A bright beam of light streamed down upon Waltario’s rough hands. Using a small brush, the man was concentrated on carefully cleaning a small but complex piece of metal needed for one of his inventions. His father had left him many objects he could use to build weapons or vehicles. Some of them were said to have been stolen from the enemies’ during wartime, but Constantine was certain others had had a strange history which his father had preferred to keep for himself.
The general’s heavy desk was cluttered with paper sheets and rulers, screws, nuts, and bolts, just like his cabinets and shelves were crammed with a number of objects ordered by a kind of logic only he was able to understand. Inventions were his passion and the palace saw only a benefit in that. As he was doing his work, a smile kept playing on his face. His studio was livelier than usual. The two children, Soris and Ines, were squeaking and running in large circles around him and his desk. The boy was glowing with joy after he’d found the liqueur bottle with the king’s hidden message. Waltario had assured him that, after this discovery, Lady Voronchi would not dare to come again in the palace. That was the greatest piece of news to Soris. Once the king’s relationship with Lady Voronchi was over, the boy was sure he would get to see his mother laugh again.
Waltario’s brother entered the studio and was taken by surprise when the prince suddenly bumped into him.
“Oh, sorry,” said the boy, then started after Ines who scampered away, shrieking playfully.
Constantine’s younger brother followed them for a couple of seconds, blinking incredulously, then he advanced to the general and said, “I see you’re allowing them to play in your studio.”
Constantine let the piece of metal down on the desk and wiped his fingers on a dirty handkerchief. “Well, they’re my kids now,” he said, watching for a brief moment their loud trotting on the wooden floor. “I guess I was meant to be a father at this age, so I’m not going to run away from my destiny.”
Young Waltario stifled a laugh, then his eyes roved over the two again. Ines had tripped and now the boy was helping her get up.
“You okay, Princess?” the boy asked, offering his hand to lift her up.
“Yes. Thank you, Soris.”
Young Waltario let out a nostalgic sigh. “First love is so beautiful,” he commented. “I wish I could turn back time.”
Constantine picked up some screws and put them in a small box. “They’re kids. They’re not in love.”
As Ines was tidying her new dress offered by the general, Soris touched her silky locks.
“Wow, your hair is so long,” he gasped with admiration.
Young Waltario was all smiles at this scene. He leaned forward propping his arms on the desk and whispered to the general, “I hope we won’t need to forge letters for the prince like we did for his dad. He seems to charm girls from an early age.”
Constantine shot him a look of disapproval. “He’s just a curious kid. Don’t misjudge him.”
“I pity you,” his brother replied, amusing himself.
Past eight o’clock at night, the kids were playing in silence with some cardboard cubes, when suddenly the metal door swung open. Waltario turned around and met two unexpected visitors: Kendel and Inerishia. They both greeted him with tired smiles and pale faces as they hadn’t undergone a full rehabilitation procession. The war was over but they had to hurry up to check their daughter.
“Mommy! Daddy!” Ines yelled, running to them, abandoning the castle of cubes she had been building with the prince. Soris got up and went after her, slowing down when he saw the two tall strangers in long grey robes.
Inerishia dropped to her knees and squeezed her daughter in her arms. “Oh, my dear. I’m so glad you’re fine,” she mumbled with a faint voice. After running a quick visual check on the girl, she glanced up at the general, and said, “Thank you, General. Thank you.” Constantine was so astonished to see them that he could only reply with a polite nod.
Kendel took advantage of this moment and snatched the girl from his wife, lifting Ines in his arms. “My brave little girl, I thought I’d never see you again,” he said leaning his forehead against hers. Inerishia got up and embraced the two. “I’m so glad I could save you both today,” she said, resting her head on Kendel’s shoulder.
Constantine and Soris witnessed their family moment in silence, not daring to interrupt them. It was a sight they both had never seen in their own lives. Soris stared at them, trying to understand how that felt. His parents barely talked, and when they did, they were either cold with each other or trading glares. At least, that was how he’d gotten to see them in the corridors and conference rooms, as the two never shared a meal together. He watched with sad frustration and slight envy how Kendel played with Ines and kissed her forehead. King Martin would roll his eyes whenever he was called dad.
Waltario read that sorrow in the boy’s expression, so he pulled him close and patted him on the shoulder. Soris lifted his head and sketched a smile.
Feeling weakness crawling up his joints, Kendel let the girl down and knelt before her. “So what did my little one do here?”
“I gave Mommy’s letter to Waltario,” she said. Turning back her head and pointing at Soris, she added, “He helped me find him.”
The prince put his hands at his back and stepped forward shyly.
“Is it true?” Kendel asked. “You’ve helped my daughter find General Waltario?”
Soris sucked in his lips and nodded.
“Come here, buddy. I need to thank you properly.”
Soris did so, his eyes gleaming with joy.
“He also saved me from some bad kids,” Ines rushed to say.
Kendel gave the boy a pat on his shoulder then started ruffling his hair, saying, “It seems my girl has already found a knight here to protect her. Thank you, brave knight!”
Soris giggled, enjoying the fatherly warmth that spread on his head. Waltario cleared his throat and stepped forward. “He’s the prince actually. Future king, Prince Soris of the Arid Kingdom,” he stated loud and clear as if he presented the boy in front of a crowd.
Kendel’s smile stretched to an awkward grin. He hurried to tidy the boy’s hair. “My apologies, Your Highness,” he said rapidly. Little did he know that he’d been the first person to ever mess with the prince’s hair like that.
Kendel withdrew his hand, excusing his prior statement. “I thought he was your boy.”
Waltario shook his head and chuckled with a slow blink. “I’m divorced.”
His visitors’ face expressions dropped the smiles. Master Astute hadn’t communicated to them this piece of news. Not many in the White Castle knew what happened in the Aridens’ castle, and if they knew, they didn’t talk about it. Gossiping about the mortals’ affairs didn’t suit the superior people.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Kendel said with clear shock.
Constantine remained relaxed. “You don’t have to. I’m happy.”
They burst into laughter, except for Inerishia who simply couldn’t see that as an honest reply. She let them have a men-only talk and turned to thank the little boy for keeping good company to her daughter. When she squatted before him, she noticed the black stone hanging by the prince’s neck. He’d been so busy jumping and playing with Ines that he hadn’t realized his secret talisman sat now shining brightly over his clothes. Inerishia refrained her impulse of touching the talisman, and began with a soft voice, “Thank you, Your Highness, for protecting our girl.”
“Oh, it was nothing. I only did what I had to do,” he said, overcome with emotion, delighted by the fairy aspect of Ines’ mother. The intense color of her azure eyes and ginger hair was something he’d only seen in his naïve drawings with colored pencils.
Inerishia took a close look at the talisman, her intuition telling her that was not a normal necklace. Its shape, its unique frame, and decorations, she recognized them immediately. “You have such a beautiful necklace. Who gave it to you?” she asked.
Soris hurried to hide the stone back under his clothes. “It’s a secret,” he replied, avoiding eye-contact, regretting he couldn’t talk freely with the beautiful fairy.
“Was it a tall man with grey hair?” she insisted.
Soris glanced at her in surprise then lowered his eyes to the ground, keeping quiet. That attitude was enough of an answer to Inerishia. She got up, with a confused expression on her face, trying to piece together some information and memories from a long time ago.
In the meantime, Kendel was explaining to the general that Ines would have to stay longer in his care. “Our mission is going to last about six months, so we’ll have to trouble you with this. She needs to be in somebody’s care. Someone we can trust, and at this moment that is nobody else than you. I’m sorry, Waltario.”
“That’s fine. I don’t mind,” the general said. “It’s just that we need to talk some details. What name should I call her? I understand that you want everything to be a secret, but she’ll need a name if she has to stay here.”
Kendel nodded his head in approval, glad that Constantine was paying attention to such details. He hadn’t thought about that. He’d been so drained of energy during the battle that his power of thinking was now weak compared to his normal days. “Well, let me ask my wife about this. Darling, what should they call our daughter?”
Kendel turned around with raised eyebrows. “Whoa, that was quick. But anyway, I really like that name.” He repeated that name a few times to himself then returned to Constantine. “General, you may now call her Selunia.”
“So she’s Selunia Karleyani,” Constantine noted to himself.
The boy paid close attention, remembering that name.
“Well, it’d be better if you didn’t use that last name either,” Inerishia said.
“Oh, all right.”
As they were deciding on the last name, Soris went to the girl with increasing excitement. “So you do have a name but it has to remain a secret.”
Selunia nodded in approval.
“Okay. I get that. I have my secret, too. But your last name truly is Karleyani, right?” he insisted, intrigued by the mystery around his new playmate.
“Yes. That’s true. But that’s also a secret,” she reminded him, awkwardly trying to wink at him.
Soris laughed then said in order to get used to the change, “Selunia, you have a beautiful name.”
Kendel turned around and smiled hearing the prince pronouncing that name, but then as much as he liked it, something made him overly-curious. Why had his wife chosen a name that would match the prince’s name? Selunia was definitely referring to the moon while Soris was obviously related to the sun. He looked at Inerishia and saw that she had a serious expression on her face, too serious for their happy family reunion.
Next chapter coming soon! I hope you enjoyed reading this chapter!
P.S.: The final chapter was too long to be posted as only one chapter, so this is not the final chapter.