Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter 4 - The Halo
Original Photo by Dmitry Belyaev - Nastya Near the Window
Chapter IV - The Halo
Approximate read time ~ 8 minutes
Ava passed the merchant in the large, silken robes without a word or a glance. She strolled past him with no hint of personality or free will, as though some force willed her body forward. Her eyes remained fixed and unfocused while she rounded the corner, through a pair of ornate double doors, into the massive chamber she had come to hate.
The room smelled of sex, cigars, and money, the things Ava learned to hate most in her sixteen years, along with the men that used them at her expense. A wide, crystal chandelier swung from the ceiling, looming over a thick, round rug in the center of the room, a large ‘V’ stitched into its fabric. Ava despised Varin’s mark, for it prominently marred everything he owned…including her.
A large, posted bed adorned the far wall, its sheets crumpled in a heap, its blankets tossed aside. Nightstands flanked the colossal frame with equally gaudy trinkets, meant to impress and revolt at the same time. Positioned at the foot of the bed was a large, leather chair, its original brown cracked and crumbling, worn thin by excessive use. It was oversized in every way, from the wide, low base to the puffed, cushioned arms.
Ava’s eyes didn’t move as she traversed her own personal prison. She knew where everything was like the back of her hand. She knew the crack in the floorboard and the rotted planks hidden by the rug. She knew of the cracked table leg and the broken tabletop. She knew because it was her head that went through it, and her body that laid crippled beneath it. Within her prison she walked.
She instinctively reached for the straps of her emerald dress, pulling at them with mechanical precision. Ava untied the bows and loosened the threads without missing a step or blinking an eye. The deep, green threads fell from her shoulders and clung to her breasts. A slight tug allowed the fabric to cascade further, coming to rest around her waist, swinging to the metronome of her steps.
The dress fell from her hips, only to be caught by a subtle twist of her wrist, the practiced art of an experienced performer. Ava stepped out of the dress without losing momentum, tossing it aside as this world had tossed her. Her feminine frame, covered by a faint, translucent gown, glided toward an arched window along the northern end of the chamber. She peered through the tall opening, across the Outer Quarter of the city. As far as her eyes could see stood dust-covered buildings in various states of disrepair, the isolated remnants of a failed citadel.
Her eyes fell upon an old, abandoned castle, its walls falling to ruin and its banners long faded from glory. Vines grew along the parapets and enveloped the courtyard. She glared at a dilapidated stone tower, leaning heavily under the weight of abandonment. She clenched her teeth as she took in a long, steady breath. With a flourish, Ava snapped the curtains shut, engulfing herself in shadow.
Thibold Aerent stood near the chamber’s entrance, enthralled by Ava’s methodical movements. His eyes followed her from the window, around an enormous, oak table, to another, smaller window facing the sea.
“Don’t make ‘em like that where you come from, eh Thibold?” echoed a coarse, insincere voice, along with a nudge to the midsection.
The businessman flinched at the words, squealing slightly as he stepped away from Varin. Thibold’s eyes flickered between Ava and Mr. Wray as he soaked in the curious spectacle.
“Err…no, actually,” Thibold began. “I would certainly say they do not.” Both men turned their attention back to the young woman as she lifted her leg and slid onto the windowsill. She never took a sideways glance, never reacted to their words, yet she was painfully aware of every word and every thought.
Ava sat in the window and sighed as families filed out of the inn and boarded the Promenade. She felt their excitement as their hopes bloomed into reality, and longed for the troubles of Wyvern’s Rest to fall away.
She yearned to shed a decade of waste and ruin, then watched as each family fulfilled her dream…to simply leave. Ava felt a small tear race down her cheek, but she ignored it; for it was no different from the one she shed yesterday, or every day before that. Ava learned to ignore her emotions, the brittle seal of a fragile vase; yet as she watched the people she knew escape this place, a singular thought surfaced. “Please…take me with you.”
The crisp, ocean air swept through her open window while those haunted words replayed themselves in her mind. The sun highlighted her blonde hair and her brilliant blue eyes as she awakened from her daydream, startled and afraid.
Her senses returned, with them the familiar sight of the market below, the ships docked in the peer, and her favorite place, the old windowsill that overlooked it all. While she peered out the portal of her own prison, she reminisced about her friends, the old market, and a life that got lonelier with each passing year.
“Isn’t that right, bitch?” came a gruff voice from the center of the room. Ava jumped at the words, but continued to gaze out the window. She loathed the voice, and the man behind it. She suppressed the hate that swelled when she heard it and the sickness that crept up her stomach with each gristly word.
“Did you hear me, wench?” he bellowed again, more intense than before. Ava knew of Varin’s lack of patience. She also knew of his lack of empathy, composure, and common decency. A fat, slobbering man with stubble on his face and a stench about his body, Varin Wray was the epitome of everything Ava hated about Wyvern’s Rest, and men in general. The sight of him made her skin crawl, and his scent became the terror from which her nightmares were born.
Ava realized she had not answered her master’s questions. She learned at an early age to retreat inside her mind, to block her reality. It did nothing, however, to appease her master. With reluctance, Ava let down her feet and stood before the window. She knew the expectation. She clasped her hands and shrugged her shoulders, perceived innocence skillfully etched across her porcelain features.
“Yes,” she stated in a calm, ethereal voice. She realized she had no idea what she agreed to, though history had proven this was always the safest word, when in doubt.
She yearned to expand upon her simple statement. Yes, you worthless piece of shit. Yes, I would love to see the look in your eyes when I kill you, but she knew what happened when she spoke out of line…or out of turn…or just, spoke. She knew that her owner rarely needed a reason to raise a hand to her face, yet it happened…frequently.
“Yes…….what,” Varin said in an irreverent tone, laughing at his new business partner. The last word dripped from his tongue and Ava sensed the venom that dripped with it. The man wriggled into his oversized chair, waving his hands to Thibold, urging him to remove his robes and take a seat on the bed.
“This is my favorite part,” he whispered to Mr. Aerent, though Ava heard. She always heard.
Ava stood before the window, watching two fat, round men conspire against her. She watched as they laughed and made rude gestures in her direction. She witnessed the ridiculous man loosen his robes and position himself in the middle of the bed…a man she had helped moments earlier. And she watched a hideous man settling into his easy chair, preparing for the show.
Her hatred boiled, but she could do nothing to stop the inevitable. She glanced out of the second story window, at the cobblestone and broken bricks below. She wondered if it would hurt, if it would be over as quick as she wanted. Then she looked at her wrists, remembering all the other times it was not.
“Yes……..my king,” she said under her breath.
The words were a wretched poison. Varin Wray was no more a king than the lepers outside the city; however, in this inn…in this city…in this god-forsaken world, this young angel must revere him. She refused to face him, but she did not have to. She was young, but she knew what it meant when men stared at her, or when they suddenly fell silent. She understood their thoughts, just as she understood Varin’s…and she hated them for it.
Varin was sitting up in his chair, his cigar hanging limply on the edge on his lips. Mr. Aerent was simply staring. His robes were loosened, but all attempts to remove them had suddenly stopped. Both men were staring, open mouthed and wordless, at Ava.
Her eyes drifted away from the men. She turned and gazed upon her windowsill as a child would a broken toy. She reached for the drapes, to face her prison, and noticed her arms. She saw her delicate skin reflect through the sheer fabric. She witnessed the morning sun pour through her window, straight through Varin’s young ‘prize.’ The beam of light struck Ava’s sheer white gown and made it transparent, a soft halo that encompassed her tender female form.
She looked again and saw her legs, her stomach, and her chest. The shy, innocent teen stood before the window fully clothed, but might as well have been completely naked, all thanks to the sun, the one thing she still loved in this dark, unforgiving world.
Ava made a revelation in that moment. She realized she didn’t care. She didn’t care that the hideous men stared at her or that the market below could see her. In that moment of self-revelation, she became numb. She lost the desire to care and the will to dream. She lost herself to the most reprehensible being she knew, and the ‘customers’ he brought her every night. She lost herself to the perversion that would sit and watch from his over-sized chair.
The young girl turned her attention back to her window and the joyous line of passengers. Her feeling of loneliness turned to jealousy, then to resentment as the recognition increased, of people she knew, of friends she would lose. Her eyes scanned the crowd of faces and the people that would leave her behind. They came across a tall young man with long hair, pulled tight behind his head. While the rest of the crowd looked forward, he looked back, his eyes locked on the old Inn…on Ava’s window
She leaned forward and reached out, placing a slender hand on her window. “Taryn,” she whispered. “You can’t!” Her heart ached as her friend stared back through her window. His apologetic eyes remained fixed, even though the crowd pressed forward. As he was pushed up the pier, he mouthed a simple statement that only Ava could see…I’m sorry.
Ava collapsed back onto her windowsill. She blocked out the men in the room, and the life she led. She blocked it all from her mind and just stared…at the people, at the ships, at the lives that were not hers. The tear returned to her cheek as she stared out over the harbor. Her eyes returned to Taryn and the Promenade. While the vessel of hopes and dreams sat in the docks, those familiar words crept back into her mind, “please, take me with you.”
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Mists of Kel Doran