Lies and Deceit Hidden in the Wind

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Chapter 12 pt A

The weeks flew by quickly. Slowly and slowly the people started moving towards the future. Before anyone realized, the mourning period was over. It was time to move on and place our past into a little box to not think of again. That is how it goes around here. Once mourning is over you cannot be sad. You cannot think of the past because we as people are focused on moving on. The best way to move forward in the eyes of everyone is to appoint a new leader. A new leader who feels they are not ready for the responsibility that comes with the people. It is something that always happens when a new ruler is appointed. They do not feel ready to take care of the people.

I feel like they aren’t ready for the role. No one is truly ready for it until they experience the stresses of running a castle first hand. In the morning before the exchange was to take place I was nervous. Nervous not for the reason everyone thought I was. I figured that if I could handle dying then I could handle keeping people alive. What I couldn’t handle was that the high and mighty noblemen were searching for my father’s murderer. And they were getting closer day by little day.

….

It was raining in the morning. I could feel the little dew droplets cling to my skin as I stood above my people. The rain was cold and sad. It ran into my face sideways and plastered my long hair against my face.

I felt that the rain would ruin the imagery of the ceremony. I was supposed to emerge renewed. Instead, I would look the same as I had before. Cold and being pelted with rain. It wasn’t going to be much for the image of strength I was going for. I had been trying to bulk up for this moment because I wasn’t going to be able to hide behind layers of clothing anymore. And I didn’t want the entire kingdom to see me as a scrawny little kid. It was working. I had put on some muscle. My arms were a little bigger. My chest and back were a little more defined. I was still on the smaller side, especially since I had grown. Still, it would have looked better than I would. Instead, I had to walk out of the pool, in front of everyone, shivering, with rain in my eyes, and my hair plastered all over my face.

It wasn’t the look I was going for. Hopefully, I would be able to keep it together long enough for me to keep some of my dignity. I felt even worse for Brinley. She would have to show more skin than me which meant her swollen belly would be visible. Also, she would be pelted with raindrops and cold wind.

Behind me, I could hear Brinley’s teeth chattering as she looked out on the crowds of people as well. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was from the rain or the heights. Or perhaps what would come after the ceremony. All together today wouldn’t be a pleasant one. Possibly even the next few days as well.

I turned away from the crowds and walked back from the ledge and into the cave where everything for the ceremony was getting set up. It was frigid in the cave but at least it wasn’t raining. Brinley soon followed me inside and wrapped herself tighter in the blanket she was wearing as a robe. I didn’t blame her, who wanted to be that exposed in the cold. I was dreading this day from the minute I could sense the mourning period was letting up. I even tried to feign emotional turmoil to keep the Shire in mourning for longer. Could it kill them to wait even a few more months until it’s warmer to do the ceremony?

Still, Adlai refrained from accepting this. He insisted that if I was to be the Ene then the people would fall into line. It was supposed to be a domino effect. That if only I were to be Ene, all our problems would solve themselves. He had too much faith in his interpretation of the people. People were unpredictable. You don’t know what they will do or how they will do it. Adlai just wants to believe he knows the people and that everything will fall into place. Also, he doesn’t want to be the one to fix everything and deal with the rebels.

Since my father has been dead, terrorist attacks have been up. The castle has fended off invasions twice now. Crime has been up in the towns and homelessness has gone down which is great but it just means that the homeless are dying. Not so great after all.

Our Shire is falling apart and Adlai believes it’s because I’m not the Ene. I want to tell him he is wrong, that making me the Ene as soon as possible will not fix anything, but he won’t listen to me. He won’t listen to anyone but himself. Usually, I’d be fine with that but I’m heavily leaning on his shoulder while I get the reins of this place. If he makes a bad decision, we all suffer for it.

Either way, we were all on high alert. Adlai and the rest of his congregation were alarmed that since we were inviting the entirety of the Shire, the murderer would somehow show up and cause issues. The rest of the people were petrified that the rebels would attack our ceremony. Both were worthy issues but somewhat improbable. Or at least the first one was improbable. Still, we had doubled the Savs positions and added a couple more as well. You couldn’t take one step on these grounds without someone seeing you.

“Nasty weather out there.” Adlai commented as he gestured towards the rains, “At least it isn’t snowing.”

I would disagree. Snow would be better. At least snow has a happy connotation attached to it. The right kind of snow might even lift the moods of the people who have to stand out in it. Therefore lifting the entire mood of the ceremony. Instead, the rain was cold and hard and fell in sheets. It was the kind of weather that made you want to go bury yourself under your covers and remain there for the rest of your life.

It was miserable even standing in the cave, out of the rains. In the corner of the room were a group of people huddled together with herbs, flowers, and grasses. It was an odd sight but they had been here since before Brinley, Adlai, and I had reached the cave. Adlai didn’t kick them out so I figured they must have had a reason to be in the corner of the cave.

I have been to one of these ascension ceremonies before. I vaguely remember any of it. Just my father and my mother in a pool of crystal clear water. I don’t remember anything else. Adlai hasn’t shared any new information with me and I’m afraid to ask. I do not want to be seen as young or inexperienced. Even in front of the advisor. Especially in front of the strangers performing some sort of ritual in the corner.

Brinley was standing in front of a mirror on the wall and looking at herself wrapped in the now soaked blanket. She looked like she was wondering how she could muster up the courage to face hundreds, maybe even thousands of people in such an outfit. I was wondering the same thing as I pulled my own blanket tighter around me.

The point of being so unclothed was to show the people what perfection looks like. Brinley and I were in the least bit perfect but we did look better than some people. Perhaps the royals were trying to show that the new Ene and Sor were as close to perfection as you could get. This was the intended outcome but I highly doubt two very young adults with body insecurities were far from their definition of “perfect”.

A servant walked into the cave and smartly averted his eyes as he saw Brinley and me in very little. He immediately walked up to Adlai, who was so clearly in charge of all of this, and whispered something in his ear.

“We will be out in a few seconds.” Adlai assured him, “I just need to go over the ceremony with these two for a second.”

The servant walked out quickly and I sat down on a small bench next to Brinley. I felt sick to my stomach as the seconds ticked by. That’s a few more seconds to having to face everyone. I could stomach the marriage ceremony because I’ve known about it for years. I always knew that was what I was supposed to do to get married.

I only found out later in my childhood that it wasn’t something everyone did. I was still confused when Brinley gagged the first time she heard what we were going to do to get married. It wasn’t weird to me.

This? This was different.

I didn’t know about this ritual. They probably were going to explain it to me sometime when my father was at one death’s door. He died unexpectedly and so I received no thorough warning of what I was to go through. Underneath the blanket, I shivered in the anticipation of what was to come. I almost wanted to do it, just to get it over with.

I could feel the adrenaline coursing through me as I could imagine jumping off the ledge and into the pool of water down below. It sent me adrenaline and a batch of fear. The ledge was very high out of the water. If I didn’t dive right, I could miss the pool of water and hit the ground instead. That was not something I wanted to do.

“Right. First, you jump off the ledge into the water, can you do that?” Adlai squatted down so he could meet our eyes.

I didn’t want to meet his eyes but he forced me anyway.

“It’s supposed to symbolize you leaving your old life or whatever. It pleases the elders and that’s all that matters.”

“Right.” Brinley nodded.

“Then they are going to do their ceremony. It might be a little long but you will sit in the pool of water until it is over. They will throw things at you so don’t be alarmed if you get hit in the head by a twig or something.” Adlai warned us and I cocked my head to the side in wonderment.

This was such a serious ceremony. Why was he making jokes at a time like this? I’m not the most serious person in the Shire. Not by a long shot. However, I would expect the head councilman to be a little more serious and stoic about such a ceremony as this. It was very precarious.

“When their chanting stops, you will immerge, reborn. You just walk out of the pool, dripping wet. It will be fine. ” He responded sarcastically and the group in the corner glared at him.

They were not as amused as Adlai thought himself to be.

“Okay, that all makes sense,” Brinley nodded, “But the clothes!”

“What do you mean?” Adlai asked her.

“Well, they aren’t clothing for one. It’s just two pieces of cloth tied around my body. Do you really expect me to go out in front of the world like this?” Brinley gestured but didn’t remove the blanket.

“It’s supposed to symbolize-” Adlai started.

“Perfection,” Brinley groaned, “Yes, I know. But I am not perfect. I have a swollen belly to prove it. I think it defeats the purpose of the gesture.”

Adlai sighed. He didn’t have power over this subject matter. None of us do. Adlai was right when he said earlier that “It’s only to please the Elders.” They are too old to enforce anything physical into the Shire so they enforce culture. This is the way they insist because this is the way it has always been. If it was up to any of the rest of the Shire, they would insist on something they weren’t required to attend.

“If you must know. I too do not enjoy this either.” I added to her argument.

Brinley had two pieces of clothing. I was reduced to one.

“Sorry, I’m afraid the Elders will not move their stance because you two are uncomfortable.” Adlai insisted.

“They won’t move their stance because this is the closest they will see of young people naked,” Brinley muttered aloud.

I couldn’t believe she said that and I stared at her.

Brinley’s eyes went wide as she realized it too. Adlai just laughed.

“It’s probably a little of that too.” Adlai offered, “I mean, it’s not every day you get to see a handsome Chi half-naked.”

Brinley smiled a bit and Adlai’s eyes went to her baby bump.

“I mean, maybe you do.” He added.

I choked and Brinley started laughing.

Brinley rubbed her small baby bump, “You know it.” She winked.

“Alright, when is this ceremony happening?” I asked because now I was uncomfortable with the energy in the room.

“Right now if you are ready.” Adlai smiled and I continued to look out into the grey skies.

I wanted to be done with this already. I understand the necessity but it does not mean that I have to be pleased with the task.

“Are you ready?” Adlai pressed.

I looked down at the blanket draped across my shoulders. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to part with it quite yet.

“I suppose so,” I finally responded.

Adlai kept looking at me as he was waiting for me to remove the blanket. I turned around so I wouldn’t have to face him. I let the blanket fall off my shoulders and was suddenly frozen by the utter chill of the wind. Even though the blanket was wet and cold, it was keeping out the wind. Without it, my body temperature felt like it dropped ten degrees. I brushed my wet hair out of my face and stared out of the cave. The ledge was high enough that I couldn’t see any of the people below without walking to the edge and looking down.

Instead, it was a view of the giant Fortress looming just down the hill. The grey stone of it matched the decor that the weather had set. While the sky was lighter than the Fortress, it was still aggressively grey. There wasn’t a hint of sunshine insight and so I looked out into the rain. A strong gust of wind pushed a few drops onto my chest and it stung like rocks.

It made me fearful for the jump into the water.

I looked to my right and Brinley was standing next to me. She had on a brave face but if she was anything like me, she just wanted to pick up the blanket from off the floor. Brinley had her hair brushed to the right side of her shoulder and so I could see her tattoo perfectly. All Heirs and Heiresses are required to get the mark of their kingdom tattooed onto their necks at the ripe age of 14. Mine was on the back of my neck. Brinley’s mark was on the left side of hers. It was small but I could still make it out against her dark skin. Unlike mine, hers was silver. It was always so beautiful in the low light. It was like it was glowing. I kept mine hidden away from the world behind my hair. Now it seemed like a symbol of shame. A mockery of me and my family before me. I had betrayed my family name.

A stronger gust of wind blew into the cave and Brinley and I shivered violently. If we were in the cold for much longer I was afraid we would get ourselves sick.

“Now’s the time. Walk forward as a unified front. It helps the image.” Adlai promised as he ushered us forward.

Slowly Brinley and I shuffled forwards. As soon as we stepped out of the cave, we were drenched once again. It was like the sky was dumping buckets of water on top of our heads. It didn’t seem possible so much water was in the sky. I supposed I shouldn’t doubt what is possible and what isn’t. The world might take that as an invitation to throw dragons into my life or something like that. It’s better that I keep my head down and don’t think or do anything to incite excitement or rage from the thing above.

Maybe I already had and this was the higher being telling me that this isn’t the path that I’m to be on. Or I was being punished. Brinley and I reached the ledge and I looked down. Below us was a pool of light blue water. The grey rain wasn’t affecting it. It looked so clean, unlike the rest of us who were covered in mud and rain.

I couldn’t see anyone in particular. All I could see were dozens of makeshift rain shelters to keep the people out of the rain.

As I was looking over the ledge it became very apparent how easy it would be to end my troubles. If I leaped a few feet to the right, there was no way I could survive the fall. I wouldn’t have to face my issues anymore. I could just fall and it would be all over. Everything that happened to me would soon be insignificant because I’d be gone. The only two to remember would be Brinley and Ronin. Maybe they would take comfort in it or maybe they would grow to resent the world not knowing as I had with my mother.

I could just wait for Brinley to join me. It would be a long time to wait. It would be worth it. Brinley is safe. No one is going to kick her out of the palace while a widow. She would rule the Shire for years and finally join me when she is old.

Maybe she would add Fyn to Cadia like I was scared she would a few months ago. I snorted at the thought. It seems so ridiculous now. Besides, why would anyone care if we became Cadian? Maybe a few laws would change. There would be witches allowed in Fyn again. The Fynnish would be Cadian. It doesn’t seem so bad now that I think about it. Power would fall from my family but they would live comfortably since Brinley and our child were related to the future Sor Vega Idris and Ene Cyris Ephraim-Idris.

Maybe they would even be able to live in the castle. I guess life wouldn’t be so bad.

You wouldn’t get to meet your son.

I don’t know if it’s a boy.

The voice was right, however. I did want to meet my child and I wouldn’t be able to if I left the world right now.

I looked over at Brinley and picked up her hand. Just like that, it was like I wasn’t even having those thoughts. How could I leave the world if I had yet to meet my child? It seemed impossible to me.

Brinley squeezed my palm as she looked out and into the crowds. I think her parents came today. Maybe she was looking for them. I instantly felt worse. She had to be dressed like this in front of her parents. I wasn’t.

I could feel my hands begin to grow slick with sweat in anticipation of what I was about to do. Sheets of rain hit me sideways as I looked down. The height alone was making me feel sick. I remember years ago Ronin was talking to me about life in the villages.

I recalled Ronin telling about some sort of initiation into manhood he had undergone when he was just 9 years old. I don’t remember all of the details but his parents didn’t want him to go through with it. The initiation had been a tradition for years. To be accepted as a man in the village among the youth and even a few adults, you had to steal an apple from the mayor’s apple tree. It seemed like a simple task but the mayor had grown tired of people stealing his apples. He would pay homeless people to guard the tree. If someone stole an apple from the tree, the person guarding the tree wouldn’t get paid.

I don’t remember how Ronin stole the apple but he eventually did. I remember Ronin telling me that the experience taught him how to be a petty thief. A skill that helped him a lot on the streets.

In some ways, I felt that this was similar. Fyn couldn’t have a cowardly Ene and Sor. If they couldn’t even jump off a cliff into a pool of water, what hope did they have of leading an entire Shire?

I almost feel that thieving the apple was a better task to complete. It required thinking and planning, two things a good ruler needed to have instead of misplaced bravery. Besides, stealing the apple was ever-changing. The Mayor was constantly thinking of new ways to guard his apples. Dozens of people had dove off this ledge and into the water, I knew I would survive.

“Are you ready?” Brinley whispered under her breath but up here no one could hear us.

I nodded and we received the signal. With her hand still in mine Brinley and I crouched on the ledge and let go of each other’s hands.

One more single breath before I would be free falling. I let it out slowly and gave a reassuring nod to Brinley. We would be okay. This has been the initiation for as long as history can remember. We would be okay.

Then we both dove off the ledge at the same time. The water came up quick and fast. I didn’t have any time to register that I was falling. I did have the weightless feeling in my stomach very briefly and I quickly wondered what it would be like, falling to my death.

I would probably be in the air longer than this. If that was the way I was going to go, I think I would want a higher ledge than this. There is a slight possibility in my mind that I would survive this fall if I did jump. Or even if I didn’t survive, I would still live for a long time. My next thought was off the towers. They were high enough. There was no way I would survive a jump from that high up. Especially into the forests below.

My hands hit the water with a clean dive. At first, I felt pain and a weird sensation. I dove deeper than I had ever before and my ears were popping in my head. My immediate thought was that I must have done something wrong. I was actually dying instead.

I moved my arms around in the water and all though my arms were practically numb from the cold rain, I swear the water was almost hot. It burned in an awful sensation. My limbs were still so cold but there was so much heat around me that I panicked. I kicked frantically as I rose to the surface. In my mind, I couldn’t get there fast enough.

My head surfaced and I took a huge gulp of air. My lungs were burning from holding my breath for so long. Next to me, Brinley’s head, shot out of the water as she was panicking as I had been a few moments earlier. Now that I was actually in the water I noticed something a little odd. The water we were in was casting a dim blue glow across my skin. I cupped a little bit of the water in my hand and examined it more closely.

It almost reminded me of the glowing falls where Brinley and I got married. It was different though. This water was warm. It seemed unnatural for the weather conditions we were currently experiencing. The falls were cool, not exactly cold, but not warm like this. Just cool, like normal water would be in the late summer and early fall.

Now that my skin wasn’t on fire anymore, I was freezing. My body had adjusted to the new temperature and the cold seemed unbearable. I slid my shoulders back into the warm water and looked over at Brinley. Only her face was above the water. She wasn’t exposing the rest of herself out of modesty or the chill factor outside, I didn’t know which one. Perhaps it was a little of both.

I looked at Brinley. It was such a weird sight. The scene cast was nearly ethereal. Above us, the skies were grey and flashed with light as lightning struck above. The crowd gasped in surprise as the thunder rang out almost immediately afterward. The storm was now right on top of us and the rains didn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. The wind up above our heads made the evergreen trees lose their leaves. As they blew away, Brinley tossed her wet hair over her right shoulder.

In the dim light cast from the water, her silver markings glowed in elysian elegance. How to account for it? She seemed like an otherworldly being. Perhaps it was her pregnancy but her skin glowed and was complemented by the blue light. Next to her, I felt plain and perhaps unseen. I didn’t have any seemingly unique traits like Brinley.

Unlike her, my tattoo was just black. Besides, even if it glowed in the low light, no one would be able to see it. I’m facing the wrong way. Like Brinley, my hair was dark and curly when wet but it wasn’t long like hers. It barely touched my shoulders.

“Lucian,” Brinley whispered.

“What is it?”

Under the sound of the rain, no one could hear our conversation but they were staring intently. Just waiting for something to happen, I suppose. I guess that’s what we were doing too but we were in the center of everything.

“Your eyes, they are glowing.” She whispered.

My eyes widened at that.

“What do they look like?” I asked quickly.

“Golden. They look like pure gold. And luminous.”

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the people were looking at me like they were looking at Brinley. I could feel a smile begin to form on my face. I was honestly tired of being in the background for everything. Now everyone would be looking at me. Everyone would look at me during dinners. Everyone would see me and Brinley sitting side by side on our thrones.

We were the only people they would watch.

That’s when the ceremony began. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. The only warning or anything we had gotten was the very brief explanation we had received from anyone was the brief one we had gotten from Adlai. He just said they were going to throw things down at the water.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t very helpful. I had no idea how long this ceremony was supposed to last, no idea what they are going to be throwing or if I’m supposed to duck if I see one about to hit me in the head. Instead, I resorted to shutting my eyes and leaning my head against my chest in a sort of reverence. Seeing what I was doing, Brinley did the same thing.

It was most difficult to keep peaceful and still in this monstrous weather. Sheets of sideways rain hit my head. It took all I had in me to not block my face from the rain. I’m sure that wouldn’t have made for a very good ceremony.

Above Brinley and I the ritual began. Over the rain, I could barely hear the priests’ screams of blessings. It was kind of nice that the rain was blocking out everything else. There were hundreds of people here and I didn’t necessarily want to hear all their whispers. I could just barely make out things hitting my head. They were light, perhaps herbs or some sorts of flowers. They weren’t twigs like Adlai had said it would be.

I tried to keep my eyes shut, I did. After a few minutes, I could only take so much of the silence and waiting. I couldn’t hear the priest’s words. I’m not sure if I would even be able to understand what they were saying if I could hear what was happening. These weren’t the normal priests I’ve usually seen. This group was secretive. Mostly kept to themselves while we were in the cave with them. Somehow they seemed older. Like they were practitioners of rituals from a different time. I guess it would make sense. Like I said earlier, this ritual had been the same for around a thousand years, ever since my family has been in power.

Out of curiosity, I opened my eyes. I suppose I wasn’t even entirely sure it was wrong. Maybe it was normalized to swim laps in the small spring while the ritual was going on as well. I didn’t know. Besides, I didn’t lift my head. No one in the crowds would see if I opened my eyes. Maybe someone could’ve on a clear day.

With the rain out here, I would be impressed if someone could tell me the correct color of my hair.

In the water, I could see something floating around. It was dark and in stark contrast. Some small part of me wondered if it was ink at first. I nudged it with my fingers under the water and the drowned thing floated right side up again. It was a flower, a black flower. It was a type I had never seen before, and as it floated out of view, I couldn’t get over the fact that it looked exactly like ink hitting the water’s surface. It was beautiful, in an extremely morbid sort of fashion. I tilted my head upwards as I looked for Adlai. He had told us he would be there in front of the crowd to tell us when to get out of the water.

In the shade of the makeshift shelters, I couldn’t make out any defining features of his. If he was there, I didn’t see him. It better be some giant sign or else Brinley and I would miss it with all this thunder and noise.

I suppose it would be better to get out late rather than early. I kept thinking that if we got out a second too early Adlai would make us redo the entire ceremony. I was up to standing out in the cold rain again. Especially not since I had been sitting in the warm pool for the past few minutes. It just seemed too extreme.

Through the rain, I could hardly tell what was the rain or what was dropping on our heads. All of a sudden the rain stopped. It went from thundering as it hit the ground to dying out in a matter of minutes. I looked around the place without the rain hanging over the air and I couldn’t believe it. The hours of rain we had gotten had turned a field into a swamp. Without the rain in the way, the air almost seemed pleasant.

Sure it was humid but everyone was drenched and so we could hardly tell. It wasn’t as cold anymore as I was sitting with my face above the warm water. Without all the access noise I could hear the chanting. Just as I had suspected earlier, they were doing the ritual in an ancient language that I didn’t understand. Still, hearing their voices made it seem like something was supposed to happen.

While the rain had stopped I still couldn’t see the faces of the people. The fog surrounding the clearing was thick like maple syrup. It concealed the spectators’ faces and I immediately wondered what the point of this was. Why were they here? They obviously couldn’t see the ceremony through the rain in the first place and then there was another factor to be considered once again. The fog was impossible to see through.

If they were supposed to be here as witnesses, there wasn’t much they could bear witness for. Perhaps the rain, and maybe the fog but that’s it. They didn’t even see the ceremony. Why couldn’t we have done this on a better day? At least make this trip worth their while. Let them actually see what they were summoned here to see. Is that too much to ask?

Looking out into the faceless people I gained a chill. A chill that would remain with me for the rest of my life. It seemed nearly like a metaphor. My subjects in a faceless group, just standing there. Watching me from shadows as I stand vulnerable and exposed.

What was it a metaphor for? I didn’t know at the time but now I do. It was a metaphor for my life to come. Life was so full of sorrow and neglect. I don’t know if I should continue the story. How could I?

From this point onwards everything goes downhill. The world around you and me gets a few shades darker and the nights grow colder still. If I were you, I’d tune out now. Save your fractured view of me and walk away. Walk away before I shatter it. Before I disappoint you with the stories to come. It would be so easy for you to just leave. It’s not so easy for me. This is the punishment she gave me. I will continue to recount everything that has happened until I close my eyes for good. Escape while you can because there is no escape for me. This is my prison and I will die here.

The next thing I remember is Brinley slipping her hand into mine and shaking me from the metaphor of the scene around me.

“We are supposed to get out soon.” She whispered.

She was right as it turns out. Soon the chanting stopped and I squeezed her hand. This is the moment I’d been anxious about for a long time. Even though the fog gave us some sense of privacy, it wasn’t enough. I took one step out of the pool and felt so exposed. The air was colder than I had remembered it before.

I had to use all my willpower not to break down and start shivering in the wintery air, or to jump back into the pool. We stood in front of the crowd of people without a clue what happened next when out of the fog Adlai walked next to Brinley.

“The Ene and Sor!” He announced with such vigor it triggered an old memory of me bowing for my parents.

It felt strange being the one standing while the other’s bowed. In the shelters, everyone got to their knees and laid across the ground in a symbol of respect, even though the ground was barely solid anymore.

I had their respect. For the first time in my entire life, I had their respect. I remember way back at the beginning of the story where I had been talking with my father about respect. We were talking about respect and my lack thereof.

The door opened again and my father walked in. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at him. He shifted from side to side and seemed uncomfortable.

“Where are the Ene and Sor?” He demanded as he stared at the group with missing people.

“My mother was getting annoyed with wedding preparations so he took her to go get some water,” Brinley explained quickly.

I think my father scares Brinley. It’s kind of an odd thing because Brinley swears she isn’t afraid of anything. I think it’s an idea that her parent’s planted in her brain as a young child. It’s like being afraid is not a noble trait to have but in fact, it is. Fear keeps us alive. Is it nobler to run away and stay alive to fight another day or die painfully for nothing? That is one of the differences between Brinley and me.

“So they left all you kids in a room alone?” My father’s anger was rising as we continued talking.

“We aren’t alone, we have Cons Aya,” I defended this sad little wedding committee.

“Four kids and one adult? That hardly seems fair.”

“We aren’t kids you know! All of us are adults,” I protested.

“Sure you are, you live in my house, under my rule. You will cease to be children when Aus Brinley and my son take over the Shire. That is when you will be adults.”

“Ene Edmond, it’s just a question, but Lucian and I are getting married in three weeks and if we aren’t adults that just seems wrong,” Brinley responded.

That took guts of Brinley. My father scares the life out of her, but she stood up for herself. I guess she should know by now that she is safe. We need this marriage more than anything and my father wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize it.

“Bear me an heir. When that happens, then you can be an adult.”

While I don’t agree with him about a lot of things, I did have to agree with him here. I wasn’t an adult before now. Well, I was, but not really. I wasn’t an adult in the eyes of the people and so I didn’t have their respect. Some little things changed and just as Adlai predicted, everything fell into place.

I was now the Ene and according to my father, that made me an adult. He was right. Here I was standing in front of a crowd. Every class sprawled on the floor out of respect for the new ruler. Even Adlai, who looked acquiesced to lay on the liquidized floor, fell to his knees.

It was an odd thing though. His face contorted and before I knew what was happening, he howled in pain. My head whipped around towards him and I started walking over. I noticed an arrow sticking out of the left side of his abdomen.

Later we realized that the attackers shot Adlai to get a better shot at me, but if they had just risked a sloppy shot, I could have been dead right now.

I ducked down to help Adlai who was trying to pull out the arrow through his pain. Because I ducked so quickly then the next arrow missed me completely. Instead, it hit Brinley’s exposed shoulder. I watched her crumble and fall to the ground in pain. My head hadn’t fully wrapped itself around what was happening to me.

“Help me,” I announced quietly as I wasn’t sure this was happening.

Through the fog, the people couldn’t see the arrows. They didn’t know what was happening. They just remained on the ground, bowing to their new Ene and Sor. Another arrow came sailing out of the woods and I curled into a ball even though it was obvious it would fly over my forehead.

“Help me!” I yelled to the people.

Quickly two pairs of Savs, all dressed in armor ran up next to me to protect me from flying arrows. I wasn’t about to leave her.

“Brinley,” I called out but my voice failed me.

Even from over here, I could see the pure terror in her eyes as she saw the long arrow protruding from her arm. Her cries were loud and terrible. I could feel my eyes glazing over like I had been hit but I didn’t feel any pain. I couldn’t have been hit. It sounded like my head was still underwater from diving into the pool. Chaos broke when people realized what had happened to their Sor.

Some ran towards us. Some ran towards the Fortress. Others ran into the forests. I couldn’t do anything but sit there in the marsh, reaching out to Brinley who was otherwise too occupied to notice. Hundreds of arrows shot from the forest and they hit people by the dozens. The village men fell with nobles. Savs had it best. Some even tried to form ranks and fight back but we couldn’t see them in the impending darkness and fog.

“How are they seeing us?” A Sav next to me exclaimed as he quickly nocked another arrow. His voice sounded weird though. It seemed like it was almost distorted.

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