Chapter Six: The High Council
Dreams can be wonderful because you can fantasise about anything and escape actuality. However, dreams at the same time can be the most horrible thing that can happen to you. Because a nightmare can make you fear your life.
That night I dreamed I was walking next to a stream. The one I always sat by. About a couple of meters away my mom was standing next to Violet, Katherine and my father (not the king, my other father). Suddenly the river erupted into fire. Burning the forest and making a gap between them and me. I screamed for them to run but nothing could come out of my mouth. It was as if my vocal cords were frozen solid. They didn’t move, they just stood there not screaming, not moving, just standing, letting the flames come closer to them. I yelled more fiercely, but nothing would come out, not a sound. I even tried running to them but every step I took felt like I was stepping into tar. Pulling me down to the earth and making sure I couldn’t reach them. Their clothes caught on fire but still, they just stood there, smiling. There was nothing I could do to save them. Everybody I cared about erupted into a volley of yellow flames. I yelled, cried and screamed in rage. I also caught on fire, the sunny flames tearing and melting the flesh of my body. The ground beneath me turned into a pool of water and I fell inside. The first time I was able to scream but when I opened my mouth water would fight its way inside.
I woke up inhaling air like I didn’t have the chance ever before. My entire body was full of sweat as I clasped the sides of the hard sofa. I saw that Katherine and Violet were still sleeping on the bed.
Forget it, I demanded myself. It did seem to help me ease my hands off the sofa. The sun just started to shine into the room through the window. There were new clothes for all of us hanging over the desk chair. I walked over picking up the only one that wasn’t a dress and went into the bathroom to change. It was simply a white shirt like the one I wore the day before, with black trousers and knee-high black leather boots. I walked back into the bedroom when someone knocked on the door.
“The king has requested you and your friends to his throne room in half an hour.” Then I heard footsteps walking away.
I woke Katherine up telling her that the king wanted to see us.
When I woke Violet, she didn’t look happy with me waking her since she wasn’t a morning person. I guess with all the excitement of the last three days, she was starting to get a little tired.
I headed outside so that they could change. As I’ve come to learn there was no one in the hall so I didn’t have any other option but to go look out of the window closest to the door. Before I even got close enough to see the full view, I saw three figures in the sky. They were coming from a distance but at a rather fast speed. It looked like birds but they were too big to be birds. And the closer they got I could easily see the figure of a horse with wings. But not only that, the figures of people riding them.
“You guys have to come to see this,” I knocked on the door telling Katherine and Violet, not taking my eyes of the beings outside.
“Alright, we’re almost done,” Violet yelled and in a few seconds opened the door.
She was wearing a little blue dress with a flower pattern on it, her blond hair in two braids hanging over her shoulders. Katherine appeared also, her dark hair hanging over her shoulders on both sides but the hair was out of her eyes by some sort of hairpin with different flower colours. She wore another white V-neck dress that had sleeves that spread wide and hung almost down on the floor. On her shoulders, there was the same type of floral print as the hairpin, on a copper colour.
I think Katherine noticed me staring at her outfit too long so with her pink cheeks; she quickly questioned me calling them? We walked to the palace door to welcome these flying visitors, to find we weren’t the only ones as I opened the doors.
“Pegasus!” Violet yelled in awe and ran towards them.
Katherine and I followed. There were three pegasi and all of them were white. Two men climbed off two of them and the other one was a girl, Orchid. She pulled off a white fur coat revealing a sleeveless beige dress with straps going over her shoulder and her hair was the same way as last night. Wavy curls, which still seemed perfect in every way. I thought she might be a little cold but the way she smiled at me suggested that she wasn’t.
“Told you we would meet again,” she said to me.
“Who is that?” Katherine asked me.
“I’m Orchid. Daughter of um... I rather not say,” she answered Katherine. Katherine seemed a little-embarrassed seeing, as she didn’t think that Orchid would hear her.
“Why are you here?” I asked her.
“I’m here to see the king, same as you.”
“You are late!” a lady yelled from behind us. It was Cecilia. “The king is waiting.”
For a moment, I felt trapped. I didn’t want my sister to hear what the king was going to say. I locked eyes with Katherine.
“Violet,” she said. “Would you like to go with them to the stables, and then you can check on our horses too?”
“Yes!” she said as if this was a major responsibility.
I stared at the guard with strong conflict.
“We’ll take care of her,” he bowed and I felt out of sorts.
We left Violet with the pegasi and I told her to be good.
The rest of us, which included Katherine, Orchid and myself rushed inside to the king’s throne room without any words said. The king sat on his throne when we got there waiting for us. He straightened his back and lifted his head to address us.
“Yesterday you told me that there was an attack on the mortal village where you live,” the king asked me.
“Yes,” Katherine and I told him the entire story about our fathers taking or more like stepfather now. How many times now? I decided to give up on counting our storytelling escapades.
“Alright, I have called together a meeting of the High Council to tell them what happened.”
“What’s the High Council?” I asked. I only heard about it once from the satyrs, then last night from king Hendry and none of them gave us a lot of information.
“Don’t you know what the High Council is or more like who they are?” Orchid asked me, clearly stunned.
“No,” Katherine and I said at the same time. People didn’t really inform us about everything we didn’t know or needed to know.
The king stood up from his throne, walking rather slowly to the left and pulled on one of the lamps on the wall next to a tiger head drape. The entire throne moved sideways without any echo in the vast room, creating a secret passage.
“After you,” he said smiling to all of us. I walked up to the throne’s stairs and peeked inside.
We all started walking into a large square room with a pool in the middle that had stairs going into it. I jumped when the wall closed behind us. The room was dark and there was nothing on the walls, just dark stones. There hanged a little white lantern above the water but it didn’t help light up the room. It only made you see where you were going so you wouldn’t fall.
In the corner of the room, there was a white cloud? I had no idea what it was doing indoors and fought the urge to ask. I didn’t want a long explanation about stuff that made me want to press my hands against my temples and scream any more than I needed. The king started walking into the water followed by Orchid. There clothes almost entirely wet.
“Well come along,” he told us.
I exchanged looks with Katherine. She had the same confused expression as me, but we followed him. I took the first step as the water encircled my shoe. I took another step and stared at how the water encircled my other shoe. Then kept going inward, making myself completely wet in the process. We kept walking through the water until I had to hold my breath and close my eyes to go under. The world seemed so silent and calm from under the water and it felt like for once I could think clearly. Not too cold or warm, but simply put perfection. I wished I knew about this place last night, then there wasn’t a pillow needed to hide my screams. I felt a step all of a sudden, then another, then another, I was moving upward. Then we unexpectedly emerged out of the water, completely dry.
We were in a different place. It was so beautiful that it left me speechless for a while. It was in a room without a doubt because there were golden walls with a big wooden door. There was a stream that we emerged from with stairs, like at the pool in the palace, trees and flowers. Birds perched themselves on the trees beside silver and wooden wind chimes and dreamcatchers that made the entire place seem peaceful. There were a few dark lanterns on the furthest wall I could see, with fire erupting calmly from them in the wind. An opening in the roof let the sunlight in, that shone onto a table that looked like it was made of gold wood.
It was the first time I thought about the sentence since we started this quest, but I guessed it was the same place the satyrs told us about. The place where all the elements come together and all forces of life were represented, or something like that.
There were ten gold wing back chairs around the wooden table but only four were full. All of them staring at us. At the head of the table sat a man with a long white beard and long white hair. He was wearing a crown made out of sticks with leaves still on them and the crown went up about a meter. I held back a smile because he looked like a reindeer. He also wore a brown toga and surprisingly his face didn’t seem that old but you could easily see he wasn’t fifty years old anymore. Next to him, with his back to us, sat a muscular man with greyish light brown hair and green eyes wearing brown clothes. There was a brown cape wrapped around his shoulders. He didn’t wear a crown but a crown would easily put his intimidation levels a little too over the top. On the shoulders of his clothes were round symbols with the face of a bronze elephant on it. As we moved closer, I could see he wore armour with an elephant’s face on it as well. The end of the elephant’s tusks had a big bronze ball on them.
On the opposite side of him sat a thin tanned woman dressed in a green gown with golden straps going down by the shoulders to the ground. Her light eyes stared around the room like she was taking everything in at once. She had hollow cheeks and light brown hair that was pulled back into a ponytail with peacock feathers sticking up from it.
Next to her sat a sandy-haired man with the same coloured clothes as Orchid, beige. He wore a crown that was the same colour as his clothes with patterns on it that looked like swirling winds. King Hendry walked over and sat on a chair next to the man who wore a cape.
“Finally brother you have arrived,” the man said with a voice so deep the earth wanted to rumble. He patted my new dad, or my old dad, or something like that, on the back. Then I realized who he was. He was King Adam Cornelius II and the one with the sandy hair and the crown with swirling winds was King William. The king with the white beard and leaves as a crown was the Lord of the Forest, but I didn’t know who the lady with the peacock feathers was?
We walked over and stood behind king Hendry. I felt like I was supposed to bow at them in honour or something but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I just stared at them in silence. I never knew about them and frankly, if they were the protectors of nature, they weren’t doing a good job.
Everybody judged us, looking us up and down most likely thinking what these children were doing here. At least it looked like what they were thinking.
“I have upsetting news,” King Hendry said. “We have discovered that Aqualon’s armies are beginning to attack mortal villages.”
“But he has been attacking us for the last decade, where is he getting the men?” King William stated. “Surely Sapien could not supply him with that much? The other kingdoms would not just follow him?”
Orchid shifted her weight next to me in an uneasy manner.
“The villag-” King Hendry started but couldn’t finish.
“Did you start the meeting without me?” a delightful voice said coming from somewhere in the room. I looked around but didn’t see anything. Then I looked up which was probably not the most likely thing to do but with everything that happened… anything was possible.
The light that shone in shifted to a lighter form, which seemed like moonlight and turned into a silver spiral staircase that made its way next to the table. A gorgeous woman with black hair and pale skin that looked like it never saw the sunlight before walked down them. She wore high-heeled black slippers with a black armour-like corset. It had big shoulders that had black, net type drapes going down from the waist behind her. Her black corset looked like it was created out of black crystals that shone in the moonlight. She wore a floral looking beaded diadem, but it had three large symbols in front that looked like the shapes of a star, or flower, and it was made out of dark crystals. She made her way down the stairs and went to sit on the opposite side of King Hendry next to King William.
“Sorry I am late but some of us have actual work to do,” she said staring at the rest of the council. Her silver-blue eyes shooting off any attempt that anyone might make at a stare down.
“And what do you do exactly?” I didn’t know why I asked that but I felt I had to defend king Hendry; he was my father after all.
She examined me without lifting an eyebrow. I felt a little uncomfortable because it didn’t seem like anyone else would come to my defence but I held her gaze. Although I could sense the power radiating from her beauty, I didn’t like something about her.
“My dear boy,” she paused for effect and made a sound between a cough and a sigh. “I can make the stars dance.” She paused again. “Thus, I am Queen of the Stars,” she said lifting her hands, showing off.
“Alright Bevora, that’s enough. We have got news from King Hendry,” The Lord of the Forest said.
So her name is Bevora, it sounded oddly star related like it was a star name or something.
“We found that there have been attacks on mortal villages,” King Hendry addressed once more.
“That’s not all,” The Queen of the Stars or ‘Bevora’ said. I could easily see that she wanted the attention on her. “There have been fewer attacks on my kingdom. But I don’t know how long we would be able to keep the secret from them that the cave’s next destination will be in the Dark Forest. I believe Atropa has already found out, so they will have no need to search for it anymore when it will come to them in a few days.”
“How long do we have?” King William asked clearly very shocked by the statement.
“Two days,” she said. “We have to figure out a way to conceal the cave.”
“It will be closed forever then,” the peacock lady said in a voice that might as well have been a mouse’s squeal.
“We hardly use it anyway, people are too scared of the guardian,” Bevora looked bored.
“We can’t seal the cave,” King Adam decided. “What about a spell Kauri?” he turned to The Lord of the Forest, so I assumed that was his real name.
“Never underestimate a witch’s power, Adam, she won’t be weak forever.”
“Then we don’t have a choice, if Atropa wasn’t starting to become a threat again it might have been fine. But now, there is no telling what she’ll do?” King Hendry stated.“Especially if Weskapa is helping her again.”
“What does it matter?” Katherine asked.
“Don’t you know anything?” Orchid asked us. “The cave tells the destiny of the world and if you can rewrite that destiny, you can control the world.”
“Oh,” Katherine said like she knew all about it.
“You are welcome to come with me so that I can show you,” the Queen of the Stars said.
“Yes, I think it is a good idea. Learn about the guardian and then maybe you can see a better way of dealing with the dilemma,” King Hendry said.
“Alright let’s go,” she said.
I looked at Katherine who looked a little too excited to go.
“Should we not conclude the matters first,” The Lord of the Forest said.
“I stated the biggest problem. Now it’s your turn to solve it,” she said with her chin held high. At this point, she was my least favourite person in the world, and that was coming from someone who met Daucus. It seemed rude just to go in the middle of a meeting.
There seemed to be a stare down against the two of them. Like she had a grudge she couldn’t quite let go. She moved slowly back to the stairs and waited for us to follow her. I was sceptical about it all. Katherine and Orchid marched towards the stairs without giving a second glance back. I looked at the wooden table and then at Bevora smiling at me from the steps. I walked towards them without looking at the table again.
“But I thought you have a problem with the cave changing destinations in two days?” I said to Bevora.
Bevora laughed a little, “That is their problem now, and yours, thanks to your father.” She nodded towards him.
I looked back, seeing my father turned towards the Lord of the Forest, whispering something of importance.
We climbed the stairs until we were out of the palace. I looked over to see the majestic golden palace glittering in the moonlight in a forest of purple flowering trees. Staring upwards, I could see the staircase going up towards the giant dark skyline. I never had a problem with heights but this seemed to be something else. We kept walking up the stairs and the stairs started to shimmer like a million stars on some sort of black stone.
“Wow,” Orchid said to my surprise. She acted like she knew everything, but I guess there were still things that even surprised her. At the course we were walking, it seemed like we were especially high but the stairs were wide enough for six people to walk next to each other so I couldn’t see over the side. I preferred it that way. We kept on walking in a single line, Bevora, Orchid, Katherine and I.
It felt like we were walking up to the stars and that was exactly what we were doing.
My mom loved the stars. She would take me outside at night along with my other dad and we would lie there the entire night while she told us endless stories. I wasn’t going to say that I didn’t miss her but the thought was so nice to remember and us being so close to the stars, it felt comforting. It didn’t feel like it usually felt.
About halfway a strange light glittered on me. I looked up as I saw something shining in a far. It was a palace with a star on the top tower spinning in a circle. It was hard to make out the palace in the darkness of the sky but the star looked so immense and prominent that I couldn’t miss it in the middle of the darkness. Katherine looked up to see what it was and she missed a step and fell. Panic overtook me as I could see in my mind’s eye how she fell over the side but she just landed a foot from the edge.
Orchid and I helped her up and guided her a little more to the middle because she was a little too close to the side for my taste.
“Are you alright?” Orchid asked.
“Yes, I’m fine.”
The queen raised an eyebrow for no apparent reason I could think of, but she kept moving forward again. There was still at least another mile of stairs left to climb and everybody was tired out, but the queen just kept walking like she does this every single day. I wondered what she was thinking because she didn’t say much. She was most likely laughing at us on the inside. Thinking how undeveloped and juvenile we must’ve seemed. I didn’t blame her, I would too. She just looked like one of those mean people, the kind that couldn’t wait for someone else to be in misery.
“Life can be cruel Leo. You of all people should that,” she said without looking around like she was reading my thoughts. Sadly, what she said was true. Life was cruel to me lately, not just lately but for a long time.
I saw two guards, wearing silver uniforms, standing in front of a black gate that looked large enough to be a big prison door made to keep in giants. The gate was made out of some sort of black iron with a big eight-point star in the middle. It looked massive. It wasn’t until we got to the gate that I realized that the two guards were giants and the gate was even larger than them.
“Open the gates!” the queen demanded them. They turned to the gate and both of them took keys out of their pockets and inserted them into the giant slots’. The gate made a large clinging sound as they pushed it, trying to open it. Even to these two giants, the gate seemed heavy.
We walked inside and they shut the gate behind us. I wondered what they were trying to keep out or keep in, with that massive gate. I didn’t like to think about that so I only stared in amazement as the glistening stares blew away in the wind as the gates were locked. I looked around me, we found ourselves on a dark walkway that leads to the castle, and I couldn’t see the earth below us. We were on a new platform, high in the sky.
The queen kept moving toward the palace. Everything was dark, there were only a few black lamps here, and there, lighting up the walkway. There were some forms of black smoke in the distance as well, making it impossible to see far. The ground consisted of silver dark stones that made the entire place seem like a dream. There were many guards walking around in silver armour with javelins, swords, spears and any weapon you could think about. I started to get nervous, there was something going on here.
“What’s wrong dear? It looked like you just saw a ghost?” the queen asked me. It was the nicest she ever seemed to be.
“Oh, I’m fine. But- what’s with all these guards?” I asked.
“Oh well, you can never be too safe with all of the prisoners.”
“Prisoners?” Katherine asked looking just as puzzled as I was. She had that frown on her face, she got while drawing. Orchid seemed to purse her lips when Katherine asked.
“Come look over here,” the queen said. We were coming up to the palace doors standing in a garden with a bunch of glowing flowers. It seemed strange at first but it was so beautiful that I just had to get over the weirdness. Bevora walked us over to a railing in the garden but I kept staring at the silver palace stretching out towards the tower where the star was spinning in a circle. It looked like it was on the highest tower with a bunch of other towers surrounding it.
“Look up,” the queen said and I did. “See all of those constellations glittering away. Like Leo, the one you were named after.”
It didn’t ever accrue to me that I might have been named after the constellation Leo. A big lion if I remember correctly? I was maybe just too dumb to put two and two together since my mom liked the stars.
“Yes,” we all agreed separately.
“Well. Every one of them, are prison cells,” the queen explained. “And the constellations are the prisoners that are kept in them. But the constellations are only for the greatest threats the earth has ever seen. So most things the Lord of the Forest though might endanger humanity or important matters like that.”
I put my hand on my sword that I completely forgot I had with me but I felt safer just putting my hand on it. I felt so small looking up at the constellations. The world just seemed to get bigger and bigger each time I asked for an explanation. It felt like I was shrinking away.
The queen opened the palm of her hand and sparks flew between her fingertips. There was a bang that let a white spark move passed us for a few feet and a real star was now floating just above her white palm maybe the size of a couple of inches. The star turned in circles, shimmering even more as the light flashed against all of our faces as it turned. White light blinded me now and then, but my eyes adjusted fine after a while. She opened her hand and the star flew up to the dark sky just to stop in between two other stars. A spark like lighting shot between them, making a line and for a moment you could see all the lines making the constellation. It was the shape of a scorpion. It took about a minute before the line started to fade again.
“That’s how the cell walls work,” she said satisfied with her work. “Stars are balls of energy you know? But don’t get to close to the constellations. My illusion only works as long as we believe the prisoners are really far from us.”
I just stood there for a moment.
“This way,” the queen said and we walked to the door of the palace. There were easily eight guards around the door. They weren’t giants like the ones at the entrance of the kingdom but were still big for normal people. The palace doors were pitching black with two silver handles. As the queen walked to the door, the guards opened them and we followed her inside.
We walked into a big round room with a throne at the end. There were big black and silver shining pillars making their way to the throne next to the walls of the round room. The throne had a big five-point star at the back with black drapes going to the ceiling and walls from each point. There were two staircases going up on either side of the throne. People were walking around everywhere, clearly busy, making faint bows to us as the queen walked over and propped herself on the throne.
“So have you heard anything from your father?” the queen asked Orchid.
“No,” she replied and seemed a little touchy about the subject.
Bevora didn’t even seem interested after that.
“So tell me. Katherine, I believe?” the queen asked Katherine.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Who are your parents?” Bevora grinned making her eyes light up.
I wanted to defend her but how? What would I say?
“I have wonderful parents, their bakers in our village. But...”
The queen started smiling as radiance erupted into the room and I knew something was wrong.
“They aren’t my real parents. I don’t know who my real parents are,” she finished.
The queen was now beaming with pleasure, with a faint laugh she made at the back of her throat. It echoed silently as everyone was silent.
“Just as I expected. Guards!” she yelled standing up from her throne.
“Wait what is going on?” I demanded, taking a step to Katherine.
“Your little friend has the blood of fire,” her eyebrows rose.
Like I was supposed to know what that meant. The people should just have to accept that I didn’t know anything about their lives. I was new at this. My life used to be ordinary.
I looked towards Orchid who took a step away from Katherine, but there was confusion in her eyes.
“She is the daughter of fire. But don’t worry, I won’t kill her yet.” That wasn’t the explanation I was looking for.
“Why would you want to kill her?”
The queen grinned even more. “What do you think would the High Council say when I deliver them Aqualon’s daughter? It might even end the war? I will be rewarded gratefully.”
“So you will use her as a means of trade?” I said.
“Yes. But there is no need for her to be alive. But don’t worry little hero I will have no need for killing her if she might die by herself.”
“What do you mean?” Katherine asked standing between two guards that held her by her arms. She was trying to break free but with no luck.
“Your friends will have to go into the Cave of Mystery and look at your destiny, if it proves that you will not try to destroy the council then I would have no need for you? The council couldn’t care less about you. I will let you free if this proves to be the point, if not. Well, I wouldn’t want to be you.”
“What’s the catch?” I asked.
“You will have to face the guardian of the cave and may not make it out alive other than that no catch,” the queen said, although I didn’t trust her moonlit eyes.
Orchid started to defend Katherine and countered the queen but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what she said.
My mind raced. Yes, the easiest thing in the world, march into the Cave of Mystery, look out for a guardian that even the Queen of the Stars was scared to face. I looked over at Katherine having fear in her blue eyes.
I noticed that she didn’t even wear the necklace Lynx gave her. She probably dropped it when she fell on the stair. Was that the reason the queen knew who she was? But that means that Lynx also knew who she was and wanted to protect her? She was definitely someone worth saving. I trusted Lynx more than the queen.
I had to do it, for Katherine I thought.
Orchid looked at me with a pleading gesture to say no, but I stared at Bevora.
“I’ll do it.”