Apocalypto didn’t realize how much he would enjoy the cat and mouse game that Ffeyjer had begun with Valor…but the longer it progressed, the more he relished the thought of the young woman writhing in agony for years before her eventual slaughter. Every heartbroken tear she shed was intoxicating for the Dark Lord and he was left craving more…anticipating the next deliciously painful round. He knew that whatever Ffeyjer had planned next to bring about the destruction of Valor, it would not disappoint…
Ghrim’s visits with Honor continued. They were always brief and somewhat unsettling to the young woman, but she could not pinpoint the cause of her discomfort. She continued to grieve for her lost love, but her days were no longer filled with anguish. She was able to remember with equal amounts of joy and pain the love she shared with her beloved Zee. Honor still preferred her solitude, but the brief stopovers from the raven broke the monotony of her loneliness.
This day he held Monarch Vine in his beak when he alighted on his usual branch. A sharp dagger of pain shot through Honor’s heart as the bird dropped the offering in her lap.
“Why did you bring this, Ghrim? I do not wish to ever look at this plant again because it covers the grave of my beloved.”
“To remind you.”
“I need no reminder. I know he is gone from me.”
“But you do not know why.”
“He fell, Ghrim. He stumbled on the cliff and he fell. There is no other explanation.”
“Well, that is the easiest thing to believe,” the raven said cunningly.
“What else is there to believe, bird?” Honor said hopelessly.
Honor’s eyes grew wide and she looked in horror at the raven. “You saw Zee die? Why have you waited to tell me this?” she demanded.
“You were not ready.”
“I don’t want to know. Nothing good can come from knowing the details of his pain and suffering. Do not speak of it, Ghrim!”
“Good day,” the bird retorted and flew away.
Eberheart was close by and saw the raven leave the company of Valor. Her hands were covering her weeping face when the little dove landed by her side.
“Do not sing to me today, little friend. My heart cannot withstand more pain.”
The grey dove perched silently and watched his mistress. His heart was fluttering wildly in fear. He knew not who the raven was, but he sensed that the bird had hurt the young woman, and that her Guardian should be warned. Eberheart was torn between staying to try to comfort his mistress, and flying to Banyon Cray for help. Deciding he was useless to her because she would not hear his song, the little dove flew off in search of Soddgauble.
That night Honor did not sleep. A battle waged inside her heart and mind as she thought of Zee and how she had always believed he had perished. Now there was a different possibility…and she wrestled with the desire to know the truth…and the need to preserve what was left of her heart. She did not believe she could endure having her heart torn asunder once again, but she also did not think she could live with the knowledge that he had died in a different way than what they’d all believed. One nagging thought helped her make the decision: What if it hadn’t been an accident…and someone had caused Zee’s death? Honor resolved in her heart to learn the truth…and if anyone had taken her beloved from her, she would set things right. She owed it to Zee to honor him in that way.
While Honor was finding her resolve, faithful Eberheart had made his way to Soddy and was conveying to the teacher his concern about the raven and what the bird could have done to hurt his mistress. The Scholar was too weak to open his eyes, and his words came as barely a whisper upon his lips. “Honor…dear Honor…” The dove flapped his wings, but remained perched on the teacher’s bedstead. He did not know what else to do, for it was only Soddy with whom he could communicate; Authorious understood none of Eberheart’s whistles. Patiently, he settled in and rested while he waited for the Guardian to return home.
It was dark when the sound of heavy footfalls roused the sleeping dove. He blinked and cooed softly to welcome Authorious. The hulking man ran his giant hands gently over the downy feathers of the little bird and spoke quietly to him, “Hello, my little friend. It’s been a while since you’ve come to visit. It’s good to see you…and hopefully hear word of Honor.”
Eberheart looked at the Guardian and whistled, trying desperately to communicate.
“Hopefully you’ve already told Soddy all of this,” he chuckled softly. Sitting upon the edge of the Scholar’s bed, Authorious gently shook him. “Soddy, can you wake up?” he asked gently, “Eberheart is with us and I need to know what message he’s brought.”
“Honor,” the teacher whispered, “dear, sweet Honor.”
“Yes, friend. He’s given you a message about our Honor. Can you tell me what it is?”
“She’s adrift…dear girl…so broken…the bird…” Authorious sighed. He knew the old Scholar was no longer able to speak coherently. There was nothing he could do to decipher the message the bird was whistling to him. He spent a restless night sitting next to his old friend, keeping vigil in case Soddy were to suddenly muster enough strength to deliver Eberheart’s message. The Guardian knew that if the girl were in any danger, some how, some way, the Scholar would find the ability to warn him.
The next day, when Ghrim arrived, Honor had prepared herself as best she could for the knowledge she was seeking. She took the wilted piece of Monarch vine and set it adrift in the river. “Tell me,” she said as she looked at the raven.
“You forbade me to speak of it.” The bird seemed to be taunting her.
“Please, Ghrim. I’m sorry I spoke so sharply…I was not expecting such a revelation!”
“You should think before you speak.”
“Will you tell me, please?”
“You will be angry with me when I tell you the truth,” the raven said.
“Why would I be angry with you? I promise, Ghrim, I will not be angry.”
“He was torn, your Zee. Torn between marrying you and pursuing his Life Path.”
“No. We were planning together how he would achieve his calling.”
“He knew he could never do what he needed to become a Royal Culinarian and at the same time walk with you on your Life Path.”
“What are you saying? I don’t understand! We loved each other. We would have done anything together!”
“Yes, he loved you. He promised you he’d never leave you, but he knew he would have to in order to follow his destiny. He could not bear that thought, Honor.”
“This cannot be true! He would have told me!” she shouted.
“And hurt you? He never wanted anything to hurt you. He was beside himself that day at the Gorge. He was torn and desperate…he didn’t know what was right. I watched him stand on that cliff. I heard him say he would rather die himself than to leave and kill you…”
“No!” Honor tried interrupting him, but he kept speaking.
“He threw himself off the cliff…”
“No!” She screamed it louder.
“His last words were to beg your forgiveness…”
“No!” She covered her ears with her hands and screamed the word over and over to drown out the voice of the raven.
“Please, Ghrim, leave me. I cannot abide another word. Please!” she begged.
“I will return,” he said quietly, then flew away.
Unimaginable pain ripped thru Honor’s body and as she screamed and denied the raven’s words, one small truism surfaced from her pit of despair and she knew his words must be true…for who could ever really love such an ugly, twisted being such as her? Honor was slowly consumed with anger until it burned out of control and sometime during that night her soul was set alight with a rage that engulfed her…and burned her to the ground.