Aidan heaves himself out of the water on the lonesome shore. His feet stumble on the wet sand and he falls to the ground with a thud. Particles of sand are glued to his wet body as he lays in silence, staring up at the stars smearing the night sky. He tries to control his hitched breathing as he absorbs every jagged pain in his body and his wings. He hisses when he realises that most of the pain come from his wings. He fumbles to look at his wings, and his heart shatters when he registers what’s left of them. They are shredded to pieces and burnt to ashes.
“No,” Aidan whispers with raw disbelief.
He closes his eyes and sighs, thinking what in the world he should do. The portal to his realm is closed, he is exiled, thrown out by the decree of his father. His wings are broken, torn, as a punishment for his wrongdoings. As of now, the only thing he can do is to continue living on the land where he’s thrusted into. He wonders if the people here will welcome him, a faerie prince fallen from his grace.
“Excuse me?” A feminine voice breaks the silence.
Aidan opens his eyes and turns to the source of the voice. Scarlet hair, it is the first thing that catches his eyes. Her long wavy hair is like a flame, swaying and dancing with the movement of the wind. He can see her face clearer as she comes closer and kneels down beside him — a waft of rosey scent tickles his nose. He notices that her green eyes are luminous, they seem to glow in the midst of the dark night.
“Are you okay?” She said. Her voice is like a trickle of water in the desert. His salvation.
Her fingers graze his shredded wings, he bites back a hiss at her touch —for it pains him. Although he has dubbed her as his salvation, he still cannot put his guard down. She might have come at a very crucial moment, but he does not know her and her motive. Aidan rises into a sitting position and is about to scramble away from her when she touches his hand and says, “Please, I don’t mean no harm. Are you okay?”
Her glowing irises are boring into his grey ones. Aidan doesn’t know much about facial expression, but he has a feeling that this person is sincere —at least for now.
“No,” Aidan says in a hoarse voice.
The girl yields her touch and put her hand away, tucking it in the crumple of her white dress. She seems to scrutinise him for a moment, making Aidan feels quite uncomfortable and shifts back a little. She approaches him once more and let her hand linger on his ear, she keeps her gaze trained to it as she stares with amazement.
“Are you—” She says then let her gaze wander onto his, “I know tales and myths. I’ve read and study them, I believe that they’re real when no one does. And… here you are, like a miracle.”
Aidan only stares at her in confusion and is about to move away from the girl before she stands and says, “I’ll take care of you.”
She’s odd, Aidan thinks. He really doesn’t know whether or not he can trust this girl. Yet, he thinks it’s the better alternative rather than taking his chance to look around on his own, making himself an open target for deception. After all, if anything should happen to him, he can surely handle her alone.
“May I ask why?” He considers he should ask before plunging into his decision.
The girl says, “The town people won’t treat you so kindly. Perhaps they’ll make a spectacle out of you.”
Aidan shudders at that. The place he has arrived at is unruly. His father truly wishes to punish him.
“But I won’t,” she says without hesitating, “I promise.”
That’s not very convincing, Aidan thinks. If the entire town are filled with cruel people who have no mercy to creatures like him, then why is the girl any different?
“Why do you help me?” He inquires once more, putting more emphasis to his words and straightening his posture—hoping that despite his injuries and pathetic state, he won’t look that weak.
“I told you, I studied tales and myths. I believe when no one does.” She shrugs.
That’s not very convincing, Aidan thinks. However, it is as if the girl understands Aidan’ thought, she smiles and says, “I know it’s hard to trust anyone, but if it’s any help, I’ll offer you my name.”
She then proceeds to extend her right hand, “I’m Anastasia. You can call me Anna.”
“Aidan,” he says and requites her hand.
After that, Aidan rises to stand, patting down the sand covering his body to no avail. He looks behind and sees a sliver of light behind the lines of trees. He can also starts to hear a joyous melody despite his clogged ears —the water has entered it when he almost drowns.
Anna traces his line of sight and says, “It’s the town. They’re celebrating Summer Solstice. We’ll need to move unseen.”
Aidan wants to ask her how, but she has already walked away and gestures for him to follow her. She does not go to where the music comes from, instead she goes to the opposite. Aidan trudges heavily on the sandy ground, he can feel the excruciating pain tearing at his back. He wants to let out a howl of agony, but he refrains it. He’s already risking his life enough trusting her, if he howls, many other preys will lurk around him. His breath comes out ragged as he strides. He can feel his wound widening and the blood starts to trickle down his back again.
“Wait, please,” he says.
The girl stops and a questioning look is written in her face.
“Don’t you think it’s bad if I leave trails of blood?” he asks, pointing at some speck of blood he has left behind.
Anna looks across the sea to the bright full moon, “I think the sea can wash it away. Make sure to walk closer to the sea until we reach that stairs.” She points at the collection of stairs leading to a huge gothic building near the cliff.
It is a long torturous journey up the cliff. Every time Aidan jolts, he can feel the stinging pain on his back. As he ascends the rows of stairs, he bites his lower lips, silencing his moan. He can feel beads of sweats streaming down his forehead and his body.
“God,” he managed a whisper.
After moments of torment, they finally arrive in front of the gothic building —a library, a plaque on the door says. While Anna is fumbling with her dangle of metallic keys, Aidan stares at the view from the top of the cliff. From there, he can see a dazzling town where a vigorous celebration seems to be happening, and on the other side he can see a vast sea spreading out till the end of the horizon. The two sides only separated by a bunch of tall and dense trees. It is a place where he’s going to live in for now. Or for eternity, he imagines and shivers.
A clicking sound from the library door brings him back to reality.
“Come in,” she says, spilling into the building with a hint of smile painted on her lips.