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Title: I don't break the rules

Chapter 11: The one that completes you

I made my way back before the shadows began to lengthen. In addition to my earlier harvest, I had also found canker root and calendula, and Agueweed for fever. I even had some bird eggs, which Eryk was only too happy to add to whatever he had going in the pot. More importantly, Myka was awake, which made it much easier for me to play physician again. He was feverish still, so I started by making him chew the Agueweed—so much easier than using the Firewort. Then I crushed the other plants into a thick paste for his wound. This time around, I Bent his pain down before I changed the bandage, in addition to a dose of pain-soother. My Bending was gradually improving—though nowhere near fully restored—along with my arm, which no longer ached constantly. Whatever was in Myka's paste, it was effective. Eryk I distracted by making him wash the used bandages in the part of the rivulet furthest away from the source. Without his anxious hovering, and without having to worry about causing discomfort to Myka, I would be able to do what I had to do at a much faster pace.

Myka started out silent to my ministrations, as usual. Then suddenly, he spoke up. "Tell me something, Brook."

Being rather startled, I just responded with a "Hmm?"

"Why are you doing this?"

I couldn't see his expression because he was facing away from me, and I couldn't tell anything from his tone. So I had no choice but to take his question at face value.

"You saved me from the wolves," I answered simply. No need to bring in the part played by Eryk and Freyl.

He considered that. Then he said, "That doesn't bind you to us forever."

"Well…" I paused in my work and went around to where we could see each other's faces. "It isn't quite forever yet, so I suppose you'll just have to endure me for a little longer."

He gave me three heartbeats' worth of his stone-faced expression. And then he actually smiled. "Thank you for putting up with me as well."

So Myka did know how to smile after all… and rather sweetly too. I went back to my task also smiling, even though I didn't really know what for.

…..

Myka nodded off soon after that, thanks to the pain-soother. While Eryk and I were eating, I decided to bring up the subject of my encounter in the woods.

"There were armed men in the woods today," I announced without preamble.

"The Idiot's gang?" Concern clouded his face.

"Soldiers."

He looked greatly relieved, but he did not relax completely. "Perhaps we should stay inside here tomorrow."

"You're thinking that they're our foes, but I'm thinking…," I said slowly. "…perhaps they could be our allies."

He caught on quickly. "You mean, ask them for help? I don't know about that. Sometimes soldiers are just well-armed bandits."

"You're quite right, but this lot seemed quite disciplined." I paused momentarily, putting my thoughts in order. "Actually, I'm not thinking of asking the soldiers, but their commander." I hadn't really thought my plan through, and I was hoping that talking to Eryk would clarify things for me.

"Do you know this commander?"

"I don't, but we can take a look at him tomorrow, since you're quite accomplished at reading people from their appearances."

He smiled faintly at my indirect praise, but he didn't offer an opinion.

"They said he'll be here by nightfall today," I continued. "His name is… Fyrelix, if I heard it right."

He startled me by dropping his spoon with a clatter. When I looked at him, his eyes were bright with excitement.

To my unspoken question, he said, "Fyrelix is my brother's name."

I understood his excitement, but I didn't want him to start having wild dreams of a reunion. "There's no surety it is indeed him. You know that, don't you?" I cautioned.

He nodded, but looked no less radiant. "I know it's him, I feel it in here," he said, patting his heart. "It's Freyl, I'm sure of it!"

Yet another mention of the elusive Freyl. I wrinkled my brows. Still, it took me a little while to make the connection. "Fyrelix is Freyl?"

A moment later, I also dropped my spoon. "The same Freyl… that Myka … loves?"

My agitation had, in fact, been stirred up by the thought of how this complication would affect our decision on seeking help from him. But Eryk, with a curious mixture of innocence and defiance, chose to given my words another interpretation.

"It isn't what you think! Freyl is Myka's Muse!"

It was obvious to him from my face that I had no inkling what he meant by that, so he continued, "I told you that we can only use our talents together with another one of our people. That's true for…" He saved his hands, searching for words. "…well, ordinary use. In order to use our talents to the fullest, we need a special person, our Muse."

I nodded wordlessly. Fragments of thoughts were chasing each other around my head, attempting to meet each other to make a picture I could understand.

"That's another reason why Myka couldn't heal you completely right away, because he can't use his talent to the full without Freyl."

I nodded again, but Eryk seemed compelled to convince me beyond any doubt of…

What exactly, I wasn't sure.

"If the person you love completes you, then yes, Myka loves Freyl, because without Freyl, he can never be complete."

It was beautiful in a way, what he had said. Beautiful, yet strangely saddening… Random thoughts continued to swirl around in my head, like Myka's despairing words in his delirium. Had Freyl left Myka, or had Freyl been driven away?

Some of the swirling fragments came together to form a question. "You… and… Myka…?"

"Myka is my Muse," he said quietly.

There was a strange fluttering in my heart, but I had to know. "So you… love Myka?"

"Yes."

That one word did not calm my heart, instead made it beat even more wildly… with something that felt very much like… disappointment. Against my will, the next few words forced themselves out. "You love him… as your… Muse?"

With a soft look in his eyes, he said, "Just how much more than a Muse Myka is to me… I can't even begin to tell you."

A cold fist clenched itself around my heart at his words, causing a strange ache, such as I had never experienced before. I couldn't understand what was happening to me at all.

But Eryk hadn't finished yet. A deep sorrow came into his voice. "But that doesn't matter at all."

I stared at him speechlessly, uncomprehendingly; at his glistening golden eyes like moonlight on water, his trembling lips a wounded cardinal, his hair a gentle halo of darkness.

He looked away from me, breaking the spell. "Because I know that Myka doesn't love me. Not the way I want him to."

I shook my head violently, clearing out all the fancies and madness that had seized me. Before his tragic beauty overwhelmed me again, I said briskly, "Tomorrow, we spy out this commander. Then if he is indeed your brother, you can reveal yourself immediately."

He didn't react with the joy I was expecting, which confused me, given his earlier excitement. Rather, he took on a pensive expression, chewing his lower lip nervously. He was obviously thinking hard about how to answer me.

"What is it?" I demanded. "What are you not telling me?"

My aggressiveness shocked him into answering without further consideration. "We… Freyl and I… we parted with bad feelings." He lowered his gaze. "He even said that it would be better if he never saw me again. So I really don't know how he would react if I just… appeared."

Playing the coy maiden again. That was the one thing I truly disliked about Eryk. "Myka needs a proper physician, Eryk. I can't do any more than this for him. And the only way to get him a physician's attention now is through Freyl. Do you understand that?"

"I do! But…" For some reason, he wasn't willing to give in.

With an impatient click of my tongue, I laid out the truth to him. "It's your decision. If you don't want to risk Freyl's anger or whatever it is you dread… then Myka might die. That's all there is to it."

He went another shade paler, and gulped back a sob.

"You don't have to decide now. Sleep on it." I turned my back on him.

I retreated into a dark corner while he listlessly cleaned up the remnants of our meal. I had many things to brood over. Myka and Frey's relationship was more complicated than I had thought, but that was nothing compared to where Eryk stood between them. The more I went over what I knew, the less it made sense to me. To begin with, Eryk claimed that Myka didn't love him, yet I had heard Myka say that he did that night when I had eavesdropped on them. Did they understand love differently from me, or was what I had known all this time about love completely wrong?

And then Myka was supposed to be in love with Freyl, but from what Eryk had said about them, it didn't sound to me like love at all but something darker and potentially much more destructive. If the talent-Muse relationship was anything like the one Eryk and Myka had, then I couldn't imagine how Freyl could have left Myka… unless Eryk had something to do with it that he wasn't telling me. Just how many secrets did sunny Eryk hide behind his winsome smile?

Lastly, but very much the most importantly to me, where did I stand in all this? It had all been so simple in the beginning: Myka loathed me, and Eryk liked me.

But now everything had gone awry, what with Myka's thawing attitude towards me and Eryk's shy hints at something that went beyond liking... and both of them, inexorably and involuntarily, coming to rely more and more on me.

No matter how I tried, I just couldn't unravel the knots that they had imprisoned me with.