The Ancients – Part 4

This chapter was written in collaboration with Scylla.

The afternoon quickly melted into the frigid evening as Scylla and Amon hobbled out of the wilderness.  They had not made time to the far west-camp as they were supposed to, but rather were forced to stop at Dzemael Darkhold. 

The hold was not a usual stop for travelers, but the house-guards knew that the cold nights would leave nothing but frozen corpses to clean up at the door.  The guards were not altogether friendly, and they kept their distance from the pair.

Scylla was glad enough for the space as she saw to Amon’s wounds.  She had been quiet for most the afternoon and evening, saying little to the bard as she tended his injuries by the warmth.

The healing magic saved Amon from death, but the white mage knew that it would not fix everything.  The bard did the best he could to cover up his pain with his wild grins and soppy librettos, but the damage was done.  All the work on the ship on physical coordination was for naught, and they would have to start again.

I almost let him die.  What’s wrong with me?

The guilt would come and go in waves.  She kept herself busy, wrapping Amon’s bit-up limbs in fresh bandages, and checking for fever or infection.

I almost -killed- Amon. He might be insane, and thinks he’s an Allagan monster, but he certainly doesn’t deserve to die.

She wondered if maybe Amon’s condition was contagious – whether she might be driven to insanity?  She remembered the voices in her head.  Though the cruel voice in her head was gone, the memory lingered.   

I nearly killed an innocent today. And some part of me that I don’t remember wanted it to happen.

The actions made Scylla question whether she really wanted to remember what she was before her life in Gridania.  Whether there was some dark secret life before she came into the service of the Conjury guild.

What if I was something evil in the past?  Is it really a past that I want to remember? Or should I let that person die?

Scylla swallowed, her face traced with lines of deep worry.

But I promised Amon that I would take him to the Allagan Tower.  He certainly can’t do it by himself, even if he was in better condition.

The white mage shakily stirred the soup in Amon’s bowl, gingerly looking at him with a deep pang of guilt.

“Amon.”  She stumbled as she spoke his name. “I’m sorry for getting you into this mess today.”

She was vulnerable and her eyes did nothing to hide the shame she felt.

“I don’t know what got into me… it was as if I wasn’t myself.”

Amon squinted at her with a frown. “Why are you apologizing? You wouldn’t be out here in the snows if it weren’t for me. And I would likely not be here right now had you not stepped in. You have nothing to feel sorry about.”

He knew, deep down, he didn’t deserve her kindness. Here he was, leading her into a situation where he intended to exploit her birthright… and yet, she was expressing guilt. Any other time, he’d find the irony of the situation delicious. But right now, he just wasn’t feeling it.

“I suppose if I were in your shoes, and someone told me what I told you earlier, I’d flee as well. ‘Twas my fault for saying more than you wanted to hear.”

The bard chuckled with a somber sound. She was working with him willingly now and everything could still pan out the way he hoped. So why was it his enthusiasm for the whole plan was fading?

“I’m not foolish enough to think you’d believe me so easily. And I’m not going to ask you to. Simply, keep an open mind. Know that no one can pass judgment on a whole nation of people who existed in a time before the memory of modern man.”

Amon quietly cursed the softness that had slowly invaded his sensibilities more and more and fought to edge out the logic that painted the path forward so clearly. He knew what needed to be done. It was unpleasant. But it was necessary.

Once it all shook itself out, and he was in command of Syrcus Tower, he promised himself that he’d remember her momentary kindness and take that into consideration in whatever station he chose for her. Even that thought didn’t really dull the strange ache that itched the cavity in his chest.

Was this an annoyance of conscience eating away at him? He really couldn’t afford that nonsense. Not now. Not with things falling into place so nicely.

Amon stuffed all of this in the back of his mind, offering a customary wide grin. “So, did I patch up well enough? Or is this going to set us back some?”

Scylla gave a sigh of relief at Amon’s forgiveness, though she wasn’t ready to expand further on the dark thoughts of the past.

I’ll take him to his tower.  And then after that, I’ll take him to Gridania and have the guild take a look at him.  

She brushed off the Bard’s hat, and straightened his feather.

I’ll need the good Padjal to take a look in my head as well.

“Amon, getting to the tower is treacherous.  I’ve been told that the creatures there are far more dangerous than here.”  Scylla looked straight in his eyes. “Is this what you really want?”

The Elezen struggled not to flinch away from her direct eye contact as he tried to find the words to answer her question in a way that would not incriminate him for his shady desires. He knew if he said too much, even as good an actor as he was, there was a risk she’d see through him.

Right now, Scylla seemed vulnerable, fighting with her own doubts. Amon didn’t know what was playing out in her head, but he knew something he’d done and said had planted a seed of discomfort. Perhaps, the truth rang right to her, even if she didn’t want to accept it.

Not that he blamed her. Who in their right mind would choose to be an Allagan in a world that cast baleful glares at the cruel Empire of the past?

Finally he just sighed. “It might not be safe or easy, but ’tis something we must do. Maybe you’ll understand one day.”

Or maybe not.

Either way, he was what he was. There was no changing that.

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