A gentle breeze carried fading summer heat through open windows. A young woman breathed in the crisp air and turned towards the window. Tucking a golden strand behind her ear, she rested the palms of her hands on the stone windowsill and stared out at the descending sun. Rays of orange and scarlet covered the land as the sun bid its farewell.
Her cream-colored dress shifted in the wind before settling back just below her knees. She enjoyed the last moments of light and smiled as the cloth caressed her skin. Below the horizon, citizens of the kingdom rushed to finish their daily chores before darkness fell. Young children used the last of the light to play; their laughs echoed loud and pure as they tired themselves out until the next day.
A soft sigh escaped her and a flicker of a frown replaced her smile. Suppressed memories haunted her, digging their insistent claws into her mind. The door creaked and the young woman put the view behind her.
An elderly man stood near the door a few feet away. Wrinkles brought forth his age and marred what she knew was once a handsome face; the face of a ruler, of a king. He regarded her through tired eyes with sadness and the smallest hint of hope.
"You must focus, child."
Her frown deepened and she turned back to the window to avoid his gaze. She took in the remnants of the sun. Over half of the large orb hid beneath the horizon now. Guilt flooded her veins and her throat clenched. She let him down.
"Why am I forced to learn something I do not want?"
A weary breath slipped through his lips, "It is the mark of this kingdom. To rule when your time comes, you must control your gift."
mother and father." She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Tears stung despite her attempts to block out the pain. The wounds were too fresh. Ever since they passed, she hadn't had time to herself. She needed the opportunity to let it sink in.
Gentle, padded footsteps resounded on the floor and a hand touched her shoulder. "All the more reason to hasten your studies, Saria."
Saria's lips formed a tight line at his words. Emotionless. Her grandfather perfected the art of hiding his emotions during his many summers as the ruler. Her parents' passing troubled him, she knew. His impassive behavior angered her; her parents deserved more.
"Come." He squeezed her shoulder. "Let us use the remaining light to practice."
Saria opened her mouth to protest and shut it before the words could slip out. He would not allow her to fail her education in their gift. Regardless of her opinion, she needed to control the powers that slept within. Without them, she could not rule their kingdom. With her parents fallen and her grandfather aging fast, that time approached sooner than she wished.
"Alright," she conceded and faced him. "I'll try."
His pale blue eyes, a shade identical to hers, looked over her for a moment. "Focus. Focus on your powers, on the magic, and do not let anything distract you. Reach in and touch them, request they do your bidding. If you cannot mold and use them, they will destroy you."
Saria bit back the comment that lay ready on her tongue and took a deep breath as she let her eyes flutter shut. Shrouded in darkness, unpleasant nerves raged to her core. She sought out the essence of her magic, a journey she took many times before. A collection of energy, hidden deep inside raw and unused powers. During the summers she studied the art of magic, her fear overwhelmed the desire to use it and prevented her from contacting her gift.
A spark ignited in the dark depths; a familiar light she often saw. Saw, but never touched. Comforting words from her family did not help her fear.
The dull throbbing of her heartbeat echoed in her mind as she neared the light. The essence existed in the form of a white orb. Saria halted in front of it and struggled to choose her path. Her fear threatened to overpower her as it did every time. A spark in her mind broke the cloud of doubt; an unexplainable urge pushed her to follow her grandfather's teachings. Saria reached out and grasped the orb.
A shockwave washed over her and she whimpered. Her knees crashed onto the ground and her eyes shot open as pain raked through her body. Nails tore over her and under her skin, leaving searing pain in their wake. Saria pressed her hands on the floor for support and inhaled deeply. The breath cut off halfway and she coughed, cringing as agony tore through her.
"Let go. Release the powers." Her grandfather kneeled in front of her and swept a strand of hair out of her eyes, grabbing her left hand with his other one.
The soothing voice brought her a moment of clarity. Deep within, Saria relocated the source of her magic. No longer did the powers shine a calming white. The energy pulsed in rhythm with the torment that plagued her and flashed bright colors.
Saria strained and broke the contact between her and the magic. The pain vanished instantaneously. Dull throbs remained and she took a deep breath. Freedom. It was over. No more pain.
Oxygen refilled her lungs and her breathing slowed to a calm, more manageable pace. Her heartbeat followed suit and Saria ran a hand through her hair, inhaling more breaths. Silence stretched until the fast-paced sounds of her breathing and heartbeat vanished.
"Your magic sensed your fear. If you fear it, you cannot control it; it repelled you as a result." The slightest frown crossed her grandfather's expression and he released her hand. "You must gain more confidence. Your gift is not to be feared."
"You told me it could destroy me," Saria recalled. "Is this what that was?"
"In part, yes. This was caused because the powers sensed your fear and found you unworthy to tame them. It could have killed you, had you not broken the connection. If you do not learn to use your powers, they will cause your death, even if you do not notice the change at first."
Shudders slid down Saria's spine and she wrapped her arms around herself. He had told her similar things before, always whenever she dealt with the challenge of taming her magic using it. She never paid much attention to the masked warning.
She finally understood his words.
How long do I have?"
"I cannot be certain. To my knowledge, it has not happened often, nor is it the same for everyone. I believe the time it takes is dependent on the magic and the wielder." He swept his light grey, shoulder-length hair over his shoulder and furrowed his brows. "It could be days, or it could be years. You must leave your fear behind. If your own powers terrify you, then you shall be unable to rule this kingdom."
Saria stood before him, silent. Thoughts dwelled in her mind, too many to form a coherent thought. She recognized the truth in his words, the truth her parents warned her about when they still lived. Her fear ruled her regardless; it conquered and held her back.
The king shook his head and smiled wearily. "I must get some rest. We will continue this in the morning, yes?"
Saria inclined her head, emotions warring inside. "Yes, grandfather."
He exited the room and she watched him go. A sigh escaped her as she looked down to examine her hands. They shook in the aftermath of her powers. Her eyes fluttered and she inhaled and exhaled sharply.
Opening her eyes, she refused to look back down at herself. Instead, Saria left behind the room and the window, which now overlooked a dark town, and strode through the hallways. Unlike when the sun shone, lit torches lined the walls at night. Few of the torches were lit, but enough for those with a destination in mind to find it in the darkness.
Stone walls guided her to the throne room, bare save for the torches. Large, double doors blocked Saria's access for only moments as she pushed one door open far enough for her to slip through. Inside the large chamber, Saria pressed her hands against the wood, using her weight to shut the oversized door. Her goal accomplished, she focused her attention on the room itself.
The grand room held a quaint feel to it. A window on the far right wall spread over most of the surface, granting an astounding view of the horizon and the town below. A carpet of woven thread led from it to the opposite end, where there stood three chairs; two side by side, while the final rested diagonally behind the smaller of the two: The king, queen and royal advisor, where they sat and watched over the kingdom.
A male form sat on the third chair as she suspected. He held a collection of scrolls, bound together at the top. Her lips curled into a small smile and she took soft steps towards him. Always reading.
"Andreas," she mused. "Are those not meant to be read in the library?"
He visibly flinched at the sound of her voice and raised his gaze to look at her. Relief flitted across his expression and she heard him mutter a soft, "Thank the Lord."
For a moment, Saria's mood lightened and she laughed. "Consider him thanked."
His relief melted into a smile and he rolled the scrolls back into their original state. Standing up from his chair, Andreas crossed the distance between them and frowned when he neared her.
"You look pale," he observed, frown deepening in worry. "Are you alright?"
Yes, though my grandfather insisted I practice my magic."
"Did something happen?" Excitement sparked in his moss green eyes, veiled by his worry.
"I " Saria paused to consider her words and her frown mirrored his. "I reached them, my powers, and touched them; I made contact." Andreas parted his lips to speak, so she continued before he had the chance. "It backfired," she said, and the spark in his eyes dulled. "The powers, my gift
They turned on me. It was like
lightning struck me from within. I had no control over it, they gave me no choice." Her body tensed and for a moment, a dull ache renewed the pain she had felt, creating tears behind her eyes. "I "
Saria had no chance to act before Andreas' arms wrapped around her in a gentle embrace, hugging her to him. Breathing shakily, she responded by wrapping her own arms around his waist and laid her forehead against his shoulder. His scent mixed with that of parchment and ink calmed her; it was familiar.
Saria fought back the tears as she felt him raise a hand and run it through her hair. His fingertips caressed her skin and golden locks, causing a sigh to leave her and bring her closer to the edge.
"It's alright to cry."
His honesty lessened her burden and she found it hard to believe she had such a wonderful friend. The words weren't meant as an insult, nor did he want her to cry; a simple statement, nothing more. Sometimes all she needed was the obvious.
Why does he make me do this?"
"He wants the best for you," he replied, without skipping a beat. "Your grandfather is a great person, a great ruler, and you know that. Without him, I would not be the person I am today. He only wants the best for you in your life; that is why he teaches you to control your abilities."
Saria remained silent.
"My parents passed away when I was only five summers," Andreas told her while unlocking his arms from around her. "Your parents took me in and your grandfather taught me, trained me to one day be a royal advisor your advisor." Despite the painful memories, Andreas smiled at her. That simple expression caused face to reflect his expression. "Without him, I would not be here. Without him, I would not have this education and without him, we may have never become friends."
"Siblings," she corrected. "You are like a brother to me."
Andreas let out a soft laugh, "Yes, siblings. As my younger sister, you should trust me. He only wishes the best for you and I am certain the last thing he wanted was for you to be harmed."
Slowly, Saria nodded and removed her arms from around his waist. "Then I will hope things work out."
"They will. After all, do people not say he has the greatest powers, since the gift was passed down to your family?" Instead of waiting for a response, he let his smile broaden and headed back to his chair to collect the scrolls.
Saria sighed and relocated her gaze to the floor. She knew Andreas was right; her grandfather did not mean for her to get hurt. He wanted her to rule the kingdom as a proud ruler, without fear, whether from the outside world or from within. If anyone could help her control the gift, he could.
High-pitched creaking echoed throughout the room and Saria spun around. The door opened fully and revealed a man a handful of summers older than Andreas, dressed in a more aggressive fashion; dark brown leather armor covered his body he wore a sheath strapped to his waist. The armor matched his eyes, which shone in distraught.
"Your highness," he wheezed as he entered the throne room in a hasty pace and kneeled before her. "Your grandfather, milady. I-I ventured to his room to speak with him. But His Majesty, he
" He stared down at the floor.
Saria felt color drain from her face and only vaguely noticed Andreas return to her side. Her pained gaze fixated on the general of her kingdom's army. In silence, Saria begged him to have a message other than the idea that tore at her heartstrings and returned salted water to her eyes.
Moments passed in silence until Haral collected himself and raised his gaze. His forlorn expression said more than words ever could. Still, he spoke the words she dreaded and she felt her heart break upon hearing them.
"The King is dead."