We enjoyed one another in those mossy woods and the whole world seemed to drop away from us. He was tender at first like a clumsy teenager. But he grew more confident as I urged him on as things escalated. We were left covered in a thin film of sweat, gulping down the moist forest air.

I know I should have felt guilty and I was, but the pain of my betrayal was numbed by a strange euphoria that over took me. I was desired by so many and it felt good to wield that kind of raw power. Even the creature I looked to destroy or banish seemed interested in what I had to offer or else it would not stalk my mind in those brief moments where my attention lapsed in the presence of Hanz or Gerald.

We left one another after a flurry of goodbyes, kisses and miss you's. There was a confirmation that we'd meet as planned for our date and perhaps we'd extend it with dinner plans. Before too long he returned to his world and I returned to my own. It was how every one of our encounters ended. We were so different, but when we were together there was a sort of magic that always seemed to grow. I knew I had left him dizzy and wondering what was next and truthfully I wasn't quite sure myself.

I walked through the campus on my way home and I wondered if I'd be able to choose when it was time. It felt like I was straddling an ever expanding chasm and if I didn't soon choose I'd be swallowed by the dark depths of the unknown. I rallied all the stubbornness my father had instilled in me and I willed a decision from nothingness.

I would still support my boys. Aeolus was a good man and he embodied a lot of fantastic qualities. But they needed my help and love. I hadn't meant to manipulate my situation with Aeolus, but maybe subconsciously my mind had schemed and plotted for our forest encounter. It did bring me closer to the forces that I felt conspired against us and perhaps our relationship would come in useful further down the line.

Maybe I'd be able to divert the course of their investigation if my suspicions turned into something a bit more concrete. It was possible that I could use my relationship with Aeolus to somehow shield them from whatever horrible fate the empire was planning on.

My optimism drained from me when I entered the student lodge. Something about the place seemed wrong. Its white washed walls and decor seemed to reject my presence. It was as if I wasn't supposed to be present, that I was some sort of intruder.

It was mid afternoon and most of our neighbors were out and about either in class or enjoying the day. So I walked slowly, not wishing to disturb the quiet that seeped up from the floor boards. I climbed the stairs to our floor without so much as a creak and made my way to the door which we shared.

I stood there remembering the insights I gathered that one night just after my first date with Aeolus. Placing my hand on the door I listened and heard nothing. Nervously I reached out with my mind and groped in the dark ether that she called home. My mind brushed up against hers, but she was slow to respond. Bloated and groggy the scalding iron that she usually was had been tempered and cooled.

Mmm. She moaned as her clockwork heart began to tick. My dear Wendy. You seem so happy. Why's that, you think? Is it because you've accomplished something? I wouldn't be surprised if you spent the morning buried in some dull book scheming against me.

Me. After I've given you so much and asked for so little in return. Tisk, tisk.

I pulled my hand away from the door and immediately took a step back, my heart racing. Was I imagining things? Was this the voice of the creature that held my boys captive? Was this Altima? Her voice was sultry and articulate, one filled with authority. The tone that it spoke with was a mirror of the one Gerald used in the library during our confrontation.

The image of long, flowing blonde hair covering ruby red lips materialized in my mind. It was clear and crisp, more real than the worn wooden door and its brass fittings before me. I touched it again and I felt a tingle. I didn't know if it was imagined or real.

Cat's got your tongue? Oh my, for such a smart little thing you're certainly all logic and schemes now.

"What do you want me to say?" I offered out loud. I wasn't concerned that someone might over hear. She laughed. It sounded fake and forced. I could tell she was trying very hard to seem aloof. Through it I could tell she was a ball of anger and rage. But there was a strange jealousy mixed in. What over I was left unaware, but I touched the raw emotions foolishly in an attempt to come to some greater realization.

They burned and I felt their poison surge through my veins like a puff adder's bite.

I sneered and summoned up all the courage at my disposal. I tried to be forceful, but I wound up groping in the mind ether like a cripple. I wanted to strike the thing that was causing me so much misery. I wanted her dead.

I could feel her wake, but she had dissolved into nothingness by the time I had marshaled a fraction of what I felt like I had at my disposal. It was infuriating. I was left with the image of flowing hair and an anger that was likely not fully my own. But even that was elusive as whenever I tried to focus on the memory it unfocused and become a blurry, stain ridden thing.

I produced my key and entered the living room in a fit. Hanz was nude and sprawled out across the floor, his chest heaving and falling. Gerald was lost in a tangle of bedsheets on the tiny bed the three of us just barely managed to share. I closed the door and took a couple of steps forward.

I breathed in deep and detected the strange, sickly sweet odor that filled the dorm. The room stank of sex and cheap perfume. I felt my heart torn from my chest as I wondered what exactly had happened. But of course I knew and it hurt more than anything else Altima could have done.

I had been betrayed in the most terrible way imaginable.


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