Found- Part Two
**Trigger warnings: Mentions of violence and abuse**
Someone to heal my heart. What an idea. Could there even be such a person? Calum’s gaze seemed to unlock all the secrets. Was I that bad at hiding? Would everyone I encountered be able to know me with nothing but a glance and a few minutes of conversation? Was it that obvious? I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to go through life with my soul laid bare. I wanted to be free of everything. Free of the pain, and torture. I wanted to be free of him. If my suffering were plain for all to see, I’d always be the product of his malice. Someone, to heal my heart? It was beyond repair.
“As I said before, if I’m to make you a medicine, I’ll need to know the nature of your Affliction,” Calum said. He went back to his cauldron.
“I don’t have an Affliction,” I answered. Calum came close to me again and looked at me with those piercing, limpid eyes. Still, they seemed to look right through me. He saw past my every defense. It left me cold. And yet, there was no malice in his eyes. He regarded me with true concern and worry, and that left me colder.
“Tell me what happened to you, and I’ll tell you whether or not you have an Affliction.”
“I know you know what happened. I know you can see me.” Calum’s stare never wavered. “Stop looking at me like that!”
“Like what?” Calum glowered at me. I couldn’t take it.
“Like that! Like you can see right through me!” Calum backed away, the intensity of his scrutiny softening.
“I should be able to. But you’ve been repelling me somehow. I’ve been trying to see you since you woke up. However, it seems I can’t. This tells me that your magic is powerful, you’ve been harmed, or some combination of both. So, which is it? What happened to you?” There was that question again. What happened to me? I’ve heard that more since waking up on Calum’s table than I’ve ever heard before.
“Why do you care?”
“Clearly, your Affliction has robbed you of your ability to pay attention,” he answered sarcastically. “If I’m to make you a medicine, I need details. I’m trying to help you.”
“I don’t have an Affliction,” I repeated. I looked away from him, but I could still feel him looking at me. Neither of us spoke for a while. The silence felt suspended between us. It was dense and demanded attention. I took in my surroundings in earnest. Wisps of dust swirled in the firelight. Beyond the cauldron was a bookcase stuffed to the overflowing with books, jars, stones, candles, and herbs. There was a bed, one chair, and the table I was on. It was scant yet cluttered. Uninviting, yet homey. It felt lived in, but alone. This space was at odds with itself. It felt familiar.
The fire whispered in soothing tones, attempting to palliate the torment in my soul. And the bubble of whatever was brewing in the cauldron spoke of relief. It’ll be okay; it seemed to say to me. I’ll make it okay. I could listen to them both forever.
I knew Calum was waiting for me to speak. But I feared that was the last window he needed. He alluded that he had the gift of Sight. That somehow, I was blocking him. I feared that if I spoke to him any further, the blockade would fall, and he’d be able to See me. My soul was stained. I didn’t want anyone to See that.
“I was a sorcerer in a small village,” Calum said, his voice shattering through the heavy stillness. “I’d never taken a wife or fathered children. I devoted my life to the magic and the village. When the purges started, the villagers tried to hide me. I tried to escape before the armies came to spare my people from being harmed. But they begged me not to leave them. They swore to protect me.” There was an anger behind his melancholy; it was palpable. His sorrow took a life of its own. The fire seemed to dim, the bubbling quieting. I dared myself to look up at him. He held a smooth, white stone in his palm. He twirled it slowly and looked at it with longing. “This is all that’s left of my village. The King killed every last one of them. Every last man, woman, and child because they challenged him to protect me,” He took his attention away from the stone and gave it back to me. His near clear eyes were stormy with emotion. “I became friends with another sorcerer while trapped in the castle. He had volunteered himself to the purges to save his family but refused to do the King’s bidding. When the King had enough of his defiance, he had my friend imprisoned. He was starved, tortured, and became too weak to use his magic. I eventually managed to escape with him. It was… difficult, and I did things I’m not proud of. We fled together and came upon this abandoned cottage. But it was too late. He became Afflicted.”
“What… what happened to him?”
“The same that will happen to you if you don’t let me help you. I was unable to save him. Let me save you,” Calum came close to me again. The anger I felt emanating from him before had been smothered by a desperate sadness. “I watched my village be slaughtered, watched my friend as he died in my arms. Please let me save you, Nox.”
“Calum, I want to forget.” Was I brave enough to bare my soul as he did?
“What happened to you?” His hands gripped my shoulders. The combination of his emotional and physical contact was too much. And I couldn’t hold back anymore.
“He killed my family when I was four and tried to raise me as his own. When he learned I was magical, he trained me, and tried to prime me for the throne as his heir,” I could feel my chest constricting. Please stop. I want to forget. “I resisted… and he was cruel. He… he was so cruel. He almost killed me. A lot. All the time. Most of the time he’d leave me wishing he would kill me.” My body started shaking. I could feel his presence around me, and my lungs couldn’t hold air. “I tried so many times to escape. I… I tried to kill him. But I wasn’t strong enough. I should have waited… I should have waited… But I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t do what he wanted, I couldn’t be what he wanted. I had to escape… I had to… or else I would have…” A lifetime of denied emotions came forward. In spite of myself, I cried. My vision blurred with my thick tears. I could see Calum close the small space between us. And he hugged me. And the vestiges of my shields crumbled. I was a sobbing mess in his arms.
“It’s okay, Nox. Just let it all out, lad. He can’t hurt you here.”