Chains of Fate
Chapter Five: Storm and Fire
I learned long ago to control my sickness at the sight of blood. After all, a knight can't afford to feel queasy in the middle of a battle. And, even though I never made it to the battlefield, I've seen hangings, executions, corpses, all kinds of gruesome things, without a tinge of sickness. None. Didn't even break a sweat. It's all about control.
But something about seeing Calypso like this, unconscious with her shoulder ripped and bloody, turns my stomach. It's not right. She shouldn't be lying on Matthew's bed, pale against the red velvet cushions. She's just…so still. Even when she sleeps, she tosses and mumbles and never really stops moving. But now…I don't know. It's not right.
Seeing her at all is strange. The last time I saw her, she was dirty and barefoot, her long hair dangling in the sand as she cried. She was sobbing, babbling about how she didn't care what her mother said, how she was going to find her father anyway. The next morning, she was gone.
Earlier, when I locked eyes with her from across the ballroom, a hot, swooping feeling rushed through me. There was the girl I used to wrestle with, who would never apologize when we fought, whose dark hair made a curtain around the both of us as she cried on my shoulder after her father left. There was that girl, dressed in white, framed perfectly for one second by a gap in the sea of dancers. Our eyes met. There she was, skin as tan as ever, black hair chopped short, with those strange, wonderful, coppery-red eyes.
And then she was gone again. Now, glancing at her, wounded on Matthew's bed, I wonder if she'll always be escaping. If, like a puff of smoke, she will vanish in the slightest breeze.
I have to turn my head until the nurse finishes bandaging Calypso's wounded shoulder. Thankfully, the knife didn't reach all the way through, but it did leave a deep, gaping hole. I feel sick just thinking about it. Me, Saburo, the controlled, untouchable knight, feeling sick because of a little blood. It almost makes me laugh.
"When will she wake up?" Shana asks, her face almost as pale as Calypso's. She, like me, is keeping a careful distance from the bed. It's strange, but I have the sudden impulse to wrap my arms around her. She looks so small and so frail, perched on the edge of Matthew's chair. She looks like she needs me to step in, to comfort her. To protect her.
I missed her so damn much. So much. She doesn't seem to understand this. I have been thinking about her every day, every hour for the past two years. Of her and the night we said goodbye.
I almost miss the nurse's answer, I'm so busy thinking of Shana. I order my thoughts back in time to hear it, though. "Soon, miss," the nurse says, curtsying and keeping her eyes on the floor.
"Thank you, Cara," Matthew says in his authoritative prince voice. "You are dismissed." The nurse curtsies again and disappears through the door.
Silently, we all turn to look at Calypso. Even Krist, kneeling at his sister's side, is oddly quiet. He reaches out, hesitantly, and brushes a piece of choppy hair off her face. Suddenly, he buries his orange head in his arms. I glance away, feeling uncomfortable witnessing a display of such raw emotion. Krist and I were never overly close, but it's easy for me to tell what he's feeling. He wears his mood like a badge.
"She would have been fine in the infirmary," I mumble to Matthew, who crosses his arms defensively across his chest. Almost as soon as she was stabbed, he insisted on bringing her to his room.
A sudden, sick reminder takes my breath away. Earlier, as I lifted Calypso off the ballroom floor to carry her here, her eyelids fluttering and her blood staining her white dress, the other knights surrounded the assassin, woman with the knife. But as they led her to the dungeon, she did a strange thing. Her red-painted mouth twisting, she waggled her fingers at me. It was almost like a wave. To be honest, that little motion of her hand was one of the creepiest things I've ever seen. I shudder now as I think about it.
"She saved my life," Matthew says slowly, bending over the bed. "I would have died if she hadn't been there."
Krist pats Matthew on the arm. "You were lucky," he says with a wan smile. I am unable to control the rush of hot anger than sweeps over me.
"She wasn't supposed to save you," I hear myself say, as if from a distance. There's a buzzing in my ears that makes everything sound far away. I know that my anger is trying to get the better of me, and I know that I need to resist it. "That's my job." My voice is bitter. I can't help but hate Calypso for taking my place, for playing the hero with such ease, while I danced with Shana all the way across the ballroom.
Matthew knows what I'm thinking. "It wasn't your fault, Saburo," he says softly, keeping his eyes on Calypso. Krist and Shana are watching us, their faces identically quiet and intense.
"You're wrong," I say, my voice almost too low to hear. And he is. And I'm an idiot. Damn Calypso for doing what I should have done. She'll never let me forget this.
Now we are silent. As my anger slowly ebbs away, I am intensely aware of Shana, sitting ramrod-straight in Matthew's reading chair across the room. She is avoiding my eyes on purpose. I wish she would talk to me, tell me what she's thinking. With Matthew and Krist and even Calypso, it's always easy to tell. With her...There's no telling what hides behind that cool, pale face.
Calypso's eyelids flicker. Or maybe it's a trick of the light. No, a definite flicker. There's a collective intake of breath in the room.
"She's waking up!" Matthew says, as if we hadn't realized this.
I glance at Shana. She's perched on the edge of the chair, her face tense, her fists clenched, her knuckles white. I look back to Calypso, who is struggling against the darkness. "Back off!" I say, surprised at the force in my voice. "Let her breathe!" Krist and even Matthew immediately step back.
A low groan erupts from Calypso's throat. Krist looks like he's barely able to stop himself from rushing to his sister's side.
And then her eyes open, blink twice. "My shoulder," Calypso groans, touching her bandage hesitantly.
Krist throws himself to the floor beside her, burying his face in the bedclothes and abruptly bursting into sobs. Calypso, her eyes wide and bewildered, strokes his head reassuringly. "Krist..." she says, attempting a smile.
Matthew immediately springs forward. "How do you feel? Do you need anything?" He is desperate to pay her back for saving his life. That's just how he is.
Calypso's eyes focus on him. "Matt…" she mutters, touching his hand quickly. A pained smile spreads across her face. "No…I'm fine."
She doesn't look fine. Chewing her lip, she looks around again. "Where am I?" She still looks terrible, her face still ashen, but her voice is stronger now.
Krist's head snaps up, and he throws his arms around her. "Some room," he says in his typical brief way. "Caly, you're a hero!"
"Er, that's nice," she says, sounding unsurprised even as Krist tries to squeeze the breath out of her. "But where am I?"
"The prince's room," I say. Calypso jumps. I guess she didn't see me at first, leaning against the wall near the door.
"Saburo," she says, her eyes closing briefly. She doesn't make an effort to greet me, even though I haven't seen her in three years. Somehow, I'm not surprised. Damn her, anyway. Her head drops back against the pillows. "Why am I in the prince's room?" she asks sleepily.
Matthew's back stiffens. I can sense the tension between his shoulder blades all the way over here. Staring at the floor, he shifts onto one foot and scratches his blond curls. His face has grown a deep, rosy pink. Even his ears are red. "Well," he says, his voice thick with nervousness, "you saved my life."
Calypso's eyes snap open and she sits upright. Krist tries to shove her back down, but she refuses to budge. "You're the prince?" she demands, her index finger stabbing aggressively at Matthew. Now he looks even more awkward.
"You didn't know?" Shana says, so softly I can barely hear her.
Calypso grimaces, holding her injured shoulder. Easing back against the pillows, she says, "No, I didn't." Her eyes rake Matthew over, as if seeing him for the first time. "Huh." She seems to lack energy to say anything else.
A smart rap on the door disrupts us. Before I can answer it, King Richard himself steps through it. I'm too surprised to even bow.
"Father!" Matthew says, forgetting his awkwardness. "What are you doing here?" Almost as an afterthought, he adds, "Sir." King Richard and his son don't see each other often. It is extremely unusual for the king to visit Matthew's chamber.
Krist collapses onto the stone floor in shock, but King Richard doesn't seem to notice. I don't think he sees Shana jump to her feet as if struck by lightening either. "I just came to see the maiden who saved my son's life!" he says heartily, crossing the room to Calypso's bedside.
She colors up to the roots of her black hair. At least she's not so pale now. "G-good evening," she says, trying to sit up.
The king takes her by the hand, bending to study her face. "You're a brave girl," he says seriously.
Calypso's cheeks are on fire. "I-I just saw the knife and I reacted," she says bashfully. I never thought I'd live to see the day. Calypso being modest! "It was nothing, really."
"I see," King Richard says in his deep, soothing voice. He peers into her face, scrutinizing. "You will go far," he says finally, straightening. Whatever that means. With a deep bow, he says, "Thank you for my son. You have truly saved Chanceledon."
I don't think Calypso knows how to respond to this. Her face bright red, she gapes open-mouthed. "Y-you're welcome," she manages finally.
The king nods deeply to Krist and Shana, who still look thunderstruck, and then turns to Matthew. "Son, will you speak with me in the hall for a moment?" His voice is the light, formal one he uses on state occasions.
"Certainly, Father," Matthew says, copying his father's tone. He turns to us, bows shortly. "Won't you excuse me?"
As they leave the room, I catch a glimpse of King Richard's eyes. I can tell that this is something serious, despite the detached voice he uses. His eyes, like Matthew's, betray his feelings. And, right now, the king is terrified.
The hall is dark, the torches on the walls unlit. Everyone is supposed to be at the ball. It's eerie with only the faintest moonlight reaching through the window at the end of the hall. In the shadows, Father turns to face me. "Matthew," he whispers.
Shivers creep down my spine. Something is wrong. His voice is all wrong. It's not the comforting, light voice I've heard all eighteen years of my life. It's deeper, tinged with worry and fear. "What is it?" I gasp.
Father slumps against the wall. I don't think I've ever seen him slump. His posture is always perfect, like all of his social graces. Now, he's...broken, almost. He clears his throat, a raspy, grating sound that I've never heard before. "She's escaped."
"Who has?" I am thinking that I don't think I've had a private conversation with my father before. Have I ever seen him when he is not playing the role of dutiful father and king? Have I ever seen the real him? Is this who he is really?
Father turns toward me. In the wan light, I can read the hopelessness in his eyes. "The assassin. The knights locked her in the dungeon after she attacked you. When I went down there, the guards were unconscious and she was gone. Her cell was still locked."
But that's impossible. How...?
"We're up against something stronger than we are," Father is saying. "You need to be careful. Will you promise me, Matthew?" His face looms over mine, desperate and afraid. I can't believe it. Father, the strong, the loved, the rock of our country, is afraid.
But it doesn't make any sense. There's no reason for him to fear for me. "Why me?" I ask. "I'm not important. Perry's the heir." I can almost taste the acid bitterness in my voice. It almost chokes me.
Father's large, capable hands clamp down on my shoulders. His eyes, frightened and wild, stare into mine. "Promise me!"
Panic, a huge bubble, swells in me as the reality of this hits me. A woman magically vanished from our dungeon. Father is terrified. He's worried for my safety, for whatever reason. This is real. "I promise."
I can feel Father's relief coursing through him as his hands slip from my shoulders. "Thank you," he breathes, mopping his sweaty forehead. "Don't leave Saburo's side." With that, he turns and disappears into the shadows of the hall. I find myself leaning against the door to my chamber, breathing hard. What is the meaning of this?
I am dozing, asleep but half-awake. Images spin around me. The assassin, the twisted knife, Matthew, Father. Twisting and running together until there is nothing but a blood-red blur, and I spin out of control. A shriek rips my throat as it passes through, spiraling out into the night. Pain, unimaginable pain.
My eyes pop open. The fear in the room is stifling. Saburo, sword in hand, races for the door, Matthew at his heels. I have to use my arms to push myself up, my head is spinning so badly. My shoulder immediately throbs. "W-what's happening?"
Now Krist is dashing for the door, and Shana is pulling me out of bed. "Didn't you hear that yell?" she asks, her green eyes enormous in her pale face. I suddenly realize that the scream in my nightmare was real. "Come on," she says, leading me to the door.
I can hear footsteps pounding down the dark hall. Saburo, Matthew, and Krist are racing ahead. Shana and I totter along as well as we can, as she is in heeled shoes and my shoulder is throbbing. Something is desperately wrong. Gloria, I am so scared.
The two of us spill into the chamber next to Matthew's in time to see the king, his throat bloody and torn, fall limply to the ground. Gloria. He's dead. The king is dead. Shit.
"Stop!" Saburo roars, raising his sword. It takes a moment, but I realize that there is a man in the shadows of the room, dressed all in black and holding a bloody knife. He doesn't say a word, just lifts his hand, almost as if saluting us. A burst of fire erupts from his palm, spirals through the air and catches Saburo directly in the chest.
I see Saburo collapse to the floor. I hear Shana heave a dry sob. I see Matthew fall to his knees beside his father's body. I hear Krist groan, low and despairing. All of this happens in the blink of an eye. I feel numb inside. The king is dead. The killer just summoned up a fire blast to take care of Saburo. I must be dreaming still. This can't be real.
I squeeze my eyes closed, then open them again. Everything is the same, except now the killer is standing before me, smirking. I can smell the blood on his knife and feel like heaving. "I told him that this would happen." The killer is speaking, his voice light and casual. "I told him that if he didn't give me what I wanted, I would kill him. And I did."
What do we do? I am dizzy and lightheaded. I feel almost spellbound by the man in black. My legs are tingling. I realize in shock that I can't move them. What is this?
"But it doesn't matter," the man continues. All of us stare dumbly at him, unmoving. We can't move. A hot surge of panic grips me. He's going to kill us, one by one..."We'll kill the entire country if it'll get us what we want." Gloria, he's insane. I don't want to die.
He turns back to me. I can't see his face well. The window faces the wrong direction; there's no moon in this room. He's going to kill me, isn't he? "Calypso," the killer says, taking my hand. I am numb, but my skin crawls under his touch. "It's always a pleasure to see you, dear."
This is impossible. How does he know my name? Have I met him in some nightmare? Now he is climbing onto the windowsill. Vaguely, I notice that the window is open, the blue curtains flapping faintly in the night breeze. I blink, and suddenly I imagine him with wings. I must be imagining it, because this can't be real. "So long!" he calls, and, with a jaunty wave of his hand, he jumps.
I can move again. What just happened? Did I dream it all? But, no, Matthew is sobbing on the floor, cradling his father's body, and Shana is on her knees beside Saburo's still form. Krist is shaking, his hands over his eyes. I lean out the window and throw up my guts because the realization hits me, quick and sickening. I know where I've heard that voice before.
I turn around to see Matthew pointing a blood-smeared dagger at me. The one his father was murdered with, the one the killer must have dropped. "You knew him!" he bellows, tears streaming down his face. Does he think I had a hand in the murder? The absurdity almost makes me laugh. Almost.
Before I can answer, Krist has snatched up Saburo's sword and is pointing it at Matthew. "How dare you," he says, his voice a low, angry hiss. "She's not that kind of person."
"Krist, that's treason," I say, for some bizarre reason. I don't know why I care about this right now. "I would put that sword down now."
Matthew hurls the dagger to the floor instead. "This is ridiculous," he says, wiping his eyes in one fierce swipe. "He was clearly some kind of magical being." I am surprised by how calm his voice is now. And there's his father's corpse on the floor. Thankfully, my stomach is already empty, because I think I want to throw up again.
A low groan echoes in the room. Saburo must be waking up. Shana is kneeling beside him, her hands pressed against his chest, her eyes closed.
"Shana?" Krist says, his voice loud and obnoxious. She opens her eyes slowly and glances around like she doesn't know where she is. "What're you doing?" Krist's voice is too loud, too obnoxious. My head is throbbing now, pulsing in rhythm with my shoulder.
Perplexed, Shana sits back on her heels. "I don't know," she whispers, her voice trembling. "I don't know." She buries her face in her shaking hands.
Saburo sits up, rubbing his head. "What happened?" He takes in the king's body, the blood, the weapons, and falls back onto the stone floor. "Shit," he says. "The bastard got away." My stomach flips madly at the mention of the "bastard." They're going to hate me when I tell them. But none of them know, not even Krist. I have to tell them.
"He certainly had magical powers of some sort," Matthew mumbles, his forehead furrowing in thought. "Like in the legends..."
"He had wings!" Krist adds, sounding a little impressed despite himself.
I need to tell them. Gloria, they're going to hate me. Especially Matthew. "I know him," I say, my voice low. "He's my cousin. Bailey Aloysia."
A/N: Hope you enjoyed the chapter! I have a question for my dear readers (reviewers and lurkers). Do you think each separate narration should be its own chapter? For example, this chapter would be divided into three chapters: Saburo, Matthew, and Calypso. They would all be posted at the same time. I think it might be easier for readers to understand. What do you think? Please let me know!
Thanks to my reviewers: LeChem, alittlebitconfused, inkspatters, wolfblood82, Sercus Kaynine, Tawny Owl, Recontre Destinee, and Swirk! You guys are the best!
IMPORTANT: I know my profile says that I return reviews on this story. But sometimes I forget or get tied up and never make it back to you. So if you really want a review back, you can tell me in a review or PM. It also would help if you'd give me the name of the specific work you want reviewed. Thanks.
Next time on Chains of Fate: Revenge, runaways and a reappearance of a certain key object. A journey begins.