Continued from ...
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This for the breakdown. Yeah. Feel it.
He'd gotten a few good strikes in with his saber's pommel—by the Fates he did—gritting his teeth through the motion, and yet Pythera Venora had just kept fucking talking. She knew too much. She threatened everything. She was insane, far more terrible than he'd honestly been able to imagine despite the sincere horror of Darcyanna's pained confessions.
Now, he knew: before this moment, he'd known nothing.
Nothing! What horror ignorance truly was.
With sharp clarity, the twisted escapism of one delicate pianist made far more sense than he'd ever wanted to understand.
He felt his own blood soak into his clothing, warm and thick despite the frigid Zi'da air, drip, drip, dripping from his right side, crawling over too-warm skin and seeping into too-fine fabric, staining the ice and snow of the road. Caius panted ragged, exhausted breaths, so full of adrenaline and rage that he hardly felt just how cut and knicked from the crazed woman's daggers he really was, his left forearm the worst from his desperate attempts to block her feral assault. Once he'd gotten the last good swing in with the satisfying crack of cold steel against bone, the woman shoved away from him and stood.
He wanted to stand after her, he did, but his body betrayed him, resistant despite the rush of molten lead that roared in his veins. The young Gawyne scrambled clumsily to his knees and attempted desperately to keep himself between the youngest Venora and her sister. Caius' jaw clenched defiantly at her accusations, refusing to answer, quite sure that she knew the truth already considering how much she knew of all the time he'd already spent with Darcyanna from the night they'd met until to-trial, that the Valkyr simply continued to taunt them like a spoiled, slighted child. He stood suddenly—too quickly, dizzy, with a surprising twinge of pain that brought shadows caressing the edges of his vision—when Pythera approached again, raising his blade with a hiss. The cold, snow-covered world spun and his ears rang, the chill creeping into his fingertips and digging claws into the cuts that littered his person.
Her threatening words meant little at this point to the northern noble as he attempted to memorize all she'd revealed to him instead, shouting a very caustic, "Fuck you!"
for good measure as the psychotic bandit took off on her volareon, the horses terrified and cowering, but too well-trained to bolt. The wind from its wings bit at the red, wet stain that had soaked his shoulder and chest with a pain he'd honestly never felt before in his life, and he groaned, dropping his saber and turning wildly toward Darcy, both bloodied hands raking through his hair and curling against his scalp as he attempted to cling to some frayed edge of mental stability.
"I told you to stay, Darcy! She knew—she knew everything!"
He growled helplessly, irises as dark as the etherial break before dawn that he seemed to perpetually exist in. His expression was distant, far too full of the fierce need to fight to focus, a bit too much in shock to fully register the hurt, so he hissed to no one, wavering on his feet,
The carriage driver groaned and the panicked horses whinnied and stamped in the snow, backing up a bit to jolt the carriage, to tug at their reigns. The man stood, clawed and bruised but more terrified than injured, approaching the horses carefully and reaching to calm them, laying his hands on their faces and bringing them back into a feeling of safety with a few quiet words, "Thank the Fates you're all—oh. Seven help us."
His eyes fell on Caius, lingering on the red that stained the snow at his feet, and he tore his eyes away to look at Darcyanna reluctantly, voice dropping into a serious tone, "My Lady Venora, there is a first aid kit under my seat. And a small rucksack. Blankets. Fetch them, please. We must all act in an expedient manner, if I may say so frankly—"
Turning to the northern noble, the other man raised a shaky hand and waved toward the carriage door that swung lazily in the chilled wind, "—My Lord, your valor is no longer required. You should sit. We are safe for a moment and you need care. Quickly. I will be right back."
The young Gawyne heard the man speak and his wild gaze drifted from Darcy's face to the driver as he began to trudge off into the snow off the side of the road, gathering sticks and twigs, walking far enough toward a copse of trees in the distance. He didn't move, swaying on his heels, mind still racing. Somewhere in the hot, melted lead of his mind, his brain slowly began to register he was injured, that all the blood was his, and his eyes drifted downward, "Ah, shit."
Caius turned like a terrified animal and staggered his way to the carriage, leaving his bloodied saber in the road, unable to process it all. The wind picked up and gnawed at him, and he all but fell to sit on the wooden step up, breath hitching as the weight of all that had just transpired came crashing onto his shoulders with the deep, aching pain. The sharpness of it stole his ability to inhale right away, eyes flooding with tears as he looked for the blonde Venora once she'd gathered what was asked of her, shaking, bloodied hands reaching for her because in his moment of desperate clarity, he needed to hold her hands, uncaring of his state of being, he kissed her. His lips were cold,
"I'm sorry, Darcy."
Always the young Gawyne's first words with her when things twisted sideways, quick to apologize for the burden of failure that hounded him, that chased him awake. He was shivering, adrenaline leaving his system a red stain in the carriage with his blood, "I wasn't enough. I never expected—I—"
He blinked heavily, sliding to lean his head against the door frame of the carriage, fingers tightening around her own for a trill or two, squeezing needfully, before he released her and began to attempt to shrug off his vest and his shirt, knowing he was in need of help. He cursed and whined, struggling, tears of pain and terror down his face as he held the delicate pianist's gaze,
"—I had no sarding idea. I didn't. Your sister! We need to get back to Oliver. We. I. I'm not okay. By the Seven, Darcy—"
Caius wouldn't say her name, but he swallowed everything and filed it away into the vast, complicated library of his mind. The VII would be on his lips to the Lord Inquisitor, mages or not. It didn't really matter. The threat was enough, that much he knew. Fire danced in his chest, but he sobbed instead, "—I meant what I said—every fucking word—to you."
He'd bluffed as a means of survival with Pythera, but his heartfelt confession to Darcyanna was true in every syllable,
"I love you, Darcy. I—"
The carriage driver returned with an armful of wood and twigs, ignorant to the depths of conversation the young Gawyne was wading into in his currently broken state of mind. While he had little medical training, the driver knew what needed to be done, eyes lingering on how the blood continued to pour from the younger man's shoulder with a scowl. He set about beginning to build a small fire there on the side of the road as if it was the sanest thing in all of Idalos to do, hoping he could get the little flames hot enough. He was better at caring for horses than people, to be honest, but his Lord had informed him that Darcyanna was a medical student, after all,
"We're going to have to do something here for the Lord Gawyne, unfortunately. The horses can't get back to Bellesoir fast enough. You've studied this sort of thing, my Lady Venora, yes?"