Title: The Soul Speaks Before The Mind
Summary: Ilyra begins to learn that she cannot always hide from her past… or her father.
These characters, stories, and ideas are the original, copyrighted work of Nicole Sharp and are protected under a Creative Commons License.
Arman shook his head, his eyes darkened with sorrow. “Have you truly forgotten, Ilyra?” He stepped closer to me; I was caught in his gaze, unable to move. With that same surprising gentleness, he took a strand of my long black hair and tucked it behind my ear before letting his hand fall to my cheek. The intensity of his eyes kept me transfixed. There was such sadness there, such pain. And somehow I recognized it—it was my own.
Before I knew it, the words had left my mouth. “What have I forgotten, Papa?” I winced as I realized that I had spoken in the language of our people, the language of my childhood. I shook my head, determined to break the spell that had come over me. “I swore I’d never speak that tongue again after she died.”
“Sometimes the soul speaks before the mind,” Arman answered. Once more his hand drifted to my face. This time he bent slowly toward me, kissing the very edge of my mouth. “Don’t cry, my angel,” he whispered. “I’m not a monster.”
“You kill and enjoy it.”
“We’re both killers, Ilyra. We are Vampyr. It is our way.”
“No, it’s not my way. I refuse to be a killer.”
“We are what nature makes us, daughter. You were not gifted with these—“ he parted my lips to reveal my elongated canines, “—for you to ignore them all your life. Ilyra, Ilyra, don’t you see that you cannot deny it? You can try all you like to hide yourself among them, to do all that you can to resist your own nature, but your true self will be revealed in time… And she will only be the more insistent the more you deny her. Your mother knew that. It was a harshly learned lesson for her.”
“What do you mean?” I whispered. Mother had rarely spoken to me of her own life before I was born.
Arman’s jaw worked for a moment. “Walk with me, and I will explain.”
I nodded and followed him back down the hill as he spoke.
“When I first came across your mother, she was only a few years older than you, I think. She was separated from her family when she was very young and had grown up on her own, always struggling to fit in with the humans. There’d been an accident in the last village she was in, though. One of the young men attacked her, and in defending herself, he was killed. As you well know, however, whoever began the fight does not matter when one of our own is involved. She fled the village and was found by one of my servants, hidden deep in my lands.
“How she came that far, no one could say, for she was in terrible condition. She hadn’t managed to get away from the villagers quickly enough. None of us ever found out how long she was beaten and tortured. I had her brought to my home, where we nursed her back to health.
“She knew nothing of our kind, and she was terrified of us—just as she was terrified of herself. Once she was strong enough to resist our attempts to help her, she did so.” He gave me a bemused smile. “She destroyed several priceless artifacts I’d collected over the years.
“Finally, I decided that someone would have to speak to her in the human tongue, as she clearly did not understand ours—you remember, of course, that it’s forbidden to speak human tongues in my home?” I nodded. “It’s not generally a problem, you see, as I’m the only one capable of speaking any of their languages with any competence. So I began to care for her myself and to try to explain the many aspects of our sort that she did not understand.
“Slowly, she opened up to me and told me of her life. In time, she would leave her room with me. A few weeks after that, I could get her into the gardens. As she started to come in contact with more of our people, she grew more curious. She taught herself our tongue and began to spend hours in the library, devouring volumes on our culture and history. But still she refused to take part in a hunt or drink of one of the killed.
“I have helped many of our kind in need,” Arman said quietly, trodding his hidden paths with care. “But there was never any other like your mother. Her smile was like an arrow straight to my heart. I’d never felt so strongly for anyone in all my years. And I think she began to feel for me as well. Even when she could spend her time with anyone or even leave if she wished it, she would spend her hours with me, brightening my life with her presence.
“She was still haunted at night, though. I watched her pale as she saw the others drink; I saw how she shuddered if, in biting her own tongue by mistake, she tasted any blood. Despite all her advances, she was still terrified of herself.
“One night after a rather large celebration she came to me—many hours, in fact, after she normally was in bed. There was blood on her lips; she’d woken from another ‘nightmare’ in her words, in which she’d been on a hunt. The blood that streaked her face was her own, and it mixed with her tears. I still remember what she said… it all feels almost like yesterday. ‘I can’t fight this any longer,’ she whispered. ‘It’s just not possible to stop being what I am, isn’t it?’
“She was quite different after that first night. She was desperate, almost manic in those next few weeks—as though she had only a few days to make up for all the time she’d missed. She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t relax. She was mad with need and still paralyzed at times with fear.”
Arman paused to turn toward me. “I was very afraid that she would hurt herself. I refused to leave her side for fear that something dreadful would happen.” After a quick glance toward the sky, he began his walk again. “Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. After several weeks that could be fairly described as torture, your mother was able to reach a balance, and lead, for the first and only time in her life, a normal existence.”
“It must not have been so wonderful if she never lived that way again,” I said spitefully.
“She left and refused to return entirely because of me,” my father said in a quiet voice. “I assure you, however, that I never wished any harm upon either of you. I loved you both.”
“You don’t know what love is, Arman. You let her die easily enough, and, as for me, don’t think I’ve forgotten your attempts to kill me.”
“I didn’t realize you were mine!” he protested, swinging toward me. “How many times must I say that?”
I faced him without flinching, my height almost enough to match his. “I remember the glee in your eyes as you were on the verge of killing me. I cannot sleep without seeing it. For all your words—for all this play of sorrow—you are a monster to have derived such pleasure from the death of a child who had done you no harm.” I started to turn, but Arman caught my arm.
“And have such images haunted you all your life, my daughter, or did those only surface after you felt I failed you? You were once happy with me.”
“I was a foolish child who was willing to pretend that your faults weren’t there.”
“A, Ilyrae, mád né, he cried with a look of heartfelt pain. The name brought tears to my eyes, and despite everything, all my old love for my father washed over me in a cruel flood of longing.
“Ae, Anátar?” I whispered.
He stepped closer to me and folded me into his strong embrace. “Come with me for awhile, mád né, please?” I nodded, glad that he could not see the tears escaping my eyes. “Thank you, Ilyra,” he whispered before letting go.