There had been darkness; it had been soothing. So calm. As if she were asleep. But more than that. She wasn’t sure where she was but she didn’t want to go anywhere else. She only knew it seemed to be a cool night and she felt at peace. And then she wasn’t. Fire of pain coursed through her body. Everything burned as if in the scorching unforgiving sun. She felt her hands, as if someone had nailed them to a board. Her legs seemed to have been skinned raw. She screamed. What sort of nightmare was that?
It felt so real. The pain was just unbearable. Never before had she hurt in such a way. Every extremity was all nerve, as if she could feel her blood running down in her body. She was burning. She screamed again. She tried to move, but someone hindered her. She looked up: a shadow loomed over her, dark and evil. It pushed her down. Chains… he or she placed chains on her wrists. NO! NO! She wanted to wake up, or to go back to the soothing and serene darkness. Yes, that would be better.
She screamed some more; the figure was drawing lines upon her arm with a knife. Lightly at first then deeper. She cried but no tear washed her face. What did that mean? Why couldn’t she wake up? Why couldn’t she go back to the calm she’d known.
“I told you I would enjoy this Emma.”
She wanted to throw up. Lord Devon? What was happening? Wait! Hadn’t she been at his castle? She’d fought him. She knew she had. And he’d disarmed her. Was she still there? No. She let go. She was supposed to be dead.
She wanted to be; the pain was too much. Another scream tore at her throat. Why hadn’t he killed her? He wanted to. For denying him, for knowing what he’d done to his first wife. Why was she alive? Had he let her live to force her into a marriage she’d refused. She screamed again; the pain was everywhere. There had been a tourniquet at her ankle. She tried to see; the darkness was wavering. The shadows took shape: she’d been in a cell. She’d let go though. She wanted to die. So that Harrison and Raven could… She’d heard someone called her name. Had they come?
They couldn’t have. Nobody knew that she’d gone to visit Laetitia; the previous Lady Devon’s maid had been terrified of her arrival. She’d told Devon Emma was coming. She would rather betray Emma than risk the wrath of the man she knew poisoned his wife. She understood. Two days. Nobody would know.
“Emma.” She gazed at her executioner. His face was a grim mask of sadism and cruelty. But the voice didn’t belong to him. “Emma come back to me.”
She shuddered. Raven couldn’t be torturing her. He couldn’t. No. He had found her, they were forcing her to come back. She didn’t want to. She didn’t want to wake up in the cell, knowing she must be naked and broken. No.
“Let me go,” she tried to say but no sound came out. Pain crashed against her, overwhelming everything. She lost herself in it. She couldn’t fight it.
Until suddenly she could move; she tried to sit up, but again the figure of Lord Devon pushed her back down. She yelled, demanding he let her go. But he only smiled. She was here, stuck. Between life and death. That’s what it was, wasn’t it? Nobody answered. Of course they didn’t. Pain subsided. A bit. It was still there. Sometimes it went away – almost – sometimes it came back with a vengeance. Then she screamed.
“Emma. Emma, it’s Daphne.” Daphne? They couldn’t have brought Daphne to that wretched place, could they? No Harrison would never do that. “Come back to us sweetheart.”
She couldn’t. She didn’t want to. Or she did but she couldn’t. She wasn’t sure. There was so much pain, so much fear. How could she live with this? How could she look at Raven knowing he’d seen her this way? No. Better die. But she never told him he was right; she had to tell him. He would think it was his fault. So would Harrison. It wasn’t. She’d been foolish. She had to tell them. But would they ever look at there the same way? No she couldn’t face their pity. But… she hadn’t told him she loved him. What if he didn’t? She didn’t know.
“Emma.” Harrison? “Emma, we need you. I need you. Daphne needs you. Kent needs you more. Come back please. What will I do without my sweet sister?”
There were tears falling on her hand; the fire receded. The shadow too. Kent the Raven of Carlyle needed her? Harrison… She’d done nothing but plague their days since she was a little girl. They loved her but avoided her nonetheless. Could it be?
“Physically she’s getting better my Lord. But maybe she hasn’t woken up because she’s still fighting in her mind. That is what my colleagues in Germany are saying.”
“But it’s been…”
“I know my Lord, you have to be patient.”
“Raven.” She whispered back. It was he. She’d know his voice anywhere. She tried to reach for him. The nail came undone as she extended her hand. Warmth – a different kind, not burning but soothing – spread through it. Lips upon it as if he were kissing her. Maybe she had to…
“Emma, please. Open your eyes. Come back to me. I love you.”
She cried again. But it was different. Something warm ran down her cheeks. Tears. She had to move. She must try. If he loved her. But she couldn’t. There was this thing around her ankle. She couldn’t take it off. She had to try. She wanted to go home. To Harrison, to her parents, to Raven.
Eventually the shackle gave way; or did it disappear? She wasn’t sure. The cell had disappeared; she seemed to be in a world of grey, of light and shadow. As if she were walking in a fog. And she wanted out. She wanted to leave. She wasn’t sure how.
That was her father, her mother.
Her parents, Harrison, Daphne called her name. Raven too was here. She followed the voices in the fog. She couldn’t see anything. She reached in front of her, trying to grope her way forward. Suddenly she held onto something solid. She approached to see what it was; she blinked. Once, twice… what was going on? The fog dissipated.
She blinked again, the light blinding her after her time in the darkness.
“Emma?” She looked up.
She was in a bed; her bed. Her bedroom. Her mother was sitting right next to her. Her father stood behind her, his face a study in worry and joy. Wait. How was it? They’d been in America. How could they possibly be here?
“Shush darling, it’s ok.”
She looked at Raven who’d spoken. He was holding her hand; it was… she was missing a finger. No. She looked in his eyes: tears welled in his gaze. Daphne was crying in earnest, her face buried in Harrison’s shoulder. Her brother looked relieved, and sad, and glad.
“I think I should call for Doctor Grisham.”
Harrison volunteered. How long? How long had she been sleeping, fighting?
“Is he gone?”
Her voice trembled. Kent’s face hardened. Harrison stopped dead. And her father’s brow furrowed.
“Yes love.” Raven’s finger drew the line of her jaw. “He’s gone. He won’t hurt you anymore. Nor anyone else.”
In response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Tale Weaver prompt Never Give Up