Bonds that transcend death.
By C.R. Gardner
Normally I relished the coppery smell of blood, delighting in its spillage and death’s exquisite music. But it’s me who is dying; it’s my blood I smell. With every heartbeat my lifeblood flows from my veins, pooling around me in a sweet, sticky, coppery mess. The creeping coldness of death is moving up my legs, something my victims had complained about as they lay dying in my arms. Now I am experiencing it for myself. But it is the beautiful, terrible pain encompassing my body that has captured my attention.
A thousand years I have ruled Avilyon and never, never, have I felt such pain. Every sweet breath was a symphony in agony; every beat of my heart, an opus in torture. Benaii had brought about my doom just as Yemina’s prophecy had foretold. My lover had betrayed me, despite everything I’d done to ensure he could never fulfil Yemina’s dreadful divination. I’d bent him to my will, enslaved him, taken his heart and made it mine, encasing it in gold and wearing it as belt; a lock of his black curls, a tooth and his tongue, hung in a golden locket about my neck. He was bound to me until the day I died, a day I’d done my utmost to ensure would never come. But that day was here, and my lover had orchestrated it.
I sensed movement. He had come to watch me die as I knew he would. Fingers brushed against my throat. My eyes snapped open and I caught his ebony wrist in my hand. I’d have had my revenge, but my strength was gone. It was easy for him to break away. I stared into his beautiful, enigmatic golden eyes, hovering just out of reach, and fancied that within their depths I saw regret. I held his gaze, feeling his hatred emanating from him in waves; hatred mixed with love, regret and self loathing.
‘How?’ I whispered. The binding I’d forced upon him two hundred years ago had nearly cost me my life. It should have prevented him from accomplishing Yemina’s foretelling of the destruction of Avilyon. As her Queen, I was the heart and soul of this world, Avilyon’s destruction had always meant my death. Perhaps they were right, perhaps you cannot thwart destiny no matter how hard you try.
He smiled, whispering directly into my mind, ‘Perhaps, if you’d not bound me…’
His words pierced. He’d begged me not to bind him. He’d gone down on his knees before me, clasping my hands, ‘I love you Arilliyen!’ he’d cried. ‘I would never betray you! You are my world, my heart, my life!’ There’d been tears and terror in his golden eyes, and although my heart longed to trust him, I could not, and had bound him anyway. For two hundred years I’d had to live with his constant reproach, and my guilt. ‘I’m not dead yet, Benaii. Only then can you take the locket.’
‘But I do not have long to wait, do I?’
‘No,’ I said, closing my eyes, wondering if things would have been different if I’d not bound him to me. If I’d left him free, could we have still had our love? Or would I have distrusted him forever after hearing Yemina’s words? Perhaps it would have been best to have killed him as my council had recommended, as Benaii would have preferred. ‘Death would be better, than the life you will leave me with!’ he’d cried as he lay upon the operating table, wrapped in golden chains. Those words had haunted my dreams thereafter.
My left hand curled around the hilt of the hidden blade ensconced upon my body. Could I? Did I have the strength, the will, to do it? Could all the wrong be undone? I opened my eyes, drinking in his dark beauty and sad golden eyes.
‘If you’d not bound me, Arilliyen, it would never have come to this. I would have chosen a different path. It is your own actions upon hearing Yemina’s words that have condemned you.’ He leant close, his lips brushing mine.
I gasped! Even dying, my body responded. I kissed him back, hungry to taste once again the fruit that had been denied me these last two centuries. With the last of my strength I brought the blade up in a silent flash of silver.
His warm blood splashed upon my face, running into my open mouth. His blood on my lips, its metallic saltiness on my tongue, I couldn’t help but swallow. I felt the locket ripped from neck and smiled, running my tongue over sharp, pointed teeth, over lips painted red with his blood. I felt strength returning. His blood had always been oh so sweet.