David found himself in the Great Hall surrounded by finely garbed men and women of his realm. He was back at the festival, standing in the middle of the dance floor. The music filled the room, accompanying the laughter and conversations of all those in attendance. He could smell various aromas of the prepared meats and breads for the evening's meal. He looked about the scene and recognized most of the faces around him. "This is familiar," he thought to himself. Watching the joyous activities around him, David was soon moving through the crowded room, not knowing where he was headed or why. He came to a stop at the edge of the dance floor and peered into the gathered people before him. Someone was coming to him, the crowd gradually shifting to allow their passage until he was finally able to see who approached.
It was Dea, but unlike anyway he had ever seen her before. David studied her as she stood a short distance from him. She wore a brilliant scarlet silken gown with a plunging neckline. It had gold woven cords that crisscrossed her bodice before coming to a rest in a delicate knot at her hip, accentuating her slender figure. Her russet hair framed her pale face and draped down her back. The gleam of her green eyes shone unmatched by any of the flickering chandeliers in the room. She was stunning. He wanted to smile, but something kept him from it, something unknown. He could only mover closer, offering his hand to request her company for a dance. She accepted.
They turned gracefully about the floor amongst the other dancing couples. All eyes were on them, but Dea's gaze never left his. She stared up at him with an adoring expression as she held to his shoulder, her other hand clasped within his. David held her firmly; her smooth hair brushed his hand at her waist. He could feel the warmth of her body so near to his. He thought he should have been happy at that very moment, but he wasn't. Something was amiss. Something was off.
As their shared dance came to an end, he turned her full circle once, and then pulled her close. Dea wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head against his throat. David felt a strange sense of loathing come over him, and it was aimed at her. He found himself wanting to push her away. Just as he was about to move back, she shuddered. He looked down at her as she slowly raised her eyes to his, and they were filled with pain.
"I thought you loved me," she came in a whisper.
"You told me not to," David coldly replied.
Dea winced again. "I lied," she breathed, then lowered her head.
David followed her gaze. His breath caught at what he saw. His own hand clutched the hilt of a dagger, and he had driven the blade into her chest. Her arms came loose from around him and she closed her eyes. He pulled the blade free and dropped it to the ground, sending droplets of red blood across the floor beneath them. He knew he should have felt remorse for what he had just done, but did not. He observed the crimson blood flow from the wound and darken the silk gown; it lessened in volume as the beats of her heart slowed. Even though he knew it was wrong, he found satisfaction as he watched the life leave her. Dea looked up at him, the light in her eyes fading. She then closed her eyes once more, a tear escaping each. The tears stole the glow from her eyes as they fell, rolling down her flushed cheeks with the odd illumination within them.
It was the sparkling tears that brought David back. Dea went limp and began to crumple to the floor. He caught her in his arms and held her close. He wanted to cry out, but his voice failed him. "No, no! I'm sorry!" rang through his head. She grew heavy in his embrace until he could hardly hold onto her. He sunk to the floor and let her down against his knees. She looked peaceful, as if she were only sleeping. He gently shook her and hoped to see those beautiful eyes open. They did not. He shook her again, calling her name this time. Again, she didn't respond. David's heart broke as her head lolled back and her arms hung down from her lifeless body. He leaned over her and pulled her closer, resting his head against her neck. He could feel her growing cold as he held her. "I'm sorry," he repeated in his head over and over.
As he sat with her, he noticed the dancing continued around them. No one seemed to care about what had just happened. David looked up and watched as the festivities proceeded unhindered. He couldn't believe there was no one to turn to. Then a hand came to his shoulder. Marsden stood beside him, peering down at him.
"The Elfling has been executed as you requested, sir," Marsden informed him without hesitation.
David gazed up at him speechless. He thought to ask him to explain his statement, or to plead for help for Dea, but he couldn't form the words. He looked back at Dea's inanimate body in hopes of catching Marsden's attention, but his friend merely walked away and left him alone. David watched him until he vanished in the sea of people, and then turned back to Dea. He wanted to weep for her, but his eyes remained dry.
Another hand came upon him on his other shoulder. David's eyes flashed up and found Thadean standing beside him. He was shocked to see the old man, knowing he was dead. He looked very much alive, and very much displeased as he glared down at David.
"Help me," he thought, but was again unable to voice it.
"I knew you would only bring her death," Thadean whispered angrily at him. "I knew you would cut out her heart."
David rocked forward over Dea. He shifted his hold on her, supporting her head in the bend of his arm. "She's sleeping," he finally spoke. His words seemed more for his own sake than for the old advisor. He stroked her shining hair as he studied her stillness. "She's only resting."
Thadean came beside Dea's body and knelt down as he took her slack hand in his. He placed his other hand over the stab wound on her chest. David watched in awe as the blood dried up and fell away like dust. When Thadean drew his hand back, the wound had closed, leaving the flesh renewed and skin unblemished.
"Thank you!" David sighed. He looked up at Thadean, finding the old man peering at him with a discomforting expression.
"Your father would be proud of you," Thadean spat. "You are nothing more than his agent."
"No," David shook his head and pulled Dea closer, "She is sleeping."
Thadean turned his attention to Dea; a kind smile came to his face. He held her hand up and closed his hands around it. "Come, child," he whispered, "It is time."
David's heart leapt in his chest at the sight of Dea's opened eyes. He moved to embrace her, but he couldn't take hold of her, his hands slipping away at each attempt to grasp her. He could only watch helplessly as she sat up and looked to Thadean. The old man rose and aided Dea to do the same. He then guided her to his side where she stood with a blank stare.
David slowly got to his feet, his gaze fixed on Dea. He was relieved to see her unharmed, alive. Looking into her eyes, he noticed something was missing. Their gleam was gone. He shifted to move closer but Thadean stepped defensively into his path. David halted his advance and stared at Dea, aching to tell of his concern for her.
A light breeze stirred the air around them. His attention broke away from her at the movement of the air. He glanced about their surroundings; they were now standing in a forest. He did not recognize the area, but it felt soothing.
The breeze picked up, becoming more of a strong wind, the kind that precedes a storm. David brought his hand up to shield his eyes from the debris carried in the wind. He then realized Dea and Thadean remained undisturbed by the gusts, their hair and clothes not even ruffled. His recently accrued comfort melted away. He knew Thadean was in fact deceased, and he began to understand that Dea, too, was now dead. The trees and grass swayed under the force of the harsh winds, even David himself staggered at the strength of the increasing gusts, but the two standing before him were never effected. He tried to call out to Dea, but his voice failed him once more.
Thadean noticed David's vain attempt. He looked to Dea and offered his arm, which she took. He then turned back to David. "You have to let her go. There is no place for her here."
"Where are you taking her?" David asked in a strained voice.
Thadean shook his head and pet her hand upon his arm. "There is no longer anyone to hold her in Memory. She is lost, and I with her."
Grief tore at David. He had forgotten about the Baldorian belief; one can only continue after death in Memory, held there by those who live on after them. Dea was the last of her kind, as far as he knew, there were no others. "I will hold her, if she will let me."
"You are the son of Darien, the one who stole her away," Thadean growled over the howling wind. "You take what is not yours. You cannot hold her. Memory does not answer to you."
David looked to Dea. She stood motionless beside Thadean holding tightly to his arm as if she were cold or frightened. He longed to console her; he wanted to keep her safe. Her eyes were opened, but she didn't seem to see him. He took a few steps and reached for her. She never noticed him. David glanced at Thadean. The old man only watched, not moving to hinder him from seeking Dea's attention.
As he came nearer, she raised her eyes to him. He froze in front of her in hopes of finding a chance to win her back. He whispered her name; she merely blinked at his calling. He stared into her eyes and found nothing that resembled the Dea he knew. Taking a step back, he studied her still frame for several breaths. She looked flawless, untouchable. "She is an angel," he thought to himself with a sad smile.
Thadean nodded to Dea as she warmly turned to him. "It is time to go, child." He then glared at David, "You shall return to your world. Leave us to ours."
The wind died down following Thadean's order. David peered about his surroundings, finding himself standing in the Great Hall once again, which was still bustling with festivities. The constant movement and noises filled his head and was nearly overwhelming. His breathing felt hurried in reaction to the pace of life around him. He looked down at his feet; they were stationed on the forest floor. The glossy tiled flooring began to take over the earthen ground before him. He turned his eyes back to where Dea and Thadean last stood. They were watching him for a moment, then turned and walked on into the thick woods. Dea's scarlet gown stood out in contrast to the dormant shades of green and brown of the forest. As they moved away, the Great Hall claimed the grounds they left behind.
David kept his gaze on them for as long as he could, until their silhouettes blended into the shadows cast by the full trees above them. The forest then diminished from his sight and was overtaken completely by the Great Hall and its active atmosphere. He stood disillusioned as exuberant peoples danced and shuffled about the room. He clasped his hand together and noticed a foreign texture on them. He held them up and examined his palms; they were varnished with dried blood. David checked the front of his dress jacket, remembering he held Dea's lifeless body against it. The fabric, too, was stained.
He frowned as he realized she was gone, and that he was the one who snuffed out her life. He closed his eyes and tried to drown out the flurry around him. He couldn't catch his breath; he began to gasp for air. Panic crept in, threatening to undo his sanity. The loud music and laughter and chatter and clamor pressed in as if to crush him. It was too much to handle. It was maddening. He couldn't take it any longer. He drew in a deep breath and tried to shout back at the chaos, but the breath caught in his throat, gagging him, choking him.
David jolted awake and threw the dense pillows from his face. He stared up at the ceiling as he caught his breath, the cool air rushing down his dry throat to fill his lungs. His heart pounded in his chest. After realizing it was only a dream, he closed his eyes and waited out the ringing in his ears. He used his sleeve to wipe the sweat from his brow as he turned over on his side. The early morning light teased at the jagged horizon out his window. Knowing he would not be able to find any useful rest with what little he had left of the morning, David sat up and rubbed at his sleepy eyes.
He looked about his room, his gaze coming to the door that closed off the passageway. He wondered if Dea was resting comfortably, hoping she didn't suffer from bad dreams as he had. He thought to check on her, but then felt foolish about taking the risk of disturbing her.
Shaking his head to clear it again, he moved to the edge of bed and set his bare feet on the cold floor. He couldn't help but shiver at the feeling of the hard surface as he stood and staggered to his washstand. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror as he reached for the water pitcher. Turning fully to the mirror, David decided he needed more help than the washstand had to offer. He moved for his door, a hot bath seeming like a good idea.