Chapter Six- flashbacks
Riley sat on a long, burgundy, leather sofa in his study. The walls were painted in a forest green. Riley focused his gaze on the book in front of him.
"This is ridiculous! How can she read this gibberish?" Riley exclaimed. Arabella had recommended this book to him over fifty years ago. He'd never thought about reading it until this evening.
Riley had never quite understood why Arabella had joined the protectors. Dartemis had never told him about the story of how she came to be in the position that she was in. He'd always wanted to hear it, hear if it was just as ridiculous as Arabella herself. However, after the stunt Arabella had pulled at dinner, Riley was having second thoughts about her. He'd wondered when Arabella would crack when she would start having a go at him for all the snide remarks and rude gestures he'd made toward her and her friends but he'd never expected to try and kill him. It scared him when he thought back and remembered how barbaric Arabella had looked across from him.
Arabella was one of those people that kept herself to herself and hated 3rd party members getting involved in absolutely anything, well it was more like everyone not just 3rd party members. Riley, however, was the complete opposite. He loved telling people about how hard life was on him, how unfair and cruel the gods were being on him. Riley never had any thoughts about anyone except himself. It didn't upset him when people called him selfish or self-indulgent, he was used to it. Not much upset Riley, but then again not much made him happy either. He could sit for weeks on end, just wallowing in self-pity.
Tap, tap, came a knock at the door to his study.
"Come in." Riley answered not bothering to open the door himself. The door opened and a head of thick red hair popped through the to reveal itself to Riley.
"What are you doing here? Come to cause me more havoc?" Riley snapped as Arabella's full body came into view. She wore black jeans and a tight, black t-shirt.
"No … I came to say that I'm sorry for what I did to you at dinner. I didn't mean to, you must believe me there. I don't know what came over me." Arabella apologised looking sincere and incredibly upset. Riley thought she was on the verge of crying, but he knew better.
"You know exactly what came over you. Don't lie to me, you know you can't. However, your apology is accepted. Now, you know where the door is, don't' let it hit you on the way out." Riley ordered picking up the recommended book trying to look absorbed.
"I see that you're finally taking in my advice, well some of it anyway. I must be so stupid Riley, I believed that maybe what I did earlier was a turning point for us but I guess I was wrong. Really, though, you're the stupid one. You see you can call my friends and I what you like, but know this what you throw at me, I can throw back ten times harder. I have been alive much longer than you, Riley, and I have grasped more insults than you could ever even comprehend."
"You think that you're everything don't you? You just come along and expect everyone to worship the ground you walk on. It doesn't work like that though Arabella, you have to earn respect from the people in here. It's not just served to you on a plate." Riley snapped again. His voice was sharper than usual at even at the mention of Arabella, but know that they were alone he couldn't handle it.
"You are so hypercritical. Do you listen to what you say or does it just come out in a blur of nonsense. Riley, I was just thinking the same about you.
"You were born a wonderful boy. I was there, your hair was a sandy blond and your eyes were as blue as the earth sky. I could tell, as could everyone, that you would be amazing. But as soon as you reached nine you never smiled again, and you turned into something so rank I couldn't stand it. You especially turned horrible to me, the reason of which I don't quite know."
"Father always focused more on you when you were around. As I reached the age of nine, he began to pay less attention to me. He always focused on you, his masterpiece. You weren't even his kin, but he still loved you more than I. You, with your skill and experience and beauty. It made me jealous, why should you constantly have the spotlight? What have you done to deserve his praise? What have I done wrong?"
"Riley, he does love you, I see it in his eyes. You mean more than all the moons to him. He just doesn't want to believe that you've become something that is so far from what his very essence emanates. He showed you everything that he knows, yet you still didn't want to know. I could tell that you got bored of learning valid skills, your father saw it too. It hurt him, but he didn't want to force you to become something that you weren't. So, he left your training at its peak and focused on training new volunteers. It wasn't that he didn't love you he just got carried away with others who were passionate about it."
Riley let this new information sink into his head. Arabella stood in the doorway looking at him sympathetically. Riley looked up at her from under his eyelashes. He wasn't giving in just like that though. He shot up his to glare at her, his eyes icy daggers. Although it didn't effect Arabella he still felt much better.
"I don't care. I want you to leave. You have no business being in my private quarters. Leave!" Riley ordered. Arabella sighed exasperatedly. She turned on her heel, with her arms crossed, and stormed out of the room in an angry state. That would be the last time she ever try to make things up with Riley.
Aonie rubbed her orange eyes as she awoke from her refreshing slumber. As her vision focused on her surroundings she remembered the films, food and giggles of the previous evening. Her vision cleared, she recognised Arabella's bedroom and moaned. Through the violet curtains she could just make out a hot pink sky with streaks of furious greens stroked through it. About ten-thirty in the morning.
She jumped out of the large bed to find Arabella fully dressed and sifting through a variety of antique notebooks.
"Morning, good sleep?" Arabella mumbled as Aonie made her way over to her.
"Yes thank you. Was yours good?" Aonie asked. She fell into a lotus position on the floor next to Arabella.
"Superb." Arabella replied, her usually calm voice was clipped and slightly furious.
"Helena still asleep?" Aonie asked trying to change the conversation.
"Obviously." Arabella retorted. Aonie's brows knitted, Arabella never used sarcasm. Only when in a funny way, anyway.
"Okay, something is seriously wrong with you. Are you going to tell me?"
"Riley. I went to apologize for yesterday. He took my apology only when I tried to make a truce with him he threw back in my face."
"Silly mistake. Never apologize to Riley. Also, Riley is a complete moron, you can do so much better than him."
Arabella smiled, not really wanting to but knowing that Aonie would force it out of her anyway. Aonie slung her toned arms around Arabella's neck in a complicated embrace. Arabella giggled at the intimacy, the two of them had become so close. She remembered how the young girls acted back on earth and her relationship seemed similar to the earthling girls'.
Aonie was a full-on girl who was extremely amiable. Over the missions Aonie had become more into herself. Knowing more about her background and lifestyle. Arabella had helped her to find her feet and learn all the things she knew. Aonie owed a lot to Arabella, however, Arabella never seemed to want anything. She was such a giving person that Aonie just wanted to shake her and say "will you please just think about yourself for once?". But she'd never been able to. Aonie had tried hinting at it with comments and questions, but Arabella still wouldn't think about herself.
"What I do is nothing to do with you. You shouldn't worry yourself with my welfare. I'm really not that important. Yes, when Dartemis dies, I'll be the one to takeover. But if I go too then there are other people who eligible for the leadership position. Like you for example, either you or Hunter could take over and this place would function just as smoothly." Arabella announced, her gold eyes were distant and staring dreamily at the onyx floor. Arabella was focusing her attention on one single slab, focusing on the molecules. She focused on the compact grains and forced them apart from each other.
"Are you trying to melt the floor? Look." Aonie exclaimed at Arabella from a distant land. Arabella's mind instantly pulled back and maximized to the size of her room. She glanced at the floor below that she had forced apart and saw that there was a large hole in the onyx that led straight down into ground below.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to." Arabella explained but Aonie just looked at her knowingly. With the amount of times she had been upset and distracted … no one could compare.
"Arabella, I know you don't want to talk, but I want you to listen. So either you tell me what's upsetting you or I'll get it out of you by force. Now, what's wrong?" Aonie ordered. She was what Arabella needed to keep her head above water.
"Hunter, Riley, me. Everything! Riley, well I'll sort him out later. Me: I don't know if I can take what I'm becoming, a monster, even if I don't want to. Hunter: I don't want him to see what I'm becoming, but he's the only one that knows. Aonie, before you say anything, I would tell you only I don't want you to be hurt because of what I am." Arabella answered her voice grave and sharp.
"Don't worry about me, you've already done that enough in this life. It's my turn now. Tell me what it is. Let me fight my own battles and help to fight yours."
"Not yet, I can't risk Helena hearing. She'd never trust me if she found out. But I promise that I will tell you. You have my word."
"Okay. When you're ready just tell me and I'll make time, if I have to, just to listen."
"Thank you. You're a true friend." Arabella hugged Aonie. Arabella could feel hot tears threatening to spill over as she tightened her grip on Aonie. When they pulled away they both smiled at each other and Arabella continued searching through the piles of old notebooks.
Aonie looked at her quizzically, but thought best not to persevere. Aonie stood and looked back at the bed but Helena hadn't stirred. So she decided to explore Arabella's chambers. As she walked over to the door, she lost her breath and fell to the ground.
A piercing noise shrieked in her ears and echoed through her head. Her vision began to blur in a swarm of black mass. Something was happening, in the back of her mind a picture was forming. It zoomed forwards at super-sonic speed. Two seconds gone and the picture disappeared becoming just another memory.
"Aonie, are you all right? Was it a vision?" Arabella asked from Aonie's side. She helped Aonie into a standing position and then pushed Aonie's electric blue bangs out of her orange eyes.
"No, and yes." Aonie replied as she massaged her temples.
Arabella put her hands on Aonie's shoulders and shook her slightly becoming panicked.
"What did you see?" Arabella asked.
"I don't know. I need a few minutes to process. Let me meditate and call on it and then I'll be able to tell you." Aonie answered pushing Arabella's hands away, she could feel Arabella's anxiety running into her with her pulse. Aonie made her way over to a long sofa in front of one of the windows. When she sat down she could feel the knots in her stomach tightening at the unknown of what she was about to see.
Aonie pulled up her legs and crossed them into a lotus position. Her breathing automatically slowed and deepened, she was so used to doing this she could do it unconsciously (literally). Aonie inhaled until she felt it at the bottom of her lungs, breathing in all the calm vibes and soothing scents that emanated from Arabella in front of her, then she exhaled until she almost coughed, letting all the anxiety and curiosity leave her body. As she repeated this process, her muscles began to loosen and her pulse slowed until it was a rhythmic thrumming throughout her whole body.
She let herself sink. Sink into the dark of her abyss that was the labyrinth of her subconscious. Aonie had already explored her memories that her conscious body knew nothing of, so every corner was as familiar as her own hand. As Aonie travelled the different levels, she picked up on glimpses of things that were not there before.
These were her dreams and experiences of the last six or seven months. She saw Arabella sitting on the floor, looking through leather notebooks. Helena sat in a armchair looking puzzled and a bit scared to her right. Arabella leaping onto Riley. Arabella, Helena and Peter coming up the mountainside toward the castles entrance. Edward grinning at a lame joke that she had cracked, Aonie lingered on that image for a minute. Daydream later, Arabella's harsh tone reverberated through the many corridors and instantly moved Aonie on.
Aonie carried on down another corridor that belonged to the recent dreams. She hated looking at her dreams, nightmares that she had forgotten always crept up on her. In an extract to her left she saw Arabella perched on a high, green hill, with two, large, petrifying, snow leopards. Aonie scurried down the hallway, her eyes closed in an attempt to block out the other images, some nice, others not so nice. At the end of the hall she picked out a corner bending precariously to the right.
Around the corner was a dead-end. Aonie knew this was the place. It was a bad vision, one that carried horrific news. The walls in this corridor were violet, the colour of Arabella's aura, and it was icy cold. Aonie hugged her arms around herself, she'd always hated the cold. As she tiptoed toward the end of the corridor, whispers began to echo along the walls, making the pictures she was about to see even more unwanted. Finally, she reached the end wall.
She gasped and froze.
The corridor around her morphed into an enormous clearing. The sky above was a sickly green, it looked like acid clouds had swarmed out both the sun and moon. Before Aonie stood an army of the most ghastly smelling and looking creatures she had ever seen. Aonie believed these were the shadows from the stories Arabella had told.
At the bare feet of Aonie lay dozens of soulless bodies. Their eyes were charcoal black with flashing embers lingering in dispersed positions. These were the people who had died, they chose not to join the Shadows. Others were on all fours crying out in agony, their screams were improved when the sky darkened. The people writhing in pain were the ones who chose to join! The green was the radiation, this was a radiation sweep!
Where were the protectors?
Were these some of them?
Were they all dead?
Aonie had no clue. But she knew that this wasn't a vision of the future. This was a vision of the past. She was seeing what had happened to another realm. It sickened her to see the people who had chose to become a Shadower! It just made her want to cry when she saw that there were more on the ground dead than there were people writhing in pain, it made almost happy.
Oh my goddess, Aonie … this is my realm! These are the people that I grew up with! My friends and family, neighbours and enemies. Turn around I am cowering behind a rock, Arabella's voice echoed once more. This time her tone wasn't sharp, it was filled with sorrow at the sight of her past, and shame that she was cowering. Aonie did as she was told and turned to see a perfect example of cuteness.
A short, frail girl poked out from behind a rock. The girl had but long, wheat coloured hair. Her eyes were a silvery-blue that stopped you in your tracks. Her body was shivering from head to toe, her face contorted in agony. Aonie reached her hand toward the vulnerable girl but she couldn't move any more.
Aonie's time here was over.
Arabella regarded Aonie anxiously as her eyes opened and she slumped her shoulders. During the meditation, Arabella had gotten Eloise to prepare a special tea for Aonie that was especially for post-meditation, it helped to revive the system and bring you back to reality.
"Enjoy that?" Arabella asked from halfway across the room. Her face was set in grim lines and her nose was wrinkled as if she'd smelled the most putrid of smells. Aonie had never seen her like this, it made Arabella look frightened: a concept that made Aonie want to cry and laugh at the same time
"Not really. Why didn't you ever tell anyone? I suppose that Dartemis and Hunter are the only ones that know?" Aonie replied with a slurring voice. The room was silent around the two girls, accept for Helena breathing lightly on the bed.
"They're the only ones. Well - you know now obviously! Aonie listen, people would hate me if they knew what I really was. They can never find out. Please, Aonie, will you stand with me still? I know their mind and their actions. I can help everyone to understand them better! With me at your aid you might stand a chance of winning. Aonie, what you don't realise is that without my radiation I would never be able to do all the things that I'm meant to. I can sense those who the Shadows fell worthy of attacking. You see the council elders only see the people who might get hurt, I tell them who will be hurt. I can see things in people that others can't even dream about! But everything I've ever done is to get back at the Shadow moon for taking my entire life away from me. This may be destiny, but destiny isn't always your favourite option."
"Arabella, no matter what you were, are, or will be … I will always stand by you. You saved my life and I know that I owe you nothing but without you I am dead again physically and … well, who would I get to make my tea for me? You can always lean on me for a bit of support if ever you need it, and even if I fell that you're wrong. We're friends and friends never give up on one another!" Aonie stated just as Eloise walked through the door carrying a trey of spicy smelling tea. The scent filtered throughout the room in thick waves that hit you in every part of your body.
"Thank you Eloise. Would you do me a favour and prepare breakfast for us, please? Helena too, she will be waking any moment." Arabella asked while relieving Eloise of the trey and putting it on the mahogany dressing table next to her.
"Certainly, ma'am." Eloise replied and backed out of the room looking flushed but grateful. The door clicked shut behind Eloise and Arabella turned to look lovingly at Helena who lay motionless if not for the rise and fall of her chest.
Two seconds later, Helena's eyes fluttered revealing a set of shimmering green eyes that imprisoned innocence and sincerity.
"Morning, sleep well?" Aonie asked politely as Helena sat up and took a sip of the tea that Arabella had poured for her.
"Yes, thanks. You?" Helena mumbled sleepily. Her eyes swept across the room as she attempted to register her surroundings. Suddenly, memories of yesterday swept over her and with it a wave of dizziness.
"Okay." Aonie replied in a clipped tone.
"Why don't you go find some clothes to wear in your room. Breakfast will be ready shortly." Arabella proposed in an almost hurried way. She wanted to thank Aonie for what she had said, but she knew that if she said it with Helena listening that she'd want answers. Arabella was not in a mood for arguments even though she knew that she would have won.
"Okay. I'll be in my room if you need me." Helena mumbled as she stumbled out of the door that Arabella had opened for her.