Alina hide her face behind her hands despite being alone, in the moonlit shadow of her bedroom, repressing the sound of her sobs to a whisper of despair. After so much risk, after so much sacrifice, after so many nights and days enduring the knowledge of being a monster, keeping her existence just because of her brothers' hope in a cure, in a day she could smile under the sunlight again... When finally hope had sprout even in her heart... Today they all had at last the answer they were looking for, but not the one they hoped for.
She would never be really alive again.
Knowing it was breaking her heart. The darkness that had been engulfing and chilling her soul was ready to swallow it all, after the breakage of that frail hope, like the last flower before the cruelest winter. The laughs, the smiles, the lovely feeling of happiness while running barefooted on grass...
All that life meant to her was going to disappear under the black tide of her inhuman fate, forever frozen, half living to the death of time.
A knock in her door startled her, raised head, opened eyes. A few seconds passed until a second knock, and then she hurriedly cleaned the tears from her cheeks, got up and, putting a coat over her shoulders, and closing it with her hand, slowly got to the door. She inspired once more and then opened it no more than a span.
- Vadim? What are you doing here? - asked when she saw the scholar's face.
- A word, milady? - asked the man
- Can't you wait? -
- It will only take a moment, if you are so kind... -
With a sight, Alina let the door go and went near the window
- Well, what is it? - she asked, looking at the full white moon
A moment of silence passed before she turned her face to look at her visitor
- It's... It is but a simple token, but I just came to finishing it, and in the light of recent events, I would like very much to present you with it. -
He extended her arm towards her, some kind of pendant in his open hand. Alina frowned
- Do you think a gift is going to improve my condition? I thought you were an intelligent man. - A flash of his eyes before hurriedly looking down again was almost all his reaction to her words.
The moonlight showed him slightly biting his lip. He opened them as if readying to speak, but closed them again without a word, with a sideways glance.
- Not that much, probably. - said Vadim, again towards Alina - I am deeply sorry, having been the messenger of such bad news, and I understand that nothing could change your... condition -
Alina coldly look at him, still in a bow, as appropriate to their different status. This not only was something that could have wait, but completely unnecessary as well.
She turned again to the moon, like a huge, white eye watching people's miseries.
- Don't be daft. Of course there is. There is every day. -
Vadim look at her back, trying to decide if she had meant what he had understood.
- Milady... If a may... -
Alina turned back, getting more and more upset, a red spark behind her pupils, her read hair playing dark under the contrast of moonlight and darkness.
- And what makes you think you may? - She asked, raising her voice
- Milady, you will never be alone, your brothers... -
- My brothers!? - she interrupted, furious, advancing towards him, grabbing his neck and raising his body, hitting him against the door, raising his a foot over the floor and keeping him there with her inhuman strength. - You have no right to speak to me of my brothers -
- Milady... please... - he whispered, strangulated - I... - he raised the pendant, hanging of its chain - You'll never be alone. I always will find you with this. -
She looked at him with gritted teeth, his face was darkening from the blood accumulating. She knew he would seem bluish under a brighter light, but in the shades of the room he just looked... dying.
She drop him.
He fell to the floor, coughing and breathing as a starving man in a sudden feast. She left him a few paces while he got up.
- "Always" - she chuckled - You don't understand the meaning of that word. None of you will. Not even my brothers. If I were to follow your advice, only I would really understand its meaning, so don't dare talking to me about "always" -
- Milady, - he said, looking at her in the eye in the straightest and steadiest gaze she had ever seen in him. Or in anyone. - I really mean it. Always. Forever. If you keep this token, - continued while offering it again - then you will never have to be alone, for I will be there. -
She snatched the pendant, the fury still smoldering in her eyes, but not knowing what to answer. They look each other for a moment more
And then Vadim bowed before the noblewoman - I shall let you rest now, then. Thank you for listening to me at this late hour - he took a step backwards and then he opened the door and left with but the slightest look back.
Alina raised the pendant and looked at it under the moonlight. It seemed to have been made from overlaping layers of silver and gold, covered with those runes his kind were so fond of. "Eternal" company, she thought, still disdainful.
But she kept it.