“You don’t have to do this,” The words sounded hollow and ridiculous as soon as they left my mouth. They were false, and I knew it, and she knew it.
“I don’t want to do this,” she responded, and maybe it was just because her voice was so quiet that she sounded a little hoarse. Or maybe she was being just as honest as I wasn’t. Maybe that was why she was the one who was going to get out of this.
“We could just both stay,” I pleaded once more, one hand trying to lift, but still held firmly down by the vines she’d uprooted, tying me down at the base of the tilted-over tree with its roots flailing and exposed to the air like an upended turtle’s thick legs. The top of the tree actually brushed against the high, dark-leaved hedge.
“I can’t stay,” she said, and her voice cracked. She actually looked down, and my heart crumpled a little for her, watching the deep breath inflate her chest and lift her shoulders, and then slowly subside again. “I can’t stay, and I haven’t got enough for us both.”
I knew the knife; I’d seen it on the belt of the fae creature that had kept us both for so long. How she got her hands upon it I shall never know, but had I any doubt as to her determination even with all that regret, it was gone when I saw the intricately etched blade winking in the blue light of today’s sun. A thousand tortures unimaginably worse than what already we had suffered awaited her now if she went back – both of us, because I’d been gone long enough now that surely I’d be declared an accomplice, no matter what.
My blood ran cold; if she left me here, I’d be punished for her escape, regardless of the fact that I’d clearly been struck and bound, made to stay.
“But you can help us both get away,” I whispered, and lifted my chin from my chest to leave my throat bare. Wordlessly she set the point of the knife against the thick vein on one side, and in spite of being prepared for it the small jab made me hiss, my head jerking back. The spill of wet down the front of my shoulder and chest was immediate, and she hurriedly put a bowl underneath, murmuring words I did not know as used the knife to stir my blood into the herbs waiting there. with great care she painted the red mixture onto her eyelids, above and below, and then in a thick stripe between them across her nose, and from the sides away back across her temples. By the time she was done, I was growing dizzy, but I kept my eyes upon her, watching the mixture dry.
The air grew thick and prickly with the invisible gathering of power, and I could feel bits of it flitting past me to paste itself to her face, to her eyes. I surely wasn’t the only one who could feel it. I hoped the drying would go fast.
She watched me as well, occasionally testing the darkening stripe with her fingertips until it was dry, and then looked up past me, up the length of the tree at the hedge. A happy sob came from her lips, and I twisted weakly to see what it was. I saw only the top of the tree, nestling against the hedge.
“What is it?”
“The way home,” she whispered, voice thick, and I relaxed between the roots again, looking at her.
Distantly, there was the sound of a horn, and she went pale beneath her strange paint, though not as pale as I, tied down to be left for those who would come.
“Please,” I begged, and lifted my chin, pleadingly. A tear slid out of the corner of her eye, and though she glanced past me again at the top of the tree, she stayed her clear desire to flee, just long enough to cut me free of the world before our captors finished tracking us down.
This was written as part of the 31 Things In 31 Days project, being run on the page of the same name on Google+. For more information or to participate, go there.
Day Four prompt is courtesy of Eric Albee on Flickr, distributed under an Attributions-only Creative Commons license. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericalbee/6632588919/: