Here it is, the last and longest chapter. I hope it's to your liking, it was a pain to get out. Once again I'm thanking musical inspiration. Here's to Muse and their Exogenesis Symphony.
I'd just like to thank all the reviewers who took the time to offer feedback. It's so helpful and really aids the writing process: Courtingu, Siromygod, Fictionlover26, Uneatenbonbon13, Helplessromantic801, Pepsi Keith, Merryabandon, Sssweetie, Arquenniel, Felsong, and Sphyre. Thanks guys!
Our thoughts and ideas are indeed imperative to our evolution, but not the essence of it. In truth, the actions which spring forth from these evolutions are what define us; what will illuminate and irrevocably heighten our existence, or, in the most simplistic of ends - allow us to fade into the oblivion of infamy.
It was to be expected, and very predictable, that Flauvic would aim for dramatics in his choice of confrontation. There really was no reason for any confrontation, besides providing a means to assuage frustration and insinuate a level of superiority and success. He still had much to learn – namely not declaring victory without it actually taking place.
Yet, I reminded myself. I knew myself to be dedicated to end this situation. I was, however, fearful of the extremes Meliara may go to. She was impetuous in battle, as I have well learned over our time together.
Flauvic circled us, not moving directly closer, but studying us. A smirk remained etched on his face, even as I noted his surprise at Meliara's presence.
Why he should be is a mark of his lack of preparedness, I noted with some satisfaction.
He paused, looking me straight in the eyes, the low light glancing vividly off the steel of his blade.
"What is curious to me", he paused again, glancing at Meliara beside me, "Is why you arrive so...ill-equipped."
I felt Meliara stiffen and stand straighter at my side.
Oh what an idiot.
She said nothing but I could see the venom in her stare. We were both wordlessly deciding not to goad Flauvic on. As he so enjoyed his own antics, we would wait until the others were prepared to join us. If at all possible.
He seemed frustrated with our lack of cooperation, to say the least. I was inching my way in front of Meliara as best I could, anticipating his frustration.
He stared at us, eyes glowing with fury at our lack of action, our lack of acceptance. The dim light of the hall faded slowly around us, becoming thick darkness. I felt Mel slip away from me. I whirled around, arms outstretched, searching to no avail.
"This is all I am to expect? Frankly, I anticipated more of you, cousin."
His voice echoed in the darkness, filling the stone hall with contained violence. I ambled forward, lost in shadows and unable to sense where I was moving.
"I am becoming used to disappointment."
I stilled, quietly moving in the direction of his voice.
Right, in the corner.
His mocking sigh filled the air.
"My own mother herself became as mundane and useless as you."
His jab was lost as an unsavoury conclusion was being drawn.
So much for familial love.
"My sister", his steely laugh resonated eerily, "Well, she never could manage very well."
I sensed movement to my left, and shifted quickly. A touch of cold to my hand, and I grasped the arm it originated from, my grip tight.
"But neither could you, cousin. How very naive you have been."
His voice was still circling the room, his discourse necessary for his ego. Knowing the arm held belonged to Meliara, I loosened my hold. She stood close to me for a moment.
"Behind you. Trust me." She whispered the soft tone of her voice barely distinguishable. She slipped away again, leaving the cold object in my hands. I felt along it, realizing it was a staff from the guards at the entry way.
What is she doing?
It was then that I sensed a slight disturbance in the air, a shifting, and sense of vibration. Not knowing what caused it, I could only feel that it was not related to the magic Flauvic was wielding so carelessly.
Flauvic's soft voice emerged from behind me, creeping steadily closer.
"How shall we do this, then; a simple exchange of kings – or a duel in which I will undoubtedly be the victor?"
I turned, opening my mouth in final retort, but stopped when I heard the shuffle of footsteps emerge in the darkness. The strange scintillation in the air had increased substantially. I knew with certainty that I needed to stall Flauvic. I could only assume that the movement I heard were members of our party. If they were Flauvic's mercenaries, we were in trouble.
A whisper moved past my ear.
"As you wish."
I felt the tip of his knife against my back at the last moment. I spun around, the knife searing across my lower back, but I cared not.
Flauvic laughed maliciously, clearly delighted.
"There will be no exchange of kings." I spoke finally, with decisiveness.
The strangeness in the air was very strong now, like a heaviness surrounding us.
I heard Flauvic gasp in fury, and then in pain – he fell to the floor. The darkness enveloping us lightened, allowing me to see that Meliara had indeed been the culprit.
Meliara grasped my hand and whispered, "The hill folk".
Finally understanding, I pulled her back as Flauvic noisily got to his feet. The movement in the air had progressed to the sounds of drums resonating in the hall.
Fury was written across his features. He stalked forward, glaring at Meliara ferociously.
"This is your work!"
I pulled her backwards as Flauvic, in his rage, lunged forward. The noise was thunderous now, shaking the floor, the roof, raining dust upon us.
His eyes flashed as the air between us changed. Flauvic cried out and, as we watched in amazement, his body twisted and contorted before our eyes, growing and inexplicably steadying into a magnificent goldenwood tree.
We stood in silence, amazed by what we had seen. I clasped Meliara close to my side as I let out a deep sigh of relief. The hall was bathed in sunlight, filtering over the chaos the room had become, extending out into the clear day air outside.
A hand squeezed my shoulder, and I turned to see Caerd smiling widely at us.
"Apparently I overestimated Flauvic. Where are his mercenaries?" I asked, confused as to how this had come to pass.
His men glanced at each other, then at Caerd.
"We found most of them several rooms away. Excuse me, my lord, but there were only a few. And those that were left were frozen somehow, like statues. We restrained them and left guards with them."
Meliara frowned then, "And you stood by silently this whole time?"
At this they had the presence of mind to look sheepish.
"My lady, you were both handling things quite well and we did not want to alert Flauvic."
She frowned, and nodded, knowing their presence may have altered things quite a bit.
"Very well. Please ensure the safety of the court." I stated, knowing I sounded calm.
They nodded and moved out of the room.
I reached down to drop the unnecessary staff to the floor. I felt the wetness of my shirt at the same moment I heard Meliara gasp loudly.
It's just a scratch, calm down. I've dealt with much worse.
Her hands lifted the edge of my tunic, pressed a swath of cloth against the, as I finally acknowledged, somewhat deep cut across my back. She pressed the cloth harder as I slowly recognized it as her outerwear. Her face was tight with anger and fear. I sighed and pulled her against me, holding her tightly for a long moment.
Her arms surrounded me, clutching her tunic to me. She was shaking slightly as I rested my head against hers. I lifted her face to mine and brushed my lips against hers. Her eyes opened and I saw the fear lingering. I leaned forward quickly, kissing her intensely, feeling her anger dissipate as she responded eagerly.
She suddenly pulled away and stared into my face.
"I gave you a weapon and you didn't use it?!"
It was sometime later, after we had searched Merindar House, and after Mel had forced me to get the scratch looked after, that we finally had a chance to rest.
I locked Flauvic's magic books away for later perusal. The court was still fast asleep, Flauvic having put them under some enchantment. I was thankful for the peace, which was very much needed at the moment.
I sat in my quarters, alone as Meliara had decided to clean up. I let decorum slip and slouched in the wingback chair, utterly exhausted. My eyes began to close of their own volition and I was unwilling to stop them.
I awakened to weight strewn across my lap. I opened my eyes to see Meliara slouched against me in the chair, smiling at me amusedly.
"The infamous court decoration, stooped in a chair and fast asleep. What will people think?"
I grinned and hugged her close, her head resting against my neck.
"I can honestly say that I don't care."
I felt her smile and laugh softly. I hugged her tighter against me, feeling relaxed and at ease for the first time in years.
"Neither do I."
I buried my face in her hair and grinned.