Chapter 6:

It was HER

Vampire Lanterns

Demyan was confused at first. She slowly kneeled down and started to beg him. "Please, don't misunderstand it. I didn't steal it... It was a gift from... Please, keep it a secret... I beg you!" He knew she didn't steal it, because it was a present from him. In reality, he was glad he met his "friend" at last.
She was the one, who distracted him from the dark thoughts five years ago, who kept him going for another few years... Demyan took her chin between his fingers and lifted it. She looked into his smiling eyes. Petrona blushed, she felt warm and secure with Yan.
She decided to disclose to him her secret... It was dangerous, but something inside her assured her, she could do it. "Can I trust you with something? Would you keep it a secret?" He nodded. Demyan helped her up and they both sat down on both sides of the window bench across each other. Petrona looked out over the forest at the castle in the Waste Lands.

"Well, you see... The castle over there... Someone lonely as me lived in that tower." She rested her head against the frame and with a dreamy look kept staring at the building far away in the distance. "Around five years ago, I fell on hard times. Had to sell everything I owned before. This room was almost empty, with some straw on the floor as a bed and rags for blankets." Her gaze wandered towards the ground in front.
"I had a fight with an influential lady over a kid stealing from hunger... She took my stance as an insult and in the contrary, she took away my previous job, my salary for that month and my dignity..."
Petrona's eyes narrowed in sadness.
"She dared anybody to help me. Mirko and Luka had to just... watch. Mirko couldn
't risk his livelihood and Luka couldn't do anything, because of the diplomatic troubles it could cause with his tribe. They both are bothered by it to this day. From time to time apologizing...
That was the time, I decided to work hard and leave this damn place forever. Sitting at this exact place; looking out of the window, which had different painted glass before and there, where you are sitting; on the ceiling hung some little bells made also out of glass.
The daughter of the building owner, who always disliked me barged inside to pick a fight. She was mocking me, asking for money in advance, because she was "worried", I wouldn
't pay or she should just throw me out right then and there.
I tried my best to ignore her verbal abuse that whole time and that triggered her to assault me."
Demyan's mouth opened in shock and anger. "At first she slapped me and then kept hitting me with her fists. I tried to defend myself and we began to struggle so much, that the bells got broken in the process and the falling shards scratched her cheek.
She lost it and pushed me into the window breaking it as well. She kept hitting and even kicking me... After she was done I was covered in my own blood; just laying on the window looking outside contemplating to just end it. The glass of the window was twisted and all over the place.
Suddenly, when I wanted to climb up on the window and..."
Petrona's voice trembled. "...a light... appeared on my face and I lifted my gaze from the reflection in the river up... searching for the source and I saw someone was shinning something intentionally my way.
It resurrected my dying spirit, because I felt like someone on the other side cared. Instantly my grim, lonely mood left... You see, the Waste Lands are told to be full of demons, cruel creatures and merciless vampires, but I know, they are not all bad...

Once a Goblin, which lost its way in our forest helped me, when my foot got stuck. I thought, it would just kill me. I was frightened. He was on a journey, just to get some special healing herbs and he came across me. I saw a paper with some drawings he dropped, as he was helping me and then abruptly left. I guess, he knew I was scared of him.
I drew a map for the nice Goblin on the other side and placed it on the rock he moved for me. He probably noticed he lost it and came back to search for the paper. I was hiding nearby, he smiled, when he saw the map and walked away in that direction...

That brings me back to the castle story and someone, who I consider my lifesaver. With my new friend from the castle, we were exchanging those light messages almost every night. Until last year... Short before the festival, that person disappeared, never to be seen or heard again. I really missed those times...
You see, for a few years now, I have been sending that person a special lantern as a thank you, for taking me out of my darkest place and saving my life. Well, I didn
't expect anything in return, but I always had something lying on my window sill the next morning.
That ring was the first-ever gift. I kept with the lantern tradition from then on. The next year another piece of jewelry appeared and it continued. Sadly, I couldn
't keep them all in here, because it would bring up suspicions, that I was stealing, especially, because these gems are so rare in this part of the country and so darn expensive.
Only royalty can wear jewelry anyway. I kept this one ring and the rest I sold near the harbor at the black market. With that money, I could buy wood and build my own furniture and also I bought a ship ticket to leave this place forever.
Even, when I didn
't receive any light messages from that person last year, I still sent a lantern over... and I wish to do it this year as well; even... when the receiver might be on the "other side..."  Her eyes filled with tears... "As a parting gift, remembering my late friend and showing my honest gratitude."

Demyan touched by her story, stretched out his arm and pulled her into his lap for an embrace. He hugged her tightly internally thanking her. In reality that crucial day, they saved each other's lives.
Petrona was confused and flustered over the sudden physical affection. But that was cut short, as soon, as she noticed his ear... it was pierced... only royalty was allowed to do it... Yan was of ROYAL BLOOD?!
Did she just confess to a royal man about her blasphemous story and forbidden opinions? That could cost her life... Will he try now to use it against her? She got scared and froze. Demyan noticed it. He thought, he overstepped a released his grip.
She dropped to the floor shaking. "Please... my LORD! Forgive me for all my sins against you... for not recognizing your rank and my foolishness to address you like an equal... I was wrong! Please don't kill me, for possessing jewelry, which doesn't belong in peasants' hands..."
Now it came to light, what her sudden change in behavior was about. He helped her to stand up once again. Petrona was still shaking and he hugged her once more, pushing her face against his stomach. Since he was that tall and her that short. Stroking her hair to calm her mind down, he peeked downwards and she lifted her eyes up towards him.

Those hazel eyes... this angle... that nightmare!!!