We watched Kalona’s team fight and after they won and the competition was over for the day, Zen, Cade, and I went to buy a few things we needed. We went to a general store since I needed some paper and ink, and Zen asked if they had any maps. The shopkeeper told us that they had some maps, but they were quite expensive and Zen then asked for a magical map. When she did so, the man’s whole demeanor changed. He told us to go to a warehouse somewhere in the city, use a certain phrase and say a code word and we’d find what we needed there. Taken off guard, I asked the man if I could buy some paper and ink and his demeanor switched back to what it was before and he happily rushed off to get my things for me. We ended up buying a map and I went and bought a couple more dresses while we were out shopping.
Since I didn’t have much else to do, I went to a temple to ask about the symbol on my mother’s necklace and found myself in a temple to multiple gods, but mainly the god, Kord. I spoke with a cleric there and he told me that these gods were gods of athletics and sport and that he didn’t know what symbol the necklace represented, but I could probably go talk to a druid about it. I left the temple slowly, not wanting to be forced to fight or something, and didn’t realize that Cade had been following me the whole time until I started to search for Kalona. Cade protested, but Kalona was supposed to come with me to the library so I ignored him.
It took me a little while to find him but he was at the training center, watching Falana’s form as she shot. I didn’t say anything for a moment because I was watching her too, mostly trying to see if she was a better archer than I was. I don’t know why I got so jealous in that moment. It was something that just flooded over me but from what I could tell, we were about the same in skill. It comforted me a little.
I asked Kalona if he wanted to go to the library with me if he wasn’t in the middle of something important. He said that he wasn’t and we made our way to the library.
Once there, I asked one of the library staff if they had any books on Obad-Hai, Syrref, Asmodeus, Minauros, or the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and they told me where I could find the books, but they didn’t have anything about any Horsemen. Satisfied, I went with Kalona to the adventurer section where they told me that I could find a book about Syrref. It took Kalona and I a long time to find the book. I’ll admit. I was distracted. I couldn’t stop looking at him. I was enraptured by his graceful movements as he reached for books, charmed by the way his eyes would glance over the pages. I was enthralled with him but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything. Instead, I stole glances while he wasn’t paying attention, trying to gather the courage to say something to break the silence between the two of us.
However, the silence remained as eventually we found the book in question. I made my way to a table, opening the book as I sat down, and began to read. Not much was known about Syrref before he became an adventurer. He and his group stopped a cult from raising Asmodeus and then stopped the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. After that, he disappeared and nothing else is known about him. I sighed as I closed the book, Kalona shooting me a glance as he looked up from the book he was reading. I gave him a slight smile but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed about what I’d just read. What he went through is what I’m going through. I guess history does repeat itself.
I put the book back and went to another section, looking for a book about Obad-Hai. I didn’t take nearly as long and I was able to find out that Obad-Hai was the god of nature. According to legend, he’s born in the spring and dies in the winter to be reborn the next spring. He’s sometimes worshipped by rangers, but he’s usually worshipped by druids. He’s had a few paladins, but he’s not very well know. The Raven Queen, another god, and him stand against Asmodeus.
It was getting late, but I knew I had time to look for one more book and I was able to find out a bit about Asmodeus. He’s an evil god and if he’s brought back, it would mean disaster. He’s been defeated twice in the past by the Raven Queen’s and Obad-Hai’s paladins. With that found out, I met up with Kalona again so we could leave the library before it closed for the day. On the way back home, I thanked him once again for talking with me the other day and he mentioned something about Cade. I knew then and there I had to say something. I told him that I assumed he knows about Cade and I and that we needed to talk about things. I admitted to him that I didn’t want to talk tonight, because there were things I needed to think about, but that we’d talk tomorrow. The rest of our walk was silent after that.
As we reached the house I was staying at, I went to the door and looked back at him. His face was stoic, emotionless. He seemed unphased but I did notice that there was sadness in his eyes. After so long of not being able to read him, to see any emotion was comforting and I knew I needed to decide soon. I walked into the house to see that Zen was alone in the house and asked me if I knew where Cade was. I told her that I didn’t, but I did need to ask her something and that I wanted her advice. She seemed suspicious at first, especially after I told her that I had a terrible idea. I then asked her what she would tell someone who had an idea that would help them reach their goal but would hurt the ones around them in the process. She said that it depends on the goal and who’d be hurt. With a sigh, I told her that I have an idea that might mean that I could save my family but there would the chance I’d hurt her and Cade in the process.
Instantly, she told me that it was a bad idea and I shouldn’t even be thinking things like that before she went to bed. I couldn’t shake the idea off however. My terrible idea. My idea would potentially sacrifice everything I had in this moment for the chance to have Kalona Fletcher on my side, to have him stand with me against his father, and to have him in my life once more. My first friend. My first love. The person I used to think I’d spend the rest of my life with. I was willing to risk it all for him. If it was anyone else, I wouldn’t have even considered it.
That’s the thing about Kalona. Unlike Cade, unlike any of the other people I’ve met as an adventurer, none of them truly know what I’m going to have to face when I stand against Atlas. Hells, I don’t even know what I’m going to face when the time comes. They say they’ll help me when it happens, but they don’t know what they’re risking and in all honesty, I don’t want them there. This is not their problem. This is not their fight.
Kalona, however, is bound to this situation just as much as I am, if not more. His fate lies with this too. Why turn him away when we could stand together? Why throw away this chance to have him in my life again, to have him at least as a friend? Why not throw caution to the wind and admit my feelings for him? Why stay silent? Why admire from afar when I could be in his arms?
Why not risk everything for Kalona Fletcher?
In that moment, I knew what I had to do. I went to my room and took out some paper, a quill, and some ink and begun to do something I should have done years ago. I didn’t feel any sorrow when I wrote the words, “My Dearest Kalona,” on the page, nor did I regret explaining to him that I wasn’t sure if I truly wanted to see him again after I left Frostford all that time ago. I wrote with passion, bleeding my heart and soul out onto the paper, trying to make up for lost time. I wrote with haste, knowing that I needed to get my feelings down before they went away. By the time the letter was completed, I felt numb but satisfied. I couldn’t help but smile.
The next morning, I woke up to find that Cade hadn’t come home and Zen was making breakfast. She handed me a plate that spelled out, “Still not a good idea,” with the pieces of bacon. I ate the “not” because I felt like it still might be a good idea. I mean, I did explain to her that it was a terrible idea but the benefit might outweigh the risk. After breakfast, we went out to find Cade. Zen went around the contestant housing while I stayed near the house, Beacon trying to eat the few pieces of bacon I had saved for Cade. Eventually, Zen did find him. Turns out, he slept on the roof the entire time and while we tried to convince him to get off the roof, Kalona walked by and told Cade to come down. This made Cade even angrier, but he did come down off the roof.
We got ready for the next round of competition and made our way to the arena. We began the third day of the competition by facing the Forsaken, a group that consisted of three half-elves and a halfling, and they were easily the hardest fight we had so far. The arena was now a waterfall area and it was kind of difficult to move around in, but that wasn’t what was stressful about the fight. They were extremely good and they worked together beautifully to the point that it was frustrating to watch them. I dropped their sorcerer once, just to have their druid bring her back. The druid and the fighter hung around the paladin, who blocked my arrows with her shield that should have hit. It took a while, but we eventually defeated them and Zen, Cade, and I knew that we had to go talk to them.
They were super nice and happy to talk with us. They said that we were the hardest team they fought too and they were glad that it was such a hard fight. Their druid said that he had almost exhausted all of his spells for the day, the sorcerer was new to their team and not as powerful but she still put up one hell of a fight. I told their paladin that she was a dick with that shield and she was pretty awesome even though she annoyed the hell out of me when we were fighting. Overall, we had a nice conversation with them. They were really cool and I hope we get to hang out with them some more.
With the Reaper Gang winning their match, we knew we’d be facing Kalona’s team in the final round of competition and because of that, we went to buy more healing potions before I went back to the library with Cade. The book on Minauros was the last book I needed to read and I found out that Minauros is the third level of the Nine Hells and is home to Mammon, an archduke or archduchess. Bearded devils, chained devils, spined devils, and imps inhabited that level and from what I could tell, the lower you went in the levels of Hell, the worse it got. With that information, Cade and I went to the stables because I wanted to check on Joel. He was well-taken care of and seemed happy and healthy. Cade, however, was quiet and when he did speak to me, his words were sharp. My heart sank, I knew I was hurting him, but I couldn’t let this opportunity slip away.
To kill some time, Cade and I went to the training center since we hadn’t really ever been there. I decided to try to climb one of the ropes they had there and well, let’s just say I’m not very strong. After struggling to climb with rope over the course of twenty minutes or so, I finally reached a height I was satisfied with before coming back down. Cade seemed to be amused with my struggle, so I guess something good came out of it all.
Afterwards, we went to the tavern to get a couple drinks. Cade was tense the whole time, making rude comments every so often. I stayed silent and let him vent, which I think only made him angrier. He then asked me what we were doing here, what was going on between us, why I was talking with Kalona so much. I told him Kalona had information I needed, and I was gathering information about the level of Hell and other things we’d be facing in the future. He admitted that he didn’t care about the kids at all and he didn’t want to go to Minauros. I told him that I didn’t want to go either, but I felt like we had to. After a little while, he left, leaving me to pay for the drinks.
I knew I was making him angry, but I was trying to get my point across without saying a word. I was distancing myself from him for his own safety. I was trying to make this a bit easier for him, but I was just making it harder.
Knowing that I promised him a conversation the night before, I went to see if I could find Kalona anywhere. It took a little while, but I found him at the training center, practicing for tomorrow. He had two swords out, one floating beside him and attacking the dummy as he attacked with the other sword. I’ll admit. I was pretty impressed with his skill. From what I could tell, he didn’t seem to notice I was there, so I drew my bow and nocked an arrow, skirting around so I wasn’t directly behind him and I had a clear shot at the dummy.
Exhaling, I released the arrow and it flew true, sinking into the dummy where he had been attacking it. With that, he stopped, put away his sword and pulled my arrow out before turning to face me. I was already walking up to him when he turned to hand the arrow to me. I thanked him and complimented him on his skill, especially with the floating sword thing he was doing. Looking a bit nervous, he grabbed the sword out of the air and put it away, saying that I wasn’t supposed to see that yet. I gave him a slight smile and told him that I owed him a conversation.
My heart was racing. I was trying to muster up the courage to say some of the things I wrote him in the letter but I couldn’t bring myself to. Standing before him, my heart was begging me to close the distance between us but my muscles wouldn’t budge. In all my days, I never thought I’d feel so strongly about someone. I remember asking him if I could trust him, which he said he hoped I could. I remember saying, “It hurts to stand here before you,” wanting to bring myself to say,_ ‘because I want to be closer’_ but the words wouldn’t come. He said something along the lines of, “I can leave if you’d like,” but I told him that I wanted to be here, which made him stay.
Tears stung my eyes and I felt them begin to roll down my cheeks. Everything ached while I stood there, wanting to say so much but unsure how to continue. I asked him why he still cares about me so much, after everything I did to him. He responded with he’s always cared about me, and no matter what, he always will. I remember looking down, knowing that I didn’t have much time before I broke completely. I felt myself shattering already and if was going to say something, I needed to say it soon. I asked him if he still loved me, and he said that he did.
Whatever confidence I had when I went to talk to him was gone and I smiled at him through my tears. I took out the letter I had written him and handed it to him, asking him to read it soon and come talk to me when he was ready. He nodded and put the letter in his pocket as I told him goodbye and turned away from him. I don’t know how he’d take it, but I had a feeling I was going to be hearing from him before I went to bed. Tears still streaming down my face, I started to make my way back to the house where I was stopped by Cade. He asked me if everything was alright and I told him it was as I continued walking. I went into my room, locked the door, and sat down on the edge of the bed.
My mind raced with the things I should have said to Kalona. I should have been more confident but looking at him, his face stoic and difficult to read was frustrating to me. I thought I had been clear with him. I thought that I’ve hinted enough at what I felt that I shouldn’t have even needed to give him the letter. But my attempts were met with indifference and it was agonizing. I couldn’t help but think this’s how he felt when I pushed him away after my mother died. No wonder I thought he was so desperate. He tried his hardest to be with me and yet I avoided him. Every attempt at being closer was blocked, every attempt at showing compassion was ignored. He tried to be with me but I distanced myself from him. He grew more reckless and I continued to push him away. Now I’m the one getting more reckless and he seems farther away than ever.
I was nervous, scared, and concerned as I stayed up for a while, hoping to hear a knock at the house’s door as I waited for him. The house was silent. Cade and Zen were asleep but I was wide awake, waiting for the aftermath of what I had done to finally strike. They say there’s quiet in the eye of a storm as sunlight breaks its way through the clouds. It’s only for a few moments before the tempest starts again, but that’s what this felt like. Everything had been leading up to this. Every second, every heartbeat, every breath, every joy, every sorrow, and every pain I’ve experienced in the past few years had been guiding me to this, even though I hadn’t realized it. The storm had been raging for a while.
I was worried about what was to come, but lying here, looking up at the ceiling of my room, the world, for once in what seemed like ages, was calm. In the silence of that room, everything was still. For once, I felt at peace. This was the eye of the storm. What I had done was the only way I knew I could assure what was to come. With that thought, I allowed myself to close my eyes and drift off into sleep.
That night, I dreamed of him, of home, and of the city I left behind. In my dreams, there was no hate or regret. There was no tension. There was no conflict. I looked into his eyes, completely in love with him, as he took my hand and lead me down the streets we used to walk when we were younger. The streets no longer stressed me. I was no longer afraid of who I was going to find. He smiled, pulling me close to him as he stood by the fountain in the center of the town square. I could feel the gazes on us as people passed by. Neither of us cared. He kissed me tenderly before pulling away, gazing into my eyes for a moment. I shut my eyes as I felt him let go of me, sliding his hands down my arms as he walked away. I watched him, his pace steady and relaxed as he continued putting distance between us.
He never looked back.
Once he was out of my sight, I looked around to see that the city had changed. People paid no attention to me, some of the shops were no longer in business or had changed owners, but overall, it was still the same. I searched for him, scanning crowds of people hoping to catch a glance of him. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to find him again.
So, I waited. I watched the people move past, their lives continuing on, and I hoped he would return to me. No matter how long I waited, no matter how much time had past, he never came back. Feeling a bit lost and helpless, I decided to leave the city. As a reached the outskirts of the city, everything changed before my eyes with each passing step and I hadn’t realized how dark and dull the world had been. After a while, I found him standing in a lush, green meadow as a light, ocean breeze rippled through the grass. His eyes were focused on something in the distance, not paying attention to me until I said his name. He then looked at me and smiled as I went up beside him and took his hand. He gave it a little squeeze as I rested my head on his shoulder and gazed into the distance as well. Beyond us was something I couldn’t fathom. The sea was turbid and roaring when I had approached, but while I stood next to him, it had calmed into gentle waves.
For most of my life, I had feared the unknown, but for the first time, I truly felt that everything was going to be alright.
The next morning, I woke and stared at the ceiling, listening for a moment to the footsteps of my companions walking around the house. My heart sank and I bit my lip, wondering if the letter I had wrote had been in vain. Didn’t he say that he was still in love with me? Didn’t he still want to be with me? Why hadn’t I heard from him? Honestly, I was expecting him to come here last night with what I had wrote to him. I bore my heart for him and lying there without a word from him broke it.
I almost didn’t want to get out of bed, but it was the last day of the competition so I begrudgingly got out of bed and grabbed some breakfast. Cade and Zen watched me carefully as I went about my morning routine, but I didn’t say much to them. After a while, Cade went outside before the rest of us as we were getting ready to leave for the arena and he told me that someone had defaced our house. I went outside and looked with him, the heartbreak I was feeling vanished in an instant.
On the wall of the house, in script illegible to Cade, was a message from Kalona. It was simple, but in that moment, it was all I needed. He said that he would love to be in my life and that he’d help me face the dangers that might come my way. He’d even help me stand against his father.
I couldn’t help but smile as I read it and Cade started to ask me what it said. I told him that I now have Kalona as an ally, which angered him, as Kalona and his team passed by the house. Kalona, noticing that I had read the message, waved his hand and it disappeared before they continued down the street. Cade, angry with me since I had been hiding things from him, demanded that I tell him everything, since there seemed to be more to the story than what I originally told him and Zen when I met them. So, I told him. I told him that when I met them, I was trying to convince myself that I hated Kalona for what his father had done to my family. However, I wasn’t successful at doing so. While we were dating, Kalona was extremely nice to me, but our parents didn’t want us to be together, so we kept it secret from them. After my mother and my little brother were murdered, I broke up with him. He had never done anything to hurt me, he really wasn’t a bad guy, and it was me who had messed things up in our relationship. I had been talking to him here to try to get information but I also felt that I needed to apologize to him.
With that, Cade’s fist struck my nose, causing pain to shoot across my face as I clutched my nose. Blood dripped into my hand as he came up to me and kissed me on the forehead before telling me that I was an idiot for keeping secrets. Then, he walked away as we made our way to the arena.
Before the competition started for the day, Cade went up to Kalona and Falana and started talking to him, telling him that he had spoke with me and his hate towards Kalona had been a misunderstanding. He told Kalona that I had been keeping things from him but since I finally told him the truth, he wanted to apologize and say that everything was cool between them. Kalona agreed, but said that he was still going to kick his ass in the tournament and Falana proceeded to give Cade a quick slap on the butt as he walked away.
I, still a bit stunned from everything that just happened, couldn’t help but stare at Kalona. I wondered what he was thinking at the moment, if he was as relieved as I was to get my feelings off of my chest. I had a competition to worry about, but something was bothering me while I looked at him. My mind wouldn’t stop going back to the fact that in his message, he mentioned nothing about getting back together again. I had mentioned it in my letter to him, I had told him how I felt, I thought I was as clear as I could possibly be about what I wanted and yet he still made no mention of it. It frustrated me and my thoughts started to race once more with what I could do to get him back.
In a few brief moments, I knew what I had to do. As they say, action speaks louder than words.