The unluckiest woman in all of Héa
Silence filled the vast chamber, a cloak of comfortable quietness falling on the shoulders of the two ladies occupying the room — one braiding the hair of the other. A quiet hum resounds around the space, the lady braiding the hair singing a soft tune as she completes her task. Adira closes her eyes, the feeling of the lady’s hands combing through her hair seeming to have a calming effect. She enjoyed moments like this, when all else was quiet, and she was able to forget about the troubles that reality always seemed to bring along. Sitting upright, her lips tilted up on their own accord, recognizing the soft melody the other lady was humming.
Opening just one eye she peers into the mirror, making eye contact with the one braiding her hair. “You have not sang that lullaby to me since I was a child. It is taking me back to the past, my mind is getting sleepy.”
Standing behind her, the lady chuckles at Adira’s comment, leaning over her to retrieve a delicate string to tie together the ends of her hair. “I am glad you remember it princess, I do miss those days when you were nothing but a carefree child running down the castle halls. Your highness was so very happy then.”
The lady tries to keep her tone light, but the tinge of melancholy did not go unnoticed by the princess, whom had her smile wiped away at the reminder of her present situation.
Indeed she was much happier when she was a child, as that was before she knew of her fate — a fate that had been long determined before her birth. The joyous atmosphere in the princess’ quarters existed no more, replaced with heavy silence. Tilting her head down towards her lap, she fiddled with her thumbs to keep her nerves at bay.
Only one more day.
One more day was all she had left before she was to be whisked away to a far away island, with no promise of ever seeing her loved ones again. By this time tomorrow, she will be situated at her new place — wherever that was.
The maid, who has long since finished with her hair, placed a gentle but comforting hand on the princess’ shoulders, giving her an encouraging smile. Despite the warmth she received, Adira could not manage to return a smile of her own, suddenly feeling her anxiety increase and her stomach fill with butterflies.
However she did not have the luxury to dwell on those feelings, as a knock sounded at her doors. Rising from her seat, Adira dismissed her maid with a wave, thanking her for her service. Her feet felt heavier as she scurried towards the entrance of her bedroom, feeling the pool of dread gather at the pit of her stomach. Opening the doors, she was greeted by one of the King’s officers.
“His royal highness requests her majesty down to the throne room.” With that simple instruction the officer turns on his heels, heading back the way he came without so much as a glance behind him. Adira trails behind him, all the while remaining quiet.
Arriving at the two great doors that stood looming over her, Adira drew in a deep breath from her nose and slowly expelled it through her mouth. She had little time to regain her composure as the doors were opened, letting the bright lights of the throne room blind her vision for just a moment.
Managing to place one foot in front of the other, she quickly arrives in front of the throne in the middle, the one that stood tall and proud amongst the others. Clearly, it was a seat designed for a king.
From her years of training, Adira knew the etiquette she must have when greeting the King, even if the one she was greeting was her father. Keeping her eyes trained on the floor, she only lifted her gaze once she heard someone clear their throat.
The King’s azul eyes met with her own, his gaze revealing nothing of his thoughts. There was an air of tension surrounding him, yet his mouth did not move. The silence prolonged for another minute, and Adira found it increasingly difficult to stay still under his scrutinizing gaze. Just as she could bear it no longer, he finally spoke, “Have you prepared everything for tomorrow?”
It was a simple question, yet Adira’s palms began to sweat, nervous of letting him down. With a short nod of her head she said, “Of course your highness. I have finished packing everything up today. I am told by my maids that my clothes have been packed.”
The King made no indication that he heard her words, keeping his gaze steady and masked. The room lapsed into silence again, the unease returning with it. Adira decided to shift her eyes away from the King and to the man sitting next to him, one hand on his chin and the other idly fiddling with a loose thread on his garment. To those looking on, he looked disinterested and bored. From a young age, Adira noticed how vastly different her and her brother looked. With light brown hair that almost seemed to turn blonde in the sunlight, it was a stark contrast to her raven black hair. If not for their similarly mismatched eyes, no one would have been able to guessed that they were related. Having one hazel and the other a light green with a hint of yellow, their eyes were the only discernable trait they both took from their mother.
“You will have one final meal with us later this afternoon. Besides that, you have no other duties to uphold. Go and give your final goodbyes to your mother.” The King’s commanding voice brought her attention back to him.
She bit her lip in order to stop herself from running her mouth and spewing foolish words. She did not know what she expected from her family as a last goodbye, but she felt silly expecting more of a reaction from her father. His stance remained poised and elegant on the throne, his face devoid of any emotion as he gazed upon his only daughter. In that moment she was desperate to get a glimpse inside his mind, to see if he felt any shred of guilt for sending her daughter away without so much as a hug.
At the same time the more rational part of her knew that he would never show her such affection — he never had. For as long as she could remember, he always kept a distance from her, refusing to acknowledge her unless he felt he needed to. Instead, he would give all of that attention to her brother, a man that learned to be just as heartless as her father was when it came to her. In fact, it was not just them that often gave her the cold shoulder. It seemed like from the minute she was born, everyone thought it to be pointless to respect her in the same way they respected the prince, who was the future heir of their kingdom. It was no secret to anyone that she was destined to be shipped away for marriage once she was of age.
Not just to anyone either — to Caine Velnius.
Even the mention of his name can sober up the most liveliest party. While Adira’s future husband was well known throughout the kingdom of Héa, it was an unspoken rule that his name shall never be uttered. Many believed in the rumour that the mere mention of his name will bring out a thousand years of misfortune. And yet she was bound to be married to this infamous man. One could say that she was the unluckiest woman in all of Héa, and many pitied her for it too. Living in an isolated island that shared a border with the Héa kingdom, Caine was regarded more as a cautionary tale for the children to learn from.
Reigning in her emotions and putting on a mask of indifference, Adira gave one final bow towards the King and the prince before stepping out of the room. Two maids who had been waiting for her outside, followed in her steps as she navigated through the familiar hallways, taking in everything as if she was seeing them for the first time. While her mind was occupied with worried thoughts, her body took control on its own and led her to her mother’s chambers.
A guard that was standing outside of the heavy oak doors sprung into action as Adira’s presence was detected. Entering into the dimly lit room, the faint smell of herbs wafted through the air, delivering a strange sense of ease to her frayed nerves. Taking a hesitant step closer to where the Queen lay, Adira knew her mother to be awake as she was told by her personal servant.
“I can tell just by your footsteps that it is my lovely daughter Adira.” The sweet words spoken by the Queen made Adira sprint the rest of the distance and envelop her mother in a hug, taking note of the frail frame she was holding in her arms.
Pulling away, Adira could not help but frown as she gazed upon her mother’s weakening form. Ever since she gave birth to Adira, the Queen remained bed-ridden, only able to come out for large events and gatherings.
‘Yet another reason why my father despises to see me.’ Adira thought, scowling at her own existence. To think that she robbed her mother of her chance to live a happy and healthy life, guilt consumed her.
The Queen caught onto her daughter’s guilty expression, as she quickly reached out for her hands. “Now what has gotten my precious daughter all upset? Does my appearance abhor you that much?” Her mother’s teasing tone broke Adira away from her reverie, and she fiercely shook her head.
Leaning in to hug her again, Adira said, “Of course not mother. I am just sad to see that the doctor’s medicine does not seem to be working as effectively as they promised.” Adira knew better than to lie to her mother, the only person who could always tell whether or not Adira spoke the truth.
Her smile unwavering admist the concern shown by her daughter, she gently patted the back of Adira’s hand as she softly replied, “It is not me who you should be worrying about my sweet child. I have already lived a life full of happy memories before the illness chained me to my bed. However it is you who I worry about more. Barely being able to experience the joy in life, you are now being sent away to live such a wretched and cruel life —”
“Do not worry about me mother, you taught me to be strong in the face of adversity. Whoever the man is, I am sure I will manage.” Offering her mother a tight-lipped smile, Adira forced away her tears to the back of her mind. She refused to show the true extent of her anguish to her already ill mother. If not for anyone else, Adira must be strong for the only person who has ever shown her real affection and love.
Letting out a sigh, the Queen turns her head away and gazes out the window, her black hair forming a makeshift halo around her face. Things remained silent between the two, but neither was in a rush to end the comfortable quiet that enveloped them. Adira took the time to study every feature of her mother’s face, imprinting them in her memories as she vowed to never forget the face of her mother.
The occasional clinking of cutlery against the plates were the only sounds that reverberated throughout the spacious dining room. The Varonis family was never a close one, exchanging at most small pleasantries to make up for the empty conversations. Putting down her fork, Adira made sure to swallow all her food before speaking up.
“Ahem. Thank you for the delicious meal. May I please be excused to head to my chamber early?”
The King briefly glanced over to her direction before refocusing his attention to the uncut meat on his plate. Giving a stiff nod, Adira took that as a sign of permission and hurried on out. Just as she made it outside of that suffocating room, she was stopped by a hand on her wrist. Glancing upwards to see who the hand belonged to, she felt her eyes narrow at the sight of her brother. Her brother mirrors her irritated expression, a cruel smirk on his face. While they rarely ever had the chance to converse, the few times they did were unpleasant experiences for Adira. He reminded her too much of her father.
With a crooked smile, Aziel looked down at Adira with a penetrating gaze, enjoying the brief flash of panic that passed through her eyes. Satisfied that he could still instil fear within her, he released her from his hold. Adira was quick to take a step back, putting a comfortable distance between them.
Taking a shaky breath she met his unwavering eyes. “What is the reason your highness?” Her voice came out controlled, hiding her disturbed state.
Aziel took a step closer, placing a hand against the wall as he leans in. His dry lips were a hair’s length away from her face, causing Adira to involuntarily recoil at his closeness. “So formal Adira. Come on, we’re siblings, is that any way to talk to your brother?”
Adira could not control the glare in her eyes as she scowled at Aziel. Placing both hands on his chest, she mustered up all her strength and pushed against him, expelling a relieved sigh as he backed away. Smoothing out any wrinkles from her gown, she goes to sidestep away from his towering figure.
Sparing him one last glance she says, “Half. You are only my half-brother Aziel.”
Adira felt a flurrying moment of victory as his smirk was quickly wiped away. Brows furrowed and eyes narrowing, he strikes out his hand and captures her frail wrist in a vice-like grip. Yanking her into his embrace, Aziel steadies her body by snaking an arm around her waist — his hold on her tightening. She struggled to get away, her heart beating frantically as her back collides with his chest.
While he had never physically hurt her before, there were many moments where he seemed close enough to get violent. Thinking that this was the moment where he finally snapped, she closed her eyes, allowing the darkness to provide her with a fleeting moment of comfort.
“Never talk back to me again sister.” His voice was venomous, Aziel almost hissing those words out as he releases the suffocating hold he had on her. Before she could completely break away, he placed a round object in her hand.
Opening up her hand, she took in the small oval shaped vial that fit in the palm of her hand. Due to the years, the once shining silver coating dulled out, with some parts starting to chip away. Adira could not hide her inquisitive nature at this foreign object. Flicking her attention over to her brother, his stony expression gave away no clues as to what this vial contained.
Deciding that quenching her curiosity was worth more than remaining angry at her Aziel, she hesitantly spoke, “What is in this brother?”
Aziel’s eyes softened a little at her term of endearment, but it was quickly replaced with a straight face. “It is a parting gift. I suppose that your life would become miserable once you leave this kingdom and into the arms of the devil himself. Thought that if you wanted to end your suffering you could use that as an option.”
His words were vague but she was sharp enough to understand. Looking at him with an incredulous gaze she said, “You brought me a vial of poison to use on myself?”
“You could probably use it on your future husband as well. Although I don’t know if that is enough to kill him.”
By now Adira was flustered by the conversation, taken aback at how nonchalantly he discussed her death. Anger consumed her, enraged at the cold expression of Aziel. “You want me to use this to kill my husband? I am not as heartless as you your highness.”
Aziel did not react to her biting words, only giving away a small smirk at her irate face. Brushing past her, he left her with a final statement, “Adira you are too naive for your own good. One day you will realize just how cruel the real world can be.”