When All Around You is Darkness
They decided to lock him in the East Tower. It was only fitting as he had kept Queen Limoges imprisoned there. However where she had been given the main tower, he had been relegated to the dungeon. For years there had been no use for it so it had fallen into disrepair even by prison standards.
Aside from the prevalent rust and grime, worst of all was the dampness. Beads of moisture clung to the walls, facilitating the mold growth. The humidity hung heavy in the cold air and clung to one’s skin with a threatening tenacity. Then there was the dripping. Every five and a half seconds a drop would fall from ceiling to floor.
Every. Five. And. A. Half. Seconds. Exactly. Constantly.
And water was supposed to be soothing. Well, whoever said that hadn’t been exposed to water torture.
However new rhythms joined in from down the hall. A moderate, light step followed be a heavier one. Lumiale rounded the corner with Benjamin, one of Royal Expeditionary Force Guards, behind him. A stool was placed for the Guardian who sat facing the cell. “Arios?”
The prisoner had curled into the corner where the cot met the walls. He had given up trying to find any outer warmth and had instead turned inward. Poorly-dyed rough black flax either scratched at his skin or remained glued to it were the moisture had seeped through. He tuned out all around him, save for the incessant dripping, with a blank stare. The call dawned on him and he answered hoarsely, “Hey Lumiale.”
The Water Guardian nodded, “I am sorry I haven’t been able to visit. Are you feeling any better?”
“Heh,” the sick laugh echoed. “As good as any murder can feel.”
He frowned in concern, “Arios…please stop saying things like that. You weren’t in your right mind then an-”
“That’s no excuse!” The swordsman drew himself in further with a sharp inhale. “That’s no excuse for the blood on my hands.”
Taking hold of the bars, he stood up, “If you don't stop that, I won’t be able to help you.”
“I don’t deserve anyone’s help.”
That stubbornness could drive Lumiale to want to slap him. But since the distance and the bars prevented that, he instead chose words to handle him. “Arios,” he started seriously. “My mother once told me that the moment we stop holding out our arms to catch each other as we fall is the moment we stop being human. I will not let you fall without trying to catch you.”
A hesitant pause thick with deliberation dangled in the air. Then he turned aside with a sniff, presumably from the cold. He quietly said, “Thanks.”
Lumiale sat back down. “You’re welcome.” He stopped to adjust his position. “Though I do wish you would take my suggestion to see a priest.”
He shook his head. “I don’t think that will help. Besides, I’m not even a follower of the Sacred Bird.”
“That doesn’t matter. I think that speaking with a priest would at least ease some of the guilt. Maybe if you prayed as well…”
Again he laughed slightly. “The only prayer I know is to the sword. Anyway, doesn’t it take away some of the mystique if I’m aquatinted with the ones I’m praying to?”
“You’re not praying to us personally; just the positions we hold.” The Guardian clarified.
Arios shrugged in defeat. “Fine. If it will get you off my back, I’ll see a priest.”
“And you promise to stop beating yourself up so bad?” He gently prodded.
The prisoner hung his head lower. “I can’t promise you that.”
“Arios…” Lumiale sighed, his voice thick with emotion.
He leaned his forehead on his interlocked hands. “I’m sorry.” The cracked and whispered words hung heavy with apology for more than his self-hatred.
How quickly Lumiale could go from wanting to slap he to wishing he could place a comforting hand upon him. “Don’t worry.” He began in his soothing voice, “We will make it through this somehow.”
Lies, loathing, and longing tainted the air, heavier than the humidity and as relentless as one drop every five and a half seconds.
The major OAR for this chapter is a paraphrase. The quote about catching each other as we fall originally comes from Steven Page of Barenaked Ladies. He said it in his introduction for the song, “War on Drugs,” at the concert I saw. The whole introduction was very moving and combined with the emotion of the song just about brought me to tears by the song’s end. If you ever get the chance, please listen to it. It contains many of the same themes as “Shatter.”