We promptly arrive at the chambers of my father and I see Josiah standing in front of the door. I run passed the Stalker guards escorting me and stop in front of Josiah.
“Are you hurt? Is my father okay? What happened?”
“Breathe, Princess. Do not worry. Everything is currently under control.” He replies, but his face says otherwise. He continues. “Your father wishes to see you immediately. Alone.”
“Alright.” I say, taking a deep breath and letting it out.
I turn around and face the platoon of Night Stalkers.
“Follow my Father’s orders. Scour every inch of this castle. Report any findings directly to commander Ivis and only Ivis. Do I make myself clear?” I ask in a commanding tone.
They all bow. “As you command, Your Highness!” They reply in unison, before rising and beginning their march towards the west wing of the castle.
I turn back to my Father’s chambers, look at Josiah and nod at him. He opens the chamber doors for me and I walk in to see my father standing over a desk with multiple maps spread across, analyzing every inch of them. He looks up at me.
“Where were you?” He asks plainly.
“In my room… I was taking care of a situation that happened with the guards.” I respond hesitantly, playing with my bracelet.
“Josiah said he found you in your mothers’ garden.” He sighs. “Stop bothering him. He has much more important things to do than babysit you.”
I bite my tongue. “Of course father, forgive me” I bow my head in respect before continuing. “How will we retaliate against the Hunters? Do you wish me to-”
“YOU, aren’t doing anything. The council will take care of this.” He says giving me a sharp gaze.
“What?! Why? Father I can help-”
“You will do nothing.” He says in a warning tone. “It’s more dangerous now than ever before. I can’t risk you getting hurt, or worse. Right now you need to focus on finding a host for the Guardian ritual.”
“So this is why you sent for me? To order me to perform an archaic ritual? Typical. Besides you know I can’t. I’m not compatible with anyone.” I reply, crossing my arms.
“And whose fault is that!?” He snaps back.
I bite my tongue again. Snapping at him right now would only make it worse and I can tell Aliyah’s death weighs heavy on him. On top of that he still doesn’t know that I’ve lost my pact.
He continues. “Out of the few Nobles capable of extending their pact to a guardian, you’re the only one that has refused to perform the ritual. You have a responsibility to your people and to tradition. It’s been over a year since you came of age and you still haven’t chosen a Revnian. You could silence the council with a mere glance with a Guardian. Yet you choose this… Mockery over duty.” He looks at me with disgust and I feel my heart tighten slightly.
“Forgive me father. But I refuse to bond myself to someone simply to please the council.”
“It’s not just to please the council Senna. Noble Aliyah is dead. And we have zero answers. If the hunters have found a way to kill a noble then how do I protect you? Without a guardian you’re vulnerable.”
Josiah told me the same thing. It doesn’t even surprise me that they echo each other.
“I know, Father. But without a compatible partner there’s no way I can complete the ceremony. You already know that. I’m better off without a guardian.”
“You hold our traditions in contempt but your mother upheld them with a fervor you couldn’t possibly understand.”
I snap at the mention of my mother, forgetting to hold my tongue. “Then help me understand! What happened to her? How did she die? Why have you forbidden mention of her? Why won’t you tell me anything about her?!” I’m yelling now.
“Senna!” His voice resounds loudly through his chambers, making me jump in surprise.
Rarely do I hear my father yell at me. But every time I mention my mother he shuts me down. It’s like he doesn’t want to remember her at all.
“Enough Senna. This is not why I summoned-”
“Really? Could’ve fooled me.” I cut him off.
He takes a deep breath and lets out a heavy sigh.
“Your punishment for stealing the book of the covenant and defiling the sanctuary has been put on hold. For now. However, it’s because we face a potential new threat that we must respect tradition. It’s what has kept us safe all these centuries. And you will learn to respect the traditions, even if you have to face shame and embarrassment to do so.” He says, pausing for a moment and I catch a glimpse of sadness in his eyes.
“During the battle, we captured a Hunter. He’s believed to be a high profile prisoner so he’s being held in the smallest guest room in the main wing instead of the prisons.”
“And? Who is he? What does this have to do with me?” I ask, giving him a look of confusion.
“I do not know which clan he is from. But I know he was valuable enough for the Hunters to bring him along during their meeting with us. So he has to hold some level of importance. As such, you will bring food to him every single day until his judgment is passed.” He crosses his arms, anticipating my response.
My mouth drops open. “Father, you can’t be serious. There are so much more important things happening right now-”
He raises he hand to stop me. “Sennala, this isn’t up for debate.”
Panic ensues. “Bringing a prisoner food is humiliation reserved for commoners not a Noble! You know our people value status and image above all else. It is how our society works, and has worked for centuries. You of all people know this. After everything I’ve had to deal with from the council you want to give them more reason to call me a disgrace? Mother wouldn’t have done this to me.”
“But she’s not here!” He slams the desk. “I am. And I will not repeat myself. Sennala, you start now.” He waves his hand at me to leave like I’m a subject of his.
“King first and father second, right?” I scoff, turning my back to him.
Frustration. Sadness. Disappointment. I can’t even put into words the emotions I feel. Instead I walk towards the chambers doors and stop just in front of them.
“Mother’s death is your fault.” I say the words that I had hoped would never leave my mouth. I pull open the doors and slam them behind me. Fully wishing I could take back what I had just said.
I lean my back against the doors and feel nothing but regret, breathing deeply over and over again to stop the tears from falling down my face. I see Josiah gazing at me looking as if he wants to say something.
“Don’t.” I say, without looking at him.
“I won’t, Your Highness.” He replies, before stepping back into the cloak of the shadows, knowing full well I can’t see him.
I wish you were here, Mother.
I push myself off of the doors and steel myself before beginning my walk towards the kitchen.
As soon as I enter the kitchen all the servants panic before promptly dropping to their knees. “Princess Sennala! Your Highness!” Not a single one looks up at me.
“Please rise.” Motioning for them all to get up.
They all rise in unison and the head chef, Norv, quickly scurries to the front. “Your Highness! We were not informed of your visit, or we would have prepared more for-”
I stop him by lifting a hand. “You don’t need to prepare. I did not know that I would be coming here until recently. How has your work been? Not too hard I hope?”
All of their faces light up. “Not at all, Your Highness! We are honored by your visit here. How may we serve you? Perhaps you would like us to make something special for you? Perhaps your favorite dish?” The head chef asks with a grand smile on his face.
“No, it’s quite alright, Norv. I’m here for a different reason today.” I reply, leaning my weight on one hip.
“Of course, Your Highness. Name it. Whatever is within my power to provide, I shall serve you to the best of my ability.”
I smile at him. “You don’t need to call me, Your Highness, every time, Norv.”
“And yet, Your Highness, it is my honor to address you in such a way.”
I laugh a little. “Very well. If you must.” I reply, while crossing my arms. “I’m… Here to bring the prisoner his food. Where is it?” I ask.
And with that single question, the air in the kitchen shifts. Everyone looks shocked. They all look at each other as if trying to confirm what they had just heard is real.
“Your Highness, such is the job of the commoner caste. Let us bear this shame for you. Please.” Norv pleads.
“The King has commanded it.” I reply, while playing with my bracelet.
Not a single word is spoken in reply. Not even a whisper. Norv is clearly speechless and just points me in the direction of a meager plate of food, fitting for a hunter prisoner. I calmly walk over and pick the plate up before turning around and leaving the kitchen behind me, not wanting to see their faces of disappointment in me.
That wasn’t the hard part. Not by a mile. The hard part is walking from the kitchen to the guest room. In the middle of the castle. A walk of shame, clearly arranged by my father to teach me a lesson.
I walk across the hallways and pass the main dining hall carrying the prisoner’s food. There are whispers everywhere as I cross every room and hall, calling me an embarrassment and the greatest shame in centuries. They all know I can hear them, but they talk anyways. Fortunately, I can’t make out everything they say about me, but everything I do hear is equally as bad. My hearing is getting worse every single day. Soon I'll be no different than a commoner.
I’m not sure whether I want to run away, cry, or yell at the top of my lungs. But I’m the Revnian Princess. It’s my duty to keep my head held high or I’ll feel more shame than I already do.
The walk to the guest room felt like an eternity. But I’m finally here. Four Revnian Stalkers guard the door. Four elite warriors for one measly hunter? Seems a bit excessive. They look at me with steely eyes before looking down at the plate of food I’m carrying. “Your Highness?” They ask in a confused tone.
“I’m here to bring the prisoner his food.” I reply bluntly.
They all nod in acknowledgment indicating that I can enter before averting their gazes. As cold as always. At the very least they don’t judge me. Then again, I’m quite sure they don’t feel much of anything.
I slowly open the door to the guest room and see a young hunter sitting on the floor next to the bed, still wearing all his leather armor. It’s beat up and cut in multiple parts. The battle must have been fierce. There’s a single candlelight on top of the dresser next to him allowing me to see him clearly. His hair glows a slight orange color with the candlelight, but I can tell he has light brown hair. It’s short and messy like he just awoke from a century’s long sleep. He looks slightly taller than me but it’s hard to tell when he’s sitting down.
So this is the valuable prisoner? I’m not impressed. He looks up at me, studying and analyzing as I walk up to him, holding his plate of food out in front of me. I let it drop and it slams on the floor in front of him, making a small mess. “Here. Be grateful you’re getting anything at all.” I say.
He says nothing. Still just stares. Now that I’m closer it’s easier to see his light green eyes and sharp jawline. He’s actually so much better-looking than I expected. The stories of hunters make them seem like ugly looking barbarians. Pleasant surprise for me.
“That bracelet doesn’t belong to you.” A gentle, but warm toned voice speaks out.
“What?” I reply, looking down at the Hunter.
“I said that bracelet doesn’t belong to you. What’d you do? Steal that off a Hunter? A trophy of your kill?” He says.
I scoff at him and roll my eyes. Unbelievable.
“This is MY bracelet. I didn’t steal it off some Hunter’s corpse. It was a gift.” I reply, crossing my arms and shifting my weight on one hip.
“That’s a union bracelet. No hunter would ever give that to you. It’s an important part of our culture.”
“I know what it is.” I reply quickly, looking at him with disgust.
“Then you know every union bracelet has an inscription. If it really is yours then read it. Because last time I checked, you’re not a Hunter.”
“And so what? You think you know me enough to say what belongs to me and what doesn’t?” I reply, biting the inside of my cheeks in annoyance.
“Humor me.” He replies with a wry smile.
“Fine. But I don’t need to read it, I know what it says. I memorized it a long time ago.”
“Truly? You’ve already convinced me.” He says in a mocking tone that makes me want to strike him across the face. But I quickly realize that proving him wrong will be much more satisfying.
“To S.K. from K.R. Even in the darkness I’ll always be your light.” I recite it from memory.
His face instantly changes and his eyes widen. He looks completely shocked, but he doesn’t say a word.
“Proof enough? Good. I’ve had enough of this. I’m leaving. You can rot in here for all I care.” I turn around and begin to walk away, but he finally speaks up again.
“Senna?” He blurts out.
I freeze in place.
How did he know my name? I never told him.
I turn around to face him. “What did you just call me?”
“Senna. Senna Kirlae?”
It can’t be.
“Kaden?” I blurt out.
His face instantly lights up and his hostile aura leaves completely. “I’m glad. I thought maybe you’d forgotten me after all these years.” He smiles at me.
“I have.” The words came out of my mouth before I could even think. Like a reflex.
“If that was true you wouldn’t be wearing that, and have memorized the inscription.” He lifts his arm and points at my right wrist. At the bracelet I’m wearing. “You still wear the union bracelet I gave you when we were kids.” He laughs gently.
“What? No it’s just something I’ve gotten used to wearing. It has nothing to do with you!” Flustered, I quickly yank the bracelet off and throw it at him. “And my name is Sennala. Don’t just call me Senna, we’re not friends.” I reply, rushing out of the room and slamming the door behind me. This can’t be happening. My heart is beating out of my chest. The guards look at me, “Princess? Are you alright?”
Why did it have to be him? Out of all the clans, out of every single Hunter, why him?
I center myself long enough to respond to the guards. “I’m fine, don’t worry.” I tell them. They seem concerned but I quickly walk across the hallway and bend around the corner where no one can see me. I lean my back against the wall and close my eyes. My heart won’t stop racing. His name rings in my head like the tower bells of this castle. Kaden. The Renalis clans’ heir. He’s not just any prisoner. He’s practically Hunter royalty. It takes me a moment to calm my breathing and slow my heart rate. I instinctively move my arm to my wrist to play with my bracelet and realize it’s gone. The bracelet I’ve been wearing almost my entire life, is gone. My wrist feels light.
Why did I throw it at him? Why did I react that way? I’m so stupid.
- Under Lexa's Boot
- YA Novelist - Fantasy and Sci-Fi Addict
Hey I'm AeroKaia. I'm an author who's currently writing Reaper's Kiss and trying to keep up with my own release schedule (fingers crossed). It's always been a dream of mine to become a writer and share my stories with the rest of the world. Although I prefer to stick to Fantasy and Sci-Fi with a romance focus, I love writing all kinds of stories within the teen fiction category. I plan to release a YA Sci-Fi story at some point after I feel ready. One story at a time, right? Haha.
I'm a huge fan of The 100, A Discovery of Witches, and I'm currently watching Shadow and Bone.