“Please. Something’s wrong with him.”
He’s heard those same words many times before. Each time, it’s seemed worse. The quiver in her voice amplifies with every confession. It becomes a shaky wisp pulling out of her throat, strangling and choking and tight. He can see just how deep the fear threads inside of her.
Ivan pulls at the golden clasp on his forest cloak. “Tell me.”
The petite young woman averts his gaze, boring a hole into the wooden planks of the cottage floor. Her fingers are wrung into the fabric of her smudged apron. “It’s worse. He’s been this way for a few months now. During the day, he’s lethargic and weak, like he’s got some kind of debilitating sickness, and then at night, he’s got these… these fits.”
“Fits?” Furrowing his brow, he plods across to the stonework fireplace and prods at the coals with an iron-wrought poker. They’re still smouldering, warm and black and red. Another log should feed the dying flame.
“I can’t describe them. I’ve never seen them myself. The practitioner won’t let anyone else in. They lock the doors, seal them shut, bar them from the outside.” Shivering, she shuts her eyes. Pale blond hair falls across her face. “But we hear them. Every night, we hear them. It’s… it’s horrifying. It’s nothing human. The screams we’ve heard are not from this world.”
Ivan sets the poker aside and runs a hand thoughtfully through his dark hair. “You’re his sister, aren’t you?”
She takes a half-step backward. “What? I—”
“Blond hair isn’t common around here. You should have worn a hood if you were leaving the castle grounds.” He glances over his shoulder. “You realize that even if I were to get a look, I probably wouldn’t be able to cure him. I’m not a miracle worker.”
“But… but you use magic! That’s more than enough to—”
“Shush.” Ivan stares back into the coals, his fingers digging crescent moons into the flesh of his palms. “I’ll be honest, your Highness. I don’t know what it is. It’s been with me ever since I was a little boy. I’ll tell you what it’s not, though: it’s not magic. Not in the way you’re thinking. Everyone has so many misconceptions about what magic is and does, and believe me, what this is, it’s definitely not magic.”
He turns to face her, but she’s now drawn away. Pigeon-toed and eyes downcast, she’s wringing her poor peasant apron furiously, channeling her fear and anger and rage into the worn cloth between her hands.
Ivan draws a gentle breath. “I’ll look at him. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll look at him.”
Before he can grab his gauntlets off the mantle, she’s hugging him fiercely, buried into the front of his tunic. “Thank you,” she chokes. He can feel her frame tremble against him. “I just—I don’t know what to do anymore. He’s not with us, I can’t see him, he’s a stranger in our family, and at night, the entire castle desperately prays for dawn.”
Ivan bites his lip. The stark blue marks on the walls shift before his eyes.
“Lead the way, Cara. I’ll follow.”
Posted 11 months ago [Tuesday, June 5th
2012 @ 12:06 AM]