A Tale of Crowns and Stars

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Vows and Stories

That morning, during her bath, she informed Mirabel about her vow of silence. It would last until they called off the engagement, or until Halewijn died.

“How will you choose what you want to eat? Or what you’ll wear to the wedding? Or what you’ll say for your -- Oh. No speech, no vows to say.”

“Although my mother will most likely sign the document herself.” With that, she resigned herself to speechlessness. Cyra did not speak at breakfast, nor during the proceeding days. When her mother and father discovered her plan, they ignored the display of childishness and left it to Halewijn to figure out.

“Princess,” He finally began one day while she sat on a bench, reading. It had been a week and a half since she had spoken to anyone, save Mirabel. “You haven’t spoken to me in quite some time.” Hal sat next to her, smoothing out his navy blue tunic and matching pants. His feet were covered in golden slippers, and his hair swept behind his laurel crown. He continued to astound her with his devilishly good looks, but she would never let him see her gape at his figure. She shut the book in her lap and stood, indicating that he had disturbed her peace. Halewijn didn’t take the hint, however, and followed her across the large courtyard.

“Have I done something to displease you?” His concern seemed genuine, but Cyra couldn’t let up, not for a moment. “Cyra, I implore you...” Hal continued to follow her into the palace, past the portico, and into the grand entrance. “Is this vow of silence in protest of our impending engagement?” She stopped in her tracks, gripping the book in her hand.

Halewijn stepped in front of her, holding her shoulders gently. “Cyra, I do not wish to entrap you with this engagement. Say the word, and I will rescind the offer.” Cyra met his gaze, hopeful. Should he rescind his offer, her mother would have no option but to drop the thoughts of any engagement ever occurring. It was a perfect agreement. She opened her mouth to speak, but just as she inhaled, her mother rounded the corner to the stairs.

“Ah! Halewijn, I have been looking for you.” Bilka eyed the two royals standing opposite each other, but she did not acknowledge the implications of the visage. “Come, we must choose the colors for your engagement clothing.”

“Your Majesty, I was actually about to allow --”

“--himself to take me for a stroll in the hedge maze,” Cyra spoke over him, finishing his sentence. Bilka stood there, shocked into stillness. And there goes her vow.

“Well... I won’t stand in the way of your mid-afternoon stroll. Come find me when you have returned, High Prince.” When her mother had disappeared up the steps, Cyra snapped the spine of the book with her deadly grip. Halewijn turned to her at the sound and raised a brow.

“I have some questions that need answers.”

The hedge maze felt like a prison as they made their way through it, Halewijn walking with his arms tucked behind his back.

“Ask your questions.” Cyra snapped, setting her mouth in a hard line.

“Why do you not like me? You seemed to enjoy my presence at the engagement ball for Princess Clara.”

“It’s not that I don’t like you.” She began, pulling a strand of hair out of her face. “It’s that I don’t trust you.”

“Does that have anything to do with my parentage?” He inquired, but Cyra stayed silent. There would be no answering questions about Omar. “Alright. You can reserve the right to not answer that. How about this: you don’t have time for engagements, you said before. However, I heard from someone that you used to be engaged.” Mirabel. “It wasn’t your lady-in-waiting,” Halewijn added as if he could read her thoughts.

“I did.” Short and sweet.

“Who was he?”

“Does it matter?”

“What did he do to lose your favor?”

“Does that matter?”

“It does... to me. And to you. Even after this suitor is no longer in your life, you still protect his honor by not revealing his transgression. Perhaps he did not lose favor with you...”

“You know nothing about what happened between us.” Cyra quipped, incensed. Halewijn was getting too close for her comfort. “You’re flying very close to the sun, Icarus.” Halewijn hummed, tapping an index finger against his lip.

“I think he betrayed you somehow.” He pressed. “You don’t protect the man you knew, but the pride you have. To share the details of intimate betrayal is to forgo pride and admit you were fooled.” The book left her hands before she realized what she was doing, landing at Halewijn’s feet.

“And what do you know of betrayal, High Prince? You’ve never had someone pretend to care about you only to drive a long dagger into your back and pin you to a door! You’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing someone taking your good name and making a fool out of y--” Halewijn took two measured steps towards her, his long strides matching his gaze. Cyra stared up at him defiantly, hackles raised.

“You do not know my story.” He growled, standing close enough for her to feel his breath against her face. “We are more alike than you realize.”

“I doubt it.” The fire in his gaze suddenly subsided, and he began chuckling before tossing his head back in a long laugh. Cyra stood there, bemused at the sight of the man going from anger to humor.

“Let me tell you a story, little Princess.” He offered her a seat on one of the stone benches lining the hedge maze, his smile reaching his eyes. She obliged if only to understand the humor in his voice. “When I was a younger man, I would haunt this forest for game and sport. One day, I saw a beautiful maiden... and I chose to sing to her so that she would come to me and make my acquaintance. I did this for years, with different maidens, though. When I would grow bored, I would release them back outside of the forest I found them in, and lure in other maidens. I kept it up for a while, never really attached to anyone... that is until I met this woman I instantly felt infatuated with.

“She was beautiful, Cyra. Long, white hair... blue eyes...” The sparkle in his eyes betrayed his feelings. “I was terribly in love, or so I thought. I played a game with her: she had to give me three things for her to leave the forest. The first was a lock of her hair. The second, a secret no one else knew. The third... her hand in marriage.”

Cyra frowned. “She had to marry you to leave the forest?”

“I was foolish back then. I thought this would be the end of the story... my happily ever after. It was anything but. This woman made the agreement to become my wife, but that every full moon, I must leave her alone until dawn. I would be forced to go back into the very forest I haunted and stay there until the sun came up.

“Except the sun never rose that first full moon. She trapped me in the dark forest with her magic and held me there for years... I was only freed when someone defeated her. I returned her to her status before gaining her dark art, and I left the forest behind forever. I have been traveling ever since.” The look he had at the party returned; the deep stare off into the nothingness overshadowing his expression. The pity Cyra felt overcame her, and she placed a hand on his clasped ones.

“I am sorry that happened to you.”

“Do not be sorry. You didn’t have a hand in trapping me there. I was to blame for my predicament, mostly.” He paused, searching for the right words. “I will not demand your story out of you. But when you are ready to tell it, I will be there to listen.”

The void that opened in Cyra’s chest began to beat like her heart, and tears sprang to her eyes. Turning aside, she brushed them away with the back of her sleeve. “Perhaps... perhaps one day I will be able to share that story.”

“But on your own time,” Halewijn advised.

“How did you come to terms with your betrayal?” He thought for a moment, brows pressing together.

“I tried to deny it ever happened at first. Slowly, I allowed myself to grieve for who I thought I loved, and then grieve for the man I used to be. It was only then I found the courage to tell my tale without shame.” He took her hand in his, bringing it to his lips to brush a kiss across her knuckles. “I hope someday I will hear your story.” With that, he rose and walked further into the maze, leaving her to contemplate his words.

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