It is late at night. Near the time one noble or another, after too much time spent at the nearest tavern, would wander into the dinning hall shouting for food and more to drink. The door leading from the kitchen to the fields and cemetery is open. Colin stands in the doorway his golden hazel eyes are wide. Watering with the smoke and countless tears. He cannot understand. Nathalie, his oldest friend beside Cassidy and Sparks, is being thrown into a roaring fire placed to the side of the cemetery. Closest to the fields Nathalie's family works so hard on. Looking every bit like a funeral pyre for some noble or another. Colin looks around, hoping and praying to anything and everything, that Sparks is not to blame for this. He knew his oldest friend was not completely happy with Nathalie but. He would never do something like this. Never. He cries out in relief when he does not seem him. One of the guards who had dragged his friend, limp in their metal clad hands, looks up and around at Colin's outburst. Colin leaps back into one of the few shadows remaining in the light of the pyre. He can see the guard frown then shrug. He turns back to his accomplice.
"We should tell his highness its done." Colin strains to hear his voice over the fire's crackle.
"You do that. I want to be there when the prince is told his precious friend was killed by his faithful guardian," he says the last part sarcastically and laughs along with the other as they walk away. Colin turns and runs. Hoping and praying once again to anything and everything that he would reach Cassidy before anyone else.
The main hall has fallen silent. What few nobles who remain awake cease all conversation. Cassidy stares at the noble in front of him. Mouth agape. He gives a nervous chuckling, taking the man's words as a horrible joke. A prank being pulled on him by the other squires. He shakes his head slowly. Not believing them. Not wanting believe them in any way.
"I am truly sorry," the noble whispers, placing a comforting hand on the prince's shoulder. Cassidy shakes it off violently. Tears roll down his face. His violet swim with uncontainable anger. His teeth are slammed together so hard the noble is surprised to see they have not shattered.
"Where is he?" Cassidy grinds out. The noble shakes his head mournfully.
"No one has seen him since, your highness," the noble replies shakily. Cassidy stomps out of the room. Everything about him screaming murder. Behind him, the noble smiles and the conversations start up again as if nothing had happened.
Sparks is struck by the difference in atmosphere the castle holds upon his arrival. Water drips to the floor with his every step as he walks through the empty kitchen and into an equally empty dinning hall. Despite his efforts, half hearted as they were, the half fire elemental was unable to dry himself before entering the castle. Sparks moves form the empty dinning hall to the empty hallway, save for its usual torches and tapestries and rugs. Pointless objects, Sparks thinks as he scuffs his foot across the outer lining of the carpet. He hears a commotion farther down the hall. He looks up to see his charge walking towards him briskly. Whole body tense. Sparks frowns, worrying shooting through him. Before he can open his mouth the prince speaks up.
"Why did you do it?" he asks in a low voice. Sparks blinks in obvious confusion.
"Why did I do what?" he answers. Cassidy growls in impatience.
"Why did you kill her? Why did you kill Thalie?" he screams. Sparks takes a step back. In fear and shock. He stammers. Attempting to form a coherent reply in the face of such an accusation from his friend.
"I didn't!" he manages finally. Cassidy hits him. Sparks falls to the ground. His amber eyes are wide and staring at Cassidy. Betrayal, pain, and confusion fighting within them.
"Get out. Leave. I never want to see you again. If I do. I will kill you," Cassidy grinds out. Sparks doesn't move. Cassidy throws an arm out. It passes just above Sparks' head.
"Go!" Sparks obeys. He scrambles up and is running back to where he had just come from. Water flying behind him with abandon. Cassidy lets his tears fall. They strike the ground rapidly. One after the other. He turns around and walks away, back to his room. He passes a wide eyed and panting Colin standing just inside the opening to the main hall. The chef looks from side to side. Debating who to follow. The broken prince. Or the broken elemental.
Sparks runs through dinning hall. Through the kitchen. Over grass he had just seen earlier in the light of his eyes. He slows. Memories of his cousin's anger play in his mind. Of his accusations of killing Nathalie. Why does he believe Sparks would kill her? Did he truly not trust him. Did all those years of raising him, protecting him count for nothing? Does Sparks truly mean nothing to Cassidy? Sparks stops in front of the lake. Staring into the inky blackness with vacant eyes.
Aquanious is surprised to see Sparks back again. He steps from his pool to meet the half elemental. He greets him warmly, pleasure at his friend's return surging through him. He frowns as he walks closer to his immobile friend. Sparks' eyes are dark. No sign of his fire burns within them. It is as if the half elemental is dead. Aquanious feelings a deep yearning to reignite that fire. He reaches out and cups the others cheek. He feels no heat. No burn. No pain. His sapphire eyes narrow. His hair erupts into a wave. Gray and blue spiral together with pink decorating the dark landscape like seashells in the sand. The gray turns a reddish orange. He pushes against the half fire elemental. Sparks yields to him without even a token struggle. Aquanious forces him into the ground and holds him there. His shifting multicolored hair forming a curtain around Sparks head. Aquanious leans down, lips a breath away from Sparks' own.
"Listen, boy, I know you are hurting but this is no way to handle it. I want you to fight me. I command you to fight me, Mutt. Show me your fire," he hisses. His icy breath passes over Sparks' frozen lips. There is a flicker in Sparks' amber eyes. Steam begins to rise between them. Sparks surges upwards and fire fills Aquanious' vision. The water elemental's back hits the wet ground. He grunts. Sparks now has him pinned. The fire elemental's hands are clutching his wrists in a death grip. His eyes are alight with a burning flame. Boiling drops fall onto Aquanious' cheeks. They burn him, branding him. Aquanious jerks his wrists from beneath Sparks' hands. He curls his fingers around the others. Sparks growls in response. His fire roars to life. Aquanious rises to meet him. His water moves to coil around Sparks' fire.
They duel for dominance. Pulling each other close. Pushing against each other. Fire and water circling each other in a deadly dance. The only sounds being the clashing of their elements and the occasional outcry. Aquanious once again finds himself on his back, staring up into the burning visage of his friend. He gathers himself and turns the tides in their war. Water engulfs fire. Sparks cries out. Fire erupts. The two are forced to separate, lest they kill each other in their passion. They move again as soon as they can. Coming together one last time in an explosion of white steam. They collapse, exhausted, beside each other. The sun bares down on them. Sparks closes his eyes. Aquanious reaches out a shaky hand for his lake and drags himself in to sleep.
Sparks wakes up screaming and crying. Aquanious rushes to his side and gathers him in his arms. He holds him close and rocks him as the wind moves over them impatiently. The younger elemental clutches his friend's shoulders and buries his face into the smooth chest, muttering incoherently. Aquanious shushes him. He rakes a hand through Sparks' lifeless hair. His eyes are screwed tightly shut, as if fending off a nightmare, but Aquanious knows that they are as devoid of energy as the dull strands the elder has submerged his fingers in. The water elemental dips his head, pressing his forehead to the top of Sparks'. His own hair falls around Sparks, shielding him beneath a wall of pulsing blues, grays, and pink. The wind stills around them.
Colin looks out the window. At the cemetery to the south, at the fields to the east with the gray sky hanging above. He knows that somewhere between the castle and south fields, Sparks is with Aquanious. He knows, too, that he should see them soon. Talk to the water elemental and explain what happened. Talk to Sparks and assure him he was not to blame. That Cassidy was fed false information and turned against him. Though he doubts that will make anything any better. Looks back at the fire burning lowly in the hearth. Ever since Sparks' banishment the fires have been low. As if all the castle's flames were bound to the half elemental, and they were sharing his grief with everyone. Colin's fists clench. The emptiness of the kitchen pains him. He misses Nathalie but blames no one for her death besides the King. His thoughts slip to Cassidy. The prince has locked himself in his room. Secluding himself in there directly after he ran into Sparks. The chef shakes his head. He will let the prince sit for a while. It is pointless to try and barter with a man who had just experienced his first devastating loss.
While the prince has not exactly had an easy life, he is still more sheltered than most. Though perhaps less so than the other nobles. Sparks has done everything to insure Cassidy's happiness. Which is why Colin can not understand why Cassidy is so quick to believe the half elemental did something so horrible. Colin closes his golden hazel eyes and sighs. He pushes open the kitchen's door and walks outside, into the chilly morning fog. Uncommon for the season. He walks over the lush grass, growing without a care in the rich soil. He walks the familiar route to Aquanious' pool. He is sure that he, and Cassidy and Sparks, can walk this with their eyes closed. He is struck with the thought that Sparks probably did so last night, when he fled the castle. Colin resolves to talk to Cassidy after he has visited with Aquanious and Sparks. He loves his friend, his prince, but at this moment he cannot help but feel anger towards him. A feeling as rare in him as the fog is for the spring morning.
Aquanious looks up as Colin approaches. He tightens his hold on Sparks, eyes narrowing uneasily. Colin holds his hands up in a sign showing his peacefulness. Aquanious doesn't relinquish his hold on Sparks but he does relax. Marginally but enough to show Colin he accepts his presence.
"Do you want to know what happened?" Colin asks him. Sparks starts in Aquanious' arms. Glowing eyes shine through the veil of watery hair.
"I didn't hurt her," he announces. Aquanious blinks down at his friend. Confusion swirls in sapphire eyes.
"I know," Colin replies. The shining eyes brighten.
"You do?" the fire elemental asks breathlessly.
"You were framed. The King ordered her death. They burned her," Colin breaks off as tears spring to his eyes. "I saw them." Aquanious unwinds an arm from around Sparks and opens it to the other boy. Colin takes the invitation with no hesitation. He curls next Sparks in the water elemental's arms. Sparks hugs him close.
"I am sorry," he breaths. "So very sorry." Colin shakes his head as his tears fall.
"Some nobles convinced Cass that, that you had a hand in her death. It doesn't forgive his behavior, but at least it explains it, yeah?" Sparks nods against him.
"I will talk to him," Colin adds. Sparks mumbles a thank you to him. His voice muffled by the fabric of Colin's shirt. Aquanious growls above them.
"I will not forgive him." His voice is frigid. Even the wind cools at the sound of it. Sparks looks up at him, eyes blazing with an angry life once again. Sapphire eyes gaze into those fiery depths. Seeing hell within them. Colin leans back and stares at them. Something has changed between them, he can tell. He doesn't know what, but something. Burning once again, Sparks' fire dances in their vision. It is reaching, Colin notices, up to Aquanious. Silently asking for something from the older elemental. Desire radiates like heat from the fire elemental. Colin's eyes slide to Aquanious. He sees the desire mirrored in the water elemental's form. Colin blinks, a curious noise escaping his throat. The two don't appear to notice. They continue to stare at each other. The tension rises. Steam begins to float in the air around them. Aquanious sighs.
"You cannot ask me to forgive him. But if you do, I shall tolerate his presence once again," he comments. Sparks growls lowly but concedes to the terms. They look away from each other and the desire retreats. Silence settles over the three friends.
"I miss him," Sparks speaks up. A few strands of pink tinted blue hair fall over Sparks' face. Colin reaches out a hand and grasps one of Sparks' with it. No explanation needed. Another moment of silence settles over them. This time, Colin is the one to break it.
"I should go back. There's a prince I need to set straight." Sparks and Aquanious nod. Sparks smiles at his friend. It is a weak, barely there smile that shows more pain than gratitude but it is a smile all the same.
It is around mid day when Colin returns to the castle. He slips through the kitchen, bustling with maids and chefs that, in the hierarchy of the staff, are all subservient to him. He waves off their questions and inquiries as to his previous whereabouts. A few even go so far as to point out his red, puffy eyes. He snaps at them to get back to work and leaves the room as they scramble to do so. He walks through the stone lined hall, dodging nobles and guards and staff alike. He stops in front of the large door closed to the rest of the world. Golden hazel eyes slip closed. Colin inhales deeply. He places a hand on the doorknob and exhales as he turns it and pushes the door open with a groan. He sees Cassidy laying on his bed staring at nothing on the stone ceiling. The dark purple curtains drawn to block out any possible light and the fireplace devoid of fire. Colin stands in the doorway. The prince has yet to notice him. Or even that the door is open.
"You should forgive Sparks," Colin's voice, carefully collected, startles the prince. Cassidy jumps up from his bed and glares at his friend.
"And why should I?" he asks. Colin is about to reply when Cassidy speaks up.
"Why are you defending him? He killed Thalie!" The prince screams. A child throwing a tantrum. His eyes are swollen and red from crying. His fists clenched tightly at his sides. Colin's jaw twitches in irritation.
"No he didn't! Sparks wasn't even anywhere near where Natie was killed! I should know! I saw it happen! Ask Aqui if you don't believe me! Though I would be careful if I were you. Aqui isn't happy with you right now. He's been the one to watch out for Sparks after you shut him out of your life. Sparks has taken care of you all your life, Cassidy." The use of his full name stuns the mourning boy. "Natie even said so herself that Sparks would do anything for us. For you especially. She knew he loved you. Still loves you. And if you can't understand that he wouldn't do anything to jeopardize your happiness then you are no better than your father. Who, by the way, is the one who ordered Natie's death to be carried out by fire in the first place. With or without Sparks." Colin walks away. His head high and stride confident. Purposeful. That is the first time Cassidy has ever heard his friend speak in such a way. He is usually so relaxed with no voiced opinion on anything. He sits down on his bed and begins to think.
How could he have been so stupid? Sparks had never done anything to hurt him. Why would he start now? Cassidy closes his eyes and lets out a drawn out sigh. Every memory he has plays through his mind. Sparks taking up most of them. He is smiling. The warm feeling of happiness flowing through him instead of the burn of anger or the sting of sadness. His mind replays his conversation with Colin. It focuses on two things 'I saw it happen,' and 'your Father...ordered Natie's death.' A rush of anger. Cassidy sits up, eyes narrowed. He made a mistake. He was going to make it right. Even if it kills him.
The prince walks through the hallway, through the doors, and into the main hall. The nobles of he court stop talking as he walks by, face and shoulders set. He stops in front of the throne, staring up at the man lording over him. The King. His father.
"Why did you have her killed?" he asks. His voice is kept even. Carefully controlled by a steeled will. The King looks down at him. One barely distinguishable eyebrow raises.
"I told you you were not allowed to see her again. You didn't listen," he replies calmly. Cassidy clenches his fists tightly against his sides.
"I love her, why should I not have been able to see her?" he forces out.
"Love? Love is nothing. Just like she was. Just like your mother was. Love has nothing to do with it. She would not have raised you in the eyes of your subjects. You had best learn that lesson, son, and find someone who will." The words are cold and sharp. Piercing Cassidy harder than any sword would.
"I'm going to kill you," he hisses. The King spreads his arms in invitation. The room's guards unsheathe their swords, the sound multiplied in the room by the shear number of guards. Cassidy glances around him briefly. Violet eyes flashing.
"Go ahead and try. You are alone and weaponless. Walk away now, son, and I'll forget what you said." The King's dark chuckle follows Cassidy as he turns and walks out the room. Shoulders tense and aching. There is still something he must do. To make things right again.
He walks with heavy feet and tired legs through the dinning hall. He passes many wide eyed faces of nobles and servers. He pushes through the kitchen. Past Colin who watches him with narrowed golden hazel eyes. He gives him a polite nod. A quick bowing of the head. Colin nods back and adds a tight smile.
"Good luck," Cassidy hears him say as the prince slips out the kitchen's door. He walks through the fog. Breathing it in with every intake of breath. Pushing it away with every exhale. The grass squishes beneath his feet. He imagines this route to have been walked multiple times in the past couple of days. He cards a pale hand through snow white hair. He can see the lake through the trees and bushes. There is no sign of Sparks or Aquanious. Cassidy isn't sure whether to be relieved or irritated. He takes a deep breath to calm fluttering nerves and finishes the journey.
He hears the water bubble in front of him. Seconds later Aquanious bursts from it, stormy gray whirling around him like schools of agitated fish. He is tall and bulky, arms crossed over a featureless chest. He is glaring down at Cassidy. Sapphire eyes dark and dangerous. Cassidy doesn't look at him. He keeps his violet eyes downcast, staring at the grass covered ground. Aquanious steps down to stand in front of him.
"So, you have come?" It is a rhetorical question. Cassidy does not reply in any capacity. He hears Aquanious sigh. He feels the cold breath pass over his head.
"I promised Sparks I would give you a chance to, redeem, yourself," he says. Cassidy looks up at him questioningly as he steps away. Back into the lake. He does not merge with the water, however, but remains standing there. He glances off to the side. Cassidy follows his gaze to see Sparks walking slowly towards them. Amber eyes lock with violet.
"Sparks," Cassidy breathes. Sparks hesitates. He stares at his prince, uncertainty laying in his amber flame eyes. Cassidy takes a step forward towards the half elemental. Aquanious sends a funnel of water blasting in front of Cassidy. Barely missing him. A warning shot. Sparks' fire flares and he rebukes the water elemental with his own warning shot. A tongue of flame spiraling past his cheek. Aquanious backs down, glancing away.
"I'm sorry," Cassidy whispers. Sparks shakes his head, a watery smile shaking its way onto his face. He holds out his hand to his prince.
"I've already forgiven you," he replies. Cassidy smiles widely. He takes the hand and tugs Sparks to him. He wraps the somewhat smaller male in his arms. He hugs him tightly. A grateful laugh that is also a sob escapes him as do his tears. Sparks returns the hug fiercely. Aquanious huffs but cannot help the smile sliding onto his face at their reunion. He almost hates to admit it but he is happy Sparks forgave the princeling so quickly. They break apart, tears staining their faces.
"We're going to head back to the castle, Aqui. We still have a few things to talk about," Cassidy announces. Aquanious nods in acceptance. Sparks waves goodbye to the water elemental as he follows Cassidy back over the beaten down grass. Aquanious sighs in disappointment. He closes his eyes. A gust of wind passes over him. His eyes snap open.
The water at his feet shifts. He sends a blade like crescent of his element slicing through the air. The air shifts, mood changing dramatically. It turns and flies back at Aquanious with much greater force. Aquanious quickly blocks with a wall of icy water. The wind hovers back a few passes. Its form shimmers. Becomes more corporeal. If only a little. Aquanious can see the elemental's outline now, through his aquatic shield, though it reveals little about the elemental itself. Besides its preference to remain fused with its element. Aquanious snorts. Like all of them. Aquanious pushes against the water flowing before him. It yields to his touch. His hair picks up speed, changing to the foaming blue greens of rapids. With little more than a thought the water forms into a barrage of bullets that shoot towards the shivering outline. The bullets pass through without dealing any damage. Aquanious is unsurprised by this outcome but does not stop the hail. He increases it. Forcing the water into a more solid form. He clenches a fist. Slamming it against the curtain of water he puts everything he has into his element. The crinkling of ice crystals rings in his ears. A thin blade of ice hurls itself through the air. The dagger pierces the air elemental's heart then imbeds itself into the tree behind it. The ice melts seconds later.
Aquanious collapses. His breath comes out in rapid gasps. His hair slows to soothing ripples of motion, returning to a near transparent blue. The air elemental continues to float there. Staring at him.
"Are you done?" It questions. Aquanious nods.
"Good. Now I can tell you that you will no longer be welcomed in our home plane. You are spared from life as you remain here." News given, the air elemental's outline fades into the fog.
"Before I go: I told you it would end badly." It disappears. Returning to the home Aquanious can no longer call such. The water elemental slips into darkness. The water enveloping him in a comforting embrace.