here we are, last week of November, last 10,000 words (less really, it's down to about 8,000 now). We're almost there after the long month...and I'll probably have another CS page to add before it's over, as this update goes to page 70. I think this last bit will bring us to 80...maybe. Enjoy!
The Principles of Change
It was Janus. I found my heart beating inexplicably faster in my chest and I wasn’t sure what feeling it was derived from. Nervousness could definitely been a factor but that nervousness might also have been called fear. Fear if I felt that I could have felt it right then. But as before I could not find any sense of it as when I had been alone with Daemon. And somehow I couldn’t exactly feel uncomfortable with Janus. Though my mind trumpeted that he could be something more than the man before me. Something that was enough to make anyone tremble.
“I can give you your coat back if you wanted,” I said finally, starting to slip it from my shoulders. He shook his head and said nothing. He started at me and then I actually did have fear. No matter what his aura told me I could not ignore my brain’s screaming fully. “What d-do you want, Janus?”
“Why do you fear me now?” he questioned.
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve paled and you’re stuttering, M’Lady Calvary. Those things betray fear,” he replied.
I took a deep breath, “Tonight was…very stressful. I haven’t exactly recovered. The last thing I want to do is be alone with someone I barely know.”
“I won’t harm you.”
“I don’t care.”
He looked at me with annoyance for a few seconds, then shrugged, “So you found out?” Could he read me so well? Or could he read minds or something?
“We…we haven’t figured anything. We only guess that…” I stammered.
Janus held up his hands to stop the torrent of speech and I was compelled to obey, “Whoa, I…can’t say I know what you were about to refer to. I merely meant you found the other Shadow Dweller?”
I blinked and felt a wave of relief, “Oh, yes. I did. It’s Daemon, right? But why couldn’t you just tell me?”
Janus shrugged, “You seem like a smart girl. A bard is merely supposed to record the deeds of others. What would be the fun if the main character had everything told to them and learned nothing for themselves?”
“I don’t like being toyed with,” I replied.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Janus said with a smile, “but know I have your best interest at heart.”
I smiled wryly, “People like tragedies just as well sometimes. And tend to outlast many others. How do I know you aren’t aiming for a tragedy?”
“You don’t, but I’m not.”
“Oh, well then did you know I was nearly killed tonight? Was that somewhere in whatever genre song you’re planning on? If so I don’t think I want to hear the rest of the song,” I said.
Janus looked surprised, either that or he was a very good actor, “You were? But you’re here now, apparently they didn’t succeed.”
“No,” I said, “they didn’t, though they should have. Daemon somehow heard me when he really shouldn’t have been able to. Not that I’m complaining. But it’s odd.” I could almost expect Janus to say ‘oh, that’s because I’m a god, my dear, and it’s not in my plans for you to die. Yet.’ But he didn’t.
“You must be tired then,” he said. I did feel rather tired and my body ached. His coat was so warm too. It was kind of like a security blanket.
“Yeah, kind of.”
“Were you hurt?” he questioned and through my daze I almost thought I heard actual concern.
“Not badly,” I whispered dreamily, “I’ll have bruises.”
“Would M’Lady like a song before I leave her?” Janus asked, moving towards the door to assure me of his intentions of leaving shortly. My mind wandered. Why would a god use a door? Why wouldn’t they just poof out or something? Silly thought, that a bard would be a god. Janus had to repeat his question.
I sat down on the bed, “That would be nice. Thank you.” I meant it too, I really missed being able to hear music whenever I wanted as long as my CD player had batteries. As I lay down, music flittered softly through the room. Faintly I heard Janus singing words I couldn’t understand. But they were nice, soothing. Soon I was asleep. Somehow I knew Janus was gone just before that.
When I woke up, light was streaming through the window and birds chirruped. It was rather nice out, almost nice enough to make me forget the happenings of the previous night, both good and bad. I went to the closet and pulled out another blouse and set of pants. Right then I didn’t care what I was going to do today, I did not feel like wearing a dress. When I took off Janus’s coat last night, something struck me. I might have avoided death last night, I may not have been hurt badly, but I had completely forgot about what might have happened to Oliana. And possibly worse than that, what effect it might have on negotiations with her.
I dressed quickly and opened the door to my room, just in time to see Daemon coming down the hall. He didn’t notice me at first, so I ducked into my room a little bit and waited for him to start past. Then I fell into step next to him and matched his pace.
“Morning, Daemon,” I said.
He smiled, “Hello, Calvary. I was just heading to breakfast, would you like to join me?”
“Would love to, I haven’t eaten since…sometime yesterday.”
“Alright,” he said.
“Umm,” I started a little anxiously, “were…things taken care of last night? How much do I have to worry about?”
“Nothing, no matter what the circumstances. But I know what you mean. He’s well under lock and key. The matter will be put before the rest of the leaders of the forces and we will all decide on a punishment.”
I took a deep breath, “Okay. How’s Orion doing?”
“He wants to kill him,” Daemon responded.
I couldn’t help it, I let out a short, wry laugh, “Good to know I have so many willing to kill for me. You know, or if it’s more convenient, k-…”
Daemon cut me off, “Please don’t worry about that, Calvary. As long as I can help it it won’t happen.”
My stomach turned a little, “What? Because you like me now?”
Daemon sighed, “Calvary, I never wanted you dead. I was just frustrated and…thought that it would be easier if you were more afraid. It was a stressful day.”
I shook my head, “You don’t have to defend yourself, and I know as well as anyone else that people aren’t constant or always logical. But…after what happened last night. I don’t know if you’ve thought of it yet but…what might have happened to Oliana? Do you think she’s okay?”
“Yes, we have thought of that. It’s a bit worrying what the effect might be. Hopefully she will still listen to reason and will believe our explanation of what happened. The fact that we in no way condone it,” Daemon replied.
“I hope she’ll understand. From what I’ve heard from Naida, you people have every right to be nervous about the change of monarchy. She seems reasonable though. Too bad she can’t read my type of writing maybe my opinion would help. Or maybe she’d think I’d been brainwashed or had been writing at gun point so to speak…maybe sword point would be a better phrase for here. You don’t think maybe I could talk to her somehow?” I questioned.
Daemon sighed, “It would be very risky. The guardsmen would not allow her to be alone and we would not allow you to be alone. And both sides, either way would be afraid of ambush or attack. Paranoia is a harsh factor in negotiating.” I nodded in understanding and didn’t say anything further. We walked the rest of the way to the kitchens in silence. I didn’t know what Daemon might have been thinking about, but I was trying to figure out what the chances were that Oliana might be dead. And if that were so, what would be the consequences for these ‘rebels’. And if she were dead who would rule in her place? Too bad it wasn’t a democracy, most of these problems might be ironed out. But then again, democracy sometimes turned out duds as well. No system is perfect.
In the kitchen, we picked up a decent meal, some cold meat, fruit, cheese, bread. Not being much of a meat fan, not in the morning anyway, I decided I’d probably concentrate on the fruits and bread. Maybe I would try the cheese as well, but first I’d see how the fruit and bread suited me.
Daemon led me to a small dining room and we both took a seat. We were just starting to eat when I heard someone heading our way. Aerin walked in a few seconds later.
“Daemon, I have something you’ll be needing to know,” Aerin said, looking a little nervous and disconcerted. Something had happened. Maybe we had a message from the castle. Maybe it was bad news.
“Yes?” Daemon asked, “What is it, Aerin?”
“It be Berin…he…” Aerin started.
Daemon’s face darkened, “What about Berin? Don’t tell me he would have the gall to complain.”
Aerin began again, “He’s dead, Berin.”
“What?” Daemon asked, shocked. My own face must have been equally surprised. I hadn’t really thought that anyone would have liked me enough to kill someone for me.
“Just what I said.”
“But how?” Daemon demanded, “And when?”
Aerin shrugged, “Neither of the guards on him can say. They didn’t do it but they didn’t see anyone go in either. Didn’t even hear a peep out of him except the expected grumblings. And when that be stopping they just figured he’d given it up and gone to sleep. This morning they be finding otherwise.”
“So he was killed?” Daemon asked.
Aerin nodded, “That’s how things be appearing.”
“How did they find him?”
“Perhaps it’d be best not to say in front of the lady.” Under normal circumstances I would have protested against special treatment. But I wasn’t so sure I wanted to hear. And something in the way Aerin said it made me really not want to know. Daemon—as if having an idea that I might have protested—looked at me, but saw I had no interest. Instead, I pushed a grape—or what looked like a grape—around my plate with my index finger.
Daemon nodded, “If you’ll excuse me, Calvary, I need to see to this.”
“Yeah. Okay. By all means. I think I’ll go see Orion,” I responded.
“That would be good. You could bring him some food, if you would?” Daemon asked.
I nodded, “Alright.” With that Daemon left, following Aerin. They exchanged words at a volume that I couldn’t hear. And I really didn’t care what they said either. It was as if what had happened yesterday was hitting me today. So I was kind of hoping Orion could take my mind off of things. Hopefully he was awake.
I went back into the kitchen and put together a plate of food, adding some extra fruit in case my appetite came back. Then I made my way towards the room where Orion was. Every noise made me stop and look around, listening carefully, before continuing onwards. I hated being this nervous.
Naida was in the room with Orion when I got there. She looked me over carefully as if searching for both physical and mental damage that might be apparent in my face. Orion had a serious look on his face and all hopes of being able to forget for a while left my mind. I sighed and sat against the wall.
“Well,” Naida said, “at least I don’t have to ask you to sit down. If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a look at you. I…heard about what happened.” I nodded and sat still while she approached. But I didn’t look at her as she took careful consideration of my throat and my cheek. Then she asked me to sit with my legs out straight—I had drawn them up to my chest before—so she could check my ribs. I obeyed and she poked at my stomach and below my chest. When there was little reaction from me in response to her prodding, she nodded. “Well, you were either very lucky or some god is on your side. Bruising is minimal. It looks like you’ll be fine. Just mild discomfort?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “it doesn’t hurt that much.” After a moment, Naida hugged me.
“I am sorry that that happened. I’m here for you if you want to talk or if you just want someone to sit with,” Naida said.
Orion nodded, “And if you want, I’ll teach him a lesson for you. That dirty, rotten, piece of…”
I shook my head, “Someone beat you to it. He’s dead.” There was silence in the room for a while as they mulled this news over. They seemed to be torn in their reactions.
“Do they know who did it?” Naida asked.
Again, I shook my head, “No. The guards didn’t see anyone or hear any struggle.”
Orion sighed, “This could be trouble. It’s bad enough that Berin tried to take matters into his own hands. But someone taking law into their own hands is just as bad. Not only that, but it puts a murderer in our midst. And worst of all, if people share his views, he could be seen as…as…”
“A martyr…there’s something sick about that. I’m not saying that it isn’t bad that he was killed. But I certainly don’t…”
Orion nodded, “I agree, but people have odd ideas of martyrdom sometimes.”
“In any case, this is going to complicate things,” Naida said.
“Yeah,” I said, “that and we don’t know what his attack on me did to Oliana. If it was bad then…it could be taken as ill will against her.” There was silence again. None of us wanted to think about the consequences of Berin’s actions or the actions made against him. I knew that some part of me was relieved that I didn’t have to worry about Berin. It still made me sick to think of what happened, which was normal I suppose. Who was I kidding, I was glad and I couldn’t escape it if I wanted to. But I realized the consequences. And in any case, in my world I would have rather had him rotting in prison for the rest of his life.
“Well, I suppose we will find out soon enough,” Naida said, standing, “something like that won’t be ignored for long.”
“Yes,” Orion replied, “hopefully it won’t be bad news.”
Naida sighed, “Indeed. Well, I must go for awhile. Calvary, you can stay here for a time?”
I nodded, “Yeah, I can.”
Orion rolled his eyes, “I can stay by myself by now I think. I’m not going to drop dead the minute I’m left to myself. You don’t have to worry quite so much, Naida.” She smiled at him and he returned it.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right. I’ll see you later, Orion,” Naida said.
“Of course you will.” Then Naida left the room and I offered Orion the plate of food.
Orion laughed, “You bet I am, hand it over.” I laughed as he took the plate and started eating.
“What, Naida hasn’t been feeding you?” I asked.
“Water and some other stuff that’s supposed to build up my strength or something. Tea and such.”
I chuckled, “Tea is good for you. Maybe I should take the food away and see what Naida will approve of. I’m sure she’s still in the hall.”
“Don’t you dare,” Orion said, pausing a piece of bread halfway to his mouth, “or I’ll tell Daemon about the fact that you’re still sparring when you think no one’s looking.”
“You knew? And I thought I was doing well,” I replied.
He grinned and winked at me, “You were, but you can’t hide anything from me.”
“Careful,” I replied smirking, “I might take that as a challenge.”
“Bring it on,” he said, laughing. With a smirk, I took off my amulet. I would see how much he had managed to learn before.
“You couldn’t find your hand an inch from your face,” I said. Then I put the amulet back on to see what he would guess.
Orion’s face skewed slightly as he thought out what I said, “Umm, let’s see. Something about finding a…card?”
I laughed, “Face, not ace. I said you couldn’t find your hand if it was an inch from your face. And I stand by that.”
“Okay, okay. My turn, take that thing off,” Orion said. I did as I was told and waited. He spouted something off in his language that I almost thought I caught a few words of.
I pursed my lips, “I don’t think I have any clue. But I’m going to say something about…hiding in a clearing?”
He laughed hard, “I was actually bringing up your little incident in the frost bogs. Running into the field and trying to hide in the bogs.”
“That was not my fault,” I protested, “how was I supposed to know about that kind of thing? It’s not like I’d seen anything like that. I’ve never even seen quick sand back home, let alone some exotic frost bog. I’m sure there are plenty of things that would catch you by surprise in my world.”
“Like what?” he questioned.
I laughed, “Like a bus! You’d take two steps into the street and be flattened. You’d never survive in the city. You’d be hard pressed in a town!”
“I don’t know what a bus is but…” Orion started. However, I cut him off and started describing the concept of a big, metal object hurtling along at fifty miles per hour.
“And unlike horses, you don’t need to feed them. Well, you need to put fuel into them, and that can get pricey, but other than that you don’t have to worry much,” I finished.
“It seems to me that horses are probably more fun,” Orion asserted.
I nodded, “Some people ride horses for leisure or sport. Others ride races. They just aren’t a major mode of transportation anymore.” We talked into the afternoon, about the histories of our worlds, the animals, the quirks, the myths. We worked some more on language, mostly vocalizing. I made some more smudges on the floor, but since Orion couldn’t really role over and write as well, we were kind of limited. But all in all, things went as I hoped. I was able to forget my ordeal for a few hours. Orion kept me occupied and laughing. He didn’t seem as tired today and I wondered if it had to do with Naida’s herbs or if perhaps people in this world healed better than on mine. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me and I mentioned it to him.
He smiled, “I feel great today. I mean, I’m still sore but it’s a whole lot better. Naida still insists on babying me for a while, but that’s just her being careful and all. But…I don’t know. Maybe the grey has something to do with it.”
“The grey?” I questioned, “isn’t that the name of…umm…the god of change…Janus right? Is he your…patron or something like that?”
Orion blinked, “You’ve heard about him then? Yes, that is his name, though most call him by others. Calling a god by their name can have consequence unless you’re given it freely. And…well, I guess you could say that the grey would be the patron god of any rebel, since he represents change. He could also be said to be your patron.”
“Mine? Why?” I questioned.
“Because,” Orion replied, “a Shadow Dweller in our world can only mean change. It would make sense for the god of change to have some interest in their comings and goings.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I guess that would make sense. Do you know if Janus has ever made house calls?” Orion seemed to be getting uncomfortable with me using the god’s name so I decided if I had to refer to him, I would discontinue use of it. But Orion still seemed confused.
“What do you mean?” he questioned.
I shrugged, “Come down and paid a visit? Tinkered in affairs and whatnot.”
“I can’t say that I know,” Orion said, “I don’t recall any stories of something like that. But then again one can’t know what a god does or doesn’t do. It’s not like they come around and tell you their plans. One could be talking to you and you wouldn’t even know the difference. So who knows? Maybe he has and it wass just never discovered.”
“And how might one know if one did pay a visit?” I questioned. My memory of the night before wasn’t very clear. I couldn’t remember what Janus or I had said. It was all kind of fuzzy and warm like a dream. It wasn’t unpleasant, but I didn’t like having a chunk of my memory unavailable to me. I didn’t care if he was a god, if I saw him again I would have some questions.
Orion shrugged and then winced a bit as his shoulder reminded him it was wounded, “Again, I don’t know. Especially in the case of someone like you, where so much about you being here is odd and out of place. Why? Do you think you have a god following you around or something?”
I laughed nervously, “No, of course not. I’ve just always like myths and all that kind of thing. And there were so many in my world. The Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans, the Norse, the Welsh, the past inhabitants of the Americas, the English, all cultures had their myths and sets of gods. I always liked the myth of Persephone myself. So, I was just curious.”
Orion nodded, “We have a lot of that sort of thing as well. If you like, I could tell you a few. Perhaps in exchange for a few from your world?” The last he said with a grin and look of interest in his eye.
“I’d love to, I just hope I can remember them,” I said.
A voice came from the doorway, “Unfortunately, it will have to wait for another time.” I looked behind me to see Daemon.
“What?” I asked, curious, “Do you need me for something? Or do you need to talk to Orion?”
“Both,” Daemon said, “A message has arrived from the keep.”
At that point I felt I could have echoed the sentiments of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. Or perhaps if I could combine two of the scenes it would have fit better. My anticipation and anxiousness might have matched hers when she begged the nurse to relate her news whether it was good or bad, as long as she could finally be satisfied. And my heart verged on the edge of a simple idea. If the news was good, maybe negotiations could be made and everything would work out. If the news was bad, then we were in for a long road. And since one of the paths of that road might just end in my death, I didn’t like the idea. Though my words were different, just as Juliet had said, short words decided my happiness or woe. I couldn’t just sit and wait any longer.
“Well, what’s it say? Is it good news? Bad news? Please say it’s good news,” I said.
Daemon sighed, “I don’t know yet. We are gathering together for a meeting. I came to get you and to help Orion.”
Naida chose that moment to return, “You are not moving him! His wounds could reopen!”
“Then they won’t move me, I’ll move me,” Orion said, starting to sit up. I pushed him back down gently, planning to do that until a decision was made. Orion glared and I smirked. A certain personal satisfaction at getting him back for the tickling episode also was a factor in the decision.
“No,” Naida said, “if you have any respect for me as a healer, you will not move him!”
Daemon sighed, “Naida, you know I have every respect for your healing capabilities. But we’ll need Orion at this discussion. He spent the most time in the castle, so if the news changes our plans, or anything like that we’ll need him.”
Naida put her hands on her hips, “Then send for him then! And besides, Calvary…”
“Calvary barely left her room. She hardly saw the grounds and knows nothing about guard rotations or the like. Her input will be valuable, but we need Orion’s to fill it out more,” Daemon interrupted.
“As much as I hate to say it, Naida, he’s right. I really don’t know much about any part of the keep. I’ll help if I can, but Orion would be better than me,” I added.
Naida made a sound of frustration, “But that still doesn’t answer my question as to why he could not stay here until he is needed, if he is needed.”
Daemon persisted, “Ordinarily, I would agree that that choice would be best. Except that, considering what happened last night the odds that this news is dire is very likely. And if it is bad, then there’s going to be a lot of…well, chaos. And I don’t like to think about what might occur if we have to wait to bring Orion down. Please, Naida.”
Naida started to protest, but Orion cut in, “Naida, come here. Daemon, Calvary, could you leave us alone for a few minutes?” After an initial pause, Daemon and I obeyed and stepped into the hall. Orion and Naida spoke soft enough that we could only hear murmurs, but it was heated enough that we could tell Naida wasn’t pleased. Daemon and I tried to make small talk.
“What do you think the odds are that this is actually good news?” I asked.
“If last night didn’t happen, I think they would be better,” Daemon answered.
I sighed, “Yeah, I know. I’m…”
“Don’t you dare say you’re sorry. It was in no way your fault,” Daemon asserted.
“Thanks,” I said simply. He had time to put his hand on my shoulder and squeeze it reassuringly before Naida came out, looking less than pleased.
“Fine! But I hold you responsible!” she said pointedly at Daemon. She then turned to me, “Calvary, I can’t come, but I want you to make sure that Orion doesn’t exert himself too much. As soon as he’s in that room you sit him down and make sure he stays there.”
I nodded, “Will do.”
She pursed her lips and then said, “Please keep him safe for me.”
“I promise,” I said. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I was getting the distinct impression that Naida and Orion had a thing for each other. I had never doubted that they were friends, but I had never considered that they might be something more. It made me rather happy that they both had someone to care about, especially Naida. After what had happened to her, she deserved someone to take care of and be taken care of by. Humans are generally made to be social creatures, though the degrees vary. There are very few, however, who really want to be alone.
Naida nodded, satisfied, then looked at Daemon, “Well? What are you waiting for? Get in there and help him!” With that, she turned on her heel towards her room. Daemon hurried into the room and helped Orion up. The only problem was that Daemon was a little too tall for Orion to use him as a crutch easily. His legs may not have been hurt, and he may have been feeling better today, but he was still weak and needed a little help moving around.
I moved over to Daemon, “Here, give him to me. You’re too tall. I’m just a little bit shorter than him so I’ll be a good human crutch.”
Orion shook his head, “No, that’s not necessary, Calvary. I’m fine. You don’t need to…”
“Don’t be silly, Orion. I’ve played crutch for plenty of my friends before. It’s not that hard and it doesn’t take that much effort. So come on,” I said. Daemon helped to transfer Orion from him to me. I took hold of his unharmed arm and put it around my neck. From there I could support him. “Alright, all set. Let’s get going.” We moved slowly down the hall. It took a bit longer than usual, but soon we arrived in the meeting hall. I tried to concentrate on helping Orion rather than paying attention to all the eyes that were on both him and I. Some were staring at him and his wounds. Others were looking at me and remembering that Berin was dead. This was not going to be fun in any stretch of the imagination.
“Alright, Daemon, we’ve waited long enough. What be this message?” Aerin asked. He may have been a very kind and light-hearted man, but when his people were concerned Aerin was all business. I avoided all gazes as I got Orion into a seat. Finally, I risked a glance at Aerin. An apologetic looks crossed his features for a split second and I was glad that at least someone was on my side. Or at least didn’t blame me.
Daemon nodded, “Yes, I will read it now.” He opened it and took few seconds to scan it first. His eyes widened briefly. There was something either very unexpected in that letter or something very bad. Good wouldn’t look like that.
“Well?” someone spoke up, “What does it say?”
“It says,” Daemon said after taking a deep breath, “it says that…that Oliana’s shadow has shifted. That Calvary is no longer Oliana’s Shadow Dweller and thus negotiations aren’t needed.” That was all it took. Pandemonium erupted as everyone tried to put forth their ideas, concerns, and whatnot at the same time. Meanwhile, I paled and leaned heavily against Orion’s chair. How…or rather when did that happen? One would think I would feel it or something, and yet I hadn’t felt it in the first place except when I met her. So why would I feel it leave? Shouldn’t I have been relieved? None of this fell on me anymore. And yet a part of me had wanted so much to be able to help these people. What wouldn’t Oliana hear them out? They were her people. Maybe she thought it was too risky. If I could only talk to her…Orion put his hand on mine in an attempt to show support.
It took a lot of doing, but Daemon finally managed to bring order to the room again, “Please. This just means that we have a lot of planning to do.”
“What good is it? We have no ‘weapon’ anymore, no negotiating tool! Why should they listen to us, a bunch of rebels?” someone questioned.
“We have to find a way to make them listen! That was the whole point of getting Calvary in the first place. This doesn’t change that, it just makes it a little more difficult,” Daemon stated. Some agreed, others didn’t look too sure.
Someone else spoke up and I wished I had a better memory for names, “We don’t have time for any more plans! Oliana’s coronation is fast approaching and we need a solution before then! As long as she’s not on the throne she’s weaker. Once she’s on the throne she’s a wild card and our hand is already low!”
“Berin was right! We should have killed that girl when we had the chance!” I didn’t even see the source of that outcry. But what frightened me was that some people agreed. This was getting ugly fast. I started to feel sick at the stress that was rising, the anxiousness and all that.
“Quiet,” Aerin replied, “there is no need to be speaking of what should and shouldn’t have been done. That be in the past now. We be having the future to worry about.” Neither showing support of the statement nor hostility, a good move.
“That’s right,” another man said, this one’s name I thought might have been Rowan, but I couldn’t say for sure, “we’ve tried to be peaceable. But I think it is time we considered force.” More and more people were agreeing.
“Our numbers…” Daemon started.
“Yes, yes, they may be a bit small,” another said, “but others have taken bigger numbers with less. We’ll just have to be smart about it.” More muttering. I wanted to say something, but I had nothing I could think of. Nothing constructive. The meeting was starting to blur before me, not like I was going to faint. Just so many words, so much arguing, all of it heading towards the same conclusion. War, battle, fighting. Death. And finally the conclusion came. They would attack the keep, they would go to Oliana, and if necessary they would kill her. And Daemon let it happen, I suppose there wasn’t much else he could do. No one would hear him and all he could do finally was agree.
“You…you can’t,” I said softly, and yet the room quieted, “war…war doesn’t work. It just kills things and makes things worse. I know you’re doing this for your families…but…but what will they do without you? If you die in this? Maybe I could talk to Oliana…maybe I could…” It was then that I was cut off.
“You have no more to do with this, child. This decision is beyond you!”
“But…” they didn’t seem to understand. That to some extent I knew what I was talking about. I had read about and even seen some of the hardship war caused. Maybe not directly, but I knew people whose loved ones didn’t make it back. And the last thing I wanted was that for these people. They were still talking over me.
Aerin turned and said gently, “Perhaps you should be going, Calvary. You can be no help in this.”
“But you don’t…”
Daemon touched my shoulder, “I’m sorry, Calvary, but he’s right. You should go.” I pursed my lips, wished I could have said something of consequence. But I was no speaker and I was less than charismatic. I had no ability to change people. I took a deep breath to steady myself and then I left.
Progression of Events
I made my way back to my room. Tears ran down my face and I didn’t know why. Yesterday after talking to Daemon I had been fine. I thought I had felt okay. But now I wanted to curl into a fetal position and let out it all out. It was too much for me--what had happened today and what was going to happen. This wasn’t right and I couldn’t do anything about it. It was weird, all I had wanted was to be out of the limelight and now that I was it was a bad thing. Because I couldn’t help anymore and even if I could, they didn’t want it.
By the time I reached my room, my hands were clenched into fists so hard that my knuckles were white and little crescent marks were left in my palms by my nails. I had let myself go from frustration to anger because it felt better. With anger I didn’t feel helpless. All that anger, though, it must have taken a bigger toll on me than I thought because soon I found myself going from pacing to sitting on my bed and taking off my shoes in a futile attempt to relax. And from sitting on the bed to lying down, punching the pillow a few times. Finally, I was asleep.
When I woke up again, a soft music filtered through the air. I stretched languorously and felt like a cat that had just woken from an afternoon nap in the sun. I looked around the room, which was dark except from a little light that came through the window. It was the light from Gethin, a grey tinged light. Janus picked lightly at what might have been a lute for all I knew.
“Janus?” I questioned, eyes half lidded. He nodded, paused in his playing and turned one of the keys that tuned the instrument. The music allowed me to continue feeling drowsy. The room felt chilly and the fact that the room was made of stone only made that worse. Maybe I shivered, because Janus noticed.
“Are you cold, M’Lady?” he questioned. I nodded so he went to the dresser, pulled out his jacket and threw it to me. Pulling it on, I watched as he plucked the strings some more.
“What are you doing here, Janus?” I asked, letting the warmth of the coat start to seep into me.
He shrugged, “It’s my job to be here. Funny, it seems as if you have started making it a habit to fall asleep in your day clothes.”
I yawned, “Yeah, well, things haven’t been that great lately. A little stressful if you will.” Janus nodded and strummed on the lute a bit more. He was dressed somberly tonight, colors that seemed to bleed into the grey light. Somehow he seemed almost intangible.
“What do you want, Janus?”
I paused, “I thought that you were helping me. I thought…I don’t know what I thought. But why do you need my help? Hell, why are you even still here? I’m not a Shadow Dweller anymore.”
“But you can help, you just need to know how,” Janus insisted, “they’ll kill Oliana you know? Daemon is the only one who won’t do it on the spot. It’s a big castle. What are the odds he’ll find her first?”
“Aerin will do what he thinks is good for his people,” Janus interrupted.
I rubbed at my eyes, “So what am I supposed to do?” Janus played a couple bars on his lute before answering. My head was swimming with the music, light and pleasing.
“Something that will throw them off, make them pause in these idiotic plans. You know this idea of attacking the keep is pointless, don’t you?” Janus asked.
“They wouldn’t listen to me! And then they just sent me out,” I said.
“What conclusion did they come to?” Janus asked, still playing.
I sighed, furrowed my brows in remembrance, “They wanted to attack the keep. Find Oliana and get to her to talk. If they…if she won’t, they’ll kill her and deal with it from there. They just kept yelling until…”
“Until Daemon agreed,” I said.
Janus played on, saying, “He didn’t try to talk to them?”
“He gave up?”
“There really wasn’t much…” I protested.
“He gave up.”
I sighed, pulling my knees to my chest, “Yeah, I guess.”
“And when he did that they started making plans? Not before?” Janus queried.
“No, not until he agreed,” I said, pulling the jacket tighter around me, “when he said yes then it calmed down. Until…until I tried to say something.”
“Then they didn’t want to hear me. They said I should leave,” I said.
“Who is they?” Janus questioned, “Aerin? Orion? Or…”
I licked my lips a little, “If you’re asking if Daemon did…well, yes he agreed with them.”
“How did that feel?”
“I can’t blame him. He has all these people to worry about and…”
“But they’re not his people.”
“And he has the minds of the leaders of those people,” Janus remarked. The music was pointed and poignant, it danced upon itself round and round. I was still so tired and my mind followed the music till it blurred.
“Yeah, I guess…”
Janus looked at me, “So he has some push? Some impact? He’s important, even though he is just a Shadow Dweller like yourself?” He was right in that respect. I’m sure Daemon had earned their respect, but why did they put so much trust in him?
“Yeah, he does. He must. They seem to listen to him,” I replied dazedly.
“There would be trouble if he was suddenly gone?”
“It would take time for them to regroup?”
“They would not attack so soon?”
“Do you know what this means, Calvary?” Janus asked. He said my name in almost a musical way. I couldn’t think, that was the problem. I was just too tired to think.
“No, what does this mean?” I questioned.
Janus smiled a gentle smile as he softly played his lute, “Kill Daemon, Calvary.”
“What?” I asked, shocked. Even in my half asleep state, this struck me. I liked Daemon, cared about Daemon. How could I kill him? Why should I kill him? How would killing anyone solve anything? Most importantly, could I bring myself to kill someone? Did I have that in me? Yes, I did as much as I hated to admit it. All humans did given the correct circumstances—self-defense of one’s self or a loved one or even lesser instincts—but the real question was did I have the motive?
“I know it sounds hard. I know you don’t like it, but it will at least delay things. It was like Daemon himself said, that if it took only one or two deaths to save many, it should be done. It doesn’t matter who the people are, does it? It’s still the same?” Janus pointed out.
“Have you heard all I’ve said, Calvary?”
“Have you understood the logic of what I’ve said?”
“Then what is the problem?”
I bit my lip, “I…I care about him.” Janus came over, still playing and sat down by me. That aura of safety around him seemed even more so when he was close. He put a hand on my shoulder gently, comfortingly.
“I know you do, Calvary. And I promise that if you trust me, everything will be all right. But you have to trust me. Do you want people to die because you couldn’t do the one thing that would help?” Janus asked.
“Will you trust me, Calvary? It will be fine. Just trust me,” Janus assured. My mind was so fuzzy, blurred, and everything was warm. It was so easy to be trusting this way. So easy to take everything Janus said and accept it. Later I would realize how stupid that was. Later I would remember that Janus might have been a god.
Absence of Moonlight
It was easy, creeping silently through the darkened hallways. It was later than I had thought, closer to dawn than to dusk. At least half the torches in the hallways were out. Only a little light was spared for those who might be doing watch or have some reason to wander the halls. Like me. Of course, in my dreamlike state, I felt as if I could have done what I had to without light. First from my room to the places where the weapons were kept, silently on bare feet. A dagger. That was all I would need. It would be easy and he wouldn’t have to know. He wouldn’t have to know that…I shook my head to clear it. I didn’t want to think about that, about what I would do in relation to his…feelings.
Inside the room was dark, but my hands felt guided to the right place. A dagger’s hilt was at my fingertips and then solid in my grasp. It felt balanced there, good and right. Held to make stabbing easier rather than slashing--an easy downward movement. I closed the door behind me and continued onward. Night was close around me, like what I was used to. Like Janus’s coat which was wrapped tight around me and moved with me, brushing against my calves. I lived for night, it was so easy to move around unnoticed if you were used to it. And I was. It was a lovely feeling to be back in the dark, moving as if you belonged. Or at least pretending you did.
When I heard the watch coming, I ducked into a little nook like the one I had followed Janus into before. It might have been the same nook, but I didn’t know. They all looked the same anyway. Their function was all that mattered. After a few minutes, the guard had passed. A little longer waiting and then I was moving again. Then I was finding the wall, which hid Daemon’s room. So ingenious, that is unless you knew how to get in.
The only problem was that it was dark; no torches lit this hallway. But I went by feel, closing my eyes so I had no distractions from my eyes which kept trying to pick up any sort of light that might linger in the hallway. First find the torch that was a marker. Then run your hand to the ground, to the first stone. Count over five—to the left—and then up two. That was the stone I wanted, but it was harder to push from this side than it was from the other side. I had to brace myself against the floor and push as hard as I could to get it to move. Then there was the now familiar sound of stone against stone. I should have been concerned about him waking up from that, but instead I just gripped the dagger. No light was really needed and I didn’t want anyone interfering so I waited to make sure the door would close. When it did, I moved silently over to the bed. The torches in the room were out so I was in solid darkness.
The only thing my senses could take in was the sound of him breathing, steady and even. Just a little effort and it would be over. Walk over to the bed, the darkness would hide me and…and…I raised the dagger in preparation. The muscles in my arm tensed as I told my self that I would do it on the count of three. One. Two. Three and the muscles in my arm flinched as they were tricked into thinking they would actually move. My mind had been totally prepared for it, but at the last second had stopped it. My arm had been convinced it was about to happen, but I didn’t. This time though, this time. This time on five. One. Two. Three.
Suddenly the torches in the room flared, effectively blinding me as my wrist—the one whose hand was holding the dagger—was grabbed. It was kind of a funny thing how the fact that the hand was gauntleted hit me before the pain registered. Pain that caused me to drop the dagger before I was flung by my arm over Daemon’s prone body and onto the bed. And then he was on top of me, pinning both my hands by the wrists and keeping my legs effectively pinned by kneeling on the knees. My gasp of pain was echoed by his gasp of surprise.
“Calvary? What are you doing here? What were you doing? Why?” he questioned. There was a hurt in his face, not completely obvious, but there none-the-less. I heard my breath quicken and I struggled a little. He didn’t let me go, just stared down at me. Could I still do it? He was awake now and the dagger was gone. And he was so much stronger than me. It was then that a fear fluttered in my heart and stomach. “Well?”
“I had to do it. He…I had to do it,” I said helplessly, unbidden tears starting in my eyes.
“He?” Daemon questioned, “He who?”
I shook my head, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It was me…I.” He slapped me across the face and that was it for my state reverie. It really was like awakening from a dream, as if all the time before I had been sleep-walking.
“Don’t you give me that, Calvary! I deserve an answer and don’t tell me that I don’t,” Daemon said. Anger and helplessness waged in me so that mad tears that had started without purpose before now trickled down my cheek. His hand went to cup the cheek that he slapped as if he feared perhaps he had gone too far.
“Y-you…never ever hit me, damn it!” I exclaimed, my voice cracking slightly.
“I…it…was…” I bit my lower lip, for some reason it was really hard for me to say, “Ja…Ja…”
Daemon nodded, “Janus?” I nodded and let out a staggered sigh, slightly relieved. “Why did you go along with it?”
“What do you mean?” I questioned, “I didn’t want to. I tried to fight but…but I don’t know what it was. He told me to…gave me all sorts of reasons that seemed to make sense. And eventually I gave in. I couldn’t…I’m sorry.”
He sighed, “What did he say?”
I shook my head, “I don’t really remember. It’s really foggy. I wasn’t happy with you but I didn’t want to kill you!”
“I don’t like how all of this is going either, Calvary, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s all already decided. In three days we move against the keep,” Daemon replied.
“This is a mistake.”
“Maybe,” he said, “but it’s our last chance.”
“I hate this. They’re going to kill her without even trying to come to any sort of agreement,” I said.