Chapter 12: The Vilmarian Court
A shudder runs through Rodion’s body as he clutches Serena tightly to his chest. Of course, the action doesn’t disturb her in the least. Nor does the scrutinizing looks of a room full of rich people.
Demetra has remained prostrated before them for the last five minutes since their arrival.
Immediately upon entering the palace, her legion dispersed and they were led straight to the audience chamber, throne room, whatever it is.
A marvelous jewel-encrusted crystal throne sits atop a raised dais, empty. It’s velvet cushions look undisturbed and the gilded glass shining like the moon’s gentle glow.
Demetra has launched into some explanation with Storm reporting alongside her as Rodion decides to immerse himself in his surroundings. The hall itself almost seems like it’s made of clear glass with a light blue sheen descending upon the entire room. Sea-foam green is the dominant color of every banner, carpet, and drapery.
The palace itself has an overall Greek look to it with elegant pillars present in every corridor and large chamber like this one.
All-in-all, to Rodion, the whole palace looks like some fantasy art conceived from a talented artist’s imagination.
But his gaze goes back to the empty throne. Where’s the queen?
In the time that they’ve been here, no one has once given any indication as to her presence here. No one even tries to broach the topic, and it leaves Rodion a little suspicious of the current state of Vilmaris.
Surely Calder must be curious as well? Rodion glances over at the sorcerer who has calmly begun explaining his observations of Serena’s condition. His calm façade gives nothing away, and so Rodion can discern his thoughts no better than he can that bothersome prince’s.
Obviously, Rodion doesn’t have much say in the discussion. In large part due to his lack of understanding of what’s actually going on.
“And being that my sister is still, presently, absent, I had no other recourse than to seek the knowledge held by Vilmaris.”
The whole time they had been talking, the primary speaker for the court has been a man with eyes the color of rubies. Rodion doesn’t necessarily remember all that was said about the man other than his name. Lord Sotirios Floriadis, the acting speaker for the Court of Stars.
Lord Sotirios’s fair skin is like, to Rodion, looking at an excessively bright light. It shimmers with a preternatural light, that must be the effect of some kind of magic. And if his shining skin isn’t enough, his shoulder-length hair is almost some kind of bright rose gold blonde.
Just looking at the man gives Rodion the feeling that he needs sunglasses to stare directly at him. There shouldn’t be a single person in existence with this much radiance!
Lord Sotirios’s gaze flickers from Rodion to Serena then back to Calder. “The Infinite Librarium would have been better suited for your task, but being as things are…”
Calder nods in understanding. “Indeed. None of the library’s guardians, the warriors of air, have yet been found. Only Aries dwells in the ocean right now.”
Lord Sotirios nods. “Indeed, we are aware. Lady Marina had come seeking Pisces before her sudden disappearance. We have been searching for her ever since.”
Calder’s ears perk up ever so slightly. “And? Have you found anything?”
Lord Sotirios looks around at the court and then shakes his head. “I am afraid not. Rest assured that we are using all of the resources at our disposal to locate her.”
Calder nods his head, but then his gaze flickers over to the empty throne. “And what of the queen? I see she has yet to grace us with her presence.” There’s a suspicious undertone in the question, one that isn’t lost on Lord Sotirios as his expression takes on a more conflicted one.
“I would ask that you refrain from such inquiries. We have allowed you into Vilmaris, allowed you perusal of our knowledge, but we are not obligated to discuss our affairs with outsiders.”
Calder nods with a bow as he says, “Forgive me if I have offended you. I meant no harm, truly.”
Lord Sotirios simply nods before finally dismissing the court. A servant promptly appears not a moment later to show them to their assigned sleeping arrangements.
Once again, Rodion readjusts his grip on Serena as they’re immediately led to her room first.
Rodion idly flips through a random book as Calder bustles about the expansive library, pulling every book on curses he can find. There are some other books that he pulls from the shelf, but Rodion doesn’t try to translate the language of the titles on the books.
He simply keeps to himself in the large bay window as he leafs through this book about Vilmaris. Really he isn’t one for history, but Vilmaris is something of a curiosity. For one, there’s the lack of children, then there’s the lack of a ruler. Honestly, he shouldn’t give two shits about this place, but something about the whole thing is rubbing him the wrong way.
However, he has yet to find anything particularly useful. Apparently, their rulers have a string of bad luck, and their last golden age was under the rule of Queen Thalassa. Queen Thalassa was the only daughter of Queen Amphitrite and was married to Hydros, a fabled hero of Vilmaris.
Rodion is able to trace the family line as far as Queen Galatea, Queen Thalassa’s daughter. Yet there is no other mention after Galatea. Everything after mostly pertains to past battles with other kingdoms and interactions with other members of the Aqueous Alliance.
Though considering that merpeople are long-lived to the point of being immortal, it wouldn’t be strange if Queen Galatea is the current queen of Vilmaris still.
“Aha!” Rodion jumps in his seat as he abruptly turns his gaze to Calder. The sorcerer wears a wicked grin on his face that leaves Rodion feeling just the slightest bit uneasy.
In Calder’s hands is an old tome written in some ancient writing Rodion has never seen before.
“Do I even want to know what the hell you’re smiling about?”
Calder glances over at Rodion with a triumphant gleam in his eyes. “I might have just found something that may finally free dear Serena from her sleep-induced captivity!”
Rodion’s eyes widen as he leaps from his seat, dropping the book he held as he does. “Seriously? So you can wake Rena up soon?”
Something of a grimace slips onto Calder’s face when he glances back at the book.
Rodion frowns when he sees this. “Alright, what the hell is that look?”
Calder’s arms cross over his chest as his magic takes over to keep the book hovering before him. “Well, the spell comes with a potion that contains a particular ingredient not found in these waters.”
“What kind of ingredient?”
“It’s a rare essence that can be found no where else except in Aquaria.”
Rodion’s face quickly morphs to one of relief. “That’s great! So what’s this magical essence that we need?”
Calder’s facial expression has yet to change as his frown deepens. “This essence is the blood of Poseidon, the first king of Aquaria.”
Rodion’s jaw drops. “You’re fucking kidding right?” But Calder doesn’t even crack a smile. “Poseidon is dead! How the hell are we supposed to get his damned blood if he’s been dead for thousands of fucking years!”
Calder clicks his tongue and gives Rodion a dirty look over his language before replying, “We shall just have to get it from one of his descendants.”
Rodion blanches. “Then why the hell did you make it seem like it’d be such a damn problem?”
Calder sighs. “Because it is a problem. House Neptunius is one of the twelve great houses of the sea. One does not simply swim up to a member of the royal house and request that they give them their blood.”
“Well one of them should be willing enough to give their blood to wake up Rena right? They wanted to be so helpful before!”
But Calder shakes his head once again. “This curse originates from House Neptunius, a curse created by Proteus. As such, there are some complexities that make getting the blood that much harder.”
“It can’t be just any member of the royal house.”
“Okay, then it has to be that royal pain in the ass, right?”
Calder, once again, shakes his head, much to Rodion’s annoyance. “It has to be Princess Arcelia.”
Rodion stills. “Why her?” It literally could be anyone else, but what makes the princess so special for her to be the sole qualifier?
Calder simply smiles at that. “She has a friendship with your sister and the blood needs to be from a true daughter of Poseidon.”
Oh, well in that case… Rodion doesn’t mind if it’s Princess Arcelia. God only knows that he’s none too willing to share the same vicinity as Prince Oceanus once again.
But there’s still one other thing. “So how are you going to get the blood? I doubt those stuck up nobles are gonna open up the gates to allow them in.”
Calder nods. “You are right. Especially because they are members of Aquaria’s royal family. It doesn’t matter if the two kingdoms were once allied, they will not allow them in.” Calder pauses thoughtfully for a moment. “Not without the queen’s permission anyway.”
“So what’re you gonna do?”
Calder shrugs helplessly. “I shall just have to make a trip back to Aquaria and make another one back here.”
Rodion says nothing further. Though it’s clear by his expression that he thinks the whole thing is going to be nothing more than a big hassle. It’d be easier if Vilmaris didn’t have all of these restrictions. Then all they’d need to do is bring Princess Arcelia right here, but of course things aren’t as simple as that. Even though Rodion really wishes them to be.
Calder expels yet another sigh as he gathers the book along with his research materials. A mist of his magics puts away the other piles of book he perused.
He turns to Rodion. “I shall go and make preparations for the spell. I expect you to stay out of trouble. The last thing we need is to anger the Court of Stars because your foul mouth offended them.”
Rodion gives him a dirty glare but says nothing because he’s well-aware of how often his mouth got him in trouble with the police. He’s not going to fuck things up for his sister just because he decides to be an ass.
So he gives Calder a simple nod of understanding. Satisfied with the response, Calder takes his leave of the library as Rodion follows after him a few minutes later.
Storm swims about the palace gardens, a tense look on his face. Beside him, is Demetra with Pelagios trailing behind them.
“And you are certain of this?” Demetra asks quietly as she squeezes her hands at her sides.
Storm nods gravely. “Indeed. I thought it strange when I found traces of them on land. My suspicions were confirmed when I ran into one of Proteus’s underlings in that same day.”
Demetra nods with a grim expression. “It is imperative that we discover the cause of all this. We have already lost the Sirenic Guard and the Great Protectors move too close to the veil for comfort.”
Pelagios chimes in just then. “In all my time spent in Aquaria, I have not gleaned anything of use to our situation.”
“Dammit,” mutters Storm. “What of Aquarius?”
Pelagios shakes his head. “The stone has not even begun to resonate, according to Calder.”
Demetra sighs. “Without at least one warrior of air then we cannot access the Infinite Librarium.” She continues, “Cancer or Scorpio would be helpful right about now, but before Lady Marina’s disappearance she had conveyed that there have been no signs of either being active.”
Pelagios groans. “Then we are on our own.”
Storm elicits a sound of agreement as he crosses his arms over his chest as he gazes upon the dying coral. “We must be quick about it. Things cannot continue, otherwise we are lost.”
Pelagios gives a hum as he appears thoughtful for a moment. “I have my suspicions, but I shall wait to see if they bear fruit.”
Demetra turns to his voice, a look of curiosity on her face that matches Storm’s. “Do you now? I shall be most interested to hear it when it does.”
“Yes. If what you’re thinking is even remotely close to my own thoughts, then things should unfurl soon enough.”The three say nothing more as they continue their turn about the expiring gardens in steady silence…