Chapter Two

How the line of kings had ended is a mystery, mainly because the Sovereigns don't allow for the stories to circulate. People neither talk of it nor think of it. Soon after the forest had sprung up, troops of people entered it to search for the castle. Most of them never returned. The few that did swore that they didn't see anything; they simply wandered for weeks and weeks to the point where they thought they were marching in circles, then one day, they were back at the edge of the forest.

The Sovereigns took power then. After King Belden's death, the favorite of his chancellors stepped up and claimed Audenland for himself. Of course, there was a short civil war following it amongst the other advisors, the supporters of the chancellor, and the limited group that still believed that Belden's only heir was still alive. Two and a half decades later, nobody knows much about this supposed heir. He has no name, no face, and no place in Audenland.

The current ruler, Sovereign Salus is a powerful man. With his shrewdness and callous handling of foreign affairs, he managed to expand the country by almost a third, conquering the small nations crowding around the eastern boundary. His persona as a ruler, I applaud. As a man, I distrust. Maybe it is because of the circumstances under which I met him almost eleven years ago but I've never been comfortable with him.

The day that I met Salus, other more important things happened. The memory of what came to pass is lucid, like the fairy visit, but I wish it weren't so.

Five years old then, I was in the upstairs nursery with Gail, the nanny. The others were all too old to be confined in a room, Vern only joining me when Darrel or Brennon were doing something too difficult for him tag along. Right then, my brothers were in the stables, on the watch for my mother who was at Launce, called the King's City. She had gone with my father on business, promising to bring gifts for my siblings and me.

Gail was helping me form words with lettered blocks of wood when suddenly, a commotion sounded downstairs. Women were screaming and I heard feet pounding up the stairs, people rushing back and forth right outside the door, my father barking at the maids.

I flung open the door in alarm and ran down the stairs, abandoning my nanny. Midway, Darrel met me with a stricken look on his face and scooped me into his arms. But not before I saw what was in the entrance hall. My mother was on a stretch of fabric held at both ends by men I'd never seen, wrapped in layers and layers of cloth, and slathered with blood, everywhere except her face. She was looking at my father weakly, holding out a hand to him. He gripped her hand, at the same time yelling at my brother, "Take her! Take her into the room and don't let her out!"

I kicked and screamed in desperation and broke free of Darrel's grip, only to be caught by Vern and Brennon at the foot of the stairway. I cried out for my mother but in exhaustion, her eyes were closed. I saw a tear streak her face.

Once inside my room, Darrel held me in his lap, back against the door, shaking. Vern and Brennon looked fearful. I sobbed loudly into my brother's clothes.

I don't know how long we were in that room. But eventually, when my tears had dried and silence filled the chamber, my father opened the door.

Darrel and the others quickly rose to their feet. I was still gathered in Darrel's arms. We were all led into my parents' large bedroom; the metallic smell of blood assaulted us. Aubrianna and Asceline were standing in a corner together, holding hands and looking lost. A handful of maids exited quietly, some weeping.

My mother was propped against pillows on the bed. Her face and hair was covered with the sheen of sweat and she was breathing harshly. A smile spread over her features as she saw her children then lifted a hand to her firstborn. His eyebrows were furrowed and his lips were a thin line but I knew he wouldn't cry.

"Oh, Darrel, don't look so grave." Her voice was a whisper. Darrel looked even worse at that utterance, as if he was going to throw up. She lifted both her arms to him; he hesitated for a moment then leaned in to hug her. I heard her whisper something into his ear. He nodded bravely, stepped back, and allowed Brennon forward.

She spoke to each of us softly, saying goodbyes and don't worries, looking more and more weaker by the moment. I remained silent, confused but knowing something horrible and final was happening.

Here my memory skips and I'm already next to her on the bed, one of her arms wrapped around me. "Darling, I brought you something. Here, isn't that beautiful? Just like you. Did you know you're beautiful?" Her voice cracks. "I love you, Adele…. My little beauty."

She holds a gold chain, a rose bud imprinted on a thin gold piece, the size and shape of a coin, hanging from it like a pendulum. A small diamond was studded in the center of the rose and others framed the edge of the coin. She places it around my neck then flinches suddenly from pain. A wrenching cry escapes her. Her face is white.

"Adele, just remember. Mommy will always be near you. Be selfless. But this one thing you must be greedy for: always search for love. Love, Adele. Like mommy loves you, you must find love."

She puts both arms around me and holds me. Another cry of pain. She's gripping me tightly. Breathing shallowly. Wimpering. There's warmth and wetness all over my front. She's shaking horribly and maids rush in. I feel myself begin to cry again.

"Did you hear me, Adele? Remember that…."

I continue to wail. I am hanging on to her neck, thinking only of her agony.

Then suddenly, something changes. Like a lightning bolt or sunrise, everything seems different. It is either the atmosphere or my senses, but one or the other is intensified. A new part of me feels awakened. Along with hearing, seeing, and smelling, there's something else. My arms and hands are tingling and I feel my stomach tense. There's a burning sensation.

My mother seems to be relaxing, her breathing becomes steady, and the color returns to her face.

The pain is suffused throughout my body now. My stomach is splitting open. My head is spinning. My ears are ringing. Every bone is throbbing.

She looks at me, mortified. She tries to pry my hands away. In a frightened voice, she screams, "Thierry, look what she's doing!"

I am ripped away from my mother's side and as quickly as it started, the pain vanishes and all I see is black.

Hours later, I woke up to being in my darkened room. The sun had set. Gail was softly snoring in a chair beside my bed. I felt disoriented but forced myself to crawl out and walk downstairs. My father was in the sitting room. A fire was roaring in the grate. There was another man there, a tall man who was speaking soberly to my father's hunched form.

"I am truly remorseful. Launce was said to be secure, absolutely no danger was suspected. It's a surprise that a segment of the city would simply break off into the lake. The only accident like this that ever took place was 25 years ago when King Belden and his wife…. Sovereign Thallis will make sure that the costs for the funerals are taken care of. The other families are being visited as well, we would just like to know if there's anything the Sovereign could do to lessen -"

"The grief?" my father suggested softly. "Not having to pay for the funeral would lessen our grief?"

The other man said nothing.

"Salus, come back again when the Sovereign is ready to pay not for the funeral but with his own sincerity."

Salus's voice darkened. "Sovereign Thallis alone isn't responsible for this. And in any case, he is not obligated to feel anything for these tragedies – if you need reminding, he is the sovereign of Audenland."

"But he is not king!" my father broke in so angrily that I jumped. "That city should have been inspected. There were thousands of people at Launce, there are thousands of people at Launce every day. And that such a catastrophe was allowed to happen shows how much the present day royalty gives a damn about any of us. My six children lost their mother today. How do you think this will affect their lives?"

"These things happen," Salus responded detachedly.

My father stared icily at him. "Get out of my house."

"I'll express your gratitude to the Sovereign." He bowed and turned toward the doorway, where I was standing. I was finally noticed. He raised his eyebrows.

"Hello, little girl."

His hair was the color of tar, his face angular. He looked neither kind nor unkind, neither handsome, nor plain. His eyes were black, like the room I had left.

"Poor child. Suffering such a loss at your age." He stepped closer and held me gently against him, stroking my head. I froze. "Poor girl. But you'll get along. You'll get along."

When he released me, I ran past him into the sitting room, turned and watched as he strode out of our home.

He was hardhearted and apathetic but also right. For I did get along and my family moved on. I still had a father and three brothers who loved me along with two sisters who could have helped raise me. I was so very young when Avalien of Roswood passed away. Eleven years later, I have a bank of memories in the locked box in my mind but the images seem almost like fables to me, from someone else's life to be enjoyed and treasured. However, what still remains to be an immediate part of me is the strange power that was awakened that day.

..::Sophie::..