Chapter Nine- VERA
"The color of your eyes reminds me of stories I heard as a child.”
“Really?” We descend the stairs near the Great Hall.
“Each kingdom was known by the color of their ruler’s eyes, a color passed down from the Guardians themselves. Not very many people now believe it, but they will once they see yours.”
“The Scree said my gift came from the North. Are Guardian Icewyn’s eyes violet?”
Bellek purses his lips. “No. Your eyes come from Guardian Pynth.”
“What are the colors of the other kingdoms?” I ask.
“Guardian Dryden has light grey, almost white eyes. Guardian Acadia’s are red, and Guardian Icewyn’s are ice blue.”
I try to imagine a crowd of people with those colors. Would I be around to see all the magic unfold? There are so many other questions I want to ask, but I dare not.
We finally reach the grand staircase that leads down into the Great Hall. The room is covered in gilded gold, and hundreds of guests are dressed in the brightest of colors. The room’s warm, and the quantity of food and drink could feed a village.
Music drifts into the air; festive beats have the people dancing. It’s a spectacle that I have to endure once a year with people who couldn’t care less about me.
Bellek stays a step behind me as we descend into the crowd. A servant hands me a glass of wine. I’ve never tasted wine before, and I drink it quickly. A sweetness, mixed with a bitter tang, coats my tongue. Not sure if I like it, I take another.
Bellek retrieves it from my hand.
“Easy, Vera. This wine will knock you off your feet if you’re not careful.” Already a lightness settles over me.
Walking further in, people begin to recognize me. They stare openly. It’s awkward how they treat me, as if I’m not human. I so badly want to scream at them. But it’s pointless.
Their unabashed gawking doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always been something to look at but never someone for them to get to know. Some of these people only see me on this one day--a spectacle they pay money for.
I move past them and observe the dancing. Faces are flush with a giddiness that shows me wine has been flowing freely this night.
The women’s dresses are beautiful, and complement their smooth skin. It’s a presentation of beauty I’ll never achieve. I hate my flaws.
The king’s chair at the high table is empty, and the large curtain hanging behind it is peculiar. I’ve never seen it there before. What could he possibly be revealing aside from me?
A nobleman with a large hooked nose who resembles a bird is pointing at me. His cheeks are red from his drink, and his eyes are bright. He looks me up and down, his mouth curling up in a leer.
A subtle hum spreads across the surface of my skin. My gift doesn’t seem to enjoy his staring. His lips part to speak, but he remains silent. He knows he can’t make a comment about me--the punishment would be instant death.
The doors across the room open, revealing the king. The crowd cheers, and I try to hide my disgust for these people who would cheer a man like him.
Bruce marches in behind him, his eyes roaming over the crowd. The humming over my body intensifies. I allow my gift to touch his heart. His eyes widen. I could kill him now if I so dared.
The room quiets when they reach the high table. Where’s the Scree? I glance around, but she’s nowhere to be seen.
“Welcome, councilmen, and people of the court!” Another round of applause goes around. “And welcome, of course, to our dear birthday girl as well, Vera!”
Everyone turns to me, clapping as if they care. I know better. King Kgar sweeps out his arms, motioning me to come forward. Leaving Bellek’s side, I saunter my way up next to the king.
The gleam in his eyes sends a shiver down my spine. I know what he visualizes, seeing me in this dress. It’s sickening.
“You look ravishing, my dear. It’s perfect on this special day, isn’t it? It hurt my feelings that you didn’t share your wonderful news with me. Finding out after others? Tsk, tsk.” He faces the crowd, leaving me feeling uneasy with what is to inevitably come.
“I’m pleased to announce that our long wait for magic to return has finally ended. Vera has been blessed by the Maker himself. She will now represent our kingdom and bring forth victories in my name.”
An excited chatter fills the hall. They know their pockets will grow heavier when distant kingdoms are conquered.
“In honor of this glorious occasion, I’ve planned some entertainment.” The Woman of the Scree comes out from behind the curtain, and releases the drapes.
There is always that one button that sends me into a blind fury. Zyrik. Seeing him dressed as a court jester pushes that button.
When Zyrik notices the crowd, he curls up in the back of the cage and sticks his thumb in his mouth. I can tell he’s already been crying.
Anger blazes through me. Glaring at the king, he has the audacity to grin. “You should’ve come to me when you discovered your gift,” he whispers. “This, my dear, is your punishment.”
He straightens and turns to address the crowd. My heart thumps hard in my chest. “Who here wants to have the king’s own jester in their home? We all know what a joke he has been from the moment he was born.”
The crowd laughs. Everyone knows the king has denounced him as an heir. A weakling, saved by the kidnapped princess--both of them misfits.
Immediately bids are placed amongst the crowd. The nobleman resembling the bird, laughs and points, raising his hand, playing along with the king’s game.
My emotions rise and I ignite my gift fully, muting from my ears the sounds of the room. Is this what the king wants? Does he want to humiliate his son in front of me to punish me, or to bring forth my gift? Either way, if he wants a show, I will give it to him.
An electricity sparks over my body. Unlike before, when I didn’t know what I was doing, I take pause and embrace what the gift guides me to do.
When those in front see my expression, their smiles fade. But for them it’s too late. With a single thought, I send them to their knees. A unified thud echoes throughout the hall followed by cries and shouts of fury, mixed with fear.
They look at me, dumbstruck, no longer seeing me as a useless accessory, but as someone who has just brought forth something powerful. A few are even stupid enough to laugh, probably thinking the king has me under control. Oh, how they are wrong.
I am beyond angry and past the point of caring. Humiliating me is one thing, but doing it to Zyrik is something else entirely--he’s my life. The king steps up behind me. “Kill one. Show me what you can do.”
I walk down to the bird-like man and force him up with only a thought. His nostrils flare and sweat beads his brow. He’s obviously frightened now that he’s fully aware of what I can do. His eyes plead with me but I push my guilt aside. I have to do this. I wrap my gift around his heart and squeeze it tight--he drops dead to the floor. The crowd screams.