Library of Absolution
“You told me you left to look for books,” Alarick said.
“I did, in part. That wasn’t a total fabrication. I figured if I was leaving I might as well make the effort. If I was going to get killed by the Ministry, it should be in the service of something larger than myself. Fool that I was,” she whispered.
Alarick ignored the last part. She was only stating a fact. There was no need for him to comment further on her foolishness.
“But you had no intention of returning?” he asked. “Because of something you found in my library?”
The thought of her leaving with no intention to return gutted him. It was bad enough she’d wanted to leave at all; to put her safety at risk for the sake of some books. It was bad enough that he had failed to keep her safe; to understand what she meant to do until it was too late.
But even at the worst of it, he’d believed she intended to return to him. To the Keep. That was why he’d gone after her, because he believed she still wanted to be here. That she’d intended to run away forever was unthinkable. That he’d risked his life for someone who had run from him, who wanted nothing to do with him, was galling.
He choked back his rage and sorrow, replacing them with cool disdain.
“Well, then, are you going to tell me just what was so terrible that it would make you flee and never come back? I’m aware that nothing in that library paints me in a flattering light, but you already knew of my unpleasantness. Surely the disjointed ramblings of a young man could not be quite so damning,” Alarick said.
Of course, he knew the truth. There were some secrets in there so damning he could imagine exactly why she wanted to run from him. It was why he kept that room protected. Damn her for finding it. Damn her for finding him.
She turned her head away from him. Not that it mattered. She couldn’t see him. But he wasn’t going to let her damn his soul and cast him out of her life without at least facing him while she did it. He reached over and with gentle pressure turned her chin toward him.
“If you expect me to forgive you for your trespass, you will at least face me while you tell me exactly what sort of monster you believe me to be,” he said.
“I’d rather you tell me the story as the man you are now, not the boy who did the things I read. Tell me there’s a better ending to your story. Tell me that you are not the monster.”
He laughed at that.
“Would that I could,” he said. “But since you read my books, I’m certain you know there is no redemption for me. That is why you left, isn’t it?”
“No. I didn’t leave because I feared you to be irredeemable. My time with you has taught me that there is more to you than the boy in those books. I left because I feared there was no place for me in your story. And that I could not bear.”
He was about to say something, but suddenly he couldn’t remember what it was. What had she said? She hadn’t left because of his past deeds, but because she was afraid he had no place for her? Was that possibly right? He struggled to make sense of it in his brain. He’d expected condemnation, not… Was it disappointment he heard in her voice?
Before he could sort out a proper response, she said, “I’ve read your grimoire. It’s terrifying. Start with why you took such an interest in dark magic and go from there.”
Alarick said nothing at first. Why had he taken an interest in dark magic? The question was better phrased as, “Why not?” He looked at Elissa. She might not be able to see him, but she had an uncanny ability to focus on his face as though she could. And something in her eyes compelled him to tell the story that he’d never told anyone in its entirety.