IV. Brief Candle

They were close. Soulran would have never imagine the clash of hooves against stone could be so maddeningly deafening. Neither of them dared to look back at their pursuers, though it was clear that they only drew closer.

All was going too well, he suppose. He had escorted the young baron and his mother to safety while Eleanor detained her husband upon a walk to view Mount Goltha. But, who would’ve expected the Duke to have foreseen their schemes and stationed such close watch, that Soulran had to rely upon his ability to thwart the legion hindering the Crisiotas’ escape? He hastily rode to find Eleanor afterwards, fearing that she had perished under her husband’s paranoia. To his luck, she was mostly unscathed from against the Council’s pawns. He repelled them with another enchantment, pulled her out of the mess, and made for flight.

Their pursuers pulled closer with each mortal gallop despite Soulran’s tricks: panic soured Soulran’s throat at every excruciating swallow. The woods about them began to fall sparser, and if one strained to hear one could find the murmurs of a river, replenished by recent rain, over their desperate chase.

They mounted the narrow, wooden arch across the river, reins cut harsh to elicit whinnies: with horrified dread, they beheld the small regiment of bayonets revealed from the shadows on the opposite shore. He turned the huffing beast, unsurprised that their steps were already took over by their original nemesis.

“Enough of this childish rebellion, Eleanor,” The Duke vocalized the plea for her surrender was shouted across settling dust. “You are acting very foolishly, but if you repent, I may still pardon–”

–Soulran was thoroughly startled when a thunderous bang answered patronizing arrogance. The Duke crumbled from his horse, features crinkled to scream his pain, his shoulder gored; Eleanor held the guilty pistol, eyes cold to observe her handiwork, her smile scorned.

Her hostile declaration was returned in earnest, and Soulran was only able to deflect some pieces of melting lead in the split seconds of their enemy’s chaos with their felled leader. With a horrible screech their steed reported injury, faithfully rearing wildly until both of its riders were thrown from the saddle and plunged into the depth of running water below.

The icy wall of water he crashed into rendered him breathless, immersed, then forgetful of his limbs’ existence before he struggled to resurface against the invisible, invincible grasp of the current carrying him onward down the stream. When he finally got a gasp of air, the bridge was belittled by distance and his beloved nowhere in sight.

“Eleanor!” He yelled through haggard breath, heart racing to find her with every fruitless second that elapsed.

He thought to get on land first just to have a vantage point, but before he did he heard the ghost of an answer over the roaring river and his pounding heart, nearly drowned but existent. He repeated her name again and again while kicking against the forces dragging him away and downward.

Then he saw her, a broken buoy bobbing in the rushing waters, drifting and drowning one mouthful at a time. He didn’t know what propelled him through the tides, or what naive hope kept him afloat, but he made his way to her and took hold of her.

“…Soul…?”

“I got you,hold on…”

He attributed her breathlessness and groans to her fear of waters, but as he dragged the two of them into the overgrowth of the riverbank he saw the fatal roses of deep scarlet budding and blooming upon her side and chest: deceptive tides had brushed off blood and neglected injury, and now that he saw it was all too late.

She was gasping, grasping to his arms and dear life while he failed one healing spell after another.

“Eleanor…” Overcame by the inevitable, he exhausted his powers and cursed himself to infinity; her brows were deeply knitted in pain and anguish.

She was so precious, so fragile in her struggle to keep her eyes open with her lips trembling to give a soothing speech, “I…”

Soulran could only squeeze her icy hand in his, muted in unheeded worship nourished by silent tears.

She heeded his devotion: in a whisper she gave in, her eyes found God in a distance and chose Him.

“Elea…nor…?” She had already bestowed her last syllable, to send him away.

So silently he wept until the roosters tolled and the bell crowed, then propelled by the obligation to be rid of useless interjections he tore himself away, no longer loved but living.

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