“Here we are.”
The hushed voice was still loud enough, in the tight confines of their carriage, to rouse her from the light drowse.
“I know!” she proclaimed, nevertheless, sitting upright in her seat and peering through the windowpane. “I have been watching.”
A dreary, grey sky, accompanied by the faint pitter-patter on the roof of their carriage, welcomed them into the city. To a girl raised in the colourful, vibrant city of Solvahal, this sight of unimaginative rows of blocky houses and unadorned streets immediately had a rather depressing effect.
“Why do we have to live here?” she asked, dread filling her heart.
“This is our new home,” her brother replied, uninterested. “Where else would we live?”
The crowd along the street had grown louder, as their carriage approached the heart of the city. She could see the bright, cheerful faces lined outside the barricades. She could hear them chanting her father’s name, singing of his glory. A single ray of sunlight shone upon her face, piercing through the clouds, forcing her lips into a smile.
I ought to be happy, she concluded, and there was ample reason for that. After a hundred years, the war had finally ended, and a peace treaty had been signed. She was happy because, finally, the canopy of fear and sorrow could dissolve, and peace was within their grasp. But more than anything, she was happy because her father had done something four of his predecessors had failed to do. King Edward Gyldene II had outlived the war.
The carriage stopped well inside the castle wall. A pair of attendants, quick on their feet, opened the doors. Standing up, regal and proud, Princess Zeleina stepped out. It was fortunate that she was not yet tall enough to need to crouch, else the doorway would have struck her head…
The drizzle had subsided, and a light breeze made her long, silver hair brush across her face. There was something pleasant in the scent of this fresh, wet mud.
“Greetings, Prince Edward,” a hearty voice hailed. “Greetings, Princess Zeleina! Welcome to the Castle of Torden.”
“Ed, Zeleina, this is Lord Tomas,” their father explained. “He will be our host, hereafter.”
“Greetings, Lord Tomas,” Ed replied, a slightly quizzical look on his face. “Lord of?”
“Oh, I am the Lord of No Land,” Tomas answered, with a polite chuckle.
Zeleina remembered having heard the maids gossip about this man, a commoner who had earned his position through his service to the kingdom. With his deeply tanned face, bristly beard, and brown hair tied into a messy braid, it was not hard to believe that the man standing in front of her was not of noble lineage.
“—and might I add that you look more and more like your mother, every passing day,” she heard him say, having unconsciously ignored the rest.
She nodded politely, in response, but cringed inside her own mind. She hated when people said that.
“And this, here,” Tomas continued, “is my only son, Scar.”
He looks like a street urchin, she thought, as she watched the young boy step forward, his auburn hair uncropped and unkempt, a shabby muffler wrapped around his neck. As he clumsily bowed forward, she saw a large scar across his cheek.
Scar actually has a scar, she noted. At that very moment, his grey eyes glinted, and within them she saw something she could not understand, nor forget.
“Greetings, Your Royal Highnesses,” spoke young Scar, his voice uncharacteristically clear and firm. “It is an honour to make your acquaintance.”
Simple though they were, those words stirred within her a feeling she had never experienced in her short life. His shimmering eyes, his sonorous voice, there was something melancholy about them. The burning sensation it caused was not unlike that when her brother pinched her ears.
After a short conversation, the royal family retired to their chambers. The journey from Dulce Lago had been long and arduous, and they deserved a respite. It was after sundown when King Edward summoned them to the garden. As they walked out, they were greeted by a sweet, and strangely familiar, scent. The King stood there, alone, facing the castle wall.
“Do you know why we moved to Torden?” he asked, without turning towards them.
“Because this is our new home?” Ed responded, unthinkingly, earning a sharp jab in the ribs by his sister.
King Edward let out a short laugh, before turning around, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.
“To me, this has always been home,” he replied with a sorrowful smile on his face, as he pointed towards the window behind them. “That, Zeleina, is the room where I first saw you… And here, this is where I last saw your mother… Finally, I have returned.”
Zeleina took a few steps forward. In the distance, she could see the Roman runes carved into the wall.
- Her name is based on the goddess of the moon.
- She is one of the few characters whose personality is largely based on a close friend of the writer.
- His name and appearance is inspired by a popular anime character.
- The name Gyldene translates to golden, a reference to their golden hair.
- His name is of Alban descent, and is a diminutive of Oscar.
- Like the writer, Scar is left-handed.
Image credits: Rinmaru Games