Fade to White
“Are we leaving now?”
Tryne stopped and straightened up so fast she nearly bent herself over backwards. “I forgot to mention that to Ken.”
“So we’re going to have to wait until you remember to tell him that you’re going away and never coming back?” Jerek asked sarcastically, lying on his bed with his elbow propping him up.
“No, I think I’ll just leave him a note or something.” Tryne sighed, slopping some of the jam she was spreading onto a slice of bread. “Is there anything else you would like to eat?”
“I’m fine. When do you think you’ll be ready to leave?”
“I don’t know, really.” Tryne laughed slightly. “I have to pack, clean some more, and make sure that everything is all set before I’d feel comfortable leaving, and don’t you dare make fun of me!”
Jerek growled. “I’ll be outside.”
After all of the events that had transpired over the last couple of days, his white shirt was stained almost black, to the point where he doubted he could ever get it clean again, and it left him with a grimy feeling. Walking a way with a bucket full of water, Jerek sat down on the grass with the sun hitting his back, and as he took off his shirt he realized that he had forgotten to grab another one to wear. Because he was already feeling comfortably settled, he decided that it didn’t matter much. Dumping the shirt into the bucket, Jerek reached in and began swirling it around.
He knew that he sounded suspicious with how much he was urging Tryne to leave, and perhaps that was why she kept delaying. Jerek couldn’t help himself though. Every moment longer that Tryne stayed, the more he worried about her safety. Nosaj knew about the place and his soldiers had obviously been there already. They could be back at any moment, and they would recognize Jerek, exposing who he was. Then Tryne would be killed, or worse . . . Jerek winced, feeling sick at the thought of Nosaj brushing his boney fingers against her smooth face, or clamping his thin yellow lips over her soft pink mouth. Leaving was the only way he could protect her from Nosaj. Keeping Tryne safe and happy was all he cared about, seeing her smile was all he lived for . . .
Jerek stopped that train of thoughts. He was getting too sappy. Suddenly, he realized that he had been doing it all wrong. Instead of waiting for Tryne to decide she was ready to leave, he should have swept her up onto his horse and ridden off with her. Eventually she would go along with it, and even thank him for stopping her from wasting valuable time, though she was probably going to be angry at him at first for doing something like that. Maybe that was what he should do, put down his washing and burst into the cottage, picking Tryne up and throwing her over his shoulder, then carry her to his horse. Jerek almost laughed at the thought.
A soft thud sounded faintly behind him, and Jerek looked over his shoulder to see Tryne, a cloth bundle at her feet and a strange, alarming expression on her face. Slowly Jerek stood up to face her, wondering what it was that caused her to react like that. In a flash he remembered, and the black rose tattoo burned into the back of his shoulder, shamefully marking him for what he really was. She had seen it.
“Tryne, I . . .”
“You work for him.”
“Tryne . . .”
“You lied to me! You said you had nothing to do with him!”
“Listen to me!” Jerek shouted, getting angry at the fact that she didn’t seem to hear him at all.
“You really are evil!”
“I never said that I wasn’t,” Jerek retorted.
“I can’t believe you’ve been working for him all this time.”
“Yeah, I have been. And you know what? I’m Nosaj’s heir. I’m the future ruler of this God-awful land. I’m his right-hand man.”
Tryne stood stunned, then shook her head. “I’m so stupid! Ken even told me I couldn’t trust you, but I didn’t listen because I . . . How could you be so manipulative?”
“I didn’t manipulate you into anything. Everything you did, you did on your own,” Jerek answered coldly. “And that was stupid of you.”
“Get out! Get away from me!” Tryne screamed, droplets forming in her eyes. “I never want to see you again!”
A pang went through Jerek’s heart, and he found himself lost for a second, unsure of how he should act, fighting against the desire to hold her. “Tryne, I . . .”
“Leave now.” She squeezed her eyes shut, turning her head away.
Silently Jerek moved past her, walking to the cottage and hastily grabbing his things, first putting on a new shirt to cover up the offending tattoo that he now loathed more than anything else in the world. Tryne was standing outside when he left, going inside and slamming the door shut as soon as he was out. Getting up on his horse, Jerek kicked its sides hard and the horse bolted forward.
Inside the cottage in the dim light that came through the window, Tryne knelt down at the side of her bed, and clasping her hands together she began to cry. In her heart she was still attached to him, she still loved him deeply, and she knew that it was wrong for her to feel that way.
Fade to White
Morning light spilled into the room and onto the unpleasant task that Jerek stood looking down on, the task that only he could do. Tryne was outside far away from the cottage door, and he had gotten her solid promise that she wouldn’t try to come inside. It smelled atrocious, of burnt flesh and hair, stale and overwhelming. Jerek hesitated, holding the burlap sack in his hands as he blanched slightly. The detached head looked up at him, its eyes more like melted gobs that ran down its cheeks and into its blackened lips. Crimson and black splotches were all that was left of the skin, and a few strands of red hair came from the skull. Slowly Jerek bent down and placed the bag next to the head, feeling even more sick as he got closer to it. Pushing it slightly with the toe of his boot, it stuck to his foot and jumped slightly when Jerek quickly pulled his foot away, turning and rolling along the wooden floor.
Jerek’s head went fuzzy and he became extremely aware of the nauseating smell that choked his nose and mouth. He lurched, fumbling to get outside, tasting the vomit in his mouth before it came up. Hunched over with his face in the grass just by the cottage, Jerek breathed heavily, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Are you all right?” Tryne called from where she was standing, pushing her shovel into the dirt and taking a few steps toward him.
“I’m fine!” he shouted back, standing up. The outside air was already clearing his head, and although he felt weaker he also felt like he could accomplish anything he needed to do.
“I think I could help you, instead of just standing out here doing nothing.”
Jerek didn’t even respond, turning his back and walking inside again. She wasn’t going to dirty her hands with this kind of work, not if he could protect her from it. Quickly, without thinking, Jerek held open the sack and kicked the head into it, immediately carrying it outside and dumping it into the hole that Tryne had dug. Both of them stood staring at it for a full minute, before Jerek started taking a few steps away.
“I’ll leave you to say goodbye . . .”
“No, wait.” Tryne grabbed the shovel and began piling dirt into the hole. “We weren’t even supposed to have anything to bury. I’ve already said my goodbyes to her.” Dropping the shovel haphazardly, Tryne flung herself at Jerek’s back, wrapping her arms around him.
Touching one of Tryne’s hands, Jerek lowered his head and softly said, “I’ll stay then.”
Tryne didn’t answer, crying quietly into the back of Jerek’s shirt.
“Run away with me,” Jerek said after a moment.
There was a pause before Tryne’s voice came quietly, “I’ve always wanted to see the Ruby Village.”
“No, outside of the Twelve Villages, far away.”
“I’m not even sure if a world does exist outside of the Twelve Villages.”
“Apparently Nosaj has a stronger grip on you than you thought.”
“Shut up! Nosaj doesn’t have any hold on me.”
“What were you saying just now?”
“Nothing” Tryne pushed Jerek away from her. “Go heat up some water to help me clean up.”
“I thought you intended to leave with me.”
“Not until after I make contact with Ken. I just can’t pick up and leave without telling him. That would be irresponsible.”
“Running away in and of itself is irresponsible.”
Pausing, Tryne sighed. “Okay, so maybe it’s not about responsibility, but I still want to tell Ken goodbye.”
“It’s unsafe for us to stay here.”
“I have confidence that you can protect me. Go on now, get the water and put it on the stove. I’ll light the fire and get the scrub brushes.” Stepping inside the cottage, Tryne wrinkled her nose. “Whew, it stinks in here. I would’ve thrown up too.”
“Don’t remind me,” Jerek grumbled.
“Are you embarrassed by it?”
“Shut up.” Jerek disappeared, coming back a few minutes later with a bucket full of water, which he poured into the kettle sitting on the cast iron stove. “Do you think we can get the smell out?”
“I don’t know, it’s worse than I ever imagined. I’m sure if we keep the window and door open for several days, and maybe steam up the room, the smell will die down.” Tryne laughed. “Or we’ll just get used to the smell and not notice it anymore.”
Jerek shook his head. “You’re a strange girl. I can’t understand why anyone would want to get used to a horrible smell.” Putting his arm to his forehead, Jerek leaned against the wall near the stove, looking down into the water in the kettle. “How hot are we getting the water?”
“I want it to at least start boiling.” Tryne paused and placed a finger against her lips, also looking at the water. “We have some time to wait.”
“You mean to say we’re going to use scalding hot water to wash your floor with? I don’t know if I want any part of this.”
“Of course you do. You may want to pull off your shoes and roll up your pants and sleeves though.”
“Because it’s more fun that way.”
“Hold on one second.” Kneeling down on the ground next to his bed, Jerek pulled out his sword and clothes from underneath and carefully laid them on top. “Just in case you get carried away.”
“If I get carried away, it won’t matter where you put your things. Don’t worry though, I’ll restrain myself.” Laughing, Tryne wrapped her arms around herself as if she was holding herself back.
Sitting down on the bed, Jerek narrowed his eyes at Tryne. “Are you taking your shoes off too?”
“Yes. Like I said, it’s more fun that way.” Bending over, Tryne pulled off her shoes and socks one by one, also bundling up the bottom of her skirt, tying it in a knot and exposing her legs. Keeping his eyes fixed on her, Jerek unlaced his boots, showing his bare feet as well. Tryne smiled coyly, dancing a little bit as she moved over to the stove. “Water’s ready!” she called, taking rags and using them to protect her hands as she pulled the kettle off the stove. “Watch your feet!” Then, splashing water all over, Tryne poured the contents onto the floor, steam filling the air. Picking up two scrub brushes, she tossed one to Jerek, then got down on her hands and knees.
“I’m not too sure about this,” Jerek said, watching her distrustfully.
“Come on, you’ll be fine. Besides, I think some hard work will do you some good.”
Cautiously, Jerek put one foot on the wet floor, then got down and began scrubbing. The first area he went over was where the head and been, and he soon found that if he quickly pushed the brush through a puddle that water would spray forward, traveling quite a distance. Looking over his shoulder, Jerek saw that Tryne was facing toward him with her head down, intent on cleaning. Twisting slightly, Jerek put his brush down and shoved it through a puddle.
Tryne yelped and fell back, completely caught off guard as the water went over her. Glaring at Jerek, who was smirking, Tryne took her brush and threw it at him, but Jerek dodged it, then slowly began crawling toward her. Tryne tried to move backwards, but she slipped and fell down, and with triumph Jerek planted his hands on either side of her head, leaning over her. Their eyes met, and Jerek moved one of his hands to brush a few strands of Tryne’s hair out of her face, her eyes closing at his touch. Leaning down, he kissed her lips softly and tenderly, then sitting back he pulled her up and kissed her again.
Putting her arms around Jerek’s waist, Tryne rested her head against his chest and murmured, “So this is for real. I was afraid last night was a one time thing.” Pausing, Tryne asked, “Why did you suddenly pull away?”
“I was afraid,” Jerek grunted.
“Afraid of what?”
“I’ve never felt this way before.” Jerek hesitated. Should he tell her the truth? He considered opening up, spilling out his heart to her and confessing who he really was. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were in love, they would be enemies. If she knew who he was, they would be enemies. He couldn’t tell her the truth, and it didn’t matter anyway because soon they would leave all of this behind them. It wasn’t necessary for her to know, it was a secret he was going to keep locked up inside him forever.
A shadow darkened the doorway and Jerek convulsively tightened his arms around Tryne. That was the only thing that stopped her from quickly pushing away and standing up. There was almost a guilty air around her as she stood facing Ken, clutching her hands together, not daring to make a move. It was Ken who spoke first, his voice dark, “Tryne, we need to talk, alone.”
“Yes, of course.” Tryne forced a nervous laugh. “Jerek, could you please finish cleaning the floor?”
He didn’t answer, simply watching as Tryne and Ken left, closing the door behind them. Then slowly Jerek picked up a scrub brush and began pushing it back and forth across the floor.
“Tryne, what the heck are you doing?” Ken said, fuming when they stopped a distance away from the cottage.
“What are you doing? I could’ve sworn you said . . .”
“I know what I said! This is what I’m saying now, and it would be in your best interest to listen to me. Don’t trust that guy! You should kick him out then disappear so he can’t find you, or better yet let me take care of him!” Ken suddenly stopped, then pleadingly added, “Please listen to me on this one.”
“Why are you saying this? What reasons are there on why I shouldn’t trust him?” Tryne asked, defiantly placing her hands on her hips.
“Because the orphans we recently took in said that a man with white hair took their big sister away, and in exchange let them all live. How many men with white hair do you think there are?”
“No, Jerek would never do anything like that!” Tryne shook her head.
“How well do you really know him? I tell you that he’s working for Nosaj!”
“You’re lying!” Tryne burst out.
“I would never lie!” Ken wrinkled his brow, his eyes looking hurt. “I care about you too much.”
“Our village was attacked yesterday . . .”
“. . . but they didn’t kill that very many people. It seems that they were just rounding people up to transport to Opal. Apparently Nosaj wants to split our forces so we’ll fall apart. He knows about our group, he knows it’s organized and that our town has some of the most active members. Any moment now they’ll be attacking your home as well.”
“They already have,” Tryne answered to be snarky, then suddenly stopped. They knew about her mother and where she lived.
“What did you just say?” Ken’s eyes widened in alarm. “They attacked your cottage? Where were you? What happened?”
“I wasn’t there.” Tryne faltered. “I was down by the stream. It could have been anyone, because the place wasn’t destroyed, just ransacked. I highly doubt anyone did it on Nosaj’s orders.”
Ken looked at her strangely for a second, then grabbed her wrist and started pulling her. “C’mon, we’re leaving right now.”
“No Ken!” Tryne tried to pull away. “Let go of me, I’m not going anywhere!”
“We don’t have time to waste, we’re in danger . . .” Ken didn’t finish his sentence, looking stunned and touching his face where Tryne had slapped him.
“I’m staying here, and I’ll be perfectly safe!” Tryne shouted, turning around and running. When she reached her cottage, she flung open the door then slammed it shut behind her. “If Ken tries to come in, grab your sword and stop him,” she ordered to Jerek who was sitting on his knees in a mild and curious confusion that was only enhanced by her words.
Tryne breathed deeply, then threw her arms around Jerek’s neck. “You’re not evil, are you?”
Jerek didn’t know how to answer. Instead he returned Tryne’s embrace, holding her tightly against him.
I’m not usually into the “large-breasted fantasy chick” thing, but as I was scrolling through Pinterest while waiting for the Excedrin to kick in, this picture caught my eye.
It reminds me of a character that I’ve had in my head for years, a character that I have every intention of writing multiple novels about.
And, well, seeing this picture makes me miss her.
I updated all of the Fade to White posts to include the ENTIRE chapter, instead of having a preview then linking to my FictionPress account. You can now read the ENTIRE story posted thus far without leaving wordpress.
Fade to White
Night had fallen before Jerek finally felt safe enough to leave the mausoleum, and after spending so much time in the graveyard he doubted all the stories he had heard. However, Tryne still kept moving her head around quickly, clinging tightly to Jerek’s arm as they walked. The horse was still there, eating the sparse leaves off the tree. Helping Tryne up first, Jerek mounted behind her, taking the reigns and urging the horse back toward the village.
“None of the buildings were destroyed,” Tryne murmured. “I wonder why.”
“I don’t think that Nosaj meant to destroy the town.”
“Head back to my house, that’s where Ken will be contacting me with any information he has.” Tryne cracked a grin. “I know you were going to suggest that we go somewhere else.”
“I can’t fight you. The only way you’ll ever leave is if your entire farm is destroyed and turned into a camping ground for Nosaj’s troops.”
“Hey, you really are learning.”
“All I had to do was figure out how stubbornly stupid you are.”
Tryne elbowed Jerek in the stomach, causing him to grunt. “You are so mean sometimes.”
“At least I’m not half as violent as you are.”
A pause. “I guess you’re right.” Tryne continued thinking as they entered the forest. “I still feel tired, even though all I’ve done is sleep. How about you?”
“I feel fine. You can sleep on the way home if you want.”
“I appreciate the thought, but there is no way I’m going to get any rest on top of a horse.”
“Especially if you keep falling off.”
Pushing on Tryne’s shoulder, Jerek laughed as she yelped and scrambled to grab hold of the saddle horn, slowly sliding more and more to the side. “You make a terrible rider.”
Glaring, Tryne looked over her shoulder at Jerek and let go, hitting the dirt with a thud. Alarmed, Jerek stopped his horse and dismounted. “Are you okay?”
“That hurt more than I thought it would,” Tryne said as Jerek grabbed her hand and helped her stand. Dusting off her skirt, Tryne tilted her head up to look down her nose at Jerek. “I hope you learned your lesson.”
“Not really,” Jerek answered, laughing. “That was pretty fun.”
“You have no idea how to treat a lady, do you?”
“I haven’t ever met one.”
“You are the biggest jerk I have ever met.”
“That’s all right. I don’t mind.” Lifting Tryne onto the horse again, Jerek mounted in front of her. “You still seem to like me.”
“I’m an idiot for that.”
“Yes you are.”
Making a move to hit Jerek, Tryne stopped herself before landing the blow. Instead, she placed her arms against Jerek’s back and rested her forehead against her hands. “Oh Jerek, why do we keep hurting each other?”
“Because we’re both malicious and cruel?”
“Then I don’t know.”
Tryne started laughing so hard she almost fell again, preventing herself from doing so by grabbing Jerek around the middle. “Let’s go faster!” she called out. “Let’s gallop!”
Urging his horse to speed up, Jerek quickly complied.
They had been trotting for a while before they reached Tryne’s cottage, and when they came into sight of it they slowed down even more. Sliding off the horse and landing lightly on her feet, Tryne stood still, staring at the building.
“The door is open,” she whispered, slowly stepping forward.
Suddenly Jerek took off on the horse, rushing past Tryne. Before the horse even stopped he flung himself down, and stumbling slightly pushed the door completely open, looking in. His eyes couldn’t penetrate the darkness, but his other senses told him that there was something severely wrong inside. Overcome, he shivered, backing away.
“What’s wrong?” Tryne asked, looking around.
“I don’t know.” Jerek paused. “We need light.”
“We have a lantern hanging on the side of the house, if you have a match to light it with.”
Feeling in his pocket for the small box of matches he always kept, Jerek then went to retrieve the lamp. Lighting it, he held the lantern out in front of him and slowly walked toward the cottage, his feet almost dragging as he was filled with the deepest sense of dread. Jerek hesitated, but Tryne pressed against his back.
Slowly the circle of light moved forward, reaching the open doorway and spilling inside, until it eventually filled a good portion of the cottage. As soon as his gaze settled on what was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, Jerek immediately turned around and pushed Tryne away, but she had already seen. Shrieking, she put her hands up to her ears, closing her eyes as the tears flowed down her cheeks. Jerek tried to wrap her in an embrace, but she pushed away, screaming and crying, “Oh my God! My mom!” hysterically.
“Tryne!” Jerek shouted at her, forcefully grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her, but she didn’t respond to him, instead fighting to break free. Putting his arms around her, Jerek squeezed her so tightly he almost expected to hear her bones crack. Unable to move, Tryne’s body collapsed and she stopped screaming, sinking to the ground and sobbing heavily in Jerek’s arms. Loosening his grip, Jerek rubbed and patted her back, trying to whisper soothingly to her but only coming up with the words, “It’s all right.” It seemed to work, because Tryne’s sobs subsided until they were both sitting silently.
Standing up, Jerek picked up the lantern and walked into the cottage, then a moment later he came back out, a bundle of blankets in his arms. Grabbing Tryne’s hand and pulling her to her feet, he began leading her to the woods.
“Where are we going?” Tryne asked with a strained voice.
“We’re sleeping under the stars tonight.” Jerek glanced sideways at her, smiling slightly. “And we need to get away from your house.”
“How could they . . . do that?”
Clutching Tryne’s hand tightly, Jerek replied, “I don’t know.”
“It was Nosaj . . . he knows.”
“It seems that way.”
“Sh. Let’s not worry about it tonight.” Jerek stopped, looking around and toeing the grass with his boot. “I think here is a good spot.” Throwing a blanket at Tryne, he advised, “You’ll want to fold it in half and sleep in between.”
Tryne pulled the blanket off her face, and laughing slightly said, “I know.” Becoming serious again, she dropped the blanket on the ground and stepped closer to Jerek. “I don’t know what I would do without you. You’ve been a major help, and it really means a lot to me that you care. I mean, you saved my life after all, and you’re always there for me.” Tryne stopped, looking briefly down then back up to Jerek, her eyes shining. “Thank you,” she whispered, leaning forward and kissing Jerek on the cheek.
It struck Jerek then what he had been longing to do for a while. It was a way to express how he felt without ever having to say the words, and with such immense emotion behind it he couldn’t see it as vulgar and disgusting, but rather desirable. Stroking his hand through Tryne’s hair and along the side of her face, stopping with his fingers underneath her chin, he tilted her head up and touched her lips with his. Shyly and briefly at first, he hovered just a centimeter away, feeling her hot breath on his lips before kissing her again, longer and deeper, growing more passionate as he put his pent up frustration, love, and anxiety into it.
Reaching around Jerek, Tryne pulled him and herself more into the kiss, closing her eyes and letting herself sink into the emotion of the kiss, feeling and loving each sensation of it. Then, disappointingly, Jerek broke it and pulled Tryne’s head against his shoulder.
“We should sleep. We’ve had a long day and tomorrow will be rough as well.” Then he let her go, leaving a cold and empty feeling where they had been touching. Jerek spread his blanket out on the grass and folded it in half, then crawling inside he lay with his back turned toward Tryne.
For the first time Jerek realized the full extent of what was happening, of what he was doing, though his heart pounded against his chest and he longed to touch Tryne again. He knew that he had already made his decision when he left the castle the last time, but now he also knew the full impact of it. His brain told him he should go away so she could be safe, but his heart told him that he should stay with her so he could ensure her safety. Even though he had wanted to continue feeling and sensing only Tryne, he was scared.