Chapter 12 – The Promise (The Prequel)

Part I

Turned invisible, Inerishia and Kendel walked hand in hand without speaking. As their lethargic steps carried them toward a boulder, which rested half of its massiveness on the calm beach, Kendel was wondering what knowledge his wife was keeping only to herself. Why did she have to keep secrets from him? He’d known Inerishia for more than ten years already, and he trusted her more than anyone else. Why secrets when their relationship was so strong? He raised an eyebrow and glanced toward the faraway woods that were now only a great shadow with ridged margins, grazing the starry sky. Maybe Gladiole had taught Inerishia to keep things from her husband so he would never grow bored of her. Old-fashioned nonsense supposed to nourish a happy marriage. He could see Gladiole’s sour face commanding a younger version of Inerishia to swear she would always stay secretive. A man must not always know what you think. He interpreted Gladiole in his mind pulling his lips down toward the chin and rising his nose up in the air.

Starting their passing by the enormous rock, Inerishia got tired of hearing Kendel’s rhythmical sighs and strange gasps, so she turned to face him. “All right, what is it?” She asked seriously but then burst into laughter at the sight of his elongated grimace.

A little embarrassed, Kendel dropped the act and cleared his voice.

“Is it safe to talk here?” he whispered, redundantly checking the surroundings. “Won’t Gladiole detect our location if we talk here?”

Inerishia lifted a hand toward the stone, her loose sleeve swinging gently in the sea breeze. “We’re protected by this boulder. If you have something to talk, you better say it right here and right now. After we fly over to your home island, we better watch our tongues. I’m sure my mother has sent someone to spy on our visit to your parents.”

Kendel snickered. “I hope Gladiole sent the tree-shifter again for that task. I love seeing him green with jealousy.”

Inerishia gave him a playful nudge. “Let’s not waste time. We said we’d briefly visit your parents then get back to the White Castle. The island people won’t be able to cover our absence for too long. What’s on your mind?”

“All right. I have many questions to ask, but I’ll be short. Why did you choose that name? Why did you choose such a Selene name for our daughter when the prince has such a solar name? I may be too romantic, but that sounds like you set them up to be together.”

Inerishia smiled and shook her head. “Don’t over think things, Kendel. I was just inspired by the boy’s name. It reminded me of my favorite legend from childhood. And besides, the two get along so well. They’re like siblings.”

Kendel absorbed her words. “Your favorite legend? The Mythical Visitors who came to stop a world disaster?”

“Yes. I always admired that tale, how Helios protected Selene in their journey to stop the sinking of the entire world. I wish the prince would care for our daughter just like Helios did for Selene.”

Kendel pondered, staring into her azure eyes, now grayed by the dim light of the night. “You sure tell me everything?”

“Yes. Come on, Kendel. Stop being so suspicious. I’m as tired as you are, and tomorrow we have to be ready for a long journey.”

Kendel sighed and glanced at the distant quivering reflection of the moon in the sea, hoping it would tame his curious thoughts. “I actually like the name Selunia a lot,” he said.

Inerishia squeezed his hand empathically, watching the round moon’s magical glow. “It’s not too late to change our girl’s name,” she admitted.

Kendel smiled. “All right. Then we’ll keep it.”

*

Weeks after her arrival in the Arid Kingdom’s castle, Selunia was already accustomed to everything in the building. She had a nanny who helped her choose her clothes and brush her hair, an educator who was scared of her and was teaching her the alphabet from a great distance, and she had Waltario, the most respected man in the palace, care for her. Despite missing her parents daily, she had much fun with the prince every afternoon.

One morning, Selunia heard a commotion echoing from the yard, so she stepped out on the round balcony and leaned forward against the marble balustrade. In the courtyard, a number of majestic carriages had gathered, and ladies in beautiful gown came out of them accompanied by men in overly-decorated suits. “Too bad mommy didn’t let me keep the invisibility crystal,” she mumbled, gazing at the sparkling dresses and the colorful arrangements in the yard. “I could’ve attended the party as well.”

A slender woman dressed in a beige robe approached her with silent steps. “Miss, please don’t lean over like that. Someone might notice you, or worse, you might fall.”

Selunia turned around and smiled at the elder. “Nanny, can you please make me look special today? I want to look gorgeous like everyone else.”

“Sure, young miss. But don’t forget you’re not allowed to leave this room, as per General Waltario’s instructions.”

“Yes, Nanny,” Selunia replied with sad eyes.

However, when she saw a beautiful pink dress with sparkling butterflies and flounces, the smile returned on her face, and after nanny brushed her dark hair and folded two locks into small buns atop of her head fastening them with glittery pins, Selunia yelped with joy. She twirled in front of the mirror, radiating with delight. Her happiness was so contagious that even the rather serious nanny’s cheeks brightened up. It was indeed a shame she couldn’t attend the party.

*

Late in the evening, sitting on the carpet, Selunia was slowly coloring a drawing of her and the prince playing together in a sunny field. He used to visit her daily, but today it had been different. Because of the royal party, the boy hadn’t shown up as usual. The next day, if they were going to meet, she was determined to tell him how upset she’d been because he’d forgotten about her. How could that party be more important than her? She took a brown pencil and made a mess of the boy’s hair.

A few minutes later, Nanny heard a couple of hasty knocks, so she went to open the door. Soris was right there heaving noisily after a long run taken to reach the girl’s room.

“Your Highness,” Nanny rushed to say, bowing her head respectfully.

Selunia left her drawing and charged at him. “Where have you been?” she asked.

“Oh, sorry, Princess. I had to—”

“I don’t care! How could you forget about me?” she said, pouting and turning her back on him.

“Miss, that’s rude!” Nanny exclaimed preparing to sermonize Selunia.

“It’s okay, Nanny,” Soris said taking on an adult’s air. “I’ll talk with her. Can you bring us some lemonade?”

Nanny bowed her head and swept out of the room. Selunia flounced back to her drawing pretending to ignore him. Soris followed her with a troubled expression. As he stopped and watched her kneeling on the floor and setting on coloring as if he didn’t exist, the boy noticed her astonishing dress-up.

“You look very beautiful today, Princess,” he said, trying to wash away the tension in the air.

Selunia lifted the piece of paper and pretended to admire her own stick-figure creation, when in fact she was a bit flattered by his compliment. Soris scratched the back of his head then tried to explain himself, “Today is my birthday, Princess. I had to stay with the guests or else Mom would be very angry.”

“I don’t forgive you,” Selunia said with an obstinate pout.

The boy carefully took a seat next to her and laid a red bag on the floor. “Here, I brought cakes,” he said, opening the bag and taking out a silvery box. When he took its lid off, Selunia glanced at the square-shaped treats then folded her arms on her chest.

The prince insisted. “They’re your favorites. I picked only the ones with lots of strawberries and whipped cream. Try one at least.”

Selunia shot him a dark look, then angrily took one piece of cake and pushed it in her mouth, chewing it slowly to ease her frustration. Soris watched her with an awkward smile, adding shyly, “I brought dessert spoons, too.”

Selunia, lips smeared with cream and traces of chocolate, said proudly, “So what? I bet you can’t eat like me.” She pointed at the biggest piece of cake in the tray. “If you can eat that like me, I’ll forgive you.”

Soris seized that piece immediately and struggled to press the multi-layered cake inside his largely-opened mouth. Still chewing on her piece, Selunia watched him with amazement. He did it and now he was working on mincing the creamy treat. They looked at each other, both with puffed cheeks, and they burst into laughter. As words were hard to pronounce in such a situation, Soris understood from her delighted chuckle that she’d forgiven him and was ready to play.

After swallowing, Selunia gave him a napkin then took one for her. Wiping her mouth, she commented, “I can’t believe you ate it.”

Soris, finishing his long fight with the cake, said smugly, “Of course, I did. I’m eight now. I can eat greater things.”

Selunia clapped her hands, squeaking with joy. “Happy birthday, Soris,” she chirped.

“Thank you, Princess.”

“I’m not Princess. I’m Selunia.”

“I know, but I can’t get used to that name. And besides… you really look like a princess today.”

Selunia caught her cheeks between her hands and chuckled overwhelmed by emotions. The prince gazed at her, unable to understand why her laugh was making him unusually happy.

*

In the party hall, Queen Melisa searched everywhere for someone. “Soris, where are you?” she asked from time to time, scanning through the shifting servants and the red-faced remaining guests.

Few people sat now around the two long tables filled with food and empty glasses. The majority of attendees had left before the twilight, and now those who sat gathered in small groups chatting and laughing in the corners of the hall were mostly the palace people. Under the bright golden light of the chandeliers, she was sure she hadn’t missed noticing her son.

She went to General Waltario who sat by the long table, pouring himself another glass of wine.

“You drank more than you normally do, General,” she stated with slight surprise.

Waltario let the glass on the table and looked at her with lustrous eyes. “Soris is like my son, so I deserve to drink like his father,” he answered, smiling with his newly-grown beard.

“Do you know where my son is? I don’t see him anywhere, and Clark says he didn’t go to his room.”

“Then he must be playing with my daughter,” Constantine replied, amusing himself. “Soris likes to play with Selunia. They’re great siblings.”

The queen looked somewhat offended. “I’ll take that as a joke since you’re not in your best shape right now. My son has nothing in common with that outcast. In fact, if he does like to play with her, I’d like you to stop them. I don’t have a good feeling about that girl.”

“I’ll take that as a joke since I understand your stressful situation,” the general replied, glimpsing King Martin escorting two noisy ladies outside the palace.

Melisa glanced briefly in that direction then returned to Waltario, unconcerned about her husband’s whereabouts. “I’m not joking, General,” she insisted with eagle eyes. “That girl is strange and doesn’t have noble blood. My son will have no benefit from talking to her. Soris needs to have strong connections with the boyars.”

Constantine sipped some ruby wine then said softly, “My queen, I think you should learn to relax a bit. Cut the boy some slack. He chats with the boyars’ kids, too, so you needn’t worry about his connections. Selunia is an educated child as well, and I think that by playing with her, Soris learns to be generous and caring. Let’s be honest, most noble kids are a bit selfish and arrogant. We don’t want Soris to be a dictator.”

Melisa listened to him, unconvinced by his arguments.

Part II right here.

Chapter 12 – Part II (Final)

Months later, the queen’s patience and understanding reached an end. It seemed that Selunia was going to live in their palace much longer than previously assumed, and Soris was spending more and more time with her. One day, Melisa went to Soris as soon as he finished his lessons. She saw him blasting out of the room with increasing joy.

“Stop,” she said, firmly planting herself before him. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to play with Selunia,” he answered, impatient to continue his run.

“Don’t go to her.”

The boy’s joy visibly decreased. “Why?”

“I interdict you to play with her. She’s a bad influence on you, and you need to have friends among the boyars.”

“I don’t want to! She’s no bad influence. We have a lot of fun,” he protested, begging her with his eyes.

“I said no, do you understand? I’m not asking for your opinion. This is a command and you shall obey! Now go to your room. If you don’t listen, I’ll punish you.”

The boy saw the stern glare on her face, so he hung his head and obeyed. Even though Lady Voronchi hadn’t ever come into the palace since Waltario’s action plan, her relationship with the king hadn’t grown nicer. Martin had found other ladies and those were daring to show their disdain and defiance toward her, filling her days with poisonous frustrations and regrets, darkening her mentality and stiffening her character.

Soris went to his room and was so distressed by his mother’s request to the point he could start crying. He’d found such a nice friend in Selunia and dreaded the fact that he would have to break ties with her. Hands resting on his head, he paced the room back and forth, fretting about this. If he missed playing with her, she would get really upset. He should at least talk to her and tell her about this, rather than just show her the cold shoulder on the first occasion they accidentally meet.

He searched through his toys and gifts wanting to offer her something like a goodbye present. After finding a bear, a rabbit, and a golden unicorn, he thought he should bring some sweets and then maybe find a hairpin and then… He stopped, realizing he was wasting time. He packed everything in a bag, and slunk off the room to the girl’s chamber, hoping he won’t bump into Clark or the queen.

Passing long corridors and flights of stairs, his breath cutting short after going around every corner, he reached her room. He knocked superficially and rushed in only to find the girl sobbing greatly. Selunia sat in bed, knees to her chest, face buried in a small pillow, crying her parents’ names.

Soris dropped the bag and ran to her. “Princess, what happened?”

Selunia uncovered her wet face. “Mommy and Daddy aren’t coming!” she yelled, tears rolling down her cheeks. “They’re never coming back!”

Sorrow welled up in the boy’s heart. He started numbering the months and realized they should have returned weeks ago. He hopped next to her and watched her in silence, sharing her sorrow, while her tears tortured him, not knowing what to do. It was definitely not the moment to say goodbye to her, but on the other hand, he was afraid of his mother. He pondered for a while until he finally made up his mind. He would not let Selunia alone. He would lie. He moved closer and engulfed the girl in his arms, hoping this would offer enough comfort to stop her from crying.

“Don’t worry, Princess. I will never leave you,” he uttered. “From now on, I’ll take care of you. I will protect you.”

Selunia’s sobs became quieter under the spell of his innocent embrace.

*

The next days, the queen was keeping an eye on Soris. He pretended to go out and play with the nobles, and then later he snuck back in the palace making up different excuses. With time, he made up an even better lie.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to play.”

“Who with?”

“Karl.”

Soris lied that he had a new friend whose name was Karl. He pronounced that name with confidence every time he was asked, feeling at ease that it was only half a lie. Karl from Karleyani, the girl’s real last name. Soon, however, the general caught on the lie. One day, when the boy came into his studio, Waltario asked him, “So you’re going to play with Karl, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Karl is right here,” he said, stretching a hand toward Selunia, who was sitting on a chair, pretending to brush a doll’s hair.

Soris was taken aback. He raised terrified eyes toward the general.

Constantine folded his arms on his chest, preparing to lecture the boy. “You two know you’re not allowed to play with each other.”

Selunia let her chin down on her chest. Soris did so too, but after a few seconds, he dared to face the general again.

“Can you let us play?” he uttered, shyly clasping his hands at his back.

Waltario pitied him. “Look, Soris, it’s not me who doesn’t allow you. It’s your mother, and I think you should listen to her.”

“But who’s going to play with her, then? Only I can because I can keep secrets,” the boy said raising his tone.

“Why are you so sure?”

“I didn’t tell dad about the bottle!”

The general was amused by his boldness. “Well, true. The king has a hunch that someone has interfered in his business, but he doesn’t care to find out. Once he’s changed his mind about someone, he doesn’t turn back even if it was his fault.”

“So can we play?” Soris insisted, trying to be as sweet as possible.

“Don’t do that to me. Beg your mother, not me.”

“Oh, come on, General. You know Mom will never agree. I told her about Clark and she didn’t agree to change him.”

“I think her decisions are well grounded so I’m not going against them.”

“All right. But if I play, you won’t tell on me, right?”

The general frowned. “What are you implying?”

Soris lifted his chin and grinned. “Well, you don’t let us play, but if we play, you won’t tell anybody, right?”

Waltario started laughing out loud. “Spunky kid. All right. You’re going to come out with me and, after that,” he raised his hands in the air, “I don’t know what you do.”

Soris followed the general outside, hoping that he wouldn’t change his mind the last minute. Constantine turned and said, “Remember, Your Highness, you are not to play with Selunia,” he said with a quick wink.

“Yes, General,” Soris nodded and watched him leaving until he couldn’t see any shadow in the corridor. After that, eyes sparkling with enthusiasm, he slid back in the studio and started a joyous celebration of his victory. Selunia jumped around him with admiration. He’d been able to convince a great man like Waltario to let them play. That was something amazing to her.

*

One year and a half later, as the two were playing hide and seek in the general’s studio, Constantine came in accompanied by two people dressed in long brown cloaks. They pulled back their hoods, revealing a dark-haired man, and a ginger-haired woman with wet, azure eyes. She could barely hold back her tears.

Selunia ran into her arms. “Mommy, you’re back!”

Waltario shifted to a side to let the three enjoy their unexpected reunion. “Well, Selunia, your parents are alive,” he stated with a smile. “I told you it was possible they were late.”

Selunia, after sharing how much she’d missed them and cried for them, took on an upset pout. Kendel lifted her up and said, “Oh, my sweetheart. Daddy was really late this time. How old are you now?”

“Seven. How could you forget about my birthday?”

“Oh, I never forgot. I was just too far away from you. But don’t worry. When we get home, I’m going to give you many presents to make up for my absence.” Kendel let the child down and embraced her once more, glad he’d found a way to return from the difficult mission.

“You’ll get many presents from me, too,” Inerishia said, then turning to the general, “Again, thank you so much, General. I hope the crystals we gave you will show useful in your research.”

Constantine waved a hand. “You don’t have to thank me. What I did was nothing compared to the help you provided to our kingdom back then. Selunia is a good child. I never had any trouble with her.”

“All right, then we shall leave you in peace now,” Kendel said. “Despite what you say, we know it’s hard to raise a child.”

“Two actually,” Constantine corrected him, pointing at the prince who was slowly stepping to Selunia.

“So you’re leaving?” he asked the girl, with shocked eyes.

“Yes. I’m going home with my mommy.”

He looked down on the floor, pretending to scratch some dust with his feet, then he asked with a heavy heart, “Will I see you again?”

Selunia suddenly understood his sadness. She looked up at her parents who refrained from saying anything but watched her and the boy with compassion. If they were going to meet again, that wasn’t going to be very soon. Selunia returned her attention on the boy and said with determination, “Yes. You will see me again, and when I come back, I’m going to be your protector!”

Soris lifted up his eyes and smiled, joy sprouting in his heart. “You my protector? How can that be possible?” He gave a playful grin.

“Just you wait and see!”

As her parents’ dragged her out of the studio, Soris waved at her and yelled, “I’ll be waiting to see that!”

Selunia nodded, firmly believing that one day she would fulfill her promise.

***

Will they meet? Of course they will but after 12 years. How will they meet and who will remember who after a long war?

You can read about their reunion in Book #1 (The Mysterious Soldier – Part I), for free if you sign up here.

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List of published books:

Kyle’s Nightmare (Mystery Novel)
The Arid Kingdom epic fantasy series:
Book #1 – The Mysterious Soldier – P1
Book #2 – The Mysterious Soldier – P2