Arrow Branded – Chapter 11

As the gates opened I immediately felt ill. The village looked exactly like what I had seen the previous night. The guards from my dream smiled from the side of the entrance. I tried my best at a smile and wave.

“I’m gonna throw up,” I muttered. As we walked through the street, we received different looks from bypassers. A woman who passed actually did a double take. One young boy looked as though he might faint. Vesstan avoided their eyes and kept his head down, trying not to draw attention. A green blush burned on the back of his neck and cheeks. Freckles stood out against his golden brown skin.

I passed a young elven girl around my age. She tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Is that the prince?” I considered Vesstan’s conscious effort to fade into the crown. I didn’t know what to say, so I just stared at the girl until I passed her.

As we approached the entrance to the castle, everyone fell back from Vesstan’s side. He hesitated at the door, as if debating whether to continue or turn back. He lifted a hand a knocked on the wooden door. We all waited expectantly. A woman opened the door slightly. I heard a gasp and she slammed the door open, throwing her arms around Vesstan. I witnessed the elven prince really smile for the first time since we found him. He wrapped his arms around the woman and buried his face in her shoulder.

“Alenia,” he cried, his voice filled with joy. When he pulled away, the two of them were wiping tears from their eyes. Vesstan laughed. He looked behind the woman, Alenia, and his eyes lit up. He ran past her, pushing her slightly. She laughed at his excitement.

“Alenia is his older sister,” Soleil explained. “His other sister is inside, I assume.”

When we came in, Vesstan was hugging another girl. She was much taller than him and had swept him right off his feet. Laughter bubbled up in his throat as she spun around in a circle. She put him down and he turned back to us. He looked as if he’d forgotten we were there.

“Oh, um, these are my sisters,” he said to me. He gestured towards the first one. “That’s Alenia.” Then he motioned to the one he had just been hugging. “This is Tethys.”

“Hey, I don’t know you. What‘s your name?” Tethys asked. It took me a second to realize that she was talking to me.

“I’m Lake,” I said with a smile. She shook my hand and then looked up at the rest of the group. She clasped her hands together.

“Sorry to interrupt the moment,” Xavier said. “But there is something important we have to talk about with your father.”

As Tethys ran off to find her father, the king, I examined my surroundings. The room was filled with nice furniture and had a beautiful high ceiling. I saw a flat screen tv in the wall across the room.

“You guys have tv here?” I asked. Alenia smiled.

“Of course. We have working phones, televisions, and wifi,” she said softly. I marveled at the paintings on the ceiling.

Tethys entered the room with an older man by her side. I assumed that it was her father. He seemed to know the others already, but was confused to see me there. I introduced myself and he told me his name was Elyon.

“Sir, there is something I must speak with you abo-” Xavier began.

“Are you finally dating my son?” King Elyon interrupted. Xavier seemed speechless for a second. Vesstan buried his face in his hands.

“Wha… N-no! It’s a serious matter,” Xavier stuttered weekly. his face burned crimson. His eyes flicked to Vesstan and the king gave him a look that clearly said ‘are you sure?’. Xavier ignored the intense blush on his cheeks and took a deep breath, looking back at Elyon. “Vesstan and I remain very far from anything romantic, sir,” he said. His voice had an icy edge, as if he knew that Vesstan knew why he was upset with him. I looked at Soleil in confusion.

“They were very close and many people thought they should be a couple. They never have been more than friends though,” she explained in a whisper.

“I think they would be a cute couple,” Rumour interjected quietly. I giggled and looked back at the king.

“Well, whatever it is, it can wait. We need to organize a celebration for Vesstan’s return. And don’t call me sir!” Elyon walked away before Xavier could protest.

“I’m really sorry about him. He doesn’t take anything seriously,” Tethys said, shaking her head. Vesstan had somehow managed to sneak away while his father was speaking.

“I’ll show you to the guest rooms,” Alenia suggested. She took Soleil’s arm and led the four of us out of the room. We walked down a long, straight corridor. Many smaller halls branched off along the way. Eventually, we reached some rooms. We each picked one and Alenia left us to get ready for the celebration. She said her father wouldn’t listen to us until the party was seen through.

When I entered the room I immediately felt as though I shouldn’t be there. I was afraid to touch anything. I sat on the bed gingerly, but stood up a few seconds later. I took my shoes off began wandering around the clean room, opening drawers and rummaging through the contents. Alenia said we could wear any of the clothes in the drawers and closets.

I picked out a black pair of jeans and a waistcoat of the same jet black colour. I then found a floral dress shirt that reminded me of the curtains from a movie I had seen. I’d only ever watched one movie. My friend and I had snuck out of the orphanage one morning and managed to get into a theater. It was an old fashioned movie and the pattern on the curtains was very similar to the shirt I picked out.

I walked into the bathroom. No room I had stayed in had ever had it’s own bathroom, but this one did. I got into the shower and just stood there for a while, savouring the feeling of being at our final destination. We didn’t need to travel anymore; I didn’t have to rush anywhere. I didn’t even have to share a bathroom. My knee and shin was bruised from where I had fallen.

When I got out I put a disinfectant on the scratches on my hands and began to dress. As I buttoned up my shirt, I caught my reflection in the mirror, just like I did at Dash and Ianto’s home. This time I didn’t see a frightened child. I saw a possibility that I might be able to go back. I was only sixteen, I couldn’t spend the rest of my life there.

I picked up a note from the counter.

‘Everything in this room is new; I encourage you to enjoy all the things we’ve provided,’” I read aloud.

It was nice to finally brush my hair after several days. It’s pretty short, but gets just as tangled as any other.

“Hey.” Rumour was standing at my bedroom door when I came out of the bathroom.

“What’s up?” I asked. The jeans I chose were a bit big so I secured them with a black leather belt.

“Nothing really. I’m just bored,” he replied. I rolled the legs of my jeans up just above my ankles.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“I’m nervous.” I raised an eyebrow at him.

“About what?” I searched the top of a dresser for anything that could make my outfit any more interesting.

“I heard what you and Soleil talked about on the bus,” he said. I froze for a second. I picked up a random piece of jewelry and pretended to examine it. I didn’t turn around.

“Really?” is all I said. He sighed and I heard his footsteps coming closer.

“Do you really not remember your dream, or are you lying?” he asked. I turned around.

“I don’t remember. I’d tell you if I did,” I assured him. He nodded and left. I stood at the dresser, holding a bracelet I didn’t actually look at, feeling very uncomfortable. Rumour knew about it. Did that mean Xavier also heard. I put on bright pink socks and thick-soled boots. I put the bracelet on, despite not having looked at it. Then I stepped out of my room and went for a walk.

When night came, Tethys came and informed me that the preparations for Vesstan’s welcome home party were complete. The led me to the ballroom where it would take place. She wore a lacy, redwine-coloured column dress. Her long, dark hair was french braided perfectly and delicately placed over her left shoulder.

We entered the ballroom to a large group of people standing around waiting for Vesstan.

“Hey, I love your outfit!” Alenia said when she saw me. Her bracelets jingled as she moved her hands.

“Thank you! You look great too,” I responded. I caught a glimpse of Rumour across the room. His black suit jacket was decorated with constellations. He was talking to someone who I assume was related to Vesstan in some way.

“Here he comes!” I heard a voice yell over the chatter. Everyone turned to the staircase. Vesstan walked down the marble steps gracefully. He wore a navy blue damask patterned suit and a red bowtie. His silver crown sat elegantly on his head. The whole room erupted in applause and cheers. He smiled, but I could tell he wasn’t enjoying the attention as much as he was pretending to. He arrived at the bottom of the stairs.

“You look nice,” Xavier said from behind me. Vesstan blushed and thanked him. Although it was a compliment, it still had that cold edge. The young prince still didn’t meet anyone’s eyes.

“Vesstan!” Elyon appeared from the crowd. He clapped Vesstan on the back. “Look at him. Look at my son.”

“Sir-” Xavier tried to get his attention.

“Don’t call me sir,” Elyon insisted. Xavier rolled his eyes.

“Sorry, Elyon, I need to talk to you about something,” Xavier said. Elyon wasn’t listening. He had already led his son over to a group of older people. Xavier tried to follow him but got lost in the crowd. Right before I lost him, I saw him trip over someone’s dress. Like I said when I first met him, not an ounce of grace in his body. Over at the group Vesstan was at, one person pinched his face gently and another planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek, leaving a bright red lipstick mark on his cheek. He still kept his eyes on the floor. Elyon handed him a glass of wine. He smiled, but left it on the nearest table when his father wasn’t watching.

“He doesn’t really seem to be enjoying this.” Soleil appeared at my side. Her ruffled, tea length dress swayed around her. The beautiful sunset orange colour complimented her dark complexion and made her stand out of the crowd. Not in a bad way, she looked stunning. Her lips were painted the same shade of orange.

“He’s not,” I said. “And Xavier’s still trying to get Elyon to talk to him.” Soleil sighed.

“I think he just wanted to have a quiet return. He’s been quite nervous since we found him at Morrow Inn,” he said. Then I remembered my conversation with Rumour.

“Um, Soleil… Rumour overheard us on the bus,” I said shyly. He stared at me, her orange lips dropping open. “He knows about the blade and about my dream.”

“Well, I guess this makes one less person to tell,” she said after a while of silence.

“Hey, do you know how I could get Elyon’s attention? He won’t listen to me,” Xavier said. Soleil shrugged.

“Let me try to help you,” I said.

I took his hand and began pulling him through the crowd. We arrived at the group of older elves. Vesstan looked in our direction, as if pleading for us to save him.

“Elyon! We have something to say,” I called out. He looked at us and I pushed Xavier towards him.

“Elyon, I have a very serious matter to discuss with you. Can you step outside with me for a second?” Xavier asked. While he was distracting Elyon, I beckoned Vesstan towards me. He hastily accepted the escape I provided.

“Go to your room. Have the quiet night you wanted, I can send your sisters up to talk to you if you want,” I said as he passed.

“That’d be nice,” he said. He sounded like he was on the verge of tears. Then he was on his way to a nicer, and calmer, part of the house.

“Xavier, it can wait. My son is finally home!” Elyon insisted.

“No, it can’t wait! It’s urgent,” Xavier asserted.

“It can, and it will. It’s Vesstan’s party! Now, where is he…?” Elyon looked around. Xavier finally lost his temper. He grabbed Elyon by the arm and pulled him towards himself.

“Listen to me! Someone is trying to find the Forebearer’s Blade!” he shouted at the king. That caught his attention. His face took on a grim expression. He summoned a servant who stood at the side of the room.

“Clear the room. We need to discuss.”