“Hello Tristan. Were you going somewhere?” Lyphia said with a mischievous lilt to her words, I could hear her smile.
My heart did a little dance, her voice, I could listen to it all day. Yet at the same time I was terrified to turn around. I didn’t want her to see me like this.
“Are you listening?” she asked as I waited a moment too long to answer her. She softened her tone into something gentle and low.
I let go of the handle and turned. the sight of her was welcome. I smiled like an idiot.
“Tristan you look awful,” she said, she lifted her hand to cover her mouth as if she was surprised she had said it.
“And you Lyphia, look wonderful, as beautiful as the dawn,” I said, my smile wouldn’t go away, but my bad mood fled in the face of her beauty.
“Thank you, but where were you going?”
“Um, you know it’s my door, I was going to my room, its been a long day already, I really want a wash and a nap,” I said with a bone deep tiredness that seemed to creep up on me.
“Tristan, get in here and see this little girl, she needs you. you are all she has,” Lyphia berated me softly, which was far better than when she did it loudly.
“I really had hoped for a few moments to clean up, I smell.” I said.
“Yes, you do, but she doesn’t care,” Lyphia said with a smirk. she hadn’t taken her eyes off me, as if I was going to slink away.
I sighed, stood up straight and nodded.
Lyphia stepped back and gestured me into Sophia’s room.
Sophia was sat up in bed, she looked tired but seemed healthy. She was gazing out the window. Her hair was tangled in ruby threads.
“How you doing kid?” I asked, smiling at her.
“Tristan! I-I – I was scared,” she said as she turned her head to me.
I crossed the distance to her, I looked at the edge of the bed.
Sophia bobbed her head quickly, dashed the fresh tears that welled from her bright green eyes, they were a little red round the edges. he features looked shaper as if all that she had goes through had worn away at her.
I sat on the bed, pretending to not notice the tears. I took her small hand in my own. I ignored the sting as my sleeve caught on my wrist wound.
“I hear you was very brave Soph, Airis told me,” I said. I patted her hand at a loss for what else I could say.
“The blue things came out of the woods, I didn’t go far. One bit me. I did what you and Jase Taught me, I used my magic, but it didn’t work. there was nothing there. it hurt.” Sophia said, broken and confused but clear enough for me to know what happened.
“Its okay Soph. You were brave. It was my fault, I should never have taken you out there, but you will be alright now,” I promised, even if I had to keep her locked in here she would be safe.
“No, it would have been fun, it was such a nice idea,” she protested weakly, her smile flickered
I’d tightened my grip on her hand, I only noticed when she winced.
“Sorry Soph, didn’t mean to do that”
“Its okay, why do you look funny?” she asked, then paused, her little face scrunched up. “Is that you?” she sniffed.
“Yeah, that’s me. It’s been a busy week,” I said.
Lyphia snorted from behind me.
I turned to look, she was smiling. Stars, she was beautiful. Her eyes glowed, not with magic, but with laughter.
Sophia started to giggle.
“Hey, it’s not my fault,” I said with good humor, but still whiney enough to set them off again.
I laughed with them, it felt good, like all the worry and fear just evaporated. The knot I’d carried unknowingly in my belly loosened.
I patted Sophia’s hand again before letting go. I stood.
I smiled down at her, she smiled back.
I turned to Lyphia, who seemed to be having trouble breathing. she was trying to contain her amusement
I stepped up to her. I lent in, her eyes widened but she didn’t pull away.
I kissed her hard. I pulled her tight to me.She tensed briefly then melted against me.
Behind us Sophia made a little protest. “Ewww.”
I pulled back smiling like a mad man, I felt invincible. Then I walked out leaving a dazed redheaded woman, and an amused redheaded little girl.
Huh? lots of redhead’s I thought then dismissed it.
My room called me.
I opened the door, I barely slowed as I went straight to my bathing chamber. The door was recessed into the wall, I had barely noticed it when I first surveyed the room. It was just a doorway against what looked like more wall. Sophia’s had been open, so I had just assumed.
It was more of the same in appearance, apart from there was no carpet in here. Tiles of such a pure blue covered the floor, it felt like being in a glass bubble under the sea, the light gave it hints of purple and greens.
The large ceramic bath was set against the back wall, next to it was a wooden storage cupboard, it had taken me awhile to figure it out. nothing but the best for the mages. Most of this was leftover from when the nobles had ruled. Old enchantments, but they were still functional. The cupboard was simple really. It dried and cleaned fabric and leather. Uniforms and towels.
I started to pull off my clothes, they stuck in places. I could feel blood start to flow on my chest.
I stood naked in front of the mirror on the other side. The last few days, really just days, had felt like life time,I had lost weight, I was lean and rangy, my muscles stood out in stark relief, my cheeks had hollowed, I had dark circles under my eyes, which were bloodshot and dry. I had stubble darkening my face. My hair, which I was once so proud of, was tangled and matted. Once I thought, like it was a long time ago, it was only a few months. I looked more wild than man. all that not even counting the wounds I had, a large gash on my wrist and a few cuts on my chest. My pendent gem was embedded in my flesh, what was left of it at least.
I raised my hand to pick a piece out, only to realise my hands were filthy, crawling around in a cell will do that to you.
I was too worn out to even get angry about it anymore, it was only yesterday and I felt old.
I turned away from the mirror, the man looking back at me, disturbed me.
I tapped the enchanted faucet. Hot water poured out, the bath filled quickly
Steam rose in massive plumes, fogging the air.
I used my power to condense some of the steam into a hand shape, which is far easier than pulling solid water about, I focused on my chest wound, placing the water fingers around the fragment, I let the tips flow back into dense vapour around it, to cleanse the area.
I winced as the heat penetrated my wound.
I forced the vapour in, I could feel the edge of the gem warm. I looked down. It was tiny, but it felt huge. The small red wound close to my heart. Not too deep but angry. Scabs loosened under the water. I saw the gem shift, the pain just magnified in a heart beat. I wavered on my feet and gritted my teeth. I decided I didn’t need to look at it. I could feel enough through my magic and the sight was making me feel sick. I closed my eyes as I pushed more water behind the fragment, I found two other splinters, I flushed them too. I poured more water over the wound. The now cooler water ran pink down my chest. It mingled with my blood, far darker at the site of the wound.
My bath had almost filled. I leant over to tap the faucet again. I was dizzy. I placed a hand on the wall a moment to support me while I took a deep breath, my limbs were shaking as the shock of pain calmed down to more manageable levels. The steam probably wasn’t helping that much.
I stood back up, looked around for somewhere to place the shards. There was a small shelf above the basin but below the mirror. I put them there. Then I got into my bath. the heat enveloped me as I sunk into the deep water. Hot, very hot, maybe too hot. My muscles ached for a moment then relaxed. I sunk deeper as I lost the strength in my legs. I lay like that for a long time, the water cooled. I may have fallen asleep. The water was a murky greyish brown when I pulled myself out, I felt heavy. I placed my feet on the warm tiles, sometimes I love living here. Warm floors. I stepped carefully over to the cupboard, I pulled out a towel. I started patting myself down when I heard a scream.
Cant this wait until I get something to eat. I’m starving, I thought with a resigned mental sigh.
I ran into action
Still wet and naked.