Chapter 22: Made Of Stardust
Helios emerges from the throne room an uncharacteristically cheerful smile across his face. Ra’venna raises an eyebrow and pushes herself off the wall. She approaches the Prince, her arms folded over her chest.
“What has you so happy?” She inquires. Helios’s smile widens. He walks right past her. He glances over his shoulder and signals for her to follow with a jerk of his head. She trails behind them. “Are you going to answer me or not?”
“The Festival of the Empress.” Helios answers.
“And that is...?”
“A festival created by one of my ancestors. He deeply loved his Empress, and so to celebrate her he created a holiday, dedicated solely to the Empress.” He explains.
“That does not explain why you are so happy?”
“The Festival is two days from today.” He clarifies. Ra’venna pauses, but quickly regains her momentum.
“Helios,” she calls. He stops walking and turns to face her. “Will I be going?” The question reveals her expertly hidden vulnerability. He takes ahold of her arms, the familiar heat slipping through her clothed arms.
“It is only a party.” He assures her. Ra’venna rolls her eyes, as if to say ‘that is the problem’. “You have survived my parents, the Helix, and beat the General of Sowhait. I am sure you can handle a party.” Despite not wanting to, Ra’venna smiles.
“Will I still be able to wear my cloak?” She can survive a room full of Dragons, but she does not think she can withstand having to reveal her wings to the world. She has not walked with them freely exposed since her parent’s death.
“Of course. I would never ask you to go without it. Though you will need a dress.” He adds, with a smirk. Ra’venna’s jaw locks. She detests dresses. They are impractical and uncomfortable. She takes a deep breath. It’s only for one day, she can manage.
“It is the only time you will see me in a dress Helioson Shalquim.” She growls. He laughs in return.
The suns are just beginning to vanish beneath the horizon when Ra’venna returns to her chambers. She locks the door behind her after taking the time to glare at the guards outside Helios’s room. She turns around to see a dress draped over her bed. She runs her hand over the lavish fabric. There’s a small card on top of it, with her name written in extravagant lettering. She picks it up and opens it.
I hope you like the dress.
I look forward to seeing you in it tomorrow.
Despite not wanting to admit it, the dress is exquisite. Her heart warms at Helios’s written words. The bond between them continues to grow stronger. He is never far from her mind and she is never far from his. Simple brushes of the skin feel like grasping fire. His emotions are hers and hers are his.
Ra’venna’s hand falls to the silver claw around her neck. The glowing Rhogte serves as the only light in her room. The light is a fiery red, defiant and unrelenting, much like Helios. The magic is his essence and she can feel it’s every ripple and wane.
She gathers the dress from the bed, careful not to wrinkle it, and lays it over the desk. She picks up the card and reads it once more. An inkling of her power slips from her fingertip and curls around the card, devouring it, until her hand is empty. She cannot risk the card falling into Terdar’s or his parent’s hands. They cannot find out about the bond. It will be dangerous for both Helios and her. Though it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the effects of the bond secret.
Ra’venna pushes the thoughts from her mind and removes her clothing. There’s already a warm bath waiting for her. She seeps into it and soaks, allowing the water to wash away the dirt and soothe her mind. The warmth reminds her of Helios’s touch. She sighs and brushes her drenched hair from her face.
She emerges from the tub, wrapping her body in a soft towel. She dries herself off and patters out of the bathroom to the wardrobe. She changes into a loose fitting shirt and pants and crawls into bed. Soon enough sleep collects her.
Ra’venna wakes well before dawn. The festival will begin at dawn and she must get ready, as well as find a way to conceal her sais. She will not walk into a room full of unknown Dragons without her weapons. She tosses her legs over the side of the bed and goes to the desk, where the gorgeous dress Helios gave her lies.
She slides on the lavish dress, concealing her sais beneath the flowing skirt. Ra’venna tosses her violet waves over her shoulder, and realizes she has not done her hair. She contemplates leaving it as is, but changes her mind. This is a celebration and even if it only lasts a day she should enjoy it.
Ra’venna exits the room. The two guards outside Helios’s door are appalled. Her cloak conceals her wings, but nothing can conceal her dress. She flashes them a smirk and knocks on Helios’s door. She hears a tired ‘come in’ and does.
Helios doesn’t bother raising his gaze as she enters the room. He hears her soft footsteps, which seem considerably louder in the quietness of his chambers. The maids dressing him barely dare to breathe much less talk. His silver crown is set upon his head and finally he turns to face her.
He is rendered speechless. He knew the dress he chose for her would make her look beautiful. He can see now he was wrong, beautiful is too short of a word to describe how she appears. Her violet waves are spun into marvelous curls, half are pinned behind her head, the rest dangle freely around her face and over her shoulders. Wrapped around her forehead is a silver circlet decorated with a violet gemstone. None of that compares to the dress.
The dress sweeps the floor, it glides and skims over the polished floor with every movement. The black collar wraps around her neck and shoulders in the form of thin stripes decorated with black lace. The dress dips at the crevice of her breasts, revealing just enough to make the mind wonder. The dress is a rich shade of purple from her breasts to her upper thighs. The purple fades to a morning pink that is sheer enough to see the faint outline of her legs. The pink runs down into a bright orange, that rivals the color of Helios’s eyes, and is sheerer than the pink. Elegant, swirling gold lines reach from her breasts to her hips. Reaching down from the sides of her hips to the floor, overtop of the dress is sheer black material. The violet sleeves of the dress attached underneath her arms stretch down her arms to wrap around her middle fingers. The same elegant, gold lines winding down them.
She is nothing short than a vision, a masterpiece painted by the most talented of artists, a goddess from an ancient story. She looks like anything but a mortal Fairy. But she is not a mortal Fairy. Helios reminds himself. She is a Nether Fairy, an immortal Fairy, cursed to wander Tevata with her corrosive power. Here in the lightening sky she appears as anything but a curse, a blessing, a divine entity, but definitely not a curse.
Helios wishes he could stroll up to her, take her cheek in his hand, and kiss her until the air is robbed from his breast. To feel the burning heat of their bond, to feel that heat spread from his hand to his arm, to his heart, throughout every part of his body. She is a coldness that burns hot.
Helios has always seen her as darkness, but not the darkness that is fought. To him, she is the darkness that coats the night sky, the darkness that allows the stars to rise. She is the shadow, always there, always watching, always protecting. She is the night sky weaved into a person, dark, definitely dark, but littered with light.
Ra’venna sees him differently. He is the suns during the day, shining their unwavering light down. At night, he is the moons, the light that persistently exists despite the darkness. The light the refuses to succumb to the night. The light of hope and chance and belief.
Just as she is darkness incarnate, he is light incarnate and together they make up the night sky. She is the darkness, and he the light; the stars, the moons.
“I would say you look beautiful, but that is the understatement of the century.” He says. He steps forward and takes her hand, hidden beneath her cloak. The fire spreads through his hand and up his arm. He places a kiss to the back of her hand, clothed by the purple material of the dress. Even through it she can feel the heat of his touch.
“You look quite dashing.” She returns, smirking. He does. Clothed in a heavily decorated red and silver robe with a matching tunic and pants beneath. His hair is neatly combed to the sides. It looks respectable for a prince, but Ra’venna prefers it when it’s casually tousled. His silver crown gleams on top of his head.
He seems to be clothed in light, in radiance. Yet, Ra’venna can see the shadows lurking behind his eyes. She knows those shadows. She sees them every time she sets eyes upon her reflection. They are the shadows of sin, of regret. Though they are not the shadows of his sin or regrets. They are his family’s sins, his family’s regrets. He carries it as he carries their last name, as he carries the silver crown. They rob his orange eyes of their light. They steal his brightness. What a burden it must be to carry his family’s wrongdoings and know he can do nothing to stop it or undo it.
Helios’s releases her hand and the heat fades away. “We should go. My parents will be waiting.” He says, his voice strained. Ra’venna pretends not to notice.
The palace has been decorated for the festival. Silk streamers in the Empress’s colors line the walls. Banners bearing the Quvanian crest are hung near every door. The table in the Great Hall has been covered in the fanciest linen and only the finest silver sits upon it. In the Throne Room a white carpet has been rolled out and the Empress’s throne has been polished.
None of this beauty or extravagance can compare to the Empress herself. Clothed in a dress that is nothing short of spun sunlight. It wraps around her falling to the floor, leaving a trail behind her. It is white with gold intertwined in sharp, precise lines. A golden dragon is sew onto the back, the tail trailing down the train of the dress. It has a deep v-neck and woven over her chest is a golden sun. The rays stretch over her stomach and breasts. Her ghostly curls tumble down her face, neck, chest, and back. The numerous candle light reflects off of them, as if they are not hair, but metal. Resting upon her head is her silver dragon crown, the red eyes of the dragon gleaming down.
Ra’venna lingers as Helios’s greets his mother and compliments her appearance. Even if Ra’venna loathes to admit it, she looks magnificent. Terdar lingers behind his parents, glaring at Ra’venna with such hatred. She smirks. Let the boy prince be mad at her, it only makes it all the more sweeter.
“The festival is about to begin.” Solus announces. He offers Apollonis his hand. She takes it and he escorts her out of the throne room. Helios and Terdar follow behind them and Ra’venna remains by Helios’s side.
The front palace doors are open to reveal the courtyard. Today it is not filled with a handful of guards, guarding the doors and the statue of Fudos, the Kudrazen God of Military. A favorite deity among soldiers, but even more so among the royal family.
Resting at the bottom of the courtyards stairs is a large, metal bowl. It’s large enough to fit an entire person inside and still have room. It’s in the shape of two intersecting Dragon wings. This one is filled with Deigrils. Deigrils are highly flammable, black pebbles, most commonly found in deserts or near volcanos.
The Empress and Emperor comes to a stop eight steps from the bottom. All of the nobles in the courtyard bow steeply. Helios and Terdar continue down the steps. Ra’venna remains, a couple steps from the bottom, upon Helios’s signal. Terdar and Helios stand on either side of the metal bowl.
“Now my sons shall light the Festival Flame and the Festival of the Empress shall commence.” The Emperor announces, his powerful voice sweeping over the masses. He holds up his Empress’s hand and the nobles cheer. Ra’venna studies them closer, wondering how many actually like them and how many are here merely for appearance.
Two well-dressed servants step forward, each carry a velvet pillow with a long candle on it. Helios takes the red candle and Terdar the white. The candles are as long as Helios’s arm, if not more. On each one there is a Dragon carved and below the Dragon is Quvania’s motto: Day or night, we are ready.
Helios ignites the candles with a flick of his hand. Together, he and Terdar lower their candles into the metal bowl until the flame finally meets the Deigrils. It only takes one spark. The metal bowl roars with flames. They leap out of the bowl. Ra’venna retreats a step to avoid the flames. The onslaught of flames dies down, until there is only a steady bonfire. The nobles once again burst into applause, cheering the Empress’s name.
The first rays of morning are coming over the horizon. The orchestra at the Emperor’s command, begins playing. The joyful, celebratory music fills the courtyard. The nobles erupt in lighthearted dance. The royal family and Ra’venna watch from the stairs.
“I don’t understand what’s going on.” Ra’venna whispers to Helios. It can barely be heard over the noise.
“This is the first dance of the Festival. Done just after the Flame is lit and as the sun is rising. We’ll go back inside after its done and they will follow. The Festival will continue in there and finish outside after nightfall.” He explains, a light smile on his face.
“What happens after nightfall?” She inquires. Helios’s smile widens.
“I will show you.” He promises. Ra’venna’s suppresses her curiosity and turns to watch the dance instead.
Despite spending the day side by side, Ra’venna and Helios have not gotten the chance to talk. She sticks close to his side to ensure his safety. She does her best to avoid attention, which is hard considering the elaborate dress she is wearing. Helios senses her uncomfortableness and deters the attention from her. He is shuffled from one end of the room to the other, talking with noble after noble. He shows little interest in what they have to say, but is nevertheless polite. The conversations die down, as the Fire Dancers enter the throne room.
The Fire Dancers are all women clothed in long, slim skirts, with slits up the side, and a shirt that leaves their stomach and most of their back and chest exposed. The shirts are heavily decorated with beads and loose strands of material that dangle down their arms and stomach. They sweep across the floor, the crowd parting for them.
The music starts up again. This time is isn’t the elegant, ballroom music it is deep and wild. The woman move across the floor in a choreographed routine, tossing and spinning their inflamed accessories. Their dance is wild and sensual, captivating the attention of all who watch. The flames of the fire fans seems to wrap around them the faster they move. As the music ascends their movements become frenzied, furious. Their bodies contort with every note. The music becomes softer, slower. The dancers match the music. Their dancing becomes slow and sensual, each movement intimate and alluring. Most of the men in the room and doing nothing short of drooling.
Ra’venna sneaks a glance at Helios. He doesn’t seem entranced by their movements like the other males instead he only seems to hold an appreciative admiration for them. He catches Ra’venna’s eye. She turns away, a disobedient blush washing over her cheeks. She is thankful for the cloak that conceals her from his view.
“I am almost insulted for how you presume me to be.” He utters, his lips brushing against the fabric of her cloak. She hears him clearly. Her pulse quickens and heat fills her.
“Given the reactions of every other male being in this room, can you blame me?” She retorts. He shrugs even though she can’t see it.
“Only the ones who do not know anything better stare at them in the way you speak.” Helios replies. Ra’venna turns to him, a soft smile spread across his lips. She returns his smile.
The music ceases and the dancing ends. The Fire Dancers bow to the Empress and Emperor and the guests. They sweep out of the room, leaving as gracefully as they came. The nobles spread out through the room, covering over the area that the dancers had occupied. The sophisticated, cultured music fills the room once again.
Helios holds his hand out to Ra’venna. “May I have this dance?” He asks, a playful smile on his lips. Ra’venna narrows her eyes. She glances around, half of the eyes in the room are on them, even Terdar’s. He watches with a mixture of contempt and disgust.
Reluctantly, she slips her calloused hand into his. He tugs her to him in one swift movement. They glide across the dance floor, their movements coinciding with the music. All eyes are locked on them and the crowd parts for them. Ra’venna keeps her eyes fixed on Helios’s. She doesn’t dare look at the room around her, for fear of losing her nerve. Her waist is aflame where his hand lies. He gives her waist an encouraging squeeze. Her hand is intertwined with his, setting her entire arm on fire.
She is as graceful on the floor as she is on the battlefield. She wraps her hand around his shoulders, resting it below his neck. Helios’s hand is below her wings, he can feel the edge of them brush up against his hand with her movements. Helios’s arm and shoulder are enwrapped in heat. He relishes in it. Wishing they were alone and not surrounded by enemies. Helios pushes aside the thoughts. For now this is all, all that matters is this dance, this time.
The music finishes. Helios releases her. They both step back and bow to each other. The audience applauses. Ra’venna is still dizzy from the heat of their bond and their dance. Helios seems as affected as she is. He turns away, breaking their trance.
Helios wanders across the room to his parents, trying to put distance between him and Ra’venna before he looses control. Ra’venna watches him go. She doesn’t follow him. The bond is still swirling around in her and with it her inhibitions are fading. They cannot expose it, especially not here. This is nothing short of the beast’s den.
Ra’venna’s eyes sweep over the room. She spots Helios talking with his mother at the base of the throne steps. Terdar is near his throne, charming some court lady, wearing a hideous pink gown. She blushes and giggles at something he says. He stares at her as if she is prey. Ra’venna is repulsed by it and looks away. A couple men approach her asking her to dance. She glares at them and they run away.
Ra’venna spends most of the rest of the day, leaning against the palace wall, watching the others dance and party, with a glass of red wine clasped in her hand. She keeps a close eye on Helios, watching as he moves through the room stopping to chat with nobles. He turns down several advances from noblewomen. It makes her heart stir. Unable to bear the reminder of what she can never have, Ra’venna looks away. Instead she focuses on the red, alcoholic liquid in her goblet.
She feels a hand on her arm, followed by pleasurable heat and knows it’s Helios. She glances up from the silver goblet clutched in her hand. “It’s almost time.” He says. Her eyebrows furrow.
“Time for what?”
“Night is falling.” He clarifies. She glances out one of the windows and sees his words are true. The last lights of day are falling beneath the horizon.
“So what do you wish to show me?” She questions.
“Follow me.” He takes ahold of her hand.
They two slip through the crowd and out of the throne room. He leads her deeper into the South Wing, pass the Great Hall and several other unmarked rooms. Helios guides her up a slim spiral staircase, that leads to a balcony.
She gasps. The view is of the courtyard and in the distance she can see the faint outline of Klepolis and past that the rolling hills of Quvania. The view is breathtaking. She drops Helios’s hand and places her hands on the silver railing.
Helios watches her, smiling. The hood falls from her head, revealing her violet curls, the last light of day intertwined in them. He studies her. A strange vision overcomes him. For a split second he can see her sitting on the Empress’s Molten Throne, wearing a silver crown, clothed in a majestic violet gown with her wings fanned out behind her. She’d be an Empress. His Empress. He blinks once and the vision vanishes.
He stands beside her, resting his own hands on the silver railing only inches from hers. “What is it that you wish to show me? The view cannot be all.” Ra’venna interrogates.
“It is a surprise.” He replies, teasing her. She rolls her eyes.
“So help me princeling if you are jerking me around I will hurl you over the balcony.” She threats. He chuckles.
“Back to nicknames, are we?” She playfully shoves him, laughing. Helios smiles at the sound. It’s soft and melodic, a direct contradiction to everything she tries to be.
A rush of noise fills the courtyard as the nobles file in. Ra’venna leans against the railing, not staring at the people below, but at the stars manifesting above. Helios smiles, shaking his head. Anyone else would watch the Festival and she chooses to gaze at the stars.
He nudges her shoulder. “It is about to begin.” She follows his gaze to the courtyard below.
The Emperor, Empress, and Prince each summon a ball of light in their hands. The Emperor’s is red, and the Empress’s and Terdar’s are white. The releases the orbs and they travel upwards towards the sky. All the nobles proceed to do the same. They summon orbs of energy and releases it into the air. All of them travel upwards. Soon enough the sky is filled with hundreds of multicolored orbs. They remind Ra’venna of slow rising stars. Ra’venna gasps. She has never seen anything so beautiful before.
Helios clasps his hands together summoning a red orb. He opens his hands and it is released into the sky. Ra’venna reaches out to touch, his magic connects with her, sending a flurry of heat up her arm. “Your turn.” He whispers in her ear. She shakes her head.
“No, this is too beautiful to ruin.” Her voice is low and broken. Helios takes one of her hands and turns it upwards.
“Your power is beautiful too. Go ahead.” She meets his eyes. The same admiration of her power she saw before is in his eyes. She gently pulls her hand from Helios’s grasp and calls forth her power in the form of a violet orb. She lifts her hand and it flies into the sky. “See, beautiful.” She looks at him. He may be speaking of the orb, but his eyes haven’t left her once.
The two remain on the balcony watching the lights until they vanish entirely from view. Even afterwards, they stand side by side on the balcony. Neither of them utters a word. There is no need to. The comfort of knowing the other one is there is enough.
Helios glances down, his family has retreated back inside and the nobles are soon to follow. “I have to go back down. My father and mother are about to give a speech.” He tells her. He has no desire to leave, but he doesn’t want Terdar to come looking for him and find them here. He will only find a way to use it against him. Ra’venna nods, pulling up her hood.
They two descend the stairs and weave their way back to the Throne Room. Thankfully, they are able to slip back inside relatively unnoticed.
Ra’venna goes to brush past him, but Helios catches her arm. He pulls her to him. “You don’t have to be here. If you wish to return to your chambers.” She nods.
Ra’venna leaves the throne room and returns to the West Wing. She doesn’t return to her chamber, instead she wanders until she finds herself outside. She sweeps across the tile floor. She’s never been in this part of the palace before. Pillars rise from the floors forming a room full of circular openings that reveal the starred sky above. She glances around to make sure she’s alone, before pushing back her hood from her head.
She gazes at the stars, reliving the stories she was told as a child about the different constellations. A part of her can still hear her father’s strong, cheerful voice as he relayed the stories to her and in the distance, the scolding of her mother, for filling her head with such stories. She thought many of them to be too gruesome for such a small child. Tears weld up in her eyes. She looks to tile and wipes them away.
“Ra’venna.” She spins around to find Helios’s leaning against the doorway. “I was looking for you.”
“I wasn’t tired and the stars are far too beautiful tonight to not gaze upon.” She says. He nods and crosses the floor to her.
“They are quite beautiful.” He agrees. She turns to face him fully, her arms crossed beneath her cloak.
Helios takes a daring step forward. He reaches for the clasp of her cloak. Ra’venna makes no visible objection. His eyes locked with hers, he undoes the clasp, allowing the cloak to fall from her shoulder and pool at her feet. His hands lightly run down her arm, leaving goosebumps in their wake. Ra’venna’s wings rise from their downward position, fanning out behind her. The moonlight reflects off of them, like it would off glass.
He steps closer. Unable to help himself he reaches forward, trailing his index finger down her upper left wing. His eyes locked with hers. Her eyes flutter shut as Helios runs his finger up and down her wing at a torturously slow pace, pleasurable shivers rack her body. Her wing jerks down suddenly and her head falls back. She relishes in the touch. It’s been so long since she’s felt a touch like this, gentle, loving even.
She tilts her head back up only to come face to face with Helios. He is mere inches from her. His hot breath mingles with her own ragged breaths. Whether it’s his gentle touch or their bond influencing her, she slams her lips onto his. His hand drops from her wing, instead latching onto her waist. The other moves up to grasp her face. The heat of his touch isn’t flaming, it’s molten, like sunlight laid against her skin. Their lips move fervently against each other.
Ra’venna buries one of her hands in his red hair, and the other comes to rest on his neck. She can feel the wildfire buried within him. The raging, unrelenting force dying to be released. She pulls him closer, trying to bring the fire to surface, trying to unleash him. His lips press harder against hers and yet the kiss is still as gentle as the first snow fall of Fayou. A rich, raw passion, unlike anything either of them have ever felt fills them.
Out of a need for air they pull away. Helios rests his forehead against hers, breathing heavily. “You are the most infuriatingly, addictive creature I have ever met.” He growls. She smirks, her own breaths heavy.
“It’s my winning trait.” He chuckles and kisses her again.
Standing here in the light of the moons’ they are invincible. There is nothing to stop them and nothing that can tear them apart. There is only the gentle green light of Dyxtix, the blue light of Igmos, the red light of Chayone, and the silver light of Infinitius, streaming through the roof. In the secrecy of the night they are free. They are not bound by status or history or pain, just the two of them in the darkness of night with only the moons to watch them.
For the first time in a long time the stars smile down upon Ra’venna.
Unbeknownst to all, a pair of golden eyes watches from the shadows.