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Fantasy ~Of Kings and Sibyls~

Sub Genres
Adventure, Magical

peritwinkle

🦋 your local Raphael 🦋
Edrei could tell that the newly found heaven had already slipped into the Prince’s heart. She had glanced back one last time before letting her horse gallop towards the port town, noted the way his eyes glimmered with hope and relief, and she felt the same. Now, as they passed the old gates, the constant drumming in her chest grew louder with each step they took through the oddly busy streets for that time of day.

The people of Cladach were not in a hurry. Merchants trotted with heavy boots through the mud, each carrying their now fewer belongings home from a day of commerce. She saw a cluster of children dressed in rags, hopping over the cobblestones with brie pastry in their hands, and an irritated cook peeking through the wooden blinds of an old window. Another girl, a little older than the others, sat on a knapsack struggling to peel apples in one cut with a rusty knife. Edrei knew why, for she had tried when she was little, and the girls at her mother’s brothel did it often, to entertain themselves when they had no guests – if one managed to peel the apple in one go, if thrown over the shoulder, it would fall in the shape of the first letter of their Godsent betrothed.

The girl was on her third apple, and she had one more left in her basked before Luka pulled Edrei away and towards the doors of an inn donning a sculpted banner of two robins cowering over their nest. She dismounted carefully, one wounded leg after the other, her gaze still captivated by the buzzing town, and made the saddle into a double knot around a pillar by the building. She could feel her heartbeat in her knee, but bit her cheek and straightened herself on her feet before limping behind him.

“A fine choice,” she said playfully, having forgotten of the pain rather quickly. It did not seem to matter for him either, and it made her glad. All she wished to think about was a boiling bath.

It was warm. The scent of roasted meat quickly tickled her nose, followed by a sour breath of ale and beer. It resembled the inns in the Capital, with the brimming tables and hungry eyes staring down at any moving creature with a more pronounced bosom. One, in particular, shaking his leg on a chair by the counter, his knuckles white around a pint. Edrei pulled her cape tighter around her frame, swallowing thickly. A few steps deeper into the den, and they were greeted by the innkeeper, with a smile as bright as the golden coins she would receive for displaying it.

A simper played at the corner of her lips as she walked over to the sole empty table and took a seat. She felt her limbs far too soft to stand up then, and her throat was clenched with a barely contained joy. “More than alright,” she promised, although her words faltered. “I would have wished to feel safer... But we couldn’t have gone longer without a bed and stale bread for breakfast... And lunch, and dinner.”

Edrei waited for a moment. Her lips were pursed tight, eyeing the figure slightly turned towards them at the counter. She looked closer, and the man seemed to be staring at another table of sailors arguing over playing cards. “I will go pay for it,” she spoke softly, “and for a room tonight, before they’re all taken. Keep my seat.”

Music trembled in her ears, a pleasant tune, but too loud for her liking in such state. Despite the distractions, Edrei managed to limp over to the counter and took a seat, one hand scouring her pockets for the pouch of gold she had remembered to take from her riding bag. “Ma’am,” she called, and the woman turned her head over her shoulder, seemingly busy filling pints of beer. “We could also use a room here, for the night. Along with that bath.”

“Can you afford all these? Broke into a carriage or somethin’?” the woman chuckled prettily. “You sure do look like you could use ‘em.” She made a gesture with her chin towards the pouch. “Hand it over, let me see what you have in there.”

Edrei obeyed without a fuss. She pulled the strings tying the pouch and let the woman look inside. Her wine stained fingers dug into the pile of coins, and she watched her nose crinkle slightly. She then took a step back, took the bag and shoved it into one of the pockets on her apron. “’Tis enough for food and bath. You’d need two golds for a room here. I ain’t washing the sheets all by myself for one evening.”

“Two gold coins?” Edrei asked, her tone vexed. “This is enough for the Capital.”

“Too bad this is ain’t the Capital, dear,” she scoffed. “We’ve got far more dirty arses sleeping around here than King’s Cliff.”

Metal clinked against the counter, and the cloaked man turned away from the show of fighting sailors to the pesky innkeeper. “It better be two baths, for the lady and her companion,” he said in a raspy voice, “and a good room up there. You can give her mine, Mathilda. I won’t be staying for another.”

Edrei let out a soft breath, her chest puffing, and she leaned back slightly in her hair. “What do I owe you... Ser?” Her eyes landed on the embellished silver at his hip, bearing a sigil she did not recognize, but only knew to be far from the Taivell banners. The man shook his head and lifted a hand in dismissal, before taking a gulp out of his ale.

“You owe me nothing,” he said. “Saw you two there, beaten to blood and pale as a ghost. I won’t be needing any money for the next couple of days, you sure did.” He bent over his pint and took another sip, his other hand playing with the hilt of his sword. “Between us... I’d imagine the son of a great King would have enough on him to pay for a room, eh?”

The air around her froze, and Edrei swallowed thickly, curling her fingers around the edge of the bar. His face did not look familiar – he was much older than she was, late in his forties, with a scar across the bridge of his nose, but otherwise clean and tended to, much in the style the knights donned down South. “I do not know what you are talking about, Ser, we-“

“No need,” the man spoke softly. “I was a friend of the King. I knew things went dirty in the Capital, which is why I’m heading there. My brother serves the Prince loyally... Served, since he can’t be here to do his duty. Suppose I’ll keep an eye out, in his name.” When he turned back towards the girl, his eyes were narrowed and his lips curled in a warm smile. “Trystane Tarrin. Ser.”
 

Erato

🖤🖤🖤 [art: peritwinkle]
Ever obedient, Luka lifted his boots on Edrei’s chair, thinking of saving her seat and only belatedly considering the mud and detritus he’d leave behind. He swore when he noticed the mess after crossing his legs at the ankles, unaccustomed to being so dirty without supervision.

Still, it was a lovely night. Warmth sank down to the marrow of his bones, thawing his fingertips and ears and the tip of his nose. They were seated near the hearth, close to the players, and Luka took a moment to indulge. He closed his eyes, humming along with the melody till the words caught fire on his lips and he sang with the chorus:

O the whispers of Wincome they travel so fast
On the wild winds of winter this way,
When waking and sleeping both grant thee no rest,

Sing with me all night and all day, O—

Only after the second refrain did Luka realize Edrei should have returned. Frowning, he sat up in his seat and craned his neck to view the bar.

His stomach dropped.

A stranger, hand on hilt, sat speaking with Edrei. His manner appeared friendly, noble even, but he looked dangerous, deadly with a blade.

“Edrei!” Luka said loudly as he stood, striding up as tall and broad as he could. “Sister! Who is your…?” His question petered off as recognition dawned.

Trystane Tarrin. The man who was chatting with Edrei was brother to Edwin Tarrin, his personal guardsman.

“I…” Luka snapped his mouth shut, his mind and heart racing with a thousand possibilities. Were the Tarrins still loyal to Taivell? Was Luka identifiable with short hair and dirt-smudged face? He felt ages away from that pampered prince, years distant from the grieving son who only wanted another soul to talk to.

Luka thought something familiar sparkled in Trystane’s gaze as his face roamed Luka's. Swallowing hard, Luka stepped in front of Edrei

“I am sorry, ser, but my sister is already promised,” he said, uncertain of Tarrin’s obvious notice. “Your interest is flattering but—”

His words died off once more as something else passed between Trystane and Edrei, something strange and unrecognizable.

“Ser?” Luka asked, his fingers inching toward his own sword. “Are you quite all right?”
 
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peritwinkle

🦋 your local Raphael 🦋
Luka’s voice rang from across the room like a siren of salvation, yet the green gaze that fixated her did not seem to budge. Edrei swallowed, leaning slightly back in her chair as her brother put himself between her and Ser Tarrin, a strange look of confusion and fear slowly taking over the newly found enthusiastic bravery.

Edrei?” the man spoke, cocking a brow. His sun-bitten skin tightened over his temples and some warmth dropped from his gaze, now replaced by the same odd curiosity. “I haven’t heard that name in... in a long time.”

His fingers tapped almost nervously on the side of his pint. Edrei pursed her lips and canted her head. “Perhaps it’s not that uncommon.” She felt uneasy, despite the friendliness of the stranger. The sword hilt poking out of his cape did little to soothe the tension of the situation.

“I only know one,” he replied. “You mentioned you came from the capital,” he said, and his eye flickered to Luka for a moment. “With your brother.” He did not attempt to pay any respects in that moment, with Cladach’s eyes and ears surrounding them. “You have that look in your eyes that would be hard to forget. You don’t have her colour, but the fire is there. I knew your mother, once. My brother did, especially, but that is a story for another time.”

Ser Tarrin shuffled in his chair and brought the pint to his lips to catch the last few drops. Despite having the alcohol flowing in his blood, his cheek was pale, and the veins on his hands popped like a walking placard of agitation. The Prince would have understood by now, Edrei knew, so she did not bother with any brief introductions. “The night is falling, and I have to be in King’s Cliff in a day’s time,” he said, inching to get up from his seat. “I will leave you with that parting gift,” he added with a brief gesture of his chin towards the room payment. Edrei latched onto him, her nails digging into his sleeve.

“You won’t tell,” she spoke sternly. “You can’t tell,” she wavered. “We can’t stay here for long, but we don’t have anywhere else to go.”

The knight’s hand came to rest on her own. “I have to take care of the bereavement,” he said more quietly now. “If you ride North-East towards the plains, keep your heads down, you will find safety. You’ll know. You have your mother’s bloody gift, you’d better know.”

“How do I know you aren’t lying?” she did not ask of her mother. Her early childhood was a blur, perhaps she had missed the encounter between them. ‘But how does he know of her gift?’ another part of her whispered in her ear. Seers were frowned upon in Viria. The knights killed them. “How do I know this isn’t a trap?”

“You don’t,” he said, “but you said it yourself. You have nowhere to go.”
 
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Erato

🖤🖤🖤 [art: peritwinkle]
Implications sprung up like weeds in his mind. Luka frowned as Trystane spoke, a side effect of his mind closing doors, the surfaces icing over like a midwinter lake.

You have nowhere to go.

Trystane Tarrin’s words struck Luka hard — almost enough to make him flinch. It felt awful to be one moment desired, admired, and respected, then the next starving and sick in a snow-sodden ditch.

Ever the masochist, Luka glanced at Edrei, her fine face marred by a violent bruise. That feeling, the sensation of his stomach sinking to the bottom of his spine, felt even worse.

“We’ll have dinner in the room, please,” Luka informed the innkeeper politely, murmuring farewells to Trystane before ushering Edrei up the stairs to their designated room. Impatient with her hobbling and unwilling to watch her hide her pain again, he lifted her into his arms, eager to get away from the watching eyes of the common room.

He shouldered open the door. The room had been newly cleaned, bed linens changed and the fire stoked to renewed warmth. Golden light flooded the rooms, flames setting the shadows dancing.

Yet even the quiet peace of their privacy raised the hairs on the back of his neck.

As gently as possible, Luka set her down and helped her to the bed, stepping only a few feet away before letting hell break loose.

“That man was Trystane Tarrin,” he said, voice rising to a mild panic as he released her. “He knew who I was — who you were.” Luka paced before the fire, exhaustion tugging at his eyelids even as adrenaline tapped his heart against his breastbone. “How did he know you?”

Terror strained his voice as he continued. “He knows about your gift?” Luka’s eyes were wide and bloodshot from fever, his gaze panicked, unfocused. “Who else knows, Edrei?”

His throat felt on fire, heat pricking the corners of his eyes. “Edrei.” Luka nodded as if to encourage his thoughts along. Huffing out a sigh, he slowed and stared at the crackling fire. It was warm, beautiful.

Luka looked up. “Edrei, you cannot stay with me anymore.” He blinked away his tearful horror at those words, setting his jaw. “I forbid it.”
 

peritwinkle

🦋 your local Raphael 🦋
Edrei’s eyes seemed to be burning in flames in the dim light of the inn common room. She was plagued by a doubtful disbelief not even she, herself, could understand. Until then, she had taken the right steps in keeping the two of them shielded from the eyes of evil, and yet, now every path rolling before her seemed dark, ambiguous, threatening. The generous offer of a room could just as easily be an invitation to a bloody trap.

Was he buying time until the guards arrived?

Trystane Tarrin left before she could ask any more questions. The Prince pulled her from the seat by the counter and lifted her up in his arms hastily, like a cat running away with its lone kitten in its mouth. She felt heavy in his arms, and she felt them trembling beneath her weight, but Edrei knew there was no convincing until they reached solitude – or, at least, what he considered to be so.

The rented room smelled of pine and burnt wood. Someone had been tending to the hearth, and the light in the room resembled a warm sunset. Once down on her own feet, Edrei crawled towards the bed and let herself fall back down, letting out a breath through her dry lips. She felt too dirty to be lying on the freshly washed sheets, and he... looked too regal to be her brother.

Yet in the next moment, the panic that echoed in his voice took away the lingering thoughts of a bath. Edrei listened, but her patience hung on a thin string. She could not look into his eyes, but the way his back tensed beneath the bloodied shirt and the sound of his strained voice were enough to let her know that he did not have second thoughts about the encounter.

You want me to leave?” she reiterated harshly, pushing herself so she could sit up. “After what I did for you, at the first inconvenience you believe you’re better off alone?” Until then, she had tried not to think of the past, of what her life would have continued to be like if she had chosen to stay and mind her own.

“I have never seen that man in my life... He did know my mother. And his brother, he was loyal to you. He was the muscle who got you out of the castle in time. Don’t you want to think clearly for a moment?”

She felt cold and pale, like the depths of her refused to put up with him any longer. Taking in a breath, Edrei pulled herself on the edge of the bed and leaned towards the shivering stag. “If the Gods hadn’t wanted us out of the city they would have let us bleed to death on that field,” she continued. “I honoured them, and my mother’s gift for that matter. I took a blind step for you, so I expect you to do the same for me. If we are to get caught tomorrow, so be it, but in the state that we are, if he had wanted to jeopardize us, he would have been much, much louder with that sword.”
 

Erato

🖤🖤🖤 [art: peritwinkle]
Luka had not expected anger.

His stomach sank at the raw snap in Edrei’s voice, his throat dried up and his fingers grew numb and his cracked lips parted in unutterable confusion.

Every subsequent word felt like another clap of thunder, loud and vibrating in his bones. He’d offered her an escape, yet she’d turned it into abandonment, exile, pure selfishness on his part.

“Oh.” Luka stared at her, witless, wordless. Something blazed in her eyes, the stinging end of a whip, the quick burn of tinder under flint. Edrei misinterpreted everything, yet as he struggled beneath the weight of her accusation, it was everything he could do to murmur a protest.

He shook his head. “No, I thought…” His spread his hands uselessly, staring at his dirty palms. He wasn’t sure they’d ever been so filthy. “I thought you would be better off alone. I—”

A knock sounded at the door. Luka jumped, the servant’s meek announcement of dinner barely audible over the frantic hammer of his heart against his chest.

Blowing out a sigh, the prince strode to the door to accept the tray of food, thanking the young girl in a breathless, high tone.

Dinner smelled wonderful. He sat the tray on the table, took a moment to appreciate the view. Slices of golden ham nestled in boiled potatoes, vegetables soaked in gravy, and two rolls sat like kings above it all, buttered surfaces glistening in the firelight.

But uncertainty was a knot in his stomach, wringing the hunger from him. The air felt hot and stifling, and as he turned from the table, Luka’s face burned beneath Edrei’s fiery gaze.

He stared at her, shoulders slumped. It was hard to believe she’d ever been... Luka blushed. Beautiful as she was, even with the bruises, Edrei was all heroics and determination, teeth bared and claws sharpened. Here she had none of the softness he’d felt under their canopy of snow and stars, no trace of her featherlight kiss.

She looked… so young.

“My apologies,” Luka finally said, feeling stupid. His ego had wrapped Edrei’s motivations up in blind adoration and thoughtless loyalty. Perhaps a clinginess too, with Edrei pining after him, following him wherever he went — but no. She wanted his protection now — an eye for an eye, a sword for a salve, a paltry payment towards an immeasurable, mounting debt.

He shrugged, testing the weight of it on his shoulders. “You’re right. I owe you my life. I simply… don’t want your fate tied up mine.” Luka gave her a brave but watery smile. “The stars have not been on my side.”

Clearing his throat, he gestured to the food. “Shall we eat?”
 

peritwinkle

🦋 your local Raphael 🦋
Edrei could hear her heart pound in her ears like a menacing drum, getting closer and closer, louder and louder, until even breathing and moving one’s gaze felt unbearably shaky. She watched him, partly in awe, partly in embarrassement, for she had greatly underestimated his valor - or rather, she had underestimated him.

To him, she should have been nothing. He could have brushed her away, looked at her like she was a dried up leaf on the ground, but then, he needed her, perhaps more than she needed him. She was wounded, indeed, aching like no other, barely holding herself up straight from the ever scourging pain in her knee and jawbone, but he - his soul was wounded, more gravely than her flesh bruises.

The lump in her throat seemed to grow thicker, and she felt her own eyes sting and her heart burn. It had been long since she had felt safe, and even then, the walls of the Cladach inn did little to soothe her worries, but she felt like she could let go, even for a fraction of a moment. She followed his movement with her gaze, as he set the tray on the table, flustered, asked for forgiveness. Was it fear in his voice? Was it worry, concern that he would lose her?

“I am no soldier,” Edrei found herself whispering. “You should not be afraid of me. It would be the other way around... I should fear you. But I don’t.” She had no intention to leave, and he knew, yet a part of him seemed to cling to the hope that he could show one more hint of chivalry before hell broke loose. “I am not going anywhere, Luka. The Gods wanted me to help you. Mother... wanted me to help you. I don’t know where we’ll go, but you need me, just as much as I need you.

One step at a time, she came closer to him and sat on one of the two old, creaking chairs by the table. She was starving, and her growling stomach was proof of her needs. Within a moment, she had already grabbed a piece of warm bread and dipped it into the hearty stew, before hurrying to take a sip of the steamin goodness. For a second, she closed her eyes, taking in the scent and the taste, before digging in for another bite, another gulp, careless of whether the Prince was eating or not.

Once the famine cooled down, Edrei leaned slightly back, a corner of bread still in her hand and her cheeks florid, looking up at the man with a barely subdued joy. She still felt tears in her eyes, but the lump was gone, and she could breathe better then, without her chest trembling with every heartbeat.

“Even eating hurts,” she murmured softy, touching her bruised jaw as if to wipe away any remainder of soup. “But it’ll pass... I know it will. After a bath, for the both of us, all will pass. And we can make more plans come morning. It is safe here, for now.” So long as Ser Tarrin was who he said he was.
 

Erato

🖤🖤🖤 [art: peritwinkle]
Luka had to stifle a laugh. He shouldn’t be afraid of her? Could she not remember the dark future she foretold the first night they’d met? The icy cold truth buried deep in her tearful eyes? The tremor in her voice when she described her vision of him in a blood red?

Amusement danced in his eyes. Edrei, despite her lowly birth and unfortunate employment, was intimidating. Gorgeous, fathomless eyes, shapely curves, and a presence about her that held weight. She looked... grave.

A challenge floated up, sparkling and bright at the surface of his mind. He saw hazy visions of Edrei smiling so hard her eyes crinkled, heard imagined echoes of how giddy, how infectious her laughter might be.

Luka ate as he considered this, eyeing Edrei. Soon his watching turned into frowning as he realized he had no idea what jokes she preferred, what made her happy. Dinner, no doubt, was a good start. The warm, hearty stew improved Luka’s spirits, everything more right with the world with a full stomach.

Another knock came at the door, announcing their baths.

“We’ll go together,” Luka insisted, nodding to Edrei as he rose. “You first, then me. It’s not proper, but I think…” He flushed a brilliant crimson. “...I think it would be unwise to be in separate rooms for modesty's sake.” Although he intended on turning away to stare down the door and try to forget

Granting her a wry smile, he offered his hands to her. “Allow me to help you.”
 

peritwinkle

🦋 your local Raphael 🦋
Edrei did not find herself quite as irked by the servant’s interruption now, on a full stomach. The room seemed warmer, more inviting, and the news that she brought were just as pleasant, like a dulcet caress to her ears. Her eyes immediately flickered to Luka, who appeared to tense slightly at the woman’s words, and as she turned to leave, he voiced his proposal with a reticent tone.

“Together?” she reiterated, stifling a chuckle. She had thought of him as rather prudish, although the circumstances of the suggestion were all the more understandable. “I suppose it would be wise. I would need… Help getting around the room, regardless. I’m afraid my knee would not handle much more abuse than this,” she added with a softer smile now, rubbing the side of her thigh.

There was still food left, yet the past days spent yearning for something other than dry, old bread made her hesitate about finishing what all of their money had bought. Edrei gulped, let her eyes roam over the fare before her, and eventually found the strength to stand up, catching the Prince’s hand with her frail fingers.

Moving felt even more painful after the few moments of rest. Her head was pounding in the rhythm of her steps, yet she leaned against him, hoped for his arms to support her weight once more then, for she could not carry herself still. Had the Gods forgotten about her pain? Would they not heal her, slowly yet be it, let her at the very least walk on her own feet?

How could she be a lioness in time of need, for a bleeding King, when she could hardly bare her claws?

The steam in the bathing room hit her cheeks the moment she stepped over the threshold, dampening her cheeks, as her forehead bloomed red at the sudden chance in heat. The servant had been careful about settling oils and soaps on the edge of the tub, and carefully folded a few dry towels on the floor, a gesture of mercy rather than duty.

“A thing that once would have been ordinary… Now feels like heaven,” Edrei whispered through a mellow smile. She wished they didn’t have to leave so soon; she wished to stay for another night – or two, or three! – but she knew that soon they would no longer be alone, if they dared to enjoy themselves even an evening more than needed.

She glanced to him for a moment, as she let go of his hands, and slowly stepped behind the screen straightened between the door and the water. With quick movements, she slipped out of the dirtied gown, one hand resting on the edge of the tub for support, whilst the other deftly undid the strings on her garments.

“It feels strange, you know…” she sighed softly. “I know it shouldn’t… I’ve seen… I’ve been seen before, and yet it does feel odd. It feels like a sin,” as little as she bent by the rules of the Gods in situations like those.

Now bare against the heat of the room, Edrei leaned over the water, testing it with only the tip of her toe, then her heel, her ankle, until she eventually submerged both her legs into the fervent blanket.
 

Erato

🖤🖤🖤 [art: peritwinkle]
Despite Edrei’s insistence to travel with him, Luka couldn’t help but feel concern at her slow pace. Stiffness in mild injuries was common, but was that all that was bothering her? Her balance suffered, her steps involved limping, and he didn’t think she could manage stairs unless her life depended on it — perhaps not even then.

The staff had arranged everything for them: steaming, perfumed waters, soaps redolent of rosemary and sage, oils for their skin. Suspicion had Luka wary of this decadence, paltry as it seemed compared to his usual luxuries. Did they know who he was?

After he guided her to the edge of the tub, Luka moved to a stool near the corner, signing into a sit. He gnawed at his fingertips as she bathed, worry furrowing his brow.

“Hm,” Luka said in answer, wondering at her strange interpretation of their current position. How was this sinful compared to their first night together where she’d undressed before him with such casual indifference? Even now, he wanted to maintain her virtue and privacy, knowing he would prefer it if she didn’t gawk at him when his turn came around.

Still, he didn’t really agree. How could seeing her be so wrong, particularly if it couldn’t be avoided? If the gods hadn’t sanctioned such an action, why put them in this situation?

He said nothing else. Luka winced as he leaned forward, the raw skin at his shoulder giving a sharp pang of protest. His fingers picked at the torn fabric, examining the cut. Perhaps he could use some cloth for a bandage after a good cleaning. Those measures would ward off most infections, but Edrei’s condition...

“Edrei,” he began softly, her name barely audible over the faint slosh of bathwater. He took a deep breath full of rosewater and wet cedarwood, bracing himself for another argument. “Should we take you to a healer?” His eyes gazed thoughtfully at the bare wooden walls. “I… Might it be worth the risk?”
 

peritwinkle

🦋 your local Raphael 🦋
Damp heat surrounded her like a summer storm, and Edrei felt - for a moment - like the world was no longer as bitter and cruel as it had been until then. The boiling water made her discover new cuts and gashes she had ignored during their travel, but the scourge was petty compared to the throbbing ache in her knee. Even her jaw, before it could taste the water, tensed slightly at her movement, as she eased into the tub whilst propping herself on either side of it.

She had no time to wonder at the Prince’s brief response; as the water reached her neck and she found herself submerged beneath the steaming blanket, the room seemed to grow darker, and the candle lights flickered playfully as though at her own joy. A slow breath left her lips, leaning back to straighten the one wounded knee, and the water eventually kissed her chin, her jaw, her cheek...

It was dark beneath the ocean.

There was no warmth any longer. Edrei shuddered, froze as she opened her eyes and the image trembling above the surface of the water looked nothing like the old inn’s bathing room. She could not lift herself up, her locks sinking with her, and the tub grew wider, taller, until she could not see its rims or walls surrounding her.

A ship creaked in a ghostly echo above the water, and for a brief moment, she saw the moonlit sky above before the vessel covered it - covered her - and any chance of reaching air sunk along with her.

One blink, one breath, and as she opened her eyes again, scented water trickled down her forehead and temples, finding its merry way down the thick locks of hair stuck to her face. Edrei parted her lips hungrily and straightened herself, waited for a moment, as if to see if the dream had gone yet, until the room felt vivid enough for her to regain her composure.

“I... I am fine,” she managed, one shaky hand reaching for the soap and oils by her shoulder. She could only assume what he had asked, a vague memory of his voice wondering about her health, but she knew clearly then that her pain mattered too little then. “I think... We will manage without one. For now. Until we are safe.”

She struggled to clean herself inbetween hasty breaths, reaching from the top of her head to the bruised skin of her ankles, all whilst the image of the dark ocean developed in her head like a recurring fever dream. She did not wish to worry him, not then, not when she was so unsure about what she, herself, had seen, and so she chose to remain silent and work as quickly as possible, frail hands against layers of grime and blood.

Once she was done, it took a heavy push to roll up on the side of the tub and slip into one of the towels the innkeeper had set aside for them. The luxury of it could only mean that Ser Tarrin’s payment had been significant enough, but Edrei did not bother to wonder at his reasons. With her nudity covered and her hair dripping over her back, she poked her head around the wooden screen and offered Luka a weak simper of invitation.

“Your turn,” she murmured. “I will wait.”
 

Erato

🖤🖤🖤 [art: peritwinkle]
Edrei’s expected no never came.

Luka paused, frowning at the patient fold of his hands at his lap. He’d anticipated another row, perhaps her concentrated vehemence aimed sharp at him, an arrow to shoot down his suggestion. Whatever Edrei was, she was determined. Irritatingly so.

But she said nothing. Her silence at his perilous proposal cued him in to something being wrong.

Just as he began to contemplate what that was, he heard a splash, perhaps a gasp, echoing from behind the screen.

“Edrei?” Luka asked, bounding towards her and remembering — just in time — to halt behind the screen. “Are you all right?”

It took too long for her to respond, but she soon emerged wide-eyed but well enough — hair ink wet, skin scrubbed clean and pink. Luka himself blushed when he saw the little she did to cover herself.

“You are not going outside in that,” he said dryly, huffing over to the wall where linen robes hung limp on their hooks. “Can you imagine how my reputation as a good brother would be ruined?”

Luka nodded in satisfaction as he helped her don it, feeling less frustrated by her obfuscation when she was better dressed. It cleared his mind a bit, one of his worries eased.

Steps reluctant, Luka shuffled behind the screen. “Yes, you wait. Don’t watch.” Imagining her amusement as he undressed, he smiled a little, saying, “If there’s a crisis, tell me ahead of time so I can get dressed, will you?”

The water was dirty, but worry had Luka in too tight of a grip to ask for fresh. Despite this, he sank into the bath, eyes closed as the memory of luxury and home had his throat burning, his chest tight.

His cut, now stinging at the attention, brought him back. Sighing, Luka sat up in the tub, meticulously cleaning himself and his wound until his skin was raw and he smelled of roses.

Soon after he’d dried and shrugged on a robe himself, Luka helped Edrei back up the stairs. This time, mostly to emphasize his displeasure at her decision, he let her lean on him instead of bridal-carrying her into their room.

Belly full, body clean, and bones warm, Luka felt his worries evaporate. Their bed, a small affair stuck at the corner of the chamber, might have once made him embarrassed to share. Now, in the shadow of death, nothing was more inviting than clean sheets and a warm embrace.

In another time and another place, their situation might have been romantic. It wasn't. They were two scared human beings, alone in a world of trouble. Luka did not relish her embrace like he might have in times of greater security and comfort, like he might have the night they met, after his inhibitions had fallen away. Tonight he clung to her, desperate, hopeful, and terrified. He held her because he needed something to hold him afloat.

Exhaustion weighed down his eyelids, but something nagged at him, pulling him back to wakefulness. Luka cleared his throat.

“Would you like to discuss it?” he asked into the dark room, senses alert to any of Edrei’s subtle movements. “I mean, you saw something, did you not? During your bath?” His words held a twinge of hurt in them, an air of uncertainty — uncertainty whether she was reluctant to share or whether she thought him a dullard enough to lie to him.
 

peritwinkle

🦋 your local Raphael 🦋
‘A good brother.’

Edrei wanted to laugh, but there was not much life left within her for the evening, so she resorted to the weak sketch of a simper. Her throbbing wounds were conspicuous enough to provoke his protective fire, yet she did not find the energy to protest. Without another word, she took the offer of a robe around her shoulders, and was quick to conclude that it was a far more comfortable decision than a brief towel once the cold outside the bath hit her.

She waited patiently on the same chair where Luka had just sat, leaning lazily against the backrest and making a great effort to keep her eyes open, despite the warm steam lulling her to sleep. They only flickered to him for a few moments, as his silhouette dropped inches of fabric and was left bare and glistening in the dim light.

Perhaps, another time she would have been tempted to look for longer. She would have joked about their closeness, teased him about the night they should have spent together – that she had been paid to spend with him – but right then, the weight of the few days spent on the run was taking its toll on her from head to toe, body to spirit.
She wanted to sleep. She wanted to be back in that ocean, deep beneath, in the comforting darkness.

He was rather quick about bathing, or maybe Edrei had dozed off for a few moments. She was up on her feet once he was covered and ready to leave; the moment she rose, her knee buckled and trembled beneath her, and she let out a sigh of defeat against his shoulder. It felt like it would never heal, but only get worse by the day if she kept using it, a thought that she did not voice out of the fear that he would get another terrible idea.

Instead, she followed him slowly back to their chamber, limping and sighing with every move, but not daring to ask to be carried again. She knew he lacked pith, his vigor long gone, and so she took the battle as bravely as she could, until she tasted the sweet victory of letting herself fall down on a featherbed.

She felt her head cold, damp locks stuck to it in a dripping bush, which she rolled up and allowed to cascade on the pillow behind her. She kept her hand beneath her cheek, almost cupping the bruised jaw, and fluttered her eyelids closed with a tired murmur. Two candles disturbed the darkness in the room, with their joyful dance, a warm and soothing veil of light that she could still see through her closed eyes.

He would not sleep without an answer.

A few seconds passed as she thought, pursing her lips and opening her eyes to trace the contour of his hands in the dim light. “I was beneath the ocean,” she murmured then. “It was dark, cold… I could see the shape of a ship at the surface, under the stars.”

Edrei looked up then, to him, and she let her warm palm rest over his knuckles. “I don’t believe it was a bad sign this time around. I was not drowning, I was not afraid, not truly… Not like before.” Her first vision of him had been different – a horrifying darkness, which even the thought of sent shivers down her spine, after so many nights.

“I don’t want to speak of it any longer,” she concluded with another breath and slid closer to him. He smelled of flowers, soap and pine. “We should rest. Tonight at least… We can worry come morning.”
 

Erato

🖤🖤🖤 [art: peritwinkle]
Edrei’s answer was not as satisfying as he’d thought. Luka lay beside her in the guttering dark, frowning at her explanation. Seeing something from beneath the waves didn’t sound like a good sign, whether or not she perceived herself as drowning.

Luka worried over Edrei, concerned about her visions and what they might mean. While he hadn’t given up on his own life yet, something about her continued evasion about her visions gave him pause.

He wanted to ask her if she thought he’d die. Would he die young, die soon, die before he gained the throne? The idea didn’t frighten him as much as it might have. He’d lost his father already, and his mother likely believed him dead. The more people who tried to kill him, the more he wondered if they were right.

“As you wish,” Luka sighed, instinct pulling her closer. The chill abated with her beside him, tucked together beneath the quilts. With her warm breath on his chest, it was hard to let the black thoughts in. His eyelids drooped.

He dreamed of summer, of blue skies, and of his first kiss beneath a green oak tree.

Dizzy and warm, Luka woke sometime around late morning the next day. Dawn had come and gone, and brilliant sunlight shone through the window, spilling across their bed.

Cheeks rosy, hair tousled, Edrei slumbered soft and sweet beside him. Her face, so often full of hard lines and frowns, held such youthful beauty when she slept. Luka’s fingers curled into fists at the purple bruise on her jaw, painful to look at, let alone bear.

Luka shifted, testing his own wound. His shoulder was tender, but only a few red streaks marred his nightshirt. He should have wrapped it.

The ceiling hadn’t changed in the last few minutes he’d stared at it, but Luka was loath to get up. Exhaustion had his limbs feeling like lead, and Edrei, warm in his arms, still slept. She needed all the rest she could get.

So he waited. And watched. And wished that he might stop time, so he could linger in this quiet moment forever.
 

peritwinkle

🦋 your local Raphael 🦋
Edrei's sleep had been sweet. Warmth surrounded her, pressed to her forehead and tickling her back, that which peeked over the parts of her body left uncovered.

When she opened her eyes, she knew it was well past morning's break and well into the early noon, sight which earned a worried jolt, before she remembered they no longer needed to run. That Luka was with her, there, resting as well, and that the walls surrounding them.

Then, she allowed herself to breathe, and delve back into the softness of her feather pillow. Her green orbs searched for his face through her lashes, and she smiled, tired but content, drunk on a dulcet slumber. "You've been awake," she muttered then, letting her fingers trail down his neck. "It seems like a dream, doesn't it? This morning? Like you never wish to leave these sheets."

It lacked the nuance of romance, she thought, but she did not miss it, when another time perhaps she would have considered another scenario. She was satisfied with only his weary, mellow face staring down at her. The sun made him look much younger than he was, like a child stirred far too early, deepened in the softness of his bed and hoping for another minute of two of sleep.

A sigh escaped her lips, of languor or longing, as she finally found the strength to lift herself up slightly, leaning against her elbows to look around the room. She could hear the waves outside, through the cracked window, loud and wild at this time of the season, and a gentle wind blowing through the narrow corners of a back street.

"We cannot stay here forever," Edrei sighed again. She wondered if they had enough gold to trade for food, and perhaps clean clothes from the market before they left. They did not need much - only enough to keep them warm and covered. "We could look around," she suggested, turning her head to look at him through her lashes. "I... I think I could use a slow walk."

It hurt. She knew he could see it in her eyes whenever she tried to shift, but they could not afford to linger too much in one place. If they found something to do - something that kept them moving - perhaps the pain would slowly ease away as well.
 

Erato

🖤🖤🖤 [art: peritwinkle]
Edrei confused Luka. That summed up their interactions so far. Her warmth towards him, the small moments of intimacy, they all baffled him.

Not that he was complaining. But her attitude towards him continued to change, morphing into something strange that sent goosebumps up and down his arms.

“Of course,” answered Luka, rising from the bed with reluctance. He knew her knee wasn’t healed, but if she felt well enough for a leisurely walk, perhaps it was a good idea. Shivering in the chill of the morning, Luka hurriedly donned his clothes, opening the door and hailing a maid to request breakfast.

Despite his wide array of blushes, the prince helped Edrei get ready for the day. Her balance remained unsteady, so he provided a strong shoulder to lean upon, and insisted on her sitting down while he laced up her boots.

After breakfast, Luka led Edrei downstairs, offering his arm so she might lean on him all she needed. Her slow healing worried him, everything indicating a break or a major sprain. She didn’t need to be walking on an injury like that, even if it was a meandering stroll. But Luka wouldn’t deny her only request, not if she truly felt up to it.

It took too long to reach the street, but Luka opened the door with a smile, inhaling the sea salt air with renewed hope. Everything seemed better with the new dawn, the hustle and bustle of Cladach’s residents setting every nerve humming.

“Shall we look for a dress for you?” he asked, beaming at Edrei. She looked beautiful without the dirt and grime of traveling, fresh as the new morning. He squinted as a north wind blew up, tugging at his hair. “Perhaps a fine wool cloak?” he added, pulling her closer to share their warmth.

✦​

The Queen’s wake ended tomorrow morning. Edwin Tarrin, eyes red rimmed and dull, stood vigil at her side.

Once he’d been certain of the prince’s escape, Edwin had done his best to feign ignorance, but he didn’t think Ashdew believed him. Whether or not the man was ready to admit he’d killed the prince and his mother was something Edwin wasn’t certain of. The country still mourned their royal family: king, queen, prince and all. It was too soon too announce the succession, even if Lord Ashdew was filling in during the interim.

They had arranged the visitation in the throne room, the stained glass throwing gorgeous colors over the white fabric adoring the corpse. The Queen looked almost made from marble, her expression calm and serene in death like it had never been in life.

At least her son wasn’t here to witness it.

Everyone suspected Prince Lukens was dead. Even Edwin believed it himself, having seen the pale ghost of death on the boy’s haggard face. It would have been a miracle if he’d lived, and Edwin had long since stopped believing in those.

He sighed, hand tightening on his hilt as he stared at the Queen’s veiled face. He owed it to all of them to be here, to show respect to the Taivells as they faded out of existence like a distant, dying star.

Edwin only wished he might have seen Luka coronated. He’d die forever a prince, never to carry his father’s legacy, never to lead their country to peace and prosperity.

And Edwin, fool as he was, couldn’t help but feel partly responsible for it.
 

peritwinkle

🦋 your local Raphael 🦋
The morning concluded in rays of gold and russet, and despite their slow rising and late breakfast, Edrei still longed to spend some more time between the walls of the comfortable seaside inn. Her knee felt slightly better, likely given the good night's sleep she had been blessed with until midday, and catching her reflection in the mirror set above their bed, the bruise on her jaw seemed to slowly turn to shades of green and yellow.

Still, she watched helplessly as Luka aided her in dressing up and tying the laces of her boots. She couldn't bend by herself yet, and even the smallest steps sent knives of pain up her bone. As he lead her down the flight of stairs and back into the bustling main street of Cladach, she could not help but slightly regret her decision of taking a walk, despite his strong shoulder and gentle arms holding her up on her feet.

"A cloak would be nice," Edrei said softly, distracted by the souls walking by - sailors, with the bottoms of their trousers drenched in salt water, merchants struggling to carry their wares and stray cats scrambling around the narrow corners of the alleyway. "Though, you are in much greater need of something clean," she reckoned, hinting at the large spot of blood on his back.

The town square was filled with trinkets, odds and ends of many kinds, some she had not even seen in the capital. She spotted spices labeled with strange names and symbols, of different shades of orange and red, and pigments and satin in the most beautiful of blues and violets.

It was a true battle not giving in to such distractions. Edrei looked around longingly for a few moments, making sure to walk slowly so as to avoid any persistent glares. "How does it feel making yourself scarce for once?" she murmured in his ear, a playful smile spreading on her lips. "A stranger among strangers. A port is the best place to get lost."

Her eyes fell on a grey piece of fabric, rimmed and tacked with wool, hanging from the corner of a makeshift stall. Next to it, laid on an antiquated table, were an array of cotton shirts, laced or closed with mismatched buttons, which seemed to be the right size for someone as broad as the Prince.

"There," she called. "That could do, for now, don't you think?" she said, and lightly tapped Luka's ring on his finger.




King's Cliff was a grim place without its royals.

It had been long since Trystane had seen the noble city, and frankly, it impressed him even less that time around. He had chosen not to rest upon arriving at the break of dawn, but seek his brother as soon as the morning grew a touch brighter, and he found word of him in the throne room where the Queen - late Queen - would spend her last days above the earth.

The hall smelled like ointments and clandle wax. It was a suffocating scent, which only added to the dismal atmosphere in the castle. Guards rimmed the room, pinned by every door or opening, standing like silver statures, cold and watchful. In the very middle, by the open casket, Edwin Tarrin seemed to be mirroring them, as well.

"I thought I wouldn't see you standing here again," Trystane spoke, as he made his way towards his brother with unwieldy steps. "I thought I would have to negotiate a talk out of you next time we saw eachother." His voice grew lower once he was close enough, his gaze distant and cold. "You saved the bloody Prince and they still didn't lock you up. You saved bloody Lukens Taivell, and you're standing here, free."

He would have thought Ashdew would have him chained. Beaten. Poisoned. No, perhaps the man would not stoop as low as to poison an old knight. His game was more widowed Queens and helpless boys on their wedding day.

Pale and deep asleep, she still was a sight to see. Trystane stared in silence, his tongue itching, but he maintained his poise well. "I know what you're thinking. How could I be so sure? I'd say I trust your swordfighting skills but then I'd be lying," he teased, gripping his wrists at the back, "or just not entirely telling the truth. I reckon this is not the place you'd want to hear of my adventures before getting here."
 
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