Secrets & Prophecies
Cyra took the steps slowly, weighing Pelëa’s words with trepidation. Telling Halewijn his father was the monster he suspected him of being would scare him to react unfavorably. Driving Halewijn to premature murder would mean the downfall of the entire plan. The possibility of the ruined plot could mean death, which would be her fault. Again.
Cyra found Hal sitting on the other side of the temple, looking up at the sky with his head supported on his arms. The burden of managing the wave of death that could surely befall all of them weighed heavily on her shoulders, but she found a smile upon seeing Halewijn laying underneath the bright sky with his eyes shut in perfect peace. The wind tousled his hair as Cyra stood over him, blocking his view of the clouds, which made him laugh.
“My love, you are the most beautiful thing to grace the Earth.” He rose to his feet and wound an arm around her waist. “I trust Pelëa was kind to you?”
“Very kind. I think she is a wonderful High Priestess.” Halewijn placed a tender peck on her cheek before letting her waist go and gripping her hand.
“We must head back to the palace. I’m sure you’re eager to hear the story of the banned Priestesses.” Cyra nodded eagerly, taking comfort in the gentle way he ran his thumb over her knuckles. Gwennivarr reappeared with the horses silently, motioning toward the bag strapped on Cyra’s horse.
“Thank you, Gwennivarr.” The woman looked up at Cyra from under her hood, showing her milk-white eyes before nodding once. Cyra didn’t realize she was staring until Halewijn tapped her elbow, calling her attention back to him.
“We have to get back before sundown.” She mounted her horse, and they both trotted off, leaving the temple behind without saying so much as a goodbye to the blind maid.
“Pelëa and Gwennivarr… they’re blind?” Cyra inquired as they exited the temple grounds.
“The second sight takes their vision the longer they remain alive. Gwen and Pelëa are the only two in the temple who have lived past seventy-five. It isn’t long after that their vision begins to fail.”
“And what of their banishment?” Halewijn grunted softly, remembering.
“My father likes to make split-second choices, especially when threatened. I’m convinced my mother said something that made him feel afraid the day she ‘fell’ from the wall. He had been waiting to kill her, according to Pelëa, but it appears that he didn’t decide until they went for their mid-evening stroll.” Halewijn squinted his eyes at the sun as he glanced upward as if watching the rays of light fall to the ground with longing. “Pelëa went to warn her, but she was much too late. My father had them banished from ever stepping foot into the palace that day, so not a single priestess could speak of what she saw. To prevent any insurrection, anyone who did say anything would have their tongue cut out.” Cyra suddenly remembered the mute doctor in the healing room. Had she witnessed something too? “And to prevent me from usurping the throne, he cast me out.” A hint of bitterness could be heard in his voice, and Cyra looked to his face, trying to decipher his mood.
“I’m sorry, Halewijn.” There was nothing else she could say to make him feel better; this was something Cyra knew quite well.
“Ostara won’t be a normal festival this year,” Mirabel advised the entire staff, with Cyra standing behind her patiently. “The wedding will be on the same day, as you all are familiar with. You all must hold yourselves to the same standard as normal weddings and ceremonies.” Cyra watched the lady-in-waiting guide the maids and cooks on the protocols for the upcoming day, which remained to be a week away. As she hurried her fellow workers off to finish the work they had already begun, Cyra felt gratefulness for the maid bloom in her chest.
Mirabel had been handling everything with such grace and poise, all so she could enjoy her wedding day without fuss. When Mirabel finally noticed her, Cyra beckoned her closer, smiling slyly.
“I need your help with something. Will you go to the city with me?” The lady-in-waiting brightened immediately, returning the sly smile and quirking up an eyebrow.
“Anything for you, Princess.”
With Alorha and Wyndemere not too far off, the two women bustled about the city square with excitement, pausing at shops they found interesting or bright and colorful.
“What exactly are we looking for today?” Mirabel inquired, looking overhead at the wide sky and open windows of the houses above the shops.
“I want to purchase a new garment for Halewijn for a wedding gift. Something special; something that reminds him of us.” As Cyra spoke, she realized that there was nothing she could get him that would be enough to express her love for him, but that didn’t matter. She’d at least try.
“Everything reminds him of you. How can you purchase the world for him?” The red-head teased, and Cyra laughed, pausing at a cobbler’s shop window. Mirabel hummed in admiration at the array of shoes behind the glass, but Cyra proceeded onward, her mind on something specific. Shoes would not be the gift, especially since they were a bane of both of their existences.
But she found the item in a large storefront. Behind the glass sat a short, midnight blue, velvet coat, with little white birds stitched onto the ends of the sleeves and edges of the coat.
“That’s the one,” Cyra whispered and opened the door to the shop. A small bell announced their arrival, the tinkling like the sound of a tiny fairy. A bespectacled man behind an oak counter looked up and caught a glimpse of Cyra and Mirabel, pausing in his stitching for a moment. His long, white hair dangled around his wrinkled, brown face haphazardly, but his teeth were perfect as he smiled.
“How can I help you ladies today?” The raspy voice caught the two off guard, and they both turned to face the man who had spoken.
“I would love to purchase the blue coat in the display. How much does it cost, sir?” The man drifted out from the shadows slowly, ambling towards them with a limp. As he drew closer, the two women could see that one of his eyes was sewn shut behind the lens. Despite his bad leg, he reached up far enough to snatch the coat off the mannequin and folded it neatly over his left arm.
“I hand-stitched the ravens with thread from an altar cloth I stole from the temple of Dhotlo. Whoever wears this coat will have unmitigated power, so this coat is priceless. ”
“Then why have it in the display?” Mirabel wondered, crossing her arms defiantly.
“It brought you into my shop, didn’t it?” The comment silenced all questions from the two women. “I would let you have it, but I know your kind likes to use things without considering the consequences.”
“Our kind?” The man ambled behind the counter and sat the coat on the wooden table, leaving the implications of his words up to anyone’s guess.
“If you want it so badly, you can have it for that anklet you have there.” Cyra lifted her foot from underneath her dress to reveal the ruby anklet Halewijn gifted to her. She looked back up at the man, frowning deeply.
“It was a gift from my fiancé…”
“Part with it, and the coat is yours. Or keep it, and leave.” The Princess looked to her lady-in-waiting, who shook her head quickly.
“We could always find another gift.” Mirabel encouraged her, but Cyra looked back at the coat, then bent over to unclasp the jewels from her ankle. The man held out a rough palm to accept them and closed his fingers once she deposited them into his hand. He opened his hand to roll the anklet about, examining them closely.
“You’re a smart lady.” He dumped the jewels on a shelf behind him, then put the coat in a velvet drawstring bag before pushing it back over the counter. “All yours.”
“Thank you, sir.” Smiling, Cyra took the bag and left the shop with Mirabel in tow, holding her possession close to her chest.
“What will Halewijn say when he finds out you traded your anklet for that coat?” The lady-in-waiting wondered, concerned.
“Technically, once he gave me the anklet, it was mine to do what I pleased. I’m sure he’ll understand.”