Steel and Spell

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Chapter 25

I looked intently at the old man, trying to figure out who he was, or at least how important was he.

“We are sorry to bother you, Karnor, we had... an inconvenience.” The King apologized softly, which surprised me slightly since the only thing he had done since my arrival was being cold and rude.

The old man’s gaze, which I knew then that his name was Karnor, started to travel along the room, watching everyone with interest. He didn’t respond to the King’s apology, but no one said anything about it. I didn’t waver my gaze from him, my curiosity winning over reason.

When his gaze met mine, a toothless grin appeared on his wrinkled face.

“Finally, the viatorem decided to appear.” His hands made a gesture for me to stand up, but I was too confused in that moment to process anything. I looked behind to see if he was perhaps talking to someone behind me.

Everyone behind me was looking right at me.

“Viatorem? What the hell is that?” I thought, recognizing the language as latin but not the meaning of the word.

“Young girl, I’m talking to you.” He chuckled at me, shaking his head at my reaction.

I turned to look at him and stood up slowly, too dumbfounded to say anything.

“You arrived faster than I thought you would. Come, let me see you closer. My eyes see less and less each day.” His raspy voice called out to me kindly.

Still too shocked to say something I started walking towards the old man slowly. I looked at the King and Queen, and they were as shocked as I was.

“Karnor...” The King started, but the old man turned around and shushed him. “This is history, my King. Don’t interrupt this moment.”

My eyes widened as plates at Karnor. He talked back to the King as if it was nothing, meanwhile, I had to use all my mental strength to formulate two words in front of him. He was too intimidating for my cowardly self.

When I neared the old man he took my hands in a strong grip and pulled me closer. A yelp escaped my mouth at the sudden action and I had to stabilize my feet to prevent falling. He was stronger than the eye could catch. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, a frown growing between his eyes as if he was concentrating.

“My hands are cold... sorry.” I muttered quietly. It was indeed the middle of winter and the huge castle didn’t even have a little heating to heat the halls and rooms, so I didn’t know why I was even apologizing.

He was like that for a while. An awkward silence filled the room and I looked down at the floor, feeling embarrassed with everyone’s eyes on me. His expression suddenly started to soften and he opened his eyes. His irises were an electric green, surprising me for what seemed the millionth time that day. He looked at me with sympathy, as if he knew what I was really going through.

“You have suffered a lot child, and you still have a long way to go. Don’t you think for a moment that you can’t defeat them, because you’re probably the most capable person in this room, no, in the whole eternal unity, that can defeat Ascanius. You are strong, much more than what you think, and believe it or not, the odds are in your favor.”

I looked at him with my mouth agape, not believing the words that came from his mouth.

“H-how do you know all this?” I asked stuttering with shock. It was beyond my mind of how he knew something of what I’ve been through.

He smiled at me quizzically and shrugged. “I’m an Oracle, dear. I just happen to know some things.”

“An Oracle? This keeps getting stranger by the minute...” I thought.

He let go of my hands and looked at the King and Queen. “What are you waiting for? More evidence? She sure proved herself quite enough!” Karnor exclaimed impatiently. An idea at that exact moment crossed my mind.

“Are you sure Karnor about this?” The King said eyeing me suspiciously, still not sure about my real role here.

“As sure as I’m blind.” He looked at the Queen and a knowing glint appeared in his eyes. “I think you have a familiar feeling with this.” At that, the Queen seemed to pale a little.

“Wait. So you do know he is alive right?” I asked at Karnor, desperate for him to tell me he was alive and alright.

This time his face fell, and he sighed with sorrow. “I knew he was alive. I had a feeling that he was safe, but that he didn’t want to be found.” He looked at the Queen in the eye before continuing. “I didn’t tell you because it was against Cassius wishes, and I had to respect him. I’m sorry my Queen.”

The Queen nodded, wiping the silent tears away from her cheeks. Karnors gaze went back to mine, and an ugly feeling settled on my gut.

“A couple of days ago, I stopped feeling him. He is not dead, but I can’t assure he is fine.” He said with sadness lacing his voice, showing that he did care about the lost prince.

My eyes clouded with unshed tears, but I refused to let them fall. So instead I just nodded quickly and whispered a quick “thank you”. I didn’t want all these strangers to see how much it affected me. How much sorrow I felt and how broken I was on the inside. I knew the only way of fixing the situation, of fixing myself, was to find Cassius. And tears would get me nowhere.

The King rubbed his temples, showing obvious signs of distress at the situation.

“You are saying we should let the girl join the Black Knights?” He asked Karnor, going back to the previous topic. His face didn’t show one bit of sadness or pity towards his son. All he cared about was that I could be a potential spy for the enemy and a threat to his reign. How could he care so little for his son, who he hadn’t seen in ten years?

An angry remark settled on the tip of my tongue and I had to bite it to stay quiet. If I had a chance to get into the Black Knights and save Cassius, then I couldn’t blow it.

Apparently, my anger was obvious to Karnor. He watched me amused as I crossed my arms in front of my chest and started to tap my foot on the ground quickly, something I did when I was frustrated or angry.

“You should. Mark my words, this girl is essential for the upcoming war, and most importantly, finding your son.” He looked at the King dead serious, and for a second I felt grateful towards this kind old man who didn’t even know me, and there he was, helping and defending me.

The King closed his eyes tiredly and sighed. When he opened them again, he looked at me, eyeing me up and down as if I was an object to analyze.

“Bring Leo here. And the Black Knights too. I think they need to be aware of this.”

The whole room started to move, soldiers going in and out of the room yelling commands and bickering orders. In all that mess, Karnor was nowhere to be found. I wanted to thank him for helping me and ask his reasons behind it. I wanted to ask him a million questions regarding what the future held for me, even ask what viatorem means. But, he just simply disappeared.

Someone grabbed my arm and I turned around to see Peyton looking at me excitedly.

“That went way better than I thought it was going to.” He looked relieved, and I smiled at him carefreely.

“I think today is my lucky day. I mean, if Karnor hadn’t appeared, I think I would have been royally screwed. Literally.” I chuckled at my attempt for a joke but Peyton’s face looked at me seriously.

“There is something strange in all of this. Karnor hadn’t appeared around here since at least eight years ago, and I don’t think it is a coincidence.” He whispered fastly as if he was speaking of a major conspiracy theory.

I bit my lip, thinking of all the problems I brought with me. Until now, it was only confusion, disorder and a long trail of questions not even I could answer.

“I think what’s coming is something big, and your father can’t ignore that.” I whispered back at him, looking at the King who was retreating to his throne with the Queen on his side, the both of them arguing in hush whispers.

Peyton and I exchanged a worried look, and the noise of the throne room abruptly opening interrupted the moment. I looked behind me to look at the newcomer’s and cold sweat started to form instantly on my back. It was the Black Knights.

First appeared a man, no more than twenty years old, short brunette hair and mischievous looking dark eyes. He was a little taller than me; approximately 5.7 ft high. His arms looked worked and I could bet that under the armor he had a six-pack. I recognized him as Quinn, the guy I had stolen his identity to enter the castle. How did they even confuse him with me is a mystery beyond explanation. I thought he held a grudge or something against me, and I gulped as his gaze met mine, but the smirk he directed my way had me confused.

“Aw, he has dimples.” I cooed inside my head. I was a sucker for dimples.

The second one, I estimated, he was around the same age as Quinn but looked way different. Black Raven hair, his bangs brushed to the side. His eyes were between turquoise and green, which from afar I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I calculated his height on 6.0 ft, way taller than Quinn. He looked lean, he didn’t have much muscle nor did he lack. He glared instantly at me and I stare back defiantly, not succumbing for a simple glare.

The third came instantly, and until then, he was the scariest of them all. Bright blonde hair, brown chocolate eyes, and here is where he gets scary. He was at least 6.3 ft tall, bulging arms, wide shoulder length and a scary scar run across his jaw. He walked confidently into the room, his gaze passing over me for a moment before he kept looking straightforward with no emotion showing at all. I silently prayed that I could be on his good side. I pitied the poor bastard that crosses him on a wrong day.

The fourth guy was tall, same age as everyone mentioned before, with red hair sticking in every direction possible. Brown warm eyes looked intently at me with a playful smile and waved my way. I was slightly taken aback but nodded awkwardly his way anyway. I knew instantly that I liked him. He walked and stood next to Quinn, elbowing him in the stomach in the most subtle way, pointing my way and whispering with a snicker. He wasn’t so subtle if I realized this though, but I looked away to look at the next newcomer.

Suddenly it felt like the air got tight around me, the tension building further than what it was and my hands started to sweat. The guy entered the room, and I felt something snap inside me. A mix of feelings started to roam my body, leaving tingles. Yes, literal tingles.

“What the hell?...” I thought alarmed at this weird sensations. My gaze went up and fell in a pair of blue eyes. The most beautiful sky blue eyes I had ever seen. And for a second I felt paralyzed, none of my muscles reacting to anything, as if the whole world had stopped while I watched those eyes.

He seemed too in that same kind of trance, and I had to snap out of it pinching my hand as hard as I could. I looked down at the floor, trying subtly to ignore that strange moment. My cheeks turned pink in embarrassment, and I just hoped none of the people in the room realized that weird moment. I looked up again, curiosity winning the best in me.

He was still looking at me while he walked towards the rest of the Black Knights, who were all standing at the side of the room also looking at me, assessing me. I took the opportunity and did the same.

Dirty blonde hair sticking upwards as if he had passed his hand through it way too many times. Slightly crooked nose, the clear evidence of once a broken nose. Sharp jawline accompanied with hard features that gave him a rudeless aura that probably attracted the ladies and brought envy and fear from men.

A familiar sensation built up, and I had the feeling I knew him, yet I had never seen the guy before in my life. It wasn’t the kind of face you accidentally forget; it was the kind you see once and you remember it for the rest of your life. For your wondering, yes, he was that handsome.

“What may I offer you, your highness?” Blue eyes asked the King with the typical British accent in a deep velvety voice.

“You need to prepare an entering test for tomorrow. You’re going to have a new member.” The King said curtly but I picked slight annoyance from his voice.

“Jesus, don’t need to get excited.” I thought sarcastically, fighting the urge to roll my eyes.

“But it’s not until three more years that a spot is fought for.” He said confused, while the other knights looked at each other with the same confusion written on their faces.

The King looked directly at me and clicked his tongue.

“Don’t worry. She’s not going to be permanent.”

All eyes were suddenly on me, but I refused to shrink away. I held my head high and looked at everyone in the eye, which was kind of funny. All the Knights had basically their jaws on the floor, none of them even saying a word.

Blue eyes glared harshly at me before looking at the King once again. His anger was quite visible and in my opinion very fun to watch.

“Father, I don’t know whats going on-”

“I will explain you further in the future.” He responded harshly, not liking his angered tone.

“Wow. Wait. Father? Does that mean he is... Oh shit.” My mind joined the puzzle pieces quite quickly. “So he must be Leo...”

“That was all. Everybody out.” The King said in a stone cold voice that had everybody running for the door.

“Except you, darling. I need to have a word with you.” The Queen said looking at me and I nodded dumbfounded at her interest in me.

The Black Knights passed next to me, half of them looking at me curiously and the other half with glares. If glares could kill, Leo’s one probably would have put me 6ft underground in an instant. A shiver ran down my spine but I ignored it. I knew deep down I had to stay away as far as I could from him. I felt danger all around him, and I couldn’t risk Cassius life because of him.

Everyone went out of the room and I finally felt like I was able to breath. And it was all because of him, and I couldn’t understand for the love of God what the hell was happening to me. I cleared my mind from that train of thoughts and focused on the Queen.

“From what I read in the letter, you had a special relation with my son...” She started looking intently at me.

I nodded slowly, pink shading my cheeks in embarrassment.

“We don’t want that information to get out of here.” The King continued speaking, signalizing the three of us in the room.

A mix of anger and hurt grew in my chest, but my blank face revealed nothing. Or at least thats what I hope so. They were probably embarrassed that their son was with a low life like me and even though I shouldn’t have cared about their opinion, I did more than I would have like to. After all, they’re still my boyfriends parents.

The Queen stood up from her throne and started to pace back and forth.

“If people know about the true nature of your relationship with him, especially the Black Knights, they’ll start questioning your actions.” She said in a matter of fact tone that calmed a little bit down the turmoil of negative feelings in my mind. But then the curiosity plagued everything and my mouth moved faster than my sense of rationality.

“And why would you trust my actions?” I asked bluntly, realizing the idiocy of my actions too late.

She looked at me, her sky blue eyes looking directly into my green ones.

“I don’t know. There’s a feeling that I have that tells me to trust you.” She said quietly, a small smile gracing her lips.

Relief flooded through me when I realized I hadn’t committed a crime. I glanced quickly at the King, and clearly, he didn’t have that same feeling.

I returned the small smile to the Queen. “Thank you, your Majesty. It means a lot to me.” I looked at the both of them as I said that. The King’s eyes softened for a second before going back to that impassive cold glare, while the Queen nodded at me with a smile.

“You are dismissed.” The Queen dismissed me kindly and I bowed quickly before turning around to make my way towards the exit.

“The guards will guide you to your room.” I heard from behind the soft voice of the Queen.

I turned around and bowed in acknowledgment and gratitude.

I got out of the throne room finally feeling at ease and relaxed.

Peyton was waiting for me beside the door and my heart was warmed at his cuteness. His face instantly beamed when he saw me and his nervousness and excitement was very noticeable.

“How did it go?” His hazel eyes were wide in anticipation and once again I was filled with warmth.

“Good. I think tomorrow is the decision if I stay or not. I need to pass the test that the Knights are going to give me and I will be officially looking for your brother.” I ruffled his hair. “Whats the test though?”

An image of a standardized test entered my mind for some reason, like the ones I had in school. Oh boy, how wrong I was.

“You need to defeat in battle one of the Knights.” Peyton said shrugging as if it wasn’t a big deal at all.

“What?!”

My mortified expression said it all, and I knew that it was my death sentence.

I looked to my right, and at end of the hall, all the Black Knights were watching me silently.

“Oh god...” I muttered low enough for Peyton not to listen.

My end was coming sooner than I thought.

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