...until we meet again, brother...
“Cecil, we must not leave our guests waiting much longer,” the sweet voice poured out of the small doorway, out onto the lonely balcony where white drapes swirled around a lonely man. He stood staring for a moment longer, pale rays of a distant moon gracing his features as he finally turned to walk back inside. “We’re becoming rather unfashionably late, my dear.”
“Yes, it’s just that...”
Cecil could hardly put himself together fast enough to let the sentence roll from his tongue, leaving his wife, his true love, to stare at him blankly. A cool breeze passed through the balcony doorway, grasping at silk curtains and kissing the Paladin King’s gentle cheek. For an eternal moment, Cecil shut his eyes and felt his father’s hand fall strong on his shoulder. He smiled as he opened his eyes again to the essence of all beauty before him.
“Just what?” she said with a questionable grin on her face, standing so perfect as she waited for her husband’s answer. Cecil took a few quick steps towards her before sweeping her into his arms, holding her as close as could be.
“It’s just that you’re so beautiful,” Cecil whispered in her perfect ear, “I would rather stay and gaze upon your face than to have to share it with the world.”
“You’re so sweet, Cecil, but you know what?” she said almost sincerely enough for him to believe her for a moment. He knew she wasn’t falling for it.
“You’re messing up my dress, which took me several hours to prepare.” she whispered with such a coy tone that it actually made the hair on Cecil’s neck stand on end, even if she was telling him to let her go. “But a simple kiss will suffice.”
Cecil unwrapped her from his bear hug, leaving his lips pressed to hers before finally letting her straighten out what small wrinkles had developed on her gown. It flowed like an ivory waterfall down the cliffs of her body, from her chest down to the tips of her toes. It was immaculate in every way, and on its own would have made her stand out in any crowd. But she still fancied her silk robes, which had men wishing every moment that she may get just a little too hot and perhaps take them off. Though she was now a Queen, she honored her previous title as a white wizard, even though the robes she wore now were much finer than any she had ever worn in those days. But she knew that’s who she was, and she would always remember where she came from.
“I don’t even know why we’re having this banquet in the first place,” Cecil muttered as Rosa made her way to a delicate sash hanging on the wall beside the tower door. She turned to him with a look of impatience, and Cecil could see her words coming from a mile away.
“Yes you do. Don’t even try to get out of this one,” she warned as she threw the sash over her head, leaving it to hang on her shoulder as it fell across her body. Ancient words and symbols were stretched upon the fabric, and it only added to her beautiful figure. The adornment was given to her for her unsurpassed knowledge in the arts of white magic. She was a true master of her skill. The sash bounced lively as she hurried over to her husband’s side, wrapping her hand around his right arm and facing him towards the door. “Besides, this is the last one we will have to attend for a while. So suck it up, dear.”
“I guess you’re right,” Cecil conceded with a faint sigh that was more of an attempt to get a rise out of Rosa than anything else. He smiled at her as he began to lead her slowly towards the door. “You always are.”
“I just have more sense than most women.” she said matter-of-factly, squeezing Cecil’s arm just a little. As they stopped at the door, they looked at each other once more, smiles mirrored with each other. Cecil took a step forward to open the door for his angel, who was still smiling rather coy at her husband. “I would’ve thought you had figured that out by now.”
“After you, milady.” Cecil gestured her through the door into the tower stairwell, lit by the warming presence of overhanging candle chandeliers. She briskly tugged Cecil along by his arm as they made their way down to join their guests in the banquet hall.
The great hall was lively with chatter, people dressed in their most delightful attire with more colors than even a rainbow could hold all at once. Everyone stood around the long table stretched down the middle of the room, elegantly bathed with a red silk cloth, gold lacings sewn in beautiful patterns all about it. Everyone was waiting anxiously to meet the King and Queen, though not impatiently, for the room was a sight to see, and most enjoyed just walking around. Fine china and silverware lay peacefully in perfect symmetry up and down the table, plates waiting to be fed by something extravagant, crystal chalices waiting to be filled with the finest wine. Above the table, reaching down from the high ceiling was a magnificent chandelier crafted entirely from crystal, with more than enough candles to fill the room with light and warmth. Not to mention the gold candle stands placed upon the dining table itself, made with such sweet wax that smelled so divine. It was a heavenly setting for any occasion. The banquet hall was waiting with great expectations for what the night’s meal would bring, and the guests were finding themselves lost in its splendor. The meal was the last thing on their minds, what with such delightful sights to see. Not to mention they were all standing in the castle, the very homeland, of the Earth’s savior.
Although it had been nearly two years since the end of the Crystal Wars, it was still spoken of a great deal throughout the world; truly a historic mark in time. Cecil had only recently discovered that he had been written into books of text and delivered to libraries and schools everywhere. Needless to say he was never truly inclined to read them. Even the castle artists insisted on painting murals, canvases, and portraits of him and his journey to adorn the great hall. There was a portrait of Cecil and Rosa together in each other’s arms hanging on the north wall behind their respective seats at the table, suspended gracefully just above the great door so everyone could see. Cecil had made sure his personal favorite artist had painted that picture, for he would stand for nothing less than perfection. As beautifully rendered as that was, what caught the majority of the people’s eye was the mural painted on the long west wall.
It was a scene that none could even fathom, for it was but four warriors standing against the purest form of hatred that mankind had ever seen. The creature’s body was but an outline within a dark flame, enveloped by what the artists referred to as “shadow’s fire”. It was stunning work to be sure, and each valiant hero and heroine was brought to life upon the wall. It was the spitting image of that crystal lair on the moon, with Zeromus standing so perfectly evil against Cecil and his legendary sword, Rosa glowing in all of her magic, Sir Edge with the sacred twin katanas, Masamune and Murasame, and finally Rydia standing rigid, hands outstretched and her long emerald hair floating not unlike a cape in the wind. No one seemed to notice that there was something missing...or rather, someone.
“Good fellows and fine ladies!” the herald came forward from the great door to the hall, standing at the north end where everyone could clearly see. Once everyone had finished with their hearsay and tittle-tattle, the announcement came forth, “May I present to you, His Majesty, King Cecil of Baron, and Her Highness, Queen Rosa.”
The great doors opened with a mighty shudder, and with them came a streak of new light pouring in, followed by the two guards who were pushing with all they hand against the old hinges. Once they were opened, the guards stood upright, breathing a bit out of exhaustion, and waited for their King and Queen to step through. Everyone stared with a mix of awe and envy as the two utterly enlightening beings stepped ever so gracefully down the short stair and up to their seats at the table. They stood with every bit of radiance that their guests had come to expect, and none said a word as the guards once more showed their considerable strength in managing the doors closed. For a brief moment all was quiet; nothing but the flickering candles whispering their flames to one another.
“Everyone please, take a seat anywhere you would like,” Cecil kindly implored with a waft of his strong hand over the table scene. The guests began to pull out their chairs and rest their soles, finding great comfort in the plush pillows they sat upon. “I do apologize for my lack of punctuality, but being the King sometimes requires one to be overdue.”
The guests laughed a bit as they took their seats, not minding at all for Cecil’s tardiness. Cecil kindly took Rosa’s chair for her and sat her at the table, as did most of the gentleman courting ladies to this particular function. Once everyone had taken their seats, a door rushed open at the south-eastern end of the room, and as if on cue the food was brought in on large silver platters, some too big to be carried by a single man. There were three of each different platter, usually enough to serve thirty people or so, which was about how many were attending tonight’s meal. The aroma that began to fill the room was astounding, and some people simply closed their eyes to enjoy the scent of an unknown feast. Once all the dishes were set upon the great table, the lids were lifted, and the steam rose like a warm mist into the sweet, waxy air. An essence of ecstasy seemed to wash over the room, and mouths watered like running faucets with the sight of some of the finest cuisine before their very eyes.
“May the Gods bless this meal before us, and may we all live in prosperity for as long as we all shall live.” Cecil announced as he rose from his golden throne at the head of the table, Rosa beaming up at him from his side. As he spoke, the servants were filling the chalices with a select wine that could only be found in Baron itself. With all glasses filled to perfection, Cecil lifted his wine to his guests, and one by one they all answered with their own. “A toast on this fine occasion. Let us eat, drink, and be merry, and may the peace grow with our bellies.”
Everyone took a generous sip of their wine, a sweet taste off the very vines of the Baron lands, twisting the tongue in its grandeur. Everything was absolutely perfect, and mouths were soon finding themselves stuffed with things more delicious than they had imagined. Cecil took his seat once more and began to carve a piece of meat from the large platter set in front of him. He laid a small portion on Rosa’s plate, as well as he did for those guests sitting close enough to him to do so. Plates were overflowing with luscious meats and steaming vegetables, and bowls were full to the brim with succulent stews and soups.
“This all looks marvelous, Your Majesty. We do thank you for the invitation,” said a large bearded man at Cecil’s right side, looking as though he very well could take the meal by himself. A very kind, jovial man that Cecil could almost instantly befriend. “We hope to have you to our kingdom in the near future.”
“You’re too kind, Sir Hector, and please call me Cecil.”
“But of course, Your Majesty,” Hector caught himself in mid-sentence and he chuckled a bit as he went on, “I apologize, Sir Cecil.”
“Think nothing of it. Enjoy your meal and do not fret. We will have plenty of time to discuss the plans of your future kingdom.”
“I do thank you, Sir Cecil.”
The meal went on as people further down found more and more to talk about, and the wine was served quite frequently to that end of the table. Those who had more important matters to discuss at Cecil’s end were found to be taking their drink a bit more in moderation. Women gabbled to their men and to each other about the lavish decorations, the ambrosial fare, and to the men, the stunning beauty of Her Highness, Queen Rosa, as she sat under a heavenly glow at the head of the table. To the women, Cecil seemed perfectly radiant in his ivory and gold attire. Rosa never had to worry, however, for Cecil would be a fool to ever leave her.
After destroying the meal upon his plate, leaving not even a crumb behind, Hector lifted his chalice as he wiped what had survived from his beard. From washing the massacre down he smiled gleefully at the host and hostess, giving a hearty belch to show his gratitude. They all laughed a bit as Hector’s wife slapped him a good once or twice for good measure.
“You’ll have to excuse my husband, Your Majesty,” the wife explained hastily, “He seems to have forgotten just where he is.”
“I do apologize, Sir Cecil, for it is a custom in our land to acknowledge a good meal.” Hector vouched for his behavior, still smiling as his cheeks flushed a light color of red. His wife took a generous gulp of her wine. “I do seem to have forgotten my whereabouts.”
“It is quite fine, and I’m sure our chefs do appreciate your compliments,” Cecil affirmed with a hearty smile before dipping his chalice at his lips. It was filled as soon as the glass touched the table, a servant standing in wait for His Majesty’s wine to empty. “I will make sure to pass the message on to him tonight.”
A warm laughter fell from their mouths as they imagined someone, especially the King himself, walking up to the chef and belching in his face. It was a night filled with nothing but good sensations, and as long as the candles burned, the feast would continue. But now that they had eaten their fill at the business end of the table, time was drawing near for the heads to talk. Small talk at first.
“So what fine meal have we just had ourselves tonight, Sir Cecil?” Hector relayed a whispered message from his slightly inebriated wife.
“Well if you’d really like to know then you’ll have to ask my dear Rosa here. She makes most of the arrangements for these engagements.”
“Well, Sir Hector,” Rosa began to explain the courses, rather excited that she was actually finding something to talk about with her guests, “We served several delicacies tonight such as our well-known Imp stew and carrot soup. The main course, however, is something we save for only our finest guests. You’ve just had rack of raven tonight, and we cannot even find raven here in Baron. We actually had to get it from the far lands of Mysidia.”
“And how are things in Mysidia?” Hector made a crafty segue into more business matters. “Any word on whether or not they have signed or even agreed to the Gaea Treaty?”
“No such word as of now, Sir Hector, but we are in good spirits that they will soon send notice of their agreement.” Cecil answered with higher hopes than he truly sensed, and in the back of his mind he was rather worried that Mysidia might never respond.
“It is rather strange, don’t you think?” Hector pried a bit more into the situation, though not trying to dig in too deep, keenly aware that the matters were somewhat sensitive here in Baron. “The treaty was declared several months ago, and nearly every known kingdom and commune has already sent it back with a signature. Without their accord, I’m afraid the treaty will collapse.”
“Such worries, Sir Hector. Shouldn’t we focus more on establishing your land of Agart as a kingdom?” Cecil attempted to stray the conversation into a new direction, one more appropriate for the occasion. “Will you have enough supply to finish your castle?”
“I believe we will have plenty, and we thank you for everything you have offered us on our way.” Hector nodding with sincere appreciation as his wife took another swig of her wine.
“We have decided to build directly into the mountain side, as to provide a somewhat unique defense for ourselves, as well as to save materials,” spoke a younger and somewhat thinner, though still bearded man across the table from Hector. Cecil looked over to see the man’s rather serious face glaring right back at him. Cecil almost felt uncomfortable just looking at his bone driven face. A powerful visage he surely did have.
“This is my younger brother, Philip of Tomera.” Hector introduced the iron-faced gentleman, who continued to stare with no apparent change in his features. “He is the head of our council in Agart, and quite a knowledgeable fellow if I do say so myself.” This is where Hector noticed Cecil’s apparent uneasiness with Philip’s constant stare. He leaned in and got Cecil’s attention to whisper something into his ear, “He doesn’t get out much.”
“Ah...” Cecil concurred. Philip finally broke his stone stare and went back to picking at his plate, pushing meat into a stack of beans like a steamroller.
“And as of now, Philip is the only heir to our soon-to-be throne, but let’s do keep that hush-hush.” Hector said rather quietly as he put a hand to the side of his mouth, as if hiding the truth from the rest of the table. Cecil nodded to assure him that the conversation would never leave the great hall. But of course Hector’s wife had overheard the statement, and in her present condition she took it upon herself to speak up.
“We’ll soon change that, now won’t we, dear!” Hector’s wife blurted out as she leaned heavily against her husband’s shoulder, clearly unable to keep her own balance.
“Yes, my dear. I’m sure we’ll take care of that tonight,” Hector replied in her drunken ear, helping her back up against her own chair, of which she kept complaining was spinning around way too fast. “My wife is not entirely accustomed to so much wine. You’ll have to excuse her for the night.”
“It’s quite alright. It is getting quite late. Perhaps we should retire the ladies and make our way to the next room.” Cecil offered the opportunity to get the real business out of the way. After such a fine meal, no one could possibly speak against it.
“That would be fine, Sir Cecil.” Hector agreed, leaning over to his wife to let her know what was going on before the wine started speaking for her again. Cecil informed Rosa to take the guests to the leisure room before they stood up from their seats. As they did, the entire table stood up like a sudden wave of air had pushed each bottom out of its seat. They continued to talk however, recognizing that the meal had finally come to its conclusion, and Hector came around to shake the King and Queen’s holy hands.
Hector stood nearly a foot shorter than Cecil, though nearly twice as wide at the midsection. He truly looked like a King, with his colorful vestments of green and red, trimmed in elegant yellow feathers. With the substantial brown beard overruling his face, and his polished dome of a head, he almost resembled Cid. His wife wore matching colors, with a beautiful scarlet dress and an evergreen shawl that didn’t quite make it to the top of her head, but draped over her shoulders like liquid fabric. The shawl was held by a clip through the bun made from her silky chocolate brown hair. She was noticeably thinner than her husband and actually was a bit taller, but not by much. They both seemed absolutely vivacious and sociable, which was quite a stark contrast to Hector’s brother. Philip just stood alone; the woman he was supposedly courting was off gossiping with other women. He obviously wasn’t much of a people person, but he must have had the mind of a genius to run the council of Agart.
“It was a pleasure having you come all this way just to see us, sir Hector.” Rosa politely thanked the future King of Agart as she held out a delicate hand. Hector took it with more grace and care than he would a feather, a lively smile spread across his face.
“Believe me, Your Highness, the pleasure was all ours.”
“Rosa will assist your wife, as well as the other guests, to the leisure room,” Cecil assured him, seeing that he had some hint of dread for what his wife might do in her state of mind.
“Thank you, Your Highness, but I must warn you,” Hector said with a playful tone of seriousness, “She can be quite a handful sometimes.”
“I think I can handle it.” Rosa replied with a confident smile, walking over and taking the staggering woman gently by the arm, guiding her towards the south door. Rosa rallied the herd of befuddled people and led them all out of the great hall and down to their next destination.
“She’ll be fine, Sir Hector.” Cecil said as he reached an arm around the man’s shoulder, turning him towards the east door. “Rosa can be quite a handful herself sometimes. You should have seen her at the first banquet we attended as King and Queen. We still have yet to be invited back to Toroia.”
Hector chuckled from his bouncing belly, and was instantly feeling a bit better about his wife’s abuse of the vine. They began to walk towards the door as they laughed of Rosa’s drunken tale, but they stopped as Cecil almost ran into Philip. He hadn’t even seen him, but now his statued face was all he could see, and it sent a shiver down his spine. Philip was a bit taller than Hector and his wife, though still a good half of a foot shorter than Cecil. His hair stood lively and red atop his head, and it joined with his short beard like a chin strap. Hector cleared his throat as they stopped, and the laughter had died down to an awkward silence.
“May my brother join us?” Hector asked, almost begging, for he knew Cecil was quite uncomfortable with Philip’s alien air. “He will need to know much of our business, and it will only make it easier on both of us. He knows much of which I do not, and could be of some assistance.”
“Surely, he may join us.” Cecil said whole-heartedly, though inside it was more like half-hearted...maybe quarter-hearted.
“Perhaps he can help us find a way to get through to the Mysidians,” Hector suggested, as though he was trying to justify Philips presence in the chamber. They made their way to the east door and the guards quickly pushed the doors away into the meeting room. “Make them understand the severity of the situation.”
“Perhaps...” Cecil followed as the guards slowly pulled the doors shut behind them, leaving the warmth of the great hall in their wake.
Cecil watched from his balcony as the last of the grand carriages pulled through the castle gates, the portcullis slowly shutting the mouth of Baron, like a yawn that had lasted too long. Though the Paladin King was in good spirits after the fine banquet and his good time spent with Hector, he still had the look of everlasting loneliness. He couldn’t exactly place what was missing, and he wasn’t even sure if there actually was something troubling him. But there had to be, for he could only find comfort in the moon, hanging a bit higher in the sky now that the night had grown a few hours older. He even had Rosa fooled, which was no easy task.
I told you the banquet would perk you up, she had said as they sent their guests on their merry way. Cecil had tried hard to make himself seem as though he was enjoying the warm moments, the sweet atmosphere. He couldn’t help feeling like he was lying to his own wife a little when he acted so happy and joyful, pretending to enjoy this new life that he had been given. He felt strangely uncomfortable having all these great things he had been given, all this prosperity and love, as though perhaps he didn’t deserve them. It was a simple thing that troubled his waters, swirling his emotions into a tempest, and it was so obvious he could not even see it. He did not know who he was.
“Why am I not happy?” Cecil begged the moon, as though he could hear words falling through the pale beams that shimmered on his face. It only answered him with silence, which was no surprise as that’s how it answered him every night. “I feel as though this life is not mine, and that I should turn it over to its rightful owner, but how can that be? What is it that finds me here?”
The moon continued to wash him in its soft glow, giving Cecil nothing more than its presence for support. Somehow that always seemed to help, just to have it there for him to see, as if it would stand there with him on that balcony for all eternity. But even the moon had better things to do, and Cecil didn’t always have its company to count on. Those were the worst nights, when the moon was in full shadow, or when the storms rolled through the night sky. In those times he was able to find Rosa as a spiritual replacement, but even now in these troubled times, he was finding her less and less beneficial for soothing his mind. He was left only with the moon, the only other soul with which he could find something in common. Loneliness.
The faint scratch of night slippers scampering across smooth stone took Cecil’s attention for a moment, nearly turning him around to see his wife standing behind him. But his eyes begged to stay on the night, fearing the moon may disappear should they lose sight of it. Rosa came up from behind and wrapped her loving arms around Cecil’s waist, squeezing ever so lightly. He could feel her warm skin through his linens, and it almost enticed him to look away for just a moment. Yet his eyes never left the white light falling from the heavens, guiding him some place where he could find hope in peace.
“Feeling lonely again?” her words slipping so smoothly into his ears, chilled by the night. Though she knew how he felt on the outside at that very moment, he knew she couldn’t possibly understand just what he truly felt on the inside.
“Remember when, from since we were little kids, we could sit out at night and watch two moons walk hand-in-hand across the sky?” Cecil spoke with a failing tone of sentiment, sounding more melancholy than anything. “Now it’s but a lone heart, searching for its lost love.”
“I do remember,” she answered so tender and true, as though she could feel Cecil’s spirit through his very skin. She squeezed a little tighter to her husband as she spoke. “But the moon never had a choice. Your love, my dear Cecil, is right here.”
Cecil found he could keep his eyes no longer and turned to hold his lovely wife, her silken nightgown covering just enough for her to get away with. It was practically see through anyway, but Cecil had his eyes only on her beautiful face. Her hazel eyes were accented so clear in the moonlight, and he knew if there were such things as angels, he was holding one.
“Come on to bed.” she urged her woebegone husband to follow her hand, slowly across the stone face of the balcony and through the gentle swaying curtains. Cecil took a final glance at the moon, and it cried for him, weeping for its lost love never to be found. It took everything he had not to share its tears, to keep from breaking down in the middle of his balcony and cry out to the heavens. Passing through the translucent drapes, setting his sorrowed eyes to her stunning visage, he felt somewhat healed. The sheets were soft, and her skin was warm. The clouds rolled overhead and it began to rain.
The morning sun pierced savagely through cracks and curtains, drowning the considerable bedchamber in its radiant life. Yet the dreaming couple stayed in peaceful slumber, curled around each other as though they could find no other place to ever be. Even the erratic chirps of birds flying nearby could not rouse the dozing pair, as though the sheets would not let them free of their pleasant prison. What did happen to wake them was the sudden pounding of a strong fist against their chamber door.
Cecil’s eyes rolled open, quite drowsy at first as the world slowly came into focus, his wife gently stirring beside him. He sat up as the door shook steadily against the hammering hand behind it. He was a bit annoyed at first, for he saw no reason for someone to want to tear down his door at this hour of the morning. But then he became quite curious, wondering just what reason there might be for such a wake-up call. He slid from under his sheets calmly, leaving Rosa still half-asleep while the thunder of bone on wood rattled throughout the room. She eventually opened her eyes to see her husband make his way to take a royal robe from the stand, mumbling something sarcastic as the man behind the door ceased to persist.
“What’s the meaning of all this noise!” Cecil yelled through the wooden door before he even reached it, hoping it would perhaps stop the incessant pounding that he could feel in his head. The knocking did stop, however, the room was now filled with such silence that Cecil feared he had gone deaf. He reached for the shimmering golden handle of his door, his thin reflection quite clear on its surface. He pulled just enough to give the messenger enough room to breathe the King’s air, and Cecil’s eye fell sharp upon the young man. “State your reason for this unearthly disturbance.”
“I have a message for you, Your Majesty,” the messenger spoke with a weak tongue, clearly about to wet his pants out of fear of His Majesty’s wrath. His eyes spoke “frightened little boy” and Cecil heard the words quite well, and his eyes answered with “you should be”.
“You wake me up like this for a message?” Cecil was close to fuming, but he didn’t want to scare the young messenger off, for then he may never get this supposed important message. The frightened eyes took a moment to gain composure before answering the angry eyes.
“It’s urgent, sir.”
“From Mysidia, Your Majesty,” the words couldn’t have hit Cecil’s ears fast enough. His face suddenly was brighter than ever, and the door was opened wide for the young man to breathe his own air.
“Why did you not say so to begin with!” Cecil exclaimed, half out of pure excitement, half out of some irritancy that he had been so rude to this messenger. Cecil reached his hand out quickly to retrieve the now officially important message. “Have you an idea of what it says?”
“No, Your Majesty. The note said it should be delivered directly to you with as much haste as possible.”
“It must be their agreement with the treaty,” Cecil spoke fast and more towards the message in his hands than to anyone else. The messenger still stood in the doorway, with a sly tilt of his body to perhaps get a glimpse of Rosa in her nighties. Cecil was quick to have his free hand on the door, nearly not even taking the time to warn the messenger before it slammed in his face.
“You are free to go, thank you.” Cecil said quickly before the last crack of space between the room and the stairwell was closed off by a thick chunk of door. The ecstatic young King was quickly finding himself at the foot of his bed, Rosa finally sitting up to observe her husband’s overwhelming joy. Cecil plumped his rump down on the forgiving feather mattress and began to tear at the binding, Rosa crawling across the bed to rest up against Cecil’s soft robed back. She could feel his brisk and deep breaths as they nearly lulled her back to sleep. And then they stopped, the breathing, the softness of his robes, and all she could hear was his heart pounding inside of his ribs. She scaled the short mountain of his shoulders and wrapped an arm over his chest, resting her chin in the nook between his shoulder and neck. Cecil’s hands were shaking, and the letter threatened to shred and fall from his sweaty fingers.
“What does it say?” she asked with a sleepy tone of concern. When he didn’t answer her, she woke up a bit more and took a good look at his face. It was unusually pale, his eyes so wide that they could roll from their sockets at any moment and plop onto the floor. Not a breath escaped his open mouth, and for a moment she was genuinely frightened. “Cecil, what’s wrong!”
Cecil started to breathe again, slowly and hesitant, but his mouth was wavering with the moving air between his lips. Rosa calmed a bit, but still was somewhat worried about what could stun her husband in such a way. His eyes never ventured from the letter, but his mouth began to move, and his voice seeped out with a tone of utter shock.
“This letter...is from Mysidia...” he stuttered through thoughts that collided in mid-stride from his brain to his throat, and he couldn’t help staring at this one word jumping at his eyes from the parchment. He read it over and over again, just the one word, and it paralyzed him inside. His voice came once more, with significant gaps in each phrase. “I must go immediately...today...I must leave for Mysidia today...”
“Cecil, what’s going on?” Rosa pleaded for her husband to regain some of his sanity and answer her with a complete sentence. She held his shoulders tight and put her face next to his, and she could feel the cold sweat dripping from his skin. “Please, tell me.”
“I have to go...” Cecil continued to pace his thoughts, never exactly sure where they would lead to next. He simply spoke what felt like coming out, and all the while this one word is burning his eyes, filling him with such a staggering shock. His throat was so dry that he felt as though it might bleed with the words he spoke. “It’s about my...mother."