Authors: Meaghan Rauscher
Kryssa moved from behind me and went to her closet, returning with a fresh pair of pants and a shirt. “Here,” she said and handed them to me. “You’ll need your rest.”
I nodded and fought back the yawn threatening to break through my lips at the mention of sleep. The muscles in my legs trembled at the idea of actually being able to relax. After the constant push through the entire night, and day, it almost seemed impossible I would be given the chance to rest.
The discarded black clothes lay in a pile on the floor as I stepped into the new ones. Pushing the dirtied clothing aside, I slipped beneath the fine covers on the puffy bed. Kryssa stood to the side casting curious glances in my direction, I knew it was because of the scar on my arm. She had never seen it before. The last time we had spoken I had kept myself covered, and as far as I knew, Tunder and Elik hadn’t told her what had happened the night Bolrock tortured me.
Lying down, a sigh escaped my lips that I meant to keep in, but it felt too wonderful to be encompassed by the softness of the mattress caressing my legs. Even though late afternoon sunlight was filtering into the room, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. For the first time in what seemed like ages, I didn’t have a nightmare.
Upon waking, it took me a moment to figure out where I was. The sun pouring in through the window was much too cheerful behind the dark curtain, trying to blot it out.
Everything in the room proclaimed death. Outside the sky was attempting to lighten up the dark interior, but it was held at bay by the thick fabric, and only let in enough light to show it was daytime rather than night.
Looking up at the ceiling, I wondered what time it was. It felt as though I had been asleep for a very long time. I pushed myself up into a sitting position and searched the room, surprised to find myself alone. The words Tunder had spoken earlier ran through my mind and I wondered if he knew Kryssa and Elik were not by my side.
Beside the door on a little table was a plate of food and a cup, to which upon noticing my stomach gave a loud rolling grumble. I pushed the covers aside, made my way to the plate and devoured some of its contents as I sat back down on the bed, plate in hand. Slowly, the aching in my stomach subsided, and as I drank the water I began to notice how quiet it was in the room. Usually, I was able to hear the wind moving outside the open window and sometimes the crashing waves of the ocean drifting on the breeze, but neither sound reached my ears now and I doubted the curtain was so thick as to withhold it.
Crossing the room to get a closer look, I pulled the dark fabric back to reveal a glass window pane covered with iron bars. A sinking feeling filled the pit of my stomach and I realized I had been wrong about Tunder’s words. I had thought they were going to give me some leave on the island, if I was only accompanied by Elik or Kryssa, but it appeared it wouldn’t be that way. Instead, I was to be held captive.
Cursing myself for my stupidity in thinking the best of Tunder, I realized just how far I had sunk in his opinion. After the events on the island, and what had happened when he had seen Zale for the first time, I had hoped he would come around. But I now realized everything I had done had been without his knowledge. What else could give him more reason to keep me a prisoner here on Lathmor?
As if confirming my beliefs, I noticed the bars on the window were facing in so I could touch them. They were in place to keep someone from getting out, not for keeping an enemy from getting in. Sighing, I sat back down on the bed and rubbed the scar on my arm with my hand. Sometimes upon waking, it festered as if it were still an open wound. It felt like an itch underneath my skin that I couldn’t quite reach.
At least this is better than Hyvar
, I thought and consigned myself to waiting patiently on the bed for whoever would come to check on me.
After what seemed like hours, I got up and walked to Kryssa’s closet to find something to wear. The light pajamas she had given me felt grimy against my skin and I wanted to be ready for whatever was coming for me today. The sun moved slowly in the sky when I laid back down on the bed and watched it move closer to the tops of the trees. Now that the curtain was pulled back from the window, the pale light entered the room and shadows from the iron bars made crisscross designs over my body.
Finally, there came a click of the lock in the door and I sat up on the bed to await the arrival of my prison keeper. The term was dramatic, but I didn’t know how else to think of them. Of course, the hospitality already offered me was leaps and bounds ahead of what Gell had done. But at Hyvar, I had expected worse. I never thought I would be held captive in Lathmor.
The door creaked and Kryssa’s familiar face peeked around the door. Upon seeing me sitting in the bed, she entered with more noise than before and closed the wood with a solid click.
“Hi,” I said, and she nodded in my direction as her eyes carefully swept the room. What she was looking for, I had no idea.
She stood for a moment near the door, her hand twitching at her side as she shifted from foot to foot and every now and then glanced my way. I had never seen her behave as such. Normally, she was so forward I had become used to her telling me everything she was thinking. I felt as though I was treading in new water, and there was an even greater distance between us than when I had left the island a few months ago.
“Do you need anything else to eat?” She asked, her words direct, reminding me of Tunder’s tone in the throne room.
“No,” I said, trying to be more casual than she was.
“Okay,” she said and nodded her head. Her eyes flicked to mine for a second and I noted the redness around the edges again. She had been crying.
“Are you all right?” The words popped out of my mouth before I had the chance to stop them, and she looked back at me again. Her face was a mask I couldn’t read, but when she opened her mouth to speak her voice was softer than before.
“Of course,” she said although her eyes spoke differently and she shook her head as if to dispel an idea. Her gaze shifted to my left arm and I looked down at the blatant scar, boldly crawling out from underneath the cap sleeve of the black shirt and running to my elbow.
“When did you do that?” she wondered. I looked up, expecting to see her still looking at my scar, but her eyes were gazing at my forearm.
My dagger was in its usual resting place and the intertwined mertails were evident in the dark wood; the scales standing out as though proclaiming their presence. The last time she had seen it the wood had been smooth.
“Oh,” I said, trying to think of something to explain it. “Sometime at home. He had taught me how to carve…” my voice drifted off and I shrugged, wincing at the movement. I had to stop doing that.
“Right,” Kryssa said, catching my meaning of who I spoke of, but still appearing wary.
I sighed and straightened my back a little bit more. If I was going to make any progress with her, I was going to have to be the one to make the first move.
“Actually, that’s not true,” I admitted and was rewarded with a look which made me think I had stated the obvious. I almost laughed at her expression. “Do you remember when I left? When I said I couldn’t tell you everything?” She nodded, “Well, I need to know how much Elik has told you while I’ve been gone.”
“Why?” She snapped, and I wondered if she already knew the truth. It wouldn’t be ridiculous for Elik and Tunder to have told her what had happened, not to mention the rest of the Lathmorians. Thinking back to the baleful glares I had received in the throne room, I wondered if it was in connection to my relationship with Zale.
“Because I need to know how much I can say,” I said the words quietly but they rang with truth. As much as I wanted her to know everything, I was afraid of what she might think if she knew it all.
“What do you want me to tell you, Lissie?” She said, the words spilling out of her with a sudden harshness, “That all I know is you were at your home and then suddenly appeared on the night we were attacked, that you stayed on the island and when I last saw you, you were uninjured, and then I find out I can’t visit you for weeks? Then when I do get to see you, you kept yourself distant from me and wouldn’t tell me the truth? And now my father has been murdered and you show up here demanding to know what has happened? As far as I’m concerned it should be me that’s demanding answers.” Her words ran together in a jumble, while her eyes burned with a fire I had only seen once before.
“You know,” she continued, “this isn’t the first time you’ve lied straight to my face.”
“That’s only because at the time the truth could have killed you!” I said, referring back to when I hadn’t known she was a mermaid and was trying to hide my own identity.
“I’m not talking about that,” she spit, “I’m talking about you lying to me when I came to your house in Coveside. Something happened there that changed you.”
“Oh really?” I said, trying to hide my surprise at how observant she was.
“Yes,” she stated, “I could see it when I came to warn you about Zale. You were so careless it scared me, but now I wonder if it was something more.” Her eyes slid down to the dagger on my arm and I blanched.
“What did Elik tell you?” I demanded, my anger rising to match hers. We glared at each other for a moment until she finally broke our gaze and looked at the walls. There were tears in her eyes she was trying to fight back, but one escaped and ran down her cheek before she could catch it.
“Nothing,” she admitted. Another angry tear pooled over, but she swiped this one away with her hand before it could slip down her cheek. “He told me nothing.”
“Oh,” was all I could say and I waited for her to speak again; afraid to see her cry.
It surprised me Tunder and Elik had kept to their word and not told anyone about Zale. Of course they were probably still hunting for him, but that was different than actually telling the Lathmorians who he was. Kryssa sniffed and turned her green eyes back on me.
“That’s just it, no one will tell me anything and now my father is dead,” her voice broke on the last word and she crumpled over to put her face in her hands as a sob choked through her lips.
Her body shook as the sadness poured out of her. Before I knew what I was doing, I was hugging her, trying to calm her down as the tears kept coming.
I moved her gently and urged her to sit down on the bed. I put my good arm around her as she continued to cry into her hands. My own heart broke for her and for the first time since I had been told the news, I let myself mourn the king’s death.
Together we sat for a long time on the edge of the bed. The sun was just beginning to descend behind the tops of the trees, when her sobs began to still, and she looked up from her hands.
A silence filled the room that was at once awkward and perfect. For months I had felt the distance between the two of us. She had at one time been my closest confidant when Patrick and I were together. Just thinking back to the times we had spent here or on the island, made me mourn for the past.
All of this, the war, the fighting, Morven’s endless pursuit had to stop. And yet, at the same time I knew he wouldn’t until he got what he was searching for.
A familiar feeling of guilt filled my stomach. Was I the reason for all of this?
“Sorry,” Kryssa said, and wiped her hands over her cheeks repeatedly to clear away any evidence of crying. The trails were already gone.
“No need to apologize,” I said, and squeezed her shoulders as she pulled her hands away from her face. “But I still don’t know if I can tell you.”
“And why not?” she scoffed and kept her eyes focused on the wall. “Do you think I would betray you?”
“It’s not that,” I said and tried to think of a way to explain my reluctance. I had already lost Tunder’s trust, I didn’t want to lose hers too. But as it stood right now, she didn’t trust me anyway.
“If I tell you everything, will you tell me all that you know?” I asked the question hoping it didn’t sound as backhanded as it felt. In a way, it seemed our friendship had boiled down to negotiations, while each side held back what they really thought. I knew we couldn’t stand as it was.
Kryssa shook her head beside me and my arm slipped from her shoulders, “Even if I wanted to tell you everything, I couldn’t. Tunder commanded me not to.”
“He seems like quite the ruler these days,” I said more to myself as my heart fell at her words.
“How can you say that?” Kryssa turned to face me. “After everything that’s happened, you can really accuse him?”
“Yes,” I said, not unaware of how childish I sounded. I had been considering telling her everything, but with the way she was acting there was no chance I would do it now. The prideful part of me reared up and refused to back down from what she was condemning me of.
“You’re unbelievable,” Kryssa stood up and I followed suit. “You know, when Elik said you weren’t in the right mind to help the war effort, I defended you. I said there was nothing that would sway you from our side, but apparently I was wrong. You’re the spitting image of what he described to me.” Her voice grew sharp, taking bites out of my pride.