Ella's Compass Ch. 01bythelastempress©
You must understand she was very tired the night that that this occurred, although that is not and excuse for any of her actions, but still you must understand how tired she was. It was very late as she drove the winding rode through the state forest that lead to her house. She drove the four wheel drive vehicle confidently. She had never entertained the notions that being a female meant that she should drive a girly car. She was proud that she could change a tire. But she could do nothing about the fact that the county did not plow the roads. The snow was very heavy that night, thick and beautiful, like something on a Christmas card.
But Christmas was over, well over, winter in the big woods however was not and she drove carefully as her headlights illuminated one snowy turn after the next. She had been out late, much later then she had intended, she wondered as she drove back, her posture much too straight and her eyes far wide as she peered out into the falling snow, why she went to these things in the first place. She hated those little parties, candle parties or cooking parties it didn't matter what kind. This one had been tolerable, she had a nice visit at least, but she had stayed to long, and now she would not be home until ten o'clock.
Ella thought at first the sudden, terrifying thump it was a wild animal. Not that hitting a wild animal would have been better in her eyes, she simply heard the noise and saw something roll up onto her windshield. She quiet logically thought it was a deer and slowed her jeep while she screamed at a decibel that would have freighted small dogs away. She realized as she pulled to the side of the deserted road, and the shock was enough to silence her, that whatever was on her windshield was clothed.
Ella stopped the big car suddenly and was grateful that whatever was smashed up on her windshield didn't slide off of the hood before her tires. She opened the car door and vaulted around the side. The cold air stole her breath and bit her bare fingers, but she had little concern for it.
She saw that she had managed to hit a man. She perversely wondered if this wasn't fate's way of acting out because she hadn't been more proactive about finding a date for New Years. She was frightened to move him, in case she ended up hurting him worse than she already had, while she contemplated her next action, dancing in the slush next to her parked car, he opened his eyes. The man turning his head ever so slightly to glare at her from across the plane of her hood as the snow fell on his dark hair.
He was dressed in clothes that she had seen in a movie or perhaps read about. They certainly weren't fashionable by modern standards. They were far too elegant and fitted, the colors to earthy. He was tall and thin and had a gash across his forehead where he had caught some piece of her car. He leaned up on his elbows and Ella saw that he had an angular face and a strong jaw yet his features were fine. Although the look on his face was decidedly sour.
She could hardly blame him, If someone had hit her with a car, she would likely be bitter about it as well.
All of these thoughts were like birds in the summer sky, streaming through her mind as she looked at him. Her fear for him finally crested like a wave in the sea of her mind and allowed her to speak. " I am sooo sorry! I never saw you! Honestly! Are you alright?"
His fine features tightened in a grimace, although if it was from distaste or pain she could not be sure. Yet Ella knew with certainty, that if she lived one thousand years she would remember the sound of his voice until the moment of her death.
" If you had seen me, you would shame my family line back to the start, I am harmed from my own foolishness, cast upon your mechanized carriage." His voice dripped with irritation, confidence and perhaps recklessness. He met her eyes in a way that begged her to challenge him, she could see a desperation in them that made Ella think of wild things as they died.
"Do you need a hospital? Can you stand?" Yet even as she reached forward with her shaking hand to assist him he was rising, albeit shakily as he slid to the edge of the hood. As feet landed lightly upon the ground, he hissed harshly and leaned into the hood.
Ella scurried around beside him and grabbed onto his hips in her hope to help, her awkward boots caused her to slip and nearly bring them both down on the ground.
He struggled and shifted his weight onto his left side until they no longer wobbled then turned his head enough to glare at her through the rouge strands of his cinnamon colored hair. It hung to his shoulder blades and was long in a way that she had never seen a man wear successfully before. He was taller than her by about six inches and looking up at him as he stood hunched over her hood she realized that his ears came to graceful point that stuck out through the dark tendrils of his hair. Defiantly not a man!
Ella's resulting scream resounded masterfully through the silent forest, her foul tempered victim winced and turned his head. He leaned on one long sinewy arm and clapped the other hand to the ear closest to her.
" By all the gods! Shall I turn so you can kick me as well?
His sarcasm startled her and she began to reevaluate what she might do with him, all the while the cold wind was sneaking up under her coat and little flecks of snow were melting in her socks.
" Look you're obviously hurt, whoever you are, why don't you at least come and sit down until you decide what to do." She floundered through it the best she could,
He held her gaze fiercely for what seemed to Ella for a very long time before he inclined his head ever so slightly, he grudgingly allowed her to escort him to the passenger side where he settled himself in the seat.
It was very strained atmosphere when she got into the car. Even more so when he asked in his smooth voice, curt as it was, that she go back some hundred feet to pick up his things.
He actually gathered himself like she would send him back out in the snow to collect his things after she had nearly scattered his brains. After a few exchanged words Ella trudged back out into the snow. She found a pair of long knives, nearly like kukri's and a small satchel, although when she lifted it, the bag rattled in an ominous way that spoke of broken glass.
As Ella's hands closed over the steering wheel her rational mind fought for control over her wildly racing imagination. She drove home slowly, trying often to think of things to say to the creature that occupied her passenger seat. She kept stealing glances at him, but since she had returned his things he had not moved, leaning over to his right as he stared out the window at the dark trees.
Her house was really a cottage, an "all seasons" cottage, tucked back into the edge of the forest. It was very small, and had been cheap to buy. It had been all she could afford, and it had been her sweat and blood to bring it to a standard that she could live comfortably in. Ella shook her head at the heavy blanket of snow that covered her driveway and walkway, what a lot of shoveling she would have to do!
She opened the door to the cool night air, the driveway security light flared on and shone blaringly into the night. Ella swung her legs sideways to rise but she paused when he reached across the console and gripped her arm. His voice was still bitter, although it did not have the bite of his early words. She could hear the cadence better now and caught the soft lilt of his voice, he had a heavy accent that she was at a loss to identify.
" I am grateful Miss, that you were willing to bring me to your dwelling. I am not badly injured, just in need of rest. Days are so short, and cold now, in this blasted world."
"You are not from this world." She stated obviously, as an observation. " My name is Elaina, but please, it's Ella."
He scoffed and shook his head, he did not look at her but she could see his face tighten again. "Indeed I am not. I was traveling through hard country, and found myself pursued by foes. Many fell as they stalked me but at last I was forced to take refuge in a great cave whose tunnels reached far back into the darkness. I followed these underground passages seeking another exit, long did I travel through that great darkness. When next I saw the light I was in this place." He sighed deeply.
He fumbled to open the door until she pointed to the knob, and he stood uneasily, they made it into the house, although he would still except no help from her. He limped heavily, although it did not detract from the elegance of him, nor did the blood that was drying on his face.
She wrapped his knee with ice and coban despite his protests. She did her best not to stare at him in the light of the bathroom as she went about gathering things he might need to clean the gash in his forehead while he muttered softly to himself. Long ago she had felt that all hope of attraction, all hope of intimacy had ended for her, standing next to him in the small yellow tiled bathroom, Ella wished she was beautiful, and that she was the kind of women that whatever he was would want to kiss. She also wished her lotion and her hair ties were not scattered all over the bathroom countertop.
She left him to wash his face and have a moment of privacy after giving an embarrassingly staccato explanation of how all the faucets and knobs in the bathroom worked. When she was finished she received such a hard look from him that she wanted to ask how she was to know what exactly he understood and what he didn't.
While he was in the bathroom Ella went to her small bedroom to change. Her cottage, you must understand was very small. It was mostly built for summers, when people spent most of their time out of doors, rather than in them. For one person it was more then adequate, two bedrooms, a small kitchen, one bathroom and a living room with a small fire place. There was also a porch with glass windows, but it was not useable in the wintertime.
She liked it small like that, it felt very safe to her. Ella shut her bedroom door and pressed her head to it, wondering what in the name of all things holy she should do now. She looked around her tiny bedroom and felt her heart fluttering very fast as she mechanically changed out of her snow damp clothes and into some pajama pants and a grey sweater.
He reappeared still limping heavily, while she was building a fire in the living room, the ice that rattled on his knee was Ella's only indication of his approach. "Do you require help Elaina?"
She had to look up a long way to meet his eyes and she felt that his offer was more from some strange courtesy then from any desire to help, but still she felt shy in a way she had not since her teenage years.
" No thanks, I can manage. No one has called me Elaina in a long time. How do you feel?"
His eyes were the color of brandy in a glass or of new twigs on the willow tree as spring dawns, they were large and piercing, he glanced down at her before stalking towards unevenly to the front window which he stared out of pensively.
"I can not think why you would want people to call you Ella, you are shortening the meaning of yourself. In my world Elaina is spoken as Ilyaina and is the word used to describe the first rays of the morning sun. I have told you already, I will be fine with rest, perhaps a two days. If you will consent to me staying, it would be most kind. I am called Kellen."
"Kellen." She whispered his name softly, liking the feel of it on her lips. "What does your name mean?"
He sat lightly on the couch, and stretched languidly, his brandy eyes reflected the fire light like a cat's.
Ella did not like the shadows that crossed his face. " You are close, there is a different sound in it, listen again. Kellen."
It sounded like Kallin to her ears, she heard the difference now. " It is important only because they mean different things. My name describes a wanderer, a traveler I never felt that it was significant until now."
"You miss your home."
"Only as the parched ground longs for the rain." He spoke so bitterly that she recoiled from him and slid across the room pressing her back to the wall. "This world, with it's bitter air and mechanized machines, the sounds that press at me from all sides. I have never been lost before." The last admission came from between clenched teeth, his elegant face drawn tightly in disgust.
Ella had been lost for most of her life, and watching such an inner turmoil write itself out on his face she felt the compulsion to wrap her arms around him. She settled instead for meeting his bright eyes.
" I am sorry Kellen. Perhaps there is a way back to your home, perhaps we can find it if you will show me where you think you came from. I can not imagine how hard it is for you. I have never missed my home." She saw instantly the way his eyes narrowed as his gaze sharpened, but it was Ella's turn to look away.
He ended up sleeping in her spare room, it was either that or on the couch. Ella saw the faintest glimmer of a smile cross his face when he saw her bookcases, lined with books. His hand reached out to trace the bindings of the books and his rib cage rose as he inhaled deeply, as if he could breathe in the knowledge they contained. She left him with extra blankets and pillows, and the standard hostess. "If you need anything feel free to help yourself." Although she had never spoken it to anyone else, she had never had any other guest sleep in her home
Regardless Ella was happy when she crawled into bed, happy that she had not killed him, happy she had been able to help him, and happy she no longer had to face him. She drifted off to sleep thinking about Kellen's brandy colored eyes.
Ella woke suddenly as she often did in the middle of a scream, her blankets were wrapped unevenly around her, and her toes were chilly. She felt bile rising in her throat and fought to suppress the memories that were trying to force there way to the surface. Like slivers in her nail bed they stung at her. A new fear spilled over her, cold like ice water, trickling all the way to her ankles when she realized someone was sitting on her bed with her.
For one terrible, awful moment she was back in her old bedroom, she could smell beer and the scent of cheap cologne. Ella cried out brokenly into her pillowcase, her body tensed as she prepared to fight, it was then she heard the soothing words. She heard his voice and realized it was Kellen who was sitting beside her.
" I heard you screaming Ilyaina, have the night reapers always haunted you?"
He laid a hand gently on her back, but his touch was light and tentative.
Ella's face flushed and she turned on her side, as her knees came up to her chest. She was utterly embarrassed, she had no idea what, if anything she had said when she slept. She wished that he would get up and leave the room. She could feel prickles on her skin, and neck where she knew his bright eyes viewed her. She bit the side of her mouth until the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes were from pain rather than shame and she felt able to speak again.
" I'm sorry I woke you. I have nightmares a lot yes, if that is what you meant."
She pushed some of her unbound hair out of her eyes.
"What gave you such scars Ilyaina?" She had never heard his voice sound kind before, he was to jaded by his experience for kindness. But it was easier than it had been as his thumb traced the wide ugly scar that ran from her right shoulder to where it disappeared into her tank top.
She jerked from his touch and pulled the blanket up over her shoulder. " It was a very long time ago." But she knew instinctively that he would not miss the way her voice changed.
"I see." He did not rise from her bedside, but sat with his back to her, his long hair shining in the moonlight that streamed through the crooked blinds on her bedroom windows.
She nearly jumped when his voice rose in the air. His song was unlike any she had ever heard before. His voice was what would have been considered a tenor, it was clear and light and heart achingly beautiful. She did not know the language he sang in, but the words stirred in her a deep longing. She listened to the sound of his voice as it washed over her and found his music was soothing to her, like a balm applied to a stinging burn.
Ella fell asleep to his song, although even when she slept he did not stop. Kellen did not stop singing until the song was finished. He had not bothered to tell her it was prayer to his gods, if they could still hear him in this world so far from his own.
"Perhaps I am not the only one who is lost Ilyaina" He acknowledged as he looked down at the sleeping mortal on the bed. Kellen sat lightly upon the edge of her bed watching out her bedroom window until the morning sun lit the sky.