The Half Light

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[4.0] - Books and Herbs

~ Books and Herbs ~

The year 2034 post bellum
Ten weeks till Moonset Equinox

Aryial inspected the herbs, picking them up delicately with her fingers and smelling them. A herb with bright pink tinging the green leaves emitted a particularly strong fragrance. She scrunched up her nose as the smell attacked her sinuses. Aryial gagged and immediately put it down.

The small wooden house did not have any artificial sources of light. Lazy slithers of the sun filtered through the cracks between the wood boards of the walls, and dust swirled around the many medicine bottles and jars of plants. Aryial blew in the air and waved her hand to air the dust away.

“Are you sure these would do the trick?” Her wariness was evident and caused Ivan to chuckle softly. The washed-out wooden table groaned in protest as he leaned against it, a smile gracing his lips.

“How would you know? Have you ever been seriously sick in your entire life?” Ivan teased. His hand covered his mouth as he gave a couple of sarcastic, graceful coughs to emphasis. Aryial rolled her eyes.

“It would do you well to know that I had contracted a nasty fever once-” She was interrupted by the unrefined chuckle that came out of Ivan’s mouth. He disguised it as a cough, and it was such a difference to his usual grace that Aryial lost her bearing for a second.

She huffed. “Pig.”

“Lord,” he corrected.



“Whatever.” Aryial turned her attention back to the herbs, raising one inquisitive eyebrow at Ivan.

He straightened as he gave a nod and started heading outside, leaving Aryial to gather up the medicine and pay the herbalist quickly.

The afternoon sun was a harsh, white sun that bore down on both of them as they began to walk through the market. The servant held an umbrella that ruffled slightly in the weak wind, stopping the worst of the sun’s rays from reaching Ivan, though Aryial doubted the sun could’ve affected Ivan’s already tan skin.

The roads of the town were as busy as always, horses and carriages caused dust to fly and float around the feet of the regular market-goers and the hubbub of conversations filled the lively space. Yet, all creatures stayed clear of Ivan’s path.

It was no coincidence. It would take great difficulty to hide the power that surged through his veins. As a son of a High Lord, he automatically inherited the power and the title of ‘Lord’.

There were four High Lords in Ithivia. One for every season, each High Lord governing during their respective season.

The Winter Court governed during winter, the Spring Court governed during spring and so on. If any of the High Lords did anything out of line, Charmaine, the Archangel of Ithivia, would intervene.

“You know, you could wait for me every so often. Or even help sometimes,” Aryial said jokingly as she stumbled out of the cottage with the wrapped parcels in hand.

Ivan blinked.

He opened his mouth, then closed it when no words came out. His eyes darted guiltily to the parcels in Aryial’s hands and started forward. Aryial shook her head with a teasing smile.

“I was pulling your leg,” she said, expertly balancing the parcels in her arms. “Nice to know that you still care though, sire.”

Ivan simply gave her a small smile and turned to continue walking.

The two childhood friends and their entourage followed them down the path and into the more open market.

Foreign and familiar smells bombarded their senses, the road was even more crowded, with people pushing others to get past and some people tripping over the stalls.

Ivan walked slowly, surveying the market with keen eyes and acting very much the role of a Lord with his calm gait and deadly gracefulness.

The faeries bowed their heads as he walked past, in recognition of his position. Ivan had been steadily rising in the ranks of both social status and political power since he arrived, garnering the attention of many influential people, as well as the wrath of his brothers.

They did not like the competition that had arrived. They did not like his ambition.

Ivan started speaking softly, his voice lowered just enough so that she was the only one who could hear him.

“I never really knew what happened to you the other day, I know you haven’t seen me much, and I you, but we must find a time to talk.” His eyes remained tactfully on the street ahead of him.

“I- ” she started, before swallowing and continuing. “I already know that you’re leaving.”

Ivan stopped his strolling and turned around to face Aryial.

“You were practising on me and overheard the conversation.” He stated softly, his eyes searching her face for confirmation. Aryial offered a small smile and gestured to keep moving. Ivan relented and continued walking, but the conversation had not ended.

“Well,” he offered. “It’s only for two and a half months.”

Aryial snorted. “Yeah, only.”

Ivan gave her a look. “I’ll be back by Moonset.”

“When are you leaving?”

“In three days.”

Aryial frowned. “That’s rather soon. Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

He clasped his hands together before turning away once more. “It’s so like you to foil all my plans. I had a nice set-up planned for when I tell you. I guess the muffin will have to wait.”

Aryial raised one eyebrow. “You made me a muffin?”

Ivan let out a small bark of laughter and looked at her sideways.

“I guess you’ll never know,” he said dryly. “Anyway, anything else we need to pick up?”

Aryial shook her head, but a mischievous glint in her eye stopped Ivan for a second. She took his relenting smile as permission and darted into the bookstore that she had strategically stopped in front of.

Fancy letters were scrawled onto a wooden sign that looked like it was ready to fall off, the only thing keeping it from decaying was magic. The whole shop was falling to shambles but it was the only shop near the Acesra estate that offered such exotic books.

Aryial knew that she could always ask Ivan for more, as High Fae were always in possession of such things.

However, she had already depleted his recent storage of books and there was no harm in letting her pick out her own books this time.

As much as Aryial knew about deception, she was completely hopeless at politics. She barely knew who ruled when, why and where.

Ivan had tried to teach her many times, coaxing her to put down those strategy books and picking up a history book instead, focusing much on the Seelie Court. He also had a fascination with the Great War, forcing Aryial to read volumes upon volumes about it.

Aryial seemed to know what Ivan was thinking as she skimmed the titles that she had read before.

“I’m not picking up another history book, I almost fell asleep last time,” she said pointedly.

“You did.”

“Oh hush,” she muttered, eyeing a new book. Gleefully, she plucked the book from the shelf.

The action was followed by a cloud of dust erupting in front of Ivan as Aryial patted and dusted the book with her sleeves. He recoiled slightly.

“I, uh- ” Ivan cleared his throat. “I have a, uh, favour to ask.”

This made Aryial pause as she reached for a new book. She looked up curiously, her expression inviting Ivan to continue.

All he did was clear his voice once more and start strolling around the store, his attention suddenly fixed on the novel section.

“You can’t just say something then forget about it. Come on, spit it out,” Aryial huffed, crouching down to search for books on the lower shelf.

Ivan’s shoes clicked on the wooden floors boards as he walked slowly around the shop once with his hands clasped behind his back. Finally, he reached Aryial and he stopped in front of her.

“Aryial.” He murmured softly, watching her. Aryial stood up from where she was crouching, confusion painting her features.

The mirth that was usually present had melted away and Ivan was watching her intently.

“Promise you’ll be careful when I’m gone. Promise that you won’t let anyone find out about your ability to lie. Stay out of sight, stay out of drama,” his voice carried an urgency that only a man with something to fear ever had.

Promise me, Aryial.”

The book in her hand lay temporarily forgotten as Aryial nodded.

“I promise,” she said, reassuring Ivan. He did not look convinced.

“I promise,” she repeated, putting more weight into her words. Only just satisfied, Ivan smiled tightly and threw a book at Aryial.

One look at the title and she was already trying to stuff it back into the bookshelf.

“I have had enough of the Great War to last me a lifetime,” she complained, even as he strode towards her and plucked the book out from where she placed it, adding it to the stack she had compiled.

“We can compromise,” he said.

Aryial scowled at him, bundling the books into her arms and leaving the store.


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