”Good Morning!” Morel’s face beamed almost as bright as the gay early morning’s sun; the rays playing beautifully on his soft features, adding a heavenly gleam in his straight, honest and searching eyes. His smile was very beautiful. It moved me so that, for a moment, I forgot everything, every bitter memory of the past that had just a second before plagued my mind like a ghost.
He invited me in his arms. I obliged.
”Still the same worries?”
I did not need to answer. He knew, being one of the very few people who truly cared for me and whom I could trust. The past was not dead. Neither in my heart and nor in my brother’s. Sate. He had harboured such hateful feelings for me ever since that fateful day.
”Since my love is already in a sad mood, I would rather give her the news now.” His words puzzled me, but not for long. It was a note from the White Mountains:
‘Pity you should involve your cousin in your personal matters, my queen. Pity indeed that I should be the one to stop him from being your last hope. I will be meeting you soon. Oh, and might I add that your youngest sister is rather lovely. ‘
Thus ended the heart-wrenching note.
”That goblin incarnate.” were the only words my mind could afford to provide. It did not have prowess enough to do justice to the rest of the feelings. Verlien, I could still not believe was capable of something like this. To resort to killing for no particular reason. I could not comprehend it. And killing my cousin too? Who was already too gentle, too weak, too much of a coward to give over whatever he wanted without a single word of defiance?
These meditations were broken by a gentle touch over my shoulders.
”I need to go.” uttered I, ”as a matter of urgency.”
”But he would still think you a liar. He will not believe.” Said Morlen, guessing correctly of where and whom I spoke. He was justified in thinking so but it was a necessary risk. My brother needed to know what fate awaited his dear, beloved sister. But what I did not know was that a similar note had reached him and a day later I found Sate in my chambers. If I did not know better, I would not have recognised him. How he had altered! Grief, hatred, revenge were the feelings that crowded over his once meek, caring and beautiful face. I did not care to hide a look of disapproval and neither did he seek to disguise his obvious feelings of indifference. How distant he seemed to be! How cold! Almost cruel. But I knew he could not resist caring for Aurelia. Thus knowing about her revelation, he almost requested me to help him find her.
”You know I could not refuse, Sate, even if I wanted to. She’s family.” I said.
”Yes, I know how you treat ‘family’.” He mumbled, not making the slightest effort to keep his thoughts to himself. Yes, he thought he knew. I was still to him our mother’s murderer. But I chose not to mind. He had decided to leave that very minute, without making any moment’s delay for each passing hour increased the perils for our sister by twofold. And I agreed. I had to leave but not without a last look at Morel. Gods knew if we were ever to meet again!
He was blissfully asleep in his chambers. Not a care in the world as if the past, to him, had just been a distant nightmare and the future full of love and happiness. I had half a mind to wake him up and tell him of the nature of our journey but reason took over, probably for the best. I did not want him to worry beforehand and I was pretty sure of his command in my absence.
It was a long journey to the White Mountains. But one which seemed quite out of any potential dangers. Ever since the last of the dark elves had been sent back to sulk in the deep of the earth from whence they came, there had been no mortal dangers from anything but man. Verlien, however, seemed to me more a devil than a human being. And it was just at this thought that I found myself, along with Sate, in front of Aurelia. Her powers have been growing, I thought. She looked at us with eyes that had lost all warmth and gentleness. They radiated pure malice and hatred towards us and a special sort of jealousy towards me. It was too much to bear. Were we to receive such hostility from our own sister, for whose well-being we had walked on relentlessly for days on nothing but raw bread and cold water? Our lips were parched and eyes hollow from the excursion and the nerve of hers, she was laughing? We were in a big, dark room, whose boundaries were made of large and strong iron bars. There seemed no way out and our hostess’ eyes gleamed red with fire and cruelty. This was not the Aurelia I had known. She seemed a completely different creature as if someone had poisoned her mind against us for years.
”Welcome Aurora and my dear, dear brother. I had been waiting for so long that I had to intervene. I hope you did not mind the short-cut.” She said, at last, her voice spat venom.
”Sate, you look ill. God! Look at his face.” she added mockingly, ”He seems petrified. Why, do I frighten you, brother? Lost some weight, have you?” She started poking at him disrespectfully.
He was at a loss for words. The shock was greater to him. He had considered Aurelia to be the only family left ever since mother died and I was thought by him as the murderer, being seen at the site of the murder with a knife and blood on my hands. Who knew that I had removed that devilry, that wicked weapon, from his mother’s heaving chest to release her of the agony she was in.
”And you, pretty face,” continued she with flared nostrils, ” you make me sick. The very sight of you both is enough to make my blood boil. No, no, don’t look so surprised as if you cared whether I lived or died. And your weasel of a mother! A creature of whom this earth is rid off for good.” Those last words were enough to split my heart in two. If words had the power to rob someone of life, those were them. We had had three very trying years. All those years, I was thought as the culprit. Guilty of a crime so heavy, so unutterable. And I had endured exceeding pain due to that lie and to be told that it had been our little sister to rob our mother off her life did not make it any better. And Sate could do nothing but fall to the ground with no hope for future. Did he have the heart to direct his fury from one sister to another and take revenge on the latter? I did not think so.
”There, look at him. Why, you thought I could forgive her for what she had done.” She had her fingers wrapped up tightly around Sate’s throat, having no mercy while he choked. I started towards her but one look of her red eye and my whole body was stilled. I could not move one finger. She did not even allow my tears to flow through. And she continued,
”You sent me off here, in the cold, while you all lived peacefully with a warm hearth and plenty to eat. Oh, you thought you were protecting me? That insolent witch of a woman thought she was protecting me? Ah, what a load of rubbish. Your cousin turned me out as soon as he got the chance and I was left to brave the wilderness alone, reduced to a state of a beggar. It was Verlien who supported me at that time.” she cried. ” I. Hate. You.” enunciating each word, she pulled Sate up and threw him back with all her might towards the bars and one need not guess the outcome of the meeting. There he laid, my brother, with a large dent in his head at the point where it had met the bars, blood all over his body and no breath in his lungs. And she was cruel enough to not allow me to cry a heart full of tears as I stood appearing as lifeless as a statue with the only exception of my warm skin. She would have done the same with me, she would have killed me that very moment if Verlien had not intervened. And in his presence, she was as quiet and meek as a mouse. He ordered her to leave along with the the distorted body.
There he was, standing inches away from my face, caressing my cheeks as if they were the most delicate thing in the world; putting his hand on my chest and feeling its beat, smiling as if it was the most beautiful sensation. His hard countenance seemed melted before me. Staring at me, his basilisk eyes now softened with a sad look, taking in every detail, every curve and every scar. That moment witnessed my eyes pouring forth a river of tears, too heavy to stop. Taking me in his arms, he carried me to his chambers. I do not know why I allowed it but, for some strange reason which I could not comprehend, I did.
”You are evil, Verlien.” said I, with all the suppressed anger.
”Me? I am evil?” He replied, voice filled with a forced astonishment. ”I have endured years of misery owing to your love. You are such a wicked creature, Aurora, that I have started not to hate but pity myself for once having thought that you could love me. Love me for myself. Love me for what I had. And yet after all the pains, sleepless nights and haunting dreams, I cannot hate you. I would if I could, but I just cannot. My heart defies me every time I try to turn it against your beautiful face and your wrecked soul. It has moulded itself to your cruelty and cannot for one moment stop loving you, even with all your faults, all your fickleness. It is so worked up that I have to almost remind itself to beat.” He stopped with a breathless sigh. His voice agonised as if remembering something he would much rather not think about. ”How could you do so, my life?” He said, in a tone that did not seek to disguise his despair. ”All the words you said made a fiend of me, eating ever deeper. You know you lie to say that I am evil. For your infernal selfishness, I have not had had one moment of peace, ever since I left you. I writhe in hell every day without you.”
”And you think I have been living ‘happily ever after’?” I moaned from sheer exhaustion of the unequal throbbing of my heart.
”Why did you do all that you did?” I pursued a little more gently. He looked down to hide his face, not permitting me to look at him. It was only after a while did his gaze found mine, eyes wide, and wet flashing fiercely at me. Had he always been like that, I wondered, enchanted by the complexity in him. The same way I had been a long time ago, at our first meeting. I threw myself to him, at that instant, and he caught me in an embrace from which I did not want to be released alive. At length did he speak wildly,
”They, I despised her, your mother, from the moment I knew what she had done, done to you. But how could you be so indifferent, Aurora? Why did you betray your own heart?” What could I say? He was asking a question I did not have an answer for.
”And your brother,” he continued, ”he let you suffer! Made you suffer alone. I forgive my tormentor, but yours? How could I? He gave you more misery than he ever seemed capable of and you allowed yourself to grieve over him more than he was worthy of.”
Did I accept that? I did, in my heart. And the fact that I did made me horrified. How unfeeling love is towards everyone but the two concerned!
”Damn them. May their souls burn in hell for eternity. And damn you, Aurora, to have killed yourself so!”
He was right. I had made my life miserable over the past few years, so much so that I had tried to attempt to end it many times and would have succeeded had not Morel interfered. Ah! I had left that gentle soul back in Dane, wretched and alone, without an explanation. I felt for him yet how cruel of me to not wanting to let go of the man in whose arms I was in. I felt so safe, so full of anguish but so complete.
”And you left for that wretched being! That damnable wuss,” said he as if having felt my thoughts. ”No power on heaven or earth could have separated us, my love! Nothing but your own ignorance and selfishness. You think I broke your heart?”
Yes, I thought so.
”You yourself broke it for a poor passing fancy and in the process, you broke mine as well. Aurora,” he finally breathed, taking my hands gently in his. So tender was his touch, so familiar. ”I cannot, I dare not imagine what would become of me if you remain parted for one moment longer.” His voice broke and mingled with my heavy sobs. ”Beat me, curse at me, kill me, take my breath away but don’t, oh, don’t leave. This time, I will not be able to bear it. It’s too heavy a burden to carry a body without a soul. That’s what I become without you.” Tears clouded his eyes and my heart. I knew that if I tried to speak one word while looking in those desperate, vulnerable eyes, I will not be able to contain myself.
Continuing with great effort, he said, ”I will strangle myself with you and hold you till both our breaths are wrung out but I will not accept another separation. I deny it. ” His hold around me tightened. The passion burning through every inch of his skin was ungovernable. Conscious only of his touch, I felt myself passing into a state of deep sleep. My heart beating slowly, I could feel a numbing pain in the deep of its overworked chambers and all of a sudden the pain lifted away. I felt light and I doubted if I would ever wake again.
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