XXVIII: Remember Me

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Nalin got Jacinda to Atticus in record time and forcibly sent them off to the nearest village. He refused to come along, to which the others didn't have a choice but to leave the boy in the burnt Kingdom as Jacinda was dying by the second and he was not going to leave Sir Lulche behind.

The rain began to come down hard as Nalin ran faster than ever. His heart felt numb in his chest as he neared the very spot they'd left Sir Lulche, the premonition a dark presence in the back of his mind.

He could not fathom the thought of what perhaps had happened to the Keeper, the slight possibility preposterous. Sir Lulche was strong. He was the strongest human he knew of. 

Please be alive.

Please be alive.

Please be alive.

His footfalls slowly came to a stop. The unmistakable form lying alone in the flooded, murky grey, street became all that he could see.

"No..." The wretched sound of Nalin's broken voice echoed from all around.

He fell to his knees by the body of his mentor, trembling hands latching onto an arm to gently turn him over...

Tears filled his vision when he saw the giant hole in his abdomen, bloody and engorged with the unspeakable. Nalin's eyes rose to his ashen face, the dull eyes that seemed to stare straight through him.

A broken cry tore out of the halfblood. He lowered his head to rest on Sir Lulche's collar bone, then rose again to stare at that lifeless face.

"I want to be to you, what my past mentor was to me."

If anyone ever believed in Nalin, it was Sir Lulche. Nalin didn't see it then, he didn't trust him, he thought that there was no way that this man actually cared for him...and now that Nalin finally understood, now that he finally can see it...it was too late.

He couldn't thank him. He didn't even get to say goodbye.

Nalin cried and cried, his chest heaving for savage breath as his body shook.

. . .

A few hours later, Nalin found the strength to bury Sir Lulche in the fields outside the Kingdom of Umbria.

He dragged a slab of stone from the wreckage and took the time to carve out his mentor's name, soon finding that he didn't know his date of birth or even his full name.

Sir Lulche

Beloved Keeper of Iyatora.

Beloved mentor to House Knightlinger.

Rest in Peace.

May all the Angels and Maker keep you in their loving embrace.

Nalin picked himself up off the grass after a few minutes of staring numbly at the ground upturned with soil, and came back with a handful of white flowers to place atop his grave.

It was difficult to walk away, and Nalin soon found himself silently crying as he tried to find his way back to the rest of House Knightlinger all alone.

Thunder rumbled from the sky ahead, lighting up the dark pathway in front. Nalin shivered, pulling his coat tighter around himself. He had to be a day away from the closest village on foot and judging by the harsh weather that was only bound to get worse throughout the night, Nalin needed to find shelter.

He kept on walking, nonstop, until he came upon a lone cottage along the side of a stream. He hadn't even notice he'd entered the forest until a sharp branch slashed against his cheekbone.

Nalin calmly knocked against the wooden door and stepped back to wait silently as he heard footsteps approach from the other side. The door swung open a moment later, revealing a willowy thin man in overalls. His gray brows rose above his non-existent hairline in surprise.

Nalin opened his mouth to speak, but a word barely left his lips in breathy sounds. He'd cried his voice away. Instead of speaking, he used his eyes and sent a desperate plea to take him in for the night.

Thankfully, the man stepped aside. The cottage was warm, the fireplace by the small kitchen inviting. Nalin instinctively made his way there and lowered to sit in the fetal position on the rug, eying the flames.

The man cleared his throat, "I reckon you've lost your voice. I'll bring you some tea."

Nalin merely nodded, eyes enchanted by the flame of the hearth.

A few minutes later, a mug of honey-colored tea was set beside him by the tall man, who backed away when those mismatched eyes flashed to him. With a nervous smile, he nodded his chin to the mug, "Better drink up."

Nalin looked down at the mug, eyeing the contents as he picked it up and hovered it underneath his face so that the steam could de-frost him. He blew into it a few times before taking the first sip. Immediately, the corners of his eyes scrunched up in distain, the taste of the tea rather bitter.

The man chuckled, clearing his throat again. "It's herbal. Tastes like shit, but should help your voice a bit."

Nalin slowly nodded and continued to take small sips. The rain carried on outside, the walls of the cottage creaking from the wind, a little draft setting goosebumps along Nalin's arms.

He felt the eyes on him. On the patch of creamy skin peeking out from his loosened collar, at the slender curve of his neck, his pink lips, flushed cheeks.

Nalin felt uncomfortable, as he noticed the man's heavy stare on him.

"Um," he began, testing his voice. "Thank you for the tea, but I think I'll be leaving now."

When he tried to get up, the world tilted and he suddenly found himself falling to the ground, cracking his head against the floorboards. He winced in pain, watching as the world spun and white spots filled his vision.

The last thing Nalin saw before he went under, was the tall man's shoes approaching. 

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