CASeries #2: LEGEND
Chapter 33 ♕ The Secret Garden
Faolan was hot on Aden’s tail. The boy was panicking, but he made little resistance to give Asthore to the demon when threatened. Charles told him not to put up a fight, but he had to make sure that he wouldn’t get suspicious.
After Asthore was given to the demon, he apologized to her profusely. He knew the turmoil inside the girl, but this wasn’t the time to explain what was going on.
“Stop right there!” Aneeka and Rowe came around the corner.
Faolan backed off like a cornered mouse. He looked around in desperation and saw an open route. However, when he advanced forward, the twins came and blocked his only point of escape.
“What’s going on, Faolan?” Although Asthore somehow knew the answer, she was still confused.
He looked behind him and saw a window. Without any hesitation, he jumped off. The glass splintered into a million pieces as they broke through. Asthore screamed, but Faolan made sure she wouldn’t get hurt.
They landed smoothly on the ground from a two-storey jump. Faolan was wounded, though, so it wasn’t like it would’ve been if he was in his top form. He stumbled and broke into a sprint—this wouldn’t normally be his top speed, but because of his injury, this was all he could manage.
Asthore was distraught—she felt stressed and confused whatever in the world was going on. Looking at Faolan, he was desperately carrying both himself and his lady as they made their escape.
The young lady fisted her hands, tightly gripping Faolan’s black coat as tears started streaming down her face. Her ear was pressed against his chest—his heart was beating so fast. If it was ever because he was tired or because of the adrenalin rush, she didn’t know.
He was bleeding.
Blood stained his cheeks and drenched his clothes. Asthore knew perfectly that he was slowly weakening because of it, and she felt utterly guilty.
“Stop,” she told him.
Faolan looked down at her, refusing to heed her orders. He only held her tighter inside his arms and hastened his pace. “We’re almost there, milady—”
“I said stop!” she screamed at him, hitting his chest.
The man gave a grunt as she accidentally hit his wound as well. Asthore sputtered an apology at that but still insisted on making him stop. It was apparent that Faolan was frantic as the Twelve were hot on their tails.
“Please, milady.” He beseeched. “Give me a chance and let me find us a place to hide if you wish to stop.”
Asthore reluctantly nodded at his words and allowed him to run quietly. She held on to him, hands wrapped around his neck. She wished to close her eyes and imagine none of these were happening. She truly did not know what in the world was going on, but this warmth—this position. It felt so familiar.
‘I hurt my feet.’ Her childish voice echoed inside her mind, as a memory consequently began playing at the back of her brain.
At first, she wished to block it out, but decided against it. She let the image flash behind her lids.
The sensation of small hands brushing against the bruising skin of her ankles invaded her senses. Asthore remembered flushing, not only because of the tears she shed, but because of the boy she saw tending to her that very time.
Vibrant green eyes.
‘Do you want me to carry you?’ A soft voice offered.
A mop of blond hair.
‘Okay. But I want to be carried like a princess.’ She haughtily told the other child.
A kind, gentle smile.
Warm hands and strong arms, though not developed like a mature man, she had felt secured.
She knew she was particularly very heavy, but the boy had not shown her that he was having a very hard time trying to handle her weight.
Tod was strong for his age.
He cared for her genuinely and asked for nothing in return.
And she had never felt so happy.
The name rang inside her mind.
She dragged herself back to the present, pulling her mind out of the stupor as she hastily blinked away the tears and looked up at Faolan’s face. Unknowingly to her, her mouth fell open as she took in his features.
No. Faolan looked matured and far from the benevolent Tod. She had already gone through that contemplation for far so many times.
Faolan’s eyes possessed a strange sharpness and they were somewhat slanted that made his manly features intimidating and somehow cruel. His jaw-line was sharp and his lips had a natural tilt on the sides. She had looked at him for countless number of times and saw no blond hair like Tod’s . . .
He wasn’t Tod.
Tod was never coming back.
Not since her father had pushed him away.
She looked away from him, feeling the familiar pang of pain eating away at her heart. She decided to no longer think back at those sad times and stared ahead, wondering where in the world Faolan was planning to take the both of them.
Why was he going so far for himself and her?
What she saw made her gasp.
This was a familiar route. The ever seemingly endless turns within the garden maze she used to take as a child. The temperature was harsh in Prelurésia, so instead of hedges, marble stone had taken its place. The special twists and turns that she burned in her memory and curled around her heart—how did he know this?
And finally, he stopped before a dead end.
Or so many would think.
But no one else knew of this place in exception for Asthore and . . .
Faolan slowly placed Asthore on her feet, not noticing how even more tears pooled in her vision. Shock and disbelief pooled in her stomach, and the sudden realization brought even more pain into her heart. The girl watched Faolan as felt for the trigger that would open the door to that place Asthore herself had not visited for so many years.
She had sworn off seeing it as it brought her so many heartaches she would rather not feel. Yet, for the first time in so many years, she was finally here again.
“Why are we . . . how did you . . .” The words died in her throat as a door opened and made way for them.
Faolan guided Asthore inside. He staggered slightly and ended up collapsing on the base of the fountain in the middle of the secret garden. The girl felt a sob tear through her throat as a rumble pierced her hearing and the entrance shut close behind them, securing them in their sanctuary.
Asthore could not believe it. The fountain she left unattended for so many years—left the dirt to gather and to be forgotten. Yet, in contrast to her expectations, it was different. It was clean, but there was no water as usual. Dried leaves were scattered on the ground, where there used to be snow.
Years ago, she sat and stared at the empty fountain, wondering and wishing the season would change so that she could see it in action. It could not be used—since the water would turn into ice.
But now . . .
“How do you,”—hic—”know this place?” She could not hold back the hiccups that cut her sentences.
Faolan turned and looked up, meeting her eyes. He looked upset. The uncaring mask he usually had on was no longer there. “Wasn’t it you who showed it to me?”
Asthore wailed and rushed towards him, hitting his upper arm furiously. She purposely avoided his wound so that she wouldn’t hurt him, but she could not hold back the anger that flooded her senses. She continued to hit him, one punch after another.
“You lied to me!” she screamed. “You didn’t tell me the truth! You fooled me! How dare you! I hate you! You’re a jerk! You mean person!”
“Please keep quiet or they will find us,” he said.
She forced her voice to quiet, letting her sobs and hiccups to echo instead. “Tod—you never told me you were Tod!”
“Tod died,” Faolan said with a hiss. “Your father killed him.”
Asthore swallowed. “But he—he told me.”
“He didn’t tell you everything.”
They separated the two of them in this very place.
It used to be a normal day. The warmest hour was when Asthore would usually sneak out of the house. Marcy used to help her in her coat before letting her play outside. Caleb had already banned her from interacting with Tod—but she didn’t know why. Her father had told to get a slave, befriend another child, but not him.
‘Why?’ She remembered asking.
Her father had spouted several reasons that didn’t make sense. But she would not give up. She showed him this place—the secret garden she discovered herself—where they would meet and play during the same hour every day.
Asthore liked Tod.
He didn’t judge her nor did he tell her what she was supposed to do. He was there—always—supporting her. She confided in him with her problems, told him about how she felt and what she thought. He was the best kind of friend she knew. A true friend. Always there.
She didn’t know why her father had a sudden change of heart. He was normally not a very judgmental man. He did not usually care about positions nor did he usually care about the identity of someone. But towards Tod, he acted different.
‘Why?’ That question left her mouth for the umpteenth time, but it remained unanswered.
‘It doesn’t matter.’ His soft voice had reassured her. So many times. And she treasured it. ‘I know your father doesn’t like me, but will you actually think about what he said when you’re here with me?’
‘But why? Why you?’ She pouted as she snuggled towards his warmth. It was very cold, and she knew she could not stay outside for too long.
He shrugged. ‘Does it matter?’
She shook her head. ‘It doesn’t.’
Her worries were always washed away.
But that all changed.
It was supposed to be a day like any other. Least to Asthore’s awareness, her father had found out. She headed out to meet Tod like she always did, but she was actually leading them to their secret garden. Six years ago, she was still that naïve girl who mostly knew nothing. She hadn’t known she was being spied on. They met and played together like they always did, but the next day . . . things had gone differently.
‘Tod!’ She cheerfully sang, hopping inside their sanctuary, only to gasp as she found the boy pinned against the ground.
The sight of him bloodied against the snow, where the crimson red color stained the white pureness. She gasped in horror and attempted to run forward, but one of the guards had secured her in place, caging her inside his arms as she screamed and tried to break free. That whole while, Tod continued to be beaten up. Asthore tried to reason out with her father, who merely stood and watched.
‘Father! Father! Please stop it! We were just playing! We were doing nothing wrong—‘ She was cut off, a slap ringing in her ear. Her tears had flown off and the throbbing pain on her cheek had silenced her instantly.
‘I already told you so many times to not meet with this boy!’ He roared. ‘You never learn!’
She knew she hated him at that very moment. ‘BUT WHY?!’ She shrieked. ‘Why are you so bent on separating us? Is it wrong for me to be friends with someone? Is it wrong for me to be happy? Why, father? You were never like this!’
‘Being friends is not wrong.’ He told her. ‘But you made friends with the wrong person.’ He then turned towards them. ‘Continue.’
‘No! No! Father!’
‘Silence! This is what you get when you disobey me, Asthore. To make sure you no longer go against me, I’ll spell it out to you now.’ His voice rumbled with cruelty—cruelty she never saw or heard before. ‘I’m disappointed in you. Take her away!’
She continued screaming. ‘Thorie.’ Tod reached out to her. ‘Don’t worry. Just go.’
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, closing her eyes as the onslaught of memories invaded her mind. “You sacrificed so much for me. I’m so sorry—I’m so so sorry, Faolan. Up to now, I can’t say anything else.”
“It’s not your fault.”
He said the same thing back then.
‘It’s not your fault.’
Asthore already tried to keep her distance from Tod, and she was locked up in her room all day to prevent her from leaving. Maids brought her food, but she was never allowed out of her room. She had cried herself to sleep for the next nights—until she was assaulted by incessant pounding on her balcony doors.
And there he was again.
Despite the bruises, despite the pain.
He was knocking on her door.
She had run up to him and gave him that tight embrace that sent him wincing. Pulling away, she apologized profusely, but her tears continued to flow.
And she asked, ‘Why are you here? If father sees you, he’ll—’
He placed that finger on her lips and forced her to remain quiet. ‘Didn’t I promise?’
She hadn’t known why, but the tears just continued.
‘I promised I would always come back for you.’ He was barely a man that time, but Asthore knew he was more of a man in ways no one else would be. He kept his promises and he made her feel safe.
He was the truest friend—more than she ever wished and hoped for.
And then the knocking started.
That deafening sound that continued to pound in her ears and her door—angry, demanding fists that made her heart jump to her throat. She had ushered Tod away by the time they got inside, but they saw the open balcony doors and flashed her that knowing glare.
Their merciless, cruel faces.
She questioned why they weren’t demons as of yet.
Asthore shook her head as she ran up to them. ‘No.’ She beseeched. ‘What are you going to do?’ She remembered asking before they all started to head to the door. ‘What are you going to do?!’ She screamed.
She had desperately clung to their clothes to prevent them from leaving, but they were strong and pushed her away. Her smaller form was thrown to the floor, but she stubbornly refused to give up. She had stood and started pounding on her doors.
‘No, no! No! Please!’
Why were they even doing this?
She didn’t know how long it was that she continued to scream. But then, Marcy had come upon her calls. To her shame, it was only to deliver food, but the old man secretly allowed her out. In return, he had to act like he was fought off and she escaped.
She had rushed out of the mansion and saw her father standing by the main entrance, where he was talking to one of his men. Their faces were grave and they nodded before running off.
‘Where is Tod?’ She asked.
He didn’t answer her.
‘Where is he?’ Asthore started shrieking once more, never minding that her throat was already hoarse from all the crying, the sobbing, and the screaming. ‘What did you do to him?!’ She started pounding on his chest. ‘What did he do you wrong, father? Why are you like this?’
He had given her those cold eyes—cold eyes she never thought she would see. ‘You will never understand.’
‘Then make me!’
But it was too late.
Staring at Tod now—as Faolan—he never failed Asthore that whole time and kept his promise.
‘I promise I will always come for you.’
And he did.
Good lords, he did!
“Through heaven, through hell.” He recited. “Through a million lifetimes. Through the desert and the snow.”
And she continued crying.
“I will always come for you.”
She looked at him as he gave her a smile, the same kind smile he always gave her. Then, he forced himself to stand up and took her hand in his. He didn’t care for his bleeding wounds. Asthore looked at him worriedly for a moment.
“Would you like to see this fountain together?” he asked.
Asthore blinked. “Didn’t you already?”
“Didn’t you say we should watch it together?”
He then moved towards the faucet, turned it, and watched the water trickle—crystalline shimmers glittering like diamond. The sight of it was breathtaking that Asthore literally found herself unable to breathe. She started sobbing once more.
“And I told myself I would never make you cry.”
“And you’re making a bad job doing it!” She shrieked.