My Dreams Are Filled With Grief
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“Erakos?” a voice calls out into the room. Familiar, soft and laced with a hint of fear. The door is ajar and Erakos can see a figure looming in the doorway, looking uncharacteristically small in the firelight.
“What’s wrong, Alex?” he asks. Erakos tilts his head as the figure enters, taking his response as permission to do so and making sure to close the door behind them.
“Nothing, I just—nightmares, I guess…”
Erakos sighs, placing his book on the bedside table. “Did you wish to talk about them?”
A shake of the head. Of course not. The princess hates showing vulnerability like this, preferring to shoulder the burden alone. He lets her, if only because he doesn’t know her well enough yet to push the topic further. He would rather not push the princess away.
For a while after that very brief conversation, the only noise is the shuffling of feet and the groaning of a mattress as Alex moves to make herself comfy on the bed. Recently it has become a routine for the two of them – Alex comes to him after a nightmare and he allows her to join him as he reads to himself. They barely talk and honestly Erakos thinks that she only comes to him because his bed is usually the largest – humans truly don’t know how to design a bed for an ox-kryn like him – so there’s plenty of room for her to lie next to him and will her worries away.
“Do you think she might still be alive?” Alex asks eventually. Strange. Erakos doesn’t bother to try and pick up where he left off with his book.
“Who?” he asks. He could make a damn good guess about who Alex is talking about, but he would rather let her talk, let her confirm his suspicions, especially since she appears to be in the mood to talk tonight.
“Lucia... If my parents and I made it out alive, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think that she made it out too, would it?” Alex avoids Erakos’s gaze after asking the question, focusing instead fiddling with the necklace still fastened around her neck. He’s familiar with this particular nervous tick. It only ever shows in these moments, after everyone else has long since fallen asleep, because she always makes an effort to hide the necklace in the presence of strangers.
Erakos presumes it must be something to do with her royal lineage. Perhaps the common folk would recognise it as a symbol of the Greymounts, but he hasn’t lived in Yondar long enough to differentiate between the banners of local lords and ladies.
“I’m not sure,” he answers honestly, in the end. “But there is nothing wrong with holding out hope.”
Alex frowns. Perhaps he should have done better to offer the poor girl some comfort, but that’s not the kind of man he has ever been, and he doesn’t think they can afford to be so naïve when they’re spending every day fighting for their freedom.
“You’re right,” Alex replies after a moment or two. She certainly doesn’t look pleased with his answer, but then again, she hasn’t looked any calmer or more collected since she entered his room. The nightmares must really be weighing on her mind tonight.
“It’s difficult adjusting to life without her here. We were inseparable. Always thought we were going to rule together.” She toys with the necklace again, almost as if she’s inspecting it. Erakos doesn’t miss the small, grief-stricken smile that flashes across her features. “She gave this to me; stole it from one of her mother’s jewellery boxes. Said we didn’t need to worry because her mother never wore jewellery anyway and at least then, if we ever got separated, I would always have something to remember her by.”
“I thought you said she was aspiring to be a guard?” Erakos says with a touch of confusion.
“She was, why?”
“Well why would someone aspiring to be guard steal from their own mother? That doesn’t seem very guard like to me.”
“She was 10,” Alex says, trying to stifle a laugh. “And I may have been a bit of a bad influence…”
“Of course you were.”
There are small smiles tugging at the edges of both of their lips now. Alex’s smile is no doubt the result of fond memories. Erakos is just glad to see her looking happy for once. Not grieving, not looking like a child mimicking their father’s authority, just happy.
“In the end,” Alex continues, her attention back on the necklace. “It was Lucia’s father who ended up scolding her about it. Her mother found the whole ordeal funny, enough so that she even let me keep it.”
“A good thing too, I suppose,” Erakos says in agreement. Alex glances his way. “It means you have something to remember her by, at least until you meet her again.”
Her eyes widen at that. “You really think I’ll see her again?”
“Like I said Alex, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of hope.”