Garfas was dead, Daniel had betrayed me, I was surrounded by the fringe, and the secros were nowhere to be found. My emotions were… rampant. A twisting nether of desire, sorrow, anger. Sides of me were wrestling with each other, trying to decide what was the best course of action. It was painful, so very painful. In the end they had settled on fighting, fighting and letting him take over, at least briefly. The present was pushed aside by the past.
“You want a fight, Daniel,” I could feel a smile creep up my face. “Or would you prefer Iresh?” He seemed taken aback by my sudden change in demeanor. “I suppose it doesn’t matter, in moments all that will matter will be your screams… the delicious sounds of your screams.” He took a step back, as if realization dawned on him. There was panic in his eyes, a part of me, the part currently in control, reveled in that fact. He didn’t want to waste any more time however, he lunged. The metallic clang of steel echoed through the fields, he had parried successfully, my blade was shoved aside. He retaliated by stabbing his sword towards me, I stepped aside and managed to dodge. It was a slow attack, almost too slow, it stirred the logical side within me.
It was shoved back to the deeper areas of the mind as soon as I saw the blade come at me once again. A horizontal swing, I answered by aligning my blade to block, as soon as the blade touched mine I changed the angle, forcing him along the path of my blade. Finally, I had an opening. I balled my hand into a fist and drove it into his stomach. The blow caused him to groan out in pain, wheeze, but not collapse. Instead his body dove backwards, becoming a mere blur. Only then did he allow himself to retch and cough.
“Are you mocking me?” I rounded to the human, one foot stepped forward as my form readied my sword. “You’re faster than this. Are you holding back?” I lunged, stabbing my blade in his direction. Iresh Was barely able to bat the blade away in time, he countered, swinging his sword in two quick cuts. I responded immediately, shoving my right arm towards him, the prosthetic only taking minimal damage. Meanwhile my other hand readied a sphere of necrotic energies, a small orb of serrated edges, and hurled it towards my target. Now he decided to move in earnest. He rolled to his side, blades of grass were shot up the air as he slid his blade over the dirt. He had anticipated me swinging my sword once again. Now he was fighting like the man I had known, or thought I knew at least. Our blades were locked together, my own strength slowly overwhelming the human’s. I could see the strain in his eyes, the gradually increasing panic.
“Are you scared?” I looked into him, I gazed beyond, allowing him to see what he had released, Suddenly his resistance began to lessen then I saw something that gave me pause. Tears. My own grip on my sword waned, but only slightly. There was confusion in me now, a nagging uncertainty that I couldn’t simply shove away. “What are you doing?” I shoved the human forward, he stumbled backward, but regained his stance almost immediately. He wasn’t holding back, in fact he was giving it everything he had, just not towards being offensive. I stared at Iresh for a moment, trying to guess at what was going through his mind. I couldn’t see anything in his blank expression. A myriad of possibilities came to me, and most of them were causing me to come back, to restrain my own savagery.
I ran in once more, brought down my sword, Iresh blocked. Evaded his stab with ease, swung my sword to his side, Iresh blocked. Leaped back and lunged in for a stab, Daniel blocked.
“FIGHT BACK!” I roared. “FIGHT BACK!” I found myself bringing down my sword, over and over, each strike either blocked, parried or dodged by the human. He wasn’t attacking me, not with anything that would kill me at least, not with anything I couldn’t easily avoid.
I loved him, I still do in fact.
Shut up! He betrayed us.
I stood there, frozen, unable to act. Opposite ends of my mind struggling to agree. Old memories and new, fighting for dominance. Feed the hunger or restrain it? I knew I was surrounded, I knew I had little chance of escape, I knew I had no chance of killing Iresh. I couldn’t kill him, I couldn’t even leave any permanent damage on him.
What do I do?
Irish simply stood there, staring at me. Emerald eyes piercing into me, underneath the stoic stare, underneath the emerald gaze, underneath everything he had been trying to hide from me. I could see it. Sorrow, distress, concern… love. My thoughts began to collapse, contradictions clashing into each other, unable to comprehend the situation, the options. I fell to my knees.
“Brother!” I heard Salus call out. “He’s vulnerable, finish him!” I sensed Iresh approach, despite being lost in my own haze of thoughts. I felt the tip of his sword align with my neck.
“What are you doing?” That voice drew me out of my thoughts. It was but a mere whisper, so faint that only I could hear him. “C’mon big guy, don’t give up. Just hold on for a little longer.” One side won, but the other was still rampant. I needed to act, now.
My shroud enveloped me. I spun back to my feet and evaded Iresh’s blade. It was able to glide against my form, however, so it drained some of my reserves. I withdrew the shroud immediately but something was off. There was still a strand of shadows clinging to my face, Iresh was taken aback by it, but he didn’t seem too worried, maybe he was hiding it.
“A new trick, Anavari?” Asked the human. My hand traced over my face, one small strand of shadow over an eye. I could feel bone. It wasn’t of relevance right now, I needed to survive right now. Iresh and I needed to give them a show. I raised my sword, necrotic energies coalescing around the blade. We both bounded towards each other, blades raised. Once close enough they clashed, over and over. The loud clang of metal echoed through the air as we traded blows. It no longer felt like a fight, despite us being dangerously close from cutting down the other. In fact it felt like something intimate, an exchange of trust, an exchange of knowing that we could rely on one to read the other. A fringe soldier wasn’t supposed to be able to predict a heartless, not through their heartbeat at least. Dan… Iresh, was reading me through experience. Through the years we had spent together, through the ever so subtle telegraphs I gave out on purpose. It was a deadly dance, one that relied on trust and skill. I could trust him, I knew that now. It was my love for him that allowed me to control the side of me that wanted to be unleashed. I didn’t the whole situation, not now at least, but I trusted the human. I needed to. Suddenly a faint smile grew on his face he had something planned.
“Trust me,” he mouthed to me. Suddenly he didn’t evade a blow I had delivered, not entirely at least. A stab towards his face, he spun but not quick enough. The edge slid across his eye, scratched his nose, and left a deep gash on his cheek. It took every ounce of control to not dive towards him, to not move to heal him. I needed to trust him. I did however remove the traces of shadow I had left in the cut. He stumbled backward, blood pooling down his face. He was unable to stand, and in an instant Salus came in and drew him away from me, the other fringe soldiers took him to the back of the group.
“Well done, heartless,” said Salus as he strode forward, shards of ice beging to form around the arm he still had. “But you’ve had your fun now, men take—”
“Salus, what did I say about throwing parties and not inviting me?” It was Slim, surrounded by… more Slims. More and more of him continued to appear surrounding the assassins, and appearing between them. I felt a hand on my back, and when I rounded I found the Asura holding on to me. “Brace yourself.” Suddenly I felt as if my body was being thrown across a vast distance, the world around me was replaced with fractured light of radiant hues. Purples and yellows danced through my eyes and as suddenly as it appeared it had vanished. I was no longer outside the city. I was back, back in Serenity’s mansion.
“Anavari!” Serenity appeared, she embraced me and drew back for a moment. “Did they hurt you? What’s that on your face?” My hand traced over the shadows lingering on my face, now that I had a moment to relax, they faded.
“Just a spell,” I said.
“Well I would say that this was a disaster,” said Slim as he appeared behind me. “Where’s Daniel?”
“Daniel…” I said, my mind still not fully comprehending what had just happened yet at the same time finding that it made perfect sense. All those moments I could sneak up on Daniel, all those times he couldn’t predict my movements, however he was a few steps ahead of everyone else. He wouldn’t know I was in a room unless I made noise or called out to him. I moved over to the nearby couch and sat down, the realisations dawning on me.
“Anavari?” Serenity sat down by my side. “Where’s Daniel?”
After telling Slim and Serenity that Daniel was actually a member of the fringe they ruled that it would be best if I stayed the night in one of Serenity’s guest rooms. The house I shared with Iresh was considered compromised. They were seeing this as betrayal on Iresh’s part, but I had to convince them otherwise. He had so many chances to kill me, to kidnap me. They were still unconvinced, which I supposed I understood. I was still in disbelief that this entire time Iresh had chosen to travel with me because I was heartless. He knew this entire time, but didn’t speak of it. Why had he chosen to find me? What had become of him now? He was still with them, thinking that his cover had been blown. He was with them. Could he escape and come back? Was he going to settle things on his own? I had so many questions, and still no answers.
There was one answer however, one way to find out everything. One way to save the secros, and one way to bring Daniel back. The next morning I woke up, got dressed and sought out Serenity. I found her in her study, apparently waiting for me. I didn’t speak to her right away, instead I removed my blade from my waist and presented it to her.
“I need you to look after this,” I said. “And I need a favor.”
I walked through the gates of Divinity’s Reach, strode through the streets of Queensdale. Through the fields. No weapons on me, I wasn’t even planning to use my magic.
“You do realize this is insane,” Garfas appeared by my side. “They’ll kill you once they realize you have no information on other heartless.”
“You don’t exist,” I said to the illusion.
“So you’ve figured it out?” Asked Garfas.
“A construct created by my mind,” I said. “Someone I would trust unconditionally, so that I wouldn’t force the memories, so that I could slowly process losing you. I couldn’t cope, I couldn’t handle losing you. That’s why I had your death erased.”
“More or less,” said Garfas. “It’s more about what you did to cope. Wasn’t healthy.” Garfas and I walked for a while, only silence between us.
“What did I do?” I asked.
“I think it’s best for you to actually remember that part,” said the white charr. “Don’t know if we’ll have time for that though. Looks like we’ll either die in the next few minutes or be taken to legions know where.” I made no comment about what I was about to do.
“You keep saying ‘we’,” I said. “You’re dead though, you haven’t been with me for years now.”
“I’ve always been with you, cub,” said Garfas as he placed his arm around me. “You never did let me go.” The illusion vanished. I continued walking, I was alone now. Garfas dead, Daniel gone, and I was about to turn myself in. It didn’t take long for them to find me. Soon I was surrounded, Salus was nowhere to be found, but it wasn’t as if they couldn’t just thrown a small army at me for them to take me. I didn’t resist, I simply told them that I was turning myself in, and to leave the secros alone. Moments later I felt several darts enter my back, my mind became muddled, hazzy. Poison. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t stay awake. I allowed myself to be taken, by the fringe, by the poison, by the darkness.