The room was quiet, silver light and dark shadow flitting across the polished stone walls. A soft breeze wafted through the window, filling the space with the pensive still of night. There was no sound to be heard save for the gentle wash of the lake as it lapped at the shore, the familiar splash of waves against rock. The soft air, perfumed with the scent of seaweed and brine, mixed with the hot oil of the lanterns as it gently ghosted over her skin. It was as if the earth was holding its breath, as if it too wished the night would never come to an end.
Gelda’s eyes fell on the demon lying beside her and her heart was instantly filled with tenderness and longing. It was rare that they were able to spend time together in this abandoned castle on the very edge of northern Britannia. The humans who had constructed the simple stone edifice, on a island in the middle of a salt-water lake, had long since retreated, fleeing the dragons which sometimes stalked the area. Zeldris had found it and painstakingly restored a few rooms, creating a sanctuary where they could hide from the war, where they forget their responsibilities and prejudice of their clans.
Yet, much as she did not wish it, the night was drawing to its close. The sharp calls of guillemots and the noise of cormorants as they made their almost comical grunts heralded the imminent coming of dawn. Even as she watched, the sky grew lighter, streaks of pinks and golds lighting the now-visible cloud. She sighed, forcing the air from her lungs in a failed attempt to control her emotions. It would soon be time for them to leave one another’s arms, and who knew when they would see each other again.
As if sensing her perturbation, Zeldris stirred, his eyes flashing dark as they gazed into her own. The mark on his forehead swirled with his power and she had to stop herself reaching out to trace over the patten. He too glanced out of the window, then made as if to go, before evidently thinking better of it and relaxing back into the pillows. Gelda fell into his comforting embrace, relishing the feel of his skin under her palms and the way his hair brushed against her cheek. It was almost without thinking that their lips brushed together, their kiss slow and chaste; she struggled to breathe, the ache of longing and loss threatening to overwhelm her.
“We have to go,” Gelda murmured reluctantly as she pulled away, shivering slightly as she left the warmth of his arms. “My clan’s hunting party will return soon.”
Zeldris wrinkled his nose, before checking himself and smoothing his countenance into an expressionless mask. She laughed at this, the sound swallowed by the soft drapes and comfortable furniture, so different to the echos one would make in the great halls of Edinburgh.
“I know what you’re thinking and it’s alright,” she reassured, forcing herself to push her sadness aside. She had to make it so they enjoyed these last moments together. “I can’t see myself eating dragon any more than you could drink human blood.”
“I did try if you recall,” he replied, an edge of complaint to his tone. “It was… an experience.”
“Is that what you’re calling it?” she asked innocently. “It looked more like a diplomatic disaster to me.”
“I was not prepared for the taste,” he grumbled as Gelda broke into fits of giggles. “How was I know it tastes like liquid iron? I have no concept of how you vampires can possibly enjoy it.”
Gelda smoothed back the dark hair from his forehead, running her fingers lightly over his scalp, and she felt him grow still under her touch. “Anyway, no harm done,” he continued, swallowing slightly as she scraped her nails lightly along his skin. “It passed off without incident.”
“Only because I covered for you!” She pushed herself up on her elbows, pleased to see him looking sheepishly up at her, before his brows drew together in apparent confusion.
“I have wanted to ask you for some time why you did that.” He sat up in bed, head cocked slightly to one side. “We had not set eyes on each other before that day, and had barely spoken two words together. You had no reason to come to my aid.”
Gelda felt a blush creep up her neck and into her cheeks, her gaze sliding sideways to the woven coverlet. She bit her lip, wondering just how she was supposed to answer that question, whether she could bear to reveal the truth. She jumped slightly as Zeldris cupped her face, forcing her eyes to look into his own.
“What is it?” he demanded more forcefully as she remained silent. “Will you not tell me?”
Several more seconds passed, his gaze never wavering until the pressure to talk became overwhelming. “Alright. If you must know. But it’s really embarrassing,” Gelda felt her blush deepen, heat pooling in her face, and she could feel the cool air moving over her glowing cheeks.
“I… I had seen you before,” Gelda admitted, and Zeldris looked at her with keen interest. “It was in the demon realm. My father dragged me and Ren along to the negotiations as token females. The alliance with the demons meant a lot to him and he didn’t want to leave anything to chance. My cousin and I were supposed to, you know...” She could not continue past the lump in her throat. The memory of her mission, as explained to her in no uncertain terms by the vampire king, caused her revulsion even now the ordeal was over.
“I’ll kill him,” Zeldris muttered as he pulled her into his arms. “Or hurt him at least,” he seethed as Gelda opened her mouth to protest. “I hate the way he uses you.”
“I was lucky. Nothing happened,” Gelda said quietly as she pulled back a little, noting the look of black fury on her lover’s face. “Your clan were surprisingly respectful. Ren and I were shown around by one of your colleagues, Melascyla was her name if I remember rightly. We went to the library, the research stations and then the training grounds.” Zeldris froze as she added, “We watched you and Meliodas sparring.”
“Well, I bet that was a humiliating sight.” Gelda could see Zeldris’s jaw working as he forced the bitterness out of his tone. “I still do not understand…”
“You almost beat him,” Gelda said softly as she took his hands in hers. “I’ve never seen anyone move so fast. Then after that you took on this tall brute in spiked armour, and he was clearly out of his depth.”
Zeldris chuckled as his fingers slowly interlaced with hers. “Galand is a hot head, but he is useful enough.”
“You let him land several blows.” Their eyes met as Gelda continued, “You didn’t have to do that. It puzzled me, then I worked out why. You wanted the fight to be fair.”
“He gets very despondent sometimes,” Zeldris explained.
Gelda’s heart thrummed in her chest as a little warmth coloured his cheeks. “I thought it was kind,” she murmured over his hesitation, “and I haven’t seen anything since to contradict that impression. I wanted to get to know you more. And besides,” Gelda added, a smile curving her lips, “you looked so… you know...”
“What?” Zeldris asked as she trailed off and he looked at her closely and she struggled not to laugh out loud. “Are you saying you were influenced by my physical appearance?” He stared at her, incredulous. “Gelda! I would never have imagined you could be so brazen!”
They fell back to the bed, laughing as their arms wound around one another. Her heart ached as she watched his dark eyes lightening, emerald shining in the early morning light as the mark on his forehead faded to skin. “I love you,” he murmured, and she reached for him, only to find her fingers brushed over air. Alarmed, she pulled back, fear gripping her insides as wind rushed painfully in her ears. Her insides jolted sickeningly, and she felt a splash of bile hit the back of her throat as the world around them spun sharply, the room swirling like a vortex before it faded to black...
In my deep sleep here in the seal, Zeldris… I’ve been dreaming about my days with you.
Waking was like returning to the surface from the depths of the sea. Her lungs screamed in protest as she struggled to breathe, her limbs shivering, weakened from millennia of lying in a space on the edge of sleeping and waking. She felt sick, dizzy, disorientated, a metallic taste permeating her mouth. But as she looked around at the rolling hills of Edinburgh, darkened by the deep velvet of night, memories returned to her in a flood of hope. She had been sealed and released, imprisoned then freed. After all these centuries, Zeldris must have finally come for her.
Gelda fanned out her powers, scouring the area, searching for even a trace of the energy she loved, but her efforts became increasingly desperate. Something was wrong. There was no one, nothing of significance to be felt for miles and miles, and certainty no sign of demon magic. Human settlements were all she could find, with a party of that race fast converging upon them. Evidently the humans had felt the crack of the seal and come to investigate, a fact not lost on the remains of her family.
“Spread out!” the vampire king yelled. “Don’t let any of them get away.” She heard the rush of wind in her ears as her brethren flocked to obey his command, followed seconds later by the screams and shrieks of despair from their prey. The vampires had returned to Britannia, bringing with them destruction and death.
And she knew as she smelled the rich aroma of blood, gaging in revulsion as she tasted the tang of iron on the air, that she could never be the same again. She wanted nothing, none of this morbid reality, only the dreams she had been forced to leave behind.
As her clan continued their macabre feast, Gelda stood still, detached from the world, remembering the feel of comforting arms, the soft timbre of of Zeldris’s voice as he whispered in her ear, knowing with certainty that she would never see him again. Blinking back tears, the princess gazed up at the sky, love and loss gnawing painfully at her insides.
“Please kill me,” Gelda murmured to herself as she closed her eyes and prayed for death.