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Whispering Shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whispering Shadows
Seoran Worg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 by Seoran Worg
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[All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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First Edition: May, 2017
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Contents

Prologue 6

Chapter 1 19

Chapter 2 31

Chapter 3 44

Chapter 4 53

Chapter 5 63

Epilogue 73

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s note:

First, I want to thank you for interested in my work.

 

As someone has pointed it out, I don’t really know the language. English is not my first language.

I know I am a terrible writer and I shouldn’t publish my work at all. Or, I should hire an editor, but sadly, I don’t have money to spare.

I am just hoping against hope that someone out there may like my stories. I already wrote it, it’s done, so instead of burry it in my hard disk, I share it for free to anyone who willing to read.

Of course, you are welcome to point out errs in my work, I am sure there are tons of it. I will appreciate it very much.

[]Prologue

The Lady

641 V.Y.

After the long climb to the second highest peak of Sagha Mountain, finally we stop our horse just outside the palace door. The door is painted in red with golden dragon in the right, and silver eagle in the left. Those two animals are Varr royal family symbol. Ram, my sole companion, told me many stories and custom of Varrian. I try my best to remember it all. I know I shouldn’t make a mistake. For example, it is a must to bow to a royal and stay like that until permitted to rise.

Ram said he is of noble birth but I can’t see it. Despites his finest silk clothes, and gold hairband in his long hair; and all attributes that marking him as a noble, he seems so ordinary. And sometimes, I forget that he is an enemy.

I glance at him, he sits straight in his horse, seems deep in thought. Suddenly, he shouts out to the guard, who perched on the parapet atop the palace’s wall, demanding entry.

My mare is snickered wildly because of his loud voice. With a shaking hand, I try to calm the poor animal and hold her rein tightly.

“I am sorry,” I whisper to her ear. Even after a month, horses still scare me. Mountain clan, as outsiders call us, is stranger to a horse or anything that walk on the ground with four feet besides an ox, of course.

Ram nudges his horse near, calming the mare with gentle strokes. With a last snort the horse quieted, and bending her head low to the ground.

I smile apologetic at Ram. He nods in understanding for I am a novice. He taught me himself how to ride a month past.

Nervously, I am waiting for the door to be opened for us. I reach out to my wavy hair, touching the golden hair pin perched on there, securing simple braid on top my head. Gingerly, I touch its hilt; it is fashioned in acacia flower. Tim, my fiancé, often brought the flower.

Tim, I have to remember him.

This is the last present he gave me, three years ago before he went to the war. He said this is token for his affection so I won’t forget him in the months to come.

Of course I will remember you always, I said. I was sixteen at that time.

He never comes back, though. And now, I can’t even remember his smile. It always morphs to another whenever I try to remember so I stop trying.

But shortly, we will together, I keep telling myself.

I hear a faint shout beyond the door; they will open it soon. My heart is beating painfully as I wait for it. I look at Ram, he smiles reassuring. And I force myself to smile back.

Seeing up close, the palace and its wall look more formidable. It is huge beyond believe. The palace wall is tall and looks so strong. Its white marble is gleaming reflecting the afternoon sun. I wonder how they build a palace so high to the sky like this one. The younger ones back home will like to see this.

My horse stirs below me, and I am fidgeting to keep my balance. I stroke her mane like Ram did before.

Come to think about the cities, we have passed this last two days, are a novelty to me. It is so different from our clan’s town under the mountain.

In all my live, I live under the ground, bereft of sunrays. We live there with our mother, Edna Mountain. We dug the ground and build our town there, far from prying eyes. But it ended three years ago.

Finally, the door is creaking open. I put my hand to my chest, and will it to calm down. Then I kick my horse into trot, following Ram suit, and I feel sorry for the mare, for I must be very heavy. But I ignore it, and passing the door and go inside the palace.

I mustn’t fail, I remind myself. The elders and children put their hope in my shoulder.

Swiftly, we dismount. And the servants, who wear brown tunic and trouser, greet us warmly. They bow deep to Ram first, and then to me. I bow back, but Ram catches me and shaking his head slowly. I feel my cheek heated from embarrassment. I shouldn’t bow back to a servant. We don’t have one in my clan. There, we are all an equal.

From the corner of my eyes, I see the servants lead our horse away.

It’s too late for second thought.

I look warily to another set of female servants who walk closer. My heart beats faster. Hastily, I close my eyes in prayer to the Mother.

“They won’t bite, Nala,” says Ram softly.

Fear must be palpable in my face. I nod, and slowly a familiar tightness comes to my chest. I duck my head, remembering myself, blocking the familiar ache that starts creeping.

But this is what I want.

I follow the female servant blindly as she leads us inside the palace. She wears another dark colored tunic with a black colored sash, and a wide skirt. They way these outsiders dress show their rank in life, Ram told me once before.

The servant is around my age, less than twenty years of age. Her black hair is down, long to her back. It is straight like most people on this part of the world while mine is a little wavy like Edna’s, our mother. I note that our skin is different too. Her skin is in yellowish while mine is pinkish and pale and prone to freckles. Aside from that, we look almost similar. Our eyes are varying shades of brown. But it is said that the Blessed and the royals have very light colored eyes. And it will change following their gift from the Gods. I never see one, though, and Ram, my only Varrian friend, isn’t one of the Blessed Warrior.

We walk passing a great hall, than another, until we stop just outside the great throne room. I take a deep breath, and I feel my feet start to wobble.

Ram said that the empress is kind despite her cold demeanor. But still I don’t believe him. How can she is a kind person when she put a torch to our forest? She forces our hand in her war with Cryg Confederacy. We never had been a part of it and never would if the choice is ours. We are Edna’s descendant; we are mere human unlike these Varrian, no trace of Gods’ blood in our vein. And we are not a good fighter either. A coward, these people often call us.

They should leave us alone.

The creaking sound of the opening door breaks my reverie. And a burly servant bid us to enter the room. My feet tremble as I walk inside.

Yes, I am a coward.

I bit inside my cheek to stop my fear, a pain for a fear. Our footsteps seem so loud in this silent and vast room. And I am afraid to look ahead. In another time, maybe I will awe of its beauty but not now. I decide to just looking down to the marble floor below, in silent prayer to the Gods and the Mother.

Near the bottom of throne’s stair, we stop. I bow deeply. Ram has taught me how to, in the months he stayed with us. He also taught me and the children how to write in Varrian too, for our clan only knows the old hieroglyph, the written language that long forgotten by people above the ground.

“Rise,” I hear the empress cold voice from above the throne.

Slowly, I straighten and look up. The throne is about seven-foot tall, shaped like a twirling branches that go to the sky. It was made of gold and silver. In its right arm, a head of dragon is carved, while an eagle is on its other side. Sit on the throne is the empress in her golden robe. I cannot see her face clearly from below. But I can see a small crown with white diamond, atop her braided chignon; it is shining reflecting the light.

She stands, then walks down the stair. I feel breathless suddenly. People say the empress has a powerful gift from the Gods. But what that means I am not sure. Our clan rarely concern ourselves with these Varrian. We know we not match with them in power; we can’t control wind, ice or fire like they do.

I bend my head again, but not before I see a glimpse of the empress face, as she draws near to where I stand. She is younger than I expect. Her face is unlined, and made of sharp hard angle. Her cheekbones are high and tapered down to small pointing chin with wide full lips above it.

“Who is she?” she asks Ram, her voice is sharp and clear.

“Lady Nala, the chief’s daughter. She is your new ward, Co…” he stops himself, “Your highness,” he adds hastily.

I feel a soft hand on my chin as the empress tilts my face, she looks at my face with narrowed eyes.

I fight back the urge to flinch and hold her stare. I feel my lips start to tremble, and tremor runs in my body.

The empress is so beautiful, I can’t help but thinking.

Her skin is unblemished and her features are striking. It is a cold beauty that suits her well. But her eyes are very dark. It is almost as black as soot. It seems like hours until she releases my chin. Then she turns and looks at Ram again.

“I told you to finish the matter of this mountain clan, in a month as I recall,” she says in chilling tone.

I take a peek at Ram. But he looks oddly calm. So, he is ten month overdue. But he looks not worried at all.

“Ah, beg your pardon. But things not easily done,” he says a little too cheerfully like he always does.

“Do you think I don’t know what you are about?” the empress asks him again.

Why is he so careless? Isn’t he afraid of the empress? People say the Varrian often freeze their enemies and traitors, and then they will keep them inside an icy cage in a temple of the cursed.

Will she punishes him? I feel my heart thud madly. I am afraid for him.

“I’ve choose a bride for you. You will wed in a month,” the empress says succinctly.

I steal a glance at Ram face, his displeasure is clear there. And I see the empress lips twitch a little.

Is that a smile?

“You’re six and twenty now. All men in your age already have an heir and spare.”

“Who is this unlucky girl, your majesty?” he asks in resigned voice. “She must be so desperate to agree marrying me.”

“Oh, don’t be so morose, Cousin. You’ll like her. I choose the best for you,” says the empress softly. Her face softens a little.

Cousin? So, is that why he always says good things about the empress?

“I’m afraid you do,” Ram says with a hint of smile. “Is that all, your majesty?” He sighs softly.

Even for the vilest person, there must be someone who loves them, it seems.

The empress expression hardens again, “Your mother and brothers worry about you. They think I send you to die too.”

Ram nods at her, and then he looks at the empress in silent pleading for forgiveness. I know that look well, he always does that after he did mischievous thing. When he does that, I feel he is a man in my age instead of seven years my elder.

The empress turns her head and looks at me.

“Send Lady Nala to her room,” she says loudly. And a servant comes briskly, following her command.

This is my only chance.

I kneel in front of her. With a trembled hand, I take a small bottle made of porcelain from my pocket. And with both of my hands, I raise it to the empress as offering.

“Please… please accept… this, your majesty,” I say in wavering voice. It sounds weak and small even in own ears.

“What is it?” I hear her voice, and I dare not to look at her. My hand still outstretch in front of her; it is shaking madly now.

“This is essence of blue rose, your majesty,” I pause to calm my racing heartbeat, “The rare flower from atop Edna Mountain.”

No answer and silent descent to the room.

“Blue rose,” I hear the empress says in oddly soft voice. I also hear a catch in her voice.

Is it sadness I hear?

“The testimony of Sagha’s love for her,” the empress adds as if forgetting herself.

I dare myself to look at her and nod. It is wrong, though. Outsiders believe it was because of Sagha, the Mountain God, love for Edna that he turned her into a mountain after her dead. It is not so. He took her by force from her mortal husband and children; then he made her his consort. But she never loved him. In his rage, he cursed her. And the blue rose is the testimony of his unrequited love. But of course, these outsiders don’t know, for Sagha is their God, the one who give them power through the everlasting fire in the top of Sagha Mountain.

“Take this too,” she says to the servant with flicking motion of her hand. I hear the steel back in her voice. Shortly, a servant takes the bottle from my hand.

Oh, this is not good. She has to drink it.

“Your majesty,” I try to stop her when she starts to walk back to her throne. “This is… a rare potion… For everlasting youth,” I add hasty.

She stops and turns back, looking at me intently.

“Is that so?”

She looks at Ram and me briefly. There is odd glint in her eyes.

“Call the princess here,” she commands to the one of the servants that stands in the perimeter of the room.

Ram is kneeling beside me now.

“I believe her, your majesty. Let me test the potion,” he says in serious voice.

I know it is a custom to a servant to drink the gift first before the empress does. But a princess?

The empress stops him, “Of course I believe you,” she smiles sweetly, too sweet. “But she is the most beautiful woman in this empire. If one deserve to be given a gift of youth. It is her, isn’t it?”

People say that the princess is a beautiful woman. She has lightest brown eyes as the sign of Gods love for her. And she has beautiful symmetrical face, rounded big eyes, with full lips and dainty nose. They say many men esteem her, but she refused all their suit.

“Please leave her, Coz,” Ram pleads, he forgets himself in his worry, “Let me drink it. I believe Lady Nala won’t let harm befallen me.” He looks at me with unsure smile in his lips.

I know he is one of the many. He must be really fond of this princess. He always sings a praise of her beauty and valor.

I am sure he doesn’t know what the potion can do. We make sure of it. This is Edna’s descendant secret. We call it Sweet Heaven for a longing heart. I am not sure the empress still has heart left inside but we must try at least.

I clench my hands hard to stop from shaking badly. I will drink it myself if I can, but I know that I can’t. So, I nod at Ram, and steeling myself. He will be fine. He has pure soul. He must be fine.

“Do as you wish,” the empress said in harsh tone.

With a wave of the empress’ hand, a servant comes with the bottle and small crystal cup.

She fills the cup and gives it to Ram, who gulps it swiftly.

Seconds past, but the room stills silent. The tension is palpable in the room.

Thanks Gods, he is well and breathing.

“See? I am fine,” Ram breaks the silent with cheerful voice, “It tastes sweet, your majesty.” He looks at his cousin, still smiling ear to ear. Then, he looks at me proudly. And piercing ache comes back to me with vengeance. But I echo his smile, fighting back tears in my eyes.

“If you say so,” says the empress. Then she takes another cup from the servant. With one gulp, she empties the cup. The servant is waiting to take the cup back from her. But it falls to the floor with clacking voice instead.

I look up to her. She is rooted in her feet with faraway look in her face. In a flash, she crumbles and falls to Ram who catches her in his arm, stumbling in his feet. Ram looks at his cousin with horrified look as he cradles her in his lap. And then he turns his face at me. He says nothing but I know what he wants to ask as if it is said aloud.

Why?

I feel tears are running down on my cheek. I should be laughing now. But I can’t stop the tears. This is for all my clan who died in the battle, for my cousins, for my fiancé.

“I’m sorry,” I say weakly. Of course no one can hear it, in the chaos that sweeps the room like raging storm. The servants scramble on their feet, and they look just like blurs to me. It is Ram’s eyes the only thing I can see clearly.

I see hurt and hate in his eyes.

Yes, I hate me, hate me like I hate you. You make me want the thing I shouldn’t, and make me forget the one thing I have to remember always.

I force my shaking, weak hand to move, up to my hair, and picking the golden hair pin nestled there. I pull it swiftly, smiling at Ram. And bring the small-stick-like dagger to my throat. It will end now. I will be together with the man I love, forever.

I feel the brief, blinding pain and hear Ram’s voice. It oddly sound like, No, don’t leave me… But it can’t be. We are enemy and we hate each other.

[]Chapter 1

The Rebel

The sun is a bit colder now, and the leaves start turning brown and red. My master and I, we ride following a narrow passage between two high cliffs. The sky is light blue above with cotton like clouds floating around.

We ride abreast, for the road is wide enough for two. Looking at his profile, I feel a smile blooming in my face.

He will come around. I am sure of it. He will let me call his name again instead of just master. Whatever it is, I am glad he takes me with him. We are master and apprentice now. It is common thing to do for a Blessed to take a disciple to be his apprentice. I am glad he chooses me; No, it is not him doing the choosing. I insist on it.

He said I should choose a better master. But I know no better master than him, for he can control all of the three elements, wind, ice and fire. I have witnessing his display of power so many times. And he is already in full control of his energy, for one so young.

He turns his head and looks at me, “You look so happy,” he says, “Don’t smile too big, lest a fly will come inside,” he adds with touch of smile in his lips

I nod, my lips still twitching. I try to stop my bubbling feeling. I remember what my aunt said, don’t smile too loud, you’ll cry louder later.

I know my master still hasn’t accepted the fact that I am here now. He wants me back to the Varr City, to the empress, and leaving the rebel. But of course I refuse; I don’t have anyone left in the city save few cousins and friend who can manage without me. While here, I have him.

I know once I cross the Walls, and enter the city, I will never see him again. And he is someone I cannot bear to lose. I am not simple high born lady who live in a castle now. That young lady has far gone, and in her stead is a new person, a fearless rebel. I hope it is what I am now. Days before, I still hope for the empress pardon, but I know that will never happen. Only through death, she will pardon us.

For decades, she forbids us, the rebel, from crossing the two walls that circling the Varr City. Inside those wall is where the people of noble and royal blood live, under protection of Sagha, the Mountain God. We lived there before, a life time ago.

“Do you think it’s still far?” I ask my master, breaking my reverie.

The passage seems still long ahead, after passing this one, we have to find the cave, one of the rebel dwelling places.

“Yes, it seems,” he says calmly.

I will make him love me again there, I vow.

It has been more than a week since we flee from the empress’ army, and he still stubbornly becomes a mere master to me.

I hope he understand that as a rebel we can die anytime without a sign or notice. And life is fleeting. We won’t die of old age here. I want to make a most of this borrowed time, and live to the fullest.

I know the empress’ men are still looking for us relentlessly. They almost caught us in the west seashore where the rebel’s big gathering was held. And fortunately, we could elude her army. It is a close thing that one. Because of it, I am sure there is a traitor among us.

Love and happiness is all I want now.

Finally, the cliffs come to end, and we ride on a wide road again. The sun is shining blindly in the east sky, but with no warm. But it has cooled rapidly in past few days.

Summer has long past.

Wind blows faster, blowing my brown tunic wildly. I used to wear finest clothes made of silk but now, I only wear these drab peasant clothes.

But it is no matter.

Looking around, I see the vast prairie and its yellow flowers which surround us as far eyes can see. The wind blows its fragile flowers; they are dancing, like a wave of ribbons. I turn my head to the west, looking at my master, seeing his profile, I smile contently.

I feel a gentle breeze hits my face and sends my long and thick hair. It only pulled back from side to simple knot behind my head. And it is flying wildly around my face now. Lazily, I tug the errand strands behind my ear. I should put up my hair like a married lady should. But he is not really my husband.

But he loves my hair down like this, I know that.

I see his long hair is flying with the wind too. He seems taken with the beauty of the land, his land.

“Let’s race,” I say.

He turns his head and gazing at me with his pale brown eyes. I see small smile, gracing his sensual lips, and a faint dimple briefly appear in his cheeks.

With gentle jerk, he sets his horse racing ahead, leaving me in his dust.

Throaty laugh bursting out from my lips, and I race my horse fast, following right behind him.

I love this freedom.

***

The sky is purplish blue when we arrive at the cave. Holy fire’s light is bright in the sky. The lights are in pale yellowish-green and bluish-red colors, dancing, rippling in the sky. Even far from Shaga Mountain and Varr City, the light can be seen very clearly. I know it will look more vivid in the winter night as our power, the gift from the Gods, is stronger too.

I enter the cave, trying my best to see in the darkness. The cave is shallow, only few yards long. I walk further inside and find the wooden box hidden under a big grey rock. This box is the rebel’s mark, they always left provision and blanket in each of their dwelling place, waiting for their member to claim and use it.

But I only find woolen blankets inside. I pick the blanket from the box, and sniff it. It seems clean enough so I bring it to mouth of the cave where my master crouched, try to make fire from the dried bushes and flints. I know he can lit the bushes very easily if he use his power. But we cannot use our gift here. The empress’ Oracles and their Stones will find us if we do. I see those Stones before, it is scattered atop Varrian Empire’s map that painted on the floor, in the Oracle’s room in the palace. The stone will show where their owner, the Blessed, location is. It will move whenever we use our gift from the Gods. So, we have to use our energy very carefully, and move fast after.

I settle on top of grey rock, sit beside my master. He still busy making fire. I close my eyes briefly in reflect, because of the sudden warm glow of the fire; it is spreading inside the cave, and casting a shadow on the wall. And I feel a faint squeeze in my heart.

Why is it? I close my eyes again and shake my head to clear my mind.

When I open my eyes again, I see my master’s light brown look at me with concern.

He raises his eyebrow, “What is it?” he question echoing mine. The flicking fire is casting shadows in his sharp and high cheekbone.

“I don’t know,” I smile, pushing the tightness in my chest away. “What we have for dinner?”

“Only a stale bread and dried fruits,” he says and gives me my portion.

“You should go back to your father,” he says, looking at the bread in his hand.

“He is not my father,” I say bitterly. I am not sure when I will call him father again. It has been a lie; all my life is a cruel lie.

He looks at me with solemn eyes and says, “As you wish, my lady.”

I feel a catch in my breath, “Don’t call me that again,” I say.

I want to forget the past and my old life behind. I hope he understand it by now.

He smiles briefly and simply nods. And then, we eat our tasteless meal in silent.

“The empress killed your family,” I say, breaking the silent. I search his eyes, looking for hate or condemnation, “But it seems you don’t hate her. Why?”

For a while I thought he won’t answer, but finally he says, “They still dead regardless what I feel, aren’t they?”

I stand, and come closer to him, kneeling and hug him from behind. I put my head on his shoulder.

He stilled and looking me in the eyes, our gaze locked, “We shouldn’t do this,” he whispers, but he takes my lips in a gentle kiss, belied his words.

“Why ever not?” I ask between kisses, pulling his tunic open, seeking his bare skin. It is hard and warm to the touch. I feel he shudders beneath my hand.

Suddenly, he pulls me to his lap, and I feel his wandering hand on my skin and hair. His wild lips are feasting on mine. And I am echoing his, touch for touch, kiss for kiss. My heart is beating fast, and my skin is scorching hot. I feel his hand undone the simple knot in my hair, he let it all lose to my back.

Yes, love my hair.

It seems he is done fighting me. I feel his hand on my ribs, and then going up to my heavy breast.

I break our kiss and put my hand on his racing heart. And I feel his harsh breath on my face.

I look at his no-longer brown eyes. It is mix of silver and blue. I trace my finger, outlining his full lips.

“This is a dream, isn’t it?” I ask him, but I am not waiting for his answer. I pull him again for another kiss, stopping his words.

Now is the time for pleasure. We can worry and fight tomorrow. But now, I just want to touch, feel and kiss.

I feel his fingers erase tear on my cheek. He draws back, looking at my eyes, and I see his silent question.

Tears? Why? I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

I shake my head and whisper, “Love me,” and chase this pain away, I add to myself.

***

The chirping bird wakes me up, alone in our makeshift bed. I throw the blanket away, and a sudden cold touches my naked skin. I shiver a little, and swiftly don my tunic and skirt; it is folded neatly beside me.

He did this again. I sigh wearily; he always put a new wall after I destroy the old.

I brush my tangled hair and braid it simply, and then go outside. The sun is shining high in the blue sky now. Looking around, I try to find him.

Where is he?

I am walking around the cave, but it seems he is nowhere near. So, I follow a narrow path between pine trees. From distant, I hear soft sound of stream. It seems not that far away.

Maybe he is there.

The ground below is soft with decayed leaves and moss; it muffles my footstep as I walking through. Not far ahead, I see an open field near the stream. And there, I see him, parrying and slashing an invisible enemy with his wooden sword. I stop in my track and look at him from distance. He looks so graceful with his sword; his step is light and agile.

He seems sense my presence, and then he stops his sword dance.

I continue my walk, “Why don’t you wake me?” I ask him.

“You seem so tired,” he says, while erasing his sweat with the back of his hand.

“You made me,” I say, and I feel myself blushing. It has not been that long since I become his lover, and throwing away the idea of gently breed young lady. Sometimes, I can’t help but feeling shy.

I see his lips twitch, “Do I really?” he asks me back. “I thought you love it.”

I like it if he being playful likes this. “I do,” I say and bowing, hiding my face. It must be beet red now.

“Shush,” he says suddenly. I hear something too. It comes from the mossy path, inside the forest.

“Your highness,” I hear several loud cries, echoing each other.

And shortly, they come to us. There are four of them, three men and a woman, all wearing brown rough hemp clothes, with long sword peaking behind their shoulder. They are marching passing me, and all kneeling in front of my master, their prince.

I know the girl, her name is Elsa; she is only few years younger than my master, around my age, eighteen years of age. She has slender built, wide sensual mouth and long flowing black hair.

“Beg your pardon, your highness. We can’t find the traitor,” she says in sing song voice.

She cast a glance at me and smiles mockingly, “I’ll find him or her, no matter what, your highness.” Then, she looks at her prince once more.

“I see,” my master says softly, “All of you are safe I hope.”

Oland says, “We are all safe, your highness. And now, we are spreading around in the mid and west land.” I know him too. He is Elsa supposed lover. But she often behaves wantonly even in front of him. The way Elsa behaves makes me think that I am not really belonged with this rebel. She is too bold and fearless, like most of them, who born outside the Varr City.

Live between life and death everyday make them reckless, they often say. But it not an excuse for her lack of decorum.

Another man, he is much older than the rest of us, says, “Let us guard you, your highness. The usurper army is still roaming near here. We fear for your safety.” He is in his late forty. Half of his face is covered with greying beard, but I can see an old cut in his right cheek. He must be one of the elders, the first generation of the rebel. The older generation hates the empress, or the usurper as they call her, more than the younger ones. They have long history with her. It starts when the empress killed her nephew, Prince Rhys, and his wife, and took his crown. She will kill my prince, prince’s Rhys only son, too if she can.

“I thank you, Lord Jason. But no need for that, I am sure,” my master and prince says in gentle voice.

“We can do more than guard you, my prince,” adds Elsa sweetly, invitation is clear in her dark brown eyes. I feel my blood is boiling in my vein. I am sure of what she meant. And I notice that the others also taken aback with her boldness.

I steel my back and marching ahead. I won’t let anyone takes what is mine ever again. I stop beside my master, fist clenched.

“No need, my lady. We are fine as is it.” I know she does not deserve to be called a lady.

She laughs huskily, “Oh my, the little innocence has grown a claw now,” she says amused.

I hate to admit, that with almond eyes and sensual lips, she is a pretty girl in common, worldly way. I feel my anger is rising once more.

“Enough,” my master says in deadly low voice.

All of them, including Elsa, bow their head again, still kneeling on the ground.

My master is not one easy to anger but I know he is now.

“With robbers, and pirates raid in the shore, no need to protecting me like a baby,” he says in deceivingly calm voice. I take a peek to his eyes. It is streaked with fire now, blazing silvery-red in fury.

The four of them looking at each other, and then they nod in unison.

“Rise,” my master says to his kneeling subjects, “Let’s depart to the shore. They need us,” he adds somberly.

I see his retreating back as he leads those people inside the forest. And I still rooted in my spot, unable to move. There is niggling voice inside my head, it seems come from the deepest part of my memory, warn me about something.

What is it?

Suddenly, my heart grows heavy and I feel oddly sad.

They still walking, not realizing that I am left behind. Then my master stops, and looking back at me.

“Let’s go, my lady,” he says.

I nod, but I feel the beginning of tears in my eyes.

What’s wrong with me?

[]Chapter 2

The Child

The dock is busy now, many people passing by. A big merchant vessel just anchored from the east. Looking around, people pay no heed to us. I hold my little brother hand tightly; afraid he will lose or trampled by drunken sailors.

But the tall man of my dream not yet here as he should be. The dream told me so. I believe it, for the dream never lies, just I understand it wrongly sometimes.

Now is almost winter and the dream always more vivid in the winter unlike summer. It rarely comes at summer.

A flock of seagull is flying a top of a big ship bound to the Sacred Land, the land of the Varr. It is the land where my father and mother came from. I never set my feet there, though.

The sailors are shouting, telling us that the ship is going to sail soon. The tall man has to come now or lest the ship will leave us. And I know we can’t leave without him.

I feel a soft pull in my skirt, “Where is he?” Vyn asks me with a pout. He can’t be patient as always.

“He’ll come,” I say with conviction, “So, you don’t believe me now?” I ask him back.

We are talking in Varrian tongue, the language of our parent. Somehow, I feel safer using it since most of the people in Madza don’t understand what we are talking about.

Madza is a port city in the eastern most of Weardy Continent. It is not big city by all account, there are many bigger cities in the midland or south. Weardy Continent is big, ten times of that Sacred Land, my father said. I just believe him since I haven’t traveled to the west, south shore or Sacred Land.

Madza is ruler by a governor that will be changed each decade. Here many people from different races mixed, and Varrian is one of the many. But we often play a neutral side when war break between or within races. Daqqar is ruling most of the time, since almost half of Madza citizen belong to them. Bree is only second to them. The Bree are divided into two Curly and Straight. And they are the wildest among us while the Viqqa is the most powerful in the sea, their main tribe, in the west, is notorious pirate, and the one who live here is tame in comparison.

War or simply a street fight often break here, mostly it is between Curly and Straight Bree. With only slightest provocation, they will fight until the city soldiers stop them, but still, they are too wild to be tamed. It is silly what they do, fighting over a hair. It is said they are brothers from different mother. Their enmity started hundreds or thousands years ago, before the first Curly and Straight even born. Their mothers hate each other, which is silly. They should hate their husband, aren’t they?

Vyn tug my skirt again. I sigh loudly, “What is it again?” I ask a bit too loud.

“I am hungry,” he whimpers, his rounded eyes are filled with tears now. And it will spill out soon. He always hungry, I am tempted to leave him here. But I saw him in my dream so I have to drag him along with me.

I pull out a bar of chocolate from my leather bag, break a chunk and give it to him. “Don’t cry,” I say softly, “You don’t want to look like a girl, don’t you?”

He stops whining immediately, and glaring at me, anger is palpable in his pale brown eyes. In a flash, it looks almost red. It is so easy to rile my brother. He will angry if you compare him to a girl, many mistaken him for one, and saying that he looks beautiful is forbidden too. I pity him for that, but he does look beautiful, just like our mother. She left us four years past. Father said she came back to Varr Empire, across the east sea. I vaguely remember her beautiful face with rounded big eyes, but my brother can’t. He just a baby when she left, only two years old of age, and I was seven, already a big girl that shouldn’t cry like Father often said.

That winter night was when the dream started. Father seemed so worried when I told him about it so I stopped bothering him with my dream. He was already sad because of mother. I remember he smiled often before, but now the smiles rarely reach his eyes. I know he tries to look happy, but of course he can’t fool me.

Father rarely talks about mother, but I know he loves her still, even after all this year. Isn’t that why we still live here, in this city? So, mother can find us when she decides to come back. I still remember, we always moving around when I was younger. But it has been four years since we stay here, in Madza.

I know my father is considered handsome too even by Westerland standard. Many women had tried catching his attention. They often use my brother and me but of course, he had none of it. Sometimes, I hope he just forget mother but it seems he can’t.

I sigh wearily, I don’t want to grow old and fall in love if it makes people sad.

A wave of dizziness comes so sudden. And a blurry vision appears inside my head. I know it is time for the tall man to come.

I hear a loud bang from inside a tap room, few yards on my left. Shortly, a man is bursting outside. He runs with four others tailing close behind him. He doesn’t look like Varrian, he has dark brown hair unlike us, black. But in my dream he speaks our language. I am sure it is him. He will pass by me in a moment. I make a decision fast, and then I stand up, running to the road and blocking his path. I see his eyes widening, and then he halts hastily, a hair breadth before crashing me.

“What are you doing?” he asks me in common tongue.

I tilt my head up, for he is so tall, even taller than father. I stare, and lock his exasperated gaze, “I can save you,” I say in Varrian.

“Whatever you say,” he mutters in Varrian.

Yes, it’s him.

He turns back, and facing ruffian who tailing him.

“It is miss understanding,” he says with grin. “Your wife… umm… it’s really not me. I swear,” he adds, his eyes dart around, looking a way to flee.

But the man with flaxen hair doesn’t believe him. I know he is one of the Viqqa, his hair and blue eyes marking him as one.

The Viqqa man growls and preparing his punch, ready to knock my soon to be travel companion down.

I step around, and stand in front of my companion.

“It’s true,” I say calmly. I know that sure voice and solemn face is the key to make people believe you. I use that trick often.

“Who is she? Your daughter?” says another man, he is a Curly Bree. “You seem start too early if your daughter is as big as her.” The others are laughing madly at his joke.

“It’s him,” I say with conviction, pointing at the curly man. “Don’t you ever wonder why your first born has red and curly hair?” I look at the flaxen hair man in the eyes. “It is him who dallies with your wife,” I add with pitying tone and face. I know most boys or men don’t like to be pitied.

The man is narrowing his eyes, and look at his friend dangerously.

“You!” he growls.

“Do you truly believe a slip of girl’s word?” the other man tries to reason. But the flaxen hair is blind with rage. He raises his big fist, and soon they fight each other, drawing crowd around us.

I see a wooden boomerang peeking from the back of my soon to be companion black coat as I tug the tail of his coat, to draw his attention, and then I tilt my head up again, trying to look at him straight in the eyes.

He looks at me in awe, “What you just did there, Girl?” he asks in Varrian.

“You owe me a favor,” I say simply.

Ho nods briefly, “Name your price,” he says.

But before I answer it, he cuts me, “How do you know?” he asks hastily. “Oh Gods, I am really stupid. I should know. That who…” he stops, remembering himself. He coughs hastily and looking down at me and my brother. “What is it, Child?” he asks again, he look oddly embarrassed.

“Are you sure, you can meet our price?” I ask with raised eyebrow.

This is a tradition to pay the price of owed favor. Most people waive the price, though. Unlucky of him, I am not planning to.

“Sure,” he answers with touch of wounded pride.

I look at him, skeptical.

“Promise,” he says, putting his hand to his heart in solemn vow.

I can’t help the smile that rising in my lips, I got him. I turn to see my brother to share our victory, but he cast the man pitying look instead.

I tilt my head up again, looking the man with solemn gaze. “Take us to the Sacred Land. Be our escort,” I say loudly.

The man eyes widened, and he starts to say something but I cut him, “You’ve promised.”

***

After three days cramping, swaying at the small merchant ship, it feels good to stand on the ground again. I glance down at my younger brother face, but he looks petulant as always, at least, he stops wailing and demanding to go back home now.

“I don’t like these clothes,” he says with a pout.

“Neither I,” chirping Maxi, his full name is Maxi Allade. Allade is common name of Curly Bree. But he doesn’t look like one.

I sigh loudly. These two people just vex me so much.

Glancing down to their clothes, I think it is decent. It is consist of long tunic down to thigh, and trouser down to ankle, all in brown, muddy color. The tunic don’t have button, though, unlike shirt and coat which is the common style of Madza, no, not Madza now, it is Westerland as these Varrian call it. The seller tries to persuade us to buy the finest silk in bright color as befit our rank, he said. I know Varrian has many rank, peasant, halfs, noble, royal and Blessed, unlike in Westerland. The seller thinks we are noble, maybe we are. But the clothes are too expensive, and I don’t have that much coins.

I look up to Vyn and Maxi, giving them cold glare, “It looks good, stop whining,” I say harshly.

“Beg your pardon, my little lady,” Maxi says with artful bow, he learned that from the sailor back in the ship. And he uses it to mock me now.

I roll my eyes. At least their clothes look practical, while mine just look heavy with so many layers. The skirt in particularly, it is wide turn-around skirt, and only secured by knot in the back with wide sash atop it.

“Where we are going now?” Vyn asks with rounded puppy eyes. Vyn is the name of the first emperor of this Varr Empire, I remember mother told me once. And I hope my brother act with more dignity than he is now as befit his exalted name.

I glance down at my brother soft rounded face again, “I am thinking,” I say curtly.

I look around, trying to remember my dream.

“I am hungry,” Vyn says, clearly annoyed.

I just give them sweet buns less than two hours past, just before we shop for the new clothes. I dip my hand to my leather bag and pick silver coins. And I give it to Maxi.

“Uncle Maxi, please takes Vyn with you.”

He jerks around, facing me with furrowed brows. I know he feels offended. But in the end, he just nods, and drags Vyn along with him. I know he doesn’t like the title of uncle. I suggest father actually, but he strongly refused, saying that he is not that old, and just turn twenty last year. Well, twenty seems mighty old to me. And my father seems not that much older than him or simply all men look the same after past certain age. Besides the only resemblance we have with him is our light colored eye, but his is more green than brown. He said that his mother was Varrian and his father was Curly Bree. But his hair is straight not curly, and is dark brown instead of reddish brown. Maybe I should douse his hair in soot; we will look much alike and less standout then. I doubt he will agree, though. Besides his shoulder length hair is too short, it should well down below his shoulder. In Madza, his hair can be considered too long for a man but not here. Here, men and women all wear their hair long. The way he tied it seems wrong too.

But it seems Maxi oblivious of the strangers’ stare, as I see he and Vyn draw near with steaming bun in their hand. Vyn looks up to Maxi, grinning ear to ear, adoration is clear in his eyes. Maxi become short of heroes to him now. In our three days voyage, Maxi told him story of his many adventures to calm my brother down and stop his pitiful wailing. He even taught him how to throw his boomerang. In the end of the voyage, Vyn said that Maxi is how a boy or man should act or look like, manly look, with harsh and sharp features unlike our delicate and soft features.

I feel a searing hotness on my thigh; it is emitted from my leather bag. I dive my hand, picking the warm stone from inside my bag. It is small a little bigger than my thumb, gleaming in silver, red with a hint of blue. It glows, then dimmed, and then glows again.

It’s dark grey before. Why it changed?

Now, the colors are swirling, twirling inside like the holy fire’s light in the night sky above. Last night for the first time I saw them very clearly. Before I only see the hint of them in the east sky in the dark winter night.

“What is it?” asks Maxi curiously. He is jumping now, tries to take the stone. But I raise my hand, bring the stone out of his reach. And swiftly, I put it back to my leather bag.

I glace at my brother, and sure, he is pouting again, “Let’s go,” I say, refusing to submit to his silent demand. We briskly walk, looking for another place that resembles the place in my dream.

“Is your sister always like this?” I hear Maxi asks my brother in whispering voice.

I shouldn’t bring both of them here.

But the dream told me to. And Maxi must be someone important. But for the life of me, I can’t understand why. Maybe, I misread the dream this time. But I am sure that I am not, for he appears in the correct place and timing. I have to be patient like father often advised me to.

You are willful like your mother, he often said. I don’t like being compared with her, though. I won’t leave my children and husband, if I have one, ever.

Now, I will bring her back home, like it or not. It’s the reason I am here. I saw her in the dream. She stays in the white castle atop the high mountain, amid the clouds and holy fire’s lights.

I stop my track, looking around. Yes, this is the right place. I stand warily at the crossroad. I don’t know why I should stand here. Suddenly, I hear loud hoof beats and horse neighing sound. I close my eyes, bracing for the hit. But swiftly, I feel a strong pull, and I hit a hard chest, and then we fall to the ground.

“Ugh.” I hear Maxi moan loudly. It seems I land atop his chest. I open my eyes and I see, he looks at me with concern, “Are you okay, Girl?”

So, is this way I have to bring him along?

I nod curtly, and scramble away.

The young lady who almost trampled me turns her horse, and trotting her way to us. With agile movement, she dismounts. I guess she is few years younger than Maxi. From the bright color and rich material of her clothes, I know that she is of noble birth.

“You should be careful,” She says, standing few feet away from where I stand. Then she turns her head to Maxi who now picking his boomerang that lay on the road, few feet away.

He must throw it to divert the horse.

“And you. Take a better care of your daughter,” she chides him.

That gets Maxi reaction. He stands up straighter.

“She is not my daughter,” he walks to us, and for a moment sunray hits, highlighting his dark brown hair. “Do I look that old to you?” his eyes narrowed dangerously.

The young lady looks at Maxi more clearly, and then to me and my brother, who cling, holding my foot tightly. She must take a note, that we are nothing alike.

“You are a Weslander, I see. I let you off this time,” she says with finality, and ready to mount her horse again.

“Lady Ellen?” I ask with as much conviction I can muster.

She stops in her track, and then turn around, “Do you know me?” she asks uncertain.

I straighten my back, and look her straight in the eyes, “Don’t you know me, my lady? If you don’t, then let me help you to remember. My mother, she stays in that high castle made of marble, in that mountain.” I point to the east. I hope it is the correct direction.

I see her eyes widened, she looks at me again, and then to my brother. And suddenly, she kneels and says, “Beg your pardon, your highness.”

I only heard the lady name in my dream, and the rest is just a bluff. I suppose people readily to believe a thing they think to be a truth.

I glance at Maxi, his mouth is hanging open in disbelief now. I smile at him smugly.

Oh, this is so easy.

[]Chapter 3

The Princess

Never, even in my wildest that I think I will sit on this throne. But now, here I am. This seat is cold and lonely seat. I glance down to the marble floor below; it is shining, reflecting the sunrise that making cloud of dust after it penetrates the windows’ glass on east, south and west. But the little warm they bring still can’t ward off the chilling that emanating from this big vast room.

I look at court ladies and few advisors near the wall, their head bowing low, and their shoulders are uncommonly slumped; I know, this last three days have taxed their soul. And I feel very weary too. With the recent tragedy which befell the empress, the Ministers press me to wed.

They ask for the impossible.

It has been almost an hour since I dismiss them. But the anger and frustration is still settled in my mind, rooted there and won’t go away.

I try to break my wandering mind, and I glance down to the old man standing below the throne’s stair. He is one of the merchant from Naqari, city gate of the Mountain Wall in the north. His face is full of line and his hair is snowy white. He must be close to sixty if he is a day.

General Wazax, the one who found him, say he comes from the Mountain Clan. It must be long time since he had left his clan, for his manner is one of ours. He looks like an ordinary Varrian by looking at his greenish-brown clothes, and the top knot of his hair which secured with arched wooden hairpin. I glace down at my golden robe, noting the contrast. His clothes are bare of any ornament save his sash which is slightly lighter in color, while mine, there are dragon and eagle embroidery, that only a royal is permitted to wear.

I glance back to the old man. “Tell me about this poison,” I ask simply. The Oracle already told me about it briefly, but I want to hear from his account. For I know that Mountain Clan is a recluse, not many understand them. I hope he knows what we outsiders don’t.

“We wouldn’t call it a poison, your highness,” he says apologetic, “This potion is for troubled soul, the ones who wish for happiness.

They call it Sweet Heaven, or Sweet Dream, your highness,” he is glancing around, looking anywhere but me. “For only in your dream you can get the thing your mind, and mouth denies, the thing you can’t say. It opens the closed door of destiny, the impossible, and your deepest desire,” he pauses and looks at me, “It’s painless and blissful death.”

This is not good, the ministers will tear us apart if they know their empress wishes to die instead of rule.

“What should we do then?” I ask to merchant again.

“I am afraid, there is nothing we can do, your highness. Your majesty should wake from her slumber before seven days pass.”

“Wake up?”

“Yes, your highness. We have to wake her up,” he says little unsure.

Is it really as simple as that?

“So, wake her up it is,” I look at him, “You’ll wake her up,” I add.

The old man fall to his knee, “Your highness… please, I am a mere merchant. I buy and sold potion. Yes, it’s true. But I know nothing of… waking up dead people…” He closes his mouth abruptly, realizing his mistake. The empress not died yet, at least we have to wait four days to come. But it is true that she is weaker day by day.

“Bring him to his room,” I call out for the guards.

The old man eyes widened, “Your highness, please,” he pleads.

“This is for your own good, old man. You will be our guess at least for the next five days,” I say as the guards drag him out the room.

This is for the best. He won’t tattle to anyone if he stays here in the palace. It is not good if those, who wish ill to the royal family, know this news.

I glance to court ladies who stand in the perimeter of the throne room.

“Lady Marie,” I call out to one of them. The tall, slender lady comes forward and bowing to me, “Can you please bring Princess Ayle and Sara to their mother.”

“As your command, your highness,” she says, bowing low, and then leaves the room.

If it is a will to live, the empress needs, it should be her daughter, isn’t it? What kind of mother who want to leave their children?

The cruel ones, says voice in my head.

I hope the princesses can bring back their mother to the land of the living. I am not sure, though, for it is a son the empress and this empire wish so dearly, an heir to the throne, a true Varr. So, this empire won’t end in this generation.

I shake my wandering thought. The battle is not over yet.

Suddenly, the big door of the throne room is squeaking open, and a lone young man stride inside. He has long, black hair, flowing pass his shoulder, styled like most unmarried young men. I know him, his is the empress cousin, a young man with cheerful disposition as I recall. But he looks nothing like her save his wide mouth.

He is kneeling below the stair, waiting for my command.

“Rise,” I say to him.

He stands on his feet, and looking at me with bleak eyes. His eyes are little darker for a noble man; it is framed with long thick eyelashes and straight thick brows above it. Before, his eyes always lit up whenever he saw me. Seeing him now, I feel a pang of sadness for him. Yes, lost and regret can do that to a man or woman.

He is the one who bring the Mountain Clan lady, and witnessing his cousin fall. And it is not best experience for one.

“How is your cousin now?” I ask him as gentle as possible.

“Still asleep, your highness,” he says softly. “I never guessed, Lady Nala would do such a thing. She was… I wouldn’t bring her here if I knew,” he pauses and looking down, “I beg your forgiveness, your highness,” he adds somberly.

I nod. “It’s done, my lord. All we can do is try to fix the mess. The princesses will stay vigil, near their mother. I hope they will coax her to wake up.”

“Your highness,” he pauses, “Let me go back to the Mountain Clan, and beg their forgiveness.”

Forgiveness? That makes me pause.

“Do you think we are in the wrong then?” I ask him.

His eyes widened briefly, but instead of amend it, he says, “They are gentle and shy folk, who like to hide in their underground towns instead of fighting. Craven and coward, we call them,” he pauses, “I’ve been stayed with them for months. I never thought they were capable of this… this…” he stops, unable to finish his sentence.

“It’s pointless, my lord,” I say not ungentle, “You only will lose your life vainly if you go.”

I don’t think they will forgive us. They plan it well, the remnant of their clan soldiers who was fighting with my brother, in the north, had fled even before the news reached the army camp, near Citta City, a port city in the bank of Shane River, hundred miles west of the Edna Mountain.

Since the beginning, I didn’t like to involve this clan on our fight with Cryg Confederacy, but as always the empress disagrees with me. Sometimes, I was tempted to say the opposite of what I truly meant, maybe that way I can get what I truly want.

“Perhaps if we bring Lady Nala back to her clan, they will forgive us,” he says without looking at me.

But she is dead.

We lock her body in icy cage in the Cursed Temple, near Lake Ayle, in the base of this Sagha Mountain, like many other traitors and this empire’s enemy, as a warning sign for the other who dare to rebel.

“I don’t think bringing her dead body home is wise thing to do.”

He nods and smiles a sad smile. For a while we stay silent.

“The lady. She hates the cold,” he says, breaking the silent, with faraway look about him.

Suddenly, it dawned at me; he must be fond of this lady. I know his tortured soul well. He is not the first person who loves the enemy neither will be the last.

“Do as your wish, my lord.” I will take cares my brother’s rage later, for I am sure it will be a sight to behold.

“Does this make me a traitor if I can’t hate her?” he asks in whispered voice, still looking at nothing. “Her fiancé, cousins and many had died in our war. We should have left them alone.”

“Yes, we should,” I say, remembering the enemy I love, the one who take a hold of my heart.

With a bow, he leaves the room. His receding footsteps oddly sound sad to me.

I dismiss all the court ladies and the advisors but one.

“You lost one of your admirer, Princess,” says the Shadow who stands at the bottom of the stair quietly, like a Shadow that he is. There were two of them but only one left now. They serve their master for a live and become a no one, the one without a life of their own, just a shadow of the light which is their master. But to me they are not, they are people with a name, a past and future.

“Don’t be cruel, Coz. He just lost the woman he loved, and his cousin is in the brink of death.”

“Why matter of the heart always so complicated?” he muses.

“You should know it better than anyone, with many women you have,” I look at him pointedly. He seems nonchalant, but I know he has burden of his own.

“But no heart involved there,” he laughs.

The Shadows, they look so alike both in face and stature as their master, but not in temperamental and manner. His features are highly symmetrical and flawless like most of people with royal’s blood. His cheekbones are high and tapered down to strong jaw. And the most obvious trait that marks him as a royal is his light eyes, his just a shade darker than my own.

Between Shadows and his master, many people can’t tell which is which, not me, though. I can tell them apart even with closed eyes. We grow up together as it is. And they are closer to me than my own brother.

My brother and his Shadows were close once. But now, they can’t stand each other. That is why he is away fighting in the border while his Shadow is here, guarding the empress, which he failed miserably. The hard punishment is waiting for my cousin, I know that.

Whatever happened to them in the past, I don’t know. And I think I never will.

What is the seed of their discord? I mighty curious about it but they refused to answer whenever I ask.

I sigh wearily, then walk down the stair, going back to my empty room in the west tower.

But I stop just few feet from where my cousin stands, “You can leave me alone now. You must be tired,” I say to him, and then start to walk to the door again.

“You will never forget him, don’t you?” he asks in soft voice.

I stop in my track, and looking back at him, “Never,” I say with finality. But he might forget me.

 

[]Chapter 4

The Rebel

The strong wind is gushing from the west sea. The sea looks greenish blue, and the sky is smeared with white, thin cloud. We arrive here yesterday, just before dusk settle in the west. Yesterday, the empress army almost caught us in Zilg, the biggest city in the southeast part of the empire. I wonder how they know where we are. I am sure there is traitor who signaling the Oracles among us.

But who is he? I dearly wish to know who the traitor is and give him his just punishment myself.

I hate the empress, she murders and hurts many people in her quest of power. And her husband seems fall meekly under her spell. It is said it is her who truly rule this empire.

I hear muffled footsteps in the sand, drawing near, I know it so well. His step is light, and he is so quiet like a shadow.

I turn around, with smile plastered in my face, and I feel my smile slipping when I see his solemn face, it seems darker than usual.

“What is it?” I ask my master and prince.

“The empress,” he pauses and look at me intently, “She is in the brink of death now.”

“Really? Then why you seem displeased?” I ask puzzled. “It is good for us, isn’t it?”

He catches strand of hair that flowing wildly around my face, and tug it behind my ear. “Do you think so?” he asks in whisper.

Why did he ask?

“We better rout out her spy soon. Don’t you think?”

“It’s no longer important now,” he says with sad smile.

He thinks the royals in the palace are his family still. It is her, the princess, he loves the most, I know it. I try my best to quell my jealousy.

Gingerly, I touch the Blessed collar on my neck. The collar is shaped like dragon with its sharp, small scales. The head and tail of the dragon gather just below my throat with stone that looks like an egg in its mouth. This collar reminds me that I am still bound to the Varr royal family. As long as I wear this, my life is in their hand. Only with a flick of motion of their royal hand, the collar will tighten, cutting the wind in my throat. I hate and fear them because of it.

We are silent for a while, looking to the west. “When do you think the pirate will come?”

“Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow or maybe they won’t come at all,” he says.

He puts his arm around my body. We are looking to the sea together, seeing the waves crashing again and again.

“You should go back home, my lady,” he murmurs softly, “The empress needs you now.”

“Why should I care? She old, bitter woman now,” I say stubbornly.

“She was kind and gentle once. I still remember the old her.” I hear the sadness in his voice. “I want that lady back,” he adds softly as he kisses my neck in little, small kisses.

Why would you? She is dead to me now.

You should hate her like I do. You are the one she hurts the most. And that throne is yours to begin with. You should sit there instead of her. I am sure you much better ruler than she is. But of course, I don’t say that to him.

I turn my head, and look at him square in the eyes, “I hope you less gentle and forgiving, my prince,” I whisper to him.

And the sadness is crawling back to my body. I feel a sharp pain in my chest, where my heart is. I blink rapidly, and suddenly, it is hard to meet his gaze.

He erases silent tears on my cheek, “I don’t hate you. I never will,” he whispers before he takes my lips in soft kiss.

***

“Wake up,” I feel my master hand shaking my naked shoulder gently. I reach out to him for a kiss as I wont to do.

I feel his warm lips on mine. I like his kisses.

“Pirate,” he whispers between my soft kisses, he must be hear something from the sea. But for the life of me, nothing is all I can hear.

Swiftly, he wake up and don his clothes. But I still feel a little disoriented, I have to make sure where I am now.

I close my eyes and open it again. It is the hut. I remember it now, we retire here for the night, waiting for pirate to come and raid the village. And they are coming now.

The empress and his army are turning blind eyes from these peasants. These peasants mean nothing to her. And the duty to protect them is fall to us now, the rebel.

Stopping my musing, hastily I wake up and looking for my clothes in the darkness; for it is only faint light of holy fire, which passing through cracks in the wooden wall, lit this fisher hut. After some fumbling, I find my clothes, and wear it quickly.

I pick my bow and quiver, full of arrows, from the wall.

“Ready?” my prince asks me. Then he throws my sword, I catch it and follow him to the beach outside.

The others are already wake up too, and ready for battle as we arrive at the beach. There are only fourteen of us, the four who meet us in the cave two days ago, and the others eight are already here since a week past. Out of fourteen, only four are Blessed warrior. My master and I, Oland and one other young man, Sandy is his name. Sandy is younger than me. And he was born outside the Varr City, outside the Walls. So, he has no collar in his neck which is a good thing. But he receives no training like the other Blesseds did in Varan Castle, inside the Varr City. In that castle, the young disciple will train for few years until they master the art of energy control, and after that they become an apprentice, like I am now.

I glace back to the sea. It seems there are scores of pirates. They go ashore in small boats, there are more than ten boat at least. I can see them faintly under the holy fire’s light that shifting, shining in greenish-blue color, high in the sky.

I pick my arrow and start to shoot as they are close enough, and in shooting distance. And soon, the others follow, shooting rain of arrows.

Finally, the first wave of the pirate comes ashore. They come with sword and axes. And most of them are bigger and bulkier than us. They have flaxen hair and light colored eyes.

This is only the beginning.

But the pirates move nimbly despite their size. I see a burly pirate with bushy mustache hack one of the rebel, and the rebel dies, slumping in a pool of blood.

We, the rebel gather together, surrounded by menacing looking brutes. And I stand back to back with my master.

We know we shouldn’t use our gift from the Gods. But we can’t help it. The enemy is stronger than us.

“Ready?” he whispers, and I nod.

I focus on the energy flow within my body, taking the holy fire’s power from within and outside me. After I take a hold on it, I search my master energy, reach for it, and then I connect our energies, creating an invisible path. I let my energy flows to him, and I feel the familiar weakness as the power leaking out. But soon I feel my master’s answer. The energy rushes back to me with vengeance. He always has a strong power, like most of the royals do. They are descendant of the Gods after all. He sends the ice to me, and he controls the rest, fire and wind.

I use the given energy as best as I can. I let out an icy wave, it’s rippling outwardly, freezing the path it travelled.

Not far beside me, I see my master let out a small whirlwind; it is combined with the fire. It burns the pirates who surround him. The burning flesh smells awful, it clings on my nose, nauseating. But I steel myself and keep fighting.

I see one pirate down, then another.

It is nothing; I have to continue my fight. I direct my energy to my sword, it is shining in blue color now. I parry with two pirates at once, both twice bigger than me. Our swords meet, metal to metal. I see their sword freeze and cracking as it touches mine. The pirate eyes widen as he see his sword become dust in the sand. Then, I trust my sword in his startled eye. I hear his howl of pain before he falls down, dead. Seeing his comrade fall, the other tries to flee, but of course I won’t let him. I release another icy wave, it catches his foot, he triples and falls. I see fear in his eyes as I raise my sword above my head, ready to thrust it into his heart.

One more kill. I had stopped counting from long time ago. The innocence girl has died years ago in the west sea.

Looking around, most of the pirates are running, scrambling, desperately racing to their boat, fleeing us.

Good.

My prince comes to me, concern is palpable in his light brown eyes.

He erases sticky blood from my face. I see sorrow in his eyes.

“We should move fast,” he whispers.

“I know,” I say softly.

“I remember, months ago, you forbid me to kill,” he says, cupping my cheek in his large hands.

“But killing is what we do. In war, we kill.” He says that to me, a life time ago. Back then, I still innocence and stupid but I am not anymore. “You told me so,” I add.

He still has that sad look about him.

“We save those villagers,” I say again.

He releases my cheek, and looking to the sea, “I regret that I said that,” he says.

It makes no matter. What’s done is done, no turning back now. First, we have to live, we can think about our sin and regret later.

I hold his hand and drag him with me, “Let’s move.”

We have to move fast or lest the empress will catch us, and end this dream like life.

But before that, we have to burn the dead. We make funeral pyre both for our friends and enemies. The yellow-red fire soon engulfs those bodies, the light spreading, shining in the pre-dawn darkness. The smoke is black and thick, and acrid smell fills the air.

They are back to the Gods now, the Mountain Gods, who is our father, and the Goddesses on the land, who are his sisters.

Out of fourteen only seven left, we gather around the funeral pyre for final goodbye. Seeing the weary face around me, I know it is not the time for sadness and mourning.

Shortly, we back on our horse and ride to the east, welcoming the dawn. The sky is golden blue now, spreading rapidly as we race our horse fast. And the holy fire’s light slowly faded in the sky, the only trace I can see is the faint green light in northeast, just atop Varr City, atop Shaga Mountain.

In the crossroad inn, we part ways. Elsa, Oland and three others are going to the south, while my prince and I, we continue our way to the east.

We ride on wide main road, which connect Zilg to Mina, the biggest city in the east, near Noi Lake. We slow down our horse as we nearing crossroad inn, we will stop there for luncheon.

The road is busy, many traveller go to the opposite direction. I see parties of merchants, passing by, bring along wagons full of their ware. I also see peasants. They go to the west in droves, walking on the dusty road. Among them, I see small babies still in their mother breast. It is most unusual thing, bringing the younger ones to travel. But we continue our ride, just a little more, we will arrive.

Finally, we arrive at the inn. Many travellers stop here in their journey to four directions: west to Zilq, south to Miniq, north to Liqo or Varr, and east to Mina. We dismount from our horse. The hour is quite late for luncheon, and I hope not many people inside.

But my prince is rooted in his place, looking to the road, with concern in his eyes. I see where his eyes rest, there is another wave of peasants on the road. They have the same dusty clothes and tired look about them.

“Why is that?” I ask him.

You know the answer, accuses voice in my head.

“You know why,” he answers, locking my gaze in his solemn one.

Yes, with the empress in the dead door, it is safer to go to the west, crossing the big sea to the Westerland.

“It’s no concern of us,” I say. “Why are they so afraid of this Cryg Confederacy? They might better than the empress.”

“They might,” he says wearily, “But she is their mother. She protected them in her own way,” he locks my gaze, “and you know it,” he adds.

If we lose the war to the Cryg Confederacy, the things we hold sacred will be destroyed and we will become a mere slave to them. I am sure of that.

This is decades of war, reducing Varr Empire to only a half of what it is, in its former glory.

I look at my prince pale eyes. “Still, you see kindness in her,” I whisper. And I feel tightness in my chest. “Those peasants, they fear her. Is it common of a child to fear their mother?”

“Of course not,” he says, tugging errand hair behind my ear. But still his sad look won’t go away. “Let’s go inside,” he adds.

I walk, following him with heavy feet. I know what the empress does, she strives for fear instead of love. She knows those people will never love her, so, she makes them surrender in fear. At least in fear, they obey, and allied together.

I steel myself. Here is my place now. I will never betray my prince again.

[]Chapter 5

The Child

We ride our horse slowly, passing the Varr City’s west gate. The soldiers let us pass easily. It must be because Lady Ellen is the Blessed, she has a silvery-golden collar, coiled around her neck that marking her as one. I only can vaguely guess what it is at first, the dream never told me that. But I saw her use her gift before when a band of robbers stop us two days ago. As her eyes turn from light brown to blue so was her sword, it was gleaming in blue color, and made it uncommonly sharp and froze anything it touch. I saw the enemy’s sword crumbles before her.

“Selena,” my brother calls me. He rides with Maxi now since he is too young to ride alone.

I look at him and exhale loudly. I told him not to call my name. I am afraid that Lady Ellen and his mistress, Lady Gigi Neth, will know our deceit.

Mistress is what Lady Ellen calls her teacher, and she said that she is only an apprentice now. Whatever it is I am not sure. But I am sure, Selena is not the name of the princess that I am impersonating.

From Lady Ellen and other Blesseds, we meet along the way, I know that it is our light eyes and facial feature that seal our lie. I don’t know light eyes are highly regarded here. It is so common in Westerland. As for face, I am not sure either; we just look like our parent. Many call them a beauty in Westerland, apparently here too, much to Vyn dismay.

“My princess,” Maxi says mockingly. “Your bro… err… cousin, asks when we will have our luncheon.” They better remember that Vyn is my ‘cousin’ now.

I look at them exasperatedly. Is it eating all they can think?

“Soon,” I say curtly. “Look, the palace is near.”

I point at the gleaming white marble atop Shaga Mountain. The palace just looks like what I saw in my dream, it is perched on the mountain second highest peak while on its highest point is where the everlasting fire burning. We can’t see the light in the day, though. But it looks so vivid in the night, like dancing ribbons high in the sky. I like it best when it in purple or pink color.

I will miss it when I go back to Madza later.

Maxi canters his horse abreast to mine, and signaling me to go slower, letting Lady Ellen and her mistress go ahead of us.

“Do you think it is wise to continue the charade?” says Maxi in whisper. “I am sure the sweet Lady Ellen will forgive us now, if we confess,” he adds still in whisper.

So, she is the sweet Lady Ellen now?

I sigh heavily. He really can’t be helped. If dead will befell us, I am sure it because of his dalliance.

“Are you afraid now?” I ask with raised eyebrow like my father often does.

“Of course not,” he says with wounded pride.

“So, be quiet now,” I command him.

“Sister–” Vyn tries to help.

“You too,” I cut. The two of them are thick as thieve. I know my brother see him as combination of father figure and hero. But of course, I don’t tell Maxi about it. He doesn’t like to be likened to a father. He insists to be Vyn half-brother in this charade. I readily agree as long as he stops grumbling and meekly tag along. Besides my brother needs him, for he misses our father dearly.

I kick my horse, riding faster, closing the distance between me and Lady Ellen. And soon, Maxi is following my suit.

We are now crossing the Varr City. The city is neat and not crowded. The cobbled street below is well maintained unlike cities beyond the Walls or even Madza. The Varr City Wall and Mountain Wall are surrounded this city, make it hard for peasant and outlander, as they call us, come inside. The only peasants inside these walls are servants or wealthy merchants. This city is where the noble live while the palace is where the royal live.

It makes my mother a royal if she truly live there, isn’t it?

Leaving the city behind, we climb the mountain, following the royal road. As we draw near to the palace, the road is become steeper so we ride slowly.

“It’s not too late, Princess,” says Maxi from my left side.

I look at him, I see worry there. This time, it is a genuine fear.

“I saw you in my dream. You’re old with white hair there,” I lie.

His eyes narrowed a little, trying to decide whether it is a lie or not. He stays like that for a moment, and then he nods in resignation.

We ride in silent, passing the palace gate and dismount from our horse when we arrive in the yard.

I glance down at Vyn, his mouth is hanging open. I tug his hand, tell him in silent command to act nonchalant. Then I glance at Maxi, he is uncommonly silent now. This is must be his first time too, going inside a palace this big. Not even governor’s residence in Madza as big as this one.

A young servant leads us inside, I see that she steals many glances at us, mostly at Maxi. She must be never seen a man with brown hair before. We stop inside a big hall.

“Wait here, your highness,” she says softly, “The Oracles are already waiting for your arrival.”

The Oracle? I don’t know who are they but I nod, masking my confusion.

Looking around, I see that there are many painting on the wall. I walk closer to one of them. It is a painting of a young man, he is around Maxi’s age. He has long hair, little pass his shoulder, some of it pulled back with queue. His almond shaped eyes are light brown like mine. His symmetrical face, high cheekbone, and strong jaw are so familiar to me.

I feel Vyn tugs my skirt, and I glance down at him. I see his lips trembled, eyes glimmer, and close to tears.

“Shuush,” I say as I hear footsteps draw near to us.

“Vyn the first, is mighty handsome, isn’t he?” says Lady Ellen, she stand beside me, admiring the painting. “I believe your cousin will be as handsome as he is, your highness.”

“Yes, I am sure, my lady,” I say as calm as possible. I stroke Vyn’s hair as he clings on my skirt.

“I don’t think he is handsome, my lady,” Maxi says, as he comes approaching us. It seems he has found his voice again. “He is too beautiful to be called handsome.”

“He is,” says Vyn vehemently. Maxi seems taken aback with Vyn clear displeasure, for he is Vyn’s hero so far.

“You’re rude, my lord,” Lady Ellen says in clipped tone. Then she leaves us.

“That woman has bad taste–”

“I’ll stop if I were you,” I cut him.

“Do you see something in your dream?” he asks me with wide eyes. “Oh, don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear it.” He strides across the room, leaving me and my brother.

I crouch down, and erase the tears that now wetting Vyn’s rounded cheek.

“Why he is here?” he whispers, looking at the painting forlornly.

“I don’t know, Vyn. But it’s not him, you know. That man is smiling wickedly, you see, while… he is… you know.”

Vyn nods at that. “I think so,” he says with trembled lips. He wants to say something more but I cut him.

“Listen, someone is coming. Erase your tears, Brother,” I say and then swiftly stand up, waiting for the Oracles.

The footsteps are growing louder now, they will come soon. I take my brother hand in mine, squeeze it tight. For a moment, I let the fear getting better of me. In jumble array of events and revelation, I am not sure that the dream leads us only to mother. I am afraid there is more of it.

Finally, the Oracles enter the room. There are two of them, both are old lady with white snowy hair, flowing down to their back. They are bowing low to us.

“Your highness,” they call us.

One of them, the shorter one, crouches to Vyn.

“I never dream to see you in my life time, little prince,” she says. I see hint of tears in her old eyes.

Vyn looks at me in confusion, for we are not a real prince or princess. But I shake my head, since I too, still don’t understand what this mean.

“We saw you in our dream, your highness,” says the other. “We’re waiting for you for decades.”

“I want to see my mother,” I say firmly, for I don’t understand these Oracles. I am just one and ten, and Vyn just six. Is it possible they wait for us for decades?

The Oracle, the taller one, nods. “Do follow us little ones,” she says, beckoning us to follow.

I take Vyn’s hand and we go following the Oracles, leaving the rest of the party behind.

We walk through corridors, and one hall after another, and then to the winding stair up to the top of a tower. In the end, we stop just in front of big oaken door. A servant open it for us, I glance at the Oracles. With soft smiles, she bids us to enter the room.

The room is vast, with big windows and sheer, following white curtains. In the center of it, an enormous bed stands. In its frame, golden dragon and silver eagle was carved.

I see two young ladies hovering near the bed. One is around my age, she has pale eyes while the other, she seems much younger than me, has very dark eyes. I can see why people mistaken me for the older one.

I walk closer to the bed slowly, dragging Vyn with me. On the bed, I see a woman is deep in her sleep.

Who is she? Is she died?

I steel myself and walk closer still. Her hair is luxurious and long. It is black in color, like all Varrian hair. Her features are well defined and sharp.

“Is she our mother?” Vyn squeaks.

No, she is not.

But I vaguely remember saw her in one of my dream. I saw her dark eyes open. Is it why we are here? To wake her up?

I step closer, touch her cold hand in mine.

“Is she our mother?” Vyn asks again.

This time, I shake my head as an answer. But as if he doesn’t see me, he steps closer and climb up to the bed.

“Mother?” he whispers.

“Vyn,” I say softly, trying to drag him down. But he won’t have it. He is kicking, screaming, and pulling my leather bag, and spilling its content to the floor. I see in horror as the gleaming, warm stone, rolling on the floor. It stops near the Oracle’s—the shorter one—feet. She picks it and then looks at us with widened eyes.

Does she know who we are now?

She walks slowly to us, her shock is receded now. My heartbeat is hammering in my chest. And Vyn is frozen, stop fighting me.

She stops just right in front of me.

“Keep this well, Child,” she whispers as she put the stone on my palm. “Don’t let anyone know about it,” she adds very softly. I am not sure I hear it correctly.

Why? I want to ask but the lady is turning, and walking away, back to where she stands before.

Gingerly, I put Vyn down, and in heartbeat, he leaps to the bed again, and I helpless to stop him so I just let him be.

“Mother?” he asks the sleeping lady again.

As if in dream, I see the lady opens her dark eyes.

“Mother,” Vyn whispers.

As if in trance, the lady raises her hand and caressing his cheek, “Son…” she croaks and I see a single tear rolling down from the corner of her eyes. She draws Vyn near in tight hug.

No, he is not your son.

“Yes, you’re the son I never had,” she whispers.

I hear the door softly open and three female come inside. One is leading the way inside, she wears golden robe and dragon hairpin in her thick black hair. I see her heart shaped face, full lips, delicately arched eyebrow and tip-tilted dainty nose; all of which are so like my own.

She stops in her track, and her servants who trailed behind almost trod her.

“Mother,” I say in oddly weak voice. She says nothing, but I remember her, she smiles often back then just like father did, unlike now, her lips is trembling. She looks just like Vyn if she does that.

I walk to her, hesitantly at first.

“Mother,” I say again. But she just stays still, rooted in her feet, in silent tears.

[]Epilogue

The Rebel

The days are growing colder. A gentle breeze rattles the nearby branches, shaking its yellow, brown and red leaves, and then it start to fall; it is flowing follow the gushing wind, and covering the clay path below in red, yellow and brown color.

The rare sun sunlight comes through the dense foliage give the forest warm glow. The mist is rising in the air, and I know the sun will soon set in the west.

I have to hurry up.

This morning, my master and I, we arrive here. We parted away with others two days past. And now, we hide in this forest. Not in a cave this time.

I walk briskly while picking dried branches as fast as I can. This time is my turn to gather the dried branches and make a fire. I am not a fragile, sweet faced lady now. I am a battle hardened warrior.

I see big grey cliff in the center of this forest, peeking around the yellowed leave. I have to go back there before darkness settles.

The cliff looks small from here, shaped like an eagle’s beak.

Eagle?

I can name many other birds why eagle come to mind? I shake my head, ward off faint sound that calling my name.

I don’t know why I grow tired easily these days. I often dream that I am in the palace once again. But this time it is different. They place me in much bigger room than before; it has enormous soft-feather bed in the center of it. It is a room befit of a princess instead of a mere ward, that I was. When the dream comes in the middle of the night, I hold my prince tightly, afraid that the dream turns into reality, which is an absurd thing.

I am here, am I not?

I made a right decision. I won’t betray him no matter how sweet the empress promised me.

I must be really in love with him.

I smile happily and walk faster. He is waiting now.

As I am going near the cliff, the trees are sparser, changed into rocky terrain. I am bouncing through the rocks, climbing to the top of the cliff, carrying the dried braches in my left arm. I see my master stands in the edge of the cliff, watching me.

“Be careful,” he warns me.

I smile at him. Then he lends his hand to me, helping me climbing the last rock, like he often did in the past. Suddenly, I feel piercing pain in my heart. But I shake it off as soon as it came.

With final push, finally, I stand on top of the cliff. The top of the cliff is flat and broad. Standing here, I can see the forest bellow. The forest is vast, brown mixed with red is all I can see. I close my eyes, feeling the cold wind, it is dancing around me.

I open my eyes as my prince takes the dried branches from my arm, and put it on the ground, and starts to make a fire.

“I will do it,” I say.

“Leave it,” he murmurs, still busy arranging the branches, without looking at me.

“You still see me as my lady.” I remember he called me that instead of my name a long time ago, ever so polite and courteous.

He looks at me, and raises his eyebrow, “Really?”

I blush, of course not. He won’t do that if he is.

The braches is crackling as the fire engulfs them, making ashes out of them.

And they sky above is changing in color, from purplish-blue, yellowing-red and then to midnight blue.

The night is growing old as we lie on our back, looking up to the sky, seeing lights dancing above. The lights are yellowish-green now, like smeared ribbons glowing in the midnight blue sky. And the stars are peeking around them, glowing bright on their own right.

“The sky is beautiful, isn’t it?” I ask my prince. I had asked him this question so many times before. I remember it still.

Instead of answering me, he just tightening his arm around me as we lie beneath our thin blanket, atop our makeshift bed.

“You still love the sky, it seems,” he finally says. “That’s good thing.”

Do I ever stop loving it? I feel an invisible hand squeezing my heart. I close my eyes and shake my head, chasing of a faint sound, calling me in the distant. I’m afraid of something but I don’t know what.

I open my eyes slowly, and his pale somber eyes welcome me. His handsome face is filling my vision, hovering over me, and I can see nothing but him.

He brushes wayward hair from my face, “It’s time for you to go back,” he says solemnly. “They’re waiting for you,” he adds with bitter smile.

I shake my head, and I feel sting in my eyes. Faintly at first, I hear a distant sound, it is oddly sound like my name.

It must be a dream again.

But it grows louder. I wake up and putting my robe hastily. I see torches below, in the forest.

The empress’ men.

I run to the fire, put it out, and then packing our meager belonging which scattered around frantically. I put it in my bag. I turn around looking for my master, my prince, my lover. But he stays in his place still looking at the sky.

“Hurry,” I whisper, “They will catch us.”

“It’ll be fine,” he says simply, and oddly calm.

“Elsa, it must be her who betray us,” I say hotly.

I stand, walking back to him, and then crouch down, looking at his shadowed face.

“Let’s go. What are you waiting for?”

“It’s not her, my lady,” he says with sad smile.

“Oland then.” But I know it is a lie even before the name spill out from my mouth.

It’s you, says voice in my head. You sold him to the empress, years ago.

“No,” I shout, “It’s a lie.”

My prince wakes up then. He sits in front of me. He erases tears that I don’t realize flowing down my cheek.

“What’s done is done,” he whispers. And I dare to look at his face. I see his handsome face in my blurry vision. Gingerly, I touch his cheek where his dimples should be when he smiles. But he is not smiling now, neither I am.

“Our fate end years ago, my lady,” he whispers.

“No,” I say weakly, “It’s a dream. We are here now, aren’t we?”

He shakes his head. With last sad smile, he fades, like a mist he disappears in the darkness. I try to catch his shadow but I can’t.

You sold him, to the empress before you, for the crown, says voice in my head.

“But I wear no crown,” I shout, answering the soundless accusation.

Slowly, I raise my hand to the top my head. I touch a cold metal there; I pick it, its white diamond gleaming, and accusing. As if my hand burn, I throw the crown to the ground. It is rolling, and clanking when hit the rock below.

No, this is a dream.

I cover my ears. I don’t want hear another voice. But I hear it regardless. And it sounds like ‘Mother’.

The voice is persistent.

“Mother,” he says in small boy voice.

I open my eyes slowly, truly open it. The light is blinding me. I almost close it again when I see his rounded eyes and puffy cheek.

The boy, who is hovering above me, has light brown eyes. His rounded eyes are filled with unshed tears. I feel a pang in my chest.

I don’t want him to cry.

“Mother,” he whispers again.

I raise my hand to his cheek. He just looks like him. If we had a son together, he must be as beautiful as this boy with light eyes and dimpled cheeks.

“Son…” I call him, my mouth dry, and my voice seems odd even in my ear.

He must be a gift from the Gods. The gift he denied me before. The heir this empire desperately needed. I pull him close, hugging him dearly.

“Yes, you’re the son I never had,” I whisper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End

 

 

Another Book by Seoran Worg:

The Prince’s Shadows

The Shadow’s Heart (upcoming)

 

 

Mailing list: http://eepurl.com/cIgWej

 


Whispering Shadow

In a land far away, in a land so different with our own, it is in a land where magic exist and alive. For hundreds years, Varr Empire is led by The Varr family. People believe they are half a God. And they are blessed with beauty and gift to control elements: Wind, Ice and Fire. They are in decades of war with neighboring nation, and now they are in peril, for their empress is in the brink of dead. The Rebel – She is fierce Blessed Warrior, but she runs off with her rebel lover, eluding the empress army, and shirking her duty for love. The child – She is child who comes from far away land. Driven by her gift of sight she comes, bringing her little brother, and crossing the west sea to the land of Gods. The Princess – Now is a turbulent time. With the empress under the spell, the heavy burden of the empire is fallen to her shoulder. One of them will wake up the empress. This is journey of love and loss, a journey unraveling the past. ** This is book 1.5 of The Blessed Series and can be read as standalone

  • ISBN: 9781370560431
  • Author: Seoran Worg
  • Published: 2017-08-05 08:05:12
  • Words: 17327
Whispering Shadow Whispering Shadow