Arrow Branded – Chapter 16

“He’s not in good shape,” Dash said. He had travelled from Allanar when he heard what happened. I caught a glimpse of Vesstan through the slightly ajar door to the hospital wing.

“Will he pull through?” Elyon asked. He had been stressing about his son since we arrived.

“Yes. He lost a lot of blood, but he’ll bounce back eventually,” Dash confirmed. Elyon let out a relieved breath. “But it will take time. He won’t be okay right away. It’ll take months to fully recover.”

“What about Rumour?” Xavier demanded from the bench on the other side of the hallway. His eyes were red with crying and Soleil told me he hadn’t slept at all.

“There’s something strange about him.” Ianto exited the infirmary. “He seems to be stuck in demon from, he can’t change back. There’s a weird kind of venom in his blood that prevents it. We’re working on it and we’ve managed to keep him in human form for about an hour, but we don’t know if it will last. He’ll have to spend a night or two.”

“Oh…” Xavier looked down. Soleil put her arm around him and he leaned on her shoulder. I heard the main door open. A muffled conversation could be heard. I knew that voice from somewhere… but where? Soleil and Xavier perked up, turning to the sound. I heard footsteps down the hallway. They got closer and closer, until someone walked around the corner.

“What’d I miss?” Quinn asked. Xavier and Soleil jumped up and sprinted at her. They nearly knocked her over with hugs.

“Quinn, we missed you so much!” Soleil said, her voice muffled by Quinn’s shoulder. Quinn grinned widely and enveloped the two in her arms. Xavier pulled away, wiping tears from his eyes.

“There’s so much we need to discuss,” he said.

“Tell me then,” Quinn replied. The two siblings sat her down and began to explain. They told her about the journey and the friends we made along the way. About our stay at Dash and Ianto’s house, and everything they provided for us. About the bus ride and arriving at the castle. Xavier blushed when Soleil mentioned Elyon asking if her brother was dating Vesstan yet. Quinn listened intently as they explained about our meeting where Elyon explained Vesstan’s powers. Then the wedding. She reacted to every bit, obviously feeling guilty for missing all of it. I added in the part after I got kidnapped and before the others arrived. Then the battle.

“You missed so much!” Soleil said. Quinn took her hand.

“I’m so sorry, guys! I meant to arrive sooner,” she said softly. There was a pause as Quinn looked around. “Where’s Rumour?”

“Uh..” Xavier looked at me and I looked at Soleil. None of us wanted to be the bearer of bad news.

“He’s, um–” I began.

“He’s stuck in his demon form…” Xavier finished, looking down. Quinn blinked in disbelief.

“What?” she asked.

“He’s stuck. Quota bit him and she must have had some kind of unfamiliar venom because it affected his ability to change back,” Soleil clarified. Quinn stood and walked straight at the door to the hospital wing. Ianto tried to stop her but she just shoved him to the side. He tripped over a table and nearly fell onto Dash. I followed Quinn through the door and immediately froze at the sight. Vesstan lay in a hospital bed on one side, arm in a cast, and Rumour in another bed on the other side. He seemed to be okay, but he still looked weak.

“Rumour,” Quinn said as she approached. He opened his eyes and sat up.

“Quinn!” He jumped out of bed and winced, touching the bandages on his leg and torso.

“Rumour, what happened to you?” Quinn asked, cupping his face in her hands. He hugged her and she hugged him back, careful not to hurt him. Rumour’s leg was bandaged, but blood was visible through the gauze. I waved at him and he waved back with a smile.

“She bit me! Quota actually bit me!” he exclaimed, turning back to Quinn. Quinn laughed. “That’s not fair!”

“No, of course not,” she said.

“Please, you can’t be in here right now,” Ianto said putting a hand on Quinn’s shoulder. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave miss Quinn…”

“Quinn Anderson,” she finished. Quinn pointed at Rumour. “We’ll talk about this later.”

“Yes, we will,” Rumour responded.

Ianto put a hand on my shoulder and led me out of the hospital. Xavier and Soleil had sat down again and were whispering quietly.

“How is he, is he okay?’’ Xavier demanded, walking over to me. I was about to respond when I heard what sounded like a disappointed animal sound. I looked behind me and saw into the room right before the door swung shut. Rumour had somehow morphed back into his demon form and was sitting on the floor looking dejected. His bandages were ripped and lay around him on the floor.

“As we said before, he’s having trouble staying in human form,” Ianto said hurriedly before heading back into the infirmary. Xavier sighed and sat back down. Soleil rubbed his back.

“Anyways,” Quinn said. “Lake, right? Tell me what you saw here. Tell me your side of the story.”

 

As the sun rose over the horizon, I lay awake. That night hadn’t brought as much sleep as I had hoped. Every time I dozed off, I just saw images of Quota and the fight. I saw what could have happened if we hadn’t gotten here in time. I wasn’t really a fan of lying awake with only my thoughts for company, so I got up.

“I guess I’ll just… walk,” I muttered to myself as I pulled a hoodie over my head. My hair stuck out in all different directions, due to bedhead and static electricity, but I just couldn’t care. I didn’t even bother to find socks before I walked out of my room.

The hallways were cold and the scent of the dewy forest wafted in through the windows. I stopped and let the coniferous tree smell wash over me, the cool wind ruffling my hair even more. I kept walking. Soleil’s room was quiet. I saw her sleeping form laying in bed, her chest rising and falling with each breath. I continued. Tethys sat in her bed, reading a book. I walked some more. Alenia was fast asleep, snoring slightly. As I passed Xavier’s room, I saw that it was empty. I wondered where he could be, but didn’t think too much of it.

“Hey, Lake,” a voice said. I turned and saw Elyon, still in his pajamas and looking tired.

“Hello,” I responded quietly.

“Are you alright?” he asked. I realized then that it might look strange to find a guest wandering the halls alone at the break of dawn

“Yes, yes. I’m fine,” I said, running my hand through my hair. The king nodded and walked past me, turning into a room that I assumed was his. I rubbed my eyes and yawned. Then I kept moving.

The castle was cold and I was glad I decided to wear a hoodie. I shivered slightly, regretting leaving my feet bare. I approached the hospital wing and heard low voices. I knew that nobody was supposed to be in there if they hadn’t previously informed a staff member, so I assumed it was Dash or Ianto. I pushed the door open just a crack and peeked through. Vesstan and Xavier sat on Vesstan’s bed, facing each other. They were playing Go Fish. So that’s where he was. Rumour was still in demon form and fast asleep with Dash snoring softly in a chair close by. Ianto, on the other hand, was at a workbench, bent over something. He seemed to be reading a book and studying bottles of different coloured liquids. Maybe he was working on something for Rumour. I closed the door and kept walking.

I started thinking. What would happen now? Now that Quota didn’t have the blade. I didn’t know. What I did know was that some royal guards had set out to find her, or whatever was left of her. They were going to hold a funeral for her if they found her. I wondered why they would give a villain a proper burial. She didn’t deserve that much respect. Nevertheless, they insisted.

“Lake?” Someone moved behind me. It was Quinn. She stood there with a glass of water in hand, looking slightly confused.

“Hello,” I said calmly.

“What are you doing up so early,” she asked. I looked around as if searching for an answer. I shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, if you’re already up, why don’t we have something to eat,” Quinn suggested. I nodded and followed her to the dining room. We passed the room where Vesstan and Xavier had fought. The cracked windows were temporarily fixed with duct tape.

When we entered the dining room, Soleil was just walking in through a door on the other side. She yawned and stretched, still not aware of our presence. She looked up and smiled at us.

“Morning, guys,” she said sleepily. Her dark curls were tied up in a messy bun. Not the fashionable kind, the kind that you wear when you’re too lazy to actually do your hair.

“Good morning,” I responded quietly.

We all sat down at the table. One of the kitchen staff walked into the room and looked shocked to see us sitting around the table.

“Oh my! You’re early,” he said. “Breakfast will be out shortly.” He was elven. His short, dark hair was spiked up with gel and leaf designs were shaved into the sides.

Breakfast was, in fact, out shortly. The others, who were not in the hospital, joined us one-by-one. After that I head back to my room to shower and dress.

“Lake!” Ianto called after me. I turned quickly.

“What’s up?” I said.

“Just wanted to check up on you. How’s your head?” he asked. After we had come back from the battle with Quota, he had diagnosed me with a concussion from being knocked off of my feet. I was forbidden from watching tv and using other technology for a while. Not that I wanted to; I had never had any of that, so I never knew the temptation. I took a second to consider how me head was feeling. I moved it from side to side.

“It’s feeling okay, I guess. Hurts a little bit,” I said. Ianto handed me a small container with pills.

“Take one whenever your head hurts. Just make sure you wait at least four hours in between,” he told me. I nodded and he walked off.

I showered and dressed quickly and head out again.

As I walked, I lost myself in thought. Would I go back to Lil’ Angel’s Orphanage after this, or would I stay? Where would I stay? Would I live in the palace, or go back to Quinn’s house? Would the others head back? Was that house still there?

“Hey, watch where you’re walking!” Rumour’s voice said as I almost walked into him. He wasn’t angry, he was smiling.

“Rumour, you’re-you’re human again!” I exclaimed. I threw my arms around him, then stepped back quickly. “Sorry, sorry.”

“It’s alright.” Rumour laughed. I saw that he was leaning on a cane.

“Oh, you have a cane! Is that permanent?” I asked. Rumour shook his head.

“Nah, I only need it while my leg is healing.” He shrugged.

“Speaking of which, how did they cure you? Did they figure out what kind of venom Quota had?”

“Made a vaccine. And, no, we still don’t know what she is,” Rumour replied simply. He pulled up his sleeve to reveal the small, round bandaid that you get when you get a vaccine. I raised my eyebrows.

“Interesting,” I said. We stood quietly for a second.

“Wanna go for a walk or something? I’m going to lose my mind being cooped up on here for so long,” Rumour said. I considered it and agreed. We head toward the door.

The fresh air hit me like a much needed slap in the face. I hadn’t left the castle since we arrived from the battle at the Tree of Blessing. People were calling that fight the Battle of Blessings. A little too fancy-sounding in my opinion, but I’m not the one naming things around here.

Rumour and I walked up a hill in the direction of the forest. We talked about the battle and what we thought would happen next as we trudged through the woods. I mentioned that I saw Xavier visiting Vesstan early in the morning.

“Oh, I know! He came and woke me up right after. Well he thought he did; I was already awake. He also thinks that I don’t know about that little visit with Vesstan, but I do. I only heard a few words from their conversation, though. They were really quiet,” he said.

“Yeah, I saw that they were playing card games,” I told him. He smiled widely.

“They’re finally getting along,” he said. I laughed and shook my head.

We walked through the trees, just talking and laughing together. Rumour seemed to be struggling to make it over a particularly big log. I offered my help but he swatted my hand away. He tried again. And failed again. He looked up at me helplessly. I suppressed a smile as I took his hand and helped him over the fallen tree.

“Shut up,” he muttered. I sighed. “Get down!” he said suddenly, pulling me to the ground behind a large rock. I poked my head around to see what he was hiding from. Xavier and Vesstan sat in the low branches of a Weeping Willow tree, the green mop of leaves hanging around them.

“Why are we hiding?” I asked Rumour.

“I know this place,” he whispered back. “It’s an important place. Xavier and Soleil’s parents are buried under that tree and Xavier’s really sensitive about it, so he only brings people that he picked here. Usually for some special reason.”

“Wait, their parents are dead?” I asked incredulously. Rumour shushed me.

“Yes! Did you think Quinn was their mom? She looks nothing like them,” he said. I rolled my eyes.

“Shouldn’t we, y’know, not eavesdrop?” I suggested.

“When did you turn against sneaking around? You were literally watching us before we met!” Rumour gave me a look that said ‘you’re one to talk’. I grimaced. I didn’t know that he knew about that. I directed my attention to the two in the willow branches. They were talking just barely loud enough for me to understand.

“I’m sorry for that huge argument before the wedding. I should have believed you,” Vesstan said. Xavier shrugged. “No, seriously,” Vesstan continued, “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s alright,” Xavier said, blushing slightly. Vesstan suddenly laughed.

“My father suggested exiling you after that,” he said casually. Xavier snorted.

“For real? That’s ridiculous,” he said with a smile, causing his dimples to deepen. Vesstan nodded.

“I know right? I refused, though. No matter how many time he insisted that ‘nobody should treat royalty like that’!” Vesstan looked down at his hands, grinning. Xavier looked up at the elven prince, then at the horizon. Rumour grinned. He was anticipating something. What is was, I wasn’t sure.

“Really?” Xavier asked. Vesstan nodded and blushed still not looking up. “Thanks for fighting for me,” Xavier said, his voice sounded different. Softer.

“It’s nothing,” Vesstan muttered. Xavier punched him gently in the arm.

“No, it’s not; I could have been banished. It’s a big thing that you did for me,” Xavier insisted. He tilted his head down to look past Vesstan’s dark hair. “You’ve changed,” he said.

“I hope so,” Vesstan said quietly, looking up. The smile dropped from Xavier’s face. He shifted to face the prince.

“Can I, uh… kiss you?” he asked. Vesstan nodded eagerly, blushing hard. Xavier leaned in and did exactly that. He kissed him, putting a hand on the other boy’s freckled cheek.

Rumour made a choked squeel-like noise and I was worried that one of the boys would turn around and see us stalking. I took the distracted moment to pull Rumour to his feet. I took his hand and ran as fast as his injuries would allow us. We ran until we were one hundred percent certain that we were out of earshot.

“Xavier and Vesstan, sitting in a tree,” Rumour sung. We both fell all over ourselves in a heap of giggles.

“I did not expect that,” I said when I finally caught my breath. Rumour sighed.

“I did,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for that.” I laughed and helped him up, then we head back to the castle.

At the castle, Dash informed me that they had found Quota and that her funeral was about to start. I ran up and changed into more appropriate clothing. When I came back down, Vesstan and Xavier were there and dressed. They must have contacted them with magic to get them there that fast. During the ceremony, Rumour and I kept glancing at them and then at each other, then trying our best to hide a smile. Finally the funeral was over. We waited until Xavier and Vesstan left before we could talk freely. The only other people there were Dash and Ianto.

“Vesstan and Xavier kissed!” I exclaimed, running up to the two of them. I just couldn’t keep it inside. Rumour appeared at my side.

“It’s true,” he confirmed. Dash looked completely shocked. Ianto, however, had a different approach.

“Ugh, finally,” he said. Rumour and I stared at him.

“What?” I asked.

“Remember those few days he spent away from the castle?” he asked. We nodded. “He was staying with me. We began to run out of smalltalk after the first night. I could sense that he needed to talk about something, so I let him get to it in his own time.” Ianto shrugged as if it were obvious. I continued to stare.

“So, you knew about how Xavier feels?” Rumour asked. “And you didn’t think to tell me?” He didn’t sound angry. He was too excited about this new information to be angry. He was mostly just surprised.

“This is great!” I said.

“I know,” Rumour exclaimed. “Those two are the cutest couple. I can’t wait ‘till Elyon finds out; he always thought they’d be great together.”

“You guys know?” Xavier asked from the door. We all turned to stare at him. He seemed nervous to be in the presence of so many people who knew.

“We saw you in the forest…” Rumour said shyly. Xavier sighed.

“I guess there’s secret anymore. Vesstan went to tell Elyon, so the only ones left are Soleil and Vestan’s sisters,” he said. At that moment, Elyon burst in and hugged Xavier tightly.

“I knew it!” he shouted. “I’ve been waiting for so long!” Xavier blushed furiously and Vesstan showed up and leaned on the door frame. That was the happiest funeral in existence. The coffin had been removed and we we’re the only ones left. Elyon refused to let go of Xavier for a long time, but eventually did.

And that’s where the excitement leaves off. There isn’t much to tell you now. I’m hoping that we can all stay in the castle so I don’t have to go back to Lil’ Angel’s. I think it’ll work out, but I will definitely have to change the wardrobe in my room a little bit. Get rid of some of the clothes. There’s not much else to the story now. Xavier and Vesstan are officially a thing (I like to call them ‘Vessavier’), and Soleil says I’m the only human worthy of the Arrow Branded title. Don’t worry, I won’t have to be branded like the others. We’re still careful not to aggravate Vesstan too much, but he seems to be a lot more stable than before.

Anyways, that’s the end of this story, but there will be many more for you to hear. Not about me (most likely), but about others.