Plates & Arrows
Cyra sat beneath the watchful eye Bilka in the Grand Hall, merely a statue as women bustled around her, obeying the barks of the Queen. Readying the palace for the impending party had been pushed to the back of Cyra’s mind, her life now revolving around Halewijn’s words after she revealed her secret to him:
“I’m going to have to kill my own father.”
She had protested at the thought of more death and destruction, but Halewijn simply explained there was no other way for him to fulfill his duty. His father wouldn’t let him live if he spared him anyway, and there would be no coming back from that. The easiest way to right the wrong was to kill the High King and restore balance to the scales. Cyra disagreed vehemently, pleading with him to find another way, and he agreed, saying he’d try. But he added that there were no guarantees of anything.
So he spent his days in the vast palace library, looking for some way to right the wrong without killing his father and preventing the wrath of his gods. Their gods.
As soon as the gods flitted into her mind, two manservants carried in a large marble statue of the Goddess of Love and Fertility, her buxom body and long flowing hair captured in stillness. Cyra focused her attention on the visual, observing every crevice and chip in the white statue.
The goddess Ghiana observed the ceiling with open white eyes, her full lips turned up in a half-smile. She held various flowers at her enormous chest, her breasts barely covered by her flowing dress, the two carved pieces of fabric draping down into a ‘V’ that stopped right above her belly button. Below that, a long scrap of cloth dangled between her legs - supple and inviting - and her feet remained bare against the base, which was a patch of grass. Cyra didn’t realize she was scowling at the image until she turned back to face the woman who shoved different plates in front of her.
“Blue and silver, blue and gold, blue and white.” A choice, Cyra realized, she had to make.
“I don’t like these.” She stated simply, folding her hands back into her lap. Her mother huffed and muttered,
“We can’t have our guests eat off of the tables, Cyra.”
“Where are the other options?” The woman, flustered, pulled out two other plates from her picnic basket, laying them beside the others.
“These were not recommended, but I brought them anyway...”
“You were wise to do so.” Cyra chimed in, peering at the selection. A golden plate with black accents gleamed back at her, polished so finely that she could see the sparkle in her amber eyes. The other one, a black plate with silver accents, caught her eye. The silver swirls reminded her of galaxies she had stared into while adventuring in the mountains of the Southern court. “This one.” Cyra handed the woman the plate full of starshine and sat back in her seat. Her mother balked. The idea of anything black at a wedding party... The Queen shook her head at the thought.
“It’s what I want.” Cyra rebutted, and Bilka retorted,
“But is it what Halewijn wants?”
“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” The High Prince descended the staircase in front of the Great Hall, a green book in his hands. He wore a short, long-sleeved midnight black tunic, covered by a sash of navy blue fabric that went from his left shoulder to his right hip. This was paired with black trousers and black Persian boots, which seemed to be a staple in his closet.
“Good idea.” Bilka beckoned him over, hanging onto his arm as he approached the table of empty plates, smiling, and mentioning how his taste would be the deciding factor for the tableware for the engagement party. “Your bride says she wants this-" Bilka flung a hand at the silver and black plate. “-instead of considering the others here.” Cyra looked up at Halewijn from beneath her brows with a gaze that seemed to say, “Please just pick one and go. I can’t take this anymore.” He gave her a swift nod.
Halewijn studied the plates carefully, his thumb and forefinger stroking his brown beard. He frowned, considered the black and gold one by running a finger across it, and then looked at the ones with various blues in them, his golden eyes roaming over the detailing on each. Bilka gave Cyra a triumphant glance, smirking as if he had already made his choice. Finally, he spoke, eyes still on the blue plates. “Cyra wants the silver and black one?” The Queen nodded twice. “I want whatever she wants.” With that, he left the table, not daring to glance back at the women, two with wide eyes, and the other slowly gathering the other plates. He strode out of the Grand Hall, his tunic clinging to the muscles of his back, the sash bobbing as he made his way into the foyer of the palace. Cyra gaped after him, partially because of his alluring figure, partly because of his daring attitude.
The rest of the planning went swiftly, Bilka not daring to ask any more questions about Cyra’s opinions.
Cyra climbed the stairs of the library staircase in a hurry, her leather pants and flowing tunic barely making a whisper in the dead quiet room. She listened for Halewijn, any sound of his presence, but she couldn’t be sure where he was in the vast space around her.
“Hal?” The echo of her voice found no answer.
Taking the steps down to the main floor, she had almost made her way through the doors to the main hallway when they opened suddenly, and she crashed headfirst into the towering High Prince. She tumbled backward, cursing as she gripped a chair back to steady herself. Halewijn moved to help her up, but she waved him off, finally coming to a standing position.
“Are you okay?” He asked as Cyra dusted herself off and grunted in reply. “What’s the matter?” Halewijn realized that she had come to look for him amongst the old weathered pages, and she inhaled deeply.
“I wanted to know if you would like to go on a short hunt with Alorha, Wyndemere, Mirabel, and I.” The excuse for an excursion was just what she thought he needed, mostly to get his head out of the books and onto something lighter.
“I...” He looked at the blue book in his hand. Cyra placed a hand over the book, on his own hand, and smiled gently.
“Just one ride.” She whispered, feeling the High Prince tense up, then slacken considerably at her touch. He sat the book on a nearby table and took her hand, placing it in his palm. Warmth radiated through his touch, and for a moment, Cyra found herself wishing he would never let go. Halewijn, perhaps hearing her unspoken wish, wrapped his fingers around her slender grip and half-bowed, sweeping his other hand out to the side.
“Lead the way, Princess.”
The woods felt more enclosed than Cyra remembered as she trekked with her four companions along with the brush and leaves. Jasper, the steed below her, walked along the floor with ease while keeping his light blond mane low. Halewijn rode behind her, his jet black mare - appropriately named Onyx - only a few paces behind Jasper.
The band of hunters remained silent, near the spot where the deer tended to congregate. Alorha, at the head of the gang, held his hand up and cocked a tanned ear to the sky. His white hair fell down his back and to the left, and as it shifted slightly in the wind, Cyra could hear the noise that caught his attention, too. It was a chewing sound.
Wyndemere, the quicker of the two, readied a bow and arrow with ease, notching the bow and bracing himself. Mirabel also notched a bow, her eye sharper than Wyndemere and Alorha.
Halewijn hadn’t known that when they all met in the stables, saddling their horses. He laughed at the idea of Mirabel thinking seriously about hunting. Well, until she had pointed out he had missed a hole in the belt when buckling it against the horse’s saddle. He looked under the horse at that moment and realized that he had, in fact, missed the correct hole. He then turned to ask how she could’ve seen it from so far away, but she shrugged her bow and quiver onto her shoulder, not planning on answering a single question. Had Halewijn pressed any further, he would’ve discovered the truth behind the lady-in-waiting’s origins, maybe even found they held something in common. But he didn’t dare ask her now.
Cyra turned her head in the direction of the sound as well, right before an arrow whizzed past her ear.
”Get down!" was all she heard before a second arrow landed right in her leg, knocking her off her horse and into the leaves below. The world went fuzzy at its edges before it slowly faded into black.