Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Forty-Five

Everyone’s gone mad, Kemeny thought as she watched the Keidenelle and their prisoners fight mercilessly against each other. Frightened at the chaos that had erupted around her after splitting up with Draegon and Zanthys, she had found herself a hiding place in a large audience chamber, and she was still there. Panic had rushed like a wave through the people, savage and civilized alike, and they had scattered like rice on the wind. One small fight had remained, two men grappling over a sword, and then a third man had joined them, but they were gone now. All that had remained in the chamber with her was a body lying in a pool of blood. She hadn’t seen what had happened to that man– a Keidenelle by his clothes– but she suspected he had been knocked down and trampled in the madness as everyone rushed out.

Before she could squeeze herself out of the low little alcove she had twisted herself into– thank the Mother for her flexibility– the crazed masses had rushed back in, but this time they were fighting each other rather than running aimlessly. Savage fought savage; prisoners fought Keidenelle in pairs, in threes; women brawled with men; people died. Once what seemed like hours had passed and calm settled back in through the chamber, she was alone again, but instead of one body on the floor, there were now dozens. The sounds of fighting still came now and then from the hallway outside.

Trembling, Kemeny squeezed herself out of her hiding place and picked her way among the bodies, not daring to call for Draegon or Zanthys, not sure where to start looking for Weslyn and Roark. Part of her was afraid they she would find one or more of her friends– deep down, she even considered Zanthys some sort of a friend, even if an unwilling one– among the bodies.

It was Draegon she found as she carefully stepped between corpses. His face was battered and blood-covered; his shoulders, chest, and hips looked sunken. He had been dead for some time before she got to him. She wasn’t certain, but she thought he might have been the one who had been trampled–or whatever had happened to him.

She stood in shock, looking down on the lifeless face of her old friend. His eyes were closed, thank the Mother– she thought she might have vomited if he had been looking at her with dead eyes. Even so, her stomach heaved just a bit so she had to turn away from the bard’s body. The tears came then, rushing from her eyes in torrents, turning the rest of the bodies surrounding her into unidentifiable blurs. She was grateful for that; she feared turning around would only bring her to Weslyn’s body, or Roark’s, and she couldn’t deal with that at the moment.

Thunder rumbled outside. She had seen flashes of lighting flickering through the room all during the battle that had taken place. There was no accompanying sound of rain, though. Had the world gone mad?

Stumbling among the bodies, blinded by the tears that wouldn’t stop, she found herself up at the dais where the men had been fighting before. A heavy sob racked her, and she fell to her knees on the rug-covered floor.

Approaching footsteps reached her ears, and she wiped her eyes to look up. A woman had come into the room and was standing a mere six or seven paces from her, across the dais. The woman was lovely and finely dressed, but the look in her face screamed that she had seen and done and endured far more than anyone should have to. She looked tired, defeated, and in a strange way, empty. She was missing… something.

The other woman’s eyes lit up at the sight of Kemeny, and some of that missing something seemed to filter back into her.

“I know you,” Kemeny found herself saying. She stood, and she and the stranger approached each other.

The other woman nodded. “I’m Senne. I… know you, too. You’re……”

“Kemeny,” she finished. They were now so close they could touch without extending an arm very far. For a second that lasted an hour they stared into each other’s eyes. Kemeny felt a smile grow on her face and saw it mirrored in Senne’s.

“Jo…” she said at the same moment Senne said it. She knew who she was, who this other woman was. Jo. She remembered Jo, remembered dancing. Reaching out, she wrapped her arms around Senne in an embrace. The other woman held her right back. She felt whole.

If any eye had looked into the room at that moment, they would have found it empty save for dozens of dead bodies.

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