A Tale of Crowns and Stars

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Terrors & Feasts

The night rolled in like a cloud, pulling its blanket of stars over the High Court. Outside of Cyra’s window, lanterns slowly came to life across the landscape, revealing the feast preparations for Halewijn’s return. The feast would be opulent, no doubt, and only the most adequate food would be given to all who attended.

While Cyra examined the scene, Mirabel stood behind her, making sure the ends of a fur stole were wrapped tightly around her neck, and the blue dress was straight against Cyra’s figure. When the lady finished, she slipped the sapphire ring on Cyra’s finger. Shakily, she turned away from the expansive windows and to the mirror on the other side of the room; despite looking like herself, Cyra felt oddly out of place. Her mind was on the feast below, in the future - trying to anticipate Omar’s plan.

As she stared at her reflection, the Princess felt some kind of hollowness opening in her chest. The gaping hole pulsed like a heartbeat, and waves of anxiety began to crash over her mind, engulfing and spitting her back out on the shores of despair. Leaning over for support, Cyra shakily exhaled again, attempting to ground herself to stave off another panic attack.

“Princess…” Mirabel began, but Cyra could only hear her voice from far off as if the lady-in-waiting spoke from across a chasm. Cyra inhaled through her nose and out of her mouth, but even those tactics couldn’t steady her. I’m not going to make it.

Mirabel disappeared, which cleared space for more thoughts and more speculation. Still, she quickly returned with a half-dressed Halewijn, Alorha, and Wyndemere, who promptly began their assessment of the situation. Halewijn attempted to soothe her by running a hand over her back and whispering comforting words, but Cyra couldn’t truly hear him. All of the voices she heard sounded miles away - nothing could reach her in the small space she had built in her brain to protect her from the living nightmares. Blood pounded in her ears as she folded over into a fetal position, clutching herself tightly and shrinking away from Halewijn’s touch. When she closed her eyes, the terrors began, launching her back into her body on the night of the assault.

Cyra lay beneath the grunting High King, his face full of hate and malice as he abused her body and soul, tearing her apart from the inside out. She noted his eyes were closed - almost as if he couldn’t look at her while he committed his crime. But she was glad for it. If Cyra had to look into Omar’s eyes while he hurt her, she wouldn’t be able to look into anyone’s eyes ever again.

The High King’s fingers dug into her side and her wrists, and sweat dropped from his face onto hers unceremoniously, mixing with her tears and mucus. The assault lasted for what felt like eons, and when the High King finished, he pulled away and scowled.

“Get up, and go back into the Grand Hall.” He spat. Omar’s lip curled up as Cyra rose from the bed robotically, smoothing her skirts down and half-attempting to fix her hair. “And wipe your face. You look like filth.” He offered her no tissue or a handkerchief, so her sleeve would have to do. As she made her way to the door, Cyra placed her palm on the knob before Omar stopped her with a hand. Cyra didn’t turn around, but she knew the words that would come out of his mouth next. “If you say a word of this to anyone, they will find themselves in unimaginable predicaments. Understood?” Cyra nodded, and Omar retracted his hand, letting her go.

Despite the memory ending there, it would replay in her head. Every time the terrors came, the scene replayed a handful of times before letting her go. Nothing changed; everything stayed the same. Cyra couldn’t fix nor end the situation early; she had to let it all play out again and again before she felt the release.

Halewijn stared down at the curled up Princess, unsure of what to do.

“It’s a terror,” Alorha spoke, crossing his arms over his broad chest and sitting on the edge of a chaise. “We have to let it pass.” The suggestion of just letting Cyra go through it didn’t sit well with the High Prince. Especially not now. Wyndemere pushed his white hair back, letting out a loud sigh.

“It’s never pleasant to watch,” He grumbled, looking away from the scene and out into the lit courtyard. “I know Cyra’s going through hell inside her mind.” Mirabel also found somewhere to sit; Halewijn remained standing over his bride-to-be, fumbling for an answer.

“How long do they normally last?” Mirabel hmm’d, thinking deeply.

“The last one didn’t take too long. Maybe two hours?”

Two hours?” The trio eyed him carefully, shocked at his outburst.

“High Prince, they used to last for half a day or longer. During Yul with Gunnar, she suffered nearly every day. I am grateful we have gotten to a place where they do not last for long.” Mirabel whispered, looking at her fingers with a somber expression. “The least we can do is be there when she opens her eyes again.” Halewijn slid down to the floor next to Cyra, contemplating his next move. Sure, he would be there when Cyra came back and opened her eyes, but there was something else he had to do. Somehow, he had to get Omar to realize the magnitude of his crimes.

“Tonight isn’t the night.”

Halewijn mentally waved off the voice in his head that chastised his propensity for impulsivity. “You heard what I said.” Hal grit his teeth, sending a foul word across the connection before a deep inhale and closing his eyes. Shekmir, wrapped in gold and holding a large scale, flashed behind his eyelids, frowning.

“Sometimes, I think you ignore me on purpose.” Halewijn opened his eyes again, making the visage of the golden god dissipate. “When Ostara comes ’round, you won’t have much choice, my pet.” The god’s hollow voice faded back into the mist, leaving Halewijn alone again, thankfully. Shekmir had done a lot of talking lately, and it made the High Prince feel sick to his stomach. No one else knew about the god in his head, nor the extent of the goði oath he took as a child in the desert. It was Hal’s own secret, one he would share with Cyra when the time was right.

Wyndemere looked over to him suddenly, frowning. “Your father said something to you earlier,” Halewijn confirmed this statement with a slow nod. “What was it?”

“Omar said that Cyra reminded him of my mother.” Alorha inhaled sharply, his breath hissing through his teeth.

“I hate that bastard. He better not try anything while we’re here.”

“He will,” Halewijn jerked his chin at the feast outside. “Nothing pleases him more than making a spectacle and inviting the entire world to see it.”

“Alorha and I will be out of sight but never far. Mirabel is skilled enough to fend off any close-range mishaps, so you both should be fine. That is, if Cyra recovers in time.” The thought in Halewijn’s mind was quick, but it set a smile on his face for a brief moment before he masked it again.

“I think we should call off the feast. I wouldn’t want to put any pressure on the Princess to attend a function if she is not fully recovered.” The look of uncertainty on Wyndemere’s face sealed the idea in Hal’s mind. Shekmir didn’t either assent to or deny the suggestion, but he could feel the god brooding the consequences in the back of his mind.

“Will you tell your father?” Alorha asked, leaning forward in his chair.

“Of course. I’d be happy to.”

Halewijn floated through the familiar halls, passing by servants and footmen without speaking. No one in the palace felt comfortable talking to the once-exiled High Prince, his stature and sharp golden eyes striking fear into their hearts. Halewijn wouldn’t speak to them either - no one in the palace was safe to confide in except the people he had come with. Everyone was a spy for the High King, and no one would pass up a chance to have Hal’s head at the High Court, not even his own flesh and blood.

Hal found the High King in the Grand Hall, discussing something with his head chef while maids bustled about with linens and candlesticks to light the outdoor party. When Omar noticed Halewijn coming down the stairs, he noted the amusement that crossed the older man’s face. Dismissing the look, Halewijn continued down the staircase, facing his father down in the foyer.

“Is something the matter, Halewijn?” Omar waved the chef away, then bid his son come closer. Halewijn stayed put. “The feast is an hour away; why are you not dressed?”

“Cyra is not well. She’s come down with a fever.” The light danced out of Omar’s eyes at this news, and a frown screwed up the High King’s features. “I’m afraid we’ll have to postpone the feast.” Halewijn felt some internal pleasure at his father’s fallen facial features but kept his face straight, attempting to keep his intentions hidden.

“But there are so many people wh-”

“They can wait. I’m sure having a sick princess at the feast would ruin the night for everyone.” Omar - who couldn’t ignore this fact - grunted once before storming off silently. Halewijn watched his father disappear down the hall and smiled to himself.

Shekmir chortled in the back of his mind, scrawling something on the stone tablet in his lap.

Halewijn: 1, Omar: 0.

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