the q u i e t e r moments
After all had proceeded as it should have—fire lit, dinner consumed, darkness fallen—nothing remained for the five humans but the wait for inevitable sleep.
Their meager escort of Union soldiers had thinned to none weeks ago, and in the absence of their protection the dragon offered to keep watch using her sleepless body. As the others oriented themselves around the fire pit, she settled behind her pact-partner and joined them in staring unseeing into its depths.
Caim brought his eyes down from the new stars to survey his allies without real interest—Arioch to his right, humming softly as she scraped bloodstains off her weapon with her nails. Leonard next to her, feeding the fire with steady hands despite his blind eyes. Verdelet sitting upright, figure held still in meditation. Seere positioned intentionally between him and Caim, smiling and fingering the well-worn cover of a book from his knapsack.
At length all but the hierarch laid down on their stomachs to gaze into the fire. The forest around them buzzed with inscrutable intent, quiet with a building threat, until Verdelet broke the silence. "Shall I say a prayer before we rest?"
Behind Caim, the dragon huffed smoke in disdain. "All we've heard of the Cult, and you still believe?"
"I do not mind," murmured Leonard. Thus pacified, Verdelet prayed, his quavering voice spilling over them. The cant promised to absolve them of bloodshed despite the copper smell that tinged the air and the ever-present crimson on their armor. Deeming the silence that followed respectful, he lay onto his back with an air of grave finality. None of the others spoke until they heard his light snores.
"Does…" Seere fidgeted, looking guiltily at Verdelet's sleeping form. "Does he really think any gods will forgive us for this much…" He gestured, and they knew what he meant.
"He has dedicated his life to those beliefs, Seere, and they will not change so easily. Besides, the journey is harder on his body than it is on ours," Leonard answered gently. Beside him, Arioch laughed but offered no more. Caim wondered sometimes if she was aware of their situation, if she would ever distinguish between the desires of her heart and those of her stomach.
"Manah and I used to look at those," Seere said as a shooting star dropped from the sky with a glimmer. Unable or unwilling to speak the somber talk of adults, he often brought up his family in the quieter moments. "We used to think our wishes would only be granted if we wished for the same thing, since we were twins, but at the same time we couldn't tell each other or they wouldn't come true either. So we hinted and guessed at each other's wishes, trying to figure them out without saying our own out loud…"
When nobody responded, he curled onto his side and Caim watched as his small body relaxed. A few minutes later, Leonard's voice entered his and Arioch's minds. Is he asleep?
Yes, he responded with what he hoped was a tinge of warning.
But Leonard only sighed aloud, his voice stricken. "I wish I knew how to comfort him when he speaks of his sister."
"Comfort? Is that really all?" The elf had a finger delicately in between her lips as she gazed at the boy.
"Arioch!" Leonard hushed her, and Caim mustered a disapproving look.
She raised her stare from Seere's body to the two of them. "Come now. Why should there be secrets among us three?" Her eyes swerved from Leonard to him. "Children, siblings… whoever they may concern."
For a moment only the crackling fire lent sound to the air. Then Leonard shook his head. "All the same, they are not to be spoken of. Surely you too know what would become of us in the old order." Some memory triggered, Arioch began to laugh, softly at first and then louder and higher. Leonard placed a hand on her shoulder and she quieted with a pout. Neither of the sleeping figures stirred. "It is best to keep one's curse to himself."
Abruptly lucid, she scanned him before shrugging off his grip. "Even as you boil with hunger, desire? You haven't sated yourself once on this journey yet, have you?" The blind man swallowed, and her smile widened. "Perhaps we ought to arrange something next time the sweet children come to play. I have wondered for some time how they would taste, wrapped in lustful appetites before unknown to them…"
As Leonard stiffened, she turned her devious gaze to Caim. "What think you, silent one?"
He tried to quell the disgusted expression that had snuck on him during the recent exchange. What either of you do matters not to me as long as it is out of my sight.
"You too, denying!" she chided with a delighted laugh. "Starve, then, when you see your sister!"
Ignore her, Caim spoke to Leonard alone, and the man turned on his side away from the elf.
Quiet followed—leaves rustling, fire whispering, wind trickling through branches and hair. Undine and Salamander circled each other lazily next to Arioch, illuminating her face alternately in warm red and ice blue. Leonard's fairy flitted among the near treetops, a green sparkle not unlike the faraway stars. Some distance away, the crunch of gravel signified Golem shifting position. Caim thought of tomorrow and felt the enormous weariness of his hate.
He isn't really sleeping, is he? The elf tilted her head towards Leonard, and her hair tumbled in a neat sheet behind her.
You'd do best to play along.
She sighed in boredom, casting her eyes around the ring of sleeping comrades until they fell on Caim once more. Under the privacy of darkness, her fingers alit on his shoulder and crept down his side. He could not feel the contact through the armor but glared nevertheless. In response, she brushed her tongue across her upturned lips.
He tightened a hand around her wrist and forced it away when her touch meandered by his hip. Without a hint of offense, she dipped her fingers one by one into her mouth. "Children are sweet because of their innocence. But the other hushed, muted passions lend a more mature flavor…"
Her voice was no longer a crazed high in pitch but a subdued, sultry low. He would have been content to let her continue her musings had she not then pressed her teeth against the back of his hand that still clenched her wrist. With a hiss, he jerked away before she could leave anything besides a faint imprint of her canines.
She took this in stride, directing her gaze back to the fire. "You do not agree?"
I do not wish to know.
"But you feel it. We are lights, burning on impurities, glowing brighter and brighter… living only by consuming others."
Arioch's quiet voice spiraled high above them, striking strange notes in the air, and her smile addressed nothing in particular. When the moment passed, she licked her lips once and settled down to sleep without looking at him again.
When he doused the fire, drowning the camp in darkness, the dragon's voice rumbled in his mind.
You know what they say about the insane and truth.
Her truths are only her own to consider, he responded without thinking. His eyes were on the vast expanse of sky, wind, and stars above.
She grunted in what was perhaps amusement. Not eager to think about what they mean? You know, your sister—
I am going to sleep.
Her wings rustled as she settled in the position she would remain in the rest of the night. Suit yourself, human.
With a creak of the armor, long ago made as comfortable to him as a second skin, he turned on his back and closed his eyes. Only sound surrounded now—the cautious breaths of his comrades never truly trusting sleep, and the quiet of the forest choked with the day's spilt blood.
On this exact day six years ago I joined FF . Net… and it's been a wonderful journey, although I'm posting less and less often now.
In regards to Drakengard, I know I'm jumping on the bandwagon close to eight years late, but the obsessions strike when they will. I always wished there was more character interaction between the main party members. Thanks for reading and please leave your thoughts.