Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Twenty-Two

The mattress of the bed in Roark’s room smelled of clean straw and didn’t have very many lumps in it. As a soldier who had once fought in a drawn-out war, he didn’t need to be comfortable to sleep. He could lay on a bed of rocky ground with a boulder for a pillow and achieve a very restful slumber.

But he couldn’t sleep. There was a feeling tugging at the back of his head, one that he couldn’t explain. The memories that had flooded into his head at drawing Sonsedhor that morning had settled in; they weren’t the problem. It was bloodlust.

He tried to fight it down, the desire, the need to kill. The urge to take the life of a man, to watch the last bit of light go out of his eyes. As the night went on, the feeling grew. As hard as he fought it down, it still bloomed in his mind.

Kill… Take a life…

It was very late– probably very near midnight.

Kill… He wrapped his hand around Sonsedhor’s hilt, could almost feel the bloody imprint warm against his hand. The whole sword was warm; it pulsed in his hand. Kill… Do it…

He opened the window of his room and dropped to the ground from the second floor.

Emery hadn’t spent much of the afternoon with his usual companions. In fact, he’d spent most of it in his own room, alone. But toward evening, he wandered out into the hallway, looking around as if he was lost. Becca noticed him and kept her eyes on him as he meandered around the furniture and the other patients, tense as a guitar string. Before anyone could tell what he was doing, he had his hands around the throat of another patient, Kristen Censor. Kristen screamed and went into a seizure-like fit, crumpling to the ground and screaming rather than fighting or even struggling against Emery’s grip. It took three nurses to pry him away from her and drag him, still fighting, back to his room. More than one of those nurses has bruises the next day.

Roark kept the murder of the woman in Dracmere secret from his companions. He tried to leave for the river before they woke, but Weslyn and Draegon were already up, having breakfast together and talking, when he entered the common room.

Four days’ hard riding took them to the riverbank. Three nights passed, and on every one, the urge to do murder took him until he couldn’t fight it anymore, snuck away, and killed whatever person happened across his path. Twice, he came upon the camps of Seekers and did his bloody deed, apologizing even as he thrust the blade between ribs or into a gut. The other night he happened on a trio of hunting Keidenelle and slaughtered all three before they could even think about defending themselves.

It was the after murdering the three Keidenelle that he realized, to his immense relief, that one death sated his bloodlust. Something had been done to him that made him kill every day. Every night…

The fourth day, they reached the bank of the Swen. He recognized the blackness that lay on the other bank. It was nearer than he remembered from Cheyne’s dying day. Then, there had been some land on the other side of the river, a few feet of bank on the other side to stand on. Now the water went straight up to the edge… and stopped. But the river was still deep, still had a strong current. The water didn’t run off the edge into the void. But there was no bank to contain it as there had been when he was Cheyne. He stared at the black. He had stood on the opposite bank with Senne and looked over the edge.

Senne. The memory rushed into his head like a charging bull and hit him with as much force. She had betrayed him, been directly responsible for his death, for him drowning.

One murder everyday. Staring into the black, he relived the four murders he had already done. He could feel the others nearby, Weslyn, Kemeny and Draegon.

I won’t. Not to any of them. I’ll kill myself first.

In the end, he doubted he could sink a blade into his own flesh. Part of him doubted that would do anyone any good. It had to be the sword’s doing, Sonsedhor’s doing. Somehow the sword had acquired its own will, and the will was evil. If he died, would it seek another owner? He couldn’t risk sentencing someone else to that fate. This was his burden; he wouldn’t try to escape.

But he could try to turn the sword’s evil will to good. Killing innocents was unforgivable; he knew he was already damned for it. But there were plenty of wrongdoers, criminals in the world. If he sought the murderers, rapists, and thieves out instead…

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