Elia stares down at the water, her breathing labored as she removes the gilded helmet. A mockery now- a mockery of what she once stood for and believed in.
The cold water reflects sunlight, a pretty sight. She leans forward to gaze at its depths, to calm herself.
A sharp, rattling breath. She needs to calm down. Nothing good will come if she gives into her rising panic. With shaking hands, she reaches down to scoop the water to her mouth.
Blood. Dark, dried on her hands. She feels herself gag, as though her body is not her own. With closed eyes she leans back and vomits on the banks of the river.
Her brothers blood. And hers.
Taking a wrecked breath, she plunges her hands into the cold depths, eyes closed as she savagely scrapes at the caked blood.
Not dead. He can't be dead. But maybe he should be. Maybe she should have killed him for his betrayal.
"Breath," she whispers to herself, fighting the fear. "Focus." She forces her eyes open, gazing to where her now clean hands lay in the water.
Her eyes, the reflection of them, show more blood on her face, show the horror in the dark's of her eyes.
No, her brother isn't dead, but her betrothed most surely is. Glen is surely dead.
A fool for jumping into the fray. For thinking he could defeat her brother when she herself was hardly his equal.
Glen. A foolish, sweet, and gentle soul who had loved her in a way no one else had since the death of her mother five years ago. His death would not be in vein though. His clan would avenge him.
If the truth ever got out that it was her brother who had taken his life.
Which meant that she had to live that long - long enough to at least tell his family that he was dead.
Elia. I am Elia, daughter of the Blessed, heir to the crown and glory of the world. I am loyal, brave, and true. A warrior. I am a warrior.
She stares at her face, the morphing of her features in the ripples. Her mothers nose, her fathers chin, her grandmothers emerald eyes.
Elia sits back against the bank, feeling the tears press against the back of her throat.
"I am Elia, daughter of the Blessed," she whispers to the forest before her, her voice shaking.
"You are cursed, and the Blessed will break." The words are a brutal hiss that rings through her. The witch had known. The witch had known all those years ago when she had come to bestow the sacred light of the Goddess on her.
Elia closes her eyes tight against the horror of the memory - the denial of her blood right, the panic in her mothers eyes days before she would die, the fury in her fathers face like it was her fault.
But that witch had also planted the seed that had grown within her father and brother - the seed of distrust and suspicion and anger. The witch was the reason they had betrayed her. Had to be, because the other option was far too hard to swallow. The other option - that her brother wanted her crown more then he cared for her. That her father had known and given his blessing to the plot to have her killed in cold blood...
Not now, not now, not now. Now she must tend to her wound and find a place to rest for the night. She must find a way to stay hidden. Must leave this place if she is to have any hope of remaining alive.
For they hunt her. Even now, she feels it in her bones. They hunt for her, and when they find her...
With shaking hands, Elia unstraps the leather bands on her right forearm, hissing against the pain. Fresh blood leaks through the silver plate, the tang of iron filling her nostrils. With the help of her teeth, she finally gets it free, lets it clank to the ground.
Blood. There is so much blood. Forcing herself, she holds her breath and dips her arm into the flowing currents.
Blessed cold, the fog of her blood dissipating as the minutes pass. Yes, first the wound, then getting all of the bloody armor off, then rest.
Her eyes draw to her reflection once more, her golden plait falling apart across her face and shoulder as she leans in. The glint of her armor- a warrior. That is what she is.
"And what would a warrior do?" Elia whispers to the speechless depths. "What would a warrior do?"
The sun flits across her face, and she wakes slowly, gazing out at the mist covered morning. The grief is like a puddle in her chest, still and filling as she watches the sun slowly rise.
With shaking hands, she raises them both to her heart, clutching at her chest as though that can stop the pain. But there is nothing for it - sitting here, letting the memories of yesterday sweep through her like a flood. It is no good.
She must keep moving.
Elia gathers the armor she had shredded off her body last night into a pile. She pushes it into the tree root dug out she had finally found and slept a dreamless sleep within. The day is overcast, the winds from the north cold with just her torn shirt, the bottom half gone as a wrap for the wound on her still bleeding arm.
With one final glance at her armor - the armor she had worn time and time again in defense of her clan and father - she takes off into the woods. The armor doesn't belong in these woods, but then again, neither does she.
The fear of the night has melted off of her, and instead she is infused with deep sense of rage that breaks apart the grief. An anger that builds within her as she puts one foot in front of the other.
For Elia had decided as the sun disappeared behind the mountains of the west, that she would have her revenge. That she would first go to Glen's clan and tell them of his murder. Together they would help her to seek justice.
Right now, she might be powerless. No family, no crown, no powers... but that changed nothing.
She was Elia, heir of the Blessed, and she would take her crown back not matter the cost.