- 12 YEARS AGO -
“Legend has it that before the six Kingdoms, there was only one Kingdom. Known solely as the Fae Kingdom then, they were the most ancient and powerful beings to roam the Earth. For years, whispers had been passed around about where they may live. No one dared seek them out until the first Ratrika ancestor. But this woman was smart, she was cunning. She bowed to no one, not even the Fae King. So, she set out, traveling over many days but never losing hope. Soon, she stumbled upon the forest. It was buzzing with otherworldly energy and she knew she had found the Fae Kingdom. She was close to falling over with exhaustion but swept into the Fae court, head held high and proud. King Eudes, impressed by her wit and cunning, offered her a wish he would fulfill. However smart the Ratrika ancestor was, she forgot to carefully word her answer. You see, she wanted the power of foresight to keep two steps ahead of her enemies. But King Eudes had become fond of her and so he decided to fulfill her wish partially. When he gave her these powers, he realized the mortal body is far too weak to hold them. So, he performed a binding ceremony, similar to the wedding ceremonies we perform, giving her a little bit of his blood. The Fae King’s gift to her was the power of the Moon and Stars. When she left the Fae Kingdom, dejectedly she turned her head to the night sky as though it would offer her answers. And sure enough, the stars started to glow brightly, lighting her path home to the very spot where our Palace sits. Over time, other exceptional mortals caught the Fae King’s eye. He offered them similar powers as he had given to the first Ratrika and that is how our six Kingdoms have come into existence. Ever since the King’s unlikely generosity, our Empire has known nothing but peace.”
Excitement crawled through my stomach as I lifted my head from his chest. “Really, Babai? We’re descended from such a great woman?”
He grinned down at me as I snuggled closer to his side, and tapped my nose. “Really. You remind me of her, starlight.”
My eyes widened with wonder and pride as I glanced over at Ziyaan on the other side of Babai. His soft face was screwed up with disappointment as he tugged on his father’s sleeve.
“Papa, papa!” He called as Babai turned to look at his son. “What about me? I want to be like the Ratrika ancestor!”
“But you aren’t like the ancestor, Zi.” Ziyaan’s face fell as tears collected in his eyes and Babai scrambled to stop him from crying. “What I meant is, it’s not bad that you’re not like the ancestor. It means you’re your own person with your own path.” His arms enveloped us both and pulled us closer to him. “You both are exceptional children and I know you’ll grow into exceptional young adults. I’m not worried to leave this Kingdom in your hands. And no matter what,” he paused placing a soft kiss on both our heads, “I will always be proud of both of you.”
Ziyaan and I locked eyes over Babai’s shoulders. I could see Ziyaan’s eyes starting to droop just as my father stepped into the room.
“Ahalya, come on, it’s time to go home.”
My eyebrows furrowed as a pout formed on my lips. Shaking my head with defiance, I burrowed myself deeper into Babai’s side. Ziyaan was fully awake now, listening intently to what my father was saying.
“Ahalya, come on. This isn’t nice, your mother is waiting for us.”
Babai shifted out of the bed and Ziyaan instantly drew his arms around me. He looked up at his father and uncle with his eyes wide. “Please, Papa, Babai. Can Lya stay for tonight? We promise to be good and she’ll be ready to go home tomorrow.”
The brothers shared a skeptical glance. And then in hushed tones, they began to speak.
Babai spoke first, his eyes soft with adoration for his son and niece. “Let her stay, Himansh. After all, it’s only for the night and she is family. Ziyaan also gets lonely in the Palace. It wasn’t like when we were young, being the sole heir is hard on him.”
Papa smiled with love for his brother. “You were always the kinder of the two of us, Naksh.”
Babai threw an arm around Papa and laughed. “Well, you were always full of mischief, someone had to balance you out. I’d like to think the reason I’m a good king today is because I had to watch over you as a child.”
As Papa and Babai left the room, the door closed gently behind them and their joyful words still linger in the air. Ziyaan shuffled around in the bed to make himself comfortable then looked over at me.
“Lya?” He whispered.
“Are you awake?”
I rolled my eyes before turning on my side to face him. “Yes, Zi. I answered you, didn’t I?”
He frowned slightly before continuing to speak. “Can you use your magic?”
I sat up in the bed, barely being able to see him in the dark. “What happened to your magic? If you’re afraid of the dark, your Moonlight is brighter.”
“I’m not afraid of the dark!” He protested, brows furrowed and a pout on his lips. “I just like your Starlight better. I think it’s pretty.”
Pride flooded my body as I puffed my chest out. I held my hands out in front of me and Ziyaan placed his in mine as I folded my hands shut. I closed my eyes and focused, my tongue poking out from my lips in concentration. Soon enough my body felt warm, as though I was sitting under the night sky and gazing at the stars above. Ziyaan exclaimed softly and when I opened my eyes, little balls of light floated lazily around the room. My skin looked like it was dotted with constellations and a small tiara of stars had formed in my hair. I smiled to myself, happy that my magic had worked properly but the look on Ziyaan’s face gave me a new meaning. He was looking about the room in wonder, eyes following the little orbs of light and excitement bursting on his face when an orb fell delicately on the tip of his nose.
And right then, sitting with my cousin under a night sky I had created, I knew it deep in my heart. I would do anything to keep him safe. I would do anything to protect my family.