The crowd before the dais stood silent, listening attentively to the Chancellor project his voice over the large mass of people that gathered at the bluffs. The ocean over the cliff behind the stage was background noise as the speaker rose his voice at the end of his words, sending the crowd into a mix of pleased applause and cheers. A union was happening, a joining between lands to create peace between two entirely different peoples. The city of Jumirin celebrated today. There were two people, though, in the back end of the crowd sitting silently on the ground merely wearing smiles on their faces. She sat between his legs and him with his arms around her waist.
Leaning her head back to his shoulder placing her lips close to his ear while she absently traced her fingers across the skin on his forearms. She thought of the similarities of the gathering and her happiness. “It seems that this is indeed turning out to be a beautiful day.“ She whispered softly into his ear. He merely smiled at her words before placing a soft kiss on her neck.
“More than you know, love.” His thoughts playing at the secret he kept from her for the time being he slightly bit her neck, a soft sigh came from her throat as he did so.
“…and what is that supposed to mean?” She asked accusingly.
Laughing slightly, he shrugged against her before laying his head down on her shoulder and pulling his arms tighter just beneath her chest. Lost in her eyes, she listened absently to the still celebrating crowd around them. Almost oblivious to all the people she concentrated more on his slow and steady breaths against her back.
Grabbing his elbows, holding his arms she played with the thought of laying comfortably in bed with him, warm and finally not having to worry about their safety, for now. “Why don’t we go back home lie down. I’ll make you something, and we can relax for the rest of the day.”
“As nice as that sounds, I have somewhere I must take you first.” He whispered.
“You don’t think it would be fun to wrap up in one of our blankets and each other?” She asked in a teasing, but an alluring voice.
He smiled looking down to her eyes looking up at him with her head still resting on his shoulder. He thought that there might be a hint of mischief dancing within her. “Now, now… you stop that. I told you this morning. I have somewhere to take you.”
With a pout and look that would threaten to have him hold off his plans just to have her body encompassed in his arms, she finally conceded before he gave in thankfully.
“Alright, but it better be soon, or else I won’t let you make it up to me.” She said the last part of her words in such a voice it made his heart beat with anticipation.
“It shouldn’t be too long. It’s only a few minutes ride from here.” He replied to her despite his desire to forgo his plans to make right on making it up to her sooner rather than later.
With a light kiss and a playful nip to his ear, she stood, holding her hand out to him, “There’s no time like the present, love!”
With a smile, he nodded and took her hand before getting up. Staring into her eyes a moment as he lost himself in here eyes he thought of the moment ahead. He smiled again at her before leading her away from the still-applauding crowd that had begun chanting things like, “Hoorah!” and “Peace for All!” It wasn’t long before they finally made it to the edge of a cliff-face to extended far over them. He winked at her before releasing her hand made his way a suspicious patch of fern bushes and tree limbs. He pulled away from the loose tree limbs and pulled down the now visible rope that held all the fern bushes together. He untied the rope from a protrusion of rock, and he pulled it aside rolling up the fern in a bundle and set it on the other side of a hole in the side of the stone.
She squinted and looked at him curiously before tilting her head to him. “…and just what is that?”
“I found this awhile back and wanted to hide it so I could show you without anyone else finding it, so I hid it!” He responded back excitedly.
“You still have said it ‘it’ is, dear.” She smiled back to him.
“Oh well… yes, come! Easier just to show you!” He waved her over, and she went and inspected the dark crevasse. She had to stoop over and look up into the darkness, and she pointed at it, “…that, you want me to go into there?” She furrowed her brow at him.
“Trust me?” He asked raising his arms in question with raised shoulders.
“Hmpf… alright, but you go first.” She conceded.
He smiled and nodded to her, “Of course!” He stooped down and crawled into the opening in the cliff-face, “Don’t worry! It opens up quick to where we can stand.” Then he disappeared into the darkness.
She sighed to herself, “…the things I do for you.” She said to herself softly before following him into the rock.
She still couldn’t see yet her eyes adjusted quickly and she could see the faint outline of him as he scooted forward into the dark. True to his word he stood up but a short way in and she joined him. He pulled out an orb from his pocket, and she heard a soft, ‘click,’ as a soft glow encompassed them and lit up the scene around them. She could make out the rock walls and the hard floor, but not much else before she looked back to him. “It’s a beautiful cave?” She said wondering if this was what he wanted to show her.
“Maybe a little chilly,” he responded with a chuckle before turning and stepping to the side and pointing up ahead.
She could make out a circle of light ahead.
“That’s where we’re going, follow me.” He smiled at her and reached out his hand, and she took it. The darkness ended as they approached the opening on the opposite side. The sounds of the ocean began echoing louder around into the cave. The light was bright, and they couldn’t see past the opening of the rock until they were through. She blinked away the darkness from her eyes.
A gust of salty air blew her hair back as he looked at her and his breath caught as it always did when he was taken aback by how beautiful she was. She smiled looking out at the view, “Wow…” she breathed. It was an endless view of the horizon and mountain range to their left, which disappeared into a haze of clouds. The sun still being high up above the water it reflected off the white churning water of the waves almost two hundred feet below the cliff of which they now stood.
Smiling to himself, as well, he asked, “Well, do you like it?”
Still unable to let the smile fade she merely nodded saying, “It is beautiful, how did you find this place?”
“In one of my walks, simply happened to it. I guess not many decided it wise to crawl in small dark holes they find behind bushes.” He chuckled a bit to himself. He reached behind him and took the pack off his back that he had. Retrieving the thin wool blanket he made his way to the edge of the rock that protruded out before them. He leaned forward and looked down the cliff face towards the waters below. “Scary fall, though, don’t get too close to the edge!” He warned her before going back to her and laying the wool blanket on the ground.
She laughed, “I’m going nowhere near that edge, so don’t you worry about that, love.”
He pulled some light fare out of the pack and placed the food in the center of the blanket. “Snack?” He said looking up to her. She still looked around at the view but finally settled her gaze on him.
“Can we stay until sunset?” She asked smiling and sitting on the blanket with him.
He smiled back to her, but more ecstatically inside his plan has worked so perfectly. Absently he rested his hand on his thigh pocket before replying, “Of course we can.”
They mostly spent the day talking about plans, and things currently being done. Other times they let the warmth of the sun and themselves pass the hours into early dusk staring off into the restless water.
“I think this has probably been the best day I’ve had since last I remember,“ she said, still staring out to the horizon with a distant look to her features.
Smiling up to her having his head across her lap and looking to the sky above he responded softly to her, “Me, as well, love.”
After a moment she looked down to his still smiling face. A look of worry and fright crossed her features. His brow creased in wonder at her change in demeanor, “Spider… on your cheek,” she whispered, her voice soft with concern. He couldn’t feel anything on him so he brought his hand to his face before she could warn him not to.
To quickly rid himself of the nuisance he swiped his fingers up his cheek, but merely relocated the spider up to his temple. A sharp pain shocked through him as the arachnid bit down through his skin in defense. Instinctively he smacked the side of his head and killed the spider before sitting up and wiping the remnants off his face and fingers. “Ow! I can’t believe that just happened, how in the devil’s.” He said rubbing the sore spot where the spider bit him.
Placing a hand on his shoulder, he turned to her, and a slight gasp followed as she retracted her hand to her mouth. The bite mark was already red and beginning to swell from the looks of his face. The venom of the spider was quickly working its way into him. He looked at her, a look of worry crossing his features, “What? What is it?”
Her eyes began to tear up as she replied, “Your face, that looks serious love! We need to get to the doctor to look at it; it’s spreading so fast!”
He suddenly wished that they were closer to the town. If they weren’t so far away, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. It could be taken care of by medicine. They would be able to fix this, he knew it. They weren’t close to town, they had walked about an hour to get to the gathering, and nearly another hour to reach the secluded overlook. Two hours from town, he thought. The bite being where it was had him concerned, was it worse there, better? He had no idea, and he found himself growing angry at the little beast. That bastard, why on this day of all days! He screamed inside; he didn’t want to worry her, though. They had to go.
“We have to go then, I’m sorry, love.” He said sadly looking to her, “Every thing’s going to be fine, I just need to get to the healer that is all.”
With tears escaping her eyes she replied, “…but that’s so far.” He silenced her with a kiss.
His temple throbbed, and he was much too cold as sweat ran down his forehead. The trail back seemed an eternity. They could only concentrate on not slipping or falling to slow their progress further. They had cleared almost the entire distance before he began feeling flushed and dizzy. With the dull ache in his temple spreading down to his cheek being a constant reminder to remain awake and alert. He was beginning to slow, though, and the sun had escaped them behind the mountains minutes ago leaving them covered in long shadows and a threatening darkness that was the night. He fell, tripping on a small rock he didn’t see.
She turned and saw him with his eyes closed on his knees with his hands on the ground. She leaned down beside him and ran a hand through his hair. He was slick with sweat, and his skin was burning. “Are you okay?” She asked, chiding herself immediately after knowing it was a stupid question, but she didn’t know what else to do. She knew that his well-being was going to deteriorate to nothing soon.
“I might be sick if I walk anymore…” He said in a whisper.
“Then you be sick and keep moving with me! We’ve almost made it. See?!” With words through choking on tears, she pointed to the lights of the town rising before them. She thought a faint smile had crossed his face before his face drained of color even more as he tried to stand.
His efforts met with another short tumble onto his knees. This time his right kneecap hit a rock just beneath the surface of the dirt. A sharp pain exploded up through his thigh stopping to wrench his stomach further than it already was. Unable to hold himself back he felt his stomach being ripped out of his throat as he let the pain flow out of hi body to the ground in from of him.
Tears ran down his cheek as the screaming ache in his cheek sent swirls of pain up his temple, and the throb in his knee threatened to overwhelm him. Darkness began to take over his vision as his thoughts turned even more fuzzy and distant. He felt her take his hand through the world closing in on him. Her breath in his ear transformed into words that were less heard and more felt.
“It’s okay, my love, try again, one more time… for me? Okay?” She asked, more pleading, even she couldn’t tell which anymore. She had to be strong, though, for him. He found himself feeling at the object in his thigh pocket, and he felt the pain push back into a distant corner of his mind as his vision slowly crept clearer back to him.
“I have to,” he thought, no matter how much it hurts, I have to. “Almost there,” he managed to say in more of a choke as he winced, slowly coming to stand again.
She wrapped her arm around him and pulled his arm around her shoulders. He noticed almost absently that he couldn’t see out his left eye anymore, it was swollen shut. They pushed forward, and she matched her feet with his helping him to move easier. Only being able to support half his weight, she still thought it better than none, she wrapped her arm tighter around his waist and tightened her grip on his wrist on her shoulder.
It took an eternity for her, but just a blur of time for him. She still fumed at the fact they passed so many people meandering the streets, but none offered more than a glance and a wide berth. The sign with herbs etched into it around the words ‘Tham’s Tinctures’ was such a relief she almost tripped on the first stair into the building. She shoved her shoulder into the door of the building, at first sight of a face, she started demanding answers and asking questions all in a confused blur. Sweat covered her as she strained to continue holding him up from falling. She just noticed that he was unconscious with his head draught low, she must have been supporting all his weight, no wonder she felt her muscles burning. Her tears and adrenaline were all that pushed her forward as a calming voice seemed to cut through the air towards her.
“Whoa now, my dear.” A weathered face said from behind the counter. Rising from his chair, Tham stood up and came to her taking the weight of him from her as she felt her body fail her. Slumping her knees to the ground, she let herself breath for a moment noticing she was breathing heavier than she suddenly realized. The older man took him through a hallway and into a separate room. She willed herself to stand and follow him. The man that was behind the counter set him down onto the bed in the room he had taken him to. He began to look him over as she entered the room, as well.
“His face…” she managed to say, “…a spider bite… I wasn’t able… to tell what kind before it died…” she said between breaths still winded. She looked to her love through still watery eyes, the left side of his face swollen and red. He seemed to be sleeping she watched his chest rise slowly before falling again. The other man was already looking over the area where the bite had happened, the flesh around the bite seemed to be withering away into itself. She didn’t know she had any more tears, but they came anyway. “Can you help him?! Please! Do something…”
He studied the wound a little longer before looking up to her and pointing to the stool beside the bed. “Sit, comfort him, but don’t touch the wound. I will return shortly.”
She obliged with a slow nod and sat beside the bed taken his hand. It was colder than she expected and squeezed it tighter to try and warm it. Maybe that would help, she thought, desperate to do anything useful. Then she waited. She replayed part of the Chancellor’s speech from earlier in the day to calm her thoughts:
“A dream can have so much terror, so many beauties, and so many unrealized points of interest and desire that we’re often more than confused by them. Many people, groups, and even nations follow false dreams leaving behind ones of truth and feasibility because of this confusion. That is the problem with assumption and misinterpretation.
“When someone feels so strongly about an individual subject, a given situation or a particular happening in time it is their dreams that will bend around their imagination; distorting fact by fusing it with creation.”
Greens and blues fused within one another, swirling downward in a spiraling fashion. The sight was dizzying, confusing. Vision, an unrecognizable image. He was holding onto something; there was no ground and only oily blackness all around. The cold touch of metal was his link to staying alive, a feeling of safety was what proved this to him, a sense of need and desire.
Necessity and desire pushed him forward even though his arms burned. He assumed that this was because he had held to this cold steel. “Was it a bar? No, it was sharp, a sword?” He followed the length of it, and he found it going inside him, through his abdomen and out the back of his neck. He didn’t know. He just knew he didn’t want to let go. A wave of pain shot into his arms running its course through his neck and into his spine. The pain stopped inside his temples just to throb with a searing burn beneath his skin. There was a scream, and the image pulled back away from his vision, and he could see his whole self in front of him hanging in the span of a circle. He squinted eyes he realized weren’t there then he realized that it was a ring around his hollow husk of a body. In this black world he clung to life and the only sense of reason his mind could hold. His love, and thoughts of his life outside of this blackness.
Her face flushed from the lack of sleep she had over the past two days, she only left twice to relieve herself, but she did not sleep. She had learned the that healer’s name was Tham and his words were a small comfort to her. She would wait until he woke up, or at least opened his eyes so she could tell him how much she loves him, needed him, and because in a rush to get here she didn’t get say it to him.
She faintly felt Tham’s hand rest on her shoulder. “Jesine, you’ll be no good to him half-dead yourself. Please, Jesine, help yourself to any food or water across the hall. You’re looking paler than him now.” Jesine didn’t know why, but those words of her looking more sickly than her love made her smile slightly through her weariness. She could only nod at Tham’s concern. “He will be okay while you rest yourself, too, dear.” A grin broke across his face as he offered a hand to her.
“Well, I could use some water if it’s not any trouble,” she admitted, “…but I still don’t want to leave.” She said looking back to his still sleeping form lying on the bed.
“The only trouble I see from that is that you think it is trouble,” Tham responded lightly.
Jesine smiled that half smile of hers to Tham before turning back to her still sleeping love beside her. Grasping his hand she leaned forward and whispered a silent, “I love you, Wylen” onto his still damp skin. She looked up to him again and to his other hand resting on his thigh pocket. Had his hand always been there? She thought to herself. He looked like he was clutching something, curious, she reached over and tried to move his hand away to see what it was he was holding. At first, his hand resisted any movement, but she was able to gently lift his arm away and lay it on the bedside next to him. She placed her hand on his thigh and felt an object in his pocket. “Was it circular?” She thought to herself. Thinking he wouldn’t mind, she reached in and took the object out to examine it. She gasped softly to herself, suddenly feeling invasive as she recognized it was his mother’s ring she had seen a hundred times before. “No…,” she thought her breath catching, “…he was going to ask?” She felt suddenly worse now that his plans were in ruins and on their head. He suddenly sighed and coughed hoarsely, and Jesine jumped looking to him. A rasping breath seemed to escape his throat, but then all was silent again. She gripped the ring tightly and ran out of the room yelling for Tham.
They entered quickly and set a glass full of water on the table next to Jesine looking from her to him, and back to her. “Yes? What is it?”
She pointed to him, “He breathed and coughed suddenly! The first I’ve heard!”
Tham looked back to her beloved before nodding to himself and going over to the other side of the bed. He lifted his arm and examined his skin and tracing it up to the wound. Tham pulled the bandage away from the bite on the man’s temple. The infection had continued to eat away the skin to the size of a large coin. The skin was still red and had green tints to it. Tham sighed to himself before pulling off the bandage and redressing it.
“Should it look better than that?” Jesine asked.
He knew it should, but comforted her with, “It will be fine, Jesine, you need not worry.” She smiles at him, and he returned the gesture half-heartedly feeling a guilt wash over him. “Are you sure I can’t get you something to eat?”
She shook her head and looked back down to him, “I am okay, thank you for the water.”
Tham nodded to her and left her to be alone again with him as he tried to think of a better way of dealing with a bite that seemed to be progressing more than he liked.
“The fever is gone,” he thought, “but the flesh appears to be still getting eaten away…” As he tried to think of something to help with her partner he found his mind wandering about the two lovers. He had his time, his love, every night since that day that she had passed on he would think of her in his nighttime thoughts so that he would have her still in his dreams. He would join her again, he knew, but that sting of loneliness would not cease. He was aware that the pain never would subside because of how much he cared for her, which is why he spent his days preoccupying himself with menial chores and helping others. As well as try to figure out different remedies of every sort that helped those in need.
Tham’s work had paid off earning him the title of a Master in his profession. “But titles are trinkets to what’s important,” he would say to those who acknowledged his new namesake. That look in the other room was why he did what he did, that look of relief and love was why it was all worth it. As much as it killed him not to be able to experience such a thing anymore, he knew he had his time. He relished in that thought, he was far from perfect, but that feeling of love and beauty that washed over him when he was with her had made his life genuine and meaningful.
Needless to say, she set him on the path to saving, now countless lives and bringing happiness to countless others. Every time his thoughts came back to her, and he would smile, remembering the way he would caress her cheek, run his fingers through her hair.
Tham didn’t realize at first that the moonlight outside was reflecting a tear making its way down the crevassed contours of his aging face. After he had seen those two lovers were back to getting a good rest, he would visit her grave again. The second time this week, once more than his usual once a week visits, but this was a special occasion he thought.
Not only had he saw an emotion he was all too familiar with and missed, but it was also their time again almost. Near the end of another passing hear was what they favored. The leaves of red that cascaded down through the air was their favorite to sit and watch. So it was just that time a year that his him the hardest. Even though it had been six years almost, it still didn’t dim Tham’s feelings for his wife. She would continue in his life as his love until that day when his dreams became forever.
A light hand graced his shoulder, “Are you alright,” a woman’s voice asked. It almost sounded like his lost love speaking to him, but he knew that to be fanciful.
“I am fine, Jesine, thank you. Have you reconsidered my offer of some food, dear?”
“He still seems so tired, are you sure he’s alright?” The worry in her voice was inescapable and all too evident.
Tham smiled to her, “Yes, it is just fine. The poison has run its course, but we must let the fluids we give him wash his blood clean of all of it.” He turned to face her fully, “…but for now, I have a cot in the closet where your beloved is and some hot food I made in the kitchen. Eat, and sleep. You will be no good to him if he does wake and you’re famished and red-eyed.”
“I suppose I can’t argue with the wisdom in that… but are you sure you’re alright?” She asked genuinely concerned.
Tham looked to her eyes a moment fading into memory before shaking the reverie clear. “I find, don‘t you worry, just let me get you some hot food, and we will get you some sleep.
“I don’t know how to repay you, or thank you, for what you’ve done for us. You have no idea. All this means more to me than you know.” She said the last lowering her eyes to the ground and closing them.
“I believe I know exactly how you feel…” Tham said softly, mostly to himself before bidding her off and goodnight. He took one last look out the window at the moon before turning to gather food for Jesine.
Tham was bringing the bowl of hot soup and bread to Jesine when he heard her yell. As blood-curdling and panicked as it was loud it stopped Tham’s heart for a moment before he began to run. As he made it to the room, he stopped and saw a scene his mind couldn’t quite comprehend. Blood stained Wylen’s shirt right below his sternum and pooled at the back of his neck. Golden smoky tendrils with hints of gray began seeping from the new wounds on Wylen. At first, the tendrils were slow moving rivers across his body before a dam seemed to break and with a rush of the wind the fog seemed to encompass the entirety of Wylen’s body. He could hear Jesine screaming at him to do something, anything, but Tham couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing. The golden glow seemed to brighten and flash brightly before them temporarily blinding them both.
As Jesine’s eyes recovered, she stared forward in disbelief at the bed where Wylen was and reached forward with both hands and grasped two warm handfuls of sand. The sand seeped through her fingers back to the bed below. Her mind seemed far away as her body once again screamed in the distance.
A voice filled Wylen’s mind; it was a long moment to realize it was his own, “A breath of wind can be called a kiss, a touch, a relief, or a momentary solace in life. Holding a love close can be compared to holding the most cherished thing in the world. In this person’s mind, nothing can replace what holds so much priceless value. I’ve been reading books that speak of so much sacrifice and love, doing nothing besides doing what’s best for the other, and doing what would make them the safest or happiest. It’s hard to do what is best sometimes, downright disheartening in some ways when you make a mistake that you know will turn out for the worst, but the important thing to remember is always to hold that one person above all else. Above what you think best sometimes even; not exactly best, but what would be, ‘happier,’ so to speak. I write a lot to you about love, happiness, and desire, but all you ever really ask me for is a story, a story to make you smile, a story to make you happy.”
Wylen could still remember Jesine’s smile when he wrote that to her and her response, “As long as I have you, we’ll create our stories,” she had said. Jesine screamed in Wylen’s thoughts, ‘No, it didn’t happen that way.’ He tried to speak, but couldn’t. Darkness crept into his vision and his mind, silencing thought and sight until there was only nothing.