Absit Invidia

Klara's Journal: Entry #18

Atlas Fletcher

I smiled up at Kalona, the anxiety in my chest easing up a bit. We were in this together. We always had been. I glanced over to my mother as I stepped away from him, going to the door to let everyone else into the house before I started to make a meal for us all. It was getting late, and unless we wanted to attack that night, the fight would have to wait until morning. As the meal was cooking, I had a chance to go around and talk to everyone.

I first talked to Jack, making sure that everything was alright while he was here overnight, and that my mother didn’t give him troubles. He said that it was alright and that she was very sweet to him. With that, I thanked him for coming all this way and thanked him for being my friend. He seemed to notice that I was a bit distracted, but he didn’t say anything about it.

I thanked Cedric, Zandre, and Falana for being there too, even though I know that none of them really were there for me. I thanked Mabel for coming and for being there for my father for all of those years, saying that she probably made those years a lot better for him. She gave me a curious look at my comment but didn’t say anything. My father had hinted at their relationship while we were in Laketown, but at the time, I thought I was jumping to conclusions because I thought there was no way that my father was over the deaths in my family before I was. However, I was wrong in that assumption. The look in her eyes confirmed my suspicions.

I went up to Cade and Zen and thanked them for helping me with this. My mind was wandering when I was talking to them, thinking of all the terrible things that may happen when the morning comes tomorrow and I soon left them, took Kalona by the hand, and lead him to my bedroom. I shut the door behind us and leaned against it for a moment, combing my hair out of my face with my hand as I stared at the floor for a moment, my nerves eating at me, before my eyes finally met his. I could see it in his gaze that his mind was turning just as much as mine was.

I stepped towards him and put my arms around his neck as he put his around my waist, pulling me closer to him. I squeezed my eyes shut, knowing that he wasn’t going to like what I was about to say to him. I needed to know. If everything went wrong, I needed to know that he’d complete what I had decided on if I was unable to do so. I pulled away from him slightly, just enough to be able to look into his eyes, and I gave him a weak smile. “If I don’t make it,-” I breathed. “You’re not dying tomorrow, Klara,” he stressed, desperation entering his eyes. “Kalona, if it does happen-.” “It won’t.” “But if it does, I need you to go get my brother and his family and get them to safety. My brother’s child will be the last one your father needs if I’m gone. If you can find my father, get him to safety too. After they’re safe, go after your father with all the might you have. Promise me you’ll do this,” I pleaded, noticing that he was withdrawing into himself a bit. “Kalona.”

“I will,” he said after a few moments. I put my hand on the side of his face, thankful that he agreed to do so. I’d hate to see what would happen to him if I was gone. Maybe that evil side of him would be more apparent then. “I love you with all my heart,” I told him before I kissed him. Eventually, we stepped away from each other a bit, gazing into each other’s eyes as I noticed how cold his seemed to be. His face, as always, showed not even the slightest hint of emotion, but I knew he was lost in his own mind. I took his hand and I notice something change in his gaze. The life returned to his eyes.

We left the room together and I went back to the kitchen to finish the meal for all of us. It was nice to hear the sound of people talking and laughter in the house again, after it had been silent for so long. We all stayed at the dining room table after enjoying our meal for a while, Kalona had his hand on my knee, and I listened to the conversations happening at the table. It was nice. It was stark contrast from the weeks of silence that reigned between my father, my brother, and I. Maybe this was the end of that chapter of my life and the start of a new one. I hoped so. I closed my eyes and leaned on Kalona, who took his hand off of my knee and draped his arm around my shoulders. I knew that this next chapter, whatever it may be, would have him in it.

Kalona sat on the edge of my bed, taking off his shoes as I ran a brush through my hair. The house was pretty quiet since people getting ready to sleep, and Zen and Jack had offered to take the first watch for the night. As I put my hair back into a braid, Kalona pulled back the covers and got into bed, studying me with a slight smirk on his lips as I did so. I glanced at him over my shoulder, almost done with my braid, and asking him what the look on his face was for. He smiled and stated that he hoped that my mother wouldn’t try to scare him off one more time for old time’s sake. I smiled, tying a leather band around the end of the braid, before I laid down next to him, saying that I didn’t think she’d do that. I then asked him to stay quiet for a moment while I concentrated on something. He said that he would and he put his hand in mine.

I closed my eyes for a moment and concentrated. After a minute or so, I felt that a fiend was in front of me, and that there was one on the edge of the six miles I could sense out to and it was coming from the direction of the Fletcher Estate. Satisfied, I opened my eyes and looked at him. “There’s a fiend in this room,” I whispered to him with a small smirk. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said sarcastically. I laughed lightly before telling him that I thought his father was home, or at least almost six miles away and in the direction of his house. There was a puzzled look on his face for a few moments before he nodded, saying that his house was probably a little less than six miles away from mine. “Did you just calculate the distance between our houses?” I asked, not really believing that he just did that. He shrugged. “I was curious,” he replied.

I laughed once more and I cuddled up closer to him, telling him that I loved him. He told me the same and after a little bit more talking between the two of us, we both fell asleep.

Early that morning, we heard a knock at the door and heard Cade tell us from the other side that it was our turn to keep watch. Groggily, we both got up and I took a minute to concentrate to see where Atlas was while Kalona was still in the room. I couldn’t sense anything other than Kalona. At least Atlas wasn’t closer. I looked to Kalona and told them, “Your father’s not at the house,” which caused him to give me a weird look before he understood what was going on.

We spent a while talking, me checking every so often to see if I could sense his father, and after some time, we started to make breakfast for the group. We tried to stay as quiet as possible so we didn’t wake anyone up, but as the sunlight was starting to glow warmly through the windows and the smell of cooking meat filled the house, people started to stir. With breakfast done, we started to solidify our plans for the day, specifically where the battle would take place as well as battle strategies for all of us. I told them all that I was going after Atlas and that Orla was not to be killed. That later statement caused my companions to ask me why we couldn’t just kill her, and I told her that Kalona wanted his mother to still be alive at the end of this fight.

As for the location, we didn’t have many options. The only places I could think of were my house, their house, and a clearing back deeper in the forest. I asked Kalona if there was a clearing closer to his house, near the beach, and he said that he knew of one. It was our best bet. As for the plan, we were all going to try to make our way there as quickly and quietly as possible. Once there, Kalona and I were going to stay out in the open while everyone else hid. I knew I had to be the bait.

With everything finalized, I said one last goodbye to my mother and hugged her. I didn’t know if this was the last chance I had to see her, but I really hoped it wasn’t. She said she’d try to stay around after Atlas was gone, but she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to. I then wrote a note to my father, saying that we were going to face Atlas soon and that I didn’t know what was going to happen, I told him that I loved him, and that I’d let him know if we were successful soon.

After the note left my hands, I went to the rest of them and told them that I was ready to leave if they were. It took us a few minutes to get to the clearing that Kalona knew about and once there, I knew we made the right choice. We were still in the woods a little bit, but there was a light amount of tree cover and the beach was behind us a little ways. I had a feeling that it would serve us well.

Everyone got into position and I stood towards the end of the clearing with Kalona and Beacon, taking Kalona by the hand as we waited. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t even a little nervous in that moment. I was anxious, but I knew I would’ve been terrified if it wasn’t for him standing by my side. I kept telling myself that we were in this together. This is what we had to do to be happy. This is what we had to do to be able to move on with our lives. I had drawn a target on my back so many times before and I’m only now realizing how dangerous that was when I finally stopped running. I hoped we were ready. I hoped we prepared enough. Kalona squeezed my hand a bit. I didn’t want to die.

After all this time of being ready to die at the hands of Atlas Fletcher, I finally didn’t want it to happen. There was a future for me and it was just around the corner. I was so close, I had almost made it, but Atlas was still blocking my path.

He had taken everything away from me. He stole the lives of my mother, my little brother, and the rest of my mother’s family. He took my father away from me, forcing him to leave Frostford to “keep his children safe.” He stole Nikolas, convincing him that it was truly my father’s fault my mother and Reiner were dead. He took my life away from me. He forced me to be on the run for four years, to live in a state of constant fear, and unable to heal for the wounds he had given me. He killed the boy I fell in love with and replaced him with a broken soul. My life over the past few years was the way it was because of him. With that thought, I felt a bit of anger flare in my chest.

Across the way, stepping out of the underbrush and into the clearing was Atlas and Orla. Judging by their attire, I knew they were ready for a fight and even though I couldn’t see Slither, I knew he was around. I locked eyes with Atlas, who flashed me the same cruel grin that I saw the day we returned to our house after my mother was murdered. Kalona’s thumb rubbed my hand reassuringly as I clenched my jaw. This was it. This was the end. No matter what happened, this was the end of it.

As Kalona’s parents drew closer, I dropped his hand and readied my bow as Kalona drew his sword. “It’s good to see you, Atlas,” I stated as I noticed Orla was scanning the battlefield. “It’s been too long.” Atlas smirked, readying his spear, as he replied, “It has been. It’s a shame that you’re not going to leave here alive.” With a haughty chuckle, I responded with, “You’re not going to either.” Orla was already darting off towards where Cade was when I let my arrow fly. It sunk deeply into his shoulder and I smirked, readying my next shot but he was able to dodge it.

The next thing I knew, Atlas rushed towards me and my vision went white for a moment before it returned. Other than Atlas and I, everyone seemed spectral and I realized that he had sent me to another plane of existence. I tried to touch Kalona’s shoulder, but my hand passed through his form, and he looked at the spot where I once stood with horror in his eyes. I looked back at Altas, his grin becoming even more sinister as I took two more shots at him. My lightning arrow shot a little wide, but the next one struck true. It didn’t slow him down though.

He soon was in front of me and I felt the spear head stab into my side. It was agonizing and I felt a bit of the chill of death enter my body. I managed to dodge his next attack and stowed my bow in my quiver and drew my longsword. I locked eyes with him once more. I knew the look in them and fear entered my heart. He wanted this to hurt and he was going to take his time. We both knew I was going to die here.

We traded blows again and I felt myself growing weaker. For how powerful I knew he was, I figured that he was holding back. He was toying with me, making it seem like I had a chance of surviving this, while he continued to wear me down. I was giving it my all but it wasn’t enough. I knew I wasn’t going to last much longer. I glanced over to see Kalona clutching a necklace and the next thing I knew, he was standing next to me. With him there, I knew that Atlas wouldn’t survive this.

With Kalona there, Atlas stopping playing his games and started to give it his all. The necrotic energy that coursed through that spear was soon amplified by unholy energy and every strike almost brought me to my knees. There was no way I’d live to see the end of this fight. Kalona fought bravely, striking true with his sword. He was doing the best that he could. His eyes shined with his rage. After blocking both of Kalona’s strikes with his spear, Atlas turned and I felt the metal of the spear force its way through my armor. Whatever was left of my energy drained away and I saw my life flash before my eyes. My father. My brother. My mother. Beacon. Standing before Venomfang. Killing the white dragon. Kalona. Seeing him the first time. Seeing him once again in Aspienne. The tears. My letter. The first time we made love. That grassy hilltop. Laketown. Bringing him home to mother. Home. He’s my home.

My love, take your time, I thought as my vision dimmed. I felt myself falling limp as Kalona shouted something. I’ll see you on the other side. Just as it went black, I felt wave of warmth wash over me as Atlas removed the spear. A little bit of strength returned to my limbs and I caught myself from falling down. Feeling numb and confused, I glanced up in the nick of time. With a heavy swing of his sword, Atlas crumbled under his son’s strike. His stoic expression couldn’t hide the emotion in his eyes at that moment. The hate that burned within them. It was then when I realized why everyone told me that he was dangerous.

The fury in Kalona’s eyes diminished when he saw me there, still standing. His breaths were heavy and I gave him a little nod, still not completely sure of my own strength in that instance. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as Orla walked up to us, her eyes fixed on us. How was she able to see us? I felt my muscles tense as I wounded the unconscious body of Atlas Fletcher and readied the tip of my sword over his heart. Orla’s gaze chilled me and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be the one to kill her husband. I looked Kalona in the eye and asked, “Do you want to do this?” I knew that he hated his father more than I did, he was the only person in the world that wanted to see him dead more than I did, and I wanted to give him the chance to do it himself. “It doesn’t matter as long as he’s dead.” I nodded, still uncomfortable under Orla’s watchful presence, and asked him to put his hands on mine before we drove the point of the blade into his heart.

I knew it was a better death than he would’ve given me.

I blinked and the next thing I knew we were back on our plane and I drew my sword from his body and sheathed it. I’ll admit that I didn’t enjoy the feeling of that moment. I had no joy in killing Atlas. There was no reason to be glad that he died by my blade. His death meant that mine would be delayed for some time, but his death wouldn’t fix everything in my life. His death, however, was not entirely pointless. His death meant that I’d finally be able to live without fear of him, that I’d be able to move on from the past few years, and that Kalona and I wouldn’t have live separate lives anymore. My gaze fell on Kalona after a few moments and stepped around his father’s body to pull him into a hug. I felt numb, extremely weak, and like I was going to fall over at any second, but he held me close and tight. We both knew what this moment meant for us and that did bring me joy.

After a while, we let go of each other and he started to talk to his mother while I looked down at Atlas. The son of Asmodeus, my worst enemy, the creator of my nightmares, my torturer lying dead at my feet. It was then when a thought came into my mind and I knew that his death marked a new chapter of my life. An end to an era and the beginning of a new one. I had won.

I overheard that Mabel had been killed by Slither during the battle and that Slither tried to escape, but was killed. Jack came over to me, gave me a light punch on the shoulder, and told me that it was over now. I nodded and gave him a little smile as Zen came over and started searching Atlas’ corpse. I had no urge to sort through Atlas’ belongings, not in front of his wife and his son. I guess I still had a little respect for the man. I understood what he was trying to do. He was following his father’s orders, he was simply obeying, and I respected that. There was a time where I did the same. However, of all the turmoil he caused in my life, I did have him to thank for one thing. He did give me the love of my life.

I broke away from my thoughts when Cedric came over to me and told me that he was leaving. I thanked him one more time and then he was off on his own path. With Orla’s permission, I took a talisman and the spear from Zen since Zen had already collected everything from his corpse.

It took me a little while to say something to Orla, but I eventually did and she told me that she still didn’t like me, but I was better in her eyes than before. I told her that I figured that. I asked her if she was okay, since I was surprised that she seemed so calm when her husband had be killed right in front of her, and she said that she was. After a question from Zen, she began to tell us that her marriage to Atlas was arranged for power. Their marriage brought more benefit to Atlas than herself, because she was able to expand his business and to give him a powerful heir. I noticed Kalona grimace slightly at that statement and I nudged him, giving him a small nod as his gaze met mine. We talked to her for some time more before she looked at me and asked if I wanted to see the “cave” Atlas had. I said that I did, and she led all of us there.

I had never been to their house, but it was honestly very beautiful, except for the windows that remained broken out front from the day Cade and Zen visited. She led the rest of us inside while Jack, Falana, and Zandre stayed outside with the dire wolves and Mabel’s body. Once we stepped inside, she told us to mind the rug and we all made sure not to step on it as she led us to a formal sitting room. Orla went over to one of the bookcases, pulled something from it, and it moved to reveal a staircase going downwards. We went down it while Orla stayed behind and we found ourselves in a room with a few doors, the one before us looked like it had been smeared with blood. My companions went up to it and tried to open it, but were unsuccessful as Kalona went up and pushed it open easily.

The room beyond the door had shelves of herbs and other alchemical supplies, two prison cells, a torture table with blood-stained torture devices around it and, past that, there was a small coffin sitting on a table. I hung back with Kalona, my mind racing through the possibilities of what this room meant to my family as Cade and Zen rummaged around things. I was still trying to process that Atlas was gone and I couldn’t fathom how little of his potential cruelty I witnessed. I guess I spent too long focusing on the torture devices because Kalona took my hand and started walking forward with me. Cade was at the coffin, but soon stepped away from it, saying that it creeped him out. I went up with Kalona by my side to see what he was talking about and noticed that the coffin was filled with vials of what looked to be blood. I sighed as a wave of emotion washed over me and everything clarified for a moment. This was my family.

On top of the vials sat a silver ring with the symbol of Asmodeus on it. I glanced at each one of my companions before I decided that I was probably the only person in the room other than Kalona who wasn’t terrified to touch the ring. When I picked it up, a tall, handsome, dark-skinned humanoid with long, black hair towered over us. He wore fine clothing and had a ruby staff with him and it was obvious to see that he was a devil. It was also easy to see the wounds that marred his body. Asmodeus, I hissed in my thoughts as I looked up at him, but out loud I said, “Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck,” a few too many times. The King of the Nine Hells, the God of Tyranny stood before me and I was terrified. He congratulated us on stopping him this time, but told us that we wouldn’t be so lucky the next time. I retorted with, “I’ve already stood in your way once, Asmodeus, and I’ll do it again.” He chuckled at my comment, stating that I wouldn’t be able to do so forever, his eyes boring into me, and I realized then that I’d made a mistake. He studied Cade, then Zen, glared at me for a moment, and then looked to Kalona. They locked gazes for a while and I thought I could see a look of disappointment entered the devil’s eyes. His gaze then returned to me, “I’m going to leave you alone now. I have a new soul to play with.”

As the form of Asmodeus disappeared, I dropped the ring back into the coffin in horror and looked to Kalona, terrified that he meant that it was my soul, and he had to reassure me that it wasn’t mine. After a little bit, and a little bit of looking around and taking some herbs from the shelves, I put the ring in the Bag of Holding and closed the coffin, picking it up. I didn’t know if I was too late for them but I wasn’t going to let Asmodeus have them if I still had the chance to save them. They didn’t deserve to rot in the Hells for the rest of eternity.

When we got up the stairs, Orla was waiting for us with a letter in hand. She handed it to me, saying that she was going through Atlas’ things and that she thought it would be in my interest. I thanked her and asked her to keep anything she found that she thought I’d be interested in. I put the letter away for the moment, not wanting any more emotional turmoil, and asked Kalona if he’d go on a walk with me as we exited the house. He said that he’d love to as the rest of the group headed back to the Grayson Estate.

I healed myself a bit before we made our way down to the beach since I forgot how wounded I was with all of the commotion after the battle. The waves crashed against the grey sand and smooth stones on the beach as the ocean breeze combed through the patches of seagrass around us. A few gulls hopped around, their beaks snapping at tiny crabs that scurried from rock to rock. I still felt a bit strange after it all, but my mind eased as he took my hand. We were alone there. It was the first time the two of us had been to the beach together. We walked in silence for a long while, enjoying each other’s company and the tranquility of it all. I eventually had to break the silence between us. “So it’s over, isn’t it?” I questioned as we started to walk north, towards the harbor where a boat lazily began to set sail.

“In a way,” he responded. “I’m pretty sure my grandfather will try again sometime.” I nodded, stating that it was a given since this was his second attempt at it.

“It’ll be nice to get back to some normalcy,” I said, rolling a small stone over with the toe of my boot as we walked. “For a while there, I thought I’d never get used to living here in Frostford again. Not after traveling constantly and fighting dragons.” I looked out towards the horizon, at the vast sea of water before us. Everything in life is uncertain, but I was certain that as long as I was with him, I’d be okay. However, after everything that happened, I knew I needed some consistency in my life. “There’s a lot of healing that I need to do before I can even consider putting myself in danger like that again. But I don’t know, maybe getting away from this place would be good for me too.”

“Do you think you’ll ever be an adventurer again?” he questioned as he glanced at me.

“There’s a lot this world is going to face here soon. Between the Horsemen and that person who wants to watch the gods and the world burn, I have a feeling that I’ll have to someday, but until then, I hope to rest and relax. I need to move past the last five years.”

“You’ve been through a lot,” he said as he helped me up the bank as we reached the end of the beach and held my hand as we walked toward the main street.

“Gods, Kalona. You have too. You’ve been to the Abyss and back,” I stated as we paused. Before us, small groups of people walked up and down the street as children darted after each other. It was a common sight for Frostford and I noticed the little glimmer that entered his eyes. “It’s almost like we never left.”

“I’m not sure whether that’s comforting or disappointing,” he kidded as I smiled at him, saying that I honestly didn’t know which one it was with a light laugh. We made our way onto the street and we instantly caught some people’s attention. There were a lot of stares but we did our best to ignore them. Things were going to be different now, and hopefully they would turn out for the better in the long run.

We took a while, reminiscing about our past escapades in the town, and how stupid we were at times about trying to be sneaky about our relationship. Before I realized it, we were standing in front of my family’s old shop and he had his arm around my waist as he stood by my side. I looked at it for a long time, considering what I was going to do with it and thinking about all the time I spent there. That shop was a huge part of my life, but my life had taken me in a different direction than I originally thought I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep it. It would be a shame to allow it to sit and rot when another business could move into it. However, that decision would have to wait for another day because by then, I was exhausted and I was looking forward to finally getting some rest.

We walked back to my house and I went to my room to set down my things, feeling a bit relieved to be back home safe. After I sorted my things, my hand clutched the pendant of my necklace and I called out for my mom. I stayed there for a few minutes, not exactly sure why I was hoping for a different response than the one I got. There was silence. My heart broke. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I’ll admit that in that moment, I was glad that she was able to move on after so many years, but it was like losing her all over again. I was devastated. I hoped that she knew that I was alright and that I survived the fight. I’d miss her terribly. I already knew that.

Kalona stepped into the room to set his stuff down as well and noticed me crying. He put his arms around me and held me for a long while as I told him that my mom moved on. He comforted me, telling that it was alright and that she’s in a better place now. She’s with her baby son. She’s happier there. She’s no longer held back by what his father did to her. I nodded and buried my face into his shoulder, sobbing as he rubbed my back, giving the time I needed for my tears to stop falling.

I was getting used to her being around again, and a part of me thought that she’d want to live again, but I knew that was foolish. Her desire for revenge held her here, bound her soul to the house, and now that the person she wanted her revenge on was gone, there was no reason for her to stay. It was selfish to want her here just for my sake. She had died almost five years ago and I was never able to let her go. It was time to finally do so.

After what seemed like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, I wiped my tears from my eyes and sniffled a little as I pulled out of Kalona’s arms. His eyes held his concern as I gave him a weak smile. “Sorry, I don’t know why I reacted that way,” I said, my voice cracking a little bit. “You lost your mother again,” he stated. “You opened old wounds that never really healed.” I nodded and he asked me if I was alright and I told him that I was. I actually felt a lot better about it.

As Kalona left the room to check on the others, I pulled out the scroll that my father gave me and tore off another piece of it. There wasn’t much left of it at this point but I hoped I wouldn’t have to use it as frequently from here on out. I told him that Atlas was dead, that I was safe in Frostford, and that I loved him and I hoped to see him soon. Once more, I concentrated on him and the scroll left my hands.

We made supper for everyone and as Kalona and I were in my room, getting ready for bed, I decided to open the letter Orla gave me. It was addressed to Atlas and it said he thought they had broken the patient in question and if Atlas didn’t respond in two weeks, they were going to kill him. Dread filled my chest and I read that it was from a man called Dr. Hollingsworth. Terror stifled my lungs. The patient had to be my father. I screamed in agony as I curled my knees to my chest, hot tears rolling down my cheeks. Kalona, startled, asked me what happened. My body trembled and I fought to get the words out. I told him that my father was captured and in an asylum and they were going to kill him. I handed him the letter and I put my face in my hands. This couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t lose him too. Not now. Not after today.

Kalona stated that he thought the asylum was near Hallasholm and that if I’d give him two days, he’d go save my father. Panicking, I asked to come along with him and he refused to let me come, saying that he can do it alone. Eventually, I agreed, just wanting someone to go save him, and he said that he’d leave the first thing in the morning.

I didn’t sleep well that night. My mind was racing. What had happened to my father? Was he even going to be anything like the man I met back in Laketown? Why did Atlas do this? Why did Atlas feel the need to torture my family so much? I broke into tears multiple times and would cry myself to sleep before my thoughts woke me up again. I wouldn’t say that Kalona slept easily beside me, but sleep came to him much easier than it came to me. My whole body was tense and anxiety ate at me. What did that doctor mean by breaking him?

The next morning, Kalona woke up and prepared himself to leave. Once he was ready to go, he gave me a kiss and I promised him that I’d give him two days. When he walked out the front door, I knew the clock was ticking.

To distract myself a little bit, I made a hearty breakfast for everyone and when Jack walked into the kitchen, saying that he needed to leave to go back to Caster, I pointed the spoon I had in my hand at him and told him that he wasn’t leaving without breakfast. He did stay for breakfast and told us that he was going back to Caster to smooth over things for us there, since we did technically cause the death of a salesman. He said it didn’t really help the situation that we had our meeting before theirs and that’s the only time the Caster Council has seen us together. I told him to tell them about what I told him about my family, and that if they needed more evidence, I had plenty of it. He said he’d get in contact with me if he needed it.

Sticking to his word, Jack left after breakfast and while I was cleaning up the kitchen from the meal, Zen and Cade tried to reincarnate his mother. They asked if I wanted to participate in the ritual, and I told them that I didn’t have anything I could contribute. I didn’t know her well enough. This is going to sound horrible, but I didn’t really feel comfortable with the thought of it. I don’t know. I felt that, maybe like my mother, she didn’t want to come back and that there would be consequences to bringing her back that way, other than a potential gender and race change. I feared that Mabel wouldn’t be happy with the results.

However, they were successful and Mabel came back as a triton woman, whatever a triton was. She wasn’t like a merfolk, because she had legs and she could be out of the water, but she was still kind of like that. With Mabel back, and the body of human Mabel on the floor, Cade went to bury it outside in the backyard and I snapped at him, telling him that he was not going to bury it on this property. I didn’t want the body of the woman my father had been sleeping with after my mother had been murdered buried near the body of my mother. Mabel told Cade to take the body out into the woods and leave it there for some animal to eat. I gave her a weird look and Cade did as he was told.

With that settled, I told them all that I was going into town to talk to Baron Waicox. I’ll admit that it did feel really surreal to be able to walk freely through Frostford without having to hide. It was nice, but I had a hard time shaking the feeling that I should be hiding instead of being out in the open. When I finally made it to the Waicox Estate, there were a few formalities I had to pass with the guards and such, but eventually I was lead to a sitting room and was told that the Baron would be with me soon.

As I waited for my meeting with Hibernius, I glanced towards the doorway to the sitting area and noticed Calla walking by. She paused at the sight of me, glared, and then continued to walk. I could tell that her personality hadn’t changed a bit, but something had changed. She was pregnant.

I don’t know. It’s kind of weird to say but the sight of her made me feel a lot better about everything. Hibernius and Calla had never had children while I was growing up, and for a while, I think I was convinced that they would never have children. Seeing Calla there, pregnant, felt almost like a sign that life and this city was moving on from the past, like brighter days were ahead of us. It was comforting to me.

After a few minutes, Baron Waicox entered the room and I stood up to greet him, shaking his hand and he gave me a little half-hug. Once we had both sat down, he told me that he hoped I was doing well and that it was good to see me again. I told him that I was and that I needed to thank him for everything that he’d done for my family over the years, especially while I was gone. I did admit to him that I was angry at him for a long time, but I realized that my anger towards him was misplaced and he said that he understood and he forgave me for it. I then looked around to see if we were alone before smiling at him, realizing that I was being foolish. He gave me a curious look and I told him that I wasn’t used to not having to be so secretive all the time. I then told him that Atlas Fletcher was dead, that the danger that he posed to the city was gone, and he responded with a light smile and said that he hoped things would return to a sense of normalcy now. I agreed with him and my gaze met his and I knew that I needed to tell him what happened. Hibernius had always been so close to my family. He was like an uncle to me. I knew my words were going to hurt him a bit.

I told him that my mother passed on and was no longer with us. He nodded, giving me his condolences, as he said that he’d miss her too. I told him about seeing my father in Laketown, that I heard from him once after that, but that I was suspicious of the letter he sent. I told him that my concerns had been realized when Orla gave me a letter yesterday that she thought would interest me. I handed the letter to him, not wanting to have to read it again, and his brow furrowed as he read it. “That asylum is near Hallasholm,” he stated, his eyes full of concern as he studied me for a long while.

“I know,” I replied. “I sent Kalona off to go save him,” and at that moment, I realized how bad of an idea that was. Shit. I sent the son of the man my father hates the most to be his rescuer. I think Waicox was able to see it too. “I’ve made a mistake, Hibernius. I shouldn’t have let Kalona go alone. He told me to give him two days and I wasn’t thinking straight at the time. He left this morning, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Klara, why would you send Kalona?” Waicox questioned. “And you do know that Hallasholm is months away, right?” I explained to him that I was dating Kalona and because I was so distraught about the letter, I let him go alone, even though I asked to go with him, since he said he could rescue my father. I also told him that I didn’t know how Kalona was going to manage traveling that distance in a few hours, but he seemed confident that he’d be able to do so so I let him try. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it in time before my father was killed. He asked me to keep him informed about that situation and I promised him that I would.

I then told him that there was one more thing I needed to talk to him about, stating that I was afraid that Atlas wasn’t the only evil that would be threatening the city. I told him about the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, mentioning that the plague in Colonmel was probably tied to them, and said that I didn’t know much about them, but as soon as I learned more, I’d let him know so he could make preparations within the city. I told him that there may be other threats, and I’d let him know about any of them I find. He thanked me for doing so, saying that it would be a great service to the city.

As we finished our meeting, he smiled at me and welcomed me home, saying that it was great to see me again. I told him that it was wonderful to talk to him too, and that I’d be making a trip to Croak soon, but afterwards, I’d be returning to Frostford.

With the meeting over, I left the Waicox Estate and started walking back towards my house. As I was passing the harbor, I figured I should stop by and let Levi know that I was going to be around more. He seemed surprised, but happy to see me as I told him that Atlas was dead. He said that he already heard that he was, and he was glad I was still alive. I told him that I was too, and that I’d be around the town more, after a trip to Croak. He told me to be careful out on the Sea of Storms, and to get a good captain to navigate those waters, and I told him that I already had it covered. I explained to him that I’ve already been out on that sea once before and it was terrible.

I then told him about my father, stating that Kalona was trying to rescue him at the moment. He looked at me like I was an idiot and I explained to him that I realized that it was a horrible idea, but Kalona promised that he could do it and I believed him. That didn’t stop the look he was giving me. I admitted that I was dating Kalona Fletcher and he just shook his head a little bit. He told me that he hoped the best for me and my father and he hoped that this rescue attempt worked.

I said a quick goodbye to Levi, knowing that he needed to get back to work, and I headed home. Once there, I started to clean up the house, specifically moving the crib out of my parents room and into Nikolas’ room and tidying up my father’s study. I did take the letter my father wrote to Nikolas out of his desk, but never read it. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to give it to him or not but I thought I’d take it just in case since we were going to Noragate. Other than cleaning, I didn’t do anything for the rest of the day and eventually went to sleep, wondering how Kalona was doing with my father.

A loud thud filled the house, followed by the sound of doors slamming as I got up and raced to see what the commotion was. It was early morning. The sun had just risen and the front doors were open, Kalona was laying on the floor, trying to calm someone down. I rounded the corner to see my father standing outside the house with his bow drawn and readied on Kalona. I put up my hands, stepping closer to him. “Dad, it’s alright. You’re home. You’re safe,” I said, my heart pounding in my chest. I started to fear the worst but I was glad to see him.

“Klara Giselle Grayson, what’s going on here?” he questioned, his eyes never leaving Kalona. “I sent Kalona to rescue you. Please lower the bow,” I begged him. His eyes glanced over to me for a second before they returned to Kalona. From deeper with the house, Cade said, “Klara and Kalona are dating.” I turned to shout at Cade when my dad loosed his arrow, but Kalona was able to roll out of the way. He nocked another arrow and I moved closer to my father, standing in the threshold.

“Dad, please, just tell me what happened. Are you alright? No one’s heard from you in months,” I pleaded and he didn’t let down his draw, but he did look at me more. “I went to Pelt after I saw you in Laketown and I was ambushed and taken to the asylum,” he explained quickly. His gaze jumped from me to Kalona and I knew he was trying to piece everything together. I feared what he was going to do next. It’d been a long time since I’d seen my father so angry. After a few tense moments, he sighed and said, “I need some time alone.”

“We need to talk,” I retorted, but I knew it came out more like a whine. He let his draw down, quivered his arrow, and looked at me. “Not now, Klara,” he growled, still staring down Kalona. I took a few steps closer to him and offered him a hug and eventually, with another sigh, he hugged me. “I’m glad you’re back,” I whispered to him before he stepped away from me, moving past me and into the house. His heavy footfalls made their way to his bedroom and I heard the door slam shut. Both Cade and Zen looked at me peculiarly as I helped Kalona to his feet before closing the front doors.

My father seemed alright, but I wasn’t really able to tell. He was furious in that moment and I knew it was because of Kalona. I wasn’t able to tell if he was truly okay after spending months in the asylum. That concerned me.

I took Kalona’s hand and lead him to the kitchen, thanking him for bringing my father back and asking him if he was alright. He said that he was and that there were a few snags along the way, but the trip was pretty easy. He said he had a necklace that allowed him to plane shift twice per day, so he had to shift to another plane, and then again to get to the asylum. Since he’d never been there, it was a wild guess to see if he actually got there and luckily, he was close to it when he shifted back to our plane. He had some trouble charming the guards to let him in, but he was able to eventually. Finding my father was a bit of a challenge, but he did it. He did admit that he had to charm my father so he could be with him while he waited for the new day to come and his necklace to recharge. Once it did, they went to another plane, Kalona had to charm my father again, and then shifted one more time. When they appeared outside the house, my father had realized that Kalona had charmed him multiple times and kicked him into the front doors and I knew the rest. I thanked him for doing so, saying that I was glad that both of them were alright, and pulled him into a tender kiss.

Zandre, pissed off that we were still delaying our trip, asked when we would actually be leaving this town and I told her that I needed a few more hours at least to make sure my father was okay. The latest we’d be leaving was the next day. She scoffed at my comment and stormed away. I was honestly pretty pissed off with her at that point, but a promise was a promise, so I left to go talk to Baron Waicox one more time.

I was able to skip most of the formalities this time and was lead to a study. Hibernius was sitting at a desk, working on some paperwork and I told him that my father was back safely that I’d be leaving to escort someone to Croak. He told me to be careful on my trip and I asked him if he’d be willing to go check on my father while I was gone. I told him that I’m sure my father would enjoy the company and to see an old friend again. He promised that he would, and I said goodbye to him, promising to come back to the town as soon as I could.

I went back to my house and knocked on the door to my father’s bedroom. After a few seconds, he opened it and I asked if I could talk to him for a little bit and say goodbye before we left. He opened the door wider and allowed me to step inside before he closed the door behind me. I studied him for a few moments. He didn’t look as angry as he was earlier, but I could tell that he was still upset. I told him that I had to leave soon to take Zandre to Croak but that I’d told Hibernius that he was here and he was going to stop by the house sometime soon. I told him that I was sorry for sending Kalona to rescue him, but I panicked when found out where he was and Kalona offered to go by himself so I let him. I told him that we needed to have a long talk about everything that happened since I saw him last but that would have to wait until I got back. I think he noticed that I was working myself up with each word that I said and he hugged me. I went quiet instantly and I put my arms around him too.

We held each other in silence for a few, long moments before he finally let me go, telling me to be safe on my trip and that we’d talk when I got back. I told him that I’d be back as soon as I could and I left his room to tell Zandre that I was ready to go.

I hated leaving him like that. I knew I was going to be gone for months and I hoped that he wouldn’t be still be angry with me once I returned. I didn’t like leaving this unsettled. I hoped that he wouldn’t hate me when I returned. I know he disapproved of the choice I made to be with Kalona, but I hope that in time, he’d understand and maybe forgive me for doing so. And even though he seemed to have moved on from the murders that occurred in our family, I still couldn’t help but fear the fact that he was alone in the house. It had to be hard for him, right?

In that moment, I realized just how much the past five years had broken me.

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