Chapter 2 pt. B
I really am dreading venturing back into that little room. I don’t understand why we can’t do this planning in a more comfortable setting. Preferably one with food. We can plan literally anywhere in the fortress, but we decided to plan in a room too large to be considered a closet and too small to fit anything useful.
As soon as we walked into the Fortress our discomfort eased. The fortress was always cold on the ground floor. It doesn’t matter if we have all the fireplaces going. If you aren’t within 10 feet of a fireplace then you are cold. It makes it really nice on Summer days or Autumn days with Summer temperatures. It is dreadful during wintertime. Everyone tries to avoid the ground floor during the wintertime.
In fact, I rarely leave my tower during the wintertime. It does get cold up there, but I can always bundle up and barricade the windows so no cold wind can get in.
As we were walking back to the awful excuse for a room we got passed by squadrons of Savs running to someplace. This doesn’t normally happen so we as a group were kind of confused as to what was going on.
“Kane, do you know if the Savs were supposed to have a drill today?” Sor Larkin puzzled.
Even if they did have a drill today it wouldn’t make sense. They did drills in the fields behind the Fortress. I studied drills that they did when I was 15. They don’t do drills in the Fortress so they don’t cause unnecessary panic with the inhabitants. Besides, that didn’t look like any drill I had seen. They were carrying real swords and not the practice ones we use in fencing.
“I’m afraid I don’t know, Larkin. Chi Lucian, do you have any knowledge of this?” Ene Kane quickly turned to me.
I could feel all the eyes on me and I was alarmed.
“N-no, I’m sorry but I don’t know,” I responded quickly.
A bell sounded throughout the Fortress. We were in level 1 lockdown. That’s not too bad. Level one is that there’s a threat in the Shire. We can deal with that. It’s not that bad. Ene Kane looked confused so he turned to his daughter to see if she knew anything.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine. Let’s just finish this wedding prep so we can be done with it.” I hurried them along.
Per Andromeda looked worried as well and so Ronin was whispering reassuring words in her ear.
Level two. Okay. We’ll still be fine. It’s just a threat somewhere outside the Fortress walls. They can’t get in, it is a Fortress after all.
“Lucian? What’s going on?” Andromeda ran towards me.
I looked out the window but I didn’t see anything.
“There’s a threat outside the Fortress’ walls. We’ll still be fine. Don’t worry.” I told all of this to Andromeda but I wasn’t sure if I believed myself. Would we really be okay?
What am I saying? Of course, we will be okay.
I took a deep breath and we continued to walk towards the Wedding Prep room. I tread more carefully than I had before. It was like I was unconsciously trying to hide my footsteps from whatever was outside the castle walls. It could be a Dev who could hear me right now for all I know.
“That was 5 bells. What does that mean?” Brinley looked panicked.
“We have to move quickly!” I changed course and began running in another direction.
“Where are we going?” Sor Larkin yelled from behind me.
I looked back at her as I continued running, “to the underground levels!”
I sped up and ran directly into a Sav.
“Chi Lucian, I’m sorry! Would you like me to escort you and your group to the Under?” He apologized quickly.
“Yeah,” I answered and the Sav took off.
We followed him closely behind and Brinley caught up to me. She was holding her heels in her hand and running on the stone floor with her bare feet. That is sure to hurt her later.
“Sav! What in the heavens is going on?” Andromeda gasped.
We turned the hallways to run down the stairs to the Under.
“It’s a revolt! The Village People are revolting against the Ene. They have a Cannon and they are threatening to fire against the Fortress. They’re after all the Noblemen. We need to get all of you hidden underground. Quickly, let’s move.” He called all of us.
We were on a level that I didn’t recognize. It was faintly lit with torches and we ran through the hallways not bothering to figure out where we were. The air down here was damp and thick. It was also really cold. I thought the ground floor was bad. This was even worse. I shivered as we ran through the tunnels. That’s when the Sav stopped. The Fortress shook and dust poured off the ceiling.
I knew what had happened immediately. They had fired. The shot of the cannon made me feel sad. I know I should be happy to be alive but this is my home. I’ve lived here my entire life and now someone is trying to knock my memories to the ground.
I know this isn’t about me but I couldn’t help but feel disgruntled. The Sav herded us into a dusty room. All the furniture in it was covered in dust sheets. The air smelled musty and damp. It wasn’t the most pleasant smell in the world. The Sav began walking out of the room.
“Where are you going?” Brinley asked in her hysteria.
“I have to report to duty. You guys stay here. When this is over, I or another Sav will come to get you. You have to stay here.” The Sav sounded like he was talking to a bunch of hysterical toddlers.
I guess it’s not far from what we are. Scared Aristocrats and hysterical toddlers are pretty much the same things. The Sav walked out of the room and shut the door. As soon as we were alone in the room Brinley started crying. Sor Larkin rushed over to her and hugged her tightly. The building shook again and I felt tears prick at the back of my eye. How dare they do this to the Fortress. This place is more historical than they will ever be. So much has happened here and they are hitting it with their Cannon like it is nothing.
The room kept shaking. I sat in the corner with my legs pulled up to my chest. My eyesight was beginning to get blurry. I wanted to sleep but how could I when the ceiling could cave any second?
This is your father’s fault.
The voice’s whisper was soft and all-knowing. I guess it wouldn’t be much of a push to pin this whole escapade on my father. I thought back to my conversation with Brinley. She didn’t want me to be a Red Ruler. I guess it was because in all meanings of the word that was what my father was. I didn’t want to be like this. I didn’t want to have my future son cowering in old rooms filled with ancient furniture because of the way I ruled.
When and if I get out of this alive, I’m going back to get Aya out of the village. She doesn’t belong there. She belongs here in the castle. The place she has lived for the past 50 years. I guess that’s what Brinley was trying to have me see.
“Brinley?” I whispered.
“Where are you? I can’t see you!” I called out softly.
“I’m near the bookshelf,” She responded.
I moved and crawled over to where I had seen the bookshelf before the Sav closed the door.
“Am I closer?” I asked her.
“Yeah. Come here,” She definitely sounded closer.
I was about to move when there was a thundering and what I could only assume was the sound of stone breaking. It sounded closer. I shivered as the Fortress rumbled. More dust came pouring from the ceiling.
“Are you okay?”
“Come sit with me. If we are going to die down here, I want to be with you.” Brinley explained.
I stuck a hand out and I came crawling, looking for her.
When I finally felt her, I sat down next to her. It was dark in the room and still. I couldn’t tell if everyone was sleeping or not. All I knew was that it seemed like it was only Brinley and I sitting in the room. It appeared like it was Brinley and me against the world. I felt around for her hand and when I found it I grabbed it tightly.
“Lucian? Are we going to survive this?” She whispered.
“Of course we are going to survive this. Our story hasn’t been finished yet, how could it? We have so much to look forward to.” I assured her.
“Lucian, we aren’t a storybook. We can leave all our investors in suspense with our untimely deaths.”
“Shh. Our time isn’t yet. We have so much more to live for.”
Brinley shifted uncomfortably, “Like what?”
“Like ruling this awful Shire.” I offered.
Brinley snorted and reached out for, well, something. I grabbed her hand and guided it to my face. She rubbed her thumb over my cheek.
“You are right, Lucian. As you always are. We have to live to fix this broken Shire.”
“Exactly, love. We are going to fix this broken Shire. Therefore we must live.” I quietly assured her.
The room trembled again and Brinley jumped. I wrapped my arms around her and she wrapped herself closer to me. I could feel her trembling against me and I kept my breathing calm and still. She needed someone or something to be calm for her right now. I intend to be this thing. I pet her hair as she buried her face against my shoulders.
The people of Fyn really don’t believe in different tiers of the afterlife. The people of Cadia do. For them, there are three versions of an afterlife. There’s the bottom of the tier, Malcens, the middle tier, Normamis, and then the highest tier, Bonitas. According to Brinley’s beliefs, the highest she could go to is Normamis because Bonitas is designated only for the best rulers.
When Brinley told me about all of this I felt relief that I didn’t believe it. I believe that after we die we all go to the same place. No riches or punishments are waiting for you after you stop breathing. It’s reassuring to me.
I am free to be me. There is absolutely no pressure to be anything besides what you are. Cadia believes in magic and fairy tales while Fyn believes in what we can see. That is the difference between us.
Brinley squeezed my hand, “Lucian?”
“I really want to get married to you,”
“As we will. I promise you that. We will get married in three weeks. If we don’t get married in three weeks we will find each other, wherever we will be and get married for the rest of eternity.” I assured her.
“I’m glad you are here with me. I can’t imagine another way.”
“Besides, love, we aren’t dying. Not today.” I smiled in the darkness.
“Just in case-” She started.
“Shh, we aren’t dying,” I assured her.
“Lucian, let’s step into reality for a second, shall we?” Her voice was tinged with something.
“Okay,” I agreed.
“We could die at any second. So I’m telling you that I love you” She held my face in both her hands.
“We aren’t-” She then put her hand over my mouth.
“Lucian?” She asked.
“Yes,” I responded but it was a little muffled.”
“Do you love me?”
She seemed like she was waiting.
“I love you, Brinley.” I laughed.
“Swear on the Omn we will see one another again.” She demanded.
“I swear on the Omn we will see one another again, love. Not even death can keep me away from you.”
I could feel Brinley smiling in the darkness. She rested her head against my shoulder and I could feel her calm. I couldn’t wait to marry her.
Don’t marry her.
I opened my eyes. I looked down at Brinley, whom I could barely see. I wanted to marry her. What’s so wrong with marrying her.
The voice whispering in my head was confusing me. Sometimes I agreed with what it was saying but other times I just wanted to ignore it. I wished it would go away. I didn’t want to hear it tell me what to do. I would much rather make my own mistakes blissfully blind than have to believe I must be losing my mind.
I didn’t want to listen to whatever was in my head. It seemed so wrong. No one else has a voice in my head so why do I? I keep thinking back to my father’s rule about magic. He had said people of Fyn were more susceptible to dark magic. Was it possible I contracted a Dev? I had to laugh. I know that Devs don’t really work like that. You can’t just catch one. They weren’t illnesses. You have to be around a dark object for a long period of time. Dev’s aren’t very powerful in our world. It takes a while for one to transfer into the body of a person. I don’t think we own a dark object so it shouldn’t be possible for me to have one whispering to me in my head. Even if it was possible, why would it want to be in my head? I’m not going to be Ene for years.
There were several reasons why there couldn’t be a Dev in my head, but that was the only real explanation I had for this problem. If it ever gets more intense I’ll talk to Ronin about my problem. We can travel to Cadia on “Business” to get me cleansed. We can’t do it here because my father didn’t see the point of cleansers if any types of magic were outlawed. Besides, it wouldn’t be great if I got caught getting cleansed in Fyn. It would raise too many questions if I ran into anyone there.
The voice was soft. It was silent and nearly inapprehensible but it was present. The sounds resonated throughout my head. Each time it reached the end of one way it would echo back louder than before. Soon my mind was full of what once was whispery soft. It seemed to be shouting at me.
The noise caused me pain. I tried to block my ears but the noise didn’t silence. I buried my face into my knees and I tried not to hear. I blocked out everyone’s soft snores in the room but the sound kept resonating. It made me feel like it was going to drown me. I was going to die and the last thing I would hear would be this awful noise.
The noise reached a new level and it was astronomical. I reached for my ears to make sure they weren’t bleeding. I looked around the darkroom. No one had stirred. How could they not hear this? Even if it was in my head, how had the noise not escaped? The sound’s intensity rose to a new height and I pushed my ears against my head. I wasn’t trying to block out noise anymore, I was trying to push my head in.
Just like a symphony hitting its climax I felt as if I couldn’t take it anymore. The whisper had transformed and built into a scream that exhausted me to witness. One last note in the symphony, the screams intensified for a final time, and I swear I could feel my ears start to bleed. Then the noise let up. Everything in my head was silent. It was way too quiet. My ears still felt like they were throbbing from all the noise.
I shuttered as I squeezed my knees close to my body. I shivered despite Brinley laying beside me, warming me. The realization of what had happened in my head terrified me. The intensity of the noise was almost too much to bear. What happens if the voice pushes me too far? What would happen then?
The voice whispered. My brain hurt and I winced as I prepared for the echoing. I waited for the whisper to turn into ear-piercing shrieks but it didn’t happen. It confused me because I kept waiting for more. I kept waiting for something to tell me that the voice was still there, watching and waiting for the perfect time to strike.
Everything sounded muffled and underwater.
Nothing happened. Somehow in some way, the silence was less pleasant than the noise. It made me feel all alone, even with the 5 other people in the room with me. I reached up with a shaking hand and felt my ear. A warm liquid was dripping out of my ear. I gasped quietly. The warm liquid seeped on to my hand.
“Brin,” I shook her.
Brinley responded in her half-sleep. I could make out any of her words so I shook her again. She shifted.
“Brin!” I called her again.
“What do you want, Lucian?” She groaned.
“My ear is bleeding.”
Her head popped up and she looked at me with a weird expression on her face.
“Why is your ear-bleeding?”
“Hold up, let me see. Maybe it’s a cut from the floor.” Brinley stretched.
I unconsciously reached for my ear. I froze when I noticed something was wrong. My hand wasn’t wet with blood anymore. Blood doesn’t dry that quickly but just to be sure I reached for my ear. I could hear out of it perfectly. It wasn’t ringing and the sounds weren’t muffled by the blood.
There was no liquid in, on, or around my ear. It was like it was never there.
“Which ear is it?” Brinley yawned.
I reached for the other one, making sure it wasn’t the other one that was bleeding. My other ear wasn’t bleeding either. I tried to reason what had happened but I was stumped. Blood doesn’t just disappear. Unless it wasn’t there in the first place.
“Seriously, Lucy, I’m tired and I want to sleep. Which ear is it?” Brinley groaned.
I stayed silent for a second as I reached up for my ear once again. I could have sworn on my life it was bleeding but it wasn’t. The noise wasn’t real. It didn’t make my ear bleed. It’s fear. That’s what’s causing my mind to be weird.
“Sorry love, I must have dreamed it,” I responded
“Are you sure?” Brinley yawned once again.
“Yeah, let’s just go back to sleep,” I responded slowly.
Brinley laid her head back down on my lap and I laid on her back. Soon Brinley’s breathing had leveled and quieted. All was still around us. The shaking had stopped and the only sounds were of the quiet breathing of everyone in the room. I had closed my eyes and I tried to still my racing mind.
Nothing had worked. My heart was still beating fast and my mind felt like it was racing faster than the fastest bird. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. Being underground seemed to increase my nervousness.
I had never really been underground. I had once very briefly. It was when I was interested in seeing the prisoners in the castle. I had gotten Cons Ronin to take me to the dungeons but I freaked out and we were only under the ground for 10 to 20 minutes. It just didn’t seem natural to me to be under the dirt. It made me feel claustrophobic like I was being buried alive.
Some of the lower class servants lived in the Under but they were the ones who cleaned or tended to the animals. I didn’t have much experience talking with them but I always wondered how they could fathom sleeping underground.
Brinley shifted underneath me and it reminded me of how much danger we really were in. The Village men were out to kill us. We had a death sentence in the Villages. That was a really scary thought. I began to think back on my life. In 19 years of existence, I hadn’t done much politically. I had made appearances and gave a single speech at my father’s birthday party. That was the extent of my political career. How is it possible that a giant group of people wanted me dead over that? Even as I asked that question I knew how dumb that sounded. I was the Chi. The sole heir to the Great House of Kreed. This death sentencing has nothing to do with me and everything to do with my name. I was Chi Lucian Kreed of Fyn. With that name and title comes power and fear but also danger. I would be wanted dead for things I didn’t do. I was wanted dead because I was on top. The people didn’t hate me but they hated everything I stood for. That is why I am wanted dead. That is why Brinley is wanted dead. We stand for everything they think is wrong with the world. What they cease to realize is that given the position they would be just as hated.
That is how Aristocracy works. There will be people loyal to the throne and there will be people who hate the power in other hands. They think they can do better but they can’t because the village men don’t pay attention to what you do only to your name and title. What a bunch of hypocrites.
I was wanted dead because I was on top.
I was dead because I was on top.
I was on top.
I am on top.
My internal monologue was interrupted by the sound of banging on the door. My head shot up as I stared hard at the door.
Give them hell.
I swear on the Omn, I would give them hell. I would die standing up, I wouldn’t die sitting on the floor like a coward. I shifted Brinley off my lap and onto a curled position on the floor. She stirred in her sleep slightly. I prayed that she wasn’t about to wake up. I didn’t want her to know terror if we died today. I pulled the dagger out of my belt and noticed that Ronin’s head was up as well.
The door shoved again and I was prepared to throw the dagger at this person’s head. I wouldn’t hesitate. I only wished that it was only one person at the door. Ronin joined me standing up and pulled his own dagger out of his pocket. We were prepared. We would go down like men. Perhaps history would remember me. I would be the Chi who defended his Aus and her parents from dangerous revolutionaries. I decided that would be nice. I would fight with all I had.
The door opened and dusty light poured in.
“Ene, Sor, Chi, Aus, it’s over. The rebels have fled. It’s safe to come out.” One Sav stepped into the room.
Ronin sighed in relief and relaxed his grip on his knife. Andromeda picked up her head from off the ground and stared sleepily around the room. Ronin helped his fiancee up and Ene and Sor began to wake up as well. Brinley looked dead asleep and I knew better than to try to wake her up.
I bent down and carried her in my arms. She was still fast asleep as we left that awful room. As I was walking I felt fatigued. I needed to walk around some more. I had been sitting on that dusty floor for way too long. We walked up to the ground level and I felt the weight on my chest lifting.
I survived an assassination attempted. I didn’t know if I should be proud that I did or worried that I had to deal with them. Either way, I didn’t want to deal with the conflictions so I didn’t. Brinley buried herself into my chest and Sor Larkin smiled sleepily at me. On the ground level, things didn’t look so different. It was until we passed the giant gaping hole in the wall. Then things looked different.
It felt weird staring at the destruction. Seeing it I suddenly wondered about my father. Was he okay? Did he survive all of this? I really hope he did. I wasn’t ready to be the Ene yet. It would be a pain to start without a Sor, and I don’t think we can move the wedding up even further than we already had.
Ronin walked up behind me and patted my back.
“Are you doing alright, Lucian?” He asked.
I don’t know.
On one hand, I had survived. I was okay. Brinley was fine. Ronin was a little shaken up but otherwise okay. We were fine, but I didn’t know who wasn’t okay. Had anyone perished? Was the only casualty the walls of the Fortress? I certainly hope so, even if it’s still depressing the Fortress got destroyed in places.
“I guess so,” I responded.