Chapter Twenty Five: Letting Go
Lord Bloodthorne's Thoughts
The whole of the terrible instant must in reality have lasted merely a few minutes, yet the effect upon my body was the drain of centuries. I glanced down from my position upon the pillar to see Miss Rose as before, still slightly off balance as she attempted to shake off the rest of my deceased brother's spell. I too felt quite weak as I descended, Tuomas and the others visible in the distance and hurrying toward us in concern. Neither I nor the maiden spoke to each other as they arrived, for there was nothing to be said. In fact, I could scarce believe that her eyes occasionally met mine, nor that she could look still upon me, sullied as I was with the remnants of Nicolae's black blood upon my coat and hands. Still, I asked that the physician lead her back to the main hall for a careful examination, lest any further harm befall the girl in her already susceptible state. He bowed, leading her away as I gave instructions to the others. By this time a rather large crowd of the guests had assembled, gaping at the scene of the spectacle with unspoken questions upon their tongues. Seeing as any of these would be difficult to answer, I thanked each for their presence and apologized for the abrupt end to the festivities before bidding Crux and Malphas to escort the gala attendees back to the castle, peradventure to their own homes. All this was done with minimal thought, as my mind was still with Rose, and I could not help but glance every now and again to the path she had taken with Tuomas minutes earlier.
It was only when the last of the stragglers had left the garden, and only a few others mingled while awaiting their transportation home did I return once more to the ballroom. Lazorus and Licorice had already busied themselves with the removing of plates and general cleaning, Crux returning his beloved instruments to their places. Malphas was much himself again, attempting to convince a young female guest to take a stroll, and the fireplace sparking with the last of the dying embers. I casually drew near to this, finding solace in gathering my thoughts among the warmth here.
Warmth. Ironic that one so cold as I should be drawn to the very opposites of my nature. Still, I allowed myself to venture into my mind, all else around me becoming a dull echo as the shades of orange flickered and cast unnatural shadows in an unnatural land. The dim resonance of the faded voices continued in their humming, interrupted here and again by the soft tones of Miss Rose's voice. I did not need to turn in order to know her location. She was near one of the banisters of the staircase, the physician questioning about her well being. Each response given was a positive one, and I felt my heart lighten with relief. Thinking back, it could be that this soothing voice kept me afloat in the dark waters of introspection, and I smile to think of it as such. I closed my eyes for a moment, savoring the voice, warmth and relief felt after the close of a mystery. The weight and anxiety of former matters seemed so trivial now that I almost laughed. In fact, I may have done so if not for remembering my current location and the present company. I could well have stayed in this state for the remainder of my existence, yet a presence close by urged me back to the present.
I glanced back, slightly annoyed by the intrusion into my solitude, and perceived a young visitor of a tanned hue. His hair was rather short, possibly a guest lingering in the hopes of explanation. He must have sensed my acknowledgement of his close proximity as he spoke.
"You do know that no matter what, she won't be safe, right? There will always be someone somewhere seeking power. Today, your brother; tomorrow, another."
I frowned, turning away from the stranger to stare once more at the last of the flames. Partially in anger at his words, as well as hoping to hide my astonishment. Who this was, I did not know. Yet such impudence in his speech, as though he could read the struggle that had been taking place in my mind all along. Regaining some semblance of composure, I responded.
"You seem to know quite a bit for a mere guest, yet by scent alone, I know I have never met you. Therefore let me give you fair warning: do not interfere in that which does not concern you."
I emphasized my words with what I had hoped was a marked step away from the prying individual. He obviously did not understand this, or if it was understood, it was also ignored.
"The story of your kingdom is well known in this land. The lifting of a curse, the rose and the blood of it? I know this tale all too well. I simply do not wish to see a happy ending turn into a tragedy, and the last petal fall. Besides, you know this as well as I do."
The man shrugged, and I saw his eyes find Miss Rose across the room as he spoke again.
"Her blood has power, lots of it. Word of your broken curse has already made it's way elsewhere. Others are sure to come looking for the rose, and the power of it. After all, if a few drops of blood can do all this, just imagine what all of it could accomplish? Then you also need to consider those who wish to corrupt it, and the blood. Your brother tried to do just this moments ago, didn't he?"
I felt a shudder run through me that I could not suppress. His speech had been nearly identical to my brother's, and this last allusion to him could not be dismissed. I could still see the gleam in Nicolae's cold eyes as Miss Rose moved closer under his influence. That others would attempt similar or worse was nearly too much to imagine. My silence prompted another remark from the impudent guest as he shrugged and turned away.
"But what would I know? After all, I'm only a wanderer."
Not another word from him as he made his way out of the hall with the final attendees.
Still, I knew all too well that he was right. This land was not safe for her. Even if I stayed ever vigilant at her side, my presence may only worsen matters for her. My previous words to Tuomas drummed away in my head.
'A union with the damned? No. The land is removed of it's curse, yet mine must forever remain...' A heavy sigh ripped through my chest, but I knew what must be done. The last of the flames in the fireplace died away as I approached where the physician and Miss Rose still sat. They looked up at my advance, Tuomas wisely excusing himself as I turned to regard the young woman.
"Miss Rose, might I have a word?"
She nodded ascent, and I led her once more to the garden.