A Month of Midnights

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Ziegler Reads

Chapter 15 (v.1) - XV

Submitted: March 29, 2018

Reads: 135

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Submitted: March 29, 2018

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I was trudging through something cold and wet, probably snow. The wind was pressing my short hair against my cheek. My hair. I looked at the strands flying by my face. They were not black or red. My hair was boring old brown. How I had missed boring old brown. I kept walking farther, but the wind was picking up and beginning to sting my eyes. The blizzard bared down on me, and I could see no further than a few inches in front of me. That’s why when I saw him in front of me, I couldn’t be sure if he was there or not.

The man had long, thin hair that fluttered in the gusts of wintry air. The hair was white with gleaming silver streaks that still managed to shine without the sun. His face was almost as pale as his hair, but he looked strong and healthy. He looked powerful.

I must be dead, I thought surely. Only the dead can see people like this man.

“You are far from death, Ms. Bannon,” said the man calmly. He had a gentle smile on his lips that oddly comforted me.

“I believe you,” I said, absolutely entranced with the man. He nodded congenially.

“I’m glad you do. It’ll make the transition easier,” he spoke. I cocked my head.

“What am I transitioning to?” I asked.

“Something important.” Suddenly, I could feel the bite of the wind again.

“Where will I go?” I persisted. The man looked somewhere to his left.

“Somewhere secluded. You must practice first,” he said.

“Will I be able to visit my-”

“Your friends? No, but-”

“Then I don’t want to go!” I cried. The man did not break emotion.

“It seems I’ll have to explain later, when you’ve calmed yourself from this frenzy.” With the next gust of wind, the man disappeared, and I was left looking at white again.

“No! Come back!” I pleaded. “Please, come back!” The snow turned grey, and I could no longer feel the ground beneath me. I was crying out into blackness.

“Blyss, be careful!” I heard Rudy say. With a gasp, I was awake and soon aware of the fresh gush of blood trickling from my wound. I found Rudy’s hand by mine, and I gripped it immediately. I noticed I was dressed in loose fitting pants and an old shirt rolled up just high enough past my stomach to reveal the white bandage wrapped around my torso. I shuddered to think about who put me in these new clothes.

“You said the wound would be healed,” Rudy growled.

“It will, it will! Just let me finish!” the Writer insisted. I managed to roll my head over and see him crunched over a desk, writing something furiously in a book. Putting basic pieces together, I discovered I was lying on a mountain of cushions, and my head was resting on Rudy’s lap. Sitting by my feet was Upright, whose eyes were trained directly on me, and perching on Rudy’s shoulder was a very anxious Minnie. In the corner of the room was the Writer sitting over his desk. We must have been in the the Sleeping Beauty room where the Writer could finalize my fate change.

“What time is it?” I croaked.

“Little after midnight,” Upright answered me. “We got slowed down trying to make sure you didn’t die of blood loss before we got you in here.”

“Which normally doesn’t happen, except he stabbed you a bit deeper than expected,” the Writer finished.

“Where is Dane?” I asked as I craned my neck to see if he was standing somewhere I could not see.

“He left a while ago,” said Rudy with an undeniable tone of disgust. “Stayed long enough to make sure you weren’t dead, and then he took off. I don’t even think he knows where to go.”

“Shh!” the Writer hissed. “I can’t heal her if you don’t let me finish!” Everyone complied. The minutes ticked by, and every free moment I spent looking at my wound, the more it hurt. Thankfully, Rudy began to play with my hair as an attempt to soothe me, and it worked splendidly. I was lulling in and out of sleeping, only waking when my wound tweaked or when Rudy’s finger hit a knot in my hair.

“Does it hurt?” I heard Rudy say. I hadn’t even noticed him put his hand on my forehead.

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I admitted. “I don’t think I can-”

“No, don’t say it.” His voice sounded as much in pain as I felt. His hand pulled away and did not return.

“Okay!” yelped the Writer as he shot up from his desk. “Let’s look at what we’ve got here.” He knelt by my side and carefully unwrapped the bandage. I had to look away from the bloody laceration that was painfully pulsing at an unbearable speed. The Writer raised his hands just above the wound and began to say, “Retexo, reverto. Retexo, reverto.” As these words were spoken, I could feel something large and heavy rolling down from my head. I imagined a huge stone traveling down my body, and with each turn, it thudded against my bones. When it rolled past my shoulders, I could see a yellow light glowing from beneath my skin. The light traveled farther down until it shined right where I had been stabbed. The Writer lifted his hands higher, and slowly the light began to exit my body through the gorey opening. The light burned the already damaged flesh, and I didn’t bother restraining myself from screaming at the top of my lungs. I could see even Upright had his eyes closed to ignore my blood curdling cries. My free hand that wasn’t holding Rudy’s was banging against the wall and beginning to create a dent. I could feel the bones in my fingers begin to split and fracture, but I was almost numb to that pain.

Finally, the sphere of light was out of my body and hovering just above me. I stopped hitting the wall and looked at it carefully. I knew it was the Maleficent magic that had been bestowed inside me since the Day of the Choosing. Without it, I felt weightless and unbound, despite the fact I still had a critical wound that was now bursting fresh blood. I began to feel faint again.

“Dissolvo,” the Writer commanded. The sphere sputtered and shook before finally listening. I watched as it imploded and disappeared within a few seconds. Before I could thank the Writer, he knelt down and touched the edges of the gash gingerly.

“Refectio,” he ordered softly. I watched with a sick stomach as my flesh began to lose its inflamed color and grow back together again. With a blink of an eye, all that was left on my torso was a mangled pink scar and the soreness of a pulled muscle. I looked up at the Writer, completely amazed.

“Now don’t do anything strenuous for a few weeks. The magic only sped up the healing process so don’t do anything to reverse it,” The Writer advised. I nodded and quickly rolled my shirt back down.

“What happens now?” I asked. The Writer sat back on his heels and looked between us all.

“You all go to where you’re supposed to and carry on as normal as possible,” he said simply.

“Just like that?” asked Minnie. The Writer gave her a nod.

“Just like that,” he confirmed. I caught his glance, and suddenly the Writer lifted his eyebrows. “Actually, Blyss, there is something you should know. I have removed most of your magic except for a portion small enough to keep you breathing Istorian air. It won’t last though. You have to make it back to the border before the last of your magic disappears.”

“But the border is weeks away. I’ll run out of time,” I said with beginning to worry.

“That is why I have been instructed to perform a spell on you and Rudy that will transport you to a place two days away from the border.”

“Rudy?” I blurted. “He has to go to his own kingdom. He can’t come with me.”

“He must.” The Writer gave me a glance that told me not to argue. “Besides,” the Writer said with a mischievous smile, “he was going to anyways.” I felt Rudy tense.

“When must we leave?” he managed to say.

“Now,” said the Writer. Rudy solemnly helped me up, and we followed the Writer back out to the Enchanted Annulus. Had it really been less than an hour ago when Dane plunged the Sword of Spoken Truth into me? The Writer led us to the middle of the Annulus and turned back to us.

“Say your goodbyes now,” he said. “There won’t be any time after I begin the spell.” I worked hard to swallow the lump that was starting to rise in my throat.

“Goodbye, Rudy,” Minnie sniffled a she gave his jaw a faery hug. Rudy smiled and pat her with his finger. I felt something tug at my pant leg.

“Bye, princess,” said Upright with a crestfallen smile. He hugged my leg but did not let go. I guess he really was going to miss me.

“Goodbye, Upright the Very Small Man,” I chuckled as I crouched down to his level. I gave him a peck on the cheek and rubbed his head. He wiped away the runaway tears from his eyes as I stood back up. As Rudy gave his farewell to Upright, I turned to give my own goodbye to Minnie. Before I could say much, she rushed to my own jaw and held it tightly in her little hands.

“I’ll never forget you, Blyss,” she weeped quietly. I took her in my hands.

“And I will never forget you, Minnie,” I said. “Remember how beautiful you are, both outside and in.” Minnie nodded and promised to do just that. I noticed the Writer watching our goodbyes with eyes brimming with tears. I offered my arms open, and he gratefully accepted the hug.

“Thank you, Writer,” I said patting his bald head.

“I hate to see friendships broken up,” he whimpered.

“We’re not being broken up,” I affirmed. “Distance can never do that.”

“Oh, that’s so lovely, Blyss!” wailed the Writer. What a strange man he was, but I couldn’t dislike him, even with his bizarre personality switches.

He willed himself to pull away and regain his composure. The Writer turned his back to us and muttered something so intelligible, I wondered if he even knew what he was saying. It didn’t seem to matter though, because a swirl of white magic began spiraling in the space in front of us. It sped up to become a sparkling white pinwheel. The Writer gestured for us to step through but stopped us after a few steps forward.

“Be careful when you arrive. There’s a snowstorm at that end of Istoria. Be sure to travel quick otherwise you’ll run out of magic,” he warned. “There should be a little cave for you to sleep in a few feet to your left when you get there.”

“Thank you, Writer,” I said gratefully. Rudy shook his hand and then looked to me. Linked arm and arm, we stepped into the moving white mist. Before my view was obstructed, I spared one glance backwards to see the Writer, Upright, and Minnie for what I thought would be the last time.

I had to compliment the Writer on his magical aptitude. It was after a mere few seconds of blindness that I saw myself already in new set of trees with my feet ankle deep in perfectly set snow. It glimmered in the blueish moonlight, and I stood breathless for a minute, just appreciating the undisturbed beauty.

 “There it is!” I heard Rudy call out. I followed his footprints to find him standing next to a cluster of rocks with a small entrance in between them. We crawled in, and to our dismay, found that it was extremely small with no room to build a fire.

 “That’s okay, I guess,” I said disappointed. “There’s no dry wood to build a fire anyways.”

 “We’re going to freeze to death, Blyss. We left our cloaks at the Writer’s, remember?” said Rudy in frustration. I imagine it was pure luck that I shifted my weight in a just a way that a stream of moonlight was able to pass by my shoulder and illuminate something tucked in the corner of the cave.

 “Rudy, look!” I shrieked excitedly. Between the two of us, we were able to pull out from the rocks two fur cloaks and four blankets.

“You think the Writer put them there for us?” Rudy asked as he threw a cloak around his shoulders.

 “No, I don’t think so,” I answered. “Something tells this was someone else’s doing.” Whoever they were, their existence was more sheltered to me than the Writer’s identity to an average Chorio citizen. I only knew these things about them: they had authority over the Writer, and they wanted me to come to Istoria and stay alive. Okay, I came here, but now I’m leaving, I thought as I unfolded the blankets. Whoever you are, your chance to talk to me is about to pass.

“You’re gonna have to get closer,” Rudy chuckled. I blushed and scooted up next to him while he layered the blankets on top of us.

 “Rudy,” I said quietly as soon as he settled down, “what did the Writer mean when he said you were going to come with me anyways?” I could hear his heart pump faster at my question.

 “Do you remember the decision I told you I made?” That was all he had to say for me to figure it out.

 “No, no, no. You’re not going back to Chorio. I thought we were done with this!” I said moving away from his side.

 “Just hear me out. This is my decision, and I made it for a good reason,” he insisted.

 “I’m not a good enough reason,” I said, but he shook his head.

 “It’s not just you. I’ve thought about it for a while, and I don’t want to be Charming. I only wanted him because I thought I needed to be him to make a change, you know, save the day. But I don’t need him. You taught me that, Blyss.”

 “Maybe you don’t need him, but having his position, his status, well, you could do so much with that!” I insisted.

 “We both know that’s not true,” said Rudy grimly. “After the Story, I’d just become an Istorian villager. I’d lose my title.”

 “But you could talk to the Council of Royals-”

 “They haven’t done anything for Chorio in the past. Why would they now?”

 “Because you could convince them, Rudy, I know you could. Please, you have to stay. Tell me you’re going to stay,” I begged.

 “No,” he said shaking his head. “I want to help Chorio, and the best way to do that is if I’m there myself.”

 “No, you can’t come back. I won’t let you!” I said wildly as I began to weep.

 “Do you not want me to come back? If so, just tell me. Stop leading me on,” Rudy accused with a quivering voice and smoldering eyes.

 “If the world was perfect, yes, I’d want you to come. But it’s different, and the only way to actually make an impact is to be here in Istoria and-”

 “That’s not why you don’t want me to come,” Rudy said. “Tell me the real reason.”

 “That is the real reason!” I repeated.

 “No, it isn’t!”

 “Yes, it is!”

 This banter lasted longer than it should have.

 “Fine,” said Rudy at last. “Don’t tell me. I can’t force you.” With a huff, he turned on his side, leaving a large gap between us. At first I was grateful for the distance, but as time passed, the temperature dropped. Even the blankets couldn’t stop the freeze from seeping through to my skin.

 “Your teeth are chattering really loud,” I heard Rudy mutter.

 “Sorry,” I mumbled back, but I couldn’t stop myself from shaking. I wasn’t sure if it was out of pity or if he was just annoyed, but Rudy eventually turned back on his side and put his arm around me, bringing me closer to his side. I think we both weren’t happy to be that close to one another given the situation, but at least I got warmer. Rudy had me up bright and early the next morning.

 “How do you know that’s the way back to the border?” I called out as I traipsed through the fresh snow.

 “Instinct,” was all he answered back. As noon approached, he asked, “How’s your breathing?” I took a large inhale and exhale.

 “Just fine. I don’t feel anything wrong,” I said, unsure if the Writer had taken out all of my magic.

 “Strange,” Rudy replied. “The horns disappeared, and yet you still breathe fine.” This took me aback. I felt around my skull, and sure enough, there were no more horns protruding from my head. Even my hair color was back to brown.

 “How long has it been since they disappeared?” I asked in disbelief. Rudy shrugged.

 “Pretty much right after the Writer took most of your magic away.”

 “I hadn’t even noticed,” I said more to myself than to him. We walked on into the afternoon without much stop. Food was hard to come by, so we just popped frozen janberries into our mouths and let our breath melt them. Though the sun had not completely set around dusk, it was already getting to cold to stay out much longer.

“What a stroke of luck,” Rudy said half heartedly during our search for shelter. I walked over to where he stood and saw a makeshift wooden hut built up against the base of a large oak. I saw no blanket of snow on its side, telling me whoever made it, made it very recently.

“I just wish they’d show themselves and tell me what they want,” I admitted. Rudy gave me a brief sympathetic look before heading inside. Soon enough, we were back wrapped in our blankets, staring at the walls and waiting for sleep to come. I loathed myself for letting us get into another argument. What was it now, an argument every other day? It felt like it. It seemed like all our arguments came back to one thing: trying not to let the other person throw away their future. Now the crossroads to our future were here, and I was going to make sure Rudy knew what path he was taking.

“Rudy, I don’t want you to go to Chorio,” I said raspily. I hadn’t realized how cold my lips and throat had become.

“You’ve made that abundantly clear,” he immediately snapped. I paused to make sure I didn’t lose my temper.

“You’re right, you know,” I spoke quietly. “There’s another reason why I don’t want you to come back.” He looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to finish. “I don’t want you to end up like my father.”

“I won’t,” he said softly, but I shook my head.

“I don’t want my constant to die again,” I said putting my face in my hands.

“Constant?” he inquired. I looked up at him and blushed.

“It’s a term my father used. It’s someone you trust with your whole life, someone you can count on to bring you up when you’ve fallen. My father was always my constant, but then he died, and...you came along.” Rudy’s mouth was on the verge of gaping open.

“You trust me with your life?”

“Yeah, I do. And look what happened to my last constant. I’m afraid that’ll happen to you.”

“But it won’t, Blyss. I’ll make sure of it,” he promised me.

“No, see that’s what my father said. At first you start by just doing good and helping people out, but then you see how bad things really are, and then before you know it, you’re renouncing Istoria and your head-” The tears kept me from finishing. I couldn’t bear to imagine Rudy knelt down like my father, waiting for the axe to swing.

“I promise I won’t let that happen. I’ll have you,” he said putting his arms around me. I pressed my head against his chest and let the wave of tears slow down. When all became quieter, I heard him whisper, “You know, Blyss, you’re my constant too.” I looked up to see he was smiling like me.

I’m not sure entirely how we got there. One moment our eyes were locked, and the next moment it was our lips. It was very gentle and calm, but I flustered as we kissed. I felt something strange inside me; nothing hormonal or anything silly like that. No, it was something stronger. It was similar to the potent feeling I had when I let joy fuel my magic. It should’ve concerned me that I felt like this when I didn’t have magic anymore, and I should’ve been feeling weaker instead of stronger. Of course, I was happily distracted and let the worry disappear from my mind. When Rudy pulled away, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that it ended.

“Finally,” he smiled. Perhaps it won’t be all bad if he comes back with me, I admitted to myself as I leaned back down to rest. That night I got the best sleep of my life, and, curled up with Rudy, I’m sure I slept with a stupid grin on my face.

Rudy woke me very softly the next morning with a kiss on my forehead. He asked how my breathing was.

“Fine,” I said, “I honestly don’t feel anything different.” He furrowed his brow but moved on from the matter.

“You know, we never actually came to an agreement last night,” he said as he folded up the blankets.

“Oh, the kiss wasn’t clear enough?” I joked.

“I’ll take that as a yes to me coming,” he laughed as he helped me to my feet. To our dismay, the night winds had not died down but rather increased. We clung to each other just to ensure we weren’t knocked over by the force of the storm. We carried on well into the morning, but it was difficult to navigate through the dense snowfall. Rudy noticed the frozen stream before I did.

He ran ahead of me and skidded down the small slope to reach the strip of ice. We had found the border, the little stream dividing through the earth along the entire seam of the two realms. It was just my luck that a fresh gust came from behind me, and I stumbled forward down the little bluff. Of course, Rudy was there to catch me.

Holding me tightly, he asked, “You ready to go?” I looked past his shoulder to the trees of Chorio that I could barely make out in the whiteness.

“This is gonna sound stupid, but I’m nervous to cross,” I said biting my lip. Rudy smiled lovingly and moved the hair in my face to behind my hair.

“We’ll go together,” he said taking my hand. He walked forward, bringing me along with him, and we stood in front of the ice.

“One,” he started. “Two.”

“Three,” I finished. With one large step, we were back in Chorio.

“Welcome home,” Rudy turned to say to me, but I was already on my knees.

“Rudy!” I choked out in great fright. My lungs felt as tight as wet clothes to skin. I was in pure agony, for it felt like each one of my ribs was snapping, and the fragments were piercing my lungs and diaphragm. Breathing wasn’t a challenge. It was death threat. Each attempt to take in air increased the pain. I was choking on Chorio air, but I couldn’t even tell this to Rudy. I tried making gestures, but he could not begin to fathom what I needed. It was only when I began to drag myself back to the other side that he understood. In one scoop I was bundled in his arms and quickly brought back into Istoria. Almost immediately, the pain ceased, and I could breathe without fear.

“What happened, Blyss?” Rudy asked with great concern.

“The air...Chorio...I can’t breathe it!” I said in frustration. Astonished and dumbfounded, Rudy sat back on his heels.

“How is that possible? Even Istoria citizens can survive in Chorio, just not the other way around,” he said in disbelief.

“The Writer must’ve made a mistake, reversed it somehow.” I winced and touched my throat. It felt torn and raw.

“There was no mistake,” a voice eerily familiar said. Rudy whipped around to defend me but became still as a statue when he saw he was face to face with the man in white.

“It’s you,” I managed to say. He nodded and approached me with an extended hand. As he assisted me up, I saw he was dressed in simple white robes that in no way seemed to be warm. I looked for his footwear, but I found no feet visible. He was floating.

“I’m glad to see you two have made it here safely,” he said nodding to Rudy and me.

“Who are you?” Rudy inquired with an understandable suspicion.

“Elhanan, a guide and instructor for young TrueHearts,” he said with a pleased smile. “I’ve come to escort you, Ms. Bannon, to your actual destiny. I must apologize for the circumstances with which you were thrust upon so that we could bring you here. I understand they are not ideal.”

“Not ideal?” Rudy exclaimed. “She was almost killed more than once.” Elhanan gave him a less than favorable look.

“Rudy,” I said calmly, “it’s okay. I’ve met this man before. Sort of.” I could see he wanted more of an explanation, but he knew he was going to have to wait to hear it.

“Now, if you could please follow me, we have quite a ways to walk, and the weather is a bit unforgiving,” said Elhanan beginning to turn away.

“Wait!” I cried. Elhanan looked at me curiously.

“Yes?”

“Rudy…” I said slowly, “what happens to Rudy?” Elhanan looked between the two of us and gave a surprising smile.

“Mr. Horsefield may accompany you,” he said almost chuckling. “His destiny, no matter how many times we foresee it, always seems to be entwined with yours.” In the midst of all the questions I would come to have, it was this reminder that would keep me sustained through long and confusing nights.

Without hesitation, I took Rudy’s hand in mine, and together we followed Elhanan back into Istoria. It was strange to think that I was here at the border only a month ago, absolutely set on changing my destiny. I didn’t understand a month ago that everything I did would never actually help me in succeeding my quest. Going into Istoria hadn’t changed my fate at all.

 

It had only sealed it.


 

END OF BOOK ONE

 


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