It’s unbelievable how wrong we can be sometimes. After all, our lives hold many secrets, even from ourselves. Some, we eventually discover, whereas others evade us forever. At the end of the day, it’s down to us whether we brush off these unknown secrets, or allow the desire to know more, to overwhelm us.
My life for instance, had been shrouded in secrets. Ever since I was a child, I’d been kept in the dark about so many things. It hadn’t been because someone didn’t want to tell me my story. It was because it just wasn’t known. I was a baby when I was discovered on the street, with nothing but my name left to me. I was never sure if I would find the answers to the questions that had plagued my mind as I grew up. Until one day I got more answers than I could ever have expected, when the arrival of a stranger turned my world upside down, and unveiled truths that I’d never imagined.
The sun was fading fast, painting the sky a beautiful watercolour of deep reds, pinks and oranges. The moon was brightening against the darkening horizon, teasing at its promising beauty. My small apartment bedroom remained cast in a warm glow from the fading light that was flooding through the large window. A leftover bite of my abandoned birthday cake sat on my bedside table, and the book I was reading lay open on my covers. I stared at the woman before me, taking in her appearance. She had long black hair set in tight curls, olive skin and sharp features, there was a sort of familiarity in her looks that became more apparent the longer I took it in. She remained completely poised before me, her presence exuding power and authority, whilst her shimmering, aqua eyes held some warmth as they lingered on me.
Her previous statement still failed to sink into my brain, as I remained rooted to the spot, shock and confusion spinning so fast that it was making me dizzy.
“What do you mean you’re my aunt?” I finally stammered.
With a tiny smile, she swept a single curly lock of hair behind her ear, and dropped into a chair at my desk, looking hugely out of place in her long, scarlet gown. She gestured for me to sit too, but I found myself unable to move, my limbs remaining rigidly set in place.
“Please, I’d rather have this conversation whilst seated. There is much to tell you Asteria.”
Maybe that should have been suggested before you just blew my brain up with that morsel of information! I thought, struggling to force my body to back towards my bed, and sit upon it.
“Thank you,” She said softly. “I know that this is a lot to take in, and for that, I apologise. But there really is no other way to do this.”
“To do what? To appear out of nowhere, on my birthday no less, and totally blow up my life?”
My snappy response hadn’t angered her at all. If anything, her smile broadened with something like appreciation, or respect.
“It is because this is your birthday that I have arrived.” She said swiftly, “Besides, It doesn’t look like I am interrupting much.” She nodded to the book and the cake.
Okay, that hurt. Not that she was wrong, but still.
As with all of my birthdays, I was spending it alone and without plans. I didn’t mind, by now I was used to it. But at the age of twenty, I’d hoped for more to show for a social life.
“I don’t understand. What does my birthday have to do with anything?” I asked, shaking the unpleasant thought of my lack of friends.
“You will. No matter how hard this is to hear or to understand, we are family, I am your Aunt. My name is Nyxia, and I am your mother’s sister.”
At the mention of my mother, my attention peaked. I’d always wondered about her. About both of my parents, and the mystery that surrounded them.
“My mother?” I breathed.
The woman nodded, a now solemn expression on her face.
“Your mother was my older sister.”
I couldn’t miss the use of the word ′was’ and my heart sank. I’d hoped of one day being reunited with my parents all my life. A childish dream that now I was beginning to see, would never happen.
“Look at me, Asteria, I know that you can see the truth. Look at my eyes, they are just like yours, like your mother’s. We are very similar.”
“Many people have blue eyes.” I shrugged, even though I could see just what she meant as I took in the other similarities between us.
Our eyes weren’t just blue, they were aqua, an unnatural bright blue that I’d never come across in another human throughout my life. Our skin was the same golden olive tone and even our bone structure had certain mirroring. She chuckled as though she was enjoying the persuasion. Then tilted her head to the side, an idea appearing to have occurred to her.
“How about this then. I know about your birthmark.”
My brows shot up in surprise, no one had ever known about that. When I was a child, my guardian’s always made me cover it up, it wasn’t like other children’s birthmarks, mine was more like an inked stamp on my skin in the shape of an ‘S’. The adults always feared that it would be perceived as some kind of brand, and make people presume I’d had a history of abuse. To me, it was just another strange piece of my puzzle that I didn’t understand. But at the same time, I was fond of it, it was unusual, just like me and I cherished the fact that it was a connection to my birth, and therefore, my parents. I stopped covering it as soon as I was old enough, and now, to everyone else, it was just a tattoo.
“I have one too.” She added with a glow of proud accomplishment.
“Show me.” I demanded, both hope and doubt warring within me.
She sighed and rose to her feet, turning around and sweeping her hair away from her right shoulder. She tugged the back of her dress a little lower and uncovered the mark. I gasped as I saw it. It was exactly the same ornate ‘S’ that marked my skin, right there before my eyes. I didn’t even register getting to my feet and walking towards her, until I was close enough to reach out and touch her.
“It marks all of us Sotelo’s from birth.” She explained.
“How?” I murmured.
She spun back to face me and placed her hand on my shoulder.
“Because we are family.” She said firmly, and this time I believed her, how could I not.
As my mind raced with the revelation, and I struggled to contain the surge of questions that fought to the surface, she continued:
“And there are things you need to know about what that means.”
The way that she spoke gave me a sense of foreboding, and I retreated instantly, muting the questions and sinking back down onto the bedding, leaning my back against the wall and planting my arms across my chest as though they were my shield to protect me from whatever else was about to be revealed.
I waited with caution and curiosity as she appeared to consider how to begin, her behaviour doing nothing to calm my building nerves.
“I’m just going to come right out and say it.” She announced, blowing out a breath and sitting back down at the desk. “The Sotelo bloodline is one of magic. Royal magic.”
I stared at her in shock, for I was certain that I’d just heard the words ‘magic’ and ‘royal’ pass her lips with no trace of humour. This woman was nuts, she had to be. There was no magic in this world, and glancing around at my tiny, crappy apartment, there wasn’t even the slightest sign of being a Royal.
“Asteria? Did you hear what I said?” She asked me.
I tried to think of how to answer, but I couldn’t form words. Instead, an impromptu laugh burst free, and I shook my head with disbelief.
“Very funny,” I choked out through laughs. “Definitely impressive for the level of originality.”
She scowled at me, for the first time, her composure slipped and she looked unsure of how to proceed.
“I’m not sure I follow.” She said coldly, leaning back in the chair and crossing one leg over the other.
I wiped the tear that was forming in my eye from laughing, and attempted to steady my voice.
“You can’t be serious, I mean you come here and expect me to believe that I am a Royal... What? Witch?”
She shrugged lightly.
“Believe it or not, it is the truth.”
Crossing my arms again, I stared back defiantly.
“Prove it.” I ordered.
I caught a faint eye roll, but there was a twitch of amusement in the responding smirk she wore as she waved her hand through the air and a ring of flame appeared in its wake, getting bigger and bigger. I stared in amazement, watching them turn a deep red colour, before she leant forward and blew at them, instantly turning them into smoke which faded out and disappeared.
“Wow.” I exhaled, catching her eye. “How did you?”
“I told you. Magic.” She pressed.
I focused strongly on the air in front of me, as though seeking an explanation, some hidden wires, a lighter that was carefully blended into the backdrop... anything! But when nothing appeared, and I began to accept what I saw, I had only one thing that I could manage to say.
“And I have... magic?”
“You have the most powerful magic in our Kingdom Asteria.” She nodded.
“Me? But, I don’t know anything about it, how can I have the most powerful magic?”
Joining me on the bed, she smiled at me.
“Because your mother ruled our Kingdom, and as her child, you are her heir.”
I gasped, as the significance of that began to sink in.
“But that means-”
“Yes. You’re the Queen of Arcuria.”