The Heartless Dead: Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-eight
A Shift in the Winds

Bree plodded down the road to her home. Santon’s searches for Trevvis over the past week had turned up nothing, so Kelestair had spent the day trying to help her find him. They had walked through the whole town, and asked everyone they came across for news, but not a single person had seen Trevvis.

Where was he? Was he alright?

Bree sighed. She had worked so hard this past week to get herself back on her feet, but Trevvis was never far from her mind. His face haunted her dreams and she heard his voice on every passing breeze. She couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that he needed her.

So where was he? Had he gone to Thrice Hills? Or Bronze Hook, perhaps? She tried to think of what else Trevvis might have done while she was away, but couldn’t seem to organize her thoughts. It had been a long day and it was nearing sunset. She needed rest and a tall glass of wine.

Bree stopped outside her home. The ground around her front step had been filled with rich red soil and turned into a flowerbed. Planted within it were white flowers with red tips. Their stems were covered in a layer of fine blonde hairs. Star flowers.

Bree smiled. Trevvis had been here, but the flowers were in poor shape and hadn’t been tended in a least a few weeks. He hadn’t been here in some time, then. Still, it gave her a timeframe of when he went missing. If she could get Santon to –

Bree stopped on her front step. The door had been kicked in and it’s lock was a broken mess. Someone had been in her home.

Trevvis knew he wasn’t allowed in when she was gone, so who was it? Had someone robbed her? Did Trevvis catch them in the act? Or was it Trevvis they were after? Perhaps someone surprised Trevvis and dragged him inside? He wasn’t the most popular man around town…

Bree drew Tempest. A cold chill spread up her arm, ending at her elbow. It was a welcome feeling. She had missed Tempest’s touch.

Bree raised her other hand and pushed the door open.

The inside of her home was a wreck. Every drawer and cupboard had been opened. Every object had been manhandled and tossed about. Not even her undergarments were still in their place. Her liquor cabinet was open and empty. It’s tankard shaped handle was broken and the clay holy symbol she kept perched on top of it was smashed upon the floor. It had once belonged to Norn. Every bottle was on the floor with its contents drained.

An intense wave of anger surged through Bree. It wasn’t enough to have her home defiled, but they had to break everything precious to her as well? Whoever had done this was in deep trouble. And if they had taken Trevvis from her garden she would –

A sound from deeper in her small home brought her back to the present. It was a groan. Muffled. Like the speaker had a gag over their mouth or a bag over their head. By the light of the Starstone! Had they kept someone prisoner here? Was Trevvis a prisoner in her own home?

Bree crept across her living room and kitchen to the door to her bedroom. She took a near silent breath then raised her leg and kicked the door in.

Laying on her bed, with his face buried in her pillow and vomit dribbling from his mouth onto her once fine silk sheets was Trevvis. He looked ill, but otherwise was fine. No bindings, no bruises, no nothing. Trevvis was perfectly fine and – No! He was not perfectly fine! He was drunk out of his mind in her bed, after raiding her liquor cabinet and breaking her stuff!

Bree’s lips formed a hard line. He had lied to her, broken his promise, forced his way into her home, and taken her things. He had betrayed her.

How could he? How could he do that when he knew what that would result in? When he knew she would leave him?

Bree’s frown deepened.

It didn’t matter.

She was out of pity and Trevvis was out of chances.

Bree rolled him over. Clutched in his hand was the bottle of Andoran wine that Kelestair had given her for a victory gift. The wine from her homeland. He had drank it and broken her last remaining object that had belonged to Norn?

Trevvis snored loudly. Bree smacked him in the face.

He didn’t stir.

Bree grabbed him by the foot and yanked him off of the bed. He hit the stone floor with a thud. Bree braced herself for one of his angry outbursts, but he didn’t even groan. He was more than drunk! He was completely dead to the world! Bree’s scowl deepened. This was a severe insult to her faith.

Bree grabbed his ankle and dragged him out of her room, across the house and out onto the front step. She pushed him outside into the road and slammed the door.

That was it.

The last time Trevvis would ever step foot in her house.

The last time she would ever touch him.

The last time he would ever hurt her.

Bree’s eyes stung. She blinked, fighting to hold off the tears she knew would come. Her eyes watered, and then overflowed. A wail escaped her chest and tears streamed down her face. She slumped against the door and slid down it, letting herself fall to the ground. She cradled her knees to her chest and rocked back and forth. Her body shook and heaved as she sobbed.

Who was she kidding? He would never stop hurting her. She loved him. Already the ache in her chest was spreading. What would she do without him? How could she go on alone? She needed him.

Bree wiped her nose on her palm and sniffed deeply.

She couldn’t let it end like this. He deserved better. He deserved another chance.

No. No! She deserved better!

She couldn’t mourn the loss of her love when there was real mourning to be done. Wonderful, heroic, beautiful people had died at Thrice Hills. Omig. Kaywen. They deserved to be mourned. They deserved her tears. NotTrevvis.

Bree wiped her eyes on her sleeve and dragged herself to her feet. Her legs shook and her knees wobbled. She blinked away her grief. Her eyes fell upon a glass on the counter. Trevvis had given it to her. Beside it was a star flower, wilted and dead.

A feeling of utter hopelessness and defeat passed through her. A single tear dribbled down her cheek. She blinked the rest away.

Star Flower was no more.

There was only Bree left, now. There had to be.

Bree strode across the room, picked up the glass and hurled it against the wall. As it shattered a cry escaped her lips. She dug around in her cupboards for a bucket, placed the star flower in it and stomped over to the watering pump in her kitchen. She pumped for almost a minute before the water started to flow. It caused an aching in her back and arm. She was obviously still weak from months of inactivity. Bree let the aching drift to the front of her thoughts, driving the feelings of weakness and hopelessness from her mind.

When the bucket was full she walked out her front door and stood over Trevvis.

The sight of him laying in the road was almost too much to bear. Even at his lowest, Bree loved him. She wanted nothing more than to cradle him in her arms and help him back on his feet. To hug him. Kiss him. Love him.

Instead she poured the bucket of water over his head.

Trevvis woke with a gasp, sputtering.

Bree dropped the bucket on the ground beside him, on top of the water-logged star flower. “Stay out of my house!” Bree spat.

Trevvis groped around wildly for her. Bree walked around him and back into her house where she slammed the door. She pushed a broken chair in the way and wedged it beneath the handle. It took only a moment for Trevvis to start banging on her door.

“Star Flower!” he yelled. “Star Flower? Let me in!”

“No!” Bree yelled back.

“I’ve been waiting for you! I’ve been – “

“You’ve been drunk! Go away!”

“I’m fine!”

Bree cackled loudly. The lying bastard! Bree kicked the chair out of the way and whipped the door open.

A smile crossed Trevvis’ filthy face.

Bree punched him in it. He fell to the ground in a heap.

“I’m done, Trevvis! We’re through!”

Trevvis looked up at her from the ground with blood dribbling from his nose. “Please, Star Flower! You don’t mean it!”

“Yes, I do.”

He struggled to his feet. “Let me come in, Star Flower. I’ve missed you! We can talk about it together. I can – “

“No, Trevvis. We’ve talked enough.”

“But, I love you!” Trevvis placed his hand on her chin.

Bree looked into his eyes. They were glassy, but from booze, not sadness. He expected her to forgive him. How infuriating! Bree forced herself to look past his expectations. Past his words. Bree looked into his soul.

Trevvis stroked her chin and leaned closer. “I love you,” he breathed.

But Bree didn’t see his love. She didn’t feel it.

And neither did he.

“No,” she said. “I don’t think you do.”

Trevvis faltered and Bree backed away.

“Star Flower,” Trevvis sighed. “Why do you have to make everything so difficult?”

Bree closed the door and slid the chair in the way. She bent down and tossed everything she could in front of the door. Bottle, clothes, furniture, chairs. Everything.

She would need it.

Trevvis didn’t like to lose.

“Open the door, Star Flower, and I’ll forgive you for the water.”

Bree snuck across the room and picked up a bag. She placed the pieces from Norn’s old clay tankard inside and crept into her bedroom.

“Star Flower? Did you hear me? Let me in. Everything will be alright. I love you.”

Bree glanced around the room for some of her clothes, but found everything had been manhandled. Most of it stunk and the rest was draped over her furniture like some kind of strange display. Even her undergarments were filthy. Bree crinkled her nose in distaste.

“Star Flower? Star Flower! Open this door right now!”

Bree frowned. Trevvis began pounding on the door.

Bree pulled one of her dresser drawers out, and tipped it over. She ran her hands along the bottom until she felt a switch, then she pressed it. The top of the drawer opened up and a few satchels of coins, and jewels fell to the floor with a clunk. Her savings. Bree scooped it all up and tossed it into her bag.

The pounding grew louder. “You’ll regret this, Star Flower! You hear me? You’re mine! Mine! And when I get in there you’ll be sorry!”

Bree swung the bag over her shoulder, climbed onto her bed, pushed open her window and hopped outside. The sounds of Kelmarane drifted over her, but did little to drown out Trevvis’ screaming. Bree shuddered once, but quickly shoved her anger and sadness and shame down as far as she could. She wasn’t ready to feel anything but numb.

Bree snuck around the back of her house and down the lane. She looked around for a place to hide but then stopped. She wouldn’t hide in the alley like a thief! So where could she go? The Free House was an obvious choice, as was Cayden’s Hall. He would find her there easily.

Bree sighed. Trevvis would soon realize she had left. She was running out of time.

She scanned the streets and homes around her. The chaos of the Upper Slopes, the hospitality of Lower Kelmarane. But it was movement on the Heights caught her eye. The sun was setting, and up on the clifftop, kneeling before the statue of Sarenrae with his hands clasped in prayer was the familiar figure of Kelestair, with his ward, Zym.

A sad smile crept across Bree’s face. She crossed the street and walked up Our Lady of Light Lane, all the way to the top of the cliff. When she arrived, Kelestair and Zym were still on their knees, praying before Sarenrae’s likeness, bathed in the light of the setting sun. She stood back a ways and waited quietly. She didn’t want to interfere with their prayers or lessons. Convening with ones god was a beautiful, life-giving experience. A snippet of Kelestair’s teachings was carried to her on the breeze.

“…never seem ashamed. Regardless of intentions, actions or appearances, it is your reputation that others will judge you by. Always display your faith openly and act in a manner befitting…”

Bree felt an intense urge to nod along. It was unorthodox, but definitely a lesson Zym should take to heart. Maybe when she was showing off the red silks and sunbursts of her faith she wouldn’t seem so creepy. Still, Zym hated her enough. It wouldn’t help if she was caught eavesdropping. Bree backed away further, but Kelestair inclined his head and waved her over.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“Of course you did,” Zym huffed.

“Manners, Zym,” Kelestair berated.

Zym clasped her hands and whispered her prayers fervently to the statue before her.

Bree nodded. “Sorry. I didn’t think of your… Well… I…”

“Calm yourself, Bree.”

“Oh, don’t worry. Please. I don’t want to interrupt or – “

“Then join us. There is plenty of room before the Lady of Light. Her arms are always open to us. Her warmth knows no bounds.”

Bree smiled. She knelt on the ground beside Kelestair, but as far from Zym as she could.

“What troubles you?” Kelestair asked.

Bree’s smile slipped. “Finish you prayers. We can talk later.”

“You are sad now.”

“You’re conversing with your goddess.”

“Sarenrae is fond of healing those souls who come before her in need. As am I. You know this. Why else come to me?”

“Is that why you became a doctor?”

“Your attempts to change the topic of our conversation will not distract me.”

“I know you want to help, Kelestair, but there’s nothing you can do this time.”

“One can always do something. Helplessness is a choice.”

Bree frowned. Helpless was exactly how she felt. Helpless and ashamed and alone.

“Unburden yourself,” Kelestair urged. His gravelly voice soothed her frayed nerves.

“I…” Bree paused. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again. Giving voice to her feelings would make them so much more… real. Tangible. Once she gave life to her loss and her pain, could she ever put it away again? Would it take on a life of its own?

“All will be well,” Kelestair said.

“I found Trevvis.”

Kelestair stiffened but did not interrupt her. Bree was relieved.

“He broke into my house and rifled through my things. My home was… My altar and…” Bree growled in frustration. “He was drunk and I… I left him. For good this time. He didn’t love me… Not really. Not anymore. But now I don’t know what to do and I feel so… I’m so…” Bree’s lip quivered. Tears welled in her eyes and she wiped them away furiously. She couldn’t even speak about him without crying like a broken little girl. How shameful.

Kelestair’s warm hand fell upon her shoulder. His touch was light and utterly unlike Trevvis’. There was nothing demanding in his touch. Nothing insistent. Nothing overbearing. There was only kindness.

“I know how deeply you cared for him, Bree. No matter how degrading, or insulting his actions, your feelings were true. Your love was true. There is no weakness in your pain. No shame in your tears.”

Bree nodded and smiled. He was right. Bree relaxed, took a deep breath and dropped all her mental barriers. She let out her fear and her pain and her grief and simply felt.

She let go.

Her tears fell. Her shoulders shook. A wail escaped her throat.

Kelestair wrapped his arm around her and she fell into his embrace heaving and crying and gasping like she had all those months ago, when she had first left Trevvis. She had only just met Kelestair back then, but he had been there to help her through her pain.

“There, there,” Kelestair murmured.

Why was it always him who was there to pick her up when she fell down?

Bree’s tears slowed and then stopped. Kelestair released her from his grasp but Bree didn’t move. She clung to him for a moment more.

“You are not alone, Bree. There are many other people who rely on you. Many people who look up to you. Who care for you. Who love you.”

Bree looked up into Kelestair’s red eyes.

“I…” Kelestair shifted uncomfortably. “I…”

“You what?”

He looked away for a moment, but then met her eyes again. “I… expect there is a little girl somewhere who would make a far better companion to you than Trevvis.” The corners of his mouth tilted up slightly. “I imagine she smells a good deal better as well…”

Bree smiled. Ro.

“It is getting rather late. I would hurry, if I were you,” Kelestair continued.

Bree nodded and hurried to her feet. “Yes, of course. I should apologize to her for how I treated her the last time we talked and – “

“And, Bree?” Kelestair interrupted.

“Hmm?”

“There is plenty of room in my home. You are welcome to stay with Zym and I for as long as you like.”

Bree glanced at Zym. “I don’t want to impose or – “

“You are never any trouble. And I expect a change of scenery will do you a world of good.”

“Well, I don’t know, I – “

“There’s even room for your young friend, if you care to bring her home with you. We would love to have you both.”

Zym scowled at Bree, but Kelestair looked at her kindly. Bree grinned.

A year later and it was still Kelestair who was there to put her back together when she fell to pieces. It felt like she had known him her whole life. She didn’t deserve such a good friend.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

Kelestair nodded, then turned back to the statue of Sarenrae, clasped his hands, and resumed his prayers.

Bree turned and walked away.

When she was out of sight Zym leaned over to Kelestair and whispered in his ear. “Can we go home and dissect the peryton now?”

The corners of Kelestair’s mouth turned up at the corners. “Your thoughts echo my own.”

Zym smiled. “I am glad, Father.”


Bree walked down a cramped, hot hallway in the Free House. She read the numbers on each of the doors she passed. 313, 315, 317, 319, 321. There it was. 321. Finally!

Ro’s room.

Bree raised her hand to knock.

Was it too late? What if she was already asleep? Ro was just a child… Weren’t they in bed by now? Bree thought back to her own childhood and frowned. She was no expert, but she was fairly certain waiting tables in a bar until four in the morning was not the average child’s bedtime ritual.

Bree sighed. Would Ro even want to see her? The last time they had spoken Bree had turned her away and promised to bring her to the Claisant’s. A meeting which she had never actually arranged…

Froth and foam! Did she even deserve to be in Ro’s life? She was unreliable, stubborn and hopelessly flawed. And she had horrible taste in men! Ro needed a better role model than that, didn’t she?

But…

But what about Bree? What did she need? What did she want?

Did she want some snot-nosed kid to take care of?

Bree closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

Did she want this?

Really?

Bree knocked.

She heard shuffling behind the door. A lock sliding open. The door creaking.

A gasp.

Bree opened her eyes.

Ro looked up at her with a look of pure joy.

A warmth spread through Bree’s chest followed by a giddy feeling of lightness. For the first time in ages she felt happy. Blissfully, unabashedly, happy.

Bree opened her arms and Ro ran into them. She threw her arms around Bree’s waist and clung to her as if there were nowhere more perfect in the whole world. Bree wrapped Ro’s thin little body in her own arms. She wanted to hold her. Care for her. Protect her. Love her.

A brilliant smile spread across Bree’s face.

Ro was right.

This was perfect.

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