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I heaved a sigh of relief and turned my golden eyes from the forest to my feet, which were sitting right beside a shining pool of enchanted water. As I looked down at the still puddle, my reflection faded from view and was promptly replaced by an image of Luken.
The aging king stood in the doorway of Nikola’s old room, taking in the space that had remained untouched for over a year. Everything was exactly as I had last seen it from the cup on the bedside table to the chair that was placed beside it. Luken entered the room, his sullen eyes briefly falling to the floor as he sat on that very chair. The Eurian ruler leaned down and picked up a black, velvet belt that I immediately recognized as my own.
As Luken stared at the long-forgotten accessory, the despondency in his tear-filled sapphire eyes turned into rage and he heaved it across the room and it stuck to the wall, which was suddenly slick with water. The mourning king rested his head in his hands much as I had done moments before and sobbed, rivulets of water streaming down the walls and furniture as he wept for his dead son.
The smooth surface of the radiant pool rippled and a new, equally somber view appeared. I saw my brother, whose demise I had engineered twice, and my mother entering the castle in Abaroa that had served as my pristine penitentiary for twenty-five years. The pair strolled through the castle at a brisk pace, capturing the inquisitive gazes of every servant they passed until they reached the door to my bower.
Mikel and one of the guards who flanked the entrance had a quick, calm exchange of words while my mother wrung her bronzed hands anxiously with her amber eyes fixated on the door. Finally, the two men ended their conversation and the guards opened the door, allowing them entry to my bower. My mother pushed past my brother and a heart-wrenching wail ripped through the castle as she fell to her knees and pulled my lifeless body into her arms. A pair of jagged slashes on my wrists and the bloodied comb on my irreparably stained nightgown displayed the bone-chilling event that inspired her distress and Mikel’s visible relief.
As the guards closed the door and gave the two the privacy they needed, the water undulated and Nikola himself replaced the disturbing image when the waters were still once more. My former consort sat in the Eurian library reading a novel and enjoying a glass of wine. Just as he reached to turn the page, something out of view caught his eye and brought a grin to his handsome face. Nikola rose to his feet to greet Ihintza and the curly-haired infant on her hip, whose sapphire eyes lit up at the sight of him. He took the child in his arms and showered him with kisses, causing him to giggle and drool. The pure adoration I saw when I looked upon his jubilant face mirrored the love I’d witnessed in Garaile many times before, and my heart ached at the reminder of what I had stolen from him.
Nikola and his beautiful young family vanished with the unaided stirring of the water and gave way to the inn in Udane, where Garaile had worked before our love story began. He stood behind the counter, bidding farewell to a satisfied customer as he walked out into the Hestian sunlight. Once the man was gone and the lobby was vacant, Garaile came from behind the counter and walked into the kitchen. Katalin turned away from the dishes she was washing and I was surprised to see how different she looked. Time had faded the freckles from her slightly upturned nose and sculpted her once full cheeks.
The girl I had met during my unannounced trip to the inn had blossomed from an unsure teenager into a beautiful young woman, and I could tell based on the delight on her lovely face that the fondness for Garaile I’d detected during my visit to Udane had grown. Katalin began to walk toward him, but she tripped over the torn hem of her dress and lost her balance. Garaile rushed over in attempt to catch her, but only succeeded in ensuring that they both tumbled to the ground. They laughed for a moment as she lie on top of him, but as the two gazed into each other’s eyes and became aware of their unusually close proximity, the laughter ended.
Garaile reached up and tucked a lock of carmine hair behind her ear, studying her intently as if he’d never truly seen her before. Then, he rose from the ground and gave her a tender, slow kiss.
That touching scene disappeared with another ripple as quickly as it had appeared, and I was left gazing upon my newly tearstained face. I wiped away the evidence of my shame and sorrow, but my eyes remained trained on the puddle. The events I had just seen were no longer possible, but that didn’t alleviate the guilt that plagued me. Garaile would never experience a simple, happy life because of his marriage to me and Nikola had no life at all, but I could leave that remorse behind with just two drinks of the underworld's enchanted water…
I reached down to scoop up a handful of the brilliant liquid, but a pale hand reached out and seized my wrist before I could touch the pool. When I looked up, I expected to see Garaile, but the disapproving sapphire eyes that stared down at me belonged to the man whose death weighed so heavily on my conscience.
The violent rustling of leaves cut off my question as a fury, who had been unseen until that very moment, took off from a nearby branch and soared into the sky. For countless heartbeats, we watched the skies and the thin canopy for an impending attack. Once Nikola determined that the black and bronze she-monster had truly fled, he faced me again and spoke.
“For someone who has married two men with the hands of water, your relationship with the element itself is problematic.”