Lies and Deceit Hidden in the Wind

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Chapter 5 pt. A

In the next week, everything was complete and utter chaos. Everything was loud and screaming at me to pay attention to it. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t expend my energy. Everything was too loud. That was until one cool Autumn morning. That morning was all I had looked forward to in nearly 2 years. It would be perfect because it had to be. I got up early, and there was commotion everywhere, but it wasn’t a bother. I was detached from reality. It was like I wasn’t truly experiencing this morning, and I was observing from a far off place. I wasn’t bothered when Brinley’s flowers hadn’t been picked yet. I just went outside and picked them myself. Everything was lucid and easy to understand. At the time, I thought that it was a sign that everything would be alright.

I walked slowly and smoothly. My steps were sure and strong. The air was brisk but humid from the rain last night. It caused the garden to become ethereal. The soft floral scents of the beautiful blooms and the residue rain mixed perfectly. It smelled like how a relaxing day should. There wasn’t a breeze in the air as I picked the flowers and placed them in a basket I had gotten from the kitchen. Mostly the flowers I picked were white and small so Brinley could braid them into her hair if she wished.

“Chi Lucian!” a soft voice called.

I was so focused on my small task in the garden that I wasn’t sure if I even heard it. I turned from my job to make sure, and sure enough, Ronin was walking through the fog. He was wearing a coat to block out the rain, and I smiled at that. To a lot of people, days like today were supposed to seem dreary and sad. The air was damp. The barely present wind blew cold. Fog pooled at your feet. It seemed like the day for a coat, but they forget how magical it is to be out in the garden.

I had only found one person that enjoys these days as much as I do. Per Andromeda. She will come outside with her easel and oil paints to paint raindrops on the flowers in the garden. She and I will sit out here for hours and hours to come. I wouldn’t do art as she would. I would journal, mostly. I find that on “dreary” days, I can journal the most. Occasionally Brinley and Ronin will sit out here with us as well, but when the rain begins to fall they usually flee for the comfort of the indoors. They don’t understand how freeing it is to sit in the freezing rain and just sit present as all your troubles just fall away.

I guess I can understand why they don’t like to do it often. It leaves you feeling worn-out afterward. Worn out and very cold. Especially since the door to the garden leads to the heart of the ground floor. The ground floor, which is perhaps ten degrees colder than the rest of the Fortress.

“Is there something you need?” I returned to Ronin as he walked towards me.

I set the basket of flowers down near a rose bush and turned my full attention to Ronin. He didn’t seem to be as at ease as I was. He even seemed to be on edge. I couldn’t understand why. There was nothing to worry about. We had planned out the entire wedding. All that was left was to sit back and witness the true fruits of our labors. There isn’t anything that he should worry about right now. I’ve already taken care of the one thing we saved for the day of the wedding, picking the flowers for Brinley.

“I was wondering where you ran off to,” Ronin responded as he sat down next to me on the grass.

The grass was getting my slacks wet from the recent rain, but at this moment, I could care less. The rain smell was getting to my head, and I was beginning to believe that I couldn’t possibly get mad at this moment. I hardly felt anything at all.

“Well, here I am,” I responded as I sifted through the flowers in the basket.

“Here you are. I suppose I should have checked the garden sooner. I guess I just thought you had managed to get roped into one last thing before the wedding.” Ronin responded as he looked at my basket near me.

“Oh, I did. Your Fiancee didn’t have enough time this morning to get Brinley ready and pick flowers so I picked them for her.”

“Oh, well, what a lovely sentiment then.”

“Of course, I am a lovely being.”

“Come on, we need to get ready for today.” Ronin got up and dragged me with him.

I walked with him but I wasn’t ready to leave this place yet. My mind was still there sitting in the garden. In my mind, I was still sitting there, smelling the bewildering after rain scent. In my mind, I hadn’t left. I was, without a doubt, detached. Detached from what was happening around me. Detached from reality. Detached from me myself.

Before long I had found myself being dragged through hallway after hallway, up to my room.

“Ronin, we need to get these too Brinley. She’s probably getting ready right now.” I lifted the basket of flowers.

Ronin took a deep breath and sighed, “You are right. We do need to get these too Brinley.”

I prepared to turn around, but Ronin grabbed my shirt to stop me from leaving. Before long, a young servant walked up to us.

“Chi Lucian, Cons Ronin,” He responded, slightly confused, “aren’t you supposed to be getting ready for the ceremony? We’ve been given direct orders from Ene Edmond not to disturb you.”

“Before we do so, we have a favor to ask you.” I addressed his concern.

“Right, right. Anything,” He responds eagerly.

“We need you to deliver this basket of flowers to Andromeda and Aus Brinley.” Ronin handed over the basket.

“Oh, I’m sorry, but it’s the same for the Per and the Aus. No one is to disturb them.” He returned the basket.

I pursed my lips, “Tell them it’s the flowers from Lucian, and they’ll let you in.”

“Oh, alright.” He took the basket back and rushed off to find Brinley’s room.

When Ronin and I walked into my room, and it felt bare. Over this week, I’ve slowly been moving all my personal belongings into my new room that I’ll share with Brinley. It’s been weird being in my current room. None of the things in here are mine anymore, and so everything feels bare and empty. I know Ronin can feel it too. His whole demeanor changed when we set foot in our bedroom.

In the sitting room, there was only Ronin’s bed, a bookshelf with a couple of books on two of the shelves, the rug in front of the fireplace, the couch, and a vase. My part of the bedroom is even depressing. My bed is stripped of quilts, so it’s only a mattress and a bed warmer. My room looks barely even lived in.

It used to have papers scattered in corners of the room. I would have sketches lying on bed stands. I had candle holders. Lanterns. Curtains. Everything but it was all gone and out of the room. It was an odd experience. I had lived in this bedroom for years, and all of that was gone now. I was going to move out of my room. I was going to move out of my entire tower. I was moving into my father’s tower because that’s where all the master rooms were.

Ronin is going to remain living in our room, except he will have the actual bedroom, instead of the sitting room. In a few weeks, when Andromeda and Ronin get married. She’s going to move in, and it will officially be Andromeda and Ronin’s room. It won’t be Lucian and Ronin’s room. It feels like I’m getting written out. People wouldn’t remember that I ever lived in this room. I would remember, but it would be different. Ronin and Andromeda would decorate it differently. This room wouldn’t look like mine anymore.

In a second, I made the decision. I shut the door slowly so as not to alarm Ronin and pulled my knife out of my belt. I walked into the dresser that usually only held my charcoal and ink. The dresser was old, and the wood was grand. I felt the need to make my mark. I had been here. I have lived here for 11 years. I brought the knife down on the wood and made scratches. The wood paint came off easily, and it revealed the true color of the board. I scratched the royal family’s seal. I backed out of the closet for the reveal. It was there. It was marking the dresser. I, Lucian Kreed, had indeed been here after all. They would remember that someone from the house of Kreed had been here. Even if the family changes, the Kreeds would still be remembered.

“Lucian! You’ve got to get ready for your wedding!” Ronin called from the sitting room.

Right. I reached back into the closet for the only remaining item of mine here, my suit.

The suit was a grand thing. It was a deep midnight blue, like the color scheme. The jacket was adorned with white tassels and silvery pins. The sash was a deep red color, the color of Brinley’s dress. I got dressed quickly and walked out into the sitting room.

“All good?” I asked as I adjusted the sash to sit flat on my chest.

I wasn’t wearing three layers anymore, so it was noticeable that I was pretty thin. I hope we would be far enough away from everyone so they wouldn’t notice. I adjusted everything on my coat and faced Ronin.

“You look wonderful Chi,” Ronin barely glanced over, but he was trying to get everything together, so I guess I don’t blame him.

I grabbed a ribbon from off the table and tied my curly hair back and away from my face. A few tendrils escaped the tie, but it was fine. No one really cared anyway. As far as everyone around here knew, tying your hair back was a thing of the past. The only reason I wear my hair long and tied back is that it looks regal and like the Chis of the past. I started doing it when I was 13 and still desperate for my father’s approval. It started as a way to get my father to see me as a real Chi, but then it morphed into a thing for the public. The reporters enjoyed the way I tied back my hair. They said it made my old school and the people of the villages liked old school. This happened when I was 16 and just had the astounding realization that nothing I could do would be good enough for my father. I was desperate for any approval so I continued tying my hair back. As I’ve grown older, I have regained some self-confidence, and I could stop if I really wanted to, but it’s so much easier than some other hairdos I’ve seen noblemen do. Basically, the hair tying back has gone from desperate for approval to just plain lazy. I could care about that, but that’s too much energy wasted on something that doesn’t matter too much to me.

Ronin got off his bed and dropped a hat on my head. Oh right, hats. Hats have recently become a big thing in Fyn. Everyone who’s anyone wears a hat for some kind of reason. I suspect it’s because older men don’t want their younger women to know that they are balding on top. Anyway, the richest of the rich wear hats, and so everyone automatically wants to copy them. Well actually, hats have been in women’s fashion for years, but, as I said, it’s a new development for men’s fashion.

Since I’ve been viewed as a kid for the past 19 and a half years I’ve never had to wear a hat out in public. Now that I’m getting married, however, I will. I’m not going to lie. Being seen as an adult will obviously have its perks. No one will ask me if I’m 16 anymore if I’m married. Or at least I assume so. One of the downsides is that people will now judge me more closely. They won’t just use the excuse “Oh it’s okay, he’s just a kid” anymore when I’m dressed weirdly or out of my social group. They will just automatically assume that I lost money or that I’m a bad dresser or that I’m unfit for the throne. I know the last one is a bit of a far-fetch, but I guarantee that at least someone in the Shire would think that. Either way, that means I get to enjoy the wonderful thing that is wearing a hat.

I examined the hat closely because I’ve never seen it before. Sticking out of it is a single red feather. Feathers, another fashion statement. I have to hand it to whoever bought this hat. It is a very nice quality one. It screams wealth, and I assume that’s what my father wants it to do. I adjusted the hat on my head, so the feather pointed behind me.

“You are looking wonderful, Chi Lucian.” Ronin assures me as he wanders around the room, picking up little things from off the floor.

“Ronin, by the end of today, I’m going to be married. I’ll have a wife. I’ll live in the Ene tower. How’d this all happen so fast?” I asked as I shifted my pants.

“I don’t know, Chi Lucian. It seemed like only yesterday when you were 8 years old, and I was moving into your room.” Ronin pulled on a fancy shirt of his own.

“Our lives have changed a lot since then,” I mentioned.

Ronin nodded as he folded a quilt on his bed.

“Ronin?”

“Chi Lucian?”

“Were you together with Nola?” I asked.

Ronin froze on the bed, “She told you?”

That wasn’t exactly the answer I thought I was going to get.

“So you were together?”

“Yeah, for a while too. Until that thief of a nobleman kidnapped her.” Ronin frowned.

“He what?”

“Nola and I were going to get married eventually. We had it planned out and we were saving up, but he couldn’t let that happen,”

“He stole your Fiancee?”

Ronin sighed and turned away. I grimaced and turned back to the mirror and caught sight of the scar on my neck. I rubbed it, wishing it would just go away. Ronin interrupted my thoughts again.

“It doesn’t matter anyway. I have a new Fiancee, and I love her. Nola isn’t going to change that.”

“Right.”

Ronin fell into an awkward silence. I can’t believe I didn’t know that he was engaged with Nola. I had known Nola my whole life, and I had known Ronin for at least 3 years at that point. I talked to both of them every single day. Every single day I went on not knowing about the budding romance between them. How am I only finding out about this 8 years later? I must have had a confused expression on my face because Ronin quickly changed the subject.

“Have you written your vows?” He responded as he adjusted his tie.

“Of course. I’m a lot of things, but I would never save writing my vows for the day of the wedding.” I defended myself.

“Right. It’s not like you saved your speech at the Ball until you were there.” Ronin rolled his eyes.

“Excuse me, I didn’t even know we had a Ball until I got back from Cadia. You know for a fact that I was incapacitated before the Ball. Your argument is invalid, continue.” I returned the floor to him.

“Why don’t you let me tease you! It’s like you must have me think you are perfect all day every day.” Ronin frowned.

I gave him a sly smile, “I am perfect all day, every day.”

“Oh, come on. You and I both know for a fact that you aren’t perfect as everyone else believes.”

Now it was my turn to roll my eyes.

“Come on, Chi Lucian, you and I have a wedding venue to go to.” Ronin put on his surcoat and began walking out the door.

Nearly an hour later, Ronin and I arrived at the Falls. Many servants were rushing around the site, and I took it all in. The site was gorgeous. The falls, beautiful as always, was glowing in the dim sunset. By the time the wedding would happen, the sun would be gone, and we’d have the wedding in the moonlight.

The falls’ light would be cast and shower us in ethereal light. Perhaps we would look like the higher beings my father believes we are. I looked around the site. We had hundreds of benches on site. We had the arch sitting right in front of the falls. It was made of bluish-green leaves and roses. All around, we had white fire lanterns to give in a more mystical look. All around me, people were moving and racing with the last pieces of decorations to finish our wedding.

The last wedding I went to wasn’t nearly this decorated. Arlen had chairs and a simple arch. The fanciest thing at the wedding was the clothing of the guests. My father scoffed at how little effort Arlen put into planning the wedding. A lot of people did. I don’t think that Arlen cared what people thought of his quickly planned wedding. Arlen never cared what people thought unless it benefitted him. It seemed he always has another meaning behind his actions. Even getting married.

It wasn’t the most shocking thing that a Chi married an Aus inheriting a kingdom. That happens more often than anyone would like to admit. Most people at least like their significant other. Arlen hated his wife. And then her untimely death. It made everyone fear him. It was no question that Arlen hated Lyra, and so when no details of her death were told to the public, everyone feared him. A man who could kill his own wife should always be feared. After whispers like that surfaced about Arlen, my father never invited him back to the Fortress. It might have been to save face, or it might have been because he was scared Arlen would kill him and steal his kingdom.

Arlen was very power-hungry. As I looked around, I froze as I saw him standing, talking with his two sons. I don’t want to talk to him. I tried to blend in with a crowd of Servants walking around. I tried to reach my tent where I can keep him out if I really want to. I didn’t make it. Arlen saw me.

“Lucian! My favorite nephew,” He called.

I bit my lip. Exactly what I was avoiding.

“Uncle Arlen.” I turned with a false smile on my face, “It’s been a while.”

Arlen laughed, “That’s because Edmond is scared of me.”

Well, I didn’t really expect that, but I guess it’s the truth. I elected to ignore his last comment and talk about anything else.

“So, you have sons now.” I gestured to the two boys standing next to him.

“Yes indeed. Twins. There are Dean and Brooks. My heirs,”

Twins. Interesting. I don’t really know what happens if the firstborn are twins. I don’t think the kingdom just goes to the oldest. It’s been a while since I studied this, but I’m pretty sure it’s some competition.

“Nice to meet you, Dean and Brooks,” I shook their hands.

Dean and Brooks looked pretty young. They were small boys and seemed very timid. I don’t blame them. If I had to live with Arlen, I’d be scared as well. I don’t know how old they are by looking at them, but I’d have to say maybe 6 or 7.

“Nice to meet you, Lucian,” they echoed each other.

Poor kids. They looked haunted and exhausted. Some people just shouldn’t be parents. Arlen is one of those people.

“So, how old are you?” I asked them.

“9,” Dean responded.

“And a half,” Brooks added.

They didn’t seem old enough to be 9. They seemed too small to be that old. Perhaps I was small like that when I was 9. I was always small. It seems I was doomed to be small my entire life.

“That’s pretty great,” I put a hand on both their shoulders.

“Run along now, children. I need to discuss something with your cousin.” He hurried them along.

As soon as the children were gone, Arlen put a hand on my back and hurried me along. We walked on the marshy grass.

“What do you need to discuss with me as we were away from people?” I stopped.

Arlen smiled, “Do I need to have a certain topic to talk to my favorite nephew?”

“I’m your only nephew,” I spit out before I had time to stop myself.

“You have a point there, boy. Now, let’s talk about Aus Brinley.”

My ears perked up when I heard her name. I met Arlen’s eyes. “Why do we need to talk about Brinley?”

“I heard whispers through the Shires.”

Whispers? What sort of whispers? I haven’t heard anything of the sort. I kept quiet as I waited for him to continue. If he is hearing whispers about Brinley all the way in Diem then it must be big.

“She’s after your fortune, Lucian.” Arlen finished.

I scoffed because I honestly thought he was joking. That was the big dangerous secret? Are you serious? In over half, engaged royal couples, at the moment, one is there for the other’s fortune. It’s really not that big of a deal.

“Alright? Who isn’t? You were after Lyra’s fortune, weren’t you?” I responded half laughing at his ridiculous worries.

“Lucian, this is serious. It wasn’t like Lyra and me. I wanted to rule, sure it was nice to be rich, but that’s all I wanted-”

I interrupted him, “Isn’t that all she would be after? She can have my money. I don’t really care for extravagant things anyways.”

“Lucian, please let me finish. She is after your money. She is after your land. She is after your life.”

Arlen’s eyes were panicked. He was seriously worried about me. I frowned. She couldn’t be. I loved her. She loved me, the end of the story.

“Wait, what do you mean my life?” I stammered.

Arlen rubbed his temples, “It all starts like this, Lucian. She will lull you into a false sense of security. You guys get married, have a baby, and whatnot. When the current ruler passes away, she strikes. She’ll kill you when you are least expecting it. She will be set for life. As the only ruler, she can give Fyn’s land to Cadia and enhance her family’s personal finance. She’ll steal the Shire’s wealth. And she’ll have an heir. You will have set her up, and she won’t need you anymore, Lucian. I’m just trying to save you.”

“No, that’s not true,” I argued, but even to me, I seemed unsteady.

“Think about it, kid. Generally, she’ll do it all because she is in an arranged marriage when she already has a suitor. Did she have a flame before you got engaged?”

The smile slipped off my face as I remembered the first dinner we had with the Royal family of Idrises.

I sat at the end of the table, but my father sat at the head. This was my first time visiting Cadia, and it was wonderful. Everything was amazing. I haven’t met many people here, but the royal family seems nice enough. We were sitting at a table with 12 people. I know everyone but not well. It’s one of those dinners that my father says is for fun and to get to know more people, but I know it’s to grow and expand our wealth.

Before we got here, my father said we were meeting the Idrises. They ruled Cadia and had ruled Cadia for 7 generations. They were, possibly, the largest Shire with the most military personnel and the biggest fortune. It makes sense for Father to want to have a fun/business dinner with them. So far, and this is all I’ve gathered, The Idris family consists of the Heir, Aus Vega Idris, her husband, Chi Cyris Ephraim-Idris, the Aus, Aus Brinley Idris, the Ene, Ene Kane Idris, and the Sor, Sor Larkin Ai-Idris. There is another family with us. The Kairos. These are the people I don’t know very well. There’s the Ene and Sor Kairo. They have an heir named Chi Atticus Kairo, and they have three other children named Karina, Caius, and Leopold.

Mainly tonight, I focused on Chi Atticus. More, he focused on me. I hadn’t said a word to him, but he would glare daggers at me. I didn’t understand, and I don’t know if I want to understand. Throughout the night, I just planned to ignore him. I really don’t want to start a feud tonight if that’s what he intends to do.

Atticus had a scowl printed plainly on his face. It was like the whole world had displeased him. What an odd man. He didn’t talk to anyone. He didn’t smile at anyone except Brinley.

Oh no. I cannot believe I forgot Atticus! It had been three years since then, and I guess I shoved him into a closet in the back of my mind.

I took my hat off and threw it on the ground. Quickly I began pacing back and forth. Arlen could see my discontentment, but he kept quiet.

“She had a caller, didn’t she?” He answered quietly.

“Why did you have to say that! I was perfectly content just sitting here waiting to get married. This is my wedding day, Arlen!” It took all I had not to send my fist into a tree.

Arlen’s eyes got dark, “Excuse me, kid, I’m trying to save your life.”

“Stop it! At least if she killed me, I’d have died a happy man.”

“Lucian,” Arlen reached out for my shoulder.

“No, don’t. I’ve got to go talk to my Fiancee.” I shook him off.

This day is turning out more and more stressful than I thought it would be. I walked out into the clearing and towards a tent. I really didn’t want to do this right now. I inhaled deeply and tried to psyche myself up. What was I even going to say? “Oh hi, Brin, I’m excited to be getting married to you. By the way, do you remember Chi Atticus of Cass, you know, the boy you maybe or maybe not had a relationship with? Also, are you planning on murdering me anytime soon?”

I thought about it. I mean, I really thought about it. I realized with a start that this was like Ronin and Nola. Ronin and Nola who loved each other. Ronin and Nola, who had a secret relationship. Ronin and Nola who dated for years. I began to realize that it wasn’t Brinley and me as Ronin and Nola, but Brinley and Atticus as Ronin and Nola. I was only the nobleman who came to sweep Ronin’s love away. I was the one that Ronin resented because I stole his love. I wasn’t the hero in this fairytale because I was the villain who swept away his Fiancee.

I wasn’t ready for this.

But I had to.

I opened the door of the tent, and Andromeda was touching up Brinley’s makeup. Brinley looked over at me and smiled. Andromeda nodded in my direction and adjusted one of the flowers I had picked in the garden earlier today.

“Andromeda, I need to discuss something with Brinley in private,” I told her unsteadily.

My hands were shaking. My voice had a slight quiver. I didn’t want to know, but I knew I had to. I had to know if I should watch my back for the rest of my life or not. I hope to god I had misread all signals and Atticus was just a creep.

“Of course, Chi Lucian,” Andromeda put a hand on Brinley’s cheek and then walked out of the tent.

When Brinley and I were alone, I pulled up a stool. I could still feel my hands shaking, so I closed it in a fist.

“Lucian? What’s wrong?” Brinley adjusted her chair to face me.

I took a deep breath. If I don’t ask her right now, I can go on living in ignorant bliss. If Arlen is right, then I’d die. If he was wrong, I could live a happy life. Even I knew I was just lying to myself. I know I’d spend the rest of my many or limited days wondering if he was right or wrong. I had to do this. It was necessary.

I responded to Brinley’s question with one simple word, “Atticus.”

Brinley’s eyes got wide and surprised. Then I watched as her lips formed a frown. She reached out for me, “Lucian!”

It told me all I needed to know. Brinley was with Chi Atticus. She was with him. She was probably with him while engaged to me. I flinched at the thought of that.

“Lucian, please let me explain!” Brinley reached for my arm again.

I stared at her coldly. She would have her explanation. She better have a brilliant explanation for this, or else I’m going to be pissed.

“Our romantic affair started when I was only 17 years old. I was in love with him, but he wasn’t as deeply in love with me as I was with him. We had an on and off relationship for years, Lucian. The night before you proposed to me, he told me he loved me,”

“I swear on the omn, Brinley,” I growled.

“Shush. Let me at least finish before you yell at me.” She scolded. “I knew I had a duty to my family, so I said yes to your proposal. This was also all I had wanted for 3 years, Lucian. He loved me. He gave me his full attention. I knew I was hurting you, but I didn’t care at the time. My whole world surrounded him. I kept waiting for him to propose to me so we could run away together. I promised myself that if he didn’t propose, I was going to get married to you. I was going to be happy with you.”

“How long did this go on, Brinley?” I asked quietly.

My question caught Brinley off guard, and she just stared blankly.

I slammed my fist down on the table, and it pulled her out of her trance, “How long Brinley.”

My intensity caught Brinley off guard, and she stammered out, “6 months.”

I turned away, so she didn’t have to see how much this affected me.

She lies.

Alright, sure.

“Are you lying to me?” I asked in the same voice I had used earlier.

Brinley’s eyes got wide, “Fine, fine. It was for a year.”

A whole year? A year she was with Atticus. No way. This can’t be happening.

I got up quickly so she couldn’t see the tears in my eyes. I had been in love with her a year ago. I had kissed her. She kissed me back. I shoved the chair so quickly and rough that it clattered against the floor. Brinley jumped at the noise, and she reached for my arm. She caught the jacket as I was turning away.

“I ended it, Lucian. I ended it for you. I love you! Lucian, you have to believe me. I love you. Please, can we just get married? I don’t want to lose you today,” Brinley begged as she tugged on my jacket. I can hear the tears in her words. It almost convinced me everything was okay. Almost

“One time, Aus Idris, one time will I forget your indiscretions. That is how much I love you,” I shoved out of the room.

I loved her and she was with another person.

Watch your back.

The voice whispered that simple phrase but it changed life for me as I knew it. That conversation proved one thing and that one thing is that Brinley can lie to me. Who’s to say she hasn’t done it before? Doesn’t that invalidate every word she has said to me? She told me she loved me and that could be true but it also couldn’t be true. If it isn’t true then perhaps all the things Arlen told me could come to pass. That would mean that Brinley wants to take everything from me. I would have to watch my back for the rest of my life. I can’t do that. I cannot waste my life looking over my shoulder, expecting to see Brinley standing there with a knife to my back.

I knew I needed to do something about it, but I didn’t know what to do or when to do it. I obviously couldn’t do something here because there are hundreds of people here. There’s no way for me to truly get her alone today. I don’t think I could get anyone to agree to postpone the wedding. I suppose the only thing to do is to wait until after we are married. The thought of it makes me freeze. I don’t know if I want to marry her now. She lied to me about potentially everything. How can I trust her?

Ronin. I need to talk to Ronin. He’s the only person I trust now.

I took off in the direction of where Ronin should be. Above me, the sky was darkening and the luminescent plants around us began pulsating and illuminating everything around us. It gave everything an eerie glow to match my mood. I ran faster because I knew the wedding was soon. Brinley and I would be sealed together for all of eternity in a few minutes and I need to know what to do about the situation.

Ronin was stringing a line of lanterns against a tree when I found him. I was out of breath from running around the whole site and Ronin immediately abandoned what he was doing.

“What is going on Chi Lucian? Shouldn’t you be getting ready? You are getting married in just over 30 minutes!” Ronin began walking me to my tent.

“I found out something horrible.”

Ronin turned to look at me. He was wearing an expression on his face that said “Please continue.”

“Arlen came talking to me.” I breathed.

“Chi Lucian, you know better than to listen to that psychopath.” Ronin shrugged it off.

“Except he may be right,” I continued onward.

“What are you talking about?”

“Arlen warned me of rumors circulating in Diem. Brinley is trying to kill me,”

“What has gotten into your head, boy? Why would Brinley, a girl who’s in love with you, try and kill you?”

“That’s what I thought. Arlen told me to ask about any flames. I did. She was seeing Chi Atticus for a year into our engagement.”

“Okay, it was an arranged marriage. It’s not that bad.” Ronin continued.

“Brinley tried to tell me it was 6 months, and I believed her. The Dev told me she was lying. I asked her again and it turns out it was true. She had been seeing him for a year.”

“So she lied, that’s still not so bad.”

“You don’t get it Ronin. She lied directly to my face. And I believed it. She is capable of telling convincing lies.”

“Fine, I’ll check it out, but honestly, Chi Lucian, I think you are paranoid. You’ve known the girl for years.”

Ronin didn’t believe me. I was alone in this. I guess I would have to watch my back for the rest of my life. Ronin escorted me back to my tent. When he left, I felt truly and utterly alone. I could hear quiet voices and the shuffling of feet outside the canvas, but other than that everything was silent. So there I was sitting in the cold dark.

In a brief moment, I felt uneasy. I fidgeted with my hands to try to relieve some of the tension building up inside me. It didn’t work for long. I just kept feeling something. My foot tapping the floor was the only sound around me, aside from the people outside.

She lies.

The voice whispered to me.

I already know this. I sank deeper into the chair. I do not want to face this right now. I just feel drained. I don’t want to face the world so they can see my shame written plainly on my face. I guess that’s all I really feel right now, shame. I’m sure the anger and sadness will return soon enough. All I feel is how awful it would be to face my Shire and pledge my undying loyalty to a woman who lied to me for nearly two years.

You could kill her.

I could kill her. That would solve all my problems, now wouldn’t it? I could easily end all my problems with one simple move. If Brinley were gone, I wouldn’t have the world know of my shame. If she were gone, she couldn’t kill me.

No, what am I thinking? Five hours ago I couldn’t wait to marry her. I can’t kill her. I just can’t! No matter what happened, she is still the woman I love, and I just can’t kill her. I would get rid of my shame, but I would live with the guilt lurking over my shoulder for the rest of my lifetime. I don’t know if I could deal with that.

Still, there would be no assassination against me. I would be safe once again. It is possible to run a kingdom by yourself. I really don’t need Brinley to rule. No one would think it was me. No one would know. Everyone would think it was a rebel. No one would think it was me.

Stop. I’m not killing her. I can’t. I’m not killing anyone. I have a moral compass.

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