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Pirates and Princes

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On a small island in the middle of the ocean, Kit was having a crisis about his future.

The Crown Prince of Ardea , Christopher Jonathan Herondale, was only twenty years old—and he wasn’t getting any younger. He was to find a woman who he—his advisor—thought was fit to be queen, marry her, and become king in less than a year. With this disposition of his, he wasn’t really allowed to have fun or take time for himself (as if he was allowed that at any earlier point in his life).

If there was one time that he was able to have any fun, he would have to say that it was on his thirteenth birthday. When asked what he wanted by his father, Kit said that he only wanted to go on an expedition with the royal guard (kind of the coastal guard of Ardea ) in their seafaring vessel, named after his mother, Allena . Kit didn’t know a lot about boats or the ocean, but it was always a dream of his to go out on an adventure with his own crew, to rescue someone or find treasure, it didn’t matter to him so long as he was out on the water.

Kit felt like his being on that boat was a dream. It was so magical, and the crew treated him as if he was one of their own, letting him help out with all of their work and not going easy on him with the weight of such tasks. They didn’t treat him just as any other people would, with him being the prince and all. Those men let him be a part of the royal guard for just a day, and it was the best experience of his life.

He remembered the salt air harsh on his face and spraying water in his eyes. He remembered the sweat rolling down his neck as the mighty sun beat his backside and the queasy feeling in his stomach. But most of all, he remembered his impossibly large grin when the senior officer Jace Herondale—a distant relative of his—said that if he wasn’t a royal, he would be well suited for this line of work.

“Do you mean what you say?” Kit asked this as a fragile young boy, expecting the world in response. He recalled the way that Jace chuckled and patted his head, mussing up his hair. It wasn’t as perturbing as usual since Kit was too excited to hear Jace’s response than to care about what his sweaty hair looked like.

He looked out over the sea and back at Kit. There was a soft expression on his face, and his lips were upturned into his signature grin, but he was easily less cocky than he would be when speaking to another, or teasing someone. He was listening to something, and that something wasn’t the boy stood right in front of him. His abnormal golden eyes glittered as he spoke to Kit after a moment of silence, “The ocean is telling me that you might see where you belong when you free yourself from this life. That being over these waters, of course. She says that this is where your home ought to be, Christopher. That someday you will be free from the ‘this and that’ of royalty, and one with her.”

He said things like that sometimes—that the ocean, of all things, told him something. Kit thought it to be no more than a joke—Jace was always a comic and a self-proclaimed master of language— but right then he seemed more serious than anything.

Kit’s smile darkened at that, saddened by the words spoken by the officer. “The day of which never will come,” he sighed. “My identity will forevermore be a royal. No call of the tricky ocean or the lustful thoughts of adventure will be enough to pull me from my duties, no matter how I hope they might.” He tried not to look up at Jace as he berated this fact about his lineage but found it too difficult.

Jace’s bright blonde hair (a feature he shared with Kit) fluttered in the sudden wind, and he seemed to stand taller where he was on the main deck. Kit shivered, intimidated and cold. The setting sun spilled orange over Jace, sticking like honey onto his tan skin. He was beautiful as any person Kit knew, tall and outstanding among his fellow officers, who all looked the same with their dark hair and eyes. If Kit didn’t know better, he would’ve thought the other members were recruited because of their bland appearances to make Jace easier to spot. It would be something that he would stoop to, to accommodate his enormous ego, Kit thought.

“Do not doubt the ocean, Kit,” he said. “Her secrets are yours to keep and to know, so always listen with an open ear and take her knowledge with an impartial heart. She is the one who knows where you will go and who you will meet. And she will tell you of who you might become someday; all that is asked is to listen and take these things to heart.” He sounded wise, more so than Kit had ever heard, “though your beginning might be strenuous, the lovely sea knows its end and she will guide you to it.” The thought of this was something he had to turn over in his head a few times, feeling its ridges and sharp points. It was strange and new, and incredibly stupid.

The fact that Jace had said this didn’t surprise Kit at all. It wasn’t too out of character for him to joke about things like that. He was a sort of odd fellow, witty and quick to make a sarcastic remark or an egotistical statement. He was the most important member of the royal guard—represented by the poise and grace he carried with such an over exaggerated confidence—and he knew that he deserved every ounce of praise he received. Kit didn’t find this annoying as most others did, he liked having Jace around. It was like he was his uncle or a cousin that he didn’t get to see very often. Though he was irredeemably vain at points, Kit knew that he had a softer side to him, a more insecure side to his personality that he kept hidden from view.  

As he was led home that day by his personal guards, he knew he wanted something more than royalty, something more than reading books, being a peacekeeper, and ordering people around. He wanted to be someone who could spend his every waking moment above the ocean’s playful waves licking at the stern and waist of his ship, white foam darkening the wood to a deep mahogany color. He wanted to have a crew of his own, and possibly hold the position as captain. He wanted to be someone who worked with a group of men toward one goal, whatever that goal might have been. Kit wanted to be away from his entire life. He wanted no stress of being the king someday, no marrying a woman he didn’t care for and no marrying a woman if he didn’t feel like it.

There would never be a time when that would happen, he thought. There would never be another that could take his place on the throne—for he had no siblings. And even if he was granted the opportunity for something like that to happen, he would be forced to reject it on account of him being unequipped to handle a life like that.

Kit tried to suppress his sadness about the fact and started spending more time by the ocean, desperately trying to hear what she said. Of course, the ocean couldn’t speak, and he looked like an idiot. He realized this early on, but he found that he was unable to stop going to her. She was calming indeed. Kit would sit in the sand, with his bare feet in the water. She would kiss his calves and ankles with her cool refreshing waves. He would take this as a sign of her talking, and let his head clear each time she did it. He never heard anything, but at least it let him turn his brain off for a while.

Though he was always being watched like a hawk while he was out by the shores (no one wanted him to fall in and drift away), Kit felt as if no one was there when he listened to his mentor’s calming lack of words.

Kit knew that the sea wasn’t really able to speak, but the more he looked at her and listened to her waves and fits of tides coming and going, he started to hear things. It wasn’t like the ocean was speaking words to him, it was more like she was planting thoughts into his head. In the time that he sat with her on many days, she fed to him ideas about what—or who—she truly was. As much as Kit refused to admit it, she reminded him of a human.

She was temperamental, emotionally unstable and passionate. He could tell that in her crashing waves and her raging storms. She was dark blue, navy or even black when her mood was right, highlighting the terrifying creatures that crept just beneath her surface. The ocean didn’t mind that these things lived alongside her, in fact, she supported them with all she had, no matter how ungrateful the animals were to her.

Kit strived to be humble as her. She did amazing things and expected not even a ‘thank you.’

As the days grew shorter and nights longer, Kit knew that the time of the party where he would decide his bride was nearing. He was to find her and marry her within a matter of days, which utterly destroyed his nerves. He thought that he had no one to talk to until it occurred to him that the ocean was always listening.

He went to her often, asking and asking about what he should do. He asked her about all sorts of things, like: Could this event be delayed in any way, thanks to you? Or, Could there be any possibility that I am to marry someone that I truly love? Only in his head did he ask, though. He didn’t want to look like a lunatic. He left out the most important question, knowing it would be denied swiftly. It boggled his mind, bigger and brighter than the rest. Will I ever get to be out over the water in the circumstances I desire?

It wasn’t until the night before the party that he finally got an answer from her.

He was seated on one of the many docks, looking out at the sunset’s disappearing reds and pinks. There was no breeze in the air, and he was sweating pins and needles. His brain was alight with worry about the day ahead of him. He didn’t want to be married, and he didn’t want to be king. It was the one and only thing on his mind, blocking out the idea that everything might turn out just as he wished. Kit wasn’t naive, and he knew that his plans would fall on their head before they truly got off the ground.

There must be some way to end this, he thought uselessly, stomach swirling as the waves made their way up to him. They lapped at the poles securing the dock in its place, insistent and true like an old friend. What do you think? Kit asked this to the gurgling foam of the ocean beneath him, not expecting a response.

He will.

Kit nearly launched himself into the water.

“Who will?” He heard himself talking too late to stop, warranting a few confused glances from the guards behind them. They burned his back.

He will, she repeated, in a voice much like his own. But he knew he wasn’t thinking that. He will . The words spun around in his head the way a woman’s hair would move as she did, long and flowing out behind her and over her shoulders. It was a mantra of a phrase that he did not know the exact meaning of, spoken by the sea inside of his cranium.

And, as if his brain did not know better than to trick him, he saw the image of a woman in the water, looking at him with the darkness of blue-black in her eyes. She was strangely familiar, with high cheekbones and light hair shadowing her eyes, making them look darker than he assumed they were in direct light. Seeing her reminded him of the way a room from your past seemed to look as you returned, everything just as you remembered it. Kit’s heart swelled with a feeling that was unknown to him. It was a longing and a sense of promise as he looked into that woman’s eyes and saw her lips move with the looped words in his head: He will .

He thought that this was all a dream, pinching himself far too hard, just enough to bruise the inside of his arm. Kit yelped at the pain, now certain that this was real. Kit tried to breathe. The water was talking, and she was talking to him, of all people.

“A relative of mine once told me that you knew all,” he opened with this, leaning in on himself to get closer and closer—to really hear her answer, “is this true?”

There was a long pause, and Kit thought that she was frozen on the surface of the ocean. The woman’s eyes shifted, and it was like she was trying not to look at him. This is not her. I am someone different. She cannot reach the humans. She gave him a small smile as if to say that she was sorry.

“Then,” Kit felt his knees beginning to fall asleep, his wrists and arms hurt from holding himself up for so long, “you are who, exactly?”

I do not know. All I know is that she has chosen me to live alongside her, much like the fish and the birds. And she told me that you were special, Christopher, to the Blackthorns; they need you. Put them back together before it is too late . As Kit was about to ask why he was so special to these ‘Blackthorns’, the woman seemed to be fading away, disappearing into the endlessly transposing waves. He reached out, to hopefully suspend her there so that they might talk a bit more. But he leaned too far, and fell into the water.

It felt just as he’d imagined, cold and swaddling him in its tight grasp. His eardrums burst as his head was submerged. It wasn’t a novel feeling, seeing as he’d gone to swim before, but it was never like this. This feeling was new, indeed. He felt the vitality of the ocean seeping through his skin, raw adrenaline rushing through his veins. It was as if he was absorbing a power of some sort, but he didn’t feel any different.

He was not in the water for long. The guards that watched him too intently were the ones to pull him out by his arms, scolding him for letting himself fall in. They took him back home, griping all the way about how upset his father would be that he’d gotten wet. But Kit found himself unable to focus on that, instead thinking about the lady in the water and what she’d said.

His brain was wandering about, thinking of things that didn’t matter with the issues at hand coming ever closer. Who were the Blackthorns? And why was he so important to them? Why would they ever need him? What did it mean to put them back together? And when was too late? Kit felt himself begin to anxiously sweat just thinking about it, despite the water seeping into his skin making him as soaked as he could handle.

Maybe that woman was wrong? It was a possibility. She wasn’t the sea and had said so herself, which meant that she could be wrong just as he could be. But the importance of her words still stuck out to Kit, her sense of urgency was probably backed by a fear of what was to come. It was hard for him to believe that something said so worriedly could be false, but he wasn’t one to believe every person he came across.

Kit went to sleep that night with the taste of a memory on his tongue. A woman cradling him in her arms, smiling down and cooing at him. The woman was lovely, with his blue eyes and blonde hair. He tried not to think about her as his teary eyes fluttered closed.

 

Chapter Text

Kit was never fond of fancy clothes. He much rather preferred a pair of riding pants and a simple shirt or tunic, and a waistcoat if he was feeling on the more flamboyant side. And if he was feeling particularly nice, he might let his chambermaid dress him up in formal attire. Coats that reached his ankles and sometimes brushed the floor, capes of satin or warm furs that itched his neck. Breeches that were too tight to sit down in, or too white for Kit to wear outside. Boots that stopped short of his mid-calf, or went to sit snug at his thighs. Jewels that hung from his ears, or were wrapped in strings around his wrists. The Herondale family ring heavy on his left hand, right where his wedding ring would go someday.

Always the circlet of a crown rested atop his head of blonde hair. It was made of silver and gold, embedded with precious stones of every variety. Kit was told that it belonged to an old relative—a woman, judging by the way that the metal was swirled in on itself, and its way of incessantly tangling in his curls—and was to be worn by him, the last living ‘Royal’ Herondale, at all times.

All of those things were fine with him, those were the things that a prince was expected to wear. But this—this outrageous outfit with its sheer, flowy fabrics and its lack of any masculinity—was a nightmare.

He looked like some sort of goddess or seductress, wrapped in fabric and bare in places where he was the least comfortable being looked at. Scarves of navy blue attached to round gold accessories on his ankles, wrists and neck were what he had to look forward to.

There were pants, at least; puffy and strange-looking, but pants nonetheless. His chest, the poor thing, was completely uncovered save for rare fabrics that tickled him relentlessly. It could only be covered by those same transparent, itchy blue fabrics that held a loose hug on his arms—weaved into the bracelets of gold on his wrists, and retired into a curved line on his back—hanging to brush the floor if his hands were at his sides. A similar sort of fabric hung at his face (with tassels tied around the back of his head), covering from his cheekbones to the delicate line of his jaw. He cast this item aside first, chalking it up to no more than what a dancer would wear to tease her subject, taunting him with the half image of her face. He didn’t think this type of garment was something that the royal men of Ardea were made to wear at their suitor ball, rather this was a horrid prank being played on him. But his father had said this was tradition. Like it was tradition to flaunt the most eligible royal in the kingdom like a prized pig.

He knew that this outfit was some sort of joke. But Jonathan was never one for humor, so Kit assumed that he got his sense of it from his late mother.

Kit tried to spare himself a look at his reflection, the exposed skin too pasty for him. He was skinny, next to no muscle on his chest. Most in his position would be well-built just for the sake of it, but he never seemed to gain the muscle he wanted. He knew that he had to be more devoted to his physical training to be able to look like someone such as Jace, who required large armor because of his bountiful physic. But he, a total laze, would never do something like that without the proper motivation. And frankly, he wasn’t motivated.

Kit was there in the mirror, looking un-princely as ever. He was small and unsightly. His hair was tousled and his eyes weren’t capable of making someone afraid of him. In all the boring historicals he’s read, there had never been a prince like him. They were always devoted to their craft, ready to lead and selfless to a fault. He was far from that, resembling a spoiled child more than the Crown Prince. He was terribly non-intimidating and not at all prepared to be king, an eyesore among his fragmented family and his house. And, to further his unqualified status, he relied on those of his house and staff more than the average nobility, having basically been raised by them.

Those in his house—chosen by Kit himself—served him because of their maternal air and aura; the rumor around the palace was that Kit, more than anything, wanted a mother. Though this was true, he denied all claims. Word eventually made it to his father, who just as any rational person would, sat Kit down to tell him that he would never be married again. It was a revelation for the both of them, with Jonathan learning that Kit was more defiant than he gave him credit for—learning this by way of the violent tears and uptilted chin of his son telling him, ‘how dare you make me grow up without a mother,’—and Kit learning that Allena was the only woman that his father truly loved. And she was his only mother, even if he appointed women that were ‘motherly’ to serve him.

A true mother, he thought, wasn’t like his servants: pampering him and never correcting his frequent misdoings. They weren’t what he’d hoped for, but complaining about it was something he didn’t care to do.

He was not one to complain frequently—but that didn’t mean that he didn’t have his moments of bratty behavior—and he found that those who were annoyed him to no ends. He found that another annoying species of people were those who bragged about their accomplishments at every opportunity. Much to his dismay, he had been presented a person like this as his “most compatible” suitor.

Her name and face disgusted Kit. Zara Dearborn was not someone who he cared about at all. She was cruel and annoying, and seemed to have the same distaste for him that Kit had for her. She was a few years older than him and unbearable to be around.

“Christopher,” she’d said to him at the party that they’d first met, when they were still trying to play nice. “You are aware that I am in close quarters with Ardea’s most competent royal guardsmen, Jace Herondale, correct?” Zara had been giggling as if she were intoxicated (and being twenty-four at the time made it perfectly fine for her to be drinking the precious wine of Ardea ).

Kit had just rolled his eyes and tried to ignore her incessant ramblings about how great she was and how much she’d done for her kingdom, Pudicus . Kit thought the name to be a bit unfortunate, juxtaposed with her horrendous personality.

Jace Herondale knows better than to associate himself with people such as yourself, Kit thought bitterly. He sighed, swishing his glass of water and pretending that he cared about the conversation, “is that so?” He remembered yawning a lot that night.

Tonight would be similar, he thought. There would be women there to entertain him and ‘fight’ for his hand. He had preferred for men to do this fighting for his love, finding that women were the ones that he liked to seduce himself.

 

 

“May I introduce Christopher Jonathan Herondale, Crown Prince of Ardea, son of King Jonathan Herondale and the late Queen Allena Herondale.”

Kit walked into the gigantic ballroom, trying to look important. He failed, of course. The beautiful women of the room didn’t even pause their conversations to look at him. He sent them each a different glare.

It figures , he thought. If you’re the future king, no one will pay attention to you. This wasn’t the first time his mind had wandered in that direction. He was always spiteful and dramatic when ignored. It was sort of an insult to him, as if he were being treated like a child. He wasn’t a child. He was the ‘Crown Prince,’ and deserved attention from the ladies. Maybe, he pondered, if he were to make a fool of himself, he would gain their eye. But definitely not in the way that he wanted. And he was already doing that, just based on what he was wearing.

Even if he were to make a scene, with his father in the room with him, he would be scolded and removed from the room faster than a thief was beheaded. And he had no right to damage his father’s reputation that way, no matter how much he wanted to.

The only reason he wanted to was also, in fact, out of spite. It was out of spite because he hadn’t been much of a father lately (if ever). He had been ignoring Kit, and that was a given, but he seemed even more distant than usual. He wasn’t cold, per se, but he wasn’t all too kind either.

Kit tried to leave that and enjoy the spectacular party that was being held in his honor, to decide which lovely lady would become his future queen.  It was more of a meeting with food and dancing, but he didn’t bother with the fact and tried to make happy with his potential suitors, like his father had asked of him none too patiently.

And it wasn’t as if the night got any better as it progressed, either. In his own home, he was being treated as a doormat; anyone could walk over him. One of the women he thought to be especially lovely only asked him about a man across the room—if he was looking for a bride.

“He is not one I know, but surely you could not want him when the Crown Prince is right before you?” He tried, using a deeper voice than he normally possessed. He had read in a book somewhere that that sort of thing made women weak for one’s charms. Though, he didn’t think this to be true in nearly all cases, as she seemed more annoyed than charmed.

The girl flounced away with an eye roll and a huff. Perfect , Kit thought sarcastically. He always figured that seducing a woman might be easier than this. He had no field experience, so he was guaranteed to be wrong, but this just plummeted past his expectations for success.

Kit was just about ready to steal away from this boring party. He only had to be truly “present” for the introductions of the suitors and the end of the evening. He wasn’t privy to staying for that. Kit planned to hide out in the garden before his father sent a search party for him. Though, he thought that spending some time by the ocean might help with this raw anxiety that had built up over those last few days. Kit was nearing his window of opportunity for leaving when he noticed someone that truly caught his eye as they jumped through a window.

A gust of wind shot through the room, straight into Kit’s wavering heart. It was thumping fast as he breathed heavy at this new addition. The person had burst in through the window that stood large and dark over a sort of terrace in the room, grabbing everyone’s attention just the same as Kit’s. There was suddenly glass pieces everywhere, raining down on the unsuspecting people. It left some with no damage, but others’ skin was ribboned by the shards.

He didn’t smash the glass, so much as his intimidating presence made it shatter before he even touched it. Tiny nervous whispers rose around Kit, shrouding the room in sound and the stench of fear as people began to scramble toward the door, out into the dark night. Most just stared slack-jawed at the uninvited guest.

This person was dressed peculiarly, wearing black from head to toe. There was a strange large hat atop his head, whose tilted brim was lined with golden thread. As were the edges of his stark black coat that stood the test from his shoulders to his knees, unbuttoned and revealing the unmistakable lines of a gun and sword hung at his sides. His shirt underneath the coat was whiter than snow, matching the hue of the skin on his face, hands, and the very top of his chest. He wore black trousers, and black boots from the space of his ankles to his calves. His hair (from what Kit could see of it underneath his hat) was a similar jet black, his eyes looked an unreal silver color that scanned the room in all of its details.

His bottom lip was rolled in his teeth, and he kept refocusing his gaze on different objects and people, never looking directly at them so much as around them. He was strategizing; Kit knew this from watching the royal guard at work.

Kit thought he knew this entrance, those clothes and that hat. He only thought things like this happened in books and verbal tales, though. Men like these didn’t actually exist, not in the real world. They were just a folktale meant to scare people away from living too close to the coast, not a man who stood tall and proud over the rest of the room, not even noticing its inhabitants as he scourged the people with his simple presence.

This pirate was just an illusion, nothing to be worried about, right? Kit scratched at his eyes worriedly, hoping that this man would go away just as quickly as he came. He was a dark angel, casting a death-dealing shadow over Kit and his peers. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he had, not one, but two weapons on his belt. And Kit knew better than to assume that he hadn’t mastered the technique of both.

This man seemed to have a fraction of a plan in play as he jumped from the terrace, rolling as he hit the floor to maximize the area of the force on his body. From his place on the floor, he removed a tiny knife from his pocket, throwing it upwards in an arc for seemingly no reason. Kit figured that it was an intimidation tactic. Be afraid of me, I have a knife. He was afraid.

The man was on his feet in a tenth of a second, instantly seeking out the crown jewel of the room, that being King Jonathan Herondale. The pirate seamlessly unsheathed his sword. It was thin and sharp, just as Kit dreaded it would be. This sword was a similar silver to the man’s eyes, gleaming in the tender light of the ballroom.

With one swipe of this beautiful, deadly weapon, Kit’s father’s head was separated from his body.

His limp body fell to the ground with a sickening thump . The crown that was once upon his head was also on the ground—soon to be in the pirate’s hands (to finally end up in a bag on his belt)—and his clothes were already soaked with a frighteningly familiar black-red color. His blood pooled on the marble floor, making Kit sick to his stomach as his head rolled around in it for a moment, bouncing after its initial impact. The red that mocked the consistency of water spread around; people stepped and slipped in it in their efforts to leave. But Kit did not notice this. All he could look at was his father’s head and try not to gag.

Jonathan’s dark eyes were rolled into the back of his head and his jaw was hung open, along with the wound that tore his pate from his core, gushing blood all over the place. Kit gulped down cold, dry fear and vomit as he watched this first man die at the hands of the tall sea-wanderer without so much as a bat of his gray eyes. His sword was dripping the vital fluid onto the floor, and his face and shirt were notably dusted with it as well. He stepped over the body as if it were a patch of weeds along the side of a dirt road, insignificant and tiny as he set his eyes on his next target.

And that was it. It was as if with a tiny flick of the pirate man’s wrist, one small gesture with ten men’s power just underneath, Kit’s entire life was in shambles.

Kit felt strangely calm. There was a murderer in his home, and that murderer had just killed his father, but that didn’t stop time slowing down to remind him that he was still breathing and alive. Sure, he felt a dry kind of emotion come upon him, but his heart wasn’t racing and his palms weren’t sweaty as the surrounding guests screamed and shrieked and ran away from the killer. The unnamed feeling he felt was a sort of unrealness that he’d never felt before.

He looked at his father’s head on the floor, and thought, I will never see him again. He will never scold me again he will never smile at me again. He is no longer controlling me. I will never be able to prove myself to him. Kit stopped short as these last thoughts plagued his mind. He didn’t even breathe as he felt his blood begin to boil. He will never tell me about my mother. I will never see him proud of me for becoming what he wanted.   It was a flurry of contradicting thoughts. Kit was trying to decide which was more appropriate in this situation: grief or relief? In the pit of his stomach, there was a mix of both.

In his sudden outbreak of emotion, Kit never saw the chandelier coming. He was inexplicably on the floor, limbs and trunk crushed under the solid gold that hung from the ceiling just a moment ago. He cursed his family’s penchant for having nice things as he tried to move, wincing because of the branding his skin was receiving from the fixture’s hot metal. There were places he knew were going to turn red and become puckered with the blisters he was granted from the chandelier. There was this unbearable hot-cold pressure on his back, arms and legs, holding him down to be seared. He wanted to move, he wanted to run, but the cage of deadly heat and the fear of being incinerated by it was doing its best to inhibit him. He was taken aback by this, temporarily giving up to donate to himself a moment for finding his calm before the adrenaline rushed in to ruin everything. And, he wanted a moment to be alone with his thoughts.

That was why that man threw his knife, Kit thought, to incapacitate a target. Kit tried to predict what would be next for him as the room exploded with noise and movement.

Kit looked around—straining his neck as he did so, desperately trying to keep his body still—to find that the hall was in more chaos than before, panic rising throughout the room like water flooding the bay as a few guards tried to incapacitate the intruder. They tried, only to get shot at from a distance by another young man—who had followed after his counterpart through the windows, only making less of an entrance than he. His dainty wrists were steady with each shot, never shaking or losing their sense of direction and power.

The boy who was shooting at people was significantly different from his partner. He was shorter and had light brown hair that was tied into a flowing rope of tangles down his shoulders. Kit caught a flash of his peculiarly colored eyes, and he felt his heart shudder despite itself. Blue and sea green locked together for a split-second after he too had landed on the floor from the terrace. This man was wearing a sort of garb that resembled a pair of loose-fitting trousers. His shirt was white and notably tattered, covered by a brown jacket with multiple pockets for throwing knives and poison vials—never to be made of glass. He scurried over to the other boy and said something to him quietly, and the garbled noise echoed throughout the still-noisy hall. His voice was softer than the gentlest waves of the ocean.

He looked at Kit from time to time, probably shocked that he was the last person ‘standing;’ he felt the better-dressed boy looking as well. From across the room, he felt their curiosity burning holes into his skin. Kit could not deny that, infrequently, he was looking at them as well.

Just as Kit had suspected, the taller boy did have gray eyes. They were deep in his skull, just above his high cheekbones. His tone was fairer than most, considering the assumed amount of time he spent out in the sun. Though Kit thought, with a grand hat like that, one didn’t get too much light on the face. He was all angles and shadows, Kit saw these angles through the material of his clothes. He was built, more so than the prince was (the fact that he could tell this with a glance enhanced his disdain). And he was taller than nearly everyone in the room, a towering figure not only physically, Kit assumed. He seemed the type to have a quick hand and an even quicker brain. Kit—in his disorder of notions, emotions and afflictions—thought that if this man wasn’t evil and horrible, he would probably be someone who was in his position, that being a royal.

In one last effort to protect their prince, the remaining guards of the room ambushed the pair, and Kit was enchanted by the entire brawl, trying not to think about his burning skin.

The two of them move together like fire and ice, fighting an endless amount of guards and killing what little spectators there were.

All sorts of people bustled around Kit, trying not to look their prince in the eyes as they left him for dead without so much as a second thought. He didn’t notice this, only ignoring them along with the stoking pain that rose in intensity every time he went to make a move. He disregarded those things so that he could watch wide-eyed at the way these two criminals worked with each other.

The brown-haired boy was swift and smooth with his killing like he’d done this before, while the other seemed more unsure and nervous overall (despite being the one to commit the greatest crime in the most nonchalant manner), never initiating the contact between him and his enemy after what happened with the King. And while the shorter seemed more acquitted with his gun, the taller used his thin sword like he had been professionally trained, slashing through people with more grace than Kit thought a murder could be conducted.

He was like a dancer with his technique of murdering guards and guests, lithe and feline in a way that was unreal. He swished and swayed around his opponents, clothing flowing seconds after. He looked like a person weaving through a crowd, making certain not to touch anyone in the fear that they may poison him. This man was clearly experienced, yet timid, favoring a stab between the back ribs. Kit figured that this was because he didn’t like to see people’s dying faces, or he was too afraid to look them in the eyes. Though, if Kit had the bravery—or the lack of sanity that was needed—to ever kill a man he would at least make eye contact as he dealt the deathly blow, to display his power over him.

Kit physically couldn’t run away as the duo, done with the fighting from before, sought him out with determined eyes. He thought that they were going to kill him just as they had the others, but he was surprised to find that this wasn’t the case at all.

Before he had time to protest, the still-searing metal was being dragged off of him. He was lifted, none too gently, and being tossed up over the smaller man’s shoulder like a ragdoll. It was as if he, a grown man, weighed nothing to this pirate. As if a simple grunt could replace the effort it took to hold someone in that manner. Kit was being taken out of his own home—the castle and possibly the island that he would have soon ruled, given that he was not staring death in her hideous face—kicking and screaming with what little fight that he had left in him. Kit gripped the back of the man’s shirt and kicked at the tops of his thighs, hoping to make this stranger drop him, so he had the chance to escape and hide. He landed a nice blow to the man’s stomach with his knee, and he felt himself beginning to grin with pride. Still, he was a stone wall, completely unaffected by what Kit was trying to accomplish.

The remaining guards, how few they were, tried to stop his kidnapping from happening, being killed by the boy with the black hat in the process. They made their way outside, and Kit felt his bouts of hope and energy becoming sparse.

The night air hit him like a punch to the gut as he tried to squirm his way out of the brunette’s hold. Kit cried out as loud as he could, voice rasping and breaking with every breath. All the while, the pirate man and his comrade walked calmly on, knowing the indeterminable value of their prize. They didn’t care that there were countless guards stationed just outside, since they wouldn’t shoot or slash for fear of hitting their prince, who was slated for death anyway.

“He’s too loud.” The man under the hat said after a while, stopping to turn fully around to look at his partner. Kit was mildly offended, fat tears dripping down his cheeks as he cried and cried, too defeated to fight any longer.

They weren’t close to the castle anymore, Kit had noticed. He could barely recognize his location in the dark, but the delicate weavings of sand paths reminded him of the pathways to the beach, so that was where he assumed they were headed.

The pirate man’s friend stopped, and Kit jostled with the force of the motion. He saw a few droplets of water fall from his face, glittering in what little light there was left.

“It’ll be okay, just take some deep breaths, like we talked about.” Said the other, shifting to let Kit stand on the ground. He quickly tied his wrists together with a torn piece of his shirt, making certain the knots were tight enough to hold them in place, but not tight enough to cut off circulation. “We need your hands, so we can’t let them fall off,” he whispered to him, before turning toward the captain. Kit watched his blue-green eyes flicker in the moonlight. It was something that didn’t surprise him—people who had eyes like that tended to draw a lot of attention with them. “Just breathe, Tiberius.”

The man nodded too quickly, turning around to face the ocean, only visible because of his form blocking the moon’s reflection on the water. His ears were suddenly covered by his pale hands, and Kit noticed that he was shaking the slightest bit. He was breathing hard enough to make Kit a little nervous, hard enough to hear from where he was standing.

He was stark black against the backdrop of the moon and the white sea, all shadow in his too-large coat. There was his hat, as well, a little ways away from being knocked off because of his mad grabbing and swatting at his face. His voice was a rambling whisper, just barely loud enough for Kit to hear that he was speaking, but not comprehensible in any way.

Was this what all of the pirates were like? Kit tried his best not to stare, feeling it too personal to watch all of this go on. The other man was quick to leave Kit alone in hopes of helping his mate, allowing him the only chance he would have gotten to run away. Though, Kit found that his feet weren’t moving. His heart was moving, of course, watching this delicate scene play out in front of him.

It wasn’t that he had sympathy enough for the pirates to care if one of them was going through some sort of trauma (especially the one who murdered his father), it was that this moment seemed to be important. The shorter of the two was holding Tiberius’ hand, and Kit could see how he did it wasn’t the way you would usually hold someone’s hand. His grip was white-knuckle tight, and it seemed to calm Tiberius down, if only a little bit.

“Breathe,” He whispered, and Kit felt himself exhale without meaning to, letting a bit of stress roll down his spine. It was odd. This man was commanding, yet calming at the same time, able to attract Kit’s attention and hold it long enough to make him less nervous about his situation.

Kit, as he was first being hauled away, thought that if he was given a chance to run from this he would surely take it; but, he didn’t seem all too eager to leave. At least, not to return home. The idea in his head was that there was nothing to go back to. The only reason he’d been staying in that palace was because of his father, and he was gone. Kit felt his heart begin to pound with the certainty of his death. This sudden awakening reminded him of the fact that Jonathan Herondale was truly never going to just appear when he woke up in the morning, to bark an order at him or to spout some useless knowledge about his late wife.

Sure, his father was overbearing and difficult, but Kit still loved him. You only ever get one true father, and he just lost his. He felt weak, unmanly tears slipping down his cheeks. They were bountiful, more coming every second he remembered his father talking about his life before becoming king, and how he had fallen in love with Kit’s mother. Kit cried a bit for her as well, though he admittedly knew nothing about her. His father promised to tell him everything he knew when he became king—it was what she wanted, apparently. He silently cursed her for not thinking about an outcome like this, where Jonathan died and Kit was left alone.

He didn’t dare cry for longer than he felt necessary. If the pirates were to see him cry, he would be chastised or even beaten (he did not know the consequences).

Kit had always thought that pirates were ruthless creatures that didn’t care about anything or anyone. And, even though he was partially right, he was still wrong in some way. This man right in front of him—a pirate—was feeling and suffering from emotions. It seemed as though he, unlike those from the tales that represented him, had some empathy to speak of. The notion wasn’t as alarming as Kit figured it would be. They were people, after all. But it wasn’t as if Kit recognized them as this. To him, they were less than nothing. They were pillagers, murderers and thieves. Kit hated their kind more than he hated anything else.

He watched the pair come back to him with what felt like fire in his eyes. The taller man looked calmer, more put together than before. Kit was grateful that his unstableness was gone from his cold expression.

“We board now,” he said, grabbing the bunch of fabric that tied Kit’s hands together. He pulled hard and Kit stumbled, almost falling on the sand that his toes had sunken into over the past few minutes. “Keep up,” He didn’t even offer a glance to Kit, turning to the other pirate who began to follow. “Liv, stay close behind. Be ready for anything.”

Kit tried his best to ‘keep up,’ not even attempting to look to the other pirate for help. He decided to speak as little as possible, to avoid anything that could harm him. And there were many of those things in this situation. Firstly, there was ‘Liv’ behind him, probably with his gun to Kit’s back, and there was Tiberius in front of him, suspecting and theorizing about every move Kit made. If he were to do anything to irritate them, he would pay dearly.

He sighed, looking down where he and his father’s killer were connected. It seemed as though Tiberius was avoiding his touch, which made Kit curious to say the least. What reason did he have to be afraid of touching Kit? He was the least harmful individual in this position, unable to detain or have any authority over Tiberius, but there he was, refusing to look Kit in the eye or touch him at all.

Kit saw white fingers tight around the similarly white fabric on his wrists. He was certain that this wasn’t a dream right then, seeing those fingers contract and bend as Tiberius dragged him out onto the beach, in front of one of the largest ships he’d ever stood in front of.

She was docked there on the beach, sand staining her black hull with bright grains. Her entire being was massive, a dark figure leaving a mile long shadow along the ground. Kit thought that in the day it was impossible to miss a ship like this; so grand and so proud among the other dots of carriages on the ocean. She was a vision of beauty and elegance, and Kit could imagine her dancing along the waves just as a beautiful woman would, agile and lovely. All of her sails were unfurled, cleaner than a cloud in the night sky. The imposing wind blew in those sails, making it appear as though she was leaning in close to whisper something that others weren’t to hear. Her gangway was planted in the ground and Kit found that it was getting larger and larger as his party approached.

Ty was still paces ahead of Kit, causing him to stumble as he tried to match his stride. His legs were longer than Kit’s, so the prince was no match for the ground that he could cover in just a single step.

“Stop gaping,” Tiberius said to Kit, tugging him that much harder as they walked up the steep ramp that led to the main deck of the ship. Kit noticed that when he’d spoken those last times, he was never trying to insult anyone with his tone. He simply sounded bored, but not aggravated.

There was a shout from the deck, and a beautiful woman came running down to greet them. She had long ash-blonde hair and a dazzling smile. She wore a dress that had a large tear in the skirt, and the remaining fabric was tied up to be shorter. Kit tried his best to not let his eyes wander as she flew down the gangplank, arms wide and prepped to hug.

“Tiberius! Oliver! You’ve done it,” She exclaimed, only pulling Oliver in for a hug. There was, however, a certain look that she gave to Tiberius that indicated her pride in his actions. He didn’t smile, nodding at her with glowing eyes. “And who have you brought back with you?”

The fact that she seemed so nice made Kit’s blood boil. Did this person have any idea what her crew members did in that hall? She had to have known about the mission, Kit thought. It was imperative that every person on a ship knew the plans and their roles in each. Kit had learned that in his day with the Royal Guard.

Tiberius rolled his head back to look at Kit, who was shamelessly staring at this woman. He was infatuated with her complexion, of course, but he was also trying to get a read on her. He was hoping to find out something about her from her body language and speech patterns, but nothing had surfaced yet. “Introduce yourself,” Tiberius spoke loudly, making certain that Kit heard him. He hesitantly let go of Kit’s makeshift handcuffs, allowing him to step forward.

Kit, as he neared, noticed that her features were of a different place. She didn’t look foreign in the sense that she was from a different country—it was more like she had immigrated from a completely different world. Her nose was long and thin, and her eyes were alarmingly blue and green all at once. She looked almost regal, even in her completely inappropriate attire. Kit swore that she would have been fit for the throne in another life.

“Christopher Herondale is the name one might know me by, but what I prefer to be called is Kit Rook.” He said this as quietly as he could, voice full of contempt. This woman might’ve been lovely, but Kit would not be distracted by those things. He was angry, livid that he’d had to watch his father die and that he’d been taken from his home.

“Alessa,” Oliver said from his place behind Tiberius, “We’ll be in the high quarters. Do what must be done before he comes aboard. Take him below deck and, for god’s sake, get him something else to wear,” he said, cringing at Kit’s clothes.

Tiberius lifted his chin, looking around Kit’s body down the bridge of his nose, but not in a way that made Kit feel belittled. “And,” he turned to Alessa, “when you are done here, tell Miach that we’ll be weighing anchor as soon as this one is accommodated for.” He started away before she had the chance to nod, Oliver in tow. They stalked off together, their black and brown silhouettes disappearing somewhere along the way.

Kit took a sharp breath and tried to stand taller, more dignified in his embarrassing position. What Oliver said had not offended him as much as it had embarrassed him, and Tiberius’ lack of accounting his presence made it kind of worse. He knew that he looked like a fool, dressed like a woman who worked at a brothel (at least, this was what he thought they wore).

The woman’s lips curled slightly, and Kit almost scowled. She seemed calm and her voice—what he’d heard of it—was even and sweet. But the expression she was making right then seemed more worried than anything else. Alessa looked like she was giving her pity to Kit, which was something he knew he was too proud to accept.

“They must have done horrible things to you. I can’t bear to think about it, honestly,” she breathed deep and looked at Kit with her large eyes, and they seemed glossier than before.

“I apologize—I hate capturing people. It is unfair to rip them from their happy lives to go somewhere else, somewhere they will be treated poorly by their captors. I know how that feels, so I—” Alessa took a purposeful step forward, and Kit’s entire being was shaken with her grief, “—I will be doing everything in my power to treat you kindly, even if my crew doesn’t approve.”

She looked at him with some sort of power in her gaze that brought Kit to tears almost immediately. He was stunned at the first tear to roll down his cheek, a silent acceptance of his situation and the help he was being offered. There was not a sound but the whistling wind as Alessa came closer and, pulling a knife from a little belt at her sides, split Kit’s bonds.

He looked at his hands, turned them over and over to examine every detail. They were the hands of a changed man, though he didn’t see that right then. Those hands were white and small, thick in the junctions of his fingers that stretched into a domed structure that could point out over the sea to indicate direction, or jab at someone to place blame, or press to someone’s face to bring them closer in hopes of planting a kiss on them. Kit truly did not know the possibilities he had after he had been physically and mentally freed from those ‘chains.’

Kit blinked at her, surprised that she trusted him enough to not run away. Or, maybe she wanted him to run, he had no idea. But what he knew of all too well was the feeling of his heart shaking with emotion, and his chest convulsing as he tried to quietly cry.

Alessa did the strangest thing then. She opened her arms and stepped forward. Alessa scooped Kit’s shivering form as close to her as she could get him. He did not deny her, pressing his head into her shoulder. She was taller than him, and presumably older, though her face in the moonlight looked forever young. Looking at her and feeling her strong hold around him was almost too much to bear for Kit, who found that he could not stop weeping at the strange empty feeling in his chest. Alessa only strengthened her embrace, but never so much so that it hurt Kit.

 It was odd, crying to someone he didn’t know, but it wasn’t a bad feeling to let it all go through his tears. And she didn’t seem to be judging him for crying. With the way she made her pitch, it was almost like she encouraged it. He only seemed to cry harder as Alessa moved a hand to his head, stroking his hair and shushing him accordingly.

“Let it all leave you now,” Alessa whispered. “Do not let them see you cry,” her mouth was turned toward his ear as she spoke, “they will not hesitate to hurt you if you show any weakness.” Though the thought didn’t help him calm down, he knew that Alessa was only being honest with him. He wondered if she spoke from experience. Had these people hurt her? And would they truly hurt him? Kit decided to—until he knew more—trust Alessa and let her comfort him. It wouldn’t be terrible to have a friend in this godforsaken place, especially one that was this good at giving hugs.

Alessa allowed Kit to cling to her until he felt a little more comfortable, before finally leading him to the place where he would spend the rest of his life.

The sleeping quarters weren’t disgusting like Kit thought they would be, aside from the curdling smell of mildew. He took to looking around the place, rather than focusing on that stench. There were six beds lined up on one wall, in columns of two. The walls, of course, were bare and wet.

The room was lit by a single candle, placed on a crate in the center of the space. Seated on the floor by that crate was a man that Kit could only describe as intimidating. He was thumbing through the pages of a book, not looking up as Alessa and the newly captured entered.

“Alessa, you’ve returned.” He grinned at her, faltering when his gaze moved to Kit. His eyes, Kit noticed, were also that crazy combination of green and blue. He shared that same blonde hair as the woman he mentioned. Though, he seemed to be a lot taller and broader than her. “And who might this be?” He raised a thick eyebrow and looked quizzically at Alessa after closing his book.

Kit tried to brace himself for another introduction, but his well of tears was all dry after the first two he’d had to deal with that night. He wasn’t prepared, however, for the nonchalant way that this new face would accept his presence.

“The man you see here is Kit Rook, of the very land we stand on.” Alessa spared no smile when she gently nudged Kit forward, making him fall to his knees to be at—a little below—eye level with this man. Kit’s knees hit the floor and he knew that would add to the myriad of injuries he’d received that day. He looked at Kit curiously, before displaying a grin of his own.

“He will fit in well, though I doubt the captain will be able to scold him like he does the rest of us. He looks much too lovely to stay angry at.” The man said, and Kit could feel his face beginning to redden. He wasn’t looking at Kit right then, though. Dragging his fingers on the surface of the book in his hands, he watched each move intently.

“The captain is a man who values equality,” Alessa said, sending an exasperated look to the man, who didn’t look sorry. “So there shouldn’t be much of a problem with favoritism, Miach.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder, tying it into one of the most precise braids that Kit had ever seen.

“Speaking of the captain, we should be getting above, since we’ll be sailing tonight.” She said this in a softer voice, as if afraid of the impact of the words. The man groaned in response, standing reluctantly to leave his book on the crate he’d been sitting beside.

It wasn’t until then that Kit noticed just how tall Miach was. His body looked like a tree, wide and grand in height. He wasn’t large in the sense that he was heavy, but he was well-built. He stared right past Kit, and at Alessa with those eyes of his.

Kit was still on the floor when he was addressed again. He turned to face the deep voice, catching sight of Miach standing next to Alessa. “Don’t bother coming up with us. Tiberius would rather you begin your training when the sun is out. It’s not simple to learn in the dark,” Miach said, “pick a bed and settle for the night, and we’ll get you up just before sunrise tomorrow.” Though Kit dreaded the idea of waking up that early, he knew it would not be wise to complain, especially in his current situation.

Alessa, standing at the heavy wooden door, piped in as well, “The rest of the crew will be horribly upset if you decide to wander, so please do not leave the cabin.” The message in her words sounded sinister, but her expression looked nothing but kind.

As if she were suddenly remembering something, she made her way over to Kit, who had just barely turned around to watch her do so.

There was a gesture that she made with her hand—a strange flick of her wrist that Kit could not be bothered to comprehend—that inspired Miach to exit the room, leaving Kit alone with her once more. There was a moment of silence before she knelt in front of him, stare focused into the depths of his soul.

“This will be difficult for you,” she admitted.”It was for me, too. So don’t worry if you make mistakes. I will be there to help you.” Kit, still dazed from the fear of the consequences of leaving the cabin, only nodded at her.

He wanted to ask where she had come from before this, since it was apparent that she hadn’t been recruited of her own will. He wanted to know what she’d gone through to make her so protective of him after they’d just met. But Kit knew that she had somewhere to be, so he would keep those questions locked away in his mind until the time was right.

“Exactly what sort of events will be taking place next sunrise?” He asked this almost uselessly, half-hoping that she knew the answer. Even though he had a small sense of concern for what was planned, he was still somewhat complacent about what was to come. Kit was still convinced that his head would be on the chopping block sometime soon.

Alessa looked down at the floorboards, hesitant and dithery. Her eyes transposed much like the waves that Kit could nearly feel at the stern of the ship, just beneath their place on the ground. “That is not for me to tell, since the captain can change his mind faster than any I know. His plans are never set in stone, unless they mean a lot to him.” She said. Kit wondered if the plan to get him had to have been revised or completely scrapped a few times before it was at the stage where it was most likely to succeed. “But I can assure you that it probably won’t be anything too difficult, provided you’re compliant. Tiberius doesn’t ask for much—put in an effort and you should be fine.”

Just before Kit was about to ask her more about the captain, Alessa stood on her feet, grabbing the candlestick from the crate as she did so. It was almost as soon as she’d started her conversation with him that it had ended. She paced to the door, and it looked heavier under her hands than before, as if she were afraid of leaving Kit alone. He would not be surprised to find that this was the case, nor would he blame her for her fear.

“I suppose I should say something uplifting, so on behalf of my captain and crew, welcome aboard, Kit,” were the last words spoken by Alessa before she left the room, candle in hand. This left Kit in complete darkness, to hopefully let him be rocked to sleep by the waves.

But he simply could not close his eyes. He tossed and turned in the bed that he’d chosen (first in the bottom row, closest to the butt of the ship), completely awake. Certainly, no one would be able to sleep peacefully in this sort of situation, he thought. He tried to distract himself by tangling his limbs in the sheet that didn’t do any good in protecting him from the slight chill of the night; he was still in his clothes from earlier—Alessa had seemingly forgotten to direct him in the task of changing into something more presentable, but he supposed that he would worry about that in the morning. He hoped that the captain wouldn’t get onto him for it.

Ah yes, the captain. He was odd to Kit in a way that he’d never thought a person could be. He was presumed to be smart, but he didn’t seem to acknowledge these claims like any other self-centered man in authority would. Instead, he seemed slightly annoyed when being praised earlier by Alessa, Kit had caught that strange look on his face. It looked practiced, the pursed lips and almost blank stare that conveyed none of his emotions.

There was a sick feeling in his stomach, and it felt like a warning of some sort about this man. Kit decided that he would try to clear his head a bit with a walk around the quarters he was staying in. He knew that he had to be a victim of memorizing these black wooden walls at some point, so why not start early?

It was even more boring to pace the floor than it was to lay in bed, and twice as exhausting (even though the task took no effort, Kit was still tired). He found that his feet were like lead, heavy and borne into the spots in which they stepped.

He kept looking at the door, almost hoping that it would open. Kit didn’t want anyone coming in, but he wanted the door to swing open so that he would have an excuse to leave and explore. He had to admit that he was curious about this ship that he was on. And despite Alessa telling him to stay put, that the consequences would be dire if he were to leave, he still wanted to go. What did he have to lose, anyway?

Even though he’d made his decision on the matter, Kit still hesitated in his ministrations with the door. While it was enough of a challenge to get it open (he didn’t know that he had to push instead of pull), it was exponentially harder to open it without the creaky hinges alerting the crew of his position. Once outside, he would need to decide where he was going to look first. He wanted to see and assess the places that could provide him a quick escape. Kit knew that making routes for that could save his life, so it was a wise idea for him to plan these things.

Immediately after he exited, there was a lurch to the entire ship. He felt the waves carrying them out of port, rocking them on their course to a place that Kit did not know. He approached the side of the vessel, touching the sculpted wood with something of admiration in his fluttering fingers.

The darkness of the evening was all he knew. The wind was cold and unforgiving, harsh on his previously warm skin. Kit leaned against the guardrail and looked out over the ocean. She was black as the night sky, enveloping the ship in a tight hug. He found this comforting and familiar, knowing the feeling of the waves jostling his stance.

Kit reveled in the silence that he stood in, knowing that it might not last long. There were so many things that might happen to him, and he was afraid of every single one.

“It was smart of you to leave, but at what cost?” A low voice sounded behind him, trim and precise. Kit hurriedly turned around, having to look up after the fact to accommodate the person’s height. He was staring into the moving eyes of this ship’s captain, undisclosed and almost rudely. Tiberius wasn’t wearing his hat now, and his coat was notably absent, which left his white dress shirt to glow in the moonlight. His gaze was a cold one, and his eyes raked over Kit’s body with a sense of absolute regality; Kit felt suddenly naked in what he was wearing, knowing that whatever consequence for not obtaining something else to wear would be immediate.

He tried to keep himself calm, but his heart was thumping faster than all hell. Kit traced the shapes of his teeth with his tongue, at a complete loss over what to say. Luckily, he didn’t have to think of anything, since the captain interjected again, “you’ve been waiting for something like this, so why would you go back?”

Kit quirked an eyebrow. What did he mean by that? Kit always thought that he kept his love of boats and the ocean a secret, though recently he’d been more open about going to sit by the sea, so it was possible that the word might have spread, but this far? He doubted that. “I do not understand,” he tried, playing dumb.

Tiberius shook his head. His eyes weren’t on him for more than a second, but that fraction of time truly made Kit intimidated. He was beginning to see why he was captain, and not one of the other crew members. “Pretending will only make you seem foolish… or could I have been wrong?” He began to mumble, a thin hand pressed to his mouth. Kit stood, lips pressed together in confusion. He was leaning back against the guardrail, seeing as the man stood a bit too close for him to be comfortable. Tiberius looked at him once more, as if getting a read on him. His lip curled slightly. “You look ridiculous.”

Kit wondered if the people he was around ever had this much trouble communicating with him. Surely, there had to be times when he wasn’t this straightforward. He seemed to get right to the point with every word he spoke instead of beating around the bush like any other person would do. And he didn’t seem too afraid of hurting Kit’s feelings, either. “This is a custom I had not known before tonight,” he said.

“Such a custom, to emasculate the eligible royals.” For once, Kit agreed.

There was a long silence. It wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable. The wind blew and mussed up Kit’s curls, but he didn’t mind. Though he tried not to look at the captain, his silvery gaze just drew Kit in. He knew that there should have been a part of him that was angry, but he also knew that he would be punished if he were to act in that way.

“You might be wondering why I came here and collected you,” Tiberius said, moving to Kit’s side. He too leaned over the guardrail, and he breathed deeply, “am I right?”

Kit nodded just as Tiberius began speaking, “I need you,” he said simply. He wasn’t being facetious or anything like that, and the thoughtful prose he gave to his words left Kit in some sort of vertigo of the attention he gave to him.

Kit blinked. He opened his mouth, but his fountain of sweet words was dry. He only felt the biting sarcasm that ate away at his tongue itching to fly in the open air, to cut into someone’s heart and leave a gaping hole. He knew better than to release it, so he made the decision to close his mouth and avoid responding.

“And now that I have you, everything will be that much easier,” Tiberius sighed, as if admitting that made all of his breath leave him. Kit saw his shoulders roll forward and he seemed to relax. His downy hair shimmered and shifted as the wind caressed it with a gentle kiss; his eyes stared straight ahead, over where the horizon was torn from the black paint of the sea.

“What do you mean?”

He looked tired in a way that Kit hadn’t known was possible. There weren’t any purple marks under his eyes and he stood mostly straight, but the way he spoke then with such a drawl clued Kit into his lack of rest. And what was worse was that that deprivation was conjured while Tiberius was searching for him , of all people. He could have at least used that energy to look for someone useful, Kit thought. Frankly, Kit had the conception that he would be of no help to Tiberius, and it would soon be proven true.

“I have a plan, though it’s not completely perfect yet, I think it will work.” He spoke softer than before, talking more to himself than to Kit.

He wasn’t the same as earlier, all hot breathing and wandering hands. Now, he was quiet and calm, seemingly still. Though, if Kit looked close enough he saw that Tiberius’ hands were running up and down the sides of the wooden railing. Those hands were long, and thin; they were perfect for holding a pen or wrapped in the fingers of another. His fingernails were blunt but still looked healthy and frankly, a little feminine--narrow and rounded at the tips. Tiberius could probably break a bit of someone’s skin with just his nails if he tried hard enough.

Kit, more than anything, wanted to ask what his plan was. He wanted to know why Tiberius ‘needed’ him so. But he was not sure of how he would go about asking, seeing as this man had the authority to kill him with just a snap of his slender fingers.

“That plan—if you do not mind my asking, what exactly does that plan entail?” Kit inquired, suddenly finding his fingertips a very hard surface that required all of his attention. The question was a risk, his curiosity a risk. Even his standing here next to Tiberius was a risk that was greater than he’d ever known.

And yet, he felt calmer than ever before.

Tiberius blinked slowly, denying Kit the opportunity to know of his plot and scheme. “I can’t trust you.” It was a valid answer, sure, but it didn’t make Kit feel any better to know that he could not be trusted.

“I do not blame you. I would not trust myself either.”

Kit felt his face heat and his heart speed up against his will as Tiberius turned to face him. He had this look on his face that screamed some sort of confusion that was beyond Kit’s realm of thought. “I’m sure that many trust you, but my situation is compromising,” he never looked at Kit when he spoke, but the other could not help but feel eyes peering all over his body.

“You planned to run away, and you still could. So if I told you my plan, you could tell someone who could stop me.” His lips curled into a frown, a pout you’d only see on a child.

Kit pursed his lips. That was also true. He was just about to open his mouth when Ty seemed to notice something. His features twisted in confusion, speaking yet again.

“What is that?” Ty’s voice had no venom in it. He was calm as ever, pointing with his eyes at Kit’s wrist.

On it there was a sparkle—a glitter foreign yet familiar. Ty recognized the shape and the image of the bird carved into gold. It was a Herondale ring. He knew this because there had been a point in his life where he knew every important family crest in the area, just pointless trivia to most, but an interesting study to him. It was fascinating to know what each symbol meant and how to tie that into the subject’s personality. Though, he didn’t know enough about Kit to decipher where exactly the egotistical nature of the Herondales fit in his character. “You really are a royal, if you carry their memory so dearly, even though they kept you from this.”

Kit tried not to stare, he really did, but he really couldn’t help himself. If Kit didn’t know better he would’ve assumed that Ty was pretentious, with his seemingly over-the-top clothing and demeanor. Though, Kit was quickly realizing that he knew next to nothing about pirate culture, so he wasn’t right to assume.

Ty was an imposing figure, taller and broader than the most impressive ocean waves. If he were to be royalty just as he rightfully accused Kit to be, he thought that the pirate king would be just that: a king. He had that sort of intimidating air about him, but instead of being powerful by strength (that of his Kit could not denounce for a moment), he overshadowed the competition with his frighteningly quick mind. He was taciturn and sometimes blunt to the point of unintentional rudeness, but it wasn’t because he was emotionally distant. He was the type of person who valued fact over feeling, because it was easier for him to understand. Kit couldn’t say he understood Ty’s reasons for that, but he knew it was something to be respected, considering his place of power.

“It is my family ring, sir.” His best efforts were placed in speaking clearly, despite his nerves bundling inside of him like a tightly wound ball of yarn. “It was a gift, welcoming me into the family of a different line of Herondales.”

He saw Ty’s lips form a tight line at the word ‘family.’ It was apparent to Kit that this was important, so he decided to save that mental image for later interrogation, if the case was warranted.

The air between them was salted and silent before Tiberius spoke again, clearly agitated about something.

“Go back to the barracks,” he said, not asking any more questions. Kit was slightly relieved, but still curious as to why he stopped. As much as he refused to admit it, he would be fine with telling Ty more about himself and his lineage, but that did not seem to be what Ty wanted to hear.

However, he thought that he would never be in that close of a relationship with the estranged Tiberius. There was that barrier between them that made it hard to communicate about anything. Although, Kit didn’t expect Ty to talk to him besides the bark of order after order, so it was nice to know they at least had that.

But, there was still tomorrow, and Kit heard that he could be capricious.

 

“Manuel!” A supervisor shouted, beckoning him into the private quarters of King Jonathan Herondale, being cleaned out by this staff.  The servants there were going through the King’s things to see if anything would be staying in the castle after his demise. It wasn’t like he would be angry, since he wouldn’t be able to know.

It had been a little more than three days since he had died. In normal circumstances, his empty position would be filled by his heir, but his only one had been kidnapped and probably killed by two pirates that invaded on the night of his suitor ball.

Said man stilled in his place outside the room. He was only supposed to be standing in for a higher guard that was on break, and hadn’t expected to actually enter. He peeked his head around the doorjamb. “Yes?”

What he saw was a man of smaller stature standing over the king’s desk, his arms planted on either side of a stack of papers about the size of one section of Manuel’s littlest finger. “Get these letters to the king’s advisor. Do not read a single one, or it will be your life.”

Manuel was confused, and for good reason. He was not a page of any kind, and he would never to aspire to be one. It wasn’t as if he looked down on them, he just found the position to be overly serving, which was something that his pride would inhibit him from being. They did the ‘dirty’ work for the royals, of delivering parcels and keeping the most vital secrets to themselves. They were used to that consequence—the fear of death was one that had rolled off their shoulders many times—while Manuel was not.

He stepped forward, inside of the chambers of the late king. It seemed as if this one room held a completely different atmosphere than the rest of the castle. It wasn’t dark or brooding, but an open space that used to house a person (the highest ranking person on the entire island). It was that particular brand of empty that made his stomach lurch as he entered.

Manuel—instead of being handed the entire stack of letters—was handed a sheet of paper, instructed to bring it to the advisor of the late king, a maiden by the name of Hyacinth. She was said to be a witch, but only fools believed in such things.

After retrieving the letter, Manuel was on his way. His hands were sweating and he found that this made the letter a little damp. He didn’t want to put the parchment in into his pockets, though, in fear that it would crease.

He walked quickly throughout the halls of the palace, the light of midday shining on him through every window. There was greenery to behold outside each one, tempting Manuel to just run away from his duties and read what the letter had to tell him. However, if he were to do this, the king would surely have his head.

No, Manuel thought. The king was dead. And so was the prince, his only successor. It was hard to accept that when he’d had a run-in with the prince just the other day.

It had been a heated summer day on which Manuel bumped into Prince Christopher. They had both been turning a corner too fast, resulting in a collision that brought them both to the carpeted floor.

Of course, the prince had been the first to rise, seeing as several servants in the area came to his aid. He paid them no mind, brushing dirt from the eye-catching white cape that hung at his shoulders as he approached Manuel, who hadn’t come to his senses after the fall. He’d just made the future king fall and surely there was some law against that? He didn’t want any trouble, really, but something told him that his careless actions would bring him much more than that.

Christopher held out his hand to the servant on the ground, offering to help him up. Manuel just stared at his smooth fingers, whose nails were embellished with perfect cuticles. He felt his eyes going wide at the mere thought of accepting that hand, and shook his head profusely. “I couldn’t…” he’d said, covering his mouth immediately after. He hadn’t addressed him in the proper manner, and adding that to his past crime would give him an unofficial death sentence.

The prince had simply stared at him before his thin lips parted to make way for a gentle chuckle. “Then it is fortunate that I did not ask, is it not?”

His voice had been teasing enough, and he was grinning, but Manuel felt threatened by the words he chose. He tentatively grabbed his superior’s hand, using as little of his help as possible to stand on his feet again.

“Be on your way,” Christopher said as one last hurrah before walking quickly past Manuel, leaving him to be confused and a bit afraid.

Manuel, being so lost in thought about past events, almost missed the door to Hyacinth’s quarters. They were guarded by a large man who seemed indifferent about Manuel and his letter, and let him through without an exchange of words.

As soon as he entered, a feeling of anxiety swept over his entire body. The only source of light came from the farthest corner from the door, where Hyacinth was seated, writing endlessly on dozens of sheets of paper. A single candle lit her desk, which was swamped by books, envelopes and papers. She seemed to be looking for something. She was so absorbed in her work that she didn’t hear anyone come in.

“Miss Hyacinth,” Manuel spoke out into the air, hoping to catch her attention, “A letter has been found in the king’s chambers, and the chief of staff has requested that you read it.”

The woman, before he could even finish speaking, whipped around to stare Manuel down. Her gaze tore his skin from his bone, leaving him completely barren in her skeptical glare. “Bring it forth. It had better be of worth—to have it delivered by not even a page.”

Manuel stepped forward hastily, dropping the letter into her waiting hand. It had been stained by ink, and rough where he accidentally touched. He pulled his hand away as quickly as he could as Hyacinth muttered to herself. He saw her eyes scanning each line of the letter, widening just a bit more with every time they flicked to the beginning of the next line.

Whatever was in that letter, it truly seemed to catch her attention.

He was about to leave, to return to his duties, when Hyacinth held her hand up. She didn’t even look up from the letter, keeping him there with the image of her palm to kep him company. Manuel had no idea why she would keep him there, but stayed nonetheless.

Manuel took this chance to look around the room. While it was dark, he could still see the majority of the items that surrounded him. There were bookshelves that stretched from floor to ceiling on one wall, and a strategic map of all of the islands on another. It was highlighted in red ink where they were and where their enemies were.

Directly north from Ardea was a little island called Viribus . Manuel vaguely remembered that the late king had a considerable distaste for their king, Julian Blackthorn, resulting from the fact that he began ruling when he was only twelve, his parents having been killed by the invading armies of the country that they resided in the coast of, Faerie.

Now, Faerie tended to mind its own business, or so it seemed. Their king, the Unseelie King (no one knew his name, since that country had an affinity for that level of personal relation), was someone who stayed out of people’s business unless being in it would benefit him. The late king of Viribus had been trying to establish a trade and military bond with Faerie (which never happens, since the Fair people are somewhat reclusive), and he’d had relations with a high-ranking woman of their country in the past, which stirred the Unseelie King’s boiling pot. He had him and his wife killed, and the two children born of the Fair woman taken back to their country, leaving only Julian to maintain the peace.

Manuel felt pretty bad for him, but then again, all of the royals seemed to have a tough life. Like his prince, for example, who had just been kidnapped and killed, but not before seeing his own father killed in front of him. And then there was Emma Carstairs of fallen kingdom Gladio (who wasn't a royal, but she did serve one), whose father died in a war long ago, and her mother shot herself in the head because of it. And of course, there was the future queen of Pietas , who-

When Hyacinth was finished reading, she set the paper on her desk. The sound brought Manuel back from his realm of the past, making him fully aware of the slightly started look on her face. It was quickly replaced with a glare in his direction accompanying the words:

“Have my secretary address a letter to King Horace Dearborn of Pudicus . It has been long since we’ve spoken."

Chapter Text

Julian Blackthorn sat in his chambers, only knowing the sound of turning pages from behind him. His youngest brother, Octavian was seated on the floor in his room, reading a book that he’d picked off the shelf. It was of old poetry that he would read aloud occasionally, trying to comprehend the complex metaphors and word choice. Julian liked to listen in on his sibling, pride swelling in his heart as he heard each word spill from his mouth.

But in that moment, his brother was not reading from the book, but instead he decided to ask Julian a question that he knew would stir up controversy.

“Did you hear about the kidnapping of that Ardean prince just south?” Octavian asked, not looking up from his book. He was twelve years of age, and frighteningly informed. “Apparently, he is around the same age as Ty and Livvy. Maybe whoever got him made them leave too?”

Julian froze in his seat, quill poised and ready to write a response to his penpal, Cristina Rosales of Pietas , whom he would be marrying at some point in the near future. He could feel his brother’s curiosity boring holes into his back.

“No one knows for certain, Tav,” he said simply, not wanting to enter this subject.

“You do.”

This topic had been a monster to deal with—a real thorn in Julian’s side. Drusilla and Octavian’s never-ending thirst for knowledge about their four missing siblings (and the circumstances of their disappearances) drew Julian to insanity on the best of days, more so on days like these, where no other conversation was made. They already knew the situation of Mark and Helen, but Ty and Livvy were much more of a mystery.

“It’s—”Julian didn’t dare turn around, in fear that Tavvy’s big eyes would make him betray his morals exactly how he knew they would—“It’s not important right now.”

Octavian was quiet for a moment, locked in introspective thought that Julian wished he had the key to. “Just, please, just tell me about when they left—everything you’re willing to say.”

Julian contemplated his options:

He could tell Octavian everything. It was what he wanted to do the most. Julian wanted him to know the story of his siblings, and what drove them to leave. But this option had the worst possible outcome. Assuming he knew them well (which he did), they would jump at the chance to sneak out after learning where Ty and Livvy had gone. They would get themselves killed before they even saw their other siblings again.

And to avoid that outcome, he could resort to an old tactic of his. He could lie. But if he were to be caught in that lie, his remaining family would never trust him again. They would hate him for lying to them, so he could never do something like that.

Or, he could ignore his brother’s question, which he would never do under any circumstance. That should not even be an option.

When Julian came back to his senses, Tavvy was standing next to him, a little hand on his forearm, which was resting on the table. The height of a seated Julian was the same as that of a standing Octavian, and they were almost eye-to-eye.

“They mean a lot to me, too. I hope you know that,” he said, looking down at the floor. His black-brown eyelashes feathered out over his freckled cheekbones, looking darker than normal. Julian could hear the minor break in his voice that ripped his heart in half. “So, whenever you are ready, you can tell me.” He half-squeezed Julian’s arm in defeat before finding a new seat at the foot of his desk.

So Julian told him. He told Tavvy of the empty beds that he confronted, the covers thrown hastily on the floor and sheets ruffled from rapid movement. The clothes gone from wardrobes, mostly Ty’s clothes had been removed, save a nightgown or two for Livia. He told him of the scraps of food that had been taken from the kitchen, folded inside a pair of missing tablecloths. And the absent sword and gun from the weapon’s ward—the tightly-wound rope cords tied to the hooks just inside Tiberius’ bedroom window, hanging outwards to brush the large stone bricks outside.

His brother listened, a mildly somber expression painting his features. He reminded Julian of such a figure he would paint, someone morosely looking off into the distance, lost in endless depressing thought.

He looked fragile and boyish, too young to be worried about these sorts of things. Julian remembered when he was small enough to be entirely supported by just one of his arms, and seeing him acting so adult (and him being this distraught about this situation, like an adult would be) made him hurt deep inside his heart. It was a bud, the foliage of pain rising to the surface of his heart like lava bubbling from a volcano.

The first round of children taken from them he had been too young to understand, but when Tiberius and Livia departed, he had a brief knowledge of what was happening.

Though, not one of his family or outside knew exactly why they left, except for Julian.

Tiberius had written him a brief note, and left it on his desk amidst the beginnings of letters and the proposals for marriage that were to be planned and conducted. It looked as if it was meant to be hidden, but Tiberius just didn’t have the time. With the state in which he left his room, Julian inferenced this to be the case.

Julian remembered seeing that note. He remembered the way that the note had been folded and unfolded—Ty was prone to fidget like that. He remembered reading it the first time, the morning after they snuck out, the panic rising in his heart and stomach as he took in each word.

 

Jules,

 

Livvy and I are going to Faerie to get Mark and Helen back. We should return within a few weeks or so.

 

Don’t look for us.

 

-Ty.

 

The message had been just as concise as its messenger, never flowering his concrete words.

Of course, Julian had immediately sent out search parties on every conceivable route to Faerie, somehow already knowing that Tiberius—the tactician he was—had already mapped out a path that none were to follow, due to blights along the way or what have you.

They came with no news to bear on the twins’ whereabouts, and Julian was not surprised. He decided to hope his hardest that they would come to their senses and return, since he was in a position where he could not leave the kingdom for long enough to hold a proper search, though he still tried to at every opportunity.

That was a little more than six years ago.

He had not heard so much as a syllable of Tiberius and Livia Blackthorn’s names from someone other than his siblings. Julian had figured that this was because the people outside of his family did not want to remind him of his ‘loss’.

He knew they were not dead, though he could only hope that they were doing alright.

“I miss them,” Octavian did not look up from his book as he said this, and Julian knew that it was because he was crying. He heard it in his voice; the heart-wrenching whimper he let out made Julian want to attack him with hugs.

Julian was not a man. He was not a man because he could already feel tears streaming down his face. He still sat, stunned at the words spoken to him. Octavian said nothing more, just let Julian drown in his silence, quill laid upon his desk and leaving a puddling ink stain on his paper.

 

* * *

 

Tiberius paced his quarters, trying desperately to make sense of his frantic thoughts. His leaden boots made the wooden floor creak relentlessly, only making the haze in his head thicker. He had just spoken to his newest crew member (Kit Rook, as he preferred to be called), and the conversation had not gone so well. It wasn’t that he was dwelling over anything that had been said, but the thing that he was worried about was the possibility of this captive trying to escape during the night.

The glitter in his vibrant blue eyes made Ty think that he would not be afraid to try that—that he was a man with nothing to lose. While that might have been right in his case, Ty had a lot to lose. But Kit had already lost so much, at Ty’s hand, no less.

Tiberius tried not to think back to the ballroom, about what he had done to Kit’s father. He knew what it was like to lose a parent, especially when that parent was killed right in front of you, and it was never a time when smiles were shared. He already regretted his decision, but what had to be done had to be done.

Though, he stilled mulled over that, feeling all too sorry for this prisoner of his. There was a certain aching in his heart when he saw the look on that boy’s face after what he’d done. His features were spun in a web of regret and anger, swirling into a depression he had not soon gotten over. If Ty wasn’t observing closely, he would think that Kit was completely over his father’s passing already.

He knew that the road to trust was a long one, considering his actions, but if his plan was to be followed as he wanted there had to be a way to make that happen.

His plan was something he was proud of, indeed. And its first phase had already been complete. Obtaining Kit was the first phase.

Kit had been around the royals a lot longer than Ty had (not so, they were the same age, with Tiberius actually being a bit older), so he knew people and had connections that Ty did not have after his time away from Viribus.

And he had been missed, but that didn’t matter to him.

Ty received the flash of a memory—Octavian had been in Ty’s chambers, which was a rarity considering their relationship was not a very close one. He always regretted that he wasn’t closer to his other siblings, but he just didn’t know how to relate to them.

Anyways, Tavvy had been with him. Ty remembered the smaller child being seated in his lap as he read him excerpts from some of his favorite books. Tavvy never quite understood what all of the words meant, but he seemed to enjoy the stories anyway.

“We’re almost done with this book, so I have to get another,” he had said, setting his brother on the bed beside him. As he got up to leave, he heard a tiny whimper from behind him. “I’ll be back,” he didn’t turn around.

He had told the guard stationed outside to make certain that there had been no crying heard, and to send a nurse in, if that were the case. Octavian was not sensitive, but he had been having nightmares since after their father and mother died, and it was hard to get him to eat sometimes. But then, he had seemed fine enough, if not a little clingy.

When Ty had returned, Tavvy hugged his leg fiercely. It was not unwelcome, but it surprised him nonetheless.

“You were gone forever,” he had whined. He snuggled his head in Ty’s knee, and his hold on him tightened.

“I was only gone for a minute,” Ty had said. He felt a rapid warmth spread through his body, and straight to his heart. It was evident that his brother had missed him, even if he was not gone for long. He rubbed Tavvy’s back with one hand, trying to be gentle despite the unpleasant feeling he received when doing so. HIs fingertips were alight with that prickly sensation that he got when touching something too lightly.

Ty held memories like that one close to his heart. He knew that forgetting domestic things like that would make him forget the love that was specific to his siblings.

In a fit of need, he approached his desk. Laying there were many papers that he had sorted through dozens of times. Counts of supplies and things of the like. He had no clue where his quartermaster had gotten the parchment to write these on, but here they were anyway.

Tiberius sorted the papers in a manner that only he saw fit, leaving a clean space for him to think. He leaned over his desk, looking out of a tiny window that let him see the night sky.

Just standing there, he could feel the moon on his skin. It was a warmth that he knew and cherished—familiar to him. There weren’t many clouds out tonight, which made his task so much easier. 

There in the sky, five stars were planted, and he gave each one a name.

 

Mark.

 

Helen.

 

Julian.

 

Drusilla.

 

Octavian.

 

It was not often that his heart burned the way that it was right then. He wasn’t just sad, or just missing his family. It was like he was missing a part of himself without them.

If missing them could hurt this bad, he could only imagine what it would be like to lose the one closest to him.

“Stargazing?” A voice called out from behind him. He did not move besides relaxing back into his chair.

“I didn’t hear you come in,” he said, though his eyes were still fixed on the stars.

There was a laugh that sounded out. It was clear and high-pitched, giving him a clue as to who this voice was, as if he didn’t know from the moment she spoke. “You know well that I’m allowed in here whenever I need anything, captain .”

He smiled, still not moving. It was so calming to hear her after such a long day of restless tension. “What did you need?”

“A change of clothes. I can borrow from you, right? I promise to put it back when I’m done.”

“Make sure to return it, and it is all yours, Livvy.”

There was a rustling, the shuffle of various materials, and suddenly Livia was behind him. She was wearing a long nightgown, reduced to times when they were alone together. It was a pearly white and it almost touched the floor. There were few garnishes that made it stand out, but it definitely stood out on her tanned skin. Her long brown hair had been unfastened from its confines, and it was flowering out over her shoulders, and his as well. It smelled like the salty sea.

He felt her lean arms drape over his neck, and he gladly accepted her hug. He brought his hands to her arms, relishing the rare feeling. At most points, he would not accept such affections, but Livia was the one person who would always be able to touch him.

“He will be difficult to handle. Are you up to the challenge?” Ty knew that she was talking about Kit. She was correct.

Ty sighed as she let go of him. There was that same warmth again, melting his heart to a point of evaporation. He felt a bit more at ease, but still his nerves jumped at every feeling. He wasn’t panicking just yet, but if these sensations continued, he would shut down entirely.

“I can’t disagree,” he said, before launching into his plan, “I want you to help tutor him instead of Alessa and Miach. If he warms up to more of us, he’ll be more willing to stand alongside all of us if things don’t go as planned.”

“You’re the boss,” she spoke softly as she wandered the room, falling into a pace of her own.

He did not watch her, since it was of no interest to him to see her walking around. He instead chose to focus on touching the quill that was seated next to an unopened bottle of black ink on his desk. Tiberius favored the texture of the goose feather, rubbing its barb between his fingers. He mostly did this because of the need to be moving his hands (one that most found odd or unsightly), but he did like the way that the feather felt.

Tiberius heard his sister get in her bed, on the opposite side of the room as his. Of course, they would sleep in the same room. It always felt like they were too far when in separate rooms back home.

Yes, back home they were almost separable, but out here there would be no splitting them up. Ty prided himself on this, this plan and this mission. Though he was worried that it would not all go as he hoped, there would be no backing down on his part.

Making plans and deducing things were his strongest suits, and what he prefered to do. He loved seeing a strategy of his play off without a fault—it was one of the greatest satisfactions he could ever receive.

Ty looked at his desk once more, taking everything in. There was a candle lit on the left hand side, lighting a cup with a few pieces of dried lavender inside. There were also a lot of papers on his desk, but he decided to leave those be, seeing as he’d already looked over them. And, of course, there was the quill that he had since returned to the surface. His eyes kept wandering back to the cup, and a sort of fondness filled him, mixed with worry.

That lavender strangely reminded him of his brother, Julian, who he assumed was the most shaken by his and Livia’s disappearance. Julian had always cared for his siblings more than anything else in the world, and Tiberius knew that leaving would fuel him with an intense sense of searching them out, but that was something that Ty could not allow.

The reason that this flower brought him memories of his older brother was because Julian had been an amazing artist in his day, from what Tiberius could remember. This same sort of color the flower held was one that often made an appearance in his paintings. He was in his studio at every free moment he had, painting the most sorrowful of pictures. Ty always wondered what inspired him to be so melancholy in his art. He never understood why one could be so bent on sadness when happiness was always what people claimed to be chasing.

These thoughts of Julian made Ty’s heart crumble inside of him. He had not seen his brother for five or six years, and the effects of that were really starting to wear on him. He entertained the thought of what these effects of loneliness and depression looked like on his object of sad feelings.

Julian had always been a person who put the wellbeing of his family before anything else. Ty was certain that there was nothing he would not do for them. These thoughts of Julian doing something drastic to make his siblings return struck an unusual brand of fear and worry into Tiberius’ head. He figured that it was best to bury those thoughts until his mission came to a close, and he could return home.

 

***

 

Kit awoke to a harsh touch on his cheek. It was definitely not something that he was used to, considering his reaction. Back in his home, he was used to being able to rise on his own, since he ran on an internal clock that had him awake exactly when he needed to be. Not too early, and not too late.

But, he felt this was entirely too early.

The cabin door was open, but it was still dark outside. Kit closed his eyes without hesitance. Though he knew where he was, this still felt like just a bad dream.

If only it could all be a bad dream, he thought. He would have most likely woken up next to his future bride, if the night before had gone well. He tried not to imagine this, as to not make himself feel bad. Instead, he focused on the things that were concrete, like this touch on him.

Kit could smell the ocean on the skin of the person touching him. It was distinct and full of salt. Smelling that, he could almost see the beach, his last view of his home. He relished that scent, and he could feel himself pressing into that touch.

He was not used to such an intimacy, of course. His old servants kept their distance at all times, so as to not make him uncomfortable. If only they could know how much he wanted to be touched, though. He wanted it like food, or water. Like how a fire wanted to spread, or how a hole wanted to be filled. It was almost embarrassing to admit.

He opened his eyes to find a tan hand touching his face. Miach stood before him, a sort of grin on his face.

“You’ll be needing to rise now,” he said, retracting his hand. He did not look embarrassed in the least, despite his actions. His lopsided smile was still intact as Kit sat up quickly, drowning in discomfiture.

“What time is it?” He groaned, rubbing the remnants of sleep from his tired eyes. He figured that saving that sleep would be a good idea, but it was already gone before he thought of that. He was still in his clothes from the night before, of course. Those once-soft fabrics were now stained with sweat and colored brown by dirt and dust. Kit did not care about this.

Miach bent over to pick something up. Kit could barely see his form in the darkness, eyes still adjusting. Once they were able to do this, Kit took in what he saw. Miach was wearing an uncollared white shirt that hung loosely on his broad shoulders; there were blue designs embroidered into the place where this missing collar would have been. They were tucked into a pair of hunter green breeches which were fastened to tighten just above his calves. His shoes were yet to make an appearance, and his hair was an absolute mess of blond spikes.

Kit almost lost the air in his lungs as the other man thrusted him a bundle of clothing and shoes. “It’s before dawn, as I said the time would be when you wake up,” Miach said, backing away cooly to allow Kit to leave his bed.

Though Kit could not deny this, he still felt like doing so, simply out of spite. But his senses came back to him the second he went to open his mouth.

“And whose clothes are these?” Kit asked, gesturing vaguely at the pile he’d just been handed. He wished he didn’t do this after realising that Miach could not see him. He knew that they hadn’t just procured this for him, that it had to have come from somewhere or someone.  “Are they yours?”

“Oh, no. Those are far too small to be mine.” He remarked offhandedly before moving onto his next task, “the captain won’t appreciate us being late, so hurry up,” said Miach, heading for the exit. He left Kit alone to his own devices, to hopefully find out what he was to do with his clothes that he was to shed, to be replaced by this more modest attire.

As he left, Kit could see the tiniest shift in the sky’s colors through the door. There were lighter purples mixed in with the navy blue backdrop of the horizon. Clouds dusted this sky, making Kit think that it would rain later. He hoped it would, so that this ship may crash and the entire crew may pass. Except, maybe not Alessa, Kit thought. She probably did not deserve that, with the empathy and remorse she had shown.

Kit sighed as the door closed, happy to be alone once again. He didn’t mind this damp room when it was only him in it. There was a sort of peaceful atmosphere when he was by himself.

He held that bundle of clothes close to him, taking in their material and scent. There were many different things he sensed from this array of items. For instance, he found that the faint smell of lavender from the shirt to be pleasant ( it was white and almost crisply so; it looked to be an old dress shirt), and the boots were made of cool leather that was a bit coarse under his fingertips. The trousers he’d been given were ripped just below the knees, the fabric becoming a spotty mess of holes and tears. They were black as the darkest night sky, and had no pockets to speak of.

Kit was annoyed with how well these clothes fit him. The only exception was the boots, which seemed to be a little too big. Other than that, these things might as well have been his own. Speaking of things that belonged to him, Kit decided to discard his other clothing, but not before ripping off a piece of itchy blue fabric to tie back his hair with. He figured that it would be smart to have it out of the way, but there was no means of cutting it right then.

He had a bit of trouble getting his blond curls to stay in the same spot long enough to be restrained by his new hair tie, since each piece of hair seemed to be a different length. He had always hated this, that it would not grow all at the same rate. That had annoyed him greatly in the past, as some pieces grew to impressive lengths and some never seemed to grow at all. But the most annoying part about it was that Kit never was confident enough to cut it all the same length. He was not used to seeing himself in different lights, and he thought that act would surely make him look extremely different. But, Kit was certain that he would be okay with cropping it short right then.

Kit caught a glimpse of himself in a window as he was headed for the main deck, and he wasn’t sure if he liked what he saw. He looked tough, but only slightly. Mostly, he looked ragged and immodest, with the white shirt opening a bit too low to show off his unmanly chest. There was another thing he was sensitive about, his hairless body. No matter how hard he tried, he could not convince his body to grow any hair, except for under his arms and on his legs. He would always make an effort to cover his chest for this very reason.

Anyways, Kit was not concerned with those things right then. He had more important things to worry about. Like how this whole endeavor with the ‘training’ would fair. He hoped that this would not be difficult, but he could not help but be weary.

Kit was not surprised to find most of the crew on deck (Alessa was the only one who was absent, only God knew where she could have been). They were arranged in a kind of loose circle—except for Tiberius, who hung back to watch Kit’s entrance. He had since redressed after their conversation the night before. His glowing white shirt was covered by a deep blue coat that was similar to the black one he’d worn the day before. It was dark enough to look black in the right light. The man looked at the ground, contemplative and confused somehow. Kit could not muster the courage to ask what about.

“So, he decides to join us,” Oliver said, emerging from his place amidst the other crew members. He held a small basket in his right hand. “Good morn’, your highness.” He plucked a small loaf of bread from the basket, chucking it at Kit.

Said highness grumbled as he caught it, not happy to find this nickname assigned to him. If such taunts were to continue, he would surely throw himself off the side railing. He tried to ignore the gentle heckling he received while scarfing down that bread he’d caught. It was old and hard, but he appreciated every bite of it.

“Leave him be,” said Tiberius. He didn’t seem annoyed by the fact that Kit was being made fun of, but more of the constant noise. It seemed a bit odd for the other members to have heard this, if their slightly surprised expressions were anything to go by. “There are more important things to discuss.”

He moved himself closer to Kit, and he appeared to be holding something. A scroll was wound tightly in his hands, and he kept tightening it by turning its ends. Oliver paled by Kit’s side, suddenly going silent.

Kit looked to Mark for some kind of knowledge about the situation, but all he could see was a strangely solemn turn to the other’s lips. He didn’t see what all the fuss was about. This was just a piece of paper, after all. What could be so worrying about that?

“Ty,” Oliver began gently. His voice was soft and quiet. “This isn’t a good idea. We’ve only just brought him aboard,” he said, easing his way toward the captain like one would approach a spooked animal. “Let’s at least wait a day or two before we try anything.”

With every step forward that Oliver took, Ty followed suit with one back. His back hit the outside wall of a room that Kit was not familiar with, and that was where he spread out the map. Kit was suddenly made familiar once again with the layout of the islands of which the population of his world resided.

Tiberius nodded past Kit, to someone behind him. Before Kit could turn around to see who he was signalling, something sharp and silver flew past him, almost nicking his cheek.

It was a knife whose handle was embossed with the image of a rose and her thorned vines, branching out over the wood and blade like the deadly flower Kit knew to only exist the royal gardens of Pietas. Kit could tell that this knife was not used often—either that or it was polished thoroughly with each use—because of the rising sun’s easy reflection off of its surface.

Kit felt himself flinch a full second after the knife sped past him. Truthfully, he was terrified it would change directory in midair to stab his face. He was, for once, thankful that his thoughts did not become his reality.

The knife, bullet-like and precise, found its home in the center of a continent on the map that was close to Ty’s left thumb. He did not shift, even though that weapon could have easily slid through his digit. There was, however, a distinct movement in his eyes, looking at the word the knife penetrated.

In the hollow of an ‘A’ was where the dagger decided it would land. Kit traced the line of letters to read the full word.

“Faerie.” Kit barely registered the sound that came from his mouth for the entire ship to hear. Before he realized exactly what this meant, he found that he was being stared at by all of the crew, including a new onlooker—Alessa held a plate of cooked meat in her hands, with the clear intent of sharing. Her blue-green eyes were wide with what seemed like terror.

Her mouth moved, but she did not speak. Her legs wobbled and her arms began to tremble. “We can’t,” she gave no sense of pride to those words, they seemed to grovel just as she looked ready to, “we can’t go back there.”

Kit felt Micah stiffen beside him as Alessa sent a desperate glance his way, begging him to second her opinion. He did not budge.

“There is no time left,” said Ty. He had moved from the map, but kept looking back at it, almost longingly.

Oliver, Kit had almost forgotten his presence, seemed to be upset at this. “Ty, we’ve talked about this. If we want to do it right, without consequence, we need to take our time planning it out and preparing. We still have more recruits to fetch, remember?"

Tiberius stiffened momentarily, only to turn away from his audience. “You are right. I know that, but there is no time.” The repetition of this phrase made Kit think that it was important, but he was not poised to ask why just yet.

“And what do you mean by that?”  

“Mark and Helen…” Ty turned back, and his features shown a mix of worry, anger and fear. His face was nothing like Kit had ever seen. He looked to be non-emotive, yet his heart was right there in the twitch of his eyebrow and the gloss of his eyes. “They won’t survive much longer if we don’t intervene now.”

 

***

 

“You can’t seriously be considering marrying that idiot.”

Cristina sighed and finished the word she was writing before turning around to face her companion. “We have spoken about this before,” she said, more to herself than to Emma. “He seems like a nice boy who just wants to merge our countries together to benefit both economies. This marriage, no matter how opposed, would bear no love from either of us, so stop calling him an idiot.”

Her handmaid gave her a sarcastic curtsey. “As you wish, your highness.”

Her outrageous blonde curls tumbled with every move she made, and Cristina found herself drawn to them. They were always bright—almost fluorescent in the sunlight. She never seemed to notice their radiance and always tied her hair into braids or buns, but Cristina understood the feeling of constantly having hair in your face. Her own brown hair was constantly knitted in a braid that was nearly too thick to fasten.

“Don’t bother,” Cristina said, sighing once more. “Call him what you’d like, but you cannot change my decision.” She turned her attention back to what she was writing (a letter to said idiot approving his proposal) when she heard the unmistakable sound of an annoyed huff coming from Emma.

“Even if I do this?” Cristina didn’t flinch at Emma’s soft caresses of her hair and back. She did not flinch, but she leaned into the touch ever so slightly.

Emma was convincing, more so than most, but Cristina would not be swain. But she could not help the flutter of her heart as Emma turned her face upwards, to steal a kiss from her unsuspecting lips.

This was only a bit of a surprise to Cristina. She had long since gotten used to Emma’s surprise affectionate acts, though their public displays were close to getting them in trouble sometimes. Even if the consequences for these actions weren’t easy to face, Cristina appreciated every gesture and moment they shared.  

She and Emma had a somewhat complicated relationship. There had been countless nights where the castle staff found either her or Cristina’s beds empty. The cruel years of adulthood they shared were full of these kisses and sweet moments. The two of them did not know what would come in these years, so they decided they would face it all together.

Like this situation, for example. Cristina was to be married off to some prince in Viribus to strengthen the military power and economies of both countries. And, this was obviously a large problem for her and Emma, considering their closeness. But no one was to know (the people of Pietas weren’t very open-minded) so they were left to suffer in silence. And these problems were only met with the need to be closer to relieve all of their stress and have someone to confide in.

Cristina would be lying if she claimed not to enjoy what time they got to themselves, no matter how annoying Emma could be.

What could she say about Emma Carstairs? That she was fiery and witty, and definitely a little vain (but only in a satirical way). She had a big heart, and that was one of her best qualities. She was tall and tan-skinned, always patrolling the palace grounds for trouble-makers to put in line, and training with the soldiers to keep herself in shape. Whenever a thought of Emma came into her head, Cristina was hit with the notion that she was amazing and beautiful in every way.

“Emma,” she said after a moment. Her companion had since pulled away and appeared to be completely lost in her task of staring at Cristina’s face. She snapped back into attention at that word--the call and command. “You may not like this—and I don’t either—but it is what has to be done, not just for me or for you, or even Julian—”

Emma retracted her hands, and it was clear how upset she was. “I understand, Tina. But it isn’t fair to any of us. If people were more open-minded—”

“People are as open-minded as they will be. Though it is unfair, you cannot change this. And you know that I wish things were different, too. But, unfortunately, this is also something that cannot be changed.” Cristina carded her hands through Emma’s hair the way she liked, trying to ease this burden they had to bear. “But things are going to change; I can assure you of this,” she pulled her lover close, whispering into her ear with a honey-coated voice.  

What Emma did not know would not kill her, but it would kill Cristina for keeping it from her for so long. She acknowledged Emma’s title in her mind: “her lover.” It would not stay that way for much longer; there would be no good things coming from people figuring out that Cristina was actively making love to a woman while being nearly engaged to a man.

She supposed that she would keep her words of rejection inside for a little longer.

Chapter Text

 

Prince Kieran of Faerie had been struck by the bullet of loneliness. His heart hurt for the one who had left him, for the one who had stood up for his ‘mistake,’ the best mistake he’d ever made.

He would never regret a single action he had done for that man. Never would he doubt the steps he had taken to bring him to safety. Though, he would admit that it was mostly fate playing in his favor (for once in his life) instead of hard work that brought him there.

Nevertheless, Kieran would be forever grateful of these circumstances even if they left him feeling a little heartbroken.

Kieran would not let this man leave his memory, after he had forgotten to say so many things. He did not even get a proper moment to say goodbye before his love was whisked away from him—never to return.

To solve this ache in his heart, Kieran wrote the other man a little letter every time he crossed his mind, which is very often.

His most recent piece was a tribute to the nature of his lover’s self confidence after he was— Kieran did not even want to say it. Kieran wanted to help restore, in whatever way he could, what had been taken from the other so harshly. And if his words were the only way he could try to do this, he would write a million and one words to his precious loved one.
There is nothing to be ashamed of. You are you, no matter what events have scarred your past; none of that changes you. I just hope that one day you realize that, with or without me. If you have found that out, I will have done my job, and I will be happy no matter the circumstances.

Kieran smiled fondly. The other would never get to read this, but he hoped that  man was happy regardless.

Sometimes he wondered if those events had just been a dream of his or a cruel trick played on him by his father, or if he had really fallen in love with someone so broken. Kieran was broken, too—it only made sense that they would end up together in some form or another.  

Two destroyed hearts finding a way to mend each other. It was a beautiful thing. Kieran hoped that he would always remember it. That he would always remember his love’s pale hands in his own, shaking and wet with sweat. That he would always remember the tears staining his lover’s face, and the solace he seemed to find in the idea of being held. Kieran held these things close to his heart, never letting them leave him.

Though it was true that he was gone, Kieran would never forget the influence he’d left. He would never forget him and that was all he could ever ask for.

He can still remember, even now, that same man who had once been his. But Miach would not remember.

 

It was as if his situation could not get any worse. Miach would not be able to live out the rest of his miserable days with his sister, due to a foreseen circumstance. He, among many others, had been chosen from their cells for seemingly no reason at all. None that they were told, anyways.

He was transported to a dark, stone-walled and floored room. Torches hung on the walls, whose light stretched only two feet or so before the dark swallowed it all. Banners were also strung along each wall, deep purples and blinding golds gracefully touched each tapestry. They spun the sign of Faerie’s nobles, which so happened to be just that: a little faerie. Contrasting her outlined fragility and honest beauty, most knew the Fair people for deceit and violence.

There were at least fifty others. Miach could see only young men. He knew that there had to be women, for his sister could not be still rotting in that prison, but none were in his field of vision.

A burly man in a decorated uniform strode through the ranks. He stopped every so often to take an imaginary measurement. A prisoner’s shoulders, his height, the blue or brown or green of his eyes.

This man had the most rugged glint in his eye. He was incredibly built and absolutely overwhelming to look at. Miach did not risk staring for long.

Fortunately, the silent conference with him was not the main event. Miach knew what this was as soon as a new person walked through the door.

He was tall and thin: the picture of royalty. His scowl could make a child cry, and his hair shown only the color of a rich, dark blue that shimmered of the sea. His eyes looked black—Miach assumed they were simply a shade of brown, deepened by the lack of light. He wore only white. The only exception to this was his boots; they were a shiny black that had been polished until a reflection could be seen in them. His form gleamed like an angel descending on the small army of prisoners who stood before him.

He grimaced as he looked into each pale face—into each pair of equally fearful eyes—making his dissatisfaction known to all who were brave enough to give him a second glance.

No one would be seated as he passed by every person, looking them up and down with contempt in his eyes. He did not just settle on one and leave—he took his time with each man before him, turning his face to spot any imperfections or gliding his eyes over the shape of their arms or legs. He never touched a single one, but instead had the other, bigger man do all the rotating and pressing.

Each man was physically examined one by one. The person who’d just entered made his way down the line, and Miach swore a heart attack was imminent as he approached his place in the file.

The man in white was about to completely pass him by, but an ounce of confusion twinkled in his dark eye, and his expression became one filled with bewilderment. He was either reminded of something by seeing Miach or surprised to find someone who shared a few of his features.

Admittedly, there were not many that they had in common. There were the slightly pointed ears and the high cheekbones, and the peculiar eye colors. While Miach’s eyes were a green blue (he had been told that the ocean’s waves flowed inside his eyes, and that was why he was drawn to emotion so easily), looking closer, the other man’s were a black void of invisible stars. They sucked Miach into their dimension, inviting him with a less than warm welcome.

He said something in a language Miach could not understand. The pronunciation led him to think that this was the language of the country he was in: Faerie. Their way of speaking was seen as strange from the surrounding islands, but the Fair people did not care about this. At first, it couldn’t be called a language—it was more like a sort of gibberish mixed with the usual English, since their people could not pronounce most of the English words correctly. Eventually, their garbled speech evolved and branched out to become its own language that the people outside of Faerie never bothered to learn, but they knew of the system nonetheless.

The word that came out of his mouth compelled Miach to step forward with more vigor than he ever thought he possessed.

Miach thought he was about to die. He accepted this. Clearly, whatever he had done warranted this. He deserved every wound that came to him. Even though he had convinced himself to be okay with this, he still felt that he was wronged and this was unfair. His thoughts conflicted and he began to pray to every deity he knew of, asking that he be spared, and if he truly had to die, his sister be left alive and allowed to return to wherever they had come from—

Miach found that his whole being was yanked forward and he was practically dragged out of the room without even a second to think.

He was suddenly walking up a flight of stairs, to a hallway adorned with several doors, windows and a long carpet that protected his bare feet from the cold of the stone floor.

There was a certain anxiety that came with this situation, Miach thought. He was now hounded with the attention of the person who had picked him from the lines, and he was finding hard to not think about what horrible consequences awaited him when they reached their destination.

Grand drapes fluttered in the wind from the many windows of countless hallways Miach encountered in those few minutes. He had not seen sunlight in what felt like weeks. It blinded him to the point that he had to shield his eyes from the setting sun.

The person who’d picked him and the same large man from earlier were holding a conversation just in front of him, walking so fast that he almost tripped several times trying to keep up. Miach still had no idea what they were saying, but it seemed as though this was an important talk he had no idea how to translate. Though, he did hear a word that sounded quite similar to his name.

Eventually, Miach was led to a small room. There was a bed, an armoire full of white clothing that looked much too large for him, and—thank every angel he knew, there was a window! He tried to not appear so excited about having a room all to himself, but the indeterminable remarks from the two men made him think they’d understood it even more than he did.

It didn’t seem like too long until the drill sergeant-esque man disappeared, leaving Miach alone with the man in white, who stood near the now closed door.

Looking closer at him, Miach noticed that his clothes were not as crisp and clean as he thought. On them were dots of dirt and sand, even blood in some places. The blood was easily the strangest part of his stains, and Miach could not help but wonder where it came from. And then there was his hair. It was definitely the color of an angry ocean, black-blue and ready to pounce any ship that came her way. Speaking of black, that just so happened to be the color of his eyes, proving Miach’s previous assumption about their color to be false.

Again, he said something in the Fair language, and Miach only stared, trying his best to decipher it accordingly. The man crossed his arms in front of him, looking almost shy.

“Your father was a Viribisian. ” He said in English, and Miach was thrown for a loop. From what he knew, English was just as forbidden in Faerie as its language was forbidden everywhere else. “Do you remember him?”

His voice was lightly accented, some of his consonants slurring together as if he had been drinking. Surely no man would drink in the middle of the day, but Miach knew nothing about this man.

It hit him then that he truly did know nothing. He wasn’t sure of why he was in this lavish place, or of why he had been released in the first place. He wasn’t sure why this man knew so much about his family and his father, and he was indeed unsure of how he’d somehow attained this blue hair and those black eyes.

Miach wasn’t sure of what to say (he did not know his father), so he shook his head. He could feel this man’s eyes scouring at each part of him—he was beginning to feel uncomfortable.

“His name was Andrew, I believe. About nineteen years ago—which, now that I think about it, should be your current age—he courted one of my father’s highest ranking officers, and had you. After a few years of knowing this, my father had him and his wife put to death, and you were taken away and imprisoned here.” He said decidedly, and his form seemed to be a bit wobbly. It was almost like he was uncomfortable. He never once looked his counterpart in the eye as he spoke.

Clearly, this man knew much more about Miach’s life than he did himself.

“I do not blame you for my father’s anger at Andrew, of course; I cannot hold you accountable for the actions you did not commit. And, I will not let you come to harm under my care, unlike my how my father would behave. He would blame you for every sin that Andrew committed against him, and would probably beat you to death, but I will not allow it.” He said. His pale hands were tugging at the golden cords that secured his cape—they looked like they were spun from pure gold thread.

Miach could not speak. It was as if his eyes were suddenly opened, as if he had been in the dark for the months he spent in his cell in a place he didn’t know. He now knew that he not only had a sister, but he once had a father and mother as well.

It struck him as he pondered his old family—Alessa. She was not here, nor was she mentioned by this man. Did he not know about her?

“I have a sister.”

“He speaks,” he said, nodding. “I figured that you would know English.” He acted as if he had not heard Miach’s plea.

“My sister,” Miach said again, more insistent. He approached the other, hesitant but still seeking an answer. “Where is she?”

A look of stupor crossed his face, but it was quickly replaced by a silent resolve. “ Faerie doesn’t follow the same rules as other countries. We are split into groups of male and female, with the only exception being—you’ll know this by now—the prisons. This applies to the royalty as well, so I will not be able to be in contact to assure her safety as I am yours, but I am fairly certain that we can monitor her through an accomplice of mine.”

He looked so sincere. How could he so blindly support another’s cause, that he knew nothing about? (That wasn’t true; he knew a lot more than Miach did.)

The man before him sighed after he received no response. “I am afraid that I must be going for now. I won’t expect you to be following me around just yet, but be prepared for me to call on you.” He turned toward the door, and he was just about to turn the handle.

“But I—” Miach said, “I’m not even sure as to why I am here, or who you are. If you have only a bit more time, at least tell me those things.”

The man looked over his small shoulder and grinned. “I am Prince Kieran, son of the Unseelie King. And you, Miach, are my newest member of staff: my manservant.” He opened the door and stepped into the hall, leaving Miach to his confusion.

 

***

 

“Wrong,” Kieran’s voice drifted overtop Miach’s head. “Do it again.”

Miach loosened his grip, steadying his hands and relaying Kieran’s directions in his head.They weren’t really that difficult, or so he had said. Left strand over middle, middle strand under left, right over middle—

“You’re still wrong, you idiot. It’s right over middle, middle to the right, and then left over the new middle strand,” Kieran jerked his head away from Miach’s hands. “I’m better off recruiting a girl from the village than with you.”

Miach was only slightly hurt by these words as Kieran went to do the job himself, something that seemed to happen more and more often lately.

His black-blue hair swung to-and-fro as he untangled the messy braid that Miach had failed at one too many times. It was long, almost to his shoulders, the tips dyed almost white from the light filtering through the cloth on his windows.

Miach was seated in a lavish chair, Kieran on a stool in front of him. It was one of the only times Miach’s head was above his prince’s, and said prince did not seem all too happy about it.

It was as if Kieran knew that he was about to apologize, since he interrupted him before his mouth could even open.

“You can’t do anything right, can you?”

Now the emotional pain was at a mild level. Miach gritted his teeth and rolled his eyes. He did not ask for this, for any of it. He hung his head, letting the long strands of his ash blond hair fall into his eyes.

Kieran turned around, looking to find the impact of his words. When he did not find anything, he sighed and then mumbled a few words under his breath.

“I beg your pardon, Your Highness?” Miach asked, willing himself to keep his calm. He lifted his head only slightly and he knew that his words had carried.

“You did not deserve that,” his voice was quiet and meek. Kieran faced forward again, grabbing a piece of his hair to twirl between his long fingers. He cleared his throat, reverting back to his  “You may try once more, but you have to get it right this time.”

 

***

 

Miach awoke to the sound of a bell ringing. He tried not to dawdle, seeing as he knew that ring as well as he knew the sight of his own face.

Kieran had recently equipped him with a special bell that he claimed to be enchanted. The bell —which belonged to the prince—had a companion that rang whenever Kieran rang his. As he presented it to Miach, it was as if he expected him to be impressed with the technology.

He could not lie, he was a little bit impressed.

Anyways, he had heard the bell that morning, which meant that he was being summoned by his prince.

As Miach was readying himself for the day ahead of him by way of dressing—breeches, undershirt, overshirt, socks and shoes—he figured that Kieran was calling for something important, since he had not rung for a meal ever since Miach memorized all of his mealtimes. But he would be going to get the prince’s breakfast from the kitchen, one of his many diurnal tasks.

It had been about four months since he had been appointed by Kieran, and he could not say that they were getting along well. There was not much of a connection, but it was not as if Miach had hoped for one.

He had hoped that the prince was someone who would be able to inform him about his past life, but Kieran knew only the bare minimum about what happened to his family. Even though his hopes were dashed and doomed, Miach did not completely give them up. There must have been someone who knew about him and who he could really be.

Miach, in the situation that he was in, decided to put thoughts of his origin on the backburner, focusing more on asserting himself in the life of servitude under the prince.

To say that he was accepted without problem was a gross overstatement. He was occasionally picked on about being a ‘mixed breed,’ which Miach was coming to learn was apparently a bad thing. Though he had his complaints about it, it was something he decided not to address Kieran about, seeing as he had more important things to do than worry about Miach being bullied by other servants.

But he was quickly learning that the people there had a bit more than a distaste for him. Of course, they would call him names and such, but Miach was beginning to have to redo orders from the prince, and bruises seemed to materialize on his body in some places. Other times, food would be crusted to his shirt or his pants, in his hair or his eyes. Luckily, Kieran had not noticed.

Miach hadn’t the faintest idea why he felt so compelled to hide this abuse that was taking place. Perhaps it was a wound on his pride to tattle, or maybe he did not want to see anyone get in trouble, no matter how badly they treated him. He was struggling to find the spot his morals lie.

Entering the swinging doors to the large kitchen on the bottom floor of the palace, Miach breathed in each and every smell. There were meats being roasted slowly over hot coals and fruits being smashed to make jams and jellies. Sugar was spun into elaborate webs to adorn cakes and tartes. The smell of various cheeses and meats hung in the air. Every inch of the counters and flooring was dusted in flour. People chatted and bustled about, ever busy with the menu of the day.

Miach could only describe this area as painfully alive, while the empty rooms and corridors of the castle loomed just outside. Yet here he could always find a candle burning, a person hovering over a stove, or a tray of something recently made.

He enjoyed spending time here helping the staff when Kieran did not need him, tasting dishes and learning to cook the ones he especially liked. The kitchen staff were some of the only people who were kind to him, since the head of this department appreciated his drive to create things, and the underlings wouldn’t dare disrespect their superior.  

“Ah, there he is. Miach, we’ve missed you,” and speak of the devil, the head chef appeared behind him, slinging a built arm around his stiff shoulders. He was not used to the touching, the touching was the only thing that made him uncomfortable here. “You’re here for the prince’s special breakfast, yes?”

Miach nodded, respectfully removing the chef’s arm from him. “Yes, thank you.”

The man in question was short and stout. He brought the entire room’s attention with his outlandishly loud voice. Though, Miach could not judge his need to be louder than everyone else—the ambiance of the kitchen was always at an outrageous volume.

“Coming right up,” He said, nearing the counters closest to the doorway. There sat an array of silver platters—each of the princes’ breakfasts (Kieran had many siblings).

Suddenly Miach found one of these platters in his hands. On it was a bowl of some sort of porridge, a smaller plate of fruits and a little bowl of nuts. And of course, there was a cup turned upside down, to be filled with the pitcher of water waiting in Prince Kieran’s room.

He was relieved to know that the last step of this process was to take this food to Kieran, and even more relieved to know that it did not involve conversing anymore. As much as he loved this kitchen and the people in it, he preferred to keep to himself most times, to keep out of any sort of trouble. It ended up finding him anyways, though.

“Thank you,” Miach said. He was one step away from leaving before the chef grabbed his shoulder in a friendly gesture. Yet again, he was not thankful for the contact. He looked at the place where they were connected, half-cringing.  

Miach angled his gaze downward, finding that he was looking into the other’s kind old eyes. He grinned easily, but his words seemed to be an important message that was not to be ignored. “Take good care of him, yeah? He’s always been the lonely type.”

“What—”

And it was like nothing had happened. The head chef patted Miach’s shoulder and all but shoved him toward the door.  “I’ll let you be on your way—don’t keep His Highness waiting!”

Just like that, he was forced into the hall, struggling to maintain his balance and staring at the blank off-white walls and obnoxiously red-carpeted flooring.

The question pulsed in his brain like an outrageous headache: what was the chef talking about? He had not been under the assumption that Kieran was a lonely person, since he did not seem to need anyone to function properly, emotionally at least. But could that have been false? Miach considered the possibility, but he did not dwell too much on it.

Miach began walking in the direction of Kieran’s room (about 25 paces down the main hall, and then a left, 15 more paces and then a right, up the winding staircase of a tower and politely past the guards blocking off his door). His prince was in a secluded area of the palace, separated from the rest of his family. It was as if he had been banished inside of his own home.

That was another one of the things that Miach wanted to ask about—why Kieran was always alone and shunned by those in his same status.

It was long before Miach was stopped, exactly what he did not want to happen.

There was a group of three guards standing in front of a door (presumably what they were supposed to be focusing on, and not the man who was minding his own business, doing absolutely nothing wrong).  

“It seems the youngest prince loves his half-bloods, doesn’t he?” The first said in a freakishly loud whisper. Miach tried to ignore it, but it only seemed to get worse from there.

“It probably cannot understand a word we’re saying.”

“Damn thing gets all the special treatment just because it’s half Fair. We’re purebred and what do we get?”

“Look at the way it’s dressed, as if it isn’t just a bed maid.”

“I’ll place a wager on the prince enjoying that it can’t communicate while he beds it—silence is the best music!”

“Probably learned English just to tell it what he wanted to do to it.”  

The lot of them laughed and snickered condescendingly. They proceeded to murmur amongst themselves and Miach was almost certain (if he could expertly avoid them) that he would be escaping unscathed, if not without his pride.

It wasn’t until they called him over that he knew of the situation he was in.

“You there! Half-blood,” one of them shouted. Miach could feel the shame rising in him. Why was he ashamed? It was not his fault that he was born as he was. If he could have stopped his father and mother from conceiving him to make things easier on them, he would have done it in a heartbeat. They were dead because of him, after all.

When he did not answer, he knew that he would end up regretting it.

“Come here, you idiot! We’ve called you, and you were trained to answer when called, yes? Or has our beloved prince not gotten to that lesson yet?”

Reluctantly, Miach turned on his heel. His chin was raised and his stance perfectly straight. If he appeared confident, maybe they would leave him alone. He tried not to look at them as he approached, but found it to be too hard to force his eyes in a different direction.

They were all of varying height, the shortest being about a few heads shorter than Miach, and the tallest looming over the whole crowd. Regardless of height, these guards were in the shape required of them, definitely able to kill a man at a moment’s notice.

And even with his head held high, Miach was absolutely sure that he still looked intimidated, because when the trio caught sight of his face, they simply laughed at him. It was a small gesture that carried a lot of weight. It was worse than them insinuating that Kieran was sleeping with him, because at least he could disprove something then. When they were laughing at the look of his face—it was more than he could handle.

Miach would say that he was not one to cry easily, but this first act was near forcing tears from him.

“Look at that—those tears in its dead eyes. A work of art, really!”

“Think the prince makes it cry before he has his way with it?”

“Definitely. As you can see, it looks much better when it’s crying, though there wasn’t anything to work with when we started.”

Once he was close enough, they circled him, eyeing him up. This was not the first time that something like this had happened, Miach had been through a lot over the past four months, but this was the first time he felt so disgusting while it was happening.

Their armor had a luster reflected off it in the light, almost blinding Miach when they stood in certain places. Of course, they used this to their advantage and made it a point to encourage his squinting. At some points, they touched him. Miach could not move his hands—Kieran’s food tray was too heavy to hold one-handed. He could not stop them without the risk of angering his prince, which could have resulted in something much worse than this.

“Ah, let me get that for you,” one of the guards said. He pried the tray from Miach’s hands and poured its contents over his head. All of a sudden the tears on his face felt cold.

Miach winced. The porridge was hot and burning his scalp. He did not dare to make a sound, would not give them the satisfaction of knowing they’d hurt him.

“Beautiful.”

“We must be missing a vital part of the experience. I say we find out why Prince Kieran enjoys it so much.”

He could feel the weight of this inside of his stomach—he wanted to vomit. There was never a point in his life (that he remembered) when he felt so shameful and ugly.

Miach contemplated fighting it. He thought about running away. He was outmatched, three to one. They would hunt him down.

He felt one of their hands in his hair, smoothing the porridge into his head and down onto his face. It felt like fire on his skin. One of the others hands he felt, his arms were being extended and his shirt lifted from where it was tucked into his pants. Miach wanted to scream.

He did not open his mouth.

He did not breathe.

He did not protest.

Miach closed his eyes.

Where there was once light, darkness could only be found. Where there was once peace, chaos resonated in a violent reign. Where there was once innocence, sin showed his horrid face.


“Miach!”

Miach startled awake. Every muscle in his body ached, and he felt so unbelievably dirty. He had been crumpled in that hallway, the sun long gone. There the tray of what used to be Kieran’s breakfast was beside him, empty. He never made it to Kieran that morning, he realized groggily. He wondered if his prince sat in wait for him too long.

“Can you hear me?” Miach looked up, at the source of this voice. Black eyes greeted him, crinkled around the edges with what appeared to be worry.

“Your Highness, I cannot even begin to apologize for my absence—”

“I can forgive that!” Kieran said. Miach’s ears rang for a split second and his head began to pound. “What I cannot forgive is what they have done to you.”

Kieran’s tone sounded like a blade brought to life, so full of anger and almost hatred. Miach thought he could cut his fingers on his prince’s words if he could touch them.

Before he had time to ask about what exactly had happened, Kieran had him tight in his arms, choking the life out of him. Miach shivered at the contact, it felt like it had been years since anyone had touched him so softly.

Kieran was not a person who was fond of touch, the same as Miach in that regard. Even though Miach wanted to return this strange affection, he seemed to not be able to lift his arms. He blinked, and he finally felt the tears streaming down his own face.

Miach appeared to have some faulty senses, since when he saw his tears drip onto Kieran’s shoulder, they were a deep shade of red.

“This cannot be the first time.” His voice was calm and even in Miach’s ear, but just beneath the surface he sounded so very angry. Miach could not blame him. “For weeks now you’ve been inexplicably injured, and you’ve taken so long with your orders. Did you think I had not noticed?”

Said man was beginning to feel queasy. Kieran had still not let go of him, and it was as if he was trying to force an answer out of him via a painful hug.

“Why did you not think to mention something like this to me, Miach?”

“I will not apologize for my actions,” he said, struggling to breathe. “Though you may not understand—”

Kieran almost growled, only holding him tighter. Miach wheezed. “I vowed to protect you, that I would keep you safe. And yet I could not even do that.”

It seemed that his ears were playing tricks on him, because Kieran sounded as if he was crying. And Miach could feel the beginnings of convulsions in his prince’s chest as he inhaled on a hiccup. And there were suddenly wet spots on his shoulder.

“Your Highness—” Miach did not know what excuse to use, what words would make Kieran less angry. He did not know how to fix this mess.

Kieran pulled away so fast that Miach felt dizzy. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve, trying to compose himself. Miach could not help but stare. Those black eyes were glossy and dripping, and his left shoulder was stained with his manservant’s blood. Here he was, sitting on the floor, crying over what he hadn’t been told.

Maybe, Miach thought, he did care.

“Do not call me that any longer,” he said after a while, so quiet that it was almost a whisper. Kieran cleansed the blood from Miach’s cheek. His lip quivered like he was about to start crying again; he cupped Miach’s face with his hand. “You are my equal. We will take on this world together from here on.”

There was a bewildered feeling that swept over him, and he felt almost safe. It was odd and intense, swirling inside of him like a whirlpool out at sea.

And after that, the pair was nearly inseparable. They were always within arm’s reach.

“Is it all right for me—? I want your hand, if I may.” Miach would ask, meek as ever. Just as he had not been fond of touching before, he was even more averse to it after that altercation. But once in a while, he found it to be comforting for the warmth of Kieran’s hand to be splayed in his own. It was a specific type of warmth that he wanted to envelope around his body whenever his heart was hurting, which seemed to happen more and more often.

And Kieran, feeling completely indebted to Miach and ridden with guilt about his situation would say: “Until the end of time. I vow to let you have it until it falls off.”

 

***

 

“Are you not supposed to be out there, where all of the people are?” Miach asked, pointing out of a nearby window into the courtyard. Countless bodies engaged in a vivid exchange of a dance. He would say it was hundreds of different dances all melded together in a sweaty tangle of laughter and joy. He could barely hold back a blush as he looked to the outskirts of the grounds. There, he found the silhouettes of rabid couples who could not seem to keep their hands off of each other. Miach envied their easy smiles and flirtatious nature. They acted as if there were no problems to be worried about, while he was stuck here, with the prince who was upset with him.

The man turned up his nose, a symbol of his uninhibited pride. He was much the same height as Miach, but their builds definitely weren’t the same. While the former prisoner was built and sturdy, the prince seemed taut, but in a thin way. He was lithe and seemingly unfit for battle of any kind. “Things such as these do not amuse me.”

“It seems as though you don’t quite have a distaste for them. Your eyes shine so brightly while watching your people partake in the festivities.”

“What do you care?” He spat, a glare in those same eyes, “it is not your duty to assess my problems or interests.”

Miach sighed to himself. This was clearly one of Kieran’s famous bouts of anger directed at his father, and Miach just so happened to be caught in the crossfire. But it wasn’t as if he could just leave the prince to himself, seeing as though he would do more harm to himself alone than with another. It was healthy for him to direct his rage at someone, but Miach could not say that he wanted to be that person.

Their hallway consisted mostly of darkness, only half of their faces illuminated by an enormous bonfire outside. Miach could almost feel its heat through the glass of the windows. He squinted, straining his eyes to see this figure before him.

Prince Kieran was certainly from this country, for he bore their defining features. His high cheekbones and pale skin would stand out anywhere. His face shimmered with sweat, and Miach could not help but think this to be almost radiant light. He was irrevocably beautiful.

“But it is my duty to make sure that everything is, as you would say: ‘correct,’ and it doesn’t seem to be right now.”

He said nothing at this, only rolling his eyes. Even in the darkness, Miach could still sense the annoyance in this man’s demeanor.

Miach felt himself smiling, “So send me away, if you truly hate me so much.” He knew it would not be wise to tease, but how could he not when the other was so easy to irritate?

Prince Kieran held his slightly rounded chin high. But, Miach could see with the help of the fire, his expression seemed to change. His perpetual scowl looked ironed out, his brows unwound from their tightly-knitted position. He looked softer, less like he wanted to hit someone. There was even a small smirk playing on his pink lips. “Hate is definitely an overstatement, saying I have a strong distaste for you would do the job just as well.”

“Then why do I stand before you now, my prince?”

“It seems your inquisition will break the final straw of my patience. And your insufferable nicknaming. Tread lightly.” The composition of the words led Miach to believe that he was being chastised for his behavior, but the delivery made it clear that Prince Kieran was only messing around.

Miach could not help his grin, hidden by the darkness of the corridor. “If I annoy you so greatly, I may take leave, to hopefully enjoy this revel happening just outside.” He turned toward the end of the hall, about to step in that direction before speaking again. “You are welcome to join me.”

“You will not leave,” Kieran barked suddenly. It took him a moment to regain his former composure as he straightened the fastens of his cape on his round shoulders. “In fact, you will remain in my bedchambers while I attend to a few important matters. You are to make your presence scarce around the guards stationed there. Usually, none are allowed to enter without myself by their side, but they should listen if you declare my expressed desire.”

Miach faced Kieran, and for once he saw every part of him. His dark hair was streaked with the light of that raging fire, his pristine white cape and clothes bright as a star. Miach saw that expression of his, the proud and almost arrogant look that he saved for commands. Yet there was something hidden there, something deep in the shadowed cavity of his eyes. His vision might have been fooling him, but Miach thought he saw fear.  It was gone as soon as it surfaced.

“And why am I not to come with you?”

“Just listen to me this once, yes? I won’t be but a minute. The guards will not let anyone through—you are safe.”  

Shadows passed over the walls, rapid enough to give Miach a headache. He gave one last look to the window, straight at the king. He had been seated on a giant, lavish throne throughout the revel. He looked unimpressed with the joy of his subjects, preferring to rap his foot on the ground than to share a smile or a dance.

Miach noticed that Kieran’s black eyes had flickered to that position at several points during their conversation. He supposed this was because Kieran secretly wanted his father to take note of his intentional absence (because who would skip a festival such as this?).

Miach found it strange that Kieran would seek the king’s attention, even if subconsciously. It was clear that he had a particular dislike for his father, so why would he strive to be noticed by him?

He decided to keep his nose out of their business. Besides, meddling would only get him in trouble.

“As you wish,” he nodded, beginning his quest to sit in the prince’s room for who-knew-how long. He did not turn to look at Kieran as he descended down the hall.

 

Miach was bored out of his mind.

While he knew how to appreciate the fine selection of items in Kieran’s bedroom, even those things grew tiring to look at after a while. And Miach was certainly tired of looking at them.

On the wall farthest from Kieran’s spacious bed, there hung a sword. It was so very shiny and looked like it had never been used. Miach remembered asking about it once, when he had not known Kieran’s whole story.

“It was a gift,” Kieran had said, “from my father.”

Miach had known not to press after he’d heard the contempt in his prince’s voice when talking about his father. Their relationship seemed so rocky and distant, he would dare say that Kieran hated the king.

It would be an assumption that made a lot of sense, seeing as how Kieran downright refused to attend the festival this year, and every other year Miach had been serving him.

The annual festival was a chance for the men and women of Fairie to bond and be merry (namely for the men to impregnate as many women as possible, providing a steady flow of soldiers to supply for the army).

Usually, the country would be separated by gender, to provide more reason as to why the festival was absolutely necessary to attend. Apparently, the king found women to be nothing more than a distraction from the goal of overtaking the entire world with his military power. Miach saw the system as flawed when thinking about how little to no children were being conceived on days other than this, but he would not share his opinion with another soul.

Opinions were something that could get him killed, and yet Miach found that he had many that his superiors would not approve of. But Kieran would listen to these opinions and sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. That was so valuable, Miach thought, to have someone to share his opinions with.

“Yes, thank you.” Miach heard a soft voice from outside of the door, grabbing his attention like a treat on the end of a string.

Miach wondered what kind of business Kieran had to tend to as he stepped through the door. He was holding a bundle of fabric in his arms, and he looked a little frazzled.

“You would not believe how rude the kitchen staff are,” He said, blowing a lock of dark hair from his eyes. Miach almost laughed.

“They probably weren’t happy to have to stop celebrating on the behalf of the prince who could care less about the festival.”

Kieran rolled his eyes, settling in front of Miach’s chair on the floor. “Well that doesn’t matter now.”

Miach quirked an eyebrow and joined his prince in his position. “Why not?”

“Because since you seem to like the idea of this holiday, I plan for us to have a little festival of our own.” Kieran smiled deviously. He unwrapped the fabric ball, revealing a bottle of wine and some various types of food. There were some cheese and fruits that made Miach’s mouth water just looking at them.

“How,” Miach cleared his throat to avoid drooling over the food, “how thoughtful of you.”

Kieran turned suddenly bashful, eyes darting to his lap. “I wouldn’t want you to feel left out tonight.”

Miach bit his lip to keep from smiling. He was failing, but that was okay.

“Thank you, Kier,” he said softly. Before Miach knew exactly what he was doing, he was leaning in. He felt the warm skin of Kieran’s cheek on his lips, and it instantly became even hotter.

Instead of Miach being surprised at his own actions, Kieran seemed to take that reaction from him. He backed away quickly, eyes wide and hand on his face where Miach had kissed him.

It struck Miach that this was probably a very, very bad thing. But Kieran’s wobbly smile made him think the exact opposite.

“You’re not mad?” Miach asked hesitantly. He decided it would be best to tread lightly in this situation, seeing as the prince could bend any way he wanted.

Kieran looked absolutely dazed, like he was going to faint. “Mad? Never. This is—no, I could never be mad.” It was like he was somehow enlightened by Miach kissing him. “I—you’re okay? That was something you didn’t have a problem doing? After—”

“I trust your intentions.”

Miach tried not to laugh as Kieran spun deeper into his embarrassment. “If you are comfortable, that is all I could ever ask for.”

Now this really made him smile. He felt so happy: like a child receiving a gift.

“May I,” Kieran said after a short silence, “hold your hand?”

“Until the end of time. I vow to let you have it until it falls off.”

And so there they sat for the rest of the evening until the sun rose in the morning. Just Miach and Kieran, eating, drinking and holding hands until they fell asleep on the floor.

 

***

 

There weren’t many things that Miach remembered about his time in Faerie . With that said, there weren’t many things that he did not remember.

His brain buzzed with the images of tendrils of silvery blue hair and a scarred back. There was a set of pale arms always wrapped around him. On the backs of his eyelids were the softest of touches and the feelings of a whip on his back.

Despite the world of bad events necessary to get him to that country, there were silver linings. He supposed that this meant that there was at least a hint of good in every bad situation. In this case, the good was this faceless person he remembered who seemed to care so much about him.

He wondered why this person was so blurred, so distorted in his mind. It was as if his memory had been cleansed like a dirty window, wiped down until the glass was pritsintely clear.

But even though he did not remember much, a few words came to his mind, a boat rising to the surface of a stormy sea. These words somehow struck him as important, no matter how unimportant they sounded.

“You are my equal.”

These words seemed to brush a lock of hair from his eyes, allowing him to see deeper inside of himself. They provided a sort of warmth in the depths of his heart; a burst of playful flame that felt long put out.

Miach thought of these feelings and expressions when he had nothing else to turn to. They came to him in the middle of the night as he was tossing and turning, trying to will himself into sleep. These things plagued his subconscious. They pried his mind open until it flooded with things he wished he could forget.

And then his captain, a brother to him, announced that they would be returning to this land. That they would willingly go back to the place that haunted Miach's faded memories. They would be tearing open the skin long scarred over.

Miach and Alessa had been taken so long ago, for reasons they had no control over. It wracked his brain to know that his own lineage was responsible for he and his sister’s kidnapping. Something that he could in no way control was at fault for his lost freedom.

Besides this detail, he knew nothing of his old life. Only names seemed to surface, five words that brought a certain brand of ache to his heart. He yearned to associate these names with someone or something. To give them an identity that he could remember.

He could never weave a believable story to help him understand all five of these names, so he gave up trying long ago. All he knew was there was only one whom he had known through the loss of his memories: Alessa meant the world to him.

Miach knew that she carried what little love and trust he had left to give. She was his family; the only one he knew of, anyways.

If there had been others, he obviously did not remember them.

Miach pondered ceaselessly over what to grant the articles—what could deserve the honor of these titles? After long days of thinking it over, he finally decided to give these names to the first five stars he saw each night. These were the things he most looked forward to, scrambling to his lone window as soon as the sun began setting to catch but a glimpse of the night sky.

Miach shared this process with Alessa—who seemed to recall only those same words. They would stay up late on occasion talking about these names and who they might belong to, what they might be like.

One name in particular seemed to have peaked Alessa’s curiosity.

“Do you think that name, Tiberius, that he might be the same man as the captain?” She asked one night. Alessa looked especially proud after drawing a connection between the two subjects.

Miach had never thought of that. “No,” he whispered. “I think that I might know him when I see him. That I would know his relationship to me once I saw his appearance, but our captain does not strike me as that man.”

“Then I suppose he is in no way related, even though they share that uncommon name.” Alessa’s usually cheerful expression darkened.

Miach instantly wanted to gather his words back into his well of things unsaid, but the spilled over so quickly that he could barely control them.

“I suppose not,” Miach prided himself on his instincts sometimes, and they were not about to steer him wrong. But he could not help the feeling rising in his gut—the boiling guilt for shattering his sister’s theory.

Then again, what was the chance of her being right?

Chapter Text

0 “Prelude:” just an opener

1 “Recruitment:” Kit is kidnapped and introduced to Ty, Livvy, Miach and Alessa.

2 “Restlessness:” Kit’s adjustments to Ty’s crew, introduction of Julian, the rest of the Blackthorns and Cristina and Emma

3 “Reflection:”Some backstory (Miach, Alessa, etc.)

4 “Rectification:” Ty & Co train Kit a little (most of the chapter @ different instances) and later Ty reveals plans (we love extensive backstory :))))) ) (Diego’s kidnapping can be featured at the end of this chapter or the beginning of the next, depending on length)

5 “Rapport:” Crew is interrupted by the news of Cristina’s sudden coronation (Diego kidnapped by Zara,) During, Julian and Cristina meet and discuss their plans for unification, Julian introduced to Emma (just after Emma and Cristina break up so it’s a sore subject) Cristina has heard of Julian’s familial situation and learns that he’s trying to corner Ty and Livvy to bring them home and offers to help. Emma also agrees (reluctantly)

6 “Resolutions:” Alessa’s backstory baby (aline and her meet and Love, and we learn more about Faerie and what is Happening there???)

7 “Reunion:” During 5 (not mentioned), Ty’s Crew attempt to get Mark and Helen but cannot find them, greeted by stowaways Kieran and Aline instead. Tearful reunions ensue.

8 “Reiteration:”Still on the hunt for recruits, the crew storms the coronation (Julian knows what’s happening now after they take cristina) afterwards Julian and Emma theorize about where they all could have gone and form a sort of alliance between them leading to love or whatever (kind of slowburn though)

9 “Reformation:” Zara has officially taken over Ardea, appointing Manuel as her head of guard. She kidnaps Diego and tries to force him to marry her (spoiler: it does not go well). Diego sends a bird to try to contact Julian (cause trust) but it is infiltrated by Ty, who writes him back and gains his trust. Zara finds out about them at the end by going through Diego’s things, making certain to have revenge or whatever.

10 “Resignation:” Zara sends people to eliminate Ty’s crew. Livvy is the only one they get to. Livvy will Die kind of early on and the ocean will chose to show her to kit when they have their talks, and he talks to her for Ty. Ty kinda hates him for a while cause maybe Livvy dying will be his fault?? But Kit stays and doesn’t let his loyalty waver when provided the chance. (Zara will no doubt confront him and be like yo,,,, i kinda want you on my side cause we need all the help we can get, and you don’t really like those pirate fucks, do you??? (the reason she's dying early is cause it would be cool to have an overarching emotional crescendo throughout the story, leading up to a dramatic thingy when they figure out who was behind livvy's end (zara for sure). ty's gonna drive himself crazy looking for and punishing who did it, causing kit to feel the need to kind of look after him.)

11 “Revolution:” Learning from sources (Diego) that she is gonna kill Julian, Dru and Tavvy, Ty and the remaining crew plan to return to Viribus and cause some massive damage and kit’s like yo,,, we could do that, but it would be a lot safer for us to kinda hang back a lil and find some trusted people who can house and feed us while all this shit goes down and no one agrees with him because he is stupid. But diego offers to, in a letter, help them Plot zara’s demise cause he wants to Not be under her control anymore (i’ll probably have a few scenes where she is just a not good person and basically rapes him to solidify her evil) (and there will never be too much detail since that is Scary)

Final Showdown (Might have its own chapter, that of which would be named Resolution): Zara sends fleets down from towers to destroy the Crew, and they fight their way up to her, and she dies.

 

 

 i also have some brief drafts of chapters 5 and 6, so i'm gonna put them here,,,,,,

 

 

“Do you ever think about what could be out there ?” Diego had asked. He and Cristina were leaning over the balcony overlooking the grand gardens, where their greatest roses grew to full size, about the palm of Cristina’s hand. 

There was a party happening just downstairs, their engagement party. But it seemed that no one noticed them slipping out. Either that or they decided to let her and Diego have their alone time.

Cristina quirked an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

Diego sighed to himself, like just thinking of it made him fuller—happier. “What lies beyond our reach, what could be waiting for someone like you or I if we just—if we left to go find it.” 

While Cristina had thought of the many possibilities once or twice, she pegged it to be nearly impossible to escape like that, to go somewhere where she didn’t have responsibilities that affected everyone she looked out for, but only herself. “You’ve been reading too much. Didn’t my mother tell you to stop?”

“She loves me too much to tell me what to do,” Diego said with a winning smile, “Besides, she’s the one who keeps leaving the library key unattended.” 

“You thief,” she gently teased, landing a playful punch on his arm. Unfortunately, due to the large circumference of her dress, Cristina couldn’t get that much closer to Diego without great effort, an effort she did not feel like exerting for just a kiss. 

And while those kisses were amazing in almost every way (though, Cristina didn’t have anything to compare them to), it felt more like kissing her brother than her lover. Like she was partaking in some sort of incestuous scheme that was endorsed by all of the rest of their family. That of which would not be uncommon for royalty, but that didn’t make the thought any better. 

But Diego liked to taint every moment with his love somehow, with how he was undyingly in love with Cristina, and she just had to feel the same way, but she didn’t love him the way he wanted her to.

But this is not to be confused with the truth! Cristina did love him, but more as her family than as someone to make a family with. They had grown up together basically, with their mothers being distantly related. They’d shared so many firsts together, from first steps (Diego was a bit of a late bloomer) to first theft (Cristina was 15, Diego was 17). (They had stolen a mare from the local village market: her name was Eloise. Diego said that that was to be the name of their first daughter which worried Cristina greatly.) And even after all of that time, Cristina had never felt what he’d described to her as the ‘intense passion’ of his love. 

 

***

 

If there’s a worse way for her coronation to be brought up, Cristina thinks this to be the outcome. 

She has just gotten used to the idea that her Diego is gone, very very reluctantly. She had cried for the first four days after, did nothing but cry and cry until all that was left of her was a dehydrated, aching mess. Because his pictures were absent from the walls, his chair at the dining table left empty, and his playful comments unspoken in every conversation afterward.

And then, the gods above did Cristina the absolute honor of reminding her that without Diego, the world still spun. That for every tear she would cry over losing him, there was twice that number of babies born, three times that number of smiles shared throughout happy, functional families.

The sleep in Cristina’s eyes drags them closed once again. If she did not leave her bed, there would be nothing for her to worry about. 

But, as with every other terrible thing in her life, it would go on just as planned. 

Cristina would have spent her every waking day in that bed of hers if not for Emma, who pushed her relentlessly to go to her lessons and look people in the eye. It wasn’t a forcing action as it was a hard shove in the correct direction, Emma would say.

“You can’t let them know how much it hurts you,” she’d said, clutching Cristina’s hand. “If they find out you’re grieving like this, you’ll be seen as weak. Someone could try something, Tina. I don’t want that to happen. So just—make them think it’s okay.”  

But Cristina could not face them. She could not pretend that she was fine after losing a part of her family so near and dear to her. It wasn’t brave to pretend to be unaffected by something like this. It was more cowardly to run away from her emotions than to just mourn for however long she needed. Yes, it wasn’t the most convenient for those around her, but Cristina knew that it was healthier. She just hoped that other people felt the same way and made the decision not to hurt her for her choice.

Cristina wondered if Emma had run away from her grief once in her life. Maybe that’s why her heart seemed to harden so quickly after being told that they would no longer sleep in the same bed.

Her Emma, her sweet sweet Emma. Her Emma whose eyes shone brighter than any reflection on the sea. Her Emma whose hair was flax spun into pure gold. Her Emma whose touch was softer than any other’s.

Her Emma, who was no longer hers. 

Cristina regretted telling Emma the very second she did it, because of the rapid tears filling Emma’s eyes and because of the fists at her sides, grip white-knuckle tight. Cristina regretted this even more than she regretted not telling Diego about their entire relationship before he was—she couldn’t even think it. 

But now, Cristina thinks, he might be seeing the world. He might be somewhere he’s always wanted to be. He might be somewhere where he can find the answers to his many questions and live his truth the way he so desperately wanted to. Diego might be free. 

Cristina screams into her pillow.


Emma believes Cristina is being juvenile about her situation. She would never tell her to her face, of course, but that’s what she believes. 

Because Cristina is a woman of high esteem to Emma, and women of high esteem should be able to face problems as they are presented with them. Though, Emma does believe that Cristina will eventually get over this because wounds heal.

Wounds will heal but scars will stay forever, which admittedly makes Emma a bit wary. 

So when Emma sifts through Cristina’s mail (mostly consisting of her subjects writing to her their apologies about her loss and those demanding to see her after the extended absence she took from office) and finds a letter from a Julian Blackthorn of a place called Viribus, she believes that she has found a decent excuse to lighten Cristina’s mood, if not drastically improve it.

Though, Emma thinks, Cristina had said that she did not love Julian and only wanted to marry him for the gain of their respective countries, the thought of that gain would definitely lift her spirits a little bit. The princess always seemed to care about her people as if they were her own children.

“Your Highness,” is a name that doesn’t come up in a lot of Cristina and Emma’s conversations. But for Emma now, this is her opening statement.

And so here she stands outside of Cristina’s door, knocking ever so quietly. While Emma would love to burst in and tell her princess to stop weeping the day away, she decides it would make her argument stronger by working in the ways Cristina enjoyed: silent and careful and considerate. “I have a letter from the king of Viribus .”

Emma can hear Cristina moving from her bed—for the first time that morning—and to the door. She can imagine the woman on the other side: puffy eyes, wet cheeks, and long brown hair matted to the surfaces of her forehead and her face. Emma can just see the edges of her nightgown, the frills and the lace that she knows Cristina not to like, but usually, those nightgowns are gifts—that of which the princess can never refuse in good faith.  

The prolonged delay before Cristina opens her door is outstanding.

“From Julian?” She asks. As usual, she looks spectacular, not a hair out of place. Maybe this is her way of coping, Emma thinks: putting extra effort into other, more trivial things to avoid thinking about what actually warranted her thoughts. 

Emma handed Cristina the letter, and she went to unwrapping it as quickly as she had received it.

“And what does that warrant, exactly?” Emma says absently, but not really absently. Like she is some sort of espionage, spying on her princess for someone shady. However, that she would never do. 

Cristina raises an eyebrow as she reads, ignoring Emma’s question. Her eyes go dark as she scans the pages, trying to connect the puzzle that was this Julian’s words. She seemed successful, having set the paper down on her nightstand only two minutes after receiving the messages. “He’s asked to see me. Tomorrow.” 

“Tomorrow? You’ve got to be kidding!” Emma says, rolling her eyes. Cristina blinks at her, lips pursed indefinitely. “Near a week after Diego disappears, no less.” 

“What could he be thinking?” Cristina sighs through her nose, dainty fingers rubbing her lips and chin. 

Emma huffs, blowing a strand of hair out of her face. “I’ll tell you what he’s thinking of,” she said, “boys like him only think of one thing.” 

Cristina pretends not to hear her once again, leaning in on herself to attempt to follow Julian’s logic. 

Though, she thinks, she might just have to wait and see what lies in store for her. 

 

“Are we there yet?” Octavian asks for the third time in the last hour, and Julian voices how he thinks he’s going to die. Drusilla wishes she could. 

There is no room in this tiny cabin, she thinks. There’s barely enough room for a couch and a table, much less three beds meant to accompany them on their long journey to the island Pietas. Two to five days eastward on a ship with nary a bookshelf in sight. A pity, Drusilla thinks once more; she was almost finished with her fifth novel, with only one more to last her approximately sixteen and three-quarters of an hour, all while completely disregarding the ways westward she would find after their time here.

Drusilla would rather be at home, she decides. Rather than on this trip to marry her brother off to some princess that neither of them had met before. 

Though maybe there could be fun in it, her mind teases. Typical. That voice in her head is always trying to spoil her best pouts. 

Maybe she will run off. Leave the rest of her family and search for her brothers and sisters long gone. Maybe that is what she would do. But, Drusilla reasons, her younger brother needs her. Octavian had no one while Julian tended to his kingly duties, no one except for her. And Drusilla would not be leaving him to his own devices to pursue the life that she would prefer.

But Octavian is about to be lonely at the very bottom of the ocean if he asks the position of their route once more.

Dru wraps herself in a blanket, losing herself in her book. At the very least, the words on the page give her something to focus on other than the broiling sickness in her stomach and the rambling of her siblings. 

But she can’t focus. Her mind wanders off its stilts to the forbidden locations to where it knows it is not allowed. And Drusilla finds the thought of a man meandering into her subconscious. 

In the past, Dru had completely prohibited crushes of any sort. She knows the dangers of love and what it could do to people. So, she rightfully cut herself off from it, but it always plagued her like a debilitating illness that she could never rid herself of. 

Julian—not that she’d ever told him about this virus of hers—described it once as: “selfishness beyond compare,” and Drusilla sometimes wondered if he was right: if she was just being selfish by thinking of what could be hers if only she were thinner. 

The surrounding princesses were small and graceful, while she fumbled and fidgeted in even her most august of moments. They had no trouble finding a husband, the men from their kingdoms lined up just to see them, but Drusilla was hardly even known about. The most anyone had seen from her was her occasional written poem distributed in the mornings by her squires around the palace. And even then only her writing was shown, never her face.

“Dru,” Octavian says, snapping her out of her trance, “what do you think the princess will be like?”

As if that was not the worst question to ask her then.

Octavian, nicknamed ‘Tavvy,’ was a sweet boy, never too abrasive or rash. Namely, he wasn’t the most observant person, which he could not be blamed for. There was never much brought to his attention, being too young to even fathom the things the people around him were undergoing. But, he could still try harder to be aware of those concerning himself. 

Drusilla staidly blinks at her youngest sibling before closing her book, marking her place with a finger. “Certainly we’ll find out once we arrive,” she says primly, trying her best to not think about the way that Princess Cristina would look. The people of Pietas were known firstly for their roses, and then for their appearances: for their olive-toned skin and dark, shiny hair. If Cristina was to be like any of her predecessors, she would be almightily beautiful. Drusilla was already envious, and she had not even seen her yet. 

Though it would not remain that way for long, she thought, for she could see a brief coastline in the distance from her place in the window. The mountainous terrain could be familiar only to the inhabitants of this land, seeing as how simply gazing upon it made Dru just a bit sicker. There were what seemed like millions of tiny peaks, each one rising higher than the next, topped with a helping of grass that spilled over their sides in great numbers. And the castle rising just above those hills to give way to a small village surrounding it—Drusilla thought it romantic. 

If one of her old picture books could come to life, this is what it would look like. Even from this tiny cabin nearly 10 miles away, Dru could still clearly see the spires of this palace, its portcullis, and the ramparts and towers all scrubbed to shine in the midday sun. It seemed as though even the plants near the castle were also made to stand out, the red of flowers stark against the green grass and bushes. 



and here's 6,,,,,,

 

 

And awakening was the most difficult part of her rest.

She looked around. The room she was in was dark, cold, and small. She could feel the walls on each side if she stretched her arms only halfway. They were rough and hardly constructed for comfort.

The woman did not remember what had happened before she came here. Every image in her brain felt like a torn palette of paper—jagged in its edges and incorrect in her head. 

She did not even remember her own name.

The only thing she remembered was a face. Something of brilliant blue-green eyes and blonde, spiky hair. But her head hurt to try to force the rest. It would come when it did, she thought.

Here she sat for what seemed like ages, with the same lack and amplitude of sight, lost in a limbo of the same four items in her cell. The window, the bed, the door, and herself. 

Sometimes, she liked to run her fingers along the walls until they bled, just to keep herself sane. She enjoyed the stability that the pain brought her, how it brought her back down from the high that was living in this solitude. Though she couldn’t really identify what she liked, since she would not classify herself as the same person as before she came, that being because the memories before this were not hers to even uncover inside of her mind. 

It was as if she were a husk of what had been, something of the before stuffed into the after, where it should not have existed. 

Like she was just floating through time and space, with no direction or purpose. Like she was nothing in the great void of somethings. 

Maybe being alone for that long did that to you. 

Or maybe her thoughts were warranted, maybe her trains of consciousness had cause to be heard, a message to be sought. 

Or, maybe she was losing grip on reality with every passing second.

***

 

Obviously, there was nothing for her to do but sit and ponder her own existence. Besides looking at the sky, which grew to be boring after three measly days. But there was always something special about the stars, she thought. Like they seemed to be shining just for her, pushing her to keep her hope for a better day. 

 

“Aline.” The Queen said, looking vaguely over her shoulder. She did not make eye contact with the woman standing behind her. “Make sure this one stays out of my way. Take care of her.”

The person beside the Queen nodded calmly, stepping forward. She was thin and lean, the picture of health. Her hair was inky black, cropped short just above her eyes. Her eyes—they were as brown as the bark on a newly grown tree, dark and lovely as they ‘grew’ over the other’s form to drink her all in.  

Aline grabbed the woman’s hand, guiding her gently down the carpet of the elaborate throne room. 

 

***

 

“I’m not completely certain as to how they do it, but I know that people lose their memories upon coming here, and when they eventually die.”

“How can one erase someone’s memories?” 

“As I said, I have no idea. But I’ve seen it happen. People will stay for years here and then the day before they’re put to death because of a stupid mistake, they won’t even know where they are. It is as if the people here enjoy killing someone with no recollection of what they’ve done—it makes me sick.”  

 

*** 

 

Alessa found that she was growing wearier and wearier with every passing day. 

It was as if there was a cloud hanging over her head, impending doom coming ever closer as she progressed through her daily duties. There were the signs that something horrid was bound to happen: the ache in her heart and her head, the shaking in her stomach, and the jerkiness of her fingers and toes. 

And that was all she needed to feel before she knew that a terrible event was to take place soon. Not that she knew this behavior was the sign of something such as that, considering there was nothing for her to base this observation off of, but Alessa still found these tells to be, well, telling.