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"I see my disguise does not fool you," the sorceress said, rolling her eyes again.
"No," Liam laughed, rising when she tapped his shoulder. "You're still quite lovely, even at such an older age. And your voice, it is no different than the last time I had heard it."
"Oh, well I liked my voice very much. So I kept that," she clapped her hands. The entire cave lit up, showing a perfectly nice little home. Nothing else but Liam was covered in the muck, especially not the sorceress.
"You did look a bit horrifying at first," he admitted.
"Ha," the sorceress laughed, smiling her even now beautiful smile. "Thank you. I am so I can be left alone in peace. Do you think if I were still as beautiful as I once was that I would be given the space I desire from the world? No! I would be still frowned upon by other women, ogled at by men, and walked upon by my father. I like this new look. It suits me more. After all, my insides are worse than my outsides, right?"
"Whatever do you mean?" Liam was confused.
She motioned for him to sit, and he did so, despite the muck on his clothing. Though, when he moved his hands to clean his legs of the dirt, they were clean. When he looked up at the sorceress, gaping, she laughed again. Apparently she had done it, herself.
"I'm a sorceress. So I must be evil and have no heart. Only on the contrary, I do very much have one. Or I did before it was shattered. Now I am this, alone and abandoned in a cave with bats. Bats aren't very good companions. Most of the time I have no idea what they're saying."
He shot a look up to the creatures fluttering around the ceiling above and recoiled, turning back to the sorceress with a look of confusion. "Why do you stay then? If they are your only company and yet you do not enjoy them?"
Her laugh rung in the echoing cave. "I brought them here. Why would I leave or make them leave when I so greatly wanted them to be here in the first place? No, I make due to what I have and what I need. What I desire only mattered in the beginning. Now, I simply am sitting here and trying to make amends for what has happened."
"Two men are wanted for murder because of you," he retorted.
"I didn't say I made amends. I'm making them."
"If you want to make amends, your Highness, I suggest you tell your father where you are and that you're safe. He's gone mad after you supposedly died."
"I know," she frowned. "And I would rather like to keep it that way, thank you very much. He was a wretched man when I was 'alive', and now that I'm 'dead' he deserves to be punished, and turned into the man he is known to be right this very moment. Or, whatever he is now." She shrugged, sitting across from Liam with another slight cackle.
Appalled by her vicious words, Liam gawked at the woman he once admired.
She was beautiful once, smart, sweet. Now she was a bitter, excruciatingly ugly thing. He hoped this was all a dream, but every time he closed his eyes he wasn't waking up somewhere else. He was still there, with the sorceress/princess staring at him with a remarkably disgusting grin.
"Surprised I'm not me?" she said, as if she could read his mind. Mistaking the idea for the truth, he blushed, dropping his gaze.
"Apologies?" she laughed. "Apologize I'm in the mood for revenge, and that I just lied to you seconds ago? Apologize I'm not so sweet and innocent anymore? Apologize that my father is being held captive by two time travelers and you're not there to be held captive as well?
"Oh, please Liam. I thought you were a better man than that. Do not apologize for things that you have no control over."
His head shot up at the mention of time travelers, and his mouth was dry from having it so wide for a prolonged time. The princess/sorceress was repeatedly surprising him.
"The two that…?" He could barely finish his own sentence.
She shook her head, her knotty hair flying around her face. "No. Two new ones. They seem to know all about me. Bah. I wouldn't be surprised if my father knows I'm alive now."
The sorceress rolled her eyes and conjured up a small stick that startled him. It was lit at the end.
"What is that?" Liam pointed to the cigarette. It was a modern-day cigarette.
Her eyes followed to where he was pointing, and then she gazed back up at him with another short chortle. "This? It's called a cigarette Liam. Oh, for heavens sake, I nearly forgot this is the wrong time these things are from."
Again, she shrugged, and took a long puff from the unlit end. "Too late anyways. It's not as if the bats are going to tell the world of what they've seen. And I hope, for your sake, you won't either."
He nodded his head, then shook it, then nodded it again. "No, your Highness. I won't. I won't. I promise."
Her eerie grin broadened, showing missing teeth that somehow had no effect on her voice still being perfectly innocent sounding. "Good," she said. "So…" she stretched. "I'm guessing you're wondering about my story, eh?"
"Yo- your story?" he repeated, biting his tongue in anger about his habit of stuttering.
"Yes," she stared at him curiously. "You did come here to learn of why I'm here didn't you? Or was there something else?"
At the moment he could not think of anything else other than the reason she was still alive. If that was what her story was, he wished to know every little detail.
"Well?" She arched an eyebrow at him. "Shall I tell you my story, or would a bedtime lullaby suffice?"
The longer they were sitting there, he learned, the more bitter her mood was becoming.
"Your story is why I came," he said, wincing at how pitiful he was sounding.
More and more like the king himself every hour, Liam repeated to himself in his head, hoping, again, that the sorceress could not hear his thoughts. By the expression on her face, he now knew she could not.
A bat screeched and flew by, passing into the cigarette and knocking it out of her hand. She groaned and cursed under her breath, reaching for another one. The expression on Liam's face, one of shock and surprise, kept her from putting another to her mouth.
Sighing, she finally said, "Well, I think it would be easier if I kept that from you."
He gulped. "Err, why? Is there a problem?"
She shrugged, outstretching her hands. They instantaneously went from wrinkled to the smooth, porcelain-like skin she once had.
"Give me your hands, Liam," she demanded. "I want to see something. Please?"
This was the first time she ever said anything with such conviction – anything polite as well. Baffled he didn't even think, just shoved his hands into hers. Against her skin his hands felt rough, old, like they belonged to someone already dead instead of someone merely at the age of forty-seven.
His face went scarlet at the realization he was touching royalty's hands. She barely even cared.
Her fingers ran over the lifelines on his palms, her fingernail tips trailing over the calluses on his hands.
"I do believe," she gaped, dropping his hand with haste. "I do believe you should make amends with my father. I've… I've…" Flustered, unable to think, she began to feel weak and paranoid.
What she saw was nothing she wished to ever witness again. It was a time in the future, her own future as well as Liam's and Septin's, one that made her tear up.
Liam hid his hands in his lap and gazed down at his shoes. "May I ask what's the matter?" he whispered.
She snapped out of her daze.
"Dark skies filled with arrows, coming down on the kingdom. Our surrounding countries will pilfer most of the small villages. Something happened to provoke this, but I don't know what. I'm not sure what. All I know is… this… this place… Another country takes it over, kills my father for something I'm not sure of, and you… You bare witness to it all. You bare witness to the downfall of Klahaclén Hills."
He frowned. "And this is what is bothering you?" he asked. By the look of her and the stories he heard in the hallways of the palace, she wouldn't have been bothered by this information like she was right then. And, to him, the information was good news. Everything but Septin dying.
"No," she snarled. "No. That isn't what disturbed me. What disturbed me is…" She inclined her head closer to him, whispering to him a secret she didn't wish to speak any louder. Another bat passed in search of the first, shrieking as its wings made fluttering sounds.
Liam's face went white from her statement, and his fingers gripped his pants legs tightly.
At the waters Cüíano sensed Unthrel was disturbingly not telling him everything. The mud on his legs was troubling, and the way his eyes shifted whenever Cüíano asked about it. After a while he learned dropping the subject was better than losing his companion, but he was still having difficulty with keeping his mouth closed.
Cüíano finished washing first, and dried himself off as best as he could in haste before Unthrel came out of the water in time. He was giving Cüíano looks of question but never said a word. Neither said a word while they both dressed. Not until Unthrel sliced open the sole of his foot and growled.
"You should put your foot in the water. It might help," Cüíano advised, not in the least bit interested if it helped or not. He simply was getting annoyed due to Unthrel's lack of respect and manners.
Why couldn't Unthrel have died instead of Fein?
After saying this in his head, Cüíano gaped and felt ashamed. He instantly disappeared in the trees for a moment alone, while still remaining close enough he could hear Unthrel's grunts of anger.
He couldn't have imagined a time before when he would have thought such wretched things about his only friends – now only friend. After Daemon came bursting into their lives everything changed, even how they felt about each other, even how they felt about themselves.
It wasn't something Cüíano was proud of, changing because of someone that shouldn't exist.
Instead of the courageous, villainous, and mighty man Cüíano once was, he was a coward and weak. He wasn't strong, or gave anyone a frightening feeling anymore, instead afraid of him or her.
Being on the run, trying not to get killed or caught seemed to do that to a person.
Before long he fell into a daze of self-pity and sorrow, trying not to find himself sobbing into his clean shoulder. His damp hair kept falling into his eyes, which helped with not falling into the empty hole he felt he was standing on the edge of.
Daemon cursed his life, even if he wasn't the evil that killed all those innocent women.
"Damn it," Unthrel cursed, shouting up at the sky. Cüíano spotted him throwing a rock into the water, a splash big as a wave echoing around where the two had met, and then almost turned away when the water leapt up and swallowed Unthrel up.
Once the water had stopped raining down and quieted, there was nothing but clothes where Unthrel had once been standing.
"No! Unthrel!" Cüíano raced out from behind the trees, as if he could rescue his dear friend. His eyes scanned the area, in search of him, finding nothing but the calm waters. Not even a sound gave way that Unthrel was around.
It was quite possible he was dead. It was quite possible that magick was behind this. It was also quite possible that Unthrel was playing a trick on him, and once Cüíano left the waterside to go back to check on Daemon he would find him there.
The thought of checking on Daemon surpassed every other, and Cüíano's feet were suddenly turning and sprinting towards where Daemon had been left. He hoped that maybe he could use Daemon to find Unthrel.
Only, just because Daemon was magical himself, didn't mean that he could find every other thing magical in the world. Though, Cüíano had to try. He lost one friend already, losing two would be too much. Spending the rest of his life alone was not an option.
He couldn't bare the thought of what would happen to him if Unthrel were indeed gone just like Fein.
So he ran, as fast as his legs could carry him, until he was back to Daemon and the rest of their belongings.
Daemon was still sound asleep, but he went to his side and shook him despite his better judgment. He knew that sleep was just what Daemon needed. It was just he should have given him.
It took just a few minutes to return him roughly back to the real world, to their time, and he let out a sigh of relief when Daemon made a movement to sit up.
Cüíano leaned against a tree a few feet away, to let Daemon breathe and wake up on his own, with a small space between them.
His fingers were in his mouth, and he bit down hard on his cuticles in wait for Daemon to say something.
"What happened?" he asked, groggily, reaching for his head, and then for his legs.
He made a sound that usually came with wincing.
Ignoring his question, Cüíano felt it was time enough that he was up and awake. Picking Daemon up by the elbow, he began carrying him in the general direction of the waters. He stopped right where he had been standing when he searched for Unthrel only minutes ago and gestured to the clothing left behind.
"See these?" His fingers still tightly gripped Daemon's arm, fearing if he let go Daemon wouldn't help him. But why should he if he were holding him again like he were a prisoner still? "Unthrel left them behind, just now. He got swallowed by water, and… Do you think you can find him?"
Cüíano hoped his dear friend, his only one left, was still alive somewhere. Was it too much to ask that not everyone died around Daemon?
Daemon eyed the situation with suspicion, his eyes flickering from the water, to the clothes, to Cüíano's face. He was gravely concerned for his health. He wondered what he was ranting on about while his brain was still trying to wake up the rest of his body.
His limbs were numb from stillness for such a long period of time.
Then, a light switch turned itself on inside. He spotted a trail of mud, an odd form of mud only found in one place…
"I know where this leads to," he said. "I can take you, but I should warn, you, you might not like what you find there." His free arm pointed to the mud trail and he met with Cüíano's crazed gaze with sorrow.
There was so much that Daemon did by coming to this time, when all he was originally supposed to do was make sure one person was born. That was all. Make sure one person was born and then be on his merry way.
No such luck.
"This piece of gum is dead," Rachelle complained, picking it out of her mouth, about to throw it away. She was in search of a trash bin, only to recall there wouldn't be one yet. Not in this time period. Exasperated, she made the motion to throw it just anywhere.
Her eyes kept to the gum in hand to make sure to notice where it would fall.
Alfred's arm went up when she was about to let go, and she lowered her own arm down to her side again. the piece of gum stuck to her two fingertips, leaving her to make a face at the feeling and at her colleague.
"Don't throw it away," he growled. "You do and you disturb time."
Rachelle rolled her eyes, bitter. "As if it's not disturbed already. Come on, it's a mess this place. A crazy king who should still not be crazy. A witch who shouldn't even know she is one. All those women dead who shouldn't be dead yet, especially not by what had killed them. Then two of our own on the run from this guy, who, I'm sorry, should be put away."
Her eyes narrowed at King Septin. "Or put down."
"Enough," Alfred snapped, his hand lowering as well. "That is quite enough, Rachelle. Now, would you mind leaving the two of us alone? This time, until I tell you that you can come back?"
"Ugh," she rolled her eyes again. "Puh-lease. I think I'll go home."
"Do what you feel is necessary. Just, please, do it soon. I," Alfred turned his head back to Septin, who was pretending he couldn't hear their conversation. His eyes were glued tight, his lips firmly shut, his hands clenched. He didn't want to be hearing what they were saying – it didn't make sense to him, and he truthfully didn't want it to. "I am in need of a great discussion with this lad here."
He patted the king on the arm with a half-smile.
"Go back to the twenties if you feel that is a justified solution. You're better off with Rhys, anyways."
"Yeah," Rachelle shrugged, agreeing. Her fingers were still a mess with the gum. "You're right. I should go be with him. That boy doesn't know up or down without me anyway. Guess I'll be seeing you soon."
"Yes. Leave us be."
She left with a quick glare in Septin's direction, sticking her tongue out at his unknowing frame. His face was stiff, as if he could tell what she was doing. The door was quiet as she closed it behind her, and that was the last Septin ever saw of the woman.
"Now that we're all alone…" Alfred said it so sinisterly, the only thing he ever said that way. He was smiling at Septin, who was oblivious to everything he couldn't see – which was everything.
His eyes remained closed, though, and he simply loosened his arms and lips at the sound of the door.
He would rather be talking with this man than that woman.
"Would you care to know why you're this way? Why you're in trouble when it's truly your daughter who is the one who deserves punishing?" Alfred leaned ever so closer to Septin, who was still quite unaware of anything else going on around him.
Hs tongue whipped out from between his lips, to lick them. They were chapped, hurting, burning as he breathed.
"Yes," Septin nodded.
"Do you think life could take a turn for the worse just by breathing differently? That one wrong flick of the wrist and your whole life is being ripped apart piece by piece? I do believe that this is a situation much like those, only your daughter simply smiled too widely at a time traveler, grabbed his attention when he shouldn't have looked. The rest, my friend, is history. Both him, and a fellow time traveler, accidentally created this horrible history that your daughter won't allow us to change.
"So we have to make due with what we've got."
"And that means tying up a king to his bed like he's a prisoner?" the king hissed, tired of explanations. He was tired of everything. His whole body felt weaker than before.
"Yes," Alfred replied calmly, ignoring the resentment in King Septin's tone. He knew that the man would someday realize that this was necessary if the world were supposed to turn out the way it was planned to.
"This needs to happen. You need to comprehend you're a small part of the bigger picture. Besides, you were angering us time travelers. You needn't worry about us killing. We're not the ones who killed."
"I said we're not the ones who killed. We are not the ones who have been doing this murdering. Your lovely daughter has. Quite a good witch, that one. I'd watch out for her on family reunions."
"On what? I don't… I don't…" Would Alfred ever make sense to Septin? He wanted to understand, so badly, but it was evident the time travelers wanted him to stay a mess and stay confused about everything.
None of it was making sense, as if by using a certain tone of voice the words were like a garbled thing going into Septin's ears.
"Your daughter did terrible things, messed time up quite badly."
"So I'm being locked up because of her?" King Septin was aggravated, infuriated, shaking with rage.
"This is what happens when someone meddles with time, my friend," Alfred smiled again. "They get themselves punished."
"How is this her punishment?" Again with the puzzlement.
Alfred leaned in as far as he possibly could, his lips close to Septin's ear. "Trust me. It is."
"You, as well as every other in this godforsaken world, are not making any sense."
"I'll leave you to your thoughts," said Alfred, standing up and beginning to depart like Rachelle before him.
Septin shook in place, trying to burst free from what was holding him glued to his bed. He wished he could be free, to do something other than feel worse of a human being than he really was.
He may have been insane, but he didn't deserve this. At least, he didn't think so himself.
I will get free. I will get free. Oh this is useless!
"No you will not leave me to my thoughts!" he shouted to Alfred. "I need to know more. I'm so confused. I have no idea what you're babbling on about."
"Then," Alfred said, already at the door. He planned not to stick around for long, "listen."
The door shut behind him, louder than it had when Rachelle had left, but quiet enough to anger Septin even more.
Locked up to his own bed, with no one to rescue him from the sight, was worse than the time travelers rambling on about nonsense.
Septin screamed aloud in anguish.