Ch2. My long day comes to an end as the final appeal concludes, both parties seem satisfied by my father's compromise. I'm satisfied too. All other matters were resolved without any more of my participation.
The last quarrel was between two neighbors regarding the defendant's children stealing produce from the plaintiff's property.
My father gave a fair ruling; anything the children take from the neighbor this moment forward they must pay for with something they own that has equal value. The lesson my father intends to teach the children is understanding the consequences of actions as well as the principle of trading.
My father also compensated the male for his losses, then gave the mother of the children enough food to last them a month. It eased some of my tension knowing it would keep them from going hungry any time soon.
I watch the small family as they exit the throne room, smiling, each carrying a basket of provisions courtesy of my father. A dull ache nags at my heart with longing, and my eyes stray to the male on the throne.
My issues with my father aren't with how he governs. In fact, quite the opposite; I admire him.
Despite the incident with Henric and Mastusio, he is not a cruel Eternal. He's adored by his people, more than any of his predecessors, for always being attentive and generous. His respect earns more than just loyalty; people trip over themselves to please him. Sure, angering him results in punishment, but he's not malicious about it. He cares too much to inflict pain without justification.
... I just wish he showed me the same love he does for his Kingdom.
I tap my foot, waiting for my dismissal as my father converses with a few of his council members. No one is allowed to leave until receiving his permission.
While he mingles, I survey the throne room and notice other people fidgeting with impatience as well. There's a levee tonight, in honor of the Autumn Quarter. Everyone from Court is attending, and heavens forbid they arrive unpolished for the event.
Unfortunately, I'm required to be there too. Though I don't understand why. I don't think I'll be spying on anyone. I wouldn't mind going if I did more than just silently observe. Sadly, that's all I'm permitted to do.
The only aspects of my duties that I do enjoy are training at the Primordial Academy or learning about the Garoles. Hell, I even find studying the history of Ganymede and our quarterly appeals more exciting than these events. All I'm learning by attending these festivities is how much the Kingdom fears me.
A memory of Candice's terrified eye flashes through my mind. I hang my head while swallowing an uncomfortable gnarl rooting in my throat.
It's just not fair. Our Court's past Eternals used Revenants as executioners, not their Heirs. The animated rock beings were manufactured by Oblivion to serve and protect Primordials during the Celestial War. For winning the war, Oblivion awarded the Umbra Eternal control over the Revenants. But instead of using them, my father has me doing their dirty work, and I don't understand why- other than to make our people hate me.
I hear my nickname and look up to see Adreena, my former best friend... and my father's soulblessed mate.
Adreena. Not my mother. My mother is only claimed by my father. Or was claimed.
When Primordials were created, the Divinities split our souls so we had something to fight for in the Celestial War- our soulblessed. It was cruel but effective. What's even more cruel is that after we won their war, they didn't make it easy for us to find each other.
Soulblessed mates are so rare- it's glorified. That's why it's considered a blessing when by chance we do find our missing halfs. Once the recognition happens between the pair, the urge to link is one neither of them can ignore. They'll pine for each other for eternity until the consummation is accomplished the same way a claim is made- through a bite. Except the venom doesn't just sit in the bite mark like it does when claiming; it converts into silver ink to supply the biter's signature. We call it soulblessed 'signatures' because the venom engraves their seals down each other's spines.
I'm not a sentimental female, but even I can admit having my kindred spirit's imprint on my flesh sounds romantic.
"I know you're there," Adreena asserts, annoyance inflected in her tone.
My teeth grind hard enough that my jaw pops.
Of course she knows. She was my best friend once, she knows everything. But our friendship ended fifty years ago when she tore my father from my mother. She was double my age when she was assigned as my lady-in-waiting when I turned twelve. It shocked me how close we became despite our age difference.
Even though soulblessed mates are celebrated, I can't help my outrage towards Adreena's and my father's union, even if it was just by chance.
It destroyed my mother.
Although my parents might not have been soulblessed, they were once devoted to each other. My father chose her out of every eager female to sit beside him while he ruled. She agreed, and left the Light Court just to be with him.
A colossal mistake. He shouldn't have taken a female from another Court. It's not illegal, but it's frowned upon. What was even worse was that my mother, Arine Lumin, is a descendant from one of the Original Primordial bloodlines of the Light Court.
During the Celestial War, the Divinities understood their best chance to restore balance to the universe was to create beings in their image that could harness their power, only they didn't stop there. Wanting to guarantee our success at winning; they each created three, along with standard Primordials whose purpose was to supply numbers in their army. We distinguished those twelve unique Primordials as the Originals, each having the capability to become Eternal. Since the war, they've basically become a fail-safe: if the current Eternal abuses his power, the position is given to the next powerful Original.
It's innate for our kind to seek powerful partners to procreate with, perseverance is in our nature, but never has any Original mixed their bloodlines. They keep themselves separated, hoping an Eternal might slip and the position of harnesser will then be passed to their bloodline.
My father and mother were the first to merge their bloodlines- creating me. They didn't see the harm since she wasn't first born, but my mother's family disowned her regardless...
Now, she's trapped here, forced to watch the male she once loved soulblessed with her daughter's best friend.
I blame myself for her misery.
"Kiss!" Adreena demands a third time and uses her immobilization ability to feel for my presence.
I growl in irritation. I should have anticipated that.
She smirks, "I knew it."
The Shades disperse, but I don't move even after she releases me, and keep my face impassive as I stare at her.
She pouts. "Come on Kiss! We're best friends."
I drag out a sigh, "We were, and you chose my father over me anyway."
"Stop acting like that." Her hands fly up to her chest. "He's my soulblessed. The literal other half of my soul."
I snort. Ignoring the pang in my heart that materializes every time I hear the word soulblessed.
Her navy chiffon skirt sways as she walks closer to me. "Kiss, let me be here for you." She pleads with wide, desperate, blue eyes. "You're all alone. You're mother-"
"My mother is an empty shell because of you." I snap.
Adreena rears as my brutal words successfully strike her. Her eyes brim with tears, tugging at my heartstrings and making me instantly regret saying them. But I don't forgive her for what she's put my mother through. I can't.
"I- We didn't intend for her to go through what she did." She sniffs. "Your father loved her. That was real."
I squeeze my eyes, snubbing the sting that arises, and push off the wall. "Don't bother."
Before she can say anything else, I teleport to the other side of the dais.
I internally groan as I turn to face the owner of the familiar voice. Fieren stands behind me, adorned to the teeth in white gold jewels, watching me with amusement.
Perfect. Just wonderful.
"This is a pleasant surprise." He purrs as his dark eyes trail over me.
Fieren is an unwanted admirer. He's a descendant of the Dour Original bloodline and extremely powerful. He doesn't know I'm the Heir, or he'd buzz off... Or maybe he'd try harder? Who knows? An issue I don't care to know the outcome of.
I roll my eyes at him. "I ran away from one nuisance just to find another."
He chuckles. "You'll give into me eventually, Kisling." He promises with confidence, and I can't help but feel like it might also be a threat.
I huff. "In your dreams."
He leans into me. His hot breath fans against my neck as he speaks. "Oh, you're in my dreams, alright. *Insert explicit vulgar remark here*... while I sit on the Umbra Throne."
I cringe at his fantasy. Bleh. How tasteless and unoriginal.
His favorite pick-up line is tempting me to sit beside him as he one day takes the throne. I'm aware of the reasons behind his seduction tactic; I'm powerful, meaning together we'd make a powerful Heir. He doesn't care that I'm the Wraith. To him, I'm a means to strengthen his bloodline.
He thinks time is running out since my father has yet to produce a living Heir. Therefore, soon, another Original line will be chosen to reign. And since he's the most powerful out of all the current Original bloodlines, he'd likely be the next candidate.
The Kingdom believes I died at birth, weak, since I was born a female, and didn't survive the night. Out of sympathy, Oblivion offered my father another century to produce an Heir. Still, his reign remains five centuries.
This is what the Kingdom's been told. What Fieren was told.
It's a lie. The truth is only known by a few people: my father- of course-, Adreena, my uncle, my cousin, my grandfather... and my mother. All who will take the secret to their graves.
"I have dreams about you too," I respond with a sultry voice. His eyelids droop with lust as I fill the space between us. "I dream of you... giving your town, Aurelia, more resources instead of lining your pockets with currency so the people who live there stop suffering."
His jaw clenches.
Oh? He didn't like my dream? Well, I didn't like his either.
He opens his mouth, ready to give a clever comeback, when the throne room starts to rumble. "What the f***?" He says instead, looking around for the cause.
My thoughts as well.
I abandon Fieran, instantly teleporting to my father. The Shades once again turn into dual blades and I raise them defensively, ready to slaughter whatever came to attack my father. His guards and Revenants surround him as well.
"Kisling, find Adreena." He commands. I bite my tongue while looking for her.
My heart trips when I find her- right where I left her. To the left of the dais where I usually occupy the wall. I teleport to her quickly. She yelps in surprise, then sags in relief when she realizes it's me. I immediately notice that her eyes are slightly puffy and red. She's been crying.
I don't have a chance to acknowledge my emotions that manifested upon seeing her upset. Because out of nowhere, a portal opens up in the middle of the throne room.
Wind rips through the room, violently, beating against me and making the Shades flicker.
I glare at the portal. I've never seen one before, but I know instantly from its lavender, violet, and plum swirls who it belongs to- the Light Court.
A black boot emerges from the spiraling vortex before a male becomes visible. I gawk, lowering my guard as I quickly scan him. He's tall, most people are considering I'm five foot five and the average female is about three inches taller.
"Zaxel VonDante." My father's voice is flat and devoid of emotion, but his slate-gray eyes are as icy as the Alveolate Mountains that surround our Kingdom. "I was not expecting an audience with the Radiant Heir."
I blink in disbelief. I have never seen an Heir from another Kingdom before.
His shaggy espresso hair tosses from the harsh winds as five more Light Court males pass through the portal behind him just before it winks out of existence. "Salutations, Umbra Eternal Raydon LeMurt." The Radiant Heir greets my father with a curt nod. My insides melt upon hearing the deep velvety timbre of his voice. "I'm sorry for not sending an envoy ahead. The matter was urgent." His lips twitch when he finishes.
My eyes roam over him, slowly this time, and widening on his taut frame emphasized by his tan complexion. He's not what I expected from the Heir of the Light Court. His persistent scowl and mischievous demeanor could fool me into believing he belongs to our Court.
"What brings you to the Oblivion Court?" My father demands.
Zaxel's eyes harden as he begins walking toward the dais. My body tenses, alert for any signs of hostility. "There have been recent attacks on members of my Court. Two have died and one is still suffering fatal injuries." He stops when he reaches the bottom of the dais. "Healers have identified the cause of death." Pause. "Garoles." His eyes bore into my father with criticism.
I shift my weight anxiously. I had always pictured the Radiant Heir as a carefree boy who sleeps around. Not because I think lowly of him, those are just the rumors I've heard that have traveled here from his Kingdom.
But who I'm looking at is a male who didn't just enter adulthood. There's power behind his words as he speaks, earning the attention and respect of the entire room.
My throat constricts with envy. Of course it wouldn't be hard for him to earn the respect of everyone with his first impression. He's adored.
Me? I'm constantly neglected. My reputation as the Wraith only earns me fear or disgust. That's not respect. If I were to try and speak to everyone the way Zaxel just did, I'd clear the room.
My father narrows his eyes on the Radiant Heir, "Are you accusing me of something?"
Zaxel grins, but it's not friendly. "Aren't your Revenants responsible for containing the garoles in the Divide?"
My father watches him with an unyielding stare. "They are."
Zaxel nods, and turns to start pacing. "I understand they're intelligent creatures. It happens often that they slip through the boundaries set by your Revenants, undetected, does it not?" He scans the throne room as he walks. "Usually, the Revenants are able to locate and kill them, or the garoles retreat back to where they came." He stops, dead ahead of me, and turns to look at my father again. "It's an unfortunate situation for those living closest to the Divide, but it's always been contained to those perimeters. There's never been a breach within any capital in other Kingdoms, until now. Mine." The Radiant Heir holds my father's glare with an equally cold expression. "Meaning, your Revenants not only failed to secure the boundary on our side of the Divide, but they also failed to locate the creature to destroy it. Now it's loose, roaming our capital, and killing innocents." Zaxel's lofty voice is laced with contempt. "The Radiant Eternal wonders if this was your ploy to attack the Light Court without getting your hands dirty. We know how much you've loathed us for the past ten centuries. That gives us reason to be suspicious."
The throne room erupts into hushed whispers, gossiping about the truthfulness of his insinuations.
"No. Raydon wouldn't," Adreena whispers to me.
I know he wouldn't. Though I don't tell her this. I stay quiet, watching Zaxel carefully. If he's come to throw serious accusations at my father, he might take it as far as starting a war. I have to prepare for the worst.
My eyes lifted to my father, waiting for instructions. He'd want me to take Adreena out of here the moment he senses danger. Regardless of our estrangement, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Because if she were to die, my father would too. That's the only downfall with being soulblessed; once the connection is established the couple's lifespans are tied to each other. My father might be powerful, but Adreena is his weakness.
My father casts a glance at me, as though sensing my agitation, but only for a second before fixating on the Radiant Heir again.
I understood the unspoken signal he was giving me- acknowledging my awareness of the situation and wanting me to stand by for now.
"I have no knowledge of what goes on in the Divide on your side. I'm forced to remain in my own realm." My father reminds him. "However, I can feel my Revenants stationed there. All appear to be alert. It could be as you said, the garoles are smart, one might've gotten through and avoided detection."
The Radiant Heir tilts his head to the side, contemplatively. "You think? After a decamillenium of staying close to their boundaries?"
My uncle, Malic, steps forward. His long raven hair is tied into a tight knot today, making him look more warrior-like than brother to the Eternal. "After a decamillenium of remaining stationary, I too, would plot an escape and kill anyone in my path. Doesn't mean that's what's happening in this instance."
A bolt of unease zaps my nerves. It wouldn't even take a decamillenium of being trapped... His wrath would rouse just by seeing me.
The Radiant Heir turns and walks back to his colleagues. He motions for one to step forward. The male is slightly shorter than Zaxel, but just as athletic-looking. He puts two fingers on his temple just below his chestnut hairline, and projects an image in front of them. I knit my brows. That's an ability from the Ardor Court. Why is he a Light Court guard?
My face falls with my shock when the illusion takes form. The throne room blares with commotion as people gasp and yelp in horror. I can't tell if the person was male or female because they no longer have any vitality. All that remains of them is a lump of ghostly discolored skin and bone, completely drained of their essence. The pits of their eyes are black and hallowed, while their mouths hang open as wide gaping holes.
The image changes to show another in a similar state. This one has four deep lacerations on its chest and a mangled arm. Garoles have four long blackened talons at the ends of their gangly charcoal fingers. I can understand how he came to his conclusion that the garoles were the killers.
"Divinities," My father breathes as he rises from his throne, staring at the projection with wide eyes.
"My thoughts exactly," Zaxel says, observing my father carefully.
"And the survivor?" Malic asks with feigned concern. He doesn't care about anyone but himself.
Zaxel looks at him and purses his lips before answering. "Her condition isn't as severe. It's critical, but miraculously, she didn't die. We have multiple healers working on her."
"This is serious," my father exclaims with a tone filled with dread. "No one's ever seen remains from a garole attack. Are you positive that's what this is from?"
"I understand your hesitation to believe," Zaxel starts. "Especially since they've never left evidence of their methods of consumption. Garoles usually take their prey into the Divide where they ingest them. The unfortunate victims are never to be seen again." He points to the image. "But I can assure you, no other creature is capable of doing this. Unless someone has a draining ability I've never heard of." He looks at my father pointedly. "That'd mean they are from your Court, and I'd be coming to you either way."
My father nods solemnly before stiffening. He tilts his head, eyes narrowing as his concern rises. "What is the pattern?"
Zaxel clears his throat. "Aside from being some of the strongest members of my Court, I'm not sure. The two previous deaths were males. Only the female has survived." I can hear so much anger and remorse in his tone. Did he know them personally?
My father turns and stares directly at me with an expression that I've never seen before. Trepidation embeds itself within my stomach, constricting painfully as my anxiety festers.
"So there's not much of a pattern besides the fact that they are from your Court?" My uncle asks, coming up beside my father.
Zaxel glares at him. "The only pattern so far is that the victims are strong. As strong as Originals."
My uncle snorts derisively. "Unlikely." His smile fades. "And have you seen the garole?"
The muscle in Zaxel's cheek flexes. "Not exactly, no."
"Then how do you know it's a garole killing your people?"
Zaxel's chest rises as he seethes. "What other creature would be capable of doing something like this? Look at the scratches. All evidence points to those vile demonic things."
Malic shakes his head, smiling sadistically. "So your theory is the garole skipped all the lowly flavored Primordials in your Kingdom and went straight to the main course without being seen? Yet, it has always been those living closest to the Divide that have gone missing. Strange isn't it? That they'd go from hunting the lessers to suddenly targeting those that could successfully kill them?"
My nails bite into my palms as my fists tighten. The Shades twitch, sensing my rising anger. He's completely dismissing the direness of the situation and making Zaxel look insane. The garoles have always been an issue. We should have destroyed them a long time ago. I know the reason we haven't was because they went into hiding where they can't be reached only to appear when they are famished and looking for an easy meal by the Divide. The Oblivion Court found the best temporary solution: stationing Revenants around the Divide, safeguarding nearby villages. Garoles can't destroy them, and since they aren't living, they're unharmed by the Divide's lethal air quality. No other Court was able to protect its people against the creatures otherwise. And it was never a perfect solution. People still go missing. Something has to be done about this.
I don't know the Radiant Heir, but I know my uncle. He'll be as cruel as he needs to be to get his point across. I would know. I've probably suffered the most from his technique. Therefore, he won't stop arguing with Zaxel regarding the truth behind his claims.
"Nevertheless, I will help you look into this," My father intercedes when Zaxel doesn't respond. "Kisling?"
The sound of my name startles me, and I straighten. The Shades stand to attention as well. "Sir." From my peripheral I see Zaxel's head snap in my direction.
"I'm sending you to the Light Court to assess the situation. You will leave in the morning."
I feel myself tipping as I become lightheaded. He wants me, the Umbra Heir, to work alongside the Heir of our enemy Court? Is he crazy? I'm not going anywhere near that arrogant golden boy... Regardless if he's a God of a male.
Meanwhile, the Shades begin to sway- expressing their approval. They have no qualms with this.
"With all due respect Umbra Eternal," Zaxel begins, snapping me back to the present and the Shades halt their movements. "I'm leading the investigation and have things under control. I only request that you see that your Revenants are not faulty. For if I find that they are, and for some reason only around my Court's borders, I will hold you accountable." My father's usual pale face turns beat red at the Heir's warning. Zaxel glances at me before returning his attention to my father. "Your executioner isn't necessary."
I flinch before I can stop myself. Has... my notorious reputation made it to other Kingdoms?... What must they think of me?
Suddenly I feel as drained and withered as the victims of the garoles.
"She's more than an executioner," My father says to him while looking at me. My chest swells. "She's my best spy."
Just like that, I deflate.
Zaxel scoffs. "I don't doubt the infamous Wraith has the ability to lurk in shadows until she finds her answers." He says, patronizingly, making my blood boil. "I just came to bring this to your attention since the Divide is your responsibility."
My father descends the dais until he reaches the third step, ensuring he towers over the young Radiant Heir. "Thank you for doing so." He responds coldly. "But as you said, the Divide is my responsibility. So she will be assisting you. With the ancient rules that govern our Courts, sanctioned by the Divinities, this is within our jurisdiction." I suppress a satisfied smirk at golden boy's displeasure. "You can investigate however you feel fit, but my condition is that she goes with you. We are the Court charged with the responsibility of safeguarding citizens from the creatures dwelling inside the Divide. Therefore, one of mine will see this issue get resolved."
Zaxel grinds his teeth. His deep green eyes peer at my father menacingly from under his scowl. "Fine."
I internally swear, and glare at my father for the situation he's put me in.
How dare he assign me to work with the Heir of our enemy Kingdom? Forcing me to work with Zaxel will only make me more hated by our people. I'll be a collaborator in proving Zaxel right that our Revenants were at fault for those deaths, which in turn will make our Umbra Eternal liable. If there was a mistake, it wasn't intentional. Except he won't see it that way. His Court views ours as evil for the sole reason that Oblivion is our Divinity. Yes, it is in our nature to be tricky, deceitful, chaotic, and daring, but that's not all we are. Yet, Zaxel just shared that's exactly what he thinks.
My eyes dart to the Radiant Heir to level him with a scathing glare. He returns my stare with an equally bitter expression.
Feelings are mutual then.
"Join us tonight at our Autumn Solstice levee." My father urges Zaxel and the rest of the Light Court members.
Zaxel continues to hold my gaze, considering, as though his decision depends entirely on me. Unexpectedly, the Shades give a suggestive shimmy. I feel my cheeks burn.
Gah! Why'd I ever think it was a good idea to allow such frisky creatures to latch onto me?
Zaxel's lips twitch in amusement. "I think that's a great idea. Then I can familiarize myself with your Court a little better." His tone held a mischievous lilt.
Hmm. I don't trust him.
My father smiles, pleased by his answer, before turning to me. "Kisling will also be attending. She can fill you in on our customs during the festivities." His voice is calm, but his eyes hold mine with warning.
Great! Now I'm to be the Radiant Heir's entertainment for the evening. My day just keeps getting better.
Golden boy's eyes lock with mine again. Neither of us blinks or breaks the stare as if it were a contest. His eyebrow twitches, just a little, while my lips play with a small smirk. Game on.
"Kiss?" Adreena disrupts hesitantly.
The image of my lips crashing against his pops into my head without invitation. Zaxel breaks the stare, looking slightly confused, as a flush creeps up my neck.
For Oblivion's sake. This is the second time in a minute I've been embarrassed in front of him. What a terrible nickname to give someone.
"Kisling," My father's slate-gray eyes are sternly compelling as he speaks. "You're excused. I expect to see you promptly at the levee."
I give him a mocking two-figure salute. "Yes, sir." My gaze unintentionally seeks the Radiant Heir again. He quickly averts his attention as my father resumes talking to him, but not before I notice the revulsion his eyes held for me.
I know what he sees; Wraith, the female who kills, with no remorse, at her Eternal's beck and call. It's what everyone sees when they look at me. Their contempt and disgust hound me with their stares. It's something I'm familiar with yet still feels like a blow to the gut, which is why I usually just hide.
A pressure compresses against my throat, choking me of air. The Shades spasm with concern. I quickly command them to conceal me, returning to the safety of being invisible before teleporting to my room.
About the Creator
I never believed the sky is the limit, therefore my passions are expansive. My interest in writing stemmed from poetry but my heart lead me to Sci-Fi Fantasy. Consequently, my stories are plot-driven with splashes of evocative elements.
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
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