Part 6: Die, Die My Darling
“Gaven...” Aelia whispers. She can't do much more than that. I have her pinned against the wall with my right arm just under her breasts. I stare into her eyes. Tears are welling up. Her slitted pupils are locked on the blade. “Please...please do not hurt me...”
“They say elves all look alike.” I say. “They say it's difficult to tell them apart. That's dragondung.” She squirms against my arm. “Stop that.” I growl, pressing the blade into her neck, just enough that I'm not quite cutting the skin. She quits moving. “Where was I? Ah, right. Elves don't all look alike, any more than humans do. You said there aren't that many elves in Miir. I buy that. But even with some inbreeding, House Dythanus still has enough members to have one great big extended family. Enough to match the other houses, at least. Am I right?”
“Gaven...” She whispers again.
“That's what I thought. That would mean, what, two hundred elves or so?”
“Yes.” She says. A tear rolls down her cheek. “Gaven, please...”
“So I have to wonder why, with two hundred elves in this mansion, I've been seeing you everywhere I've been. Everywhere. You were there when I was being put back together after my trip through the belly. When I woke you handed me the painkiller. You helped dress me when I was summoned. I threatened to skin you to get my hat back. When I saw that ghost thing, you were the one who came at my screams.”
“That is...my job...” she whispers.
I giggle. It's not funny. Why am I laughing? By the Dragon, why can't I stop?
“I threatened to skin you, Aeila. Why by God and the Dragon would you come within a hundred feet of me after that? You had every reason in the world to just let one of the other nurses deal with me. And yet there you were just after the earthquake. I threatened your life again. I threatened the life of your lord. You could have left while I was busy with the Shadows.”
“I...I did ask you...to let me go...” she says. She's crying freely now.
“Yes you did. You asked me to let you go.” I giggle again. Stop that, Gaven! Stop it now! Oh god, I'm cracking up. “You did. Why? Why ask my permission? Why did you need it?”
“I...you are dangerous...I wanted to protect...”
“NO! I wanted you around! To protect others from me. You wanted to leave, and I wouldn't let you, so you stayed. You even told me about Lady Sylvia, when I wanted to go and throttle Jereth. An interesting plan. Go tattle to Jereth's mommy. Is she even real, or was that just a wild goose chase, to keep me out of trouble?”
“She is...she is Jereth's mother...he will listen to her...I didn't lie...”
“Didn't lie about that. But you lied about the candlestick. You lied about The Shadows not being able to hurt me. They did hurt me. And they killed you.”
“NO! No it wasn't! The Hangman came, wrapped a rope around your neck and dragged you up a wall!”
“Gaven, I am alive. I am! I am right here in front of you...Gaven, please...” she weeps. “Please do not do this...I have only ever tried to help you...”
“And yet, when I wasn't paying attention, when I was cutting my hand to ribbons, there you were. As if nothing had happened. Telling ME nothing happened! You didn't walk up to me, though. I didn't see you walk out of any door. You just appeared. Like a ghost. Like one of the Shadows themselves.”
“Please...please do not pursue...”
“Pursue what, Aelia? Pursue this line of thought? Don't think about The Shadows, because thinking about them gives them power? But what does that mean about you? You've been practically begging me to think of you by name. To trust you. To believe in you. Why would you need me to do that?”
“Gaven, don't hurt me...” she sobs. “It's the delirium that makes you say these things. The delirium!”
“Are you a Shadow, Aelia? That eyeless, pleading ghost I saw before...is that your true form? If I cut you, will you even bleed?”
“Please...” she whispers. Her tears are soaking a tiny patch on my shirt sleeve. She squeezes her eyes shut. “...please don't rape me.”
Revelation kicks me in the gut. I see it all as if looking through the eyes of God above: the girl shoved against the corner, the lunatic with a knife to her throat, too close...Will you even bleed?
This isn't me...I'm not this person! I lean away, lowering the scalpel. I'm not...some alley mugger, some dockside monster waiting to get his jollies off on some poor innocent in the wrong place at the wrong time. This must be the Dreamlily...please let it be the Dreamlily making me do this...
“Aelia, I'm...Dragon Below, I'm sorry...” I say, removing my arm from across her chest, letting her free. Aelia looks at me with those huge, huge eyes.
As soon as she's able to move, her arm whips up, her hand snaking to the joint where my neck meets the shoulder. She squeezes...and my body goes numb. Nothing works. I'm paralyzed! I can't move...can't breathe...the blade clatters from my useless fingers. With a gentle push she sends me crashing to the floor...everything's spinning...I’m gasping for air like a salmon pulled into a fisherman's boat, flopping around...
I see her feet in motion, heading away from me. Something red drips down her legs. She's still sobbing as she runs. Did I cut her any? I don't think so...
I struggle to stand, to breathe, to cry out, but everything is spinning and my head is far, far too light...it's easier to just pass out, so I do.