Inspired by: Burn – Philippa Sou; World on Fire – Sarah Mclachlan
Today’s post is brought to you today by The Figment and the author’s imagination. If you have not read Hope’s Child; you may not want to continue reading this blog post as it contains a few spoilers. As always, thank you for reading and to our lovely hostess for keeping the creative fires burning. Enjoy!
Ashes clouded the sky, the earth, her line of sight and mingled with the mountain snow of the North. Alexandra Jade woke with a gasp. With a shaking hand, she pushed tousled platinum waves from her face. She willed her heartbeat to slow and wiped her eyes. The nightmares were frequent since wars end. In a time when so many found joy, she struggled far more than her family, or anyone else, may have suspected. Until these last months, her life was an endless mystery that had never known peace. The prophecy, the monarchy, rebuilding her family to what Fate called them to be, fighting a war on so many fronts. Peace was elusive at best.
Part of her believed the calm was too good to be true and, on so many levels, she was looking for the next fight, the next problem to solve. Had she ever really learned to live in all these years? The question galled her. For all her wisdom for the others, why could she never seem to apply that to her own life? With a sigh, she bent and pressed kiss to Nicholas’ temple. She reassured him with a whispered word then slid from bed. Quick, quiet steps carried her to the closet where her robe hung. Deft fingers tossed her mass of platinum hair into a loose knot on her head.
Her hands still shook as she belted the robe around her slender hips. Alexandra Jade, fair and tiny when compared with many in her family, stood at five foot five. Like most women in her family, her fair, heart shaped face hid the shrewd warrior beneath. That shrewdness was often used to mask the woman she kept buried even deeper beneath the shrouds of duty. A glance out the window told her dawn would be cresting the horizon soon enough. Adryn was upon them and with the dawn, birdsong would arrive to welcome both the morning and the new season. This quiet should have offered some sort of solace but did not.
Anxious and afraid of what might lay ahead, she slid her feet into a pair of well worn slippers. Her emotions held by a tenuous thread as she moved through the palace. Only once in her life, in that terrible battle, had she given her emotions wing and allowed her power to do what it would. The reflections still haunted her dreams so much more than she could give voice to. If she did, she thought she would shatter. The mantle of what must be settled heavily on her shoulders. Palace floors turned to sand as she shifted outside into the chilled morning. What kind of legacy would that level of violence leave?
The sea sprawled before her. A sea Alexandra only dreamed of in days past. A younger, less bitter woman, saw these seas as a horizon to a larger life than their little manor. The years taught her that a larger world meant larger consequences, larger responsibilities. She sat in the sand, kicked her slippers off and allowed the sea to lap at her toes. The tide would be rolling in soon. Could she face every morning with this waking terror for the rest of her life? Was this anxiety the price she must pay for doing what was required? Light knew the prices Fate extracted from her thus far were painful.
So lost in thought she didn’t feel him approach. He noted this with a scowl. She always felt him long before his arrival. Since the war’s end, Marcus Jade felt his sister pull further and further away from all of them. She advised when was needed but he saw the way both duty and emotion was eating at her. “Has it gotten so bad that you block me on instinct?” Marc nearly flinched when he saw the sad smile cross her lips. The damp at the corners of her eyes was not were not remnants of the tide rolling in. “You know, I’m not the fool I was a few years ago.” He lowered himself until they sat side by side in the sand. “I feel the lack of you.” Marc took a deep breath. Everyone else was practicing hands off or could not see how she buried the pains of her burden. By contrast, he dwarfed his sister by more than a little more than half a foot. Where her hair was platinum, his was the more common ash to gold shade common in his family. Her eyes were the shade of the sea that lapped at her toes and his boots where his were green.
One could hardly tell they were siblings at a glance and yet, they had lived their entire lives in one another’s presence. When she moved to apologize, he shook his head gently. Each morning she woke him. The sudden shock of the nightmares lowered her mental guards enough that he knew, at least, that the world was not yet right with his sister. Their family was whole but she was not. He wrapped an arm around her and kissed the top of her head as he so often did when they were children.
She would always see more; feel more than he because their family heritage was so much stronger in her. “I know.” He whispered those two words to her as the sun crested the horizon. “Talk to me.” The plea was as gentle as he could make the words. The force of his personality struggled to handle her with care. His request was answered with a mental flood of emotions that might have drowned a lesser man. Marc closed his eyes and let himself digest the anxiety, the fear compounded with the guilt that Fate required so much death to balance the scale. Guilt that she her loss of control was responsible for the flash fire that consumed so many Kindred soldiers.
“So much of this was out of your hands.” He said as he hugged her close and rested his chin on the top of her head. “Fate dished out the responsibility but left you to bear the consequences.” He felt the protest rise to her lips before she could speak. “Allow me to finish, dear heart.” Though he was loathe to admit the fact to anyone, Marc was gentler with his sister than he would have been with anyone else. “These consequences will not last forever unless you refuse to share the burden with us. Everything you have accomplished in this life got us here. Without you, we would not be where we are.”
“I still hear their screams in my dreams, Marcus.” He dipped his head in a nod in reply before she continued. “They died because I allowed my power to do what it would. My control was gone. More specifically, I wanted them all dead for the harm they caused not only our families but the realm.” The words hurt her heart. Never in her life had she actively pursued vengeance. Instead, Alexandra was more aware of what power out of control could do than most. With the exception of family, nobility tiptoed around her with polite precision. She was treated as though she were a dangerous butterfly; beautiful, exotic to behold but ultimately a danger to them. Her telepathic gifts shared their caution with her on multiple unwanted occasions.
“I think your perspective is clouded by emotion. You are human to feel as you do, Alex.” His bluntness brought her head up with a snap and a small scowl. “Easy, allow me to explain before you go on the defensive and beat me to hell.” The response he received was as he expected. She hated to be called out and yet, who else would dare aside from Nicholas. Her reaction gave him hope. “You were more in control in those moments than you have been in your entire life. They would have killed us all had you given them the opportunity. You started the fire then left the element to its own devices. Without you, we all would have died. Everything we gave, that we sacrificed would have been for nothing.” Marc straightened and turned her to face him so their eyes met. “Christiana may be the guide, Aries may be the armor of justice, Tess may be the faith but you, beloved sister, are the heartbeat of us all.” Those words made the damn break within her. Marc felt it snap with the efficiency of a child snapping a dry twig.
The tears broke his heart and he knew he could not handle the overflow alone. In fact, as she wept, he began to feel the heat radiating from her smaller frame. Nicholas, fucking help me here. Cut her skills for a little while. The man, a man Marc would swear to be his sister’s match in every way, in question was awake the moment she left the bed. He knew her word of comfort was absolute bullshit. The pair of them had spent too many years in intimate contact for him to miss the larger problem yet, time taught him not to force the issue. She would speak to him about it when she was ready and no sooner than that.
Marc and Nicholas reinforced the wall Alexandra kept between her skills and her emotions. Marc nearly breathed a sigh of relief as he felt her skin cool. The reality of the situation was that the woman could burn the kingdom to the ground without that separation. Because of that consequence, she often kept her emotions at a distance. This stress was more than she could compartmentalize. The aftermaths of war bled into her subconscious because she could not allow herself to heal at the expense of others. She needed to break to heal.
Bring her home to me Marcus. She is needed and loved far more than she lets herself believe. Marc acknowledged Nicholas’ thought and shared the sentiment with his sobbing sister. I will, old man, you may depend upon it. When the tears subsided, they would talk through the sunrise and very nearly until midmorning when Nicholas came looking for them.
I loved it, it brought some tears to my eyes, but still good. 😊😁
Beautiful. Your stories always draw me in. My favorite line: “I feel the lack of you.” Dagger to the heart. 🙂
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Marc and Alex’s dynamic has evolved a great deal since the first book. Writing their character growth has always been entertaining.
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