Chapter 5 pt. B
I began developing a light headache as my indecisiveness was raging war inside my head. I put my head in my hands as I waited for one side to logic the other into submission. That is usually what happened when I had debates like this.
I just need to get forward with this. I need to get through this, and I can then be alone. I can think more about this when I’m alone. I just need to get through today. I just need to get through today.
“Chi Lucian,” A voice called from outside the tent, “it’s time.”
It’s time. Oh no, it’s time. I hurriedly brushed a few fly-aways from my face and behind my ears. My hat was crooked, so I adjusted it. In the corner of the room, there was a mirror, and I practiced my face. I had to convince myself that everything was going to be okay. I smiled a grand “I’m about to get married” smile at myself in the mirror. It seemed false. It appears my broken mood was affecting my public smile as well as my mentality. Whatever it would have to do. I’m just about to get married to my potentially murderous Fiancee in a few minutes, so I don’t have the time to perfect it.
I took in one final breath to compose myself, and I felt myself slip into my public appearance. In public, I smiled more, for one. I don’t know why. I don’t feel happier in the eyes of the public. It’s all just a facade. Perhaps it’s just a slap in the face for the village men. It’s like it’s reminding them that I have more, and therefore I’m happier. Somehow I doubt that’s the case. If it were the case, then I probably wouldn’t be worrying about getting assassinated. I probably wouldn’t be worried about anything.
I stepped outside of the tent, and I had a Sav on either side of me. While I was in the tent, a lot more people showed up. As I passed by, everyone fell quiet. They stared, and I felt like staring back. I refrained. I needed to look as good as possible today. I kept my eyes forward as I walked towards the caves behind the waterfall.
In the caves, we do the actual blood binding, but we make our promises in front of crowds. The noblemen tell the village men we would do the entire ceremony in front of them if we could, but blood binding is personal. It’s all a load of lies. Noblemen just don’t like being in the presence of village men. That’s how it’s always been, and that’s how it will always be. As we entered the cave, I held my breath. It was beautiful. No one had been in here, but it was still clean and pristine. There was moss on the cave walls and small flowers in the corners of the cave. The only thing that seemed to be touched by us was the podium made of stone in the center of the room.
I stood by the podium, waiting for Brinley. After I got to the cave, my Sav escorts left, so it was just me and the Ceremony Master, sitting in a room. He was a very wizened man. He had pristine white thinning hair. He wore dark robes as I did. He seemed so old he had probably seen my parent’s wedding.
Then everything seemed to get quiet, and Brinley walked into the cave. She was wearing the ceremonial dress. It was very long and flowy on her. It further accentuated her sprite-like features. Just as we had planned 3 weeks ago, her hair hung down with two small braids framing her face. I swear my heart skipped a beat, and I stopped breathing for a minute before I had to remind myself that she was potentially planning on murdering me.
“Chi Lucian, Aus Brinley, are we ready to begin the Ceremony?” The Ceremony Master asked the two of us.
I stared Brinley directly in her eyes. I wanted her to know that I wouldn’t forget what she did. Brinley looked to the ground after a few moments.
“Yes, we are ready,” I responded.
“Alright,” The Ceremony Master began.
I continued to stare at Brinley. My distaste for her soon became apparent so I had to stop. She couldn’t be waiting for what would potentially go down tonight. I can’t tip her off. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and relaxed. I soon smiled a little at Brinley. She seemed a bit confused but understood the nature of it so she smiled back.
“Before we continue with the Ceremony, you must both understand how it came to be,” He continued, “A long time ago when the world was new, two beings came forth. One from the sea and one from the sky. While they were allowed in each other’s domains they met each other on the earth. For years and years, they were together on the earth. They didn’t age and they didn’t hate it. During those years they cared for the earth, and it grew plentiful fruits. Their lives were perfect, they could stay this way for eternity but it didn’t happen. Centuries into their rendezvous a glowing white entity appeared before them. The entity told the two to return to their own domains or face consequences. They didn’t want to return to the sky or the sea because over the years they had fallen in love.
The entity returned to issue a warning, but they were ready for it. They faced the entity proudly and told it that they would face whatever happened together. The entity was saddened for these beings were her creations. She knew what she had to do and she did it. The entity left the two with a frown and the beings celebrated their victory over the entity. A victory, so they thought. In reality, it was not the victory they expected. As the sunset in the evening, the being from the sky and the being from the sea bid their farewells and returned to their domains.
Or at least they tried. They soon realized that they could not return to their homes and were stuck on the earth. They both cried and begged for the entity to allow them back into their homes because they hadn’t expected repercussions such as this. The entity was silent. The being from the sky and the being from the sea wanted to be together and so they shall. They will be together on the earth, always. The beings cried to the entity for many days and nights before it became clear that it wasn’t going to answer.
Soon they calmed themselves and returned to each other. Both had the sad news of not being able to return. Many years went by and the being from the sky and the being from the sea stayed together. The being of the sky bore many children, and they all lived together on the earth. They were happy. That is until they found out about the second part of the entity’s curse. Their skin sagged and wrinkled. Their sight of the world began to fade. They soon couldn’t hear the sound of the brook nearby. Their eternal beauty faded into a memory. It horrified the two beings.
They returned to the spot where the entity first appeared and begged for it to return once again. They recognized what was happening to them. It happened to the plants in the cold. Their green turned to brown as they withered and died. They were now like plants. They were mortal.
The entity appeared before them, and they bowed before it. They praised the entity and begged for forgiveness. They promised the entity to return to their domains. The entity thought about it and told them they could continue to live as long as they banished their children into their own domains. This offer silenced the two. Being in domains was a lonely life they didn’t want for their children. They accepted their mortality, but the being of the Sea lowered its head and added something that made the entity pause. It told the entity that all they wanted was to be with each other forever. The entity took pity on the two lovers and left them with two words. Bind together. For many years the beings tried everything to bind themselves together. Each time the entity came back to tell them to bind together, but one time it left with three more words of advice. Bind together as your children.
The children were bound by blood. Immediately the beings knew exactly what to do. They found a rock, sliced their wrists, and bled into a bowl. When the bowl was full, they both sipped and were officially bound by blood. Before long, death overtook both of them, but they returned to a new world called Unulus.
The entity had given them what they wished for. Eternal life, together, in a new world. As the years went by, their children slowly returned to them because they were, like their parents, bound together by blood.”
I let out a breath. They don’t teach us this story until you get married. I had never known about anything other than Unulus. I guess the ritual makes a lot more sense now. Everything about this makes more sense.
“Chi Lucian,” The Ceremony Master calls, and I get chills down my back, “your hand, please.”
I give him my hand, and I wince when he pulls out a knife longer than my hand. It was a very decorated knife, and at least it looked cleaner than a rock. He held my hand over a dish and pressed the knife deep into my palm. In a single breath, he sliced it, and blood began pooling in my palm.
I began breathing heavily as my hand felt the sharp sensation of the cut. The Master took my hand and turned it so the blood would drip out of my palm and into the dish. I tried to look away from the sight but I couldn’t. The sight of the blood dripping out of my hand was mesmerizing. Before long, it was just single drops falling from my palm. When that happened, the Master pressed a white fabric into my palm and took Brinley’s palm. Brinley looked green from the sight. Maybe it was seeing my palm bleeding into the dish or the thought of bleeding into the dish herself, or maybe it was just the thought of drinking our combined blood. All options were plausible.
The bloody knife dug deep into Brinley’s palm, and with one fluid motion, her skin was cut. Like me, blood was pooling in her hands. Brinley did what I could not. She looked away. She could bring herself to look at the blood dripping out of her hand and into the bowl filled with my crimson blood.
Before long, the flow in her hand was trickling out, and the Master handed her a piece of fabric to stop the blood flow. From behind the podium, he pulled out a long wooden spoon and dipped it in the blood. He slowly brought the spoon round and round in slow circles. The flow wasn’t like water, and it made me sick. It is almost mixed like frothy milk. I could feel my stomach churning, and I urged myself not to get sick.
“We call upon you, great entity. We call upon you to bind these faithful servants together. So that they might live with each other in life and that they will find one another in death. We call you to bless them with health, strength, and patience. Please, take these two young souls into your care. Oh, Great One, I ask that you bless them,” The Master finished his prayer and dipped his hands into our blood.
First, he reached for me. It took all I had not to flinch away from him. With our blood on his finger, he traced the symbol for ambition on my forehead. I had to take several deep breaths not to wipe it from my forehead as it seemed to be dripping.
He dipped his finger in the bowl again and reached for Brinley. I watched as he traced the symbol for opulence.
Ambition and opulence. Like that couldn’t go wrong.
“Oh entity, we show our respect and reverence to you by doing your bidding so long ago. Your two noble servants will bind themselves by the blood of each other.”
The Master took the dish of our blood and poured it into two chalices. I tried to get past how thick it was as he poured it into the cup. He handed the two of us the cups and I wondered if it was even worth it to drink the blood. It had made sense beforehand but thinking of it now? I was absolutely disgusted at the mere thought.
I looked at the liquid in the cup that had once been flowing in our hands. I had to drink this. I lifted it as a toast and then tilted it back so I could just get it over with. Brinley did the same thing. I tried to get past how thick it was and how metallic it tasted but it was the warmth that really got me. It was warm and it made me want to spit it out. I pushed through and downed my cup.
It was over. I didn’t have to drink any more blood. I needed wine, or anything to get this taste out of my mouth.
“Is that it?” Brinley asked and her voice seemed hoarse.
“That’s it,” The Ceremony Master concluded.
We gave him a slight nod and walked out of the cave. When we emerged there was thunderous applause. People were applauding one of the most awful experiences I’ve ever been through. And for what? Now I’m eternally sealed to a woman who cheated on me for over a year.
And now for possibly the next most painful thing on the itinerary. Brinley and I will confess our eternal love in front of the entire Shire. How exciting?
I grabbed her hand as we walked to the wedding arch. The crowd fell silent as we faced one another. I grabbed her other hand. I had to go first. I knew I had to.
“Brinley. I remember seeing you for the first time,” I knew I was just pulling stuff out of my head but they didn’t know that, “You had flowers everywhere. They were in your hair, tucked behind your ears, in your dress, just everywhere.” I laughed and forced a fake smile.
These people would love my vows. They would love them and we would be their favorite couple but they wouldn’t know our deepest issues. They wouldn’t know how we lied to each other. They wouldn’t understand how we could have issues. We were deep in love with each other. How could we proclaim how much we love one another if it wasn’t the truth. These people don’t know how we lie. We lie quickly and we lie emotionlessly. It’s part of our lives. It’s so far ingrained into our lives that it’s in our genetics. You can never trust a Nobleman to tell you the truth. You can never trust a nobleman to tell anyone else the truth. You cannot trust a nobleman. Period.
“From the moment I first saw her I knew how lucky I was.” Lie. “I had known that my father was going to arrange a marriage.” Another lie. “When they told me the beautiful girl in the corner was going to be my wife I thought I was dreaming.” Truth.
That just shows you how much people lie to make things sound good to the public. Everything we say is perfectly orchestrated to appeal to the public. Our whole lives are orchestrated to appeal to the public. My marriage is orchestrated to appeal to the noblemen in our Shires. Everything around me is false. It’s all just a sham.
I went on and on about how perfect we were for each other but I kept thinking back to the poem I had written in the Ball.
She is the light in the dark
I’m the dark in her light
Whispers destroy their images
Tiny words dig chasms between one another
Eyes burn holes in their intricate filings
She runs far and wide
Spreads her gift so all the world can see
I undo her light
Inked black lines swirl in her iridescence.
So raise a glass to the beautiful Bride
Raise a glass to the built upon love
Raise a glass to a hopeless boy in love
Raise a glass to the life that they shall live
Even if their story is built on a lie
They make no sense
They have nothing that they share
And that’s what makes them flawless
Because no one else is there
They were sent to be
Each other’s other half
To a negative
They don’t make sense
I say the wrong things
She bends my words
They hurt each other’s hearts
But they belong together
Because we share our same soul
And they are faultless with each other
Because they chose one another
She is the light in the dark
I’m the dark in her light
And together they are grey
In the poem, I went on and on about how awful and how different we were from each other. Perhaps I was on to something when I wrote it like that. Today has been a revealing day for me. I have learned everything I never wanted to know and more from everyone. As I continued my lies for the public I had one final thought to end my vows to Brinley on. And when your time runs out, I’ll be right there beside you.
“Basically what I’m trying to say, is that when your time runs out I’ll be right there beside you,” I concluded.
Brinley smiled graciously at me. She turned to the crowd, “I know I cannot top Lucian’s poetic words. I really need to stop letting him go before me.”
The crowd laughed just like they were supposed to.
“Lucian, when my father told me he found a husband for me, I won’t lie to you, I cried. I broke down and cried in my room for days. When I met you it shined a little light on my dreary situation. It started a little voice inside of me that whispered that I was going to be okay. I could make this work.”
“It was a small voice and I suppressed it for a long time. It was a hope that I didn’t want to indulge because I had convinced myself I would be miserable for the rest of my life. Slowly and surely you made me laugh. You made me laugh and I always felt comfortable with you. I know that sometimes you don’t believe it but I love you.”
She is taking a big risk. Telling them, no not even telling them, letting on that we might not be perfect is a risk.
Brinley pulled out of my hands and turned to her parents who were shaking their heads slightly.
“I’m not going to lie to all of you. Lucian and I are not perfect. We aren’t a match made in heaven.” She continued.
What is she doing? Is she trying to get them to hate us?
“We fight. We fight a lot. Recently I hurt Lucian by lying to him but he’s still standing next to me. We are still married now,” She pauses and breaks in a giant smile as she looks back at me, “because we love one another. We love one another and we are willing to work through our issues for each other.
I’m just thinking of the poem that Lucian wrote for the Masquerade Ball a week ago and one stanza always comes to mind.
They don’t make sense
I say the wrong thing
She twists my words
They hurt each other’s hearts
I hurt Lucian’s heart today and I would just like to say that I’m really sorry in front of everyone. And I would like to say that I love him and I’m glad he still married me today. Also, I would like to steal a line from Lucian’s vows because it’s so lovely. When your time runs out, I’ll be right there beside you because that is a promise I’m making and that is a promise I intend to keep.” And just like that Brinley stole the show.
People stand as they applaud us. Brinley is the only person I have ever heard who openly shared details about our relationship with the public. Brinley is a lot of things but she is most certainly bold. I overlooked the crowd and one person caught my eye. My father. I met his stare and I was afraid that somewhere I messed up. I wasn’t convincing enough. People saw through my act. Then he nodded and all the tension was relieved in my chest. I had gotten through today. I was okay.
After everything, we got pushed through all the people back into the carriages together. It was only Brinley and me since we required no guardian now that we were married.
As soon as the door closed Brinley looked at me and held my hands in hers.
“Lucian, are you okay?” She breathed.
I closed my eyes for a minute and really thought about it? Was I okay? I’m not sure. I still was nauseous from the Ritual and my head was spinning from the crowd.
I nodded and Brinley didn’t let go of my hands.
“Are we okay?”
I understood what she was asking. Me marrying her wasn’t enough of a show of romance to tell her we were okay. I could have just been doing it for my Shire.
“Yes. We are okay,” I responded.
Brinley and I were quiet on the way back to the Fortress. We were quiet as we walked to our room. It was only in the shroud of darkness when we acknowledge one another. As the pale moonlight peeked through our window I moved closer to her. Brinley was sitting at her vanity undoing her braid. I pulled a stool up behind her and gently undid her braids as I was careful to place the flowers in a pile. When that task was done we faced each other plainly. And then we were together. I kissed her once again like I did before I knew everything. I kissed her like we never had any trouble and perhaps at that moment we didn’t.
In the blanket of darkness, no one could see us so we acted as such. Brinley hurriedly pushed off my jacket, carelessly discarding it on the floor. My hands were in tangles of her hair as I braced her head.
This moment was one I had dreamed of having with Brinley. A moment where it wasn’t just stolen quick kisses in brief time periods when no one was looking. It was a moment where I could be as slow and deliberate as I wanted to be. No one had to stop us anymore. We were bound together and this was just right. I kissed her jawline slowly. My hair began to frame my face as Brinley pulled it out of the low ponytail it was in.
We were standing right next to our bed. One move and I could take this a step further but I didn’t get that chance. Brinley laughed at my overeagerness and pulled away. She stepped toward the open window and looked out of it. She almost seemed to glow like the waterfall we got married under in the bright moonlight. I stood behind her and began undoing the laces of her outer dress.
“We have all night Lucian, wouldn’t you like to stand here with me for a minute.” Brinley stood staring out at a kingdom that could have been ours.
“Of course,” I kissed her neck lightly.
I slowly counted out 60 in my head and swept Brinley away from the window.
“Lucian!” She squealed excitedly.
I leaned in for a rougher kiss than previously. When I pulled away I couldn’t hide a smirk from dancing across my face.
“It had been more than a minute,” I grinned.
I slowly walked her back up against the bed.
“What am I going to do with you?” Brinley rolled her eyes.
“Well.” I started.
“Oh shush. Undo my corset?” Brinley turned around.
I woke up later that night in a cold sweat. I looked around the room with a feverish gaze. It took me a minute to realize that the room I was in was indeed my own. Next to me, Brinley was laying on our bed in a Chemise. I was hardly wearing anything at all but I was still sweating. I got out from under the covers. Our room was cold and there was a breeze blowing in through the open window.
I walked towards it and looked out of it. Brinley was standing here a few hours earlier looking at the same moon but the moon was setting. I pushed away from the window. I don’t need thoughts of Brinley right now.
If only I would have gone back to sleep right then. If I really tried I probably could have. I might have stopped myself from doing something I would soon regret. I should have gone back to sleep. I should have gotten in bed and went back to sleep. If only I had.
Instead, I kept walking around the room and looking at all the things I had never seen in my room before. A vanity filled with powders and scents. A wardrobe filled with clothes and not just ink and charcoal. All of these things were Brinley’s. I looked back at Brinley and immediately my entire face flushed red. She had fallen asleep right after we, um. Yeah. I couldn’t. I stayed up for a while afterward. I continued smiling. I was married to her. I was married now.
I should have gone to sleep.
That name. That stupid freaking name. That 7 letter name made me freeze. It made me stop pacing around my room. I stopped mid-stride and looked back at Brinley.
She wasn’t yours. She never will be. She’ll always be-.
“Atticus’,” I breathed.
It always goes back to that one person. For every time I’ve kissed her, he’s probably kissed her with more passion. He had been with her for 3 years. I had been with her for 1 year and 5 months. And we had an overlap year so technically she’s only been with me and only me for five months.
It all starts like this, Lucian. She will lull you into a false sense of security. You guys get married, have a baby, and whatnot. When the current ruler passes away, she strikes. She’ll kill you when you are least expecting it. She will be set for life. As the only ruler, she can give Fyn’s land to Cadia and enhance her family’s personal finance. She’ll steal the Shire’s wealth. And she’ll have an heir. You will have set her up and she won’t need you anymore, Lucian.
The voice quoted my uncle and it made me stop. The voice hadn’t been wrong so far. Brinley. Brinley was lying to me. She had been lying to me for over a year. It told me that. Perhaps. No, it can’t.
She cannot be that good a liar. Brinley cannot lie that well. I can’t even lie that well to convince an entire nation. She couldn’t have been lying in our vows. That’s just not possible. It can’t be possible.
But then again the signs are all there. Cadia is the biggest Shire out of them all. Why? Because they take the land. It’s what they do. Fyn is the biggest Shire for miles. How could I have been so stupid? She’s after our land.
She’ll lull you into a false sense of security.
She did. I was aware and she did it again. She did it again. That manipulative little Aus. I looked at her sleeping on the bed. She looked so peaceful and innocent but it was all a ruse. It was a facade to convince gullible idiots like me. This life was a game and she was outplaying everyone. She was outmaneuvering everyone. If I wasn’t careful I’d be another one of her fatalities.
Unless you get to her first.
No. I can’t kill her. I can’t. That’s not me.
She is manipulating you.
Still, I can’t. She’s my wife. I love her.
She doesn’t care about you.
She’ll kill you when you are least expecting it.
She won’t need you anymore.
I reached up the wall and pulled my sword off its post. Somehow I thought I could intimidate it into being quiet. I took the sword and pointed it at my own chest.
I will do it.
The sword clattered to the floor and I winced. I quickly looked back and made sure Brinley hadn’t woken up. She hadn’t so I picked it up again. I looked back at Brinley.
I walked over to Brinley. She looked peaceful as she slept. I brushed her hair out of her face. I can’t.
She will never love you. As soon as she’s done with you, she will kill you just to be rid of you. You need to do it while you still can.
It can’t be true. Can it?
You need to do it, Lucian.
I reached forward with my sword. Moonlight glinted off the blade in the darkness. I caught a glimpse of my own reflection. I looked absolutely haunted. I touched the blade to her chest, but it wasn’t hard enough to make an incision.
Do it, Lucian.