XVIII. Inferno

Eleanor sank deeper and deeper into the narrative, the strings of jealousy and obsession weaving it all, the coronation, the unfolding of the plots, the rape, the murders with an archaic world of wars and sorcery in the backdrop…yet the tapestry was dotted with incoherences where, she assumed, the flawed protagonist was so in tune to his inner darkness that it was no longer merely within, but rather his very existence. Eventually it all became consumed by the darkness: the Fallen ascended a throne again.

She did not dare to stir the pages of recent years soaked in darkness for fear that she should be more affected. So, her hands moved on their own to grasp the tangled strings before her, maneuvering this mind twisted by unchecked pride and lust that unthreaded the cloth into a discord web of perpetual envy. As she worked she grew infinitely cold, and a legion of voices rebuked her; never before had she felt fear so distilled within her entire being, and she quavered from her task.

What do you think you are doing, child? She did not answer, since she knew the voice knew. How…brave of you. Many eyes inspected her and sought to see through her being, yet they cannot. So, this is a Crisiota.

At the same time, she searched for her brother and found his mind, sick with worry and confusion in his company of the children from that night presumably assigned as his guide by Cephas. Sirius, he was pleasantly surprised to hear her voice, though puzzled that it was within his head. Sirius, you must listen to me and do as I say…He submitted his absolute attention. Now…She explained her haphazard plan and encouraged him, and the little boy merely indicated that he understood.

Oh, such a wonderful sister to have so much faith in her little brother…do you really believe a mere lad can control his powers to such precision? She did not permit the voices to disturb her original objective as she upset LaLauren’s conscious just briefly enough to stun him with haunting visions of nostalgia, and as he grappled with reality and pasts, she returned to herself to snatch the fallen torch from dying into embers. Her abused wrists burnt at her negligence as she strained to retrieve the torch, reviving the blaze with gentle breaths and without hesitation dashed the fire against the closest wooden pillar.

Flowers of flames blossomed within a blink of the eye: wooden beam cried out as petals ripped and multiplied in a violent burgeoning of suffocating heat.

The Fallen recollected his distraught host and beheld his predicament with unbelieving rage, snapping around to face the author of his doom, his eyes wild with wrath.

“How…dare you.”

Eleanor remained motionless, returning the glare with feigned serenity while the world around her burnt, the creaks and cracks of the wood devolved to cackle walking the edge of sanity.

In a sudden burst, the deranged man charged at her, the dull glint of a scarlet blade raised. Sirius, now!

The air before her screeched as it tore open, collapsing paradoxes followed the burning beam that fell into existence, crushing the Fallen in a mighty crash. Eleanor made out a horrible cry amidst the chaos while the wooden cackle amplified, for their victim deserved no sympathy.

As the dusts and embers began to clear, Eleanor attempted to ignore the smell of seared flesh and gathered a voice, thinned and nearly unrecognizable in its plea, “Ce-Cephas…save me…”

She watched in stupefied horror as the summoned servant staggered to his feet from his feeble state, a shaking shadow in the smothering smokes. “Cephas, what are you doing!?” He must have been deaf to her as he made his way to his master, who was trapped under the burnt beam from the waist down. “Ceph…as…hurry up…” Eleanor thought that Cephas was controlled by the man, so she was about to reach out from her conscious again until she saw that he stooped next to the Fallen, a dull red glint in his hand as he raised it and brought it down. A slick sound of blade against flesh and one last hushed curse later, it was finished.

Cephas fell backward against the wall, tempted by the whispered promise of a peaceful stupor and relief, but Eleanor’s gasps for breath in her slow strangulation by the smokes deprived him of any rest. Still, he was chained down by fatigue, the melodic voices accompanying sweet visions of death, ever so beautiful. The strain of his last exercise paralyzed him with new pains: the fears and uncertainties that drove his survival and numbed his abuses gave way to relief, an emotion so longed after that it disappointed him when he got it for once. Relief was hardly strong enough to keep him upon his feet, so he half staggered, half dragged himself to her, attempting without success to undo her bonds.

“Cephas…” He had to stop working for he could not even see his own hands beyond blurs, even her delicate face and kind eyes became mirages shivering in and out of the shadows and firelight.

He blinked hard, frowned, but to no effect.

It was as though she sensed his helplessness as she put a hand upon his. For a split second as he looked up he saw clearly into her unspoken lament, and he agreed after he gave another jab at the locks with the pick, relenting, at last to the inevitable embrace of death.

Oh, the irony, that they should be burnt to death by the fire that freed them from their fiery demon.

With a sudden brashness not unprecedented, she drew him into her arms. It was only then, as his head slumped against her shoulder, that he noticed that she was shaking, weeping in suppressed sobs. What was she but a noble child, horrified by the prospect of her violent end? His sympathy held rancor derived from a jealousy for her privileged upbringing, but her words only shamed him for even harboring such thoughts.

“I-I am sorry…I’ve a-associated you with all of th-this…I…”

He cupped her tear-stained cheeks and brushed the streams aside in silent acquiescence: it was not her who associated him, but rather the opposition. He could not imagine that he would end this way, that someone should mourn for him, that someone…can he pretend that she loved him?

He supposed, she would be the first and last to do so anyway.

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