Lisle reached to hold Ell’s head with both hands and leaned down to kiss the smooth, scaled muzzle. Ell gazed lovingly at her, gold eyes soft, then turned and floated to the other side of the pool, paddling with her great, hind legs on the rocky bottom. Lisle watched her, admiring the graceful curve of carmine tipped spinal ridges and tail snaking through the water. Then she resolutely walked back to Gareth’s tiny room.
Standing outside the curtained doorway she announced herself and pushed the curtain aside. A small amount of light from the torches in the hallway shone on Gareth’s back. He lay in the shadows, just as before, shoulders hunched within his much-rumpled tunic, bandaged leg resting bent kneed, his face turned to the wall. He said nothing.
Lisle hooked the curtain open. Then she took her courage in hand and faced Gareth squarely, hand on her hips, legs spread wide. She glared at his back and took a deep breath, “G…Gareth, e…enough. Y…you can’t j…just d…die. You’re d…doing n…nothing to h…h…” She stamped her foot on the floor in her frustration to get the words out, “help yourself. D…Delorin s…says you’re g…going to l…l…lose your leg i…if y…you don’t try t…to get well.”
Feeling exhausted from the effort of pushing so many words out, Lisle felt frustration and fear engulf her. Her eyes watered up, and she tightened her lips as if that might hold in the tears.
Gareth turned slowly over, grimacing with the pain from his inflamed and swollen leg.
“What do you care what happens to me? I let everyone down.”
Eyebrows pinching, mouth turned down in frustration, Lisle watched Gareth.
“I couldn’t do my job. I couldn’t protect anyone.” Gareth’s eyes fell to the floor. “You don’t understand. I’ve always been strong. I’ve always been the leader. I was the one everyone looked up to. I wish I’d never met that Guardian…” His voice trailed off. He closed his eyes and lay back.
Heat flooded Lisle’s cheeks. A tear overflowed, running down the side of her face and she brushed it away impatiently. How dare he lay there and let himself die just because he felt sorry for himself?
“You, you self-important, puffed-up, strutting, ground flier! You let yourself get sicker and sicker just because you weren’t the one to save Ell?”
Gareth looked up at her, a shocked expression on his face.
“Just because things worked out the way they did and Terris was able to save Ell, you feel like it shoulda’ been you? What about the rest of us, all worried sick about you?”
Lisle stomped about the tiny room, arms flailing at the air.
As she ranted, color came back into Gareth’s pale face. What could have been a smile began to play about his cracked, dry lips as his eyes tracked her movements.
“I don’t care that you weren’t the one who jumped off that cliff. I’m glad you weren’t. It was awful seeing Terris…” Lisle gulped back a sob that threatened and more words poured out of her mouth. “But you aren’t thinking about that are you? No! No, you’re just thinking about how you aren’t the big protector saving Ell every time there’s trouble! You’re just thinking about yourself!”
Gareth’s dark eyes narrowed, hardened. The corners of his mouth turned down. Gritting his teeth, he pushed himself to a sitting position, back braced against the wall.
The motion caught Lisle’s attention and she stopped her tirade. Scuffling her feet, color suffusing cheeks already pink with agitation, she looked down, away from Gareth.
Lisle froze, mouth slightly open, eyes wide, then she turned and ran from the room.
Gareth’s eyelids fluttered shut, and he leaned his head back against the wall.
You’re pathetic Gareth, he thought. Now you’re scaring little girls. What is the matter with you?
His thoughts took a darker turn. I’m nothing, nobody, that’s what. Nothing matters anymore. It’s that Guardian’s fault. If only I hadn’t found her that day in the woods.
Gareth knew there was something wrong with the logic of this line of thought. It didn’t really make sense. It wasn’t the Guardian’s fault. He thought. It wasn’t even my fault. Things happened the way they did and it was lucky for all of us that Terris and Moss were there. Gareth’s eyes blinked open. The dark thoughts that had been gripping him now seemed a little ridiculous.
I’m better than this. He thought. So, maybe I wasn’t the big protector like I wanted to be. Maybe I don’t have to be the one everyone looks up to all the time. The thought brought an unexpected sense of relief. His felt his lips curve upward. With a self-deprecating laugh, he shook his head. Lisle’s right. I’ve been doing nothing but feeling sorry for myself. He resolved to do better. He owed Lisle an apology, but first he’d have to get back on his feet.
Setting his jaw against the pain he knew would follow, he pushed himself upright and stood on one leg, hand braced against the rough rock of the wall. Red streaks of lightning pain shot out from the wound in his thigh, almost overwhelming him. He grabbed at the wall to support himself and then reached out blindly, grasping for the crutch which Healer Delorin had left for him near his pallet, and which he had ignored up until this point. Then taking a deep, steadying breath, he hobbled one painful step forward and then another. Slowly, he made his way out of the shadowed space behind him. The light of the hallway glinted at him from countless sparkling facets in the walls, and he squinted against the brightness. Leaning heavily on his crutch, he made his way slowly down the hall to find Lisle.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27
Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34
Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40 Chapter 41
StoryTime Read Aloud