||[Aug. 1st, 2018|12:05 am]
The girls had been planning details about the wedding for hours. He had offered them the use of his chambers because Catania hadn't been feeling well but insisted on speaking to Amberle about some of the ideas she'd had. Keeping busy by setting her mind on something pleasant seemed to help with the morning sickness, so he'd gracefully bowed out and let them do what they did best. Once he'd returned hours later, he found them both asleep and didn't have the heart to wake his niece, so he'd covered them both up and retired to the main room. He wasn't tired yet - at least he hadn't thought so, but at some point he dozed off.|
Nightmares were common for him. They'd plagued him ever since his family had begun being slaughtered, one by one. The black, soulless eyes of the Dagda Mor haunted him frequently, but this time the dream was different - far more intense. Amberle' screams pierced through the palace walls. He immediately took off running in the direction it'd come from: the nursery. He arrived just in time to see the blade pierce his niece's heart, her body falling to the floor in a pool of blood. His heart was beating so fast it felt like it was going to leap right out of his chest as he dropped to her side, only once again, he was too late. Catania was in the room, only she didn't move or cry out as he had - just stood there with a sadistic smile on her face cradling the lifeless body of their infant daughter. He parted his lips to ask why, when a flash of red flickered in her eyes. She knelt beside him, tauntingly running a finger down his jawline as she placed their child's tiny limp frame in front of him. The Dagda Mor chuckled, basking in his triumph of robbing Ander of everything he held dear. Ander's entire body trembled violently as he scooped up his baby girl and cradled her in his arms, letting out another long agonizing scream.
It was then that he felt the firm grasp on his shoulders, and his eyes shot open. Terror was etched across every inch of his face and real tears had formed in his eyes, threatening to fall. His breathing only slowed in the slightest when his gaze met Allanon's dark, concerned stare.
"Relax, Your Grace. It was only a dream."
Allanon often roamed the halls at night needing far less sleep than the others and had heard the commotion from inside. It had taken several minutes to roust him, but he had refused to abandon the young king in his time of need.
Somehow Allanon's steady grip had a calming effect on him, but the images continued to replay themselves over and over again in Ander's head. He said nothing as he fought to compose himself, although he finally nodded to show he was alright.
Once Allanon took a step back, he lifted his hands and ran them roughly across his face, trying to shake off the uneasy feeling that still remained. "Please don't tell anyone about this," he quietly pleaded.
They were all worried about him already - ever since he'd gotten back. There was no question that he was a changed man because of what he'd seen and been through these past couple years, but he was their king: he was supposed to look after them, not the other way around.
Allanon had never been much of a conversationalist, so it should have gone without saying that he would not repeat what he'd just witnessed to anyone. However, he gave a compliant nod to reassure Ander of his silence. "I am here for you, Your Majesty - just as I was for your father. Whatever you confide in me will never leave this room." It was an invitation to talk about what he'd seen in his dream, but he would not force it. He could read the boy's mind and spare the other from having to verbally express what had him so terrified that his entire body continued to tremble with fear, but he chose not to intrude on anyone's personal thoughts without their consent unless the fate of The Four Lands was at stake or some other pressing matter.
There was a long pause as Ander pondered whether he should say anything or just try to let it go. It wasn't that he didn't trust the Druid. He just didn't see much of a point in talking about it. But the sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach lingered, and a part of him needed affirmation that what he'd seen could never come to pass.
"I dream of him often... the Dagda Mor. But this time it was different. It felt so real... He murdered Amberle right in front of me, just like Arion. I hadn't gotten to her in time. Catania was there, but... it wasn't Catania. And our daughter... she-" His voice shook uncontrollably as one lone tear escaped from the corner of his eye and rolled down his cheek.
"He cannot hurt you anymore," Allanon promised. As a father himself, he couldn't even begin to imagine how he would react if any harm ever came to his daughter. Ander had not needed to continue for him to surmise what the rest of the nightmare had entailed.
"Part of me knows that, but just because he's gone doesn't mean he doesn't still hold power over me," Ander confessed -- partly ashamed that he was at his most vulnerable in front of someone who never seemed to struggle with distinguishing what was real and what wasn't or deal with the emotions that resulted from it. He imagined it was difficult for Allanon to understand what it was like to feel powerless to protect the ones you love, or even powerless in general.
Ander shook his head, realizing how crazy he must sound. What he needed was a drink... a strong one to numb what he was feeling right now. He attempted to avoid the Druid's intense stare, having probably said too much already. But he found it rude to not at least offer his companion a glass of scotch as well, although it was politely declined.
He shifted uncomfortably when Allanon stepped closer to him, once again resting one firm hand, shrouded as always by a black leather glove, on his shoulder. Ander could still feel his body shaking, and he knew the Druid noticed it too.
"We all need reminding of who we are and what we are capable of. Fear is normal, but we cannot let it dictate our lives or cloud our judgement of what is real." It was the only thing Allanon knew to say to stress that it was alright to be afraid of a threat that could no longer do you physical harm, but true strength came from overcoming that fear and progressing forward. "Your family lies safe, sleeping soundly in your bed just down that hall." He allowed the weight of his words to sink in before continuing. "You were willing to sacrifice your life in order to prevent my daughter from experiencing a loss you know all too well. I give you my solemn vow that no harm will come to those you love. I will protect them, Your Grace, just as I will always defend you."
A grateful smile formed at the Druid's promise. It did make him feel better to know that Allanon was there and that when he'd sworn an oath to the new king, he had every intention of following through with securing their futures. He only wished that there was more he could've done to repay him for his loyal service and words of wisdom which had always been offered when he needed to hear them the most. So it really shouldn't have been that surprising that he would be the one to reassure him now.
"Thank you. I know that my aunt was crazy about you ... until now, I had a hard time understanding why. I bet a family isn't something you ever thought much about, and yet to my father, you always were. You are a trusted, ally. Don't get me wrong, but you're also a friend, and I consider myself very lucky to have you here - for as long as you want to stay."
The corners of Allanon's mouth twitched and lifted up into an extremely rare half-smile. He had had his doubts about the man standing before him: if he could, indeed handle carrying on King Eventine's legacy, or whether he would fall into old habits. He realized now that Ander's experiences, as tragic as they were, had shaped him into the king he had become, and they were all better off because of it. Friend was a strong word for someone who was accustomed to being alone, but he was adjusting to the idea of it. He was certainly grateful to be seen as more than a loyal servant.
Pyria, as much as he missed her, had given him something he never thought possible: a family. And although he would likely never admit it aloud, he was happier than he had ever been with the exception of when he had been with her.
Allanon did not know how to properly respond to such a personal conversation, so he chose to instead take note of how tired the king appeared and suggest he retire for the evening.
"I can't," Ander replied honestly, shaking his head. "Not yet, but you can go. I'm fine. I'm sure you've got more important things to do."
"I shall stay with you, Your Grace, if you'll allow it." He had no other place to be at the moment and even though the king said he was fine, the fact that he had refilled his glass twice already led the Druid to believe otherwise.
Nodding faintly, Ander accepted his company and saw this as an opportunity to perhaps get to know the most closed off person he'd ever met.