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The crypt VI

The crypt’s corridors seemed to writhe and coil like the belly of a serpent, making it difficult to navigate. Sylvenna and Thistle had taken a different path, disappearing through a passage that led to the palace kitchen. Rohan and I walked in stifling silence, as if we were submerged underwater. My mind was a tempestuous ocean, swirling with questions and doubts.

Why did everything have to be so damn complicated?

The only source of light in the dark, damp tunnels were a few feeble, ethereal blue flames flickering in sconces along the walls. Their dancing shadows seemed to take on a life of their own, playing sinister games with our perception. The occasional drip of water echoed through the labyrinth, adding to the eerie atmosphere. The shadows crept and crawled across the dank walls, mimicking our movements in a sinister dance.

The weight of this dangerous plan hung heavy on my shoulders,like a dense storm cloud ready to burst at any moment.

What if I don’t make it out alive? What if I never see my friends and family again? The thought lingered like a specter, haunting my every step.

“So,” Rohan’s voice interrupted my tumultuous thoughts. “Who is Gareth? Another knight in shining armor from your past?” he inquired, his tone gentle, almost curious.

I shot him a sidelong glance, yanked out from the hurricane in my head for a second. Gareth… His name echoed within me, stirring memories and emotions I buried long ago. He’s just a dear friend now, nothing more.

“He’s, uh, someone from back home,” I mumbled, “A dear friend.”

The darkness seemed to swallow us whole as we made our way through the twisting, dark corridors. The only noise our breathing and the soft thud of Rohan’s steps. Then,suddenly, he sucked in a sharp breath and whispered my name.

“Aerin.” his voice low and hushed, as if afraid to disturb the stillness of the place.

We came to a sudden halt, and I turned to face him fully. His usually stoic expression was now sculpted from granite, every line etched with a tension I hadn’t seen before. The flickering blue light cast deep shadows, highlighting the crease between his brows. Was it… fear? Worry?

My heart raced, confused by his sudden change. “What is it?” I whispered, my gaze locked onto his, desperately searching for a clue, any hint of what stirred beneath his calm exterior.

“This is insane,” he muttered, his words strained and hesitant. “There has to be another way.”

“There isn’t,” I blurted out, the urgency in my voice surprising even myself. “We need to go,” my voice shaking slightly, desperate to break the unsettling tension. “The illusion I cast on the cell won’t hold for much longer. Every second we waste here…”

But as I turned to continue, a firm grip encircled my wrist. It wasn’t a tight hold, but it was enough to freeze me in place. The touch of Rohan’s hand sent both shivers and sparks coursing through my body, but his piercing gray eyes held me captive. Despite the coldness of the crypt, there was a fiery intensity in his gaze that made the rest of the world melt away.

Is it fear or something else that I see in his eyes?

“Aerin,” he repeated, his voice firm yet tinged with a tremor I wouldn’t have believed possible just moments before. “You don’t have to do this.”

I hesitated, his intense gaze rooting me to the spot. A part of me, the selfish part, wanted to believe him. To throw caution to the wind and run, to leave this danger behind. But the memory of Grizpik’s chilling words echoed in my mind.

“It’s the only option,” I countered, my voice shaking despite my efforts to sound resolute. “You heard the goblin.”

Rohan’s eyes searched mine, his expression filled with conflict. “Are you… sure about this ?” His worry felt heavy, making the air tight. Even the shadows stood still, as if waiting. “You really don’t need to do this.”

His worry weighed heavily on me, like an anchor pinning me to the ground. Was it fear for my well-being or apprehension about the dangers I now faced because of his decisions? I couldn’t tell. Doubt gnawed at my heart like acid. Maybe he was genuinely worried about the danger I was in. But a cynical part of me wondered if he was just feeling remorse for putting me in risk, rather than truly caring about me.

The truth hid behind an impenetrable veil, shrouded in mystery. But there’s no turning back now. I have to go through with this, for everyone’s sake.

“I need to try,” I mumbled, my voice trembling. “It’s the only way, and we don’t have time to consider anything else. With or without a plan, I’m already doomed either way.”

A decaying statue loomed in front of us, a forgotten king bathed in the eerie bluish-green light of the crypt. Moss, like emerald veins, crawled across its surface; each tendril whispered secrets only the dead could understand.

If I don’t make it through this… What then?

A heavy sigh escaped my lips, a wisp of vapor coiling upwards like a phantom question mark.

“If…” I began, my voice a mere tremor, “If I don’t make it through this…”

“Don’t,”  he interrupted, his voice low and gravelly, cutting through the chill air like a blade. His eyes, stormy as winter skies, locked onto mine with an intensity that momentarily chased away my doubts. “You will make it. Thistle will inform everyone and make escape plans. We can’t afford to dwell on ‘if’. We need to focus on ‘when.’ ”

He’s right, Aerin. Positivity. Focus on the ‘when,’ not the ‘if.’

His words, though laced with reassurance, only managed to partially thaw the icy tendrils of fear that coiled around my heart. The danger lurked like a suffocating presence, its grip tightening with each passing moment. But, in Rohan’s conviction, I found a strength to cling to, a lifeline amidst the raging storm.

I scrutinized his face, searching for a sign, anything that might betray the depth of his true feelings. Was it merely the resolve of a leader or something more personal?

“I know it’s dangerous,” Rohan confessed, a rare glimpse of vulnerability crossing his stoic features, “but we have to keep hope alive. Thistle will take care of everything, and we’ll make our escape together.”

Reluctantly, I nodded, my gaze lingering on the crypt’s shadows as if searching for answers hidden in their inky depths. The weight of his words bore down on me, intensifying the stakes of our dangerous situation. Yet, beneath my palpable fear, a delicate thread of hope intertwined with my doubts.

“Then I’m putting my trust in that moment,” I replied, doing my best to embrace his certainty. “When we make it through—not if.”

His gaze intensified, the blue in his eyes blazing like torches in the dim crypt. “You won’t be alone,” he promised with unwavering determination. “I’ll be right there with you.”

His assurance, so fervent and so fierce, sparked a fragile flame of courage within me. Together, perhaps we could face this darkness.


As we continued on, my steps felt heavier, burdened by the weight of uncertainty. The world seemed to press down on my shoulders, and I yearned for the lightness of Eshelean.

“Did you enter the fey world through the Blackcrystal Forest?” Rohan inquired, a furrow forming between his brows.

World? Not…Region?

My nod confirmed his suspicion.

“Once, a powerful magical barrier divided our worlds. Stronger in the distant past, before the great war against the demons, it kept everything separate,” he explained. “During that war, rifts were deliberately created in the barrier, allowing elves, dwarves, and even some humans to cross over and fight alongside us. Today, remnants of that barrier linger on the border of the forest, weakened and riddled with breaches. These openings are how humans stumble upon our realm, seeking refuge from elven persecution. But this isn’t a haven for them, nor is it entirely safe for you.

Even so, I’d like to stay a little longer, explore, and maybe get to know my mother better.

“When all this is over, I wish I could stay in Eshelean a little longer,” I murmured. My heart ached with what I couldn’t say next: with you.

Rohan glanced at me, his eyes flickering with a hint of something unreadable. “You should return to Príbora,” he replied, his voice rough and distant. “It’s not safe for you here.”

A pang of sadness shot through me, like a knife slicing through my heart. Did he truly want to be rid of me so quickly?

I swallowed the lump in my throat, forcing a smile to my lips. “Are you so eager to get rid of me?” I teased, my voice light and playful, masking the pain that threatened to spill over.

Rohan’s expression softened, and he reached out to brush a strand of hair from my face. “It’s not that I want to get rid of you,” he said, his voice gentle. “It’s that I want you to be safe.”

Of course he is. He’s just being the noble hero, protecting the innocent maiden from harm.

I scoffed, a tinge of irritation creeping back into my voice, as I pulled away from his touch. “Safe from what, exactly?I’m not a child, Rohan,” I retorted. “I can take care of myself.”

Rohan chuckled, a sardonic glint in his eyes. “Oh, forgive me, princess. I forgot you’re the fearless warrior who stumbled into the fey world by accident.”

I shot him an irritated glare. “Accident or not, I’m here now, and I can handle myself better than you think.”

Rohan’s eyes softened, a flicker of genuine concern replacing the usual sarcasm “I know you can, Aerin,” he admitted, his gaze holding a trace of bare sincerity. “It’s just… I’ve seen too much loss, too much pain. I don’t want you to go through that.”

His unexpected sincerity disarmed me. The harsh edge of my irritation began to melt. “Rohan…I…”  The tenderness in his voice caught me off guard, leaving me speechless. For a moment, our gazes locked, and I felt a strange connection between us, a bond that transcended our differences.

Then, just as quickly, the moment was gone, and Rohan turned away, his face once again a mask of determination.

“We need to keep moving,” he said, his voice rough.

As we continued on, the tension between us simmered. Rohan’s enigmatic demeanor left me brooding. One moment, he seemed indifferent, eager to be rid of me perhaps, but then a flicker of warmth, a hint of something similar to fondness, would cross his face. It was enough to make a girl want to throw her hands up in exasperation.

“If the gods allow,” I murmured, my voice carrying a hint of defiance, “I plan to spend a few days in Rivoen with Eryone.”

The response was swift and sharp, a viper striking at the slightest provocation. Rohan’s scowl deepened, his disapproval evident.”Feys like Eryone and Murtagh,” he spat the names with disdain, “are the ones you should distance yourself from.”

Surprise flickered across my face, quickly morphing into an escalating irritation. “Why? Why exactly is that, oh wise one?” I challenged, my tone dripping with sarcasm. “What’s your issue with Eryone?”

How dare he speak of my mother like that?

His eyes darkened, and his voice hardened with a bitter conviction. “Eryone is a master manipulator. A cunning viper disguised in silk.” he stated, “and let’s not forget,” he added, his voice dropping to a low growl, “her not-so-subtle role in the death of my family. Everyone knew her little affair with Murtagh.”

My breath hitched. Shock and anger warred within me, a venomous cocktail curdling in my gut. “That’s a blatant lie!” I spat, my voice tight with outrage. “My mother-”

“Your mother,” he interrupted, his voice carrying a sardonic tone, “was far from innocent in all this, Aerin. Don’t be so quick to defend a woman you barely know.”

“No,” I protested, my voice trembling with a mixture of anger and disbelief. “You’re wrong. Eryone would never…” My words faltered.

Rohan’s words were like icy blades, each one piercing deeper than the last. “She may not have had an active role, but she knew. She knew and didn’t tell anyone. She wanted my father to fall,” he asserted, his voice filled with bitterness and accusation.

I scoffed, barely containing the explosion of fury threatening to erupt. “And what about you, Rohan?” I hissed, my temper reaching a boiling point.”The cold-blooded murderer who sees himself as a hero?”

Rohan’s stormy eyes met mine, unwavering and icy. “Some truths are like bitter potions, Aerin,” he said, his voice low. “You’ll swallow them eventually. In time, you’ll see.”

Bitter potions, my arse. I glared at him, my jaw clenched tight.

My eyes filled with tears, but I blinked them back furiously. Rohan’s words felt like a cruel twist of the knife, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing me break.

“If you think my mother is some evil monster,” I spat, my voice tight with a mixture of anger and hurt, “then forget about being friends.”

A careless shrug and a cold smirk played on his lips. “Friends? Never part of the deal, sweetheart. We’re just two sides working towards the same goal.”

His nonchalance stung worse than any harsh words. A hollow ache spread through my chest, squeezing the air from my lungs.

“I… I thought…” My voice cracked, the words catching in my throat like a choked sob. Maybe… what? Maybe we could be more? The thought felt like a naive dream shattered against the cruel reality of his words.

Rohan’s eyes turned glacial. “Thought what, Aerin?” His voice dripped with scorn.”That we could be… buddies? Don’t be ridiculous.” His laughter was bitter and empty.”You’re Eryone’ daughter. There’s no room for friendship, not with the daughter of a enemy. If you truly believed that, you’re nothing but a foolish little girl.”

A furious heat rose to my cheeks. How could I be so blind? Shame burned in my gut, a bitter taste in my mouth after the connection I had dared to believe. Tears brimmed in my eyes, ready to spill over at any moment, but I swallowed them back tightly. I wouldn’t let him see my weakness. Arguing with this arrogant male was like wrestling with a rock – pointless and utterly infuriating. Let him wallow in his self-proclaimed hero complex.

“This foolish girl,” I choked out, my voice raw with emotion, thick with the tears I refused to shed. “Knowing everything I know now, I could run and warn the queen. I could warn Absinthya about the dangers of the opposing forces in the crystal. Maybe… maybe I could find a way to delay my fate, even if just for a little while.” A choked sob escaped my lips. “Instead, here I am, a pawn in this twisted game, risking everything – my life, my freedom – to save your sorry ass and those other prisoners.”

A flicker of regret, brief but genuine, softened the stormy depths of Rohan’s eyes. He opened his mouth, the hint of remorse roughening his voice. “Aerin, I—”

“Enough,” I said, cutting him off with a raised hand, my voice surprisingly steady despite the tremor in my heart. “I don’t want to hear it. Your words have done enough.”

His gaze held a flicker of something similar to… was it pleading? Understanding?

“I never meant…”  He started, his voice faltering. “It’s not about you. Your mother—”

“SHE’S MY MOTHER!” I snapped, my tone laced with steel, the words ringing out sharply in the tense air.

An unsettling silence fell, thick with tension.

“But don’t worry,” I said coldly, burying the pain under a frosty exterior. “I won’t risk our plan.”

I took a few steps back, putting distance between us. But as I looked around the crypt, the dark corridor seemed to stretch on endlessly, and I had no idea how to get out of here.

With a frustrated sigh, I turned back to Rohan, my steps more determined this time. Without a word, I reached for his hand, my grip firm and demanding. “Cell. Now.”

Rohan hesitated. He opened his mouth to speak, but I silenced him with a steely glare.

“No explanations. Just do it,” I demanded, my tone leaving no room for argument.

Reluctantly, he complied, and we vanished from the cold corridor.

The moment our bodies touched, a wave of heat washed over me. It was a mix of anger, frustration, and desire, an electricity that left me dizzy.

I knew I couldn’t fall for Rohan. He was an enigma, a man with dark secrets and a haunted past. But the truth was, it was already too late. I was already in love with him, and that’s why his words cut so deep.

The familiar rush of teleporting subsided, leaving a dull ache throbbing in my temples. Rohan stumbled slightly, his hand pressed against the cool stone wall for support. His face pale and slick with sweat.

I paid little attention to him. Without a word, I distanced myself from him, avoiding eye contact. The illusion was fading, but we had made it in time.

A hoarse croak escaped his lips, “Aerin…” His voice sounded slightly breathless from the effort.

He opened his mouth, perhaps to offer a half-hearted apology, but the words died on his lips.

“Just go,” I croaked, the words a ragged gasp escaping my constricted throat.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t…” His voice trailed off, his form dissolving into shadows like a wisp of smoke in the cold air. His gaze, usually filled with an icy storm, flickered with a hint of… regret? The absurdity of the notion almost made me scoff.

“It doesn’t matter,” I whispered, the words a mere tremor escaping my lips. They were meant to be a shield, a defense against the storm of emotions threatening to engulf me. But even to my own ears, they rang hollow.

Because the truth was, it did matter. It mattered a lot.

The air shimmered, the last echo of his form dissolving like a cruel mirage. Tears, hot and silent, spilled down my cheeks, blurring the world into a watercolor mess. I slumped against the cold stone, sobs wracking my body—a silent echo of the love that bloomed unexpectedly in my heart. A love that, like the warmth of his touch, was already fading into a cherished memory.

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