I awake to shouting.
I blink quickly; trying to clear my hazy eyes. But I hear the words, before I can see the face of the speaker.
'Quickly! Get a healer. Her heart-rate is slow and erratic.'
An unfamiliar voice answers him. 'She will be fine. Look - her eyes are open.'
Levin leans into my face, and smiles. 'Oh, thank Lord Avalloc; you're awake.' He grabs me off the floor, and holds me tightly in his arms.
I lay, lifeless in his embrace. My mind and heart had gone running off into the hills, when faced with Alistair's destruction.
'Dione, I'm so glad you are okay. When I came in here, and saw you like this, I thought you were dead. You have been lying here since yesterday? Who did this to you?'
I repeat his name several times, and Levin has to lean into me to hear my words. Once he does, his whole body stiffens, and the hands that were once soothing, begin to grip me instead.
'So it is true - he is now a monster!'
He picks me easily up off of the floor, turns fluidly, and carries me out of the room. I rest my head against his chest, and close my eyes. I don't want to see the face of whoever else is in the room; I don't want to see the pity in their eyes. Or worse - the empathy.
He carries me to Ali's bedroom and places me on the bed. If I'd had enough energy, I'd have told him not to bring me in here - where I'll be wrapped in the scent of Ali - but I can't bring myself to speak.
He sits down next to me holding my hand. 'Tell me what happened please.'
I try to speak; but my throat clogs up. I cough, and try to talk; but can't.
Levin lets go of my hand, puts his right hand out in front of himself - palm up to the ceiling - and flicks his fingers three times. A frosty glass of water materializes into his hand, and he slowly leans it into my mouth, propping me up with his other arm.
If I'd had a clear head, I would have complimented him on his ease of spell casting but I can't. I gulp the ice cold water down; wincing a few times, as the coldness of it hits my sore throat. But still, it feels wonderful, as it clears the horrible taste from my mouth.
'Better?' He asks, after I've drained the cup.
I cough, and then try to speak again. 'Yes, much. Thank you.' It's only a whisper of a whisper, but at least I can speak.
'Are you ready to tell me what happened?'
I look up into his sincere golden eyes, and wonder; how much is curiosity and how much is concern? Does he want to know because he's just that nosey, or does he care for me? Of course, like so many other times, there's no way of asking without starting a whole different conversation; one that I hope to ignore for a long time yet.
'As you can see, I managed to get into the house, but'' I falter with saying his name; a new wave of anguish grips me and I have to close my eyes. I keep them shut and rush on with the details, trying not to think about what I'm actually saying.
'Alistair has a spell on the house; that alerts him of any trespassers; so he knew someone was in the house. Inigo came with him. But, luckily, Ali found me first, and cloaked me before Inigo could see that I was here. He got rid of him - and then we sort of had an argument. He told me.., uh; he told me.., that he's arranged to be married soon. He said all these things Levin; told me awful things - so I would hate him - enough to let him go.., he said that very thing. Then he did something unimaginable; he severed our metaphysical bonding somehow; and that's what caused me to throw up, and pass out.'
By the time I finish my hard speech, I can hardly breathe. My chest heaves; my body tries its best to get what it needs; oxygen ' but, somehow, it still fails.
I whisper between gasps, 'he'has'chosen'the Sovereign; over... everything.'
I open my eyes; and Levin's face twists with rage. His eyes sparkle, and darken - making him seem very primitive and dangerous. The rage looks a little strange on his face, as if he isn't used to wearing this emotion; or maybe, it's just the amount of it, rather than the flavour. But, whichever it is, it makes him just as uncomfortable as it does me.
'He has lost his mind; why would he say such things? Does he not realise how hard this is for you - without him pushing the knife in deeper, and devastating you further!'
'But he's right, Levin. If I could hate him enough - I could let him go. But, what he hasn't accounted for is that it would take much more than the Justice, arranging for him to be married, for me to hate him, personally. All it's done, is make me loath the Sovereign even more; and, has now added a little vengeance to the many things I feel right now.'
'You cannot avenge him, Dione. You must let him go - because there is nothing else we can do. He has to stay where he is and, I hate to even say it, but; he will be forced to marry this women - as you very well know. He is lost to us.'
I know he's right; I can feel the dreadful certainty of it, in my heavy heart. But, it's still going to take much more, for me to let go quite that easily.
But, for now, I nod in agreement - because I can say nothing else on the subject, that won't inspire a major difference of opinion between us, and then, inevitably, an argument; and that's the last thing I want.
'It is two in the morning; so try to get some sleep. I will be here.'
I grab his arm before he can move off of the bed, and he looks back around at me; his shining brown hair falling across half of his face in a beautiful, sweeping movement.
'Levin, thank you for everything. I'm sure I'd be in a much worse state without you, right now.'
He gives me a glorious smile, and lifts my hand to his mouth; placing a very delicate kiss upon it. He then leaves without another word, and I'm left to my depressing thoughts.
I know I should rest - but how can I?
I remember leaving my sleeping pills in the kitchen, and look around the room; hoping Levin has left them, and he has ' there, on the bedside table, next to a fresh cup of water. I lean over, and pop one in my mouth, longing for the peaceful, mindless sleep that will follow. I lie back down and close my eyes.
What am I going to do next? Things had been bad before; but now, they've reached a whole new level of disturbing. I'll carry on - because I have to ' but, how much of me will be here? I have no idea.
I'll stay in Arroba for a while longer; let Levin teach me some spells, and try to heal my shattered heart with the presence of a good friend. But, then again, the whole fibre of my being is screaming at me; saying, 'go to the Justice; have your revenge; cause destruction - like they have in your own life'. I'll just have to wait; to see which impulse wins over the other.
Before any other thoughts can form, the pills kick in, and my mind slips away.
I awake to the sound of light humming. I open my eyes, and lean up in bed.
And come face to face with Levin lying next to me. He's on his back, his arms crossed behind his head, staring up at the ceiling.
He sees me, stops humming, and gives me another wonderful smile.
'Hey. How are you feeling?'
I rub my eyes, and say, 'groggy. The pills are great; but they make you feel hungover in the morning. I should have taken my natural sleeping aid instead. Is it still the same morning?'
'Or, you could have asked your friendly neighbourhood sorcerer to help you off to sleep again.' He says with a wink, and I smile back. 'It's ten am.'
He rolls over, onto his side, and slips his arm over my stomach. I scoot a little closer, and happily take the comfort; putting my arm around his shoulders. We stay like this for a while, just listening to our gentle breathing, and the rhythmic tick of the clock on the wall. When Levin finally speaks, I'm so relaxed, I jump a little.
'What are you going to do today?'
'Well; I'd like to take you up on your offer, of helping me with my powers - if that's still alright?'
I feel him smile against my forehead, and I hear it in his voice, as he says, 'Of course. I have many things I can show you. Let us get breakfast soon, and then we can do a little practicing.'
I like the sound of soon, and not now; I'm enjoying the closeness too much, to want to break it up.
I nod against his face, and scoot a little closer. He takes the invitation as it's meant, and holds me tighter. So tight that, eventually, I have to move my body down a little, and press my face to his bare chest, so I can breathe freely. We stay like this for what seems like a lifetime.
'I guess, we had better get out of bed. But, I have to admit, I could stay like this all day.' He says, sighing heavily.
'Hmm - me too.' I whisper.
'Come on then. Let's get some.., how do you earthlings call it' brekky!' He flashes me a brilliant smile - and then slaps me on the arse.
All I can do, is lie there, open mouthed, as he leaves the room, his quiet chuckling lingering after him.
Neither of us says anything much throughout breakfast; but I can feel both of our urges; to rush through it. Levin scoffs down his scrambled eggs and toast, and I do the same with my poached eggs; not really tasting a thing. I think we were both far too eager and nervous about our little up and coming spell session.
He finishes his food in record time and says, 'right; let's get to it.'
And we do. We decide on the study; because it seems the appropriate place; surrounded by all of Ali's literature and spell books.
Levin finally finds the key, and in we go. But my feet freeze on the spot, and my heart plummets.
Levin pauses with me, and says, 'what's the matter?'
I can't answer him. My eyes are fixed on the painting above the desk, and my feet are glued to the spot, as the colour drains from my face.
Levin's eyes follow mine, and he looks around at what's taken both my attention, and the warmth from my face.
He frowns, and says, 'do you not like the painting or something? What is wrong?'
He reaches out to me, and I stumble back, planting myself in the chair directly to the left of the door. And still, my eyes don't leave the painting; a painting I haven't seen before.
'He'' I swallow, and start again. 'I haven't seen this one before. He sketched this; but I didn't know he'd finished painting it already.'