𝐈. 𝐚 𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐚 𝐰𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧
A towering shadow loomed over me, blocking the morning sun. I shuddered, knowing who it was, but I chose to concentrate on picking the Belladonna flowers instead. I waited for the owner of the shadow to leave me alone, but she didn’t.
“The high priestess had a dream last night,” the owner of the shadow declared.
“Everyone has dreams,” I told her, not turning around to look at her yet.
“Don’t pretend to be unaware of the consequences of the High Priestess’ dreams!” she snapped. When I didn’t say anything, she continued, “the high priestess saw your brother at war with Alexandros,”
“And?” I asked. Suddenly, the air turned cooler and changed its direction, pricking my skin with goosebumps. The shadow leaned over me before her grisly words wrapped in a whisper caressed my ear, “In her dream, he kills your brother,”
“You want me to go to my brother, Matriarch?” I asked in a shaky voice. She straightened up, casting an even taller shadow over me.
“We’d have sent a messenger if this was an ordinary situation, but we’re talking about your brother. I’d much prefer that you go to him yourself and convince him,”
“But he’s not going to listen to me,” I debated, turning around and eventually managing to look into her eerie, pitch-black, white-less eyes, but only momentarily. I looked down to her feet right after because her eyes made me feel something beyond uncomfortable.
“But you have to make him listen if you wish to see him continue to be our Emperor and alive,” she spoke in a low, wintry voice. The pace at which the words came out of her mouth suggested that she was extraordinarily mindful of them.
“You know he has stopped taking us seriously because of the Nobles,” I reminded her.
“Still, you have to go to him and tell him about this and... this is the High Priestess’ orders,” she declared, having the last say. “Leave within an hour if you wish to return before the sea turns wild. It’s a full moon tonight. I assume you’re already aware of our travelling protocols?” She enquired. I nodded.
“Get going then,” she muttered before walking away.
“What are you doing here?”
These were the first words my brother spoke when he saw me. It had taken me almost half the day to get there. I was expecting him to be happy to see me; instead, he was acting as if he’d seen a ghost.
“Good to see you too,” I replied coolly. He looked at me pointedly and advised, “You shouldn’t be here,”
“And why is that?” I asked him, still holding all my emotions at bay. My brother was utterly unrecognizable since the last time I saw him, which was almost a year ago.
“Because you’re still under training. As far as I am aware, you’re not supposed to leave the shrine until you get the priestess title,” He hissed.
“Someone sent me here,” I professed when he didn’t show any sign of hospitality to me. Usually, royal guests were hosted and entertained in the royal parlour or a different meeting room. Instead, my brother chose to see me in the Public hall outside the Palace, where he heard his subjects’ pleas. I had to wait with his other subjects for my turn after everyone else.
Maybe, it was because of my borderline scandalous disguise, but regardless, I wasn’t fond of the way he treated me for someone who was his only surviving family. My words almost turned him into a statue.
“Who?” He asked even though it was evident on his face that he already knew the answer to this question.
“I have been sent here by the High Priestess to tell you to stop the war that you’re planning against the wolves,” I told him grimly, pinning him with my gaze.
“Or what?” He challenged. I had the old urge to smack him in the face because he never listened.
“Or you get killed in the war,”
“This is what the high priestess sent you here for?” He asked, crossing his arms on his chest and looking at me like I was the fool here.
“Yes,” I answered curtly. In response, he let out a short laugh.
“What’s so funny?” A familiar voice asked.
“Herran,” My brother greeted the senior Noble with more warmth than he had shown me. I remained quiet, foreseeing where it was heading as soon as Herran’s sly eyes fell on me. ”She is here,” My brother announced.
I couldn’t help but notice that he used ′she’ instead of ‘my sister’ or ‘Theresa’. It felt odd being referred to as such by my brother, but at the same time, it acted as a reminder of my current status.
“That, I could see, but why’s she here?” Herran asked as he scanned me from head to toe with his eyes full of judgment, and his face veiled behind a look of utter vexation. In response, I felt the eternal loathing for him upwelling inside me like the water in the sea.
“I have been sent here by The High Priestess,” I told him grimly, “She had a vision in her dream. Theoron should postpone his ambitious plans for a while if he wishes to live,”
The two of them burst out laughing all of a sudden, leaving me in shock. I stood there, drowning in humiliation, while the two laughed at me.
“Theresa,” Herran spoke, still chuckling, “I’m so sorry that you had to come this far for this but do you think that we would believe that girl?”
“She is the High Priestess of the Eternal Lagrafiri Shrine, Herron. The laws of nature have chosen her. You cannot—” Herron dismissed me, waving his hand over my face.
“We don’t need those ancient superstitions anymore, Theresa. We have the Enlighteners and capable court Mages at our disposals who don’t rely on stupid dreams and visions to tell us about the future,” He stopped chucking and added grimly, “Now, we make the future,”
“You’re discrediting an institution that had existed for long and guided Somireans through the darkest of times,” I reminded him pointedly.
“Since the darkest of times are over, we don’t need you anymore,” Herron returned. I was seething because my brother stood there and watched as Herron humiliated me. He didn’t utter a single word in my defence. The look on his face suggested that his views weren’t any different than Herron’s.
“Regardless,” I muttered, regaining my composure, “We would continue to be as we had before Somirea and all the kingdom before it. The rulers and their subjects are temporary. We are eternal,” I provoked.
“Are you suggesting something, Theresa?” Herron snarled, taking a threatening step closer to me, but Theoron stopped him. I was still excepting him to say something in my favour; instead, my brother betrayed me.
“Theresa, tell Vittoria that I honour her service, but I refuse to accept her presupposition. You have been here for a while now. You should set out soon. The journey back is longer,” He told me dismissively, delivering the last blow to whatever was left of our relationship. I blinked tears, unable to accept this as the reality.
I had to remind myself that I had been away for almost a year which, to me, felt like yesterday. But, time in the shrine was slower than the rest of the world. A part of me was still living in the past while my brother seemed to have trespassed into the future. It further made the present unbearable.
Herron looked at me smugly. I clenched my fists and stormed out of there, feeling more defeated and humiliated than ever.
I was terribly late on my way back. It was dark, and the tides were high when I reached the port. I was there just on time to catch the last boat, but alas, as soon as the small and crowded boat left the harbour, I realized that missing it would have been a better decision.
My fellow passengers happened to be prostitutes, travelling towards one of the kingdoms in the south. As they sang, laughed, hollered, I sulked in a corner, waiting for the next port where I could change my boat.
I was in a stage situation. I wanted to get to the shrine sooner, but at the same time, I wished to forget my way back there because the thought of the High Priestess and the Matriarch waiting for me there was haunting me. I knew they would be beyond displeased once they’d come to learn of what happened today.
The full moon hung in the sky, shining brightly above us while provoking the sea under us. The waves were getting taller and taller than our boat, but the men kept rowing diligently.
As a high wave washed over us, it filled the boat with a lot of water, drenching us all. I got on my feet, glaring at the moon as if it was my judas brother.
Meanwhile, the boatmen hollered at the prostitutes to get the water out of the boat with buckets. Out of nowhere, I was handed a bucket and pushed to the floor. I cursed out loud but seeing the water in the boat made me instantly get to work with others.
The sea turned wilder the higher the moon climbed in the night sky. At some point, I had accepted that tonight I might have to sleep on the seabed instead of the bed waiting for me in the shrine, but the prospect of not seeing Vittoria made the seabed more appealing.
Fortunately or unfortunately, a merchant’s ship was nearby. After somehow making it to the merchant’s ship through the towering waves, the passengers got helped onboard, and the boatmen stayed back.
I was the last passenger to leave the boat and climb up the ropes. When I reached the deck, I struggled to get over it for a while until a hand extended down to help me onboard.
I grabbed the hand, and instantly, a rousing sensation travelled up my arm’s nerves. It nearly felt like a tickle, yet it shook me up from inside. It felt like someone had gripped my shoulders and was shaking me vigorously to wake me up from an eternal slumber. Those sensations felt like a gentle brush of a feather charged with the power of a thunderbolt. The hand tensed its clasp on mine and pulled me over the deck with an effortless tug.
The deck was filled with shadows of other passengers on board, but under the faint light of a nearby lantern, my eyes locked with a pair of dark, wide ones. As soon as I looked into them, I froze the way one would have after looking into Medusa’s eyes. Yet, there was no Medusa.
Instead, it was a man I’d never seen before yet... he felt familiar for some odd, unexplainable reasons. My brain seemed to have stopped working because for a long minute, I stood there staring at him, confused and intrigued.
When it finally occurred to me, I tried to draw my hand away, but he tightened his hold even more. I was still at the edge of the deck, but this man didn’t seem to have any plans to move.
Today, he was the second person looking at me as if they had seen a ghost. I didn’t know why but the more I looked into his eyes, the more I felt gravitated towards him, so I chose to look away. Still, his eyes burned on me like the equatorial sun, threatening to give me a sunstroke on this chilly night.
“Move!” I glowered. This eventually snapped him out of the trance before he drew me further away from the railing. Still, he didn’t let go of my hand.
His towering height and broad shoulders were hard to ignore as I counted the possibilities of having to fight him in case such a situation should arise. I could only see one side of his angular, rugged face in the low lantern light. His thick eyebrows cast a shadow on his intense eyes, adding more depth and overbearing character to them.
I couldn’t decide if it was because of the way he was looking at me or because of the way he looked that made something flutter in my stomach briefly. Before my eyes could go further down from his face, I reminded myself of the shrine that was awaiting me.
“What? You have never seen a woman before?” I snapped at him when he still hadn’t let go of my hand or taken his eyes off me. They were threatening to infect me with blasphemous thoughts. Suddenly, the waves swung the ship, knocking me into him.
who do you think he is?
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