Creatures Of Fate

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Chapter 7: Claim Your Weapon

“There is a service tonight and you will be attending, son.” Emperor Solus declares.


“You will pay respects to your gods, boy.” He bellows. Helio tenses and hesitates for a moment before nodding.

“Of course, Father.” The Emperor’s eyes gleam with satisfaction.

“Good. Bring the Fairy.” Let her witness our power and brutality is what the Emperor means. His lips curl to form a ghostly smirk. Ra’venna clutches her hands together beneath her cloak to avoid leaping onto the platform and slitting the his throat. She won’t be intimidated. There is no level of violence that she can surprise or appall her anymore.

Emperor Solus and Empress Apollonis rise from their thrones at almost the same time. He offers his arm and she places her hand on top of her husband’s. With their heads held high and their backs straightened they descend the steps.

The Empress glances back. “Are you coming, my son?”

“No, mother. I believe my brother and I have some reacquainting to do.” Terdar lies smoothly. He rises from his silver throne and bows to his parents as they depart from the room. The sound of the doors falling shut echoes throughout the royal room.

Terdar lifts his head, his golden eyes falling on his brother. The two stare at each other for a long while; neither speak or move. It is as if Ra’venna is privy to a silent conversation. The tension is thick like a morning fog over the moors.

“Well, brother, here we are again.” Terdar holds out his arms, a wicked smile across his face. Ra’venna sees no prince only the monster behind the smile.

Her body stiffens as it does before every fight. Her hands sneak behind her back to where her sais are tucked into a leather holster. If the prince even blinks the wrong way she will cut open his throat, consequences be damned.

“Yes, brother, it appears we have been reunited.” Helio states, his voice devoid of emotion. He eyes his brother with caution. It has been years since he last saw his brother. Terdar was but a boy then. He is a boy no longer. Helio has no idea what his little brother has grown to be. He takes a step forward, his hands clasped behind his back. “It has been a...while.” Helio is careful with his wording. He is not yet sure how his brother will react.

Ra’venna remains silent, but tightens her grip on her sais.

Terdar descends the stairs slowly allowing enough time between steps for his footstep to echo through the throne room. His smirk widens as he descends.

Helio struggles to remain impassive. His claws prick at his skin demanding to be freed. Ra’venna catches sight of his half-extended claws out of the corner of her eye. Helio snaps his hands shut and forces down his fiery rage. He will not give his brother the satisfaction.

“The prince and the mercenary. I must admit I did not see this coming.”

If there is something you wish to say brother, than out with it already.” Helio snaps. His words ring out strong and clear. The demand of a Dragon Prince.

Terdar chuckles and holds out his arms to his brother. “There he is. My brother. The Silver Prince.” He spats.

Ra’venna drops her hands. The prince will not attack. He’s too afraid of his brother, Ra’venna realizes. That is why he wanted his brother dead. Ra’venna had assumed he wanted Helio dead purely out of childish resentment. Terdar was afraid that if he were crowned Emperor Helio would storm in and steal the throne from him. He knows he is no match for his brother. Her lips curve into a smirk. The prince will be easier to destroy then she thought.

Terdar approaches Helio. “I actually prefer this brother, now I will get to kill you myself.” He hisses. Helio doesn’t flinch at his brother’s threat.

“If you want a suggestion brother, next time do not try to kill the mercenary you hire to kill me.” Helio pulls back, smirking darkly. Terdar’s gaze turns vicious and his body twitches. Ra’venna prepares herself to attack.

Instead Terdar shifts his gaze to Ra’venna. “Is that what you desire to do to me?” He questions.

Ra’venna raises her eyes to meet his, a silent fury burns behind them. “You betrayed me. It is only fitting you pay for it with your life.” Her proclamation does not sound like that of a hired killer’s, but of a noble’s or royal’s. Terdar’s jaw clenches, but he doesn’t respond.

“Do what you will, brother, but the throne is mine. Mine. I will not allow you or anyone else to take it from me.” He snarls.

Helio locks eyes with him. “May the best brother win.” R’avenna watches the two princes standing face to face. The prince that does not want the throne and the one who wants it too much.

Terdar sneers at the both of them. He turns and storms out of the room, his cape flying behind him.

“Your brother is quite the charmer.” Ra’venna remarks, once they are alone.

“He is still my brother.” Helio whispers. Ra’venna finds it astounding that he can still care for his brother who cares so little for him, who tried to have him killed. His heart will be his downfall.

The throne room doors open once again and in scurries a Faun slave. He is clothed in a simple tunic and trousers fitting of his low status. His horns have been cut nearly to the base. Something Quvanian soldiers and nobles love to do is cut the horns of Fauns or the wings of Fairies. Ra’venna has seen it.

Accompanying him are two, royal guards clad in silver armor with swords strapped to their waists. Ra’venna cannot help but wonder if they actually know how to fight or if it is just for show. She decides it does not matter. She could easily slaughter half the palace before even one could draw their sword.

“Your Imperial Highness, my lady, I am to escort you to your chambers.” He says, bowing lowly. His voice is tinged with the accent of another land.

Helio gives a curt nod and follows after the slave. Ra’venna scans both guards before trailing after him. The guards take their place on either side of Helio. They are probably meant to protect him from her. How insulting.

The hallways are lined with paintings. None of them give off a hospitable feel. All depict gruesome battles and all depict the Dragons as the victors. Ra’venna scowls as she passes a painting of a Dragon man holding up a pair of severed Fairy wings like a trophy. The dead Fairy lies sprawled out at his feet.

Helio turns around. He sees Ra’venna glowering at the painting and looks away. He can only imagine what it feels like to see one of your kin depicted as such.

Ra’venna looks away from the painting. She hadn’t realized she stopped walking. She meets Helio’s gaze. In them swims pity and guilt. Ra’venna severs the gaze. She will not be pitied and Helio knows it.

He clears his throat and falls back into step. The five creatures ascend one of the two smaller, front towers that contains the stairs connecting the three floors. Helio and Ra’venna are led to the third floor. The third floor contains the princes’ chambers, the ballroom, schoolroom, and a couple guest rooms. The princes dwell on opposite sides of the third floor. The Emperor and Empress occupy all three floors of the large tower at the back of the palace.

They exit the tower and step into a sprawling room at least four times the size of the throne room. The floor is paved with white tile sprinkled with silver flakes. The dome ceiling is wrought with silver and paintings of Dragons flying in the heavens. Scattered throughout the room are a variety of instruments. Rays of filtered green and gold sunlight stream in through the balcony’s glass windows. The light illuminates the entire room reflecting off the silver decor and white tiles. This does not look like the home of monsters.

The most dangerous monsters are the ones that look like heroes. That is what they appear like; clad in silver armor riding well-bred Flerysbara into battle. At home they wear clothes made of the finest materials and large jewels.

The Faun slave leads them across the ballroom to the right side of the floor. Helio finds himself standing before two very familiar doors. Silver clad dual doors engraved with two rising Dragons facing each other their mouths open and poised to attack. Above each one is one of Tevata’s suns. The rays stretched from the point of the doors to the carved bones, the defeated enemies that lie beneath their feet. The silver handles are in the shape of Dragon heads.

“Your chambers, Your Imperial Highness.” The Faun bows, gesturing to the doors. “My lady,” he turns his attention to Ra’venna. “Their Imperial Majesties have instructed you be housed in a room next to his Imperial Highness so you may better guard him.” The Faun indicates to the room behind him. It is one of the two guest rooms on the floor and only a third the size of Helio’s.

The door is simpler, but like everything else in the palace is marked by a Dragon and a sun.

“When is the ceremony?” Helio asks the Faun.

“Sundown, Your Imperial Highness.” Helio nods, an indecipherable look passes over his face.

“Ra’venna, you do-”

“I will be there.” She will not let the royal family see her as weak. She will witness their brutality without flinching. She will not falter. She will not bow. She will not break.

“Very well.” He is settling into his role as prince already.

The guards take their position outside the prince’s doors. The slave bows to the prince before making his way to the towers.

Ra’venna grips the Dragon head handle and turns it.

“Ra’venna,” Helio’s soft voice rings out. She looks at him. “Thank you for doing this. I know you...dislike my family.” She glances at the bones on the door behind him.

“I am not doing this for you.” She replies stoically.

Ra’venna vanishes into her chambers before Helio can respond.

The room bleeds the richness of Dragons. Ra’venna strolls in her boots click against the blindingly white tiles. The room is illuminated by the sunlight streaming in from the windows along the back wall. They are covered by red, velvet curtains tied off to the side.

Pressed up against the center of the right wall is a white, four-poster bed covered by red and silver silk bedding that matches the velvet canopy. Beside it is a bedside table with a porcelain Dragon statue set on top. Ra’venna has to resist the urge to reduce the statue to ash. Lying on the floor on the other side of the bed is a square, patterned carpet.

Facing the corner is a silver and red divider with a rising Dragon painted on each panel. Feet from her is a large, white, rounded wardrobe covered in ornate, silver design and hanging next to it is a painting depicting the crowning of an Ice Dragon Empress.

Built around the left corner of the room is the bathroom. Across from the bed is a white stone fireplace. Nestled in front of the fireplace is a red velvet couch and chair.

Set in the corner is a masterfully crafted, white desk and matching chair. Carved onto the face of the desk is a rising Dragon, a matching one is etched onto the back of the chair. Ra’venna opens the top drawer, inside is a stack of parchment, an ink vial, and three quills. She closes the drawer, sighing. Positioned in front of the windows is a red velvet couch and two matching chairs. In the middle is a white, coffee table on top of an Elven woven carpet.

Ra’venna goes over to the wall of windows and glances out. Her room has a marvelous view of the palace grounds. Surrounding the palace is a stone wall that contains the training grounds, the guard’s armory, and the guard’s dining hall. Extending from the back of it is a larger, secondary wall of no definite shape that contains the palace’s extravagant gardens.

Being in this palace, this room, protecting the prince is a betrayal to herself and to her kin. She shakes her head. No, she is only protecting one prince until she can kill the other. She is not betraying anyone.

Why does it feel like she is?

Sundown is fast approaching. Tonight she cannot be Ra’venna Voltrea. She must be the Nether Fairy, the merciless mercenary who relishes in the destruction she causes and the ruin she leaves behind.

Ra’venna exits her chambers to find the prince already in the hallway waiting for her. His face is somber and his body language indicates self-loathing. What about Dragon ceremonies could evoke this response from Helio? He walks over to her, his hands tucked into the pockets of his trousers. He’s changed into royal wear.

“Are you ready?” He asks. Ra’venna holds his gaze for a moment searching for his mood.

“Yes.” She swears he mumbled something under his breath along the lines of ‘you could never be’.

The two guards accompany Helio downstairs. It seems the years away have not impaired the prince’s knowledge of the palace. He leads Ra’venna back down to the first floor to the room next to the throne room-the temple.

They find the temple doors open and inviting. Upon first look one would never guess the atrocities committed within this room. Lining the walls are bright paintings of the Kudrazen deities framed in silver. Protruding from the middle of the ceiling is a silver sun with the undefined face of Entos in the center. Surrounding it is a sprawling painting of the major Kudrazen gods gathered together in the heavens. Rolled down the middle of the white tile floor is a green carpet woven with gold colored thread. On either side of the aisle are four pews and at the front of the room is a raised platform with a stone altar in the center. The altar is covered in a green and gold cloth. Set on top is a silver chalice and bowl decorated with Dragons and a sacrificial blade in front.

Standing behind the altar is a statue of Fudos; the God of Military and husband of Zuhla-the Goddess of Commerce. The god bears the posture of a proud and hardened warrior. Like all the major Kudrazen deities he has Draconic features. Emerging from a single point at the base of his forehead are two horns that rise like the tide under the moon. One of his clawed hands is wrapped around a sword resting idly at his side. The god is clothed in Draconic, stone armor with the breastplate, shoulder guards, and gauntlets carved to resemble Dragon scales. Protruding from the greaves and sabatons are three talons and three horns. He wears no helmet. Though the statue is carved from pearl white stone traditionally, Fudos is depicted with long, curly, green hair, gold eyes, and green skin.

Fudos is known for being rash and bloodthirsty. The tales depict him as being a strict and deadly warrior who takes great pleasure in inciting conflicts and waging wars. The perfect god for a family of conquerors.

Seated in the front, left pew is the Emperor, Empress, and Prince. Ra’venna spots Lord Haemir seated behind Terdar. He turns and meets her gaze. His eyes widen with fear. She smirks at him and sees him gulp nervously before she shifts her gaze.

The other pews are filled with advisors, ambassadors, and high-ranking soldiers. Helio walks down the aisle drawing the attention of all in the room. Ra’venna trails closely behind observing the reactions of the gathered. The advisors and ambassadors close to the Emperor and Empress display relief, even excitement at the runaway Prince’s return. It seems none but Haemir believe Terdar to be a worthy successor to the throne. The soldiers glare at Ra’venna with a mixture of disgust and contempt. To allow a Fairy to sit among them in the temple, to them, is sacrilege. She smirks to herself.

This is not blasphemy.

They will know blasphemy.

Helio slides into the pew next to his father-the Emperor does not spare a glance in his son’s direction. Ra’venna slips into the one behind him with only a few feet between her and the traitorous lord.

The worshipper’s eyes rest on the door leading to the priest’s apartments. It opens and the he walks in. All, but Ra’venna rise. She will observe, endure, but she will not succumb.

The priest is clothed in a rich, floor length green and gold robe with drooping sleeves and a leather and chainmail breastplate overtop. He scans the gathered worshippers; dipping his head in reverence to the royal family. His gaze lingers on Ra’venna with obvious surprise and disapproval.

The priest ascends the platform. He bows to the idol of Fudos and then turns to face the assembled crowd. He welcomes them and raises his hands to the heavens to thank Fudos and the other gods for the Prince’s safe return.

Ra’venna hears a struggle and a cursing in a foreign language. She glances over her shoulder to see two guards dragging in the Faun slave from earlier. He fights against their indomitable grip, but it is futile. He is dragged before the platform and forced to kneel.

Dread settles in the pit of Ra’venna’s stomach. She doesn’t dare let it show. She focuses her gaze on the back of Helio’s head. He knows what is coming.

The priest picks up the silver bowl and sacrificial blade. He lifts them up for all to see. “Fudos, God of Military, Husband to Zuhla, Commander of Legions, we offer to you this sacrifice.”

The Faun begins to struggle again, trying to pull his head back. The guards wrap their hands around his head holding him in place. He stops moving. He knows this is to be his death. He looks the priest dead in the eye and shouts a Faunish curse Ra’venna can’t understand. She admires his resolve even if it is in vain.

The priest slides the blade across the Faun’s neck in a practiced move. The blood pours forth into the silver bowl he is holding.

Ra’venna watches horrified as the Faun’s life drains into the silver bowl. She casts a discrete glance at those around her. None are startled or bothered by what is happening. It takes almost all her self-control not to react and she doesn’t. She keeps her face blank and unexpressive.

The Faun’s corpse slumps to the ground. The guards drag the body off to the side and dispose of it like trash. Blood splatter covers the priest’s robe and droplets stain the uniforms of the guards. They kneel before the priest. He whispers a blessing over the bowl of blood before dipping two fingers into it. He draws identical symbols on each of their foreheads while uttering, “May Fudos continue to show you favor.”

The royal family file out of the pew and kneels before the priest. He repeats the ritual praying for favor. As he paints Helio’s forehead he says: “May Fudos continue to guide, protect, and show you favor.”

The royal family returns to their pew and the other worshippers begin filing out of their pews and kneeling before the priest. He blesses them each with blood and the same prayer.

When the service ends Helio and Ra’venna return to their chambers without uttering a word to each other.

In the back of the wardrobe, Ra’venna is able to find something suitable to wear. This room was obviously intended for a lady, probably a mistress. The wardrobe is filled with long, flowing dresses and nightgowns, something Ra’venna despises. She dons a constricting, leather top durable enough to be armor and black pants made of similar material. She slips on the calf length boots that she found at the bottom of the wardrobe. She fastens on her holster and slides in her sais. Finally, she lowers her wings and brings her cloak over herself.

The princeling should be awake and dressed by now. At least Ra’venna hopes so. She exits the chambers and heads to Helio’s. The two guards outside his door stiffen, but do not dare to stop her. She knocks twice.

“Who is it?” Helio calls from the other side.

She rolls her eyes and answers.

“Come in.” As if she needed his invitation.

Ra’venna turns the knob and enters. The magical, white orbs illuminating Helio’s sprawling room are contained within the glass shells of the silver chandelier. Pushed up against the center of the opposite wall is a four poster bed with a white, etched head and footboard. The ruby curtains are tied off to the side by silver ropes that match the embroidery and fringe of the canopy. The comforter is thrown back exposing the crumpled, silver sheets beneath. On the left side of the bed is a table with a bejeweled, silver vase set on top. At the foot of the bed is a chest nearly the length of the footboard; carved in a circle on the lid is a rising Dragon with outstretched wings.

Directly, across from the door is an exposed, gothic window that reflects sunlight off the silver tile floor. In front of the window is a cleared, white desk and matching chair.

The entire room looks as if it has been left untouched since Helio’s departure years’ ago. For a moment Ra’venna wonders if Apollonis or Solus ever came in and sat down just to feel their son’s presence. She dismisses the thought. She cannot picture either of them doing that.

Across from the bed is a white stone fireplace with a Dragon statue sitting on top. Around the fireplace is a sitting area that consists of a red, velvet couch, two matching chairs, and a coffee table.

The left side of the room is walled off to form the bathroom. Feet from the door is four chairs with their backs to the wall. Between the two sets of chairs is the painted statue of a Fairy.

Along the far wall is a glass door leading to a balcony. Covering the open expanses of the blood colored walls are images of Dragons.

On the left side of the window is a single bookcase, on the right side are two bookcases. A double bookcase is pressed against the wall of the room that consumes the top, right corner of the room. The door of this room-Helio’s closet-faces his dressing area. Propped up in front of the bottom corner is a silver mirror. To the left of it is an etched, white pedestal with a red, velvet pillow on top. Resting on top of the pillow is Helio’s crown. To the right is an oval table built to hold the Prince’s sword.

Helio is standing before the ornate mirror with two pages adjusting his fiery tunic. He catches sight of Ra’venna out of the corner of his eye; her face concealed by her hood. He dismisses the two pages. They bow lowly before bolting out of the room not daring to look at the mercenary.

The prince is almost unrecognizable. His red hair that once flowed past his shoulder is cut and parted to hide the shaved half. He may not look the part of a rebellious Dragon, but the spark still burns in his eyes.

He is wearing a bright red tunic trimmed with silver and around his waist is a studded, leather belt. His shoulders are covered by silver epaulettes. He’s wearing black leather pants. Clipped to the collar of his tunic is a silver, sun broach. A sun broach for the Empire of the Suns. Wrapped around his wrists are vambraces decorated with red and orange gems. They would not serve him in a fight, but they enhance his appearance.

“I see you are settling in well.” Ra’venna observes. Helio scoffs. Beneath her hood she raises a brow.

“Yes,” he mumbles, sounding more like a man with his head on the chopping block rather than a returning prince.

He casts a glance at the crown sitting on the pillow. “I fled to get away from all of this.” He says, his voice as low as a predator’s step. Ra’venna turns her body, the shifting of her cloak is the only sound in the royal room. “And here I am, playing the Silver Prince.” A bitter chuckle escapes him. Ra’venna eyes him like he is a relic on display. Only her eyes betray her emotions.

“Royal treatment not up to your standard.” She jests. He shakes his head.

“The consequences were to-are to great. I am not worth the suffering of others.”

“A Quvanian royal with a heart. What a rare find.” Helio laughs at her response. Her resentment towards his family may be the only thing that will keep him sane.

“How was your night?” With his hands clasped behind his back turns to face her. He follows the silver ink that curves beneath her eye the way a falling tear would. Helio can’t picture her crying.

“Sufficient.” She replies with a dismissive shrug. “Though if you could do something about the wardrobe it would be appreciated.” His eyes furrow in confusion.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s filled with dresses.” She deadpans.

“That is a problem because...” He draws out the last word.

“While I am capable of slitting a man’s throat in one I would prefer to do it without a being surrounded by a whirlwind of material.” She snaps. Helio lowers his head to conceal his smile. It is certainly not a request he expected from someone of her...ability.

“I will take care of it.” He promises. She gives a thankful nod.

Ra’venna averts her gaze to the statue. Helio follows it. “It is a royal tradition. When we come of age we chose a god or goddess to dedicate our lives and victories to.”

Ra’venna locks eyes with him.

“I chose Justalyn, Goddess of Justice and Judge of the Gods.”

“You chose a Fairy goddess.” She states with a mixture of awe and wonder. It was one of his earliest rebellions. He purposely chose a deity they would see as ‘weak’ or ‘inferior’.

What Ra’venna doesn’t know is he chose a Fairy goddess because of what he saw in Etrien. He wanted to be reminded of what he saw there, of the death and bloodshed. He wanted a reminder of what he had to fight for.

The statue depicts Justalyn holding a pair of silver scales in one hand while the other is clutching the bejeweled shield resting against her leg. Her angry, red hair is pulled back into a ponytail and still reaches down to her calves. She has piercing, silver eyes, and pale, red skin. Resting on her brow is a twisted, silver diadem with a blue, oval gem set in the center.

Over her dress the goddess is wearing red armor that covers her torso and flares out at her waist. Beneath her breasts and around her upper arms are silver bands. The split down the middle of the armor is held together by pearl chains. The dress beneath the breastplate is deep blue with long princess sleeves and a flowing skirt pooled around her feet.

From her back emerges two pairs of wings. The lines of the wings are silver and serve as the wing’s borders. They curve around closing off the wings and ending in a fine point. The enclosed divides of the wings are shaped like flower petals and colored blue and red.

The red brings memories of last night to the front of Ra’venna’s mind. “Your parents chose that Faun slave to be sacrificed on purpose. Why?” She looks at him.

Without taking his eyes off the statue he replies, “A test.”

“For me?”

“For both of us.” Helio sighs. “My parents expect me to be like them; cold, merciless, uncaring. They wanted to be sure I am who they raised me to be. As for you, I suspect they simply wanted to frighten you. To show you what beast’s liar you have entered.”

“You knew they would kill that Faun.” She states.

“It didn’t surprise me.”

It seems the prince is capable of being cold and calculating after all. Interesting.

Helio approaches her and offers his hand. “Shall we? I believe breakfast is about to be served.” Ra’venna glances down at his outstretched hand then back up at him. She declines his hand instead turning and leaving the room alone. She pulls her hood further over her head.

The two appear in the royal dining hall located in the north, left corner of the palace’s first floor. Ra’venna adds the location to the mental map of the palace she is constructing in her mind. She may need it later. She can only pray she won’t.

Empress Solus and Empress Apollonis are already seated at the heads of the long, dining table. Apollonis rises from the chair and comes to greet her son. “My son, how did you sleep?” She inquires. For a moment Ra’venna can believe she is a loving mother.

Helio takes her outstretched hands in his own, smiling. The light streaming in through window catches on the crown resting on his head. He must have put it on before leaving his chambers. The crown is, of course, silver with five high points shaped to form the heads of Dragons. In between are shorter points decorated with red and orange gems; the same colored gems run along the crown’s bottom.

“Well, Mother, and you?” His words are polite and considerate. The exchange sounds scripted.

The Empress is dressed as one of her stature should be. In a pure white, sleeveless dress that wraps around her neck and leaves much of her back exposed and a tail that trails feet behind her. On the right side of the dress is a slit that extends to her hip revealing a stretch of red and orange material. Sitting on her shoulders are engraved, silver epaulettes with decorative chains dangling from them. They clink as she glides across the floor.

Her snow colored hair cascades down her back and chest in large ringlets that somehow make her seem fiercer. On her head is a silver crown with two shaped Dragons meeting in the middle and a ring of jewels along the bottom. The Empress of Dragons.

Apollonis kisses her son’s cheek then releases his hands. She looks past his shoulder at the mercenary lingering behind him like a shadow. Ra’venna does not react.

The Empress returns to her seat.

The Emperor leans back in the chair; strait and stoic. He acknowledges his son’s arrival with a nod. The ‘mercy’ he showed yesterday proves Helio is his favorite son, but Ra’venna does not imagine Solus to be a warm man. He doesn’t spare Ra’venna a glance and for that she is thankful. She doesn’t ever want to be the focus of his attention.

On the Emperor’s head is a masculine version of the Empress’s. He has thick, orange hair combed back behind his ears. He is clothed in a red and orange, patterned, long sleeve tunic trimmed with silver and a studded, leather belt buckled around his waist. Attached to his shoulders is an orange, ankle length cape. He’s wearing black pants and matching boots.

Ra’venna diverts her gaze.

Terdar strolls into the dining hall, a smirk spread across his lips. Yesterday’s fear has been dutifully replaced by arrogance. Helio meets Terdar’s eyes from across the table. Terdar looks away. He greets his mother and father before taking the seat across from Helio. Terdar tries to ignore Ra’venna’s presence though she catches his eyes wandering in her direction from time to time.

The servants file out from the adjacent tower with trays in hand. They lay the hot breakfast on the table, bow to the royal family and depart.

The meal is filled with meaningless small talk, subtle glares, and tension between the princes. Ra’venna glances at the Emperor and Empress. Neither parent appears aware of the resentment between the brothers. Ra’venna on the other hand sees every nasty look and hears every cloaked insult.

“Brother, what do you say to a match after breakfast. You have been away for quite some time. I am curious to see how you fared.” Terdar suggest, smirking. Helio glares at him.

“A wonderful idea, Terdar. It is important you prove your skill as a warrior.” Apollonis agrees. She interlocks her hands beneath her chin. “Many will try to use your absence to trick or ensnare you in an attempt to secure the throne. You must prove to them that your warrior’s edge has not dulled. Do you not agree?” She turns her gold eyes to Solus.

He nods, swallowing his food. “Yes, Helioson, we cannot afford weakness we must be united.”

Ra’venna purses her lips to keep from saying something that will get her executed. Instead, she stabs a piece of meat with the fork, imaging it as the Emperor’s eye.

“Of course, Father. I would never allow what’s rightfully mine to be taken.”

Silently, Ra’venna admires the way he plays the dutiful son. The conversation has stolen her appetite. She sets the fork down and eases back in the chair.

“Then it is decided. After breakfast you and Terdar will fight outside.” Apollonis declares. Terdar and Helio nod. They would not dare to refuse their mother.

The Emperor and Empress leave once they have finished their meal. Helio leaves next, not sparing his brother a glance. Ra’venna rises with him, but lingers for a moment long enough for her purple eyes to pore into him. Terdar shudders under her glare. A smirk plays on her lips as she leaves.

Helio storms into his room slamming the door behind him. Ra’venna leans against the wall outside her chambers. Outside Helio’s door is the same two guards, their eyes firmly fixed on her. She folds her arms over her chest and closes her eyes, relishing in the silence.

Angry, approaching footsteps awaken her eyes. She looks to see Terdar crossing the ballroom; his face tight with rage. Ra’venna pushes herself off the wall. He stops inches away from her. Ra’venna looks the power hungry prince in the eye.

“Is there something you need, princeling?” She mocks. He growls. The Dragon beneath his skin threatening to break free.

“I could kill you and have myself declared a hero and all would rejoice at your funeral.” Terdar spats through gritted teeth. Ra’venna smirks. The prince has shown his hand.

“You are welcome to try.” She retorts. Terdar raises his hand to strike her. Ra’venna does not blink or flinch. She holds his gaze, victory dancing in her eyes. In a reckless move the prince has left himself exposed. She could kill him here and now and be done with it.

Helio’s door opens. Terdar drops his hand, but not quick enough. Helio storms up to him; his jaw clenched. He grabs him by the collar of his tunic and slams him into the wall beside Ra’venna.

The guards do not interfere. They don’t dare.

“Listen, and listen well brother, whatever foolish ideas you may have if you lay a hand on her or anyone I will tear you apart and drop your lifeless body at our parents’ feet.” He roars.

Though she does not show it, Ra’venna is startled. She did not think Helio had such venom in him.

Terdar’s eyes are filled with fear. He attempts to conceal it, but it is obvious to all. Helio drops his brother. The prince scurries across the ballroom like an animal who has just been beaten by its master.

“I do not require a savior.” Ra’venna says finally, once Terdar has vanished into his chambers. A small smile tugs at the prince’s lips.

“I do not doubt that, but there is only so much I will tolerate from my brother.”

Ra’venna notices for the first time that he has changed. Gone is his royal garb and in its stead is leather armor with his katana around his waist. It is the only thing he brought back from Fulor.

“Shall we?”

“Yes, I am quite eager to watch you put your brother in his place.”

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