The darkness was receding
slowly like a low tide, but I clung to the peace and oblivion it offered even
as the low murmur of voices I couldn’t quite understand soothed me into
“It seems she is waking.
Perhaps you should fetch him?” a soft feminine voice inquired, piercing through
the veil of my half-sleep.
A warmer voice murmured a reply
I couldn’t quite hear, but I still felt too tired to even attempt to recognize
the voice –not that it was likely that I would,
“Ambrose?” The woman inquired,
leaning over me and touching the inside of my wrist lightly. “Are you alright,
then, Lady Ambrose?” Lady? The title threw me quite a bit
until I remembered the prophesies my mother hand taught me about the Nodos –the
ones handed down through the Iron Tribe for generations. To the Iron Tribe, the
Nodos was to be their savior, after all. How was she to know I was not part of
her prophesies, and therefore undeserving of her care and much more deserving
of her censure? “I…I’ve been better,” I croaked out softly, still trying to
keep the light and the world out with my closed eyes. Letting the light in aggravated
things more often than not, anyway.
“Psychic overload is never a
pleasant occurrence in my experience,” she informed me wryly. “Though I’ve
never had the condition myself, I am frequently called upon to tend to our
princess because she has a habit of stretching herself far too thin. I am Aneasha
Ol Megarla, Lady Ambrose. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Nice to meet you, as well, Aneasha.” She moved away slowly. “Is
there anything I can get you, then?”
“Uh… water, maybe?” I asked.
“I’ll see to it, then, m’lady.”
After a few seconds passed, I
found myself completely alone. It bothered me a bit, I supposed. I had become
accustomed to being a bit of a spectacle, and to awake to no one at all drove
home my feelings of impotence. Silent as the grave, I lay back and strewed in
the juices of my inadequacy and desperation until someone poked my shoulder. My
eyes fluttered open slowly and I blinked twice, hard, as though to verify what
I saw as truth. But he was still there. Amazed, I gazed up into the startling
blue of his eyes and had to smile.
“Hello, Pan-dor-a,” he greeted
slowly, as though sounding out my name and trying it for the first time outside
of his head.
“Hello there, brother Age,” I
greeted back. It was the only person he could be, knowing my true name that way
even though there was no reason he should. Aside from that, we seemed to
resonate on the same frequency –it had something to do with the cores of our
Nodos powers, I had no doubt. It was more than pleasant: it felt like I was home for the very first time, and it was
a feeling of comfort that I had never really had before even with those who had
raised me. Age, himself, felt familiar, like a brother I hadn’t seen in years.
“Ah, Pandora, then. It’s a
lovely name, m’lady: it quite suits you.”
Whipping my head around hard
enough I thought I might have given myself whiplash, I gazed upon a very
smug-looking Iolaous. Still, something darker than amusement lurked in the
shadows of his eyes, and I was drawn to them. “It’s not as fair a name as
yours, Iolaous,” I shot back, reaching out to touch Age’s hand and cement me to
this time and this place.
“Pandora likes Iolaous?” Age
asked, his voice charming in the innocence it harbored.
“I do find him interesting –even amusing, when he’s not being
annoying. How is it that you know my name, Age?” I asked softly.
He shrugged. “Dad and the
others told me about you.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I
saw steel work into Iolaous’s spine.
“Dhianeila calls them the
Golden Tribe,” Age added slowly.
The smile I wanted to wear
would not cross my lips. “Then do you know why I am here, Age? Do you know why
His smile took my breath away.
“To save them, of course. You are here as I am here.”
“I don’t know who I am bound
to, though…” And it bothered me greatly, as it had always bothered me. Why was
I the Nodos no one wanted? I had spent my life as the person that no one
wanted, after all. Shouldn’t someone desire the power buried within me?
“Your life has always been your
That declaration had me sitting
up so fast I became light-headed. It was both freeing and shocking in the same
breath. “Can you save me, Age?” I whispered.
“The dark box has been opened
and all of the evil has fled from it, but what is left inside?” he asked me
I swallowed hard. It was the
tale my mother had often told me when I was young, the story of Pandora and her
box. After all, it was the origin of the name I bore, and my mother had always
known I was more than I seemed to be. “Hope is what remains, but hope is not
“If hope is not enough, then
you don’t have enough hope.”
That Iolaous had said such a
thing startled me. He’d struck me as a hard soldier, dedicated to his cause and
his princess, but that was not something a soldier would say. Those were the
words of a philosopher, a poet, a lover –not a soldier.
Age nodded quickly, as though
to add his assent to Iolaous’ words.
“Too much hope is the opposite of
despair,” I murmured softly. “But too much of either will consume you in the
Age’s hand found mine quickly,
as if he knew that I needed the contact through some instinct. Maybe it was our
Nodos that resonated so well with each other. I squeezed it in return and tried
hard to offer him a smile, but I wasn’t exactly sure I managed it.
“It’s not too much hope,
Pandora: it’s just enough to chase the despair from you.” Iolaous’ words weren’t
loud, but they shook my world off of it’s axis and left me at the mercy of the
Luckily for me, Age had me
wrapped tightly in his arms and I knew that he wouldn’t let anyone hurt me –not
even his friends. For once in my life, I was safe. Wrapped in deceptively frail
arms and held to a thin chest, I knew that I would never be safer in all of my
life as I laid my head on his shoulder to hide the tears I could no longer hold