A Tale of Crowns and Stars

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Wine & Scars

”You should probably wait a while before doing that again.”

Cyra stared at her plate of food as the three friends made conversation during dinner, so she opted to push her food around on her plate. Hunger didn’t strike her at any point during the dinner, so she mostly observed the other guests and made small talk with her mother and father. Occasionally, Idria would mention her name in conversation, and Cyra would look up and answer, but otherwise, she went mostly ignored.

At one point, Hal placed a hand on her thigh absentmindedly, which made her jump a little, but then she relaxed into his touch, and halfway through the meal, another round of wine came out. Cyra drank the liquid greedily, hoping it might give her a boost of confidence. But in reality, she knew it would do nothing but give her momentary light-headedness and then later, a feeling of sickness. Halewijn watched her down the glass of wine warily, leaning in to whisper in her ear once she finished.

“My love, you haven’t touched your food. Maybe you shouldn’t drink so much?” Cyra blinked, forcing herself to smile.

“I’m fine; I think I had too much to eat earlier.” Halewijn nodded at this, then turned back to Idria and Eres, who giggled at a Prince who spilled wine on himself. Suddenly, a drum beat and sounds of strings started, and Idria shot up from her chair, her food all but forgotten. She waved her hand at Eres, who gave Hal and Cyra a grimace before joining her. The young couple and a few other royals, ladies, and lords, went to the open floor in front of the dining hall and began to dance in a circle. Somehow, Idria found herself in the middle of the dancing and skipped around gleefully, to which Cyra rolled her eyes. The shining Empress-to-be was having her fun being the star of the show; it seemed. While a servant filled her wine glass up yet again, Cyra looked over to Halewijn, who also watched the dancers, but more analytically than out of pure observation; she realized he was attempting to learn the dance.

Taking the wine glass in her hands again, she chugged the drink and then stood, placing the flute on the table.

“May I have this dance, your Highness?” Halewijn gave a lop-sided grin, taking Cyra’s extended hand and following her to the dance floor, then easing her into the circle before joining. As they danced in the ring, Cyra could feel her cheeks flushing, a sure sign that the wine was working its wonders. And when they broke off to dance in couples - Halewijn wrapping his hand around her waist and the other one holding her hand - the music shifted to a slow, sensual tune, and Cyra could feel a tug in the pit of her stomach. No, not now...

With each sway of her hips, she felt the desire grow tenfold, and the fingers of her right hand found the nape of Halewijn’s neck. They stroked the hair there, and something inside of her leaped when Halewijn bent down to brush his lips against her ear. “You look stunning this evening,” He breathed, sending a chill down her spine. “When you walked in, I had to step back for a moment and collect myself. I’ve never seen someone look so radiant before.”

“Is that so?” Cyra whispered back, feeling his hands tighten around her waist and fingers.

“I cannot lie. You make me feel things I haven’t felt in a very long time, little Princess.”

“I could say the same for you, High Prince.” She echoed, feeling the wine embolden her. “Perhaps we should act on those impulses.” Halewijn pulled his head back, cocking it slightly at her words.

“Are you drunk?” He asked, still swaying along with the music and holding her close.

“A tad tipsy,” She admitted, smiling sheepishly, and Halewijn chuckled.

“Don’t say anything you’ll regret later. Good wine makes loose tongues.” He warned, a smile still tugging at his lips.

“I meant every word.” Halewijn dipped his head low again, his breath tickling her ear.

“So did I.” Cyra’s eyes flicked up to his, and she inhaled, drinking in his features again. His golden eyes kept her brown gaze, and her mouth opened to suggest something, but Aethelwulf halted the music with a hand.

“We will light the Yule log in the Grand Hall momentarily!” The announcement spurred the crowd to stop dancing and rush to the Grand Hall, each person hoping to get close enough to watch the fire rise in the hearth.

“Your Highness.” Halewijn offered his arm to Cyra, and they joined the gathering crowd in the Grand Hall, just outside of the Dining Hall. Hal held onto her arm as she swayed unsteadily on her feet, feeling the rush of the wine’s effects taking over. “Just hang on to me.” He advised, and she obliged, transfixed as she watched the Yule log go up in flames. The crowd cheered, and many preferred to stay in a now warm Grand Hall instead of rejoining the others dancing. She stood and watched the yule log until her vision became blurry, the flames turning into an orange glow above a mud-colored cylinder. Cyra moved her head slightly to the left, but Halewijn was just a white and gold blur with a brown face and hands.

Suddenly, Cyra felt her stomach lurch. The slight change in her color did not go unnoticed by the High Prince, who felt her cheek with a tender touch. “Cyra, you’re getting hotter.” The observation didn’t make any difference to her as the sick feeling began to take hold. She felt herself beginning to crumple in slow motion, closing her eyes as the world started to shake and spin. Halewijn grunted, catching her with a firm grasp before standing her upright.

“I don’t feel well.” She mumbled, blinking slowly.

“You’re going to burn up if you don’t get this dress off of you.” The High Prince hissed, and Cyra heard the worry in his voice.

“No, no, I’ll be fine... I think I should sit down...” She made a motion to sit down where she was, eyes still closed, but Halewijn prevented her from sinking to the ground.

“Let me get you to your room first.”

“Turning in so soon?” Eres’s voice carried over the din in the room, and Cyra tried to open her eyes to see the man one last time.

“Cyra’s not well. I’m going to take her to bed.” Halewijn’s voice was so far away...

“Ah, I see. Good night, you two. I look forward to seeing you again soon.” The words floated through Cyra’s head, and she attempted to mumble a reply, but her tongue felt thick in her mouth. She shuffled along with Halewijn, trying to form words, a thought, maybe even a sound... When they reached the stairs - Cyra could only tell it was the stairs because of the mass of red color - Halewijn stooped down to pick her up.

“I can’t drag you up the stairs,” He explained, scooping her up in one fluid motion. “Wrap your arms around my neck.” Cyra did as she was told, clutching his neck for dear life. She leaned into him, closing her eyes and feeling his muscles move underneath her like a horse at a slow trot. Cyra stuck her nose in the crook of his neck and found he smelled of mint and sage, just like she hoped he would. She hummed out of satisfaction, and Halewijn chuckled. “You are very drunk.”

It didn’t take long for him to arrive at her bedroom, where he deposited her on the bed. “We have to take this... thing off. I should go find Mirabel...” By thing, he meant dress, Cyra realized, and she pulled her arms out of the sleeves with ease, then shucked her shoes off on the floor.

“Help me.” She muttered, attempting to pull the dress over her head. Hal sputtered for a moment, trying to decide if the indecency was worth the circumstance. But when Cyra growled out of frustration and flipped onto her stomach, he decided it was and pulled the gown off of her with one tug. The princess sighed, feeling the cold air hit her back and legs, instantly cooling her down. The sick feeling subsided, but the lightheadedness wasn’t going anywhere for a few hours.

“I should get Mirabel,” Halewijn stated, trying not to look at Cyra in her underthings, but she shook her head, still face down.

“She’s enjoying herself. Let her have the night off.” A breath in. “Can you get my...” the rest was muffled by the bed, and Halewijn drew closer, placing a hand on her leg.


Cyra moved her face to expose the left side. “Can you get my nightgown from the top drawer?” The High Prince found the nightgown in record timing, then stood above Cyra, holding it with trepidation.

“Are you... a-are you able to put this on yourself?” Cyra inhaled deeply and sat up, eyes still shut. She lifted her arms, which made her bra shift upwards a little, but Halewijn ignored this detail as he slid the gown over her head, letting it drop into place on her tiny frame. Cyra then unhooked the bra and tossed it aside, rolling onto her right side in the bed and sighing again. “I’ll let you re-”

“Stay,” Cyra commanded, her tone serious. Halewijn waited a moment, but Cyra sat up again, her eyes anything but playful. ”I said, I want you to stay.” Halewijn shucked off his shoes and coat, dropping his crown on the bedside table. “Take off your waistcoat and shirt before you get into bed.” He did so, naked from the waist up as he slid into the sheets next to her. Cyra, for her final act of the night, grabbed his top arm and slung it over her waist as they both fell asleep in the candlelight.

The morning light drug Cyra from her dreamless sleep and back into her body, which rested in the softest bed she had ever occupied. Another body lay next to hers, softly snoring with its hand resting right below her left breast. Blinking away the sleep in her eyes, Cyra yawned, stretching only her feet before Halewijn stirred next to her, his thumb caressing the silk slip thoughtfully.

“You’re awake.” Cyra turned to face the sweet prince, her eyes landing on his perfectly imperfect face. His eyes were still closed, but his breathing was steady and even, the warm air fanning across her face as he exhaled. She felt his smooth, dark brown skin beneath her fingers, trailing them across his chest and arms lazily. Halewijn hummed, his hands coming up to her shoulders and resting there momentarily as Cyra’s fingers explored the rest of his chest. Her fingers brushed upon a ridge of raised skin, and she looked down at his chest. As if to say “X marks the spot,” a crudely made scar in the shape of an “x” rested above his rib cage.

“That’s a weird scar...” She breathed, and Halewijn groaned.

“Not a scar. It’s a brand.” Her sharp inhale echoed in the room, and the High Prince pressed her fingers to it again. “A lord enslaved me for a while.” The thought of Halewijn as a slave somehow didn’t line up to how Cyra saw him now. What horrors he must have suffered... He lifted her chin with the crook of his index finger. “There are worse things I have endured. All of those things led me to your door, and for that, I am grateful to have experienced them.” His head tilted down slightly, and he pressed her forehead to his before kissing her deeply. The kiss was more than just a display of affection; it felt like they were accessing some deep understanding they hadn’t had before.

Halewijn’s hand covered her ear as they kissed so that Cyra couldn’t hear the near-imperceptible sounds of Mirabel entering into the room. But Mirabel made her presence known when she gasped and dropped the collection of gowns in her hand at the sight of Halewijn and Cyra lying in the same bed. Halewijn’s eyes flicked open first, and he broke the kiss as he rolled over to see the red-faced lady-in-waiting scrambling to pick up the clothing.

“M-my apologies, your Highnesses! I did not know you were staying the night, High Prince; I will take my leave.” Cyra could barely get any words out of her mouth to reassure the young woman as she dashed out of the room, closing the door behind her swiftly. Cyra looked back over at Halewijn, who erupted in a loud bark of laughter. Seeing him laugh made her laugh, and they were in stitches on the bed, giggling until their sides hurt. Halewijn gasped for air, holding his stomach, still amused by the look on the lady in waiting’s face. When the laughing was over, Halewijn rolled off of the bed, leaning down to pick up his discarded shirt and waistcoat. Cyra looked up to watch the muscles in his back move, relishing in the thought of those same muscles stooping to pick her up - when she spotted a long, silky scar running from the top of his right shoulder blade to the bottom of his left side. The diagonal scar shone in the sunlight, its texture belying a particularly traumatizing event.

“Halewijn?” He twisted slightly to face her, his eyes curious. But when he saw the expression on her face, Hal realized that Cyra had seen his large scar. The High Prince slid his shirt on swiftly, ignoring the question in her eyes. Cyra spoke it anyway. “What happened to you? Did an animal injure you?”

“Animals don’t leave those kinds of scars, my love.” Halewijn murmured, taking his crown from the bedside table.

“Was it your father?” Cyra exhaled, feeling a tightness in her chest.

“That’s a story best left for another time.” He turned around again, leaning down to kiss her lips before straightening up. As he left, Cyra thought of all the ways she would make Omar pay for his crimes and all of the ways she would make him suffer.

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