I Never Cry

Darken Rahl's cornflower eyes opened weakly to see the moonlight-bathed ceiling of his bedchamber. He blinked a few times, then inhaled deeply. In protest, he rolled onto his side and shut his eyes tight. Realizing it was all in vain, he made a sound of disgust and sat on the edge of his bed.

He couldn't sleep to save his soul. It wasn't because he was dreaming about Ember; the dreams had more or less subsided for a while now. It wasn't for lack of exhaustion; they had played chess until about midnight the night prior, not to mention how long it took to work out the dozens of damn knots in Ember's back. It wasn't even because he was worrying about the Seeker; he hadn't even thought about the Seeker for a good couple of weeks. Groaning, he stood and walked over to his window.

He had never noticed it before, but he could clearly see Ember's cave from this vantage point. Evidently, she couldn't sleep either; with a blinding flash of Wizard's Fire, she had lit a bonfire and appeared to be reading by it. She was curled up against the wall in her usual sleepwear (an ankle-length white chemise) with her hair loosely tied back. Whatever she was reading, she seemed very involved in it; therefore, he turned away from the window and approached his bookshelves. Removing a random book, he sat in a nearby chair, lit a candle, and began to read.

It turned out to be a collection of poems that Airmid Foxglove had given to him when he was no more than fourteen. She had told him that she had two copies bound: one for him, and one for her daughter…Ember. She warned him that he may not be able to relate to the themes at that point in time, but eventually he would: betrayal, fury, bloodlust, malevolence, death, loneliness, depression, mystery, intrigue, unobtainable love. He now understood most of them all too well, but the last one he was getting a powerfully bittersweet introduction to.

Ember.

Sighing, he tossed the book aside, left his seat, and fell onto his bed. Her scent still clung hauntingly to his pillow; that sweet, delicate fragrance of strawberries and vanilla that was her perfume. He inhaled deeply and, just for a moment, he felt her sleeping form alongside his. It was almost as if he could reach over and lightly stroke her wine-colored hair. For that one fleeting instant, his heart and mind were at peace; then he remembered that she wasn't really there. His heart sinking, he sat on the edge of his bed once more.

He wanted nothing more than to let her know how he felt about her. If it wasn't for the fact that he thought she still viewed it as sheer lust on his behalf, he would have already told her. Of course, he believed her to have better judgment than that; the incident in the tower should have been evidence enough that he cared. He had hoped that simply holding her and (quite literally) giving her a shoulder to cry on would speak volumes in his favor. Yet, part of him still feared she hadn't noticed. After the passage of a couple of minutes, he approached his window once more.

Ember had apparently grown tired of reading; she had cast her book aside and was now idly toying with a lavender crystal, which was about the size of an apricot. Gradually, it began to glow. She passed her hand over it, and it projected an image of the night sky that filled her entire cave. Captivated, Darken watched as she brought forth breathtaking visions of swirling galaxies, distant planets, shimmering stars, vibrant nebulas, and racing comets. With a satisfied smile and a quick wave of her hand, she made the illusions vanish back into the stone.

Darken felt a lone, renegade teardrop escape the corner of his eye. Trying to deny its existence, he cleared his throat as it trickled down to his cheekbone, where it opted to remain. A tremor shook his entire frame; and, at that moment, Ember directed her gaze toward his window. Upon seeing him, she smiled gently and mouthed, "Get some sleep, Darken."

Despite his tear, he chuckled and mouthed back, "Look who's talking."

She giggled and shrugged, then turned away and went to lie back down. Smirking, Darken Rahl did the same.

As he buried his face in his pillow, he sighed and whispered, "Oh, Ember…if only there was some way I could prove to you that I genuinely care."

He closed his eyes, and fell into a turbulent sleep.

THE END.