A Wedding Present
“I can’t accept this.”
The librarian chuckled. “Of course you can! Your wedding is coming up. I’ve been scouring the shelves for these, and if you don’t accept them, I’ll be quite upset.” He smiled good-naturedly.
She smiled widely and accepted the tall stack of books from him. “Thank you so much! I’ll see you later!”
She walked the short distance from the bookstore to her home in the Mage District. Aliandra entered the room humming happily.
She was about to put her books on her desk when she heard footsteps behind her.
“Thar, you’re back early. Did the negotiations go well?”
Suddenly, Her vision went black. The books tumbled out of her grasp. She felt a sword’s edge at her throat, and she froze.
She tried to line up a spell in her mind, but it was torn from her mind.
“Alia.” His voice was hushed, but he spoke passionately. The voice chilled her to the bone.
She replied as much in awe as in terror. “Lord…Lord Nightblade.”
The man chuckled lightly. “Come now, Alia. There’s no need to stand on formality. ‘Jason’ will suffice.”
“You should leave now. Tharkil already knows that you’re here.”
“Ah, but does he?”
He snapped his fingers, and dark runes rose up from the ground, surrounding her. “You’ve learned much since our last encounter. So have I. Nothing magical can exist within that circle.”
Aliandra clenched her jaw. The sword shifted slightly, pressing into her neck. “Alia…let me see your face.”
She didn’t reply, and kept her face angled away from him. She felt the blade begin to cut into her skin.
Suddenly, Tharkil’s voice filled the chamber. “Alia…are you alright?”
Jason smiled. “Let’s have a little fun, shall we?”
Aliandra could only listen in horror as Jason took over her mind-link. Jason closed his eyes, and Aliandra’s voice replied, “I’m fine…just missing you, I guess.”
Tharkil’s voice continued. “Well, the negotiations with the Netherwing are taking longer than I expected. I won’t be back for a few days. I’ll see you at the wedding.”
“Take care, Thar.”
The voices faded. Jason opened his eyes and smiled. “A lot can happen in a few days, Alia.”
The threat hung in the air between them. After a moment, Aliandra gave in. She turned towards his voice, carefully avoiding the sword at her throat. He brought her head to his, kissing her roughly. She struggled against his grip.
After a moment, he released her. She staggered back from him, clawing at her lips as if they were burning. One hand went to her throat, which bore a shallow cut from Jason’s blade.
She breathed raggedly for a moment, then asked, “What do you want from me?”
“I have received what I wanted. The real question is, what do YOU want?”
She shouted, “I want you, and the Scourge to leave my life forever. I want to live in peace!”
Jason’s whisper continued, “You think you do, but you don’t really. Why do you think we keep finding you? Deep within your kind and pleasant exterior…some part of you wants to come back to us.”
“That’s not possible.” Aliandra grew pale.
He grinned at her discomfort. “How do you think I was able to return? You showed me the way back from death.”
“How dare you! I have left the Scourge, and their taint is gone!”
“How dare me? How dare you! You remember the masquerade ball as well as I.”
Aliandra turned away from him and tried to find her way in the room. Her hands were stretched out in front of her, trying to find purchase on any surface.
He reminisced, “You wore the most lovely white dress. We danced together on the roof-top.”
She felt the spines of books along the wall. Bookshelf. That means that it’s right…here…
“And you murdered us all.”
She turned towards Jason, gripping her silver rune sword. “I’m not the same person that I was!”
She charged at the sound of his voice, swinging her sword wildly. Jason easily dodged her clumsy attacks.
“That’s what you tell everyone!”
She whipped her sword towards his voice. He stepped aside, allowing Aliandra to slice the bookshelf behind him. She paused, barely allowing herself to breath. She cocked her head at an odd angle, trying to listen for Jason’s voice.
“You may even tell yourself that.”
She ran towards the noise, missing him again and again. He struck a few blows against her, using the butt of his sword and gauntlets rather than the edge of his sword.
Aliandra cried out as her right arm cracked under his sword.
They broke away from each other, and Aliandra breathed heavily, waiting for him to speak again. She could barely stand, but refused to give up.
Jason whispered into her ear, “But I know better.”
She swung the sword to the side, but he caught it in his armored gauntlets and yanked it away from her. She heard it clang to the ground across the room.
Jason slammed her back into the stone wall. He lifted her up by her throat. She clawed at his armored hand. Her voice was barely a whisper, “Why?”
“We were engaged, Alia! And now I find you to be marrying this…Thar-kill? If I had my way…” He paused for a moment, looking away. “But fear not, Alia. Your Thar-kill will not be harmed, at least, not by us.”
He released her, and she fell to the ground, gasping for breath.
He gripped her shoulders, bringing his face to hers. “But know…when your resolve is lost, when your façade falls…when they realize not who, but what you really are…we’ll be waiting for you to return.”
“I beg…” she paused, coughing. “to differ.”
“Beg all you want; it’s what you’re best at.” He walked away from her, pausing to throw a dead rose on the floor. His voice filled with scorn. “Have a happy wedding.”
She heard him walk away, and as he reached the other side of the room, he snapped his fingers.
The runes around Aliandra faded away. She breathed raggedly, peering around the room. Jason had disappeared.
Aliandra closed her eyes and sent a single word to Tharkil. Shadowheart.
A short pause, then Tharkil’s voice found her ears. I’m on my way.
She tried getting up, but her right arm and leg couldn’t support her. Catching her breath, she cradled her right arm and crawled across the floor slowly. She came to the dead rose on the floor.
She reached out with her left hand, and it crumbled into dust at her touch.
Aliandra collapsed on the ground, weeping until her tears mingled with her blood.