Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 47)

“The difference between confidence and desperation is often self-awareness.”

Henry Lockley, the Bard of the Song, 439 A.C.A.

She saw it happen, months ago when they first came to the Icy Pearl Isles.

Quintus was under the water, swarmed by shark mermaids trying to get to their Queen. The memory cracked like glass as Lucy trotted toward her tent, her arms clutching to her sides, fighting the urge to transform and fly in every direction in a wild haze.

I saw him drowning. I… I saved him.

The memory of sharks sinking their teeth into his skin cracked some more.

No, no, his eyes weren’t red.


They were sinking their teeth into him, he didn’t…


She tried to remember his pain, his fear, but between the cracks, his hands were not clutching out for her to help him. His hand clutched the beast by the neck.

She tried to force herself to remember a cry of pain, and all she could remember was a growl. When she thought of there being dozens of beasts, there was one, and only one, the Queen of the mermaid community.

His eyes weren’t red.


Lucy told herself whatever she wanted, as she had for so long, but her memory would not bend to her will.
As she walked up the path to her tent, her foot caught on a rock, and she found herself on her hands and knees in the dirt. When the dirt moved with a drop of liquid, she assumed she was crying, but there were no tears coming down her face.


The lightning struck before she was ready, but still, it muffled her scream of terror. The rain came pouring down, followed by the darkness and dark clouds she had not seen in her haze.

She looked up to see the storm blowing against her steely tent, but with the flash of lightning coming again and again, her memory was taking back control.

She remembered, in the flicking moments between the constant strikes of lightning, that Quintus was not surrounded. Quintus beat the shark mermaids off on the day they first arrived. He broke their necks with his fists in his mad dash for the mermaid queen.

He swam and reached her. Her wrapped his arms half away around her neck and squeezed with the strength no man should have, not even a beastman or a beastmaster of Krone.

He was not of Krone’s mutations. The sorcerer of Krone…


It was the snap heard around the world, and she ignored it. When Quintus broke that mermaid queen’s neck with his raw strength and strength alone, she should have known then, but she refused. Her memory allowed that no longer. That day, as much of her life, would allow her none of the ignorance she wore as her cloak.

Soaked by the rain, Lucy found herself holding half of her face. Through her fingers, one eye saw the truth, and the uncovered saw what she had wanted. It was the red glow, as Quintus’s strength made itself known, that made it clear she could not forget.

“What kind of monster are you, Quintus?”

How do you look at greatness? That’s a loaded question, because what is greatness? Is it a knight cutting down a dozen men without missing a single cut or stab? Is it the warm feeling of having your head between the thighs of your next conquest? Or maybe it’s something simple, like perfectly roasted beef on a perfectly toasted sandwich. Maybe that’s greatness.

What was greatness on the sixth day, of the seventh month of ten, during the festival of Gronin, was the feeling Andy had stepping out of the carriage, in a three-piece suit, at the foot of the tallest castle in the country of Raydorn.

They say that Castle Raydorn will be taller when it’s finally finished. How can you be taller than something that already kisses the clouds?

Andy didn’t need glasses per se, but even she struggled to look at the top and see the shadow of the castle’s point into the clouds. Occupancy only goes three levels higher than most buildings, then storage after that, and a single staircase up the watchtower.

Cloudtower was not a building where people could live in the clouds, but it didn’t need to be. You looked up, and you knew without any reason that if you went to the top, you’d be among where only the birds and gods dared to dwell.

It didn’t matter how little truth there was to that.

Andy wore her whitening hair down as it just barely touched her shoulders. She didn’t avoid the tad bit of lipstick that noble lords wore or the touch of powder to hide the skin blemishes every noble hid. By all rights, she was still a woman wearing her suit, a suit that was in colors most men were not brave enough to wear.

Still, when a tuxedo-wearing servant who greeted all guests greeted her, he said, “Hello, sirs.”
Before Hennrick could say a word as he exited with her, Andy showed the servant her fang. “Ma’am to you.

The servant lost all color in his face. He bowed the entire upper half of his body and apologized.
And like that the magic was nearly stolen from her.

As they walked towards the entrance atop an actual red carpet, they were surrounded by noble guests, small business owners pretending to be nobles, and servants alike. Many had remained in the courtyard to gossip about life as if a war wasn’t being fought by their sons and daughters at their borders.

“Slow down, will ya?” Hennrick called.

Andy hadn’t even realized she’d been stomping her feet until he elbowed her.

I really should I have slept more. I have a mission here and I’m falling apart. I came here because of a vision and who else would know about visions besides her? It’s no coincidence she’s here when I would be.

I need to find her, capture her, beat her up, tie her up, and make her talk… there has to be a way where that last half doesn’t sound hot.

Then Hennrick poked her again and offered her his arm.

This man has also been very kind to me, offering me much in exchange for nothing but to keep from being bored at a party. Maybe it would be nice to have fun too. How long since I’ve been able to do that?

It would be pretty fucked up if all this is a plot by the Light to get me to loosen up.

The quiet buzz in the back of her head made her both crack a smile and scowl.
Hennrick grew a rather confused expression on his face, but it went away when Andy took his arm in hers, locking elbows. The two looked down then up, and without a word formed a rather devious smile between them.

They didn’t walk from there, they strutted, with long strides, chins held high and smile that hid a world of snarky comments and dark glares.

When they entered the atrium, they immediately stepped into the party. The castle’s welcoming half was large enough for its own party, larger than most homes across two floors. It was strewn with ice sculptures, drinks, and merry more.

Each of the ice sculptures was of a different item to bid on. Paintings, statues, and even some people – the Honorguard and famed knights. The place was filled with nobles from the counties surrounding Shadestown. The Skyholds had as many family houses owing fealty to them as any of the other big four, and their banners were not without coin.

The bids had already seemed to level out with what was going to go home with whom and who won a day with whom. It was a fundraising event for the war effort, but what portion of the war? Andy didn’t know.

What she knew was that nobles were coming up to them, her and Hennrick, and she was ready.
The first lady and her lord to greet the colorful duo barely had a word out after they introduced themselves. It didn’t matter what they said, the lady put her hand out for Hennrick to kiss, and found it in Andy’s hand instead.

The white-haired lordess with the black tips pressed her soft lips to the lady’s hand, and lingered. As the lord’s brow twitched at the woman in a tux, the same lady turned red at the wet feeling on her fingers, the quick dabs of a tongue.

As if the lady wasn’t with her husband, Andelyn Stella stood up and found herself well within arm’s distance. She pressed the lady’s hand over her heart and told her with a welcoming smile, “Sorry, I couldn’t resist knowing the touch of such beauty.”

“Oh,” was all the lady could muster as she turned to beat red. She tried turning away and covering her mouth but did not take her hand away from the… dashing… woman in front of her.

Ahem,” coughed the lord, prompting Andelyn’s eyes to slowly squint and look his way. As the lady did not see them, Andelyn’s smile still remained, but it bore into the lord when the smile did not reach her eyes.

“Apologies,” Andy told him before releasing his wife’s hand.

The lord took hold of his wife without even saying another word to Hennrick and promptly stomped off with her. He looked back once to see the look of utter evil and depravity on Andelyn’s face as she watched them walk off.

As she stared away, Hennrick stared at her, amazed with his chin in his hand. When she finally glanced his way, his amazement gave way to barely contained glee. “Oh, I knew it would be fun to bring you.”

“Not if I can get alone time with that lass.”

Her mocking of his accent made him chuckle, but her naming of the lady made him laugh out loud. “Lass? That was the Lady of House Freya, one of the richest under Skyhold!”

Andy placed her hands on her waist as she pretended to look somewhere else. “The assets that made her rich are not the assets I’m thinking about.”

“Oh my, you’re incorrigible.”

“You. Have. No. Idea.”

He cocked his head at that. “Dry spell?”

Andy leaned forward for only him to hear her words, and he leaned in to hear her. “One aim to wet with a flood.”

“Drink, sirs?”

Being called ‘sir’ once again made Andy’s flinch.

Normally this wouldn’t bother me so much, but it’s the one thing in a night that could not be more enjoyable.

Andelyn turned to the servant who came to offer the two without drinks, a proper glass. Instead, he was met with Andy’s brow and the look of death.

The servant made off with the drinks, the alcoholic ones, and Andy hadn’t even thought twice about it.
Hennrick still held his chin in his hand, his curiosity still in control, but for a completely different reason now. “You know, that was the alcohol we so crave-”

“Do I look like a ‘sir’ to you?” she blurted out, holding her hands before her as she tried to fight the urge to make public fists in front of the royal ballroom. “That’s twice now, I’ve been called sir and it’s… it’s…” She caught herself before she made a noise that was rather unseemly.

She closed her eyes and took deep breaths to calm down all while Hennrick watched, his eyes unmoving, waiting for her to calm herself better than most people he knew. Though, most people did not get so angry about what seemed to have her fuming.

When Andy finally opened her eyes, she saw Hennrick still staring with his chin in his hand, but at some point he plucked a glass of champagne with the other. Andy’s eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to it.
“Is there more?” she asked.

“Andy, I must admit-”

“You’re not going to give me that glass are-”

“No, I want to ask you a question.” He stopped touching his chin to down the glass in one gulp, nearly driving Andy to tears, until he put his hand on his heart.

Oh goody, another confession.

“I must admit, I’m terribly ignorant of your plight, Andelyn, being a male lover of women, so would you tell me why it is you’re so angered by them calling you sir? You are wearing men’s clothes, wouldn’t that make you happy?” Andy stared for a moment, anger boiling at the lack of alcohol in her hand.

Hennrick made an ‘o’ face and promptly took two steps to pluck a full glass from a lord while he was looking away. He came and handed it back to Andy who promptly downed it and had… a rather euphoric look on her face. Her smile was slow, steady, and impossible to ignore.

“Oh, I needed that.”

“Looks like you need to get topped too, but that’s neither here nor there. Can you answer my question?”

“What’s there to answer?” she asked back. “I don’t see why my clothes define the way people refer to me. Why can’t I be a woman who wears pants? It’s ridiculous that with all of Raydorn’s magic and power, it’s shocking for women to do anything other than open their legs to let things in and out.” 



He shook his head. “Nothing, I just think you and my lady love would get along swimmingly.” 

“Is… is that all you’re thinking? What about what I said?” He shrugged. “I’m privileged to not know your struggle, I have compassion but not sympathy or empathy. I do not feel what you do, nor do I quite understand. Quick wit only goes so far, if I were to say anything now, on impulse, I would regret minutes from now.” 

Andy slowly cocked her head at him, and narrowed her eyes, waiting for him to say more, but he wouldn’t. His mouth dare not say more until she would. “You’re far more careful a man than you would have had me think.” 

He snapped his fingers at her and gave her a thumbs up. “I, for one, think that’s a good thing.” 

Andy rolled her eyes as she caught sight of the nearest server. She asked him for a drink and he poured a glass for her with the bottle of champagne. “Thank you,” she said, as she took the bottle and two empty glasses, leaving him with one glass.

Hey!” he called after her, but then he mumbled something about not being paid enough.

She came back to bump shoulders with Henry, and nodded him on. We came to party and it’s about time we did so. If there’s something to learn here, destiny-

There was this hum in the back of her head that stalled that thought.

She mentally rolled her eyes.… if there’s something to learn, then the light will show me the way.

There was a happy buzz in her head.

As she poured her drink, Hennrick had already downed his own.

“Something tells me you have a drinking problem,” she joked. 

“I prefer to call it a lovely hobby.” 

“Not music?” 

“That’s a passion…” he said, as he stared off into the distance, his expression dropping as he came over a rather grim realization. “And a job… that believe I should be getting too, but after my performance, I’ll find you by the bar.” 

“Assuming there is one, they were pouring drinks into glasses behind the counter.” 

Hennrick winked at her. “Do me the cherished favor of finding out, would you?” He had told her ahead of time that he would have to perform, but it still had her slumping her shoulders.

We just got here, and I’ve wasted so much time over the small stuff. It’s like my little tics aren’t so little anymore. I’ll find that bar, and when he’s done, we’re drinking the night away. Leave the mission to the others. It’s time someone else did the heavy lifting in these social circles.

Andy put on a cheery tone, assuring Hennrick, “Sure, sure,” waving him away as he started towards the stairs, “I’ll…” 

He was out of earshot by the time she started trailing off, but it wasn’t him disappearing that caught her eye. It was who he would pass in his ascent.

A raven in the form of a woman, with glistening black lips, pale skin, and the eyes of a snake.

Amidala Kain scanned the crowd over with her eyes and soon their eyes locked. What luck for Andy’s prey to have found her first, but Andy didn’t feel so lucky.

Fuck me.

It was always easy to give Malum shit about his stealth skills. If he wore the most obvious and foreboding cloak, how would he ever sneak into places? Few were ever able to see the long con in it. While everyone knew that the shadows of the Black Legion wore long black cloaks and masks that covered their faces, how many would recognize him now? Who could truly point to the Susannan merchant, with his winter wares, purple shawl, and horned-rimmed glasses, and think, yes, that’s an assassin?

Now many, especially with how high his voice sounded. “You see ma’am, this fabric dye isn’t any old color, but one made with the poisonous tip from a scorpion found in pits of the Pantherlands.

“Oh is it?”

“With this, you won’t have to beat them, they’ll lay down at your feet!”

“Oh ho, ho!” 

It took little effort to get the older noblewoman of Rayne and others like her to surround him and his wares. 

No one finds anything in the Pantherlands but is this white lady going to know that? No, she isn’t, Malum knew.

He allowed the noble lady to act as his shield from the guards as he scammed her out of a couple of dollars and made his way into the palace.

He had been there, scamming nobles out of their wares for hours before he saw Andy walk in with… You know, I never found out who that was. That’s going to have to be her problem for now.

Oh, oh, sir!

From underneath his purple shawl, the glint in Malum’s smile was something to bask in. It nearly made the noblewomen and the friends who followed her blush. 

“What can I do for you?” he asked them with a bow of his head and flicking motion of his hand. It’s all in the display, jazz them up and they’ll think they’re important. If they think they’re important, then they think they have to prove it with every word out of their mouths.

“Oh, I was telling my friend about your dye, but we were wondering if you had any fabrics we could purchase already made?”

Malum smirked, but in his disguise as a foreign merchant betraying his homeland for cash… people expected a smile like that. He flipped open the chest on his back and took several fabrics with a little sleight of hand. He presented the deep purples and blues they thought came from Susanna, but in reality, he bought them from a local sewer. How little it matters where things come from. It only matters where we say they’re from.

The three noblewomen were putty in his hands, feeling the fabric, singing its praises, how smooth it felt, and how rich the texture was.

If only you visited your local stores, you’d have known this material already. It’s just well-made cloth.

But they treated it like it was gold, the shortest of them, the original sucker rubbed the purple fabric against her face. “Oh, how I wish I had a dress made from this for the ball. I could have shown up that witch.”

Malum’s brow arched.

The second noblewoman, a tall but thin needle of hay herself, smacked the first on her arm. “Are you out of your mind? Kain has had people flogged for less.”

Malum smirked.

“Yes, peasants.

“Kain,” Malum pretended not to know, “is that warlock?”

The third, a timid, quiet woman, whose attention and hands were on the cloth, until he spoke the witch’s name. “You know of her?” she asked in a low, squeaky diminutive voice. She seemed so small, but with eyes so big, she became a tiny creature that one should fear.

Malum shifted away from the third, as he let out some nervous laughs. “While it has been some time, I was always told to beware the warlock of Raydorn.” He even began to awkwardly scratch the back of his head, and purposely stutter in his sentences to really sell it. “I-is she really here? M-m-maybe this isn’t the place for a f-f-foreigner like me.”

They seemed to fall for his tricks, appearing at the very least sympathetic towards his false plight.

The first noblewoman even took his hands in hers, as if it were something that would calm his nerves. If only it were someone else, and not an assassin and thief all in one who she was touching. How easily he was able to cover up the sense of death he should have carried with him.

He did his best to mock comfort as she spoke, craning his back and appearing as small as the women around him as possible. “Oh, she won’t be out for some time,” the noblewoman tried to assure him, “even still this is a celebration, pay her no mind.”

She kind of reminds me of my grandmother. She is caked in makeup, she could be twice as old as she looks.

The small and squeaky one appeared right next to him.

Malum shuddered under her unblinking gaze, trying his best to react appropriately to her presence, but also to get a grip. Getting a grip was hard to do when there were just going to be people that sent a chill down one’s spine. “Honestly,” she said with her sharp yet diminutive voice, “the stories you’ve heard are likely just talk.” 

“So right you are,” the tall one hollered as if she wanted everyone to hear for some godforsaken reason. She even clapped to herself at the thought of some new gossip on the edge of her tongue. “Have any of you heard this new one? Some twit has been going around saying Lady Skyhold’s screams were coming from the warlock’s room, but her lady looks more than fine, she’s absolutely glowing.”

Oh please.

But then Malum smirked and beckoned the three women to listen. They leaned in with morbid curiosity. “Sounds like the screams were of a… and pardon me… carnal nature.”

“Oh my…” the little one squeaked, and then the grandmother squawked.

“Devil you, wouldn’t a handsome young man like yourself imagine such things.”

Malum threw up his hands as he admitted, “Guilty, handsome I am.”

The tall one agreed, “Is he a riot or what?”

Malum laughed along with them, assured that despite their loud and obnoxious laughter, he had formed the perfect cloak with these three ladies. They were the perfect repellant to unwanted attention and left him free to roam the room. It didn’t take long for him to catch sight of Andy again, but still, he could find no sign of the others.

Here’s hoping Astrid and Jack don’t cause any…Malum’s thought trailed off as he caught sight of Andy, just as the color was draining from her face. It only took a moment to follow her field of vision and catch sight of the witch.

Amidala knew they were there, but more importantly, her eyes were set on Andelyn Stella.

Anything she could want with Andy… can’t be good.

As if to prove him right, Amidala began her trek down the atrium stairs, her eyes never leaving Andy, and Andy was… Did she manage to drink herself drunk already? Fuck.

Already, things were about to go awry, and the assassin aimed to take it upon himself to fix it. Who else could he trust to save the mission other than himself? No one.

“Sorry, m’ladies, I’m on a mission,” he said as he leaped over their heads. Two out of three jaws dropped as he somehow disappeared into the crowd wearing bright purple. 

We’re here to interrogate the witch, yet the witch is approaching Andy? The archmage wanted to know about Andy too, is she why? If they could harness Andy’s visions of the past… I don’t want to know what information they seek.This mission was a bad idea, and I can’t even say I told you so. No one made me come.

Andy downed the last of her champagne in preparation for the warlock, but as the warlock was in spitting distance, so was the merchant in purple.

Madam Kain, has anyone ever told you that purple brings out the menace in your eyes?” 

The warlock’s eyes were rather uneven. One eye was completely open, and the other squinting and twitching. If someone said something so strange about your eyes, you’d make a rather ghastly look of surprise too. “The… the fuck did you just say?!” the warlock cursed.


The music stopped as the warlock dropped vulgarity in the middle of Cloudtower’s atrium. Warlock Amidala was known for many things, but one could never say she was composed. A person who was so rarely composed wouldn’t be all that intimidating, they’re easy to manipulate. But someone whose facade didn’t falter in the face of the rawest insults? That was someone to be feared.

But who could predict a complete weirdo?

“I asked you a question,” she told Malum, “what the hell’s wrong with you?”

Malum’s grin showed all of his teeth, making the warlock’s lip twitch and form this unsettled expression on her face. As he pointed at her, “I believe I asked you first.”

The warlock shook her head, as if she could shake off this preposterous man before her, and went to sidestep him.

But he stepped in her way again, somehow with a cheap neckless made from beads in his hands. “I think this would truly bring out the murder in your cheeks.”

While others who couldn’t help but listen gasped at his comment, Amidala didn’t make a sound. Her eyes were too busy narrowing and her face too busy growing red at the sight behind the merchant, or rather the lack thereof. Malum managed a glance to see that Andy was long gone… hopefully without more to drink.

Guards!” Amidala yelled as her fingers gripped the bridge of her nose.

I know that being feared is great and all, but there’s something fulfilling about being annoying.

Ffft! Fftt!

Malum had to restrain himself as he was taken by both arms by two soldiers. How did they… how the fuck is everyone a sleuth nowadays?!

“Where shall we take him, my lady?” one of them asked her.

Malum looked the man up and down and found that he was not wearing the blue and silver colors of House Skyhold, but a familiar black and red… colors that should not be taking orders from the witch of all people.

“Outback like a dog,” she muttered behind her hand. 

Surely others would… Malum began to think, but with the way her voice hummed, the use of magic hid was apparent.

“As you command.”

The two guards turned around and forcibly turned him around as well. If he wanted to, he could have let them carry him across the floor, their grip was so strong. These are men who finished boot camp…

They took him down a hall where only the servants treaded, and then soon, not even then. As they did so, Malum remained quiet, the charade no longer necessary.

Eventually, they opened a door to the kitchen stables, where the smell and sounds of future meals would hide the evidence. “Nothing to say, yellowtail?” the guard said as he unsheathed his sword but kept a hand on Malum.

Malum only scoffed at them.… clearly not from Jack’s boot camp.

Before the soldier on his right could even consider swinging, Malum ducked his head forward and pull both soldiers in. They had allowed him too much leverage. One banged his head off the metal shoulder of the other, releasing his grip on Malum as he stumbled. One free hand was all Malum needed to hold Siwang and remove it from his long purple shawl.

Sith. Sith.

In a quiet flash, both soldiers were nicked and paralyzed by poison. They crumpled to the ground, and there was no mask to hide the smirk on Malum’s face. Without the mask, one might have been able to tell that smirking was almost always what he did with his mouth nowadays.

Now to inspect these… colors.

The men were paralyzed but still conscious. It was a rather nasty agent compared to Malum’s usual paralyzing potion, but it worked faster. This meant that the soldier’s eyes followed Malum the way people thought statues followed people. Malum ignored their looks as he prodded their fancy armor. New, not worn in the slightest, and they hide all the details with these fancy accouterments.

He had to pull away most of their bloody red cloaks before he found the first crest on them. Jack had found the same one on the guards he had interrogated the night before. The Aurora Blade.

I’m… no… completely possible. House Thorn is not a name the crown would ever let die. It held power, even if there was no left to lead it with the name.

Malum raised his finger only a few inches higher to see what else lay in store for him. He didn’t have to search around to feel a second crest etched into their clothes, something a lesser detective would have overlooked. A tetragrammaton was etched into the marker laid over the armor, another crest Malum had made time to become familiar with. The crest of Kain.

Fakes or traitors, these two are. It doesn’t matter.

Malum flipped his sword to hold it up right.

Slick! SLICK!

No, it doesn’t matter at all.

The acolytes of Kain were dead, and Malum Chun was free to roam the castle walls.

Of the avenues one could find their way into the castle, Jack most assuredly took the hardest, and perhaps the smelliest. Thankfully, he had the Wind to protect himself from most stenches, but it could not protect his nose from the slop the kitchen was dumping out the window and down the mountainside he was climbing. 

No wonder mermaids hate us, Jack told himself. Slop nearly hit him as it fell past the back of his head. I really need to come up with better plans.

For as much as he derided the plan, and for as much as his fingers seemed to bleed, his infiltration strategy was going off without a hitch.

There was a moment when a dishwasher stuck her head out the window for fresh air. If she had turned her head even a little before pulling herself back in, she would have saw Jack frozen in place just beside the window. He was lucky she didn’t turn an inch, but even that crisis didn’t completely phase him.

He managed to climb up several stories without a harness or any kind of protection to a bedroom window. Thankfully, it wasn’t locked, and he could pull himself in. He let a loud groan go along with all of his efforts. “Oh, why do I do this to myself?

He took a short rest but was quickly woken by the sound of servants and maids walking and talking through the halls.

“Did you see him?” he heard one say, which barely piqued Jack’s interest. “He’s not as tall as I thought he would be.” That comment made him pick up his head.

They couldn’t be… there are a lot of people they say that about.

“Would you really want him to be all ugly and huge under all that armor?” said another.

Was it the same conversation? How was Jack to know, there was no reason for him to believe he knew what they were talking about.

But he got up to the door anyway. He pressed his ear to the wood and heard just what he wanted to, the absolutely mad stroke of luck.

“They say he never lets the blade out of his sight,” he heard another say.

It’s him.

There wasn’t much logic to the knowledge Jack held or reason behind his incredible luck, but he felt it in his chest that he was hearing what he was supposed to hear.

“You don’t think he left it in his room?” Jack heard another say, as he began to get himself resituated all over again. 

“What the fuck do you think I just said?” 


Maybe it was the good news, or the progress he was making, but those two made Jack chuckle.

As soon as they were gone, Jack stuck his head out into the halls of the castle. There weren’t many large rooms on the floor just one level above all the halls where the party was. He crouched to move silently, but in his excited hurry, he wasn’t as quiet as he should have been.

“You don’t think Stacia would try to… sneak into his room would you?” 

The sound of a woman coming up the nearest stairs made Jack summon the Wind. By the time she and her companion walked onto the floor, Jack had thrust himself to the ceiling where he could hang by the chandelier.

The two women complained about a window, but the other didn’t wait long to comment, “Stace’s a kleptomaniac, not crazy.” 

“Yeah… plus, with how busy the castle is, it’s not like she could get upstairs today.” 

He’s upstairs?

Is he there now or is that where he’s staying?

“Who knew knights could get such treatment.”

If I can find it, I can wait there for him regardless.

As soon as they were gone, Jack levitated himself to the ground and decided to go up the stairs. He slowly slinked towards the corner as he could hear the clang of dishes and utensils clanking around. He heard more servants talking about the only thing he wanted to hear about.

“Why the hell does he get the tower room?” he could hear one man complaining to another. “Isn’t that like… the worst idea?” 

Tower room… he’s at the top of the castle… of course, he’s at the top of the castle. Of course, I gotta walk up all these fucking stairs.

“I heard he’s trying to get his own griffin.” 

Jack rolled his eyes.

Kion just wants to be away from all of you.

“That’s crazy, I thought those were only going to be for Stormguard.” 

“The Aurora Knight could crush an Honorguard, why would anyone tell him no.”

He makes a fair point, but still off the mark.

As soon as he heard the door shut, Jack was moving up the stairs. After a single level, he realized he couldn’t go up anymore, and had to make his way to the central staircase. As he did, he couldn’t help but listen to each conversation as he went. Over time, the constant chatter about the Aurora Knight didn’t feel like good luck.

“Do you think the Knight’s lonely?” Jack heard one servant ask. “I don’t think a man like that gets lonely. You leave the helmet on all the time for a reason.”

Of course, he gets lonely, everyone gets lonely.

“A man like that doesn’t have friends, a man like that is alone.” 

“I bet he chooses it. He’s a freak if he wants to stay hobbled by all that armor.”

Why would these peasants know the first thing about him? He wanted to yell and scream at them, his voice rising in the back of his throat, but he shoved it down. He wouldn’t jeopardize himself, and his mission… even as the comments got worse.

“I bet he has a face not even a mother could love.” 

How dare-

“I bet he doesn’t love anyone, someone who killed that many people…” 

You wouldn’t know the first-

“I heard he split a man in two once.” 

“The Aurora Knight sounds terrifying.”

To think, you’ve been stuck, surrounded by these people, Kion, alone… but I’m almost there.

Jack didn’t want to admit it to himself, but as he was stuck listening to more and more people, he was turned around. He wasn’t wandering with direction, so much as he was being corralled as he deftly avoided being caught. It was almost a bit uncanny how he managed to avoid detection, but all considering his destination, it made sense, or it would be better to say that it would.

But Jack was too distracted to consider whether or not he was lost. The waiters, the servants, and all the other names to refer to the staff… all kept talking and talking, about him.

The man Jack wanted nothing more than to find, couldn’t escape the minds and tongues of these people.

Jack bit down on his tongue as he heard one say, “The Aurora Knight’s a creep.”

He gripped his nails into his arms as he heard from another, “The Aurora Knight’s taken.”

He had to cover his mouth from growling upon hearing, “He spends so much time with the warlock.”

And it wouldn’t stop, it just went on and on and on.

“I bet he gives it to her real good.”

“Monsters frolic together.”

“I can’t wait until he leaves.”

“I can’t wait until he’s dead.”

Infections were things you couldn’t shake, and gossip was a social infection that spread through the air. It seeped into a person’s mind so that even when there was no one around, you could still hear it.

Jack could still hear it, even as he eventually began his ascent up the tower. There was no one to hear, but someone he certainly heard. They only replayed over and over in his head.

“He’s her plaything.”

“He’s a machine.”

“He’s so quiet.”

“He’s a creep.

“Who’d trust a guy like that?”

“Who’d want to talk to a guy like that?”

“No one likes someone who doesn’t talk.”

“I hope they replace him.”

“I hope they kick him out.”

“I hope he dies.”

“I hope he never finds love again-” 


Jack swung the door open to the tower room in his attempt to escape the voices rattling through his head. He should have been careful, he should have listened and checked the room. He had no idea who was inside, whether or not it was safe. He didn’t even question whether it was locked or unlocked, but it was too late to ask.

Now, Jack was in the room, his face in his hands, trying to block out the voices, trying to regain control. The room itself helped to ground him with just how empty it was. There wasn’t a mess, just neatly packed boxes, clean floors, and thoroughly dusted corners. He looked for all the telltale signs of his lost love, and from the state of the room, he knew one thing for sure.

“Kion was never here, the only thing he’s ever been able to clean is his sword and his hair, and this room is spotless.”

“Just because your ex will live in filth doesn’t mean I will,” Diana said from her seat on the windowsill.

Jack stared at his sister, not with rage or the threat of violence. There was nothing in him at that moment. After all he’d done, and all the hope he had, how could he feel anything but cheated? And being cheated leaves you empty.

Diana let a long sigh, seeing her little brother in such a state. She muttered to herself, “Here, we have a man with nothing behind the eyes.”

Jack could barely comprehend her words. It hadn’t been said, but it was all crashing down on him anyway. They had all said that Kion was here, but was there a lick of evidence? How could everything align so perfectly against his desire?

Jack rambled, unable to fathom it.

“But, the waiters, the servants, everyone… they all had something to say, they were talking about Kion… and yet…” 

“Jack,” Diana finally called his name. When he looked up and matched her eye, she was shaking her head, just barely holding back the most condescending of smirks.

“Believe it or not, it’s easy to pay waiters to say things that aren’t true.”

Leave a Reply