After me meeting with the King and Queen I was sulking in my room, feeling so utterly pathetic for letting myself get sucked into my memories in front of others. Especially His and Her Majesty. Ivy wouldn’t stop bringing it, saying how she was so moved with my tales of my mother and how happy my childhood had been. My brother on the other hand was drowning in his own embarrassment, trying to shift all the cringey feelings onto me by teasing me.
“I didn’t ask you to add on to the stories!” I snapped at one point, pouting at him as he laughed on the loveseat. “You chose to speak up and share your own stories in front of them!”
Ivy enjoyed our bickering while she slowly worked in the corner of my room, sewing something that I couldn’t make out. She would poke fun at me or my brother every once in a while, laughing when our embarrassment reached its peak and we’d be left silently stewing.
The night sky soon greeted us by the time a Palace Maid came to my room, announcing how long I had to get ready to have dinner with the Crown Prince. I fixed my dress and redid my hair, choosing to have it pulled back by jeweled combs instead of tight ribbons. My brother quickly shifted into the more serious persona, his face becoming stoic and emotionless like all other Knights.
“Your buttons are undone.” I murmured, stopping just as we left my room.
I smiled at the one and only person that I could trust and knew truly cared about me, reaching out to button up the two little shiny buttons that he had undone when we first got to my room. He placed his hand over mine and flashed a small warm smile, giving my smaller hands a little squeeze before releasing me.
We then followed the Palace maid into the Central Palace, entering the large and warmly decorated dining room where the other Queeness were already seated. The walls were lined by each Lady’s Guard and their Handmaid stood directly behind their chair, waiting for the kitchen servants to begin serving so they could follow them into the kitchen.
I found the last available seat at the table, grateful that it was the furthest one from the center seat that the Crown Prince would no doubt take. Glancing at the two seats that flanked his, I couldn’t help but grimace. To his right was the middle daughter of Marquess Lyranee who was known to be a successful seductress that always got men to do whatever she wanted without having to give up her virtue. And sadly, to his left was my lovely half sister Rosanna who was babbling on about how she effortlessly clicked with the King and Queen. Snobbily recounting how pleased she was to feel so connected with her future Royal in-laws.
“Announcing the arrival of His Majesty, the crown Prince Evaristus Dorian Morey Fafner.”
The elder butler from before clearly and loudly declared the Princes’ arrival, making the other Noble Lady’s quickly stand and bow as the double doors swung open.
“Where did the butler come from?” I mumbled, following the others as I calmly stood and bowed.
Once the sound of chair legs scraping against the floor was heard, everyone lifted their heads and slowly sat back down. I kept myself facing forward, not wanting to appear like the other Ladies who were openly staring at the Prince, vying for a sliver of his attention. The servants began placing our meals in front of us as some of the Ladies started conversing. Some were sneakily revealing secret or embarrassing things about each other, while others were waiting their turn to speak to the Prince. Rosanna was the one that had immediately started talking to him, bringing up their past outings together and asking him how his friends were doing.
It was clear that Rosanna was now the biggest enemy to all the other candidates, since it was clear that she already has some form of relationship with the Crown Prince. But what I thought was amusing was that the Prince himself looked to be annoyed with her. His expression remained polite on the outside with a small smile and the occasional humming that Rosanna seemed to take as a positive response. His red eyes were the biggest tell though, looking very much done with her as she kept going on about some random thing her brother had said during their last outing.
I smiled as I ate, silently enjoying the fact that she was completely unaware of the Princes’ boredom. As I remained the only quiet Lady at the table, I was beginning to wonder if those past stories of romance and declarations of love had all been a lie. Had Rosanna been fabricating this entire scenario between herself and the Prince with the hope that no one else would notice or gain his affection? Maybe she believed that she would be able to seduce the poor Prince during her stay here by staying close to him and being the first one to gain his attention.
A small chuckle left me as I thought this, making me feel so much better about the future of this Kingdom now that her romantic tales were proven false. I was starting to feel someone gaze on me after I giggled in secret, fighting the urge to look for the source while I finished my dinner. But as the plates were cleared and tea was served, the weight of someone's stare was starting to get to me. Turning as discreetly as I could, I quickly followed the feeling and froze, feeling a strange mixture of surprise and disgust.
It hadn’t been just one person whose eyes were locked on me, but two who were coming from the same direction. The surprise came from finding the Crown princes’ red eyes looking back at me with a slightly amused look. I wasn’t expecting to gain his attention at any time, let alone because I laughed at something he didn’t know about. Then came the disgust as my gaze moved a little past the Prince, moving just past Rosanna and stopping on a pair of jade green eyes. There, with a sad and guilty look plastered all over his face, was Rosanna’s chosen Guard, Sir Kaliden Tormont. I narrowed my eyes at him for just a moment before turning back and focusing on my now empty tea cup.
“Thank you all for your lively company.” The Crown Prince spoke in a calm and booming voice, silencing all side conversations as he slowly stood from his seat. “I look forward to the next few months with you all and I wish you the best of luck.” I glanced at Rosanna who looked lost and confused as she watched him, having been cut off mid sentence when he just suddenly spoke up and stood. “The first test will be announced tomorrow and you will have three days to prepare for it.” I covered my mouth to keep from laughing at her, not wanting to call anymore attention to myself. “I hope you have a peaceful rest of your evening.” He turned and proceeded to walk out of the room while we all stood and bowed.
“May the Light of the Night Bless you and your Beloved.” We all chorused after him, staying in a bowed position until we all heard the doors closed.
I was one of the first to straighten up and move away from the table, joining my brother and Ivy before turning to leave the room.
“Don’t bother going after him.” Rosanna called out, sneering at me as she walked around the table with her maid and Guard close behind her. “His Majesty has no time to deal with worthless no-name hussy’s like you.”
I rolled my eyes before turning to look at her over my shoulder, clearing my throat a little to ensure that my voice was as clear as possible.
“At least I’m not so desperate to become Queen that I don’t see how little His Majesty cares about hearing your voice going on and on about pointless things.” Her mouth fell open as the rest of the ladies froze, hearing the truth in my words. “How could you not see how much you were bothering him? Are you truly so blind to not notice that he didn’t care one bit? Or does it not matter to you as long as no other Lady gets to speak to him?”
Some of the other Queeness’ giggled while Rosanna sputtered after me, unable to say anything while I turned and continued on my way out of the room. As we left the Central Palace my brother and Ivy burst into laughter, praising me for calling her out when it seemed like no other Lady had noticed. We all parted ways as we reached the Queeness Palace, with my brother returning to his room in the Guards side building behind the Palace and Ivy rushing out to familiarize herself with the things she would need later on.
I reached my room not long after and decided to kill some time with a little reading. Ivy soon rejoined me, helping me out of my dress and into the bath. After changing into my nightgown and hugging Ivy goodnight, I tried to get comfortable on the new, soft and unfamiliar bed. But no matter what position I shifted to I just couldn’t get to sleep. My body wouldn’t relax and my mind was still racing with everything that had happened.
“Maybe a walk will help.” I muttered, slipping out of bed and pulling on a light fluffy shawl over my shoulders.
As slowly and quietly as I could I snuck out of my room and closed the door behind me, padding down the hallway on bare feet. I passed all the other rooms and managed to make it through the back doors without running into a Knight on duty or a Nightmaid that prepares things for the next day. Outside I breathed in the warm summer air, welcoming the soft breeze that passed me as I stepped off the small porch. I looked around and took note of how close the Guards building was, feeling better now that I knew my brother was so close by. As I walked I noticed a flat and large section of ground that had a few small little wooden chests and benches at its corners.
I approached one of the benches and smiled, picking up a wooden practice sword that someone had left behind. It felt good to hold a sword in my hands again, even a light wooden one. I moved over to the center of the practice field and took a starting stance, shrugging off my shawl and letting it pool at my feet. With a steady breath I swung the sword to my left, then my right, darting across the empty space around me and put as much of my strength into each swing. My body soon started running through the old training exercises that my mother used to make Arden and I practice as kids. Learning the beginning steps of the infamous Delphia technique.
It was considered one of the hardest forms of swordsmanship across the Fafner Kingdom and had been passed down through four generations of Knights that tweaked, added and perfected this method of fighting. It was a deadly and beautiful sight to see when one mastered it, successfully merging the sharp and precise footwork with speed, accuracy and grace. I had seen my mother and grandfather spare against each other a few times as a kid and fell in love with our families sacred form of swordsmanship. It was truly an art that only the most passionate and dedicated could master, and only if a blood descended Delphia deemed you worthy of learning it.
After a few breathless moments I stopped, my body going limp as I stared down at the sword in my hand.
“I should’ve been a Knight by now.” My own words stung me deeply, knocking out the last bit of energy I had and dropping me to my knees.
Feeling the inferno of emotions begin to singe my very breath, I ought to stay calm, trying to push away all those dark and painful memories. But when I set the practice sword down I caught a glimpse of the tattoo that had been placed beneath my right thumb. A small sob choked out of me once I realized that it was a small sword with a purple colored hilt.
My hands began to shake as I stared at this little sword that was now forever etched into my skin. The bile quickly rose in my throat as tears started to overflow, streaking down my face. I hugged myself as I tried and tried to calm my emotions, but the sobs just racked through me, shaking loose every suppressed memory I didn’t want to see. Reminding me of my biggest mistake.
I had just graduated from the all girls Academy that I had attended, returning to the Du Pleasant estate a few weeks after I had turned seventeen. Of course, no one cared or even bothered to remember since Marcus and Samuel, the Duke and Duchess’ oldest sons, had just returned from a trip abroad. They had brought with them some gifts for their parents and sister as well as a few tradable goods and a handful of would be Knights.
This was how I had met him: Kaliden Tormont.
He was nineteen at the time and had been talking to one of the Du Pleasant Knights when we first spoke to each other. He told me of his hometown and how he was an only child with elderly parents that couldn’t travel. I had taken a liking to him quickly, finding him both attractive and hard-working since I’d see him practice his skills everyday.
It didn’t take long for us to become close and after a few months our friendship started turning into something more.
Kaliden didn’t know who I truly was the entire time, but I still felt like I could trust him. Confiding in him my own dreams and wishes and desires. He knew how badly I wanted to become a Knight and join my brother in his travels and training. He would even teach me what he had learned at night when no one was around since the Duchess did everything in her power to hinder me from even looking at a sword.
Months passed and it soon became clear that the Duke and his eldest son were being far too critical of the men that came to the Dukedom to become Knights. They had them training none stop without any mention of even making them Squires. It was nothing but drills and tests with tedious tasks tossed in here and there. Kaliden, along with the others, were getting tired of waiting and were openly discussing whether or not they should leave Du Pleasant and find another Knighthood that would take them seriously.
I didn’t want him to leave, having realized how deeply in love I was with him. So I asked him if there was any way I could help him so he could stay at Du Pleasant and become a Knight as well. That’s when he mentioned the Knights Honor Coin.
It was a very old and highly sought after copper coin that was as wide as my palm with an engraving of a sun blessed sword on one side and a moon blessed quiver on the other. This was something that could only be earned if you were named a Grand Knight, saved the life of a Royal family member or contributed to a great cause during a war. And it was also passed down within the family and used as a means to demand acceptance as a Squire or Knight.
My stupid lovesick mind quickly jumped at the chance to keep him beside me, digging up the Knights Honor Coin that my mother had left me after she had died. I had been saving it for myself to use in the perfect moment and become a Knight once I had escaped from the grasp of the Du Pleasants. But I gave it to him.
I handed him the one and only thing that would help me, as a woman, become a Knight like my mother. I placed my very dreams in his hands after spending a night in his bed. And I was the fool who believed him when he promised to only use it to become a Squire. He even swore on his very name that he would return it to me once he started learning under a Du Pleasant Knight.
But it was all a lie.
He went to the Duke and presented the coin to him after passing yet another test. He used it to pledge his loyalty to my father who gladly took it and melted it down, adding an intricate metal design to the hilt of his new sword. The very man that had whispered sweet words of love to me while I was in his arms shattered any chance of me becoming a Knight. Knowing full well how difficult it is for a woman to be taken seriously, or even considered worthy of Knighthood.
And that wasn’t the end of it.
Because even after finding out that he used my mothers coin in a pledge and forever taking my dreams away from me, he revealed yet another heartbreaking truth. On the very night of his celebratory welcome to the Du Pleasant Knighthood he introduced everyone to a woman that had moved into the country with him. A woman with pretty light brown hair and light grey eyes that was so very obviously pregnant.
He had been married for a whole year while he played with me, lying and scheming and using me to get what he wanted. She had been in a small cottage near the heart of the city while he trained at the estate, working as a seamstress while she waited to give birth to their first child.
I felt hollow, cold and broken after that, not bothering to speak up and defend myself when someone found out what had happened between us. The Duchess punished me severely for daring to tarnish the family man by sleeping with one of their Knights, starving me for two weeks and giving me a dozen whippings once a day. Rosanna and her brothers mocked me, dragging my mother and brother into their insults as I drowned in my sorrow.
I refused to speak or leave my room after that, choosing to numb myself to everything for three months until my brother returned. He had been gone for another bout of training during everything, coming back to find me pale and unconscious in my room after going days without sleep. Arden soon found out what had happened and nearly burned down the Knights quarters trying to get to Kaliden. They even fought in their animal forms one day after Arden managed to get me out of my room.
The sight and sound of my brother as a wolf and Kaliden as a leopard sent me into shock, numbing me to everything for a full week after some Knights managed to break them apart. And while I recovered from that in my room Kaliden and a handful of knights were sent out for training to keep him and my brother from fighting. Sadly Arden was only allowed to stay for another month after Kaliden left since the Duke and Duchess didn’t want our bond as twins to make him stronger. So he was sent out to a different location for nearly a year while I fought to put myself back together.
“I’m so sorry momma.” I whimpered, choking on those dark memories as I let the tears flow through me. “I failed you.”
I glanced down at the small tattooed sword again and grabbed the wooden one with my free hand. I slide a few fingers over the smooth wood, looking for any trace of an exposed nail of pointed wood piece of any kind. Then, as I moved my hand towards the piece that became the hilt, I found a nail point that stuck out a little too far. Sniffling, I raised my tattooed hand to the nail and pressed hard on it, swiping down quickly as a hiss escaped my lips.
“I’m nothing but a failed Knight.” Staring down at my bloody hand, I sobbed as I looked at the fresh scar that cut through the blade of the sword.
This was a universal symbol for a dishonorable failed Knight: A broken sword.
I don’t know how long I spent outside crying my eyes out like a lunatic. But when I was finally calm enough, I got up from the ground and gathered my dirty shawl, tossing the wooden sword aside as I made my way back into the Palace. As I snuck back inside I wrapped my bleeding hand with my shawl, fighting back a yawn as I made my way down the hallway. But as I neared my door I froze, feeling the presence of someone nearby. The morning of the first festival day brought on a surge of chaotic excitement that affected everyone. And soon the news of who was going to open and close the first day of the festival spread across the Palace. Those Noble Ladies spent the entire morning shouting commands at their Handmaid’s as well as the Palace maids. They were urging them to get things for them, changing their minds about their performance outfit and crying a river when the tiniest things were out of place. Ivy, Arden and I just enjoyed the free show, quietly laughing at the manic range of emotions that was running through the two dancers of the day.When the sun was high in the sky, we were all escorted to the large open plain on the farthest edge of the Palace grounds, on the other side of the Central Palace. Banners, flowers and ribbons of all colors were blowing in the summer breeze from the posts of every shop and game stand. There were hundreds of Shifters walking around too, all full of smile
Wings, Beasts and Claws Ch. 7 : Festival Day One
The morning of the first festival day brought on a surge of chaotic excitement that affected everyone. And soon the news of who was going to open and close the first day of the festival spread across the Palace. Those Noble Ladies spent the entire morning shouting commands at their Handmaid’s as well as the Palace maids. They were urging them to get things for them, changing their minds about their performance outfit and crying a river when the tiniest things were out of place. Ivy, Arden and I just enjoyed the free show, quietly laughing at the manic range of emotions that was running through the two dancers of the day.When the sun was high in the sky, we were all escorted to the large open plain on the farthest edge of the Palace grounds, on the other side of the Central Palace. Banners, flowers and ribbons of all colors were blowing in the summer breeze from the posts of every shop and game stand. There were hundreds of Shifters walking around too, all full of smile
Of all the people to run into...I thought to myself, standing there stunned as Calix clung to the Crown Princes’ neck.Wait… did Calix say Uncle?“Where have you been Calix?” The Prince asked him, looking down at him with a warm smile. “Your mother told you to stay near the library.”I couldn’t focus on Calix’s answer as I stood there, suddenly distracted by the Prince.He’s very handsome… How come I’m just now noticing this?My mind wondered, recalling the past few moments in which I was near the Prince.He was tall, with broad shoulders and well defined muscles that could be seen beneath his clothes. There were solid black markings on his arms, spaced out and scattered around him. This made him seem mysterious in a way. He also had an air of authority to him that mixed with wisdom and something else that I couldn’t place. The way he was s
The next few days of the festival passed by in a near blur, with Ivy and Arden enjoying the daily changing booths and activities. We tried many different treats and poked fun at each other while we played different games. Ivy burst into tears on the third day when I had shown her the new and simple outing dresses I had bought her. And my brother managed to sell a few more trinkets that I had snuck away from the Du Pleasant estate, adding more to our travelers fund. Little Calix even joined us a few times, introducing us to his mother who was the Crown Princes’ adopted cousin.She was a beautiful woman named Lanalee with straight coffee brown hair that she kept in a neat shoulder length cut. She had the same amber eyes as her son, but her facial features were a lot more delicate and curved than his, making me wonder what his father looked like. She was also very kind and open to us, telling us stories about herself and her son when they traveled around. She had let slip
The last day of the festival was opened by Rosanna, and she, like nearly every other Queeness, dressed in the Royal Fafner family colors of red, gold and grey. Her dress was of smooth glittering red silk that was adorned with gold. And a pale grey scattering of jewelry glinted off her body as she danced. Thankfully she didn’t embarrass herself like some of the other Queeness’ and actually stuck to her family’s Pride Dance. But the dress itself was enough to wonder what was going on in that head of hers.It was far too tight in some places and showed quite a bit of skin too, not leaving much to the imagination. Of course this made it so the men in the audience cheered and whistled loudly for her, no doubt garnering some amount of points for this challenge.After Ivy, Arden and I made it out of the arena we met up with Lana and Calix by a drink booth. We then followed the ever energetic eight year old throughout the festival, watching different side sho
*Prince Dorian*I should have known that things weren’t as I was told. I should have picked up on the signs before my opinion of someone had formed. It should have been easy for me to notice these things… if I wasn’t blinded by false friendship and lies.My choice of friends and those I kept close to me had always been a long and tedious process. I didn’t care for those that wanted to suck up to me just because of my station in life. I didn’t want those that saw me as a tool to better their lives or as some omnipotent guard that would let them get away with anything they did wrong. But even through all the nit-picking and information gathering, a fraud still managed to get through and join my inner circle.This was the case with the Du Pleasant brothers, Marcus and Samuel.I had met them during my time at the Academy and, after months of casual greetings without anything suspicious coming up, I allowed them to join my small
*Amara*Calix was sleeping soundly when his mother raced into my room, her eyes wide with fear as she searched it for her son. Once she found his little sleeping form on my bed she whimpered and rushed towards him, kneeling beside the bed and its spilling blankets. Her eyes scanned him over and over again as he slept, searching for any sign of injury. When she was finally satisfied that her little boy was unharmed, she went limp and pressed her head against the edge of the bed, her body shaking with her tears.Gingerly, I approached her, placing a hand on her shoulder as her muffled sobs rang out in my room. Unexpectedly, she grabbed my hand and pulled me to my knees, holding me tightly as I looked over her shoulder at the still crying Ivy. Once she was calm enough I helped her up and gave her a blanket to wrap around Calix, allowing him to stay warm and cozy a
My stomach was in knots for the rest of the night, and Ivy’s constant gleeful comments weren’t helping me relax. When I did manage to get to sleep I dreamed about ridiculous things that didn’t make sense at all. And they all centered around the Crown Prince. I felt like I had truly gone mad with these increasing confusing emotions and now my dreams were being plagued by this man I wanted nothing to do with. A part of me was strangely filled with peace when my mind conjured up those deep red eyes and thick black hair. And an invading wave of unwanted emotions filled me when I’d hear his voice echo in my mind. Emotions that I never wanted to feel again.Thankfully, the other piece of me was able to shove those things down once I awoke the next day. I had gotten up expecting to still feel exhausted and drained because of those dreams but I was delightfully refreshed and energized inste