It came out like the sun, shedding its light on anything below it. One wing pointed to the sky and the other towards the city, circling Lehvie’s castle. I saw that unlike Rook, each of Madrick’s feathers burned brightly.
“That’s mom,” said Lehvie. We stood waiting on the stone balcony outside of Lehvie’s castle. “Madrick serves as the patriarch over all the phoenix found in Talica. This is his territory as much as it is ours.”
“How many are there?” I asked. My sisters started counting with her fingers, until it exceeded the only five she had on one hand, she continued with the other.
“I think there are eleven,” she said.
“Eleven hundred,” she said. “But they are different from the ones we have here in the city. Their reproduction is almost stagnant, and they are smaller than most birds, but they make up the size with how dangerous they are to people. In Talica, it is a custom to make two campfires, one for yourself and one for a wandering phoenix to sleep on. But then again I’m only repeating what I have heard from Quinn.”
When Madrick flew closer, I had a better idea of his size. It’s big, and to say so was an understatement. It was massive, probably bigger than the villa I stayed in a while ago, or a good many times bigger than Rook.
“The first time Madrick landed here,” said Lehvie. “I thought my castle was falling towards the city. That was very scary.” She laughed. We heard the bells ringing and Madrick created a great gust of wind, flapping them downward and I saw the trees at the below us bend to the point I thought they would snap. The moment that Madrick touched the ground it felt like the castle was sinking, and soon it had stabilized. Madrick raised his head from below the balcony, just his beak covered my entire view. He moved back and the fire on his feathers began to die out.
“Lee!” I heard from below. Aril was waving at me. Then Lilia followed close behind, going straight to guards. Next Alice, who for some reason look bothered.
“Aril!” I said, waving back at her.
“I think she’s calling for you,” said Lehvie.
“Lee!” Aril was yelling out my name louder and louder. Two guards were making off to Alice and restraining her, pushing her on the ground. I ran back inside and looked for the staircase.
“I’ll help you,” said Lehvie. She pulled me back outside to the balcony and picked me.
“What are you doing?”
“Trust me,” she said and pulled me over the balcony along with her. It must have been a thirty-meter drop. As we fell she surrounded us in a frenzy of fire, a portion of it pushed downward with a strong force that our free fall was slowed and dispersed the moment we landed. I saw Aril had a worried look on her face, and Lilia returned with a different set of guards with an emblem of a phoenix and a shield. These were Lehvie’s guards.
I ran to Alice, and one of the two holding her down pointed his spear at me.
It might not be effective from this range, but so long as they were covered in metal, missing them was not likely. I stopped and took a deep breath, raised my hand at the guard and focused. I had every electron jump from atom to atom and created the static charge and let it naturally attract to the metal on the guards.
“Wah—” one of them dropped to the ground. I could already feel my hands shaking from the pitiful amount of magic I could use.
“Leave her be,” said a voice. The second guard walked away dragging the one on the floor with him.
I looked over by Madrick. There stood a woman clad in a steel armor with some parts covered in soot. Her helmet hid all but her eyes and those same deep red eyes were fixated on me. She held a spear that stood high above her head and took steps in my direction.
“It was her,” said Aril, crying. “She was bullying miss Alice.” Glinn extended her hand towards me but I ignored it.
This wasn’t the person who would visited me with a caring smile years ago. This wasn’t the one who upon my entrance to this world I had decided it was okay to call her ‘mom’. She’s different. Right then I heard the cries of a phoenix, one that I’ve heard many times before. Rook. I saw him fly from below the castle and landed near me. Nes jumped down and stood between myself and Glinn.
This time it was Madrick, whose loud cry was deafening and had Rook scared off. He rocked the castle with every step and flew after Rook. In the meantime, I helped Alice sit up-right. She had bruises everywhere and the thought that Glinn was responsible had my blood seething. Glinn drew closer.
“Do not approach me,” I said. She stopped. Everything was silent, and I could feel everyone’s stares on me. Glinn got on one knee and removed her helmet. Her hair fell to her chest and again, extended her hand to me.
I looked back to Alice, without a word coming out of her mouth they moved as to say, ‘go.’ I returned my attention to Glinn. And Nes moved aside. I grabbed Glinn’s hand and felt the cold steal of her gauntlet. She pulled me to her but I unconsciously resisted. This brought up this look in her eyes. Like she couldn’t believe it. Or that she didn’t want to believe it. And I couldn’t take back what I had done. I let go of her and returned to Alice.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m okay,” she said, her voice weak but still managed a smile.
“She’s stealing him from me,” said Glinn. She walked over to Alice and grabbed her by the neck.
Something snapped inside me.
I felt someone grab and throw me to the side, away from everyone.
“Move away from him!” yelled Nes.
The grass below me had lit a bright red, a circle of it surrounded me and burned everything in its path, growing outward, and looking for more to feed on. My view had begun to cloud. I lost consciousness.
* * *
I woke in bed and tried moving my body but it didn’t listen. I could only move my eyes and perhaps speak, so I looked on at the familiar ceiling and smells so I was sure—we were back at the villa and it was morning.
“Lee,” said Aril. Her blue eyes and brown hair were a welcomed sight; she sat by the bed and was holding my hand. Though I noticed she wore a white glove on her right hand, and just like me, we had been accustomed to wearing long sleeved clothing.
“What happened?” I asked.
“You used up all your magic and passed out,” she said. “Nes said your body can’t handle using that… magic.” There was a moment of silence, and Aril avoided eye contact. “You were scary.” The atmosphere felt gloom.
“And Alice?” I said, “where is she?”
“She’s resting,” said Nes, and welcomed herself inside the room. “You look different.”
“What do you mean?” I said. “What?” Aril put a mirror in front of my face. “What happened to my hair? It’s black.” My eyes remained a deep red.
“You rejected her,” said Nes. “It’s normal for our hair color to change if we experience something traumatic, but it only becomes lighter, often turning pink.”
“But its black,” said Aril. Nes stared at me.
“That’s probably because you’re half elven,” she blurted out as if it was common knowledge. The only other person with black hair was…
“Alice,” I said.
“Yes,” said Nes, “she’s an elv. And you treat her like your mother even though she is not.” I looked out the window. She sighed. “It’s best you distance yourself from Alice for a while, have her moved back to your castle and let things calm down a bit.”
“No,” I said. Nes pinched my cheek.
“We haven’t seen you in a long time,” she said. “So you should visit mom soon and talk to her. Tell her how you have been doing and calm her down before she does something she’ll regret. You’re the last person she wants mad at her.”
“I think it’s a bit late to say that,” I said.
“Well,” said Nes. “I only came to check on you. I have a few jobs I have to finish before the day’s end or I’ll get an ear full later. Take care of yourself.” Nes left us alone in the room, just Aril and I.
“Technically,” said Aril, “you have to look very closely, but your hair isn’t black. It’s just a very, very dark red. Sort of.”
I closed my eyes.
“Where are the others?”
“Kahl is looking after them,” she said. “I asked them to stay on the boat, they should arrive in a day or two. As for Selsie, the crew members have made sure to feed her properly every day.” I felt I missed that big wolf, until I remembered her breath and smell in too recent memory that made me repulsed.
“I hope its fresh meat,” I said, trying to lighten up the mood. Aril let out a short giggle. “I don’t want to smell her breath any time soon.”
“So what now?” said Aril. It was hard to believe she was a little over twice my age and I wasn’t sure if it was me looking after her or the other way around anymore.
“I honestly… don’t know.”
“May I come in?” I saw Lilia standing out by the entrance. She was holding a letter with a red seal on it.
“Lilia,” I said. “Come.” She stood next to Aril and held the letter out to me. I tried moving my body, but failed again.
“Can you open and read it for me?” I asked.
“I’m afraid I cannot,” she said.
“Is it that important?”
“No, sir,” she said. “I physically cannot. There’s a spell that opens only for who it is intended to. Otherwise forcing it open will result in the contents being destroyed forever.”
“Is it from—” I struggled to find the words to describe her.
“Queen Glinn,” said Lilia. “She also sent a magic stone to help your recovery.” She took out the stone, it glowed a dim light, and held it front of me.
“I don’t want it,” I said. “Keep it away from me.”
“Should I store it somewhere?” she asked.
“Throw it away,” I said, “or sell it. I don’t care.” There was a moment of silence, I could hear the people outside the room walking around and farther away the fountain pouring water.
“Could I hold on to it?” asked Aril. Lilia handed her the stone. After wards, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
* * *
I woke and found my body well rested and able to move again. I let out a yawn and saw it was afternoon. Actually, I had never felt better. I could breathe easy and felt wide awake. Right then I noticed the stone from Glinn on the nightstand right beside the bed. It was on top of the letter and it didn’t have that dim glow anymore. I sighed and picked up the letter underneath it. Though Lilia said there was a spell on it, when I opened it, nothing happened. I read the letter.
“What does it say?” Aril walked in with a glass of water and placed it on the nightstand.
“It’s a summons,” I said. It gave me the date and time to be at the main castle. “But it’s two weeks from now.”
“Ah,” said Aril, as if she knew something.
“Ah?” I repeated after her. “What’s happening two weeks from now?”
“I learned about it from miss Alice while we were on the ship,” she said.
“Well,” I said, “what is it?”
“It’s the day of your birth,” she said. “And it’s the only good thing I’ve heard for a while. Do you have a wish?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I wish I was twenty again.” I froze and looked at Aril.
“Twenty?” she said, and had a confused look on her face. “Again?”
“I had a dream I was older,” I said. “…Things are easier when you’re and adult.” I stood and walked out to the hallway. I saw the guards were standing in a line facing Lilia, but more the important thing was that they were switched with ones that wore my emblem. In fact, the whole house was lively, especially now that I didn’t have to deal with old guards that weren’t any different from a statue, unmoving and not a word would come out of their mouths. The ones here actually spoke and moved around, though some, as I passed them, stopped everything they were doing and bowed.
“Where is Alice?” I asked. Aril had followed behind me and guided me to a room at the far corner and opened the door. I saw Alice sitting upright in bed, and staring at a book on her lap. I felt relieved.
“I’ll take my leave,” said Aril. Alice turned to me and I noticed a notebook had a list of things written on it. She closed the notebook when I walked over to her.
“How are you doing?” I asked. She looked at me intently.
“I’m fine,” she said.
“By the way,” I said, “what were you reading?” She handed me the notebook.
“I’m not sure,” she said. I turned the pages and found the only one with words on it.
Likes books (made a request for history books).
Dislikes the collection books on magic we have (he has not state a reason).
Dislikes silence (really dislikes when he speak and the guards don’t answer him).
Likes speaking about someone named Zeyl and Aril (one of his companions from Aria?).
Likes fruits (I put in a request for a variety for him to try).
Likes normal furniture (his words. Will have to see what furniture he considers ‘normal’).
Likes hot baths.
Really Dislikes company in the bathroom.
Has a tattoo on his right arm (believed to be from a blood contract).
Enjoys company with Lehvie (treats her like a little sister)
I checked the rest of the book but there was nothing else.
“Everything is about me,” I said. “Who gave it to you?”
“It was on my bed when I woke,” She said. There was only one person who could have known all of that.
“Do you know Zinnia?” I asked, and remembered that it wasn’t her name. She didn’t give me one. I called for Lilia.
“Your highness,” said Lilia. “Is there something you require?”
“Do you know Zinnia…” I wanted to pull out my own hairs, a name I made up myself wasn’t going to work. “Someone with pink eyes. The guards should know.”
“The new ones from today?” she said. That’s right. This brought in another problem. The guards from today and yesterday were different people. Different emblems.
“And Nes,” I said, perhaps she knew, but I remembered. “She’s gone…”
“Yes,” said Lilia.
I sat on the bed defeated. And here I thought Zinnia’s group was a strange and clumsy sort. I had never been so far from the truth.
“If they showed themselves,” said Lilia, “then they must have had a good reason.”
“Who are they?”
“It’s a stealth unit,” she said. “They specialize in protecting the royal family behind the scenes.”
“So that’s it? I’ll never see them again?”
“You will see them, but you won’t know it,” said Lilia, but I didn’t understand. “They might be random strangers you pass by on a crowded street, or beggars asking for coin. They are there to keep you safe while blending in to the surroundings. But if you insist on finding out who they are, there is a good chance they will never reveal themselves to you again.”
“Sounds troublesome,” I whispered and laid down on the bed. Alice patted my head.
“Your hair changed,” she said.
* * *
It was the next day, early in the morning and we were in the courtyard.
“My name is Beck, your royal highness,” he said, standing tall, and couldn’t have been that many years over twenty. Lehvie had come to visit and she brought two of her guards, Beck and Quinn. She laid on the grass and was being fanned by the other.
I shook hands with Beck.
“Nice to meet you,” I said. By the look of it, this guy seemed the type to take his job seriously. And it was warranted to believe so, the other guard wasn’t only fanning Lehvie but feeding herself some grapes. They were lazing around too much.
“Beck,” I said. “May I ask you something?”
“Do they always laze around like that?” I pointed to Lehvie.
“The Princess is skipping class to see to your wellbeing,” he said. “You are fine, are you not?”
“Yes,” I said. “I think she should take her classes seriously though, perhaps returning to class would be better.”
“I wholeheartedly agree,” he said. Beck went from looking cool and collected to agitated and annoyed. He gave them a long hard stare and when Lehvie took notice she got up and pulled Quinn with her.
“Run!” she yelled. Beck followed after them, ordering them to stop.
I looked up at the sky and saw two large birds flying in one direction, one noticeably smaller than the other. They looked like Rook and Madrick.
Hope you enjoyed!