She could hear the words “I love you” echoing off the ice walls, drawing her to the inside of the cave. She looked over her shoulder to the green grass in front of the entrance and the fairy dust that the wind was spinning around in the air as it shimmered in the sunlight. Laughter was coming from the vibrant scenery outside but it could barely reach her over the whispers in her mind, pushing her to turn her back on it and follow the sounds into the cave, abandoning the sun and happiness waiting for her outside.
The ice covering the ground was slippery and forced her to slow down if she wanted to keep from falling. Her heels were not optimal for the setting and she couldn’t find her magic so she was forced to abide by the rules of the cave and resign to the torture of hearing the words in her head, luring her further inside.
A familiar voice uttering familiar things, things she’d been dying to hear ever since she’d left him behind to fight against him. She felt heat rising in her when her mind got lost in the memories of his mouth on her neck and his words in her ears. He’d touched her body and soul with gentle, almost trembling hands, making her melt like sweet, rich honey for him to consume, her love for him dripping out of every pore of her skin.
She winced when she pricked her finger on the tip of the monad necklace she was clasping at. The memories had sucked her in so deep and she’d grasped at them so tightly that she’d made herself bleed on the fragments of that life she still had in her head and her hands.
The blood dripped from the wound, leaving a trail behind. At first it was just a few drops at every step but it kept pouring in concerning amounts, flooding the floor of the cave and getting in the way of walking both by exacerbating the conditions of the terrain and making it harder for her to keep her balance thanks to the blood loss. She had to return to the entrance and not risk her life but she couldn't turn her back on the tempting sounds. It was almost like being in his arms once again and hearing his whispered compliments and it lured her further into the frozen tunnel that was bringing her back to the past that should have been dead. Dead and buried.
She tripped over something that she hadn’t noticed and stumbled forward, her knees hitting the ice painfully and the cold chilled her to the bone at the contact with her legs and the palms of her hands as she braced herself to make sure she wouldn’t fall face-first into the ground. Her dress and gloves absorbed the blood, becoming both cold and sticky and clinging to her skin like a wet blanket, making her teeth chatter.
She tried to get up but the thing she saw under the ice where her palm had been just a moment ago made her freeze in place. She only got a glimpse of it before her blood covered the floor again but it was enough to have her hair stand on end.
She swiped the blood away to take a better look and her worst suspicions were confirmed.
There was a face staring at her from under the ice and the most frightening thing was that she could recognize it. She couldn’t link it to a name, of course, since she hadn’t known most of the people who’d fallen victim to her magic. They’d just been obstacles standing in her way and she’d removed them to get to her goal. She did remember their faces, though, and the one that was looking at her was exactly the same as it’d been when she’d killed the man. The cold had preserved the body for all these years just like she’d kept the memory of the murder safely tucked away into her mind.
She jumped back, the river of red covering the evidence of her grotesque deed but it kept burning in her head. And it was even worse when she saw the thing she’d tripped on.
A part of the man’s hand was jutting out of the ice from where he had his arms folded over his abdomen.
She pressed her hand against her mouth to keep from crying out–the notion that she’d wake him and he’d get up if she even breathed refused to leave her mind–and her cracked lips stung when the blood her glove was soaked up with smeared all over them. The metallic taste infiltrated her nostrils and overcame her with nausea at the memory of Valtor’s smirk when her magic had taken the man out of the equation, clearing their path to the artifact they’d been looking for.
She swallowed and hugged herself, to gather her mind and keep away the chills running through her before she pushed herself to continue, get on her feet and find what had drawn her into the cave in the first place. It was the one thing that kept her going, giving her enough strength to get off the ground even when she felt herself growing weaker by the second. She just wanted to see his face. It would've been worth all the horrors she’d been through then.
She tried to watch her step which was becoming progressively harder as she had trouble keeping her eyes open. Even the shock of the sights she stumbled upon as she continued was barely enough to keep her alert. She looked at all the corpses under the ice and felt herself growing numb – from the cold of the terror or the cold of the cave, she didn’t know. Though, maybe they were one and the same. Or perhaps they were opposites meeting in the middle and crushing her between them, for the more the ice let go of what was buried in it, the more the horror gripped at her throat as more body parts were sticking out, blocking her way and forcing her to face the sins she’d been running from when they forced her to slow down if she didn’t want to fall again.
She could see the faces and they tugged at her mind, pulling forward the memories they were connected to, forcing her to remember and crouch under the burden of the judgment she bestowed upon herself. And when she couldn’t remember the faces but she knew it’d been her who’d taken away everything from those who where now lost in the ice, it was even worse. She could barely breathe, her mouth falling open as she drew in the cold air that cut into her lungs like a knife when it invaded them.
Somehow it seemed to get colder even if the ice was melting under the warmth of the blood spilling from her and that made more bodies come out. She had no choice but to step on them if she wanted to pass through and she did it only because she couldn’t go back. She couldn’t make herself face once again what she’d left behind her back which forced her to face what lay ahead instead and that had the tears falling and freezing on her skin as the frozen bodies cracked under her feet, her blood trailing behind her like the endless train of the dress of agony she’d been stuffed into. It squeezed her so tight and choked all the air she’d painstakingly managed to inhale right out of her lungs into visible traces of the life she could feel slipping through her fingers.
She almost slipped again when she stepped on the first patch of ice in what seemed like forever instead of on frozen flesh. It made going forward less taxing on her mind but she was so exhausted that it didn’t matter much. Her hands were shaking and she couldn’t tell if it was from the cold or the lack of energy. Her mind had grown numb just like her body and all she could feel was the flame in her heart, pulling her towards the only thing she wanted. Even the blood and the corpses had fled from her thoughts, chased away by her need to see him.
She turned a corner, bracing herself against the wall and thus providing the cold with more opportunities to bite into her flesh but it was the only way she could walk with the blood flooding the cave and pooling up to her ankles. It had nowhere to go with the ice wall blocking her way that nearly made her cry out but she barely had enough strength to draw in a breath and her jaw felt frozen to the point where moving it would cause it to break. There was no way through that obstacle but she couldn’t give up.
She made her way to the wall slowly with her legs shaking from the effort but there was no going back. She would never make it out of the cave alive, nor did she want to. Not when she knew what she’d had to go through to get here and not when she hadn’t found what she was looking for. She’d made her choice and she wasn’t going back without him. Even if it meant dying in the cold of his absence.
Her train of thought derailed when she looked through the ice and the sight on the other side of the wall almost made her press her face against it to see better. Even if the image in front of her was already making her shake more than the frost that had burned its way deep into her bones and was draining all of her body heat just like her blood kept flowing out of her.
Valtor’s back was turned on her as he was preoccupied with the woman underneath him as he kissed her like it was some sacred ritual of worship and held her so close she could never be cold even though she was lying directly on the ice with her skin exposed to its vicious bite. He was naked despite the low temperatures and just the sight of his skin warmed her up, making her press her hand against the ice in her despair to touch him and feel the heat of his body spreading through her.
As if she flipped a switch, the cave was flooded with his voice, all the groans and pants that left his lips. She’d stopped hearing him in her head when she’d stumbled onto that first body as if the shock had severed her connection with him, but now that she’d made it to him, it seemed like she’d reactivated it again only to be drowned in the sounds of the pleasure he was lost in in the embrace of the other woman. Each thrust was like a blade pushed into her heart and she echoed every moan with a cry of pain that was as much physical as it was emotional, for making her frozen muscles move was a torture of its own.
Valtor only seemed to get dragged deeper into ecstasy when his partner scratched at his back, sinking her nails into him and holding on with the same strength that Griffin was clawing at the ice with, breaking her nails and causing more blood to spill through her gloves and feed the growing lake of it that was taking over her side of the cave. It was up to her knees already and kept rising, red in color and freezing to the touch as it was a mix of her blood and the melted ice. It only seemed to reinforce the wall that separated her from him and started coloring it with a rusted tint, making it harder to see through it.
She should’ve been grateful, for now it was harder to see how the woman drew him closer to her and wrapped her limbs tighter around him to make sure he wouldn’t slip away. It was harder to see how he caressed her body, bringing her pleasure, and trailed kisses down her neck, letting his affection sink into her skin and set her insides on fire until she cried out in ecstasy. It was harder to see him tangling his hands into the pink tresses of hair and the love that golden eyes looked at him with. It was harder to see that it was her that was with him. Her past self that hadn’t abandoned him. The woman who’d loved him and hadn’t broken his heart and his trust.
It was her that he loved, her that he touched, her that he wanted. And she was no longer that woman. She’d killed her, taking her away from him, and the murder of their love was on her hands that were currently colored in crimson, proving that. And there was nothing to stop her from seeing the blood all over her skin. It was right there, in front of her eyes, making her shake and scream so hard that she almost didn’t hear what was said on the other side of the ice.
“Griffin,” Valtor uttered her name as the body underneath him started trembling, and it was the softness of the sound that sunk deep into her heart and started taking it apart. Because it wasn’t her he was looking at. It was someone long dead that she couldn’t bring back no matter how much she wanted to. So there was nothing left for her to do.
A wave of blood hit her in the back, knocking her off her feet, and she sank into the cold red sea of lost life, life that she’d taken. And it had finally come back to return the favor, clinging to her form so hard it was suffocating, filling her mouth and lungs and chasing all the oxygen out of them.
Her eyes shot open as she sucked in a shaky, insecure breath, grasping at the coldness of her pillow to ground herself in reality. Her skin touched wetness that nearly had her falling out of her bed before she realized it was from her tears that had soaked up the pillowcase. They were still falling and were warm against her chilled cheeks, causing a few purple hairs to stick to her skin, but still allowed her to see there was no blood on her hands. It had all stayed in the dream.
Griffin pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, focusing on normalizing her breathing and muttering a spell to help her warm herself. She was shaking and her fingernails were turning blue. At least she had plenty of negative energy to charge her magic with and it soon gave effect, helping her muscles relax as it chased the cold away. If only it could do the same to the frozen yearning in her heart. Because no matter how hard she wished for it, Valtor would never love her again, for she’d made sure his heart was deeply frozen.