Things Escalate 11

"I would like to hear it," he replied. "Would you tell it to me?"

“Once upon a time there was a little lass who wanted nothing more than to touch the stars in the sky. On clear, moonless nights she would lean out her bedroom window, gazing up at the thousand tiny lights scattered across the heavens, wondering what it would be like to hold one in her hand. One warm summer evening, a night when the Milky Way shined more brightly than ever before, she decided she couldn't stand it any longer-she just had to touch a star or two, no matter what. So she slipped out the window and started off by herself to see if she could reach them.She walked a far, far way, and then farther still, until she came to a mill wheel, creaking and grinding away. "Good evening," she said to the mill wheel. "I would like to play with the stars in the sky. Have you seen any near here?"

"Ah, yes," groaned the old mill wheel. "Every night they shine in my face from the surface of this pond until I cannot sleep. Jump in, my lass, and you will find them." The little girl jumped into the pond and swam around until her arms were so tired she could swim no longer, but she could not find any stars "Excuse me," she called to the old mill wheel, "but I don't believe there are any stars here after all!"

"Well, there certainly were before you jumped in and stirred the water up," the mill wheel called back. So she climbed out and dried herself off as best she could, and set out again across the fields.After a while she came to a little brook, murmuring over its mossy stones "Good evening, brooklet," she said politely. "I'm trying to reach the stars in the sky so I may play with them. Have you seen any near here?"

"Ah, yes," whispered the brooklet. "They glint on my banks at night until I cannot sleep. Wade in, my lassie, and you will find them." So the little girl waded in and paddled around for a while, and climbed all over the mossy rocks, but never once did she find a star "Excuse me," she said as politely as she could, "but I just don't think there are any stars here."

"What do you mean, no stars here?" the little brook babbled. "There are lots of stars here. I see them all the time. On some nights, they cover me from the edge of the woods all the way down to the old mill pond. I have more stars here than I know what to do with." And the brooklet babbled on and on until it even forgot the little girl was there, so she tiptoed away across the fields. After a while she sat down to rest in a meadow, and it must have been a fairy meadow, because before she knew it a hundred little fairies came scampering out to dance on the grass. They were no taller than toadstools, but they were dressed in silver and gold "Good evening, Little Folk," said the girl. "I'm trying to reach the stars in the sky. Have you seen any near here?"

"Ah, yes," sang the fairies. "They glisten every night among the blades of the grass. Come and dance with us, little lass, and you will find as many stars as you like." So the child danced and danced, she whirled round and round in a ring with the Little Folk, but though the grass gleamed beneath her feet, she never spied a single star. Finally she could dance no longer, and she plopped down inside the ring of fairies "I've tried and I've tried, but I can't seem to reach the stars down here," she cried. "If you don't help me, I'll never find any to play with." The fairies all whispered together. Finally one of them crept up and took her by the hand, and said: "If you're really determined, you must go forward. Keep going forward, and mind you take the right road. Ask Four Feet to carry you to No Feet At All, and then tell No Feet At All to carry you to the Stairs Without Steps, and if you climb that..."

"Then I'll be among the stars in the sky?" cried the lassie.

"If you'll not be there, then you'll be somewhere else, won't you?" laughed the fairy, and he vanished with all the rest. So the little girl set out again with a light heart, and by and by she came to a saddled horse, tied to a tree. "Good evening," she said. "I'm trying to reach the stars in the sky, and I've come so far my bones are aching. Will you give me a ride?"

"I don't know anything about stars in the sky," the horse replied. "I'm here only to do the bidding of the Little Folk."

"But I come from the Little Folk," she cried, "and they said to tell Four Feet to carry me to No Feet At All."

"Four Feet? That's me!" the horse whinnied. "Jump up and ride with me." They rode and they rode and they rode, till they rode out of the forest and found themselves at the edge of the sea "I've brought you to the end of the land, and that's as much as Four Feet can do," said the horse. "Now I must get home to my own folk." So the little girl slid down and walked along the sea, wondering what in the world she would do next, until suddenly the biggest fish she'd ever seen came swimming up to her feet "Good evening," she said to the fish. "I'm trying to reach the stars in the sky. Can you help me?"

"I'm afraid I can't," gurgled the fish, unless, of course, you bring pie word from the Little Folk."

"But I do," she cried. "They said Four Feet would bring me to No Feet At All, and then No Feet At All would carry me to the Stairs Without Steps."

"Ah, well," said the fish, "that's all right then. Get on my back and hold on tight." And off he went-kerplash!-into the water, swimming along a silver path that glistened on the surface and seemed to stretch toward the end of the sea, where the water met the sky. There, in the distance, the little girl saw a beautiful rainbow rising out of the ocean and into the heavens, shining with all the colors in the world, blues and reds and greens, and wonderful to look at. The nearer they drew, the brighter it gleamed, until she had to shade her eyes from its light. At last they came to the foot of it, and she saw the rainbow was really a broad bright road, sloping up and away into the sky, and at the far, far end of it she could see wee shining things dancing about "I can go no further," said the fish. "Here are the Stairs Without Steps. Climb up, if you can, but hold on tight. These stairs were never meant for little lassies' feet, you know. " So the little girl jumped off No Feet's back, and off he splashed through the water. She climbed and she climbed and she climbed up the rainbow. It wasn't easy. Every time she took one step, she seemed to slide back two. And even though she climbed until the sea was far below, the stars in the sky looked farther away than ever "But I won't give up, " she told herself "I've come so far, I can't go back." Up and up she went. The air grew colder and colder, but the sky turned brighter and brighter, and finally she could tell she was nearing the stars "I'm almost there!" she cried. And sure enough, suddenly she reached the very tip-top of the rainbow. Everywhere she looked, the stars were turning and dancing. They raced up and down, and back and forth, and spun in a thousand colors around her "I'm finally here, " she whispered to herself She had never seen anything so beautiful before, and she stood gazing and wondering at the heavens.But after a while she realized she was shivering with cold, and when she looked down into the darkness, she could no longer see the earth. She wondered where her own home was, so far away, but no street lamps or window lights marked the blackness below. She began to feel a little dizzy "I won't go until I touch one star." she told herself, and she stood on her toes and stretched her arms as high as she could. She reached further and further-and suddenly a shooting star zipped by and surprised her so much she lost her balance. Down she slid, down-down-down the rainbow. The further she slid, the warmer it grew, and the warmer it grew, the sleepier she felt. She gave a great yawn, and a small sigh, and before she knew it, she was fast asleep. When she woke up, she found herself in her very own bed. The sun was peeking through her window, and the morning birds sangin the bushes and trees "Did I really touch the stars?" she asked herself "Or was it only a dream?" Then she felt something in her hand. When she opened her fist, a tiny light flashed in her palm, and at once was gone, and she smiled because she knew it was a speck of stardust.“ she said finishing

"It's a beautiful story," he said. "A tale of never giving up on your dreams. I think your grandmother was telling you something very important in that tale."

“Maybe....you should have heard her tell it..it was much better..” she said looking down t her hands

He made her look at him and said, "I prefer your telling. Your voice was quite calming."

“Do you ever wish you could touch the stars?” She asked in a soft tone meeting his gaze

He took her hand and said, "I already get to touch my star. I need no other."

She looked at him with a soft smile “your being weird...” she said with a chuckling tone “aren’t you going to demand that I accept I’ll never be able to touch the stars...or be able to make such a long journey without you” she said mimicking him

He laughed and said, "Not at all. Because I'd get the star for you."

She gave him a ‘really’ kind of look that made her face crouch up all cute like “what if I want to get it myself?” She asked folding her arms

"Then, I will be there next to you, supporting you every step of the way," he said. "I will help when you need me, encourage you when you feel down, and celebrate your victory, proud of your accomplishments."

She stood up and walked to the edge of the cliff that over looked the ocean “my grandmother use to say that the earth reflected the heavens because we could never reach them while we were alive.... now I’ll never get to reach them to be with her or the rest of my family....” she said looking down at the water

"What do you mean?" Grigore asked, standing to go to her.

“She is not Carpathian...she wouldn’t have gone where your kind goes...think what you want but our religion says that humans go to a different place then your kind..”

"Except that, from what I have studied, the place we go to repent is called Limbo or Purgatory," he said. "The Tree of Life is for the souls who are to stay in the afterlife, those that go to the branches return, and those that sink into the ground at any point are destroyed for all time. I have come to learn that, while many have different names, we all essentially go to the same place. I have no doubt that your mother and grandmother will be reborn again, able to find their other half. And, when you are all ready, you will meet once more."

“But we won’t know it...in our religion we will all be together again and the souls of or families are suppose to watch over us...now I have to suffer for god knows how long as this......thing , a thing that drinks blood and...”

"Do I also repulse you?" he asked, saying by the bench. "Because I drink blood, just like a vampire. So, am I also so disgusting?"

“I want you too more then you do....you forced yourself on me and hurt me...you make me do things I don’t want to do...I can still remember the pain you caused when you took my....chasity” she said not looking at him “I don’t understand the difference between Carpathian and vampires, they kill to feel and you do the same, you kill them and others on the chance you will get to feel agin with a mate...” she said

"I do not kill those I feed from," he said. "I treat them with respect. I kill to protect others, not to cause them pain for my enjoyment. Vampires don't have a soul, but I do." He sat down. "Is that how you see me? As a soulless being?"

“Did you not take what you wanted....did you not bend my will to yours...” she said in a sad tone

Grigore said, "I did what was necessary to save you, though I wanted to wait until you came to me of your own free will. But not once have I ever compelled you to do anything. I distanced you when feeding, but only to protect you as you were not yet ready to accept that, even with your life in danger. That is not the same as taking free will."

“If you were able to...if the ward were not In my mind I’m sure you would have and even then....did you have to hurt me when you...did it”

"I would never compel you to do something like that!" he said, going to her and taking her hand. "And I didn't like that it hurt you! I know that a woman's first time hurts, but I was quickly losing you! If I could do it over again, if your life hadn't been in danger, it would have been very different!"

She removed her hand from his “you yelled at me...bruised me...made me bleed..it was more then you just saving my life” she said

He said, "Do you know what it's like, watching the woman you love die in your arms from something you can't see? Being unable to protect her when you vowed to give your life for hers? To feel her life and your soul slowly slip away? To have your heart shatter at seeing her give up on life because you have no idea how to save her? I had only one lifeline, Indira. And I grabbed it with both hands. I chose to save you." He began walking down the mountain. "Hate me if you want, but I wanted a chance at life with you. Forgive me for thinking you might have thought the same if our roles were reversed."

She didn’t stop him, she knew he would not acknowledge it. She just sat on the edge, her feet dangling off the edge
——————-

"I am a hunter," said Indira through gritted teeth as she put the plants together in one basket, not bothering to separate or even pay attention to the fact she had twigs in with the flowers. "I've been hunting since my brother turned 50. I protect him, just as he protects me. He does his part and I do mine. Equal. I can smell a vampire better than him, and he pays attention to the plants. It's not stupid, it's playing to my strengths with a partner to compensate for what I lack." She glared at the girl. "What's stupid is being forced to do something that you can't, or have no interest in. This is boring!"

A shadow fell over her and the air felt like it had dropped several degrees just around her. Fear enveloped her. She didn't dare move.

Suddenly her hair was grabbed roughly, when she opened her mouth to make a sound a hand full of what she had in her basket was shoved into her mouth. A strong hand forced her to swallow “take her back to her room, under no circumstances is anyone to help her or bring her any comfort” said eriks dark tone

"What did you do to me?!" she asked.

He growled and bared his fangs tat her inches from her face “you did this to yourself, your carelessness and ignorance and disrespect did this, you are no warrior but a child, you did nothing but burden your brother and make his job harder, a job of a hunter is hard enough without some spoiled ignorant brat going into battle, you were careless with these herbs now you will feel what your carelessness might have done to someone else” he said As he painful pulled her too her feet and a hunter came and made her start walking by holding her arm in a tight grip

She started sweating and breathing heavy. Her vision blurred. She started having trouble walking. She heard someone screaming from far away. Did... did someone get hurt in a battle? she thought to herself. I wonder why they are hurting so much and why no one is going to help.

—————

He followed after her and said, "I thought we were done for the day. We talked about your plan with the others last night, and then the trial with the idiot today. I had nothing else on my to do list."

She stopped and turn to him with a glare “that is not true...I’ll meet you at the car” she said and walked off

"Wait!" he said. "What am I missing? Because, the way you sound, it was something very important that we had planned for months or something, but I have no memory of such an event."

When he went out of the room she was already gone

"What am I missing?" he asked.

He pulled out his phone and texted Bethany, 'Anastasia is acting as if we have plans, but I don't know what I have forgotten that has made her so upset.'

After a moment he got a message back ‘please tell me your joking’ she wrote

'No, I'm not,' he said back. 'We don't have holidays, and birthdays aren't really celebrated because of how long we live, and I don't remember much about anniversaries other than gift exchanges if you want, but mostly it was sending the kids to someone else's house for the night while the parents had a night to themselves.'

‘Anthony tomorrow night is Ana’s official ceremony with her pack, she is going to be their official guardian of all, the one chosen to be the second to the alpha, I can’t believe you forgot , she is going to kill you’ she wrote.

'I remember her talking about something a while back, but Erik and I were discussing things. I was busy and I said sure. She wasn't talking about... oh, shit! I wasn't paying attention! I was worried about safety messures! I didn't realize she was talking about a ceremony!'

‘Anthony...this is bad, that ceremony is one of this biggest deals in her pack, it’s like erik being your second Except her people personally chose her for it. She is technically an outsider too which made this even more rare. I’m already on my way there now with my family and Adam’ she wrote

'Where is it?! I have to be there, Bethany! I can't believe I didn't realize!... I also want to get her a gift as an apology. I will make it on the way. But I need to know where it is!"

‘It’s on her pack lands tomorrow night’ she wrote and that’s when it really sunk in. Tomorrow he was suppose to have the meeting with the red mage

'I... I can't go... I was kind of... forced into doing something else that day.'

There was no reply for a few minutes ‘I can’t help you with this I’m sorry, I hope everything works out for you two’

'Bethany, tell her that I am sorry. I never meant to hurt her. I was trying to do the right thing.'

‘That’s something you need to do yourself and you know it’

'Okay. Do you know where she is?'

‘No I have not heard from her, I didn’t know anything was wrong until you messaged me’

'I'll go find her then.'

He put his phone away and began searching. Anastasia, I need to talk to you. Please, tell me where you are. I wish to say this in person.

I’m at the car wait like I said......what do you need to say?

He arrived at the car and took her hand, saying, "I am sorry. I didn't realize what tomorrow was." He played the memory for her. "I should have paid more attention, then and now. I want to be there for you, more than anything. But our children, our people, me and you, none of us will have a future if I don't comply with Her. I need your help, Anastasia. I know I'm a moron, and I thoughtlessly hurt you again. Forgive me, though I don't know if I really deserve it."

“It doesn’t matter anymore because I have decided to go with you” she said not looking at him

"You know the condition was that I go alone," he said. "Besides, I would not want to risk you getting hurt. I will be touching your mind at all times, and if I were to suddenly be gone, you would know then that I was in danger." He made her look at him. "I want you beside me, more than anything. But she will kill everyone if she even senses you there, and you know it. We talked about this."

“Then I better make sure she doesn’t sense me “ she said in a determined serious tone

"That takes many decades to learn," he said. "Even as a Guardian, she has sensed you where others have not. I do not want to risk you for my own comfort."

“Let’s just go enjoy the rest of the night “ she said after a moment

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