Black Magician Trilogy Fanfiction: The Hunters - 5. Chapter 5
A/N: Many thanks for your reviews! I wish I could answer the guest comments, why don’t you get accounts so I could thank you properly! 😉 You are awesome.I hope you enjoy the next chapter.
The following day, Sonea would wake only after Viola shook her and took away her blanket. She felt as if she had been hit by a carriage, only she immediately knew that it was worse than that. When Viola had left, she buried her head in her hands. She had to avoid her guardian by all means, at least today. The events of the night before still felt like a raw, open wound. Sonea knew that she did not have the time she would need to become her usual self around Akkarin again. He knows. He knows everything.And she did not have any idea what he was thinking now.
Thankfully, she managed to leave the Residence early that morning and without meeting him, as it usually was the case during the week. But today’s classes were not enough to distract her. She was barely able to follow the teacher’s instructions. Plus she still felt so weak from the magical exhaustion of the night before. And as the evening came closer, Sonea felt a growing restlessness within her. As night fell, it had become an ugly lump in her throat and a deep weight in her stomach. She felt her hands shaking and decided to stall her return to the Residence by helping Tya in the library for an hour. This helped her to calm down. But then all too soon the library closed and she had absolutely nowhere else to go anymore. Cursing her own stupid feelings, her fear and cowardice, she forced herself to walk faster. She had to face him. Letting Akkarin wait would not solve anything, but that was obviously what she did: she was being late. He needed to take her power.
Akkarin waited for her as she entered the Residence, sitting in one of the armchairs with a glass of red wine on the table before him and a book in his hand. When she entered, he rose and greeted her. His face was unreadable. Sonea quickly bowed and avoided his gaze.”Come with me”, he said and motioned towards the stairs. She went down and he followed her to the underground room, where thankfully she would not have another lesson in black magic tonight. The light was dim enough for Sonea to relax a bit. I just have to keep my composure for a minute, she thought. I have done this many times. For a moment, she almost managed to convince herself that everything was as it used to be.Sonea held out her hands and Akkarin took them firmly. Between them remained a gap, wider than two feet. While she gave him her power, her gaze wandered from his hands to his chest, then to the wall, back to his shoulders and his long black hair, anywhere but his eyes, which she knew and felt were on her and would pierce her. She was afraid of him again, she realised, but in a way she had never been before.Her eyes closed as she was caught in the pleasant sensations that came with the flow of power. But today the pleasure was mixed with shame and she could hardy bear it. Sonea tore her hands away as soon as she was finished and turned away. She was both glad and awfully hurt about the fact that he had not embraced her the way he used to.Now that he knows, he will never do it again, she suddenly realised. This has gone too far and he has ended it. He is right, of course.Only now that she knew how it felt to be in his arms, to sense the warmth of his body, she did not know how to go on without ever having that feeling again.During the past month, giving Akkarin her power had been something she both increasingly craved and feared. The sensation was wonderful to her and had become so more and more, until it was difficult to just stand still. And then, suddenly, unbelievably, he had embraced her. Since the night that he had put his arms around her for the first time, their ritual had secretly become the moment she was most looking forward to each day.
Sitting in the darkness of her room, Sonea allowed herself to despair. Would it be like this every evening from now on? Would she always be stiff and awkward on the outside and filled with a dreadful, shameful yearning inside? Already tonight, part of her had had to fight the impulse to lean against him, to wrap an arm around his waist the way she used to. And she had kept staring at his neck, wondering how it would feel to touch the skin above his collarbone. She had admired his hair, the few strands that had escaped the silken strap that bound them at the back of his neck and were falling over his shoulder, long and straight and dark as ebony. She could draw a picture of her guardian, she thought with a shudder, she knew his features so well. And she was thinking of other things, too. It was obsessive, ridiculous and shameful. He was her guardian and the High Lord of the guild. What must he think of her now? Did he pity her? Sonea stiffened. She would rather be despised than pitied. She was terrified of her own body, of how it might betray her. She had to get these thoughts out of her head. If not, how would she ever manage to eat dinner with him again and have a normal conversation? How could she live in his Residence for another year, until she graduated? But it was so difficult to fight her desires while his presence overwhelmed her every evening. She was lost.
The following day, things didn’t get better. Sonea tried to hide her misery as best as she could. Then suddenly it was the first day of the week again and she would have dinner with the High Lord in an hour. As Sonea left her classroom, she clenched her hands into fists so nobody would notice that they were shaking. Her magical power was back, but something inside her felt horribly weak, weaker than ever before, weaker even than she had felt during those times where Regin and the other novices had hunted her all over the grounds.
“Sonea. You are late”, Akkarin noticed as she entered the Residence. Sonea mumbled an apology and bowed.”Go on. Takan surpassed himself today; we should not let him wait.”Daring to look at him from the corner of her eyes, Sonea saw that he was not smiling, not even in outlines. As she climbed the stairs and advanced towards the third door on the corridor, she fought the urge to run away, like the day she had dined with the High Lord for the first time. The door opened without her doing and she entered. As always, the table was ready laid with golden plates and cutlery, all of it artfully arranged.Akkarin took his seat opposite from her and Sonea wondered how she could bring down anything at all. Although the dishes Takan brought smelled delicious, her misery ruined her appetite. She tried to focus on the beautifully arranged small pieces, the way that food was served in the tradition of the Kyralian Houses. The dishes truly were delicious. Sonea nibbled at some fruits and tried to act normal while she answered Akkarin’s questions about her classes. She did not do very well. One thing however actually distracted her for a while.
“You will soon need to decide which of the three disciplines you wish to choose.” Akkarin said, regarding her carefully. “Have you thought about it yet?””Not much”, Sonea admitted. “I think I will not choose Alchemy, though.”He nodded. “Healing or Warfare, then.””Yes.” Sonea paused, trying to formulate something she had not been able put into words before. “I have come to like the discipline of warfare to an extent, and I am … well aware of how much we need it.””Certainly”, he nodded. Sonea avoided his eyes but nonetheless felt his gaze on her.”However, I think I would prefer to choose the discipline of Healing”, she went on. “Not because I consider it more important than Warfare, but because it feels more natural to me… and in a way, because I would not stand out so much if I choose Healing.” She hesitated, not sure how to explain. “Many female magicians are healers, but … you told me yourself that no woman has ever chosen the discipline of Warfare. I remember you saying that female magicians who show a tendency towards Warfare are actively… prompted to reconsider.””That is true. And it is a shame”, Akkarin added.”I agree”, Sonea quickly said. “And I think this should change. But for once, I would be grateful if I do not have to be the one who paves the way”, she admitted.Akkarin was silent for a long time. Sonea had returned her attention to the food on her plate when he finally spoke.”I understand”, he said very softly. “And I think you have every right to choose, by way of variety, a path that is easy for you. Although”, he added with a voice that made Sonea look up, “I would support the first female magician to decide herself for the discipline of Warfare with all my authority.” He gave her a smile that did something funny and wonderful to Sonea’s insides. She quickly looked down at her plate again only to realise that she had finished her meal.”I will… consider it”, she murmured. He had always set the highest standards on her, so she was not surprised that he wished for her to choose Warfare. And she had to admit it was very tempting. What did she care about all the trouble and attention it would bring her when she imagined how proud her guardian would be of her? Sonea did not doubt that she would succeed. And yet…”Yes, consider it well”, Akkarin said. “That is all I ask of you. No matter which discipline you choose, you have my full support, Sonea.””Thank you”, she managed to say. There was a warmth in his eyes she had not noticed before. He was watching her, his chin resting on one hand. Takan came to collect their dishes but Akkarin did not avert his eyes. Sonea suddenly found the table’s wood grain extremely fascinating. While the silence between them stretched on, she trailed the pattern with a finger. She waited for him to dismiss her, to tell her that she might leave.He did not.
“Sonea, there is something I need of you.”She flinched. “Yes?” Her gaze flickered to his face and immediately away again.”I need you to look into my eyes again when we are talking.”Sonea froze. She did not respond. Akkarin sighed.”I probably should have talked to you earlier about this. What the Ichani did to you and what she said is obviously bothering you. I wanted to give you time, yet we do not have time. Sonea, I need to be able to communicate with you. I need to teach you more. We have to rely on each other. This is not working if you are not even able to look at me.” His tone was not reproachful, but it stung. Sonea felt shame rise in her chest. He was right, of course. And she just proved all over again that she was only a half-grown novice. She felt horrible.”Sonea. Talk to me”, he demanded.”Yes”, she managed. “You are right.””About the Ichani.””Is there even a point in talking about it, High Lord?”, she asked, very softly and with an audible crack in her voice. He remained silent for a moment.”Akkarin”, he said. “Call me Akkarin.”This proved to be effective. Sonea abruptly raised her head and stared at him with wide eyes.”After all we have been through, I would not have thought that my first name would shock you so.” A smile was tugging at his lips and Sonea felt something constrict in her stomach and her chest, a well-known wave of yearning that surged through her. He was so close and so incredibly far away at the same time.”I couldn’t, I mean…”, she began, disbelieving.”Not in public, no”, he agreed. “But this is a private matter. And as long as it is just between you and me, please, call me Akkarin.”Sonea swallowed.”Well then… Akkarin”, she tried, slowly, hesitantly. For a moment, he had a very strange look in his eyes. Sonea shuddered softly. This familiarity between them was new and filled her whole body with a nervous tingle. She was at a loss for words.
“Sonea. It was not me who invaded your thoughts. At least not this time”, he added softly. “And I will never do that again to you. So why are you afraid of me?””I am not afraid of you”, Sonea said, staring intently at his left shoulder. “Not in that way. I guess I am mostly afraid of myself.” She took a deep breath. “I am feeling so very… ashamed of myself that I cannot look at you anymore. And the reason is that…” She closed her eyes, shaking her head. She felt like choking on her emotions.”I figured something like that”, he said calmly. In that moment, he did not sound like the High Lord she used to know. He sounded like an ally, like a friend even. “The Ichani revealed things you wanted to keep secret. But your secret is safe with me”, he promised.Sonea swallowed. “I… I know it is. But… there is more.””Can you tell me what it is? I am convinced that it is not half as bad as you imagine. We all overrate the things we are ashamed of.”Tell him? Sonea nearly jumped up from her chair and took a step back. How could I tell him? I can’t meet his eyes … I can’t even bear to see his face because it reminds me of what that woman did to him, while I will never know what it feels like to be so close to him. She took by force what I can never have and I feel so … defeated because of that, even though I know it makes no sense! He didn’t want to kiss her; it can’t even be called a kiss what she got from him… and I am still bothered about that. I envy a dead woman who was our enemy. I am the worst.Akkarin stood as well. “Sonea”, he said. In contrast to his calm demeanour, his voice betrayed his agitation. He rounded the table with deliberate steps. She retreated backwards until her back met the wall.”Forgive me, I – I don’t think I can put it into words”, she said, face burning. “But if you really need to know, I could… I think I could show you. From mind to mind.” She forced herself to stand still and look at him, which was harder than any fight she could remember. “But, please”, she added in a rough voice. “Don’t judge me… Akkarin.”
His eyes shone with respect as he nodded, a respect she knew she did not deserve. She held out her hands to make the contact easier, but instead of taking them, he wrapped both his arms around her and held her closely. Sonea felt her heart skip a beat. Exquisite warmth spread through her body. She took a shuddering breath, then closed her eyes and reached out to him with her mind. He was there, right in front of her, awaiting her. She did not bother with the visualisation. She just explained, very briefly. Then she felt his answer: first dawning comprehension, then compassion mingled with a strange kind of – happiness? – and finally wonderful, soothing absolution. He did not blame her. Sonea felt weak with relief as she opened her eyes. He still held her; his body was warm and she could feel it through the fabric of his robes. For a moment she dared to lean into the embrace. She felt very clearly that something lost had been restored to her. Now I am fine. I can be normal again. No more stalling – we can continue the teaching; we can focus again on hunting down the Ichani. She raised her head to meet his eyes with newfound determination.Akkarin looked at her with dark burning eyes in a way he had never before. Suddenly his hands were on her shoulders. Then cold fingers brushed her cheeks.”Things taken by force are meaningless”, he murmured. “But I would feel the same, had it been the other way around. Very much so.” He softly swore. “Oh, Sonea.”With a shock she understood that his long-time restraint was gone, the wall of distance around him coming down, swept away by what they had just shared. He would feel the same… Oh.He was so close that she felt his breath on her lips. As if in a dream, Sonea slowly leaned towards him.”This is wrong. So wrong”, he whispered against her lips.”But we are breaking so many laws already”, Sonea answered breathlessly. “Would … would this even make a difference?”Akkarin closed his eyes. “Yes”, he murmured. “This is different. This will be our undoing.”She expected him to withdraw then. Instead, he leaned in and kissed her. His lips were cold and firm, but he was very gentle, almost as if he expected her to resist him. Sonea stood absolutely still. With a sweet shock she realised what he did, his lips carefully moving against hers and her body responding to him. It was an innocent kiss, and yet entirely improper behaviour for guardian and novice. And she wanted more, so much more. Suddenly shaking, Sonea had to lean back against the wall to keep her weak knees standing. He closed the last distance between them and she felt all of his body pressed against her. Her hands brushed over his sides and she tentatively wrapped her arms around his waist. His lips moved tenderly on hers and she responded to him, opened herself up to him and let him know that she belonged to him alone. She could not get enough and he seemed to feel the same. Sonea sighed in dreamlike pleasure as he opened his lips. And when she met the tip of his tongue, she moaned softly. Trembling, he held her, his arms around her waist. His breath came as ragged as hers. It was reassuring to know that he was shaken as much as she was.”I should have done this sooner”, he murmured between kisses. “By the Eye, I wanted to. And have so for a very long time.” He sighed. “You put my loyalty to a hard test, Sonea.””What do you mean?”, she whispered.”It doesn’t matter.” She felt his lips curl upward under hers. “It is too late now, anyway. Ever since the night you killed the first Ichani, I have failed in this respect.””For so long?” She looked up at him in wonder. Akkarin only smiled. When he kissed her again, Sonea ran her hands through his hair, loosening the silken strap.It is true, she thought. I was never sure, it all could have been my imagination, my wishful thinking. But now I know.