Shadow of the Heart
Book 2 of the Shadow series
"Daemon, why?" Sobs echoed through the darkness. A bottomless
void that was hindering her sight and with air so heavy she
couldn't move. Yet she knew he was there. "Answer me!"
She sat up in bed, engulfed in the utter silence of the night. Wiping a straggling tear away, that was left over from the same dream she'd been having for months, she slid off the silk sheets. Then padded silently out of the guest bedroom and down the hallway, not caring she forgot her robe. Passing by the library she should have known she would catch the attention of the one person who was always staying up late at night, Adam. But being half mad with exhaustion she didn't particularly care.
His voice broke her lack of concentration. She turned to see her newest guardian, who Derik found in Olestra last year. A young man only a few years older than her, and who was actually her cousin. Though no one but Adam, her and Derik knew that fact. He was the son of Derik's sister, who married an innkeeper in Grenig. His father noticed how defiant he was and sent him off to become a soldier in the king's army, thinking it would stop him from becoming like his troublesome, good-for-nothing, uncle. "I'm alright Adam, go back to whatever you were doing." She waved him away and turned once again to walk down the hall.
"No way." He whispered in a half jog to catch up. "If Uncle Derik finds out that I let you go off alone, he'd have my head."
Anna rolled her eyes. "He wouldn't kill you for letting me go for a midnight snack alone in Selene's manor."
Adam though, obviously wasn't going to listen to her and continued to follow. His brown hair had grown longer in the past year and he was tying back with a leather strap. But it wasn't quite long enough for that, so half fell forward towards his face. They walked in silence which she was grateful for, she wasn't in the mood to talk. The kitchen was dark and massive, but she managed to find a lamp and a set of match sticks. Adam fumbled around in the dark as she let light blind her for a second before adjusting to the eerie flickering.
"Hey pomegranates." Adam said hefting one in his hand and threw it to her from across a span of about ten feet.
Anna caught the red fruit in her left hand, while carrying the lamp in the other and set it on a counter in the center of the main part of the kitchen. "I don't like them, but you can have it." She threw it back to him and went over to the shelves.
"I'm not really hungry, but ma always said that if you eat too heavy at night, it'll cause nightmares."
Pulling out a block of cheddar she sniffed thinking of the dreams and memories that had been keeping her from sleeping. "Too late for that."
"Wanna talk about it?" Adam asked pulling himself up on the counter and dangling his feet back and forth. When she turned she shook her head and gently hit his leg, shooing him off the counter so she could make a snack.
"It's nothing important, I'm a big girl." She said, feeling his eyes on her. Even though Adam had only been one of her guardians for a little over a year, she found he was as stubborn as Derik was, maybe even more so at times. Adam harrumphed but then fell silent.
It wasn't that she didn't trust him to tell him the truth about her dreams, or rather her memories. But even after a year, she wasn't sure he would understand. She couldn't wait until Derik arrived, he wasn't able to join them at Selene's, he was held up with a rash of thefts in the southern part of Holinstad, but said that he would join them soon.
They were all down there, watching as a man was killed. It was justice, he reminded himself standing inside of the southwestern tower. After betraying everything, the Duke deserved to die. The wind hit him, bringing with it, the scent of newly bloomed flowers. His father had all but told him he wouldn't see the light of day for a long time, so he was trying to enjoy it now before he went home. He was forced to recount everything, multiple times, though he managed to leave out certain parts with Anna. That, he realized, wouldn't go over well. It also started him thinking. That was why he avoided her for the past few days, even though it was like twisting a blade that was sunk into his gut. He had to think rationally. Around her, he couldn't do that.
When he heard soft footsteps his clenched his eyes shut forcing his resolve to stay. "Daemon, there you are." Anna said with a smile, a smile he could hear. He looked at her evenly. "I should have known better I guess." She walked smoothly towards him. Her hair was done in curls that framed her face, she had lip oil on that made the pale pink shimmer, he could even smelled the apple perfume she wore.
"I just wanted some air and time alone." He said, in a voice, void of the emotion running inside of him.
She faltered for a second taking in his demeanor, but then seemed to shake it off. He returned his gaze to the view of the city. "I haven't spoken to my father yet. I wasn't sure how to tell him. So I thought that we should talk first."
"I agree." He said, clenching his fists so tightly he could feel nails biting into his flesh.
Anna stood beside him, her eyes boring into him like the sharp point of a dagger. "Is there something wrong?"
Deciding it was best to just do it and deal with the consequences, he turned to look at her. "I owe you an apology."
Her brows quirked, as her lips twisted into a quizzical expression. "For what?"
"I think I have misrepresented my intentions." He had to swallow hard to stop himself from holding her again. "I don't know if it was the mask's affect on me, or the difference between our people's courting customs. But the affection that you believe I feel...is more than what it is." She blinked, letting his words sink in. "I truly value your friendship, but I think that it's better after this, that we not continue it." Tears sprung to her eyes but it was the vacant stare that cut him. He had to remind himself that it was for the best. He was doing this for her. He tore his eyes away and walked past her, stopping at the top of the steps. He had to say it, to make sure that she would let him go. "I hope to never see you again…milady." His foot went to move.
"Daemon." She said in a broken voice, forcing him to stop and look at her. Tears hung heavily in her eyes, her mouth trembling as she swallowed. He nearly took it all back. To make a smile come back to her face, he would have done anything. It was a struggle to keep his expression smooth as he turned away for the last time. With each step a new definition of pain tore at him. It felt as if he were being hollowed out from the inside, leaving a void of nothing but pain.
He focused on continuing to breathe, but each breath without her was agony. As he descended the steps he allowed just a fraction of his control to slip, so that when he reached the bottom and Derik saw him, he would know. He passed the guardian with only a glance. "Krogh, we're leaving." He said and turned his back on her forever.
The reality of what their relationship meant, hit hard when he spoke with his father. He carried a stigma with him wherever he went. And now with his father knowing that Daubolis was out there, it would only get worse. One day, he would go mad. And when that day came, he would be executed or locked up. He wasn't going to put her through that. She deserved to be happy.
Then there were the political consequences. He wasn't sure how their relationship would be interpreted, it could be good for the relations between Ikhaya and Alura, or it could cause unrest and perhaps destroy everything his father had worked for. He couldn't do that and he wouldn't put Anna through the trouble it would cause, with her family. Now she was safe, she would get over him, and someday she would be happy again. Derik would be there to help her. That was the only hope he had to hold onto.
"I've sent word to your mother." Krogh said from behind him. "She should be there when we reach home."
Daemon nodded. "Thank you Krogh."
"Will you be alright?"
That made him stop. Krogh wasn't an emotional man, but he was wise, and it didn't surprise Daemon that he knew what was going on in his head. "No. But I'm not important. My family, my people and Anna, are all that matter. If I must live in this hell, to protect them all. I will." With that, he continued on down the path, not allowing himself to look back.
He breathed out slowly trying to calm his rapidly beating heart.
He assumed he'd only been asleep for an hour, as sleep had been
harder and harder to come by lately. He turned over on his side
and sighed closing his eyes once again, forcing himself into a
rhythmic breathing pattern, allowing him to drift. But the void
that called to him wasn't pleasant or calming. It promised more
whispers and memories of her face, or possibly the burning fire
of the Fera. Where his sanity would be torn away, being cast into
a deep well and his life would be over.
Whispers resounded in his head, trickling down like a dessert
waterfall, sapping his strength and sanity. His heavy breathing
was magnified as he stood inside of an abyss with nowhere to run.
"They're watching you. Waiting. They'll all betray you in the
end." A voice cackled, laughing from a place he couldn't
He whipped around to see a figure, a translucent body coming from the shadows. As she got closer he saw her pale face, and perfect eyes staring at him, accusing. Her hair blew forward letting her scent engulf him, reminding him of the last time they were together. The taste of her lips and the feel of her skin against his fingertips. He reached out for her, but his hand went through and she disappeared in a plume of smoke curling and twisting in the air. Fingers passed through his hair making him spin, but there was nothing, only the drifting scent of her.
"What?" He snapped, hearing a voice that came from the murmuring of whispers. He'd only ever heard the maddened voice. It trilled and laughed at his attempts to fight the Fera. But this voice was new. "What are you saying?"
But the only reply he got was more voices, all struggling for him to hear them. Covering his ears trying to block them out he gritted his teeth, but they only grew louder.
He shot up sweating and breathing hard, then quickly scrambled off the bed, making his way over in the pitch black of his cabin. The ship creaked and groaned as if it felt his turmoil. His hand searched around until he found what he was looking for. A bottle of brandy. He gulped it down, then hissed as it burned going down his throat.