Eldred hadn’t taken his words lightly. They were going out there whether he liked it or not. The man’s tone had turned into that of a command, and Atreyu wasn’t one to argue. He waited the few seconds it took for Eldred to gather his stuff and exited the building with him. For an old man, he could sure be quick in a high pressure situation.
It made sense, seeing as his member’s lives were at risk, but still… sleep.
“All I’ve got is myself,” Trey said, walking beside Eldred as they wandered onto the dark streets. Not true, his subconscious blurted out, but he suppressed the thought from escaping his lips. The blade.
“The creature inhabits an island offshore, making the beach the most dangerous place to be right now…” Atreyu informed, his voice trailing off slightly. “You don’t think they would’ve…” Gone for a swim?
A spring in his step appeared when Leon darted for the beach. He ran alongside her, kicking off his shoes mid-stride. Sticking to the shallow waves, he kicked up some of the water at her.
"You're such a sap," he said, splashing at her once more with his foot. "This journey isn't too bad... besides the occasional deadly encounter, y'know?" Zach held up his right arm which still rested in it's sling that Drusilla had whipped up. "Zahavi has a good heart. Whenever he becomes king... however soon that may be, he'll help us out. He owes us that much. Us and all other magic-users."
Eldred led the way out of the building, striding out as fast as he was able. There was too much urgency to dawdle. The old man had to hope that the rest of the group would be alright while he was gone, but he didn’t have a lot of choice. He just had to hope that the others would remain soundly sleeping, or that if they didn’t one of the more responsible members of the group - debatable as it was that there were any, advice from him - might be able to keep them in line.
Eldred walked through the streets, glancing at the village around him. He knew this place like the back of his hand, even after all these years. There was the bank with the flowers that he and Helena had often frequented. The flowers were created by his magic, and had bloomed continuously ever since. Now, though, that didn’t seem to be the case. For the first time since Eldred had made them, the flowers were starting to wilt.
Atreyu mentioned the beach then, and as soon as those words had been spoken Eldred purposefully began making a beeline for the beach. Atreyu obviously didn’t know much about Leon and Zach. Or he’d never assume they’d stay anywhere remotely safe.
“Gone to the beach like the danger magnets they are?” Eldred answered “Been physically unable to not put themselves in a life-threatening situation? That’s exactly what I think.”
It wasn’t too long a walk to the beach, and when Eldred and Atreyu reached the top of a dune surrounding the beach they had a clear view of the two teenagers laughing, splashing one another with water. Eldred immediately headed for them, his staff imprinting on the sand as he strode towards them.
“Hey!” he called out to them “Thing 1 and Thing 2! Get the hell over here so I can bang your empty skulls together.”
Once they approached, Eldred sighed, pinching his nose.
“You continue to astound me with your ability to do the stupidest thing possible in any given situation.” he began “You’re both lucky you’re alive, but I’ll explain on the way back to the inn. For now we have to get off this beach right this second.”
Dante pushed at the door again, his anger pointed at Minke for a few moments, though her stern gaze had him ducking his head, all retorts seeming to die on his tongue.
Though, at Alex's words, he scowled, "Oh, like you wouldn't see me killed if it was up to you!" He retorted, childishly. The Prince could grate his nerves so easily, it was almost alarming.
Though his glare fell away, replaced by some empathy. He shook his head, glaring away. He knew what it was like to feel like a mistake, but he fought his way out of that. The Prince had the answers before him, and it didn't matter. Factioneers were the enemy.
Though Alex had good points, and for a moment, Dante thought about what turning Alex in would really do. It would mean that all the glorified babysitting would be done with and gone, not more reprieves from work. It was exactly what he wanted and didn't want all the same. Though his mouth opened, argument on his tongue, because Alex couldn't speak without Dante retorting.
A sharp glare from the small girl shut him up, and he looked down. Thinking things over, before his mouth fell open, and he began pacing. "No no, nononono," he began, glancing back at Alex. "Your father knows? But he...he acts like magic is so bad, and yet he harbors a Factioneer son?" He paused, some spite in his words cooling, "He already knows. If I told anyone, that would just be throwing the entire family into jeopardy, the crown would fall."
Of course, he had to have a justification not to turn in Alex, he couldn't just act like it was because they were friends or anything like that.
Looking at Minke made him sick, a sour taste in his mouth. "You didn't choose this," he whispered, looking down, before glancing back at Alex. "Everyone makes it out like Magic Users are vermin, a poison. They aren't exactly wrong in your case, Alex," he couldn't help the insult. "But Alex, she's just a kid."
"I'm not just a kid," Minke retorted, though her glare was lessened a little.
Leon laughed, kicking some water at Zach, eyes lingering on his cast for a moment as he spoke. That feeling of dread and guilt came back, a reminder that she was what caused them to fall into that cave, even if they didn't know it yet.
Her gaze flickered away, focused on the water, glimmering rays of moonlight reflecting on the waves, "But how much can Zahavi do? How much will he do? Once he gets what he wants, what's to say he will change things. His parents, if all goes well, will be back in charge at the end of it all." She commented, looking anywhere but him at that point.
She glared over her shoulder at Eldred, before turning back to Zach, "Think we can make a run for it?" She questioned, before smirking, "He can't keep up, his bones might turn to ash if he tries to actually help."
Maybe a bit cruel, but it was a jest all the same, and she had her reasons.
Once she approached with Zach, she glared at him the whole time, glare flickering to Trey. Strangers were never good, "I'm not going anywhere until you explain why you're picking up stragglers. If you haven't noticed, trust isn't exactly something we can give out freely right now. Did you forget how we got into this situation?" She hissed out, glaring at Eldred then. Annoyed with his dramatics, and apparent need to go adopting every street-rat he could find. They didn't know who poisoned the king and queen, and they were risking enough with a group their size.
”I wouldn’t, actually!” Alex responded to the other male’s first words “I don’t like you, but I wouldn’t have you killed. Maybe that’s just the difference between you and me.”
Those words were biting, and the prince didn’t regret them. Of course he would never have Dante killed just because he didn’t like him. He wasn’t so cruel. But if he stood to gain something from it as Dante would from turning Alex in? If it would get him his father’s approval or change anything about the way people perceived him? He’d consider it.
Besides, what did Dante mean, if it were up to Alex? It was up to Alex, he was the prince. If he really wanted to he could make that happen. But he didn’t.
Alex watched with disinterest as the younger man paced, weighing up the dilemma. He had to admit that there was something quite amusing about just how much this information had blown Dante’s mind.
“He figures I’ll never be king so it doesn’t matter,” Alex shrugged “and to kill me would be a waste of a prince. They’re rather good bargaining chips when it comes to diplomacy, you know.”
He knew that too well. He could remember being held as a hostage during the war. A final desperate attempt to get his father to end it. The king would never forgive Alex for the fact the war had been called off because of him; Oralee had stood a good chance of winning. But Alex had just been a child, maybe eight years old. It wasn’t his fault.
“But yes,” Alex continued “the fate of the crown rests on the screw-up’s head. My dad, stepmom, siblings. I could have taken them all down with me if I wanted to, I still could. Seeing the things my father does with people like this girl? Makes me awfully tempted to bring the family crumbling down.”
What did he owe them, anyway? Nothing. They’d treated him like nothing but an outcast and a mistake his whole life. He was the odd one out, the black sheep. The one who needed to be monitored, who needed to have the only thing unique about him suppressed.
Talking of Minke, it seemed to be her that softened Dante. Alex understood that; he felt sympathy for her too.
“I know,” Alex answered “she’s just a kid - and you are, Minke. This is what my father does, Dante, don’t you see that? I’m the lucky one, I’m of some use to him so he keeps my secret and suppresses my magic so nobody finds out. But this girl, that’s what he does. She could have a family out there somewhere.”
He didn’t know that for sure, her family could all be dead. But she must have somebody who cared about her out there. And if she didn’t, she deserved to have somebody be the first.
When he next looked at Dante, his gaze and his words were filled with resolve.
Zach responded to Leon’s sullenness with more attacks of waves, subconsciously maneuvering more water with his telekinesis. They were both soaked at the end of it, and Zach took a while to say anything. He followed her eyes out to sea, trying to imagine how she must be feeling.
“This mission will make things better, I’m sure of it.” Zach said finally, and he meant every word. If the king and queen were to rise again, it would be because of several magic-users. Things would change. They had to change.
And if Zahavi were to take the throne… well, his views had already been made apparent. The prince possessed an intense curiosity towards magic, even sneaking within Eldred’s quarters at times to steal away novels that contained boundless amounts of knowledge within the realm of magic.
He hadn’t even noticed Eldred and Atreyu until they were called out. Oh shit, he breathed, flinching at the tone of Eldred’s voice. He was mad. He was mad.
Zach shrugged off Leon’s remark, approaching Eldred with her. “What’s so wrong?” He asked, desiring a quicker explanation of the situation. He had just gotten Leon to himself when they had been so abruptly disrupted. Zach didn’t have any first suspicions about Trey, but Leon’s guard had been pulled up, and so he sided with her.
Atreyu followed Eldred closely, taking note of the man’s profound mental map of the town. They navigated the streets with ease, eventually steering to make a beeline for the beach. On the top of the dune, Atreyu immediately registered the two figures in the water as their suspects.
He didn’t approach them as near as Eldred. The girl seemed to have a wariness about her that to him to keep his distance. When she spoke, her words were laced with venom. An urge to back up revealed itself, but this only made his limbs freeze in place.
“I-My name’s Trey,” he said tersely, giving a slight wave. “And he’s right, it really is dangerous out here. We need to get back to the inn as soon as possible.”
”Yeah, well this boy knows what’s happening around here,” Eldred replied to Leon’s snarky comment “and he probably saved your lives tonight, so have a little gratitude. Don’t worry, I’m not an idiot. He doesn’t know anything but my name.”
He’d made sure Atreyu didn’t know about the quest. He wasn’t so stupid as to just give away information like that, not about such an important mission. Eldred had at least some concern for the safety of Zahavi and everyone else on the quest.
Trey introduced himself, and then explained that Eldred was right about the danger. Thank god; as if these two would just listen to Eldred without someone to back him up.
Zach, thankfully, had actually asked a sensible question.
“Thank you, Zach,” Eldred sighed “I’ll tell you. Our friend here tells me that there’s some kind of monster living on an island offshore, every full moon it takes a victim from the town. And last I checked...”
Eldred lifted his hand to gesture at the full moon shining above them.
“I know you probably don’t think we should believe him, but I know this v-“
The man had been about to say he knew this village, but he stopped himself. The last thing he needed was them knowing this was his hometown. They’d ask stupid questions, they’d pry, they’d dredge up things he’d far rather forget.
“I know he’s right,” Eldred corrected “I just do. We’ve wasted enough time explaining, we have to get back to the inn before this thing decides it wants a snack.”
The feeling of guilt started weighing when Alex said he wouldn’t kill Dante. He had to remind himself, however, that the prince was probably trying to feel better about what he’d actually do, Alex was selfish, he did what he wanted for himself, of course he’d lie to save face in front of his new confidant.
Dante snapped a glare at Alex and his comment, his words became biting then, “Your father doesn’t know that. You don’t either. You could just as easily be king as any other heir.” That at least was true, an older sibling could always be seen as unfit, or things could come up. It was rarer, though, but that didn’t mean Alex couldn’t make decisions, that he was any less important, “And what if you marry a queen? You’ll be a ruler over that kingdom with her. You are more than a bargaining chip, you’re at least an annoyance.” He spat out, pacing still.
Minke deadpanned at the boys, but Alex’s words spurred Dante into another rant, “Taking down your family? That would send the entire kingdom into disarray. We’d be open to Levina’s attacks! People would die!”
“People are already dying,” Minke pointed out, voice snapping through the arguing, “People who can’t control who they are, killed for being something society can’t accept, because they deem it wrong.”
Dante shut up, Alex said his piece, and Minke scowled still, her eyes flickering into sadness at the mention of family. Her eyes focused on the ground, the sass seeming to fall from her shoulders.
Shaking his head, Dante glared back at Alex, “And how are we supposed to do that? Your father will know if we let her out! We could put her in more danger by freeing her, she...” he looked back at Minke, swallowing slightly, voice falling softer, only for Alex, “Those are scars, Alex. I don’t know how long she’s been here, but I doubt that’s all from your father. Here she’s alive, out there? You know what they’ll do to her.”
”Right, and marrying me off wouldn’t make me a bargaining chip at all,” Alex pointed out “what, do you think my dad married my mother for love?”
Dante really didn’t understand. Couldn’t. Alex being married would be his father’s choice, not Alex’s. And it would be for his father’s political gain, he knew that. He knew which kingdoms his father had been looking at for Alex’s marriage, had been looking at for years. He was sure his father had been considering Alexandria several years back; one of their princesses had been his age or thereabouts. But then that kingdom fell, though his father had stopped considering the Alexandrian girl before that happened. Presumably there was something about the princess that didn’t make it a good match. There was also that terrifying queen Adira, a few years older but still a viable option. But, when her brother died under mysterious circumstances and she’d ascended to the throne that seemed to rightly put the king off considering her for his son.
But his father had been mentioning the idea of Alex getting married lately more and more, which panicked him a little. Not only did the boy absolutely detest the idea of getting married, or at least getting married on his father’s orders, but it was more complicated than that. For example, Alex hadn’t yet told his father that he was gay.
“Maybe there are better people to rule the kingdom than this family!” Alex responded to Dante “you can’t seriously think the only options are my family or anarchy.”
He didn’t think the Kinnaird family were the only people who could lead Oralee. The council, for a start. They were the ones who advised the rulers, so they practically did the job themselves anyway. And if not, there were plenty of other noble families who might be better.
Minke interrupted their argument with her, admittedly very good, points. The flickering of her eyes at the mention of her family wasn’t lost on the young prince, though, who took note of the girl’s reaction.
“Well that’s her choice, isn’t it?” Alex responded “it could be more dangerous out there, but it seems pretty awful in here too. If I were her, I’d take that chance rather than just rot in this cell. And my father... well, his expectations of me are low as it is. And what exactly can he do to me? If he says anything I’ll tell him I know about these.”
He raised his wrist again to let the bracelet catch the light. That was his best option if his father threatened him; at least now Alex had something on the king.
“As for you, well, you don’t have to tell him you were involved.” Alex continued “Tell him you tried to stop me, the council won’t think any less of you.”
Leon fixed Eldred with a look full of doubt, especially when she noticed part of his slip up. She jumped in on it, on his behavior. She had been rather skittish of Eldred, to some degree, afraid he’d spill her secrets. But now she just seemed annoyed, she finally escaped him and here he was, dragging her back down. “Oh, you just somehow know everything, don’t you?” She mumbled under her breath.
Sadly for them, Leon was one of the most stubborn people they could likely encounter, and it seemed only two people possessed any ability to derive her path. Though, at least she didn’t seem to be ready to attack Trey at the drop of a pen.
She snorted then, “You act like we can’t protect ourselves. I get you don’t trust us, Eldred, but really, this is downright ridiculous.” She started, rolling her eyes and elbowing Zach slightly, looking back at the water, her pride clouding her judgement, “And what thing is that? If it’s so dangerous, isn’t it our duty to take care of it? Isn’t that what Zahavi wants?” The prince had said he wanted to help the people, getting answers would be the best way.
Plus, she was obstinate. Part of her trusted Eldred, but part of her was wary, screaming that he couldn’t be trusted. That he knew, and he didn’t stop what happened to her family, that he turned around, betraying them once a job opportunity arose.
Her gaze turned to Trey then, nodding in acknowledgement, though she wasn’t a big fan of him yet, she never was with new people, “Leon, that’s Zach.” She nodded to her companion, glancing back with her crossed arms.
Minke rolled her eyes, listening to the boys bicker, and Dante was quick to retort, “Arranged or not, lives will still be in your hand. You act like the only person you ever hurt in your reckless decisions is yourself, what are you going to do when someone else has to pay for your actions?” He snapped.
He rolled his eyes, but muttered under his breath, too quickly to really think back on it, “You got one thing right, your family is absolutely horrid,” he grumbled, and Minke snorted at the words, causing the boy to glance at her in alarm. He continued still, “Might I mention Aaoltonen? The only way new order comes is by some form of anarchy, unless your father willingly gave up the crowd to someone, people will fight over who becomes the next leader, and that’s dangerous. You know as well as I that Levina would take advantage of that!”
He glared off to the side, though he frowned deeper when Minke mentioned her piece. People couldn’t help who they were, and while he didn’t have magic, he understood that, was disappointed in the fact that he could. He shook off the thoughts though, pointedly looking away from Alex, and instead at Minke.
Minke seemed to shake her head, sinking back slightly, “I can’t let you do that Alex. I refuse to be the reason you become a traitor to your kingdom. By the sounds of it, your people need you to rise up. If you really want to avoid anarchy and keeping things the way they are, maybe you need to reevaluate your choices,” There was a secrecy there, hidden under her words. “And you will not turn him in. Taking someone’s life isn’t something you can undo. Both of you need to go.” She commented, sitting down, the lock on the door resounded as it unlocked, and she glanced out of her window.
Levina. Yes, he knew all to well the way Levina took advantage of instability.
He remembered being maybe eight years old, remembered his mother knocking on his bedroom door in the middle of the night. When he’d opened the door, she’d told him to get his cloak and some warm clothes, before taking his hand and leading him somewhere. He trusted her, because what child didn’t trust his mother? But she led him out to the stables, where a figure waited on an unfamiliar horse. He’d known something was wrong then and tried to squirm, but the hold the queen had possessed on his wrist was too strong. She’d lifted him onto the horse with the strange figure; a figure he could now see wore a Levinian crest.
“I’m sorry, baby,” he remembered her saying as she tapped the horse to get it moving “but I need you to end this war.”
And end the war he did. His mother paid for that with her life, a traitor to the crown. Alex has been held hostage in Levina, but not for too long before his father gave in and ended the war to get him back.
His mother had used him as a pawn too, though at least she’d seemed to love him a little bit more. He couldn’t even remember the details of her face or her voice anymore, it was kind of fuzzy.
The prince listened to both Dante and Minke as they spoke, shaking his head at Minke’s suggestions. He thought he knew what she was getting at, but that was also a big risk. A huge risk in fact, and one he wasn’t sure it would be a good idea for him to take.
“There’s nothing I can do to change the situation without becoming a traitor,” Alex pointed out
Just like his mother.
But it was becoming clear to him that he had a choice. Loyalty to his family, no matter how they treated him, and his position as prince, or trying to do what he thought was right even if it put his family and the people of his kingdom at risk.
But Minke was right, both of them needed to go. They couldn’t afford to be caught down here. The prince looked at Dante when the door to the room unlocked; Minke had obviously done that with her powers. Alexiares couldn’t avoid taking a second to marvel; he’d never seen telekine powers before. It was pretty amazing.
“Fine,” Alex sighed to Minke “but if you’re not coming with us, I’m coming back every day until we figure something out. If you have family, someone we can get in contact with, messages you want to pass on... I have ways of getting messages out of here that my father doesn’t know about.”
Of course he did. Alex has been causing trouble both inside and outside of the palace since he was a kid, he had to have some secret ways of doing so his father didn’t know yet. That was how he stayed in contact with his friend Athena, one of the few people in his life that he really trusted.
Once he had Minke’s response, he looked to Dante, gesturing with his head towards the doorway.
“Come on, asshole,” Alex smirked “gotta get back to a busy day of you babysitting me.”
With that, he headed towards the staircase that led them out of the room, pausing only to look over at Minke one more time.
”Not everything,” Eldred countered “but at least I know not to go wandering off in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar place. At least I bothered to speak to even one person who knew the first thing about this village before I went wandering out into the night.”
These teenagers were truly infuriating sometimes. He was sure he’d been just as exasperating when he was their age, but he couldn’t remember it. Either way, right now the old man was regretting every single life choice he’d ever made, especially since the chilly night air was by no means helping his cough.
“Right, so you think you two can protect yourselves against whatever this creature is?” Eldred asked “after what happened in the mountains, where there was a far bigger group and even then you didn’t exactly emerge unscathed? Leon, your ignorance truly baffles me. It might be our duty to take care of it, but I don’t fancy our chances as a group of four. Perhaps we inform the others in the morning and all go out together. But right now, no, I don’t believe our best goddamn bet is walking up to this thing looking for a fight.”
The man sighed, grip tightening on his staff as he looked over the two teenagers.
He understood Leon’s wariness. He had betrayed her family when they were overthrown, supporting the new family instead. Zahavi’s family. But the politics of that was beyond just loyalty to the Valderas, or lack thereof. It was about protecting himself as a magic user, about keeping him from having to come back here to Wisteria, where people knew what he’d done. She didn’t know about that yet, of course, but he’d never tell her. He’d rather just let her hate him.
“Your insistence on trying to get yourself killed is going to put the entire group in danger, I hope you realise that,” Eldred explained “If either of you had any sense, or respect for Zahavi and what the group is trying to do here, you’d head back to the inn and let us deal with this - if in fact that’s what we do - as a group tomorrow. When we’re prepared”
If they could let an old man have a moment of peace where he wasn’t afraid for the safety of these kids, he’d really appreciate it. Their lack of a sense of self-preservation was truly, truly frightening.
Atreyu listened in on the conversation between Leon and Eldred, inwardly grimacing at their words. The pair in the water were insistent upon their independence from the group, which raised several questions in Trey's mind. What kind of group was this... and how long exactly had they even known each other? There didn't seem to be a well established level of trust between them.
Furthermore, what the hell happened in the mountains? Sure, they consisted of treacherous paths at best, but Trey was guessing that he had missed some key event.
His eyes drew to Zach, who gave a slight wave at the mentioning of his name. Was this him? Was this the person that the message spoke of? His spirits lifted and fell simultaneously, and his hand fell subconsciously into his coat pocket, searching for the message.
Gone, but of course it was. He had buried it in the woods two days ago.
A distant crack sounded, causing Trey's gaze to reflexively jerk in its direction. At first he had thought it to be thunder, but it sounded... different. A clinking sound continued, like thousands of diamonds sprinkling against wet pavement.
Alex was right, despite Dante’s distaste at admitting such a thing to himself. Oralee was ran by Alex’s father, no matter how corrupt he may be. Alex or his brother, Caspian, could challenge for the throne, but then that became a messy process, one involving arenas or councils, and while Alex may win in a fight, the council would never back up Caspian or him over the king.
His hand clenched at his side, reminding himself just how terrible this conversation was. It was not logical nor reasonable to partake in talks of a coup with the most rebellious boy he knew and a prisoner he had just met, and yet, in the conversation, he doubted things he long since knew.
Minke, for her part, gave a bitter chuckle, “Family? I don’t have family.” The idea of visits, however? Those seemed...nice. They hadn’t hurt her, and while annoying, their arguing was entertaining. She glanced forward then, “Bring Mr. Lawbook over her with you, you guys are entertaining.”
Surely, she didn’t have any qualms about commanding around those in higher positions than her. In fairness, she didn’t exactly recognize their royalty as anything special, she was their prisoner.
Dante contemplated shoving Alex into a cell, but rolled his eyes, looking back at Minke with a calm regard, nodding to her, before tugging on Alex’s arm, “Well then, Shocker, let’s go.”
As the boys left, Minke waved once more, offering a small smile at the reasonable boy and rebel prince, before laying on her stony bed, curling up for a nap.
Once in the Hall, Dante, finally let go of Alex, checking the hall for other guards and such, it seemed to be clear, and so he looked back at Alex, “For the protection of that girl, I surely hope you don’t try anything stupid. Now, you said your father put something on you to negate your powers?” Ever the clear thinker, Dante now had something to research, to find more information on.
It was a puzzle, and he wanted to figure out, at least in his mind, how the power-hating king not only had a Factioneer son, but one that he used illegal devices to control. And how would he have gotten them?
It was interesting indeed, and surely, Dante didn’t know much about magic. Perhaps he should amend that.
“I spoke to one person,” Leon pointed out, before pointing at Zach, “He’s the person, case in point.”
She was the definition of infuriating, but her heart was in the right place, the mirth in her eyes subsided along with some of her annoyance, though Eldred tested her patience with ever word he added to his arsenal.
This Trey kid was a sketchy one, though that didn’t surprise her. Everyone was weird and untrustworthy. Zelos and Zach were the exceptions, and Zahavi, though she had to admit, the prince had his own brand of trustworthiness, and that had to do more with being a ditzy kid than anything else.
Screams were a sound she was familiar with. Cries for help, cries of pain, cries of desperation and agony. Cries of fear.
She was moving before she even realized it, instinctiveness causing her to draw away from the group, looking between the members for a moment, lingering a bit on Zach, before glancing back at the direction she heard the screams.
“What are you idiots waiting for? Shake a leg, let’s go!” She was already running as she yelled the words over her shoulder, pulling on the water nearby, trying to detect any disturbances she could feel.
Something in the tides were resisting, and she quickly lost the connection, the dim blue glow held in her eyes from the power fading out, the link disturbed, that in of itself was a cause for concern, but not one they had time to ponder.
”I’m glad we amuse you,” Alex replied to Minke with a raised eyebrow, a rare smile pulling at the corner of his mouth “somebody around here ought to be having some fun.”
But he took note of the fact that she said she didn’t have family. If they broke her out of here, where would she go? Did she have anyone at all out there? It didn’t seem like it. Maybe Dante was right, and the risk of what would happen if his father or Caspian caught him was too major to make helping Minke escape worth it. Besides, he wouldn’t be doing her any favours if they got caught either. At least right now she was alive, and would remain so, at least as long as the king’s attention was elsewhere.
Caspian, Alex’s older half-brother. The crown prince. The two of them, well they didn’t not get along. They didn’t hate one another. But their relationship wasn’t particularly brotherly, it had to be said. And well, Alex wasn’t too proud to admit that he was a little jealous of Caspian. He was Factionless, for one thing; Alex thought of his magic as nothing but a curse. Something that caused his father to look at him differently, that forced him to keep secrets. For another, he could do no wrong in their father’s eyes. Could get away with whatever he wanted. Granted, the lack of trust placed in Alex was partly his own fault, but still.
Alex rolled his eyes at the nickname but followed Dante when he tugged in his sleeve, offering the mysterious girl one last wave before disappearing up the stairs.
He could see the urgency in Dante’s manner and expression as he checked for guards or any other eavesdroppers who might overhear their conversation. It was fine; no guards, no Caspian, no king. The coast was clear. That was when Dante began to speak to Alex.
“I take offence at the very notion that you think I would do something stupid.” Alex joked in response, but quickly realised that his response probably wouldn’t be enough to reassure Dante, and so added, “I won’t, Dante. But I want to help her.”
She seemed like she needed someone, anyone, to care. While Alex wasn’t necessarily the caring type, he figured he was better than nothing. Besides, he knew he wasn’t the only one. If he hadn’t been much mistaken, Dante had some sympathy for her too.
But it was the younger man’s next words that really caught Alex’s attention, and he couldn’t help but smirk a little.
“I thought magic was terrible and bad, and you were far too good to have anything to do with it,” the prince teased.
But once again, he recognised that he really should show Dante these things. He was educated, book-smart. Alex was educated too, of course, no prince could afford not to be. But he didn’t have as much of an enquiring mind as Dante. And if the other boy had some sort of idea, some research he wanted to pursue, Alex wasn’t going to stand in the way of that. Not if it was something to do with what his father had done to him.
So he showed Dante his wrist and the golden bracelet that sat in it, embellished with gemstones that seemed kind of similar to those on Minke, though not the same colours. They just seemed to have a strange quality to them, once Alex had never really paid attention to before.
“A sixteenth birthday gift,” Alex explained “there’s an identical one on the other wrist.”
He didn’t have quite as many of these gemstones on his person as Minke did; obviously they felt her magic needed extra suppression. And even then she’d been able to affect the locks on the doors; she must be truly powerful. Alex didn’t really know how strong his magic was, because he hadn’t had much chance to use it. He figured probably not that strong, since he hadn’t been able to practice with it. Still, he supposed a certain amount of it must be innate ability. Nature, not nurture.
Now he knew, he could take the bracelets off when his father wasn’t looking. He didn’t have to use his magic, he knew to do so would be too much of a risk. He couldn’t help but wonder, though, if after his magic being suppressed in this way for more than a decade (even before he’d gotten the bracelets), what would happen. Would his magic be dangerous then? Explode in uncontrolled bursts of energy? He wasn’t sure.
Perhaps, like Dante, Alex also needed to do some research.
Eldred has been all ready to reply to her, to explain that talking to Zach did not constitute talking to someone who knew the village. To explain that what she’d done was still utterly stupid and if she was as smart as she thought she was she’d head back to the inn.
But he wasn’t able to, because sudden screaming interrupted the elderly man before he could even start to speak.
A crack like thunder, a clinking sound on the ground that could be shattered glass hitting the pavement. Then the screaming.
Leon reacted immediately, starting to run. Eldred followed suit, or at least moving as quickly as he was able to. The voice had already caused a heavy pool of dread to settle in his stomach like a cold, sickening weight.
“It’s Zahavi,” Eldred said urgently
The prince was in danger, once again. Eldred had one job; keeping Zahavi safe. He’d done pretty well at that while the prince was growing up, but since this quest started his track record was taking something of a hit.
Still, he tightened the grip on his staff and followed the teenagers in the direction of the screaming. He’d seen what had happened with Leon’s powers, which was by no means a good thing. It was, in fact, very much a bad thing. Not to mention the fact they they were going to face this danger as a group of four, and honestly it was pretty shaky whether Atreyu could be trusted. Not great.
He was way too old for this shit.
He had his powers, he knew that. He had been known to come up with some pretty creative ways of utilising a relatively harmless ability like plant control in all kinds of situations, including fights. But he wasn’t sure that would be enough.
Post by Hawkeyes258 on Sept 22, 2020 10:10:54 GMT -5
Once he was given his drink and food, Zander thanked the man and continued to chat with him about random topics. They discussed things such as the weather, family, business and about ships. Zander admitted that his family dabbled a little in moving goods around via ships. Before he could elaborate further a scream cut through the air like a knife! He remained still for a few minutes before leaping to his feet and racing towards the sound. The barkeep may no attempt to move and just shakes his head.
Dante deadpanned at the prince's comment about being offended, his words slipping out, all pretense of respect pretty much gone, "I take offense to the fact that you think anything you do isn't stupid."
He turned away at the mention of help, his eyes falling to the ground, "The best thing you can do for her is not get caught." He said, a bit icily.
Though, he floundered a bit at the prince's words when he used his own words. He always loved to assume Alex was an idiot, because Alex, most of the time, acted like one. He pointedly looked away, clearing his throat to force away his temporary loss. "You were born with it, right? Can't control what you are."
He stepped away then, mouth snapping shut, as he decided to look at the bracelets, though, they were more like shackles, weren't they? He reached out immediately, lifting Alex's hand a bit, to get a full scan of the bracelet. "So these limit your magic?" He pondered, dropping the prince's wrist and jotting some notes down.
Alex's father had done this all? Had lied? Had been a hypocrite? That flickered a flame of anger deep under his skin, no matter how much he couldn't stand Alex and his stupid face, that was horrible. He though back on Minke, on her bruises, some old, some fresher, and he glanced back at Alex immediately.
"Has he hurt you?" He asked, blunt, straight to the point, the barest amount of emotion showing. Tamed, and controlled in his words. He had to be, after all, for his position.
Dante really did lose any semblance of respect in his little comment to Alex there, but the prince honestly cared little about that. If he felt like being deliberately irritating he would point out Dante’s lack of appropriate deference to his prince, but he didn’t say anything at that moment. The prince never really had been a stickler for titles or anything; he wouldn’t stand for disrespect in public, but in private he could honestly not care less.
Alexiares did, however, take some pleasure in the way the younger man floundered at his comment, struggling for a moment to find the words. Eventually, he made a comment that made Alex feel a wave of genuine surprise. Was Dante already starting to perhaps see magic a little differently now?
“Right,” Alex agreed “the same way you can’t control being a stick in the mud.”
He was just teasing, of course, didn’t mean any genuine insult behind it. He indicated so to Dante with a hint of a mischievous smile. A hint was about the most anybody got of Alex smiling unless he was in a really good mood.
But all the levity of that teasing comment fell away. Vanished as Dante lifted Alex’s hand a little to see the bracelets better, that curious look in his eyes. At least somebody in this castle thought about things, Alex noted as he watched the cogs turning in the other male‘s head.
“Yes,” Alex nodded in answer to the first question “sometimes I feel the magic build up, like this crackling, buzzing energy. But then it just... dissipates. Sometimes it hurts a little, but not normally.”
The energy would fade like a wave on a shore. It would build up, electricity humming beneath his skin, energy tearing at him to be released. Then it would just disappear as if it had never been there. Blocked by something, though now he knew exactly what had caused that.
The second question made him uneasy; he dropped his eyes a little for a moment, shifting a little as his stomach suddenly churned. He should’ve expected that question. It was the sudden question from Dante, in that matter-of-fact, straightforward way. It hit him more hard for the calm, factual way it was asked.
“Only once,” was the answer “when he first found out I had magic. I was maybe thirteen? Or a little younger, it’s hard to know.”
He’d felt the energy in him for quite some time before his magic first manifested itself, so it was truly difficult to remember how old he was the first time his magic had revealed itself.
“I’d almost hurt my stepmother, I got angry,” Alex explained “I didn’t mean to, the power just... anyway, that’s how my father found out about my magic. He hit me, told me what a headache covering my magic up would be. Told me if I wanted to avoid exile or execution I would have to keep it quiet. Only my father and stepmother know, not even Caspian.”
He remembered the bruise from the hit; they were having a family portrait done the next day, and covering that bruise on his face had been a nightmare.
He’d kept the entire thing from Caspian; firstly because Caspian had only been a teenager himself at the time and Alex didn’t want to risk him telling anyone. Not to mention the fact that in general the fewer people knew the better. Plus, they weren’t exactly close.
Alex sighed a little, shaking his head slightly to dispel the memory and focus once again.
“But no, he doesn’t hurt me,” Alex continued “I can tell he wants to, sometimes, but he and I both know it would be hard to hide that kind of thing with the whole kingdom watching our every move. Besides, since he found out I have magic, I think he’s a little scared of what might happen if he tried to hurt me.”
Being in the public eye, in his role as prince, had probably saved Alex. It kept his father from physically abusing him and kept him from persecution. As much as possible, anyway. Provided he continued doing a good job of hiding his magic.
Still, not being able to physically hurt Alex hadn’t stopped the king from going in for verbal abuse.
Dante would have smiled, but he never smiled, and he wasn't about to find out how just because Alex made a joke. He only rolled his eyes, he was a stick in the mud, no point in denying the fact.
"In the same way you are the biggest pain in the entire kingdom, prince," He pointed out, though the words filtered between teasing and serious. Dante wouldn't lie, the hardest part of his job was keeping tabs on Alex. Caspian was much easier, then again, the king didn't order any babysitters to attend to Caspian.
Inspecting Alex's bracelet had him come face to face with the jewels, pretty as they were, he wondered how Alex's eyes would look if his magic wasn't so contained. Probably more fitting the to energetic prince. Electricity was the perfect fit to Alex, out of any of the powers. Electricity was lively, rebellious. Getting to close would give you a shock, but then again, it was constant.
Kind of like how Alex was a constant pain in his ass.
The look on Alex's face was sickening, when he admitted what the king had done. Even once, and Dante stomped down on all emotions that he felt. Emotions were dangerous, so he settled for a nod, though a frown pulled at his face, "Seems to me that your father just proved that you Factioneers aren't the only dangerous beings in this kingdom. He got angry enough to hit you because you almost hurt your step mother?" It was incredulous.
He listened though, keeping himself distanced from the situation. Refusing to compare it to his own experiences. He escaped that life, and he wasn't risking what he built over saying something he'd regret. All he was hearing was Alex's perspective as it was, and Alex was the rebel prince.
Still, Dante wasn't stupid, Alex wasn't lying. "He might not hit you, that doesn't mean he doesn't hurt you. You might be an asshole, but you're not..." he paused, looking off to the side, crossing his arms, "You're not a bad person. Sucky prince, maybe, but not a bad person." He just had an insult in there.
Dante’s comment caused Alex to give a little roll of his eyes, though again there wasn’t a lot of anger behind it - a little annoyance, maybe. But it was more slightly amusement.
“If I was less of a pain, babysitting me would be a lot more boring for the both of us,” Alex commented.
Technically if he was less of a pain he wouldn’t need babysitting, but he wasn’t about to let that fact get in the way of his teasing Dante.
When Dante released his wrist, Alex encircled it with his other hand for a moment. Feeling the cold metal of the bracelet and its gemstones. Without it, Alex also found himself wondering how his eyes would look, rather than this dull honey-like colour. Probably bright yellow, that was the Electrix colour. Now that would be something that would be difficult to hide.
“Well, a little mad about the magic, a little mad about my stepmother,” Alex answered “but yeah, I almost hurt the queen, so he wasn’t too pleased.”
He had only been thirteen, and he had been unable to control his new magic. But still, technically he had almost hurt her. Plus, his father was generally angry about his son having magic. Magic which he thought was a terrible and dangerous thing, and was now faced with in his son.
Dante’s words caused some surprise in Alex, though he exaggerated his surprised response just for the purpose of teasing Dante once again, his hand flying to his chest as he lifted his eyebrows.
“Was that almost a compliment?” Alex questioned “that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, I think you must be getting soft.”
He was genuinely surprised by Dante’s words. So he didn’t think Alex was so bad after all. Maybe he wasn’t completely without allies within the palace. Being enemies with Dante was way more fun, but at least he knew the other man didn’t think badly of him.
He dropped his hand from his chest, resuming his normal expression, and folded his own arms to mirror the other man.
“You’re not a bad person either,” Alex responded, though he sighed as if it were painful to say it “you’ve got a stick up your ass, but you’re not a bad person.”
He’d answered in that way to avoid focusing on the first words. About how not being hit didn’t mean his father didn’t hurt him. Dante was perceptive, Alex had to give him credit. Those words were...so nice. They were validating, they reminded him that what he was going through was just as bad and he shouldn’t ignore it. He wanted to thank Dante for saying that, but he couldn’t find the words. He hoped the expression on his face when he’d first heard those words, where for just a moment it softened, might be enough.
Still, now he wanted to talk about anything else. He had to change the subject.
“We don’t need to keep talking about my father,” Alex commented “I’ve always wondered about you. I mean, what has to happen to make someone want to work for this nightmare of a family? And so young, too.”
Dante was only 24, and he’d been 22 when he became a member of the council. Even younger when he’d arrived at the palace. Alex knew the younger man’s career up to this point. Many of the other councillors had been in the palace longer than Alex had been alive, so Dante was interesting. He was probably exceptional to have gotten onto the council so young, but that wasn’t what Alex wondered about. He wanted to know why Dante had wanted to be on the council in the first place. What had led him here?
Dante rolled his eyes once more, scoffing slightly at Alex’s comment, “Sure,” was all he gave in reply. He wouldn’t admit it, but Alex was the most interesting company one could come by. Sure he was annoying, but he had his less annoying moments(less annoying, there was never a moment whenever Alex wasn’t annoying), but it was in some ways, better than having to deal with the king who actually did have a stick up his ass and was a pretentious jerk.
“What I’m saying, Prince,” the title was said, mostly without respect, with a bit of a sharp cocky know-it-all attitude, “Is that you didn’t hurt her, but he hurt you. That’s rather cruel and unusual of the king,” he pointed it out calmly, still taking some notes in his journal.
He wanted to see Alex take off the bracelets, though he quickly chased away all those thoughts. He shouldn’t be as interested in this ordeal as he was. He could lose everything he gained if he became too involved. If he found out about Alex, it was only a matter of time until the other council embers did.
Honestly, he should be running to the wind with the information, he could rise up in his ranks, see this nuisance gone. But the bruises of the strange-freckled-girl put all that to a halt. Death would likely be the kindest sentence Alex would get. And the king, he had hurt Alex before, if Dante said anything, he would be opening up the doors for it to happen more, bordering torture.
He glanced back at Alex, catching his softer glance, and nodded in acknowledgement. Words didn’t need to pass on the manner anymore, and he was still arguing internally. People with magic, the ones he knew, used those powers as a method of getting what they wanted, he could gain so much by turning Alex in, but then again, what good would it do in the long run? He’s only be repeating what they had done, and that wouldn’t be right at all.
“Working for the royal council entitles more than babysitting you,” he pointed out, smoothly, though the hesitance was still there, the momentary panic in his eyes, though it flickered to something more hostile, yet cowardly, the typical Dante look, “You shouldn’t worry about it, Prince, we have better matters to attend to.” He seemed almost amused for a moment, standing up taller, looking at something in his notes, but not actually reading, “Like, oh yeah, what about those repairs on the dungeon?”
After all, Dante had a feeling all of that up to this point was a ploy, and he was going to make that clear.
”I know, Dante,” Alex responded when he made the comment about the king hurting him “you don’t have to explain it to me. I know he’s cruel, I know he does bad things. What the hell else is new?”
There was an edge to his voice, but the anger wasn’t directed towards Dante. He was, of course, angry at his father. The man who put reputation above the well-being of his son. Who would rather hurt his child than accept him. None of this was a revelation to Alex.
So far he was surprised Dante hadn’t told. Minke has told him not to, of course, but was that really it? A young teenage girl, the reason Dante hesitated to get Alex out of the way and rise through the ranks of the council in one fell swoop?
The prince did, of course, fear what might happen if he was caught. If his father or the council didn’t call for him to be killed, the people might. And a death sentence was if he was lucky; there were far worse fates out there. He’d feared that ever since his powers first began to manifest. Among other things, of course, like hurting people he cared about. He’d been taught his whole life magic was dangerous and bad, and finding out he had it himself made him afraid for everyone around him.
“I suppose for once I owe you a thank you,” Alex said reluctantly “for keeping all this quiet. Don’t get any ideas, though, don’t think I’m going to start thanking you for everything now.”
He knew what the information about Alex’s magic could do for Dante and his career if he handled it right. It can’t have been an easy choice for the younger man, deciding not to take that opportunity.
But he watched the evasive look on Dante’s face when he reacted to Alex’s question, and the swift change of subject. Alex just rolled his eyes then, something he found himself doing all the time around Dante.
“What, like listening to my father rage about something or other, or everybody talking about how great my brother is?” Alexiares questioned “please. But fine, you don’t have to tell me. I’ll get it out of you eventually.”
And, he made a vow to himself, he would.
But Dante commented then on the dungeons, evidently letting Alex know that he’d figured out that everything had been a ruse. Alex responded with mock innocence to that.
“I’m sure I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re implying. I didn’t realise the situation was so bad down there,” Alex answered “but we really must do something about it, don’t you agree?”
He truly didn’t think they could just leave Minke to suffer down there. Dante was right, the best thing he could do for her was not get caught. But one could do a lot of things without getting caught if you were careful enough. As far as Alex was concerned, there had to be some way to help this girl, even if they couldn’t break her out right now.
“That fact that you’re just now telling one of the council,” Dante pointed out, when Alex asked what was new. He knew it was supposed to be rhetorical, but it wasn’t some joking manner. “If he is violent towards his own kin, he’s obviously not in the right headspace. Alex, you should have told someone,” he hated the words as soon as he said them. Alex didn’t have a choice he couldn’t tell anyone, no one would have understood. He knew the council, even Caspian, would side with the king. All because Alex had magic.
He took a few steps down the corridor, though he shrugged, “Yes, because me keeping quiet is so hard to do,” he muttered out, the words slightly venomous. Of course, the act of keeping silent wasn’t too hard, but the gains of telling far outweighed the faults. He wouldn’t be hurt in telling, but Alex would, and something didn’t settle right with such a thing.
He glared back at Alex, offering up no reply. He didn’t see why his past mattered, he wasn’t Alex’s friend, he was his babysitter, and now he had blackmail on the prince. “Just keep in mind I’m doing this for Minke, not you.” He commented, though it was pretty much a lie. Not like Alex needed to know that.
Glancing down, he pulled in a slightly shaky breath. Minke was a special case indeed. Though his words came out sharp, “There’s nothing we can do to help her, Alex.” They couldn’t risk it, helping her.
“Giving her company, that should help.”
It was carefully crafted and selected words, but it was the best he could do without risking anything. Even visiting would be dangerous, but he couldn’t lose his job, his status. He couldn’t go back, and he wouldn’t give up what he got because a kid got caught up in a royal mess.
At the suggestion that he should’ve told someone, Alex let out a bitter laugh. He could tell Dante had realised what was wrong with what he said almost as soon as he said it, but that didn’t stop Alex from replying anyway.
“I was thirteen years old, Dante,” Alex replied “who would’ve believed me? I was a kid, I was half-Levinian, I’d been partly responsible for us having to pull out of the war. My mother had been executed for treason five years before. Not to mention it would put them on the trail of finding out I had magic. Caspian and my stepmother would’ve defended my father; he never laid a hand on Caspian, after all. It would’ve been stupid for me to say anything.”
As far as Alex knew, Caspian had never been hurt by their father. Caspian was the golden child, after all. Maybe he was wrong, but if he was then Caspian hadn’t said a word about it either. Perhaps Caspian saw his father completely differently to Alex.
But the prince had evidently angered Dante with his words, so he moved to try and salvage the situation.
“That’s not what I meant,” Alex sighed “I just meant that you’ve been taught just like I had that magic is bad. It takes a lot to go against that.”
He didn’t know why he had been so determined to try and fix that misstep, but either way he’d done it now. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d offended Dante, after all.
He scoffed a little at the younger man’s words about the fact that he was doing this for Minke, not him.
“I wouldn’t expect anything else,” he said, but his words were accompanied once again by a small smile
The man’s next words were harsh, but Alex could see the truth in them. Maybe it was too much of a risk. A little risk had never stoooed Alex, but then again normally when he did something stupid he was usually the only one at risk. It wasn’t like that this time.
“Fine, we can keep her company,” Alex agreed “and there has to be some way to figure out how those shackles she wears work; if we figure my bracelets out we have the answer for Minke, too. And we’ve seen her with those locks. If we... found out how her shackles worked and figured out if there’d a way to counteract them, technically she could just escape by herself and nobody could prove we had anything to do with it.”
Dante opened his mouth to retort once more, something along the lines of, You should have told me, but his brain caught exactly why that would have been the cruelest thing he could say. He never treated Alex like a person, only like a job, a duty, and that’s what he was. Dante wasn’t someone Alex trusted, and in return, Dante didn’t trust Alex.
In short, Alex obviously didn’t owe Dante anything, to be so agitated over his silence was disconcerting, unusual.
Though, he gave the prince a dubious look. Alex never amended his words to set someone else at ease. He was brash and sometimes rude, he was unapologetic, and yet, here he was, placating Dante, and the council member couldn’t help but snort at it, “I appreciate that, Alex,” and deep down, he did.
And another loop he was thrown for. The pale haired menace in front of him never acted so calmly. He was explosive, angry, Dante had expected arguing, fighting even. Part of him was itching to get into a verbal argument, the only kind he could ever win. And yet, Alex seemed to see the point, which was odd. Uncharacteristic. He gave the boy a second glance, feeling some concern.
Some empathy filled his heart, as much as he tried to squash it down. Alex really did have a tough day. First he found a child of all things, battered and broken in a cell, and he wouldn’t admit it, but Dante could see that Alex was blaming himself. Even just slightly. And then those nullifying jewels. Hiding his abilities.
He liked the idea, though, so he let the topic of arguing fade. Alex didn’t need a fight today, and maybe Dante should try being a better council member. “That could work. But her’s, they look like they’re locked on. I doubt the key is anywhere we can find it. How do we get her out, without hurting her?” And Alex? What would happen if he took his off.
“This is a bad idea,” he grumbled, anxiously looking round, before glancing back at Alex, seeming to argue internally a bit, “If you want, you could....take off the jewels, I won’t tell your father as long as you behave,” he wouldn’t tell anyways, he had too many conflicting thoughts on the king right now. “I mean, if you’re sure you won’t get hurt, or something. Do what you want, whatever,” he glanced down the hallway, once more, skittish as could be.
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Dark Sun: Great StarClan I hate hangnails...
Sept 18, 2021 22:57:46 GMT -5
Dark Sun: I had just gotten cozy in bed and it forced me to walk all the way upstairs just to trim it off, and then back down again.
Sept 18, 2021 22:58:35 GMT -5
✿𝔇𝙖𝙬𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙧✿: i hate hangnails
Sept 18, 2021 23:02:33 GMT -5
✿𝔇𝙖𝙬𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙧✿: One time I had one and it pealed off some skin
Sept 18, 2021 23:03:37 GMT -5
✿𝔇𝙖𝙬𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙧✿: IT HURT SO BAD
Sept 18, 2021 23:04:33 GMT -5