A/N: This is the sequel to His Queen, so if you haven't read that then I suggest you go back and do! Or this might be a bit confusing. And also, you might notice that I've changed Eyrie/Eyrien to Vae/Vaen. I'll be changing this in HQ when I get around to editing it, as well as making it so they live a normal life span, not for hundreds of years.
I wanted to say thanks a million to everyone that reviewed the last chapter of HQ! I'll definitely be changing the ending slightly, but don't worry it'll still be a happy one! And hopefully more fulfilling, as quite a few people have pointed out that it was a bit of let down and after reading it, I completely agree. I'll put a note in this story when I've completely finished it, but it won't be for a while.
So read on, enjoy and (of course) review!
(Also, all the characters, plot, setting, etc are mine so no takey)
I hummed to myself as I bent down to pull out yet another weed that had been clogging my garden. I tugged hard at an especially tough branch of snakeweed. When I finally held it victorious in my gloved hands, I pondered it. It was quite a pretty plant with purple-blue flowers. Many people use it for hedges and ornaments, but now the little sucker had taken root in my garden. This is what I get for ignoring my garden: a whole morning's worth of weeding. Sighing, I straightened and threw the weed into hessian sack next to me, which was already almost filled to the brim with other noxious plants. I pulled off my gloves and felt around in my pocket for my little clock. I had to be out of here by noon—
"Oh crap," I swore, and then glared balefully at the falcon circling above me and raised my voice. "Isis, I told you to warn me when it was almost noon!" I cried. The only answer I got was a lazy caw before she suddenly dived at incredible speed and disappeared behind a nearby hedge.
I groaned, grabbing the sack and taking off towards the castle. It would have been a lot quicker if the Royal Gardens had nice, straight paths, but instead it was more like a maze. I hurtled into the foyer, thrusting the sack into one of the servants' arms.
"Could you please make sure that gets disposed of? Thanks!" I called over my shoulder, and heard a faint, "Yes Princess," in reply as I dashed up the stairs, taking three at a time.
I burst into my room, panting, and whipped off my hat and threw it as well as my gardening gloves onto my bed.
Camilla came bustling out of my wardrobe with a mound of silky fabric.
"You're late, again!" she scolded, glaring at me over the top of the dress.
"I know, I know! I'm so sorry! I just… forget the time!"
"Yes, we know," she said dryly. "Come on, get that disgusting clothing off quickly now."
My gardening clothes – which weren't that disgusting – were brusquely thrown off and I shimmied into the sundress. I wrinkled my nose in distaste at the dress.
"Baby pink, Camilla? Why?"
"If you learnt to be on time, then I'd let you pick what you want to wear. But as you never are, I always have to do the choosing. And that shade of pink is called Carnation and looks absolutely adorable on you."
She handed me a pair of slippers – thankfully not heeled – and I pulled them on my feet as I hopped my way out of the room.
I started running down the corridor, heading for one of the bigger dinning rooms where my family was having lunch with their guests. I know running was unladylike and extremely immature at my age – twenty-two, believe it or not – but I was late.
I didn't know who the guests were, as there were people arriving everyday in preparation for my mothers birthday party tomorrow night. I heard a squawk and glanced up to find Isis soaring through the air above my head. I scowled at the bird but otherwise ignored her. She was no help.
I suddenly saw the doors to the dining room ahead of me and tried to dig my heels in. Instead of slowing down from my headlong sprint, my stupid slippers didn't grip and I was sent sliding across the floor, windmilling my arms to try to gain some balance. I caught a glimpse of the horrified expressions on the servants' faces just before I threw up my hands and smacked into the wall.
I stayed silent for a moment, my face turning red with embarrassment. Why do things like that always happen to me?
"Are you alright, your highness?" one of the servants asked tentatively.
"Well that was fun. And I'm just fine, thank you."
With an amused caw, Isis landed on my shoulder and nipped my ear playfully.
"I blame that on you, bird," I muttered out the corner of my mouth.
I pulled open the door and stepped into the overly ornate room as gracefully as possible.
As if I hadn't just slid across the slate and slammed into the door.
That couldn't have been me! Honest!
The whole rooms occupants were sitting there, staring at the door with confused yet amused expressions.
"Vinaya, it's nice of you to join us," mum said frostily, and I winced. She only called me Vinaya when she was cranky at me.
"Oh Sera, don't be tetchy with her. Don't make me recount all the silly things you did in your younger years!"
"Auntie Tiarna!" I cried, running forward to give her a hug. Isis quickly jumped off my shoulder, not wanting to be part of the hug, and flew to perch on one of the rafters of the ceiling. Tiarna returned my hug warmly. "Thanks for being so understanding," I said loudly and pointedly.
"No problem sugar," she said with a wink. "And seriously, just leave off the Auntie. It makes me feel old," she moaned.
I looked past her and saw the other guests that had arrived.
"Ayden!" I exclaimed, wrapping him in a hug, which he returned stiltedly. I almost groaned aloud. Even though I had grown up with Ayden, he had begun acting slightly awkward around me for the past year or so. He had a crush on me, and Leo loved to tease me about it. At first, I thought his little infatuation would soon disappear. Unfortunately, it didn't go away. And rather than trying to dissuade it, mum kept encouraging it!
"Hey Vin," he greeted back, and I stepped back to examine him. Don't get me wrong, he was extremely handsome with his black hair, tanned skin and green eyes, but I just felt nothing more than friendship for him. He had to learn to stop wasting his time on me!
"Hello Jasmyn," I said, hugging his mother and kissing her on the cheek.
"Vinaya," she greeted, smiling warmly. "Late as per usual," she commented, not unkindly.
I gave an embarrassed laugh. I really had to fix that.
Moving onto the next guest, I shook Kayleb's – Jasmyn's husband's – hand.
"Is that everyone?" I said, grinning around the table. "Wait, where's Vennios?"
"He went to look for you," Tiarna said. "You're later than usual."
I looked around the table and noticed that they were halfway through the meal.
I shuffled awkwardly. "Heh, yeah. I was weeding in my garden and lost track of the time."
At that moment Vennios pushed through the doors, saving me from further embarrassment.
"There you are. I've been looking for you everywhere!"
"Sorry," I said, giving him a kiss on the cheek when he got close enough. He then took his seat next to Tiarna and entwined their fingers. Although they were not Bonded, they had fallen in love and married three years after my parents, once they had finally gotten past their denial.
I took my seat at the table, next to Leo, my twin. He leant over to whisper in my ear, "Nice entrance, Vinaya."
I narrowed my eyes at him.
"Shut up, Helios."
He smirked at me and I rolled my eyes, turning away. He hated being called be his full name, as did I.
I elbowed him immaturely and started placing bits of food on my plate as I listened to what everyone else was talking about.
"So when does Aeron get back?" Jasmyn asked mum.
At the moment, dad was busy travelling around some part of Leninus, making sure everything was all right within his kingdom. Mum had been with him, but had returned early so she could help prepare her party. Elianore and Selene had stayed however, and I couldn't wait to see them both.
Mum's whole face brightened at the mention and a smile overtook her face, making her look vibrant. "Hopefully tonight, but maybe tomorrow morning."
I know it sounded strange, but I was fairly jealous of my parents' relationship. After over twenty years, they were still as deeply in love as when they first met. Someday I hoped I could find the same thing, but I never said this aloud. My silly twin would hear of it somehow and never stop rubbing it in! However, my parents were Bonded together. And so far, nothing like that had come my way. So probably nothing like that would.
I tuned back in to the conversation.
"Is Lord Donovan still being harassed by that complete hooligan? What was his name again?" Kayleb asked.
Mum put a tired hand to her forehead. "It's Duke Donovan now – after his cousin past away he inherited the title, as he was the closest living relative they could find. And they call him the Shadow Warrior. And yes, he and his little gang are still trying their hardest to give us all early deaths from stress. Our best mages can't find him for some reason, and the fairy refuse to do anything to help. Fortudia said, I quote, 'he is doing you no harm, therefore we shall do no harm to him'. I think she has Seen something but she will not share what it is." She let out a tired sigh. "I swear, if I have to listen to Lord Donovan whine once more about how he doesn't have enough soldiers or supplies, I am going to scream."
"That bad?" Jasmyn asked. Mum just nodded. "What about you Tiarna? Are you part of the 'fairy that refuse to help'?"
Tiarna looked slightly uncomfortable, and I raised my eyebrows in surprise. Tiarna barely ever got uncomfortable about anything!
"Jasmyn… As a favour to Sera we have tried to locate him, but he must have some strange, dark magic within his possession. He evades everyone! But I don't think he's doing any harm – I agree with Fortudia in that respect. That Donovan probably deserves it! He has a stick pushed so far up his—"
"Okay thank you Tiarna for the mental image," mum said, quickly interrupting her.
As I munched on my piece of bread, I turned to Ayden. "So." I paused to swallow the chunk of bread. "You think I can still whoop you in combat?"
A wide, brilliant smile lit his face. "Not a chance. You never could and you won't today."
I narrowed my eyes at him.
"I can so!" I said childishly.
He just raised an eyebrow at me. I pushed my plate away slightly and turned to my mother.
"Mum, can Ayden and I please be excused?" I said in my politest voice.
"Of course. Don't hurt Ayden too badly though," she said with a twinkle in her eye.
I immediately pushed my chair back and threw a goodbye over my shoulder as I hurried to my room. I wasn't going to run; I'd already learnt that particular lesson today.
"Meet me down at the training fields and prepare to get your arse served to you on a platter," I said conversationally as we parted ways, me climbing the stairs as he headed outside. I thanked the Creator that neither of my parents were near or I'd be lectured for my coarse language, even though it wasn't that bad. They'd have a heart attack if they knew what I'd picked up from just walking around Bellus and spending time with the soldiers.
Ayden gave a disbelieving laugh as I raced upstairs. As soon as I was in my room, I threw the pink dress over my head and into a corner. After all that fuss and I'd barely worn it!
I couldn't find Camilla so I was able to sort around for my combat clothes, which consisted of a ratty white shirt and beige pants. She hated them with a passion and always tried to put me in a dress that resembled what Jasmyn's people wore: it looked like a loose dress, but the skirt could easily be ripped off to reveal a pair of pants. I have to admit, it was comfortable. However my grungy pant and shirt combination definitely won out of the two.
After finding my beloved fingerless leather gloves and pulling them on, I walked quickly down to the training fields while tieing my hair up into a bun. My hair was a deep black colour and fell to my waist. I had a hate-love relationship with it. Sometimes I just wanted to chop the darn thing off, as it got pretty inconvenient. If I wore it out for too long, it would get these massive knots in it and Camilla would spend an hour tugging a brush through it. However I loved how, when it was out, it would swish around my body and shine. So I kept growing the darn thing, no matter how much Kazeas wanted to chop it off as 'it was gonna do jack shit in a real fight but weigh me down and provide a hand hold'.
Ayden was already done there, so I searched around for Leo. When Ayden came to the castle, the two were near inseparable. Sure enough, looking up I saw him, wings spread, soaring from a window in the castle down to the fields. I was used to seeing him flying but it still hurt a tiny bit. I mean, by some weird genetic quirk I had no wings. And I'd been told it was the dominant gene! So while Leo was learning how to fly, I was learning how to walk. While we're on the subject of things I don't have, I also don't have any magic. Not even a speck! Well, there have been a few incidents that may have led towards me believing I had some ounce of magical talent like the rest of my family, but after being tested by Artur it was proven that I didn't. Now that hurt more than the wings affair. What was I, some type of freak? I didn't have the two things my family was renown for! I guess I had inherited a lot more of the human gene than the Vaen or Celestial.
But at least I was better at my brother at fighting. That was some consolation.
I pulled a metre or so away from Ayden as Leo alighted off to the side.
"So, how we doing this, enemy?" I asked with a smile, stretching my leg and arm muscles.
"As the soon-to-be-loser, I'll let you pick the weapon," he replied with a confident smirk. Okay, remember how I mentioned that I always beat him in a fight? Not true. We were actually pretty evenly matched, thus why I was stretching and limbering up extra.
"Good. My usual then. Actually no, let's go for something different. Staves!" My smile widened as Leo jogged off to find two quarterstaves. My favourite weapon choice – or my 'usual' – would have to be two short swords, but coming in at a close second would definitely be the quarterstaff. Leo soon returned and handed the long wooden staffs to us.
"Ready to be beaten?" Ayden asked in a mockingly deep voice.
I let out a laugh. "You definitely don't suit evil and scary. Try cute and cuddly, you might have more luck."
He smiled briefly before lunging at me, as I knew he would. He always made the first move. But that was typical of his nature: quick and impetuous. This had always managed to land him in a pile of trouble since he was a young boy.
Our staves met with a dull thud before glancing off each other. He was quickly on the offensive, typically, with a swipe at my torso. It was slow – he was just testing me out – and I easily swayed sideways out of the way, bringing my staff in low. He reversed his swing and knocked my staff away, continuing up in an arc to hit my shoulders. I ducked easily underneath it, jabbing my staff towards his knee. He brought the butt of his staff down on mine, causing it to jolt sharply and shock to reverberate up my arm. I dropped it out of reflex before cursing. Ayden saw his opportunity and brought his staff around towards my neck for the 'killing shot'. Throwing care to the wind, I lunged at him, catching him around his thighs and knocking him off balance. His staff clattered to the ground as he smashed to the dirt, me straddling him with my lower arm pressed against his neck. I smirked, leaning close to his face to rub it in.
"Oh, would you look at that? I won!"
He opened his mouth and closed it a few times, looking a bit like a stunned fish. I thought losing stunned him until I saw that his eyes were glazed over. Uh oh.
I quickly pushed off him and stood up, cheeks red with embarrassment. This stupid crush was so annoying!
"So… A-Another round?" I questioned awkwardly.
"Sure," he said as he blinked numerous times.
Fast as lightning, he spun and whipped his staff around. I held my staff vertical to stop it, sliding my pole along his and pushing it away before making a swipe at his head. I danced away when he blocked it easily and started raining multiple swipes down on me. This round was a lot fiercer than the first, and I could feel the sweat sliding down my back. I blocked another swipe and he quickly slid his staff up and off mine, aiming for a blow to my head. I ducked again, spinning around and catching him on his hip. He stumbled backwards and I quickly pressed my advantage and soon we were dancing backwards and forwards. It took all my concentration to keep up with the lightning fast swipes and jabs he made. As soon as one of us gained ground on the other, they were quickly pushed back into the centre of the area. He made a jab to my lower body, which I sidestepped neatly to the side to avoid and made a swing to his head. When he ducked to avoid it, my momentum sent me forward a few steps past him, and he immediately dropped and spun with his leg out, catching me and sending me tumbling. I hit the ground and managed to roll, before popping back up on my feet. In a split second, I saw my predicament. My staff was a metre away, placed in the middle of myself and Ayden – who was advancing upon me. I dived for the staff but Ayden made it there first, kicking it up with his foot and catching it neatly. I lay on the grass at his feet while he pointed both quarterstaves at my throat.
It was his turn to smirk.
"Don't you dare say anything," I hissed, trying to look menacing when all I wanted to do was smile. He made a motion of zipping up his lips, locking it and throwing the key away.
My grin finally broke free when he held out his hand and dragged me to my feet. It wavered slightly when he held me close to him for a moment too long.
"Good game! I think we should quit while we're ahead," Ayden said as we walked back to the castle. Leo was nowhere to be seen, and I hadn't even noticed him fly off somewhere.
I snorted. "You're only saying that because you won the last game. Whereas had I won it…"
"I'm too gentlemanly for revenge. Remember what darling Lady Mistica said: I am chivalrous."
I gave him a shove that barely sent him anywhere.
"Oh, because everything our darling Lady Mistica says is gospel. I mean, how couldn't it be?"
Mistica was the daughter of Lord Donovan and was currently residing at the castle as it was 'too dangerous' at her estate in Gurneiah with the Shadow Warrior on the loose. With her dark blonde hair, almost black eyes and petite stature, she was the darling of the court. Don't get me wrong, I'm not jealous. It's just that I don't trust her to be all sugar, spice and everything nice. It's not in my nature to dislike someone irrationally, but I've known her since I was tiny. One day she just up and transformed from a spoiled brat to a beautiful, caring lady. After sharing my sentiments with Ayden he was quick to agree. Leo, however, was a completely different case. He was smitten by her, and she was probably the reason he had disappeared. I was worried for my twin. He was, after all, heir to the throne and I didn't want someone I couldn't totally put my faith in on the throne as his queen.
"Vin," Ayden said forcefully, snapping his fingers in my face.
I blinked out of my stupor. "I'm sorry; I completely tuned out. What did you say?"
He smiled warmly at me in that way, and I felt nervous.
"I was asking about your garden. How is it going?"
I gasped. "Oh, you have to see it. It's completely different from when you last saw it. With the coming of spring all my bulbs have bloomed and the colours are marvellous! I've been experimenting with new plants lately, and I've found that cow clover blooms beautifully at this time. But with all these plants come the annoying weeds as well…" An idea formed in my mind and I glanced slyly at him. Maybe this crush could come in handy! "Would you mind helping me with the weeding?" I asked, turning on whatever female wiles I had. I opened my eyes wider to look innocent and pouted slightly. "Please?"
He sighed. "I'd love to help." Didn't sound like it, but that didn't matter. "Do you need to get changed?"
"Nah," I said, waving the question off. I only really need my gloves and hat, which were in my room. I looked up at the sky and spotted Isis circling above me. "Bird!" I called cheerfully. She dipped her wing and came shooting down towards me. Ayden took a nervous step backward but I stayed, and a metre before she reached me she flung her wings out, stopping her fall almost instantly. She landed on my arm and I spoke to her. "Could you please get my hat and gloves from my room? They should be on my bed."
She gave a harsh caw before pushing off my arm and soaring into the sky.
"That's quite disconcerting how you talk to her and she understands," Ayden commented nervously as we began walking towards the gardens again.
I shrugged. I was so used to it – it was like talking to another person. If I didn't say please, she would get ruffled and not listen to a word I'd say. I rescued the peregrine falcon years ago when she was just a baby – on the verge of death – and still had the scars all over my hands from my efforts to become friends. I was a fairly lonely child, having no one to play with while all the other kids attended magic lessons, and she was a lone bird that had lost its family. When she was back to full health, I tried to set her free. Keyword: tried. No matter what I did, she always came flying back.
We stopped at the little, non-descript shed which held all my gardening tools and I ducked inside, grabbing a pair of gloves for Ayden and the tools that would be needed. He gave the gloves a dismissive glance and didn't take them, saying, "I don't need those."
I raised my eyebrows, knowing the answer would change when he came across the big patch of stinging nettle. However, I said nothing. Once we were in my garden, Isis appeared and dropped my gloves and hat onto the ground in front of me. After this she rose into the air a few metres before swooping down at Ayden. Ayden gave a cry and leapt to the side, Isis's claws missing him by millimetres. Isis didn't like Ayden very much, and the feeling was mutual. I had a feeling it was Isis's possessiveness shining through. She then flew off to terrorise another poor creature.
I pulled all my gear on and smiled at Ayden, who was now eyeing the garden nervously after having recovered from his dive.
"Let's get started!" I said cheerfully. "Now, if you pull out any of my plants I will get Isis to claw your eyes out." I paused, then added as an afterthought, "And you'll probably never reproduce."
The afternoon sun beat down on our backs as we worked.
A/N: please review and tell me if you see any mistakes and what you think. I had some awesome ideas from Krowhop but I already had this idea (sorry!)
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