62: The Conquered (2)

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<cont. from last "chapter"... if you are reading on tablet or phone (not sure about desktop), make sure you check out the music from Soundcloud attached to some paragraphs!>

I shake my head in silent disbelief as I watch Tannin pull himself up into a sitting position and wipe the blood from his face. He gingerly touches the top of his head but quickly withdraws his hand with a pained grunt. Upon seeing his fingers dipped in blood, he bows his head and gives a defeated chuckle.

"Can't lie and tell the boys that I saved the day, not looking like this," he jokes. He looks back up at me. "You alright there, Morgana? Sorry I messed things up."

Tears come flooding back to my eyes full force upon seeing the familiar smile on Tannin's face.

"Tannin, you're.... Y-You're...." I can barely get the words out because I'm crying so hard. Finally, I settle on letting my actions speak for me. I lean forward and wrap my arms around Tannin's neck. I nuzzle my head against his chest and continue to sob. Nothing can compare to the warmth and comfort I feel when I feel Tannin place his arms around me.

"You're alive," I mumble in a voice muffled by his coat. After a moment, I pull away so that I can look at his face. Shyly, I reach upwards and let my fingers slide down his face, just to make sure he's real and not some sort of apparition. My fingers beat a hasty retreat back to my lap when I see the amused glimmer dancing in Tannin's eyes.

"Tannin, I thought for certain that you died," I say. "Your heart--it stopped beating. You felt so cold and I just knew that you were gone."

"But I'm right here, Morgana," he assures me. He takes both of my hands in his and interlaces his fingers through mine. "See? I'm alright. I'm here with you. It's a miracle, but I'm as alive as a person can be."

I squeeze his hands a little more tightly, just to make sure that he's flesh and bone. When he squeezes back, I smile.

"You are alive," I breathe. We share a giddy spurt of laughter and hug one another.

When we pull away from each other, neither pair of eyes is vacant of tears.

"When that Witch was swinging me around, I remember seeing you, looking so afraid," Tannin admits. "I wanted you to be safe because I knew that I...." His voice trails off as his memories take him somewhere else other than this dank basement. "...Everything turned black. I remember that I felt like I was floating on my back in a river or something. I heard you crying and talking to me while I was floating and I wanted to come back to you. Then, there was this flash of red..." Tannin stops talking and looks over at me. The surprised look on his face tells me that maybe he's just realized how big of a miracle it was that occurred.

"...and I was back here with you," he finishes. Something shifts in his eyes then and he's back to living in the present. He shakes his head and grins. "Something brought me back, Morgana, and I'm grateful that it did."

Even though I'm hesitant to say it, even as a joke, I do. "Maybe it was the power of love?" I mean it as a joke, but my voice cracks embarrassingly on the last word. He had just confessed that he loved me, hadn't he? I've had a feeling that he did, ever since he kissed me back in the alleyway. Honestly, I'm not sure how to respond to his confession and from the looks of things, neither does he.

For the first time since I've met him, Tannin blushes. His pale face becomes as red as a rose.

"Well, we can discuss my feelings later," he chuckles. He glances around the room. "Where's that nasty Witch at, anyway?"

I hesitate for a moment before answering. "Dead. I killed her."

Both of our eyes move over to the oven, where the unmistakable stench of death still flows out in gusts of smoke. I wish that I felt some sort of remorse at killing the creature that I lived with for years upon years, but I feel next to none. I glance over at the cauldron and barely register my body shudder a bit.

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