Cyan bolted upright in bed for the third time that night. As he gasped heavily moonlight bathed his sweaty forehead. Considering his trek through the castle, the retainer supposed he should have considered that his dreams might keep him awake. Scholars from faraway Thamasa claimed that people dreamed so that their unconscious mind could deal with memories in rest that in day they could not.
But it appeared that even sleep would deny the retainer any peace.
Working methodically, Cyan dressed with none of his sleeping companions any the wiser. Soundlessly, he yanked on his boots and belt, slipping Murasame and Tempest into their respective sheaths. Despite his lone intention of stepping out for air, Cyan never left without the pair. A warrior without his weapons was a dead warrior.
His footsteps made less sound than the starlight shining through the windows. Memory served to lead his march since his mind could not. His thoughts flew to the exploration of Doma Castle. Everything was just as hed left it over a year ago. Bodies still lay where they dropped from the poison, if a bit decayed. The waters had remained pungent and purple.
If he hoped to restore Doma he had a long way to go.
Cyan sighed as stepped onto the stone parapets. The wind swept up his hair like the torn black banners that populated the many spires. Sighing, the retainer laid his arms upon the wall, his gaze trailing the castle courtyard. Aside from the four Returners no one living occupied Doma. Yet, according to his letter, another should still be within. The one that held the key to the kingdoms restoration.
But where was he? After searching the castle extensively the retainer had seen no sign of him. Cyan didnt like to consider the implications of that but it was too painfully obvious to ignore. Perhaps the letter was old. Perhaps the sentry was long dead. It was time to face facts and realize that his dream was just that, a dream. Cyan knew it was best to leave and he fully intended to do that come the morning.
Again without mental prompting his hands moved, one to draw Tempest, the other to lay flat. As if drained of thoughts, Cyans mind went blank. All that remained was his hand lifting the sword to lightly slice his wrist. Not deeply enough to seriously harm, but enough to elicit a trickle of blood. The blood dropped to the pool of poisoned water below, staining its color to an even uglier shade.
Why didnt I protect them? Why didnt I die in their place? They were young; I was not. How is that they perish while I shall see the last days of my kingdom ? Cyan worked the blade like a violin, his whole body in concert with the movement. I shall avenge them, at least. But, then, what is to become of me?
He didnt like to think beyond that point.
At that time, Cyan didnt have to. A hand lightly brushed his hip. Startled, the retainer glanced down to see a ragged boy make off with Murasame. He fled down the stone steps, hair tousled even more wildly with the race. Cyan let out a cry of outrage, then leapt down over the wall. That action cut the distance down but the boy still outpaced him, disappearing into the castle via a side door.
A Doman, perhaps?
Keeping Tempest high, Cyan hurried into the castle and attempted to decipher the boys path. An unfurled carpet here, a knocked over scone there The boys haste made the trail not hard to find. He hurried up the stairs thinking all the while what he might do once the lad was apprehended. The law regarding thievery in Doma was swift and harshthe removal of a hand maybe even a head.
No, Cyan couldnt do that. Even if the boys blood wasnt Doman still he couldnt commit himself to such severe punishment. A stern word, maybe a slight slap to the rump would probably serve the purpose. And what if the boy truly was a Doman? Cyans heart constricted at the thought. That, and at the sight of the room the trail led to. The room, their room.
As if plunging into a chasm, the retainer remembered many nights spent with Elayne, many days with Owain. How hed hold Elayne before theyd make love; how hed hold Owain when hed tell tales of his battles. During the investigation of the castle, Cyan had begged with as much dignity as he could muster that his friends not disturb the room. Empathy in their eyes, the three had agreed.
It is a room. It holds no sway over me. I can handle the sight of their bodies; I held them as theyd died after all. I need my sword back. I will need everything at my disposal to slay Kefka.
Fortified by his mental monologue, Cyan threw up a foot and knocked down the door. The room was much as hed left itwith one notable omission, that of their bodies. The retainer had a moment to ponder then his eyes caught sight of a foot sticking out from under Owains bed. Had the bodies been taken elsewhere? Cyan decided to worry about that in a minute.
Moonlight framed the retainers form as he spoke with his cultured voice, Surrender the blade, lad, or else I rend your hiding place in two.
Out came the hilt of Murasame, inching past the gold bedspread. Cyan had never any intentions of proceeding with his threat, but was pleased at the success of the dupe. Smiling, half-amused, half-annoyed, Cyan bent down to scoop up the blade. After swiftly sheathing her and Tempest, his hand darted out to grasp the lads wrist. The boy squealed but Cyan held on, hauling him out from under the bed.
His heart nearly arrested at the sight.
Owain. Here. Live. Well.
Papa! Papa! Im so happy youre home! Lets go fishing!
Twitching as if in the throes of death, Cyan couldnt believe his eyes and ears. The boy clung to his leg as Owain had often done in the past. He stared up with his mothers diamond-blue eyes, obscured slightly by golden hair. Overwhelmed, Cyan tore the boy free. Owain jumped closer again, but the retainer kept him at arms length.
His voice was barely above a whisper. Owain? Is that you? In his minds eye, the retainer witnessed his son collapse into the bed, breathing his last. That image merged with the sight of Owain before him now, his smile looking ridiculous as the overalls he donned. He shook his head. No, it could not be. Cyans rational mind understood that. But what explained the fact of his son standing less than a foot away?
Madness. Hed gone mad with grief. Those scholars from Thamasa also claimed that if an individual failed to properly handle their sorrow then the logical mind would shut down. All sorts of apparitions and hallucinations could occur sometimes resulting in the victim becoming immersed to the point of never returning to the material world.
Perhaps visiting Doma wasnt such a good idea after all.
ImIm sorry! I must take my leave! Cyan muttered as he spun on a heel for the door. With the lad crying out for him in the background, the retainer rushed through the corridor. His hands white as he gripped Murasame and Tempest, Cyan pounded his way through several antechambers, hoping the insanity would not follow.
But it did.
His throat raw from the running, Cyan jerked a door open and threw himself in. His blood kept its speedy pace through the retainers veins even though he understood that Owain didnt give chase. Only after slamming the door shut did the retainer recognize the room hed entered. Crimson velvet tapestries, marble pillars, violet carpet running to the huge stone throne upon which sat the king.
Sir Cyan, youre a sight for sore eyes!
With shock that only paralleled the sight of Owain, Cyan stared transfixed at his liege lord. A fur coat rested on the younger mans shoulders and it shook with each guffaw. The kindly gray eyes glittered with laughter at his subordinates baffled expression.
Butbut you are dead! Cyan sputtered.
Cyan, are you daft? Im very much alive. Have you overindulged in the mead?
Had the retainer not partaken in any alcohol at all, he might have wondered the same thing. The indulgence Cyan had made was clearly in insanity. It had sunk into his senses and blurred his reality. The retainer felt discordant, as if edges of his reflexes had been stolen away. How easy would it be to fall within the folds of insanity, to forget all the pain?
There is a way
Cyan started, hands dropping to his swords hilts. As he cocked a head to regard the king, the retainer noted nothing to indicate that his liege had spoken. His fur coat billowing slightly, the king descended from his throne. He took a step toward Cyan, but the retainer recoiled, unnerved. The king didnt seem to mind. Off with you now, to your wife. Elayne has hardly left the gates since your departure.
Elayne? Here? Live? Well?
Despite wisdom shouting caution, the retainer gasped briefly then headed out the door. He tore through the painting-strung corridors and the debris-full chambers. In his mind the image of his beautiful wife sprang into view long before he ever reached the gate itself. When he slowed down to the archway, Cyan was not disappointed.
Soft strawberry-blonde hair, crisp blue eyes, and a smile that could take a mans breath away Without thinking, without considering, the retainer swept Elayne into his arms. His wife was smiling and laughing. For a moment, Cyan let himself become immersed in the dream.
His rational mind worked overtime and eventually broke the haze of happiness. Reality crashed down reminding the retainer that this simply wasnt possible. Elayne was dead. As her small lips rose to meet his, Cyan fought off the urge and thrust her back. It felt like ripping the heart from his chest.
Cyan? Elaynes hands reached out to his but Cyan stepped back. Are you alright? Ive missed you so much! Im so happy youve returned. Again, she tried to kiss him and again he resisted. By this time, her blue eyes shined with unshed tears. Whats the matter?
Elayne How is this possible? I saw you all He shook his head. Even thinking about that awful day felt like a dagger straight to the gut. I felt the life fade from your body. From our sons. Yet here you are, standing before me, our son waiting in our quarters
You hath taken a big step, Cyan. How much are you willing to sacrifice to restore Doma?
This is madness! the retainer cried. His eyes darted this way and that, looking for an exit. Elayne stared at him helplessly. As her hand touched his arm, Cyan jolted. Instinctively Tempest and Murasame sprang from their sheaths, coming to bear on his wife. She let out a horrific scream and backed off.
Cyan simply couldnt handle the insanity at the time. Stumbling all the while, he fled the courtyard and passed over the threshold of the gate. Thats when his vision tunneled and pain lanced down his back. The retainer fought the rising darkness but it was a losing battle. The agony continued to assail him, becoming the only feeling.
Then that was gone and he felt nothing. Nothing at all.
All That Glitters Is Cold 2 Fanfic Competition
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