The Children of Eris
“I’m sorry for your loss,” the receptionist said, passing Kella three large brown envelopes. “These are the death certificates for your brother and his party, and also letters of compensation to give to the bank in order to receive the life insurance and the Rhams that Prince Julius has given the families of the deceased. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask any member of the guild whenever. All of us are here for you.”
Kella said nothing, took the envelopes and slowly stumbled out of the Stonefall guild branch.
Her vision was blurry.
Her thoughts were in disarray.
Her heart felt cold and empty.
It took all Kella had to even keep walking, her legs threatening to give out at any moment from the pain inside of her.
She could see images of her brother’s smiling face.
Of the girl she looked up to like an older sister.
Of the good friend she’d made as an adventurer.
Connor, Alisa, Tiergan…did you leave me behind because you knew you’d die?
If you did…Tears formed in her eyes. What was the point?
Kella’s knees started to give out.
Just as they did, someone grabbed her from the front and held her up.
“…I heard about what happened at Black Port,” the cloaked masked man said, helping her onto her feet. He then reached into his pocket and handed her a handkerchief. “I’m so sorry.”
“…Allaric,” Kella whispered with a sad smile.
“…Walk me home.”
By the time Kella had led David to her home, a small one floor house in the eastern part of the city, her tears had dried, leaving her eyes a painful red.
It had no interior walls, four beds, a kitchen, wardrobes, a table and chair set, and treasured belongings hanging on the walls, from paintings and spare equipment, to what David guessed were mementoes from their adventurers.
“Want something to eat or drink?” Kella offered.
“Water, thank you,” David replied, awkwardly taking a seat at the table.
Kella got out two glasses, then placed them one at a time beneath a pump, dispensing water into them. She handed one to David and sat beside him, her eyes focused on her hands.
I did this to her and yet I’m the one here comforting her, David thought, trying his best not to let his anguish show.
…How fucked up can someone get?
“…Who did you lose?”
“…My brother, Connor, the girl he loved, Alisa, and a good friend, Tiergan,” Kella whispered with a tiny smile.
Even now she’s still trying to stay positive.
“…What about their bodies?” David asked softly.
Kella nodded. “They’re being sent home for a funeral at the cemetery here in the city. Prince Julius himself is apparently going to be in attendance.”
He was the one that gathered and led the army to Black Port. He sprung into action as soon as he could and sent extra money to the families of the dead adventurers…he sounds like a great guy.
Silence fell upon the house.
For many minutes, neither of them spoke and just sat uncomfortably in silence.
Once she was done with her drink, Kella stood up and moved over to a weapon’s rack near one of the beds. She picked up a wooden training sword and held it lovingly in her hands.
“My father bought this for Connor when he was four,” Kella began, stroking the wood gently. “When Connor said he wanted to be an adventurer when he grew up, my dad roared with laughter and said if he trained with this sword for two hours a day, he’d allow it. Connor did three hours a day just to show off. His muscles hurt so much every time but that never stopped him.”
Kella placed the weapon back in the rack and then moved to a painting of Kella’s family.
“This was the last birthday gift my mum got me before I left home with Connor to become an adventurer,” Kella said, touching her brother’s face. “I was sixteen when I left to take the exam and we both managed to pass with flying colours. The examiner said we might be two of the best adventurers he’d ever seen.” Kella laughed bitterly. “If only that was true.”
David’s face went ghost white.
He recognised the faces of the people in the picture.
…They’re the ones I killed. The world began to spin and time slowed to a crawl. I…I did this…I killed them.
I did it myself.
Beneath the picture on a bedside table was a small, fancy blue box which Kella didn’t touch.
She just looked at it and her body began to shake.
“…Connor told me that he was going to confess to her at year’s end this year,” Kella whispered. “He said that he wanted to make it special, so he was going to wait for the right moment to do it. I said it’s so far away, why bother? You missed the last one, so just do it on her birthday or something. Connor said he’d think about it, but Tiergan said he should just man up and do it, before it’s…too late…before she’s taken by someone else.
“We told him that weeks ago and he still didn’t have the courage to do it.”
As Kella had bitterly gone through her treasured memories, David could only sit back and watch in agony.
Every time she told him more about someone he’d gotten killed, David had been shivering, he had been sweating, and he was being crushed by a weight far heavier and more painful than anything Eris had done to him.
…I, my people, my army, took from Kella her family, her friends and made her like this, David thought, digging his nails deep into his thighs, trying to draw blood, but he couldn’t. If I had just told Kella back in Themis not to let her brother go or maybe if I hadn’t attacked Black Port, or maybe if…if I had just done this outside of the Empire, they’d still be alive.
David’s face went ghost white.
…I did the same thing that Eris did.
She took me from my family and I took Kella’s from her.
David wanted to throw up, but he couldn’t.
He had to swallow it every time it crawled up his throat, he had to ignore it every time his heart whispered in his ear; he had to bear it.
What’s done is done. I have to keep this from Kella, no matter what.
David stood up, forcing every other thought but Kella from his mind and hugged her from behind, shutting his eyes.
“…I don’t know what I can do to help, but I’m here for you,” David said, holding her tighter. “If you need to cry, then I’ll hold you. If you need someone to comfort you, I’ll do my best. If you need anything, I’ll get it for you.”
Kella began to weep and relaxed against David, tears streaming down her face. She turned around and buried herself into David’s chest and cried loudly. She tried to say something to David, but he didn’t hear what she said; he just kept his eyes and ears closed as he embraced her.
“Stay here with me. Please.” She looked up at him with a fragile expression. “Don’t leave me alone.”
David swallowed hard. “I won’t.”
Kella forced a small smile on her face, then brought her lips to David’s.
When David didn’t reject her advances, Kella continued kissing him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
David didn’t try to stop Kella as she pulled them over onto her bed. She laid down and began pulling her shirt off as she kissed him.
…I-I…I’m so sorry, Kella.
Long before night had fallen, Kella had fallen asleep in David’s arms.
He lay by her side and stroked her hair whenever she stirred in her sleep.
Kella, the kind, sweet woman that David had met in the capital, who told him he wasn’t a monster now looked so frail and weak lying beside David.
With his own two hands, David had destroyed Kella’s life.
Then, he’d been the one to comfort her.
To save my life and my family’s, I killed hers.
It was the most heart wrenching and distressing feeling in the world.
He had sentenced others to death, ordered them tortured and destroyed a city to keep his family safe and, in doing so, he had hurt the person he treasured most in this world.
“…It’s selfish of me to even say this, but please don’t hate me when you find out,” David mumbled.
The next day, David left Kella’s home after she told him she was going to be with her family at Pilgrim’s Post.
In her darkness, Eris watched on bemused, an evil sneer on her face.
“I wonder what kind of face she’d make if she ever found out who killed her precious family,” she wondered, giggling.
Her sneer grew into a vile grin, one that she hadn’t shown David yet and one so terrifying, so sadistic and so evil that even other Gods that saw it trembled in her presence.
“I wonder, David Athelward, how much longer can you lie to yourself?”