The Half Light

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[1.2] - The Girl and the S'aiyah


It had been three days since Aryial walked away from the S’aiyah. She had entered the clearing, pale and shaking with black powder dusted over her skin. Nobody had given her a second glance, and nobody knew about the S’aiyah.

After two days of travelling, the entourage had arrived in the city the day after the Summer Solstice, celebrated by the Festival of Light which ran for three nights, on the Summer Solstice itself, and the two nights before and after.

Ivan and Aryial had been lucky enough to make it in time for the final night of festivities. They had snuck out, disguised as commoners, to enjoy their first night in the city. The entire night had been so surreal that Aryial forgot about the S’aiyah for the second time.

The first time had been the moment she first laid eyes on the city, tiny figures of people dotted across the roads, the roofs of all the hundreds of houses filling in between the big stone walls that circled the city, opening only where the canal met the harbour, the docks holding magnificent ships Aryial had only ever seen in paintings.

There was a smaller version of the wall that circled a big castle-like building in the centre. A building that towered above the other estates like a watch-full god, water bursting from the statue fountains that adorned the sides.

Aryial had imagined herself walking along one of the four roads that lead to the city. They were giant, white, stone roads that formed a cross, the centre of which were perfectly where the castle sat.

It was all so magnificent that Aryial hadn’t been sure if it was real.

Even now, as Aryial lay in the most gigantic bathtub she had ever seen, she still couldn’t believe such a beautiful place existed.

Half a toll ago, she had made her way into Ivan’s room and filled his bath without any bath salts since there were only lavender scented ones available. Aryial would probably rather bathe in a pond than in water smelling of lavender.

Aryial sunk into the warm water, her eyes just above the surface. She let loose a breath, watching the bubbles burst through the milky water.

Closing her eyes, she submerged herself into the water, rubbing her fingers gently through her hair until all the hair tonic came out before coming up again.

Sighing in satisfaction, Aryial stayed in the now lukewarm water for a couple myns, letting her stress float away for a few precious counts.

The water rippled against the white stone of the bathtub and occasionally spilt onto the floor as Aryial stood and stepped out, reaching for a towel to wrap around her torso.

Her quiet humming echoed around the bathroom as she pattered to the heap of clothes she had left on the floor. Her nose scrunched in distaste at the wrinkled fabrics.

The air was chilly against her bare shoulders, so she tucked the towel securely and made her way out of the bathroom.

Ivan was still lying on the bed, leaning on the backboard with a book in hand as he was when she first entered the room.

His gaze didn’t leave the book as she riffled through his closet and tugged out a soft, velvet robe.

“Yes, why not take whatever you please?” Ivan muttered in amusement, his other hand reaching for the bowl of grapes propped on the nightstand, eyes still focused on the book.

Aryial rolled her eyes and exchanged the towel for the silver robe, deftly tying the belt around her waist. She rubbed her hair furiously with the towel before making her way to Ivan, plopping herself rather ungracefully atop his soft duvets.

With her feet propped up against the backboard of the bed, Aryial studied the ceiling. The silver and white designs were often seen adorning most belongings of the Winter Court, which governed Ithivia during the Winter moons.

Unlike all the other kingdoms, Ithivia had something they did not.

They had a Guardian Angel.

An archangel so powerful that she sometimes appeared in human form to protect Ithivia from outside threats or even inside threats like corruption. Aryial often wondered if she’d ever get to see Charmaine in her human form.

Ivan picked up the bowl of grapes and offered them to Aryial, who took three, popped one in her mouth and threw two back at him, both of which he caught.

“Aren’t you ungrateful?” Ivan retorted. Aryial grinned at him.

“Try saying that without phrasing it as a question,” she said, eyebrows dancing at him. “You can’t!”

Ivan’s only reply was a playful shove, prompting Aryial to wave her foot in his face. He put the book down.

“You seem so proud that you can tell lies,” he scoffed. Aryial waved her both her feet in his face.

“Oh, you’ll regret that,” he said. Aryial squealed as he reached for her, ignoring all her surrenders.

“Tell me a story instead,” she pleaded.

“No, you’ve heard all the tales already.” Ivan almost got her before she slipped away again.

“Then, make one up!”

“No.”

“Oh, please Ivan.”

He stopped to scowl at her, but eventually relented. Aryial raised her hands in victory, she would have danced too if Ivan hadn’t given her a scathing look.

They settled on the bed once more, Ivan shoving Aryial’s wet hair out of his face while berating her on the dangers of keeping her hair wet in case she caught ill.

Eventually, after much nagging from Aryial, he started his story about a pirate captain who stole treasure from a god. She was cursed to die within three years unless she wholly gave her heart to someone and didn’t expect anything in return.

But instead of searching for her soulmate, the pirate captain stayed with her crew to sail the seas, collect more treasure and go to the most exotic places in her last years.

Ivan talked about the cities that the captain had seen, where rain seemed to pour down in endless torrents like falling diamonds, or cities made entirely by gold that were decimated by storms of black sand.

As the story progressed, Ivan was sucked into the storytelling, his hands moved of their own accord in perfect harmony to the words he spoke, painting a world of beauty and wonder.

Aryial was enraptured, as she always was when Ivan told stories, her heart pounding with anticipation for the characters or her stomach aching after she laughed too hard.

Her fear soared along with the characters when Ivan spoke of the dreaded day that arrived after three short years of adventures. The crew surrounded the captain, full of teary goodbyes and heartfelt last words.

And Aryial’s heart rejoiced along with the crew when the pirate captain did not die and the curse was instead lifted, for she had given her whole heart to her ship and her crew, and never expected anything back.

Just as he wrapped up the story, a bell sounded from the clocktower in the middle of the city, signalling two tolls till dusk.

“I must take my leave now, there is a meeting I am expected to attend,” Ivan rose from the bed. “Feel free to stay here tonight, I would imagine your sleeping quarters aren’t quite so nice and I can always find another room.”

Aryial stuck her tongue out at him. “Spoilt little prince.”

Ivan laughed, pointing a slender finger at her accusingly. “See what I mean? Ungrateful little thing.”

Aryial took a corner of the duvet and rolled it around her until she was cocooned within the soft covers. Ivan’s laughter was muffled as he left.


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