Saturday, April 19, 2014
The Lightstones - Bonus Epilogue
This is the loose end that I purposely left out of the story. I do not plan to put this into the official book that will be offered on Amazon Kindle. This is the subtly hinted at dark truth, so if you don't want to know, this is your warning: STOP READING NOW! But if you think you can handle the truth, then read on, :-)
Auric was such a good year old baby that I often forgot he was in the room. He'd sit and quietly smile and coo for hours, and rarely fussed. Therefore, it was always a surprise when he started screaming that he was hungry. I rushed to pick him up before he could disturb the others.
They watched me silently as I settled my son on my lap, bared a breast, and tried my best not to cringe as he latched on with the force of a mini tornado. Ow... Gritting my teeth, I waited for his ardor to settle down and his drinking to smooth out until it was pain free.
As much as I loved nursing them, both of my babies had been painful drinkers. Apparently having divine powers gave them strength that a mere mortal such as I was unprepared for. I smiled at Auric lovingly.
So far, Eri had been right about him. He was simply adorable, and everyone loved him. He was doted on by everyone in the Clan! Especially his grandfather...
I looked around the silent room, noticing that everyone's attention had returned to Lord Lightstone. He lay on his deathbed, his breathing shallow and prone to stopping for worrying amounts of time. Bathor and his mother tried everything they could to help him, but it was as if his body had decided to simply give up.
He had been resting for hours, though it was obvious that his condition was deteriorating. I wondered if he was happy to know that he was surrounded by loved ones as his life came to an end. He certainly didn't look at peace.
His breathing changed abruptly, growing louder and slightly strained. His eyes open, startling everyone as he looked around the room. The color of his face turned an alarming shade of red as he grunted in frustration.
“Help me up!” He commanded. Ianto and Bathor worked together to prop him up on a few pillows, only to be told that he wanted to turn onto his side. Eventually, they had him slightly elevated by pillows as he lay on his side looking out the window. The day was sunny and beautiful, bringing a smile to his face.
Frowning once more, he barked: “Girl! Nyona, come here!”
Surprised, I quickly handed our son to my husband, thankful that he was full enough that he didn't protest. Covering my breast, I sat on the edge of the bed and tilted my head curiously. “My Lord?”
“Closer!” He commanded.
At his beckoning, I ended up laying down so that my head was on his pillow with my ear next to his mouth. Ianto stared at me in confusion, prompting me to shrug my shoulders. I have no idea what the Lord wants!
Softly, he started whispering in my ear. “It still pains me that I tried so hard to kill you. It pains me even more that I nearly succeeded...”
A slow glance around the room proved that everyone was silently trying to hear what the Lord was saying, but the confusion on their faces let me know that they couldn't hear him; he was speaking too softly.
“Let me tell you a story,” the Lord continued. “When I was young, I met a beautiful Lady and instantly fell in love. Moira was my only joy in life, but she was from a lesser family and not considered suitable for me to marry. In a fit of youthful rebellion, we ran away...
“We didn't go far, just to the Capitol City and the temple of the Queen of the Gods. There, we pledged to live our lives together, and for one glorious month, we did exactly that...”
My eyes bulged and mouth hung open in shock! What??? He couldn't be talking about the temple of David and Joanna, because that's not in the Capitol City... but more importantly, he just said he'd gotten married to another woman! Moira... Wait! Moira???
I tried to speak, to ask my many confused questions, but he shook his head slightly and loudly commanded me to: “Silence!”
Exhaling to calm myself, I nodded obediently.
Clutching a fistful of hair in his hand, he very quietly continued. “After that first month, I completely broke down. I couldn't handle the life of poverty we were forced to endure, so I abandoned her; throwing her most precious token of affection to me in her face as I left. My very last memory of her is the tears running down her face into her handkerchief, the one pledging to love me forever.
“Upon returning home, my father welcomed me back with open arms, and promptly finalized my marriage to Amanda. I didn't love her, but she was from the right family. I knew it meant my death if anyone ever found out the truth, that I was already married, but I was too broken at that point to care.
“I tried to be a good husband to her, but always, my true love lingered in the back of my mind. When I realized that she was dead... it broke me all over again...”
Tears welled up in my eyes, my heart ached terribly for him. I wished that I could hold him in my arms like a child and sing a lullaby as I rocked him back to sleep. How does one live with such a tragic secret?
“But then I realized possibly the most important thing of all,” Lord Lightstone continued, still speaking so softly that even I had to strain to hear it. “You are my true heir, born of my real marriage to my true love. As much as it repulsed me to know it, your children born of my son are the heirs to my title and lands because of you, not him... Though everyone will think it's because of him, and that's necessary. In a way, everything is as it should be...”
I gasped in astonishment. Shock and anger and even a little bile rose up inside me. I sat up to grab the bowl sitting on the table next to the bed so that I could use it if necessary. After a few dry heaves, I glared at the dying man in horror. His hand still gripped some of my hair, stinging a tiny bit as I leaned slightly away from him.
“Just remember,” he murmured, loud enough for me to hear, along with most others. “I do truly love you as a daughter. Please continue to make my son happy...”
And with that, Lord Lightstone exhaled his last breath.
“No!” I exclaimed, feeling betrayed. “You cannot die like that!”
How dare he?! I finally find out that my father is alive after all these years and now he's dead?! Sobs shook my whole body. I was angry and hurt and now I knew a terrible secret!
I wanted to shake my father and shout my rage at him for what he had done to me, but now he finally looked at peace. Others were crying too now that the Lord had passed on, but no one was crying as hard as me. Except for Amanda; she clung to his hand and softly promised to be together with him again in just a few years.
Ianto tried to comfort me stoically, not understanding why I was so upset by the death of the man who had tried to kill me more than once. I wailed my grief, not having the faintest idea what – if anything – I should ever do with this new information. When the pain of it clawing it's way around my mind grew too much to bear, I grabbed my father by the collar of his bed shirt and shook him ever so slightly.
“You evil old man! How dare you tell me that and then die!” I shouted, gave him another shake for good measure, and then flung away Ianto's concerned hand so that I could run as far away as possible. A few strands of my hair were pulled out since I had no presence of mind to extract them from my father's clenched fist before fleeing the room.
Ianto ran after me, shouting in concern for me to stop and talk to him, but I just couldn't! What could I possibly say to him? He nearly caught up with me just before I burst out of the castle and ran into the garden. I ran flat out until I could use my sanctuary stone without him getting caught inside the sacred space too.
He roared in frustration when he stood right where he knew I was but couldn't see or feel me. “This solves nothing! What did he say to you?! What could he have possibly said that would make you want to run away?!
I picked a soothing tree and sat in front of it, drawing my knees to my chest so that I could think. Hours passed with Ianto pacing the area in front of me as I thought about what to do. If I told everyone the truth, everyone would suffer. Ianto's life... Anya's life... Amanda's life...
They were all built upon a lie! A horrible, terrible lie! The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I simply couldn't destroy their lives because one selfish man made a tragically bad decision and couldn't bear to take responsibility for it while he was still alive. Knowing that I now had to keep this secret until I went to my grave too, I could do nothing but cry from the burden of it.
As I wept, slowly, the weight of the secret settled onto my shoulders. They felt bent, but they held the weight. A little more time passed, and I started to feel like I might just be strong enough to bear this burden. When my shoulders and my spirit both proved that they were strong enough, I exhaled all of my tears and took in a refreshingly deep breath.
Ready at last, I got to my feet and stepped out of the Sacred Realm.
Ianto had been working through his own grief as he waited for me. He'd paced endlessly, muttering about his father. I knew that he had truly loved his father, and this was a deep loss, but the whole clan had known that this was coming for months and had made their peace with it. Judging by the muttering, Ianto believed that his father must have told me some convoluted lie just to upset me and finally win the battle between us.
In a way, this made some sense...
Ianto exhaled in relief when he saw me, and pulled me into his strong arms. “What was that about? What did my father say to you?”
I laughed weakly. “I'm sorry I was being so silly, but I just couldn't handle your father telling me how sorry he was for everything he did to me. To hear him say that he loved me and then die... Well, I felt... betrayed somehow. He's... well, he and your mother are the only parents I've ever known, and I guess I just wasn't prepared to let him go so soon.”
Ianto was pacified by this explanation. He stroked my hair as he held me close. My heart started to mend just a little bit. Hopefully – with time – I would be able to forget this day ever happened.
My darling, nearly five year old daughter decided that it was the perfect time to come close and hug me too. She touched each of my eyes with just one of her fingers, and suddenly they didn't sting anymore.
“I'm going to love my sister so much! She may not be a future War Maiden, but at least she's not dedicated to that brain-dead Goddess of Love. Even better, she's a Saint pledged to the Goddess of the Hunt.”
“What?” I asked, shocked all over again, but for a completely different reason.
“My sister,” Eri stated with a smile. “We're going to be the best of friends!”
“Oh boy!” I groaned as I felt my stomach rise into my throat. It then settled again almost obediently. I sighed, and then smiled. “Well, I'm glad to hear that you're not planning to fight this one.”
“Oh there'll be fighting!” Eri assured me. “But it'll be the good kind.”
I was literally speechless, but Ianto simply laughed and ruffled her head. “The fun kind.”
Eri nodded in agreement, grinning at her father in mutual understanding.
Looks like my hands are going to be fuller than ever!