Nights and the Sun

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Chapter 2

At three Cassidy is sprightly and curious. He spends his time exploring the castle's halls and rooms, his pale hair, a family trademark taken to a new extreme, flowing behind him because he refused to allow it to be cut. If he is not exploring he is in his room, playing with the multitude of toys given to him at birth. He is rarely allowed outside, and never when the sun is out. His pale skin is weak and more susceptible to burns than others, his violet eyes more sensitive to light. These traits force Cassidy to be in shadows almost constantly. He is visited regularly by various people; Lords and Ladies of court as he plays hide-and-go-seek in the great rooms. Chef's and maids, as he sprints through while they are working.

Sparks stays with him at all times. Playmate, teacher, and guardian. A constant monitor for all dangers. He dims the flames burning on torches and candles in every room he enters, which startles the rooms' inhabitants and makes their ire for him grow. He pays no attention to them. He has taken to ignoring them as they do him. At eight Sparks has changed little since Cassidy's birth. Grown taller, perhaps, but he retained his boyish teenage features. His skin is darker in some places, appearing as if fire gathered there within him. Most of these abnormal patches are hidden behind oversized clothes and the flickering shadows.

Sparks holds his tongue when the women of the castle and court shower Cassidy with meaningless affection. Cassidy soaks it up as a child will. His main source of human interaction is Sparks and the elder's presence deterred most others from staying long. It is a treat for the young prince when people, nobles especially for they always seem to have a present for him, stay for longer than a minute. Their fear of his guardian pushed aside in favor of schmoozing. For moments like this Sparks stands a respectable distance away but with the rigidity of an anxious dog. If addressed he responds with a biting retort, or barked out sarcasm. Cassidy never understands his tone and words, nor the way the women make unpleasant faces at Sparks until Cassidy calls their attention back to him.

Cassidy does not understand why people treat Sparks so differently than they treat him and each other. It confuses and frustrates him and Sparks is no help, not knowing the entire reason himself. Nobles do not hide their malice like those who work in the palace do. They will openly speak out and against Sparks, when he and Cassidy are playing hide-and-go-seek and Cassidy is hiding. Cassidy will hear their words and Sparks' response. Or lack thereof because he knew his charge to be hiding in the room, and they are still playing. He will find the younger and chase away the nobles' hatred as he chases Cassidy around the room. The prince's peals of laughter replacing the nobles' words.

Sparks wakes up to coughing and a soft voice desperately calling his name. He shoots up in his cot, eyes aflame to see in the darkness. The curtains are drawn back, revealing a dark landscape on the other side of the gilded glass. For most, windows were mere judges of weather. Appraisers of another world. For Cassidy, they foretold the difference between pain and pleasure. Sparks reaches Cassidy's bed. He stares down at his cousin in worry. Cassidy's pale skin is covered in tiny beads of sweat that twinkle like stars in the milky way under the light shinning from Sparks' eyes. Cassidy's brow is furrowed in discomfort and his eyes screwed tightly shut. Sparks reaches out to him, brushing a hand over his forehead. He pauses, head tilting to the side in childish confusion. Cassidy feels warmer than normal, even to Sparks' untrained hand. Warmer than a human, but still cooler than Sparks. He frowns. His cousin is obviously in pain.

Sparks glances outside again. The darkness persists with no sign of leaving soon. Most, if not all, of the castle would be asleep. From lords to lard boys. Still, Sparks thinks as he looks back down at his shivering cousin. He could wake some up. Cassidy is the prince. They would ignore his behavior in favor of aiding the prince. Sparks bent down, scooping his feverish cousin into his arms, blanket and all. The younger buries himself into Sparks, shivers wracking his body. Sparks adjusts his grip. Freeing one hand to brush through the boy's luminescent hair. He felt the fire coiling within in him rise up. Heat radiates from his arms, warming the boy trapped within them. Cassidy sighs pleasantly, the heat relieving some of his discomfort.

"Don't worry Cass. Everything's gonna be alright," Sparks whispers. He sees a coil of smoke rise from his lips. It passes before his eyes then dissipates into the surrounding air. As if consumed by it. Sparks shakes it off. He pushes the door open and enters the hallway. The flames burning within his eyes were light enough for Sparks to see by and he is having no problems navigating the castle. The torches are out. Their flames, so constant during the day, extinguished with the lack of movement. If anyone else were to get up, they would be unable to see in the suffocating umbra.

Sparks passes rooms and doors but is met with more darkness at every turn. Cassidy shifts in his arms, turning his head and coughing roughly. He calls Sparks' name again. Sparks hushes him, tightening his hold briefly in a hug. A sudden sound startles him and he jumps, fire in his eyes flaring. Strands of his hair uncoil into tongues of flame. They fall over his face and neck, illuminating the room. Cassidy groans at the sudden light. He presses his face deeper into Sparks' chest, hands twisting in the back of Sparks' shirt. Sparks glances down at him. He shakes his head, sending the flames of his hair flying. In one stroke they are gone. Once again contained by thin cylinders of hair. He eyes the direction the noise came from. The kitchen. Someone getting some food then? It doesn't matter. He begins moving again, hoping to catch whoever it was before they retreat back into their room.

A young boy, no more than two years older than Cassidy, sits in a stool in front of the kitchen's large fireplace. He is prodding the burnt out fire with a fire poker, muttering under his breath. A single torch burns steadily in a wall sconce. The shadows it makes play tricks on the boy's peripheral vision and he will jump periodically to stare wide eyed at nothing. He goes back to poking helplessly at the fire. Behind him, on the large wood and stone table used for eating, preparing, and perfecting food, his own food lay cold. It is a meal perfectly edible while cold but tasted that much better when warmed. The boy lets out a resigned sigh. Seems he was going to eat it cold again.

Footsteps echo off the stone floors. The boy jumps, staring at the doorway with wide dark eyes. Sparks stares back at him, amber eyes burning with curiosity. Neither boy moves. Tension hangs in the air around them. The torch's flame shifts and dulls under it. The air in the room stills, grows colder. Even in Sparks' arms Cassidy shakes. Sparks moves to the fireplace, eyes shifting from it to the other boy. The boy just watches him. He shifts away when Sparks passes too close, but otherwise does nothing. Sparks scrapes a palm over the burnt logs. They erupt into flame once again. Warmth spreads around the room at an increased rate. The flames in Sparks eyes recede as light slowly follows. The other boy blinks, eyes that seemed so dark before were now a light golden hazel. Sparks moves away and sits down at the table, close enough to feel the warmth from the fire but far enough so it is not suffocating his charge. The other boy's eyes are trained on him before they slide to the prince.

He recognizes him. He recognizes them both, really. Of course he does. There is no one in the palace who is unable to identify the prince and his guardian. He knows the stories, about elementals. The ones used by parents to keep their children from misbehaving. He had heard them often enough, before his parents had died of fever one particularly harsh winter. And after, when the castle's head chef had taken him in. As a favor to his mom, the chef had said. There were rumors that that winter was so harsh because elementals had altered it to be. Looking at the way the half elemental is with the prince, the boy is unable to feel anger or fear or hatred. Only curiosity and concern. He picks up his food and begins warming it before the fire.

"Is he okay?" he asks. Sparks starts at the sudden question. The boy is looking over at him again. Sparks looks down at Cassidy.

"I don't know what's wrong with him," is Sparks' response. The boy places is food back on the table and stands. He takes a few tentative steps forward. He has one hand stretched out, in offering as if for a dog to sniff.

"Can I see? I might be able to help." Sparks hesitates. His eyes flick from the outstretched hand, to the boys face. It is young and earnest and Sparks can see a scar trailing down form his left ear, just bellow a strand of dark brown hair. His skin is the darkest Sparks has ever seen, as if he had been tossed into a fire when he was a baby.

"Alright." Sparks turns Cassidy in his arms. The prince's face scrunches up at being suddenly turned to light. He flinches as a foreign hand touches his forehead, despite its gentleness. The hand retreats and Cassidy turns back around to curl into the safety of his guardian's arms. The boy wipes his hand on his pants and gives Sparks a toothy smile.

"He has a fever but he's sweating so that means he should be getting better soon. He might just have a cold," the boy announces. Sparks blinks at him.

"Cold?" he asks. The room grows slightly warmer. Sweat begins to form on the other boy's face. He nods.

"It's a mild sickness that passes real fast. It's not bad if you sleep a lot and drink lots of water," he explains. Sparks breathes a sigh of relief.

"So he's not going to die?" The boy shakes his head and Sparks smiles.

"Thank you. I was worried." Sparks comments. He hugs Cassidy closer. The prince returns the affection with a sleepy mumble and curling his hands back into Sparks shirt.

"Have you never been sick before?" the boy asks. Sparks shakes his head.

"I don't think I can get sick, if this is what happens," he answers. The other boy hums in curious agreement. They fall into silence after that. The other boy returning to his food. The silence here is nothing like the silence Sparks had experienced in the dungeon. It was companionable and warm. The boy's presence is not unwelcome and Sparks finds himself sharing a meal with him.

"Who are you?" Cassidy's voice is soft and barely heard over the crackle over the fire. The boy's hazel eyes snap from the flowing gradients in the wooden table to lock with the violet eyes of his prince. Those violet eyes are staring at him, half asleep, in a tense uncertainty. Sparks has since slipped into sleep, head tilted back onto the back of the chair and the dark column of his throat bared to the light.

"Colin," the boy replies in a soft voice. The prince blinks a few times. The sleep still present in his eyes slowly begins to retreat. He smiles at Colin. An easy smile that comes to children when around their friends. Colin smiles back, giggling.

They talk for a long time. Their conversation full of childish nonsense told by short quick words and exaggerated happenings. The fire begins to burn low. The view outside the window becomes progressively lighter with the on-coming day. Cassidy shakes Sparks awake and Colin takes the torch from its sconce. Sparks extinguishes the fire with a breath. The flames spiraling in the air for him to drink. The trio parts with a promise to talk again and a standing invitation for Colin to play with them whenever he wanted. With the earliest risers of the castle staff already leaving the void of sleep, they slip away.

Days later Cassidy's fever is nearly gone. His eyes are bright and free of the pain that had plagued him. His eyes are once again vibrant and shinning with life. Sparks has confined the young prince to his room. He still has little knowledge about colds, and while Colin visits frequently and assures the half elemental that the prince will be fine he is not about to take any chances.

Light shines through the castle, save for the prince's room. The curtains are drawn tight. No fire burns within the room. The prince lays curled up in a peaceful sleep. Colin lays curled at his side. The pair had fallen asleep after staying up all night playing. Sparks sits reading by the light of his eyes. A small smile adorns his face as he reads. These were days he liked the most. Days when he did not have to worry about his charge. Knew he was happy alongside his friend. Sparks looks over at them, warmth spreading through his body. He is happy, too, he supposes. Cassidy shifts and calls out Sparks name. Sparks answers with a quiet suggestion for the boy to return to his dreams. Cassidy settles again quickly. Yeah, Sparks decides, he is happy.

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