Atlera Confronts Cephias
In the Nyrako Caves, Cephias had retreated to the spring to bathe. It had been quite a while since he was able to take a nice, refreshing bath and just soak his body. Other members of the Nyrako Tribe bathed as well, but mostly everyone left Cephias alone.
He closed his eyes as he sank neck deep into the cool water.
As he soaked, he contemplated the recent events. The kelliphs and the dragons had left this world. That was hard to comprehend, but he appreciated not having to worry about encountering them again. The Eastern Kingdoms had their conflicts with one another after the end of the war, but Queen Elleden managed to bring them altogether with the sole purpose to aid the Western Lands in a time of dire need.
Cephias had overseen many of the negotiations, but after a while, he felt his presence was no longer necessary, so he excused himself and returned to the Nyrako Tribe in the desert. Some reason he felt himself drawn back here. It was strange to think that almost the entire world feared this tribe, but for real, they were something of a safe haven for those who needed it. They had different customs, different expectations, and different practices that were a relief after dealing with the strict life of nobility. Cephias had no idea how long he would stay here, but he needed to figure out where he would go next.
“So…” He heard a young woman’s voice behind him. He recognized the voice as Atlera’s, and he immediately stiffened. The girl walked along the edge of the spring and then sat down on the edge, pushing her trouser pants up, so she could put her feet in the water.
Cephias didn’t allow himself to move. He kept his eyes on Atlera. She was the youngest sister of Cephias’ late charge, Larisa, whom Cephias had to kill, but as far as he knew, Atlera didn’t know that. Had Rhod told her? How would Atlera respond? Cephias had seen Atlera spar her brother, and she was extremely skilled with the short sword and a dagger, but he didn’t want to engage her in a fight.
Instead, he let her control the conversation.
Atlera splashed her feet in the water a little and smiled, vey much like a child having fun. Then she locked eyes with Cephias, and Cephias had no idea what to think of that look in her eyes.
“I heard you murdered my sister.”
Cephias swallowed hard. He was in a very vulnerable position should Atlera choose to exact revenge.
Atlera kicked her foot again in the water and focused on the ripples that she made. “Rhod said you did it to protect her, but why don’t you tell me why you did it?” She looked back at him—her eyes hardened.
Taking a deep breath, Cephias shifted a little in the pool. While he wanted to get up and pace as he explained this to Atlera, he couldn’t expose himself to her, so he was stuck. She had done a good job at cornering him, and now she demanded answers.
He cleared his throat. “I did what she demanded of me.”
Atlera laughed a little. “And she demanded that you kill her? That’s so unlike her. She was always one for pretty dresses, flowers in her hair, dance, and romance. She wouldn’t tell you to kill her.”
“Things weren’t that simple.” Cephias shook his head. “She was faced with reality, and she realized what was going to happen. She didn’t want to face that, so she begged me to take her life.”
“And so you just did?” Atlera raised her brows, but Cephias heard an underlining threat in her voice. If he didn’t answer it properly, she might slice his throat.
He measured his words with care. “I didn’t want to.” He lowered his gaze. “It was the hardest decision I have ever made.”
“It wasn’t yours to make!” Atlera slammed her palm onto the wet stone floor where she sat, and she glared at Cephias.
He gave her a slow nod. “You’re right. It wasn’t my decision to make, and I didn’t make it. Your sister did.” He took another deep breath as he closed his eyes. “Even to this day, I wish things had turned out differently.” He shook his head then opened his eyes once more, looking at her. “I am very sorry for my actions that resulted in your sister’s death, Lady Atlera. I don’t think I will ever atone for it.”
“And I think you’re right.” Atlera nodded then pulled her feet out of the water and rose to her feet. She stared down at Cephias. Despite her petite form and young age, Cephias knew to regard her with care. He had a clear sight of the dagger on her hip, and he had no intention of angering her.
Instead, he bowed his head to her. He found no words adequate for this moment.
He kept his head down as he listened to Atlera storm off.
That had gone better than he had expected. At least now he didn’t have to wonder when he should tell her or if Rhod had told her.
All he had to worry about now was whether Atlera would kill him in his sleep or not.
© 2019 Kelly Blanchard