Chapter 5: Kingdom Of Greed
Ra’venna is seated on the window’s ledge with one leg raised up and the other resting flat on the wooden floor. Her hood is pulled up over her head. Her eyes follow the streams of clouds covering the lavender sky. The ship flies at a steady pace; faster than the ones in the water beneath them. Thankfully, the flight has been smooth so far, due to clear skies and an absence of storms.
The door to her and Helio’s quarters opens. She hears it shut, followed by scuffed footsteps. She doesn’t need to turn around to know its Helio, his pacing gives him away. He has spent almost every moment of the last two days pacing. Ra’venna presumes he is worried about his little Elf, Amsyn. It is getting on her nerves.
“If you do not stop pacing I will cut your legs off.” Ra’venna growls. The pacing ceases.
“Sorry,” he mumbles. He shuffles around the wooden floor before stilling again. “Can I ask you something?”
“Do you actually care of my answer?” She counters.
“Why did you agree to help me?”
Ra’venna lowers her raised leg and rotates her body until her back is pressed against the window. Helio is seated on the edge of his bed, only a couple feet from Ra’venna’s.
“Because contrary to popular belief, I do in fact have a heart.” She answers, with a tinge of sarcasm. He is unsatisfied with her answer that much is clear. He wants the truth. He craves it from her more than anyone she has ever met. “And because I want your brother dead.”
Ra’venna rises from the window and crosses the room to her bed. She sits down and rests her clasped hands in her lap.
“Why do they call you the Dark Duchess?” Helio questions. His voice is as soft as the sky’s color. The Nether Fairy needs no explanation. It is a statement of her power and species.
Ra’venna raises her gaze from her lap. Her purple eyes bore into him. A chill travels up his spine. Her gaze shakes him to the bone. “I was a duchess. A lifetime ago.” Her voice is barely above a whisper, but Helio hears every word. He sees a trace of an unidentifiable emotion cross her face, but it’s gone so fast Helio questions whether he saw it at all.
“I believe it is only fair I get to ask some questions of my own.” She muses, a smirk dancing on her lips. Helio finds himself staring at them.
“Go ahead.” He invites, adverting his gaze to the broach that binds her hair.
“Why do you care? Why not simply let your family burn in the flames of their making?” She inquires.
“It would not only be them burning.” He replies. He takes a deep breath. “No one should rule the world. It is simply too much power to put in one creature’s hands.” He is different from what she anticipated. He isn’t power hungry or strength-driven, quite the opposite in fact.
“Fire, such a brightly destructive power.” She observes. She cannot help but interrogate him. He intrigues her. Helio lifts his orange orbs to meet her purple ones.
“Your power does not define you; your actions do.” Ra’venna scoffs.
“What a lovely, naive sentiment. In this world power and specie define all you are.” She glares at him. “Not that you would know anything about that.” She snarls. Guilt flashes through Helio’s eyes. Ra’venna pretends not to have seen it.
She returns to the window. Helio resumes pacing.
Lightning splits the sky, illuminating Ra’venna’s face for a second. The lavender sky is now an unsettling, stormy purple. Helio tries not to look up. The color reminds him of Ra’venna’s eyes. He cannot believe what he has done. He’s served up his brother to the most brutal mercenary on Tevata. Terdar did hire her to kill him, but he is still his brother.
What kind of monster does this make him? Helio discards the thought. It doesn’t matter. He is doing this for all the creatures his family has harmed. This is for Etrien, Udor, Gorus, Gupkain, Asharia, Mechijan, Ashia, Mapyrae, Zorus, Bunia; for Fulor that they will eventually come for; and for Amsyn and all she has suffered.
This is the first time Ra’venna has set foot on Bibrax, the largest continent on Tevata. It consists of only three kingdoms: Quvania, Sowhait, and Emain. Quvania and Sowhait are the two largest and most powerful kingdoms in the world with the small kingdom of Emain nestled between them. Quvania and Sowhait have been uneasy neighbors for centuries, but of late tensions have risen to a new height as a result of Quvania’s crusades, most notably the conquest of Sowhait’s close ally and friend, Etrien.
Beneath her cloak, Ra’venna’s wings twitch. A bad feeling nestles itself in the pit of her stomach. Bad things are coming. Her Fairy intuition screams at her. She doesn’t need it to know the severity of her situation. What has she agreed to do? There is no time for regrets. She must do this, for those that were lost.
For her family.
Helio and Ra’venna halt yards away from the gate that barriers the palace from the rest of Quvania.
Helio stares at the palace of silver. The place he was born. The place he grew up in. The place he ran away from. Here he wasn’t Helio, he was Crown Prince Helioson Shalquim: the Silver Prince, the Dragon Prince, the Heir of Flames. He feels sick.
The Silver Palace is named for what it is constructed from, silver. An impractical material, but a rich one. It’s a magnificent, elaborate, well-constructed prison. He scowls. He won’t be able to runaway this time.
“I hate storms.” Helio states, abruptly. He’s looking up at the sky, but he’s not talking about the storm raging above them. He means the one that will start when they walk through those gates.
“I love storms.” Ra’venna says. Her eyes falling on the dark clouds above her. “They remind me that the sky can only take so much before even it must rage.”
Ra’venna remains behind Helio as he approaches the palace gate guards. Despite the alternation in his appearances the guards recognize him on sight and fall to their knees in reverence. Helio orders them to rise. A handful of the guards run up the road to the palace, calling for the Emperor and Empress. If the situation was different, Ra’venna would find it amusing. She stays close to Helio becoming as quiet and unassuming as a shadow. Her power flares in her veins and she has to actively suppress it.
A group of elite guards come bursting out the palace gates. They try to push Ra’venna away, but Helio stays their hand. They regard her with suspicion, but obey their beloved prince, nevertheless. The guards surround the both of them and escort them to the palace.
The towering, palace doors like the rest of the palace are made of silver and decorated with carvings of Dragons and suns. It is both elegant and intimidating.
The door opens to reveal the grand entrance. There are two staircases, one on either side of the room that vanish into the small, twin towers. The palace’s interior is painted white with silver decor around the windows and borders. The floor is composed of white marble stained with streaks of tan, lavender, and rose. Busts of gods, goddesses, and mythical monsters protrude from the walls. The ceiling is covered with a painting of a Fire Dragon bathing in its own flames.
The guards lead the Prince and his companion down the right hallway past the Banquet Hall and one of the state rooms. They take another left and Helio and Ra’venna find themselves standing before the Throne Room doors.
The guards outside the door take ahold of the Dragon wrought handles and pull open the heavy doors that skim over the floor the way a rock skims over water.
The room is rectangular and larger than the cliff Ra’venna’s house sat upon. The walls are a flawless white with silver linings matching the ones in the entryway. The floor is composed of marble the same color as the blood they spill. Standing in the four corners of the room are silver statues of nude women holding up the room. Within the molded oval on the roof is a mural depicting the crowning of a Dragon Empress. Hanging from the ceiling in two rows are the Quvania banners. Suits of polished, Draconic armor line both walls. To the left of the platform is an ornate door leading to the Emperor’s and Empress’s apartments.
In the center of the room is a rectangular platform encased by a pointed arch. The platform is composed of white marble the same kind that forms the figure of a rearing Dragon in the center of the floor. The platform is covered with a red carpet lined with silver. On it stands four, silver thrones. The two center thrones are larger than the other two and identical, they are known as the Molten Thrones. The arms of the thrones are shaped to form a Dragon’s head and carved on the backs of the thrones are Dragon heads facing forward. The smaller thrones sit on either side of the larger ones. Aside from the size, they are identical in every way. Hanging behind the thrones is the flag of Quvania.
Helio’s footsteps ricochet off the wall as he approaches the thrones. He stops at the tile Dragon’s wings. He clasps his hands behind him; his eyes locked on the Molten Thrones, and his body, rigid. His face is a blank slate, but his eyes are overflowing with emotions. From anger to sadness to regret, to guilt to determination.
Ra’venna watches him for a moment before crossing the floor. With each step she curses the prince for vexing her. She stops behind Helio, hoping his imposing figure will shield her. She subconsciously pulls the hood further over her head. She doesn’t want them to see her. Within her veins her power is flaring. The more uncertain she becomes the more it pulses and quakes. The room is sprawling, but the longer she’s in it the more the walls seem to be closing in on her.
The door to the Emperor and Empress’s apartments open. Emperor Solus and Empress Apollonis emerge, arm in arm. Behind them follows their youngest son, Prince Terdar. His eyes widen at the sight of his very alive brother and the mercenary. Ra’venna tenses as Quvania’s rulers sweep into the room. Without sparing a glance, they ascend the stairs and take a seat on their respective thrones. Prince Terdar bows to his parents before taking a seat on his own throne.
Emperor Solus is as intimidating as the stories make him out to be. Clothed in a floor length, red robe-the same shade as his hair-decorated with silver thread. Beneath he’s wearing a silver tunic and pants, woven with orange thread that match his eyes. His fingers are covered in silver rings and upon his head rests a jeweled, silver crown. He is tall, muscular, and imposing. Helio is the near perfect replica of his father.
The Empress is quite different from her husband. She is lean and of average height. She’s clothed in a pure white, ankle length dress that matches her long, sleek hair perfectly. Upon her head rests a feminine version of the Emperor’s crown. As Helio takes after his father, Terdar takes after their mother. Both have piercing, gold eyes and sharp features. It is easy to see why the Emperor chose her. She is a captivating beauty.
Underneath the Empress’s regal exterior Ra’venna recognizes the warrior beneath. Before she was the Empress of Quvania she was the General of the Quvanian army. She was the terror of every battlefield she set foot on; a warrior both feared and respected.
Terdar tries his best to appear bored by the situation, but his eyes betray him. His gaze shifts from Helio to Ra’venna, who is smirking beneath her hood. The Prince shifts in his seat.
The Emperor’s hard gaze falls on Helio. “You have returned my son.” He states, no trace of relief or fondness in his voice. It sends a chill down Ra’venna’s spine.
“I have, Father.” The Emperor nods, his gaze wandering.
“Why should we let you return after you have runaway like a coward?” He booms. His voice cannot be described as anything, but Draconic. It takes all of Ra’venna’s restraint not to flinch.
“Solus,” Apollonis scolds. She places a light, but stern hand on his arm. He turns head in her direction. Ra’venna watches, bewildered as his hard gaze softens after setting eyes on her face. This is not how she imagined their relationship to be.
“I think it only fair, my Empress, that we hear why our son so despised us that he ran away.” He says to her, his voice uncharacteristically soft. Helio gulps.
“I did not leave because of you, Mother, Father. I desired to learn more of the world and the Empire I will inherit. I wanted to know my destiny is divine. I have returned because I have found my answers. I know my place.” Helio lies. His lie is so fluent and believable that Ra’venna is impressed. She didn’t think he had it in him.
“And what is your place, my son?” Apollonis demands. Her voice is both melodic and chilling.
“With my family, as Crown Prince.” Helio speaks the last past directly to his brother. Apollonis smiles, pleased with her favorite son’s answer.
“Welcome back, my son.” For the first time, Helio allows himself to show emotion, and smiles.
“Thank you, Mother.” He replies with a dip of his head.
“I suppose the only question left is: who are you?” The Empress’s harsh demand is directed at Ra’venna, partly concealed by Helio. She emerges from behind him, her body tense, prepared to attack at a moment’s notice.
“She is Ra’venna Voltrea. I have hired her to be my guard until I have readjusted. My return will no doubt provoke our enemies. I would feel safer being protected by someone of her caliber and skill.” Helio explains. Ra’venna realizes he was expecting the question.
Solus moves to protest, but Apollonis is quicker. “Of course, my son, anything you want.” Out of the corner of her eye, Ra’venna sees Terdar’s fists clench. He will always fall second to Helio, the Silver Prince, and he knows it. That is why he accepted the rumors.
“Thank you, Mother.”
The Empress rises from her throne and descends the stairs. She stays the guards with a wave of her hand. “How do I know you will protect my son?” She questions. Ra’venna raises her head to regard the Dragon standing before her.
The one she has dreamed of killing for so long.
“He will be safe.” She assures. Ra’venna conceals her origins by manipulating her distinctive accent. Helio hears it, but has enough restraint not to react.
“And if you fail.” Apollonis demands.
Ra’venna stares straight past the Empress into Terdar’s golden eyes. “I never fail.”