Daughter of Light (rewrite) / Chapter 6
Posted January 21st, 2019 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
“Hear me out,” Finn said, unable to shake the smile from his lips.
Ciara took a deep breath, folded her hands in front of her, and listened. Her forest-green eyes were wide with curiosity. Finn put a hand over her eyes, blocking her vision. With his free hand, he raised his now colored illustration of the view from Berea’s royal forest—where he’d sat on the boulder and sketched. He removed his hand and waited, his stomach dancing with butterflies.
“What do you think?”
“It’s…it’s good,” Ciara said, twisting her eyebrows and turning to him.
“No, no, no,” Finn said. “What do you think about seeing this? In real life?”
“That would be incredible but—”
“But,” Finn interjected. He dropped the drawing and stepped in front of her. “It’s already decided. Tomorrow. You have a two hour break. You and me are going to go to the spot where I drew this and have a very romantic outing.”
Ciara’s face glowed like a ray of sun. “Are you serious?”
“This is…that’s…” She squeezed him in an embrace so tight Finn started to worry about having a few broken ribs.
He chuckled and put a hand under her jaw, tilting her face up to see his own.
“Is this what you want?” He asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
Her eyelashes brushed her cheekbone and she raised herself and kissed him.
“Yes,” she breathed.
Liar. Murderer. That’s not true. You’re exaggerating.
Finn bit back each retort as his father rattled off yet another arrogant declaration. His face grew redder as he spoke, his forehead creased, his voice booming. Anger was one of Leon Hadar’s favorite emotions, so he resorted to it as fast and often as possible.
“Those Witchen scum have no business killing our men like that!” He yelled, banging his fist into his long meeting room table. An assortment of men and women lined the room, all staring at their hands except for Jeor Krenswall and a few other meaty men, who raised their voices in agreement.
“What were they thinking? Do they think they actually stand a chance?” Asked a pudgy man wearing a long blue cloak and a bejeweled sword he’d never used.
Maybe, Sir Brendon, they were thinking they were going to defend themselves against ruthless, bloodthirsty swine such as yourself.
“I have half-a-mind to go into their country and kill them myself. Kill that bloody Blue Eyed Witch,” his father grumbled and tightened his fist around a goblet stem. Finn readied himself to duck. It wouldn’t have been the first time his father had thrown a tantrum and thrown something heavy and expensive. Cyrille had to have gotten it from somewhere, and it definitely wasn’t Finn’s late stepmother, who had spent the last years of her life walking around the castle in a melancholy sadness. Eventually the stone walls made her go mad and she offed herself—threw her body off her and his father’s bedroom balcony into the sea.
The servants said that her body hit the bluffs before it made it to the waves, and that her blood stained the palestone cliffs for weeks.
“Maybe you should,” Finn said, catching himself off-guard. His eyes grew wide and he suddenly wanted to crawl inside himself and hide. He’d never said anything like that out loud—always keeping such remarks in his head.
Then Sir Brendan broke into a jiggling laugh, spraying spittle on the mahogany table.
Though Leon Hadar glared at Finn beneath the weight of his golden crown.
“You think my son is funny, Sir Brendan?” The king drawled, sipping his wine.
The knight at his father’s right stopped laughing like a wave crashing against the shore, and cleared his throat with a long swallow. “No. No, your majesty.”
Sir Brendan shook his head, his neck fat trembling.
“Pity,” Leon Hadar flicked his eyes across the table until they landed on Finn. “I find him hilarious.” He stood, long, muscular legs stretching out to their full height, releasing a long groan. Like a cat closing in on a mouse, he circled the table.
“In fact,” the king continued, “I think he’s brilliant. Just brilliant. Which is why I don’t find his idea amusing in any way. No…”
He crept behind Finn and leaned down, his breath tickling the back of Finn’s neck. He twisted his shoulders as his father whispered, “I think it’s genius.”
He retracted himself and resumed his slow, feline pace. “Which is why I have decided to send him into Mohana to retrieve the Blue Eyed Witch. To bring her back here. Alive.”
Finn’s heart stopped. His lungs froze. Every organ in his body shuddered.
Into Mohana. The heart of the Witches. To retrieve a murderess.
Finn opened his dry mouth and said, “I wasn’t suggesting that I be the one who—”
“Nonsense. Of course it has to be you. You are my son, after all. You will one day rule this country.” Darkness clouded the king’s eyes. “If you can’t accomplish this mission, how can I—hell, how can anyone trust you to take the throne after I’m gone?”
Finn shut out the idea of actually experiencing the lush mountains of Mohana and instead focused on the harsh reality of what this job entailed.
“I have to go through the Red Desert?” He asked.
“Of course,” Leon Hadar said. “Unless of course, you would prefer sailing around all of the continent to get there?”
“No…” Finn was like an insect being examined under glass, every man and woman staring at him as he fumbled to find words to say. “I don’t understand. Why me?”
“Because, out of everyone in this gods forsaken country you are one of the only two people I trust.” The king’s eyes glinted.
Finn gritted his teeth and buried his fists deep in his pockets. He could still get out of this. There was still a way that he wouldn’t have to go into Mohana. On a deadly mission. If he…if he died he would never see Ciara again. He had a better chance of running off, sailing south to Daenysi, and never getting caught than he did of surviving this journey.
“Who else?” Finn asked.
“I’m thinking a ten man group.”
“Let me think. You, and Jeor of course. Seven of my personal knights. And…that poor friend of yours.”
Finn almost laughed. “Castor?”
“Why? Why him?”
“Because, Finn, if you return successfully, then each of you will be rewarded. Generously.”
Not that Finn needed more money, but Castor and his father did.
Could it be, that his father actually had a hint of generosity in his cold soul?
“I will ask him,” Finn said.
The king clicked his tongue. “Tell him it’s an order.”
Castor was speechless.
Mouth hung open, eyes wide, he sat behind the work bench, which was scattered with halfway built toys.
“You’re serious? He said that?”
“You’re sure that’s what he said?”
Finn sighed. “Yes.”
“This is…incredible,” Castor’s mouth cracked into a smile.
Finn blinked. “You heard me, right? We have to go into Mohana. My father, the King of Euanthe, wants me, you, and a handful of soldiers to fight our way through a country full of Witches.”
Castor fiddled with the toy. “You don’t get it.”
The shadows on his face from the single-lantern were long and soft. “Toy making isn’t a very sought-after business, you know? Father…he’s struggling to meet the tax requirements. He doesn’t know if we can last another three months without downsizing.”
Finn glanced around at the already cramped downstairs to their small two-story house.
“We wouldn’t be able to keep our business much longer in a place like that. Basically, we’re done for. At this rate, we’ll be living in the slums next year.”
Finn didn’t even want to imagine the kinds of jobs they might have to take to make ends meet down there. He wasn’t going to imagine, because that was never going to be reality.
“So this…this mission is your only chance at still having a life?”
“A good one, at least,” Castor said.
Finn relaxed his shoulders. His best friend’s willingness to go made it far easier to acquiesce to his father’s command. If Castor wanted to go—if he needed for this to be a success—then there was a new drive that hadn’t been there before. A drive to accomplish the goal.
“When do we leave?” Castor asked.
Finn shrugged and slumped his shoulders, the stool beneath him numbing his rear end.
Castor sagged, dropping the screws and coils he played with. “How am I going to tell my father?”
Finn scoffed. “How am I going to tell Ciara?”
Castor raised an eyebrow, a devilish glean in his dark brown iris. “We lie?”
Finn opened his mouth to object, but no other ideas came to mind. “We lie.”
“Your father is sending you to Xanthe?” Ciara asked again, posing for another one of Finn’s portrait drawings. She laid across his bed with her hands folded beneath her chin, her sleeves billowy around her wrists.
He grunted and drew the ruffled line of her calf under her pants—returned to the frizzy coils of red around her ears and temples.
“That’s just so strange, considering his recent attacks on their border.”
“I think he wants me to be some kind of diplomat to introduce a new treaty or something,” Finn said, feeling his throat constrict as the lie came up, the rock in his esophagus growing heavier and harder to swallow.
She dropped her eyes to the duvet beneath her, focusing on one of the frayed seams.
“I shouldn’t be gone for very long. A month perhaps.”
Ciara shot up, breaking the pose. “A month?”
Finn jumped, breaking his lead on the paper. “A month is not that long.”
“It feels like a long time to not see each other.”
He sat aside the sketchbook and climbed onto the bed. Her hand intertwined with his, the warmth from her fingers seeping into his chilled skin.
“It will go by so fast,” Finn said, touching his forehead against hers. “You won’t even notice I’m gone.”
Ciara’s fingers trailed his jaw like a whisper. She bent upward and planted a small, gentle kiss above his eyebrows.
“I will miss you, Finn Hadar.”
Finn smirked and kissed her, the guilt from his lie already surging within him like a tsunami. He knew that eventually it would hit land and shatter everything.
“I’ve got to leave,” Ciara said, stepping on feather-light feet toward the door. “But tomorrow is the day.”
Finn smiled and said goodnight, though his mind plagued his sleep with questions and worries.
Why didn’t Ciara question my lie? Did she really believe it?
Why is Father sending me on this mission? He’s never had faith in me, never believed that I was worthy of doing anything. Maybe this is a test. The final test for me to prove that I can be the king after him, even if it feels more like a burden than a gift to me. And why Cyrille? She belonged here, with her dresses and her swords and her endless servants to torture.
And Castor…Father would never single him out for such an important mission unless he had an ulterior motive. And if he does then it can’t be good.
Finn turned over hundreds of times, unable to find a position that allowed him a good night’s rest. His pillow was too lumpy and his mattress had crumbs in it and his sheets weren’t wrapped the right way around his legs. The moon was too bright coming in through the windows, a pale light singling him out from the rest of the world.
Let me sleep, he told his body.
But his body didn’t listen.
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