By: Suspicious Panda
Breakfast was quiet. Xavier only said one thing: “pass the butter.” He didn’t make eye contact with anyone but the chef, but just to thank him for the food. Soleil stared heartbrokenly after her brother as he left the room without saying a word to her. He was really hurt that shel didn’t tell him about Quinn’s note. Soleil hesitates, then followed him outside.
“Xavier, I’m sorry. Please talk to me,” she begged. He remained silent and drilled his eyes into the window. Soleil kneeled by his side. “Please. Not hearing your voice is driving me crazy,” she said. Suddenly, he laughed. Soleil flinched, taken aback. She stared at him as he shook his head.
“Soleil, you really should have told me,” he said, his smile fading.
“I wanted to, I really did. I just didn’t want you to worry,” Soleil said, sitting next to him and taking his hand.
“It hurts when your twin sister doesn’t share important information. I always worry, you know that. What difference would it make?” Xavier looked down at their hands.
“I know…” Soleil shifted uncomfortably.
“Just don’t do it again. Please tell me next time something important happens,” Xavier said. Soleil nodded hurriedly. Xavier pulled his hand away. “I’ll let you know if anything big happens.” Then he walked away. Soleil sighed.
“Well, at least he’s talking to me,” she muttered to herself.
Elyon suddenly entered, in the company of Tethys, Alenia, and three young women I didn’t recognize. One with straight, dark hair and brown eyes. She seemed to have silver skin. I tried not to think about it. Another had auburn hair and green eyes, one with a lavender fleck. I looked at her wrist and saw the Arrow Branded symbol. The last one had dark brown hair, messily braided and thrown to one side. She had tanned skin and champagne-coloured eyes. She seemed oddly familiar.
“Vesstan,” Elyon called. His son looked up from a book. “Vesstan. Can I talk with you in private?”
Vesstan followed him out of the room. Soleil and I exchanged glances and followed them. We crept along in silence, careful not to be caught. We heard the door of an office shut and immediately ran over, pressing our ears up against it.
“Vesstan, these young women are Lyre Valle, Quota Seren, and Nora Modesty Flint. As I was telling you, before you were… taken… I have decided it is about time you find a wife,” Elyon’s voice drifted over. I looked at Soleil, and she looked at me, her hand flying to cover her mouth.
“Dad, you know how I feel about arranged marriages.” Vesstan said.
“I know, but unless you have your eye on someone specific at the moment…” Elyon trailed off and there was silence. “Then it’s settled; you are to be married.” I heard Vesstan sigh.
“Fine,” he said. “It’s nice to meet you.” I assumed he was now talking to the three ladies. Soleil smacked my arm.
“Ow!” I whisper-shouted. She shushed me and pulled me away from the door. We ran back to her room and fell onto her bed.
“Marriage?” she exclaimed.
“Not so loud!” I dug my nails into her arm. She burst out laughing and, after a while, so did I. We sat on her bed, laughing uncontrollably.
“So, which do you think was which,” she asked once she had caught her breath. I thought about the three women. I tried to match each name to a face.
“The Arrow Branded definitely looks like a Nora. She just has that kind of face,” I said. Soleil thought for a second then nodded.
“How about the one with straight hair? I feel like she’s a Quota Seren, right?” she said, laying back down. I agreed.
“That leaves only one. I guess the one with braided hair is Lyre,” I said. Soleil nodded, then laughed.
“We’re probably completely wrong,” she sighed. I picked at a frayed edge of a pillow. Soleil suddenly sat up, looking pensive.
“What is it?” I asked. She paused.
“This is not the best thing for Rumour,” she said.
“And why’s that?”
“He always thought Vesstan should be with Xavier.” Soleil fell back giggling and I snorted with laughter. The laughter died down and it got quiet.
“Who do you think he’ll pick?” I asked softly. Soleil remained silent.
“I don’t know,” she finally responded. We both stopped talking then. I got lost in thought, listening to the rain on the window. We lay there, on Soleil’s bed, not making a sound. I wondered why the one with the braid seemed familiar. I just couldn’t get her out of my head. I thought so hard that I didn’t even notice someone entering the room.
“Guys,” a voice said. I fell off the bed, startled, just barely managing to land on my feet. Alenia stood in the doorway, leaning on the doorframe.
“Yeah?” I said as if I hadn’t just completely embarrassed myself. I heard Soleil laugh behind me and smacked her leg, grinning widely.
“Anyways,” Alenia said, suppressing a smile. “It’s lunch time. You should come down.”
“Sure thing,” Soleil said as she sat up. “We’ll be down in a second.” Alenia smiled and left.
“Was that really half the day?” I asked.
“Well, we did have breakfast at ten o’clock.” Soleil stood and stretched. I shrugged.
“Do you think the girls will stay for lunch?” she asked. I thought for a second.
“I want to see if we were right about the names,” she responded. I laughed and she helped me up, then we left the room.
When we got the the dining room, the three girls were sitting by Vesstan. Soleil nudged me. We sat down and Xavier sat next to Soleil. She smiled shyly at her brother, glad that he wasn’t still too angry to be near her.
“So, there’s something you should know. I have planned for Vesstan to get married,” Elyon said. Xavier stared in disbelief. Elyon stood and gestured to the three girls. “These lovely ladies are all candidates to fill the part of the wife.” Vesstan looked uncomfortable. I would be too. I’d imagine it doesn’t feel great to be called a ‘candidate’, as if marriage was some game or competition. I saw Rumour cast a glance toward Xavier. The Arrow Branded girl stood up.
“My name is Nora Modesty Flint,” she said. Soleil and I high-fived as everyone turned their heads and stared. I laughed nervously as Soleil blushed.
“My name is Lyre Valle,” the one with straight hair said as Nora sat down.
“Dang!” Soleil whispered, just loud enough for me to hear. The girl with braided hair stood. Her presence commanded attention.
“I’m Quota Seren,” she said. Her voice was silky and nice to hear. I definitely felt like I’d seen her before. It was almost eerie.
Lunch was great. The chefs did a wonderful job on preparing the food. Afterwards, Alenia and Tethys escorted the three ladies to some empty rooms that they would be using for the next few days. I left to my own room.
The next couple of days passed quickly, uneventful. Until that one day.
“As you’ve heard, I’m getting married,” Vesstan told the crowd gathered in front of him from a high balcony. “I have decided on a lovely woman to serve as your queen.” He stepped aside and Quota Seren stepped forward, waving to the crowd. She smiled brightly. I didn’t know why, but seeing her in the crown was unsettling. She seemed completely comfortable wearing it.
“My name is Quota Seren. I’d like to thank Estelar Vesstan Faydark for picking me. The Faydarks have been unbelievably kind to me these past days and I am excited to reign as your queen,” she said. I felt the blood drain from my face as it dawned on me. I finally knew from where I reconized her. Quota raised her arms as the crowd cheered for her. She shook hands. She smiled at Lyre and Nora.
“Soleil,” I said quietly. She glanced at me and took on a look of concern and confusion as she saw my expression.
“Come.” I dragged her away by the arm with no explanation. I pulled her through the crowd of villagers. She apologised to the people we passed. She tried to ask me what was wrong, but I didn’t look at her until we had entered the castle’s main doors. I stopped suddenly and turned to her.
“Lake, are you alright?” she asked.
“She can’t be here,” is all I managed. She looked at me, utterly perplexed.
“It’s her. It’s–she’s–she–” I searched frantically for words but came up with nothing. Tears began to form in my eyes.
“Okay, calm down. Take a deep breath then try again,” Soleil suggested, putting her hands on my shoulders. Her touch was comforting. I breathed deep and looked up at her.
“Quota is the person from my dream,” I said simply. She stared at me, wide-eyed. “I knew I recognized her from somewhere but I didn’t know where until now. Just when she said ‘reign as your queen.”
“Lake, are you serious? Could that mean something? Should we tell the others?” Soleil began to walk off in the direction of the staircase, but I brought her back.
“I remember a bit more of my dream,” I said. That caught her attention. “I remember that at the end, the lady–Quota–said ‘When the Arrow Brandeds are gone and the elves are overthrown, then will I reign as a queen’.” Soleil stood still for a second, then pushed past me. I sighed and turned around. She walked out of the main doors. After a few seconds she came back, dragging Xavier along by the hand. Xavier had linked his arm through Rumour’s, so he was being pulled at the end of the chain. She turned back to them and recited everything I had told her. They just listened, looking more and more worried as I spilled.
“We have to tell Vesstan,” Rumour exclaimed. He ran off before anyone could even say anything. Xavier, Soleil, and I ran after him. He climbed the stairs surprisingly fast and sprinted down the hall. I was falling slightly behind the others, despite my efforts. When we arrived, Rumour was knocking relentlessly on the door to the balcony. As I doubled over in exhaustion, I heard Vesstan tell the crowd that someone needed to talk to him.
“What is it, guys,” he asked as he stepped through the door. Rumour opened his mouth to speak, but Quota entered behind Vesstan.
“Vesstan, can I talk to you?” Xavier asked calmly. He nodded. Quota just stood there. “I meant I wanted to talk to you alone.”
“Why? As your soon-to-be queen, you should be comfortable telling me important things,” Quota said. Xavier glanced at the three of us nervously.
“No, I really need a moment with Vesstan,” he insisted.
“I am your queen. I am just as capable as fixing things as Vesstan.” Quota crossed her arms. Xavier made a noise of frustration and ran off down the hallway. Soleil smiled apologetically, then rushed after him. Rumour and I followed. We found him sitting in a loveseat, holding a phone to his ear. I began to ask him what he was doing but he shushed me.
“Hi, Quinn,” he said into the phone cheerily. I heard someone on the other side. “No, I’m fine, we’re fine, I was just wondering about you.” He paused. “Yeah, I’ll put you on speaker, just hold on.” Xavier pressed a button and held the phone out.
“Hey, guys,” Quinn’s voice said over the phone. “So, I located the blade, but then I lost it. I’ll be heading over to the castle, I think someone who could have information is hiding out there.”
“That’s great! It’ll be nice to see you again,” Rumour said sweetly, as if there was nothing wrong.
“It’ll be nice to see you guys, too,” Quinn responded.
“So, um, when do you think you’ll be arriving?” I asked, trying to sound as casual as possible.
“In a couple of days, probably,” she responded.
“D-do you think you could be any quicker?” Soleil asked.
“I could try… Why do you ask?” Quinn sounded skeptical. I suddenly panicked.
“No reason, just miss you! Uh, we have to go! Love you, bye,” I said, then hung up. I put my head in my hands while the others stared at me. I walked away without saying a word to them. I felt my face burning. I entered my room and fell onto the bed. Thoughts raced through my head. Would Quinn get here in time? Would Quota act before then? I didn’t know. I lay there for what seemed like hours. The sky darkened and rain began to fall. It was the rainy season, after all. I spiralled into a fitful sleep of stressful dreams.
I woke up around three am, sweating and breathing hard. I sat up and looked around. I hadn’t changed into pajamas, just lay down on the bed. I looked out the window and down to the path. A dark human-like shape was leaving the doors. It stopped a few metres away, where it seemed to be talking to a bush. I stood and ran to the top of the stairs before even thinking about what I was about to do.
I paused and contemplated the consequences of my actions, then decided that it would take too long to think about that. I dashed down the stairs as fast as my feet would allow me. When I neared the door, I recognised the human shape as Quota. She stood in the rain, wearing a cloak, talking to someone who I couldn’t quite make out. I paused.
“You can do this,” I told myself quietly. I stepped out onto the path, the freezing cold rain pouring down on my head. My hair was immediately flattened against my head. The tiles beneath my bare feet were wet and I had to be careful not to lose balance. I slipped off the path and into the garden. I edged closed to the two people and listened from behind a hedge.
“Wait, she saw you?” Quota asked frustratedly.
“Yes, m’lady, but I got away,” another voice said. I assumed that was the other figure. Quota sighed.
“Whatever, do you have the blade?” She was beginning to sound impatient. My heart stopped as I heard something being removed from a bag. I couldn’t think as I peeked through a hole in the hedge. I caught a glimpse of something metallic. The blade of a dagger, engraved with an arrow design. It moved from the other person’s hand to hers. I turned away, but ut my shirt caught on the hedge. I didn’t have time to untangle it, so I just pulled. The branch released me and I raced back to the castle.
Once I got to my room, I fell into bed. I was still wet with rain, and my shirt was ripped, but I didn’t care. She had the dagger. The thing that could destroy the Arrow Brandeds was in her possession. And so was the trigger.