Selessannea screamed. Beneath cradling fingers, flesh and skin ruptured; a terrible warmth spilled into her dress and hollowed her mind. She took short breaths and braced herself for the next contraction, back arching against the wall as she felt pain thrashing its way down her distending belly. Selessannea screamed, and her heart strained; she winced as the magic within her veins jittered and burned. With every swell of flesh, her head pounded, her throat knotted tighter. And, instinctively, she cradled her forming daughter even closer.
A chuckle caught in her throat. How terrible a realization it felt, finally understanding the reasons her malia, Nefahtil, had rejected Daeron, the man she had fallen in love with. Her malia must have seen this day coming.
Selessannea’s smile turned bittersweet. Tears flooded her cheeks as she recalled the soft, gentle coldness Daeron had embraced her with during their few years together. Now more than ever, she sensed its grip on her heart, on her spirit, on the very magic that was every Syrilae’s lifeblood. It was peeling her apart, just as her forming daughter took of her rigid flesh to become whole. For an instant, Selessannea regretted every decision she’d made that had led to this moment, to the pain and the grief that she would cause by fading away. Sitting quietly next to her, the gentle spirit who had been as a father to her was restraining his anguish with every beat of his racing heart. It was wrong of her to feel happiness, when she knew what she was putting him through – what she had put him through. Yet, the love in her heart widened her smile.
“I’m sorry, Devon,” she said, taken in every detail of his twisted face. How she wanted to reach out and hold him, to just touch his face again. Weakness kept her subdued, as well as the knowledge that she couldn’t be this cruel to him. “I’m sorry for hurting you,” she added. It was all she could say, for her heart broke when she heard him sob.
“This isn’t your fault,” he said, his head low, obscured. But the drumming rhythm of his heart betrayed his thoughts to her. She knew what he meant to say.
“It isn’t Daeron’s fault, either.” Her words barely wheezed, she heard a wave of rage rush through his veins. Her apology caught in her throat as her skin swelled and ripped open, her entire body convulsing. A hazy glance down her midriff revealed to her a bulging, fleshen silhouette covered in blood – her own blood, gushing from the many splits in her body where, she knew, her skin was becoming her daughter’s.
It wouldn’t be too long anymore. Soon, she would finally get to rest. But she could not leave yet. She could not leave Devon to deal alone with the violence of his grief, not with precious lives still at stake.
“Please,” Selessannea said to him, “Please look after my children. I beg you.”
Wood snapped, her wide ears twitching to the shrill sound. She glanced down, at his hands, at his fist shaking against cracked floorboards. Devon bared his grinding teeth. She heard the screech catching in his throat.
Selessannea’s eyes lingered on his exposed fangs, her heart bearing the guilt she felt for breaking his own again. She never could imagine how excruciating controlling his nature had to be. It was boiling within him, wild, vicious, ready to burst free. And Selessannea gasped in surprise when she felt the warmth of his tense hands enclose hers.
“I failed you,” he said, never looking at her. “I failed you, and Nefahtil, and Sorasiehn. I should never have agreed to this.”
Selessannea couldn’t help but smile. Her daughters were truly in safe hands.
“Thank you,” she needed to say. Finally, he looked up at her; every tear on his face felt like a promise she knew he would keep, for such was his true nature. She kneaded those safe hands of his, tears rolling down her own cheeks. “I love you—”
“Don’t say that.”
“—and I need you to forgive Daeron. Please, Devon, forgive him.”
Devon’s lips curled up to reveal his fangs. She felt his hands shake, his fingers tense against her skin. Selessannea knew that, were he not clearly restraining himself, he might have killed her without meaning to.
“How dare you say that to me,” he spat, hissing. “How dare you, after everything that – that thing – had us endure. What he had you endure. Necromancers are death, Selessannea! You are dying, and that is all on him!”
Devon rose to his feet, snatching his beloved warmth away from her. “How dare you speak of forgiveness! I will never forgive him! Never!” Wood snapped beneath Devon’s stomping foot. “I swear to kill every necromancer I ever encounter! They took everything away from me, Selessannea! Everything! You were all I had left!”
I know, she meant to say. Her lungs pleaded for air with every beat of her failing heart. She fought dizziness as hard as her blanking mind could, for she wanted – needed – him to hear her last words.
“I’m sorry,” she breathed, with a smile.
She couldn’t quite hear his words anymore, nor his sobs, nor the anguish pounding in his heart. Vaguely, she sensed his presence by her side, strong and gentle arms cradling her dying body.
In her heart, she sensed Daeron’s voice, reaching out his care to her. Selessannea thought she smiled, but she could no longer tell.
Right before the end, fragments of her life immersed her…
To be continued…