The High Crystal Princes
A painful coughing fit brought me back consciousness. I rolled onto my side, covering my mouth as I felt like I was about to puke. Barely able to catch enough air in between coughs, I curled up under the sheets.
“Calm down, Liliya,” a gentle voice said beside me, “you’ll make it worse like this.”
I wanted to laugh; as if I could simply stop if I wanted to. A large hand came to rest on my back as another holding a glass of water came into my blurred vision. Reaching forward, I pulled the glass to my lips. I wanted to gulp it down, but whoever was holding it wouldn’t allow me but a few sips.
As the coughing stopped, I leaned back against my headboard, eyes closed and out of breath. “What happened?”
“You passed out.” I recognized the voice more clearly now. The deeper and darker tone to it was somewhat unfamiliar though. It reminded me more of when I first met the prince. “Care to explain why?”
Hazy memories flooded my mind, all leaving behind an unpleasant aftertaste that forced me to open my eyes instead of reliving it again. My gaze fell on Lian, who leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, watching me intensely. He was still wearing the elegant clothing from before, except for the robes. The crown on his head was also tilted, as if he forgot he was wearing it and had no plans on correcting its odd position.
A hint of a smile ghosted my lips as I pushed myself more upright. “I hadn’t eaten all morning—”
“You were hallucinating,” he interrupted, his jaw clenching as he looked away. “Morana said you were poisoned, but she wouldn’t tell me by whom or what kind.”
Again, I smiled, looking down at the smudges of blue paint on my fingers. “Did you see my dragon?”
“What?” His brows drew together, his lips parted as if he was unsure what to respond with.
“It’s probably ruined by now,” I muttered, wiping my hand across my neck and cheek. More shades of blue and white collected on my fingers. If it hadn’t been before it was definitely ruined now. “I’d hoped to see your reaction, you’d liked it so much when I did it on you after all.”
“Why are you avoiding my question?”
Looking back up at him, my hand dropped to my lap as I started to wonder myself why I didn’t want to tell him what happened. It wasn’t like I wanted to protect Mare, and I knew if I told Lian what she had done he would believe me. He wasn’t one to judge me on my low rank and believe Mare because of her higher one. Yet I couldn’t get the words to leave my lips. I wasn’t sure what I was fearing, but there was something bigger in the back of my mind telling me this was a bad idea.
Sighing, I blinked at him slowly. “The poison will work off on its own, it doesn’t have a known cure. I simply have to wait it out.”
“Who did this?” he asked, a little more demanding now.
I raised my brow, genuinely surprised at his tone. “There is no reason for me to tell, it will make no difference.”
“If you believe her status will save her from any punishment, you have truly forgotten who I am.”
This time my eyebrows furrowed at his statement. Something about Lian seemed off. He was less like the mysterious, bored and annoyed prince from the beginning, not even close to the although easily flustered, charming and daring prince I had slowly come to know. The image of him sitting on the throne came back to mind, and I couldn’t help but feel distanced from him. It was the first time I saw him this angry. Not annoyed, not agitated, actually angry.
“I believe you’ve never shown me who you are then,” I said. “Seeing as you never saw the need to remind me.”
He stood from the chair, correcting his crown as if he suddenly remembered it presence. “Why are you protecting the witch who hurt you?”
“Why would you care this much?” The words left my mouth before I could stop them, but I genuinely wondered. “You’ve known me for a week, why are you so sure I didn’t deserve what happened to me?”
The thought hadn’t crossed my mind before, but a deep aching in my chest made me almost believe I did. The memories from before I had passed out flashed before my eyes once more. Pulling my legs to my chest, I groaned as I held my head. These weren’t mere hallucinations, they were locked away memories. Before the seal had only been damaged, but now it appeared as if it was completely broken.
“Tell me which one of those High witches did this to you.”
My head snapped up at him, the tears that burned my eyes before now falling freely down my cheeks. Lian’s features instantly softened. His eyes grew wide as his lips parted to voice an apology, even if none of it was his fault. Perhaps it was a bit, but certainly not the cause of my tears. He probably believed they were. All I needed from him was comfort, instead I saw someone I hardly seemed to know.
“I want you to leave,” I said, wiping my eyes with my palms. “By not telling you I’m protecting myself rather than them. If you can’t understand that there is no reason for you to be here.”
“I didn’t mean—” Lian reached forward, but the moment I turned back to face him he stopped.
“Please leave,” I whispered. “I don’t want you here right now.”
Clenching his jaw, Lian nodded stiffly before turning away and leaving my room. As the click of the closing door sounded, I barely had a second to take a breath before another voice made itself present.
“The look on his face,” Daneel’s dangerous voice rang through my ears as he seemed to appear from the shadows, “truly priceless.”
The amusement that gleamed his eyes didn’t sit right with me. Much like how I had never seen Lian angry before, I had never seen Daneel this happy. I wasn’t sure yet which of the two I preferred, maybe none of both if I had the choice.
“What do you want?” I asked, gripping my bedsheets tighter.
Daneel stalked closer. “You made the right choice by not telling him. I can’t have Mare leave early.”
So he did know. “What was even the purpose of this?”
“Now,” he said, leaning forward over de bed, the crown on his head glistering as it caught the light, “what would be the fun in telling you?”
“Give me false hope in preventing whatever you have planned.” I gritted my teeth. This game of his had been nastier then I had anticipated.
Straightening back up, he tapped his chin. “Tempting, but no.”
“Then what do you gain?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. “At least tell me that.”
His eyes turned to the ceiling as he thought, probably debating on what he could and couldn’t say. After humming to himself, Daneel sat down, crossing his legs before leaning over them. “My dear baby brother, I want him out of my way.”
“Why?” I asked, frowning.
“You see, Lian and I are only half-brothers,” he explained, waving his hand. “Our father never married, and when it became time to produce an heir he chose five pure Fae females to lay with. Two of those Fae eventually gave birth to me and Lian.” Daneel pinched his brow, as if the story irritated him. “Although it has always been said I was the oldest it has never been confirmed. Lian never shown much interest in the throne growing up, but if he were to suddenly feel the need to claim it no one would stop him. Father favored him after all, he wouldn’t hesitate.”
To say I wasn’t surprised by this would be a lie. Everyone knew the princes of the High Crystal Lands were born on the same day, some even believed a day apart, but that they did not share the same mother or that their exact time of birth wasn’t known was new information. The royal family of the Crystal Lands had always been more secretive than the other kingdoms, but because of their status not many questioned it.
However, it did explain much about their appearance. Lian’s mother must have been a Forest Fae whilst Daneel’s must have been more like the Original Fae. Or Daneel had taken more after his father than mother. It was certain Lian took after his mother.
“So you want Lian out of your way?” I asked. “But couldn’t you have done that by simply letting him fall in love with someone and sending him off with them?”
Daneel chuckled. “Perhaps that was my plan until you told me about yours, maybe it wasn’t.” A grin spread across his lips, taunting and chilling. “I’m not giving you more, work with what you have.”
Standing from the chair, Daneel made his way to the door, seemingly done with the conversation.
“Wait,” I called, stopping him right before he twisted the doorknob. “The Crest Sealing, what was the point of it?”
Turning back to me slowly, he tilted his head in a somewhat arrogant manner. “To learn your plans and keep you in place. Because whether these weeks turn out in your favor or not, you will not die and your people will never be truly free.”
His last words lay heavy in the air even after he had left. I hadn’t even heard the door close behind him. So much had happened in such a short time, enough that I could barely wrap my head around it. First the hallucination, now this. I wasn’t sure how, but all of it was connected. It had to be. What other reason could Daneel have to poison me? Other than to torture me for his pleasure.
Remembering that time I had been with Lian, I finally understood what had happened. The magic that had been performed on me must have been to either break or weaken the barrier. If Lian hadn’t stopped the user they might have never poisoned me. This was just a cruel medium to finish the job.
But that begged the question; why was there a barrier to begin with?
In my hallucination my mother had given me a potion to ‘forget’. What was she hiding? The dagger came back to mind, and so did the throbbing stab in my chest, almost making it hard for me to breathe. She killed someone. Someone I knew, someone I cared for, someone I was supposed to forget.
It still didn’t make any sense. Why did Daneel want me to remember this? Wasn’t he doing me more of a favor by opening my eyes rather than anything else? And how had any of this to do with getting rid of his brother?
My head ached from all of it. The questions and unknowing, but also from what I did know. The puzzle pieces were there, maybe not all, but enough to piece something together. Yet I couldn’t find the connections, or maybe I could but my head simply wouldn’t let me. The aching only started to get worse the more I thought about it. Even if I wanted to thoughts to stray, they couldn’t. Images kept flashing, pain kept returning, emotions kept swirling. All of it inside of me, and I had no power to stop it.
I couldn’t remember passing out, but I figured I must have. The moment I opened my eyes again it was the next morning, and everything around me was a little too quiet.