, he was now staring me straight aback at me in my eyes without the need of tilting his head backwards.
"Ryudo! I haven't seen you in ages!" I finally got him off that 'mister' stuff some time ago, it got too weird after we found out about his royal blood and status. I smiled back smugly at the seventeen year-old teenager in front of me…wait a second, could kings be teenagers? Nah, who cared?
"So, how's the junior king doing? I hear that you've got rid of hat squeaking you called speech before, man it creeped me out."
Roan punched me playfully in the arm, sheesh, the kid had been training since I last seen him. "The process of growth is not as pleasant for all of us Ryudo, but true, I'm glad myself that my voice finally made up its mind." We began to walk back towards the throne room as we spoke. "How have you been doing? You really should drop by more often here, I and Tio miss you greatly."
I shrugged in a nonchalant way as always at his words. "Don't like sitting around, I guess. How's Tio doing?"
"She is doing far better than the last time you dropped by, I hired her as my personal assistant because of her impressive intelligence. She's actually the one who's been administrating the increasing trade between us and Mareg's people over those recent eight months." I gave him a serious look; he knew what I really meant but seemed hesitant to tell me.
"Roan, how's she doing?" His young eyes suddenly got a very tired look in them as he began to speak again but more slowly. We had reached his study by now and he invited me to sit down while he took his usual place behind the large mahogany desk. He rubbed his eyes tiredly and his smile seemed suddenly less optimistic but a lot more…confused? Now I was curious and of course concerned, Geohounds do have feelings towards their friends. "Did something happen?"
"Yes and no. It's complicated."
"We have our time."
"Ryudo, I'm running a country, that's exactly what I never will have."
"Well how am I gonna know if you don't tell me?"
He sighed in a way that sounded far too old for his tender age. "Tio has progressed greatly in developing the human emotions. In fact, I would dare to say that she shows a lot more empathy than you choose to do sometimes." I smiled smugly at his words- had our golden-hearted prodigy developed a sense of sarcasm? "I believe that Mareg would have been very proud of her."
"So what's wrong? Better than me may not be much by normal standards but it's a far cry from how she was a few years ago." I narrowed my eyebrows; something in my friend's behaviour was not right, was it my imagination or was the king of Cyrum actually blushing?
Uh oh, bad feeling coming this way.
"For your information, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Tio, she's wonderful in everything she does and everyone here loves her." Roan fiddled with a pencil in his hands while he spoke, whatever it was it was making him incredible nervous. I had never seen him this jumpy before. "She… obviously befriended some of the palace maids and all their gossiping awoke her curiosity about love which is one of the emotions she hasn't developed yet…"
Bad feeling confirmed.
"…and after a lot of questioning around she decided to come to ask me. I guess I wasn't the world's best mentor in that area."
"You didn't tell her about the stork and the babies did you?"
"Sorry, couldn't resist. Go on, I'm listening."
"Anyway, I tried my best to explain and she looked really puzzled when I was finished. I thought that she might have forgotten about it… then one day when I met her in the halls, she…" Roan now bore the look of the perfect teenaged male, for the first time discovering the existence of the opposite sex. He seemed so puzzled and confused that I felt sorry for him, but on the other hand, I went through it, now it was his turn.
"…she kissed me!"
Bad feeling just got worse.
"Did…she say that she loved you?"
"No, she just walked away with this weird look in her face." He seemed to have calmed down a little now as he rested his head against his hands, leaning forwards against the desk. "She didn't seem disgusted at least."
It took me my every ounce of willpower to not burst out laughing at his last comment. So even kings had their periods eh? I didn't show my amusement though- Roan was a sensitive person and easily hurt, I liked him too much to do that and I did see the seriousness in his problem. He looked at me for advice and I felt rather stupid for not having anything useful to say in the matter.
"Do…you like her back?"
"I…don't know. She's a great friend and a splendid worker but..."
But you do, don't you, Roan? I can see it in all the way from here in your eyes and your face. Why would you blush so fiercely by only talking about it otherwise? Heavens forbid, but you do like her, don't you? The automata and the king- now that would add to some serious heavy gossiping around this marble cottage. Actually, I can see it in his whole body. He was restraining himself from it, placing his duties before his emotions like so many have done before him.
A sudden chill suddenly shot down my spine in recognition. Like I had done.
"Roan, maybe she was just curious. There's no way to know Tio's reactions completely since she is partly mechanical and…"
"…is just as human as any of us! Ryudo, please, she has proved enough of her humanity to us, I trust her on her own emotional judgement completely. She is capable of that."
"I know, but you understand what I mean. Don't you?"
I gave him a sympathetic look. I had been right about him. Roan was no longer a kid and, for now, no longer a king. He was a very confused young man like I myself had been at his age. Strange that I never noticed him growing during the passing years,-had I even ever treated him as a child? He had been dealing with international politics and a national crisis at the age of fourteen and had excelled at the both aspects while I only had bothered with earning me and Skye enough money for the next meal. He was confident, strong and utterly brilliant, but for the first time in his life he seemed completely clueless at what was going on. Who could blame him?
I saw his emotions dance in his shimmering blue eyes before he regained his self-control and returned to the Roan like I knew him- like we all knew him. It was Roan the optimist, the ruler and the boy who looked at me now. I felt shamefully relieved over that he had gotten himself together, I really couldn't help him on that issue and he probably knew too that he was spilling his guts for the wrong friend. I wasn't a bit surprised when he chose to change the subject.
"What've you been doing those six months? You're getting good at erasing your trails when you're on the roads."
"That's only because the sounds of your so-called 'spies' could wake the dead."
"They were messengers, Ryudo."
"That's why I avoid them, I was in no mood to return to Cyrum at that time."
"You traveled back to Carbo village again didn't you?"
I remained silent- there was no point in bringing that up. Roan must have sensed my uneasiness, and didn't push it further than that. "Did you see Millenia in Liligue?"
Much better, now that's a memory I could smile at. "Yes. Her clothes are selling really well now, she's made a fortune on her drawing skills." Roan chuckled and I raised an eyebrow in question.
"Pardon me. Miss Millenia just never struck me as a woman who would pick up a needle and sew her own clothes. I'm glad she has found a way around that." He's right, the image of Millenia as a tailor was ridiculous but now there were dozens of tailors who come to her, buying her designs of her daring, aristocratic fashion sense. Now that's what I call making gold out of mud. Roan continued to speak. "I'm not surprised over her choice of occupation thou, a beautiful woman like her were bound to have a good sense for other people's appearances."
"She tried to force this weird looking suit on me, I looked like on of your bureaucratic idiots in it."
"You're supposed to look good in it, you rogue. I don't think you're made for those kinds of clothes. You look like a vagrant in whatever you wear."
"Watch it kid, I'm still stronger than you."
"See? That's why."
A maid suddenly stepped in through the door which lead to the throneroom, bowing deeply to both me and Roan, making me squirm with uneasiness. I never liked it when people bowed to me- I'm no better a human than they are, and I was a Geohound; we were supposed to be the scum of the planet. She must have known that she had stepped right into a conversation due to the apologetic look on her face.
"Your majesty, the military minister sent me to inform that the inspection is ready. Your presence would be of much honour to your knights."
"Yes, of course, I will be there shortly. Could you notice my assistant of it too? She should be in her office now."
"Yes, your majesty."
Well, seemed that my time with the king was done. I stood up from my place and headed for the door with him. He looked as confident as ever when he sent the maid after Tio to accompany him, but the mention of her still triggered some of the uncertainness I had seen earlier. I had to watch him more closely in the near future. Roan couldn't afford to lose Tio, and he was my friend, too. I did a mental note to pass by Cyrum more often in the following year.
We walked on in silence when he suddenly turned around and faced me in the Great Hall. I noticed that no one would hear whatever he was going to say here, due to all the pouring water- clever kid. He had something important on his mind, his shoulders were tense as he looked me seriously in my eyes.
"Ryudo, I want to be honest with you."
I shrugged in response and smiled back smugly, formal as ever. "Go ahead," I said, nonchalantly.
"Why are you still doing this?"
I faked a look of puzzlement. "Doing what?"
Roan frowned at me; there was no way to trick him. I knew what he was meaning and he knew that I knew. Damn. His voice rose slightly in genuine anger when he spoke.
"Don't make this more difficult than it already is, you know what I mean." I sighed and leaned back against the marble wall.
Not this again, I can face anything but this, please…
"You made your choice didn't you?"
"Yes…I did." An uncomfortable feeling of dread was spreading though me as he spoke, it wasn't his fault but I still wanted to shut him up for triggering it. The cold weight in my stomach grew and I began to sweat.
"Millenia accepted it and went on with her life after you told her, why are you still hesitating about it?" I didn't want to hear about it. Millenia had been broken hearted, yes, but she healed over time and got over it like she always did. Her spirit had been somehow wounded but she had refused to admit her defeat. She had cried when I told her but had let me go with a last kiss before shoving me out from her house. That had been three years ago and we had managed to heal our relationship somewhat to a standing friendship.
I still loved her, but not enough to keep her. Neither of us wanted to forget the other.
Roan was angry now. He probably had wanted me to hear this for ages but always kept it inside, afraid to offend or hurt me. Now he was grown and he wasn't about to hold it back any longer as a man. I stared off into his eyes, not really seeing him as my emotions made big loops in me. He continued to speak, scold, yell, whatever.
"Why are you running away from her?!"
Please, no. Don't speak that name, I beg you… My world was faltering. The pain must have shown in my eyes, he opened his mouth for another angry shout but stopped himself halfway. I hated pity but this I could tolerate since it came from Roan. I noticed that I was shaking at his words mercy. Gritting my teeth, I drew a long relaxing breath and swallowed, hard. The urge to hit him straight over his pretty face dissolved as I slowly regained my composure in front of him. Damn you Roan, damn you for knowing me so well.
"I…have to leave." With that, I started to leave the room. A look of panic came over him as he grabbed my left shoulder and spun me around to face him. We stared at each other, two young confused young men looking for our lives' definite answers. One a king, the other a rogue. There was something in his eyes, and in other circumstances I might have thought that he had came up with a brilliant idea or something but it seemed too unlikely in these circumstances.
"Pardon my rudeness, Ryudo, but you're a strange man." I pulled his hand off my shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile. It took a lot more than that to offend me. "Stay at least another day. The fair starts tomorrow and I'm sure that Tio had like to see you too."
I nodded and strode off. He must have thought that I didn't hear his last words as I stepped outside into the courtyard, but I did, and he is right. I am a fool.
A fool running from a goddess.
I turned up at the fair as I promised. I had spent the rest of yesterday in my apartment, cleaning up the place best I could. I was quite impressed by the result I had managed, it had been a lot more pleasant to stay there the second night than the first one. No dust, no spider webs, and everything smelled so…nice.
It was just that it had been utterly pointless since I was leaving today. I stood at the large square where all the small shops were crammed together like mushrooms. Some acrobats from some theatre group were setting up their stage on the other side for today's performance. I had to wait for Roan and Tio to come. I would fulfil my promise of spending a day at the fair with them and then leave. There was nothing in Cyrum to hold me down now other than a clean apartment.
I was still angry with Roan for bringing up the subject but I had to admit that he was right. I was pathetic. Our gang had separated shortly after our mission, each one having their own affairs to attend to. I had left them to bury and hide the Granasaber. No one would ever have to use that blade again so I made sure that the weapon was well hidden. That task had taken shorter than half a year. I travelled a lot faster on my own and took risky shortcuts instead of the roads so it had all taken less time than I thought it would.
Suddenly, I had realized that I had nothing to do. I had a lot of cash in stock and no one had picked me up for a mission on my way. This had left me no choice but to face the biggest decision of my then-seventeen years of life.
Millenia or Elena.
Whoever that said that women are difficult was a very wise man.
Two women who loved me more than their own fundamental beliefs. Equally beautiful, equally bright. Millenia is the most spectacular one of them, mood swings and pout scenes making her hard to be around, but at the same time impossible to resist. Her frequent tantrums are unlike what many think. It's not that she is deliberately mean and bitchy. It's her way to show other people her concerns, her emotions. No one had bothered with her before or showed her any feelings as the Wings of Valmar. She had loved me simply because I had cared.
Elena, on the other hand, is her opposite- compassionate to the edge of idiocy, kind and pure. She had been a sheltered princess with love enough to embrace the whole world. I have lost count of how many times she has scolded me for my lack of empathy during our journeys, and how many times her impulsive compassion has saved the lives of other people. Her love for music and her belief in everything that is good made her a perfect candidate as a Voice of Granas. I never understood why Elena fell in love with me. I sure as hell didn't deserve to stand by her ideals, but she stood by mine, against all her religious beliefs.
How could one man love two women who were so unlike each other, like them?
I shook my head and rested my body weight against my blade. I had spent a lot of my sudden-found free time to ponder over the issue. My final decision had actually been made the same day as that fateful day, three years ago, when I had stepped into Liligue, still as doubtful as a year prior, and met up with Millenia in the streets. She had been just as heartcrushing, beautiful and sexy as ever. I had to perform some serious mindcontrol on myself to not drool over her in those self-designed, highly-challenging clothes she was wearing. Valmar had sure known how to pick his servants.
She had given me the scolding of my life for being away for so long and followed that up with doting on me like a worried mother. I think she knew that I had chosen Elena before even I did. Call it female intuition if you want. She had just ushered me to silence with that last kiss we shared when I had desperately tried to explain, crying and teasing me at the same time of what I would miss out on with my choice.
She had pushed me out after that, letting me go but never admitting defeat.
I didn't return to Liligue for another year after that.
The square was getting crowded by now. Still no sight of Tio and Roan. I waved off another passing merchant who tried to sell some kind of miracle herb to me for a suspiciously low price. A gang of young knights passed by and laughed loudly at a joke one of them was telling. I never did like crowds- they are too noisy, and too many people in the same place tends to work as quite a thief magnet.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, breaking a woman's heart. Trust me, don't try it, especially not when you love her.
I had steered my steps towards Carbo Village after Liligue to find Elena, intending to end this heart wrenching business of mine once and for all. I'm not a romantic person. I never was, never will be. To me it's like one is playing a wild guessing game with bets that are far too high and I do believe that there is some wisdom in the words 'never bet your heart'.
The trip didn't take longer than a few days, and I was finally standing by the village port. I was ready to face her and my own future when the ground seemed to give away under me. I was paralyzed before the possibility of being with her forever. It suddenly felt like I was suffocating. All my past possibilities turned into one long road with the girl who was waiting for me within the village walls. I couldn't move an inch while I stood there, simply staring at the small village in front of me as if it were a deathtrap.
I couldn't stand it.
It scared the shit out of me so I turned and ran away. I remember that I heard a faint voice singing the Hymn to Granas as I sprinted southwards, through the darkness of the night. It could have been my imagination but I didn't dare to stop and check, because I knew that if I did so, I would be trapped there forever.
I ran for weeks, directly from Carbo towards Cyrum. I barely remember how that journey went. I simply didn't care in my quest to escape Elena's love in Carbo. Roan received a slightly shaken version of everything that had happened when I arrived in the harbour city. I didn't stay long to brief the young king, however, as I caught the first available ship heading across the ocean- never giving any of them a word of where I was going. Frankly, I didn't know myself.
After that, I simply couldn't bring myself to go to her again. My shame and my pride wouldn't let me do that.
To make a long story short, I have been running in three years now, still not entirely sure of what I am running from. Elena? No, I love her. The possibility of being tied down for good? Maybe. I simply don't know. Roan told me later when I had gotten back that Elena had joined a travelling entertainment group as a minstrel. She had probably grown tired of waiting for me to turn up after two years. I don't blame her.
Roan's right. I am a strange man. A strange, foolish, and pathetic man.
A light hand tapped me on my shoulder and I spun around, coming face to face with a pair of familiar yellow eyes. She seemed a little hesitant at first but after much consideration gave me a real smile, a gesture I had thought her incapable of. Holy cats, no wonder Roan was getting nervous around her. Tio sure could smile when she wanted to, and it suited her well. Very well.
"Greetings Ryudo. Long time no see." The monotonous, slight mechanical tune of her voice had changed too. It still sounded quite dull for the average person, but despite its softness, I could actually hear some joy in it.
"Hey Tio. Yeah, I've been missing for a while, eh?"
"Truly, we were worried." I noticed that she had changed her old set of clothes for more formal attire, sewn to fit the rank of the king's personal assistant without being too flashy. Her peaceful face of eternal youth lit up as Roan finally got rid of his guards and joined us. He seemed relieved to see me here, probably because he was afraid that he had driven me away with his harsh words.
"I'm glad you came Ryudo, there can never be too many friends together at a festive occasion like this."
"Of course, especially when it's you, kid. Think your reputation is enough to get us free drinks?"
He gave me a mock sour look as he purchased three fruit juices for us. Tio looked a little puzzled at my joke but smiled up again when Roan handed her the drink, turning the young king to a blonde tomato in a matter of seconds.
"Will you stay for the performance? I heard that this theatre group is quite good."
"Sure, my boat isn't leaving until noon anyway."
"I believe you will enjoy the play Ryudo." Tio tilted her head and looked at me with that strange questioning expression which characterized her. I shrugged in response.
"We should get our places, it's starting in a few minutes."
Roan and Tio excused themselves as they took off towards their official seats on the other side of the square, surrounded with guards and ministers on their way. Poor kids. I took a place in the far back. Not knowing the length of the play and having a boat to catch in two hours was one reason for that, but it also meant I could balk out if the play was a bore.
Everybody applauded as the curtains went up and the play started. Two acrobats dressed in to human imagination impossible suits entered the scene and performed an athletic battle dance while the choir exploded into a deafening chorus. Granas and Valmar, oh boy…they never tired of that story did they?
My suspicions were right- the play was a dead bore. The rest of the audience seemed to enjoy it, though, as the theatre group performed the tale of a young hero in the ancient war between the gods and their people. The young knight who fought on Granas's side falls in love with a fair maiden of the enemy's people, the rest followed in a tragic love story that made me want to ram the Granasaber through the hero's puny little head for being such a lousy sap.
The audience applauded every time the guy who played the hero raised his very fake sword to kill another of Valmar's legions. Whistles and cries of encouragement rang through the air as the hero won another glorious battle for his god.
That's it, I'm leaving. Whoever it was that tipped Roan and Tio to see the play could shove it right up his. I'm gone. I looked around for my belongings and bent down to pick up my bag and sword. Another wave of applause and shouts rang in the air and around me. By some of the others' comments it seemed that the fake maiden had entered the scene. I glanced up and caught a quick look at her; she seemed to be quite a looker judging from the encouragements she was given by the male audience. Yup, mostly legs, pale and slender. She was dressed in a white and blue dress that practically screamed innocence.
I hauled up my bag and fastened my sword, time to get out of here.
The girl on the scene had started to dance as I began to turn my back to her and tried to push myself out from the seated audience, which was a task easier said than done. Her untied blonde hair swirled in the salty sea breeze. I smiled as I thought of the soft waves and fresh wind which would soon accompany me across the ocean again, like so many times before. It was rude of me to walk away without saying good bye to Roan and Tio- they were great friends and showed genuine concern about my well-being. But, my boat was setting its sail, and I couldn't wait for them, even if it meant that I wouldn't see them for another six months or more.
I reached the end of the square where the few unlucky ones who had been without seats stood and were looking on, leaning on whatever they could find to keep the fatigue out of their bones. Everyone suddenly fell silent and stared at the podium, holding their breaths in dramatic expectation. Oh yeah, the woman was going to sing. Couldn't have a maiden without a love song for the hero, right? I snorted.
She did, and my world shattered.
That voice I would recognize anywhere, anytime, anyplace. The one and only voice I would recognize in hell and heaven, where nothingness now ruled. Her soft, searching tunes flowed over the astonished audience like a small bird on feathered wings. The sound of it created a vacuum of beauty around the listeners, giving the promise of happiness, purity and peace. Nothing in this world could resist the beauty of her voice. It could sound like the chirp of a newborn bird but also harbour the strength of an eagle's cry. Her whispers were like water droplets against a spider web, but it was the same voice that controlled the powers of deadly elements, powerful enough to bring down a god.
The one and only voice which could bend me to my knees.
The one and only voice I adored and feared.
My petrified figure was drawing curious glances from some of the onlookers by now. I was shivering… no, wrong, I was trembling, gasping for air like if I were in great pain. Her beautiful, ethereal voice called out from the scene, sailing across the square and impaling me violently, like stabbing arrows.
I dared not look back. My world seemed frozen in that eternal moment of bittersweet pain as I heard the angel's voice call me with her song and I was helpless at her mercy. I wanted to close my eyes and howl in despair, running away from this beautiful angel who seemed to summon me with her song, but my feet wouldn't move.
Roan, you little bastard. You knew this didn't you? You set me up.
I shut my eyes so hard that they hurt, trying to block out the dancing images before them. I was breathing so rapidly now that I was getting dizzy. The pain wouldn't leave. Someone beside me asked if I was okay but I ignored him. Throwing my head back like a lunatic, I freed my tears. The salty droplets flowed like small rivers down my chin as I took in a deep breath and restrained an ecstatic cry of joy and pain.
She was killing me. Her voice was ending my long escape from what perhaps was fate after all.
God I loved this. It hurt, it ridiculed me, but I loved every ounce of the emotional ecstasy. I swam in the dread of being near her, the joy of finding her and the pain of seeing her. I drank in mouthfuls of the deep, burning feeling of desire which I felt upon feeling her presence and hearing her voice.
God I loved her.
I suddenly felt Roan's intense, burning gaze on the back of my neck like a hot dagger. I spun around and looked at my betrayer, but I was unable to find the strength to hate him because I enjoyed this far too much. But what I did find out was that turning around had been a fatal mistake. My treacherous eyes, unavoidable, made contact with hers too.
She was like an angel.
She sang and spread her arms to embrace her audience, throwing her white cloak back as if she had sprouted a pair of wings. Her golden blonde hair flowed in her quick motions, forming a Gloria around her beautiful, soft face that was crowned and perfected by her pair of warm, maroon eyes. Her eyes were the portals to her very being- you only had to look into them to understand.
She loved the world and I loved her.
A faint sound of restrained desire escaped my lips as I watched her beautiful figure perform the dance to the tunes of her own voice. Her part was coming to an end as her tune slowed down and her steps quickened the pace even more. I watched her, Roan watched me. Damn him.
I was witnessing a goddess.
My lungs were screaming for more air as I bled to the sight of her spinning around one last time before raising her hands in a finishing posture. Her dress swirled and clung to her like a whirlwind at her sudden stop and her voice rose in an octave, increasing in strength. The audience's applause drowned in the power of her voice.
Her eyes swept over the crowd before her and I felt the physical world slip away as her eyes stopped at the sight of me.
I trembled, I cried, I wanted to worship her as a divinity and devour her in desire.
The joy of a thousand would have not been comparable to the emotions I saw in her tender face. The kindness and love to last a whole world was staring at me through the eyes of this single woman. In her smile, the world was mine to take.
Her eyes didn't leave me as she finished the last tunes in her song, she sang to me and me alone. Her voice rose with another octave in the song's finishing touch as she lifted the white cloak over her slender shoulders behind her, giving the inspiration to the vision of a soaring angel rising towards the heavens in a chorus of love and joy. I cried out in my mix of pain and ecstasy as the town square exploded with cheers. My mind seemed to go blank as she floated towards me, reaching for my trembling hands as she carried me upwards on invisible wings.
Her voice left an echo of ringing laughter as she rose and I soared with her.
Me, and my white-winged angel.
It's really weird to think that for less than eight hours ago, my life was fairly uncomplicated. I had no contracts, no duties and absolutely no responsibility over anything or anyone but myself. Seven years of life as a vagrant since I was fourteen has probably made me more of a lone wolf than I really wanted to admit. I never had to take care of anything but my own survival, which was a pretty basic thing really, food which I could hunt and a tent to sleep in, nothing more fancy. My responsibility had been to keep me and Skye alive, nothing more.
Duties were never my thing either, not even when I lived on Garlan. I remember Melfice would often scold me for not taking my watch seriously enough. Sure, I have a very strict moral about honouring the duties I owed my customers but that were pure business. I never wanted anyone else's problem and made sure that I didn't cause any either. Life was much simpler that way.
Contracts were a complete different matter, however. They were necessary to make sure that both parts kept their ends of a deal, to make sure that both parts got what they wanted and to avoid feuds. I have entered two long terms contracts in my whole life. The first one had been to defend a village from a band of bandits roaming in their area. That had taken me a good three weeks and the gold I got wasn't worth half of it. The second one had been to escort a certain sheltered church princess to a sealing ceremony which turned out to become a lot more complicated than I could ever have planned.
I sure as hell never had any god-whacking ideas when I first arrived in Carbo.
For the first time, my bed felt more comfortable than the ground. I'd purchased it in a second-rate shop for cheap furniture. I usually find the silence in towns during the night strangely haunting since nightfall is not a quiet time at all despite what many think. There are always squeaks, chirps, and other sounds when you are sleeping out in nature, proof that the forest is alive and on its guard. The silence of the city always reminded me of a cemetery, for some reason.
The moon was staring at me from my window when I opened my eyes groggily from my dreamless rest, giving my plain room a dreamy, surrealistic look in its silver light. My body was completely at rest under the warm covers. I didn't want to move a muscle, and I don't think that I ever wanted to move again. My mind remained stupidly blank until I realised the feeling of another body pressed against mine. Blood began to pound in my ears at the very thought. Her body.
I looked down at her while she slept on, resting her head against my chest and cradling me in her arms. Her skin became almost white under the faint light from the moon. No, not the moon. Not the moon and never again. I tossled my hand into her soft, golden hair and let out a deep breath of relief for her still being here, being with me. Savouring the mixed feelings of emptiness and joy within, I gazed down at her sleeping angelic face. Where the dread had been, there was only emptiness. I felt clean and rid of the pain that had tortured and tainted me for so long. I was finally at peace.
My own hair was still damp with sweat and I could feel the tiny goosebumps on her arms where the night's chill had touched her sensitive skin. My mind replayed the night's events before my eyes again, I grinned. Okay, I didn't feel clean, I felt fucking glorious. Maybe my four years of running and non-existential way of living had been for some good after all. I had gotten to see Elena as a woman tonight. Not the kind, stubborn but unsure princess I had known when I left to bury the Granasaber, but as an independent and proud woman. She had grown as a person while I had been running from her. Being a minstrel had taught her more about life on the road than I ever could have. In some way, the pure, innocent person who had been Elena, Voice of Granas had been lost during our four years of separation. I felt little sorrow over the loss, however, as I held Elena the Minstrel in my arms.
Maybe we really needed that time apart to let ourselves grow and understand. I thanked fate for bringing us back together again, no longer bumbling teenagers, but me as a man and she as a woman to rediscover the invisible bonds that we shared.
She mumbled something in her sleep and frowned, probably sensing that I was awake. I shifted our positions to make her more comfortable, laying her down beside me in the narrow bed, never letting go of her small figure. She sighed and tucked her head under my cheek, throwing an arm around me and going happily back to her precious sleep. I pulled the covers tighter around us and planted a light kiss on her forehead, wishing her sweet dreams while I caught a last look around my room, taking notice of our clothes lying discarded all over the place.
That meant more cleaning in the morning, but I believe we should be able to handle it. A smug smile crept on my face as I went back to sleep, joining my divine beauty in her dreams.
I wonder what she would say if I started a new religion?