Chapter Three- Tricks and Traitors
“Even with the blood collecting under her skin, she looks at peace.”
I had experiences waking up after losing a fight to someone. I was usually on my back, pain throbbing in every cell of my body. I had never woken up snuggled under a comforter before, listening to two very British voices (one male, one female), discussing me.
“Brian, there is no need to say pretty things. Look at her, she is half dead.”
“There is a darkness in the way she fights.”
“She does not fight with the darkness, though. She fights against it.”
“You did not take that right jab. Or the hook kick. Or anything else she hit me with. You watched. No one who is purely noble fights like that. Good people fight well, they fight amazing, but they do not have that pain in their eyes that she has.”
My awareness was barely breaking. These voices seemed vaguely familiar. At the moment, everything seemed vague. My eyes were glued shut with blood and unconsciousness, and I made a half-hearted attempt to open them. Light filtered through the gummy slits, and shadows and shapes passed in front of me.
“She is so young…How is it that she came into this?”
“You haven’t heard her story, then? I thought everyone knew about Aida.”
“The Egyptian queen?”
There was a snort. “Aida means ‘beginning.’ She took that name when she was twelve and found her mother murdered.”
“They got her mother, then?”
“Rolf took her under his wing after that. Introduced her to the way of the Ilin, and taught her how to fight.”
“Then she has the Good Curse?”
“She has found it, yes. I can feel it in her.”
“But there is also darkness, you say?”
I didn’t hear him respond, but a second later, I felt his rough hand on my face. My eyes fluttered open. Everything was blurry. The shape in front of me moved, it spoke, I shook my head, it handed me a glass of water. As I sat up to take it, I felt as though a million knives were driving themselves into my spine, but the water was like liquefied life pouring down my throat. I drank it until it was dry, and even then, I sucked on the glass, and shook it, determined to get more out of it.
“That was awfully trusting of you,” Brian said, and handed me another glass. I didn’t take it. In my pain and burning thirst, I had forgotten my vigilance. My vision had cleared, and I could see him now. His hair was bland and brown, and fell tamely to his shoulders. A scar ran across his left jawbone, but this was not the most striking thing on his face. Two golden orbs stared back at me through a thick fringe of brown eyelashes. They were like a cat’s eyes, only, instead of being slanted, they were big and round. They were frightening and consuming. I blinked, trying to get away from them, but I couldn’t.
“I…I was just thirsty, I guess,” I responded lamely, still blinking ferociously.
“Do you have something in your eyes?”
I looked back up at him, but not into his eyes, and shook my head. “No, they’re dry, that’s all.” I looked at him blankly. “Do you always take your enemies into your house after nearly killing them?”
He shook his head, smiling. “We are not enemies.”
“I beg to differ, Sir Brian,” I said mockingly. “You have an Element, and I want it.”
“You are wrong, Lady Aida.” He leaned away from me and crossed his arms. “I do not have an Element.”
My heart leapt to my throat. I had the wrong man, then? “Why did you fight me?”
“I was testing you.” His boxy shoulders rose up, and then fell down. “Aren’t you the least bit curious as to why you’re here, in my sister’s house, in her bed, drinking out of her glass?”
I glared. The sarcastic smile in his eyes annoyed me. “Your sister’s house?”
“Aida, this is my sister, Rune. Rune, this is Aida.” I looked up at the lady in front of me. She was indeed Brian’s sister. She had the same brown hair and short build, but she was much older than he was. She had a rough presence about her, but she seemed strong. I nodded, and she nodded in response. “She has come to help me destroy Pierce.”
I turned to look at him, sharply. The name grabbed my attention, but I wasn’t exactly sure why. Maybe it was the strong dynamics of the name. Only a strong person could belong to a name like Pierce. Or maybe I had heard it before.
“I have not said I would help you with anything.” He smiled. My frown deepened.
“You have a very sharp edge to you,” he said, his unnatural eyes raking my body, as though he could physically identify this “edge” of mine.
“Are you going to tell me why I’m here?”
“I will. Are you hungry?”
“No.” I was famished.
“You take a beating like that and you’re not hungry?”
My eyes narrowed. It wasn’t that bad of a beating, I thought irritably, the daggers driving into my spine with every subtle movement. “No.”
He shrugged. “Suit yourself. Rune has just put out a bit of fruit and biscuits.”
My mouth watered, but I just ground my teeth. “Who is Pierce?” He stared at me, a smile continuing to play with his lips, his creepy eyes sparkling. I didn’t like him, I decided. He was playing with me.
“Pierce is the apocalypse trapped in a time bomb.” His expression hadn’t changed. His smile was slanted, his eyes were eager. “He’s waiting for the moment –tick, tick, tick– when everything is perfect, the time is right, the Elements are aligned. Then, he’ll burst. The sinners will go to heaven, the saints will go to hell.” His voice was smooth and unflinching. Quite an accomplishment considering what had just left his lips. I shuddered.
“Pretty words,” I quoted Rune from earlier. “What do they mean to me?”
“You are a saint. Don’t you want to be saved from hell?”
I cocked an eyebrow. He made this sound very mystical, but I didn’t care about mystics, I cared about knowing why I was here. “Earth is hell,” I replied. “I don’t care about heaven or hell. I care that I am here, and I shouldn’t be. I should be lying face down in an alley, sucking rainwater down my throat.”
“No, if you should be doing so, you would be.”
“Don’t throw me that fate crap, okay? Just tell me why I’m here.” In all my frustration with the British boy, I forgot my pain, kicked off my covers, and was now staring him straight in the face. My shoulders were squared off, and our eyes were level. My soreness raced back to me and I dropped onto the bed. I was embarrassed with my weakness, but, in defiance, I elevated my eyes to his.
“You are special, Aida. You are talented. But best of all, you are quiet.”
“Quiet?” I bit down on my cheek, struggling with my severe annoyance, and the non-ceasing pain in my entirety. “How quaint.”
“Yes. You go about your business, and follow Master Rolf’s orders without question –”
“He’s not my master,” I broke in, but he ignored me.
“You never make a commotion, and though most everyone knows your story, no one seems to care that you are still alive today.”
“How nice of you,” I drawled. “I wish you’d just tell me something substantial. All I’ve heard from you are descriptions and exaggeration.”
“Pierce is one of those who murdered your mother.”
I stiffened. “I’ve come to peace with my mother’s murder. I am not seeking revenge.” I tried to sound at peace, but I failed very miserably. I sounded as though peace meant sitting on a thousand needles.
“Think, Aida, how many more people he has killed, how many more he will kill.”
“You said he was one of the ones…who are the others?”
“There are several others. But none of them come close to Pierce’s destructive power. He has four Elements.”
“Four!” I yelled. He was crazy. He had to be. No one could have four of the Elements and be alive. Firstly, it would be nearly impossible to locate that many.
Then, to defeat four people who carry their power? “You’re lying.”
“No, I’m not.”
“You have to be.”
“How did he get them?” I was overwhelmed. Possessing four of the Elements was a terrifying thought.
“Tact. Discipline. He’s amazing, Aida. With Rolf as your Master –”
“He’s not my Master!” Again, he ignored me.
“I’m surprised you haven’t heard of him before.”
“Rolf doesn’t tell me much,” I told him quietly, bitterly. Then, I raised my voice, and looked him in the face again. “But he did tell me you have an Element.
You say you don’t.”
“I don’t.” He smirked. I think I let out an accidental growl at it.
“Why should I believe you?”
“Did you sense it when you fought me?”
I made an offhand gesture. I thought about the night before. I couldn’t remember much. “I’ve never fought anyone who owned an Element before. But then,
there was nothing special about the way you fought…”
He shrugged, seemingly unaffected by my slight. “I had one. Opiet’s Ice.”
“Pierce has it now?” He laughed very, very cynically.
“Actually, his Lady does.” I huffed.
“So, he’s got Four and his ‘Lady,’ as you call her, has one? Why does he let her have it?”
“Rumor has it he’s tried to get it from her. You know as well as I, though, that it takes a fight to get it, unless they willingly give it to you. He won’t hurt her.”
The sun was filtering very brightly through the window, lighting up his face. There were lines in it that I hadn’t noticed before. He had aged greatly from his lifestyle, but from the way he moved and how he talked, I knew he couldn’t be much older than I. When he said this, ‘He won’t hurt her,’ something in his voice went weak. Everything before then had been very strong, very sure. The stress lines in his forehead deepened and the laugh lines around his eyes lessened. It made me shudder.
I didn’t let him know I had sensed this weakness. My eyes narrowed. “Usually, it takes a fight to the death to get an Element.” I wanted to ask how it was that this Lady of Pierce’s had managed to get Brian’s Element. I had a hunch, but I wasn’t going to ask.
He nodded. “It usually does.”
After all this time of talking, there was an odd silence between us. “You’re hungry,” he told me. “And if you’re not, you need to eat.” I was grateful for the second part of his comment. I still wasn’t going to admit to him that he was right, I was hungry. However, I think my shoveling of the apples and biscuits gave me away.
Critisism (as always) is welcome!