In the northeast corner of the Lesar home, in a small but comfortable room, a young woman suffered. She showed no physical wounds, but she whimpered in pain and huddled in the farthest corner of the room refusing to let the sunlight touch her. She was thin and trembling, barely a shadow of what she had been weeks before, but she did not notice. Cliso Garnen was lost in her own sorrow and guilt.
The people had stopped entering her room trying to talk to her. They just left her trays of food which she never touched and sighed at the waste of it all. Such a pretty creature, so lost to the world. What a shame. Cliso knew the one person she missed the most would never walk through that door and she had long ago forgotten her promise to that man.
This day was to be different than the rest though. It was nearing the time when they brought her a midday meal, but the door did not gently open. Instead, it was thrown open so hard it slammed into the wall behind it making Cliso start in her huddled corner. Someone walked into the dimness with heavy and angry steps and slammed the door behind them so hard pictures fell of the walls.
“Where are you, you pitiful creature?” a rough male voice demanded. “Can’t see a damn thing in this cave!” he growled stomping to the windows and nearly ripping the curtains off their rods as he pulled them open and pushed the hinged windows open. As the sunlight hit him, Cliso recognized him. Jiles Foldar, the son of the man she had cursed.
Jiles peered around the room with his intent hazel eyes and he finally saw her curled into a ball in the corner of the room next to the clothes dresser. “What is this about, Cliso Garnen? What do you hope to prove?”
Cliso said nothing. She covered her face with her hands and drew her knees closer to her face hoping to disappear. She could feel his anger as a physical force and it burned her more than any flame ever could.
“You’re not keeping your promise, girl,” Jiles snapped moving to stand a few strides from her. “You promised to take care of me and yet you have prepared no meals, washed no clothes, nor satisfied my needs as a man.”
The Cliso who cared would have been infuriated by Jiles words and the snide tone he said them in. But this wasted Cliso did not care that he saw her as property. She would be dead soon and no one could claim her then.
“Damn all, get out of there and talk to me!” Jiles demanded reaching for the girl and managing to grab hold of her arms and yank her to her feet. She cried out in pain as her legs cramped up from this sudden movement when she had been huddled for so long. Jiles threw her onto the soft bed and scowled at her as she whimpered and cried. “If you want to die, I can find you a dagger and you can end it all now. Is that what you want?”
Cliso again did not answer. She clutched at the bedding as her legs spasmed and her whole body trembled. The sunlight burned at her and she closed her eyes against it.
“He was my father, Cliso! You have no right to mourn for him more than I do! He gave his life so we could live and this is how you repay him?” Jiles leaned over her on the bed and grabbed her shoulders shaking her less than gently.
“I cursed him when he met me!” Cliso screamed batting feebly at Jiles who finally stopped shaking her.
“Ah, so you can speak.” Jiles released her and let her drop back to the bed. “He was trying to protect you from the fate he saw before you. He had no way of knowing he would be the man to die in your future. Who is to say that was even meant to be? The magic of foresight is less than clear and ambiguous more than that. Maybe I loved you first and he defied your fate by saving me.”
“You never loved me, Jiles Foldar. Your lies won’t change things!” Cliso cried clenching her hands around the soft spread. “He was the kindest man I ever met and I killed him.”
“Oh, you did?” Jiles asked as Cliso rolled over onto her back and glared at him through half sunken green eyes. “So it was you who struck him with that magic and you just made it look like it was one of Isadora’s demons? In that case, you do deserve to die and at my hands no less.”
“Then kill me, there is nothing more to live for,” Cliso sighed closing her eyes as if preparing herself for the thrust of his dagger.
Jiles laughed and Cliso’s eyes flew open in shock. “Nothing more to live for? Do you no longer care about your friends, your family? What about your best friend, Ahni? She loved Emmon too in her own way. Will you make her mourn for my father and you? What about her babies who adore you? How will she explain to them that you no longer loved them enough to live? What would that do to those children?”
“If they were older they’d understand,” she insisted.
“They would? I find that hard to believe.” Jiles scoffed “Emmon was my father, the man who raised me from a helpless babe to a somewhat respectable man and though I would sell my soul to have him back with me, I know that can’t be and I know my death will not change that. He saved our lives, Cliso Garnen! You owe him your life! You die and his ghost will plague you for eternity. Is that what you want?” Jiles took hold of her arms and forced her to sit up and look at him.
“I want him not to be dead!” she screamed her voice filled with unfathomable anguish. “He did nothing but good for this world and he was taken from it! Where is the justice in that? How can the Goddesses be so cruel?”
Jiles shook his head as tears formed in his own eyes. “Was it cruel to give him a full life? To let him know true love at least once in his life? To raise a child of his own blood? To train men to be honorable? Would you take all that from him if by doing so he could live longer?”
Cliso lowered her head and a tremor ran through her whole body. “I’ll never touch him again, Jiles. I’ll never hear his laugh. He’ll never defend me against you again,” her voice trembled almost as much as her hands and she clutched them together tightly. “How can I accept that?”
Jiles lowered himself to his knees so that he could see her eyes even with her head down. He took her shaking hands in his own and waited until she looked at him to speak. “Well, I’ve been told I’m not unpleasant to touch, I can guffaw just as loud as my father ever could. And that last part? You won’t need anyone to defend you against me, Cliso Garnen. Never again.”
“Are you leaving this world?” Cliso asked in disbelief refusing to be cheered by his words.
Jiles sighed and shook his head. “Worse. I’m admitting my love to a woman, the weakest thing for any man to do. But hey, Keth did it and I do so hate it when he beats me to things.”
“Keth told Ahni he loves her? And meant it?” Cliso said in awe with wide green eyes that were showing the merest spark of her usual fire.
Jiles rolled his eyes. “That’s what I said, isn’t it? Did you miss the whole first part of that? I said I love you, Cliso Garnen.”
“No, you didn’t,” Cliso amended. “You said you were admitting your love to a woman. You could have been about to tell me that you still loved Ahni and that you were determined to wrench her from Keth’s grasp. That would certainly make more sense.”
“Why would you need my father to defend you? Damn all, Cliso, you can defend yourself!” Jiles huffed rising to his feet and trying to break from her. She held fast to his hands and stood up managing her first smile in weeks. Jiles scowled at her.
“I’m allowed to tease,” she insisted waving a finger in his face.
“Are you?” Jiles asked raising an eyebrow. “Perhaps we should establish some rules here.”
“Fine. Rule one, shut up.” Cliso ended any protests by reaching up and covering his lips with her own and she was rewarded by his strongly passionate response. Her stomach growled but she ignored it. She had a yearning and urge for renewal within her stronger than any mundane hunger pains and she meant to satisfy it.