77 Ashan 716It had been a hard morning. She had been summoned back to Andaris by her Captain and had no choice but to return by Jacadon. She’d argued with the messenger though and the Major had agreed she could accompany Ronald and Simon. It wasn’t a duty that she would ever want to repeat, but it had needed to be done. She’d made her farewells to the gathered group of riders and Knights, hugging Katheryn hard before the woman finally turned away and mounted up. She’d approached wearing her worn and battered clothes and they’d relaxed, seeing her once more as their companion, less a Noblewoman; and stranger. Perhaps it had helped to see her eyes ringed with red and it clear that she too, hadn’t slept much overnight.
Elyna had pulled Katheryn aside and apologised to the woman. She’d also asked the woman’s help to return Ember safely to the city. She was reluctant to leave the horse behind but trusted the Knights’ judgement.
Two Jacadon’s had risen into the sky a break after the Knights and their Captain had left and she’d scoured the ground for them and failed to see through between breaks in the thick tree growth. Given the choice, she would have travelled back. But it was long out of her hands. All that she could do, was feel humbled by her ability to escort Simon and Ronald home and offer quiet comfort to the young man as he struggled to hold together his natural reluctance to travel at such great height and speed, and his devastating loss.
She was worried for Malcolm, for his stiches and the wounds she’d passed onto him. Worried about the poison and how it could affect him, and she would remain twisted with worry until she saw him again, back home in the city, alive and well. What then?
Once Simon had been delivered to his family and helped Ronald to drown his sorrows, she’d half-dragged and half-carried the man back to his own rooms to let him sleep. It was the only way she knew how to carry grief, to lose yourself in it. Try and forget it at first, by any means possible. She hadn’t drunk herself though and had, far too late in the day, reported to her Captain.
To say she was displeased would have been the understatement of the cycle. She was furious of Elyna’s deliberate mis-interpretation of her orders. And the Skyrider had received the most severe dressing down of her career and the docking of her pay for each day she had spent with the Knights on their journey to Krom. But seeing her in a better health, Elyna had been told to sign herself up to the next roster of duties.
Exhausted she’d fallen into her bed and snuggled in under the blankets. It was good to be home. Tomorrow she would settle her debt with the stables and buy Ember. She would need a loan, and the next cycle she would have to take care to manage her coin, but the horse would be hers. Her mind and body were drained and she lay awake in the darkness, waiting for sleep to steel her thoughts, but over and over they returned to the night before and despite the heavy sadness that had weighed on her shoulders, and her concerns for Malcolms safe return, she couldn’t help but feel a thread of happiness. A golden thread in the tapestry she was weaving with her life.
They’d come together in passion and it had been frantic and intense, her body responded in memory and she pulled her pillow over her face. There had been brief satisfaction and his touch and kiss were seared into her mind; but he’d left her with the deepest longing for more. It had been a hell of a week and it had been little wonder that she’d drifted and slept with her back against his bare chest, the nearest horse blanket pulled over them for warmth. But respite had been brief and she’d woken to his lips pressed against her ear. Struggling up from the depths of sated sleep she’d blinked and nodded to his suggestion that they meet upon their return to the city. Of course she would. She’d travel anywhere to see him again. She would follow him to the ends of the world if she had to.
It hadn’t been long after that they’d departed the stables and she’d slunk through the shadows and back to the room offered by the Baroness. She had a surprising amount of experience stealing into the homes of nobility and managed sleep for a break or so more before it truly was time to rise.
The messenger from Andaris had explained to Malcolm, before she had joined the party that the Lady Elyna was required back, immediately and it had been then that she had seized the opportunity to perform a final act in respect of Simon and his memory. Once the Major had raised his hands in defeat and agreement, he had left to ready the Jacadon’s for travel. Ronald following close behind him. She’d turned to Malcolm and searched his expression for either doubt or regret. He had been drinking, he could ply her with excuses if he wished. But she’d hoped that it wouldn’t. It had been almost impossible not to close the distance between them again and leave him with a final kiss.
Instead she’d turned to catch Katheryn, jogging after the group of Knights as they prepared to depart.
Elyna had waited patiently for the party’s’ return. She’d return from a simpler mission, flying south to Venora to deliver specific herbs to combat a sickness that was spreading through the southern villages like wildfire. She and the Major had left the supplies in the designated zone and returned back to the city, arriving in the first flush of light. She’d checked by the barracks and read the rosters. Her heart had found a new home in her throat when she realised that Nathan, and Katheryn had returned. They were home and safe. Malcolm was back.
They had agreed in their brief and half-murmured discussion that they would meet at noon on the day of his return. She had run back to her rooms, washed and dressed in the freshest clothes she had before climbing up through into the city to the Library. The skyrider had waited for his arrival. Perched between two stone columns she had scanned the passing crowds for a familiar face, hopeful at first, then frustrated. Finally she had lent back against them and pressed her cheek to the cool stone. As a third break passed she realised that she was a fool. He had returned to the city and his home and his wife.
It was a thought that she’d tried to avoid, but like a sickness it started spreading through her veins and she felt nauseas. What had she been thinking? There was no future, there shouldn’t have been a history. Perhaps she’d lost her mind. So far from home, on the road and with all that had happened during their travel. She had been an idiot and worse, she’d left herself exposed. Her heart on her sleeve and easy to injure. She had waited longer than pride should have let her and finally she stood, making her weary way back to the barracks. Disgusted at the faint hope that lingered, hoping he might just turn up and appear around the corner or find her on the journey back. Of course he didn’t.
Hope turned to disgust and eventually anger. Before, two days later the nagging concern at the back of her mind won over them all. That night she’d flown over the city, watching the lights and listening to the distant shouts, laughter and eventual peace that settled in the wee breaks of the pre-dawn. Relieved of duty she’d returned home in time to freshen up and set off, back into the city.
Elyna was torn, angry at his simple betrayal but mostly at herself for being so naïve; however the young woman remained worried. She hadn’t seen Malcolm after all, what if the poison had reached him after all? She’d seen Katheryn since their return and the woman had revealed his safe return to the city, but what had happened then? The same thought rose again and again, with bile. His wife. She had no right to do this, but she couldn’t stay away any longer. The Skyrider knocked hesitantly at his front door and retreated back down the steps.
Three times she’d turned on her heel and gone to walk back to the barracks. Each time her fear had won out and she’d forced herself to spin again and carry on. Even if she simply saw him, paid her respects to Vanessa and left she would be satisfied. She clenched her fists before forcing her fingers to relax. She would be satisfied in the knowledge that he was alive and well. And she would leave him to his life and not look back.
Elyna steeled herself as the knocks fell, lifting her chin. Ready to face whatever was to come.