|A Promise of Peace
Author: Mazkeraide PM
Forty years ago, a horrible war ripped five nations apart. Their kings gathered together and swore peace everlasting. But now that a new generation is rising to rule, will that peace be upheld?Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 9 - Words: 23,183 - Reviews: 27 - Favs: 2 - Updated: 07-23-09 - Published: 10-13-08 - id: 2583623
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Explain this again to me," Castor said. "How have I gone from being betrothed to not being betrothed?"
The two messengers shifted uncomfortably before him. They had arrived earlier that morning with conflicting stories for the Mariginese prince regarding his marriage.
"Well, Your Highness," said the first, haltingly, "when I left the oasis, I was under the impression that you were to marry the girl, who would follow after a month. She wanted to be with her sisters, sir. Then, as I was waiting for my ship, I met my comrade here—" he gestured at the nervous man beside him— "and he told me the engagement was off."
Castor turned his gaze to the other messenger, who was staring fixedly at the ground.
"Well?" the prince asked.
The man cleared his throat. "Well, a few days after my comrade here departed, Lord Arefi discovered his daughters were involved in something at night. He called off the engagement and promised any of his daughters to whatever man could discover where they went. I was sent to tell you."
"What manner of 'something'?" Castor asked.
"That's just it, Your Highness. Lord Arefi doesn't know. That's why he's set up a contest. I'm afraid you can't marry the girl unless you win."
Castor sighed angrily. Why did destiny have to be so difficult?
"Well, is she worth it?" he heard himself ask.
"She's beautiful, if that's what you mean," said the second messenger.
"And an alliance between the Royal House of Marigina and the most powerful tribe in Pynterre cannot be to your disadvantage," said the first.
Castor dismissed the two men. He needed time to think.
Beautiful, he heard the man say. He knew she was beautiful. He had known since he had first seen her, seated by his side at a royal banquet. That vision, nearly a year old, had driven him in his quest to marry her. He had hoped for an idea of her: her personality, her whims and quirks, her voice, her mannerisms. He had thought himself destined to marry her, but now it seemed as though the world had shut him out.
Unless he traveled to Pynterre. Unless he competed in the contest and won. Then he could take Arija as his wife and bring her home with him, back to Marigina and the city on a hill.
He walked to the large bay window and gazed out, past the walls of the city and into the vast green rainforest beyond. He had grown up here— in the heat and humidity, in the forest. Could he leave it for a harsh desert and a girl he didn't know? Could he force a girl to come here from the desert? Would she belong? He had thought she would— it was destined to be so; he had seen it— but now he was beginning to have doubts.
The door banged open, interrupting his train of thought.
"Castor!" said a loud, booming voice. "What is this I hear about your engagement?"
Castor sighed, but did not turn around. He was in no mood to face his father now. "It will not happen, Father, as I'm sure they've told you. This Lord Arefi has his own ideas for his daughter, and they do not include me."
"They don't exclude you either. Why not participate in this contest of his?"
To Castor's surprise, his father's tone was not angry, but entirely expressionless, as though he had no feelings on the subject.
"I do not know. I cannot decide if this contest is worth entering. An alliance would be beneficial for both our countries, it is true, but I don't know if I could win her. And I do not know if she would be happy here."
"Why do you doubt yourself now? As your visions have shown, she will come back with you to live as your wife."
"My vision was before Lord Arefi's contest. I do not doubt that the future has changed."
"Then, my son, there is only one solution. You will have to see it for yourself," the king replied sternly.
"Nightflower. Of course," Castor said. The potent elixir made from this rainforest plant would enhance his seer's blood and grant him true and powerful visions. His family had used it for ages, but the young prince had yet to experience its power. There was no escape, however; his father's suggestion was more like an order.
"I shall have the alchemist prepare you a draught of nightflower. You may report what you see to me in the morning."
"As you will, Father," Castor said. His father left without another word.
It wasn't long before the door opened again, this time for Castor's brother Godric.
"I've only just heard the news," he said, embracing his brother. "I'm so sorry."
Castor pulled away with a shrug. "It means nothing. I didn't know the girl, and I hardly had time to realize I was marrying her before I found out I wasn't."
"But you wanted it. You dreamed of her, without taking nightflower. You were meant to be."
"I am more concerned with Father's reaction to my failure," Castor said.
"I saw him leave. What did he tell you?" Godric asked.
"He demanded I determine my own future by taking nightflower. I'll get a potion tonight."
"At least he wasn't angry."
"This was worse. He was cold and demanding, as though I were a servant and not his son. I would have preferred rage to this."
Godric laid a hand on Castor's shoulder. "He simply wanted his alliance," he said. "He will respect what the nightflower shows as your path."
"I know he will. I don't know that I shall."
"Why not? Nightflower has been used for generations to bring on powerful visions. It speaks truly of the future. There can be no disadvantage to taking it."
"Nightflower has led men to do wicked things in search of their promised futures. Knowing the future is dangerous, even if it is only in glimpses. I would rather rely on what my natural ability chooses to show me," Castor explained.
"Those men were foolish and misguided. You have me, Father, and all his advisors to counsel you. You are in no danger from the nightflower. Besides, has your natural talent shown you anything since the first vision?"
Castor looked away. "It has not. Perhaps it does not want me to know the future."
"Or perhaps it is waiting for enhancement. Will you not try to strengthen your sight?"
"Fear not. I will do Father's will. I simply will consider my vision carefully," Castor said.
Godric's face broke into a smile. "There's the brother I know!" he exclaimed. "Do you want me with you?"
Castor shook his head. "I wish to have this vision alone. I promise you I will tell all. I am simply not ready to have a witness to something like that."
"You have taken nightflower before. It shouldn't be that bad."
"You have heard the stories as well as I have, and I doubt they exaggerated overmuch. Besides, there is a difference between chewing a few leaves for a dare and drinking a purified cordial."
Godric sighed. "I want to be the first person you tell," he said, embracing his brother again. "Be well."
Castor turned back to look out the window and listened to his brother's footsteps fading down the hall outside.
He was in a crowded, busy room. Many girls-- there must have been at least a dozen-- fluttered around, tossing clothes and cosmetics everywhere. They were giggling and chattering excitedly, as if they were going somewhere special.
"Hush, my sisters," said one girl. Castor turned and looked at her. It was her. Arija. Though it had been a year since his first vision of her, he would know her face anywhere. "We do not want to wake our guest," she continued.
She couldn't keep from smiling, and the other girls only giggled all the louder.
"He will not wake," said a younger girl. "The fortuneteller's herbs are far too strong."
He was in a garden filled with beautifully jeweled trees. He looked around for the girls and caught a glimpse of them walking in a straight line down a path, Arija in the lead. All of them were dressed in their finest, and Castor couldn't help but notice how beautiful Arija was.
Arija was in the arms of a black-eyed demon. Their embrace was amorous, but her face showed nothing but sadness. He bent down and kissed her, then pulled away, leaving her weeping.
"Look at the rainforest," Castor heard his voice say. "Isn't it beautiful?"
He turned to see Arija at his side. She was dressed in Mariginese style, a cut which looked odd on her. She was clearly less than comfortable.
"It is not the desert," she whispered, turning away before she had even glanced out the window. "It is not home."
He felt his heart breaking.
He woke up. He was lying on a hard pallet, held down with leather straps across his chest and legs. His first sight was his brother's face.
Why is Godric here? I asked him not to come...Something must have gone wrong. Castor's thoughts were vague, clouded from nightflower.
"I told you not to come," Castor said, already irritated. His voice was rough. "I didn't want you to see me like this."
"I had to," Godric replied.
"How long have you been here?"
"Not long. You were quieting down when I came in."
Godric took Castor's hand. Castor's suspicions were immediately confirmed. Something was wrong.
"Why did you come? I asked you not to, and you've always respected my wishes."
Godric sighed. There was a deep sadness in his eyes. Rather than reply, he loosened the straps confining Castor and helped him sit up.
"Godric, what's going on?" Castor asked.
"I don't know how to tell you," Godric replied slowly, his eyes fixated on the wall behind Castor.
"Tell me what? What's happened, Godric?"
"It's Father. He-- he's dead, Castor." Godric's voice broke on the word "dead". Castor couldn't breathe.
"How? When?" he whispered, his eyes searching Godric's face for some sign that this was all a horrible joke.
"His heart. Barely an hour after you went into your trance. It was all so sudden…" he trailed off.
"You were with him? He wasn't alone?"
"He was with his man Lemuel. He was being undressed when he collapsed. By the time I heard, he was gone."
"This can't be happening. This is a joke, or the nightflower-- yes, the nightflower: that must be it. This is a vision of the future. It's clearer than any I've ever had--"
"It's not the nightflower," Godric interrupted. "I'm king, Castor."
"King? No, no, it can't be…"
"Come on. You're exhausted. Let's get you to bed. You can sleep off the nightflower, and everything will make more sense once you've rested."
Godric grabbed Castor's arm and gently helped him up. He tried to protest, to insist that he could help, but he was so exhausted that Godric easily batted away his feeble efforts. The two of them made their way back to Castor's chamber, where Castor lay down and closed his eyes. He drifted off to sleep just as the first rays of sunshine filtered through the window.
Castor woke disoriented. The light in his chamber clearly indicated that it was midafternoon, so why was he still in bed?
Then it hit him. Nightflower. Father is dead. Godric is king.
He sat up too quickly and had to close his eyes until his head stopped pounding. Was any of this real?
"So, you're awake," said a voice.
Castor glanced up and recognized Lemuel, his father's servant.
"Your brother told me to keep an eye on you until you woke," the man continued. "How are you feeling?"
"Did it happen?"
Lemuel sighed. "I'm afraid it did, Your Highness. I was there."
"Are you all right?"
Castor shook his head. "I don't think I will be for a while. I need to see Godric."
"Would you like to clean up first?"
Castor suddenly realized how he must look-- mussed, pale, unshaven, his clothes wrinkled. He let Lemuel change him, comb his hair, and shave him. When he looked presentable, if rather pale, he went in search of his brother.
Godric looked up immediately when Castor entered the conclave. Although his councilors— his councilors, not Father's any longer— strove for his attention, he waved them away.
"A moment, please," he said. "This is important."
As soon as the room had cleared, Godric turned and embraced his brother.
"Castor," he said softly. "Are you all right?"
Castor nodded into his shoulder. Somehow, his brother's embrace brought tears to his previously dry eyes. "I'll be fine," he replied, although his voice shook.
"Do you need me? The councilors can wait--"
Castor pulled away, cutting him off. "No, they can't. I'm leaving, Godric."
"Stay! You have the same rights I do to hear them--"
"That's not what I mean. I'm leaving home. I'm going to Pynterre to compete for Arija's hand."
Godric stared at him. "When?" he asked finally.
"I'll stay for the coronation and the funeral, but not long after that. This alliance is what Father would have wanted. I'm going to give it to him."
"What Father wanted doesn't matter anymore. Is this what you want?"
"I want this," Castor said, and something in his tone or possibly his eyes kept Godric from pressing the matter.
"I'll miss you, Castor," he said.
"I'll miss you, too, Godric." Castor looked around with a sigh. "I'll let you get back to your councilors, shall I?" he asked.
"You can stay if you want," Godric said, almost desperately. "You deserve to know what's going on."
"That's never been the prince's place, and you know it. Good luck," Castor said over his shoulder as he turned away.
He didn't see the pain in Godric's face as he left.
Hi everyone! So it's been a while...a really long while...I hope you remember this story at least a little bit!
Anyway. Leave a review if you're still out there!