I Don't Care What Happens Chapter 2
Her feet dragged as she left the castle after dark. She still favored her right hand, despite the successful curing spell. Rosa wasn't sure if the pain was in her imagination or not, but it seemed that her body held the memory of the burn. She wondered if all spells worked that way. Is the body only outwardly healed, while always feeling the shadow of pain already suffered?
The question occupied her as she made her way home, until she found herself standing across from her mother's house. Rosa shook her head, realizing that she'd been completely unreceptive the entire trek home, and started for her door. A warm glow peeked through the windows, and the fire that had once been roaring in her mother's hearth was now barely letting off any light. She guessed that her mother had slipped off to sleep earlier, and she was determined not to wake her. She slowly cracked the door open and softly shut it behind her.
Inside, she could smell what had once been a hot meal and some ash from the fireplace. It was an inviting scent, and it helped as she slid into her bed and waited for sleep to take her. She had meant to see Cecil tonight, but pallid blue light poured in through the window, and Rosa's eyes found its source calling her. The two moons were peering through darkened clouds, shedding their light silently. She stared at them, her eyelids growing heavy, and thought she imagined that one moon looked slightly different. She narrowed her eyes, trying to decide if one was, in fact, faintly red. She breathed deeply when she dismissed the thought, and closed her eyes, finally drifting off. But still the image of the moons stayed with her even as her breaths became steady and even.
The two glowing masses stayed constant in her mind, and under their gaze, she was able to recognize a few things in the darkness. The moonlight glinted off of cascading water into a pool that she stood beside. Before her was a small bridge spanning a channel that meandered through town. Across the wooden arch stood the familiar figure of her lover; Cecil was hidden in the darkness of the night, all but the dim shine of moonlight that outlined a frame that suggested both power and tenderness. Immediately, Rosa recognized the setting. It was the first time she and Cecil met, behind her mother's house. They simply stood, looking at one another. All of the feelings that she'd felt at their first encounter came back to her now in her dreams, awe, curiosity, and a spark of the passionate flame between the two.
Few words were spoken the night that they met, and none were uttered here in her reverie. The two lovers gazed at one another, chests heaving as their excitement grew. Rosa remembered the notion that she stood before greatness. Something in the way he stood, the way he watched, portrayed depth and character. She'd never felt that way about any other boy in Baron. A smile played on her lips, and the twisting feeling in her core was its own kind of ecstasy. She wondered what he was thinking.
She stepped forward, drawn toward his towering figure. He stepped forward also, his dark long hair floating in the warm breeze. He raised one arm and rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes searching for the right place to look, either the ground or her face. He sheepishly smiled, and extended his hand and took hers. The two of them blushed as he lightly shook it.
Rosa remembered the mud on the channel's edge filling the air with an earthy smell, mixing with the essence of her hair and his sweat. Here in her dreams the scent carried on the wind, swirling around them in the moonlight. A light mist from the falling water cooled the summer air, and the ripples in the water edged toward the two of them. Stars sparkled in the midnight blue above, the shimmering specks of celestial light watching as fate drew the two souls together. As Cecil loosed her hand, the moons slid behind a grey cloud that traveled quickly on the summer wind. He walked back over the bridge, reaching down for his armor. Rosa smiled while he strapped the plate across his chest and fitted the gauntlets on his arms. He gave her one last smile before donning his horned helmet and turned away.
The strength of her flooding emotions was quelled however, as the moons slid back out from behind the clouds floating quietly by. The warm summer breeze that had whispered softly on the back of her neck now blew her hair in front of her face and burned her skin. Smoke whirled in the gusts of wind, issuing from a dazzling ring of fire that burned across the bridge before her. The tongues of the flame rose higher and higher, licking the black night sky. Each blast of searing air encouraged the inferno, which swirled around Cecil like a dragon circling its prey.
Through the fine smoke and heat haze she could see Cecil, hunched over with his arms shielding his face. Rosa felt herself screaming, but all she could hear was the roaring breath of fire. Cecil struggled, trying to retreat, but the wall of flames flared each time he drew near. Rosa raised her hand and began the strongest healing spells she knew. As she completed each incantation, though, the fire's strength swelled. She was helpless to save the dark knight, and her body tore itself apart knowing the pain he was in. Frozen in place, her only hope was that her tears would douse the blaze.
Inside, Cecil writhed in agony. His flesh burned wherever it was exposed. The black armor that he wore bubbled and seared his skin. He tried to open his eyes to find Rosa and help her, but smoke and ash stung them. Every direction that he turned, a wall of fire danced before him, whipping his body and charring his fissured and wrinkled skin. With his burnt and bloodied hands, he covered his eyes and barreled forward, hoping to charge through the blaze and out of this circle of hell. Rosa's screams were still drowned out by the roaring fire.
The flames opened up before him, an evil invitation through their threshold. His burning body entered, and was immediately consumed. His frantic thoughts were erased as flame and the blistering metal of his armor enveloped his body. His eyes shut tightly, and his skin began to melt. Swallowed whole by the firestorm, pain overtook his sight with a blinding white light.. He opened his mouth and cried out in terrorizing torment.
She feebly watched as the man in front of her was incinerated, a scorched black figure wreathed in orange dancing light. The roar of the inferno was gone, and she was left only with the sound of ringing in her ears as Cecil frightfully thrashed about. Her tears ran cold amidst the blasts of fiery air and the lashings from the flame itself. She was stunned, able to do anything more. Her agony peaked as she saw him fall to his knees and let out his heart wrenching cry.
The ringing in Rosa's ears turned suddenly to the sound of his blood curdling scream. Hearing his cry made her turn cold, and with a sudden start, she was jolted from her stunned state into action. Her steps fell quickly, and she hardly realized what she was doing before she was consumed as well. Her body felt frozen in the searing heat, as she forced herself through the excruciating pain. She found Cecil in the firestorm, still on his knees. She fell to hers as well, and grasped his helmet. The blistering iron scorched her hands, but she held fast, and pulled the horned helm from his head. The swirling flames spat their heat onto the two faces, their skin charring and seeping blood. Pain swiftly slipped throughout Rosa's body as the flames consumed the two of them.
"I don't care what happens, Cecil! As long as I'm with you!" Rosa cried.
Cecil's blackened face was the last thing she saw before her vision was overpowered by the blinding white light that accompanied her unbearable pain. She could feel him in her arms, and she prepared herself for their final moments together, when, all at once, pain and noise and sight ceased.
The burning agony that had completely overpowered her was replaced by fear. She felt her charred flesh and stinging body had been restored, but terror seized her heart as she prepared for some new devilry. She struggled to right herself, to strengthen her will in the midst of the overwhelming void that she was blinded by, but panic refused to leave her. Her alarm swelled as the edges of her vision grew black, encircling the white light just as the flames had done to her lover only moments before.
What had once encompassed all she could see, the shining light was now a pale disk hanging silently in a field of darkness. Ominous in the dead black, the ring's brilliance began to ebb, and it turned a sickly grey. Suddenly, the silence ended with the thunderous roar of a blaze and the shattering wail of someone in pain. As the rush of sickening sound filled her ears, crimson ink began to blot the surface of the grey orb.
Dread built within as she viewed the familiar image of a moon, its craters filling with blood. The scarlet liquid seemed to seep from the very surface of the moon, pools beginning to fill. As the blood flowed over the brim of the craters, the unblemished rock began to form an image. Before long, Rosa beheld the figure of a skull reflected in the glowing light from grey stone.
The deafening howl continued with the skull before her, ever threatening. Rosa felt as though she were tied down, unable to do anything but watch as the skull's crest began to lengthen. The pale grey form before her morphed, its jaw line stretched downward, and its teeth elongated. Just above the temples, bone began to shoot outward and upward, curving dangerously. Shimmering jet blue scales began to slide out from the surface of the pale grey bone. Where the frightening human skull had once leered at her there now appeared the awesome and horrible form of a dragons head. A long forked tongue slithered within its gaping mouth amidst rows of jagged teeth. With another terrifying roar, a stream of flame issued toward her. The dragon's torch glistened in the icy cobalt eyes that stared through her. Rosa's panic reached its peak as the serpent's mouth encased her frail body. The sharp stab of teeth tore her flesh open.
She awoke to the sounds of her own screams still echoing in the night.
Baron's guards knew her if not by sight then by repute as the love interest of the Red Wings Captain. As such, she was granted entrance into the castle's halls without garnering much attention, even as late as it was now. She was half expected to visit under the cover of darkness anyway. Their love was by no means discreet, but propriety kept their rendezvous to clandestine meetings instead of public displays. The armed sentries did little more than nod as she quietly passed, but Rosa was bothembarrassed and very unsettled by what one said to the other once they thought she was out of earshot.
"He leaves for Mist tomorrow. Hopefully she doesn't keep him up all night."
The nightmare did not quietly fade into the shadows of the night, and it drove the strong sense of unease that she felt now. Passing through the cold stone halls of the castle, she fought the urge to run to Cecil's chamber as fast as she could. Around each corner, down each stairwell, and beyond each door, she feared what might be watching her through the darkness. Her eyes darted around in the night, on the edge between vigilance and paranoia.
Her late night flight through the castle took her through the hall where she'd met Cecil earlier that day. The room was dimly lit with torches on the wall behind her, shadows growing and receding as they fought against the light. She found the door in a hurry, and tried to open it. The heavy wood refused to yield, as it often did, warped as it was. She threw her shoulder into it, hoping it would dislodge, but the door remained steadfast. The uneasy feeling grew stronger now, as she was stuck in the dark room. She threw herself against the door again, and was relieved with the result. As she passed through the threshold and closed the door behind her, she thought for a moment that she saw a figure partially hidden in the shadows cast by the candles on the wall.
She was now in a full sprint toward the western tower, which shot straight up into the night sky, its black silhouette outlined in the light of the moons and stars. Rosa's footsteps were light and swift, and she soon found herself bounding up the stairs. As she neared his room, the suspicion that she was being followed began to settle, and apprehension began to present itself. The twisting sensation in her stomach returned as she found her way to the top of the stair. She was out of breath after sprinting and climbing the stairs, but her excitement was so strong that she forgot to breathe. She entered Cecil's chamber at last, and as she did so, all thoughts of her nightmare and suspicion were gone.
"Cecil," she whispered in the night. Moonlight splashed through the huge window on her right, and she could see that he was not sleeping. She was halfway through the room when he turned away from her. He clenched his pillow tightly under him, and she wondered if he was still too upset after all that had happened during the day to see her. "What's going on? You just returned from Mysidia, and now you must leave again? You're acting very strange."
"Nothing's wrong. Everything's fine," he said quickly. Rosa ignored his attempt to end the subject. She took a step closer, hoping that he would receive her.
"Cecil, look at me." Her plea was quiet in the glow of the moon. He rolled away from the wall, and sat up in his bed. His tired arms hung down, and he stared at his hands in his lap.
"In Mysidia, we killed innocent people to steal their Crystal. It was horrible." He shook his head and took a deep breath, finally looking up at the ceiling as though he were searching for a sign from the heavens. "I suppose this is my fate as a dark knight. Soon, I won't even feel remorse for my actions," he finished, rubbing his face in his hands tiredly. Immediately, Rosa envisioned a long spear wielded by a golden haired soldier.
Rosa moved to the edge of his bed. She fought with herself over whether or not to touch him. She opted for the latter, unsure of how to respond.
"You and I both know that would never happen." She couldn't decide who she was trying to reassure, Cecil or herself. He turned away again, rolling onto his side and facing the far wall.
"Still, I can't defy the king .I'm a hopeless coward." The defeat was apparent in his voice. For as long as she'd known him, Cecil was never one to give up, to resign his fate so easily. He was always so strong, unyielding and resolved. Tonight that visage was completely gone, and this new side of Cecil surprised her. After the things he did that day and the dismissal from captaincy, he felt lost. She realized that he was looking to her to guide him, to set him back on the line that he walked. The role reversal was awkward, but now it was her turn to be strong.
"The Cecil I know would never whimper like this!" She said, turning back toward the stairwell. Her words sounded harsh to her, and she tried to recover some warmth. "The Cecil I love "
Rosa heard the sheets sliding softly in the quiet night, but refused to look back at him. Her thoughts shifted to the day ahead. A lump formed in her throat, so she said her next few words carefully.
"You leave for Mist tomorrow, right? If anything should happen to you " It wasn't any use. Her voice cracked at the end, and the tears fell along with her façade. She covered her eyes and knelt down, her shoulders shaking with each sob.
"Yes, but don't worry. Kain's coming too." He said quietly, moving beside her. As the name left Cecil's lips, she felt her heart sink and her body turn to ice. He said it so casually, as though he hadn't noticed the newly formed callousness and threatening intensity of the dragoon. She pushed back the growing sense of dread, fighting to keep Kain's cold shadow out of her thoughts. Instead, she turned her mind to Cecil.
She couldn't count the number of times she'd awoken to the sound of Red Wing rotor blades in the morning, or the number of notes on her pillow saying he'd be fine. A soldier's life in Baron was a dangerous one, but he held his post just as he held the king's commands. Cecil never doubted his actions or questioned the motives of the state before the attack on Mysidia.
But now Baron's king had reservations about his loyalty. What lengths would Cecil go to in order to redeem himself? Would he renounce his oath to uphold justice, becoming a puppet like the rest of Baron's warriors? Or worse, would he be so reckless on his quest for redemption that he got himself killed? It seemed that the dawn would bring nothing but evil for the two of them. She felt herself dreading the next morning.
"I'll be fine. Trust me," Cecil whispered in her ear, following up with a soft kiss on her neck. Rosa looked into Cecil's eyes. He was being strong for them both, yet again. She breathed deeply, wiping away the last of her tears, and mustered up the strength to say the same thing she always told him before he left.
"Please come back to me in one piece," she whispered. He smiled in return, the way he always answered. Rosa knew that he would be awake in the small hours of the night, scrutinizing over every option, searching for the best way to restore his honor and regain the favor of the king. There would be no rest for Cecil until he corrected his short comings. He would endure the agony of shame and dishonor for as long as he could, until he could again be the harbinger of Baron's justice.
But in spite of his torment, he sat smiling at Rosa, comforting her. In his eyes she saw the gratitude he gave her for trying to pick up his mantle in his weak hour, and the unwavering love that he felt for her. His eyes melted her heart, and warmed her better than his arms ever could.
She leaned in and kissed him, silently praying that her lover kept his tenderness and warmth. Their fingertips yearned for the others touch as their hands slipped away in the moonlight. She was on her way down the stair when she heard him call to her.
"Thanks Rosa. Still, I'm just a dark knight " She shook her head knowingly as she plodded along downward.
"No, my love," her soft words echoed amidst her footfalls, "you're far more than that."
Her body ached as she found her way into Baron's western courtyard, pleading with her mind to turn back and climb into his bed and spend the dark hours with him. She resisted, promising herself that if she could forego his embrace tonight, then all nights therein she would find herself next to him. The thought heartened her, and yet her worries remained. So she made one last prayer under the stars before she found her way home and sleep took her for the second time that night. She could only hope that the heavens would protect him.
All That Glitters Is Cold 4 Fanfic Competition
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