Time of Kings
Six months later...
A warm summer light filled Castle Sorrel, spilling over the tiled floors and pouring through open windows. It was still cold – this far north it was unavoidable – but a fresh glow basked everything, and nature seemed harmonious in all its aspects.
Jayden gazed up at the azure blue sky as he packed the rest of his belongings. A smile was drawn across his face, and he couldn't help but grin stupidly. There was suddenly someone at the door and he glanced round to see Amelia.
She had gotten taller in the past six months, and it seemed she was finally turning into a woman. She leaned against the door frame, her red hair longer than ever. It seemed she was trying to emulate her mother, and the likeness was definitely there.
"When do you leave?" she asked.
He stopped packing with a sigh and stood upright to face her. "On the morrow. I'll only be gone for a month or so, you needn't worry."
"Who says I'm worried?" Amelia retorted, defensive in tone.
"Oh..." Jayden toyed. "No one in particular."
He returned to his packing, well aware that his sister hadn't moved from her spot. "So what are you going to be doing in Sungarden? Courting?"
Jayden raised an eyebrow at her. "That will be a part of my visit... yes."
Amelia gave him an odd sort of smile. "You really love her don't you?"
He took in a deep breath and nodded resolutely. "I do."
It took him only quarter of an hour more to finish packing. When he was done, he paid his mother a visit. She was sitting in a sun room, reading a novel ever so gracefully. He looked at her affectionately. She had never been the same since her illness. She was always tired, evident in the weary lines that webbed her face, and she had remained weak after awakening from her coma. He could not complain though – she was alive.
"Jayden," she said, putting down her book. "You're not going yet are you?"
"No," he replied. "Not until the morning – early mind, before the sun rises."
Monique smiled, shaking her head. "The early bird catches the worm as they say... Quista's a lovely girl, and whatever rivalries existed between our families before are irrelevant now. Keep hold of her and don't let go. Girls like her don't come along often."
Jayden nodded, absorbing her sage advice. "Don't worry, I will."
After a warm conversation, he wandered back out into the corridor and nearly crashed into young Isaac. Amelia wasn't the only one who had grown. Isaac had literally shot up, and Jayden wondered if he would surpass his own height.
"What are you up to Isaac?" Jayden asked.
"Nothing," he replied innocently. Jayden ruffled his brothers hair affectionately and sent him on his way.
He couldn't wait to get to Sungarden, he thought as he walked. He wanted to see Quista again, and he longed to be with her. He had talked through everything with Anton, and now he only needed Cain's permission. He prayed the Lord of House Ronella would put aside his differences also. Jayden fumbled in his pocket, procuring a small box which held a glittering diamond ring.
He wanted Quista as his wife, and he wanted that happy ever after, fairy tale ending. For once in his life, he thought he was going to get it. Memories of the wedding resurfaced. He had witnessed Darrya's death, and it chilled him to the core, but it had heralded the beginning of Ethan's leadership proper. Xavier had vanished without a trace. There were no remnants of the Erisas left any more.
"You packed then?" His fathers voice startled him, and he looked up to see Anton, standing tall and pale.
Jayden nodded. "Just about. I'm going to be leaving early in the morning."
"You make sure this journey is worth it," Anton said, patting him on the shoulder. "There are few women in the world like Quista. There isn't a bad bone in that girls body is there?"
"No," he laughed. "I don't suppose there is."
"Well then... I expect an announcement when you return." Anton winked before pulling Jayden into a hug. "Just be yourself, there's nothing else you can do."
"You can do it!" they called. "Go on Rhys, we're with you all the way!"
Clinging onto the wooden supports, he trembled. What if he couldn't do it? His mother and brother watched him intently, waiting, and the extra pressure only made it harder. His eyes grew watery and he shook violently.
Then, when he least expected it, his left leg drove forward, and the foot came down. He had walked.
Michella rushed over, gathering him into her arms, crying in happiness. Ethan watched from behind the wooden beams, bathed in sunlight, and smiling happily. The King had grown wiser, that much was evident.
"I'm going to beat this..." Rhys whispered, and his mother nodded, crying anew.
He looked up to the sun, blinded for a moment. It was six months since Darrya Erisa's death and the appearance of their father, Lucas Pendragon. Since the incident in the castle, they had seen neither head nor tail of him again.
"Join me," Lucas said, outstretching a hand. Rhys felt cold, but he stood stalwart against his father. "Fine. Then I shall rule over this world and the heavens with or without your support."
His words were fresh in Rhys' mind, but he was beginning to realise it had been an empty threat. Somehow, he hoped Lucas was in a better place now, calm, and untied to life. One day he and his brother, and his mother, would see him again. But that meeting would not be premature, and Lucas would not pre-empt such a thing.
Michella pulled away from him and ended up hugging Ethan too. The brothers shared a glance, agreeing that their mother was an over-passionate woman. Her madness had been forgotten. It was strange... since the wedding she had never mentioned Lucas again. The apparitions, the ghosts... all forgotten.
The rivalry that had once burned between the twins had died. Michella treated them both with equal love, and Ethan seemed content with what he had. Rhys took another step, smiling. Soon enough, he'd be running alongside his brother, the King. He'd no longer be a cripple.
For now at least, things were looking up.
Quista busied herself with cleaning and polishing the manor. Cain had insisted the maids and servants would do the work, but she was determined to add her own touch. Jayden would arrive within the next few days, and she wanted everything to be perfect.
Putting her dusting cloth down onto the mantelpiece, she found herself walking towards the window, lured by the sun. The window was wide open, and a warm summer breeze wafted in, sweet and harmonious. A sea of colour met her eyes, and they flitted about to view the endless fields of flowers beyond the city walls.
Down below she could hear the clash of swords. It was a sound she was finally getting used to, and a sound that was new to Sungarden. She watched her brother and father duel, swords glinting in the light. Aaron's chestnut hair hung long and loose, flailing about as he struck. Cain bore a face of concentration. His views had changed for the better.
Quista had once abhorred violence, but now she realised it was sometimes a necessary evil. Jayden had taught her a lot in that respect.
Time was a good healer. The memories of Mercury were fading, and she felt all the better for it. She could still see Darrya's death when she closed her eyes though. The daughter of Kurbas, the woman they had all feared, had died a martyr in sacrifice for her brother. Perhaps they had all gotten her wrong, she considered.
She broke from her reverie to her brothers voice. He was calling her name from down below and waving. She waved back. That connection they had shared as children was back. It made her extremely happy.
With a contended sigh she paced back over to the mantelpiece and resumed her dusting, thoughts of Jayden filling her mind.
Theo sipped at his wine, gazing out at the ocean from the Neptune's Overlook. The summer sky would have been a perfect blue if not for a rogue cloud, gliding across the firmament and disturbing the tranquillity.
The cloud reminded him of his inner most thoughts. That small cloud, disturbing the clear blue, was his guilt, eating away at his Kingship of Stark. His mother was oblivious. His father was dead – and although Theo had no proof, he assumed it was by Darrya's hand. And all the guilt stemmed from his sisters death, a move he had executed to secure his place on the throne.
In those days after Darrya had taken Seafall, Diana had seemed so distant and weary. She could have fought the flip of the coin, but she hadn't. It made the guilt harder to deal with. Sometimes it overwhelmed him and consumed him.
He turned to see his personal maid wavering nearby. He used her, as he used many women. Somehow, Darrya had used him though. He had heard the news from the mainland, the phoenix princess was dead. He wasn't affected by such a thing... and that fact surprised him.
Glancing at the maid, he ushered her out of the Overlook. When she was gone he downed the last dregs of wine and placed his glass down, climbing up from his seat. He walked out onto the balcony, leaning over the rail. The smell of sea salt and the sound of gulls shrill cries filled the air.
His sister lay under there... The guilt struck him again, like an anchor pulling him down towards the ocean. He shivered, a cold sea breeze whipping up. He had killed Diana in his greed for power. Only he could take responsibility. Only he.
Theo climbed up on top of the railings and stared down into the wild blue.
Then he let go.
Fiana watched her family chatting in happiness. "Stop moving!" she snapped with a scowl. Turning her attention back to her canvass, she painted the Karn's deftly and vividly, dabbing her palette for new colours, and moving her wrist with a dexterity only an artist could have.
Ivan the Eyeless stood behind her, watching her every moment with his single, yet discerning eye. It was ironic that partial blindness had made him so assiduous.
"Are you nearly finished!?" Waesa demanded, scowling right back at Fiana.
She eyed her sister with disdain, putting one hand on her hip, clutching the paintbrush menacingly in the other. "Do you want me to make you fat in the picture?"
Waesa's jaw dropped comically, but Elena, their mother, kept the peace immediately. "Both of you," she clucked with a shake of her head. "Stop fighting."
Hans nodded, folding his arms. "I second that."
Fiana sighed and returned to her painting.
"You could do with a little more colour in that corner," Ivan said gruffly, pointing with his chubby fingers. She rounded on him, brandishing the paintbrush again.
"Would you like to become red?" she asked fiercely. "Is everyone going to comment!?" She finally returned to her artwork, adding the finishing touches with a thoughtful countenance. She began to smile at the sight of her family, all together, immortalised in paint forever. She realised she didn't want to travel the world again. Everything she needed was right here, in Murgate.
Xavier walked through the fields, feeling the warmth of the sun against his skin, and hearing the faint wind, making each blade of grass ripple in an emerald ocean.
He clutched his walking stick, a memento which reminded him of his duties, and he scraped it along the ground as he walked. Memories clustered together in his mind, and even the winds of time would not move them.
He thought about his past every day, but in the end, he had decided there was nothing left but to resume his post as a Timekeeper. Six months ago he had galloped through a frozen world, and returned the Choeda to the Flow, healing the severance, and restoring the balance. Everyone had awoken none the wiser, but he knew.
His colleagues, Alexis, Zane... they had never asked the truth of what happened. They didn't even know the truth of his past... his lineage... his bloodline. He was the last Erisa now, but he might as well not be. He wanted to sink back into hermitage, unknown to the rest of the world.
His decision had been this: when Darrya had fallen, so too had the final remnant of Kurbas' legacy.
He would never forget though, he thought, stopping and staring at the ruins before him with melancholy.
He slid his fingers along the surface of the ancient stone door. This was where it had all began. A noise burst through the sky, and Xavier glanced up, seeing a giant bird passing by. He shielded his eyes from the sun with a hand.
He watched it soar past, seemingly ablaze, and magnificently beautiful. Somehow, it embodied the spirit of Darrya. He would never forget his sisters sacrifice.
The bird passed over quickly, and moments later he was watching it disappear into the horizon, great wings flapping valiantly. He suddenly felt a burst of inner pride, blossoming like the most verdant flower imaginable.
He felt proud to be living in this age – the time of Kings.
A/N: Wow, I feel a great relief now that this story has finally come to an end... It's been a long journey, and a particularly fun one for me – and I hope for you too. I understand there are flaws in this tale, and no doubt plot holes the size of the grand canyon exist, but all I care about is whether you have enjoyed this story. That's the only reason I tell my tales. So please leave a review, I want your opinions on this whole story from start to finish. I will accept any criticism but take a moment before you write. Ask yourself, have I enjoyed this story? Now onto the thanks...
Thank you to my lovely and beautiful girlfriend Michelle! Thank you to all my readers and reviewers, you've been fantastic! Thank you to Jayden and Quista, Rhys and Ethan, Michella and Lucas, Darrya, Xavier, Fiana, Aaron, Cain, Anton, Theo, Diana, and all the other characters that deserve a mention – you've been a great cast to work with!
So Time of Kings has come to its conclusion... and I guess you're wondering what's next for me. I have a new story planned, titled Helix, and it's completely different to this. For a start it's going to be set in the real world. I have a lot of planning to do yet though, so don't expect any new stories up for at least 2-3 weeks. I want your opinion. Would I be foolish to try and write a realistic story without any fantasy elements? Or should I include an element of fantasy within my real world story...? I have lots planned for this tale... a gritty, dark tone. Murder. Betrayal. Lies. Secrets. Drama.
Hopefully I will see some of you soon. Thanks for coming along on this ride with me, it's been brilliant! Goodbye. By the six facets of God, you are all eternally blessed! ~ Luke