Chapter 11 pt A
Savor this next chapter of my life for this is the last place where you will be able to see my sanity.
In the late morning after the whole kingdom, except one, had awoken, the occupants of the Fyn Fortress were gathered in the main hall. In front of us was the head councilman dressed in white. I knew what he was about to announce. The people around me knew what this meant, but they couldn’t believe it. He announced that the Ene had died last night.
I felt Brinley slip her hand in mine when he addressed the crowd.
The head councilman had said that he had passed without pain.
He was lying.
In fact, he knew for certain that it was a murder. It was hard to think anything else when there was a sword’s gash in the Ene’s throat. Still, he lied to the people. It was better to keep things like this quiet.
I had zoned out. I still cannot believe all that is going on around me. Often as I pass people in the hallway, they are sobbing. I don’t understand. A majority of the people here didn’t know the Ene personally. In fact, I’m not even sure they have ever talked to them, but still, they were in mourning. A state of mourning that I had not achieved yet. I hadn’t cried over his passing, but in public, I made sure to look like I was holding back tears.
“Chi Lucian,” the head councilman snapped to get my attention.
He looked uncomfortable, it was obvious that he didn’t really know what to call me. In fact, I’m not sure what to use to refer to myself anymore. I wasn’t really the Chi anymore because the ruler passed away. I wasn’t an Ene, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t be an Ene until the group of elders appoints me to be so. That wouldn’t happen for a while because together our kingdom must go through a state of mourning out of respect for our late Ene. Or at least that’s what the book the councilman gave me said. Basically, I was in limbo for a few weeks. I didn’t have any more power or any less power, but people would be uncomfortable speaking to me for a while. I wasn’t necessarily opposed to that. I think I need a few moments to just exist in my own world.
As soon as I get appointed, my life as I know it will be gone. I will have to issue declarations, listen to grievances, sit in with the council, and convene with the elders. My simple life without anything taking it up will be over. Still, I have no regrets. I did what I needed, and I needed what I did.
The voices have been silent.
So far they haven’t lied to me. My head has been quiet as the grave since the night he died. It’s been peaceful. I’ve been able to calm down a little. My paranoia wasn’t running rampage as it had in the past few months. Finally, I believed that I was ready to put this time frame behind me. I had a child on the way and I didn’t need to stress Brinley out more than I already had.
“Chi Lucian, I plead with you. You need to pay attention to it. We are only having this meeting to help you.” The head councilman got my attention again.
“Sorry, you have my attention now. Continue,” I gestured.
I’m afraid I don’t have the attention to these meetings. They are dreadfully long and boring. Basically, all they are is a giant crash course for ruling a kingdom. I’d been doing them for a few days now.
“Lucian, you do understand how important they are, right? I don’t mean to intervene with you and your thoughts, especially since we are burying your father this afternoon, but I promise that these messages will help you.”
“I understand, head councilman.” I nodded my head.
The fact was that I wasn’t really thinking about his funeral. In fact, I don’t even want to remember what transpired that night. Instead, I was thinking about my little family and what would happen to them.
Back before I did what I did, I had wanted to still be a Chi when I eventually had children. Chi’s don’t have as much of a responsibility as the rulers do. I could be around more often than not and help raise our child. Now, I was directly in line for the position of Ene and Brinley was in the position of Sor. Our child might not know their parents very well. I don’t want that to be their life. It is not what either of us wants.
“Please, Chi Lucian, my name is Adlai. We will be working closely so we might as well remain on a first-name basis.” He responded.
I didn’t really want to get close to Adlai. I’m sure he was a good person but he worked very close to my father. If anyone knew anything about him, it would be this man. I don’t know how much of our relationship my father shared but I’m not risking it.
The first thing I was going to do as Ene was to replace him. No doubt he had already investigated the matter. Before long he would be on my tail. The best thing I could do would be to get rid of him.
“Of course,” I smiled through the lie, “Adlai.”
“Now,” Adlai smiled, “There is something I must tell you, Lucian.” He locked eyes with me.
It made me uncomfortable. He had sort of a crazed look in his eye like he had eaten too much sugar but also hadn’t slept in three days. He was taking the Ene’s death a lot harder than I was. I think he was making it worse than anyone. Adlai probably knew him the best.
“Something I must tell all of you,” He gestured around the room.
Some people were raising their eyebrows in contempt. These people had such high views of themselves. The second someone among them started showing any emotion besides pride they wrote them out as below them.
“I am one of the only people who has seen the body.”
“Our dear friend, Edmond, didn’t pass away because of natural causes.” He announced.
There was some murmuring going around the room, some of it sounded half impressed with Adlai. Others were skeptical. I wasn’t surprised there were some doubts. Adlai didn’t look like he was right in the head since he pronounced him dead nearly four days ago.
“Adlai, people die. It happens. We must look forward to the future and the future is sitting in this room. Please. We must not dwell.” A younger woman responded.
She seemed to be the voice of reason. I wonder if she would want the position as a head councilwoman. I was all prepared to give it to her.
“You all feel that way?” Adlai asked.
A majority of the meeting nodded their heads and Adlai shook his head and laughed, “Then you are all fools. I found him lying in his bed covered in blood but even through all the blood, I could see the cause of his death. Someone stabbed their sword through his throat. This was a crime of passion. He was murdered.”
“Suppose we do believe you, murdered or assassinated?”
This made Adlai freeze for a second. He didn’t know. I don’t even know if this would be considered a murder or an assassination.
What was the murder for?
The hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. I wasn’t prepared for an answer to that question. He promised not to come back. What was it doing here? It promised to go away for good if I went through with it.
Another voice answered from across the room, “So if the Ene was truly killed, does that mean it was someone in the castle?”
I could feel the back of my neck start to sweat. This was exactly what I didn’t want to happen. At least they would include me in the search. I could keep an eye on the pending investigation. This was going to be bad. I could tell.
“Chi Lucian, what do you think about it?”
“Me?” I asked kind of dumbly.
Adlai frowned, “Of course, he was your father. Do you know of anyone who might have killed him?”
“Sorry, I didn’t know him all too well. I’m afraid you probably know the most about him, Adlai.” I responded.
“Well do you think it was possible he could have been murdered?” One of the other members asked.
I thought for a minute. I could deny that he would get murdered and that wouldn’t really do anything because we can go look at my father’s body to see the clear evidence of murder. However, I could lead them away.
“Yes. I do think he was murdered.” This got the attention of a lot of people in the room. I may not have known my father at that moment but I did know him 11 years ago. He was paranoid, that was something that wouldn’t have changed.
“Well continue, Chi.”
“I think he was assassinated.” Adlai’s ears perked up to my theory, “We have been dealing with unrest in the towns for a while, haven’t we? They tried to knock down the castle right before my wedding, remember?”
If I hadn’t known the truth about what happened I think I would have believed myself. It made sense.
“And let us not kid ourselves. He wasn’t the most likable Ene. He wasn’t very popular among the village men. What if one of the revolutionaries got hired as a servant?” I rebutted.
“How would they get up to the tower?”
“Easy. Go up during the guard shift.”
Adlai laughed, “The guard shifts change every day. That wouldn’t work.”
“Unless they had previous knowledge of the guard shift. Maybe it was a Sav who could get the shift list and then quickly sneak up into the tower and lie in wait for a while. Really, it’s not all that hard to sneak into the tower. A lot of people do it and often.” I shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly but inside my heart was pounding.
I was just happy that I was able to get through all the questions with reasonable explanations that backed my theory.
Adlai frowned and furrowed his brows in concentration, no doubt trying to find a flaw with my theory. As my confidence was growing I started smiling internally. I was able to convince an entire room full of people of a theory that they hadn’t even considered before. I think I was starting to get better at talking.
“That’s actually a good theory. We should start looking into newer Savs who came around a week or two weeks ago.”
“Nope, that’s no good.”
Adlai turned to me and scowled a bit, “Why not?”
“Just think about it. The revolutionaries’ plan would have to bank on their infiltrator getting a job. Why would we hire a week or two weeks ago? Or more, why would we need to hire more Savs in the past two weeks?”
The room was quiet.
“Exactly, we didn’t need to hire anyone last week. Even if we did, the revolutionaries wouldn’t know in advance that’s when we would need to hire people. Think back to the attack.”
It then dawned on a lot of the people but I kept explaining.
“A majority of the people who died were Savs. We needed more. If there was any time to infiltrate a society it’s when they are taking in a lot of new people. Investigate the group that we let on after the attack on the Fortress. That’s where we will find our murderer.”
That’s not where they will find the murderer but that is a big group of people to go through. I could probably convince one of them to run away to one of our enemies and ask for political asylum. That would be our “murderer” and the case would drop. Everyone wins. Even the innocent Sav.
There was suddenly a knock on the door and it put everyone on edge. Adlai paused his contemplation to open the door to Brinley. Brinley had announced she was pregnant a few days ago to try and raise the morbid haze over the castle. She has since stopped hiding her baby bump. Everyone smiled at her as she walked into the room. She always seemed to lift tense situations.
“Sorry for interrupting but Lucian and I have a previous engagement.” Brinley smiled at Adlai and he smiled back at her.
Everyone gave her some sort of congratulations on the pregnancy. I too received some but mostly I think everyone was just thinking we were too young. I think I could agree with them. We weren’t even supposed to get married until I was 20. I wasn’t 20 yet and Brinley was already a few months pregnant. I had to keep reminding myself that at least we were married. If we weren’t married and this had happened we would practically get shunned.
The royals have very strict “wait until marriage” rules and not for the reason you would have thought. It had nothing to do with people too young having babies and everything to do with the baby itself or more, the concept.
When two royals get married or have a baby, in whatever order, their family trees merge. The kingdoms are automatically in an alliance for as long as their children are alive, or at least for as long as the couple is married. If the couple has a child and the two kingdoms have a falling out before the couple is married, neither can declare war on each other. They could declare war on each other if the baby wasn’t there. The rulers just want to keep all their options for war open.
Either way, it’s not something the people would accept.
I got up out of my chair. I had been waiting for this since I sat down in that room. I told Brinley that I would get out of the meeting early because I had something I needed to talk to her about. I would have talked to her sooner but my throat only now was healing. The bruises had finally gone away and the strain had been gone for a few days now.
No one knew what had happened. I’m pretty sure that Adlai had integrated my attack into his theory, or more, my theory of what happened to my father. I hadn’t talked to anyone about it. I didn’t necessarily want to and no one asked so I kept quiet.
Brinley and I walked down the hallways in silence but it was comfortable. She had a sly smile on her face as she slipped her hand into mine. I don’t understand how one person can change your entire mood. She’s always been able to do this. For as long as I can remember all my worries and issues melt away when talking with her.
I led her down hallways and I was always second-guessing myself. I hadn’t traveled this wing of the castle a lot. This is where the ruler has all their meetings. I never had reason to go back here until now. I was just hoping that I could get to the library like I thought I could. I don’t think Brinley’s been yet and it’s a very private place to have a conversation.
Finally, we found the library and I silently let out a breath that I had been holding in. I wouldn’t have been very romantic if I had gotten lost.
I opened the door and opened it to a small and cozy library. Brinley looked very impressed and smiled at me before leading me inside without letting go of my hand. She looked so pleased to have been shown a place like this. Brinley had lived in this castle for nearly two years and she still hasn’t seen all the best rooms. I’ve decided that I was going to show them all to her before I’m gone. Hopefully, they will be able to make her days a little more bearable when they get long and lonely.
“You have a second library?” Brinley asked as she looked around the room.
She seemed entranced by the idea of the secret unknown library. Especially one this small. The other library was beautiful of course. You could get lost in there for hours but it wasn’t warm. They had a fireplace of course but the library was too big and it barely was able to heat a single section of the library.
Besides, that library always has people in it. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit alone, surrounded by books. This was the best place to do so.
I nodded at Brinley and she let go of my hand to go look at some of the options of books. I don’t think there would be any she would recognize.
“How long have you known that there was a second library?” She demanded as she searched through stacks and stacks of journals on the shelves.
I smiled as I went to join her, “Well, technically, it’s a record’s room.”
“What do you keep records of?” Brinley picked a giant journal off the shelf and flipped through it for a second before finding a more interesting looking one.
“Lives of people who have lived here. All these books are journals that we have found in the castle. They date back nearly 600 years.”
“Woah.” Brinley mouthed wonderstruck as she reached for another journal up high.
I reached up and handed it to her.
“I think you’ve gotten taller, Lucian.” Brinley smiled.
I think I’ve noticed that too. Maybe I could be tall. Perhaps I would just get my growth spurts really late.
“This is where you got your father’s journal, right?” Brinley asked, “The blue one?”
I smiled at her, I knew she would like this room, “Yeah. I’ll show you where they left off.” I led her to the back where the bookshelves are nearly empty.
Brinley immediately went for a journal I hadn’t seen before. It was just a simple brown leather journal but it had a symbol on it that I didn’t recognize. I reached for it but Brinley turned away and started flipping through it.
She froze and then gently set the journal on the bookshelf, face down. It was like she was rejecting it.
“What? Who’s it written by, Brin?” I asked as I picked it up.
I opened it to the first page and on the top were small letters.
Sor Elaine Marlowe-Kreed.
That couldn’t be right. Edmond got rid of all of Mom’s journals. Obviously, that wasn’t true because in my hand was sitting a journal written in her favorite color ink and her handwriting. I was wrong.
There was also another journal sitting on the shelf that I didn’t recognize and then I remembered why the journals would be here. They would have been in my father’s room. They probably had someone go through it to find the journal he undoubtedly kept. Apparently, he also had my mother’s journal. I thought he burned them.
In my hand was perhaps the most insight on my mother I would ever have again. I held the book as I didn’t know what to do. Brinley waited quietly for me to do something. I didn’t know what I was doing either. Maybe I could get some insight on how she dealt with her illness. I could learn a few things from her.
“Luci?” Brinley whispered as I stared at the small journal in my hand.
What was I going to do? I felt a shiver run down my spine as I thought of opening the book. I did it once again and I saw my mother’s name intimidating me from the front cover. The book seemed to be whispering to me to invade my mother’s inner thoughts. To understand her better. I’m not sure if I really wanted to do so.
I took the book and placed it face down on the shelf. I wasn’t going to read it. How could I? I didn’t want to wreck my perfect view of my mom. I already had an off vision of my father and his journal completely wrecked it. Imagine what my mother’s inner thoughts could do to me. I’m afraid it would make me go ballistic.
“You aren’t going to read it?” Brinley asked as she rubbed her slightly protruding baby bump.
“Best not mess with good things,” I answered quickly before turning out of the shelves. We were already straying too far from the original purpose of this meeting. We weren’t here to look at old books, we were here to discuss my illness.
I couldn’t have my thoughts consumed by one of my mom’s. This was a delicate situation and being distracted wasn’t going to help anything.
Brinley followed me out of the shelves and down towards the fire. It was peaceful here. I kind of wished I hadn’t chosen to talk to her here. I would only remember this memory when I would walk in here now. I would have to find a new quiet place.
I guided her to the floor and we sat facing one another. I studied her face for a minute. I wanted to remember her face in this ignorant bliss in case the knowledge of my impending death would prove to be too much for her.
“What?” Brinley asked as she looked away.
In the firelight, I couldn’t tell if she was blushing. I almost didn’t want to destroy the mood we’d created. It was so warm and I hadn’t felt much warmth with her for a while. I also knew that I couldn’t keep putting off this discussion. It would only hurt her more in the end. I would rather sacrifice a few seconds of my happiness if It meant that Brinley could keep her sanity. I would do that any day.
“Brinley, before I start, I just want to say I’m sorry for everything I did to you.” I looked down at my intertwined hands.
My heart was beating fast and I felt something in my throat. I tried to clear it away and talk past it but it was still there.
“Lucian, if this is about our issues then I don’t want to hear it. We just got to a good place. I don’t want to ruin that.” Brinley shook her head and started to get up.
“Brinley, I’ve run from this conversation for months. Since even before we got married. I’m sorry, but we need to have it.” I insisted and it intrigued her.
She sat back down and made herself comfortable. She was preparing to have a long conversation. It would be a very long conversation. I needed to gather my courage to start again. It was scary telling her that I wasn’t going to be around. How do you even begin to tell your wife that you are dying? It doesn’t seem like a conversation that should exist. Of course, it does and it must happen.
“Brinley, I’ve been acting differently.” I started.
“No, really, it’s okay. We both were acting oddly. You forgave me so I forgive you.”
“Please, Brin, let me finish.” I pleaded with her.
I loved my wife but she had a hard time letting me finish my thoughts. Brinley nodded as she decided to remain silent. I bit my lip as I tried to figure out how to word this.
“Brin, before we got married, Ronin and I took a trip to Cadia.”
Brinley’s mouth fell open and she mouthed, “No way.”
I think she jumped to conclusions because I think her reaction would have been different if she really knew what was happening.
“On this trip, Ronin and I went to a witch healer because I was hearing voices.”
Brinley furrowed her brows in confusion.
I fiddled with my fingers as I tried to remember what I had planned to say. The thought of having this conversation had haunted me at night for weeks.
“You may have seen her around the castle. Her name is Genevieve. Anyway,” My voice was shaking. I really hoped she hadn’t noticed, “she told me that I had evil in my head. Something that she couldn’t get out.”
Brinley closed her eyes and shook her head softly.
“It’s killing me, Brin,” I whispered.
“No. no. It’s not possible. All those witches in the town are quacks. You shouldn’t listen to them.” Brinley shook her head.
“It’s ludicrous. They are scamming you for money, Lucian. I’ve seen it happen before. Don’t believe a word they say.” Brinley dismissed the notion.
“I’ve seen it happen before,” I told her.
“Is that all you have to say to me? Because I have a taste test to attend for your birthday.” Brinley got up and started walking away.
“My mom!” I called out.
Brinley froze and looked back at me. She tilted her head to the side but I could see the tears in her eyes.
“This happened to my mom.” I answered quietly, “When I was 8.”
“No. Your mom died of heart failure, Lucian. Everyone knows that.”
Brinley protested but I could see that she was beginning to doubt herself as well.
“No, my mother died of illness, Brinley. Actually, my father mercy killed her after telling her that she would only hurt more.”
Brinley walked back to me and dejectedly sat back down in front of me. Her face was a mix of shock and absolute sadness.
“We just were happy again. Lucian.” Her voice broke.
“It would break you if I didn’t tell you. You would always wonder if there was something more you could have done. You needed to know love.” I explained.
“I know.” Brinley whimpered.
A single tear spilled from over her cheek. I watched it fall into her lap in the firelight. And then she gasped as if something had hit her.
“What is it?” I asked her softly.
Brinley’s eyes got wide as she stared at me, “You killed your father. You killed him.”
No. No! I couldn’t lose her now. Not after I had just gotten her back.
“No!” I protested and feigned disgust. “I could never.”
Brinley shook her head sadly, “I woke up alone that night, Lucian. I woke up in the infirmary bed, alone. You were gone. W-what were you doing?”
I could feel tears well up in my eyes. She couldn’t possibly leave me for this.
“No!” I blinked a few times and a tear fell, “I couldn’t, Brinley.”
“Where were you?”
Another tear fell, “Brinley, I knew I wasn’t going to be there for our baby’s childhood. I needed time to think.”
Brinley sobbed. There was nothing more to say about it. They were heaving gut-clenching sobs. I don’t remember moving but then I was next to her and I wrapped my arms around her tightly. I was holding on to her for dear life. I was afraid that if I let go then I was going to lose her forever.
“Lucian, how are we supposed to live like this?” Brinley whispered between sobs.
She was shaking in my arms and that just prompted me to hold onto her tighter. I wasn’t about to lose her. Not after everything we had done together.
“I don’t know,” I whispered into her hair.
Her voice rang in my ear. How are we supposed to live like this?
I don’t know. I don’t know.
“Hold me close, Lucian. Don’t let go.” She compelled me.
I wasn’t planning on doing so.
Brinley pulled away very briefly. We looked into each other’s eyes for answers to our respective questions. She wanted to know how she could live alone and run an entire kingdom. I wanted to know how I could leave them.
Brinley leaned in and I kissed her.