Chapter 4 pt. A
I spent a week in Cadia before returning home to Fyn. That was another week gone before my wedding to Brinley, and we still hadn’t announced it to the public yet. Even though the people had no prejudices against me because of my hesitant involvement in politics they still didn’t approve of my engagement to Brinley. In their minds, our marriage represented my father gaining more control over the people. That was a bad thing in their eyes. Tensions around the castle were getting higher as time went on. We kept expecting another attack since no one wanted Brinley to rule. As the pressure went up, my anxieties followed quickly behind. I wanted the voice out of my head, but I wasn’t supposed to return to Cadia until after I got married. My father assumed that things would be better when Brinley became their future Sor. With that said, everyone was miserable as we kept waiting and waiting for something to happen.
I had gotten home really late last night and so I hadn’t gotten to see Brinley when I got home. In fact, Ronin and I didn’t see anyone last night. We just climbed the stairs to our bed chambers and fell asleep instantly. I slept for a long time and woke up late in the morning. Ronin had already gotten ready and eaten breakfast when I woke up.
I was surprised no one had woken me because today was a very important day. Today we were announcing my marriage to Brinley is in just over a week. Still, surprisingly enough I wasn’t woken up. I had to get ready fast and find Ronin so he could fill me in on today’s itinerary.
Ronin wasn’t in his bedroom so he was probably with my father or Brinley’s family. I walked downstairs and everything seemed so lively today. Of course, there were a lot of people working in the castle on a regular day but today it seemed extra bustling. I passed quite a few people as I walked down to the ground floor. The ground floor was packed with people. I didn’t recognize most of them but from the way they dressed, I could tell they weren’t our usual visitors.
They were dressed up nicely, of course, but they didn’t have the sheen and polish that the nobles usually had. I assume they were the rich of the village-men. I guess it made sense. Father used the rich folks to keep a handle on the citizens. As long as Father invited them to one important event in a year it makes them feel special enough to enforce my father’s laws. I guess this was the event.
Perhaps we will be throwing an engagement party after all. My father had originally planned out an engagement party for Brinley and me nearly two years ago, but we didn’t get to have it. The weekend we were supposed to have it, nearly the entire Fortress got food poisoning as an attempt to kill my father. Or Brinley, no one knows for sure because we didn’t catch the party responsible.
After that debacle, my father decided it would be best not to throw an engagement party. I suppose he changed his mind because the people here look ready for a party. When I find Ronin, I’ll have him pull out my good surcoat and slacks. I walked through groups of people and the gasped and whispered amongst themselves
“Is that the Chi?” Women whispered not so subtly.
I continued walking past but I continued hearing the whispers.
“He’s so handsome!” Someone swooned and it made me smile.
“Lourdes,” Someone scolded, “He’s only a child.”
I had to roll my eyes at that. Once again people have forgotten how old I actually am.
“No no, he’s engaged. He has to be an adult.” They whispered again.
Thank you. I most certainly am an adult.
“Long live the Chi! Long live Chi Lucian!” Someone boasted loudly.
I turned around slightly but then forgot it and continued pressing forward. Some people in the villages do this whenever I make public appearances. They have been doing it ever since I turned 16.
In my mind, there are 3 different types of village-men. There are the Rebels. They are the ones who don’t support the monarchy at all. There’s the Wishful. They don’t support my father and want him dead. They do, however, support me because they think I’ll be different from my father. They don’t know if I’m different or not, it’s just wishful thinking, hence the name. Then there are the Loyals. They don’t wish for my father’s death. They still sing “Long live the Ene” whenever we make appearances. Most of the Loyals are rich. The traitorous Villagemen come from both the Rebels group and the Wishful. Not all Rebels are traitors and not all the traitors are Rebels. That’s just how this works.
I finally made it out of the group of people and breathed. I never liked crowds of people. I think I would hate it if I had to listen to the Ene’s declarations from inside a large crowd. I’m lucky I get to sit in a tent on a nearby balcony.
“Chi Lucian,” A Cons looked at me with a worried face, “are you alright?”
“Yeah, just give me a minute,” I assured her that I’d be fine.
“Really, your face is pale, Chi Lucian. Do you need me to call for Cons Ronin?” She offered.
“I’m alright, really.” I insisted. “I need to find Ronin. Do you know where he is?”
“Of course. He is in the dining hall getting it prepared for the ball. Oh isn’t it wonderful Chi Lucian? I haven’t been to a ball before,” She looked starstruck.
She must be new. Balls are magical the first time you attend once but after a while, they are just the same old thing. I didn’t want to ruin her excitement so I smiled at her and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. Thank you for all your help, madam.” I continued along my way.
“S-sure! No problem Chi Lucian!!”
I walked along the cool hallways and they didn’t get any less busy. Cons and Servants were running along the hallways with assortments of different things in their hands. It was kind of nice seeing so many people in one place. It made the Fortress seem more alive than it has in recent times.
As I was walking toward the Dining Hall I heard a familiar voice. I veered off track and down a different hallway. Brinley was talking to Per Andromeda. I started walking towards her when I got hit with a wave of vertigo. I stopped and waited for it to pass. It seemed to be getting better but I heard the voice.
It whispered sweetly into my ear.
Change is the death of all things!
The voice snarled at me. I winced but pushed forward. I tapped Brinley’s shoulder gently. She turned from her conversation with Per Andromeda. Her eyes widened as she looked at me. She wrapped her arms around my neck in elation.
“Lucian! I missed you! Why did you leave me here all alone!!” She scolded me but continued to hug my neck.
“I missed you too Brin.” I laughed but hugged her back.
“I’ll leave you two alone to have your reunion.” Per Andromeda winked.
When Brinley pulled away I realized how much I had missed her in the past few days. Aus Vega and Chi Cyris were great and all but they were both really intense and pretty morbid at times. I mostly spent my time with Ronin in the village outside of the castle to avoid them but I wasn’t about to tell that to Brinley.
“So? How was Cadia? How was my sister? Was it beautiful? Were you impressed? Did you miss me?” Brinley’s questions came tumbling out of her mouth so fast I could barely understand each of them.
I laughed and pulled Brinley into another hug.
“Cadia was wonderful. It was really nice to take a break from everything and see where you grew up. Your sister was wonderful. We get along very well. Yes, it was very beautiful. I was amazed by how bright your castle was. I was very impressed and I would like to return with you next time. Of course, I missed you, Brinley.” I answered as she still clung to me.
“Yes, we need to go there sometime. I really wish my parents let me go with you. Your week sounds a lot more fun than my week.” Brinley complained.
“Really, how was your week?”
“Awful!” She cried, “My parents wouldn’t let me out of their sight. I spent the entire week planning out the wedding. You owe me big time, mister.”
“I know. I know,” I laughed.
“So what kind of things did you do in Cadia?” Brinley moved on from her terrible week here in Fyn and other things.
“I had dinner with your sister and her husband a few times. I visited a practicing witch because that’s illegal here. I wrote you a poem,” I flirted with her a little bit.
“We will get to that poem in a bit, but how was your visit to a ‘witch’?”
“I assume you don’t believe in magic?” I asked her.
“Please, the ‘witches’ in Cadia are traps for desperate citizens of Fyn.”
“Whatever you say, Love,” I laughed.
“You, Lucian Kreed, Son of Ene Edmond Kreed, believe in witches?” Brinley looked very surprised.
“I believe in magic. I don’t think that witches are as common as Cadia makes the world think. I believe you were right about them being Traps for citizens of Fyn but I do think there are some real witches.” I explained.
“So Lucian, was the witch you found a real one?”
“I think so. She’s an old family friend.”
“At least you had a good time. Now about that Poem.” Brinley grinned like a little child being presented as a gift.
“Alright, let me see if I can remember it.”
I ignored the voice in my head and continued.
Have you ever felt the breeze blow
Upon a clear clear sky?
Have you ever felt the sun begin to rise?
Have you seen its rays?
Stretching far and wide?
Have you ever been without?
Listening for the smallest beckoning of light
Freezing in the long ended warmth
Have you lost something?
Something you thought was forever
Did it return with a promise?
Did it end your endless night?
And fill you with something a little more?
Did it make you want to live?
Did it make you want to feel alive?
You see my love is the Sun
My life is the Sky
When she is gone
There is no light
When she returns
My whole world is bright
You see my love is the Sun
My life is the Sky
Brinley smiled as I finished. She walked into my embrace once again and buried her face into my shoulder. I wrapped my arms softly around her back. She was quiet for a little while. We stood there not caring if anyone saw us. Why would it matter if we were alone like this? We aren’t children. We know our duties and guarding us at all hours of the day take meaning out of moments like this. I’m just glad we could steal this away.
“Do you have this written down somewhere?” Brinley asked me, still staying in my arms.
“You know me, of course, I do,” I responded.
“Can I have it?”
We do this anytime I recite her a poem. After the first few times, I started writing a second copy. I never knew what she was doing with the poems until a few months ago when we were sitting in the gardens with Ronin. We were discussing how beautiful flowers looked when they had just bloomed and Brinley recited a poem I gave her, word for word, about the flowers, blooming.
After that, I asked her how she had it memorized and she told me that she keeps them in a box and rereads them from time to time. It made me a lot happier to give them to Brinley.
At first, I was very hesitant to hand them over because I thought that she kept them for a few days and threw them out. It didn’t sit well with me that I poured out my heart and soul into these papers and she was disrespecting it by throwing them out. After that day I knew that she would immortalize my words, and so I would always give her a copy to have. Like Brinley, I also keep all the poems, but they are sitting in a leather-bound book in my dresser, instead of her box.
“Listen, I got to get a speech ready for the ball. I’ll see you later. Bye, Lucy. Make sure to save me a song.” Brinley turned on her heels and began to walk away.
“Wait do I have to give a speech?” I followed quickly after her.
“Of course you do! It’s your wedding too! Go get one ready.”
I kissed her cheek quickly and ran back the way I came to get to the dining hall. I still need to find Ronin. I got distracted with Brinley. I raced down the hallways and passed more servants carrying many assortments of items. This was a very extravagant ball. I need a dress code. Now I really have to find Ronin. I entered the dining hall and I found Ronin moving a table. I stood behind him and he could feel my eyes on him.
“Yes Chi Lucian,” He responded without turning around.
“Drop the table. We have better things to do.” I turned and headed back towards the tower.
“What better things? I’m helping to set up for your engagement party.” Ronin quickly followed after me.
“Well, Brinley just informed me that I have to write a speech for the ball I didn’t know we were having. I need to bounce ideas off of you. Come on.” We continued to walk to my tower.
“And why do I have to be the one you bounce ideas off of?”
“Because you are my best friend, and it will be more fun than moving tables,” I explained as I snagged a cookie off of passing by Servant’s platter.
“While you have a point, don’t you think that my talents are wasted just sitting and helping you write your speech? Can’t literally anyone else do that for you?”
I swallowed the cookie I was eating and responded, “I trust your judgment. Alright, should I go wordy and lengthy or dramatic and short?” I asked but then thought of another one, “or poetic and romantic?”
“Go poetic and romantic. It best describes your engagement.” Begrudgingly, he responded.
“Why thank you, Ronnie, you are helping me already,”
I couldn’t tell if Ronin rolled his eyes, but I could care less. I was in a great mood today and nothing could bring me down right now. As I reached my room I grabbed a sheet of parchment paper from a basket on the table. I also grabbed my quill and ink from wherever they were lying in the sitting room.
“Should I write another poem for her?” I sank into a giant armchair.
Ronin sat down on his bed and pulled out a book from under him. He began reading the front of it.
“Why would you write another poem for your speech?” He asked as he was still focused on the book sitting in front of him.
“She’s seen all my other poems.”
“Aus Brinley has seen them all? I haven’t even seen them all, and I live with you.”
Don’t marry her.
I stopped. I dropped the paper in my lap. Usually, the voices aren’t so straight forward. I usually don’t understand what they want me to do but this was pretty self-explanatory. It made me stop and think. The last time the voice was so forward I did what it was asking me without thinking. It was when I made Aya leave the Carriage.
I want to marry her. Why was the Dev telling me not to? Was it dangerous for me to marry her? Is the Dev looking out for me or is it out to destroy my life. I love Brinley, and I’m not going to stop loving her.
Don’t marry her. She lies.
Was the voice talking about Brinley the whole time? That can’t be right. What has she lied about? Maybe the voice wasn’t telling that she lies but she will lie in the future. Maybe that’s what it’s protecting me from. I furrowed my brows in concentration. Something was off about this.
It whispered the message, laced with poison. The voice in my head sounded sweet but I knew it was all a front. I remember the pain in the Under. That was possibly the worst experience of my life.
The voice whispered and it began echoing. I knew what was coming. I braced myself for the ear-piercing shrieks that would soon come. Just like last time the noise began to build and get louder with every second that went on. The two words echoed and ricocheted off of my mind. The tempo rose and it was hard to distinguish the words from the ongoing echoes in my head.
The noise kept getting louder and louder. At this point, there were no words. It was just screeching that kept getting more and more intense. My eyesight blurred with the pain and I looked up and out of my lap. Ronin was asking me something. He looked worried. I couldn’t care about his worries as the sound filled my head and pushed out all functions so it could intensify.
I tried to keep my hands at my side but they flew up to my ears. I pressed them against my skull trying to crush it to release the pressure that had built in my brain. It felt like my head was throbbing. I pressed harder against my temples. I don’t know if I screamed. I couldn’t hear anything anymore. I felt nothing but searing pain as it ripped through my forehead. It was like my skull was getting cracked open with a fire poker.
Actually, that sounds too enjoyable right now. I just need to release the tension. I could feel sweat prickling on my skin. I don’t know how much longer I can’t stay conscious. I could hardly feel the tears running down my face. All I felt was this searing, splitting, headache-inducing noise.
I opened my eyes wide as I could nearly swear my skull was splitting apart. In my blurred vision, I could see Ronin running off the bed. He reached for me but I don’t remember him getting there. I don’t remember anything after that.
This room seems so bright. Almost way too bright. The room was warm and comfortable. Brinley was sitting across from me on the floor. Her legs were folded underneath her skirt. She looked very comfortable and almost seemed to be sleeping. I knew she wasn’t because her breathing was too controlled for that.
Brinley’s hair was in spirally curls that were done intricately into an updo. Usually, her hair is only in waves, her natural style. She seemed to be meditating. The room was quiet. The only sounds were of the wind blowing through the window. It filled the room with a warm breeze that relaxed me to my core. I knew that this was a false memory because we were alone. It appeared to be taking place a few months into our engagement because that was the only time Brinley regularly curled her hair. It was before her signature braid.
“Lucian!” Brinley opened her eyes.
My eyes widened. She seemed too perfect. She sat up perfectly straight. Her hair always moved back into its original place. Her smile was too bright. She was too open. This was my Fiancee, but it was a perfect version of her. Ergo it wasn’t really her. It still sounded like her and it still seemed like her. I wanted it to be her. I longed for the real her.
Brinley got up from where she was peacefully sitting and joined me. Her gloved hands intricately found their way into mine. There was another difference. Her hands were so much smaller than mine. They weren’t in real life. This was another thing telling me that this was a false reality.
“What’s wrong Luci?” She quietly examined our interlocked fingers.
I winced for a second. It was just a brief second of sharp pain in my head but it was gone a second after it happened. Brinley cocked her head to the side. I squeezed her hand as it was supposed to be reassuring to her it made me feel a little uncomfortable. This didn’t seem like Brinley. It looked like her and sounded like her but it wasn’t her.
“Nothing, I’m just feeling off today. I’ll be fine, love.” I assured her.
Brinley leaned against my shoulder. I felt a brief few seconds of pain. I wrapped my arm around her shoulders to keep me from clutching at my head. The pain passed and I sighed. I closed my eyes and let the light from the windows cover me.
“Hey, Luci! Are you okay?”
I winced again and waited for the pain to come back. It didn’t seem to be returning so I turned back to Brinley. I gave her a wide grin and pulled her closer. Brinley allowed herself to be pulled in. I kissed her forehead. A sharp pain pulsated into my head. I quickly dropped my head into my hand. I looked back into the light in my room. Around me, things were darker.
“Lucian!” Brinley asked panickily.
I curled into a ball and braced my head in my hands.
Brinley let go of me and looked around the room feverishly. All the furniture in the room was gone and it was just Brinley and I sitting on the floor.
“Lucian! What’s happening.” Her voice was getting louder and higher.
“I don’t know! I don’t KNOW!” I screamed as the sound pierced into my brain.
Brinley reached for me, “Lucian!”
“HELP ME!” I screamed at her.
“I don-, I-, what’s happening Lucian!” Brinley cried.
I pushed her out of my head and she continued shouting my name. I rocked myself back and forth and my world became dark.
Brinley’s voice kept echoing in the back of my thoughts but at some point, it morphed into Ronin’s voice.
“Lucian! You have to get up! Your father will never forgive me if you don’t go to this party. Please get up!” Ronin’s voice was begging.
I winced as I opened my eyes. The room was warm. I looked around rapidly and winced at the movement. I was sore. I was still in my room and that eased my nerves. I was laying on the couch instead of the chair that I was in earlier.
“Lucian!” Ronin exclaimed in relief, “Are you okay? You passed out! I had no idea what happened to you!”
Ronin hugged me tightly and I was just busy trying to get my bearings. I could feel the tension in my head but it wasn’t the sharp intense pain that I remembered.
“Are you okay?” Ronin relaxed a little bit.
I took a moment to think it over. I could feel the remnants of an intense headache. It certainly wasn’t as bad as it was before.
“Yeah, I guess I’m alright,” I responded.
“Good,” He breathed.
“How long was I out?” I asked softly.
“Two hours.” Ronin breathed. “I guess you aren’t going to get your speech done because we need to get you dressed.”
I sat up on the couch and Ronin helped to pull me up. I was very light headed and had a wave of vertigo as I got used to being up. Ronin led me over to where he had laid out my clothes. I walked into the closet and began to get dressed.
Ronin had pulled out dark grey slacks, a white dress shirt, a black vest adorned with pendants that represented my royal status, a velveteen red sash, and finally a grey surcoat to match the slacks. When I had finished getting dressed I truly felt royal. I looked like my father and I was proud. Sure I seemed too short and too skinny to be a royal, but all the layers masked the latter. I smiled in the full-sized mirror in the corner of my closet. The ensemble was dashing and it suited my royal status.
“Chi Lucian, are you finished?” Ronin asked.
“You may enter,” I fixed my silvery cufflinks.
“Sit down, I’ll fix your hair.” He told me.
I sat down on a small bench and Ronin dragged a comb through my unruly curls. He pulled them back and tied them with a silk ribbon. I looked in the mirror and with my hair pulled behind my neck, I realized how scrawny I had gotten. Maybe my father was right to make my sizes bigger. No matter.
“There you look great, Chi. Perhaps we should go to see your father now.” Ronin walked away.
I looked back at him and just realized that he had gotten dressed already. Perhaps I should have noticed that sooner.
“Wait shouldn’t we cover this scar?” I pointed to my neck.
I’ve had the scar for as long as I could remember. I don’t know where it came from or when it happened. My father didn’t ever tell me but it has been there for years. It’s right in the middle of my neck. It looked like it was quite the injury before it scarred. It was thick and jagged and it stopped abruptly. We had always covered it with powder during public appearances. It seemed odd that Ronin would forget. That’s not like him.
“Oh, Ene Edmond told me not to cover it.”
Well, that’s odd. We always covered it.
“He didn’t say.”
“Well alright, I guess we are doing this today.” I shrugged.
Now that I think about it, I guess it makes sense. Since he can’t control my body weight as much as he’d like to, at least the scar makes me seem more powerful. Little does the public know that I had the scar my entire life.
I gave myself one last look in the mirror and then got up. I was nearly unrecognizable. I looked so sharp and dark. Even my eyes in the mirror looked cold and dark in the light. I looked at how I was supposed to look.
I took a deep breath and walked away. I was about to walk right out of the room when Ronin reached out to me.
He put his hand on my shoulder as a sign of comfort “It’s a Masquerade Ball.”
Oh, how I loathe Masquerade Balls. They have no place in our lives yet whenever my father wants people to realize how noble we are he puts masks on our faces. It’s as if they couldn’t tell we were noble from how we dress, the way we talk and oh I don’t know, the fact that we have Savs guarding our every move. The masks are not great. They are hot and they are stuffy and I have expressed my hatred of them many times to Ronin before. I looked up at Ronin, trying to see if this was some pathetic joke but he had a look of remorse on his face. This was no joke.
I sighed, there was no getting out of this, “Where’s the ridiculous mask I have to wear?”
Ronin walked back into the closet and walked out with a mask. This mask wasn’t overly big like the last few times. It was sleek and dark. The outside was lined with silver paint and in some places, it made a swirly pattern. In comparison to the masks I’ve worn before, it’s not half bad. I could survive the evening in this. I could wear this.
I put it on and had Ronin tighten it. Ronin’s mask looked nearly identical to mine but without the lining. Ronin and I walked out of my room and we walked to the Grand Hall. I was a little confused for a minute but when I saw Brinley it all made sense. This Ball was in our honor. We were going to make a special entrance.