Found – Part Twenty
Parts One through Nineteen can be read here.
Cyrus ordered me to remove my clothes. His voice was gruff and tinged with contempt. The ache in my body made my movements slow and tight, and I could feel him losing his patience with me. When we first met, he regarded me with curiosity and a smirk that alarmed me. Now he looked at me with the eyes of a competitor. He saw me as a threat.
“There’s nothing going on between us,” I said as I managed to get myself out of my shirt.
“Removing your shirt is enough. Lie flat against the bed,” was his reply. The scent of lavenders and sunlight enveloped as I laid back into Dasha’s bed. It brought me a comfort I’d only known once before. My body let go of a breath I didn’t realize it was holding. My eyes closed, and I let myself sink into the bed. For the briefest moment, I had peace.
“You like that?” Cyrus said, his voice full of venom. My eyes flew open, and he was hovering over me. His eyes pierced me with ire. “Smells like her, doesn’t it?”
“As much as I’d love to poison you or damage you further, I won’t. Besides going against my Magic and becoming Afflicted, she’d know it was me, and she’d hate me more than she does now. So, she saves you. Again.”
“Why does she hate you? I didn’t think she was capable of hating anything.”
“Let’s not continue this now, or else I will poison you,” he snapped. He closed his eyes and hovered his hands over me.
I said nothing else, but my mind swirled with questions. I never had the luxury to wonder about the minutiae of people’s lives. It was fascinating to think that people lived day to day, not having to fight for their next breath, wondering if they would make it for another hour. They didn’t know endless hours of torture. Their lives weren’t black holes they wished they had the strength to escape from. Mara does. She suffered at your hands. Her agony is your doing. You are the conductor of her torment; his voice hissed in the back of my mind. Shut up.
Cyrus’s hands began to glow a faint shade of amber. He glided them along the length of my body. Though his hands never touch me, I could feel them dragging across my skin. He stopped every few seconds. His face would scrunch up as if he was smelling something unpleasant.
“Hmmm,” he mused, “There is a myriad of old injuries. They are extensive.” He continued scanning, and I wanted him to stop. I could feel his reach under my skin, and I didn’t want him there.
“You can stop now,” I whispered.
“Hush, now. I’ll be done soon.”
“Please stop,” I tried again. Cyrus ignored me and continued scanning me. I squirmed in discomfort as I felt his reach extend deeper, and I couldn’t help the tears that welled up in my eyes. It was sudden when Cyrus’s hold dissipated. I looked at him and noted the shock in his face. His face was angry, but it was a different anger. There was fury, but it was dampened by sadness. It was an emotion I didn’t understand.
“You have known…true horrors. Your flesh has known…veritable cruelty. It is as though fear, and not blood, courses through your veins.” His previous grudge with me seemed forgotten.
I sat up in the bed, and he stumbled back and fell into a stool.
“In all my years as a Healer, I’ve never encountered so much pain. How are you alive?”
“I don’t know.”
“What happened, and who is responsible for such atrocities?”
“That’s a story for another time.” I used his own answer against him. “Can I be Healed?”
“Does Dasha know you’re Magical?”
“I don’t believe so. I’ve not told anyone.”
“Whatever Magic you have, it’s powerful. It’s a wonder you’ve been able to suppress it.
“I’ve had practice. So, can I be Healed?”
“I’m afraid not. You’ve been Afflicted for a very long time. I’m astonished it hasn’t taken you sooner. The Curse is more recent, but I’m still not able to lift it. Though it’s not been with you long, it has sunk deep into the old wounds in your soul.”
“What can you do for me?”
“I can Heal the wounds to your flesh. I should be able to ease your pain.”
“Sometimes, I have episodes…the Affliction manifests, and it’s violent. I lose control, and things happen. I have a potion, it works, but I don’t have much of it.”
“Was it made by a Healer?”
“No, just someone who wanted to help.” Just someone whose life you upended, then abandoned.
“Bring it to me, and I’ll do what I can to make more of it.”
“What happened between you and Dasha?”
The look of contempt flashed in his eyes but then chuckled with a melancholy that could have rivaled Mara’s. He laced his fingers in his lap and hung his head.
“You’re going to keep pressing me on this, aren’t you?”
“If you’re going to hate me for something, I should know what for.”
“Fair enough. But I’ll warn you; you won’t like me much after.”
He took a deep breath and seemed to collect his thoughts.
“I arrived in Haven’s End after Dasha did. I’ll spare you the details of my journey. It’s nothing remarkable: Magical purges, destroyed village, a few survivors, yada yada. She and her father had just built The Willow. I was smitten with her right away. Flawless skin, buxom, amazing figure…she caught my attention at first glance. She’s a breath-taking beauty. She helped me become acclimated to town life, set me up with a room until I was fit enough to live on my own. But during that time, we began our courtship, and I daresay things progressed much faster than we both wanted.” He smiled, not at all upset with how fast things progressed.
“Did you love her?” What do you know about love?
“I do love her. She lit up all the dark corners of my life. We were consumed by each other. It was obsessive and passionate. I couldn’t get enough of her, nor her of me. But she became afraid of how much we’d fallen for each other. She said it was too much too fast and began to pull away from me. I was desperate for her not to leave me. I begged her not to. I promised we’d slow things down, but she said things were too heavy already. And to be honest, there was no going back from how far we’d gone. So, I did the unthinkable and tried to give her a love potion.”
“Is that real?”
“Oh, yes, very real. And very forbidden. But I was willing to pay whatever price not to lose her. She found out, of course, and she’s been angry with me since. She believed I’d been giving her the potion the whole time and that I fabricated her feelings. She doesn’t believe in my love for her, and that’s what hurts the most. It’s why I was so angry with you. She was so tender and caring with you. I’d do anything to feel her touch again. Even though she won’t have me now, I hold onto the hope that one day she’ll understand that what I did was an act of desperation. How could I not do whatever I had in my power not to lose her? I had to try.”
“Even though you knew she’d disapprove?”
“Love is not rational. It distorts logic and transcends reasoning. It is the strongest and oldest Magic there is. And if you tell anyone I said that—I will poison you.”
“Do you think she’ll ever forgive you?”
“It’s the only thing I hope for.”