The castle is abuzz with the whispers of the castle's inhabitants. Especially amongst staff. Rumors were nothing new to castle life, and even at six Cassidy has learned to disregard most of what he hears. Though it is true some of the words spoken in the shadows turn out to be true, it was nigh impossible to determine their worth while they were still rumors. Few rumors managed to catch and hold the you prince's attention. Despite people trying otherwise. More than once a noble tried to sway Cassidy against his guardian. They would always whisper the rumor to him as they handed him a treat. Always they would give Sparks grins of superiority as they relayed their news to the child. They left before he was ever able to say anything to the contrary in his friend's defense. He would forget that day's remarks shortly after they were uttered. Sparks and Colin had that affect on him.
Today, however, something had caught the prince of shadow's ear. He had heard the news briefly. Whispered from one maid to another as he was passing in search for Sparks and Colin. It was five simple words: 'the First King is dead.' It had jarred him so much he had stopped, forgetting about his friends for a brief moment. He doesn't know who this 'First King' is. His father is the only King he knows anything about. He shakes his head. Now is not the time for such thoughts. He had a game to win. His uncovered feet slap against the ground as he runs off again. Leaving the maids to their chores and confusing words.
Time has passed and the trio is laying side by side on their backs, Cassidy curled into Sparks left side with Colin resting to his left. Cassidy and Colin are staring at the clouds colored by the disappearing sun. They pointed out plants and animals of various kinds. All painted in gentle oranges and pinks or vibrant reds and yellows. Their backdrop a steadily darkening blue sky. Sparks' voice is steady as he reads to the two younger boys from a book they had found. Guards hover nearby, listening as well to the way Sparks voice rises and falls with the written words. Cassidy is half asleep when he remembers the maid's words from earlier. He sits up and jarring Sparks so he stops reading.
"Sparks who's the first king?" he asks. Sparks looks at him in surprise. His head is tilted to the side, strands of his long ivory hair falling in front of his like a curtain. Colin is sitting up now as well. He's staring over Cassidy to look at Sparks stricken face.
"Where did you hear that?" Sparks' voice is barely above a whisper.
"I overheard maids talking about how the first king is dead." Cassidy's voice is one of innocent confusion as he relays the news. Spark's eyes grow large. Their barely contained fire erupts into twin burning pillars even as tears began to flow down his face. Cassidy shrinks back into Colin. He doesn't understand where this was coming from. Who was the first king? Sparks stands, spinning around to the guards lingering nearby. The jump, taking an involuntary step back.
"Where is he?" he asks them. His voice cracks in pain. The flames of one of the guards' torches pops in response. Both guards turn and flee. Sparks doesn't move to follow. His shoulders shake as tears flow freely down flushed cheeks. Cassidy and Colin stand, hands locked together for comfort. Cassidy broke free, giving Colin a brave smile. He takes a few steps closer to Sparks, the boy he sees as a brother. Colin hangs back. He knew little of the situation but did not want to leave his friends. Cassidy reaches Sparks' side. He wraps a delicate around one of Sparks'. The half elemental whips his head to look down at his cousin. Embers fly from his eyes along with tears.
"We'll find him," Cassidy whispers. Sparks nods slowly. His mouth moves soundlessly in thanks. Cassidy throws his arms around his waist in a suffocating hug. Sparks returns it weakly. Cassidy pulls back, twining his fingers with Sparks'. He turns to Colin. Violet eyes shinning with sympathetic tears.
"Where do people go when they die?"he asks. Sparks chokes. His fingers tighten around Cassidy's, his other hand going up to wipe at his eyes.
"They are taken to the cemetery, at the back of the castle in the south," Colin's voice is kept respectfully low. Golden hazel eyes flicker to Sparks shaking back. Colin knew what his friend was going through. He couldn't remember his parents, but he remembered the pain.
"I'll show you," he offers. He walks up to stand beside Cassidy. The prince thanks him with a one armed hug. Sparks gives him a watery smile. The flames in his eyes are a dull orange and burning low as his sorrow mounts. The light they are giving off is barely enough to bathe his cheekbones.
Colin leads his friends across the castle grounds. Light from the moon and stars shinning down on the world. Draping it in a translucent sheet. Guards pause as the trio passes them. The torches in their hands flare up when they pass. Sparks allows a bitter smile to creep onto his lips at their startled cries.
The cemetery is large. Sitting atop acres of land unsuited for farming that the Kingdom had captured form the wild. Desert trees reach for the darkening sky amongst the gray slates of rocks and stones. Names written in black and gold adorn the stones. Withered flowers lay discarded before them. An after thought given by nobles to people they only cared about for a brief time, if ever. There is one man standing there, gazing over the dead's landscape. A pipe in one hand, brought up to his mouth, the other supporting his weight as he leans on a shovel. A coffin rests beside him. He turns to Cassidy as he stomps up to him.
"I want to see the first king," he requests. The man shakes his head.
"No can do, kid. Got orders form the King to bury 'im at tha back. By the briar patches that grow 'long the wall," he replies in a slow drawl. Sparks' eyes flare up again. Taking on a new life. Cassidy holds out a hand to him, though, and he stays back.
"As your Prince I command you to allow me to see him!" He shouts. His violet eyes flash in the low light. He points a milky white finger at Sparks. "This boy has spent the last six years by my side. He has not seen his father for that long. Maybe longer. You will let us see him." His voice dropped low at the end. The man takes an step back, leg knocking into the coffin beside him. Cassidy stares up at him with authority no child should posses. Colin gulps beside Sparks. He has never seen his friend so angry. At that moment, Sparks can see much of his father in him. Pride swells up in the young half elemental's heart. He has raised this boy, and it showed.
"Yes sir," the man murmurs. He steps to the side and motions to the coffin. Cassidy stares at it blankly before realizing what it means. He turns around and waves Sparks over. The half elemental obeys the silent command. His legs wobble with every step and Colin rushes to his side to make sure he doesn't fall.
Sparks stares down at his father. Seeing him for the first time since the beginning of their imprisonment. Seeing him for the last time in his life. He face is drawn thin and ashen, a thick layer of stubble decorating his jaw. Sparks can see the affects of his imprisonment everywhere. He had refused to eat and is now mere skin and bones covered by a sheet. His eyes are wide open, a golden brown considerably duller than Sparks remembers them being. With a shaky hand Sparks slides his father's eyelids shut. He brushes the hand over his father's stubble. His tears begin to flow again as fire weaves its way through the course hair. It bursts forwards in a mighty plume of light and heat. The flames spread across the First King's body, consuming it like a dog with its last meal. The fire spreads to the coffin. Moving to the grass shortly after. The man cries out. He yells at Sparks, pleading to him to stop the flames before they do any more damage. Cassidy has retreated back to Colin and stands watching the funeral pyre from the corner of one eye. The other shielded by the shadows provided by his friend's height. The flames change course and rise up in defiant contrast to the night. The flames disperse and a gust of wind carries away the ashes. Leaving nothing but scorched ground. Silence descends. Cassidy returns his cousin's side, offering his presence as comfort. Sparks grips his hand tightly. Colin walks up to them, offering his own silent comfort. The boys remain there amongst the darkness. Not talking and staring at the fire-kissed earth.