Inspired by: Best I’ll Ever Be – Sister Hazel
Courtesy of: The Figment Writers
So…regular readers, how often do you see this song in the “Inspired by” section of my blog? This song was introduced to me by a friend a few years ago. The song is a lyrical kick in the ass. I have written many shattering scenes to this song because I get this visual of a person standing in the rain over a grave. He’s trying to cope, trying to understand why his life was so drastically changed by a single moment. Will things get better? Here are the lyrics to this if anyone is curious. To me the song is a powerful statement about grief and the cycles of loss. So the following bit of fiction is birthed from that. If the writings surrounding this storyline seem disjointed or not connected; that is completely intentional on my part. Please enjoy.
The graves were echoes of the past. Alexandra mused. How many years had passed since she returned to their little manor just past the realm’s border? Though the building and gardens were in working order, Kira was but a babe when she last saw this place. The graves that lay before her were well tended and no more than place markers of her past. Graves were the best she and Marc could do when their adoptive parents were killed. There were no bodies to bury but the act gave them solace. “We were so foolish and young.” She murmured to the empty night air. Three weeks had passed since Nicholas returned her skills to her. Stubborn was the best way to describe her current state of mind, she mused. Each morning, she worked to touch her skills. Failure was not a state of affairs she accepted well.
Each morning was a test of power versus her sheer will. This morning, she could maintain her skills for five minutes before panic threatened to overtake her. Though Nicholas explained that she would need her shelter when she struggled, no one could manage her powers but her and she refused to allow others to control them on her behalf. Her magic was wild, she knew. Fire itself was a wild element that only the strongest willed could bend. The only more difficult element, she suspected, was earth. How skilled would one have to be to wrest the earth form her Fated course?
That elemental wildness called her here. The palace was home but this place called to her heart too. She was raised here, after all, and spent a portion of her life in blissful ignorance about her true history. “We all suffer from foolish youth.” The voice made Alexandra whirl and begin to draw on her skills. “Most of us outgrow it eventually.” Dominic Devereaux stepped from the shadows. “Light above woman, put those hands down before you ash me!” His jovial tone disarmed her immediate reaction.
Truth be told, she did not leave Maeselorian lands without escort in the form of Nicholas or Marcus. That she could be here alone was certainly a sign of changing times, Dominic decided. Nicholas came to him two nights ago and asked for his help. The man had more than a flirting familiarity with what lengths Dominic went to just to survive in the dark. After all, he was a child of Light just like the rest of them.
“Well if we are to be honest, which I prefer since I know how you Jades abhor liars.” Dominic teased a smile before he continued. “I was sent by more than one party to look after you. They all decided I was the least likely to trigger stress in you or pressure you. I believe a word or two was mentioned about being stubborn enough to try when everyone else was out of harm’s way.” Dominic gentled his next words as much as Fate would allow him. “Those dear to you requested my help.”
She was hardly dressed for court formality. A loose pair of black pants and blouse covered her tiny frame and her platinum locks were plaited back in a wrist-thick braid that bounced against her bottom. His words prompted a brow to perk with curious amusement. “And who were the parties involved in this decision? I feel I may have to address the issue with them directly.” A good natured calm radiated from the man and, though they were not close, Alexandra valued him for the love he bore her cousin Tanya. For the first time in days a smile that was not forced to prevent others from worrying curled her lips. At mention of his assistance, her curiosity grew. “What sort of help could you provide, Dominic?”
“A gentleman does not name names, Lady Jade.” Her pert nose wrinkle at mention of her title prompted his laughter to drift through the night. “You dislike your title as much as another warrior I know. Walk with me a bit?” He offered an arm as was appropriate for a social interaction. When her fingertips rested on his sleeve, Dominic smiled. He knew the lady in question would leave little room for misunderstanding with his beloved. He led her through the rather splendid gardens of the manor. Alexandra’s wards would keep him from the house but the grounds were safe enough. He disregarded her latter question for now. “When did you lay the wards on the house?”
“No, he does not but I suspect my cousin was involved. Perhaps she and Nicholas decided you were the least threatening.” Alexandra indulged in a bit of her own teasing and allowed him to steer her through paths she knew by heart. “When I was a girl not old enough to understand who I am, or what it meant to be a child of Light.” Her answer was quiet, thoughtful as they wandered. She smiled. “We were fighting your former employer, dear boy.” In the next few minutes, Alexandra explained the night her brother was returned to her. By pure chance, she laid wards on the house strong enough to deter any Kindred. The wards, Dominic noted, were renewed recently.
Dominic scowled at her choice of words then chuckled. “I heard stories of his rantings after you escaped his dungeon and he somehow failed to retrieve you. I never knew why for the old demon would never say. He only muttered about how you should not have been able to do what you did. You and that brother of yours have a history of that or so I have come to understand.” He patted her hand as they came to a crossroad in the garden. He looked to the woman beside him and was reassured when she laughed and gestured to their left. “That was the purpose of my visit. You and Marcus are an unknown entity to the realm.”
He steered her to a bench and settled himself next to her. Here at least the blasted wards would not interfere with his skills. “Before you argue with me , allow me the courtesy of finishing my thought.” The chiding brought color to her cheeks, Dominic noted with approval. At least she understood he was not going to preach to her about what she and her brother were fated to be. “Blah blah, prophesied children of Light…restore Light to the realm.” The gesture that accompanied his words made her laugh. “That’s not what I mean. I mean that I have seen people driven mad by war and power. I have seen minds which never recover from that level of power and death. We have all felt your strength of will at one point or another. If anyone can beat this, it is you. None of my brethren ever could.”
Dominic admitted, much to his shame and sadness. “I watched them go mad as war and destruction progressed. Every one of us that were original exiles had to be put down like rabid dogs. I alone survived. Most that you destroyed during the war were third, fourth generation Devereaux. The methods they used to maintain the family cycle was disturbing to say the least. I could not help them but I can help you.” Dominic’s gaze flicked up and met hers. “And I do not mean by running from the problem or putting your skills on hold until you’re ready.” Dominic paused to consider his next words.
“Until you’re ready is for cowards and fools, Lexi. You are neither.” The nickname, often used by her cousin, felt foreign from is lips. That, coupled with his forceful words prompted her to straighten and scowl. This time, Dominic had no gentle teasing in his voice or intent to soothe her. He had her attention and that goal was what he sought. “ What you are doing now, a little every day will help until you can cope with the memories. But again, humor me. Summon a fireball.”
Dominic held her gaze with a steady will that matched her own. How could he know? Alexandra wondered. When she began to close her eyes, he shook his head. “Keep them open. Summon your element. Closing your eyes at first leaves you in the dark and at the mercy of memory.” His directive was blunt and more brutal than Nicholas’ teachings. “I’m not as gentle as he is when I teach. Time altered that in me. Forgive me.”
With a soft snicker, Alexandra humored him and summoned a fireball in the palm of her hand. Her hand trembled as she felt those emotions surface. “Watch me. Right here Alex.” Dominic directed her focus towards him and not was bubbled up inside her. With that easy gesture, the panic eased. “You are afraid. I understand. I acknowledge your fear because I have lived through it. Like you, I am no innocent when it comes to destruction and power but I decided long ago not to be victim to it or allow it to suck me into the past. You are not helpless. You are as in control today as you were the day of the final battle. Keep breathing, Alex. “
Alexandra felt her heartbeat quicken as the elements heat began to build within her palm. Both the paced breathing and Dominic’s words kept her focus on the here and now rather than allowing the past to suck her under. Minutes ticked by as she focused and the intensity of the flame in her palm grew. His words touched her spirit. “You were the most magnificent warrior I have ever seen. Your actions were necessary to not just your survival but the survival of the realm.”
Dominic repeated as he felt her focus begin to waiver. “Keep breathing Alex.” When the memories threatened he told her to breathe to refocus her attention. She was here, in this moment. At times, this very exercise saved Dominic’s sanity over the years. The missions his elders sent him on were often brutal and unkind. They tried to sap his sanity, his reason. Their direction often threatened to get him killed. His little warrior did not understand what he meant when he told her she saved him but he would spend whatever time the Light granted them showing Tanya just that.
“Our Queen would not be on her throne and my beloved dead were it not for your actions that day.” Dominic held her focus. Not once did she look away from the force behind his words. Truthfully, they were words he waited some months to express to her. His gratitude to her had little limit. If not for her intervention, after all, he likely would be skewered on the end of her brother’s sword. “Never discount what you have accomplished. When Fate presents you with a challenge, you survive and overcome. That is your nature, Alexandra Jade. That is your gift.”
A few notes for you, readers.
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