Royse woke with a start when he felt light fall across his face. It had to be nearing midnight, so who was waking him up right now?
He squinted over into the light from the doorway and he saw Runi there. His brow furrowed but he got out of bed as he saw Runi beckoning to him and he ran his fingers through his messy hair as he walked into the hallway.
He was dancing back and forth on the cold wooden floor as he had nothing on his feet at the moment considering he had just gotten out of bed. “Runi?”
“I need your help,” Runi whispered. “Come with me.”
“My help?” Royse asked as he tilted his head. “You want me to turn something into stone? I can’t do anything fancy.”
“Mhm, but you’re the least problematic. You stay out of trouble, and I need someone like you as an alibi,” Runi said as he began walking down the hallway.
Royse felt confused, and he was sure Runi was up to no good, but he couldn’t help but follow. He was curious.
Runi eventually led Royse into an empty room that had one table, a chair, and a stack of old books on the table. Runi began picking up each book and checking them in the light of the moon that came in through the window.
“How are things with Levant, Royse?” Runi interrupted as he kept his eyes on the books.
Royse was startled by the question at first, and he glanced aside. “We’re good friends. You know, the norm.”
“I saw you sleeping next to his bed the other day,” Runi said as he looked back at Royse. “You’re telling me you slept next to his bed only out of friendship?”
Royse frowned. “Runi, what do you want?” he asked in an annoyed tone.
“I had a vision,” he said as he held one book in his hand and approached Royse. “We’ve made a mistake in keeping Jakob here. He should have gone with the Wanderers.”
“To the Underworld? In his state? He’s like...going insane because of his brother,” Royse said uncertainly. “Cetas said that if he went along he could endanger the entire team.”
“Yeah, but Cetas doesn’t see glimpses into the future,” Runi said as he poked the corner of the book into Royse’s chest. “I’ll tell you something about your future with Levant if you help me free Jakob.”
Royse’s eyes widened as he looked at Runi. They were the same height, pretty average for a human male, and he could meet his dark eyes easily. Royse knew Runi had the potential to be wicked and he always had a scheme, but this seemed particularly dangerous and cruel.
He was using Royse’s feelings about Levant to coerce him. Why did he have to do things like this?
“No?” Runi asked. “Ah, that’s too bad. Sorry.” He turned away. “I guess you’ll never know, then.”
“Know what?” Royse asked. He cursed himself for how desperate his voice sounded, but...yeah, maybe he did want to know.
Runi turned back around and smirked. “Help me free Jakob and I’ll tell you,” he said.
“You’re evil,” Royse muttered. “Fine, I’ll do it.”
“Great,” Runi said with a nod. “And we’re not going to tell anyone what we did.”
Royse hesitated because he was a terrible liar, but he finally nodded.
“I knew you’d listen,” Runi said as he put a hand around his shoulders. “Now, I have been reading a lot about magical wards, and it’s going to be nearly impossible to break it without forcing the caster to take down the barrier. I don’t think Dari is going to agree to that, you know?”
“Probably not,” Royse agreed.
“So, there’s a ledge outside the window that leads all the way to the window of Jakob’s room. The window isn’t warded at all, so you just have to break into the window and give him this rope so he can repel down the side of the castle. His Twin Soul nature will carry him to his brother,” Runi said with a smile. “Alright! That’s it! Off you go.” He pushed Royse towards the window.
Royse whipped around and looked at him. “You’re making me do all the work!?”
“You’re younger and more limber than me,” Runi said with a nod. “So, yes. I am.”
Royse frowned and pointed at him. “You better tell me everything you see about Levant,” he said.
“You mean, ‘you and Levant’, don’t you?” Runi hugged himself with his arms loosely, a smirk on his face still. He knew what he was doing.
“Whatever,” Royse sighed and then climbed up on the table and carefully opened the window. He looked out and saw the ledge and he could tell it was slick and dangerous and certainly would be difficult to walk across. He glanced back at Runi, half expecting him to say he was joking and he could come back down, but he was just staring on with his dark slanted eyes all serious and expecting him to hurry up.
Royse chewed his lower lip for a moment, and then he took a deep breath and stepped out onto the ledge. Why did he need to know what Runi knew? He should be resolute, that he didn’t need to know about some obscure future event, but he couldn’t help it. His human nature wanted the information. His heart wanted it.
He slowly crept along the ledge, taking deep breaths as he went. His back was pressed to the ancient stone wall and his hands gripped whatever stones were within reach and gave him something to hold onto. Sweat beaded on his brow and he was pretty sure he was going to slip.
He stopped for a moment as he adjusted his feet on the ledge. “Trust your instincts,” he whispered to himself. That was something Cetas always told him when they were practicing. He needed to trust that he could do this.
“You alright?” Runi asked. Royse looked back and saw him leaning out from the window, his straight black hair rustling lightly in the wind and making a shadow over his eyes. It made him look even less friendly, but his tone sounded worried, at least.
“I can do this,” Royse said with a small nod as he focused on the walk again. He placed one foot in front of the other as he inched along, and then he realized he was actually next to the window. He had made it! It wasn’t as far away as it had looked.
Well, maybe Runi was right. Maybe he was the right man for the job.
Royse knocked on the window and Jakob appeared there. He clearly wasn’t asleep, and probably couldn’t sleep as long as he knew his brother was out there somewhere.
Jakob pulled open the window and Royse carefully slipped inside. “Uh, hey,” he nodded and pulled that rope he had slung over his shoulder off and held it out to him. “Runi says you need to escape out the window. Tie this rope to something in here that’s sturdy and get out.”
Jakob took the rope and looked confused. “Why is Runi doing this?”
Royse shrugged. “Don’t ask me, I’m not clairvoyant,” he said simply. “He seems to believe you need to go with Jeriah.”
Jakob smiled and began tying the rope to the leg of a sturdy table in the room. “Thank him for me! Please! I’m so grateful!” he said as he looked out the window as he held onto the other end of the rope. He tied the rope around his waist and immediately made his exit. Royse was surprised how fast he moved, but apparently he really wanted to go.
Royse leaned out to see Jakob on the ground already and untying himself from the rope. He waved up to Royse and then took off running across the grounds. Royse waved back, and then he sighed softly.
Well, now he’d done something illegal. The Monarchs and other Royals had wanted Jakob to be safely locked up until the contract was completed. Royse had defied all the leaders in this castle for the sake of knowing if he would ever have a future with Levant.
Suddenly he felt utterly stupid.
He carefully climbed back out onto the ledge and began making his way back. His anxiety was rising because of all of his thoughts. He had defied Cetas. He’d defied Dari. He was terrified of what repercussions might come from that, and what disappointment he might see in Levant’s eyes.
Suddenly he lost his footing right as he was near the window. He let out a cry as he scrambled to grab something, but then a firm hand took hold of his wrist.
“Don’t be so loud! You’re going to ruin our cover,” Runi hissed as he reached out with his other hand to grab the back of Royse’s shirt and dragged him into the room.
Royse fell to the floor and put a hand on his chest. His heart was pounding from the fear of almost falling to his death. Well, perhaps he’d only break a few bones but he still didn’t want that to happen.
He reached over and grabbed the front of Runi’s shirt, pulling him over. “Tell me. Tell me now.”
Runi looked surprised at his urgency, and he peeled Royse’s fingers off of his shirt. “About you and Levant?”
“Of course!” Royse exclaimed.
Runi nodded and closed his eyes. “Any time I see Levant...I always see him wearing a crown of black roses,” he explained slowly. “That means he’s going to die young.”
Royse’s eyes widened and he just stared at Runi silently. He felt like his words were caught in his throat.
“I don’t know how or when, I just know it will happen,” Runi opened his eyes and looked at Royse. “He’ll never connect with you on a romantic level because of his anxiety and trauma, but he’ll always love you. However, your paths will undoubtedly part. There’s nothing we can do about it as long as I see him wearing that crown of black roses.”
Royse felt his eyes welling up with tears.
Runi sighed softly. “I never said it was going to be good news, Royse.”
Royse suddenly pulled his fist back and punched Runi right in the face. Runi fell backwards and Royse got up to his feet and rushed out of the room. Hot tears were streaming down his cheeks now. He wasn’t angry that Levant couldn’t love him romantically, but he was angry that Runi had played with his emotions and made him feel like there was hope for them. All he told him was that Levant was going to die young and would never be with him.
“Idiot! You idiot!” Royse hissed as he smacked his own head. He’d just risked his neck and disobeyed everyone for the worst news he’d ever heard. Now he had to be burdened with knowing all of this. He had cursed himself.
He stormed into his room and collapsed in his bed. He sobbed quietly into his pillow as he sprawled out on the bed. He didn’t know what else to do, because his emotions were overflowing. Levant was his favorite person, and now he was going to have to do everything he could to protect him from whatever fate was going to befall him.
Surely the future Runi saw wasn’t set in stone. If it was, then he would defy Fate to save him.