AN: This story is the sequel to "The Charade", and will not make sense to you if you haven't read its counterpart first. So if you haven't done that, I suggest you do. Thanks.
Chapter One: Kiss and Control
"Get up, get up, get up! Come on, you lazy bags of flesh! The sun is shining, the birds are singing! It's time to get up!"
Sidereus the light spirit buzzed energetically around the large bed shared by the king and his companion, the wizard. Said gentlemen were currently trying to block out Sid's incessant chatter and simultaneously smother themselves in the blankets.
"Fuck off, Sidereus!" Calcifex muttered angrily, covering his head with his pillow.
"Oh, stop being so grouchy," the spirit shot back, turning up his luminance just enough to bother the man. "It's nearly noon and neither of you have budged an inch."
"We're tired," groaned Cerasus-regna, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. His shoulder length blond hair was mussed.
Sidereus adopted a look that said, 'Oh, really?' He smirked. "What were you doing all night that made you so tired?"
At that, the king blushed a bright pink color, and Sid laughed. It was so easy to rattle the boy. His brief period of mirth ended, however, when a green cushion was sent hurtling his way. He narrowly avoided being taken out by the thing, saved only by his quick reflexes.
"Damn it, Cal! You could put a guy out like that!"
The wizard had finally pushed himself into an upright position and was presently combing his fingers clumsily through his shaggy black hair. "Stop teasing him, you dolt. And I'm up now. Are you happy?"
"A little. Could do without the insults, though."
Cerasus glanced out the window. "Oh, my. Is it really this late already?"
"I told you!" the spirit said. "It's almost time for lunch. The cooks want to know what you'd like to eat."
"I wonder if they'd be willing to whip up some stew today," Cal wondered out loud, a dreamy look floating onto his face as he imagined the food.
"I'm sure they would," Cerasus replied, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. He was only wearing a pair of thin pajama pants, so he quickly bent down to grab the shirt he had discarded the previous night and pull it on.
Calcifex yawned and followed suit, stretching slowly once he was on his feet. "Excellent. We'll ask for that, then. But first I'm going to go wash up, love." He walked over to the king, kissed him chastely, but sweetly, on the lips, and left in the direction of the bathroom.
Sidereus watched him go, his expression sobering a bit. "Now that he's gone… She wants to talk to you today, too, Cerasus," he said.
Cerasus' eyes swiveled to the spirit, startled. "Why?"
"I don't know. But she was smiling when she told me. It freaked me out, to be honest."
The boy swallowed hard as a feeling of dread seeped into his bones. He didn't know what could possibly cause it, but if his mother, Flamma-regi, was smiling, it could be nothing that boded well.
Flamma-regi, former queen of Laedel, had lost none of her regality when her title was passed on. She sat, back impossibly straight and shoulders squared, in her favorite chair in the great hall. A plate of food had been placed before her, but she was not eating. No, she was waiting.
Waiting for the arrival or her only son and successor to the throne. She thought, rather angrily, that Cerasus-regna must be taking his time, since she had sent word to see him with that despicable light spirit ages ago. Probably being held back by him, she mused, her unhappiness increasing exponentially as the smiling, handsome face of that wizard floated through her mind.
One year. It had more than one year since her son had become king, since Calcifex and Sidereus had become permanent fixtures in the castle. Every day that had passed since then had been one that Flamma-regi had detested. Having those things - for they were not even worthy of being acknowledged as proper beings, in her mind - living in her home, being waited on by her servants… Working their evil magic over her child… It was unbearable. Only one thought kept Flamma-regi from going quite mad over the past year, and it was that reason she had called Cerasus-regna down for. A small, barely perceptible smile surfaced on her lips, just enough so that the ends curved up delicately. Her gray eyes flashed like cold iron; the king would be devastated to hear her news. She was glad.
A page, dressed in his formal green uniform, stepped into the hall and announced, "His Majesty, Cerasus-regna," before bowing and leaving again as the blond-haired, blue-eyed monarch strolled in.
"Mother," Cerasus greeted, nodding his head at Flamma-regi before taking his seat beside her. "You wanted to speak to me?"
"I did, indeed," she replied, smile widening a fraction of an inch. She didn't elaborate beyond that, wanting to draw out the situation as much as she could.
The king squirmed in his seat for a second, but his voice was uninterested and apathetic when he asked, "About what?"
Flamma-regi's look of happiness disappeared in a flash, being replaced with a hard scowl. Her son was learning how to sound powerful, and she knew exactly who his teacher was. But she disregarded her displeasure after a moment, knowing that when she finally revealed her secret to Cerasus, it would banish his confidence with ease.
"You know of Tarragon, I assume?"
"Tarragon?" Cerasus-regna said, somewhat surprised now. Tarragon was the neighboring kingdom to the north, known for its harsh weather and beautiful women. Flamma-regi herself had some Tarragonian blood coursing through her veins. But the only thing Cerasus could think of that involved Tarragon was international relations, and the last time he had checked, they were getting along perfectly with their northern friends. "Of course I know of Tarragon," he said.
"And surely you remember its king, Lord Singor?"
Cerasus nodded; he had met Lord Singor several times before. Once at his father's funeral, again when he turned thirteen, and once more at fifteen. The man was short, shorter than Cerasus, even, and rather large around the middle. He had dark hair speckled with gray, and the last time they had met, a large bald patch was showing up on the very top of his head. He was a nice man, to be sure, with perpetually rosy cheeks and crinkly eyes. They had never spoken for very long, but Cerasus liked him.
"And," Flamma-regi went on, looking and sounding rather like someone who held some wonderful secret in their grasp, "You recall his lovely daughter, Lady Damonica?"
Again, Cerasus nodded. Damonica, who was his age, and like all Tarragonian females, was breath-taking, had come along with her father to Cadavna-regna's burial. But Cerasus still did not see where his mother was going with the present conversation. He stared at her imploringly, demanding with his eyes that she divulge her point to him.
He got his wish.
"Well, my son, Lord Singor and I have been in near constant contact for years - since you were twelve, as a matter of fact." She stopped to let Cerasus absorb this information as if it were some magnificent piece of news. Her triumphant expression, now just barely concealed, had yet to vanish.
"You see, both of us desired a strong union. I, having to control the throne alone without your father, was of course quite worried about the strength of Laedel. And Lord Singor was rather uncomfortable with the state of affairs between his own kingdom and those barbarians from Uyria. We decided, upon a lengthy conversation after your father's service, that action had to be taken. And so…"
Cerasus could not help the nervous shiver that raced under his skin at the face that Flamma-regi adopted at that point; her smile was positively malicious.
"We struck a deal."
"Of what sort, Mother?"
The woman's slate gray eyes glowed. "Of the nuptial sort, my son."
'Nuptial?' Cerasus was slightly taken aback. Widowed females in Laedel were not permitted remarriage. Flamma-regi knew this. She could not, without breaking a rather serious law, have made an engagement deal with Lord Singor. Unless…
"Mother, you didn't." Cerasus could feel the beginnings of panic plucking at his mind, sharp and stinging; Flamma-regi's smile grew even more.
Unless the contract had not been drawn between her and Lord Singor, but rather…
"Oh, but I did, my dear boy. You and Lady Damonica will be married on the eve of her eighteenth birthday celebration, in front of the full courts of both Laedel and Tarragon."
"Full courts?" The king repeated, numbly. Members of the courts, usually one or two, were always present at important weddings, to make them official; two entire courts had never yet attended a ceremony, however. At least, not to Cerasus' knowledge. Undoubtedly, this measure had been negotiated by Flamma-regi, who would most assuredly want the marriage to be as legally binding as possible.
"Yes, both of them," Flamma-regi responded, standing up slowly. The look of mingled terror, disbelief, and anguish on her child's face was satiating. She began to leave, but stopped just short of the doorway to the entrance hall and said over her shoulder, "I would advise you, son, to make some… adjustments… before your betrothed arrives. I do not presume to think that she will be happy to find her promised in bed with, ah… Certain company…"
And with that, the victorious woman was gone, leaving a crushed Cerasus behind her.
"Where is he, Sidereus?"
The light spirit glanced up from the candle he was tasting, surprised, to find the young king out of breath and appearing incredibly distressed. His light brown eyebrows were drawn together among a group of worrying creases on his forehead. Sid glided over to him quickly, afraid that Cerasus might faint or start crying at any moment, since he looked likely to do so.
"Where is who, Cera?" Sidereus asked calmly, gazing at the boy with concern.
"Calcifex! I need to find him immediately!" Cerasus stepped hurriedly around the spirit, wringing his hands. "I have something to tell him. Oh… But he's not going to like it at all!" There was a tremor in his voice as he finished his declaration.
And Sidereus, who had not seen Cerasus this out of sorts in a full year, wondered what could possibly have transpired between the king and his mother to ever procreate such a reaction. When he thought of Flamma-regi, however, he found it was not hard to imagine a whole list of things that she may have done to cause such terror. Especially in her own son, who had a long history of being bullied by the woman, and had been subject to her cruelty only up until very recently.
"He's not here," Sidereus said in reply to Cerasus' frantic question. "He went down to the stables to feed Amiculi."
At this, the boy started to pace around the parlor, shaking his head and muttering to himself, just loud enough for the shocked light sprite to hear him.
"What am I going to do…? He'll hate me… I can't possibly get out… Could cause a war…"
"What?" Sidereus gasped. He buzzed over to Cerasus', stopping him from continuing to walk aimlessly in tight, dizzying circles. "What is going to cause a war, Cera? What happened down there with your mother?"
The king didn't say anything, but his bottom lip trembled and his eyes became glossy. A second later, he was sobbing frantically into his hands, his loud wails echoing throughout the room. Sidereus was at a loss, unable to decide if he should comfort the boy or fly off to find Cal.
However, moments later, his choice was made for him as Calcifex himself strode into the parlor wearing a content smile that slid off his face faster than an egg on a wall when he set his green eyes on his crying boyfriend. He crossed the room in a few long strides and was sitting next to Cerasus the next instant, wrapping his strong arms around the boy's slender, shaking frame. Sidereus backed up to give them space.
"Ssh," Calcifex crooned into the king's ear through his long blonde hair. "What's the matter, love?" He rubbed little circles into the small of Cerasus' back, willing to let the question go unanswered until Cerasus was ready to tell him.
The wizard's presence seemed to calm the king incredibly, and his sobs quieted down into small, wet breaths and sniffles. He dashed his forearm across his puffy red eyes and snuggled closer to Cal, trying to gain some of the soothing heat that the older man offered so easily. Outside the door, a muffled scratching sound could be heard, followed by a desperate whine, but Cerasus, wrapped up in his turbulent thoughts, didn't notice. Sidereus, on the other hand, did. He shot Calcifex a questioning look, to which Cal just offered a small grin and a shrug, and went off to investigate the source of the noise.
Now that Cerasus was no longer panicking, Calcifex led the boy over to the couch and bade him to sit, which he did. The wizard continued to pat Cerasus' back while he repeated, "What's wrong?"
Ah. That explained a lot. Calcifex frowned; if Flamma-regi was involved in the king's distress, it was probably worse than he had originally thought. "What about her, my love?"
"She… sh-she… engaged," Cerasus choked out, feeling as though an enormous lump had grown in his throat. He couldn't bring himself to just come out and say the full matter.
Cal raised an eyebrow in confusion. "She's engaged? To whom?"
But the boy shook his head, sending his light blond hair twirling about him. "N-not her…" He swallowed heavily, feeling the persistent lump interrupt the action. Unable to meet Calcifex's searching gaze, he looked down at his pale, shaking hands and said, in a very small voice, "Me."
A strangled cry came from the doorway then, and Sidereus zoomed back into the room at top speed, pursued by a tiny ball of golden fur that was making far too much noise for a creature so small while it eagerly chased the light spirit.
"Get this thing away from me!" Sid yelped as the animal made a wild leap into the air. Cerasus, startled into looking up after hearing Sidereus' scream, was able to see during the furball's jump that it was a little puppy, no taller than the king's own shins.
The puppy was obviously very excited at having discovered something as amusing as a floating ball of light, and kept up a continuous stream of high-pitched barks and yips. As of yet it had failed to notice the two gentlemen sitting on the parlor couch. That was quickly changed, however, when Sidereus rocketed behind Calcifex's head for cover. The puppy skidded to a halt at Cerasus' feet and looked up at him with its head cocked to the side. The two stared at one another for a short while before the creature's face suddenly broke into what would have unmistakably been a smile if the animal could have managed it. Its tongue lolled out of its mouth, its ears perked up, and the puppy reared onto its furry yellow hind legs to put its front ones against Cerasus' ankles.
"Where the hell did that thing come from?" Sidereus asked, exasperated. "It nearly ate me!"
Cerasus, who found himself rather unexpectedly happy at the sight of the animal, grinned. "He's cute." Almost as if the dog could understand the compliment it had received, it let out a tiny bark.
"Cute? Cute? It's a monster!"
And Calcifex, who had been uncharacteristically quiet for the past few minutes, said, "He."
Sidereus poked out from behind the wizard's head to look him in the face. "What?"
"The dog. It's a male."
Sid snorted. "What the fuck ever. I don't care what it is, I don't like it!" The spirit gave the puppy one last scathing look before flying off towards the bedroom. The dog, now preoccupied, didn't give chase. Cal did not so much as glance after Sidereus.
Cerasus, who had picked up the puppy and settled him in his lap after the sprite had left, was not so busy that he missed Calcifex's shift in attitude. Stroking the pup's fur - it growled happily - the king said, "Cali…? Are you all right?"
For a horrible, terrifying moment, he thought the wizard was going to ignore him. They had fought before, tiny little upsets, but had never completely disregarded one another. And yet, looking back on the incident weeks later, Cerasus felt he almost would have rather taken the silent treatment instead of what happened next.
Calcifex, to his credit, was able to hide the pure disbelief he was feeling when he slowly turned his head to stare at Cerasus. But the hurt shone through, and so did his anger. "Am I all right? Am I all right, Cerasus?" Calcifex's shocking green eyes had hardened. "What do you think, hm?"
All of a sudden the man shot to his feet, startling the puppy, who scrambled backwards a few inches into Cerasus' other arm. Cal whirled around to glare down at the king. Cerasus had not seen Calcifex so angry in quite some time, and it was petrifying.
"Of course I'm not fucking all right, Cerasus!" the wizard shouted, his face turning red in his rage. "You just told me you're engaged, and it obviously can't be to me, or you wouldn't be sobbing like a damn rain cloud!" His deep voice was rising in volume with every word, and even though he knew he would regret it later, Calcifex couldn't stop himself from continuing. It felt like a floodgate had been let open, and nothing could hold back the waves of emotion that came crashing through it.
"Or maybe," he went on wildly, tossing his head so that his dark hair looked windswept, "the reason you're blubbering your eyes out is because you are engaged to me, and you'd rather die than suffer such a despicable fate! Is that it, Cera? Hm? Is it?"
Cerasus was dumb struck. This was exactly what he had feared would happen when he broke the news to the wizard. But the last suggestion - that he wouldn't want to marry Calcifex - astounded him. He just barely managed to squeak out, "Of c-course not!"
But Calcifex did not appear placated. Quite the opposite, in fact. His face grew into an ugly, twisted scowl, almost as though he had it in his head to strike the boy before him. Instead, he turned on his heel without another word and stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him.
Sidereus, coaxed out of the safety of the bedroom by the terrible things Cal was shouting, looked upon Cerasus with pity. He floated over to the boy and settled on his shoulder, keeping one eye warily on the puppy, which was poking his nose around Cerasus' middle, sniffing for some unknown scent. The shocked king appeared not to notice that Sidereus had joined him.
"Cera?" Sid asked carefully and gently, not wanting to scare the boy. But when Cerasus did not answer, he raised his voice just a little. "Hey… Cera?"
That time, the blond looked at the spirit with wide blue eyes, clouded with disbelief and confusion. He mumbled something so breathily and softly that Sidereus, even at such close proximity, failed to understand it.
"He hates me. He really…"
Frowning, Sid tried not to think of how familiar those words were. Hadn't he heard them multiple times just a year ago when Cerasus was convinced he had made Calcifex disgusted with him? But that was just a misunderstanding, an easily fixed notion. This was so much more than that, and for once, Sidereus found that he wasn't one hundred percent sure that he could deny Cerasus' claim. Calcifex had been so angry.
So instead of saying anything, he just hovered on the boy's shoulder, comforting him while he slowly broke down and cried.
Hidden in the shadows of a giant engraved pillar a couple meters down the hall from her son's quarters, Flamma-regi smiled to herself. She had followed the wizard when he reentered the castle carrying that awful furball in his arms, and ducked into her current hiding place to wait for what she was sure would happen.
She was not disappointed. A short while later she was granted with the sounds of Calcifex roaring at the top of his lungs, and every hurtful word was music to her pale ears. Then she watched with glee as he banged the door open and stormed away, looking murderous.
Cerasus would surely never forgive the wretched man for all the nasty things he said, and would happily marry Lady Damonica. Or at least, he would do so without a fuss. Before long, the wizard and his paranormal sideshow of a friend would be gone, out of her hair and life. Forever.
AN: So here it is, like I promised. The first chapter of the sequel. I get the feeling that parts of this story are going to be extremely surprising - perhaps even disappointing - to some people. In any case, I'll be happy as long as even one person enjoys it.
Thanks for reading, as always.
Disclaimer: This story consists purely of fiction and is a product of the author's imagination. Any person/place/thing/event contained within that has any similarities to something or someone in real life is completely coincidental.
Constructive criticism is welcome.