It is the eve of battle, and Helena is still awake.
She has spent the last few hours trying and failing to fall asleep, to regain her strength for tomorrow, but all she has managed is a few scant minutes.
It must be the pre-battle jitters, she thinks.
She looks down at the crack of space between her tent and the ground, where the light seeps in from torches spread throughout the battlements. She still hears a low murmur of voices outside, a sudden bark of laughter, a peal of jeers. Music starts, and the scent of cooked meat slips between the cracks and wafts toward her nose.
A smile stretches on her face, and she pushes herself up off the cot, deciding to find the source of the sound and distract herself.
Just for a little while, she thinks.
She wraps herself in her warmest jacket before pulling aside the flap of her tent, the force of the wind pushing against her makes it more of a challenge than it should be.
Outside, the camp is engulfed in darkness. Torchlight quivers around her, throwing shadows in every corner of the tightly packed tents, leaving her shuddering; she tells herself it’s because of the chill.
She pulls her jacket tighter and trudges forward, weaving her way through the encampment toward the others, intent on making her way to the others, but all the markers she uses in the daytime to navigate are obscured.
It is not long before she finds herself at the edge of the battlements, face to face with a great maw of shadows, the forest entrance.
The trees tremble, leaves rattle, and branches groan against the wind. The chill of the night settles into her limbs and lungs, rooting her to her spot, while the faintest music and laughter Helena has ever heard drifts into her ears from behind. In front of her, the shadows of the branches shudder closer, until they cover her feet, her legs, hips, arms—in mere moments, the moon is devoured by a shroud of clouds, and everything around her is darkness.
Everything is frozen.
The shaking leaves slow to a patter, to a pause. Branches rest between groans. Even the blades of glass lie still, waiting.
A sob cuts through the calm, sending shivers up Lena’s spine.
Helena launches forward past the brush, into the woods, deeper into the darkness.
Far, far past a dense copse of trees, she sees him fallen to his knees, his hair is speckled silver from the tiny shafts of moonlight that pierce through the clouds.
“Saint,” she breathes, breaking through the silence, and he straightens himself, whipping his head around his shoulder to look at her.
She wastes no time to get to his side and throwing her arms around him, giving him all her warmth in the cold of the night.
“Saint, what’s wrong? What are you doing here?” And as she speaks, her eyes land on a picture on the floor.
Her heart lurches in realization and her eyes prick with tears.
Lena hugs her brother tighter. “Don’t worry, Saint, we’ll get him back. I promise you.”
She pulls away, ducks her head so she can look at his eyes from beneath his curtain of hair.
He finally turns his gaze to her, eyes shining and miserable.
“I promise you,” she tucks some of his hair behind his ear, “I’ll do everything in my power to bring him back.”
His whole face breaks at that. Tears spill freely from his eyes, past the blotchiness of his cheeks, curving at the grimace of his mouth, and trailing down to his jaw where they collect until they’re heavy enough to break away from him.
She wraps her arms around him once again, squeezing for emphasis.
“Please, please believe me. I would do anything to bring him back.” She pulls back to cup his face and wipe the tears from his face. “I just want you two to be happy, like you deserve.”
At that, Saint smiles. He rests his forehead against her own.
“You have no idea how relieved I am to hear you say that.”
“Saint, you’re my brother, I would do anything for you.”
He sighs, smiles wanly, and makes to stand up. Helena follows suit, and when he makes to walk back into the forest, toward the camp, she follows again.
When he reaches the edges of the thicket, he turns around toward her, but looks resolutely at the ground.
“You know…I’ve spent so long on my own. First mom abandons us, leaves us to with...fucking Zeus, then Athena takes you away before we even know what's happening,” he shakes his head, frowning, “After all that, it’s still hard to believe that I have someone I can rely on, trust, or love…”
A smile melts onto Helena’s face and she steps forward to embrace her brother again.
She smiles into his chest. "When you find someone like that, you would do anything for them...it's why I would do anything for you," and though her voice is muffled, she knows he can hear her from the rumbling laughter in his chest.
He hugs her back, turns her around as she laughs, until they’ve switched places. When they pull away, Saint is smiling openly now.
“That’s why I would do anything for Oliver,” he says.
Before Helena can ever register her confusion, Saint pushes her back into the bushes.
Thorny shadows snake up her arms and legs, cover her mouth, beck, torso. They pierce and slice into her skin, and burning wetness spills out from each wound and both her eyes and she’s screaming before she even realizes it.
When she looks up, Oliver stumbles out from the billowing shadows of the canopy, his eyes black as night, but the shadows begin to recede almost immediately and the white of sclera becomes visible. He collapses.
Saint enters her vision, whispers an earnest thank you, and runs over to Oliver, leaving Helena to be pulled into an unfathomable darkness.