“Enjoying the fruit from my garden?” Anaron startled her and she stood up to greet him. His presence made her nervous and she wasn’t sure how to act around him after his rudeness the night before. But his elegance soothed her loneliness.
“Yes, thank you.” He moved closer to her and looked down at the fruit she was devouring.
“May I?” He motioned to the fruit and she handed it over to him. His elegant fingers ran over the spot where she’d taken a few bites. She watched in awe as the fruit slowly started to repair, puffing up and re-suturing itself in his hand.
“That is an amazing gift. No wonder you hide away up here in these mountains. Good coin for that.” He handed her back the regrown fruit and she quickly learned her joke fell on deaf ears.
“In this world every living entity must provide, it’s the circle of life and death. Even in death we provide to the living. Tell me, what did you hope to accomplish by using the artifact as a means for survival? I’ve been trying to understand what you thought would happen after it consumed you. What did you hope to provide back to that which gave you what you needed to live?”
Malena looked up at him, questioning herself. She pondered the reasons why she’d accepted a dark pact and why she didn't just accept her untimely death. Why she allowed Xanuk to lure her into the books deepest secrets so easily. Why had she been so trusting?
“We’ve been through this. I didn't want to die Anaron. I just wanted to protect myself.” She felt like her answer was weaker than the night before.
“Yet the need to protect yourself warped into something else, didn’t it? That’s how the book works. In order for corruption to happen, you have to want it. There must be something that drove you to the need for that power. Something that made you feel like it was for a purpose other than survival. A deep hidden seed that would drive you blindly into a dark pact. Something in your past that you aren’t telling me.” His eyes bore into her soul.
“That isn’t something you’d understand.” She snapped at him. He seemed surprised at her reaction. He turned his back to her. A sudden feeling of guilt overcame her.
“I’m sorry I-”
“-It never ceases to amaze me the selfishness that is bred in humans. I provide you with a place to sleep, food to eat, and heal you of a cursed ailment you brought upon yourself. In all my lifetimes on this planet I have yet to encounter one of your race that can clearly understand or justify their own motives with a plausible answer. If you won’t be honest, then I’ll ask you to leave my home since you’ve gotten what you wanted. Leave before you bring more chaos into my life.” He angrily stormed out of the room leaving Malena standing there speechless.
She scowled at his response. She knew she was a lot of things; messed up, broken, and angry, but a selfish human being was definitely not one of them. She quickly caught up to him and pulled him by his arm, turning him to face her. He looked down at her hand on his arm, puzzled.
“Listen, I came here for more than just one reason. I’m not here just to get what I want from you and then leave. You think I spent a year in that hellish mountain just to get you to wave your hands over me and cure me of some sort of common disease? You make it hard for anyone to find you. You’re a hermit and I think all kindness has left you. If it were that simple I would have just found some random cleric!” he pulled his arm from her grasp and his icy gaze met hers.
“Yet here you are, Malena. You can’t even answer the simplest of questions so I can even begin to understand why you made such a stupid choice in the first place. Why do you think that artifact was buried centuries ago? In time even your goals will be forgotten along with the magic that fueled your petty desires. Like all things, time will erase it until even those closest to you won’t remember you! Trust me, I know.” he turned again from her and cursed at her under his tongue in Elven as he climbed the staircase.
She stood there watching his back disappear and felt sadness and anger overcome her. Perhaps he was right, maybe she was a fool and had no clue what she’d gotten herself into. Right now, disappearing into a void seemed inviting. She had hurt so many around her and it seemed only chaos and destruction was left in her wake after finding that damned book. Had she really consumed the dragon Meliteph? It still seemed an impossibility but somewhere in her veins the power coursed through her and she could feel the dragon blood inside every blood cell.
As silence descended, she returned to her room to contemplate packing her things. It was obvious he didn’t want her here. Maybe Xanuk knew someone who could help her. She glared at the book sitting on the desk. She tried to make sense of all the horrible things it did to her and curled up on the soft blankets of the inviting bed instead, clutching onto a white fur pillow. She was alone and there was nothing she could do about it now. How could she prove to Anaron that she was worthy enough to claim her birthright and get his help? His words cut into her just like his cold gazes. She wasn’t just another ‘selfish human’ high on the conceptual lust for power. She would prove it to him. Soon, tears came as she drifted off to sleep, dreaming of better times.
Anaron slammed the door to his study and the gust of wind caused scrolls to fall to the ground from the large stone table in the center of the room. He stared out the window and looked at the mountains below the tower. The snow falling quietly eased his mind. A puzzled emotion came over him. This human was making him feel all kinds of things that he’d pushed down inside himself long ago. His loneliness in the mountains had warped his sense of compassion and patience and he was questioning how hard he was on her these past few days.
He was supposed to help her, not turn her away from him in some blind rage like a child. It was his fault and he knew he was pushing her far too hard after only barely recovering from full corruption. An apology rested deep seeded in his ego and he regretted his pride. But this loneliness was all he’d known. It had been decades since he’d seen a living being.
He knew she was obviously no normal human and the power he felt when he connected to her while he healed her was intense. He could feel something inside of her, something sleeping and waiting to awaken. She could be more than he even dreamed. Her heart was fierce and the magic signature she carried attracted him on a deeper level than he cared to admit.
He moved over to the mirror on the wall of the room and whispered an incantation and waved his hand over the reflection. His heart quickened as an image of Malena laying on the guest bed drifting off into a peaceful sleep appeared. For a moment he wished he was the one she embraced, instead of the pillow she gripped onto tightly. He stared at her for many moments, watching every breath. He was entranced by her and he had no idea why he kept watching her in secret like this. The lie he told himself about making sure she wasn’t using the book was starting to decimate in between every heartbeat in his chest. What was happening to him?As a heat began to rise in his stomach, he quickly waved his hands over the mirror, closing off the vision of her sleeping. He redirected his attention toward the mess he’d made. A bad feeling about their recent arguments overcame him. The thought that she might leave made him suddenly feel desperate. He didn’t want to be alone again. This tower was no longer his haven from the outside world, it began to feel like his curse. He just wanted her to stay.