I walk and the silence builds around me, the three moons waltzing in blackness above. The King’s request overcomes me with dizzy distain. I brace myself against the castle’s wall. How has my beloved home, Ecclesia, fallen this far?
My name is Rein, I am the fifth daughter of the man who calls himself high king. He has just decreed murder legal. The first victim to fall prey to this new law will be my beloved brother, Fiel, and I have been ordered as his executioner. If I do not do as the law commands, I am at the mercy of those who are merciless.
I clutch the largest of the king’s signet stones in my hand, concealing it in the folds of my gown. Its weight matches that of my heart. If the king will make me do such a heinous thing, then my weapon will tell all of Ecclesia who forced my actions.
I pass the guards on my way to their once future king and do not look at them. They bow in respect to me and I shudder. How can what was always known to be wrong now be made right by the laws of man?
My eyes dart about Fiel’s lavish chambers. I don’t dare to breath. My whole being begins to tremble.
“Sister!” Fiel stretches out his arms to embrace me. “How wonderful it is to see you. You haven’t visited since the Full Moons dance a fortnight ago.” He escorts me to a black velvet chair in the sitting room taking the other for himself.
The tangy sweet spiciness of jamberkrin jelly wafts from the table by the fireplace where purple flames dance as they send brown plumes of smoke up the chimney. I look about the room until I can avoid him no longer.
Fiel shakes his head. “Rein, what’s troubling you? You look as if you’d swallowed a pond’s worth of spike-necked toads.”
With a trembling hand I take a jamberkrin jelly biscuit and shove it into my mouth.
Fiel raises an eyebrow. “Are your manners a new sort of elegance?” He leans back in his seat. “If they are, I can’t say I’m overly fond of it.”
Feeling the stone in my hand, I begin to choke.
Jumping to his feet, Fiel pounds my back. “Sister!” He says as I gasp for a breath. “Mother taught you manners for good reason. Sucking in your food like a sog fish won’t do you any benefit.”
As I wipe the tears from my eyes, he smooths back the wisps of hair that have worked their way from my braid.
“What is it, little one?” He kneels before me.
I take a steadying breath and clutch the stone. If I don’t do this there will be no end to the tortures I’ll face. Death will not come quickly.
The room weighs upon me and I force myself to stand. My stomach rolls as if moved by the sea.
A portrait of the two of us hangs over his mantle.
“Do you remember that day?” He says when he catches me looking at it.
“I do.” I grasp the stone tighter until my fingers go numb. The heat of the fire laps at my skirts and I run my fingers over the rough paint. “You had just cut open the back of your neck when you fell out of a tree. You didn’t even cry.”
Fiel laughs teasingly. “You had cried enough for the both of us! It’s a wonder the painter didn’t give your likeness a red nose and watery eyes.”
I draw back my shoulders. “I did no such thing.” Fiel stands close behind me to examine the painting, laying his hand on my shoulder.
“You had done as your adventurous heart commanded, yet again, and gotten yourself stuck up in a tree. And I, as usual, had to fetch you down.” He squeezes my shoulder.
“You’re the reason the king outlawed trees over ten feet tall, or do you not remember.”
I swallow. A tear escapes, but I whisk it away before Fiel knows.
He sighs. “The king does as he believes best, but he forgets he is just a man governed by the same laws as the rest of the universe.” There’s a cold edge to his voice I rarely hear.
“Brother, what do you know of the king’s new law?”
Fiel pauses, his gaze falling away from me. He studies the light as it dances in the crystal wine glass. “I know,” he slowly says, “that I am the reason for it.”
“What do you mean?”
Fiel takes a seat, his shoulder slumping. “The king hates all that I am.” He raises his hand as I try to contradict him. “I do not hold my silence when the king speaks ill of the truth, and I never will. I desire that Ecclesia live governed by the laws of conscience, not the laws of populace opinion, for right and wrong will never change. Ecclesia is my home, just as you, dear little one, are my heart. I will give the last of my being for her, even if that means speaking my harsh truths to ears that find malice in well intentioned words.” As his eyes read me, I lose my breath. “I knew he would send someone as soon as the law had been passed.” There is sadness in his eyes and a smile on his lips. “I am not afraid to die, but I am sorry, sister, that you are the one to carry out this terrible deed.”
“I’m so sorry,” I say. Kind, sweet, Fiel, forgive me. Raising the stone as high above me, I try to find the strength to do what I must.
With a final glance, he bows his head , revealing the scar at the base of his skull.
The stone crashes to the floor and I fall to my knees. “I can’t do it.”
With deliberate patience, Fiel kneels to the ground and curls my fingers around the stone.
“If you don’t, your tortures will never end, little sister. The law is with you.”
“So that may be,” I say, “but this is my choice.” Going to the window, I open it and hurl the king’s signet stone into the night.
Sorry this post was late everyone! I’ve been tucked away at the dentist’s office all day. I hope you enjoyed this story and I thank you so much for reading. Have a question you’d like to ‘ask’ Rein? Leave it in a comment below and I’ll be sure to include it in my next character interview.