An old and tragic love story repeats itself through history, in the After Colony universe can Trowa Barton and Midii Une find a way to make. . .
by Midii Une
1090 Anno Domini
Madelyn gazed up at the stars in the cold late winter sky. How long had they been there, where had they come from? So beautiful they were and there were so many of them. And yet each one seemed so alone and far apart.
She shivered a little and pulled the scratchy woolen blanket closer around her. Her pale, moonlight-colored hair was bright against the dark blanket.
She breathed deeply and hugged her arms around herself. She didn’t mind being alone with the stars. She loved her father and her three brothers. But lately she worried a bit, the land was torn with strife, her father’s peaceful little earldom threatened by neighbors. Loyalties in the country were torn by civil war. No one knew who it was safe to pledge allegiance to. Madelyn wished suddenly she were far away from it all, just as the cold and lonely stars were.
“My lady Madelyn,” an irritated voice called. “Are you up here again? You’ll catch your death of cold in this place. The place for young ladies is safe in their beds. Don’t you know that by now?”
Madelyn sighed, she was 14, she didn’t need to be told what to do. She was the lady of this castle after all, her mother had been dead for many years, since the birth of her youngest brother.
“Listen, my lady,” her elderly maidservant, who until recently been her surrogate mother, whispered as she put her arm around the slender young girl’s shoulders. “Tis a secret, but I have heard your father say a knight will come tomorrow.”
“A knight! And what is that to me,” Madelyn said, obediently climbing back into bed. “Knights come and go without notice. Is this one special?”
“Yes lady, he will be your husband,” the old woman said.
“Husband,” Madelyn said wonderingly. “What does he look like, what is his name. Oh why must I leave here?”
“I know that your father does not wish you to leave,” the old woman said. “But you must marry this knight to keep the peace. His family threatens your father’s lands and villages. You must make this knight love you my child, it is a maiden’s duty to aid and protect her family in this way.”
Madelyn forgot she was “lady of the castle.” She felt like a child, a frightened child. All this responsibility and to be wed to a man she’d never met. He could be old, ugly, cruel or all three. But she must obey her father. It was her duty. She turned her face into her pillow and cried.
The daughter of his father’s enemy. She would hate him. He didn’t want a wife, but it was his duty to marry someday after all. He was a soldier, he’d always been a soldier. He was feared by all who’d met him or heard his name. A glimpse of him in his bright silver armor with the red and gold crest was enough to send most enemies fleeing for their lives.
“You do not sleep, Sir Trevin,” his squire questioned him. Trevin flicked his emerald green eyes over the squire.
“I’m aware that I am not asleep,” he said. “I was but thinking about the Lady Madelyn. I think that I will have a girl who despises me for a wife. Can I ever trust the daughter of my father’s enemy, do you think?”
Madelyn and her younger brothers watched as the knight and his companions approached their father’s palace.
“He wears his armor,” she said. “He does not trust us, nor do I trust him.”
She was prepared to hate this knight, but still she wished to know what lay beneath that silver helmet. He was not old, her father had told her they were of an age. She closed her eyes and whispered an old charm for luck that her childhood nurse had taught her. She loved and still partially believed in the old tales of magic the woman had told her when she was still a little girl.
Then she went down to meet her husband.
The forest that surrounded the clearing containing the small, lovely palace ended abruptly and Trevin could see that the earl and his family were waiting for him. Still, peaceful as it looked, it could be a trap. He dismounted his horse carefully, leaving his helmet on but pushing up the visor. All he could see of his bride was her shining fair hair, it fell over her face as she looked at the ground. It seemed she was afraid to look at him. He sighed. He would have to make an effort he decided. In all but the legalities she was already his wife.
Trevin pulled off his helmet and handed it to his squire, he ran a hand through the unruly reddish-brown bangs that fell a little over his eyes. He liked the mysterious air it gave him and enemies were unable to see him clearly so they couldn’t read his face.
All Madelyn could see of her future husband was the silver gleam of his armor beneath the lashes of her lowered lids. She was almost afraid to look at him. She knew what would come next. He would take her hand and then they would go in and be married. She would belong to him and no longer to her family. Madelyn closed her eyes tightly and swallowed.
A hand reached out and touched her under the chin, inexorably tilting up her face. She opened her wide blue eyes and looked up directly into his eyes. From her vantage point she could see beneath the fall of hair straight into his face as few people ever had. They stared into each other’s eyes for nearly a full minute, barely blinking, feeling something strange that neither of them had ever felt before. It was a rare and beautiful feeling. Love. True love.
Love at first sight.
He took both of her hands in his and raised each one to his lips, kissing her fingers softly, moved to the act of chivalry by her beauty and sweetness.
“You are an angel, my lady. My love,” he said, letting his fingers caress her cheek, a cheek that turned pink from his compliments.
Her father watched, restraining himself from grinning victoriously. He had been right, his daughter was lovely enough to win over even this fearsome warrior. And, God-willing, she would be his downfall.
“Once upon a time there was a brave knight who loved a fair lady,” the girl read out loud from a book that was much-handled and obviously well-loved. Her three younger brothers sat close to her, listening to the story. Midii read it to them all the time, it was her favorite story.
“Will the knight kill the dragon,” the littlest one asked, his blue-gray eyes wide with anticipation. The small boy coughed hoarsely after speaking and his sister, no more than a child herself, looked at him fearfully, put her thin arm around him and pulled him closer.
“Of course the knight will kill the dragon,” she said reassuringly, planting a soft kiss on his forehead. “But first there must be trials to prove that the knight is worthy and that his love for the lady is true. And then they can be together for ever and ever.”
A loud knock on the door broke the spell of the story and one of the boys got up to answer it. There was a man there, he was tall and heavily-built and he wore an olive green uniform and shining black boots. The little boy merely gaped at him in astonishment as he walked in without being invited.
“Where’s your father, boy,” the man asked sternly.
“My father is resting,” the girl said, stepping in front of her brothers, feeling protective though she wasn’t sure why. “I’ll tell him that there is someone to see him.”
“Well, well,” said the man, looking at her sharply. “You are a lovely little thing. What pretty hair and eyes you have.”
There was something special about her, he thought. She was poised and brave for a child her age, she could be no older than 9 or 10. And so pretty, irresistible really.
When he left the small house the girl was with him. Everything had a price and her father had needed the money.
She looked out the rear window of the truck until she lost sight of her home and then she made herself as small as possible and curled up in the far corner of the seat, pressed against the door.
The man studied the girl. She was like a small, injured forest creature, stealing frightened glances at him from time to time. This band of mercenaries he was after was particularly troublesome and ruthless. Her chances of surviving her first mission were slim but it didn’t matter, she was a disposable commodity after all.
“Wipe that scared rabbit look off of your face, girl,” he said. “Listen carefully and do exactly what I say and you just might live through this.”
The Alliance officer told Midii what he expected. He gave her a necklace to wear with what appeared to be a small electronic device on it and a crucifix to keep. “Keep the cross with you and you won’t get hurt. Don’t forget that, it’s very important,” he said. “If you do a good job maybe you can earn more money for your Papa and brothers. I’m sure he’d want you to do a good job.”
He drove away leaving her alone by the side of the road.
She walked for hours, alone in the forest. A forest that kept increasing in density. Midii repeated the story of the knight to herself as she walked. She could imagine him so clearly, his reddish-brown hair hanging over his face. But if you were lucky enough to get close to him you could look up into his face and see his eyes, eyes as green as the forest that surrounded her. If only he were real, if only he would find her now. She could almost feel a gentle hand touch her face and lift her chin so she could gaze into those eyes. She blinked back tears of loneliness and fear. She was all alone. There was no one to see her cry, but she knew if she started she might not be able to stop.
Finally she saw a break in the trees that meant a clearing was ahead. She hurried to it, her feet cracking twigs and crushing leaves as she picked up her pace. As she stepped into the clearing a boy wearing a dark green camouflage jacket whirled and aimed a gun at her. She looked at his face and almost gasped, his eyes, eyes that were hidden by long, unruly bangs, were green. As green as the knight’s eyes, the knight she had imagined to keep herself from being too frightened. She stared at him, both afraid of the gun pointed at her and mesmerized by a face she seemed to know although she had never seen this boy before.
The boy looked at the girl. Her appearance was suspicious, what reason could a little girl like her possibly have to be here in such a dangerous place, subjecting herself to dangerous people like himself? He studied her closely, he rarely saw anyone his own age close up. He was always with adults. His green eyes clashed with her light blue ones and he felt something like a shock.
I know her, he thought, I’ve seen her before. But that was impossible.
Still he decided to take her back with him. He didn’t trust her, he trusted no one, he never had. But it wasn’t in him to leave her behind. Not her.
As the two children walked back to the mercenary camp it grew dark. She looked up at the stars peeking through the canopy of the trees.
“They’re so beautiful,” she said. “Did you ever wonder what it might be like to live up there among them? I think it would be safe and quiet and wonderful.”
He glanced at her in surprise, although he didn’t answer her. How strange that she would say that. How often he looked up into the night sky and wished he could get up there somehow. Like that was where he belonged.
1090 Anno Domini
The wedding ceremony went by in a blur.
Madelyn’s heart swelled with happiness as Trevin lifted her up on his horse and held her in front of him as they rode away from her father’s palace. She barely remembered to turn and wave at her brothers. She believed from the moment their eyes met that they belonged together.
As they rode he rested his cheek on her soft hair and curled one arm around her slender waist. She leaned back against him and he tightened his arm around her.
She looked up into the sky, at the stars twinkling through the bare tree branches.
“I love the stars,” she said. “So beautiful and far away.”
He smiled at her words.
“I’d take you there if I could, my lady,” Trevin answered. “We could make a world of our own there and we could be together eternally. I love you so much I fear one lifetime won’t be nearly enough to spend with you.”
Madelyn turned to look up at him. He pressed his lips to hers and their hands tangled in each other’s hair. He felt her tense a little as he probed his tongue between her slightly parted lips and slid his hand up from her waist to touch her breasts.
He stopped and said, “Don’t be afraid my lady. I would never hurt you.”
She shook her head. “I’m not afraid. It just surprised me, how good it feels when you hold me. I didn’t know I could feel that way. Is this what it is like to be married?”
He laughed a little at her innocent remarks. “That is what it is like for us, my sweet lady. Because we love each other truly.” He kissed her hair. “We’re almost home . . .”
He couldn’t help looking over at the girl, Midii, as she lay sleeping there nearby on a pile of blankets in a corner. She was huddled like a little kitten, her soft hair falling over her face and one hand curled beneath her cheek.
Nanashi kept his eyes fastened on her until he too fell asleep.
He dreamed, as he always did, of war. He was a pilot, but it wasn’t a mobile suit. He was flying a plane fitted with machine guns. He could hear the rattle of millions of bullets. He could hear the bullets exploding through the steel fuselages of other planes. He could see the bright blue sky all around him and see the enemies’ planes falling from the sky, plummeting to the ground. Then he felt himself spinning, spinning with sickening speed to the ground.
Midii heard a gasp which awakened her from the light sleep she had fallen into. Her mind was too full to let her sleep. She touched the electronic device and fingered the cross in her pocket. She looked over at the boy, Nanashi. He was restless, twisting around in his blankets and breathing hard. She crept over and gently put her hand on his hair, as she had done with her younger brothers when they suffered from nightmares. After awhile his breathing grew soft again and she crept away and went back to sleep herself.
Major Tom Bennett, USAF, crawled out of the wreckage of his fighter plane. He touched his hand to his forehead and felt blood there and as he tried to walk he felt a sharp pain in his side and collapsed to his knees in the grass. Sweat beaded on his forehead, stinging the gash he’d suffered when he crashed. His arms still trembled from trying to pull the plane out of that spin, only his skill as a pilot had saved his life.
He heard the crackle of leaves and soft footsteps approaching. He pulled the gun out of the holster on his belt and wrapped his other arm protectively around his side. He blinked as his vision seemed to fade in and out.
A young woman, in her early 20s perhaps, stepped into the clearing. Her blue-gray eyes widened at the sight of the wrecked plane and the wounded pilot who had come out of it. She took a step backwards when she saw that he had a gun in his hand. She recognized his uniform as American.
“You-you are badly hurt,” she questioned softly in broken English.
He looked at her face as she spoke, trying to determine her accent. He wasn’t sure whether he’d landed in France or Germany and that made all the difference in the world. He couldn’t trust this woman, he knew that. But there was something familiar about her eyes. It bothered him that she seemed afraid when she looked at him.
The gun dropped from his hand suddenly and hit the grass with a dull thud as he pitched forward, suddenly unable to remain standing. The young woman rushed up to catch him a little and at least break his fall. Tom’s lids fluttered as he looked up into her face. He reached up to touch her cheek but his hand fell back before he reached it.
“Don’t be afraid, lady. I’d never hurt you,” he said, the words coming from somewhere deep inside before he lost consciousness.
Mariana sat with the soldier in the woods for a long time, cradling his head in her lap and gently wiping the sweat and blood from his face with her apron. She examined his face, so handsome. She smiled a little despite her worry, this soldier needed a haircut she thought as she brushed the hair away from his forehead.
He was the enemy. She should take his gun and shoot him now or at least leave him here to die. But she knew that she couldn’t do that. He touched her heart as no one had before. “It’s as if I’m in love with him,” she thought. “As if I’ve always loved him somehow.”
But that was impossible, she had lived here all her life and he was an American. She sighed and came back to reality. If she was going to save his life she was going to have to wake him up and get him home before dark.
After a week of letting her take care of him Tom knew that he was in love with Mariana. He’d never loved before, he knew that now. He had a wife, back in the States, but that was fondness, not love. Not like this overwhelming feeling he had for the German girl who had found him. It was as if he had loved her forever. Just looking into her big blue eyes made his heart ache. She was beautiful, she was sweet and she was the enemy. But he couldn’t let that matter.
He watched her as she washed the dishes from dinner. Tom knew he should just leave her alone. He had to go soon and besides he was married already. But it was like they were magnet and steel being irresistibly pulled toward each other. He stood up and went to her and wrapped her in his arms. Mariana made a soft little sound of contentment and leaned against him.
“Do you have a radio Mariana,” he asked her. “I want to dance with you. Hold you in my arms.”
She produced a small, battered transistor radio. “It does not play anymore,” she said sadly, looking at him apologetically.
“Get me a screwdriver and I’ll make it work,” he promised.
It wasn’t long until he managed to fix the radio enough to track down some scratchy big band music from an American servicemen’s station he picked up.
“Now dance with me,” he said, taking her in his arms.
He hummed the music in her ear as they pressed together on the kitchen floor, swaying gently to the staticky music they heard.
“I love you for sentimental reasons,” he sang softly and she giggled.
“You can’t sing,” she said, trying not to laugh at him.
“I know,” he agreed. “But you inspire me, honey.”
She blushed a little at the endearment and pressed her cheek against his shoulder. He continued humming, although he did not attempt actual singing again. Mariana tightened her arms around him and her eyes filled with tears. He would leave her behind and she wanted him to go. Wanted him to leave before he discovered what she’d done. He’d still been unconscious when they’d come to see if she knew anything about the downed plane.
“The pilot is dead. I buried him,” she’d lied. “But I found this.” She’d given them the code book she found in his cockpit. And they had gone away and left them alone.
They stood together before the fire exchanging passionate kisses and smoldering looks.
“Madelyn, my love. Two weeks without you was like being in hell. It’s like you’re part of me and if I don’t have you in my bed I can’t sleep for thinking about you,” Trevin managed to say between kisses and in spite of the stranglehold his wife had on his neck.
“I spent each day praying for your safe return in the chapel. I hope that God will forgive me for the thoughts I had of you My lord. I fear they were not proper for such a holy place,” she said, undoing the lacing of his shirt and placing soft kisses on his chest.
She didn’t tell him she also prayed to the old gods of the forest for his safety, she feared he might not approve. She felt she would leave no stone unturned to guarantee his safety. Without him her heart would break and she would surely die.
He seemed to read her desperate thoughts. “I’m afraid I love you beyond reason, Madelyn. Before everything, God, my king, my family. You are everything, my whole life. You consume me.”
He lifted her in his arms and carried her to bed. She lay awake, stroking her fingers through his shoulder-length hair. She was troubled, he wasn’t telling her all that he had discovered when he had been away. There were rumors that there had been a battle. There would be a new king, one that her husband was not loyal to, but that her father was. It was like a shadow over her happiness.
Midii watched the boy make repairs on the mobile suits. She sat swinging her legs childishly as she sat on top of a pile of supply boxes. The device around her neck made soft beeping sounds and she closed her fingers around it, wishing she could crush it in her hand. It was reminding her what she was doing here, that soon there would be an attack and they would all be dead, except for herself. The cross would protect her. She put her hand in her pocket and felt the cool metal of the necklace. She closed her eyes tightly and thought.
Nanashi looked up as he heard a soft thud and saw Midii hop off the pile of boxes she was sitting on and land softly on the dirt floor.
She came up to him and held out a crucifix. He took it from her without a word. “If you wear it always,” she said. “God will protect you.”
She looked like she was going to say something more, but instead she ran out of the building and away from his questioning gaze.
1090 Anno Domini
Madelyn hummed a little to herself as she walked through her herb garden. She bent occasionally to pull a weed. But mostly she was just enjoying the spicy smell of the plants, the warmth of the sunshine and the sound of the birds singing.
She was startled as a man she recognized as one of her father’s squires appeared before her. He knelt and kissed the hem of her skirt.
“Listen my lady,” he said, breathless with fear and hurry. “My lord, your father has sent me to warn you. The new king’s army will attack this castle tonight. He bids you flee this place and come home. Your husband will not be able to defend the castle, the king is too strong. But my lord, your father, says you should not worry. You are beautiful and will soon find a new husband. One that is favored by the king.”
Madelyn looked at him in horror.
“Come with me now, my lady Madelyn. The king will strike at night to surprise Lord Trevin,” the man said, desperately trying to explain himself. He wanted to be far from this place well before the king’s army appeared.
“Go away,” she muttered. “Leave me. I must think. I must think.”
The terrified man saw it was useless to try and get through to her so he turned and ran to where he had tied his horse and fled.
“The king is too strong,” she repeated to herself. “My lord will not be able to defend the castle.”
That meant he would be killed, she thought, because Trevin would never run from a battle. He was a true soldier and would fight to the end. Madelyn clutched her hands to her heart and ran off toward the forest. She must think, she must do something. She had to protect him, had to protect their love.
A short way into the forest she saw a hut that she had never noticed before, an old woman sat before it, stirring something in small pot which hung over the fire. She realized this must be the home of the wise-woman. The girls who worked in the castle kitchen and laundry gossiped and giggled about her and her love potions and fortune-tellings and spells.
The old woman approached the girl.
“My lady,” she said, curtsying to Madelyn. “You seek my help on a matter of great importance.”
“I do,” Madelyn said. “You must help me. I must find a way to keep my lord away from his castle tonight. Is there something? A spell? A potion? I beg you!”
The woman turned and went into her hut and came out with a small bottle.
“Give your lord this potion in his wine,” the old woman said. “When he drinks it he will listen to you without fail. He will do as you ask.”
Madelyn gave the woman some coins and hurried back home, casting a fearful eye at the sun. But she had hours left till darkness, when the king would come. She gazed at Trevin with large sad eyes the whole afternoon through but he was too busy to notice. The way the times were meant they must always be prepared. He must stay close to his castle in case of attack. Madelyn clung to his arm and seemed to be constantly underfoot this day. He felt like snapping at her but when he looked at her he couldn’t help but bend down to kiss her. “You are in a strange
humor today, my lady,” he teased her. “Have you not been sleeping enough at night?”
“Forgive me, my lord,” she whispered. “I would not anger you with my moods.”
“I was only jesting, my love,” he said, brushing his hand gently over her cheek. “I hope you’ll not miss me too much tonight. I must ride out and check the borders, there are rumors the king’s army draws near. But there is no need for you to be afraid. I will protect you and this castle with my life if need be.”
Fear struck her heart and she grabbed at his arm again. “First I will fetch you some wine, sweetheart,” she said. “Wait awhile.”
She ran to the kitchen and dumped the potion into a goblet of red wine. Madelyn handed Trevin the goblet and watched closely as he drank it. “Now I must leave, I’ll see you in the morning. Don’t lie awake waiting for me tonight,” he said, leaning close to kiss her goodbye.
She kissed him in return, opening her mouth beneath his and pressing him close to her. He responded and his decision to check the borders this night, a decision which had seemed so sensible, started to seem a bit foolish and unnecessary.
“Why do we not go riding out together tonight, my love,” she whispered, her fingers tracing patterns on his back. “We can go north where the druid stones are and look at the stars. Oh please my lord, we can be alone together there. I so wish to be with you tonight.”
Trevin looked at her, she was so beautiful and he loved her so, how could he say no. He felt he could not refuse her request.
He took her hand and lifted her up with him on his horse, just as he had on their wedding day and they rode north together.
She rode behind him this time so she could wrap her arms around him and lean her head on his shoulder. “God forgive me for this,” she prayed silently. “I cannot let him stay here to die. Let the castle burn and let the king slay all the people in it, as long as my lord still lives I will not care.”
Madelyn tightened her arms around her husband’s waist as the horse galloped north.
“Grab my hand, Midii,” Nanashi shouted trying to be heard over the sound of planes and bombs and screaming that surrounded him. She reached out her hand and he pulled her up on the motorcycle in back of him and she wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned her head on his shoulder.
When they got far enough away, the boy stopped the motorcycle. They sat there like that for a moment, with her arms around him and her head on her shoulder. He closed his eyes, how warm she was, he felt right being in her arms. Then he felt something pressing into his back, the electronic device she always wore. He could see her playing with it in his mind’s eye. He pulled away from her and got off the motorcycle. He walked a little distance away and looked at the ground, thinking.
Midii got off the motorcycle and clutched the device in her hands. He was the only reason she was alive, she hadn’t been wearing the crucifix when they attacked, she would have been killed like the others. Tears trickled down her cheek, they were the enemy, but some of them had been kind to her.
Suddenly the boy turned on her, his gun trained on her as it had been when they first saw each other. His eyes stared at her necklace. “It was that, wasn’t it,” he asked, already knowing the answer.
The girl took off the necklace and tossed it on the ground and nodded. “Everyone is dead, except for us. Because of the cross you’re wearing. I won’t thank you for saving me. I should have died.”
She merely stood looking at him, waiting for him to kill her. When nothing happened she spoke again.
“I hate you! I hate what you are Nanashi. You have nothing so nothing can hurt you. I have my name, my family and that’s why I did what I did. I can’t even tell the one I love that I love them,” she cried.
He ripped the crucifix from around his neck and tossed it at her feet. Then he raised the gun, pointed it at her and fired two shots.
1944 Anno Domini
He really should get up and turn off that staticky radio, Tom thought. But that would mean rising up off the leather couch in front of the fireplace of the little farmhouse where he lay with Mariana in his arms and that was something he really didn’t want to do. A news program was coming on and he felt like he might as well find out what was going on in the world outside.
He looked down at the woman in his arms, her blonde hair felt so soft against his arm. Tom was starting to think crazy thoughts. He could divorce his wife when the war was over and come back and find Mariana. He had to be with her, she was as necessary as air to him. He gently ran a hand up and down her arms and back up into her hair. He bent and kissed her neck softly until he felt her begin to stir.
“Sorry I woke you,” he apologized.
A small smile appeared on her lips and she teased him a little. “You’re not sorry at all I think,” she said. “There was perhaps something you wanted?”
She reached up and pulled him down to her and he crushed her lips against hers. She held him tighter, trying to memorize how it felt to have him on top of her, in her, one with her. Time was so short and forever would not be enough time to spend with him.
Suddenly he pulled away from her and stood up, pulling up his Air Force-issued boxer shorts and picking up the radio to listen more closely. Without warning he threw the little radio hard against the wall so it shattered into many small pieces. Mariana gasped, she had been unable to really understand what he had heard, her English was not good and the radio announcers spoke so quickly.
“I’m sorry honey. I scared you,” he said. “It was an aircraft carrier. It was attacked and sunk. Everybody on board is dead at the bottom of the ocean. That was my ship, the one I came over on. I knew all those men. Jesus Christ, I can’t believe this is happening. I would have been there now, if my plane hadn’t crashed.”
She looked at him and he looked at her, but this time she couldn’t meet his eyes.
“No,” thought Tom in disbelief. “She betrayed me. . .”
1090 Anno Domini
She was like a fairy creature of the forest Trevin thought as Madelyn slipped off the horse and ran toward the druid stones. They were ancient and foreboding he thought, set in tall patterns reminiscent of doorways. Were they an entrance to another world or the entrance to hell? He felt uneasy here, but his Madelyn seemed completely at home. Her moonlight-coloured hair swirled around her as she spun around with her arms wide looking up at the stars. She dropped her cloak on the grass and beckoned to him with her hand and he went to her, kneeling beside her and taking her in his arms.
“This is a magic place my love,” she said, her breath coming fast and her heart beating rapidly. She got up on her knees and clutched at his shoulders desperately. “Promise me, make me a solemn vow. You must always love me, we will be together forever, for all eternity. And we will always know and love each other as we do now.”
She pulled his dagger from the sheath on his hip and slashed her arm until the red blood dripped down her pale skin. He watched her, feeling a bit sick and shocked, as she ran to the center stone, the one that resembled an altar and rubbed her wounded arm on the stone, coating it with her blood. Madelyn turned to him and handed him the dagger. “Now you must bleed on the stone, it will seal our vow,” she whispered.
“I do love you,” he said. “And I give you my vow.” He took the dagger from her hand and cut his arm and let it bleed upon the rock.
She drew him back to her cloak on the grass and pulled on the lacings of her gown, letting it fall loose around her shoulders. He groaned and pulled her close to him, kissing her and dragging her down to the ground with him.
“You’re like fire in my blood Madelyn. I will always, always love you like this,” he said.
“Now we will be together forever, my lord,” she said. “There is nothing to fear anymore.”
Afterward she lay in the curve of his arm, looking up at the stars. “We will be together now as long as the stars do shine,” she murmured to him, twining her fingers with his.
Trevin was starting to come back to himself. Why was he here in the dark so far from the castle. There had been a threat had there not? Still she was so warm and sweet in his arms, it could not really be wrong. He had never felt such passion as he had that night, being with her in the shadow of the stones, under the light of the stars.
He raised himself up on his elbow to look down at her when a reddish glow in the distance caught his eye. Trevin jumped to his feet and stared in horror in the direction they had come. There was only one structure near enough to burn like that and make such a hellish, unnatural light. His castle.
“Holy Christ,” he shouted. “The king’s army has taken the castle.”
He turned to look at his wife, she was standing there tying the laces of her dress and tears wet her cheeks, the tears shone in the starlight.
“Madelyn,” he said. “By God, Madelyn you knew and yet you brought me here.”
For the first time she heard anger in his voice directed at her. She went to him timidly and put her hand on his shoulder. “I but thought to save you my lord. Can you not forgive me. I could not see you killed. I love you too well.”
“You but thought to hand the king my castle without a fight! You betrayed me, tricked me here,” he shouted, anger building in him as he thought about how it must have seemed to the people he was sworn to protect.
“No,” she said, putting her arms around him and holding tightly. “Believe in me my love I just thought to save you.”
“Do not touch me, lady,” he said tersely. “Keep away.”
“No! You cannot mean that,” she said, grabbing his arm again.
He jerked his arm violently out of her grasp and grabbed her by both arms. “I can not forgive you or ever trust you again,” he said coldly and pushed her away from him roughly, she tried to catch herself from falling but she tripped over her long skirt and hit her head heavily against one of the stone pillars that surrounded them.
He looked at her lying there and he could hear her words, “I love you too well,” she’d said. He knelt by her side but when he touched her hand he could tell she was gone. He pulled her into his arms and held her close as the stars disappeared and the sun rose over the stones.
“I promised to love you forever, my lady,” he said. “We will be together again, I swear it. We made a vow.”
He was alone.
1944 Anno Domini
“It was you,” Tom said, staring at Mariana, still stunned by the news of the carrier sinking and the realization that somehow she was responsible. He had loved her so, even thought about leaving everything behind to be with her.
And he knew now that he would have done it.
Tears streaked her cheeks, overflowing her large, blue-gray eyes. She nodded slowly, sitting up on the couch and wrapping the blanket around herself.
“Why,” he said. “How could you? I thought we loved each other? You were a spy, the whole time. More than 900 men are dead. They’re dead because of you and because I’m such a fool.”
“No,” she protested. “I am not a spy. When your plane crashed they came looking for the pilot. I told them you had died and I didn’t want them to come back and find you. I found that book in the wreckage of your plane. When I gave it to the officers they were satisfied, they went away and never came back. They would have killed you Tom. I could not let them do that. Even then, somehow, I loved you. I love you now, so much. Please understand. I’m sorry so many died, but I could not lose you . . .”
“Shut up,” he said coldly. “You’re nothing but a little Nazi spy. You had me so fooled. You make me sick.”
“Tom,” she whispered. “Please it’s not true. I can’t explain, but don’t be angry, we have to be together, I feel it.”
“I’m leaving,” he said, trying to calm his anger, but visions of men he knew drowning or worse yet becoming food for the sharks in the Atlantic overwhelmed him. He looked in the mirror, he had failed, he had trusted her and because of that they were all dead.
She watched him go. He hated her. He would never forgive her. Mariana’s heart was in agony. She looked at his gun, she’d taken it from his jacket when he was tying his tie in the mirror. She raised the pistol to her temple and fired.
Tom heard the shot and paused a moment, then kept walking. But burning tears slid down his cheeks. He was alone, he could never trust anyone again and he’d be damned if he ever loved again either. He buried the memory of her sad blue eyes and her protestations of love deep inside.
Midii opened her eyes. She wasn’t dead, but she was alone. He had left her all alone. She sat down against a tree and stared at the sky, it was getting dark already and the stars were ready to come out. She saw a falling star and made a wish. Someday, someday let me find him again. I’ll make things right. She closed her eyes tightly and pressed her hands together over her heart.
Nanashi looked up at the same sky. He was going to find a way to space, he wanted to be up there among the stars. It was quiet and peaceful and safe there. She had said that. The memory of Midii alone back there, tugged at him. He hadn’t been able to shoot her, he’d wanted to, been angry enough to, but something held him back. A strong feeling that he had to give her another chance. He wished then that he could have told her his name. He thought about it as he looked up at the stars. He must have a name. He struggled to think but nothing concrete
came to mind. Tom, maybe, or Trevor or Trevin or something, Triton perhaps. None of them seemed right, he was grasping at straws.
She’d felt drawn there, she didn’t know why. It was like a magnetic pull in a way. She’d seen an article in a travel magazine and her heart had started to pound and the blood in her veins tingled strangely. And suddenly Midii was buying a plane ticket to visit the United Kingdom. Spending money she didn’t have on a trip to nowhere, to see a stupid pile of rocks.
She listened to the tour guide. She stood apart from the other tourists, little old ladies and families with children mostly. No one knew how old the stones were. They had been ancient long before the construction of the colonies, long before any recorded history. Legend had it there was a magical quality to the stones and that ancient people had worshipped and made sacrifices of blood to the gods there. There was something awe-inspiring about them, she admitted and she felt the tingly feeling she had felt when she saw the pictures in the magazine. And yet there was a sense of disappointment.
“What exactly did you expect to happen,” she chided herself. “Did you expect that wish you made on a star once to suddenly come true.”
She walked around the stone pillars, occasionally touching one or the other and eventually making her way to the center of the grouping. There was a stone that looked like an altar there. She cringed a little, it still looked coated with blood from those ancient sacrifices. It made her feel a little ill.
She walked away from the rest of the group and wandered over the countryside a bit, it seemed so familiar somehow, although she had never been to England before. She looked at her watch. Dammit, she thought, they would have left without her, she’d been lost in her thoughts and wandered too far. Well there would be another tour group before long and she’d hitch a ride back to town with them.
Trowa Barton stood on the hill, turning his back on the stones. The sight of them made him feel strange and light-headed and lonely. He’d come with the circus to perform in London. They were rarely on Earth and he should see the sights he supposed. He’d rented a car and just driven with no purpose or direction and ended up here.
He looked over the landscape and saw a hill in the distance. There was a castle there once, long ago, he told himself. He wasn’t sure how he knew. A horrible fire, everyone killed, all his fault. Trowa shook his head and the strange half-memory disappeared. Then he saw someone in the distance, walking back up toward Stonehenge, suddenly appearing like a ghost emerging from the countryside. It was a woman and her slender figure, graceful movements and long blonde hair seemed so familiar to him. He wanted to call out to her.
The word insinuated itself into his brain. No that wasn’t right, that wasn’t her name.
“Midii,” he called.
She looked up and stopped walking. She simply stared at him as if he too were a ghost. He walked down the hill to her and took her hand.
“Nanashi,” she said. “Can this be real?”
“Strange, isn’t it,” he agreed. “I’m not Nanashi. I have a name now. It’s Trowa Barton.”
“Trowa,” she said, looking at the ground, a touch of fear in her eyes. He had every reason to hate her, to want her dead, even though the war was over.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said, tilting her chin up so he could look into her eyes. “I could never hurt you.”
He leaned toward her, his hand caressing her cheek, and in the shadow of the ancient stones, he kissed her.
He held her close and she rested her head on his shoulder.
“We have to be together,” he said. “Come back with me to the colonies. Up to the stars, remember?”
“This time forever,” she said, looking up at him.
“Forever,” he agreed.