Months have passed and the air in the valley still constricts. He doesn't understand; they won. Lord Balor got what he wanted, and what he wanted was what Griffith wanted.
Then why is there something missing?
Griffith stands at the cliff looking out towards the sea; the overcast skies over the slow lapping waves made thinking of nothing easier. As the days pass, he finds it harder to look at the joy in his people's faces. It's frustrating because there shouldn't be a reason for what he is feeling.
The seagulls fly above and around him, searching for crumbs of food around the crags. He looks on; the sea was where she first escaped him. Arian and her blonde friend, Henruda, boarded a ship just as he was about to catch up to them. The memory seemed like such a long time ago now. Griffith felt older, more tired, but whenever he passes his reflection by water or Lady Errata's looking glass, his face looks the same. The same gloomy expression, the same red hair, the same scars on his body. And new scars as well.
Griffith's shoulders slump as he exhales. I'm tired. His energy is always low these days, and he frequents his bed more than ever. Lord Balor decreased calling for him, but that is because he is busy planning his conquest over Rome. Once I conquer Rome, I can conquer the world, he would say.
As much as he wants to, or thinks he wants to, he could not join in the fervor. The passion for conquest and his clan's pride is nowhere to be found. Griffith is now a disillusioned man; the world, the sky, is grayer than ever.
I want to sleep. Turning around into the cave, he makes his way to his bedchamber.
Passing by idly through the cave, he hears the fruit of his labor; children's laughter, wives and mothers giggling, most likely gossip, and the men joking around. This is what he traveled so long for; his clan's prosperity. In great part, this is due to Lord Balor's good mood; the killings inside the clan tremendously decreased, rewards and feasts are being granted left and right. Griffith helped secure this for them. But where is his smile?
Looking back, it disappeared months ago, and the sun doesn't shine the same. He could smile once again when he drinks; before, he wasn't one to indulge in such frivolities but now he could not bear to part with the guilty pleasure. The sweet drink helps him to numb and forget, which is what aids him the best nowadays, he concludes. His efforts earned him repose from further responsibilities, and so he can indulge however he wants.
He turns towards the men shouting at him, drunk. Isn't it midday?
"What is it?"
"Almost everyday you go out to the cliff. Have your travels made you nostalgic for the sea or do you like bird-watching that much?"
"Yeah, we never took you for a man with a hobby," a second drunk man slings his arm over the first man.
Griffith just looks at them, "I'm not."
The second man grins, "Then perhaps you met someone in your travels? Missing a new lover?"
"HAHA! Don't let Lord Balor find out!" The men laugh even harder.
Personally, I don't think he cares for anything other than his conquest. Balor did not have much regard for his two children, but his son Finvala works hard to aid him in his goals, so there is value with him. Lady Oona is still primarily caring for their little daughter, who is still a baby.
Griffith exhales, "Nothing of the sort. If anything, you have quite the imagination." He starts walking again, turning his back on them, "Now if you'll excuse me, I will go to bed."
The women whisper amongst each other, "At this hour? It's midday."
"As much as he denies it, he has the look of a man who lost someone quite dear to him."
The younger, unmarried women chime in, "Such a pity, really. He's so handsome! If he's this hung up over someone, I doubt he would ever marry."
"Aww, there goes my chance!"
The walls within the cave amplify their attempts at whispering, and Griffith is great at listening. No one would want foolish women like you. From their girlish giggling, he remembers a face that is not any of theirs. Yet a foolish woman indeed.
One who, as stubborn as she was, never let go of her dream, the goal she thought she absolutely had to chase. That dream killed you. Griffith's head starts ringing again, and he thinks that perhaps those men didn't have the wrong idea in drinking at this hour.
Once he arrives at his bedchamber, he looks for the bottle. Where did I put it again? This room, which always reflected how well put-together he was, is in disarray. Searching around, he sees the bottle laying on the ground next to the large chest he keeps along the wall.
As he picks the bottle up, his eyes glance over to the chest, and remembers he hadn't opened it for quite a while. Something inside him dares him to open it once again, waiting for him.
Fighting through the hesitation, his fingers flip open the latch, and he pushes open the chest. The scent of old, rusty blood overwhelms his nostrils, probably something he needs to throw out. Scrolls he secretly collected while in Alesia from that half Roman businessman, Effidel if he recalls correctly, are strewn about. He wanted to teach himself the Roman language, but now there is no use for them. Rome will be conquered by Lord Balor anyway.
Soft fur grazes his fingers as he takes up the scrolls, and he stops. The fur feels luxurious on his skin and has a soft, comforting quality. Pulling it out, he realizes it is a fur coat.
Her fur coat.
Time stands still for a few moments, and the silence deafens everything save for the beating of his heart. He picks it up; its brown color shines in the light of the torch hanging on the wall. Parts of the fur is matted down with dried blood, and upon seeing it, his chest constricts, like the air in his lungs is being taken from him.
Walking past the bottle with the coat in his hands, he sits down on his bed. Griffith holds the soft coat in his hands and stares at it; the last time he touched it was when...
An image of her, smiling, flashes in his mind. Her curly black hair, the radiance of her smile, her joyful laughter. Arian is gone forever, and he holds the reminder of it. Those green eyes, green like his own, he had closed forever.
His eyes shut tight as the tears ran down his cheeks, shoulders shuddering as he silently sobs into the coat.
I'm sorry. He wants to say, but his throat is too tight, his chest too heavy for the words to come out.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please forgive me.
The weight of the world seems to be on the shoulders of one man.
Why did you trust me? You knew I was your enemy, yet you still trusted me.
When they were back in Erin for a short time during their travels, and came upon a village his clan had attacked and ransacked, Arianrhod defended him against the angry villagers. She gave excuses for him, when he wouldn't lie to save himself.
Why did we keep saving each other? It made no sense.
When he awoke after collapsing during a snowstorm, she was by his side. They were both stripped of their clothing, her warm skin against him. He remembers her body being tougher than what he thought a woman's would be. She must have faced many hardships in life. He could never know the stories behind her scars now.
He remembers when they were swimming towards that huge tree underwater, how he turned around and saw her drowning. He instinctively swam towards her as he wanted to get her to safety urgently before he too lost his breath. They were saved by their friend, that flirtatious spirit, at the time. After coughing out the water he swallowed, his heart beat steadied after seeing she too was alright.
He opens his eyes slowly, reddened from the tears. I was happy...that she was alive. Griffith's grip on the coat tightens.
I want to see you again. I want to apologize to you. I want to hold you.
But these pleas fall to no ears. He is alone, with his broken heart, which is all his fault.
The more he holds the coat against him, the wave of emotion that overtook him grows. An item that is supposed to give warmth only pulls forth a frozen atmosphere. The closer holds it, holds her, the further away that warmth only got.
"You must hate me, wherever you are. I understand," his hoarse voice is cracking.
He promises, to no particular god, that he would see her again, even if only for a mere moment, so sure he would weep at her feet.
He remembers that day. A bloodied Arian looked up at him, after he ran her through with his sword. At that time, everything was also still, and it was just the two of them. She had smiled then too.
WHY?! WHY WOULD YOU SMILE, YOU IDIOT?! I KILLED YOU!
She couldn't speak; only blood came out of her mouth. But the words she was mouthing...what were they? Griffith desperately wanted to know. Her face, despite the obvious pain she was in, looked at peace. Long before that, she had told him of her own goal; she wanted to become a druidess. She had to, she said.
Why? He asked.
Because that's the only future for me when I get my home back, she said.
Was there a burden on her shoulders as well? What was behind the pain in her eyes at the time? He would never know.
But before she died, she was smiling. Arian's face was one of someone who found peace. And that expression, her last moments, he was the only witness to.
As soon as she became limp, he walked towards her and bent down to hold her. She grew cold in his arms, and he remembered the snowstorm. I have to keep her warm, he thought. The fur coat slid off her. He picked it up and wrapped it around her.
Griffith couldn't remember much after that. Was he crying? Most likely. Did he say anything to her? Most likely not. At some point, he started carrying her back to his clan to present the body to Lord Balor. Something had to show for his efforts.
He cursed that train of thought. Her life was never worth any of this.
Lady Errata had wanted to keep her corpse, most likely for something magic-related. To extract any remaining spiritual power, perhaps. He is sick of it, and wants nothing more to do with magic. Griffith stood firm on his insistence that he bury her where her clan once was. She would've wanted that, he thought. Lord Balor and Lady Errata granted him that.
He realized, as he was about to bury her, that it would be the last time he saw her face in the flesh and felt compelled to kiss her on the forehead. It would have been easier to part if she hadn't shaken up his world the way she did and filled it with light.
The cracking of the torch wood brings him back to his dark room. His eyelids grow heavy, and he lays down, still clutching Arian's coat closely. Though he did not drink, he is sure he would see her again in his dreams. She never failed to appear.
He kisses her coat, and as he drifts off to sleep, he swears he could smell the faintest scent of sunshine.