Chapter 10 pt A
The last entry in my father’s journal wouldn’t leave my head. I thought about it all the time. I tried to forget. I really did.
My whole life I struggled with my anxiety and paranoia. Knowing my father was behind all of it, didn’t make it better. He really thought that he could pin all our family’s shame on me. One fell swoop. If I was out of the way, he could continue to live out his life in luxury until he died. Maybe he figured that I wouldn’t live long enough to find out about it. Or if I did find out, I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
Well, I could. I can keep myself together. I wouldn’t go on a mental break because that’s exactly what he’s been waiting for all these years. He really thought he could beat me? I am him. He can’t hide from me. That whole year my mom and my father worried about what they would give me. I can tell you exactly what they gave me. My mother was right. The paranoia made me strong. My father was also right. The paranoia would ruin my life. It all happened in a single day. My entire world turned upside down in one day.
I woke up late in the morning. I stayed up late last night. Brinley did as well. I stayed up late reading the journal, and perhaps ruining my life even more than before. I don’t really know what Brinley was doing. She was just sitting in the bed, staring at the fireplace in the sitting room. It was a little unsettling, I wasn’t going to lie.
I think she stayed up later than I did. I guess it made sense because she was still sleeping in the bed next to me. She never was sleeping longer than I was. She must have had a really long night. Despite being angry with my father, I was in a pretty good mood. Maybe it was the fact that all my life I thought that one day I was going to lose control. I always felt pressured by my father. Now that I know it’s because he’s trying to sabotage my reign, I can ignore it easier. I peaked out the window and the sun was already in the sky. Despite the leafless trees outside, it looked warm. It seemed like a good day.
Maybe after the council meeting, I can take Brinley on a walk outside the castle. I’ve been trying a lot harder lately. I had so many epiphanies about my marriage in the past few days that I’ve forgotten what they have all been for. Instead of remembering to make sure I follow the epiphanies, I’ve just been trying to be an all-around, good husband.
That means I haven’t seen Cersei. She moved into the castle last week. I met her again, one morning when my father called me to come downstairs to meet a new guest. I think she was just as surprised to see me again as I was to see her.
Every morning she calls for me to show her around the castle. Every morning I make some excuse to avoid her.
I’ve started seeing Ronin again. It took me about a week to build up the guts to see him. When I finally did go see him, I think he was more excited to see the Guitar. I explained what had happened and Ronin was mad. He was furious, really. I didn’t blame him. Still, he told me that if I gave him a little bit of time and space then he could come to forgive me. I’m still working for his forgiveness. I can tell, but we do talk to each other every day. I don’t think things are going to be the same between us. Still, I can try.
I hadn’t heard the voice in weeks. Not since it told me to leave the Fortress. Immediately my mind turned to the prophecy that Genevieve had written. It couldn’t be the thing that’s missing? Could it? My heart started pounding. If it was the thing missing then that meant someone else knew what was happening. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. I wasn’t even ready for my wife to know.
I opened the drawer that I hid the tiny sheet of parchment in. I sighed audibly when I saw that it was still in its original place. Before pulling the sheet of paper out, I checked to make sure that Brinley was still sleeping. Every once in and while I would take out the Prophecy and read it again. I have it memorized at this point but I still read it. It never fails to send shivers down my spine. I don’t want it to happen. I have to read it to remind myself what happens if I lose it.
As the sun pulls away from the earth, the stirring shall begin. All things evil will rise with their taunting whispers. There will be no escape. Unless you leave into her cold clutches. Madness will descend and destroy all in her path.
3 children shall live a life eventful. Eventful and brief. There is hope until their last breath is spoken. But hope is fleeting and will escape at the smallest gust in the wind. All can be undone before you are condemned. If that cannot happen I see four graves in your future. 1 for each child and the last one barren. Fore six feet under is a hope that isn’t waiting for you.
The stirring will be the savior or the downfall. A single choice on the shoulders of the hero in this tragedy. A hero no one could predict. Or a villain, as they are one and the same by the perspectives of the people. Choose correctly and this tragedy will end in a brief stint of light. Choose the wrong answer and your choice will haunt you. The tragedy will repeat its depressing story. Death will follow for generations if the hero doesn’t choose correctly.
There is no happiness here. The great tree will fall and you must let it. It is the path with the least pain but the most hardship. For you shall meet again. You shall meet again and this tale will end the way it’s supposed to. The blood must end or it will never stop pouring.
The cycle must end.
Do this and the cycle will end.
Do this and you will feel pain.
Do this to save the tree by burning it down.
Do this as the storm rages.
Do this and the stirring will quiet.
The cycle must end.
As I read the small parchment again I noticed something. One of the last lines was “the cycle must end”. I’ve heard that before. I sat back down on the bed and furrowed my brows in thought. Where have I heard that before?
Carelessly I threw the paper down on my nightstand and dug through the drawer to get the second thing I kept in there. The blue journal. There was a line as he signed off in the last entry I read. It was the last one, it was about me. I flipped through the aged papers filled with ink and tears until I got to the page I left off on.
Sure enough, there was the line.
I needed to build up his paranoia and his anxiety until he does something damning. That is how I will save our lives. Lucian must end the cycle.
My father was talking about his plan to set me off. The question was “were the two things correlated?” Was it just a coincidence? My father was talking about ending the cycle of the royals dying young. Was it possible that the Prophecy was talking about the same thing? I picked up the iniquitous paper and looked through the words for a second meaning. Isn’t that what Genevieve had said? I shouldn’t take most of the prophecy at face value? Might it be deeper than that?
The parchment constantly mentioned a great tree. I think that must be one of the things that were a metaphor for something. Well, what does a tree stand for? Genevieve said it was for family or life or peace or something like that.
My head sank into my chest as I began formulating an awful theory. A tree, like a family tree. They mentioned the tree burning and falling. Just like my father was trying to do.
No. No. I’m being paranoid. This is too much of a coincidence. My father didn’t know Genevieve very well. She didn’t plant the idea in his head. That is not what the prophecy means. I’m reaching. I need to find a working theory.
I could feel my heart beating fast in my chest. What was I supposed to do with this? I interlaced my fingers and rested my head against them. I needed to calm down. I wasn’t going to be able to make a decision like this. I just need to set them out into steps. Break it down so it’s manageable. The first step, I need to put these papers back. If I leave them out like this, Brinley could wake up and find them.
I took the journal and the sheet of parchment and placed them on the nightstand. I could feel a slight tremor in my hand. I was terrified, but I couldn’t let it show. This morning I had a council meeting. The first rule in politics is to never let your weaknesses show. If I let the council know I was visibly shaken then that could only fuel the fire for my eviction. I can hear my father’s words echo in my mind. “A good ruler needs to be strong. You are weak and a coward. The Throne is not fit for you.”
I remember talking to the servants about the things that he said to me. They told me it was simply just a motivation to be better. Maybe I believed them the first few times but nothing ever seemed to be enough for him as I grew older. Now it all makes sense. It was never a motivation for me, it was always my father trying to push me off the edge of sanity.
He wanted me to slip up. He put immense pressure on my shoulders because he wanted me to crack and break.
He was supposed to teach me how to be good. He failed. I could feel my eyes start to water and I had to stop dwelling on this topic. It would only incapacitate and distract me.
I thought for a moment before deciding to read the last entry in this journal second. I wouldn’t read it before the council meeting because if it was anything like the last entry, it would unsettle me. Perhaps my father wrote down his plan to overthrow me. If I know his plan, then I’ll know how I can thwart it.
Fourth? I go back to our tower. I find Brinley and we enjoy whatever time we have left. Yes. That is what I’ll do. I’ll be okay. All these things aren’t happening today. I don’t have to fix them all today. I will be fine.
As I was calmed down at the moment, I decided to get dressed. As I was putting on my shirt, I became overwhelmed with a feeling of longing. I missed my old life. I missed my tower and living with Ronin. I missed us being best friends. I missed not knowing everything about Brinley’s past. I missed being blissfully unaware that I had a ticking clock on my head. Honestly, I missed being spooked by the voices in my head.
Now when they speak to me, my immediate reaction is “What do they want now?”
My life was so messed up. Everything hit rock bottom in these past few months. I’ve destroyed every single relationship I’ve had. It seems that the more I’m learning, the more I’m alienating the people around me.
I got lost in my head. I don’t know how long I was standing in front of the wardrobe, just staring at it. Nothing was right about the situation I was in. It made me wonder how I could have possibly thought that I was going to have a happy life.
The only thing that pulled me out of my head was a quick and sharp knock on my door. Before answering, I quickly wiped a tear from my eye.
“Come in,” I responded quickly but then thought better of it, Brinley was still sleeping. “Actually, I’ll come to you.”
I grabbed a coat from out of my closet and walked outside of my bedroom. Outside my door were Ronin and Andromeda. I hadn’t seen Andromeda in a while. I never had the courage to face her after missing their wedding. She could be a little terrifying when she got angry.
I felt shame, pure sharp shame, “Hi Ronin. Andromeda.” I greeted them both.
Ronin had a cheerful smile on his face, “Just making sure you are awake. Today is an important day, Lucian.”
Ronin’s expression was cheerful and I was happy for him. I’ve hardly ever seen him with anything less than a smile on his face since he got married. I envied him. He didn’t seem to have the problems I had. I was happy for him, of course, but I still envied him.
Andromeda smiled politely at me. I couldn’t tell if she meant it. Even for all the years, I’ve known her, I don’t know anything about her. Maybe she was a pathological liar like the rest of us or maybe she was like Ronin. Sweet and innocent, couldn’t lie to save her life.
“Ronin are you sitting in with this one?” I asked.
Ronin’s grin got wider like he was so proud of himself. He probably was and had every right to be. After all, he did pull himself out of the gutter that was poverty. As long as he was married to Andromeda, he or his family would never know the torment of hunger again. “They are letting me sit in.” He looked so happy. It was a feeling that seemed nearly foreign to me. Everything in my life was so full of despair. Even the outside world was grey and dreary. “I think I want to be a Councilman.”
I perked up at this. Did he want to be a Councilman? I could work this in my favor. If Ronin befriends a majority of the council, he could easily convince them that I was a suitable ruler. I would have my power back from my father.
I painted a smile on my face, “I think that’s a wonderful idea, Ronin. I’m so happy for you.”
The voice was soft and repeated itself once again. It never repeated itself unless it was important. Obviously, this was something I needed to figure out.
I smiled at Ronin once again and he flinched. He flinched. I was hardly noticeable. It was barely there but it was there. Immediately it took me back to that first morning that I saw him after my wedding. I yelled at him. I called him selfish. I wonder if that stuck with him. I thought back to what had happened. Our argument had started quickly and it had ended just as quickly. I hadn’t thought about it in a while. In fact, I’m pretty sure I nearly forgot it happened.
“It’s my life, Ronin! Not yours! I’m not going to sit her dying because I don’t trust Genevieve. I’m not going to sit here because I don’t like the risk. If I die twice as quick, oh well. At least I’m not going to suffer as long. If I get cured, great! You don’t seem to understand, Ronin. I don’t care.” I spit at him.
“I care about you! I don’t want you to die because of some faulty witch potion. I’m not the only one. The Fortress is full of people who care about you.”
“Stop being selfish.”
“I’m the selfish one? I’m selfish for wanting to keep you alive?” Ronin’s voice rose with mine.
“Yes, you are selfish. I feel like I’m going insane because in my head I have a little voice whispering to me to do horrible things. I don’t want to have to listen to it but I can’t get rid of it. I get throbbing headaches. I’m in pain all the time. So yeah I’d rather go through 6 months of that rather than 12.”
Ronin stayed quiet as he contemplated my words.
“Go get me, Genevieve.”
“No,” He whispered.
I walked deliberately over to Ronin. I stood before him and he had his head hung. He knew he had made a mistake.
Bring Genevieve to me. That is an order.” I spit the words out sharply.
“She will be the one to kill you, Chi Lucian. I hope you realize that.”
You know, both Ronin and my father thought Genevieve was a fake. I wonder if they were right. Some evidence is stacking against her. If she’s really a fake then that means her prophecy is fake as well. That means my father’s journal and the false prophecy couldn’t be related. Wouldn’t that be a life?
I don’t really know what to believe. I keep getting told two different things. My mother believed in Genevieve. My father and Ronin didn’t believe in her. Maybe if it was only my father who didn’t believe in her, I would believe her just out of spite.
The issue is that Ronin, whom I’ve trusted for years, doesn’t believe in her. What am I supposed to do with that?
Before leaving my room I looked back through the cracked door. Brinley was soundly sleeping. She looked peaceful. I was happy for her.
I closed the door on the way out. Best not to disturb her if she was still sleeping. Together we walked down the hallways. No one was out and around because of the chill that was in the walkways. This winter was shaping up to be a cold one. Even with the sun out and shining this morning, it seemed nearly frigid in the hallways. Even the jacket I was wearing couldn’t seem to keep out the chill. I was colder than usual. I couldn’t understand how Andromeda and Ronin weren’t feeling it.
“So, Lucian, how are you and Brinley doing? I haven’t seen you both in a while.” Andromeda asked.
I paused for a minute. Brinley hadn’t been seeing Andromeda? She told me she had been. I don’t understand why she would lie to me. Especially about something as little as visiting her friend. But the more pressing issue was, where had she been? After the attack nearly four months ago we have been under lockdown. Everyone is supposed to be accounted for. For this to happen, I need to know where she is so I can keep her safe.
You’re still lying to her, doesn’t she deserve to keep a few secrets?
I suppose that is a point. I am hiding a big part of my life from her and shouldn’t she get to feel the same. But still, shouldn’t she have told me? After all, we are husband and wife.
Shouldn’t you tell her about your secret?
No that’s different.’
Aren’t you still husband and wife with your secrets?
No, it’s not
I’m keeping her blissfully unaware.
The voice in my head didn’t respond again so I figured that I won that round.
“I suppose we are doing well. We went through a bit of a rough patch but we are back to where we were before.” I responded nonchalantly.
Andromeda accepted my response and turned straight ahead. I couldn’t tell if she really believed it or not. I hope she did. I don’t think I slipped up when lying again.
The first rule of lying: add in an embarrassing half-truth or something that you wouldn’t necessarily want to share. If you do so and open yourself up to vulnerability then the person you are lying to is more likely to believe you. After the half-truth, you add your lie. It has to be believable or you are going to get called out.
After years of lying to my father, I have honed my skill.
“Yeah, Andromeda is right I haven’t seen you or Brinley for a while there. Like from the time after your wedding to my wedding. What happened there?” Ronin asked.
I really wish we would drop this subject.
Lying to Andromeda is one thing. I don’t know her very well. I don’t know how she feels about liars. I do know Ronin. I know exactly what he thinks of lying and lying to him requires a lot of forethought. It’s draining, to be honest. I don’t like doing it.
Ronin is like a human lie detector. He practically lived on the streets before he became a servant to the Fortress. He had to learn when people were lying so he could point out a bad deal a merchant was trying to give him. No one else here had to do that so we don’t know how to see through lies. You would have thought a Fortress full of Liars would be able to recognize if they are being lied to. You would think, but no. We don’t have the attention span to learn the tics.
“Um, I don’t know. I think we were both just in moods.”
When lying to a person who knew how to point out lies, be vague. Make sure you don’t have a lot of details so you don’t give yourself up if you slip on a fact or item.
Ronin frowned, undoubtedly worried that he and Andromeda would go through the same thing, “Oh that sounds awful. What did you do to get over it?”
Also, you need to make sure you are as truthful as possible.
“I suppose we just tried to remember what kind of things we liked doing together.” I shrugged.
I was trying to appear as nonchalant as possible. Inside, I was just really worried that he would call my bluff and tell me that my marriage wasn’t fixed.
It was the truth after all. My marriage wasn’t fixed. It was far from it. We were trying to mend things, however. It definitely was taking some time so in public, we act as if we are okay. People believe it.
“Sorry, you went through all of that. It sounds awful.” Ronin responded.
Ronin had an odd tone in his voice. Something was up with him. He kept looking at me like I was supposed to have caught on to something. He wanted to get my attention, that much was apparent. Ronin knows just how much I can pick up on. He definitely didn’t want to draw Andromeda’s attention to the fact that he wanted mine. If he didn’t care that we were speaking in front of his wife he would have just audibly said so.
I nonchalantly studied Ronin, looking for something, some sort of sign. He kept still and normal. Way too normal. He knew what I was doing and was making sure I wouldn’t get ripped off by some little thing he was unconsciously doing. All was good and well except for the fact that I have no idea what I’m supposed to do when I get said sign.
Andromeda kept her eyes trained in front of her. She was upset about something. It wasn’t like her to be so stoic. Maybe Ronin is having issues with his marriage as well and that’s why he was asking me about mine. No that couldn’t be it.
They were being too comfortable with each other to have been lying about how close they were together. As an experienced liar about relationships, there is still a lingering bitterness between the two. It’s just human nature. Maybe it is shoulders that are slightly too stiff or not being able to hold eye contact for long enough or holding it for too long. There is always a tell. Andromeda and Ronin were fine. She was mad about something else.
It was probably about not seeing Brinley be honest. As a Per, Andromeda doesn’t really have a role set out in stone. Her position is very flexible. She could spend all her time with Brinley or she could spend next to no time with her. It all depended on Brinley. I’m beginning to think that Andromeda was getting mad at the fact she isn’t doing anything with Brinley anymore. She’s probably also mad at me as well. I did her wrong on the day of her wedding. I’m not going to lie, I would hold some lingering resentment if she did that to my wedding.
“Andromeda, can you get tea from the kitchen? I’m suddenly not feeling so well.” Ronin quickly turned to her as we were passing the hallway to the kitchen.
Andromeda paused for a minute but then smiled politely, “Right, of course. Lucian, do you need anything?”
“No thank you,” I responded gently.
If I was right and she still held a lingering judgment against me, then asking her to get me tea seemed like it was pushing it a little.
I recognized this as a sign. Ronin probably didn’t want tea at all but he wanted to talk with me in private without arousing suspicion. It was a good ruse.
“What’s going on?” I asked him aloud.
Ronin put his finger to his lips in a gesture to stay quiet and he moved me away from the hallway that led towards the kitchen. He was smart like that. It had nearly slipped my mind but the hallways reverberated sound well. If Ronin wanted this conversation to be private then talking into the hallway wasn’t the way to go.
Now that we were out of danger of Andromeda hearing our conversation, I continued again, “What’s going on?”
“You were lying to me. I should be asking you.” Ronin shifted on his feet a little.
Accusations weren’t really his thing so I could tell that he was really worried for me. My details were slipping. I need to get that in check.
“How could you tell?” I sighed.
“You were about to bite your lip before talking. You stopped yourself. You would have only stopped yourself if you were trying to be aware of your tics.” Ronin smirked.
Fine. I’ll admit it. Ronin nearly always can call me out but at least he has enough respect for me to do it out of the way of people.
“So what’s going on?” Ronin frowned.
“It’s getting worse.” I heaved a sigh.
I didn’t have to specify what “it” was because Ronin already knew from my tone of voice. Ronin was about to say something. Something probably along the lines of, “I was right and you were wrong.” but he refrained. I was grateful for that. I didn’t really feel like being kicked while I was already down.
“Brinley knows I’m lying to her but I won’t tell her what for.” I leaned against the cool stone walls. I felt like all my energy was being sucked out of my body.
“Goodness gracious,” Ronin rolled his eyes, “Tell the poor girl what is happening to you. She doesn’t deserve to be left in the dark.”
Ronin would have a point but he doesn’t know what I know.
“I found a journal, Ronin. It was from 11 years ago, written by my father. Would you believe it if I told you that the simple act of knowing my mother was dying changed him? Would you believe it if he once upon a time was a young, innocent, somewhat inexperienced Ene? It ruined his life. I don’t want that to happen to Brinley.”
“Brinley and Edmond are two different people. Maybe it won’t happen. It didn’t happen to me, did it?”
He didn’t understand what was at stake. He didn’t know any other version of my father. He didn’t know that he planned to get me disowned from royalty.
“I will not let that happen to Brinley.” I insisted.
Ronin shook his head. “Lucian, don’t you think that Brinley wants to be able to enjoy the last of her days with you to the fullest she can? You are robbing her of that right.”
“We are doing things together. We are having fun and I’m saying goodbye in my own way. I don’t want her to be sad.”
“You’re right Lucian, she’d not be sad. She’s going to be mad at you. She’s going to hate herself because she’ll think she did something wrong. Something to make you not trust her enough to tell her you are dying. How else do you expect her to react? You are going to severely mess up her life after you are gone. You need to tell her.”
I hate when Ronin explains all the ways I’m wrong. I always hate it. Ronin was right, however. I can see how this would hurt her after I was gone. I hated to admit it, but he was right again. He always seemed to be able to convince me his way of thinking was right.
I sighed, “Yeah. I can see how that would hurt her. I just-, I don’t want to see her hurt. I don’t want to see her miss me before I’m even gone.”
“So what about Genevieve?” Ronin continued.
He was going to milk this all he could, wasn’t he?
“I don’t think she’s a charlatan, but I do think she overestimates her abilities. Her solution seems to work for about a day maybe but then it all comes back. It’s more of pain relief than a cure. Does that make sense?” I asked him.
“Oh Lucian,” Ronin wrapped his arms around me, “I’m sorry. I know how much you wanted this to work.”
“It’s fine,” I responded, disassociated. “I think I always knew that it wasn’t going to work.”
“It’s always okay to have hope, Luci.”
The nickname made me smile, just a little.
“I know, Ronni.” I embraced his hug.
The next thing that happened was Andromeda announcing that she was back with the tea. Ronin and I jumped away from each other quickly. To be honest, I had gotten so wrapped up in my emotions that I forgot she was coming back.
“Alright,” she started as she handed Ronin his cup of tea, “no more unscheduled stops. We have a council meeting to catch.”