Click here to read Part One, here to read Part Two, and here to read Part Three.
The children stumbled out of the library as the sky began to lighten in the east. The boy’s head spun with the enormity of what they had learned in the last eight hours.
There was so much more to the world than what met the eye. Just to assure himself that what he'd experienced was real, and not some dream, he thrust his hand towards a barrel of rainwater which had accumulated a thin sheet of ice on top. It disintegrated, devolving back into the water.
Even though he'd performed it a dozen times during the last several hours, the action still gave him a sense of wrongdoing, as if he were violating something sacred. It was the only way to stop the storm of ice, though, and that was certainly a good thing to do. The man at the library — who never would tell them his name — had said the feeling would wear off after a while.
“What are you doing?” the girl snapped, pushing his hand back to his side. “What do you think would happen if someone saw you do that?”
The boy shrugged. “They would hide, and spread rumors about us. We'd be quite a bit safer, actually, if the people believed I could destroy anything with the wave of a hand.”
The girl breathed out sharply and turned her head. I knew it. This was a bad idea. It's getting to his head already. “Would you please just stop?”
The boy gave her a confused look, but then shrugged and put his hands in his pockets. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“Yes, I've always wanted to lose my entire family and then let my only remaining friend get tangled up in sorcery. I'm just fine.” The girl kicked a pebble.
There was an awkward silence for several seconds as the boy tried to think of something to say. He eventually decided there was nothing and tried to offer her his hand. After unsuccessfully trying to ignore him, the girl sighed and stopped walking. “What am I doing?” She raised her hands and then let them fall back to her sides. “We can't change the past, and what we’re doing right now is our only option. I'm sorry.”
The boy stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, careful not to let either of the two remaining arrows touch her. “No, I'm sorry. I should've asked you. And don't apologize for saying what you're thinking. I always want to know.”
“Always?” the girl asked as she stepped back. There were tears gathering in her eyes, but a smile played around the edges of her mouth.
“Always,” he answered firmly.
“In that case… right now I'm thinking that you're an impulsive moron who should listen to his best friend,” she said with a smirk.
The boy laughed and shook his head. “I probably deserved that.”
“Maybe. But you also deserve this.” She put her hands on his shoulders, stood on her toes, and touched her lips to his cheek.
The boy blinked several times, then coughed. He shifted his feet, and pulled his hands out of his pockets, just to put them right back. After a few more moments, he cleared his throat and said, “You should call me a moron more often.”
She laughed. “I might.” After a moment, she stepped away and looked down at the ground. “I do have something else to tell you though.” She drew a circle in the dirt with her foot. “It's about my family.”
The boy’s eyes widened. Finally, he thought. After all these years. I wonder who they could be.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “My father is the king of our city,” she said quickly, as if to get the words out before she could change her mind.
For the second time, the boy was rendered helpless to do anything but blink. After a moment it wore off and he took several deep breaths. “You’re… a princess.”
She nodded, biting her lip nervously. “I never wanted to tell you because I thought you might treat me differently if you knew. Everyone else did.” She paused and let out a nearly inaudible sigh. “You won't, will you?” she asked, looking up.
I thought my head was spinning earlier, he thought. Now I've just discovered that the girl who has been my best friend for years is a princess. And she just kissed me. It was a dream come true. All I want to do is stay with her forever. And yet… how can I? I have to get her to safety. How can I do that if I let myself think like this?
The girl was still looking up at him, waiting expectantly, her eyes full of trust and hope. This is going to be the hardest decision of my life, he thought.
But really, there wasn't anything to decide. Her safety comes before my feelings. Gritting his teeth and fighting the tears threatening to spill out of his eyes, he took a step backwards.
“You should get to safety, your majesty,” he said, struggling to keep his voice even. “Go to the dock, you should be able find a trader that will take you downriver to the sea.”
The girl slowly backed up, nearly tripping on a large stone. “No. No…” she said, her eyes growing wide.
“From there you should be able to sail to the mainland. I'm sure someone will let you work for passage.”
“Please,” the girl whispered, her eyes blurring. How can this be happening?
“Goodbye,” the boy said as he turned around, no longer able to hold back his tears.
She took several more steps backward and collapsed against the stone wall of a small house as he walked away.
Both wept as the distance between them grew, but the boy’s resolve stood firm. Her safety comes first, he thought over and over as he stumbled towards the palace, barely able to see through the haze of tears. Her safety first. Her before me. Her before everything.
The girl slowly rubbed the sticky spots on her cheeks where tears had dried. She straightened, pulling away from the stone wall she'd been leaning against. Did I fall asleep?
She looked up and saw a colorfully robed man standing over her. Only then did she remember the hand on her shoulder that had woken her.
“Miss?” the man said. “Can I help you?”
“No. Yes. I don't know,” she said as she remember what had just happened… well, she wasn't sure how long ago. She stood up and shaded her eyes as she looked towards the sun. Probably about the third hour of the morning.
I need to decide what I'm going to do, she thought. Now that he's gone… another tear slipped down her cheek. It still didn't feel real. But it was.
The only thing I know is that I can't stay here. She turned her head back to the merchant. “Could you point me towards the docks?”
“I'm headed that way myself,” the man answered. “You can tag along if you'd like.” He looked around. “Do you have any belongings to collect?”
The girl shook her head. Her only possession that had been saved from the ice was her bow, and that was back at the castle with the boy. And he’s made it quite clear that he doesn't want to see me again.
“Alright then,” the man said. “Wait here while I get my cart.”
He rounded a corner and then returned several minutes later with a horse drawn cart laden with cloth. “Hop on,” he said, gesturing to the seat next to him. She climbed up and stared at the city as they started towards the docks.
“Where might you be headed?” the man asked.
“To the sea,” she answered vaguely. Not because she didn't want to tell more, but because she couldn't.
“I have a good friend who is leaving for Estuary within the hour. I'm sending these goods with him,” he said, pointing to the cloth in the back of the cart. “I'm sure he'd be willing to take you as well.”
“That would be nice. Thank you.” The girl tried to sound grateful and excited, but felt incapable of feeling anything but sorrow ever again.
The man nodded. “No trouble.”
With a sigh, the girl collapsed onto the bed and closed her eyes.
She had been given a room on the Wavesplitter in return for a promise to act as ship’s cook on the two day voyage. It was a sturdy ship, and the captain seemed to be a kind man, but she still couldn't seem to feel anything but complete devastation.
She opened her eyes and stood up. “Why?” she asked no one in particular. “Why was my city destroyed? Why was my family killed? Why… why did he leave?”
Out of nowhere, a man in black armor appeared before her, holding a long, double-edged sword in one hand, and the other held a black flag. The girl screamed and jumped backwards, only to find she was no longer in the cabin. She was standing on a huge warship that was moving rapidly down a river towards a large city. Cliffhaven, she realized. But we haven't even left port yet!
The man didn't seem to have heard her scream. She breathed a sigh of relief. It must just be a dream. But it was too real for a dream. The details were too sharp, her mind too clear. What is it then? A vision?
If it was a vision, she knew, there must be some reason she was seeing it. And someone must be showing it to her. Who? Are the star gods real after all?
She turned slowly in a circle and took in the scene. There were about a dozen warships on the river, besides the one she was standing on. The decks were oddly empty. Each one had a man at the wheel, and maybe a few up in the masts. Too few for ships of that size.
The sun was setting in the west, but to the north, it was already pitch black. Unnaturally black. And there was a line of blue, too…
The ice army, she realized. They're nearly here.
A small skiff on the river drew her attention as it approached. It flew the Cliffhaven colors, indicating a government official of some description.
“Halt,” the man called up in a bored voice. “Please state your business and—”
He was cut off as the armored man waved his sword towards the skiffs craft. It, and the man inside of it, crumbled to ice just as the trees in the forest had when touched by the ice arrows. The shards quickly disintegrated into the river water, leaving no trace.
The girl breathed in sharply and stepped backwards. The man turned and raised the visor of his helmet, and she gaped in disbelief. It was the man from the library.
“Prepare to attack!” he shouted. Dozens of horns sounded, and men began flooding the decks of the ships. He gazed on in satisfaction as the girl watched in horror. Defeating one ice army was nearly impossible, but two…? There was no chance.
Once the army was assembled in ranks on the decks of the ships, the man began to speak. “Once we defeat Cliffhaven, the real battle will begin. You must be strong and ruthless. Never surrender, and never accept surrender. Always remember, once we win this battle, nothing will stand between us and our dominion!” The army shouted as one and raised their swords.
Terrified, the girl turned to run, but tripped and fell. The wind blew past her face at an alarming rate and yet still she fell, further than the distance to the river could've possibly been. She screamed and flailed about, trying to find something, anything to grab onto. There was nothing, nothing...
Then she was back in her room, laying on the bed. Everything looked just the same as it had.
I have to warn him, she thought, jumping to her feet. I have to warn everyone.
Written by Elia Tyson
Edited by The Flabbits
Copyright © 2018 by The Flabbit Room