A Tale of Crowns and Stars

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Daggers & Gloves

Cyra dropped the blade to the earthen ground, jumping back to avoid it slicing open her foot, but still gaping at Wyndemere’s words.

“You knew the First King was murdered.” Wyndemere scoffed, furrowing his brows.

“But with this blade?” She shifted uneasily, eyeing the dagger on the floor.

“He had to die somehow.” The shrug he gave was all too easy; there was a piece of the story missing, and Cyra had to know.

“Who killed him, though? And how did you acquire his blade?”

“You mean her blade.” A woman? Cyra blinked back her shock, swallowing hard. “Listen, Cyra; there’s a lot you don’t know about your ancestors. Let’s say that the woman who wielded this blade did not become a Queen.” She wouldn’t ask anything further, knowing that she would find answers if dug far enough, but she wouldn’t like them. Cyra picked up the blade again, sheathing it into the holster she now wore under her skirts, then sighing.

“This will kill Omar for sure?”

“If you can thrust it right, you’ll get a killing blow every single time.”

“Does the dagger have a name?”

“All weapons do; its name is Chaossong."

With her newly acquired weapon at her side, Cyra walked through the castle with a little burst of confidence. She would be able to defend Halewijn, her mother and father, and anyone else with ease, which would help her sleep at night.

Mirabel waited for her in her room, the lady-in-waiting reading as she lounged in a chair before the fireplace. “How did the conversation with your mother go?” She asked, closing the book and standing when Cyra entered.

“Terribly. My mother was more concerned about my marriage prospects than actually delivering justice.”

“Sounds like Bilka...” Mirabel sighed, touching her red braid with trepidation. “And Halewijn?”

“He’s going to invoke the Twelve Trials after our wedding day.” The lady-in-waiting frowned, unsure of what she meant. Cyra shook her head - uncertain if she wanted to explain the magnitude of the High Prince’s plan - and crossed over to her bed, laying on her back.

“What happens if he... fails?” Mirabel spoke slowly, sitting on the side of her bed with care.

“He said he wouldn’t. I have to trust that he won’t.”

“Princess,” Mirabel shifted over to her side, propping her head upon her hand and eyeing the curly-headed royal carefully. “You are not someone who usually leaves your life up to chance.” Cyra felt the dagger grow hot on her thigh. Mirabel was right; she knew her mistress well. “You have a plan... don’t you?”

Cyra didn’t move, staring at her ceiling intently.

“I do.” She admitted, looking over at Mirabel. The lady in waiting merely stared back at her, blinking once before huffing.

“You could inform me of the plan, you know.”

“No.” The Princess sat up quickly, wrapping her arms around her legs, the leather holster biting into her leg like a sharp reminder of the burden she carried. “I won’t drag you down with me.”

“Where you go, I go.” The woman reminded her, placing a pale hand on Cyra’s shoulder. “That’s the promise I made to you when we met. I cannot break it now.”

Yuletide swept upon the court like a rushing wind at sea.

Halewijn, Cyra, Mirabel, Alorha, and Wyndemere would spend their days attending to the preparations to visit the Southern Court for the festival, among other things.

“Twelve days of Yul...” Alorha groaned, finding himself dumping luggage onto the floor of the foyer. The twins hated this time of year, mostly when the festivities wouldn’t be held in the Eastern Court. The reason behind their hatred of Yul was unknown to Cyra, but it didn’t matter because she had grown to despise Yul as well. Too many memories - good and bad - tainted the jovial celebrations, and all she could do was sit and drink her mind into submission before laying out on some piece of furniture.

But this year - her mother sang - it would be different. All because of the shining High Prince that would accompany them to whatever function they attended. Part of Cyra acknowledged that Halewijn was simply a new trinket for her mother to show off around the courts. The other part of her despised how she paraded him about, making sure everyone knew her daughter would be marrying a High Prince. And not just “a” High Prince, but the High Prince.

The thought that Yul would be just one large circle of gathered royals to peer at her jeweled finger and laurel-covered fiance set her on edge. But Hal was always there to soothe in some way, whether he brushed his fingers across the back of her hand when they stood side by side or the way he pressed lips to her forehead before bidding good night. The little things Halewijn did made all of the difference between growing irritation - at Yul, her mother, the wedding, the thought of Omar - and her ability to breathe in peace. She welcomed all excursions with him now, preferring his company over any of her three companions as of late.

The evening before they would embark on their journey, Halewijn chanced upon her in the garden as she examined the still blood-red roses.

“Princess,” He began, his breath coming out in white clouds. “Your garden remains beautiful as ever.” The growing concern with her little garden - the roses, hydrangeas, white lilies, and blue orchids - was that the flowers had not yet died, despite the threat of the Yul frost. The High Prince noticed her concerned stare as she turned about the garden, attempting to discover the source of immortality for this season’s blooms. “Is this unusual?” Hal asked anyway, trying to find the source of her unyielding confusion.

“Very much so,” Cyra mumbled, peeking at the leaves of the lilies while her brows scrunched up in perpetual disquietude. “They should all be lifeless by now.” The High Prince curled his head to the side, watching as the Princess pawed at the dirt in haste, then realized what she was about to do.

“Don’t dig up the blooms,” He rushed to her side, pulling her hand up from the small hole she had made. Cyra snatched her hand back, then placed it over the spot as if she were hiding whatever hid beneath it. The look in her eyes was enough to inform Halewijn that something lay beneath those lilies, something Cyra was protecting. She knew why those blooms stayed fresh as if the frost would not come. “What are you doing?” He inquired as she pushed the dirt back over the hole she made.

“Nothing.” When she finished, she stood, dusting off her skirts with two swipes. “We should finish packing.” Cyra walked off, but Halewijn kept her pace and intercepted her with ease.

“Tell me what’s in the garden. Tell me why the flowers won’t die.” Cyra shrugged him off, entering the palace from the portico before tossing off her overcoat. ”Answer me, Cyra.” He called out, following her steps up the stairs. Cyra felt herself pause for a moment - telling the absolute truth about Gunnar could work to her advantage - but then she shook her head as she marched toward her bedroom, avoiding the conflict. If Halewijn knew the truth about Gunnar, about the garden? He would undoubtedly leave her.

Hal caught her before she went into her chambers, grasping her wrist as she turned to open the door.

“You’re blocking my way,” Cyra stated, her nose almost to his chest as he stood in the space between the door.

“You can trust me with whatever it is, Cyra. I’ve told you this before, and I meant that.”

Cyra scrutinized his face. This man could not lie, she concluded, seeing nothing but sincerity painted across his handsome face.

“In time, you will know everything. But not right now.”

“In due time...” Hal’s gaze softened, and he nodded slowly. “Will this secret do any damage to what we have planned?” Cyra’s eyes snapped up to meet his quickly.

“Never.” She breathed.

Halewijn, in his customary fashion, pressed a kiss to her forehead. However, he held it longer than usual, and Cyra felt all of his promises in that one tender kiss.

The carriages were loaded and packed, and nothing was left behind in the aftermath of the Yul preparations.

Cyra sat next to Mirabel and across from her mother and Surta, who folded their hands in their laps, beginning an endless whispering. From outside the carriage window, she watched Halewijn as he made his way down the steps - his red and gold coat fluttering behind him. He eyed the carriages before landing on the one she sat in and smiled brightly, somehow convincing the sun to come out from behind the clouds.

Cyra pushed open the glass windowpane, and Halewijn took this as an invitation to come and speak with her. He stuck his head into the carriage, peeping at the other women who cooed his name as he stunned them with his gaze. But when his eyes returned to Cyra, she observed a slight change in them, a softness reserved only for her. The High Prince produced a pair of leather gloves, pulling them on his fingers to protect them before revealing an almost identical but much smaller set. He gave them to Cyra silently, and when she hesitated to accept the gift, he explained,

“I asked Mirabel if you had any fur-lined gloves for the trip, and she mentioned you only have one pair. I had them made from rabbit fur and leather.” Cyra took the fur gloves, warily sliding her hands into them. Once her fingers hit the soft fur, she hummed in surprise, her face breaking out in a slow grin.

“These are quite beautiful, High Prince. Another fortune spent on lavish gifts?” Cyra cocked a brow and slanted her eyes at him. Halewijn chuckled,

“Indeed, I would spend a thousand fortunes to see you smile so brightly.” The admission did not startle Cyra, but she could feel the other women holding their breath, anticipating his next words. To prevent any further comments that might make the seven-hour ride with her mother unrelenting, she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. Halewijn immediately kissed her back, cupping her head with his hand. When she opened her eyes again, the faintest hint of a blush colored his cheeks, but whether it was from the cold or the kiss, she could not tell. “I love you.” He whispered as she pulled away, and to this, she smiled again.

“I will see you in three hours.”

“Until then.” Halewijn lifted a hand to the other women in the carriage as a goodbye and then proceeded to walk to the procession’s front. He would ride with Alorha, Wyndemere, ten other Royal Guards, and her father, stating he would be delighted to volunteer and ride with the other men when Bilka asked.

Bilka hummed her approval, placing a hand on Surta’s lap and murmuring, “Isn’t it so refreshing to see young love?” The older lady-in-waiting smiled back at her.

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