When the past comes rushing back too quickly, everything becomes too overwhelming.
When I woke up the next morning Caine was gone and I felt straw weave itself through my hair. I lifted myself off the ground and I searched for Caine, but he was nowhere in sight. I pushed myself up onto my wobbling feet and balanced myself up against the wall. I hated waking up in this stupid cave.
I pushed myself forward and towards the light at the end of the cave. I used tables around myself to steady my walk and made my way towards the light. I just barley saw one of the røx nurses walk along my side, not stopping me from leaving but watching me move steadily across the ground.
She just watched me as I stumbled forward before stepping out in front of me. She looked different than any other røx I had ever seen.
“How are you feeling Miss?”
“Fine,” I answered sternly and she stopped following me, but her voice continued after me.
“Would you like to eat something?” She came after me to try and hand me a slice a bread.
I pushed her hand away,” No, it’s alright.”
I tried to walk around the røx, but she was persistent and wouldn’t let me pass.
“Miss, one moment of your time please.”
She came closer to me and I could see that this røx was differentially taller than others I had seen before. Her skin was lighter and her eyes were glowing and green. She didn’t speak like the rest of them either. She was surprisingly young, only a few years younger than me.
She approached me nervously and yet wasn’t afraid like all the rest had been. Although they believed I had killed the Nøkken they were still cautious when they came close to me. She took my hands in hers and smiled at me.
“The others and I here would like to thank you for what you did in the forest yesterday, with the Nøkken. You see, Nøkken, they don’t like røx.”
I tried to stop her,” Please, don’t !-”
“No, you don’t understand Miss. No one here would do anything about it, but you did and we never asked you to help. The others won’t, but I’d like to give you a gift.”
I couldn’t speak for I was afraid of making her upset with the news that it wasn’t me who killed the Nøkken but Caine. However, I stayed quiet.
I’ve heard stories about røx who have burned people’s skin, the runes on their skin creating fire and ice at the slightest touch. I did my best to push those thoughts away and looked down upon my hands which was held by the small woman.
She squeezed my hands and began to whisper words that I didn’t understand and her fingers began to radiate with heat that spread from her palm to my own hands. Then the runes on her body began to glow bright red and her whispers grew louder and louder and her hands grew even hotter when suddenly it just stopped. Although the heat in my hands ceased to burn my skin around my collarbone sizzled and I watched a rune burn itself into my skin.
“This was the best I could do, but I know it could never be enough and I’m sorry.”
“What did you do to me?” I asked and felt anger rise up inside of me.
“I’m-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you, but I remembered you had the side wound and thought-”
I didn’t hear the rest of what she said and instead lifted up the bottom of my shirt to see that my stitches were gone and the hole in my side had disappeared as well.
“I don’t know how to repay you.” I stuttered.
“No no you don’t have to-”
“No, I can’t just let this go. I can’t be in your debt.”
She paused for a moment. I knew she wanted to ask something, but she didn’t. She jumped up and down and almost hit her head on the low ceiling.
“Could you give me a name?”
I laughed,” Name you? Why would I do that?”
She stopped jumping.” I don’t have one.”
“You don’t have a name?” I asked soberly.
“Names are not a part of my society,” it was forced. She so badly didn’t want to believe it.
I paused from speaking. This girl was in front of me and twiddles her thumbs nervously.
“You seem different from the rest, why is that?”
“I’m a half-breed Miss, half human and half røx.”
“Well in human society we give out names,” I said as sweetly as I could.
“Then why won’t you give me a name?” She asked again.
“Me? Oh no, I’m no good at names.”
“Please.” She was so quiet and it was a pled.
I paused, thinking of both a name and another excuse.
“Riot. I’ll name you Riot.” I announced proudly.
I smiled down at her as best as I could and she looked up at me sweetly.
“Riot,” She spoke softly,” I am found of that, yes. Thank you, Miss.”
“Stop, don’t call me Miss anymore.”
“Well, then what should I call you?”
“Beckah is fine,” I laughed and she laughed too.
Riot looked around herself nervously and leaned in close,” I have to go. Goodbye B-beckah.”
She wandered deeper into the cave and I was left with the burning sensation on my collar. I held to my throat as I walked out into the light of the cave. I basked in the light for a moment before walking down the hill towards camp. I could still feel a strange heat where my sword wound had been.
The air was cool and I could hear birds singing in the trees. It must have been early morning for the sky was still a yellow as the sun rose over the horizon.
“Miss! Beckah!” Yelled Riot as she raced down the hill after. I threw my head back and groaned.
She was rushing at me as fast as her little feet could carry me and in her arms she held a bundle of my belongings. She also held the two long swords that I had gotten from the tent in her arms.
I took everything she said and she bowed in thanks before returning back to the darkened cave. I slung my swords into my holster that I hadn’t taken off yet. As I sifted through my things I came across a small notebook. I reminded me of Caine’s notebook that he carried around with him, but I didn’t own a notebook. I slid it into my back pocket and began to push myself through the streams of people.
I grasped the tent’s edge as I stepped inside. However, the inside was empty and weapons and clothes were gone from the racks. I stepped back into the hot sun and began to wander around to fine Caine or Huntress
“Beckah!” I heard Troy yell in joy and his body slammed into me.
I had promised him that I would be there for dinner, but he acted like I had been missing for months. He wrapped his arms tightly around me and wouldn’t let go. He rested his head on mine and tightly tripped my shoulders. When he looked back into my eyes he smiled so brightly back at me.
“What happened yesterday? You didn’t come to dinner.”
“There was an accident in the forest when we went out, but everything is fine. I promise.”
I pulled my collar up to find the rune and Troy relaxed.
“How’s your side?” He asked.
“It’s gone,” I lifted my shirt so he could see the healed skin and he took a step back away from me.” It’s alright, Riot healed it.”
“Riot? Who’s Riot?” He asked protectively.
“One of the røx, well she’s half røx.”
“Troy Becken!” We heard a voice screamed. A man ran at us and stared at me with such hatred in his eyes. He didn’t say anything and just circled me, examining me.
“You’re Beckah King?” He spoke quietly.
He walked up close to me.
“I hear you’re the only one of the new recruits who actually killed people, lots of them too.”
I charged at him, but Troy held my arm.
I stood face to face with him and spat,” I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Of course, of course Ms. King.” He began to circle me again, his voice slithering around me like a snake,” But how would your family approve?”
“Dayton please,” Troy butt in,” This isn’t necessary.”
“Troy Becken, leave us.”
Troy was still holding tightly to my arm and began to pull me away.
“No, she stays.”
Troy didn’t move. He wouldn’t let my arm go.
“Becken leave us now.”
Troy squeezed my arm, but he eventually walked away with his head hanging low.
“That’s a good boy.” The sleazy man called Dayton hissed.
Dayton moved close to me and stared into my eyes,” Beckah your whole family is dead, well except-”
“That’s too far.”
He leaned close to me and his cheek was against mine as he whispered into my ear,” Then show me what you’ve got, little tiger.”
I felt the cool touch against my spine of my swords and began to reach towards them.
“Go ahead, take it.” He spoke like he knew what I was thinking.
He took a step back and we just stared at each other. Everything had grown deathly quiet around us and no one had moved closer to us.
“The boys grew up without you Beckah and that's your fault.”
“What do you mean?”
“Dayton.” Huntress Cara’s voice echoed towards us.
He didn’t turn to look at her and in fact he never even said a word to acknowledge her. She walked right up beside us and pulled me away from Dayton.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“Of course, Huntress?” He mocked and bowed before turning to me,”Say hello to the boys for me.”
I bit the inside of my cheek, but my insides were burning and I wanted to hit him. I couldn’t bear to look at the joy on Dayton’s face as he walked away. I turned away and Huntress stepped out in front of me to keep me from leaving.
“Is everything alright Beckah?”
I nodded and closed my eyes. I stared forward at her and felt drained off everything. I looked just past Huntress’s head so I wouldn’t have to look at her in the eyes.
“What was he talking about?”
“Nothing, it was just nonsense. But is the Commander still in camp?” I asked.
“No she isn’t. She left early this morning, but she should be back in a couple of weeks.”
Huntress turned away from me and faced the tents,” You and the Commander, do you know each other?”
“No, not in the slightest.”
Huntress looked at me with a strange glare. She knew something that I didn’t know. Something about the Commander.
“Do you feel up to another trip into the forest today?”
“I’m fine, let’s do this.”
She nodded at me,” Go to the tent and get ready, I’ll meet you there.”
I pushed past Huntress and made my way back to my tent. I stepped inside and felt the cool air blast me in the face. I walked over to my dead and fell face down onto the bed. I took the pillows in my arms and hugged them tight to my chest. I took a deep breath before kicking myself up and out of bed.
Hanging over the edge of bed was another set of clothes and I took the bundle in my arms. I slipped off my holster and laid my swords on the bed before taking off my trousers and shirt. They smelled of dirt and stagnant water and I threw them onto the ground. I could feel the dirt and grime on my skin and I tried to rub it off, but only ended up rubbing my skin raw.
I stood there in the tent for a moment and looked down at my side. The air around my side was a dull red. I ran my fingers along the skin and all I could feel was a small scar.
It should have been impossible. Røx aren’t able to heal anyone with any sort of magic, although magic thinly exists. How could a hybrid like Riot do such a thing?
I grabbed the clothes off the bed and threw them on as quickly as I could. I hungered to get back into the forest. I needed to do something before I went crazy. I slipped the dull colored clothes on and grabbed my swords off the bed as Huntress came inside the tent.
She stood in front of the exit and I knew something was wrong.
“Beckah, I just spoke to some of the nurses and all of them warn about sending you back into the field.” She said sadly.
“I don’t understand, I’m fine.”
“Based on what I’ve heard Beckah I’ve decided that you’re going to stay in camp until the røx think you are ready to go back into the forest for another exercise.”
I held my swords in my hands and my head grew hot. I needed to get back out there. I wouldn’t be put aside like this.
“I don’t think you understand.” I hissed, taking a few steps to get closer to her,” I am going back out there today.”
“Beckah, the Holt brothers and handle themselves today.”
“No!” I screamed, continuing to get closer to her,” I’m going.”
“Beckah.” She whispered and I held my face against her,” Beckah drop the swords.”
I looked down at my hands. I still held tight to the swords and I trapped her body inside of them. Blood dripped onto the metal.
I rushed backwards and dropped the swords onto the ground.
“I-I” I stuttered, but I couldn’t get the words out.
Huntress held her side and lifted her fingers to see the blood,” It’s fine. It’s only a scratch.
I fell back onto my bed and I dropped my head into my hands. I sighed and looked back up, but she had disappeared again.
“Dammit!” I screamed, throwing one of the swords across the room.
My head was heavy and my heart was pounding. I grabbed the sword which laid by my feet and rushed back outside.
Huntress had disappeared and I raced across camp, catching the attention of everyone I stormed past. I froze. Where was I going? I was just running endless circles around camp and getting nowhere.
I glanced up at the cave at the top of the hill and saw røx rushing in and out. I turned and ran up the hill and new spite filled my being. I came to the mouth of the cave and saw no one inside. It was like they had all run for cover when I came by.
“Riot!” I yelled and I saw a head pop up in the darkness.
She came running to me with a smile on her face, but it melted away when she got closer. I scowled at her,” What did you say to Huntress Cara about me?”
“Oh, n-nothing. I swear.”
“Riot, don’t lie to me.” I held the sword in my head and shook it in front of her face.
A laugh escaped my gut and I made Riot more uncomfortable,” What did you say? It’s a simple question.”
Another røx came up from behind me and huffed as I questioned Riot,” She can’t do anything mhmm, you’re wasting your time mhmm.”
“Excuse me?” I asked.
She turned to me. Her small arms crossed over her chest as she glared up at Riot. I recognized the hatred in her red eyes.
“She is half breed mhmm and we don’t like them here no no, but Commander insisted that she stay with us here.”
“I don’t care about any of that.” I hissed through closed teeth and turned back to Riot.
“Please Miss, do not waste your time with that thing mhmm, come to the back. I’ll answer all of your questions.”
I paused and straightened my back so I stood as tall as I could when I looked down at the røx below me.
She quickly realized her mistake and shook her hands in front of her face,” Oh no no, I don’t mean thing mhmm, but she is a mistake. Please, just come with me mhmm.”
I glanced at Riot who was looking past me at the sky behind me. She was numb to the words this røx said to her like they had been said many time before.
I squatted down so I could look her in the eyes,” She’s not a mistake.” I corrected.
“Of course, please come mhmm.”
I still held the sword in my hand and moved it closer to the røx’s face. She gulped for air and I just moved it closer to her.
“She’s not a thing or a mistake, but if you feel the need to keep calling her that I’ll come back and make sure you feel like it was a mistake for you to be born. Understand?”
She nodded and her small fathead bobbled like an apple and she dashed away into the cave. I stood back up and looked over at Riot who looked up at me with curious eyes.
I had forgotten what I came for in the first place and turned away to leave. I walked back to the tent alone and inside I found Caine and Olin.
Caine smiled at me, but I didn’t look at him and just plopped myself down onto the bed.
“Why didn’t you come with us into the woods today?” He asked.
“I’m not going back out for a while.”
“What, why not?”
I didn’t really want to answer, but Olin laughed. He held his chest like he was in agony.
“Oh no, the trained killer can’t go back to hunting things. The horror!” He laughed at himself before falling onto his back.
“Olin.” Caine snapped at him, but it didn’t stop his brother from continuing to mock.
“You know,” He sat up on his bed,” I recognized you the moment I saw you. You were in Bestilling av Night Lillies, Order of the Night Lilies.”
“I’m surprised you remembered with that small brain of yours.”I spat back at him and he smiled back.
“The Night Lilies, do you know what they were Caine?”
He shook his head and locked eyes with me.
“Well then let me inform you dear brother,” Olin jumped off the bed and walked over to my bed,” Headmistress Coral choose you and from what I’ve heard, of course correct me if I’m wrong, you’re the only group who has actually killed people. Real people.” He clicked his tongue,” Oh Beckah, you’re a monster.”
“Olin that’s enough,” Caine ordered.
“Seriously! You’re taking her side?”
“It’s all in the past now Olin. We were all forced to do things to survive so forget about it.”
Olin was in my face and sat down next to me and slung his arm over my shoulder. I wanted to throw him off of me, but I knew it wouldn’t end very well. I held back.
“Come on Caine, don’t tell me you don’t recognize her. Everyone would call her slakter? She slit the throat of her victims.”
I finally pushed him off of me and he tumbled onto the ground.
He spoke like I wasn't here sitting right next to me. I was still a person wasn’t I? I didn’t need to listen to him.
I knew what I was talking about. I heard the whispers. The things I did weren’t hidden from anybody and they laid across my body like scars.
I turned away. I couldn’t bare to see Caine’s face. I felt like I was growing a connection with him, but now of course everything had turned to dust. It was impossible to make people who weren’t there understand.
I stood up and walked over to the weapons rack again. My mind was clouded and I grabbed a knife off of the rack.
“That’s it. Show us. Show us what the Night Lillies do Beckah.” Olin hissed.
Instead, I put the knife in my belt and walked back outside.
“Beckah!” Caine called after me, but it was covered up by Olin’s laughs.
“Yeah, you run! Run away as you’ve run away from everything else!”
Coral’s voice echoed in my head and I rubbed the scars on my arms.
No matter how far you run away from me Beckah, no matter where you hide I’ll find you. You’ll always be my little marionette. My dusk Lilly.
Tears welled up in my eyes and I darted into an empty tent. I wiped them away and looked at the dirt ground. No one cared enough to fix the tent up and left it empty on the inside.
Thunder boomed in the sky and heavy rain began to fall. It dripped through a rip in the tent and turned the mud around me.
Why was her voice always in my head? Why couldn’t I rid myself of her presence? Why could she never let me go? For the first time I thought maybe she was right about one thing. I had been naive thinking that I could do anything to help someone. I was foolish.
I fell to my knees and continued to weep as I was unable to control the falling of my sorrow on the ground. As the rain poured onto the ground I sunk deeper into the mud. I dropped into the ground towards the pit. Towards the realm of Hel.
“Beckah?” The thick wind of the storm called, but it was so far away that my ears ignored it and my body kept shaking with agony. It called to me again and the wind sounded angry, sounded fierce. I blocked it out and looked at the wooden handle in my fingers and it sent a surge through me.
I lifted the short blade out in front of myself, but my clouded teary eyes created a film over the earth which I couldn’t see through. I dropped my hands onto the ground and they took sunk into the mud.
The wind blew hard against the tent and it made my body shake with it’s force. It called my name yet again and it was closer to me. It was ferocious and determined. I knew it would find me sooner or later. The reached every corner of this world and I felt like I was at the center of it.
I let the knife find it’s against my chest and it centered itself against my beating heart. I felt drawn to do it. The music stilled played in the back of my head and now it was getting louder and louder. Headmistress Coral’s voice was at the center of it all whispered for me to do it.
I could feel the sharp point through my shirt. Clean and uncomplicated. The thought of death never frightened me before. It was the only thing that ever made sense to me. It was something I could touch, I could feel. Something that could fill my eyes and dissipate in my arms. But now I couldn’t think about it without being filled with vertigo. My mind could no longer grasp what it meant to die.
My breath escaped my lips when I heard the wind slap against the tent. He approached me steadily. His footsteps barely making a noise as he stepped deeper into the wet mud. My tears never subsided even as he grew closer to me.
He fell to his knees behind me as I tried to press the knife harder and harder against my chest. I could feel him behind me. I felt his breath against my neck. It was warm and damp like the lake at night when the moon shone bright and night owls whistled their song. Like the wind.
“Beckah,” He whistled,” Please, don’t.”
I sniffled back my tears,” I can’t help it, she wants me too. I must obey.” I spoke so softly.
“Who Beckah? Who wants you to do this?”
I ignored his questions,” I’m not sure I’m a person anymore.”
He wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his head on my shoulder. I could feel his pattern of breathing and as he knelt behind me he too sunk down into the mud. Falling down right beside me.
“I won’t let you die alone,” He spoke and I watched wearily as his hands blindly found the knife’s handle,” Let me bear this burden with you.”
My grip on the blade began to falter and his only began to tighten. We sat there in limbo with both our hands against the handle, his arms wrapped around me, his breathing setting the pace for my heartbeat as the storm thundered around us. It was like we were the eye of a hurricane.
My tears kept falling and we both kept sinking further into the ground. The mud wrapped itself around my legs and completely engulfed them.
“It’s alright,” he whispered.
I felt my head drop and I was face to face with the blade. It never felt real to me before now. It would be so easy to do.
No one would cry if you died Beckah. No one would weep. You’ll find yourself in Hel with your tears stained upon your face for eternity. It could all stop with a simple push. It’s so easy.
Her voice wrapped around my mind like a snake and I couldn’t think. I turned my head just enough to see Troy with his face pressed against my shoulder and his silent tears strained against his own face. Troy wept not for himself, but for me. He wept.
I dropped the knife from my hands and Troy buried it on the mud. I rolled over and fell into him. He wrapped his arms around me and I felt untouchable.
I began to cry harder and my tears drenched his shirt, but they weren’t tears of sorrow or pain. They were nothing like I ever felt before. I cried out of fear.
I threw my arms around his neck and he pulled me closer to him. We sat there sinking further into the ground for a long time.
“I didn’t want to do it.” I mumbled,’ I don’t want to die.”
“I know Beckah.” He whispered,” But who are you talking about?”
“Her voice is in my head Troy. I can’t hear my own thoughts. Everything is so heavy now.”
“Beckah, please. Who is it?”
“Coral, she is talking to me now. She’s in my head.”
Troy pulled me closer to him” She’s not here now Beckah. She can’t hurt you.”
“Troy, I’m her puppet.”
“Did she tell you that?” He asked and I nodded,” When?”
“After a young girl stole food from some of the guards I took the fall, I never told you or Thorne. You know Headmistress doesn’t like thieves. The girl would have died.”
“Beckah, stop calling her Headmistress.” He sighed,” Go on.”
I paused, “Coral was going to punish her, but I told her I had stolen the bread and I just expected to go to the pit, but she had other ideas. It was the same day that the festival of the Winter Solstice was supposed to be and she had visitors.”
“Dear god Beckah. “
Troy knew what happened during the festival, yet he needed to know. I rolled down my sleeves to show the long scars along my arms. He gently grabbed my wrists to see them closer in the dim light. He knew.
“Did Thorne ever know?”
“No, I couldn’t bear to tell him. I was gone for twelve days, but it was the same time that you two were on assignment so you never noticed.”
Troy held tight to my arm,” You should have told us.”
“What good would it do? Nothing could have been done.”
He dropped his head in my shoulder and shook his head,” Beckah you should have told us.”
I dropped my head too and looked at the scar on my other arm.
I closed my eyes. It would be easier not to look. My legs and arms were sore and I looked up at the ceiling, but nothing was there.
I was strapped down to the table and I couldn’t move my head to look around. Suddenly Headmistress Coral’s head popped into view and she smiled down at me.
“Are you excited for the show? We have so many guests, so you must be so happy you get to meet them all.”
I refused to speak to her.
“Oh come now King, you should be thrilled. But if you would prefer to be bitter then fine.”
She looked towards somebody else in the room,” You may begin, just try not to damage any of the bones, please. I want her to make a full recovery.”
She darted away from view and I felt the knives drive themselves into my skin. They dropped past the soft skin. I screamed in agony and my body jolted which only made the pain worse.
“Hold her down,” Someone mumbled,” She’s moving too much.”
Hands came from everywhere and held me in place as the knife slid across my skin deeper and deeper into it scratched the bone. He huffed and dropped the knife, but my arm was on fire and I wanted to scream again.
I felt him tie something around the fragile bones in my arms and something heavier was tied to the other edge of the strings.
The pain felt unbearable and I thrashed against the table, but it wasn't any use. Everything was on fire and I wanted to die.
“Beckah, stop,” Troy whispered and I looked back into his eyes.
I got lost in my mind again and he held me closer to him again. I could feel dull pain in my arms, but I didn’t want to look at them. I thought that maybe I would pulled back there again. I didn’t want to go back.
“Come on Beckah. Let’s go.” Troy moved from behind me and lifted me out of the mud.
I rolled my sleeves down and I watched the knife sink further into the dark mud. I was alive.