Zerynthia turned as she heard a small knock on the door of her study. She turned, smoothing her hair back in place before sending a silent command to whomever was on the other side. The large doorway swung open to a man in his mid-twenties. A curved sword in a silver-inlaid leather sheath was fastened at his waist, partially covered by the dark gray cloak that hung from his shoulders. It fastened with a circular, silver clip, the symbol carved into it revealing his rank in the palace guard.
"Lady Castor." He murmured with a dip of his head. She didn't return the gesture, but nodded in acknowledgement.
"I... just wanted to inform you that a new set of guards will be briefed and starting their rounds today. They've all completed their training- I oversaw it myself."
"Will that be all?"
He hesitated. "Yes, Lady Catsor. But... we received word that Forane and Riverdeen seem to be building their military. The south end of Alderon also-"
"Thank you, Lieutenant." Her voice was sharp, instructing him to leave. He dipped his head again, a look of relief crossing his face as he left.
"What to do...?" The voice echoed around the room, leaving echoes in Zerynthia's head. "You 're losing the alliance with Alderon. Riverdeen and Forane have allied against you. Against us. You'll lose everything you've worked for."
Lady Castor's eyes flickered to a luminescent green. When she opened her mouth to speak, two voices entwined in a hiss. "I won't let that happen."
Posing as a Sinistrian guard was easier than Fyjun had thought. All it took was a little change to his appearance, a fairly simple backstory, a test or two on protocols and a demonstration of his flawless fighting skills.
But standing in the same place for hours on end without any entertainment or ways to come up with fabulous new pranks got very boring very quickly.
"Finally." He muttered under his black hood as another guard walked towards him. He silently exchanged his spear for the metal cuff the guard handed him. He snapped it around his wrist, turning down the corridor and towards the training bay. He stopped at the limpid set double doors, rotating the slightest so he could see inside.
Five figures occupied the massive space. Four were training, the other overseeing their movements. One person had stopped, and was gripping throwing knives tightly in her fists.
He reached out with his mind, a smug smile creeping on to his lips as the people's voices from inside the training bay cleared. What benefits there were to being a Spirit.
"Raya, stop." The blonde instructor held out her hand, and Raya placed the knives in her outreaching hand. Elise didn't blink, turning on her heel and throwing each one on to the board twenty feet away. The three embedded in the wood in a perfect triangle.
Elise turned back to Raya with cold eyes. "This session is over."
She freed her hair from it's short ponytail, shaking her head as she passed through the translucent doors, not bothering to even glance at the guard before walking away.
He glanced around the corridor, then slipped into the training bay.
Kate looked over, then started towards him. "You know what your superiors are going to do if they knew you came in here, right?"
He smirked. "Yes, but I suppose it's also true that you spoke to me first."
Kate could instantly tell that this person was her age, or close to it. His voice, first of all, sounded... young. And what she could feel of his mind without intruding did, too.
"What are you doing in here, then?"
He looked around Kate to Raya. "Helping. So that... whatever that was doesn't happen again."
Kate stepped aside after a moment, walking in sync with the guard until they reached Raya. The noble turned, yanking one of the knives out of the board. The blemishes and cuts on the wood faded as the blade drew away.
"Can I?" The guard held out his hand, and Raya gave a small, contemptuous scoff before holding one of the knives out.
He took it, twisting his body and angling his arm back before thrusting it forward in an arc, letting go of the blade as the tip became directly in line with a scarlet circle on the far wall.
Kate crossed her arms as the guard held out his arm, the knife flickering away and appearing back in his hand. This person, whoever her was, had guts to show up and outdo a noble, even if was for the sake of helping.
Raya glared, snatching it back and hurling it at the wood. The metal dug deep into the board, only the small, hollow circle on the end visible as the glint of sharp silver vanished into the white. The guard took a small step back as the noble turned to him, not looking as she mimicked the movement he had done.
"Chose your weapon." she hissed, gripping the black wound hilt of a sword.
"...Fine." Pale, white-green energy flared around his fingertips.
"Raya-" Kate knew that the guard didn't want to fight. But, since Raya had directly ordered him to, he didn't have a choice.
"Don't." She took a few steps back as her best friend spun towards her, pointing to the edge of the training bay with her sword. "Go away, and stop controlling my life like my mother."
Raya's eyes widened the slightest after the sentence slipped out of her lips. She narrowed her eyes, looking down at the glinting blade before throwing it to the floor and briskly walking out of the training bay.
Kate started after her, but the guard stepped in front.
She hesitated, but then stopped. He was right- Raya needed time alone.
Kate looked back at him. "What?"
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have... tried to interfere. I understand how she took me trying to help as outdoing her, instead."
The noble nodded after a moment. "Yeah. But I guess it just shows how much people care, kind of. She... hasn't seen a lot of that. Especially with... you know."
He gestured at the entrance to the training bay. "I should get back to... standing there."
Kate couldn't help but smile. Their steps fell in sync as the two exited the training bay.
"You friend doesn't like me very much." The guard said softly, fidgeting with his hands. He stopped at the door, the metal band around the cuff of his right wrist lengthening into a long, silver spear as he spoke.
She glanced back in the direction the noble had gone. "Raya...hides herself well." Kate looked back at him, peering into the shadows blanketing the top of his face. She probed the darkness for his eyes.
"I must say, so do you."
He smiled, turning his head to look behind him, the forward at Kate. He reached for his hood, shaking his mess of stylishly disheveled brown hair free. His blonde highlights glistened in the shallow light from the setting sun and small, flickering orbs that lined the marble corridor.
Kate's face flushed bright scarlet. This guard... was the most gorgeous person she had ever seen.
"Lady Katya Lynneth." He murmured with a bow, tossing the hair out of his eyes as he straightened. "I am yours to command."
His eyes- the eyes Kate had been searching for- were a shade of ethereal bright green. They rivaled Cressida's, a color she had only seen depicted on one specific Spirit.
"Your name." she managed to sputter, tearing her eyes away from him to keep from embarrassing herself as the guard flashed her a perfect smile.
"Today, it's Luka."
Kate gave a small tilt of her head. "Are you a Shifter?" That was the only possibility that made any sort of rational sense.
The corners of Luka's lips tugged upwards into a smirk. "Something like that."
Raya slammed the door of her room shut, giving a silent command that locked it. Her eyes fell on the thin, silver knife lying on a shelf perpendicular to the far back windowed wall. She grabbed it, fingers curling around the hilt. It looked like the knives at the training bay. She turned to stare at herself in the mirror, twirling a lock of hair before pressing the blade against the strands, cutting through and watching as a single, brown-black tress fell at her feet. She hid it behind the rest of her hair, placing the knife down on her vanity as she tied her hair up, staring at her reflection in the mirror. Her imperfect, flawed reflection in the mirror.
She moved out of it's range, out of where she could see herself as she picked up the knife, running a finger along the edge. The blood reminded her of the roses staining the palace gardens. They were mutated and needed to be fixed just to be what the royals and nobles wanted. That's what her mother wanted, too. For her to be fixed.
Raya turned the knife towards the wall, digging a long, jagged line into it. The line mimicked the trails her tears left on her face as they pooled in her eyes and ran down her cheeks.
Even though she had said for Kate to leave, a small part of her had wanted her best friend to follow, to tell her that it would be alright. But Kate hadn't come. Nevara was dead, any record of her possibly being alive vanished. And Therin...
He wasn't coming back, no matter what Kate or Danelle or Cressida said. He was lost, too.
Everyone she loved was gone.