I'm soaring through the air. The wind is blowing into my face. My eyes start to water but I do not close them. I want to see this.
The green leaves of the trees are passing me by. The ground is getting closer.
My arms are heavy at my sides. I make no attempt to stop my impact with the concrete.
I lay there on the searing black ground and I can't move. Pain invades my senses; I feel that I hurt from the inside out. Not from the bones that I must have shattered but from something much deeper than that.
This pain, I've been hurting for a long while, from a pit that was ripped out inside of my heart.
My limbs refuse to move now and I can only look up at the sky.
The clouds pass slowly overhead; the rustles in the green trees are music to my ears.
I see the dark roof tower over me. The same roof I was just standing on. A moment ago, a lifetime ago I fell, I jumped. Why would I do that?
Why can't I remember what brought me up there? My eyelids are closing of their own accord, it feels so peaceful. The sun is shining into my eyes, blinding me and I have no strength to fight to keep them open. I feel the patches of light that are gleaming through the trees on my skin .I need to know what brought me up there. Why can't I remember?
This thundering pain in my heart, a gaping hole I cannot fill. A loss, I'm sure of it.
A terrible loss had brought me up there.
My senses are getting duller; I can't open my eyes at all anymore. Nothing exists but the darkness and the rustling leaves in the evergreen trees. And the sun, the scorching sun with its bright burning light that force its way beyond the leaves to caress my broken body.
Reykjavik, Capital Region, Iceland
That voice! I know that voice! It haunts me in my sleep; it rings as clear as a bell in my ear. I must be dreaming.
That voice again. She's smiling. I know this for sure, I don't even need to look up to see. I know she is smiling down at me, I can hear the glee in her voice.
"Vincent! Wake up! "She's persistent, the little creature. “Vince! Come play with me! I'm so bored!" I can hear that she is trying to pout but she is still smiling.
I feel her lips brush against mine, and her hair tickling my skin as she leans over me.
"Doll...sleep now..." I mumble. I don't want to wake up and find her gone again.
I feel her tender fingers tracing lines on my skin, down my belly and then she kisses me again.
She leans back and I can smell the air now. Fresh, clear of the smog of the city.
A fog has lifted from my mind and I can smell the fragrance of the flowers around us.
I can smell the fresh grass after a spring rain that I now lay on.
Roses. Her favorite flowers. I can imagine their blood red bloom.
I do not know how I know this but a flash of what must be a memory invades my mind. I see us at the lake, a full moon reflected in its crystal blue waters.
I can hear the small waterfalls rustle through the growing trees on the closest bank of the wide lake that dip their long overgrown branches into the water as if leaning to quench their thirst.
And I see her, she's leaning forward towards the water like those evergreen trees and for a moment I fear that she might fall in, she is so clumsy...
How do I know that with such certainty? I frown at my sudden sharp knowledge about her and I open my mouth to speak, to warn her but then she leans back and looks at me and I give her my hand to help her up.
"Oh! It's so beautiful!" She said as she accepts the rose I wasn't aware I was offering to her. She puts the rose to her face and takes a deep breath with her eyes closed and I can see the rose I gave her is a blue rose, pale and radiant in the light of the moon that bathed the earth in its magical glow.
"I fear the day when magic runs out from this world and there will be no more blue roses." She says a sad tone in her voice.
"That will never happen." I assure her. "The blue moon rose is the symbol of my family." I tell her proudly. "I will never let it disappear from this world. I promise you that."
She smiles. I pull her closer to me. I am at least a head and a half taller than her, my little doll… I think that's how I'm used to call her...and she calls me ‘my beautiful love.' I’m certain. She says it now, she's smiling.
I look down into that face that smiles up at me, her arms wrapped around my body. I look into those big green eyes and I lean down to kiss her.
"Your lips are so soft..." she murmurs against mine.
My eyes snap open and I look up. That was not Kiera's voice.
Kiera...I'm sure I just had a dream about her but I can't remember it now. I see now that I had my head resting in her lap as I slept, must have fallen asleep while she was playing with my hair, I think she loves it more than I do.
"Vincent." I look towards the source of the annoyed voice.
My big brother, Gregory, of course, who else to ruin what looks to be a perfect quiet afternoon by the lake?
"Vincent!" Gregory says sternly as he comes to a halt a few meters away from us, looking down at me with those dark eyes of his. "I've been looking everywhere for you little brother."
"Don't call me little brother." I growl, pulling myself up from the comfort of Kiera's arms and the soft green grass I was laying on. "Age means nothing to us Greg." I say as I stretch my body, throwing my long black hair back.
I brush some stray leaves from my black cotton robe and leave it open over my loose trousers.
With bare feet I make my way to the edge of the clear water of the lake.
Is that really me? It takes me a fragment of a second to recognize my own reflection.
I think it was still that powerful dream that haunted my thoughts and there I know I looked different then I do in real life.
Falling...I was falling...a flash of my grief stricken face flashed in the line of my vision as I flew by those glass windows.
I shake my head; I do not want to remember that awful dream.
I wipe the sleep from my eyes and look into the water and my honey gold eyes stare back at me.
There I am. My Sharp edged ears react to the slightest shift in the air, my long black hair moves gracefully in the cool wind of the end of summer.
I kneel by the water and spray my creamy white skin with crystal clear water.
I smile as I run my fingers along the thin braid Kiera had woven into my hair, she always does that.
I look at my brother. As children we resembled each other a great deal, some even speculated us to be twins but now I grew taller than he did and his once dark hair grew lighter than mine, the result of decades in the sunlight.
All those early hours outside, curving in wood in the courtyard, his most coveted pastime, I could never bring myself to be out in the sun for so long.
"What do you want Greg?" I ask a little too unkindly. "I thought you are seating with the council in fathers absence."
"I was." Gregory, my 'older' brother looks briefly at the ground. Is he avoiding my eyes? I can always read him pretty easily. I straighten up and look him over.
He wears the golden robes of our father, the king.
He has recently taken his place on the throne while our father fell ill.
His ailment is the talk of the kingdom.
I hate that.
My brother and the high council did what they could to keep the news of my father's ailment under wraps but at court no one is immune to gossip, not even the king himself.
My father on the other hand should have been immune to anything else.
It is not uncommon for an elder from our people to slowly let his body fade and his soul reborn in the thaumaturgy of the blue roses that sustain our world’s delicate balance but these were the most ancient of us that returned their essence to the earth, the devout centuries old álfur who saw this world reborn from ash and ice and grew tired by its many changes.
That was not the kind of álfur my father was. The kind of force of nature that I know him to be.
I'm almost certain that that what it was that put my father on his sick bed.
I have not yet revealed my suspicions to anyone, not even to my beloved Kiera.
I will not worry them until I have my solid proof and not until I take real steps towards flashing out the traitor who caused my father’s ailment.
"The council wishes for you to be present in all future meetings and debates concerning the future of our people brother." Greg tells me and I know he can see from my expression exactly what I think about attending those sleep inducing meetings.
"What future?" I almost growl. "We are immortal Greg. We will continue be as we are and always were until we choose to return our spirit to the earth but between you and me I do not see myself ever finding a reason to do so."
Greg sighs visibly and over dramatically for having to deal with me, his unruly little brother.
"Just come to the meeting." He asked in a tired voice, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Fine." I agree. Anything to rid me of these boring state matters as soon as I can manage it. Anything I can do to get me back into the arms of my beloved.
I flinch. He smiles. The fiend. But I can't help myself from smiling too.
"Do you want me to come with you?" Kiera asks me.
I turn to her and pull her against me; I didn't even hear her approach.
She is one of the only redhead álfurs I know and I love it. She looks small against me but her petite size is a complete contrast to her huge personality. She has green eyes and a full hour glass figure. She wears a dress I had made for her. An ever after gown in black and red lace with beaded scalloped sparkle laces trim.
I smile. I can be myself around her. And frankly I can't get enough of her.
I don’t tell her that often enough
"Yeah." I say after a while. My first instinct was to tell her "No.” but I know how much she hates not to be included in what she considers as important events in my life as I am sure she will consider this dreaded council meeting to be.
I take Kiera's hand and together we follow my brother up the dirt path under the low hanging branches of the ever green trees that line the road.
We come out of the green and step onto the stone path that leads up to the castle.
On my right I can see my kingdom spread billow us.
The beautiful colorful hills filled with rich fruit trees and all the imaginable flowers. The great river that snakes between the picture perfect cottages and the line of the black ocean cuts dark between the far away mountains whose tops always covered in the most brilliant white snow.
I can hear the great waterfalls that rush into the valley beneath us and I think that I would rather dive off the great cliffs of Reykjavik, my beloved city as I have done as a younger álfur and explore the bottomless deep of the crystal clear waters than attend that ' all important ' meeting. Ah Reykjavik. ‘Smoke deviation’ in the common tongue and so it was, its core established far greater than the accepted standards of the known world.
Greg leads us up the long stone steps of the horses' entry to the castle.
I know that it is the fastest way to get to the council chamber but it means that we would have to go through the inner courtyard and that means I'll have to endure the gossiping mass of the courts elite staring at me while they bow to my face and whisper behind my back.
Kiera tightens her grip on my hand and confidently moves us through the crowd.
I nod politely at the bows and the curtsies of the high lords and maidens that dwell at the courtyard, enjoying the light of the sun.
I look at them; some are seated comfortably atop the built red sand stone benches erected from the flower covered ground. They wear an assortment of lightly colored fabrics that grace their creamy skin as if the fabric itself was made of fog and wind and nearly everyone are bare foot. The earth gives us potency; nature gives us everlasting life. Wine and summer fruits are served freely and sweet harp music strummed by the skilled hands of the lesser álfur, the fey kind can be heard all around the yard.
In all my days, five hundred years by the account of this world our land had never suffered a drought.
Our castle, like the roads that lead to it and the base of our homes is made of the most brilliant black stone. As younger álfur both I and Greg loved exploring the mines of blue diamonds and the quarries that produced the black stone. A small smile tugs at the corner of my lips as I remember my mother protesting loudly when we would return to the castle, our once white robes covered in black soot.
"That is not the way the prince’s should act!" she would always say.
I never was one to be all proper.
Manual labors never bother either of us and I take pride in the fact that I had greatly contributed to the construction of the west wing of the castle in which me and Kiera now reside.
I take a deep breath as we slip through the gushing crowd up the spiral staircase on the other side of the yard.
We come out at the end of a long narrow hallway. As we quicken our pace to pass through I can feel the heat from the furnaces of the kitchen located on the other side of the wall.
This place serves us well in the winter nights when the wind is howling outside and the frost paints brilliant paintings on the glass stained windows. The narrow hall is doted by beautifully decorated alcoves carved into the walls. Cold had never bothered me but numerous times in the past I would find Kiera here, proper against the silk pillows in one of the alcoves, reading an ancient book that she would haul here from our enormous library.
We arrive at the end of the hallway and descend another flight of stairs that leads us to an open room boarded by high arches. The walls are decorated with my families’ crest, a blue rose guarded by two great serpents.
Our legends say that the two serpents are lovers entwined as one. They roamed the world lonely, searching for the blue rose that would bring them love and happiness not knowing that the blue rose is never found, it is created and when they found each other they forgot they ever needed it.
Centuries later when both lovers passed their eternal love bloomed as the first real blue rose bringing sortilege and prosperity into this kingdom.
According to legend this was the place where they finally found each other.
Dark thoughts cloud my mind. I fear that the serpents are no longer protecting us.
For some time now the feeling of dread had nestled in my heart.
I fear to discover my suspicions to be true, that someone had manipulated the good craft that sustains our kingdom for evil.
The sound of loud voices all speaking in unison snaps me back from my dark thoughts. Gregory had opened the heavy wooden doors that led into the council chambers.
We step onto the podium surrounded by grey ancient álfur lords in red robes embroider by gold.
I am a little surprised to see my father here, seated on his throne in the middle of the room right in front of us.
A throne that gave the impression that it grew from the earth itself.
Large roots sprouted from the ground, woven into serpents as armchairs to the king to rest his arms against and at his back our families sigil carved into the ancient wood.
I look at my father, he looks so shriveled in his enormous gold robes; I’ve never seen him appear so small. My mother stands beside him, looking at me with those worry filled eyes of hers, I know that she is expecting something big to happen. I suddenly feel that I was led into an ambush.
I turn to look at Kiera who took a seat by the podium; she too was looking at me with a bit of worry in her eyes but also expectation. Did everyone here know something I didn’t?
The wooden doors creaked open again and my adoptive sister, Deidra stepped into the room.
She looked at me with her dark brown eyes, wearing only the finest silks and in line with what I assumed were the latest fashions. Her corset was wound too tight around her waist and it gave her some curves to her otherwise flat figure. She threw her blond delicately curled hair over her shoulders and I felt the bile rise in my mouth.
We were never too close. Father found her as an infant; someone had left her on the steps of the castle. We searched but her kin had never came forward to claim her and instead of finding her another family to look after her my father had listened to his old and ‘trusted’ adviser Dokkalfar, who now stood on his other side and whom I personally never trusted, to keep her as his own.
“So…” I cleared my throat, looking at my father, expecting him to be the one to speak but it is my mother who steps forward and she turns to look at the old lords rather then at me.
"My friends." She says. "We have come to a point we no longer able to conceal the king’s illness. Our people are worried and their worry brings gossip and instability.
The morals are running low. Our people are in desperate need for a strong leader."
I look at Gregory expecting him to take a step forward but he looks at me instead, his lips pursed in a tiny smile. "Oh no..." I think.
My mother’s voice cuts through my worry. "...and the situation had driven us to seek for an immediate solution. A leader that can take the kings place in his absents, my son, Vincenzo’s."
I let out a small "Shit." and the room explodes with voices. Some shout that I am not ready and I couldn’t agree more with their view of me. Some claim that this is a marvelous idea and I silently begin to compile a list of those old farts to strangle them in their sleep later.
Kiera gets up and takes my hand, tightens her grip as if to strengthen me in accepting the pot I had no desire to fill.
I whip my head towards the source of the voice and I am almost baffled to see my father standing, frail as he is but mighty none the less.
The room falls silent to his order and I’m sure will hang closely to every word he will breathe next.
“I gave a great deal of thought to the matter.” He nearly whispers. “And I had come to only one suitable conclusion. One of my sons should rule our kingdom in my absence.”
“But father…” Deidra opens her mouth to speak before I have a chance to do the same.
“Hush, child.” My father turns to her. “As much as I care for you as if you were my own I do not believe you are suited for the job. You have a great deal to learn before you assume any real responsibility and you shall be given a proper patch of land and estate to govern until you shall learn to do just that. “
Deidra did not look happy at his statement and I could see she was biting her lip to stop herself from letting out a vicious response.
“But what about Gregory? Isn’t he the one that should be our lord while you are away? He is the eldest son after all.”
I finally manage to find my words over the shock I was feeling.
I could practically sense the rage that seethed from Deidra; I know she feels she was passed on with no great thought to the matter. I can’t say I feel too bad for her, I never did like her that much. She reminded me too much of Dokkalfar.
“We shall discuss it in private.” I hear my father say. “Meeting adjourned. “
I watched the old lords pile out of the council chamber to return to their duties, whatever they may have been. Some of them threw unsure glances in my direction and others simply bowed to my father and left but I knew that as soon as any of them were out of sight and ear shot they would definitely have plenty to say.
I waited until the room was empty except for my family, Deidra and Kiera and then I turned to my father.
“You can’t be serious about this.” I exclaimed. “Why me? Gregory is next in line for the throne! I have no desire for leadership”
“Gregory is a man of the pen, of words and matters of state but he is no warrior. Our people need to see someone gallant at the helm, strong in body and spirit, someone they can easily rally behind.” My mother says and I feel bitterness in my mouth, I always feel she thinks too highly of me.
“Your father is very ill.” My mother continues, as if I didn’t know that already. “More than we had led anyone to believe. We are leaving Reykjavik to look for the first blue rose.” That statement had caught me by surprise.
“But it is but a legend!” Deidra exclaimed before I could say anything else. She looked frightened and was that annoyance I detected in her features?
“As much as I hate to agree father, Deidra might have a point.” Gregory stated uneasily.
“It is not just a mere legend.” My father protested in his week voice. “Whispers had come to our ears from the east, travelers and explorers telling of a great mountain and at the top two giant stone serpents entwined as one and a hidden cave between them. No creature or álfur was brave enough to scale that plunging darkness but I must try my son, it seems that that is my only hope.”
“It sounds like a fairy tale!” Deidra huffed. “Why do you believe such nonsense?” she demanded from my father and gulped when he turned to look at her, silencing her with his glance. “Would you rather I stay here and simply perish?” he demanded. Deidra did not answer, her face turned red and she promptly fixed her eyes on the ground, fiddling with her dress.
“Ï know it’s not ideal but we must try. “ My mother came up to me and caressed my cheek. My mother, forever an optimist, she and Kiera were similar in that aspect.
I looked her over. She was wearing a light green Gwendolyn dress with silver trim and a half transparent veil covered her wood colored hair. My mother, she never gave up and she was a hands-on kind of álfur. I knew that I should not extinguish the hope that burned in her eyes.
They left that night, leaving me in charge of the kingdom with Gregory as my right hand. Greg called another meeting the next day to properly prepare the elders for my official station and I couldn’t really find a place for myself remote enough to hide.
Little did I know that while I was brooding in my chambers with Kiera as always by my side, positive and reassuring me at my own strength to take the lead someone else in the castle was not so happy about the latest development more than I were.
I taking the crown was not an arrangement she was glad with at all.
Deidra announced as she kicked her way into the great library, slamming the door behind her as she walked in.
“They gave the control over the kingdom to that young brute! Now what are you going to do old man?! All of these years of planning…wasted!” She grabbed a book from the nearest shelf and hurled it to the other side of the room.
“Hush child.” A deep voice answered her from the upper level of the library. “Is that any way to speak to your father?” Dokkalfar smiled down at her through the ornate wooden staircase.
He tucked the old book he was holding under his arm and in a glide like motion descended the staircase towards her.
“Your plan failed!” Deidra growled at him. “The old fool and his wife are off to find a cure and that brat is in my place at the throne!” Deidra grabbed and threw another book; this one flew right past her father’s face. “Putting me on their door step all those years ago didn’t quite amount to the result you hoped it would. Better luck next time.”
Dokkalfar’s smile cracked for a split second to reveal the true darkness of his features but he quickly regained his composure.
“All is not lost girl.” He said, circling her. “The king will never find the cure for my poison because there is none to be found.” He stroked his beard. “And as for the young prince…well, a pretty girl like you can definitely work her charm on him, I’m sure.”
“We are not exactly on friendly terms father. “ She said, flipping her hair back. “He is all head over heels with that red head creature and I doubt that killing her would warm him up to me.”
“No.” Dokkalfar agreed.
“I should think not. But there are other ways to get what we want my child. “
“Enlighten me then. What are those ways old man?” Deidra asked in a mocking tone.
“Look here girl.” Dokkalfar laid the big book he was holding on a wooden stand and flipped it open.
Deidra leafed through the yellowing pages. This book was old, older than any other she had ever seen before in the library. Granted, she never did visit in there that much.
“I don’t understand…” Deidra looked up from the Illuminated manuscript at her father.
“What does this ancient book gives us?”
“It gives us a new plan. “ Dokkalfar smiled. “But first dear girl, we would require an army."