[UPDATE] Story Will Be Late

Yeah, “Stolen Personality (Temp. Title)” is going to be late.

I don’t know if it will be out today or if I’m going to postpone it.

The story is part way done.

I’m still rebuilding momentum from taking April (for the most part), so it’ll get done when it gets done.

(I also strained my forearm, so that’s also recovering, so I can’t write for very long – gotta take frequent breaks and do lots of stretches.)

Thanks for understanding!

I’ll let you know when it’ll be posted.

[UPDATE] Next Story May 17th, 2022

I have been posting stories every two weeks since September 7th, 2021.

A story would have been up today, April 19th, 2022. However, I did not have one finished to post, therefore I haven’t posted anything.

The next story is “Stolen Personality (Temp. Title)” and it will be posted May 17th, 2022 at midnight ET.

It has been started and I anticipate it to be completed by that time.

I have made a decision to use this next month to complete the story and do additional work. Stay tuned for more information on what my upcoming schedule looks like! Information will be posted over at Rambles.

In the meantime, feel free to read what is currently available or visit Rambles for a plethora of posts available for your reading pleasure!

[UNEDITED FIRST DRAFT] Untitled Bedelia’s Story #2

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY. YOU are the very first person to read it – I haven’t even read it in its entirety yet!

You WILL come across numerous issues including:

  • spelling mistakes;
  • grammar issues;
  • weak sentence structure;
  • repeated words;
  • unnecessary words;
  • missing words;
  • lack of details/descriptions;
  • confusing details/descriptions;

Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.

Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.

2 YEARS LATER…

Bedelia could just feel something was off. There was an unusual air of excitement around the castle, no matter where she went. The servants all seemed to be buzzing about something but what was it? Bedelia kept her head forward, but her ears open for whatever it could be.

Was I not informed about something? she wondered. The clacking of her shoes on the ground echoed in the hallway, silencing the whispers of the servants up ahead. She glanced out out the windows around her, quickly calculating the time. It’s much too early to see the King and Queen over something like this. I am certain they would have informed me if it had been an event…perhaps it’s something among the rest of the servants?

Bedelia reached the end of the hallway and walked into a large hall filled with a large desk to the right. Straight ahead was a longuing area with a ginarmous fireplace and numerous couches. The left were several tables and to the right were numerous beds. The hall itself was pretty empty, although there was several servants scattered around.

The biggest cluster of servants was in front of the fireplace, quiet for the summer. For once, Bedelia could hear what the servants were saying.

“Are you kidding me? No way.”

“No, are you kidding me? They’re just too cute! Don’t you want to root for them?”

“Who in their right mind would cheer for them?”

Oh, is there romance in the air that I am unaware of? Bedelia pushed up her glasses. It has been so very long since a marriage came out from the castle! The last two servants to get married were from King Wilibald’s rule, yes? Bedelia couldn’t help but smile. Her mind vaguely recalled two servants – Cecilia and Monique – who had been so in love, they managed to get permission to be wed. That was shortly before I became head servant, wasn’t it?

Bedelia stood behind the couch and smiled. “Cheer for whom?”

She watched the servants scatter, moving apart from each other. The two who had been sitting on the couch immeditately stood up and bowed their heads. “G-good day, Ms. Bedelia,” they greeted.

“Good afternoon,” she replied. Bedelia’s smile grew. “I came to ask for volunteers to assist with some storeroom cleaning, but first, I would love to ask what the chatter is all about? I do seem to be hearing it everywhere.”

Bedelia watched the nervous looks being exchanged among the servants. It can’t possible be something all that bad. 

After a long moment of silence, the light purple haired woman spoke up in a small voice. “Brent proposed to Princess Angelica.”

Bedelia’s genuine smile cracked. She shut her eyes hard, as if to clear them, and swung her head to the servant. “The boy did what?”

The other servant, a navy blue-haired man stood up straight. “B-Brent proposed to the p-princess, Ms. Bedelia.”

A laugh threw itself out of Bedelia’s mouth. Again. And again. And again. Her smile never faded, but it was no longer one of joy – instead, it was stabs of anger. She could see the servants becoming paler by the moment. She leaned back and folded her arms. “How propesterous! There is no way the boy would have done such a thing – even though he often crosses the boundaries of being servant, he just wouldn’t go that far. It just is not possible.”

Bedelia felt herself increasingly become cold underneath the stares from the servants. She stared at them back. Her smile fully faded. Slowly, she stated, “even if he did cross such a boundary, the King and Queen would surely put a stop to it.”

A dark pink-haired person raised their hand. “Ms. Bedelia?” they asked in a small, quiet voice.

“Yes, Chihiro?”

“Brent asked the King and Queen directly and they…they both said they would think about it. And they seemed overjoyed by it too.”

Bedelia sent darts at Chihiro with her eyes. “And I must ask – how do you know that?”

“I witnessed the propsal last night,” replied Chihiro, quickly stating their observation.

It was as if glass had shattered within Bedelia. Her eyes glazed over and all she felt was numbness. Her eyes bore into the unlit fireplace past the servants.

“Ms. Bedelia?”

Bedelia slowly moved her head over to the purple-haired servant. “Ah…” Bedelia cast her eyes down. “Yes, Cecile?” She could feel her own voice being too soft.

“I’m willing to volunteer to clean the storerooms,” replied Cecile. Her voice was small. Bedelia’s heart-warmed – somewhere, she appreciated how observant the servants were. The quietness was just what she needed.

The other servants raised their hands. “We’ll help too!”

Bedelia gently smiled. “Thank you…very well. Please start with the basement storeroom and work your way up.”

“Yes!”

The servants scattered and ran out the door, leaving Bedelia standing alone in front of the giant fireplace.

She placed her hand over her heart and looked down at the couch in front of her, only to look over at the large windows that surrounded the room a moment later. Did they really say that they would ‘think’ about it? 

She slightly clasped the fabric of her blouse underneath her hand. No…they could not have…perhaps it was heard wrong? She looked up at the large, ash brown doming ceiling. Or could it just be entertainig them? They are still both only 15. She cast her gaze back downward. Surely, they will be having Princess Angelica find a far more suitable husband next year. She clasped her hands together. I pray to the stars that the King and Queen will reject such a proposal! 

***

Bedelia’s blood was boiling all the way up to her throat. Her eyes had once again witnessed a scene that reinforced what she had learned only a few weeks earlier – Brent had proposed to Princess Angelica. And what had she been finding? The boy continoues to overstep his bounds! Bedelia huffed, stomping her way down the corridor back to her office. Why-oh-why did I schedule him for late at night? She burst into her office and went right for the upcoming schedules on the board. I do not even have a chance to speak with him – he is always with the princess! Even more so now than he has ever before. She flipped through the schedules. Is there anyone? Anyway to switch? He must be reminded once more he’s only a servant. 

As she flipped through the schedules and scanned it for possible shift changes, her mind went back to the scene she had witnessed from the morning – Brent and Princess Angelica had been out in the hallway beside the princess’s room, holding hands and standing so close together, Bedelia nearly thought they would have kissed! The princess hadn’t even gotten out of her pajamas yet! She had watched them, her anger building each and every second she had watched them, ready to jump in and stop them had they attempted to kiss. I certainly hope the boy remembers not to kiss and consumate! 

Bedelia angrily sat down in her chair and looked over the schedule once more, a bit more carefully. They both looked very much like the King and Queen. She flipped the pages gently through her fingers. But King Engelbert wasn’t even anticipated to be King – the circumstances are far different. They know this. They must know this. 

Bedelia gut poked at her. She stopped on the third page in on the schedule and looked over it, her mind still roaring. How DARE that boy think he could even MARRY the princess in the first place! Perhaps as a child, it was an innocent statement without understanding the responsibilities behind it…but now? He is delusional at best! 

Her eyes finally laid on three servants, scheduled early enough in the evening where she could speak to Brent and late enough for Brent and Princess Angelica to be apart. She grasped her chin. I believe all three of them are working in the library today. 

Bedelia let go of the schedule and stood up from her desk. She took a few deep breaths just before moving out the door.

She walked through the halls and up a few staircases to eventually get to the royal library. She walked through the double doors. Nostalgia hugged at her heart as the warm rays of the sun beat down through the high windows. Goosebumps ran down her forearms as her eyes glanced at the numerous book titles she had once assisted Princess Johanne with – many of them were long faded, but still in good condition, despite being so old.

As her eyes scanned the room and the pleasurable hurt of old memories was sweet on her tongue, her heart began to sink, overhearing two overly familiar voices around the corner.

“Come to me old book of ye; Sir Aerlden’s diary,” chanted Princess Angelica from just behind the shelves. Bedelia turned the corner and looked up, seeing the old, yellow diary of King Aerlden jumping off from the shelf.

Bedelia’s heart pounded against her ribcage. The book! She let out the quietest of gasps before catching the book in one hand, with her other hand right behind her back. Her eyes met a rather horrified Princess Angelica and Brent who looked as if he was on the verge of glaring. She moved her arm to hold the fragile diary with two hands and walked up to Princess Angelica.

“Princess Angelica,” said Bedelia, holding out the book. Princess Angelica, slightly shaking, took it in her hands and drew it into her body. Bedelia pushed up her glasses, turning her head slightly downward to properly meet the princess’s eyes. “You must be careful with priceless articles such as this. It’s a diary, yes?”

“Yes,” replied Princess Angelica, frowning.

Bedelia’s face softened into a small smile, looking at the princess. She watched Princess Angelica’s shoulders relax. Good. 

Bedelia walked her way around the table over to Brent’s side, ever so curious as to what was sprawled out on the table. She could feel the stabs of his glares. What is the boy being taught? 

Bedelia leaned in, taking a good look at the materials. There were several books, plus a notebook Brent was clearly jotting down notes in, laid out. She zoned in on the words within the open books. Laws and history, huh… Bedelia’s eyes widened and she felt a lump in her throat. She gasped, lifting up the books. She looked at the spines and, much to her horror, her suspecsions had been correct at the moment she started skimming the paragraphs.

“What are you doing with these?! These are for royal families eye only!” Bedelia pointed to the spine. What in the vast universe is THIS?! He must have picked these books himself…there is no way this is what he is being taught. 

“Give those back!” shouted Brent. Bedelia stumbled backwards as Brent jumped out of his seat. “It is a part of my curriculum!”

Bedelia’s mouth dropped in complete disbelief. There is absolutely no way. I couldn’t even look at these with Lady Johanne – there is no way he is allowed to. 

“Bedelia.”

Bedelia turned to a stern-faced Princess Angelica. The princess’s sternum raised up higher, as did her head. Her voice was almost booming. Bedelia couldn’t do anything else but flinch underneath the power within Princess Angelica’s tone of voice.

“I order you to place the books back down. You may go inquire about Brent’s curriculum with Taliesin and address your complaints to my parents.”

Bedelia’s lips quivered. She had suddenly remembered the only time Princess Johanne had ever yelled at her – and it was for taking a look at the books only meant for royal eyes. It was frightening. Even though she had been forgiven immeditately and Princess Johanne had kindly listed the books that were off-limits to her, it didn’t lessen how terrified she had felt in that moment. Princess Angelica had that kind of power behind her own voice.

Bedelia gently placed the books back on the table, neatly stacked. “Very well, Princess Angelica.”

Bedelia took a step back from the table and faced Princess Angelica, She bowed down. After a moment, she glanced over at Brent, who was leering at her. Perhaps I should go dig up the old list of books. I believe I still have it somewhere…that way he can study what he is allowed to. She turned her eyes back down towards the ground before standing back up.

Bedelia folded her hands. “I shall go speak to Taliesin about this,” she stated. She nodded her head at regal Princess Angelica, who was clearly standing tall in her power, and the rather grumpy look Brent.

Just before she left, she leaned over to Brent. In a soft voice, she reminded him: “Do not forget your place, boy. You are here to do nothing more than serve.” And with that she walked around the corner, Brent and Princess Angelica disappearing from view.

Talisen surely must know the books that are off-limits…he’s been here almost as long as I have! Goodness me, goodness me…should I first find the list? Bedelia looked down at her hand as she exited from the library. No, let me speak with Taliesin first. If what they say is true, then it most likely is a command from the King and Queen. She let out a sigh.

And then she smacked her forehead. The servants! I forgot to ask the servants about the schedule changes! 

She paused for a moment halfway down the hallway. Eventually, she shook her hand dismissively. I shall ask them later. This is a far more pressing issue. 

***

Bedelia stopped just short of the wooden door, painted a creamy yellow with flakes of paint falling off, revealing the original dark brown wood underneath. She rhythmically tapped on the door and awaited a reply.

“Yeeeeeeeees? Come iiiiiin.”

Bedelia opened the door and gently, but swiftly shut the door behind her. “Good day, Taliesin.”

“Aaaaaaaah,” said the man, rocking his body forward and standing up from his chair. “Bedelia, it is rare I have the pleasure to be in your presence. What brings you here today?”

Bedelia’s shoulders dropped and she crossed her arms, leaning the side of her hip on a nearby desk. She glanced around the extremely tidy room – every single thing seemed to be meticliously put in its place and dusted down or shined at that! Even the papers and books sprawled out on the desk looked as if they had been neatly aligned with math and a ruler. So very clean. 

She then turned her attention back to Talisen – an old man around her age with a head completely bald except for a single large lock of gray hair tied in the back of his head with a black band. The man appeared to be wearing a white robe with a flower patterned robe with numerous warm colors over it. On his feet were loafers that matched his robe. At a glance, the clothing in general looked to be heavy and inappropriate for the summertime heat, but Bedelia could see upon closer inspection that all the fabrics were extremely lightweight – in such a way she knew the kind of protective effects they had against the heat.

Bedelia frowned. “Is it true that you’re teaching the boy royal-only material?”

Talisen closed his eyes, in thought. “‘Boy’? …hrm…do you meant Brent?”

“Yes.” Bedelia’s gut pinched at the sound of the boy’s name.

Bedelia and Talisen stared at each other for a good, long moment. Then Talisen burst out laughing. The man bent down and placed his hands on his thighs.

Bedelia disapprovingly pursed her lips. Is there something funny? “Did I say something that warranted laughter?”

Talisen shook his right hand. “No, no…you just look so serious, as always. I almost never see you.” Talisen wiped a single tear that had drizzled from his eye and he took a heavy, happy sigh. “Good to know you’re still serious!”

Bedelia walked up to Talisen and looked down into his shiny head. Talisen looked up curiously at her. In response, Bedelia lightly bobbed him in the head with her hand. Talisen immeditately stood up and rubbed where she had tapped. “Bedeliaaaaaa, that hurt my precious head.”

“I’m speaking of a very, very serious matter – the boy is reading materials meant for royal eyes only. I could not even read them. I am not sure if you aren’t aware of the books that are off-limits to non-royals. If you are not, I can dig up a list if needed.”

Talisen started to sniffle. He placed a finger under his nose. Bedelia leered at him. He’s laughing again. “Talisen!”

“Sorry. sorry! You know how long my family has been teaching at this castle? Huuuuuundreds of yeeeeeeears. Do you not think I don’t know the ‘off-limit’ books by heart? Was poured into me since the beginning!”

Bedelia’s chest tightened, as did her throat. Her lips pursed even more. She grabbed the collar of Talisen’s robes. If she had the power to bore holes through someone just her looks, that is exactly what she would have done. But she did not – instead, all she could do was stare directly into his eyes reflecting just how pissed off she was.

“If you knew, why would you teach him?! The boy already crosses far too many boundaries! He blurs the line between royal and servant! He has no understanding of his place!” Bedelia leaned in more into a rather confused-looking Talisen. “He had the nerve to request to marry the Princess, had you not heard? He had repeatedly stepped over boundaries as a child and is doing so even more now than ever before! The last thing that boy needs to get into his head that he is becoming a part of the royal family. He has no sense of place and, no doubt, learning from materials meant only for the royal families eyes.”

Bedelia’s hands loosened as Talisen took a step back. “You sound like you don’t like Brent very much.”

Bedelia found herself unable to reply. Her stomach bubbled with turmoil.

Talisen scratched his cheek. “I was under the impression that they were getting married.”

SHATTER 

Bedelia felt exactly what she had felt when the servants had informed her of the proposal. In an unusually quiet voice, she asked, “And what makes you say that?”

Talisen put his index finger in the air. “They instructed me from the beginning to teach him most of the royal curriculum. The King and Queen were pretty clear they would have me teach Brent the remainder once he and Princess Angelica were wed.”

“…and when was that?” Bedelia could feel herself shaking at her core.

“From the start. I assumed the two would be married in the future?”

“…from when he was a child?”

“Yes.”

“You thought they would be married?”

“Yes.”

Rage swelled her throat. With no where left for it to go and Bedelia knowing just what kind of space she was in, screamed. Talisen stumbled back.

“Bedeliaaaaaa, your face is red with raaaaaaage.”

“THE BOY. IS. A. SERVANT! HE IS A SERVANT!” screamed Bedelia. Her voice warped as it came out of her mouth, sounding more akin to a demon than a human. She balled her fist and slammed them down in the air. “WHAT SENSE DO IT MAKE THAT THEY WOULD GET MARRIED? WHY DO SO MANY SEEM TO THINK THAT WAY? HE IS A SERVANT!”

Tears filled with her rage pushed their way out from her eyelids. She watched Talisen’s surprise soften into empathy. Talisen placed his warm hand on her back.

“You know,” he said gently. “King Engelbert had married a peasant.”

“T-that’s different!” The volume of Bedelia’s voice fluctated. “He was not even meant to become King! He was to be a lord of an estate on the edges of Astral Isles. If it had not been for the tradegic deaths of King Gerhardt and King Leberecht –”

Talisen began to rub Bedelia’s back. Her tightened fist loosened and she looked at him, allowing the tears to flow.

“You are angry about something else, are you not?” Talisen asked. He was almost whispering.

Bedelia took a white hankerchef with lace-like embrodery around the edge out from her pocket and dabbed the tears off her face. “I am just frustrated at the way the servant boy repeatedly crosses the line with the Princess and how no one who matters thinks it is a problem.”

Talisen quietly laughed. Bedelia cringed.

“Is it something to laugh over?” she asked.

Talisen shook his head. “No. Your rage and worry are genuine – you just want what is best for the Kingdom, yes?”

Bedelia nodded her head. “Yes. I genuinely want the Princess to be happy and the Kingdom to succeed. I do not want neither to fall to the hands of the boy – he is most certainly not fit for the Princess nor the Kingdom.”

Bedelia cocked her head at the subtle smile on Talisen’s face. She leered into it.

“You know, I remember a certain servant getting close to a certain princess.”

Bedelia gasped. “Another one?! Who?”

Talisen smiled and pointed at Bedelia. “Yoooou!”

Bedelia scoffed. “Me?! I would never!”

Talisen stroked his hair-free chin, smirking. “Hmmm…I don’t know Bedelia. I watched you and Lady Johanne get closer than a servant and royal ought to be.”

Bedelia froze.

The first memory to float up was the numerous times Princess Johanne had grabbed Bedelia and pulled her onto the bed – the alluring, elusive princess would stroke Bedelia’s face, put her forehead to her’s, and snuggle right on up. Sometimes, they would even hold hands! The inappropriate memories flushed her face. Even her later memories, after Princess Johanne became Lady Johanne, Bedelia had still taken holidays per invitation from the Lady herself. When there had been no one in the room, when they were all alone, Lady Johanne would still stroke Bedelia’s face and hold her hand, even long after wrinkles had pressed their way over both of their skins.

Bedelia’s heart squeezed. She took in a deep breath and exhaled, lightly loosening it. Her head bowed down.

“Please…don’t speak so ill of the dead.”

Talisen patted her back. “I’m not speaking ill, I’m just stating what I saw.” Tailsen let out a small chuckle. “I think if King Engelbert had anything to say, you and Lady Johanne would have gotten m—”

Bedelia slapped her hand over Talisen’s mouth. Her eyes were hidden by her hair lump in the front of her face. “Talisen. Never suggest such a proposertous thing again.”

Talisen grabbed her wrist and lowered it. “I apologize. I won’t mention it again.”

Bedelia tilted her head enough to see his face. “Very well.”

Bedelia stood up and sighed. She took a look around the room once more, taking in the tidy surroundings. Her anger, embarassment, and nervousness receded back into the depths of her being.

“What are you going to do?”

“Hm?” Bedelia looked back at Talisen.

“Brent was assigned to learn and I think he may very well be on the way to marrying Princess Angelica.”

Bedelia balled a part of her skirt in her fist. “I suppose I will just have to bring my concerns to the King and Queen.” She let out a sigh. I have brought it up over the years, but they still do not seem to understand the weight of the matter.

Talisen nodded repeatedly. “Yes, yes.” He gave her a smile. “I would wish you good luck, but I am not even sure what is right.”

Splitting them up is right,” replied Bedelia without a second thought. She turned on her heel and walked over to the door.

“Good day, Talisen,” she said with a nod.

“Have a good day, Bedelia.”

Bedelia shut the door behind her. She held her head and sighed. I feel so frazzled…Talisen, why did you have to bring up Lady Johanne? I suppose I shall talk to the King and Queen tomorrow…I am far too emotional. This is unusual for myself…

Bedelia walked down the corridor, making her way to the stairwell. She took the notebook out of her pocket and began to skim over it. What else must I get done for the day? She pulled a pen from her pocket and began to cross off all the activities she had done. Soon, every activitiy had been crossed off.

Bedelia looked up the stairs, following the line of steps up to the doorway at the top. I suppose I could take a nap. 

*** 

Bedelia awoke to seeing a note slipped underneath her door. A shock of panic overcame her for a brief moment, her head whipping over to the window. Immeditately she calmed down, seeing the warm hues of the mid-afternoon sun. I did not oversleep. She stood up from recliner and moved to the letter underneath the door. She opened carefully opened up the wax seal and pulled out the letter inside. A smile brief flashed across her face, receeding quickly into a stern frown. She folded the envelope and stuffed it into her pocket. She took one moment to look in the mirror to smooth out her appearance – several locks of her silver hair had become loose during her nap – and she walked out the door with such hard steps, the floor seemed like it could break apart any moment.

***

Bedelia entered throught the giant double doors of the court with a dignified face. She turned her head over to a young man with a small trumpet and a book that looked far too prestine for a book that was marked up as much as it was. “Arwinwalde,” greeted Bedelia. “I am here due to my request being accepted.”

“Aaaaah, Head Servant Bedelia! It is so wonderful to see you,” replied Arwinwalde, smiling. He flipped through the agenda he held in his hands, his smile growing wider. “It’s not too often come to the court itself.”

“Yes, that would be correct. I would not want to take away the peoples’ times with the King and Queen. However, there is an issue that must be dealt with immeditately.”

Arwinwalde continued smiling, but his eyes were no longer naturally folding – instead, they were wide with uncertainity. “My, Head Servant Bedelia, whatever could be an issue that could not wait?”

Bedelia looked over to the two citizens who had just gotten up off the ground. She watched them walk behind her, tears of pure joy and gratitude streaming down their faces. She turned her back to the King and Queen, who excitedly waved over to her. Bedelia let out a sigh. My…I do not think there has even been a pair of royals that seem so…loose. 

Arwinwalde’s trumpet resounded around the room, followed by the sound of Arwinwalde’s voice. “HEAD SERVANT BEDELIA OF OUR VERY OWN CASTLE IS HERE TO SPEAK TO YOUR ROYAL HIGHNESSES!”

Bedelia walked down the long carpet that lead straight to the platform that the thrones of the King and Queen sat upon. Bedelia’s eyes cast down at the rug. It was a beautiful crystaline blue that matched the blue walls of the courtroom. She hadn’t spent too much time in the courtroom, generally speaking – she only remembered when she had ordered the materials for the throneroom’s redesign per the request of the King and Queen. Surprisingly, the carpet had held up over the years. Her own memories floated back even further to the old carpet she had seen all the times she had entered the throneroom – back then, the walls had been red and gold, with a long red carpet with splotches of darker burgandy…no doubt from King Siegbert’s brutal and murderous tactics. Her heart panged as her feet passed by the spot that Baadur had been struck down all because she had failed to behave herself.

Bedelia took in a deep breath as she stood a yard away from King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance. She curtesied and looked back up at them, seeing the glow on each of their faces.

“Bedelia!” exclaimed the Queen. “It’s such a pleasant surprise for you to request an audience with us within the court.”

“What could the pressing matter be?” inqured King Engelbert.

Bedelia watched the King and Queen’s bodies sink into their seats and their shoulders drop. Their smiles seemed so relaxed. Could they really not know? 

Bedelia folded her hands. “King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance, there is a rumor going around that the boy asked for Princess Angelica’s hand in marriage. Is this true?”

Bedelia felt her whole being shrunk, watching as King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance grasped each other’s hands and leaned into each other. Both of them had varying shades of flushed cheeks about them. The mid-afternoon sun that shown through the rooftops hit the glass chandelers in just the right way where the King and Queen nearly seemed to be sparkling. All within that quick second, King Engelbert looked at Bedelia straight in the eye, Queen Pleasance’s head resting in the crook of his neck.

“Yes, Bedelia, that is true,” replied King Engelbert.

“The dear was so nervous!” cooed Queen Pleasance. “It was such a sweet moment.”

“Yes – who would have thought that children would have held onto a promise for so long!”

“It’s so romantic!”

Bedelia’s eyes flittered around the room. The several castle staff – servants and knights alike – all seemed to be having a mixed reaction. Why is NO ONE finding this unacceptable? 

Bedelia closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She turned to King Engelbert. “Did the boy ask you both directly?”

King Engelbert nodded. “Yes. Brent asked us directly in order to ask for Princess Angelica’s hand in marriage.”

Queen Pleasance giggled like a giddy school girl next to him, covering her mouth.  “He actually asked us!”

“We couldn’t be more pleased,” added King Engelbert.

Bedelia’s nails dug into her palm as her fist tightened. “And what does that mean?”

King Engelbert stood up from his chair. He gave the Queen a warm smile and let go of her hand, walking up to Bedelia. He placed his hands on her shoulders. His smile was just a gentle. “Bedelia, we are most likely going to accept the propsal. It has been in our hearts that Princess Angelica find the one she loves the most and he has been here, by her side, for so long. We would be hard pressed not to accept. And as you know, we love him t—”

Bedelia’s arms pushed away King Engelbert’s. Her face was a deep red and her eyes reflected out the rage that was shooting up like a geyser of magma from deep within her. “SHE ISN’T YOU,” screamed Bedelia. “THE PRINCESS IS NOT YOU.” Her body twitched and she grasped her chest. Looking up at a rather startled King Engelbert.

“Princess Angelica is the only heir to the throne and you are going to approve her marriage to someone of such lowly status – a servant to the CASTLE for the sake of the stars! Astral Isles is in one of the weakest states it has ever been – if the surrounding Kingdoms weren’t simply Ocean Dwellers, we surely would have fallen by now! It’s absolutely proposterous – the princess marrying a servant boy! What would Astral Isles think of that?! Would the people even respect Princess Angelica when she ascends the throne and becomes Queen?

King Engelbert, I love you and Queen Pleasance, but please – you both were a unique circumstance. You were never even expected to ascend throne – you would have not gotten away with marrying a peasant had it not been for the fact you were the third child of King Wilibald and if it hadn’t been for the deaths of King Gerhardt and King Leberecht! You even allowed former-Princess Corinna to leave the royal family to marry a farmer.

Please – do not weaken Astral Isles due to a higher ideal of ‘love’ – certainly there must be a better choice of Husband for Princess Angelica that would surely meet your desires for ‘true love’ and for the good of the kingdom! I understand you favor the boy — I can see it from your actions and the way you look at him and treat him, as if he is your second child that you could never have.

It is utterly irresponsible to have Princess Angelica marry the SERVANT BOY!”

The final echo of Bedelia’s voice bouncing off the walls brought Bedelia back into her body. She could feel the heat of her redened cheeks and the tears that just wouldn’t come out from her eyes bluring up her vision. The air all around was heavy and so silent, you could easily hear everyone’s breath.

Bedelia watch the stunned King Engelbert turn his head to Queen Pleasance. Their usual bubbliness completely faded, replaced with a rather heartbreaking melancholy.

Bedelia briefly reflected on her own actions, as King Engelbert turned back to her. Her own words she had yelled slowly were refilling her head. King Engelbert walked up a bit closer to her and Bedelia quickly bowed her head. “I apologize if I may have sounded rude, but I am thinking about what is best for the Kingdom.”

King Engelbert placed a hand on Bedelia’s shoulder. Bedelia looked back up. The spark of joy that normally resided in the King’s eyes seemed to have been lost. “Bedelia, thank you for sharing your concerns with us. You have brought to our attention some very important issues to our attention. We shall take your concerns into consideration making our final decision.”

King Engelbert’s eyes wouldn’t meet Bedelia’s, although from a distance, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

Bedelia bowed her head. “You are far too kind, your highness.”

King Engelbert simply nodded his head.

“Was there…anything else you needed to speak about to us?” asked Queen Pleasance.

“No, that was all,” replied Bedelia.

“You are dismissed,” said King Engelbert.

Bedelia curtesied and walked back down the hallway. She could feel the stares of each and every person in that room, along with the sudden wave of whispers rippling as she got closer and closer to the door.

“…have a nice day, Ms. Bedelia,” said Arwinwalde.

Bedelia bowed her head. “Likewise.”

She stepped out of the throneroom and stood in the middle of the foryer. She took out her notebook, looking at her own schedule for the day. Her head lifted up to the chandeler that illuminated the area. The lights flickered as if it had been lit with fire. She then looked down, over her notebook, staring down at her child self, who was shaking where she stood.

I must have sounded quite rude…but I do not believe I would have spoken up if I did not feel like my words would have been received. She placed a hand just below her heart. King Engelbert is not King Siegbert. There is no need for me to be frightened of anything more than a verbal reprimand. 

She turned away from herself and back to her notebook. Now…who am I to inspect today? 

***

A bell resounded throughout the entire castle. It’s distinct twinkling immeditately signaled to Bedelia to stand up from her seat. She replaced her pen into the ink jar nearby on the corner of her desk, put down a paper weight onto the page she currently had open, and struted over to the door. She walked up flights of stairs and through corridors, finally finding herself in the foryer just before the throne room.

Her stomach tickled with anticipation of what was going to happen – several weeks had passed since she had spoken to them about her concerns, What could it be? Surely they would not be reprimanding me for my actions now. The slightest hint of a smile appeared on her face as she walked through the throne room door.

Arwinwalde immeditately sounded the horn. Bedelia did not even give him time to announce her presence beside from the horn – she stood in front of the King and Queen within mere seconds of entering. “Good day, your highnesses. How may I assist you today?”

The usually giggly, energetic King and Queen were far more stern. If Bedelia had to describe them, it was as if she was looking at the in-between of King Siegbert and King WIlibald. The excitement in her stomach turned into knots. She could feel the scars from her abuse as a child on her upper arms heat up, or so she thought. The out of character scene sent chills down her body.

“Good day,” greeted King Engelbert. Although he was holding hands with the Queen, no smile appeared on his face. “We have a request for you.”

“Yes?”

A pause.

“Please send Brent to us immeditately.”

The knots in Bedelia’s stomach quickly untightened. Although an uneasiness hugged her shoulders by the rather solemn atmosphere, Bedelia could not be more than happy to hear the name of the servant boy. “Yes, right away.”

“Once you send him here, you may return to your duties.”

“Yes,” Bedelia curtesied.

“You may go.”

Bedelia nodded, turned around, and immeditately walked out.

This must be it! This must be! 

She returned to her quarters and flpped through the present week’s schedule, quickly locating Brent’s name. The boy had been assigned to scrubbing the floors in the guestrooms on the third floor of the castle. Bedelia flipped closed the schedule – a stapled together booklet of sorts – and made her way back out the door and to the third floor.

The entered into the room, seeing Brent meticiliously scrubbing every cranny on the floor. Her lips smiled even more. My! It would be a shame for him to no longer be a servant…he is fairly good at the job as is. Goodness me, please Stars, please let the King and Queen see that the marriage between the boy and Princess Angelica is not a good one. 

“Brent,” said Bedelia. Her voice briefly faded as she spoke his name. An awkwardness hugged her throat, but no matter! She couldn’t help but smile, especially watching Brent suddenly jump, continued. “The King and Queen would like to see you.”

She watched as Brent seemed just as excited as her, only for his face to shift to glaring daggers at her. “Yes, right away,” he replied. Brent placed the sponge onto a cart, wiped his hands, and ran out the door.

Bedelia watched him disappear down the hallway, then she turned back to the cart. She lifted up the hastily placed sponge and neatly placed it into a nook a sort distance away from the cart’s handles. She wiped her own hands dry right after. She then turned her attention to where Brent had been scrubbing, knelt down, and dragged her index finger over it. Her smile grew. The boy needs work on putting equipment away, but he really does an impeccible job. Such a shame he preys on the Princess…

***

Bedelia flipped through numerous letters on her desk. If you looked close enough, you could see she was slightly pale, looking over each note. Goodness me, I cannot believe I forgot about these tasks. She scanned the schedule on her desk. Her eyes soon located two servants – Edward and Taylor – with open schedules. Bedelia stood up from her desk and walked over to her front door, peering outside into the hallway. The hallway was completely silent.

Bedelia slipped out from her room and quietly shut the door. Looks like I must ask myself. She hurriedly walked down the corridor, up and down stairs, eventually entering into the servants quarters. She couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming air of tension in the air. Her ears seemed to open to the murmurs of the servants around. Her hearing sharpened and honed in on the scatters of servants all around.

“Just as it should be.”

“I really thought they were going to get married!”

“I’m heartbroken for them.”

“Good – what was he even thinking, proposing like that?”

A smile couldn’t help but spread across Bedelia’s face. “Oh, what is this?” she asked, slipping in between a nearby conversation. The two middle-aged servants didn’t even flinch, although the surrounding younger ones did, finally noticing the head servant in their quarters.

“Oh, Ms. Bedelia, good day. What brings you here?” greeted the male servant. His hair was mostly gray with some strands of dirty blonde still mixed in. The top of his hair was mostly bald, but he had a ponytail that reach about mid-back behind him.

“I have a request for both you and Taylor, but first, I am so curious what all the fuss is about?”

The other person, a middle-aged woman with dyed green tips elbowed the man. “You hear that, Edward? Ms. Bedelia needs us!” she winked.

Edward pushed Taylor slightly away, quietly chuckling. “I’m happy to help.” Edward began stroking his beardless chin. “Everyone’s talking about Brent’s propasal being rejected.”

Bedelia’s eyes glinted and she pushed up her glasses. The King and Queen understood! “How wonderful!” Bedelia couldn’t help but grin.

Edward and Taylor glanced at each other. Taylor scratched her cheek and Edward began to pull on his ear. Bedelia raised her eyebrow, watching their curious behaviour. “What’s the matter?” She glanced down, looking over the top of her glasses. “Spit it out.”

“It’s…kind of sad, y’know?” said Edward.

Taylor nodded. “I was rootin’ for them. It just seemed like Brent was clearly the best choice.”

Bedelia’s heart punched her rib cage so hard, she couldn’t help but grasp her chest. “How proposterous!”

The room fell silent around her and she could feel all eyes on her, but she did not care one bit. “A servant boy cannot marry a princess. That’s how it is. Princess Angelica needs a husband most suitable for royal duties.”

Edward and Taylor lips both smacked together and their bodies tensed up. Bedelia’s eyes narrowed, watching their movements. Are they objecting me? Bedelia sighed. “No matter. Thank you for informing of the fuss.”

Edward and Taylor both bowed.

“Now, let me explain. The ballroom needs its initial cleaning started today…”

***

Bedelia left the servants quarters and made her way back to her room. Her mind echoed the quiet murmurs she heard upon exiting the room. Her whole abdomen tensed up and her face burned from her seething anger. How ABSURD. How could anyone think the boy and Princess Angelica marrying is acceptable? The princess is almost 16 and the only heir to the throne. Do they want to see this kingdom fall? 

THe moment her thoughts quieted down, she finally heard just how hard her feet were hitting the ground. Bedelia immeditately slowed down and her shoes turned into quiet clopping.

***

Bedelia mulled over the schedule, while comparing to the rather long to-do list beside her that had been delivered to her by the King and Queen personally, much to her surprise. As she penciled in the duties to each person, her eyes ended up going back to Brent’s name over and over again. Anger pinched her gut over and over again at each glance. I cannot schedule him in where he would be most suited. She began to tap the desk with her finger.

Then she stopped.

She looked over the to-do list and everything that wasn’t already assigned, and then back to Brent’s name. She took her eraser and gently removed what she had already penciled in. She then moved Brent’s studies down about two hours and filled in the remaining time with all the tasks that suited him and his abilities.

Bedelia beamed. Yes. This is it. It does matter as much when he does his studies, does it not? The boy is no longer a child and soon enough, he will be separated from the princess. There is no reason to keep him on a schedule that accomadates Princess Angelica, is there? He is truly needed elsewhere during those times. Yes, needed elsewhere. And what a perfect time to get him and the Princess used to no longer seeing each other on a regular basis! 

Bedelia sighed with relief. She continued to pencil in the rest of the list and soon enough, the to-do list was completely scheduled in. Now all Bedelia had to do was ink it.

***

Bedelia stood beside a pale-faced chef with a gentle smile on her face. “Do you mind?” she asked, hovering her hand next to the face of the chef.

“No, not at all,” they replied.

Bedelia gently grasped their warm hand. “Watch and feel,” She moved their hand holding a large pan and in a circular motion, moving the vegetables inside of it around. After a few moments, she let go and the chef continued the motion.

“See, there you go.”

Bedelia couldn’t help but smile at the color returning back to the chefs face.

Soon, the vegetables were plated and Bedelia was served the sample. She nodded and gesutred to the chef to take a sample as well.

“And what do you think?” inquired Bedelia.

The chef frowned. “It’s…a little plain.”

Bedelia chuckled. “Indeed! Make sure you salt and pepper as you cook. Follow it up with one of the all-seasoning mixes on the shelf above the stoe.”

The chef’s eyes glittered. “Oh! Wow…okay, yes. I will do that for next time!”

Bedelia patted them on the back, turning her attention to some slight commossion in the pantry.

“Ms. Bedeliaaaaaaaaaaaa!” cried out a servant.

Bedelia turned into the pantry and gasped  – literally all over the floor was flour everywhere. Three servants stood, covered in it. She couldn’t help but chuckle. “Goodness! What happened?”

“I was just trying to move the flour to a higher shelf,” sobbed one of male servants. “it turned out to be open and it went everywhere!”

“Flour always belongs near the floor,” explained Bedelia. “Always double check the seal before moving it.”

“Yeeeeeees.”

“Sally! Drew!” called Bedelia, leaning out the door. She watched the two young adults flinch. “Please bring the cleaning supplies and assist the pantry crew in clean up.”

“Yes!”

Sally and Drew scurried over to the pantry with a cleaning cart in tow. Their eyes appeared to role around in circles as they reached for their brooms and dust pans.

Bedelia extended her hand out to the second oldest servant standing in the pantry. “There is no need to stress, you two. Elizabeth is a veteran when it comes to cleaning. She will be able to guide you.”

Elizabeth stuck up her nose. “I did win the cleaning awards 5 years in a row. It would have been 6 if I hadn’t been switched to a different department.”

“Of course – you are among the best,” complimented Bedelia.

Elizabeth seemed to sparkle. The rest of the servants just looked around, avoiding eye contact with everyone else. It could only be described as an air of awkwardness.

“Elizabeth, I trust you have the cleaning crew under control?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Very well. I shall leave the newbies to you.”

Elizabeth grabbed the shoulders of Sally and Drew. “You got it.”

Bedela walked based the smirking Elizabeth and wildyly uncomfortable Sally and Drew, walking back out into the kitchen.

Bedelia opened up her notebook and struck off all of the kitchen task as she took a quick glance around. Just before reaching the garden doors, the rushed opening of the kitchen doors caused her head to turn. Her eyebrows rose, seeing Brent heading straight for her.

“Ms. Bedelia?”

A scowl quickly wrote itself across Bedelia face. What could this boy want? “Yeeeeees, Brent?”

Brent stood a few feed away from her. Bedelia’s nose scrunched – Brent’s hand was on his hip and another one in the air, pointing at her. She could already feel herself being accused of something, but what?

Brent leered at her. “Is there a reason why my study sessions were shifted two hours down twice next week?”

Bedelia quickly felt herself smile. And here I thought he would have asked something more proposterous! Her chest puffed out and she extended her hand out to the side. “I needed to shift your hours down because you are needed elsewhere in the castle during those hours.”

“Ah, I see.”

Bedelia turned her body in reflect to the daggers Brent’s eyes was throwing at her. Her smile was beginning to fade. What rudeness! Although he is speaking politely, his body language is telling me something far different. Goodness, goodness, goodness. 

“Will they be changed back?” inquired Brent. Bedelia could have sworn she heard anger underneath the breath that accompanied his words.

Bedelia froze. She felt herself grow cold. Her guard lowered and she could do nothing more than stare off at the intricate moulding that decorated the kitchen walls. Perhaps I did overstep my boundaries. I did not consult the King and Queen. And it is not like the Princess and the boy are not still spending time with each other. That last thing I would want is a complaint lodged against me. But would King Engelbert really do something to someone such as myself? I only truly think about what is best for the kingdom. 

Bedelia glanced into Brent’s angry eyes. Ah… “Yes,” replied Bedelia. “I will be able to do that next week.”

Bedelia watched the anger in Brent’s eyes partially shift to a rather conflicting one. What might he be thinking? 

Brent simply nodded. “Thank you.” And just like that, he turned away and walked out of the kitchen.

Bedelia flipped over to a new page in her notebook and scribbled down a note to revert Brent’s schedule. She felt petrified. In her heart, her childhood self whispered to her, “I’m scared”.

“Ms. Bedelia?”

The voice of one of the chefs cut through her fear. She turned and closed her notebook. “Yes, Jacks?”

Jacks sighed, one hand over half of his face. Bedelia’s eyes widened, seeing the man covered head to toe with water. “There’s been another pipe break again.”

Bedelia smacked her face and hurried off, allowing Jacks to lead the way.

***

Bedelia knocked on the door the King and Queen’s study, a large clipboard and notebook tucked under her arm. Once she heard King Engelbert’s voice welcome her in, she entered swiftly. For once, the King and Queen were sitting around a small round table in the corner of the study.

“Bedelia, come, sit down with us,” invited King Engelbert, extended his hand to an open seat.

Bedelia curtesied. “Yes, your highness.” She walked over and sat down. She faced the direction of Queen Pleasance, who was holding her cheeks with her palms, leaning over the table. Her eyes seemed to glitter and her smile suggested something so dreamy and far away, Bedelia’s stomach couldn’t help but twist into knots.

Goodness me, she must not be thinking about that boy and Princess Angelica again. Bedelia cracked open her notebook and pulled out the pen that had been tucked underneath the clipboard. At the top of the notebook page, she wrote in bold letters “16TH YEAR BALL”.

Bedelia glanced upward, noticing Queen Pleasance’s head outstretched.

“May I help you, your highness?” inquired Bedelia.

“Oh, pay no mind to me!” Queen Pleasance waved her hand. She then giggled. “You have such beautiful handwriting. I always forget.”

“She does, doesn’t she?” agreed King Engelbert. “I know Aunt Johanne always mentioned it when she spoke about her.”

Bedelia’s lips cracked a smile, although her eyes lacked any shine to them. “Yes, she indeed always did.  Lady Johanne was far too kind. I suppose you picked up some of that from her.”

King Engelbert laughed. “I suppose so! She was probably the person whom I spent the most time with growing up.”

Bedelia couldn’t help but chuckle herself.

After a good moment and a loud crackle in the fireplace that broke the warm atmosphere, everyone settled down and King Engelbert leaned forward. “As you are aware, Angelica’s 16th birthday is in this upcoming year. It is of the uptmost importance that the balls be extravegant, lavish, and utterly, undenialbly rich with entertainment and refreshments for every guest.”

Bedelia quickly scribbled keywords into her notebook.

She glanced up, seeing King Engelbert leaned back and fold his hands onto the table.

“It is also important that we find Angelica a suitable husband…” said King Engelbert, his voice trailing off.

Bedelia noticed Queen Pleasance, who normally would be chatty like a gossip school girl, had retracted into her seat and folded her hands. What a peasant pose. 

Bedelia smiled. “I think that is for the best of the kingdom,” she assured them. “Do you have a list of suitors you would like to invite, or shall I just invite all nobles across the land?”

King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance exchanged looks. King Engelbert, much to Bedelia’s surprise, slouched in his seat. “Hmm…I guess the best thing would be to invite everyone.”

Goodness! I don’t think I’ve seen him do that since he was a child! 

Bedelia noted the King’s words, albeit much more affirmative. As she skritched it down, she asked, “are you both alright?”.

Her stomach tightned. It’s the rejection of Brent’s proposal. 

“Just desires of the heart conflicting with the head for the kingdom,” replied King Engelbert. He sat up straight and clasped his hands. “It’s not matter – we will heal over time.”

“You are making the most correct decision for the good of the kingdom, your highness,” assured Bedelia.

Bedelia glanced over her scribbled notes so far. “Would you like me to include our oceanic allies as well?”

Bedelia jumped as Queen Pleasance slapped her hands on the table and stood up. The glint in her eye returned, along with her passionate smile. “Please invite Queen Naida and King Ocean Sphere!”

Bedelia watched King Engelbert light up just as well. “Yes, yes, please do! It has been quite a while.”

Queen Pleasance covered her mouth, giggling. “The two of them are just so different from each other, but their contrast goes so well together.”

“I suppose it might be interesting to have an Aquavian in the family, if that is what Angelica chooses,” said King Engelbert.

“It is important to strengthen the Kingdom ties and what better way than from other royals?”

Queen Pleasance frantically tapped King Engelbert’s shoulder. “Honey, honey! We must make sure their daughter that is around Angelica’s age attends, yes?”

King Engelbert snapped his fingers. “Yes! Yes…now, what was her name?”

“Midnight Star!” exclaimed Queen Pleasance.

King Engelbert nodded.

Bedelia stared at the two of them.

She had no idea how to react.

“Would you like me to write down Princess Midnight Star specifically?”

“YES!” they both happily exclaimed, startling Bedelia so much so, she dropped her pen on the floor.

Bedelia lifted up her pen and began making note. I hope they are only seeing Princess Midnight Star as just a friend. Although, I suppose even if Princess Angelica did marry her, they could make other arrangement for heirs. She found her mind slowly floating back to Lady Johanne. Even with her wrinkly skin and her deepened voice, Lady Johanne was still beautiful and alluring. Bedelia was still shy to admit, Lady Johanne had the ability to make her own heart skip. She could only imagine Lady Johanne’s corpse was probably just as beautiful, although she had no desire to go and find out herself,

“Oh yes!”

Bedelia’s thoughts on Lady Johanne quickly faded away, turning her attention back to the royals right in front of her.

“We would like the servants to practice a strict sleeping schedule,” explained King Engelbert. “We are looking to have at least one ball a month and we need to make sure everyone is on top of their toes! We are usually far more lenient, but for this year only, we would like to propose curfews.”

Bedelia nodded. A grin rose up on her face, scribbling down the idea. “That sounds positively wonderful, your highness. What do you suggest for curfews?”

“Servants must only work their shift that they are assigned. No drinking, no going out to the town past 10 PM unless as a part of their job. Overnight shift servants must be in bed by no later then noon. There are still allotted days off, but they must follow the 10 PM curfew unless they are a part of the overnight crew, in which they must abide the noon curfew. Schedule the shifts to allow ample time for servants to transition seamlessly.”

Bedelia couldn’t help but nod in agreement as she wrote down everything the King explained to her. “What brillant ideas, your highness! Strict curfews! Goodness, I love this so very much.”

“Yes. We just want to ensure everyone can show up consistently. As consistently as possible, at least.”

Just as Bedelia finished noting down the last keyword, King Engelbert spoke once more. “Ah, yes. Please schedule everyone as much as possible. While we do want ample time for them to transition and settle down for the evening, we also want to make sure everything gets done in a timely manner.”

Bedelia’s eyes glinted. A packed schedule?! How wonderful! How smart. How…what an opportunity. 

“Can I take this to mean the boy may also be scheduled this way as well?”

She watched the King and Queen’s faces drop.

Quietly, the King replied, “Yes. Just please ensure he has time for his studies and normal duties.”

Pinch 

Bedelia forced a smile on her face. “Yes, sir.”

Normal duties…no, that does not include attending to Princess Angelica. Bedelia lightly wrote down. I can add new duities in addition to what he normally does, yes? Yes…what a perfect opportunity to help the Princess and the boy get used to being apart. Princess Angelica will be married soon enough, after all! 

***

Bedelia dusted off a small spot on the upper half of her skirt, her frown more intense than usual. How unbecoming of me! She glanced at the mirror she was passing beside herself in the corridor, giving herself a glare. It may be late at night, Bedelia, yet you still look unkempt with such dust on your uniform. She clicked her tongue in disapproval at her own self. Her voice went to let out a follow-up grunt, but instead, her throat tickled.

It has been quite dry recently. I suppose I should reschedule brush clean-up much earlier. Just before she was able to reach into her pocket and pull out her notebook, her eyes caught a glimpse of familiar black hair that shined a deep midnight blue in the light sneaking down the corridor in the near distance.

Her brow furrowed. “Hello, Brent,” she greeted. She stepped forward and into the light to better see down the dimmly-lit hallway. She watched as Brent stumbled backwards from the shadows and back into the light. She watched the airy smile on his face deflate, only being held up by the muscles on his face. His eyes that shined like a clear midnight sky dulled.

“Good evening!” exclaimed Brent. “You startled me there.”

Bedelia found herself chuckling, except what was coming from her voice didn’t sound all that much like a chuckle – more like a groan. He looks so much like his mother. Her eyebrows raised up at the brief thought of fondness she had for Lillian, only to turn her attention back to the matter at hand. “And where you think you’re going so late at night?”

He watched Brent’s demeanor straighten out, far more of the rebellious servant she expected him to be – something much more in line with his usual behavour, rather than the startled young man she had seen just a moment ago. “Princess Angelica requested me this evening.”

Bedelia’s eyes popped. What was she thinking?! “Are you sure now?” asked Bedelia, finding herself almost gasping for air. She cleared her throat. “Did you not see?”

She watched Brent’s left hand slightly curl up – a gesture she was all too familiar with – as he seemed to be eying her with caution Bedelia really, really did not like. Bedelia found herself starting to frown even harder than she had before.

“See…what?” asked Brent.

Bedelia slapped the back of her hand into the palm of her other one. “There was an executive order the king and queen,” explained Bedelia. She slapped her hands together again as she spoke. “that all saff must go to sleep at certain times depending on the shift that htey work that started today. It was on the bulletin.” Bedelia’s chest tightened, booring her eyes into the boy across from her, for he seemed to be staring at her rather confused.

Does this boy not pay attention? 

“…no,” replied Brent. “I did not see that. I will have to take a look when I go back.”

Bedelia nodded her head. Yes, very well. 

She began walking off, into the direction past Brent to return to her own quarters for the night. Just before she aligned with Brent, the most briefest of flashbacks dropped into her psyche.

There had once been a similar time she and Princess Johanne had to be separated due to such a curfew. Yet, Princess Johanne had ensured they could still find a way to be together.

Bedelia stopped and glanced over at Brent. They are not getting married. Nor will they be seeing each other any time soon… “I suppose I can let this slide for the night…” She pushed up her glasses and looked back forward, her voice lowering. “After all, who knows how much longer the princess will see you for…”

Bedelia resumed walking down the hallway, her chest being gripped by a different sort of pain.

She removed her glasses from her face and blotted the tears from from her eyes. Her hand which grasped her glasses laid across her heart. She sniffled down the corridor, which seemed extra loud so late in the evening.

Bedelia glanced over her shoulder, stopping for one more look at Brent. How unprofessional of me…crying as am. I pray to the Stars he did not see me.

Her glazed eyes could see the young man’s shoulders twitching, followed by a large breathy sigh. Perhaps it was just the illusion of the light, but Bedelia could have sworn Brent had glowed dark blue for a brief moment there.

She grasped her forehead. Goodness me, I must need sleep. 

She walked down the corridor and headed for the stairwell to return back to her quarters for the night.

The harsh sunlight that poured through her window in the early AM burned, even with her eyes closed. Bedelia rubbed her eyes, clearing the water and crust from her eyes, sliding out of bed as she did so. She walked to her personal bathroom – about 2 yards from her bed on the left side when she sat on it – with a slight stumble in her step.

She leaned against the door frame to regain her balance for a brief moment. She heaved a sigh as her eyes looked up at the mirror before her. She met with her own eyes, scowling. She couldn’t see much, but she knew it was light enough for her reflection to be seen on the mirror. Do I always scowl like this? Oh my…

She went over to the sink after a good moment after staring at herself in the mirror. The water rushing from the faucet sounded extra loud that morning. Bedelia dipped her hands underneath the cool stream and rubbed it on her face. After a few rounds, she patted her face dry with a light red towel and placed it back on the hook on the wall beside her.

Bedelia walked out from the bathroom and over to her partition, disappearing behind it. With movements swifter than you would expect from an older woman wearing layers upon layers of clothing, she was dressed within minutes with her numerous petticoats, corset cover, and everything that helped to create the A-shaped sillhouette that she wore.

Her long gray hair was quickly thrown up into a bun at the top of her head. As per usual, hairs that didn’t make it into her grasp fell loose all over her head. This was no matter to her – as an active older woman and the head servant, her hair did not need to maintain perfection. In a way, it almost seemed stylish, like a hint to her alluring looks in her younger years (or so Lady Johanne would have said).

Bedelia glanced down to a small round table tucked into the corner of her partition. On the table laid a photo frame featuring an old photograph of Bedelia and Princess Johanne just after Johanne had become a lady, a locket, a small vase with a single flower that was the same shade as Lady Johanne’s hair when she was younger, and Bedelia’s glasses. Bedelia gently lifted the glasses and lifted the cord holding them up around her neck. She placed the glasses on her face and turned to the mirror beside her.

Oh my, I do wear a scowl! 

Two knocks sounded at her door. “Head Servant Bedelia – your breakfast is ready!”

Bedelia hurried over to the door and smiled. “Mr. Jaques, very good to see you.”

Jaques bowed his head and entered, holding a steaming tray of an array of food. “In the usual place?”

Bedelia rushed over to her desk and quickly pushed things aside into as neat of piles as she could, allowing ample room for the tray of food before her. “Just down here.”

Jaques simlply nodded, placing the tray on her desk. He give her one more bow and left without saying a word, closing the door behind him.

Bedelia sat down. She clapped her hands. She stared at the food for a moment, just before pushing a smile onto her face. A warm meal. She began to dig into the pile of savory oats topped with aromatic spices, vegetables, and beans, all while grabbing a list from about two papers down from the top of the stack beside her.

She read through them carefully between each bite she took. It was a long list of all the duties, expectations, and desires for the upcoming ball. Bedelia’s chest swelled with excitement at the mere thought of Princess Angelica finally choosing a suitor that meets royal family standards. In a different way than that “boy”, of course. No matter what, she was going to ensure the balls throughout the year were so superb that the Princess would fall in love with the right person!

Bedelia soon finished eating and placed the bowl aside on a small table beside her desk. She repositioned her body and focused in on the papers in her hand. After one more read through, she grabbed her fountain pen and her empty schedule sheets and began to pencil in exactly what her mind had already sorted out for her.

Every single duty had every single servant in the castle assigned to it for length unproceeded. Everything was jammed packed – besides from time for sleep and the legally required breaks – there was no room for anything else.

Bedelia glanced over the schedule, she noticed something a bit odd about this schedule – Brent was scheduled in so many places. As she consciously picked through this unconscious decision, she noticed something. He has no time to play with the Princess. She flipped through the schedules numerous times, confirming what she was seeing.

Bedelia placed a hand on her cheek and frowned. “Goodness…” Am I being too harsh? Certainly even for a 16-year-old boy, this might be too much… 

Anger began to bubble up from her stomach mere at the thought of lessening the amount of time he was working. How proposterous…me, thinking that it might be too much for him. Certainly this is for the best. Immeditately the bubbles of anger popped and she felt herself settle down.

Her peace became disrupted once more a second later as her thoughts floated to the King and Queen. Is my desire to see the Princess and that boy apart far too strong? No…this is most appropriate. The King and Queen are far to lenient, but I am sure they will agree. Surely, they must understand having a young man like the boy will be of much use during this highly important time! 

Bedelia nodded in agreement with herself. She stacked the papers neatly on top of each other and then stood up from her chair, walking towards the door.

***

Bedelia’s eyes scanned the crowd of servants. Although the vary degrees of the approval of her presence in their precious quarters was almost entertaining, her gaze wandered to the only person in the room she actually wanted to gauge the reaction to: Brent.

Bedelia raised her hand in the air. Like the moment before a sudden rainfall, the room fell completely silent. There were a few servants still moving around, but Bedelia paid no mind. She was fully aware that they were just doing their duties for the day.

“I am pleased to announce that starting at the beginning of the new year, the king and queen are hosting a series of eight balls throughout the year in order to help Princess Angelica find a suitable husband.”

Bedelia’s eyes firmly stayed on Brent. She could hear numerous audible gasps from the crowd and several people through a glance at the him. Brent himself was going pale by the second. He seems to have understood. Bedelia’s smile that was already on her face relaxed.

“The King and Queen asked each and every one of us to do our part in ensuring that the balls are a success. The first ball is the week after the new year starts, therefore preparations are to start next week. Expect your schedules to change accordingly.” Bedelia clapped her hands together. “That is all.”

***

“Bedelia, give me the schedule, now.”

Bedelia froze, seeing Princess Angelica scowling in such a manner completely unfit for a graceful princess. In fact, even the Princess’s looks seemed so lacking of elegance: her hair was loosely tied back in a ponytail and she was wearing a single-layered blue sundress that was far too plain. She didn’t even have her usual petticoats underneath!

“P-Princess Angelica, were you not to be served this morning? Who assisted you with your wardrobe this morning?”

Princess Angelica’s nose stuck up in the air and her hands were firmly planted on her hips. “Bedelia, I did not come here to speak about the messiness of my appearance.”

“But you even have dark circles under your eyes!” Bedelia couldn’t help but gasp. “Are you well? Shall I schedule an appointment with the royal doctor?”

“Bedelia, I would appreciate it if you quiet down so I can speak,” replied Princess Angelica. Her words felt short and to the point.

Bedelia folded her hands. “Yes, very well. How may I be of service?”

“Give me the servants schedules from the past two months.”

Bedelia’s brow furrowed. “Yes…right away.” Why the schedules? 

Bedelia grabbed the stack of retired schedules, as well as the current schedules that were hung up with a binder clip, and she handed them over to Princess Angelica.

Bedelia stood in silence as she watched Princess Angelica’s face became redder and redder. The princess’s eyes were widening as her brow furrowed more. Bedelia’s heart cowered. Why does she seem so angry? 

Then there was a loud SLAP and the papers in Princess Angelica’s hand suddenly had an intend. “Are you KIDDING ME?! Is this what you thought of? Trying to get Brent away from me just because we’re in love? I haven’t seen him for two months, I’m moodier than the weather, and here you are abusing your authority to keep my love away from me!”

Bedelia felt herself go into a state she had almost long forgotten – pure panic. She put out both her hands, as if she could lower the Princess’s anger with her movements. “Princess Angelica, I do apologize. I simply scheduled Brent in where I felt he would be of the most use.”

“His primary duty is to attend to me! I understand that we have this absolutely propsterous balls coming up and it’s quite a busy time here at the castle, but that does not explain Brent’s inexpiciable absence from my presence!” Princess Angelica yanked her bangs. “I am simply going mad!” She then began whacking the schedules with the back of her hand. “And here I see that he has been scheduled in such away to avoid being around to serve me and allow for me to bask in his presence! Being able to see him is the very least that can be done for me since the only person I truly want to be with has been dismissed as a suitor, no matter how much I won’t allow such a reality?”

Bedelia couldn’t even open her mouth before the Princess let out a scream and stormed out from the room, still carrying the schedules in her hands.

Bedelia gasped. She followed the Princess out the door, only for Princess Angelica to shout back: “Do not follow me. Surely, you will be summoned later.”

Bedelia stopped where she was and watched the Princess disappear around the corridor. Her lips slightly parted and her brow furrowed. What have I just witnessed? 

***

Bedelia jumped and looked up upon seeing a familiar stack of pappers being slammed onto her desk. Her eyes met Princess Angelica’s. Pure terror ran through her body and she found herself trembling.

She quietly gasped, seeing such a deep look of scorn upon the Princess’s face. For the first time in her life, Princess Angelica looked like King Siegbert.

Princess Angelica didn’t even say anything. she simply turned and left.

Bedelia began gasping and hugging herself.

A small, childish voice whispered in her heart. I don’t want to get in trouble anymore. I don’t want to get hurt anymore. 

***

“Bedelia, the King and Queen are summoning you.”

“Ah, thank you.” Bedelia bowed her head to the servant who quickly exited the room.

Bedelia stood up from her chair tapping her chin. What could it be? It is too early for our meanings…perhaps a last minute addition to the schedule? Surely they must want this ball to be extravegant. 

As Bedelia walked down the corridor, she found her stomach starting to tie into knots. Her chest began to tighten. Even though she walked forward just like there wasn’t anything wrong, something felt completely amiss. Am I forgetting something? 

Her footsteps hurried as her anxiety heightened, although you definitely could not tell from the outside. Her face was still stern as ever, although there was a softeness to it simply because she was heading to the courtroom to see the king and queen.

It wasn’t all that long until she entered and nodded at Arwinwalde. The servant lifted his trumpet and blew into, followed by a boom announcement of “Head Servant Mistress Bedelia has arrived!”

The King had a soft smile on his face, while Queen Pleasance suddenly slumped over with a pout. Bedelia glanced around worriedly for non-employees in the viacinity after seeing such an unbecoming display of immature from the queen (despite knowing fully well that was just a part of her personality). She was relieved to find there was none and she felt the tiniest bit of her anxieties fade.

“Good day, King Engelbert, Queen Pleasance. I have received your summons. I am most curious as to what it may be about – has there a problem with the ball arrangements?”

“There’s not a problem with the arrangements…per say,” replied King Engelbert. Bedelia watched as both the king and queen glanced at each other with two slightly different frowns. King Engelbert’s seemed more sympathetic and kind, while Queen Pleasance appeared like she was about to whine.

Bedelia folded her hands. “What may be the problem?”

Bedelia watched King Engelbert gently held Queen Pleasance’s hand. “Princess Angelica shared with us her concerns over Brent’s schedule. She has not seen him in nearly two months. While it has not affected neither one’s royal duties, it certain has taken a toll on both of them.”

Bedelia’s glasses slid down the brim of her nose, but she found she was too petrified to move. What is this? 

“Perhaps the current schedule can be dismissed, but the month prior is certainly troublesome when viewed. It appears Brent was scheduled during all the times Princess Angelica would have been openly available.”

Bedelia gulped.

“We have conducted a small investigation. The conclusion to our investigation is that both Brent and Princess Angelica are in poor mental and emotional health due to the way the schedule has been handled.”

Bedelia’s body ran cold. Her shoulders scrunched. For the first time in a long, long time, she found herself fiddling with her hands near her heart, although her eyes stayed firmly planted on the King and Queen.

“Is there a reason for the schedule to be structured in such a way?”

Bedelia stomach knotted. She cleared her throat, allowing the sound to shake her body free of enough tension to speak. “I simply was placing the boy where I felt was best suited. T-the balls, after all, is truly an important event! Princess Angelica will be choosing an appropriate husband for during them and I simply want to ensure that everything runs smoothly.”

King Engelbert’s frown softened into a smile full of sympathy. “We really do appreciate that, Bedelia. I am sure Brent is suited for every duty you have penciled him into for the ball preperations. This is such an important time, after all. However, this does not excuse the prior month that did not have ball preperations. What reason do you have for that?”

Bedelia found her throat growing a lump. She gently stroked her neck with her hand and cleared her throat once more. “I-I simply thought it was appropriate to get them used to being a-apart. After all, they are both becoming 16 years of age. Princess Angelica has to focus on her duties as a Princess, while the boy must focus on his duties as servant. That is all.”

King Engelbert gave a nod. “I appreciate your consideration. However, it is a part of Brent’s duties to attend to Princess Angelica as her companion. Even with all the ball preperations going on, it is important that they still have some quality time together, no matter how small.”

But they’re not ––!!! Bedelia was SEETHING. She could feel her face heat-up with the anger sprouting up from within her, but she maintained the sterness on her face. The anxiety disappeared, but the explosive anger that was leftover was far worse. Bedelia simply folded her hands gracefully once more and zoned in on the King. “Is the princess not busy with preperations herself?” asked Bedelia, her voice somewhat quiet and her words quick and to the point.

King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance both nodded.

“That is correct,” replied King Engelbert. “Princess Angelica is busy with preparations of her own. However, the lack of quality time with her friend is causing her unnecessary distress that could very well affect the ball.”

“They’re not even friends! Their relationship is troubling to witness and it is so very inappropriate for the two of them to interact the way they have been interacting,” snapped Bedelia. She gasped upon watching the king and queen’s mouth dropped. She covered her mouth and her eyes glazed over. I spoke it aloud…goodness me. 

Queen Pleasance’s look was full of heartbroken anger, while King Engelbert just simply seemd disappointed. King Engelbert patted Queen Pleasance’s hand, while still looking at Bedelia.

“It is true that they have feelings that go beyond friendship,” acknowledged the King. “But we know they both are aware of just how far they can actually go.”

Sweat dotted Bedelia’s brow. She bowed her head. “I do apologize…I have spoken out of line…”

King Engelbert lifted up his hand. “There is no need to apologize.” Kindness radiated from his face, causing Bedelia to relax – King Engelbert truly was unlike his grandfather. “I know just how concerned you are and we really, truly, do appreciate it. You are just looking out for the best interests of the Kingdom and your insight is most valuable.”

Bedelia deeply bowed. “I am grateful for your empathy.”

“You are so very welcome.”

Bedelia could still feel some level of anger stirring inside of her. I must rearrange the schedules NOW? All simply so the boy can continue to taint the Princess with his prescence? 

She then forced a smile with her face. “If it is alright with you, I would like us to have a meeting regarding the schedule rearrangements. I want to ensure the best people for each job is appropriately assigned. I believe I have already done that, however, this rearrangement is a bit troubling and could use assistance and your insight.”

Queen Pleasance sat up for once during the meeting and clapped her hands, her eyes glinting. “Of course!” She turned to King Engelbert. “Right, honey?”

King Engelbert nodded in agreement. “Yes, absolutely. We will be more than happy to help rearrange the schedule. Let us meet after dinner to discuss the rearrangements.”

Bedelia bowed. “Very well. I shall go to the study for the discussion.”

“Yes. We shall see you in the evening.”

Bedelia curtesied, then turned on the pad of her foot. She hadn’t even noticed how aggressive her movements were – her mind was too busy racing.

Rerranging the schedule for a simply servant boy. I do not understand their line of thinking. Perhaps it’s not for the boy, but simply for the Princess. But would it not be better to have her become used to being with the boy by her side? She took in a deep breath. I suppose this is just temporary…yes. Temporary. I shall ensure these balls go so very spectacularly well that the Princess will find an appropriate husband and marry at once! She clasped her fists and raised her head.

The feelings of bitterness and anger started to subside with each step she took down the hall.

***

Bedelia gathered up the schedules for the next few weeks, along with her pen set with correction ink and headed out from her room. Her door slammed behind her, complimenting the furious pace of her steps.

“Ah! Miss Bedelia!”

Bedelia paused and turned to the young man who had stopped her. The aggressiveness she had displayed but a moment ago disappered and was replaced with a calm, but stern demenaor, like she usually did. “Yes, Carl?”

The young man flipped his hair out from his eyes. “There’s been a bit of problem getting the decorations ordered.” He held out a clipboard.

Bedelia looked down, reading the note scribbled on a half-sheet with an apology. She nodded. “Very well. It seems that there is a shortage of materials at the moment. I will put in a request to the king and queen to ask our neighboring countries if they have the materials. If not, we shall choose an alternative, as much as I would like to avoid doing such a thing.”

The young man nodded. “Yes, Miss Bedelia. What would you like me to do in the meantime?”

Bedelia glanced down at the schedules in her arm. “Have you completed the rest of the decoration orders?”

“Yes. I made sure to get them done before I came to you to discuss the issue.”

“Very well. Please head to the ballroom and assist in the rearranging and minor construction. Tisha hurt her foot earlier today and must rest for the next several days. They need the extra hands.”

Carl bowed. “Right away!” And then he was off.

Bedelia waiting for him to disappear from her sight before she started moving forward again, going right to the study.

Soon she was in the hallway in front of the familiar wooden door. She gave it a quick three knocks and turned the knob upon hearing “Come in!” from the King. She stepped inside and curtesied. “Thank you for allowing me to discuss this matter with you.”

“It is no trouble at all,” replied King Engelbert, sitting down at a round table.

Queen Pleasance sat down herself, placing her elbows on the table. She leaned forward on her hands, giving Bedelia a smile. “Anything to make the children happy within reason, you know?”

Bedelia sat down, a small, irritated smile forming on her face. It was so small, that one might not have even noticed the irritation within it.

Happy within reason, I do agree, but is this truly within reason? 

Bedelia laid out the schedules in front of them all. “I have gathered the schedules that have been written for the next few weeks. Brent works for approximentaly 30 hours during the week, plus an additional 10 dedicated to his studies. His remaining time is dedicated to meal and rest periods.”

King Engelbert lifted up the schedules and began to flip through them. Queen Pleasance leaned over, peering at them curiously. Bedelia folded her hands on the table. She simply watched the King read the schedule itself.

After a good moment of silence, the King smiled. “His hours are acceptable. It appears a simple swap with other servants would be the best way to do this.”

Bedelia gave the king a nod. “That would certainly be the easiest.”

“It does appear that he is scheduled at mostly odd hours, making it impossible to make time for Angelica.”

Queen Pleasance gasped. Her whole face lit up. Her eyes sparkled even more than then the crackling fireplace behind them. “Have Brent help out with some of Angelica’s tasks too!”

Bedelia’s face stayed stern, but inside, she was frowning. How very typical of the Queen. I do not know if it is simply because she had been a peasant, but her behaviour is truly peculiar. 

King Engelbert seemed to light up as well. “What a brilliant idea! Bedelia, what are all the tasks related to Angelica that are being worked on at the moment?”

Bedelia took the schedules back and skimmed over it herself as a reminder. “The duties related to the ball are dress fittings, accessory fittings, shoe fittings, dance lessons, etiquette review, clean up and restoration of Princess Angelica’s rooms, and regular meet-ups with upperclass citizens in preparation for the ball. Each one is requires Princess Angelica to be accompanied by at least one of our servants. Non-ball-related duties include attending to Princess Angelica in the morning and evening, serving her breakfast and lunch, and accompanying her to the town for a variety of small duties including chatting with townsfolk.”

Queen Pleasance clasped her hands together. “Put Brent on all of that!”

Bedelia visibly frowned.

King Engelbert chuckled. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for Brent to accompany her to dress fittings.”

Queen Pleasance sighed. She leaned on her hand. “Yes, I suppose you’re right.” She then playfully winked. “Accessory and shoe fittings should be just fine though!”

King Engelbert paused for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, that sounds fine.”

“Is that truly fine though?” inquired Bedelia. “Would it not be better to have one of the servants who have been shown to have an understanding of fashion accompany her to such things?”

“I suppose that is true, but I suspect Brent has enough of an eye of what would suit Angelica just fine,” replied King Engelbert.

The smirk curling on Queen Pleasance’s lips stabbed at Bedelia. Bedelia leered at her.

“What areas are in need of clean-up and restoration?” asked Queen Pleasance.

“Every room Princess Angelica has dominion over, however, her closet perhaps needs the most work of them all.”

King Engelbert stroked his beard. “Hmm…have Brent work on any tasks that have Princess Angelica present there at the time, minus the typical AM and PM duties. Continue to have Natalia serve her.”

“I do not think that is the most appropriate course of action,” replied Bedelia, looking down at the schedules. “There are many other tasks that could utilize his skills far better than the restoration and clean-up of her numerous rooms.”

King Engelbert lowered his head slightly, staring straight at Bedelia. “I am sure you are concerned because they still love each other very, very much. The least we can do is allow them the time together for now. The two of them are very much aware of the lines that must be drawn between them.”

Bedelia glanced over to Queen Pleasance, who was pouting. Her face seemed to dim and her gaze casted off to the side. Bedelia could see her eyes were glazed over. The Queen placed a hand on her heart and sat up straight. “I do believe it is the very least we can do before it’s time for Angelica to find…a..different…husband….”

Bedelia scowled. She pulled the schedule papers towards her and took out her notebook. “I understand. I shall arrange the schedule in such a way in which the boy is around for most tasks that Princess Angelica will be present at.”

King Engelbert gently placed his hand on his wife’s back, rubbing it. “Please ensure that Brent has additional time between tasks and that, beyond the tasks that are related to Princess Angelica, that he is placed on less crucial tasks.”

Bedelia scoffed. “What for? The boy is generally a good worker and we could certainly use his hands for the more crucial tasks. That is simply why I assigned him to such ones!”

“We understand that. However, during this time, we would like Brent to be available at all times for Angelica’s request.”

The Queen glanced up at her husband. “Could it be after curfew too?”

“Yes,” replied King Engelbert. “Allow Brent to be summoned by Angelica beyond curfew.”

Bedelia removed her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. Her head was starting to ache. “Won’t that affect his work? The curfew is there to ensure servants get enough rest.”

“We trust Brent and Angelica understand the importance of the ball and will act accordingly. If it seems to be a problem, we will personally discuss the matter with the both of them,” replied King Engelbert.

Bedelia found herself huffing. Her face was slightly flushed red. Her stern look was even more strained than it was before. I must rearrange everything just to the boy can see the Princess? Something about this seems so cruel to Princess Angelica and disastor for the boy. How could he bewitch everyone so? 

“…Bedelia?”

Bedelia looked up, seeing King Engelbert sympathetically looking at her. His voice was calm and gentle.

Bedelia placed her glasses back on her face. She cleared her throat. “I do apologize, I am quite upset about the amount of rearranging that must be done and I am worried about Princess Angelica’s well being, as well as how it will affect the boy by allowing them spending so much time together.”

King Engelbert gave her a gentle nod. “I really do appreciate your concern. This only truly needs to last until just after the first ball.”

Bedelia grasped the edges of her glasses and peered over them at the King. “What do you mean by that?”

“Brent turns 16 years of age shortly after the first ball. From then on, you may increase his work hours and place him on more crucial tasks. While I do request that there is some free time for Angelica and Brent to have their companionship, if the workload truly demands them to be apart, then so be it.”

Bedelia gasped. She pushed up her glasses. “I did forget about such a thing. That boy does turn of age soon, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, indeed.”

Bedelia nodded numerous times, pulling the schedules towards her. “I understand. I will rearrange the schedule now in order for Princess Angelica and the boy to maximize their time together before it is drastically reduced.” She began to scan over the schedules. “I do believe the tasks he was assigned were certainly the best for him, but I suppose others can do the job just as well.”

“Thank you, Bedelia.”

Bedelia nodded, beginning to scribble in the new schedule as it seemed to form out of thin air.

***

“No, no! It goes in the back east corner, not the front east corner! You, grab one of the carts!” snapped Bedelia.

“Yes, right away, Ms. Bedelia!”

Bedelia walked a few more steps and turned, hand a small pile of stapled papers to one of the older gentlemen. The older gentlemen peered down curiously at them. He then let out a small audible gasp. Bedelia gave him a nod in return. “Just double check the decorations before we begin to pull them out, yes?”

“Yes.”

Bedelia scurried off, checking each part of the ballroom, watching the dozens of servants moving things around. This setup must last for one…two…three……….eight. Eight balls. It is most likely time to put in the order for the variations for the next ball, yes? 

As her eyes quickly scanned each and every person and piece, she quickly concluded that for the most part, things were running smoothly. A rare smile rose on her face. She couldn’t help but stop in the middle of the ballroom and keep it up.

“Each and every one of you are doing a spectacular job! And as you know, I do not say this lightly. The series of balls this year is of the uptmost importance for it deals with Princess Angelica’s future. Thank you all for doing your job and doing it superbly, even amongst the occasional less-than-ideal circumstances. For those who have encountered mistakes, I thank you for your swift corection! That is all!”

A round of claps echoed in the ballroom for a brief moment, just before quickly dying down. Everyone went back to work.

“Ms. Bedelia?”

Bedelia turned as she was tapped on her shoulder, seeing a slightly scruffy middle-aged man. “Yes, Frederick?”

“The King and Queen are requesting you clean out one of the old empty rooms.”

“The ones that were formly used for the royal family?” inquired Bedelia. She peered up at Frederick while holding the side of her glasses.

“Yes, that is correct. They wanted it to be the 3rd corridor on floor 3. They said you can pick the room though.”

Bedelia looked down at the schedule on her clipboard. She skimmed over it. “Are you doing anything right now?”

“No, I finished all my duties for the day.”

“Fantastic.” Bedelia turned to him with a smile. “Come with me – I will have to check the rooms for myself, but you will clean them.”

Frederick frowned. “Yes, Ms. Bedelia.”

***

Bedelia kept walking down the corridor, checking each room for their layout. Ultimately, she settled on the 11th room, tucked in the corner of the corridor, with a beautiful view of the fields surrounding the castle and great sunlight exposure. The room itself wasn’t all that bad, although it certainly needed to be aired out and dusty.

Everything was slightly tinted gray due to the sheer amount of dust. It wasn’t all that surprising though – the rooms themselves were only cleaned every once in the spring and the fall, but ultimately stayed unused. A long time ago, they were used by the royals to house their extended family, but families shrunk over time and all the rooms simply were no longer needed. Periodically, they were turned into guest rooms, but those were usually on the lower floors.

Bedelia frowned as she ran her finger through a pile of dust on an empty desk. “Open the windows and dust first, then proceed with the rest of the usual cleaning.”

“Mhmm,” replied Frederick, holding onto a duster. He dragged his feet over to the windows and swung them wide open. Immeditately pouring in was the sounds of nature and a small breeze that seemed to kick up dust as it rolled in.

“I shall leave this to you then,” said Bedelia.

Frederick waved his hand. And at that, Bedelia left the room.

Bedelia found herself chuckingly. Frederick is very rude, but I suppose that is his personality. He is sort of like Sal, isn’t it? Her memories floated back to the much older man she used to work with named Sal, who always seemed dismissive of Bedelia regardless of what position she worked in. Shortly after becoming the head servant, she witnessed his interactions with others and realized that his rudeness was simply his personality.

She glanced at the doors to all the rooms around her. Her fingers gently touched their intricate designs. I wonder who the guest is. 

***

The first ball had gone without a hitch. Bedelia could still feel how happy she was witnessing such a wonderful sight – so many suitors surrounded Princess Angelica (truly, better suited than the boy, so though Bedelia) – and the young woman seemed taken in by them! She couldn’t help but pray for the Princess’s happiness with one of them.

A knock came at her door. She strolled over after straighting out her papers and opened it, finding one of the servants with an envelope. “From the King and Queen.”

Bedelia nodded her head. “Thank you.”

She took the envelope and shut the door behind her. She opened the letter and saw it was a request to send Brent to room 11 on the 3rd floor in the 3rd corridor.

Bedelia’s squinted. For what reason would he be needed there? 

Bedelia herself went off to fetch Brent. He wasn’t too far away from her room – he was assisting with moving around some old storage at the moment along with several other servants.

“Brent,” called Bedelia, wincing a bit upon saying his name. “You have been summoned to a different floor. Please come right this way.”

Brent stopped for a moment, looking fairly confused. “Is…something wrong?” he asked.

Bedelia shook her head. “No, nothing is wrong. You simply have been summoned to a different room by the King and Queen. Now, come along. Best get this over with so you may return back to your duties.”

Brent dropped the box in his hand beside him and neatly straightened it out and nodded. “Yes, right away. Please allow me to wash my hands first.”

Bedelia watched him go over to one of the many cleaning carts around them and dip his hands into a large bowl of water that was set aside specifically for washing. He dried his hands on the rack and returned with Bedelia.

The two of them walked to the floor in silence. Bedelia found herself glancing over at Brent, who lagged a few feet behind. Even his gaze stayed fairly downcasted.

They soon reached the 3rd corridor and she lead Brent to the 11th room. Much to her surprise, the door was already wide open.

The even bigger surprise was inside: the King, Queen, Princess Angelica, and even Natalia (why Natalia? was the thought that crossed Bedelia’s mind, mostly unconsciously). There were many flowers and several beautifully wrapped gifts.

She turned to Brent, hearing him gasp.

“Angelica?” said Brent.

Bedelia watched as the Princess hopped up from the bed she had been sitting on and gave Brent a huge hug. “Happy birthday!!”

Bedelia felt her blood suddenly run cold. Birthday? 

She watched Princess Angelica take Brent by the hand and bring him over to the gifts. “I just wanted to give you a party of some sort! I do apologize that there is no cake at the moment, but we shall have some later tonight. There was an issue with the bakery and we simply could not wait to do this party!”

Queen Pleasance cooed. “Those aren’t your only gift!”

“It’s not?” asked Brent.

Bedelia found her fists tightened. Do not tell me…

King Engelbert, who had been standing beside the bed, extended his hand. “We are providing you your very own room as a gift.”

Bedelia’s face immeditately turned pale, then flushed red. She wanted to scream, but kept her mouth shut tight. They had us clean this room for the BOY? Why do they go at such lengths and overstep such boundaries! It is bad enough that the Princess hugged him as he entered the room and gave him such a starry gaze, but then they announce he has his own room? Oh, goodness me, they are far too much. Why does the boy get such special treatment? Bedelia pulled off her glasses and held the brim of her nose.

“Bedelia, are you okay, dear? You don’t look so good,” commented Queen Pleasance. Bedelia felt the Queen’s hand on her back. It was small, but warm. But it didn’t do anything to help the seething anger grasping at her stomach and her heart.

Bedelia forced a smile on her face. “I am simply worn out from all the ball preparations from the last few weeks. That is all.”

Bedelia replaced her glasses and glanced over to Princess Angelica, Brent, and Natalia, who were chatting up like three old friends at a tea party. When did Natalia become so close to them? 

King Engelbert tapped Bedelia on the shoulder. “May I talk to you for a moment?”

Bedelia nodded her head. “Yes, of course.”

Bedelia followed King Engelbert out of the room and partway down the corridor, far away enough from the laughter and chatter in room 11. Bedelia felt heavy and the dusty corridor seemed to be suffocating her more than it normally did.

“Bedelia?”

“Yes, King Engelbert?”

“I know that look on your face by now. You are trouble by our actions once more, are you not?”

Bedelia took in a deep breath, then looked straight into King Engelbert’s eyes. She found a small smile crack onto her face. “You know me far too well.”

“I would like for you to let out your thoughts.”

“It is simply what I have said before. I feel that there is heartbreak for both the boy and Princess Angelica. I also do not understand as to why the boy gets such treatment when he is simply just a servant and I am afraid that there are boundaries that are being stepped over in ways that they should not be.”

King Engelbert returned her small smile. “I do suppose you are right. We are certainly overstepping our boundaries for Brent. However, Pleasance and I truly love Brent, almost as if he were our own son, and I suppose that is where we are in the wrong. Yet, I cannot help but do such things for him. I suppose we both also feel deep sorrow for having to reject his proposal to Princess Angelica and are also making up for that.”

Bedelia’s face turned dark. “And why must you do things for him?”

King Engelbert stroked his beard. His smile grew larger as he looked at the distance, down at the large stained glass window at the end of the hall. “You must have noticed it too – there’s a certain elegance to him. His mother was the same way.”

Bedelia paused for a moment, scanning through her memories of both Brent and his mother, Lillian. Each move that they made was full of such ample grace that it almost seemed odd that they were even servants in the castle. Such a thought chilled Bedelia because they weren’t anything more than that. “Well, perhaps they picked it up from a former employer? Lillian had worked at quite a few noble homes before coming to the castle.”

King Engelbert’s eye glinted. “Do you really believe that?”

Bedelia lifted her hand. “I do not try to pry into my staff’s private lives unless it causes an issue. I do not know what to make of the boy or Lillian and their elegance. Perhaps it was simply a matter of good genes. However, I do not understand what this has to do with anything.”

King Engelbert chuckled, scratching the back of his head. Bedelia briefly had a flashback to King Engelbert as a young child, giving her the same exact expression – something so carefree, playful, and charming. She even found it quelled her anger enough to really pay attention to him. King Engelbert then said, “this may sound a tadbit insane, but Brent is clearly meant to be more than what he is. Out of love, I cannot help but provide him with better circumstances.”

Bedelia found her throat lump up, but she managed to squeak out “I still stay it is stepping over boundaries.”

“Perhaps those boundaries could change?”

Bedelia was absolutely bewildered – it was as if lightning had struck down her back. King Engelbert burst out laughing.

“I do apologize,” he said, wiping tears from him laughter off from his eyes. “I did not expect you to react in such a way.”

“B-but the boundaries,” squeaked Bedelia. “They’ve been there for hundreds of years!” She soon gasped. “King Engelbert, please do not tell me you are not going to reverse your decision regarding Princess Angelica and the boy!”

King Engelbert shook his head. “No, I do not see a reason to do such a thing. Although Brent is our first choice, as well as Princess Angelica, I do agree that the kingdom would most likely respect Princess Angelica with a person with a significantly higher social status.”

Bedelia let out a sigh and grasped her heart. Boundaries are being stepped over so much! I am glad that King Engelbert has some sense not to do such a thing regarding the Princess’s relationship with the boy. 

King Engelbert tapped Bedelia on the shoulder as he walked past her. “We will return Brent and Natalia to their duties later on in the day. Brent will have an evening meal with us for cake. Starting next week, you may increase his hours.”

Bedelia looked at King Engelbert, who stopped walking. King Engelbert then said “just make sure there is a little room in his scheduled to attend to Princess Angelica, even if it is only for a handful of minutes a day.”

Bedelia bowed. “Yes…”

She watched King Engelbert disappear down the corridor and back into the room where the laughter was so loud, it made everything seem all that more nightmarish.

The least I can do is increase his hours. No matter how elegant the boy is, he is still a servant and only a servant. Bedelia linked her fingers together and brought them underneath her chin as she walked down the corridor towards the stairs. How shall I increase his hours? 

***

  • A few months later, Bedelia realizes she had made a mistake and put herself, Natalia, and Brent on duty to help Princess Angelica to get ready for one of the balls. It was literally the same day she realized this grave error and determined that things were already off schedule as-is, so she couldn’t even change it. She instructs Brent to grab the dress for today and wheel it out when she calls for it. Bedelia goes to Princess Angelica, assisting her and nagging her regarding being late for the ball. This is the whole dress scene, including where Bedelia leaves the room (she’s heading towards the kitchen – she’s mad and wants to report to the King and Queen, but it’s much too busy);

Several months later…

Bedelia quickly tied her hair back into a bun. Numerous strands had fallen out from just how quick she had been on her feet all day long. How oh how could we have gotten so off-schedule? Her feet hit the floor with loud thuds as she flipped through each page clipped on her clipboard. She was franatically placing checkmarks next to each item that was done, but her face seemed pale and glistened in the light from the amount of sweat dripping down her brow.

Most preperations were done earlier in the year…it should have been a simple case of swapping items and yet, here we are! I suppose some discipline is in order once this ball ends, but there is no time to deal with that! 

She flipped to the last page, which listed her own schedule. Written on her own schedule was assisting Princess Angelica with getting ready for the ball for the evening. I suppose we had numerous staff leave the castle these past few months…it surely makes things more difficult, especially as no suitable replacements have come by as of yet. She flipped the papers back, stopping on one particular page. Who am I working with today? Hnnn? 

Her eyes scanned over the schedule.

Then she did a double-take.

And then she stopped where she was walking.

Suddenly the sweat on her face felt ice cold. Her finger ran over the two names. One of the names – Natalia – was of no mind to her. Natalia was already acting as a personal attendant to the Princess, so it was not all that strange to have her there.

But written underneath Natalia’s name was ‘Brent’.

She placed a hand to her head. He was meant to help with the catering and clean-up! She looked at the names and tasks above Brent and Natalia’s name realizing the grave error she had made – she penciled everyone in one box too high. She let out a frustrated sigh. It is no wonder everyone seemed to be out of place today! 

She let out a low grumble. We don’t have the time to change this error! I cannot believe I let the boy assist the Princess…no matter what sort of accident it was. 

***

Bedelia didn’t even hide her frown upon seeing the sparkling Brent standing in the dressing room. Even Natalia seemed to be radiating flowers and the two seemed to have been chattering just before she had entered the room.

Bedelia leered at them. “Natalia, you shall assist me in dressing Princess Angelica.”

Natalia saluted Bedelia. “You got it, Ms. Bedelia!”

Bedelia turned her head to Brent. “You shall be assisting in grabbing out the dress and accessories.” She then stepped up to him and leaned into Brent’s face. “You are under no circumstances to enter behind the parition.”

Much to Bedelia’s surprise, Brent’s glowing smile stayed on his face and his hands behind his back. He bowed his head and replied, “of course! It would be improper of me to help Princess Angelica change.”

Bedelia glanced him up and down. He does not seem to be lying… “Very well.” Bedelia then stepped away. All I can hope that he truly does listen. Or no…perhaps it’s this act in which he weasels his way into the hearts of others. 

She waved her hand up and down at both Natalia and Brent. “Come along now.” Natalia and Brent followed a short distance behind as they walked into the whole other room that was a closet. Bedelia scanned the rows of perfectly aligned articles of clothing and accessories, soon stopping in front of a section with ballgowns.

She extended her hand to one of the dresses that had the same sort of features as all the other ones – boned top and a skirt with layers of layers of tuelle. What made it stand out was the dark pink sparkles interspersed throughout the layers and the pink color of the dress itself – it was almost like a baby grayish-pink color. Bedelia turned her eyes to Brent. “You will wheel this out when I tell you too.” She then turned to Natalia. “Then you and I shall dress Princess Angelica in it. There is a zipper in the back, which will most likely be the easiest way to put it on her.”

Natalia and Brent both nodded. Good. It seems with all understand. 

Bedelia pointed to Brent. “You are to stay in here until I call you out.”

“Yes.”

Bedelia then nodded at Natalia. “You just need to wait by the entrance of the dressing area.”

“Sure.”

Bedelia crossed off a scribbled note reading “direct Natalia and the boy” on her clipboard and nodded, hugging the clipboard to her chest. “I must go fetch the Princess. We are already running behind schedule!”

Both Natalia and Brent nodded at Bedelia. She gave them a wave. “Get into places!” She clapped her hands. Please do not socialize while I go and do the rest…

While Bedelia felt a bit happy that two of the servants were on friendly terms, she was more than aware of how that affected how they worked.

***

Bedelia stood by the side of giant bath, which was more of a pool really, where Princess Angelica seemed to be completely ignorant of the amount of time she had before the start of the ball. Bedelia glanced over at the clock mounted inside of an inset in the wall. Her kept her outer demanor calm, but inside, goodness, did she want to start screaming.

“Princess, you mustn’t stay under the water for long,” she called out, watching Princess Angelica was her hair.

Princess Angelica’s suddenly turned, flinging water in all directions. “I know, I know! My skin will prune if I do. I’ll be out in a second.”

Pruning is not the issue, my dear, it’s the time. 

Bedelia stood mostly still, watching the princess’s movements. She watched her back out from under the stream of the water and approach one of the attendants, who was waiting by the bath side with a pink towel. Princess Angelica’s actions seemed painfully slow. Is she doing this on purpose? 

“Hurry, we do not have much time!” Bedelia said, attempting to temper the anger in her voice. She was met with quite the glare from the Princess that made her wince ever so slightly – she could still remember the day only several month ago that Princess Angelica had looked at her the same disdain that King Siegbert had once upon a time, although Princess Angelica’s glare this time was no where near as menancing. It simply looked like an annoyed teenager…because that is what she was.

Princess Angelica seemed to continue taking her time – letting her towel drop behind a partition, another servant covering her with a white robe. She then went off on her own and back into the castle. Bedelia slapped her clipboard angrily on her hip, causing the servants around her to gasp at the sudden noise.

Bedelia chased behind Princess Angelica. Could she not have waited for me? I am to assist her today! “The guest will be arriving soon and you are not even close to being ready!”

“Is that not what the dressing room will get us to do?” asked Princess Angelica. Her tone was deep and sounded like borderline sarcasm.

Bedelia frowned. She took in a quiet deep breath, grounding herself into her body. Her mood seems to be much worse than usual. 

“Your hair –” started Bedelia.

“Will be fine,” replied Princess Angelica. “Just get me a folding fan.”

Is she planning to use that magic once more? 

She watched Princess Angelica throw open the doors ahead of her. She heard Natalia yelp from inside and greet Princess Angelica.

“Please get me one of my folding fans.”

“Yes, right away, princess. Which color would you like?”

“Make it the baby pink one with hte darker pink sparkle.”

“As you wish!”

Bedelia slammed her fist on the door, causing both Princess Angelica and Natalia to turn their head. “I cancel that order!”

The glare Princess Angelica shot was positively unnerving, but Bedelia refused to wavier. She is not King Siegbert. Nor am I a child! “I will need her assistance! Princess, you do not have time!”

“Bedelia, do not raise your voice at me.”

The finger pointing at Bedelia hurt her almost as bad as the whippings she used to receive as a child. Bedelia found herself hugging her clipboard to her chest, but quickly unfurled. I do not have time for this right now. “Just get behind the parition.”

Princess Angelica leered at Bedelia just before turning away. Natalia’s school-girl-giggle reaction seemed particularly annoying. Bedelia quietly admitted to herself that she was just glad that Princess Angelica was listening to her and disappeared behind the partition.

Bedelia slipped behind the partition, placing her clipboard down on a nearby table. Princess Angelica was frowning and her arms were crossed. She truly is in such a bad mood. This is her job…Bedelia reached into her pockets and pulled out a hair tie. She then grabbed Princess Angelica’s hair and began pulling it tightly into a bun.

“OUCH! Do not be so rough!”

“Forgive me, Princess Angelica. I do not want your sopping wet hair to ruin the dress.”

Princess Angelica let out an angry snort. “As I said, there is no problem.”

Using magic for such a trivial thing… “You cannot be so relient on magic. I understand that it’s a tradition that you are carrying on, but it has proven to be unreliable over the long run.”

“…unreliable for who?”

Bedelia cast her gaze down for a brief moment, remember Princess Johanne as a Lady, close to her death bed. “The magic should be able to restore me to good health.” “But what if it does not?” “It will.” Bedelia could feel tears wanting to push out, but she knew it wasn’t time. She quickly shifted her attention away from the thoughts of Princess Johanne and back to the very time-sensitive task at hand.

She let go of Princess Angelica’s hair and hurriedly went over to the closet. She yelled inside, “Brent, bring the dress, now!” 

“Yes, ma’am!”

Much to Bedelia’s surprise, Brent returned back with the dress far sooner than she anticipated. However, the clock seemed to put too much pressure on her to appreciate the boys punctual return. She small smile that cracked on her face quickly disappeared as she ripped the dress from Brent and made her way to the parition. Her head briefly turned to Natalia, yelling “Natalia, get back here!”

“Yes, Ms. Bedelia!”

Bedelia placed the dress just behind Princess Angelica. The scowl on the Princess’s face made Bedelia slightly anxious, but she was more than used to feeling such a way by now. “Princess Angelica,, we simply must get you into your gown. Then you can go about your day before the ball.”

“I am aware.”

“That frown is most unbecoming of you.”

Princess Angelica’s leer burned. “Does that matter?”

Natalia suddenly appeared on the other side of Princess Angelica, waving her hand. “I’m here to help!”

“Of course – it’s your job,” remarked Bedelia. She could see a frown show up behind Natalia’s smile just a bit.

Bedelia motioned to Natalia to come closer to the dress and the two of them began to remove it from its stand, revealing all the undergarments layer underneath – from the petticoats to the stays and the shift. Everything came off, most of it being piled into Natalia’s arms as Bedelia sorted out each piece.

“Come – we must move quickly.” Bedelia took the shift and brought it over to Princess Angelica, who had at this point dropped the bathrobe off her body and was just standing completely naked like a woman in an old painting. Bedelia and Natalia (who had carefully placed everything on a small table behind them) began to dress Princess Angelica.

Everything was simply routine – slipping on each article of clothing, making sure it was secure. Bedelia had done this most certainly hundreds of times before, atlhough it had been a bit since she specifically helped Princess Angelica.

A small smile cracked on her face remembering Princess Johanne and the many, many times she had helped her. Her heart twinged at the mere thought of the late Princess Johanne’s beauty. Even in her old age, she was still the most beautiful. 

It was the sound of the last zipper that brought Bedelia back to the present moment. She quickly hid the zipper with the hook-and-eyes that originally hid the zipper and had Princess Angelica turn around with a simple tap on the young woman’s shoulders. Princess Angelica – still frowning and seeming absolutely exhausted, turned around. The dress swooshed in all directions. Bedelia fiddled with some pieces that looked off kilter, but for the most part, everything looked well.

“Are we done?” asked Princess Angelica.

“Yes. We just have your hair left to do.”

“All right,” replied Princess Angelica. The princess, in the most nonchalant fashion Bedelia had ever witnessed, stepped out from behind the parition.

Bedelia then heard a gasp.

“Oh, Brent, you brought my fan!”

Bedelia peered out from behind the parition, alongside Natalia. Bedelia’s brow furrowed. How…? I had not mentioned the fan once nor was there a moment for the Princess to interact with the boy. 

“Yes, of course Princess Angelica, anything you desire, I will do my best to fullfill your request.”

Bedelia’s fist balled. Is this a part of the boys tricks? She appears to still be pining over him! 

Bedelia moved from behind the partition and in-between both Brent and Princess Angelica, just after Princess Angelica removed her fan from the boy’s hand. She glared over her shoulder at Brent heavy with warning to stay away, then turned her attention back to Princess Angelica, who was glaring right back at her. “Princess, there is no time!”

Princess Angelica clicked her tongue. “You keep saying that! It’ll take no time at all – just watch.”

What a mood! I certainly hope she won’t be acting this way with the guests! Perhaps I should bring it up with the King and Queen. This is so very concerning! 

Bedelia’s stomach dropped watching Princess Angelica remove the tie from her hair in one fellow swoop, her damp hair raining down all over the back of the dress. Princess Angelica stopped at the lit vanity and within a few swoops of her fan, magic completely dried her hair and flipped her bangs.

Bedelia stood speechless for the Princess had been completely right – it took no time at all!

“I told you it would not take me all that long.”

No time indeed. Bedelia clicked her tongue. But how long with the magic even last for? And how health is it for your hair? Surely, there must be a better, non-magical way…what a trivial use for something so powerful. 

“Oh, but princess! Your shoes!”

Bedelia turned her eyes to Natalia, who was rushing out from behind the parition. Bedelia’s eyes narrowed. How could I have forgotten such an important compontent?! 

She watched Natalia quickly help Princess Angelica slip on her shoes. Her eyes narrowed as if she had been glaring, but Bedelia herself wasn’t. Or at least, not actually at anyone in the room. She was glaring at herself for the mistake she made. I am grateful for Natalia’s speedy response. 

She let out a quiet sigh just as Princess Angelica began to wave her fan in her direction. Bedelia’s head slightly tilted in confusion to the rather rude gesture.

“You and Natalia are dimissed,” stated the Princess.

Natalia bowed. “Yes, Princess.”

After a short exchange of thanks, Natalia left the room, leaving just Bedelia, Brent, and Princess Angelica behind.

Princess Angelica’s leer burned. “I dimissed you as well.”

Bedelia gave Princess Angelica a slight nod as she turned her to Brent. “You are to head to the kitchen next,” she stated as matter-of-factly.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Bedelia was slightly surprised by the neutral tone in Brent’s voice. How unusal for him. 

The swishing of Princess Angelica’s dress became louder as Bedelia watched her move from near the vanity to next to Brent. The scowl on the Princess’s face was deep. As Bedelia had thought earlier, Princess Angelica had dark circles under her eyes. Her whole body looked like it was acting as a wall of some sort. “Bedelia,” said Princess Angelica. “I dimissed you, not Brent. I understand you are head of all servants as appointed by my parents, but  Iam second to my parents in terms of final say. He is to stay with me until I dimiss him.”

Bedelia grumbled. She could feel her glasses slipping enough to be bothersome as her brow scrunched disapprovingly. “Princess Angelica, the cooks need help preparing the feast for tonight.”

Princess Angelica shifted positions – folding her hands and lifting both her head and chest – creating a far more regal wall between herself and Bedelia. A rather familiar sensation trickled down Bedelia’s back at the sight.

Lady Johanne had once done something for me…

“Brent is to stay with me until I dimiss him.”

“Bedelia is not to leave my side until the night is over. She is my most important servant and I will not allow her to serve anyone else in the castle except under my direct orders!”

Bedelia lifted her head to Princess Angelica. “As you wish.” Her eye glanced at Brent just behind Princess Angelica, the two of them leering at Bedelia. Her lips slightly pursed. The boy and the princess are not us – their relationship is unacceptable. “But please be aware, I shall bring this up to your parents.”

With that, Bedelia turned on the sole of her foot and exited out of the room. A heaviness overcame the heated atmosphere just before a massive thunderstorm. What a way to dishonor the memory of Lady Johanne and all that she had done for me! If it had not been for her hardwork, I would not have been able to serve this family and the likely hood in which I would have been dead long before I reached this age is so very high. She tightly grasped the sides of the clipboard. The boy continues to be a nusiance who continues to lead the Princess astray…how is she meant to find the perfect husband if he is still so regularly within her field of vision? 

Bedelia began to scribble down on a piece of paper “inform king and queen about improper conduct from princess” and scurried off to the rest of the castle for preparations.

***

  • Bedelia is doing her rounds during the ball, ensuring everything is in order. She goes out to one of the balconies, noticing two of the servants are there. She inquired what they were doing and they said they were on their break. Bedelia is curious what they are looking at and goes and looks down, seeing Brent and Princess Angelica on the balconies below, dancing. She is furious;

The far-off sounds of the orchaestera in the ballroom filled the hallways as Bedelia made her way to the balaconies. The orchestra was as pleasant as always and even had Bedelia almost skipping down the hall. I do hope guests have not gotten lost. 

She had been on the other side of the castle when she noticed two figures standing on the balconies up a bit higher. Even though guests were allowed to roam just about anywhere in the castle during this time, she wanted to ensure that no one was struggling. She had run off to go see who exactly was on the balcony and what she could do to help.

She finally hit the double doors to the balacony and walked outside, finally seeing the two people she had seen: Leila and Shari, two of the castle servants The two of them were chatting and giggling away, each with a small plate of food and some drinks.

“Ah, good evening,” greeted Bedelia.

The two servants turned to her. She could see nervousness in their smiles. “Good evening, Ms. Bedelia.”

“What are you two doing up here?”

Leila lifted her hand. “We’re on our break.”

Bedelia paused for a moment, her mind scanning over the schedules and nodded. “Ah, I see. That is right…you both are on break at the moment.”

Leila and Shari nodded.

“Well, make sure that if any guests show up, you guide them to where they need to go.”

“Yes.”

Bedelia watched both Leila and Shari turn back to look over the balacony, down to the direction of the bright lights. The two of them were whispering and quietly gushing about something, pointing just enough for Bedelia to notice.

What would prompt such movements? Bedelia walked over to the balcony’s rail and looked down.

Down on the balcony outside of the brightly lit ballroom was Princess Angelica…and Brent.

Dancing.

Bedelia’s pale face flushed red. She tightly gripped her clipboard. Her shoulders tensed up and she leered down at the two of them. “The nerve…!” she snapped.

Both Leila and Shari jumped next to her.

Bedelia furiously scribbled down a note right under discussing Princess Angelica’s conduct stating “improper conduct between Brent and Princess Angelica – ballroom dancing

She turned on her heel and walked off, giving a wave to Leila and Shari, who had been staring at her for the past moment completely frozen in place. She could hear their sighs and questions of “what was that”.

***

“Princess Angelica continuously spoke down to me during her dressing with a complete dimissal at the end. It was absolutely unbecoming and I cannot help but express concern over her conduct! She dimissed both Natalia and myself, demanding the boy to stay behind with her. Although he did show up to the kitchens not too long after, such a delay could barely be afforded!”

Bedelia clenched her clipboard tighter. King Engelbert was slowly nodding and frowning, while Queen Pleasance looked like she was intently listening to gossip. “There were many delays in that day. I do apologize for the careless in my scheduling that I scheduled the boy to assist Princess Angelica’s dressing – it was such an unfortunate oversight on my part and for that, I shall take responsibility. However, the same cannot be said for the Princess herself! I do not know why she was acting in such away, but I surely hope that attitude did not spill over into the ball itself!”

The brief glance exchanged between King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance made Bedelia’s stomach run cold. Goodness, Princess Angelica did act in such a manner, didn’t she? 

King Engelbert continued to nod his head slowly, but this time with a small smile. “Thank you very much for your concern, Bedelia. That sort of attitude is certainly troubling. We will be sure to speak to her.”

Bedelia slapped her clipboard with the back of her hand, shouting “that isn’t all!” Both King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance jumped.

“Yes?”

Anger started to boil up again within Bedelia’s body. “Also on the day of the ball, I witnessed the boy neglecting his duties and dancing out on the balcony with Princess Angelica, despite he had clear duties to serve the guests.”

Queen Pleasance’s suddenly staning straight up and the glow on her face started Bedelia. She could feel her anger receding in the face of her confusion. What is that reaction? 

King Engelbert laughed and waved his hand dimissivally. “That is more than fine.”

Bedelia scoffed. “But how? The ball is for Princess Angelica’s future husband, yes? This only continues to stroke the fires of her puppy love.”

Both King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance’s faces darkened ever so slightly. The atmosphere of the whole room seemed to becoming just that much heavier. Neither one of them was smiling.

“We appreciate your concern Bedelia. However, Brent was with Princess Angelica per our request on the day of the ball,” replied King Engelbert. The warmth that was usually in his voice was absent.

Bedelia’s eyes widdened. And she gasped. “I-I had not been informed.”

Queen Pleasance sat back, folding both her arms and legs, while sitting up tall. “It was pretty last minute. Princess Angelica ran off. She’s been struggling with these frequent balls.”

“Her misery has become more and more obvious with each ball. She had disappeared very early in the night and we only knew one person who could brighten her night.” King Engelbert sat back himself.

“His duty that night changed from serving guests to ensuring our daughter was happy,” added Queen Pleasance.

Bedelia’s thoughts and feelings were so heavily tied up in knots, the only thing she managed to spit out was a cold “I understand.” She nodded her head, curtsied, and walked off, mumbling “good day” underneath her breath.

She was horrified and sad that she had not been informed about the sudden change in Brent’s duty. She was embarassed she had complained about something the King and Queen had directly requested. She was furious that Brent and Princess Angelica had spent the evening together and wanted nothing more for the Princess to have a happy life…away from the boy.

Won’t this hurt the Princess more? Will the King and Queen ever allow people to stand in their proper social standing? 

***

Bedelia waved her hand in the air dismissively. “No, no, don’t put those over there. Put them to the right on the countertop in the back. They must be seen over both furniture and guests alike!”

The servants carrying the flower arrangements nodded. “Yes, Ms. Bedelia.”

Bedelia gave them a confirming nod.

Her head then turned towards the door, hearing fervant footsteps. Her brain was sent on high alert. She held her breath in anticipation…only to see Brent burst through the open door, just in front of two servants bringing in another round of flower arrangements.

The young man’s face was flushed red. He seemed unusually frazzled, with bits of hair out of place on his head. He gasped a few times as he approached Bedelia. Bedelia’s eyes fell to a very familiar piece of paper in his hand. The schedule…? 

“You’re doing it again!” exclaimed Brent. The schedule in his hand, as well as his finger on certain places, was suddenly thrust into Bedelia’s face.

Bedelia let out in inaudable gasp and stepped away, fixing her glasses that had slightly shifted to high on her face. Her eyebrows raised. What is he…“did you tear the schedule off the bulletin board?” she asked in complete disbelief.

“You overscheduled me. Again.

Bedelia’s brow slightly furrowed, her mouth slightly agape. What is this boy talking about? Her eyes scanned the schedule itself, seeing everywhere Brent was scheduled in. The times, the tasks…

Did I do so again? I don’t believe so. These tasks do look a bit more tedious, but he is perfect for them, is he not? I suppose some of these times conflict with Princess Angelica’s, but that should not be a problem, yes? Bedelia could feel a cold sweat started to drip down her brow. The room also seemed oddly quiet. What will happen if the King and Queen hear of this accusation once more? 

She pushed a calm smile on her face. “Brent, I have not over scheduled you. I scheduled you for the tasks because you are the most reliable one for the job.”

Brent’s brow seemed to furrow. A blue light seemed to flicker in his purple eyes that tickled Bedelia’s gut uncomfortably. “Am I really all that reliable?” She could hear the anger he was holding back in his voice.

Bedelia folded her hands and looked at him in his eyes. “Of course,” she replied calmly. “You are the oungest employee we have.”

She pushed up her glasses that started sliding down due to her sweat. “You have a bright future ahead of you,” she stated very matter-of-factly.

Brent smiled, but Bedelia could tell it was false.

“Yes, right away,” said Brent, who turned around.

Bedelia’s brow furrowed once more, thinking quietly as she watched Brent glance at her over his shoulder. How troublesome. She touched her fingers to her lips. I suppose I do have a history of overscheduling, but that simply doesn’t appear to be the case. Did I unconsciously make it much more difficult? After all, I still am quite angry at the King and Queen’s decision from the last ball…

Bedelia’s thoughts quieted for just a moment, enough to notice all the servants standing in the room, staring at her in silence. She immeditately scowled and clapped her hands. “Come now! You all know your jobs! No need to stare. Move it!”

Everyone chimed a “yes, Ms. Bedelia” and quickly scampered to get back to work.

Bedelia looked up and down at her notes and the flower arrangements, seeing them all being setup perfectly. She gave an approving nod, before her mind drifted back to Brent’s accusation.

If he thinks I am overscheduling him as such, is it possible to schedule him just a light bit more? We could certainly use more help in numerous places. Of course, I would still heed to the requests of King and Queen, but he really, truly is needed for jobs. I suppose I could test this out next week. 

Bedelia nodded to herself. She pulled out her little notebook from her pocket and began to scribble down just where exactly she wanted to place ‘the boy’ in the schedule for the upcoming weeks.

***

Bedelia struck off another name on her list. Her usual stern scowl was etched deeply into her face. I am aware that it is such a very nice day, but did so many have to leave the castle grounds? She let out a hard sigh. How unfortune for Bridget to break her arm on such a beautiful day. 

Her eyes turned to some movement coming from the gazebo in the gardens. She stopped walking and turned her whole body, watching Brent enter into the gazebo where Princess Angelica was clearly sitting. Bedelia’s stomach knotted for a moment, but from all she could see, Brent was bringing tea.

She took a brief glance down at her list. The boy is off today too. She looked back up, looking at the rather relaxed scene unfolding a distance away from her. Is he attending to the Princess’s needs? Or is this simply a playdate? Bedelia tapped her clipboard. If he is attending to the Princess, I do not want to interrupt his duties, even if it is meant to be a day off for him. However…

Her thoughts trialed off as she watched Princess Angelica move around the gazebo, clockwise, clearly controlling magic with her fans. Bedelia’s blood ran cold up realizing that Princess Angelica was erecting a magical ward.

She gasped. “What sort of corruption IS this?” Her eyes narrowed where she had once saw Brent and Princess Angelica, although all she saw now was an empty gazebo with a bit of a strange sheen to the inside. “How did the boy coerce the Princess into doing something so obscene?” The King and Queen trusted you, yet you have broken their trust! 

Bedelia hugged her clipboard to her chest. Something akin to a volcanic eruption suddenly burst forth from within her. Her eyes became bloodshot. Does no one see this? Should I go to the King and Queen? No…no, they will not do anything, for they are also under the spell of his allure. He’s been falsely leading everyone but myself, yes? His great skills he displays on-duty does not dismiss him from whatever he may be doing. What exactly is he after? Money? Status? Power? No…it does not matter…

Bedelia’s face darkened. I must do something. I MUST…I must keep him away from Princess Angelica at all cost! 

Bedelia continued to walk the direction she had intended to in the first place before she had stopped walking. Her steps were just as fast as the thoughts going through her head, which only amounted to short sentences regarding how to deal with Brent and his insolence.

Her shoulder ended up bumping into one of the female servants.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Ms. Bedelia!” the servant exclaimed, bowing profusely.

Bedelia’s train of thought stopped and she gave the servant a bow back. “Thank you for the apology, however, it was me who had not been paying attention. I do apologize.”

Bedelia found herself calm down ever so slightly, although the anger was still bubbling inside of her. She slipped the list of names off and crinkled it in her hands. An unusual smile spread across her face. Even she could feel how heavy the smile was. But it was no matter – her determination to keep Princess Angelica and the boy apart had been amplified ten fold.

“Cerlyn,” said Bedelia. She watched Cerlyn flinched. “Could you please inform Brent that I need him to clean the dungeons? Bridget broke her arm and I need a replacement. He is in the gardens.”

Cerlyn nodded. “Yes,” she replied. There was a hint of a tremble in Cerlyn’s voice. That wasn’t anything unusal though for those who dealt with Bedelia. (She wasn’t much like her predecessors, but certainly being an authority figure was enough to send people shaking sometimes.)

“Very well. Thank you,” said Bedelia, waving her hand.

***

Bedelia walked back into her room, placing her clipboard down on her mess of a desk. She patted it twice and smiled. All that is left is for the evening rounds…there are still several hours before then…

A knock came at her door.

“Yes? You may enter,” replied Bedelia.

Cerlyn walked in. “Hey, Ms. Bedelia! Brent said ‘okay’ to cleaning the dungeon storerooms! Sorry I didn’t get to tell you earlier. He should be down there now.”

Bedelia pushed down the delight she felt springing up inside her. She simply return a small smile to Cerlyn. “Thank you so very much for your assistance today, Cerlyn. You may return back to work.”

Cerlyn bowed. “Yes, right away.”

Bedelia watched as Cerlyn clicked her tongue and fixed her ruby-red hair. The bun that had been affixed on top of her head was falling apart at her swift movements.

Bedelia waited until she could hear no more footsteps in the halls before she exited the room. Her feet moved swiftly down the halls and she quickly found herself within the vicinity of the dungeons.

And then she slammed open the dungeon room door she knew Brent would be working in. She payed no mind to his startledness nor the fact he nearly dropped the sponge – she simply cornered him.

Just seeing his face filled her with rage.

“What were you doing with the princess?”

“Excuse me?” Brent asked, in a quiet voice.

“What were you doing with the princess?” asked Bedelia, leaning in. She could see the terrified look on Brent’s face. That only made her rage more. Playing innocent? “Neglecting your duties once again? Trying to tempt her?”

Bedelia gasped as Brent ducked underneath her arm and stumbled backwards a few steps, still holding onto the sponge in his hands. “What kind of absurd accusations are those?” Brent’s brow furrowed. “I am off today. Am I not alllowed to see her?”

Bedelia pointed in his direction. “Do NOT talk back to me, boy – you are not to go near the princess!”

Brent held up his free hand. “She requested me specifically. Is it not our duty to–”

“Don’t play ignorant with me, boy! There is not a soul in this castle who does not know you are attempting to lead her astray!”

“What?!”

Bedelia took a few steps closer, lifting up her skirt just a slight bit to not trip over her tembling legs. Her legs were reverberating to the anger surging up and down within her body. “Once you are finished with this, report to the servant quarters and check your schedule! It has been changed.”

“Changed to what?”

Bedelia then folded her hands, in her normal calm composure, although she was seriously still raging inside. “You no longer have time to see the Princess. You shall spend all your waking hours working and they all shall be within my proxmiety so I can monitor you. I cannot have you getting your unworthy paws on the Princess.”

Bedelia watched a waterfall pour from the sponge in Brent’s hand, from him squeezing it so tightly.

“You can’t do this,” shouted Brent. “What about mandatory days off?”

“Your time will be split over several days, during hours when you cannot meet her.”

“…I will let the King and Queen know what you have done.”

Bedelia found herself laughing through her nose. A smile of delight she didn’t even realize she was capable of was written on her face. “With what time?” she replied.

The absolutely stunned look on Brent’s face was like watching a false mirror cracking. Yes, let us see your true colors, boy. You are no longer going to fool me. 

After a brief moment of staring down Brent, she whipped her head away and walked out the door, grabbing a hold of the iron handle. She then slammed it shut with all her might.

And then she found herself skipping ever so slightly down the corridor back to the stairwell.

***

Bedelia sat down and immeditately began to revise the schedule. Every single place Bedelia was going to be present, Brent was placed. Only late into the evenings would Brent be available…long after the Princess of Astral Isles had gone to sleep.

A sense of duty swelled inside of Bedelia’s heart.

I must do this for the sake of Astral Isles.

***

Bedelia found her wanting to start relaxing her hawk gaze, but every moment she started to faulter, her sworn duty to the kingdom swelled in her heart and she just could not take her eyes off from Brent.

It had been weeks – about a month from when she had updated the schedule – that she kept a close eye on Brent. From morning until night, she made sure he was always within view.

The first few weeks had been difficult – Brent tried on more than one occassion to get away from her, but Bedelia saw through him. The moment he stepped foot out from the vicinity in which he was to be working or passing through, Bedelia found herself stepping in his way and with a calm smile, asked him “going somewhere?”. Sometimes she would direct him too where he needed to go next and would follow shortly behind.

But recently, the boy with dark circles underneath his eyes, seemed to have stopped trying to escape. He seemed docile in comparison to the way he had been even a week earlier. His dusting was quiet and his breathing oddly silent, despite how empty and open the room was.

Bedelia puffed out her chest. It seems the boy finally understands his place. He no longer can bother the King and Queen nor harm the Princess. Why, I’d say he may end up becoming the best servant on staff if this keeps up! He has, after all, always had an eye for detail. 

She looked at Brent’s back with a proud smile.

***

A month or so later…

Bedelia looked at the clock, feeling increasingly tense. Where is he? 

She was still watching over Brent, even now, although his docile behavior in the past month had caused Bedelia to relax enough to simply keep her ears open to any strange movements from him.

He’s never been this late before, even prior to the current arrangement. She glanced up at the clock once more. Did something happen to him? 

Bedelia waited for one more moment before exiting the room and making her way to the corridor with Brent’s room. She went to go knock, but found the door was slightly cracked open.

“Are you there?” she asked, opening the door more. She peered inside.

There was a liminal silence about the room. Bedelia couldn’t exactly point out what, but something seemed strange. She looked outside the door for the room number markers and confirmed that it was, indeed, Brent’s room.

Strange….did I miss something on the schedule? Bedelia looked down at the schedule on her clipboard, confirming that nope, she had been in the right place.

Her face then turned pale. Do not tell me I have been far too lax? Her head whipped down the corridor. Did he find an opening to escape and see Princess Angelica?! 

She hurried on her feet over the Princess’s corridor. It is still early in the morning. She should still be resting in her room. 

Bedelia grumbled to herself about Brent neglecting his duties and soon reached Princess Angelica’s bedroom door. She knocked three times and her Natalia’s voice call out “Yes? Who is it?”

“It is Bedelia.”

There was a silence, then Natalia in a low, but loud voice replied, “Come in.”

Bedelia swung open the door.

Her eyes very quickly noticed there was no Brent.

Instead, Princess Angelica was resting on Natalia’s lap. Natalia was stroking Princess Angelica’s hair gently. Bedelia could see that Princess Angelica’s eyes were red and puffy, with crusty bits around her eyes. Tears had clearly been streaming down her cheeks recently, although it looks like they had stopped a bit before Bedelia arrived.

“What happened?” asked Bedelia. Her voice was gentle. Every thought of finding Brent had left her mind – all she could focus on was the Princess looking deeply heartbroken.

Natalia turned to Bedelia. “Brent left the castle.”

Bedelia’s head shook and she jumped back. He left? “When?”

“This morning, or rather, in the middle of the night.”

Bedelia’s mouth gapped open. “Is there a reason why I was not informed of this earlier?”

“I am not aware.,” replied Natalia.

Bedelia noticed Princess Angelia’s eyes glazed over, but glaring at her from under Natalia’s hand that was gently stroking her. A thought floated up from within Bedelia’s depths: she is condeming me.

Bedelia lightly clutched her clipboard. Her eyes shifted around the room. I never intended for Princess Angelica to be hurt like this. I simply wanted to protect her from the boy…did I make a mistake? Was my decision to protect the kingdom what led to this very moment? 

Bedelia’s gaze fell to the floor. I did not want him to leave. I simply just wanted him to stay away from the Princess and stop interfere with royal affairs…

She closed her eyes. The tiniest of tiniest hints of a smile appeared on her face. Well, I suppose this is for the better. It is a shame we must find someone to replace someone like him, but at least he will no longer influence the royal family. 

***END***

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[UNEDITED FIRST DRAFT] Untitled Spark & Vainstrel Story 3

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY. YOU are the very first person to read it – I haven’t even read it in its entirety yet!

You WILL come across numerous issues including:

  • spelling mistakes;
  • grammar issues;
  • weak sentence structure;
  • repeated words;
  • unnecessary words;
  • missing words;
  • lack of details/descriptions;
  • confusing details/descriptions;

Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.

Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.

The soft glow of the moonlight illuminated Spark’s body and emphaized the smile that was plastered on her face. Her giggles echoed on the fairly quiet street corner and her eyes stayed glued to the screen in her hand. Her fingers tapped a response just as quickly as the speech bubbles came. 

The conversation started not too long after Spark had booked a carriage to take her back home from a long day out in the town. Even though she had her usual electricity pulsing her body, she could feel she just simply wanted to relax and unwind. The heaviness of her limbs had worn her down…up until she heard the custom organ jingle ringtone she had set. Sparks of electricty flittered around her head the moment she heard it. 

The rehersals of this lifetime have finally allowed me to leave! A good night’s rest is what my body yearns for so that I may return and reherase once more tomorrow.” 

“tee hee. sounds tiring” 

“Indeed, tiring it has been! But it is worth every ounce of my being to be on stage and bring the show to life with perfection and grace!”

“tee hee!! did anything happen today?” 

“Nothing out of the ordinary. It went all spectacularly well, as one would hope.” 

“And, my dear lady Spark, how was your day?” 

“OH BOY YOU DO nOT WANT TO ASK” 

“I implore you to tell! You have piqued the curiousity in my vamprie eye.” 

“TEE hEE oh you ummm………where do i start………..um…..it was a problem after a problem”

“I had to call electrical maintence a gazillion times today because so much equipment was not working the way it was supposed to! it made my job 10x harder!” 

Spark tapped the top of her phone to her lips, savoring the giddiness that had sprouted up within her being. “He types like he talks!” she exclaimed, followed by a giggle. She leaned back on the bench, looking up at the starry sky above. He’s so funny. 

Her cheeks slightly flushed, thinking about Vainstrel. It didn’t take too long before her mind went to the finger he had once punctured. She let out a sigh, sinking down into her seat. “Oh man…” What would I give to have him do that again! She bit her bottom lip. Is…that even okay for me to want? 

DAAAA DAAA DAAA DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Spark jumped, pulling her phone away from her lips. A dramatic organ ringtone blared and on the screen’s caller ID read VAINSTREL, followed by a smiling profile picture that made Spark’s heart want to leap out from her chest and run away in a different kind of way than how she had been startled.

Hurriedly, she swiped her finger and put the phone to her ear. “Vainstrel?” 

Good day, dear Spark! I am aware we are sending electronic messages to each other, but I simply just had to call you to extend a very important invite to you. Are you available to come to the café we met at before?” 

Spark put a hand to her cheek and gasp. The café?! Maybe he’ll bite me!! “Yeah, I can do that!” 

I shall see you there soon. I am headed that way now. I should be there within 20 minutes.” 

“Okay! That sounds good! I can’t wait to see you!” 

“I cannot wait to see you either, Lady Spark!” 

“Tee hee!” 

beep 

Spark hung up the phone, completely melting. “I get to see Vainstrel today!” 

Her attention quickly turned back to her phone. After a few swipes through menus, the carriage application was reopened and she reset her destination from her home to the café. 

The heaviness that had perimiated her body was completely gone. Lightness completely replaced it, making her earlier exhaustion a completely illusion. 

The notification on her phone from the carriage application quickly appeared with a 5 minutes arrival time. Spark found herself standing up from the bench and waiting. 

She tapped her phone to her lips once more, grinning and giggling. Her body trembled with each giggle that left her vocal cords. “He always sounds so passionate and excited about everything. I wonder what his important invite is?” 

Maybe to marry him or to bite me all over?! Spark’s eyes popped and she deeply blushed. She covered her face with her phone, retracting her hed down almost like a turtle to hide behind it. “Oh my gosh, me! That’s so inappropriate! We aren’t anything like that!” 

Several organ jingles sounded all at once and she looked down to her phone, seeing a series of texts from Vainstrel. One was related to how she was going to arrive, but the rest were irrelevant – simply just an interesting sight he saw on the way and some thoughts he had. 

Spark shook her head and relaxed her shoulders. Her face was flushed. He is so weird and talks to me sooooooo much…but I don’t mind it. “It’s kind of cute. ❤︎”

***

Spark stepped out from the carriage and waved good-bye and voiced a “thank you” to her driver. Her feet firmly placed on the ground, she turned her gaze over to the familiar vampire with half his face covered with long blonde hair and the other completely bald. Her cheeks flushed and the sparks of electricty that had been flickering the whole ride became large and more frequent to the point she was pretty sure she was feeling the heat. 

“My dear Lady Spark! It is a pleasure as always to see your beautiful face once more!” Vainstrel greeted. 

Spark placed a hand on her cheek as Vainstrel grabbed her other one, giving her a gentle kiss. Spark shivered a bit as his lips part from her skin. Ooooh, if only it was a bite! She then glanced up into the air. Well, kisses on my hand aren’t bad either. 

Vainstrel dramatically tossed his cape behind himself, stilling holding onto Spark’s hand. “Come! Our table and drinks await!” 

Spark found herself giggling. He’s sooooo funny. 

Spark allowed Vainstrel to lead her into the café. The lighting was dim and cozy, but still allowed everything to be seen and read with ease. There seemed to be no one else in the café besides from the two staff members manning the counter and Spark & Vainstrel. 

Vainstrel stopped at a small table in the corner of the café. 

Spark’s eyes glittered, seeing the familiar shaped cups. “Oh my goodness, did you really?!” She lifted up the cup closest to her and opened the cap, sniffing the warm hot chocolate. 

“Yes, I indeed went ahead and ordered our drinks! Time is not to waste – it is ours to take.” 

Spark sat down in her chair, adjusting her skirt to allow herself to comfortable sit. She immeditately swooned the moment she let go of her skirt. “That is seriously so sweet of you. Gosh, what are you even doing to me?” 

Spark maintained her smile and cheery attitude, but she noticed Vainstrel appeared to be a bit thrown off by her words. 

“I….” started to say Vainstrel. 

Spark placed her cheek in her hand and tilted her head, smiling up at Vainstrel who still hadn’t sat down. Her smile spread long across her face and her eyes squinted. “I don’t know what you want with me, but you’re so nice to me. You make me feel loved.” 

She stayed in position, but her heart and back of her mind began to panic. What are you saying me? It’s true I feel so loved and cared for, but you’ve only met this guy, like, twice…oh goodness, I am so embarassed. 

Spark soon found both her hands being held by Vainstrel. His pale face was flashed red and he looked unexpectedly adorable in his flustered state. “My dear Lady Spark! I question those who do not treat you with kindness. You yourself are kind and caring. Your niceness shines through. Your smile is like a symphony of lightning bolts in the sky and your very presence simply rattles those like the loudest thunder. I truly could not imagine anyone else whom I would like to have a blo– blantantly nice interaction with!”

Spark took one of her hands back, putting it to his face. “Are you flirting with me?” 

Vainstrel leaned in closer to her face. “If that is what you wish.” His fang teeth glinted under his slightly-parted lip smile and Spark couldn’t help but feel restless in the best way possible. 

Spark didn’t even know what to say back. Her eyes simply gazed into the single eye visible on Vainstrel’s face. She had a feeling though his other eye, obscured by his long blonde hair, was also looking back at her. Wow, he wants to flirt with me. With ME. Wait, does he? He didn’t actually say he did, now that I think about it…

Spark’s thoughts dwindled off as Vainstrel gave her a kiss on her hand and made his way to the seat across from her, presumably to where his tea sat. 

Spark watched Vainstrel lift up his tea with both hands, seeing him blow on the steam pouring out from the opening in the cup’s cap. She flicked her wrist in his direction, extending her index finger. Her eyes glistened and her breath paused for a moment. “Would you like me to give you some blood?” 

Vainstrel’s eyes lit up like the sparks flittering about Spark’s head. “What a generous gesture! It would be so very rude of me not to take such a delicious offer.” 

Spark giggled. She pushed her own cup of hot chocolate beside her and stood up. She extended her hand further, watching as Vainstrel took off the cover of his cup of tea. Spark watched with anticipation as Vainstrel’s fang lowered in his mouth. Am I trembling? Everything seems shaky. Spark didn’t noticed she started to quietly pant. Oh goodness, I really hope I’m not shaking too much! 

Spark’s face heated up as Vainstrel’s cold hands touched her’s gentle. His beautiful orange eye gently closed as his face inched closer to her finger. His breath tickled her fingers. Spark could feel herself squeeze her legs together because if she didn’t, she thought: I’m going to zap this whole place down! Ooo, darn this energy! 

Vainstrel’s teeth nicked her finger. Goosebumps rose all over Spark’s hands and legs and she let out a sigh. She could hear the gentle plops of blood dripping into his cup. 

“Are you all right, my dear Spark? That was quite a sigh that left your mouth.” 

Spark lifted up a hand, forcing a smile on her face. She waved it, as if shooing him away. “No, no! I’m fine. I’m perfectly fine. It just tickled a bit!” 

“Very well.” Vainstrel’s smile heated her face up even more as he closed his eyes once more and licked her wound closed. With that, he released her hand. 

Spark placed the hand on her chest as she sat back down. He bit me!! He bit me today!!! The grin on her face grew, as did her sparks. Best. Day. EVER! 

“You seem so joyful today – has your tiredness been vanquished by the chocolate in your cup.” 

“Oh no, silly!” exclaimed Spark. She put a finger to her cheek. “You’re the one who vanquished it!” She let out a giggle.

She lifted up her cup of spicy hot chocolate, watching Vainstrel’s cheeks flush. He is so adorable. She let out a quiet sigh. 

“I-I’m happy that I could vanquish the beast for you. What, may I ask, vanquished the beast of exhaustion for you?” Vainstrel shoved the cap onto his drink, swirled it around, and clasped the cup with both hands, taking a large gulp from it. He took the cup away from his mouth and winced, touching his throat and sticking out his tongue as he did. 

Spark took a small sip of her hot chocolate. She tapped her cheek the moment she put it back down. “Hmm…I’d say it was you messaging me.” 

“That is right?” 

“Yes!” Spark replied. She took another few sips form her cup, then let out a gasp. “Speaking of messaging you, what did you want me to come here for?” 

“Huh?” 

Spark placed both hands on her cheeks and leaned forward, giving Vainstrel a smirk. “Unless you just wanted to see me.” 

“Oh!” Vainstrel slammed down his cup. “As I always do, Lady Spark! However, it something more than just seeing you – no matter how worthy that would be of inviting you here – but rather, I have a gift for you!” 

Vainstrel reached into his inner vest pocket. He drew out a golden envelope that seemed to sparkle even in the dim lighting of the café. He placed it onto the table and slid it over. In fancy cursvie writing in a dark golden ink was Spark’s name. 

“Huh? What’s this?” Spark lifted the envelope, running her fingers over her name. She flipped it over and saw a black wax seal with a bat carved into it. 

Spark gently slid her finger underneath the wax seal and released it. She folded back the flap and pulled out the contents inside: a ticket the length of the envelope and half the height, plus a necklace with a laminated sheet of paper reading “V.I.P. – The Demon Lord’s Taking My Lover as His Bride – Backstage Pass” with the date underneath in smaller characters. Spark flipped over the VIP pass to the back, seeing clear directions on how she was to get backstage. 

“Oh. My. GODS!” Spark stood up from her chair. “Is this for your show?!?!?!?!?!” 

“Yes, indeed, my dear Lady Spark – it is for the show in which I am one of the stars. It is a magnificent stage play we have been working on performing for most of the year. With all my cold vampire heart, I would love for you to attend as my special guest. It is tickets for the opening night.” 

He got me these? Oh my goodness! And a VIP pass! “Are you sure these aren’t wasted on me?” 

Vainstrel laughed. “How Tarheian! My dear Spark, you are more than worthy of such a thing!” 

Within Spark blinking her eyes, Vainstrel was near her, up close and holding onto her hand. “I could not want anything more than to see your beautiful face enthralled with the story and come see the brillance that is myself and my fellow actors.” 

Spark held the ticket, pass, and envelope to her chest, letting out an absolutely romantic sigh at Vainstrel. She shook her head and smiled. He wants ME to watch him? This is amazing. 

Vainstrel almost looked like he was sparkling himself, despite the dim lighting in the café. Spark placed the envelope down, leaned over, and hugged Vainstrel tightly. “Oh my goodness, Vainstrel! This is so much! Thank you so much for thinking of me! Of course I’ll attend!” She pulled away, looking into his orange eye. “I’ll keep my schedule open. I can’t wait to see how you perform!” 

A small smile spread on Vainstrel’s face. Spark could see his retracted fang teeth peering out from in between his slightly parted lips. “And I cannot wait for you to witness it.” 

Spark’s eyes were pulled away from his lips and onto Vainstrel’s eye. She knew the lighting was good where she sat and the dark circles underneath his eyes weren’t simply a shadow that was being casted. With both hands, she grasped his cheeks, pulling his eye closer.

“W-what is it, my dear?” 

“Youuuu…have really dark circles under your eye. I wonder if your other one is like th–” Spark went to brush away Vainstrel’s hair to check out his other eyes, only to have him grab her hand. She could see him holding his breath and his single eye looking at her nervously. 

“It’s fine!” replied Vainstrel.

Spark titled her head. A question mark floated beside her. Huh. 

Vainstrel intertwined his fingers with her’s. “I am simply exhausted from all the practice, as I had noted during our electronic letters.” 

He’s touching me!! His fingers!! 

Spark leaned into Vainstrel’s face, meeting his eye. She couldn’t help but smile. “Do you want some more of my blood?” 

“Huh?” 

“And I don’t mean from my finger.” 

Vainstrel’s face seemed to light up for a moment. “Are you asking me to take blood more than a meer prick to the finger can provide?” 

Spark squeezed Vainstrel’s hands and tightened her legs together. “Yes!” 

A brief smile flashed on Vainstrel’s face, but it quickly deflated. Spark followed Vainstrel’s gaze as he looked around the café. Vainstrel then turned back to Spark, taking one of her hands into both of his. “We shall wait until we are outside.” 

Spark’s body slouched and she could feel her excitement plummet. “Ugh, whhhhhhyyyyy?” 

“It is simply courtesy. It is rude to take blood in a setting such as this.” 

Spark pouted. “I want you to bite me.” 

Vainstrel’s eye popped open wide. 

Spark awkwardly grinned, tapping her cheek. “I, uh, want you to bite me so you can drink my blood and feel refreshed! We can’t have you faint, right?” Oh, way to go me. I must sound like such a perv. 

The gentle grin on Vainstrel’s face warmed Spark right back up. “Very well,” he replied. “I will be more than happy to drink your blood for you, if you wish.” 

Spark’s eye glinted. She turned away from Vainstrel, took her cup up in her hand, and chugged down her spicy hot chocolate. The spice slightly burned in her throat and she could feel it a bit in her nose, but she did not care. He’s going to bite me!! 

Vainstrel’s jaw dropped. 

Spark flashed her teeth at him. “Hurry up and drink yours too! We don’t want you to collapse, do you?” 

Deep down inside of Spark though, she knew the real reason was because she wanted to feel him bite her again. 

Vainstrel plopped himself back into his seat. He grasped his cup in both hands and brought it up to his lips. “I won’t collapse.” He took a sip. “I am not so tired as to collapse like I had the first day I had bitten you, but I do…appreciate the concern for me.” 

Spark bit into the cap on her hot chocolate. Oh. my. GOSH! His blush is so cute! Is he shy? Is he embarassed? Is he touched? She paused her thoughts for a moment and pouted. Wait, is he not going to bite me? 

“So, you don’t want me to help you?” 

“No! I said nothing of the sort! Just simply there is no rush…we can take our time.” 

Spark frowned. “Oh…” She lifted up her drink and shook it, hearing nothing but drops inside of it. She placed down her cup off to the side. 

As Vainstrel sipped away at his tea, Spark gathered up the ticket and the pass, giving it one more glance over before placing it all back into the envelope. She then looked at it and directed the flow of her magic into it. It flashed bright like a lamp and soon disappeared. 

Vainstrel looked at her utterly bewildered. Spark simply cocked her head in question. 

“What?” 

“What was that magnificent light? Within one moment the envelope was there and the next it disappeared.” 

Spark giggled. “Tee hee, I just put it in the Ether Storage.” 

“And what is this ‘ether storage’?” 

Spark put her chin in her hand. “Oh, it’s just what we witches sometimes use instead of a bag. Don’t worry though! It’s pretty easy to get stuff out!” She lifted up her other hand. Within a flash of light, the envelope was back. “See? Easy!” And with that, the envelope flashed once more and disappeared.

Vainstrel gasped. “What a convienent piece of magic!” 

“Tee hee!”

Spark leaned forward, pouting, watching Vainstrel slowly sip his tea. His face looked slightly flushed and, it could have just been Spark’s imagination, but he seemed like he was shaking quite a bit. I just want him to bite me alright…is he okay? 

Spark’s face turned pale. Oh my goodness, did my comment earlier freak him out? I did ask him to bite me…so embarassing.  

Spark put her face down on the table.

“Are you feeling well, dear Spark?” 

“Huh?” Spark lifted up her head. “Oh yeah, I’m fine.” She lifted up her cup, shaking it. “I’m already finished with my drink.” 

“I see…would you like me to request another for you?” 

“No thank you!” 

Spark leaned forward, placing both cheeks in her hands. Her lips puckered. “Soooo, tell me more about your acting career.” Her lips curled. “You must be pretty good if you got one of the lead roles!” 

Vainstrel stood up, flaring out his hand. His cape dramatically flared up behind him. “Indeed, I am one of the best!” He clinched his fist and looked down. The light around them seemed to almost shift to match the drama of his movements. “I have been a stage actor for many a years now and it has fully captured my heart! I yearn to be on the electronic screens we all have to be as well, but alas, I have not done such a thing as of yet! But no matter! I am amongst the most popular stage actors. Each and every year, I have gained far larger roles bigger than the last.” He placed his fist over his heart, looking up proudly. It was as if sparkles were forming around his head. “In the most recent years, I have been one of the major players within the stories we tell.” He then placed his hand on his hip, smirking. “I have even assisted with writing our stories to bring even more dramatic flare to them.” 

Spark giggled. “You must be so good at that!” That sounds so much like him. 

“Yes indeed!” Vainstrel replied, sitting back down. He sipped his tea. “At least, I do believe so. Our attendee surveys and reviews seem to indicate so.” 

“You guys do surveys?” 

“Yes, we do. I suspect you will be given one to fill out.” Vainstrel’s eye glinted. “I will deliver one to you personally.” 

Spark covered her mouth with her fist and giggled. “Tee hee, I’ll be sure to write you a favorable review then!” 

Vainstrel put up his hand and shook his head twice. “Unless you truly believe I am worthy of praise, please do not do such a thing.” Vainstrel reached out his hand and held Spark’s. “I would love to hear nothing more than what you believe of my performance, Lady Spark.” 

Spark could see her happy sparks flittering about around her. Her smile grew wider. Way to make a person’s sigh! “Of course. I’ll be sure to write you some helpful feedback. But I’m sure you’re amazing!” 

Vainstrel released his hand from Spark and brought it back to his tea, taking another sip. Spark found her foot was tapping on the ground, just waiting for him him sip. Her ears honed in on the cup, able to tell that it was almost done….only about 1/5th of the cup left. 

“So, what role do you play in this one?” 

Vainstrel put down his cup. His lips curled and his fang teeth flashed. He put a finger to his lips. Spark was certain that he was winking behind his hair. “That is a secret.” 

Spark pouted and tapped her cheek. “Hnnnn…I have to wait?” 

Vainstrel’s fang-revealing smirk had Spark’s chest tighten with excitement. 

Vainstrel took a large gulp of his tea and stood up. “My dear lady Spark,” he said, extending his hand. “Shall we exit this café and make our way to a private destination so I may feast on the delicacy which is your blood for a moment this evening?” 

Spark jumped up, grabbing her cup. From where she stood, she chucked it right into the waste basket. She then grabbed Vainstrel’s (who’s eye were opened as wide as they could go) and chucked it as well, not even looking at the garbage can numerous feet away from them. 

She grabbed Vainstrel’s hand and yanked him. “Let’s go!” 

Although Spark had originally jerked him away from where they had been sitting, Vainstrel’s feet caught up to her and soon she was letting him lead the way out of the café. 

***

Spark turned the corner into the park set up in the alleyway right beside the café, watching Vainstrel stop shortly past the arched gates. Spark gently bumped into his back. “Huh? Why’d you stop?” 

Spark found Vainstrel grabbing both of her shoulders, leaning into her face. His single orange eye bore into her’s. Spark could feel her cheeks heat-up. I’m going to be wanting something more than being bitten if he keeps looking at me like that! He looks like he could kiss me any moment…oh my goodness, what if does?! 

“Are you truly okay with providing me more blood to ease the fatigue that has enveloped my body?” 

Spark’s heart thumped loudly in her chest, but she chose to smile. “Tee hee! Of course!” So that’s all his concern was! He’s SOOOO nice! 

Spark closed her eyes for a moment and took in a deep breath. She dove her consciousness into her body, feeling each and every current that was pulsing throughout her. As if turning a knob, the currents of electricty within her started to quiet down so they were less of a raging storm. She opened her eyes and met Vainstrel’s. She pointed to her neck. “Current’s down! You can bite me now!” Oh my gosh, did my voice squeak? 

Vainstrel’s gentle smile and sensual eyes made Spark hold her breath as he gently pushed her head aside and held her shoulder. He took a step forward and she could feel his cold breath on her neck running down to her shoulders and up to her ears. There was a faint sound that almost sounded squishy. 

Spark found herself twitching the moment Vainstrel pierced her skin. “Aaaahn!” Her eyes popped hearing her own moans that she reactively covered her mouth with her arm that wasn’t being blocked by Vainstrel. 

Each time she could feel her skin being sucked on, she couldn’t help but twitch. She pushed her weight onto her feet, hoping to keep still and quiet, despite how much she wanted to just continue letting out moans. 

Her vision felt a bit hazy and she overall felt light, despite the amount of weight she was putting on her feet. 

It. feels. SO. GOOD. Spark rolled her eyes back. 

And then she felt her skin being licked, a tiny bit of heat, and then nothing. 

Vainstrel took a step back and Spark instincitvely touched where she had once felt his teeth. Her shoulders dropped. We’re done? “There’s not even a wound!” 

Vainstrel pointed his finger in the air, slightly bowing forward. “Of course, dear Lady Spark. It is a special ability for those of us whom are witch-hunting vampires.” 

‘Witch-hunting’? Spark found herself tilting her head. Curiousity bubbled up from her stomach. She clasped her hands together, leaning forward to meet Vainstrel’s eye. “Oh yeah…you’ve mentioned that before, haven’t you? Why are you a ‘witch-hunting’ vampire again?” Spark furrowed her brow in such a way that must of looking accusatory, because Vainstrel suddenly gasped. Spark’s lips curled watching as he began to flail about in a way that was so uncharacteristic for him, at least, from what she knew of him so far. 

“Uh-ah-um…it’s! We don’t kill! That is the first thing you must know.” Vainstrel grasped his forehead and shook his head. “Even if we were to do that, it is not like we would be able to get away with such a thing nowadays.” Vainstrel then turned back to Spark. Spark could see sweat glistening on his brow. “The ‘witch-hunting’ simply refers to the fact that we seek out the blood of witches, simply because we receive the most benefit from them. Surely I must have mentioned it once before!” 

“Hmm…something like that?” Spark replied, tapping her cheek. “Can you drink non-witch blood?” 

“Yes, we can, however, the benefits are simply not the same. It is good in a pinch, but the power that pulses through the veins of witches is so very potent, it restores us temporarily to a full living state, if we receive enough.” 

“Ooooh.” 

“It’s mostly helpful for having offspring however – we do not need to convert anyone, unlike other vampires. However, such a state is also dangerous and requires carefully planning on the part of the vampire to ensure a full-term can be reached without reverting to our living-dead state. It is quite a feat that my parents managed to have more than one child!” 

Spark placed her hands on her chest, stepping forward even more into Vainstrel’s space. Her eyes glinted with pure curiousity. “What would happen if you had a baby with a non-vampire while you were in a living state?” 

Silence. 

What…did…I just ask. 

Spark and Vainstrel both took a step back from each other, both of their faces completely flushed red. “I-I am like, so totally sorry! That was such a weird question to ask!” Spark found herself awkwardly laughing.

Vainstrel waved his hand out to her, followed by clearing his throat. ‘Not at all, d-dear Spark. It is indeed quite a good question. I truly do not have the answer – I do not believe there is anything within…within the recorded history of doing such a thing with a non-vampire.” 

Spark clinched her stomach. Me, do NOT even go there. 

“So…is my blood pretty special?” inquired Spark, scratched her cheek. She glanced over at Vainstrel. She couldn’t see his eye, but the pressure from his gaze could be felt on her skin. 

Vainstrel gasped and clutched both her hands. His face was still flushed like her’s, but his eye now glittered. “Special would be truly an understatement of just how deeply marvelous your blood is! Never once have I encountered such a mixture of blood, plasma, and electricty! Normal witch blood restores me to life, but your blood truly puts restoration on a whole new level that was previously unattainable by any of us! I cannot be more grateful for your sacrifice as you help me to attain a further alive state through your blood, plasma, and electricity! Truly, you are unique. You ignite my body in ways no others can.” 

Spark found herself giggling so much that her eyes became wet. “I’m ‘unique’?” 

“Yes, you are, indeed, my dear lady Spark.” 

Spark laid her hand on her heart. A gentle grin spread across her face. Although her face was less heated now, she was still deeply blushing. “I’m so used to being called ‘weird’, but ‘unique’ the way you say it sounds so nice.” 

Vainstrel slightly warmer hands were suddenly on her cheeks and the closeness of his face had her holding her breath. Spark found her lips slightly part. Her eyes, which were about to close, zoned into where the dark circle had been under his eye. Oh, he looks better now. 

Before she could fully close her eyes, she felt Vainstrel’s hands grasping her’s. She could see just how much redder his face was than before. 

“I-I should probably take my leave once more,” said Vainstrel, turning his head away from her. “I must rise up early once more to repeat the story we shall be playing out on stage once more!” 

Spark bit her lip, watching Vainstrel quickly kiss her hands. 

Vainstrel began to walk away, letting his hands slip away from Spark’s. “I must leave. Adieu!” 

Spark found her chest tigthened and she waved, watching him disappear down the alleyway. “Bye, see you next week! I’m excited to see your show!” she yelled behind him. Her eyes met with Vainstrel’s just before he turned the corner. It was like a lightning bolt was hitting her heart. 

Spark dragged herself over to a bench and sat down, sighing. 

“That was over way too fast!” She then slapped both of her cheeks, pursing her lips. “And what is WITH me?! I seriously thought he was going to kiss me! And why would I even ask him about babies. Ugh.” Spark covered her face. “Hah, it’s almost like I’m lusting after him or something!” 

She let out a whine. I wish there was someone I could talk to this about…like, seriously, what is going on with me…Coal’s too stubborn now. I don’t have any friends…

“I really wish he didn’t have to go…I could have done with talking to him more…” 

A familiar organ jingle bounced off the alleyway walls. Spark immeditately lifted her head and pulled out her phone from her pocket. Her lips couldn’t help but curl up. Her eyes glittered. Her cheeks flushed. It was Vainstrel wishing her a good night and a safe trip home. 

*** 

Spark held her hands to her chest as her body trembled. Electricty flittered around her head. Oooo, I’m so nervous!! She tightly shut her eyes. Or am I excited? 

Her eyes glanced down at her usual clothes covering her body as she felt the carriage turn and slow down. Am I dressed okay? She flipped over her VIP pass hanging around her neck and the ticket in her hand. I didn’t see anything about the dress code. Goodness, I’m going to be SOOOO embarassed if I was supposed to dress fancy…maybe I should have, but there’s not really anything fancy in my closet…“ugh.” 

The carriage finally stopped moving. Spark heard the loud clicking of the door opening and light soon poured in through the crack in the door. She slipped out and waved to the driver. “Thank you!” she said, her voice slightly quivering. 

She let out a sigh of relief upon seeing the numerous people around her who were so clearly in casual clothes. Okay, good. “Phew!” I’m not the only one to show up like this! 

Spark followed the flow of people into the large theatre in front of them. Spark’s lips slightly parted in awe at the sheer size of the building. She could see on the outskirts were dense forest, but the area itself was entirely dedicated to the large theatre hall and its entrance. The building itself was a brown-copper color with numerous towering columns that would have looked foreboding had the area not been softly lit like a fairytale otherwise. Instead, it invoked a gentle warmth that hugged the area. 

Even the walkway – beautifully kept, impeccibly shaped cemenet without even so much as a blemish – stretched out far and wide. It would have looked dull if it hadn’t been for the numerous street lamps all around. The cement and its soft light gray color bounced the light back off, truly illuminating the whole area in a way that just wasn’t all that common in Ghopre. 

Spark grasped her ticket tightly in her hand, hugging it close to her chest as she neared the entrance. The sea of people poured inside and soon lined up through numerous ticket entrances. 

Okay, I am so totally feel excited now! Spark’s smile grew and so did the sparks flickering about her head. 

She managed to hit the ticket entrance quickly and handed over her ticket, which was ripped on the perferated edge and the person – a well-dressed zombie – directed her to the very end of the hall, to the door just before “EMPLOYEES ONLY” sign. 

Spark looked down at her ticket. “Row A, Seat 8…” She felt a small spring in her step. I get to see Vainstrel perform! Oh my gosh, I am like the luckiest person alive! Her feet touched the ground between her skips and she entered in through the door at the end of the hall.

She scanned the seats and quickly found her seat – smack-dab in the middle of the front-row. She held her ticket in both hands, looking back and forth between her ticket and her seat. Then she blushed. She hid her face as she sat down in her chair. He. Got Me. Front. Row. SEATS! “SQUEEEEE!” I am SO lucky! And I have that VIP pass as well! She lifted the VIP pass that had slid between her breasts and look at it. We’re only aquaintences me…maybe friends. No need to get excited. He must have invited others…just chill! 

*** 

The lights in the hall suddenly dimmed and the loud chatter all the one instantly silenced. Spark tucked away her phone she had been fiddling around with with a bit of a jump at the sudden change in lighting. The moment her phone hit her pocket, her eyes turned their attention to the stage that had suddenly illuminated. Music poured in from all sides and two women appeared from a hidden platform underneath the stage. The background behind them, perfectly timed, came together as the women full appeared. 

“My love!” exclaimed one of the woman, grasping the hand of the other. “Through the many trials our hearts have gone through, we have finally arrived to what we have dreamed of…” She placed a hand on her heart, her gaze warm and loving. “a marriage between us.” 

“Yes!” exclaimed the other woman, grasping both hands of the woman across from her firmly. “For all the trials we have had to endure, we have safely arrived at this end!” 

The two women started guiding each other across the stage, recounting numerous encounters and trials that they had to endure: their first meeting through the longer-haired woman’s trip to the shorter haired woman’s shop. The many secret meetings and their first kiss. The rage of the long-haired woman’s family and fiancé and the subsequent apologies. Everything boiled down to their unrelenetless love for each other never rescending into the background because they simply knew they were meant to be together. 

Their recount of their trials and tribulations twindled down and the background shifted, revealing them entering into a village, then a pub, and they soon sat down at a table and numerous cast members entered onto the stage and sat down. After a few moments of dialogue, it became obvious that it was the parents of the two women who had come to discuss the wedding details. 

The longer-haired woman announced that she was going to hand pick flowers in the fields for their wedding day – there would be nothing more she would love than flowers picked by her hands. Her parents laughed and remarked she had always done such a thing as a young child for every special occassion and they would have expected nothing less. 

Spark’s eyes tore away from the stage for a moment as it appeared to transition to night and a narrator suddenly appeared, announcing the transition to several days later. I wonder where Vainstrel is… 

Spark sat back in her seat, slightly frowning. This is like, defintely sooo interesting, but I want to see Vainstrel. I can’t even imagine what role he would be playing. It seems like these two are already happy. 

The longer-haired woman playfully ran through the field of flowers, her arms open wide and a basket in her hands. 

“Cynderelle, please! Be careful!” called the shorter-haired woman, reaching out to grab a hold of Cynderelle’s waist.

Cynderelle giggled. “I do apologize…oh! Teitina! Can you grab me those flowers over there?” 

Teitina knocked her forehead on Cynderelle’s shoulder. “I was under the impression that you were flower picking. I am simply here to protect you.” 

“It’s just a field of flowers. What ever could I need protection from?” 

Teitina stood in front of Cynderelle, angling enough so the audience could see her face as she jabbed a finger at her lover’s chest. “You never know what could lying out here. I would prefer to avoid another trial, you know?” 

Cynderelle laughed and leaned foreward, giving Teitina a light kiss on the lips. “I appreciate your concern.” Then she started running off again. Teitina sighed in her wake and followed her off to the other side of the stage. 

The background shift once more, clearly to a different part of the field. Cynderelle came waltzing out like a young child, humming away. She kept leaning over and plucking fake flowers from the false grass on stage. The scene went on for long enough that Spark felt her attention starting to wain. 

Then a mysterious fog started to roll in. Cynderelle, oblivious to what was happening, continued to hum and pick flowers. 

Spark found herself leaning forward, watching at the fog thickened on stage and rolled over the sides. The music, which had been light, slowly started to become more intense each time the fog became denser. 

“Cynderelle! Cynderelle! There you are!” called Teitina, who appeared from the other side of the stage. “Come, we must hurry! The thick fog will cause us to lose us to lose our way!” 

Cynderelle looked up, seeing Teitina. She gave her a pleasant smile. “Oh, it’s surely alright! I’ve been out here many times during fog thicker than this!” 

Teitina stomped forward. “It is not the time to argue! Today was meant to be clear skies, and yet a fog this thick rolled in? I do not like this one bit. We must hur–” 

Cynderelle suddenly screamed as she was pulled into the thickness of the fog by a hand with long fingernails. Numerous audiable gasps popped up through the audience, including from Spark herself. 

Teitina quickly true her sword and pointed it towards the thickness of the fog. “Who is there?! Give me back my Cynderelle now!” 

The sound of metal clanged and out from the the thickest part of the fog was a bright apple-red haired, blue-eyed demon decked out in metal chains, a long cape, and a uniform that consisted of slacks and a double-breasted jacket. His horns protruded out from a head dress on his head. In his arms laid Cynderelle, looking completely knocked out. 

The demon’s lips were curled as his eyes the color of sapphires stared at Teitina. The woman flinched. 

“Cynderelle is no longer yours,” replied the demon. 

Spark gasped and covered her mouth, her eyes glittering upon hearing the voice of the demon reach her ears. It’s Vainstrel!!! 

Her gaze shifted to his eyes – both revealed for once. Her eyes stayed fixated on them for a good moment in with the dramatic pause. Are they both contacts? 

Vainstrel, as this demon character, turned to Cynderelle and gently carassed her cheek. Spark felt the insides of her body twist and her fist ball upon watching the softness in his face. 

“She shall be my wife, Demon Lord Calvin of the Dark Worlds.” 

My wife‘ 

Spark could feel as if she was being stabbed my numerous knifes. She sat back in her chair. Wow, I feel jealous. I mean, that’s not Vainstrel saying that, it’s the character he’s playing…right? Right. Calm down me. You’ve only met Vainstrel a few times before all this. I don’t even know if I’m his friend. 

The thoughts Spark’s was having was cut through by the raging sound of Teitina’s fighting yells as she rushed forward to stab Lord Calvin with her sword. He suddenly disappeared and reappeared on the other side of the stage. “You will not be able to get her – she shall stay asleep within my tower until our wedding day. Nothing but the vanquishing of me shall break this! If you cannot even manage to cut through me at a time like this, when I am not even at my full power, you do not even stand a chance when I am my full being.” 

Lord Calvin (Vainstrel’s character), extended his hand up to the air, “Good day.” 

Spark found herself numb. The sparks that danced around her head were more like miniature lightning bolts and she could feel how they were heating up the air around her. 

If it wasn’t for Teitina’s next scene that was full of rage bringing her back to the play, Spark certainly would have been sent adrift into her own thoughts of what she could only think was lust or maybe, innocently, a crush. 

***

Spark found her fingers interlaced and covering both her mouth and nose watching as Vainstrel’s character, Lord Calvin, and the woman playing Teitina were interlocked in an intense battle on-stage. The music was intesense and blaring. Spark couldn’t even see the stage anymore – all she could see was a world where Demon Lord Calvin was heartbroken and determined, while Teitina was fighting for her own happy ending. 

Lord Calvin knocked away Teitina’s sword with a parry. “Do you know how it feels to have no one left? No one to even know you exist? My presence as a lord is such a fraction of the land my family owns, yet there is no one left!” Lord Calvin thrust his sword forward, Teitina gasping. “I simply cannot let this go on – it’s up to me to ensure our land continues to be with those who have our blood.” 

“I don’t care about your sob story,” replied Teitina, lunging forward, slashing at Lord Calvin. “If it was truly that bad, then anyone should have done!” 

Lord Calvin and Teitina locked swords. Lord Calvin looked Teitina straight in the eye. “You know one else can replace the innocent allure of Cynderelle.” 

Teitina bounced back as Lord Calvin slashed forward. 

“I must restore both my bloodline and the land which we own! Everything is falling, everything is failing! There is nothing more than innocence that could restore such things to a state full of love!” 

Teitina slashed back at Lord Calvin. She suddenly lost her footing and fell to the ground. She crawled backwards and Lord Calvin closed in on her. 

“I love the way she moves, the way she looks at life like her eyes are gleaming. I’ve watched her over and over as she entered the fields and made her way through the forest with no care in the world. And then YOU, you had to show up – taking her love for your own, when you have nothing at stake.” Lord Calvin lifted up his sword. “I shall remove you from this world and have no barrier to having Cynderelle as mine! She shall be my bride and we shall remake our world together!” 

Teitina suddenly grabbed an iron spike that had been laying down beside her, which had knocked over from the fireplace behind her earlier in their fight, and quickly put it up. The spike – at least from the perspective of the audience – went through Lord Calvin’s just before he could even do anything. 

Teitina pushed him off as he held his chest, which now was bleeding. 

“You…” said Lord Calvin. He fell to the ground. “All I simply wanted was to love, be loved, and carry it on to future generations.” 

Teitina stood up, grabbing her sword. “Then you should have tried with someone else.” She stabbed him in the heart once more with her sword. Lord Calvin yelled and soon, he was just left laying there. 

Spark found her whole body trembling and her whole face and her hands were wet with her tears. Oh! Demon Lord Calvin! I would have married you!! 

***

Spark clutched the VIP tightly in her hand as she followed the stream of people out from the theatre hall. The single thought of seeing Vainstrel made sparks flutter around her eyes. Her face brightened as she broke from the flow of the crowd and headed towards the “EMPLOYEE ONLY” door. 

She stopped right in front of the door and flipped over the VIP pass. Her eyes carefully re-read the directions, making note of each step. Her smile grew with each word. She then lifted her eyes to the door and knocked three times in succession, then two slower knocks right after. 

The door opened and smiling at her was a ghost. 

“Hello~!” sang Spark. She lifted up her VIP pass. “I’m Vainstrel’s friend!” 

“Oooooh, so you’re who he keeps talking to,” remarked the ghost.

Spark glanced down at the name tag on the male ghost’s shirt reading “Derrick”. She then turned back to him. “Does he do that often?” 

Derrick snickered for a moment before opening the door all the way. “Come on in.” 

Spark bowed her head and skipped inside. She let go of the VIP pass, allowing it to fall on top of her chest, and walked further inside. 

Spark could hear the bustling sounds of everyone from backstage. People were running around and it looked lively, but there was almost this pregnant tension in the air that Spark could only describe as “deflating”. 

Spark locates Vainstrel who sees her and greets her. Vainstrel goes up to her and gives her a hug, holding her hands, the two of them looking into each other’s eyes. Spark starts to tear up, saying that he did such a great job – she felt so sad when his character died. Vainstrel takes her into his arms (note, he’s still in costume) and is like holds her – I can hear him say he’ll happily take her as his bride instead. Spark starts laughing, pulling away from him, waving her hand up and down, saying he sounds so serious. Vainstrel realizes he’s still in character and apologizes. He tells her to wait there – he’s going to get changed; 

In the midst of the bustling dressing room and some curious glances, Spark heard her name being called loud and clear. She turned around, seeing Vainstrel still in his full-blown Demon Lord Calvin get up with his bright red hair and blue eyes. Spark romantically sighed and gently placed a hand on her cheek seeing Vainstrel close up.

“You have arrived!” exclaimed Vainstrel, suddenly embracing Spark. The strangely warm hug for Vainstrel seriously was making Spark fall into mush. Her eyes became dotted with tears. 

“What might be wrong?” asked Vainstrel, pulling away from Spark. He took one of her hands and held it, while gently wiping away her tears with his other hand. 

Spark’s eyes glittered under the stage lighting that illuminated the backstage. “I could have guessed from the way you normally act, but you’re such an amazing actor! I was totally crushed when you died! The last of the line and having a bride who couldn’t or wouldn’t love you? So heartbreaking!” 

Spark felt Vainstrel’s arms wrap around her. Spark couldn’t help but quiver under feeling Vainstrel’s hands placed so firmly both her hip and her back. His face neared her’s and the sapphire blue contact-covered eyes stared straight into her eyes. “I would happily take you as my bride rather than that Cynderelle.” 

Spark’s shoulders squeezed up as she drew in a breath. Could I? 

One look back into Vainstrel’s eyes and Spark found herself coming back to reality. Her romantic grin shifted just a bit. Her shoulders relaxed. It’s not actually Vainstrel asking me, is it? 

She placed a hand over her mouth and giggled. “You sound so serious! You’re not on stage anymore, you know?” 

Spark’s eyebrows popped as she watched Vainstrel’s cheeks flush such a deep red that it almost matched the wig he was hearing. He pulled away from her, grabbing one of her hands. “G-goodness me, I most certainly am still acting in character! I do apologize, my dear lady Spark! It is often difficult for me to come out of character once I step into the role…it usually takes quite a while to come out of it.” 

“Tee-hee! No need to apologize.” Spark winked at him, slightly tilting her head and poke her cheek. “If I was anyone else, I might have taken you seriously.” 

Vainstrel stared back at Spark, his cheeks still flushed red. She watched him place a hand over his heart and just stare at her for a moment. “I-I do…suppose you are correct.” 

Vainstrel then turned on his heel and held a finger to the air. “I shall be back!” 

Spark nodded. “Okay! Tee-hee.” 

Vainstrel marched off and disappeared behind a partition nearby. Spark gasped hearing all the clatter and chatter going on behind the scenes and she could literally only imagine what was going on. 

Vainstrel reappeared only a few moments later as his usual self – something that looked like an amazing feat considering how many layers of his costume was made from! 

“I do believe I have returned back to normal, my dear lady Spark! Although, I do apologize if Lord Calvin slips through the cracks.”

Spark giggled. She gazed upon his single orange eye. So he really does have two eyes! Why does he always hide one? 

Vainstrel stepped closer and took Spark’s hand into both of his, gently stroking it. “I am so pleased that you have arrived and enjoyed the show. Just the mere thought that you were watching me lifted my spirits and warmed my cold vampire heart!” 

Now that Vainstrel was closer and his make-up was removed, she could clearly see the dark circles under his eye. 

“Oh, Vainstrel!” gasped Spark, grasping both of his cheeks. Vainstrel yelped. “You look worn out again! You gotta drink some of my blood!” 

Vainstrel’s cheeks slightly flushed. “Are you sure?” 

Spark pouted, pinching both of his cheeks. “Don’t question me!” 

Vainstrel let out a small chuckle. “Very well…let us go get a bit privacy.” 

Vainstrel took her hand and lead her to the other side of the stage and slipped behind one of the curtain pieces. From there, he carressed her head and shoulder. Just the anticipation got Spark squirming! She could hear the sounds of Vainstrel’s fangs growing and his cold breath on her shoulder.

She quietly gasped as Vainstrel teeth sunk into her skin. She found her toes wriggling around in her boots with each sip of blood Vainstrel took. Small moans exited her mouth. Why does this feel SO GOOD?! It’s like being pricked by needles, except it feels better! 

In what felt like mere seconds, Vainstrel licked her puncture wounds and released his hands from her body. Spark felt a bit deflated, although at the same time numb. 

“Are you alright, my dear lady Spark? The frown upon your face does not suit you.” 

Spark waved her hand. “I’m fine, I’m fine!” I just wanted MORE, but I can’t very well say that, can I?! 

Vainstrel out stretched his own hand. “Come, let us meet the others in the cast!”

Spark found her face lighting up once more, followed by the flickers of electcity around her head. She wrapped her arm around his and followed Vainstrel out from behind the curtain. 

She and Vainstrel’s heads turned in the direction of snicker. A duotoned short-haired vampire with their fangs proudly hanging out out of their mouth chucked a small empty vial of blood into the garbage can near by where they had been leaning.

Spark turned to Vainstrel, watching her vampire companion’s face light up. He extended his free arm forward. “Ah, yes! This is Laserian! Surely you must remember them as one of the creatures in which I sent out as Demon Lord Calvin!” 

“Heeeeey!” said Laserian, walking right up to Spark. They put out a fist. “Nice to meetcha!” 

Spark lightly bumped Laserian’s fist. She smiled at him, although her eyes reflected her own confusion. “It’s nice to meet you too!” 

Laserian’s smile turned to Vainstrel. “Must be nice to get fresh blood.” They then light smacked Vainstrel on the shoulder, causing Vainstrel to glare for a brief moment. “Must be a perk of having a non-vampire girlfriend, huh?” 

Spark immeditately felt her cheeks heat up. Wide-eyed, she exchanged looks with Vainstrel to see him equally as flustered as she was. Oh goodness! As amazing as that would totally be….! 

“I do not have such a lady friend.” 

Laserian raised an eyebrow. They pointed over to Spark. “She’s not your girlfriend?” 

“No,” replied both Spark and Vainstrel with absolutely no hestiation.  

Laserian’s eyes bulged. Their head darted back and forth between Vainstrel and Spark before stopping on Vainstrel. “Then who the hell were you gushing over for the past few weeks then?! I could’ve sworn you had a girlfriend or something!” 

Vainstrel nonchalantly extended his hand to Spark. “I was indeed expressing my affections for my dear Lady Spark. That very assumption is correct. However, her being my significant other is not.” 

Spark flinched for a moment, hearing the tiniest wavier in Vainstrel’s voice as he denied their relationship being of the romantic sort. Could he…no, me, no way. Shush. 

Spark and Vainstrel both turned to the small crowd that had gathered. Every single one of them had some variation of surprise written all over their face. 

“She’s not your girlfriend?” 

“Who gushes over someone like that when you’re not even together?” 

“What the heck?!” 

A braided purple-haired quarter-dragon person extended out there hands. “You’re only friends?” 

Vainstrel and Spark exchanged looks. Spark tapped her cheek. Hmm…I don’t think we ever thought about it. She turned back to the crew. “Hmm…I don’t know if we’re even that? I don’t think we thought too much about it. We’ve only hung out three times so far.” 

Vainstrel grabbed Spark’s hand gently. Spark’s face slightly flushed, looking into Vainstrel’s single orange eye. A soft smile was written across his face that almost seemed melancholic. “I have not thought about it much myself, however, I suppose it would be alright if we were to call our relationship ‘friendship’.” 

Spark seemed to melt in place. I can call him my friend! “Yeah, sure. Let’s go with that.” 

Spark felt nothing but warmth all around her. Electricty flickered around her head like flowers. In fact, Vainstrel and Spark were gazing at each other so lovingly, you could almost see bubbles and flowers blooming all around them. 

The people around them all exchanged looks. 

“You two have only hung out THREE times? Only three?!” remarked one of the cast members. 

Laserian and another vampire, Jancis (who was wearing a golden necklace with her name written on it), both pointed to each other, than back to Vainstrel and Spark. 

“What the hell?” exclaimed Laserian.

Jancis walked up to Spark, lightly cupping her hands together. “I don’t know if you’re aware, but it is very strange for people to just let vampires suck their blood for no reason. We don’t even normally drink fresh bood at this point either.” Jancis leaned into Spark, raising up a curious eyebrow. “Is there any particular reason why you let a guy like him suck your blood?” 

Spark slightly blushed. His biting feels good. She forced a smile on her face. “Tee hee, I’ve always been a bit of a strange one!” She lightly clonked herself on the head and stuck out her tongue. “I don’t mind Vainstrel taking some of my blood – he’s actually really funny!” 

Jancis and Laserian exchanged glances, then shrugged. She then bowed her head slightly. “I’m Jancis, it’s pleasure to meet you.” 

“Hi, I’m Spark! I guess you just witnessed Vainstrel and I becoming friends, tee hee!” 

Jancis laughed, although Spark could tell that it was super awkward. 

Vainstrel grasped Spark’s hand. “Come! We shall meet and greet with everyone! It is of the uptmost importance that we do such a thing!” 

Spark covered her mouth, smirking underneath. “Ooooh, and why might that be?” 

Vainstrel got down on a knee, prompting a gasp from the cast and crew watching. He held onto one of her hands with one of his. “I humbly invite you to our aftershow celebration, in which will make our way to the restaurants in the town beside the theatre lot and scoff down mounds of food in celebration of a hard day’s work after opening night!” He placed his free hand over his heart. “I would love nothing more than for you to be by my side as we make our way through the streets and the food set upon our plates!” 

Spark immeditately fell to her knees, blushing. She grasped both his hands and brought it to her heart. “Oh, yes, Vainstrel! I would love to!” It’s like a date!! “Tee hee!” 

Spark barely even noticed the mumbles around her, accusing her and Vainstrel of being in love. Although a single thought passed through her that it might be nice if she was in love with Vainstrel. I just really want him to bite me more. 

***

Spark firmly grasped Vainstrel’s hand as she giggled. She held onto the side of the carriage and hopped on out, allow Vainstrel to guide her safely to the ground. 

“I shall see you another day soon, my dear Lady Spark. It was a pleasure spending the evening with you.” Vainstrel took Spark’s hand and gently kissed it. 

Spark’s face softened. “Of course! I so cannot wait for the next time we hang out together.” 

“Even if it must be a while until we reunite once more in the flesh, we shall be sending electronic messages to each other all the more.” 

“Yeah.” Spark let out a pleasant sigh. She then lifted Vainstrel’s hand up to her lips and gave it a kiss. 

She nonchalantly smiled and turned her eyes up at Vainstrel. Then she burst out laughing because the vampire seemed frozen in place while his face got redder and redder by the second.

“Tee hee! What’s wrong? Did my kiss embarass you?” 

Vainstrel bowed head and hid his face with a part of his cape. “I do apologize…it is most unusual for me to receive something such as kiss anywhere, including on my own hand.” 

Spark leaned in, holding Vainstrel’s hand up near her lips. Her smile twisted and there was a playful glint in her eye. “Ooooooh?” She watched Vainstrel peer up behind his cape. “Maybe I should do it some more next time?” He is just so cute! 

Vainstrel lowered his cape, although Spark could still see he was blushing. “V-very well, if that is what you wish!” 

Spark gave Vainstrel’s hand another kiss. “Tee-hee! You bet I do!” 

Vainstrel gave Spark another kiss on the back of her hand and waved at her as he hoped back into the carriage. “See you another day, Lady Spark. I shall request your presence once more!” 

Spark waved her fingers. “Byeeeee!” 

The carriage rode off and Spark skipped back into the house. Oh my gosh, did you see how he blushed?! She covered her mouth and giggled. Almost makes me wonder how else he would react to other things? 

Spark reached the door to her family home, only to catch a glimpse of someone sitting on the bench beside the staircase. There was a man slightly older than her, painting his fingernails…or at least, he looked like was, but he was stopped in some sort of glare at her. 

A smile rose on Spark’s face and she waved. “Hey, Coal!” 

“…” Coal continued to stare at her. 

“Painting your nails again?” 

“Mmm.” 

Little knots twisted within Spark’s body as the man’s glare bore into her. 

There was an awkward silence between the two of them. Spark scratched her cheek. “Is something wrong?” 

“…nothing, girl.” 

Spark nodded. “Well, see you later!” She opened the door and slipped inside. Oh no, did Coal see that? I really hope he doesn’t tell the rest of the family…goodness, that’s going to be like, so totally annoying if he does! Ugh…

As Spark made the way down her hallway and into her room, her mind floated back to Vainstrel and his sweet blushing face. He was so cute. She pulled her phone form her pocket and grasped it with both hands. I wonder what else I can say and do to make him look like that again!  

She swooned.

Then she ran her fingers over her phone and began typing the next message to Vainstrel. 

**END** 

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[UNEDITED FIRST DRAFT] Wrist & the Snake (Temp. Title)

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY. YOU are the very first person to read it – I haven’t even read it in its entirety yet!

You WILL come across numerous issues including:

  • spelling mistakes;
  • grammar issues;
  • weak sentence structure;
  • repeated words;
  • unnecessary words;
  • missing words;
  • lack of details/descriptions;
  • confusing details/descriptions;

Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.

Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.

The air was extremely crisp and fresh and smelled of freshly fallen rain. Everywhere he looked, Wrist could see the glistening of rain that had just passed overhead giving all the greeny a dazzling glossy sheen that twinkled in the sunlight that was finally shining through after two days of heavy downpour. 

The dampness was of no matter to Wrist though – he still rushed towards the trees and wrapped himself around it, using his feet to work his way up to the branches of these tall, wide, and sturdy trees that were quite a bit aways from the village. He quickly reached the top of the tree tops, gazing up above. While he couldn’t see the village very from there, he could certainly see all the smoke floating up from the homes. 

His face darkened at the site of the two of them, despite the brightness of the sun that was just so close to setting, but still high up enough in the sky to keep it blue in color. 

“Ngh.” Wrist pushed himself onto his hands and knees from where he was sitting on the tree branch and worked himself down the large branch. Just before the branch got too thin for him, he stood on his feet and carefully balanced on the branch. He looked down at the ground far beneath him. While his stomach turned a bit, he couldn’t help but smile. What if I fell and died right here? Would anyone even find me? 

With that thought, he lept across onto the sturdy, large tree branch across from where he had been. 

“WRIST!” 

“WHA!” 

Wrist suddenly found himself tripping backwards and falling. Without a second thought, he grabbed onto the branch he had just fallen from, allowing it to bend and lower him only a short distance from the ground. He gasped for air as he let himself down, holding his chest. He supoorted himself with his other hand on his knees and glared at the young woman, only a few years older than him, who was glaring right back. 

The young woman who stood in front of him wore her dark crismon hair up in a tight bun and minus a few looks hairs raining down in the front of her face was all pulled back and tucked away. Her arms and legs were well-toned. Her body was wrapped in a tunic with a large belt with the village’s usual markings upon it. Her upper arms and lower legs were wrapped tightly with strips of fabric. Overlayed on the belt shaping the tunic was a thinner belt with numerous small bags, items, and sharp objects. Slung over her shoulders and hanging by her waist were weapons. Her lilac-colored eyes bore into Wrist’s scowling face. 

The young woman yanked out one of her throwing knives, pointing it right into Wrist’s face. “What do you think you’re doing again?” 

Wrist clicked his tongue. “You almost got me killed!” 

“You’re going to be killed if you don’t come back.” 

A sacrastic smile spread across Wrist’s face. “Are you saying you’ll kindly do that for me?” 

The woman twirled the throwing knife in her hand and slipped back into its designated pouch on her weapon’s belt. “Absolutely not.” 

Wrist and the young woman both continued to leer at each other. The young woman balled her hand and threw her thumb over her shoulder. “The rain’s cleared and the first thing you do is run away. You’re gonna make your mother cry.” 

“Lilac…” 

“Don’t you dare ‘Lilac’ me.” 

Wrist groaned and rolled his eyes, turning on his heel. He walked back to the tree he had just been on. He wrapped his arms around the tree, only to feel the back of his cloak being yanked on. “Seriously, Wrist, come on.” 

Wrist let go and turned to Lilac. “I’m not going back right now.” 

“I know you have jobs to do.” 

“I do, but not while Bulb and the others are around.” 

Lilac lifted up a fist, shaking it in front of Wrist’s face. “You just need to give them a good WHACK and they’ll stop bothering you.” 

Wrist pushed her out of the way, walking away from her. “That’s easy for you to say! You’re a warrior! I’m just a nobody.” 

“…”

Wrist squatted down to the ground, holding his head. He could feel the rain drops rolling off from the trees on the back of his neck. The cold water droplets felt calming to his nerves, but just couldn’t get rid of the deep sensataion that seemed to be boring a hole into his stomach.

“…what were they saying?” 

Wrist could feel his eyes gloss over. “The…the same as usual.” 

He could feel Lilac closer to him, but she wasn’t touching him at all. This wasn’t too surprising for her. In fact ,this conversation wasn’t too surprising. 

“They…were calling my mother a whore again and that…I hang out here…in the forests.” Wrist hugged his legs. “They were making jokes about me getting bit and dying by a snake.” 

Wrist stood up from the ground and moved over to the tree he had climbed earlier, leaning against it on his back. He covered his face with a hand, glancing over at Lilac. Lilac’s normally stern face appeared soft and her ears completely open to his words. 

“It’s pretty much messed up though that I want a snake to bite me just to me out of my misery.” Wrist hung his head and chuckled. It was a low chuckle just full of melancholy. “They don’t even know how much I want that.”

“That…isn’t why you always come to the woods is it?” 

Wrist sighed. “No.” He shook his head. “I come here to be alone. You know, the trees don’t judge me and it’s the only time I feel calm.” Wrist lifted himself off the tree he had been resting on, turning to place one hand upon its trunk. He raised his head, looking up at all the glistening branches. “I almost forget I’m even alive when I come here. It’s like I just melt in with everything.” 

Wrist looked at Lilac. He watched her lips twitch like they often did for literally everything – she was thinking. Finally she tapped her fist into her palm and she nodded. “Okay, Wrist. I shall let you stay out here…but please don’t get bit by a snake. They really are out here: dishonest, sneaky, and posionous.” Lilac then sighed. “The last thing I need to do is inform your mother died because of something that could have been easily prevented.” 

Wrist waves his hand at her. “Yeah, yeah, okay.”  

With that, he began to walk away from the trees and deeper into the woods. It didn’t take too long before Lilac was out of sight. The subconscious thought wondering if Lilac had left on her own or had he really wandered far enough away to no longer have her in view surfaced, but wasn’t fully formed. His shoulders shurgged and he found himself getting close to the trees surrounded by numerous shrubs. 

Wrist’s shoulders were heavy and he found himself no longer being able to stand up. His legs collapsed and he laid his back against the tree for support. He allowed his whole body to go limp, loosely gazing at the greenery all around him. 

“Why did she even have to have me?” 

He moved his hands into his legs and slumped forward. His whole body was heavy. He was completely enveloped in his own inner turmoil that swirled around like dark storm clouds that threatened to suffocate him. 

“I don’t mind her and it just being us and all…why is it so weird to be without a dad even? Not my fault he left and never came back. I think mom really love him though.” 

He sat back up, allowing the tree to support him behind him. “Would things be any different even if I had my dad around?” He paused for a moment, feeling the swirling turmoil within his body. Nothing cleared – instead, the turmoil thickened. 

Wrist winced. “No…I don’t think so. Gods, they’re jerks…calling my mom a whore!” He pouted and hugged his knees. “Well, maybe they wouldn’t call her that…where do they even get off calling her that…grrrr…” 

Wrist let his body fall onto the grass beside him. “I just want it to end already. I wish I could just kill myself, but that seems too hard.” He looked up to the sky, seeing the tree’s leaves shaking, almost as if they were mocking him. “No one care anyway, except maybe mom.” 

“Are you shhhhure about that?” 

Wrist jolted up from where he was laying with a gasped, head whipping towards the slightly deep, soft voice with a subtle hiss. 

Staring up at him was a grey-green snack with accents of yellow. Wrist watched as the snake, who had been peeking its head out from the bushes, slithered out from underneath and towards him. 

Wrist yelped and immeditately stood on his feet, stumbling away from the tree that had once been supporting him. 

All the tension and turmoil that he had been feeling had immeditately disipitated like salt into water. It was soon replaced absolute terror at the sight of such a snake so close to him.

There are actual snakes here?! 

The snake stopped several feet away from the absolutely petrified wrist. It’s eyes smiled at Wrist, only caused him further unease. Even the mouth of the snake seemed to curl up in an equally friendly smile. “I can ashuuuuure you, I am not poisonousssss…at leasht, not to large animalsss such as yourssself.” 

Wrist blinked HARD. And his mouth dropped. He unconsciously leaned forward, just staring into the face of the snake. It TALKS?! 

“I alsssssso have no interessst in biting you,” added the snake. 

Wrist couldn’t help but scream! “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!!! A TALKING SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!” WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?!

“My name is Ssserpensss and yesss, indeed, I can speak.” 

“You have a NAME?”

“Yesss. Don’t you?” 

Wrist leaned forward, compeltely wide-eyed, his face completely facing the snake. “Yeah, but I ain’t telling you it!” 

“It isss fine for now.” 

Wrist took a step back and turned around. He held his head, shaking it. “A snake…a TALKING snake…oh gods, this is worse than a poisonous snake! Why can something like that even talk anyway!” I’ve never even heard anything about that before. 

“I wass born with thiss ability.”

Wrist halfway turned his body to look at the snake. His mouth gapped open and his brow furrowed. “How…?” 

“Mussst you really ask such a question? Sssimilar to you, no doubt.” 

Wrist turned fully around, sighing. He covered half his face and shook his head. “I didn’t mean it like that.” He then put one finger into the air and continued. “I’m wondering how you even have the ability to talk in the first place. I’ve never even heard of snakes doing such a thing.” 

“It indeed isss not very common, even amongssst us snakesss.” 

“What kind of snake are you?” Wrist rasied an eyebrow. 

Serpens paused for a moment and cocked its head. “Hmm…I sssuppose I don’t really know. I have been alone for a very long time.” 

Wrist put his hands on his hips. “Alone? Just how old are you?” 

Serpens slithered forward. “I am sssstill fairly young, but I have no parentsss that I know of – therefore I cannot answer such a question.” 

Wrist pouted. “Hmm…” 

Wrist glanced over to the tree close by him, then walked over and sat down. It was then he realized that his facial muscles and his whole body had started to relax. Wow, he thought. 

He watched Serpens slither on over to him, now only about a foot away. Wrist crossed his legs, allowing the snake a bit more room to slither forward. Wrist himself leaned down, curiously looking into Serpens face. “So, you’re Serpens?” 

“Yeeesss, that is correct.” 

“If you have no parents, how’d you get that name?” 

“I sssimply named myself once I realized how helpful it is to have a thing to be called beyond ‘ssssnake’.” 

Wrist crossed his arms, closed his eyes, and began to nod. “Makes a lot of sense. There’s a lot of snakes out there.” 

“Yess, indeed there are many.” 

Wrist uncrossed his arms and leaned on his hands, using his knees like a tabletop to prop them up. “You are so strange. I’ve never heard anything about talking snakes before – just of being poisonous, dishonest, and overall bad.” 

Serpens seemed to smile. “Asssss I sstated earlier, I am poisonousss to ssmall animalss, but not large onesss such as yourself. I am aware that usss ssnakes have a poor reputation, but I can ashure you that for many of usss, it is sssimply not the case.” 

Wrist chuckled. “So the snake would say.” 

Serpens cackled back. “I sssee you have a ssense of humor!” 

Wrist’s eyebrows rose. No way, I’m boring. 

Serpens cocked its head. “Iss there something wrong?” 

Wrist turned his head slightly away, pouting. “Not really.” 

“Ah…isss it worry that I perhapss am truly bad?” 

Wrist gasped and shook his head. “No! Not at all! I’ve never believed in that crap anyway.” 

“Ooh, that is fasssscinating. The origin of such a reputation stemss from another planet, after all, and has entered popular thought in many placesss, from what I can understand/” 

A giant smile rose across Wrist’s face and he snapped his fingers. “HA! I knew it!” 

Wrist watched as Serpens snapped backwards for a brief moment. Wrist scratched the back of his head, laughing. “Ah…sorry about that. I just…I’m sick of hearing about how evil snakes are from my village. It’s getting tiring. I don’t even know why they say crap like that, but it’s annoying. I didn’t think that was true.” 

“Ah, ssso you are from the nearby village?”

Wrist nodded. “Yeah. I live there with my mother.” 

Serpens seemed to frown. “You mentioned that sshe would be the only one to misssss you if you had died.” 

Wrist suddenly felt the heaviness from other creep in over his shoulders and over his body. Wrist downcasted his gaze to the damp grass underneath him. He balled his pants into his heads. 

Serpens slithered closer to Wrist, his head hovering above Wrist’s knee. Wrist pulled back a little on pure reaction. He eased himself back into place after taking a deep breath. “May I ask what is trouble you?” 

“…” I can’t do that. 

Wrist stayed in his downcasted, balled fist position for what felt like forever. HIs hands became all sweaty and hot, contrasting with the cold he felt inside. Serpens also seemed to be frozen in place, on periodically blinking up at Wrist. 

“You sseem very troubled,” remarked Serpens, breaking through the silence. “May I offer my assssssistance?” 

Wrist shook his head. “I…can’t bother you with it.” 

“You are not a bother to me.” 

Wrist turned to Serpens, bitting his lower lip. His eyes widened. I can actually talk to him? Will he make fun of me? Wrist glanced over to the side, briefly pouting. No, I don’t think Serpens is like that at all. 

Wrist leaned forward, looking at Serpens. He opened his mouth, feeling the slightest smile on his face…and then froze. Fear hugged his lower waist. “I…I can’t do that.” 

“Do you know the reason you cannot?” 

Wrist frowned. “I don’t have any confidence in either one of us, so I don’t really want to talk about it.” 

Serpens tongue briefly lashed out of his mouth. “I ssseee.”

Serpens’s friendly smile seemed to reappear on his face. The snake lifted its body a bit higher, almost reaching Wrist’s eye level. “If you do not mind, could I perhapss learn your name now?” 

Wrist’s lips part. “Ah…yeah. I’m…Wrist.” 

“It is nice to meet you, Wrisssst.” 

A small smile made its way across Wrist’s lips. The tension that had hugged him earlier seemed to crack underneath the weight of such an earthshattering act against his inner turmoil. 

“You can tell me more when you are ready.” 

The smile on Wrist’s face grew. “Sure.” 

Wrist turned his gaze back to the sky, noticing that the blue sky was tinted orange. He looked back to Serpens, who appeared to have looked up in the same direction as him. 

“It mussst be time for you to be heading back to our home.” 

Wrist groaned. “I don’t wanna.” 

“Once night fallssss, finding your way back will be that much more difficult.” 

Wrist clicks his tongue. “I’ll be fine.” He held the back of his head. “No one’s gonna miss me anyway.” 

Suddenly, Serpens was in his face, hissing loudly. His large, sharp fang were beared and his tongue lashed. 

Wrist yelped and find himself crawling backwards. “SHEESH!” he gasped. “I got it! I got it! I’ll head back!” 

Wrist took one final look at Serpens – who suddenly appeared calm and smile one more, seemingly waving good-bye with his tail – and ran away, all the way back to the village.

“Ugh!” Dang that snake! He really gave me a scare…I don’t think he meant any harm. I don’t really want to go back, but I don’t really want to see what Serpens would do if I didn’t… 

***  

Wrist slipped in-between the darkened parts of the village’s roads, keeping his head down as to not be seen. It only took a few minutes, but he soon came to a door with a glowing light through the window and smoke curling up from the chimney. He opened the door quietly and slipped inside. 

“Wrist?!” exclaimed a voice, rather sing-songy. 

A forced smile popped onto his face in meer reaction to the voice. Peering out from behind an open doorframe was an older woman with rather youthful features. Her face was calm and cheerful, but there seemed to be an air of bubbling emptiness about her. 

“Hi mom.” 

The older woman placed a hand on her cheek. “Out playing in the woods again?” She chuckled. 

“Yeah…” 

“I’m glad you came back in time for dinner – it’s almost ready.” 

Wrist nodded and slipped into the kitchen just as his mother disappeared back into it. He watched her go back to the stove, adding a few last pinches of herbs to the stew that was boiling on the stove. 

Wrist walked over to a washbasin and poured out some water, rubbing his hands and face clean with the lukewarm water. He then dried them quickly with a towel hanging above it. He looked even further up, seeing an adorably framed photo with his mother that was signed with her name, Armella. How could dad ever even leave her? She’s beautiful even now. Is he stupid? 

Wrist let out a sigh. Not that it would probably matter. His eyes looked at his mother, who seemed completely oblivious to the way Wrist was pouting and mulling over everything. 

Wrist slipped into the dining room table, situated in the middle of the rather large kitchen. He sat back, just looking down at the placements as his thoughts wandered. His eyes traversed the intricate designs of the faded placemat and his eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to the snake hidden in the back corner of the illustration. 

clack 

His head shifted to see his mother placing down a cup of water beside him. “It should only be about a minute.” 

He could see the snake illustration reflected in the water.

“Hey, mom?” 

Armella stopped for a moment, her gentle smile like bubbles floating in the air. “Yes, Wrist?” 

Wrist tapped the snake on the placement with his fingers. “How did snakes get such a bad reputation anyway?” 

Wrist turned his gaze to his mother. His eyes slightly widened in surprise. His mother’s normally relaxed eyes squinted ever so slightly and her brow folded. Her smile shrunk into a loosely pursed pout. Has she made that before? 

“What…a strange thing to ask!” remarked Armella. Her usual smile returned back to her face and she turned around, going back to the stove. Wrist could see her shutting off the stove and ladeling out the stew into large bowls on top of a tray that also contained bread and a small salad. 

Wrist grabbed the back of his head, scratching the nap of his neck awkwardly, glancing down at the snake illustration. I think it’s just weird we’re all afraid of snakes for no reason. Is it really that strange? Wrist pouted. …Serpens is probably the strange one. Is it even worth mentioning it… “Nah…”

Wrist’s mother brought over both trays skillfully like a veteran waitress at a restaurant. “Did you say something?” she asked, placing the trays down on the table.

“Ah!” Wrist looked up at her and then to his food, then back at his mother who situated herself across from her. “Liliac. She mentioned there was snakes around when…she tried to get me to come back today. And I was wondering why everyone is so afraid of snakes.” Wrist ripped a piece of bread and dipped it within the stew. He could feel his stomach tighten. He stuffed the soaking bread into his mouth, attempting to relax his own nerves. 

“Oh!” Armella laughed. “So that’s what it is! Lilac, that girl!” Armella took a spoonful of stew and blowed on it. Wrist looked like she was on the verge of humming. 

Wrist hung his head. What is she thinking? 

“But we’re not talking about Lilac, are we? I think I know something about why the village doesn’t like snakes.” 

Wrist’s whole body perked up. Every single sound in the room seemed to amplify as if his ears had just popped and cleared. “You do?!” 

Armella laughed. “Yes. I think I do, anyway.” 

Wrist found himself leaning forward and his mother putting down her spoon, leaning forward herself. Both of them supported their heads with their hands and their elbows on the table. 

“There was this really common story growing up about a young girl who was tricked by a talking snake into stealing an apple that she wasn’t supposed to touch at all and ended up hurting not just herself, but everyone else.” 

Wrist felt himself flinch. ‘Talking snake…’

Armella suddenly burst out laughing. “I always thought that was such a silly story! A talking snake? How can such a thing even exist?” 

Wrist went pail. “Heh…y-yeah…” he mumbled, although inside, his mind couldn’t help but float back to Serpens and his friendly demenaor. Maybe…he was actually trying to hurt me. 

“I think it was to just help us young ones not get close to snakes. They’re poisonous, after all!” 

The lightness of Armella was almost blinding. 

The light bubbliness of Armella contrasted greatly with Wrist, who was drowning in a mess of confusion that knotted and twisted him in all sorts of ways he couldn’t even quite describe. 

“Ah!” gasped Armella. “I forgot!” She then giggled, lifting up her hand. “I also heard there was a really bad snake infestation when my parents were growing up. They got rid of all the snakes, but it was very bad – I heard a lot of people died and homes were lost in the process of trying to get rid of them all. I’m sure everyone is still scarred from that!” 

Wrist watched his mother pick up her spoon and start downing the stew quickly. He watched her smile spread from ear to ear as the whole tray started to be cleared. Every single thing about his mother was light and bubbly. 

I…who is this woman and how is she my mother. She’s so happy. 

“Wrist, eat your food before it turns cold.” 

“Yeah…” 

Wrist lifted up his fork for the salad and began to dig in. This can’t even turn cold. It’s already cold. 

***

Wrist tossed onto his side and grumbled. Could he really have been trying to trick me? His lips twitched in thought. And that guy seemed to friendly too…

Wrist stared at his wall, only illuminated by the moonlight shining through the blinds of his window. The slight cracks in the wall reminded Wrist a lot of the movements Serpens had made as he had silthered closer to him during the day. What would he want with me though? I’m just a depressed kid who wants to kill himself. No one, except maybe my mother, wants me around and honestly, I’m so tired of all of this. He said he wasn’t poisonous to me…but maybe he was lying…? 

Where’d that story of the girl and the talking snake come from anyway? What kind of fairytale was that? Well, I guess it showed a good moral…but does that apply to Serpens? 

Wrist’s eyes went wide. He pulled his blanket up to his chin, continuing to stare at the moonlit wall. Whoa! What if that guy’s a demon just pretending to be a snake? There was something off about him too…rightt? …

Wrist relaxed his body with a sigh. “Nah…” he whispered into the dark. Serpens is a lot kinder…than…most people…I…know…..

And with that last thought trailing off, Wrist dozed off into a deep sleep. 

Wrist hugged his bookbag close to his chest, walking through the wide-open space that lead directly to the school billing. His whole body was tight. Why couldn’t there just be another way to school? he whined to himself – something he did on an almost daily basis.

Unlike most buildings in the village, the school only had a single road leading directly to it. Wrist could have easily slipped past everyone anywhere else like he often did to get home without being seen, but the school building was just an open walkway with no alternate routes. He couldn’t help but wince. 

He let out a sharp gasp as two arms hit his shoulders. Wrist’s face went pale at the deep voice he could hear beside him. “Heeey, son of a whore, you still didn’t get bit yet?” Wrist didn’t even want to look up. He could already tell the guy speaking to him was smirking. The middle of Wrist’s abdomin prickled like needles. 

The other boy there cackled. “What are you waiting for?” His grip tightened on Wrist’s shoulder. “No one cares about you anyway.” 

Wrist’s legs still moved forward, but his eyes were frozen and glued to the ground in front of him. His vision was blurry as his eyes glossed over.

His book back was ripped from his arms. 

“HEY!” yelped Wrist, finally looking up at his bullies. Their faces were dark and their grins sharp. Wrist watched as his bookbag’s contents were poured out in the middle of the street. His lunch containers spilled open, its contents going all over the ground. 

The bullies cackled. 

“Oh no, the wittle son of a whore lost his lunch!” 

“Maybe he should go suck a dick like his mother does!” 

Wrist put up his hand, as if he was going to reach out, but completely stopped. Why do they always…

“YEOWCH!” 

Wrist gasped, looking at both bullies. Scowling at both of them was Lilac, who had single-handedly lifted them both up by the wrist. Her lips were slightly pursed and a single eyebrow was raised. “Bulb, Ginko, stop bothering him.” She tossed them to the ground, Bud and Ginko’s hands landing smack-dab in the middle of the soup that had spread itself across the ground. The partially disgusted look on their faces only lifted Wrist’s mood ever so slightly.

Lilac leaned forward, pointing a throwing knife into their faces. The two bullies flinched. “If Wrist really goes and gets bit by a snake, I’m blaming the both of you. Stop calling his mother a whore simply because he doesn’t have a father and stop suggesting he does things that hurt him.” 

A smile slowly appeared on Wrist’s face. Lilac actually showed up. 

His smile dropped the moment and saw Bulb and Ginko glancing back at him. Their once petrified faces twisted upward. 

“Wow, the son of the whore needs a glrl to defend him? What’d you do? Sleep with her too? You’re pathetic! Just go back to the brothels!” 

Lilac proceeded to kick both bullies into the head, their heads thumping the spilled books on the floor. 

I…I let Liliac defends me. I…what kind of person am I? Wrist held his head and glanced up Lilac, who eyed him back with a question in her eyes. 

Wrist turned around. I can’t burdern someone with something like this! And then he dashed away, in the opposite direction of the school.

He could hear the cackling yelps of the bullies behind him. “That’s right! Run away! Go back to your brothel! Or better yet, go back into the forest and don’t come back! Whore boy!” 

The faintest sound of Lilac’s feet hitting the two bullies resounded in the air, but Wrist dare not look back. 

Wrist ran and ran and ran, passing through the backstreets and making his way out of the village and into the wide-open forest who seemed to have its arms open wide for him. “Stop calling her a whore, stop calling me a whore, stop it, stop it, stop it,” huffed Wrist underneath his breath over and over again as he ran.

The trees seemed to thicken wherever he was. 

THUNK 

KA-THUMP 

Wrist tripped over a large tree root and fell face first into the dirt. His nose shot up in pain. 

It was just the thing to crack him.

Tears began to rain down his face. He yanked at the grass on the ground in front of him as if it were his own hair. His sobs reached the air and he drew his head back. “STOP. CALLING. MY. MOTHER. A. WHORE!” 

He allowed his head to drop back to the ground. His forehead kissed the dirt. His shoulders twitched with each haggard breath. “Stop telling me I’m too sensitive. Stop telling me to suck dick. Stop assuming I’m just like my mom and stop assuming she’s something she’s not. Stop making fun of me for not knowing my dad and stop…stop it. Stop it. STOP. IT!” 

Wrist drew his knees underneath his chest. “I get it, I get it. I’m not wanted, I’m not needed, and everyone would be better off without me and my stupid sensitives and existence around! I’m a terrible person who has to rely on others for help and I can’t even defend my own mother! I’m pathetic!” 

“I thought I heard a familiar voice.” 

Wrist’s tear-stained, dirt-caked face turned into the direction of the voice. Slithering up from behind the tree was the smiling snake, Serpens. Wrist sniffled, his bottom lip quivering. “W-what do you want?” he asked nasally…after all, his nose was stuffed from all his crying. 

“You ssseem upset. Why are you crying?” inquired Serpens. Wrist watch Serpens stop only a few inches away from his face. 

Serpens was smiling, but unlike the mocky smirk of the bullies, Serpens’s smile was gentle and caring. The snake’s eyes, although certainly worthy of the fright they had initially given Wrist, still seemed to be filled with kindness and light from the sun reflecting upon it. 

Wrist turned away. “I’m done.” 

“Done with what?” 

“Everything. I’m completely done with everything. I’m done being bullied. I’m done not having a dad. I’m done having to rely on Lilac to defend me and my mom having to help me with everything. I’m done being worthless and being alive. I don’t want it anymore. I’m better not being here at all.” 

“Oh, dear. This is the ssstate in which you are in?” 

Wrist shoved his hand at Serpens, hitting the snake’s scaly lips. “Just poison me already.” 

Serpens gently bumped Wrist’s hand away with its head. “I have already told you, my poison does not work on animalsss as large as you.” 

Wrist whimpered. “I remember.” 

“And even if I could, I have no such interest in poisoning you.” 

Wrist got to his knees and threw his head back. At the top of his lungs and into the surrounding forest, he screamed: “I WANT TO DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!”

Birds hidden within the trees burst out as if carrying the echo of Wrist’s words. Tears stung his eyes that seemed to draw up in their saltiness. The seeping hole within his core made everything around it heavier. His heart strained. Wrist slowly looked down at Serpens, who’s gaze only slightly soothed his aching heart. 

“Wrissst, may I ask what happened? You appear to be dissstraught.” 

Wrist glanced away from Serpens. His lips trembled. “…don’t wanna…” 

Wrist could feel the gaze of the snake piercing him. He could feel pressure building up in his throat of everything he was thinking and what he was feeling about what was there, deep inside of him. 

Wrist shot furrowed brows at Serpens. “…” 

The wind rustled the trees and Wrist’s hair, but that was all that seemed to move within the moment of silence. The air was thick and heavy. Wrist could clearly see Serpens’s concern written all over the snake’s face and Wrist could feel that he wanted to say something so desperately. 

What is this snake doing to me? 

“I can’t stand it anymore!” vomitted up Wrist. “I’m ALWAYS bullied, always having to be saved. They call my mom a ‘whore’ and tell me to go get bitten by a snake! I’m told to be like my mother and to go away. I’m made fun of for not knowing my father. My grades suck. I’m always getting in trouble even when it’s not my fault. No one cares about me, no one likes me, and all I want to do is die! Why did I have to be born in the first place? Death seems a lot more pleasant than this…why am I even here?!” 

Tears flowed even heavier from Wrist’s eyes than before. “I’m sorry I’m a burden to everyone. I can’t stand anyone, not even me! I’m the worst! No wonder I’m so hated. I don’t want to bother anyone anymore…I just want to die. At least then they’ll be free of me, the biggest burden of them all.” 

“Why do you conclude that you are a burden? I see that there are people whom love you,” replied Serpens. 

Wrist sniffled. “D-doesn’t m-matter. Even if they love me, I’m still burdening them by existing. Why did I even have to exist in the first place…” Wrist wiped his tears with his cloak. “The least I can do is die and go away forever.” 

“Do you truly want to die?” 

Wrist lifted his head, stared Serpens straight in the eye, and replied “Yes.” 

Serpens’s eyes narrowed slightly. Wrist felt himself flinch. The gaze felt as if Serpens himself was slithering all over Wrist. After a good moment of the uncomfortable leering from Serpens and Wrist’s sniffling, the snake cocked its head curiously. “Do you wish all of you to die or only a part of you?” 

Wrist wiped his eyes, followed by a sniffle. “What the heck does that mean?” 

Serpens slithered closer to Wrist, coming only a short distance away. The snake gazed right into Wrist’s face. Except, to Wrist, there was something absolutely terrifying about it in the sense of being absolutely exposed. Why…why do I feel like I’m naked everywhere? 

“Not all deathsss are physical,” replied Serpens. “Not all deathsss are entirely mental either.” 

Wrist buckled to his knees as his head began to pound. “I…I really don’t get it. Serpens, what are you even talking about.” 

Wrist looked between his fingers, seeing Serpens close to his face. 

“I can sshow you, but I will need your permisshon first.” 

Wrist’s body became heavier and he collapsed on the ground. His head seemed to be spliting. “Argh! I don’t know! Just kill me now!” This headache’s gonna be the death of me. 

He could hear the flickering of Serpens’s tongue. “I shall take that as permission to proceed.” 

Wrist could feel Serpens’s scaly head bump gently onto his left hand and the next think he knew, the headache was gone…along with everything else. Wrist was suddenly on his feet, surrounded completely by darkness, except for his own body which was illuminated with its own mysterious light that seemed to be radiating off from his skin. 

“What the…?” whispered Wrist. 

He looked down to his left arm and gasped, watching as Serpens quickly slid up the left side of his body and coiled around his left arm. Wrist winced at the constrition his arm was under, although much to his surprise, there was no actual pain, just pressure. 

Serpens then slid across his shoulders and around his face and his neck. He slid down the right arm and coiled it just the same as the left, causing Wrist to wince a bit more under the pressure. He then watched Serpens coil his body all the way down to his feet, dropping down into a circle. 

What is he doing? 

Wrist looked down at the side of Serpens face. 

All of a sudden, Serpens lept up, barring his fangs. Wrist let out a gasp and looked up to stump away, but instead found Serpens hitting underneath his chin. 

Wrist let out the most blood-curling scream he had ever set out in his life as Serpens seemed to shoot through him and out of from his head. And with him, everything that had threatened to kill him. 

His skin and his organs felt like they were on fire. As the heat cleared, from his feet to his head in small waves, every single ill feeling that had been consuming him for years had completely disappeared. 

Wrist’s eyes widened. I feel…light! 

A slight heaviness suddenly dropped onto his shoulders. Wrist looked down and over, seeing Serpens drapping himself like a necklace. “What are you—?!”

Serpens slipped down into Wrist’s back. Wrist could feel the snake enter in through hole in his back – something he knew just should not have been there – and trembled. What…what is even happening?! 

The light on illuminating Wrist’s body increased intensely, blindingly so. Wrist covered his eyes. 

When the light faded, Wrist found himself in front of a lake in the middle of the darkness, with his own naked reflection staring back up at him. Around his neck was now a snake pendant and snake motifs covered parts of his body like tattoos. One over his heart, one around his left arm, and one on his face. He slightly turned around, noticing that there was one linging on his back and on his right leg. 

Wrist gasped and blinked. When his opened, he was back in the forest, completely clothed. 

“Serpens?” he called, looking around. His hands went to his neck and pulled open the top of his shirt, peering down. Around his neck was the exact snake pendant he saw in the dream…or whatever the heck he had just experienced. His eyes located the snake tattoo over his heart as he peered a bit further down. 

Wrist looked at his left hand and the back of his right leg. Peeking out from underneath the fabric were the markings he had seen. “Serpens,” he whispered. “What the heck WAS that?” 

Wrist reached into his shirt and pulled out the pendant, taking a good look at it. 

Then, cutting through the atmosphere like a cold blade was a rather familiar voice of a young woman. 

“What did you just do?” 

Wrist slowly turned around, seeing Lilac’s face dark with absolute horror. Her face seemed to twist in anger. 

Wrist’s eyes narrowed curiously, noticing his body seemed to be completely absent of fear or annoyance he normally felt when Lilac approached him. Wrist took in a deep breath and smiled a small smile. “I asked to die.” 

“By making a deal with a SNAKE?!” 

Wrist shrugged. “I don’t think I made a deal with Serpens. I just agreed to let him show me what he meant.” 

Lilac took a step forward, with drawing her sword. “Do you understand that you’ve just forsaken not just yourself, but the entire village?! You were tricked by that dishonest snake! Everyone will be killed – not just you – for what you have done!” 

Lilac thrust the sword into Wrist’s face. 

Wrist didn’t even flinch. Instead, he looked at the shiny blade glistening in the sun, finding himself wondering what the peace he was feeling from within his body. I would’ve been scared even a few moments ago. Maybe even angry…no…I’d definitely have been angry. Wrist slightly tilted his head. Why am I so calm? 

A pressure came to his throat and went to go open his mouth to speak, but something in the back of his mind protested. ‘Don’t say a thing’ it said. ‘You did something wrong! You’re getting in trouble!’ Wrist pasued for a moment. Am I really wrong though? I don’t think so. I don’t think the village is in trouble. His gaze met Lilac’s murderous one. But I don’t really want to say anything…

Wrist, ssspeak your heart.” 

Serpens?! 

Yess, I am within you now. Sspeak the truthss in which you have uncovered.” 

Wrist found himself placing both hands over his heart. He met Lilac’s muderous gaze straight on and gently pushed her sword out of the way with his hand. “Serpens isn’t like that. He’s not going to kill the whole village. He didn’t even kill me. Just…” Wrist lips twitched in thought. He found his consciousness dive deep within his body, finding the right words. His throat seemed to be lit up again as what he needed to speak surfaced. “…just the parts of me that weren’t me and I no longer needed.” 

Lilac huffed. “You keep referring to this ‘serpens’. Who is this person and what do they have to do with any of this?!” 

“Serpens is the name of the snake.” 

Lilac’s jaw dropped, still looking absolutely filled with murderous intent. “The snake has a NAME now?!” 

Wrist lifted his head. “Serpens has always had a name. I don’t like how you are accusing him of things he’s not doing. He couldn’t even kill me, even when I asked him to. He’s actually really kind.” 

Lilac’s sword slowly lowered to the ground as Lilac held her head. “‘Kind’? What is next? You love him? How do you even know such things about a snake?” 

Wrist found himself smiling. “Simple,” he replied, on the verge of laughter. “Serpens can talk.” 

Wrist watched Lilac’s hand holding the sword tremble and her murderous gaze transform into one of pure horror. 

Lilac withdrew her sword and turned on her toes. At the top of her lungs, she began to shout “WRIST IS CURSED! WRIST HAS BEEN CURSED BY THE TALKING SNAKE!” 

Wrist couldn’t help but find himself chuckling. The back of his hand rubbed his eyes, noticing the smallest of tears were starting to dot his eyelids. “Serpens, what did you even do to me? I feel so light. It’s like you ripped everything out from me that had been causing me problems. I think my head is still getting used to it.”

Wrist heard Serpens chuckle himself from inside his head. “That isss indeed what hass happened. I have torn what was not yourss from your body. It may ssstill remain in your mind for a while longer, but that’sss ssomething time and experience shall heal.” 

Wrist found himself smiling, despite his tears. “Wow. That’s…that’s amazing. I’m not even angry that Lilac tried to murder me or that she thinks I’m cursed. I’m pretty sure everything is about to get a lot worse, but I’m so light and at peace, I don’t care.” 

“Is it that you do not care? Or is it something else?”

Wrist grasped his chin. “Hmmm…I think it’s something else. It’s more like…I know that there is something better for me.” 

And do you know what it is that you must do now?” 

Wrist found his consciousness drop back down into his body. 

His tears became strong as up from the depths of his being rose the answer. 

“I…need to leave the village.” 

Iss that ssomething you are okay with?” 

Wrist folded his hand’s over his heart. He found himself smiling despite his tears. “Yeah, it’s fine. I’ll miss my mother, but maybe I can visit her one day again. Even if I can’t, it’s okay. I just hope she will be okay without me.” 

Wrist scratched the back of his head. “I should really go get something’s though before I head on out, huh?” 

If that issss what you wisssh.”

“Yeah, it is.” 

***

Wrist swiftly made his way through the back roads, hearing Lilac’s screams and echos of many others at the announcement of his “deal” with Serpens. He stayed hidden within the shadows, only allowing himself to look like a flickering shadow in the dancing fire lanterns hanging in-between the roads as he passed through. 

He slipped through the side gap near his house and leaned against the wall, listening and peering in through the window, cautiously looking for any sign of upset. 

His soon-to-be-former home seemed innocent and untouched. He could see his mother cleaning the living room on the other side. She must not know yet. 

Wrist made his way over to the front door and slipped inside, immeditately going to his room, with the lightest footsteps he had ever used before. He drew a satchel off his door’s hanging rack and began to fill it with what he thought he would need for his trip. 

Don’t over think it,” said Serpens. “Allow yourssself to be guided by the truthsss deep within you.” 

Wrist nodded and allowed him to relax, all while placing what he could feel floating up from deep within him into the bag. After a few minutes and a full bag later, he pulled the drawstrings and buttons closed. I think I am good. 

“Wrist?” 

Wrist looked towards the door as he tossed the large satchel over his arm. He found himself pausing for a moment, seeing the questioning look inside of his mother’s warm eyes. 

Wrist smiled softly. “Hi, mom.”

“Where are you going?” 

Wrist found his feet walked right up to her, placing a hand on her shoulder. His smile grew, but it still remained soft. He watched as his mother’s eyes followed the snake marking on his face and her lips slightly part in quiet surprise. 

“I have to leave.” 

Armella’s hands folded over her heart. Wrist watched his mother briefly cast down her gaze before looking at him back in the eye. Her brow slightly furrowed. “When will you be back?” 

Wrist closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He dove down deep into the depths of his being once more. Within the endless darkness floated up a bubble with the answer all the way to his throat. It popped and out from his mouth came “Not for a long time.” 

Armella let out a quiet gasp. Her arms grabbed her son’s shoulders. Her eyes glazed over and she was looking at him up and down. 

Wrist leaned forward and gave her a huge hug. 

“Mom, I love you,” he whispered. “I’ll be back to see you again. Thank you for not giving up on me.” 

Wrist let go and walked past Armella, just as she gasped and covered her mouth, choking back tears. Wrist felt nothing but love radiating in his heart – not anything romantic, but love is the purest sense. The kind of divine love that most humans don’t even know how to express.  

Wrist slipped back out the door and into the night. 

***

A knock came at the door and Armella finished blotting the remainder of her tears from her face. She took a moment to look into the mirror, checking her face. Oh dear, I must look terrible. She placed a hand over her heart and sighed. I am grateful the lighting is the way it is…

She waltzed over to the door as if she hadn’t been crying just a few minutes ago. “Coming~~!” she sung, reaching the door. She opened it, seeing a group of people with numerous weapons and torches in hand. Armella’s heart thumped in her chest as she forced a smile on her face. 

“Hello, Salenor,” Armella greeted. She put a hand to her cheek and tilted her head, hoping her eyes were glittering in the brilliant way they normally did and not like she had been crying. “What ever brings you here?” 

“Have you seen Wrist?” 

Armella frowned, shaking her head. “Nooo, I haven’t seen him all day. I think he’s probably playing in the forest again, that silly son of mine!” She followed it with a giggle. 

But Salenor in front of her wasn’t laughing. 

“I need to speak to you,” said Salenor. 

“Um, okay. Did my son do something?” inquired Armella. Her voice slightly quivered, but an innocent smile still stayed plastered on her face. 

Salenor motioned to the group behind him, with two men stepping up behind him. Salenor and the two men entered into Armella’s home. Salenor gently tapped Armella’s shoulder and she followed them into her kitchen. 

“You will want to sit down,” said Salenor. 

Armella went over to her refridgerator. “Oh, but don’t you want something to drink?” 

Salenor shook his hand and head at her. “There is no time for that.” 

Armella cast her gaze down and nodded, walking to the table, sitting down. She folded her hands as she looked at Salenor. “Why are you looking for my son? What did he do?” 

Salenor’s face darkened. “I was informed by Lilac that your son made a deal with the snake from the legends.” 

Armella let out a scoff, followed by a chuckle. “Those stories? They’re not true.” 

“I am afraid they hold truth.”

Armella’s eyes met Salenor’s. 

Salenor appeared to be grim. “According to Lilac, he made a deal with a talking snake. I am sorry, Armella, but he must be killed for the sake of the village.” 

Armella gasped and covered her mouth. The tears that had just finished stinging her eyes drying up fell once more and she found her body tremble. Wrist, run! Run so far! Do not let them catch you! I don’t know why you would make a deal with the snake, but please, live! Please…

***

“Hah, did you hear them?” asked Wrist, completely shielded in the night. The forest seemed to grow thicker and no light from the village far behind them reached them. Wrist could no longer hear the village yelling, or at least, he was pretty sure. The sound in the air just sounded like wind and maybe, if he listened hard enough, a waterfall. He smirked. “They think I’m cursed.” 

Do you think you’re cursssed?” 

Wrist flicked underneath his nose. “No way.” He lifted his head up towards the starry sky peeking through the trees. “The curse isn’t me or what I did, but how the village thinks. I don’t know who placed the curse on them like that, but I hope I can undo it one day.” 

Oh, a dream?” 

“Yeah, I think so!” Wrist replied, followed by a chuckle. 

How will you undo the curssse that was placed on your village?” 

“Hmmm…” Wrist grasped his chin. “I’m not really sure yet, but I’m sure I’ll know when I get there.” 

What a wonderful anssswer/” 

“I have a lot you need to teach me before I get there, I bet.” 

Yess, indeed. And let me teach you another lesssson: humanss often cursse themselves.” 

Wrist nodded, his smile still high upon his face. “Hmm…I see…yeah…I can see that. We curse ourselves through our thoughts and the actions that follow them, yeah?” 

I believe you will learn and undo the curssse in very little time!” 

Wrist laughed. “That doesn’t answer my question>” 

Wrist could feel Serpens smile from within him. 

Wrist placed his hands behind his head, taking a deep breath. He listened to the soft sounds of his footsteps and the occassional crushing of leaves underneath his feet, making his way even deeper through the forest. His own movements seemed snake-like as he turned corners and just walked where he was guided, managing to avoid everything that could have caused him harm. 

When the wind seemed to quiet down, Wrist turned inward. “Serpens,” he called. “Why’d you show up to me on that first day?” 

I ssssimply wass near by. But it isss in my nature to help those who are like you.” 

“Like how? Depressed and ready to die?” 

No,” replied Serpens. “when someone is about to be reborn.”

Wrist’s relaxed smile changed into a large green. An unrestrained laugh belted out from his mouth and bounced off every tree in the forest, echoing back an otherworld whisper that signaled Wrist was being reborn. 

**END**

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[UNEDITED FIRST DRAFT] Untitled Spark & Vainstrel Story 4

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY. YOU are the very first person to read it – I haven’t even read it in its entirety yet!

You WILL come across numerous issues including:

  • spelling mistakes;
  • grammar issues;
  • weak sentence structure;
  • repeated words;
  • unnecessary words;
  • missing words;
  • lack of details/descriptions;
  • confusing details/descriptions;

Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.

Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.

Vainstrel could feel is body shake with stage-fright, although he hadn’t had stage-fright since he was a young vampire child. The only thing that was causing this fear of failing was the beautiful, spunky witch excitedly looking over the cellphone case in her hands. Sparks were literally flying off and around Spark as she gushed.

“This is absolutely, absolutely stunning! Just look at all this gorgeous detail! Goodness, Vainstrel, I can’t believe you would drop more money on me like this again, all with a cellphone case of this quality. And look! It even lights up when I feed it electricty!” 

Vainstrel’s cheeks flushed a pleasant red, although his legs were fidgeting. What is wrong with my body and my heart? For I have not been as nervous since I first set foot on stage. This is the scenario in which I have practice over and over both within my mind and without…stage fright, you no longer need to have a hold on me!

Vainstrel glanced up at the waiter, who quietly put down their drinks – Vainstrel’s usual earl gray tea and Spark’s spicy hot chocolate. 

“Oh! Hot chocolate’s here!” Spark placed her new phone case onto the café table and took a quick sip of her hot chocolate. Vainstrel watched her tremble.

“Mmmmm!!! Just what’s needed on a nice cool day like this!”

Vainstrel nodded. “Indeed, it is, lady Spark.” He lifted up his own tea and took a sip himself. Unlike usual, he couldn’t taste anything. If there hadn’t been a cap on his drink, it probably would’ve spilled out everywhere. At least he could still feel the warmth on his hands. 

Vainstrel took a very brief look around the café area – they were seated at the side of their usual café, near the cobblestone streets. They were fenced off with beautiful iron lattrice fencing and grouped with a few scattered tables for outdoor dining. The day itself made it still considerably comfortable to sit outside, but there was just enough of a chill that made hot drinks like theirs welcome.

Vainstrel’s eyes darted back to the table, watching Spark place down her hot chocolate cup. She brought out her phone and started to push it into the brand new case Vainstrel had so kindly bought her – a yellow case with black, brown, and silver accents that perfectly complimented her clothes. Each piece was made with real sheets of metal as well, but it was specially coated so it wouldn’t interfer with her magic. It even had built in lights that dotted the border of the front of the case that, as Spark had earlier stated, worked with her magic. 

Vainstrel had saw it only a few days earlier as he had been out and about after the show he was starring in and just so happened to see it in a small shop not too far from the performance hall. He hadn’t even been thinking about getting a gift for Spark – he simply just saw it and found himself so excited, he went in and immeditately dropped the money for the case so perfect for her. After all, they hadn’t bought her a case (not that she needed it with all the magic reinforcements on her phone, but still). 

Vainstrel’s finger started to tap the side of his drink’s cap, glancing over at the empty tables beside them.

“Hey, are you okay?” 

“Huh?” Vainstrel looked back forward, seeing Spark poking her cheek curiously as she normally did. “Ah, yes, my dear Spark. Everything is fine.” 

“Okay, phew, good. You look like you’re nervous or something! Was there something else you wanted to talk about?” 

Vainstrel froze.

Spark took a sip of her hot chocolate. As she placed the cup back down onto the table, she gave him a smile that was just as warm. “Or did you just want to give me a phone case?” 

Vainstrel locked onto Spark’s eyes and held his breath.

Before he even knew what was happening, he had already grabbed her hands and leaned into her face. And out from his mouth, with the faintest quiver, asked: “will you form a blood contract with me?”

Pause. 

A long, pregnant pause. 

Cold sweat started to break out over Vainstrel’s face. 

He could see Spark’s beautiful brown eyes staring deep into his, unmoving…until she blinked.

“What’s that?” 

Spark’s question cut through the silence. Vainstrel’s shoulder’s dropped and his whole body shivered. If Vainstrel wasn’t as nervous as he was, he probably would have asked why Spark was raising an eyebrow at him. 

“I-it’s when a vampire and a non-vampire form a contract that prevents the vampire from drinking blood from anywhere else but that one non-vampire, until death truly do them apart.”

Spark’s stare seemed to choke him. 

Vainstrel continued to explain. “If we were to form such a contract, I would only be able to receive blood from you and no one else.” 

Vainstrel watched Spark’s stare shift into something that clearly looked like she was thinking. Still feeling stage-fright into the very depths of his being, Vainstrel leaned forward once more, grasping her hands tightly. “Of course, if we were to do such a thing, you can opt-out anytime!” 

He smiled, still completely nervous. 

If only he could see himself in the mirror (which he could…witch-hunting vampires can be seen in mirrors), he would be able to see just how crooked and awkward he looked. 

Vainstrel sat down in his seat once more, but still kept his hands holding onto Spark’s. He looked down at the table. “Truly, only if you desire to do such a thing, my dear lady Spark…” His voice trembled and trailed off. 

Vainstrel held his breath. Why can’t I look up? Goodness me, when have I, the great count Vainstrel, ever felt such a way as this? 

“Where…”

Vainstrel looked up a bit, his eyes widening at Spark’s face.

“…do I sign?!” asked Spark. 

Her usual smile was on her face, but flickering all around her was her usual sparks of electricty. 

And if Vainstrel knew what that meant by now, that meant her emotions were high. And based on the way they were dancing, flittering about her, she was…happy

“Y-you do not have to sign a thing, lady Spark,” replied Vainstrel. “It is simply an exchange of blood – a drop of mine, a drop of yours, preferiably form your dominate index finger.” 

Vainstrel’s whole body drained of nervous from the top of his head, all the way down to his toes. It was as if the earth beneath the cement was sucking it all out from him. His head raised and he could finally return a smile to her. Who is this goddess of lightning and how have a been blessed with such ease? 

Vainstrel found his mouth open once more, almost against his will, betraying the calmer deamoner that seemed to return. “Would you like to do the contract right now?” His smile disappeared. Myself, control yourself before you turn me into an utter bafoon! 

“Oh, yeah, sure! I’d love to!” Spark replied. Vainstrel soon found Spark’s dominate hand in front of him. 

Vainstrel gently took it in his, glancing up at Spark’s eyes. They glittered with excitment and anticipation..if they had been a mirror, he would have surely thought they were his own. His heart was beating loud, almost into his ears and his stomach twisted into knots at the pure excitement of doing what he had only dreamed of doing not so long ago. 

“Please stick out your tongue as well.” 

“You got it!” 

Vainstrel watched Spark close her eyes and stick out her tongue like a cat sensing its surroundings. 

Vainstrel opened his own mouth a little wider and allowed his fang teeth to lower to their full extent. He carefully nicked his own index finger on his right hand, watching a miniscule geyser of blood bead up on the surface of his skin. He then took Spark’s left hand and pricked her index finger with his fang tooth, watching the same phenomeon happen. 

Vainstrel brought his index finger to Spark’s tongue and Spark’s index finger to his. 

The single drop of blood from his finger dripped from his finger and Spark’s single drop of blood dripped from her’s into his mouth. 

Immeditately, a warm wave surged through his body, then bounced back up and almost out of him, leaving him feeling tightly hugged. 

“WHOA!”

Vainstrel had seen Spark jump up at the same exact moment. His own eyes looked at her. 

“Is there something wrong, my dear Spark?” 

Spark shook her head. “No, but WOW, that was a huge surge of magic!” Her body shivered. Vainstrel couldn’t help but think her scrunched face and bouncing side ponytail looked absolutely adorable. “It’s been a while since I’ve felt something like that!” 

Vainstrel chuckled. “That would be the contract being initiated.” 

“So amazing! I’ve never done something like that before.” 

Vainstrel watched curiously as Spark grabbed his tea and popped off the cap. 

“Not even with any familiars of sorts?” inquired Vainstrel, glancing up. 

“Nah, my family won’t let us do them. I guess it’s got something to do with the contracts we have with the elements or something,” replied Spark. 

plop plop plop 

Vainstrel looked down to his tea cup and couldn’t help but smile, watching Spark’s blood drip and merge with it. 

Vainstrel briefly licked his own prick on his finger and the wound quickly closed up. He reached out his hand to Spark. “May I? I would like to heal your wound.” 

“Sure!” Spark replied, replacing the cap onto Vainstrel’s tea. He watched her expertly swirl it around and place it back down in front of him. “And when you’re done with that and the tea, you can have even more of my blood, if you want to?” 

Vainstrel’s tongue clicked in delight. His eyes lit up to the point one could almost see hearts being reflected within them. “I would be more than happy to do such a thing, Lady Spark.” 

Spark put her hand forward. “You can message me whenever you want something too. I’d be more than happy to help you out.” 

Vainstrel brought her finger close to his mouth. “It would truly be my pleasure.” He stuck out his tongue and slowly, but gently, licked where he had nicked her moments earlier. He could feel Spark shivering. Or perhaps she was shuttering. 

He lifted up his head. “The wound has been healed. Are you alright, my dear Spark? Are you cold?” 

“No,” replied Spark. 

Vainstrel could her hear breath heavier than usual and her face seemed flushed. 

“Well, let me know my dear – I would be more than happy to treat you to another gift.” 

He watched Spark giggle, grab her hot chocolate, and sink into her seat in a way he couldn’t think of being anything else but some sort of embarassment. 

Is the dear alright? wondered Vainstrel, sipping his own tea. 

He shivered delightfully at the taste of blood and sparks of electricty that followed the tea down and into his stomach. A smile spread across his face as he relaxed into his chair. 

***

Vainstrel had tried to resist with all of his little vampire heart, but resistance had already flown out the window and over the hills. He found himself messaging Spark every moment of his freetime, just awaiting for a moment in their busy schedules for them to meet up. Which, much to his delight, had been available more often than not. 

Vainstrel couldn’t help but puncture her neck and her shoulders in all different places, enjoying watching Spark shutter in a way he could tell was absolutely delightful. Each sip of blood and flicker of electricty that hit his mouth ignited his body in ways he had never felt before…besides from Spark, of course. 

He always made sure her punctured skin was healed before they parted ways. The sillhouette of the bouncing witch always delighted Vainstrel. He had already been consumed by her in many ways and he couldn’t help but feel his vampire heart flutter. 

His eyes laid upon the dark circles underneath Spark’s eyes and the strange paleness to her otherwise perfectly permenant sun-kissed skin. The circles weren’t as dark as her natural birthmarks, but they were still dark enough to stand out. 

Vainstrel could feel his stomach twist into various knots. 

It had already been two weeks or so since they made the contract and Vainstrel hadn’t wanted to admit it, but the denial was draining out of him every single moment he had met with Spark. 

Vainstrel caressed Spark’s cheeks with both of his hands. “Spark, my dear, you do not look in the tippest of the most top shape.” 

“Huh?” Spark’s drowsy eyes looked up in Vainstrel’s only visible eye (as his other one was covered underneath his blonde hair). After a few slow blinks and her eyes darting around, she smiled. “Oh, I’m fine.” 

Vainstrel released Spark’s cheeks, watching her head droop and her eyes downcasting towards the ground. He reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling it close to his chest. “Lady Spark, I really must insist – you do not look well. Death of the vampire kind almost appears to be at your door. As a dear friend and a contract holder, I request you do not leave us quite yet!” 

Spark smiled slowly and stared at Vainstrel.

The vampire waited for a response from his witch friend, but he watched her do nothing but blink. 

“Spark?” 

“Huh? Yeah! Sorry!” Spark giggled. “I’m a bit sleepy.” 

“We did not have to meet up today if you must rest to restore your strength.” 

Again, Spark seemed to pause for a long while. Vainstrel’s hand tightened around her’s.

I am afraid that she is not well. 

“Aren’t you going to drink my blood?” finally said Spark. 

Vainstrel frowned. He wrapped an arm around Spark’s waist and used his other one to lift up her chin so he could look at her in the eyes. Her brown eyes has a glossy sheen that he was not too fond of – her usual glittering eyes seemed no where to be found. He could even feel the shallowness of her breath. “Truly, Spark, you need your rest.” 

Pause. Then out from Spark’s mouth was “I’m fiiiiiine.” 

“You are not!” 

Vainstrel suddenly found his mouth pressed up against Spark’s neck and her warm hand on the back of his head. “Drink!” Spark demanded. 

Vainstrel’s stomach knotted in the other direction. Obey thy mistress, so wandered up the thought from inside of Vainstrel. His heart pounded and cold sweat ran across his forehead. 

She is not well! Spark is not well! Must I truly do this? Yet the mistress of lightning has confirmed her own willingness. But is it truly okay if she loses her life? Will she do such a thing? Oh, how my heart worries for the Lady Spark, lightning queen! 

Vainstrel’s teeth extended and promptly sunk into her soft skin. 

He held her waist firmly, but gently, hoping to support her as he removed the blood from her system. 

Knots continued to form in his stomach and he couldn’t tell if what he was feeling on his face was just more cold sweat or rain from high above – after all, they were outside and in an alleyway. A lovely alleyway that was almost decorated like a long, narrow park with metal benches, a few bushes and flower beds, along with an iron arch at both ends of the path, but it was an alleyway nonetheless. 

Suddenly his grip tightened. His teeth was sliding out from Spark’s skin. 

Vainstrel snatched himself away from Spark’s skin, gazing down into the almost lifeless body of the young woman witch his heart was consumed by. Vainstrel’s skin, which had been almost peach in color for the past several days, paled. His teeth retracted and he found himself scooping up Spark into his arms.

“Spark! Spark!” he called. 

She wasn’t responding. 

A chill overcame Vainstrel. Did I…kill her? 

His eyes narrowed and scanned her whole body. The life force energy that radiated around her was fairly weak, but he could tell it was still potent enough for life. Her chest still expanded and contracted, albeit it with the slowness of sleep. 

He hugged her tightly. Vainstrel’s body started to tremble and he found himself on the verge of tears. What have I done? What, oh what, have I done? 

He looked down at Spark’s resting face. 

And he saw a single drop of water hit her cheek and roll down the side, dripping off and onto the ground. 

Vainstrel looked up. Had it started raining? 

No. 

The stinging in his eyes made him realize he was, in fact, crying

My greed took it’s toll upon your body. He gently caressed Spark’s cheek with one of his hands, while the other one held her tightly, ensuring her limp body would not fall to the ground. It was a grand responsiblity to take on as the contract initator and I have failed such one. What oh what will I do about you and this terrible accident of my own doing? 

Hugging her close to his body, Vainstrel pulled out his phone. He scrolled through his contacts and stopped on Spark’s name. He tapped it and pulled up her profile. His finger did one long swipe, bringing him immeditately to the very bottom of the entry. He let out a sigh. 

“I suppose the right thing to do is to bring you to your place of rest, is it not, my dear Spark?” Vainstrel asked, smiling gently at the sleeping witch. 

He placed his phone onto a nearby bench and pulled out a capsle. Within the capsle were two earbuds, in which he placed into both ears. Once he slipped the capsule back into his pocket, he grabbed his phone, tapped on the addressed, and followed the prompts to start the GPS. 

I shall only need to take this oh-so-far. I still should remember her home’s location, should I not? It was not oh-so-long ago.

Vainstrel lifted Spark up with both arms and princess carried her. 

***

Vainstrel approached the door, head held high. About partway to Spark’s home, he recongized the pathway. He had paused for a moment to rest his arms, remove his earbuds, and turn off his GPS. After all, he had not wanted to be rude when greeting Spark’s family! If that was even necessary. 

He reached the door of Spark’s family’s home. Staying partially on the stair steps, he supported Spark with one leg and one arm, while using the other one to knock. He then took Spark back into both of his arms and finished walking up the staircase. 

After a moment passed, the door finally opened and a man a few years older than Spark answered the door. Vainstrel watched as his eyes fell upon Spark’s body.

The man looked back up with a glare. “Who the hell are you and what happened to my sister?!” 

Before Vainstrel could respond back, the man gasped. “Wait a minute, you’re that man who dropped her off a few weeks ago.” His eyes narrowed. “What did you do to her?” 

Vainstrel bowed his head. “I am Vainstrel Balan of Balan Bloodworks and stage actor extradonaire!” Vainstrel turned back to the man and frowned. “I do apologize – my dear Lady Spark had fainted on the street and I, for lack of clarity and action, have decided to bring her back to her castle.” 

“‘Lack of clarity’? Girl, you crazy!” replied the man. Vainstrel watched as he lifted his nose in the air and lean forward to grab Spark. 

Reflextively, Vainstrel drew back. “No, no, I must insist – I shall carry her inside. I wish to stay beside her as she slumbers, so that I may greet her once she wakes.” 

“I really can’t let you do that,” replied the man. 

“Is there a reason as to why that is not possible?” inquired Vainstrel. 

Before the man could reply, the distinct voice of a child cut through. “Coal, who’s that?” 

“A nobody,” replied Coal, glaring behind him. “Mind your business.” 

The young girl peeked through the doorway. Her smiling face and sparkling eyes were similar to Spark’s, but rather than reflecting solar flares and lightning storms, it was the ocean on a bright sunny day. “Hi! I’m Aqua-Marie! Who’re you?” 

“Aqua!” snapped Coal. 

Vainstrel smiled down at the young girl. “Good day, Lady Aqua-Marie. I am Vainstrel Balan.” 

“Hi Vainstrel! Why do you have Spark?” 

“Aqua-marie, get your butt back in the door before mom and dad come back and drag it back in for you!” 

Aqua-Marie ignored her older brother who was clearly becoming aggitated. Vainstrel could see little flickers of flames in a similar manner to Spark’s sparks wisp off from all around Coal, like embers in a fire that is almost out, but still lit. He turned his attention back to the young child. “My dear Lady Spark has fainted and I simply wanted to bring her home to rest. I would like to stay by her side to ensure she is alright and apologize for my oversight.”

Aqua-marie paused for a moment, then her face lit up like the sparkling ocean once more. She grabbed a hold of Vainstrel’s hand that was closer to the ground. Vainstrel continued to hold onto Spark as the young girl’s surprising strength had him bursting through the door. 

“Come with me! Come with me! Lemme show you to Spark’s room!” 

“AQUA-MARIE!” snapped Coal. 

Vainstrel found himself making a sharp turn along with Aqua-Marie as Coal jumped in the midst of their path. Vainstrel pivoted his body as the clearly fiery Coal was starting to glow – from an ember orange to an eerie green all the way to a flurorscent blue. 

Then there was a distinct, loud SIZZLE

And Coal was dripping wet. 

Aqua-marie giggled as she continue to lead Vainstrel down the hallway almost at a maddening speed. 

“That damn brat, you’d think she’d had the curse too!” 

They turned the corner and Aqua-marie let go of Vainstrel’s hand. He watched the young girl run and nearly trip over herself, but managed to catch herself on the wall. She burst open a door and raised her hands, disappearing inside. “This way! This way!” 

Vainstrel slipped inside the room. He paused for the briefest moment, intaking the bright yellow walls and lightning motifs, before placing her down on the bed. He carefully rolled back the covers underneath her and covered her up. 

After scanning her with his eyes for one brief moment, Vainstrel sat down on his knees. He reached underneath the covers and fished out Spark’s hand. 

He held the sleeping lightning witch’s hand with both of his, giving it a kiss. He then placed his forehead upon it and closed his eyes. “Spark, I am sorry for failing you. For I was irresponsible as the contract initator and put your life in danger. That is not the purpose of such a contract. Next time, I shall be better than I was. For you too need rest to replenish the blood that coarses through your very veins.” 

Vainstrel kept his eyes shut and forehead closed for a good, long moment. He would have done it longer, but there was an odd constricting sensation he could not shake off. He turned his head and opened his eyes, seeing Aqua-marie staring at him with big, blue eyes that glittered like a rainbow seashell. 

“Is there something wrong, my dear lady Aqua-marie?” 

The smile on Aqua-marie’s face spread. “Are you Spark’s boooooooyfriend?” 

Vainstrel chuckled. “I am not, although I do love her dearly.” 

“Hnn…”

Vainstrel’s head whipped over to Spark, seeing her stir in her sleep. Her brow glistened with persperation that reflected the bright yellow walls of the room. He leaned in, gently touching her forehead. He glanced over beside him, seeing Aqua-Marie leaning in. 

“Is she waking up?” 

“No, but perhaps she has a bit of a fever.” 

Aqua-Marie gasped. “Water!” 

Vainstrel furrowed his brow. 

Aqua-Marie jumped up and turned around, running out the door. Vainstrel watched the door, still holding tightly onto Spark’s hand. 

After a moment, he watched Aqua-Marie walk back through the door with a medium-sized washcloth in which she was actively imbuing with water magic. As the young girl reached Vainstrel, she stopped the flow of her magic and held out the slightly dripping towel. “Water for Spark!” 

Vainstrel gasped. “What an amazing thought you have had! I thank you for your assistance, Lady Aqua-Marie.” He took the towel from Aqua-Marie and held it in both of his hands. He folded it neatly in half one way and then the other, placing it perfectly on Spark’s forehead. 

He watched Spark’s twisted sleeping expression slowly fade into a far more pleasant and relaxed one. Vainstrel found just watching her relax had him relax. How tense had I been? While still holding onto Spark’s hand, he used one of his own to touch his chest, feeling all the tension constantly leave. 

Aqua-Marie sat down on the edge of Spark’s bed, right beside Vainstrel. Vainstrel could see the little girl’s feet kicking in his perpheral vision.

Then a shadow appeared behind him and Aqua-Marie’s little feet were no longer kicking beside him from the bed, but were now on the ground. Vainstrel glanced beside himself, seeing the rather angry Coal barring his teeth.

“Don’t talk to the vampire,” hissed Coal quietly. 

Not quietly enough though – Vainstrel had heard him perfectly. Little needles began to prick his stomach. 

“Why?” asked Aqua-Marie. 

“Don’t matter – just don’t.” 

“But whhhyyyyyy?” 

“Shush, Aqua-Marie.” 

Vainstrel listened to Aqua-Marie whine as Coal lifted her up off the ground and carried her out. 

“Hey, vamp, you’re next!” warned Coal. 

Vainstrel tightened his grasp around Spark’s hand. I had only heard about what her family says and thinks, but I could truly only imagine the way someone such as I would be treated. No matter the hostility towards someone such as I, I shall stay here beside Lady Spark until she wakes from her slumber. Vainstrel lifted Spark’s hand to his mouth and kissed it. My dear Lady Spark, I do apologize and am deeply sorry for the irresponsibility from myself. I promise to do better. 

A single tear formed in Vainstrel’s eye and dribbled down his cheek. 

Vainstrel continued to sit on the floor and holding onto Spark’s hand as time went by, unmoving. All of his training for stage plays was coming in quite handy at this particular moment – there was no way in which he was going to move before he had a chance to speak to her, even if he had to be up for several days! 

“Hey, vamp!” called Coal. Vainstrel chose to ignore him, although his own senses were kept wide open – he wasn’t sure what kind of hostilities could be thrown towards him. 

He could feel Coal standing behind him. From the corner of his eyes, Vainstrel could see him standing there, clearly fuming. Embers were rising up off of him just like Spark’s bits of electricty. “Y’all gotta leave before someone else comes in here and kicks your ass.” 

“I shall not move until Lady Spark has reawakened,” replied Vainstrel. 

“You’r gettin’ off easy dealing with me, honey.” Coal sat down on the bed. “Get out of here, vamp.” 

Vainstrel turned his head up to Coal, seeing the embers flare up more around him. “As I said, I shall not leave until Lady Spark has reawakened and I have the chance to speak to her.”

The next thing Vainstrel knew, a ball of fire was thrust into his face. The intensity of the heat caused him to fall backwards, but he never let go of Spark’s hand. “Excuse me, Sir Coal, but I do ask you do not put a ball of fire up to my face!” 

“Coal, what are you even do…ing…” 

Vainstrel and Coal both turned to the door, seeing three people standing in the doorway. The one speaking was holding onto the doorframe above her head, looking as if she was about to step inside. 

“Who’s he?” asked a younger boy, standing in-between the two ladies in the doorway. 

“I told you you were about to get your ass kicked,” remarked Coal, turning to Vainstrel. 

Vainstrel rolled his eyes. His almost is reminding me of my wretched sister in many ways – including the disregard to the situation in front of us. 

Vainstrel turned to the three people in the door. He bowed in greeting. “How do you do? I am Vainstrel Balan of Balan Bloodworks and a stage actor. I am a dear friend of Lady Spark and I am awaiting her to reawakened, for I have many a thing to discuss with her.” 

“Balan Bloodworks? Isn’t that the vampire bloodbank?” remarked the other sister standing in the doorway. “I think one of my friends had gone there before.” 

“Ah! So you have a friend who has visited? It is not such a surprise, for Balan Bloodworks is simpliest the largest bloodbank in all of Ghopre – it would be a surprise if one had never had set foot inside and had called themself a vampire!” 

The air in the room suddenly tightened. Vainstrel could see the three people in the doorway all having those flickering traits that both Spark and Coal had shared. This time, the oldest looking girl in the door way suddenly had her hair start being tossed around by wind unseen. The young boy had little icicles forming around him and immeditately dropping to the ground. The other girl had flecks of dirt starting to come off from her, but they seemed to disappear before they even hit the ground. 

Vainstrel forced a smile upon his face. “And what are your names, if I may ask?” 

The young woman producing dirt exchanged looks with her siblings and took a step forward. “I’m Flower. And I don’t need to be rude, but what is the relationship you have with our sister?” 

“Ah!” gasped Vainstrel. “So, you are all Spark’s siblings, are you not? It is so kind to meet you all.” 

The siblings simply gave an “mmm” reply back to Vainstrel. 

“Y’all better not be Spark’s boyfriend,” snapped Coal.

Vainstrel could hear audible gasps from behind him. 

“No! Not at all,” quickly replied Vainstrel. “We simply do not have that sort of relationship. I simply was bringing her back to her castle, as she had fainted.” 

“Spark hasn’t been looking particularly well lately,” noted the oldest looking girl in the room. Her voice almost growled. Vainstrel watched as this woman approached him. He could feel strong winds surfacing around her. 

The young boy followed shortly behind. Vainstrel could see him creating solid ice balls in his hands and he didn’t look particularly happy seeing Vainstrel sitting there, still holding Spark’s hand. 

“Why are you holding my sister’s hand, huh?” inquired the young boy. 

Vainstrel turned to Spark’s sleeping face, who seemed to twist a bit as the room’s air become uncomfortably thick. “She is simply a dear friend of mine and I must speak to her at once once she has reawoke from her much needed slumber.” 

“I apologize, but you must leave,” said Flower. “We can’t be having a vampire in the house, let alone one holding our sister’s hand.” 

Vainstrel turned away from them all. “I cannot leave until Lady Spark has woken up from her slumber. I must request we all must put this to rest now, lest she awakens before her body is ready.” 

The wind-producing woman placed a hand on Vainstrel’s shoulder. “You really must leave. We’re saying this for your own good.” 

Just as Vainstrel was about to turn and attempt to give his reasoning once more, Spark suddenly grabbed a hold of him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders like a teddy bear. Vainstrel found himself being pulled into Spark’s chest – it was warm, soothing, and goodness, the sound of her heartbeat warmed him up. 

“I do apologize, but it seems Lady Spark, even in her sleep, would like me to stay with her.” 

The whole room seemed to turn icy cold, but not from the boy who had been producing the ice crystals. 

“Spark, you crazy sis, wake up and let go of the vamp’s ass,” said Coal. Vainstrel could feel Spark being shaked. 

“Mmmm,” mumbled Spark. “…no…” 

Vainstrel glanced up at Spark’s face. His beautiful partner was still fast asleep. 

“Hey, I think we should just leave him alone,” said Flower.

“Shush, Flower.” 

“No, I mean it – let mom and dad handle him.” 

The siblings seemed to pause. 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to fire up his ass?” 

“Yes, Coal, no need to do that. Let dad do that, if that’s really needed.” 

Vainstrel’s free hand tightened grasped at Spark’s bedsheets. What is with this family? Such a strange hostility. 

The air in the room started to clear with the footsteps that sounded like they were pouring out the door. Vainstrel could only hear the breathing of Spark and the annoyed grumble of Coal. 

“Girl, you lucky we didn’t whoop your tight ass to tomorrow, but you really should get out of here. Even if y’all say you ain’t Spark’s little boy-toy, I don’t think that’s how it is gonna look to our parents.” 

Spark’s grip on Vainstrel loosened and he found himself being able to lift his head up and turn to Coal. He looked into the ember boy’s face. He found a gentle smile was spreading across his own as he looked at the scowling Coal.

“I am flattered that you all think I am in such a relationship with your dear sister, Lady Spark. She is lovely and lives up to the name she was bestowed, I also thank you for the kind warnings you all have given to me, however, I must decline the invitation to leave – my dear Lady Spark and I must speak once she has awakened.” 

“…” Coal’s eyes narrowed. “…you’re weird.” 

“And so I have been told a many of times, but that is the true gift of an actor such as I!” 

Coal grumbled. “What is with you and the way you talk?”

“I simply love to speak in such a way that helps me to stay true to who I am at heart – a stage actor, always in a play. This play in which we have called ‘Life’!” 

“Girl, you need to calm your tits.” 

“And may ask you as to why you keep referring to me as ‘girl’?”

Coal flicked out his wrist and shook his head. “It’s just how I speak. I call everyone ‘girl’. I don’t care if you a man, a woman, or something else, y’all ‘girl’.” 

Vainstrel nodded and laughed. “What a fun thing to hear!” 

“I am serious though, girl, you are going to want to get out of here before our parents come back.” 

“Well, will they be murdering me?” 

“…no.” 

“Then there is no reason in which I shall leave until Lady Spark has reawakened.” 

Vainstrel paused for a second and turned to Coal, noticing the embers had completely gone. Instead, Coal seemed to be intently listening to him. “I suppose I must seem quite rude for declining to leave.” 

“You can say that again.” 

Coal stood up from the bed. “Don’t try anything funny.” 

Vainstrel gasped. “I would not dare!” he replied. “I am sure a family who is suspecious of people such as I would surely assume such a thing, but I can assure you that I truly only have the best of intentions for Lady Spark.” 

Coal kicked Vainstrel in the side, just hard enough to cause Vainstrel to wince. He spat out an ember towards the ground that disappeared just before it actually hit the floor and he walked on our. 

Vainstrel rubbed his side, feeling the pain throb where Coal had kicked him. His eyes then turned back to Spark and the pain seemed to melt away. He repositioned himself to sit on his legs and watched Spark’s sleeping face, completely unmoving. 

***

Vainstrel had been sitting for hours at this point. His face was relaxed with a smile and his gaze continued to stare lovingly onto Spark’s face. He couldn’t help but smile either – the dark circles and oddly pale skin on Spark had just about disappeared. His heart fluttered, just being able to look at her for hours. 

It was a curiousity that so many thought we might have been lovers, but as I sit here with my eyes agaze on the beauty that is Spark’s face, I am starting to understand why. Vainstrel sat up onto his knees and leaned over above Spark, gently carressing her face with his free hand. The other one was sweaty, but he refused to let go of Spark’s hand. 

Vainstrel could hear Coal’s voice in the hallway. Although he wasn’t listening intently – therefore unable to hear exactly what he was saying – he could tell that there was some level of expasperation within his voice. Vainstrel could feel his body knot up in all sorts of places and the air seemed to grow thicker by the second. Once again, he encountered a feeling of being suffocated. And he knew he had plenty of blood. 

“Hello.” 

A smile popped on Vainstrel’s face as he turned to the door. Peering in through the doorway was an older man and woman. Behind them stood Coal, sweating and emitting embers. His dark skin looked grayer than it had earlier. 

His eyes are screaming

Vainstrel directed his gaze to the two older adults, who’s lips were stretched across their face. “Hello, how do you do?” 

“Who are you?” asked the man.

Vainstrel bowed. “I am Vainstrel Balan of Balan Bloodworks and stage actor extradoniary! And who do I owe the pleasure of introducing myself to?” 

The man and the woman exchanged glances. 

The man took a step forward. “The vampire shop? Hm.” He folded his arms and lifted his head. “I am Hirom and I am Spark’s father.” 

“I am Sunny,” replied the woman. She simply shifted her position on the doorframe from the side of her body to her back. She folded her arms as well. “I am Spark’s mother.” 

Vainstrel could feel the heated gaze of Hirom on his hand that grasped Spark’s. 

“What are you doing with my daughter? I have heard you have refused to leave.” 

Vainstrel nodded. “Yes and I do apologize for my rudeness. Spark had a terrible fainting spell as we were out and about. The most I could do for her was return her to the very castle she comes back to every night.” 

“‘Castle’?” echoed the man. 

Vainstrel smiled. “Ah, yes. I suppose my own way of speaking can be a tadbit confusing, even for those around me. I simply use the word ‘castle’ for one’s home. I do apologize for any confusion.” 

Hirom clicked his tongue. Vainstrel felt himself flinch. 

“And what is your relationship with her?” interrogated Sunny. The woman’s voice tore through the air like knives and pierced Vainstrel’s skin. But still, Vainstrel did not move. He simply kept smiling.

“Spark is a dear friend to me and I am to stay here until she awakens from slumber. I simply have an important matter in which to discuss with Lady Spark that cannot wait for another day. I must ensure that she is well.” 

Both Hirom and Sunny entered the room. From behind them, Coal stared into the room. Vainstrel could see he was shaking. His eyes were wide much like a deer facing the light of an automobile. The ember-producing brother of Spark’s took a few steps back and soon turned around to disappear down the hallway. 

“You must leave immeditately,” said Hirom. 

Vainstrel stood up, still holding onto Spark’s hand. “I do understand I am being rude, but I must insist that I stay until I have a chance to speak to her once again.” 

“Your kind are not welcome here,” stated Sunny. “I don’t know what you are thinking, but we do not allow interspecies relationships.” 

Vainstrel’s chest tightened. “As I stated earlier, Lady Spark is simply a dear friend. If I am not mistaken, Lady Spark’s siblings have friends who are much like I, do they not?” 

Hirom laughed, but in such a way that was more like the claw of a tiger cutting into Vainstrel’s stream. “I don’t know who you are fooling, vamp. Our daughter’s brain might be a bit fried and you were able to trick her, but you aren’t fooling us.” 

Vainstrel sat down onto the edge of Spark’s bed. “There is no fooling – with all of my vampire heart, I simply wish to stay beside Lady Spark until she wakes from her deep sleep.” 

A bright flash of light suddenly covered the room. Vainstrel closed his eyes. After a few moments, the light faded once again and he reopened his eyes, seeing Sunny and Hirom staring at Vainstrel, completely stunned.

“It…didn’t work?” said Sunny. 

Vainstrel nodded his head. “Ah, yes, solar magic.” 

Vainstrel smiled at Sunny and Hirom. “I do apologize, but the species of vampire I am is not affected by such magic. If you wish to have me removed, you will have to either physically force me from this room or wait for Spark to reawaken and for me to have spoken to her.” 

“And what kind of vampire are you?” asked Hirom. His eyes narrowed as Sunny stepped in closer to him.

Vainstrel could help but give them a toothy smile.  His grip on Spark’s hand tightened. “A witch-hunting vampire.” 

Hirom and Sunny both gasped. 

Vainstrel turned back to Spark, looking down at her sleeping face. It was hard to believe that Spark was even from the same family as everyone else he encountered, save for the young Aqua-marie who didn’t seem to understand her family’s dynamics just yet. He gently carassed her warm skin and gazed so loving at her, no one could mistaken his expression for anything else but love. 

But was it love for his food or was it something else? 

“The curse…!” Sunny exclaimed. 

Vainstrel couldn’t see because he was too busy looking at Spark, but he was pretty sure Hirom punched a wall or the doorframe. This was followed by the remark. “Damn it all! Why did we have to have a cursed child?” 

“Get the supplies,” said Sunny.

“Once the vamp’s gone,” replied Hirom. 

Vainstrel heard their footsteps leave and the door slam behind him. 

HIs shoulders suddenly relaxed. Was I that tense? 

His heart was still pounding so very hard, he could hear it in his ears. 

Curse? Lady Spark, mistress of lightning, is cursed? There simply is no way! Vainstrel thought. He paused for a moment as a memory surfaced from many weeks ago. Oh…yes. Spark had mentioned such a curse before, had she not? But is that truly something that exists? There is no indication that she has such a thing within or around her. 

Vainstrel rubbed Spark’s finger gently with his thumb. I suppose it is something I could inquire about at a later time. 

***

Spark finally wakes up, pretty disoriented. Vainstrel hugs her and apologizes. Spark asks him why and he says that he could see that she was getting weaker and that he’s been too greedy sucking her blood – he was just so happy, but he did too much. Spark says it’s okay and Vainstrel says no, it’s NOT okay! They are partners and he wasn’t doing his part to take care of her. Spark pointed out that he got her the phone case and Vainstrel says not like that – he needs to take her needs into consideration. He tells her that he’s going to let her rest and he’s going to find out how to better take care of his partner. He doesn’t know a whole lot about vampire/non-vampire blood contracts, as they’re not all that common. 

Vainstrel held his breath, watching Spark’s eyes fluttering open. Her groans reach his ears like the sound of an orchestra warming up. The witch slowly sat up in her bed and rubbed her eyes. Vainstrel’s eyes soon met with Spark’s. Spark looked confused.

“What’s going on?” asked Spark, followed by a yawn. 

Vainstrel became overwhelmed by the urge to embrace Spark and followed it through – he lept up from off the ground and hugged her tightly. Even for himself, feeling tears streaming down his eyes naturally, without needing to force it for a play was new. But yet, they fell from his eyes as he buried his face in between her shoulder and her neck.

“Lady Spark, I do apologize for what I have careless put you through.” 

He could feel Spark’s warm palms pushing against his chest. “What are you talking about? Um…did I faint?” 

Vainstrel pulled back, holding Spark’s shoulders. “Indeed, you have fainted and I have brought you back to your castle. I have met your fellow family members and fought hard to stay with you until you have reawakened from your most restful slumber.” 

Spark’s eyes blinked a few times, before popping open wide. “Oh no! You’ve met them? Oh my goodness, I am so sorry!” Spark clasped her hands together. “If only I hadn’t fainted…oh goodness, they must have been so rude to you! Ugh…” 

Vainstrel gently carassed Spark’s cheek. “I suppose they had been rude, but I had been rude back. I ignored their requests for me to leave – I refused simply because I must speak with you at once, now that you are awake. But first I must ask the uptmost important question…” 

Spark’s lips lightly pursued as her head slightly tilted. The look was endearing. Vainstrel could feel his chest swell. His smile grew larger. 

“Spark, my dear, how are you feeling?” 

“Just a bit tired and a bit grumpy. I probably need some more sleep, but what did you want to talk to me about?”

Vainstrel lifted up a finger in the air. “Ah, yes, I first must apologize to you.” 

Spark lifted an eyebrow. “For what? You didn’t do anything wrong.” 

“But Lady Spark,” said Vainstrel as he tapped Spark’s nose. “I have done something quite wrong, you see.” He placed his hands back on her shoulders. “My carelessness caused you to faint.” 

Spark’s eyes widened. “But…how is that your fault? I told you that you could suck my blood.” 

Vainstrel clasped both of Spark’s hands in his. “But my dear lady Spark, it too is my reasonsibility. I have watched you grow weaker every day in which we have spoken and interacted with each other. I was full of glee that you so kindly have offered your blood up to me. I became full of such selfish greed, that I had not put a stop to my own selfish actions of sucking your blood, including when I no longer needed it for the moment.” 

“Um…but didn’t you try to stop me?” 

“I did not do enough.” 

Spark shifted her position. “I think you did enough though. I told you that you could suck my blood and it’s okay. I mean, yeah, I did faint, but, like, I was the one who insisted you drink it. You’re fine. It’s fine! It’s perfectly fine, Vainstrel.” 

Vainstrel squeezed her hands more. “But it is not fine, Lady Spark! It is not fine one bit!” He threaded his fingers in-between Spark’s, leaning into her. “We are partners, my dear, and I failed to do my part. I am meant to take care of you.” 

He watched Spark slightly flush. “B-but you have taken care of me…you buy me food and treated me to a new cellphone and phone case and stuff.” 

Vainstrel’s smile was soft. “Oh, dear Spark, those are a part of how I care for you as a whole, but those are not a piece of what I am referring to. We are in a blood contract together – just as it is your responsibility to provide me blood, it is my responsibility to ensure that you are safe, healthy, and alive. I have failed you once simply because you had not been safe, had not been healthy, and you could fallen into irreversable depths of Darkness, my lady. And I simply – no, we – simply cannot have such a thing.” 

Vainstrel bowed his head, feeling both his own and Spark’s fingers on his forehead. “For my lack of experience and the lack of responsibility and duty on my part, I deeply apologize to you for such a carelessness.” He lifted up his head, looking up into Spark’s eyes. He could see the reluctancy in Spark’s eyes. “I do apologize as well – this is the first time I have ever done a blood contract with anyone before. They are a rarity amongst vampires. I suppose I would have benefited from learning more prior to requesting a contract for you. I promise you, here and now, that I, Vainstrel Balan, shall ensure I receive the most correct information to be able to take care of your needs and mine!” 

Vainstrel placed hand on his chest, lifting his head up towards the sky. “I promise you, my Lady Spark, I shall truly take care of you from now on!” 

He watched Spark fall to the side. He still held onto her hands, but the witch was now resting on her side, looking up to him. “I’m sorry too, Vainstrel. I guess I should have listened to you, huh?”

“My dear Spark,” said Vainstrel. He caressed her cheek. “You do not to worry about such a thing. I could have simply refused.” 

Spark grabbed Vainstrel’s hands, holding his palm steady on her cheek. A smile arose upon her face. “I’m sleepy.” 

Vainstrel kissed her hand. “Sleep well then, my dear Lady Spark. I shall take my leave and return back once more to care for you properly.” 

Vainstrel slowly stood up and backed away, allowing his hand to just naturally part from Spark’s body. He couldn’t help but smile softly as he walked out of Spark’s bedroom door and exited the house. 

He could feel the sensation of needles hitting his back, but he shrugged it off. 

Nothing can keep me from my dear lightning queen. 

*** 

During this time, Spark’s parents ask her what she’s doing with a vampire. Spark says that he’s a friend. Spark’s parents say he isn’t someone she should be hanging out with – especially someone like him. He’s a witch-hunting vampire, which they can tell by his aura. He’ll want her for nothing but her blood. Spark says she doesn’t mind. Spark’s parents tell her that she’s forbidden from seeing him again and Spark says she can’t really do that…they’re partners. They ask her what does that mean and she explains that she has a blood contract with him, so he primarily gets blood from her – but don’t worry, she can opt-out any time! They call her stupid and never did they think that the cursed child of their family be cursed in such a way. Spark says she’s not cursed. They tell her of course she is – that’s the only thing the “family curse” is good for, which Spark mumbles that the “Great Uncle isn’t cursed”. Her parents demand that she undo the contract; 

Spark found herself shooting up from her bed at the sound of the door closing. Even though she knows she had been so sleepy prior to, well, waking up, it was as if none of that sleepiness existed at all. Her body was jolted awake and the only thing she could manage to gasp out of her mouth was Vainstrel’s name. 

When she looked over within the moment of speaking her vampire contract holder’s name, she looked over to see her parents scowling at her. Spark’s usually sparkling face grew dark like storm clouds overhead blocking out the sun and her brow slightly furrowed. She turned down her magic inside without much of a thought, hiding the fact she was ready to start squirming under her parents’ harsh gaze. Otherwise, her usual sparks of electricty would have given it away.

“What is your relationship with that vampire?” asked Sunny. Her voice was piercing as it often was when Spark would do something her mother did not like or approve of. 

Spark bit the inside of her lip and her hands balled the sheets underneath her. “…we’re friends.” 

Her father laughed. But in that sort of condemning way, where Spark knew that he didn’t believe that for a second. 

We are just friends, right? Spark cast her gaze to the side. 

“How ignorant do you think we are?” roared Hirom. He clapped a fist into one of his hands, his brow furrowed. “There is no way someone would refuse to leave just for a friend.” 

“You shouldn’t be hanging out with him – he’s a witch-hunting vampire,” explained Sunny. She clasped a fist into the air. “He will only want you for your blood.” 

Spark’s eyes narrowed. “…and how do you know he’s a witch-hunting vampire?” 

“The vamp said it himself!” replied Hirom.

If Spark’s parents weren’t there, she could have buried her face into her palms. Vainstreeeeeeeel, whyyyyyyyyy did you have to go and say that? 

“You know what they say, don’t you? They will suck a witch dry. They are the worst kind of vampire out there for us.” 

“You’re just going to get hurt, you know?” 

Spark’s fingers gently rested upon the spot where Vainstrel’s teeth had once punctured. Even though there was no trace whatsoever that he had pierced her skin, something about the memory of it made her skin warm and her cheeks flush. Her heartbeat raised and her gaze cast downward and too the side. She mumbled out from her mouth, “I don’t mind…” 

Her parents gasping snapped her back to the reality of the situation – she was getting in trouble for being in some sort of relationship with Vainstrel. 

“Do you hear what you’re saying, child?” 

“You’re not allowed to see him again.” 

Spark jumped up from the bed. “Wait, I can’t do that!” 

Both her parents glared at her. Spark flinched. 

“And why can’t you?” 

Spark met her parents’s glares head-on. “We’re partners.” 

Spark watched the color drain from her parents faces. 

“Dating a vamp–” Hirom started, but Spark quickly cut him off.

“Oh! We’re not dating!” replied Spark. She giggled. “I just have a blood contract with him so he can only take blood from me.” 

Spark couldn’t help but grin, even watching as her father collapsed into her mother’s arms, holding his forehead. 

“You can’t be –” 

“Oh! I am serious!” Spark’s lips curled. Even if her body was nervous, she couldn’t help but find the strength to be honest. “But don’t worry!” She clasped her hands together and tilted her head. “I can opt-out anytime.” 

“ARE YOU THAT STUPID?” Sunny screamed. 

Hirom covered his face with both his hands. “How did we end up with a cursed child?”

“To think the curse would lead to a child of ours being with a witch-hunting vampire.” 

As her parents groaned and complained, Spark couldn’t help but mumble, “I’m not cursed.” 

“OF COURSE you are cursed!” snapped Sunny. “Why else would you agree to such a thing?!” 

Spark frowned. I’m not even doing anything wrong. 

Hirom stood back up, shaking his head, his palm to his forehead. “Foolish, foolish child. The only thing the curse is good for is informing us of a cursed child – and that cursed child is you.” 

“Maybe if she hadn’t talked to him…” grumbled Sunny. 

Spark could feel her magic seeping out. The Grand Uncle isn’t cursed. Her brow furrowed at her parents. 

“Undo the contract! Maybe you’ll be spared from the worst of the curse that way,” Hirom demanded. “We don’t want it to affect us or the rest of the family.” 

Sunny simply clicked her tongue. 

And with that, both of Spark’s parents left the room. 

Spark collapsed onto her bed. She took a hold of her ponytail and began biting the very end in nervous thought. Do I have to stop with Vainstrel? I don’t want to…I don’t mind. I really don’t care if he takes my blood. It just…Spark fidgeted. …it feels really good. She buried her face into her knees. Oh man, I don’t think I could ever say that out loud though! I can only imagine what everyone would think if I ever even said that! 

Spark then sighed. She allowed her back to fall onto the bed, looking up at the white ceiling above her. What do I even do? “I guess if I had just listened to Vainstrel, none of this would have happened. But now we’re both in a pretty awkward position, huh?” 

Spark groaned and turned over onto her side. I don’t want to cancel the contraaaaaaact. 

***

Vainstrel found himself searching through stacks of books that had so much dust on them, it looked like a thin layer of snow. He found himself coughing as he moved each book out of the way, scanning the contents for exactly what he was looking for. No…this one does not tell me what I seek. No…this one does not either…what is with this dust and the neglect in which these books have suffered? Vainstrel sighed. I suppose I can hire help to clean up this library, so very unorganized and rarely ever used. 

Vainstrel restacked the books and moved onto the next pile. Before he began to move a thing, he couldn’t help but look around the library itself. Would there ever be a day I would have entered this library for research beyond that of the stage? ‘Tis not what I would have expected, and yet here I am, all for the mistress of lightning. 

Vainstrel then looked over to the grandfather clock and the swinging pendulum inside. Have I truly been search for so long? 

He felt nervousness creep its way up his back and into his arms. How long must I wait before I find what I seek? 

He glanced over all the books in the room once more before taking a leave and exiting down the hallway. Perhaps they know where…

Not too far from the library was the bloodbank entrance. He pushed open the double doors into the rows and rows of refridgerators and walked to the other side of that to another set of double doors to the main part of the shop. It was fairly quiet at the moment, but he did watch an older woman vampire and another vampire interact: the older vampire woman handed the vampire a small box of blood and the younger vampire person finished paying. He watched an older vampire man walk out from some doors near the older vampire woman right behind another person – this time a non-vampire who had a small bandage up on their arm. 

The moment the older vampires had stood next to each other – smiling – Vainstrel took a step forward. “Mother Dearest, Father Dearest,” he greeted, stepping into their line of sight.

“Vainstreeeeeeel!” greeted his mother. 

“Wow, what a treat to see you on the floor today – what brings you here?” inquired his father. 

Both of his parents looked Vainstrel up and down for a moment, before exchanging looks. 

Vainstrel’s mother smirked. “So it wasn’t a trick of the light.” 

“You’re looking better than we are, Vainstrel! How were you so lucky to get something so consistent?” Vainstrel’s father’s smile grew and he laughed. 

“Ah, yes, this is what I am here to speak with you about,” said Vainstrel. He lifted up a finger. “I am wondering if you are aware of the location of information regarding blood contracts?” 

Vainstrel’s parents eyes popped and the leaned forward eagerly. “Why?!” they exclaimed. Vainstrel was a bit taken aback by the glittering eyes that  were staring into his. 

“Erm…” Vainstrel cleared his throat. “I made have successfully initiated the blood contract…” A gentle smile grew on Vainstrel’s face. “…with a wonderful witch named Spark.” He then balled both of his fist, looking up into the air. “Lady Spark is a mistress of lightning – the electricity itself pulses through her very veins!” 

Vainstrel found himself placing his hands over his heart, his eyes dazzling with the thought of Spark lighting him just like her jolts of lightning when it entered his body. “Jolts so wonderous and magic so potent, she beckons me to come meerly at the thought of her. Paired with the a personality that matches the name she was graced with, I can no longer deny the beauty she has a whole!” 

Vainstrel clenched his hands on his shirt and winced. “It seems though I have been a bit too happy and have pushed my dear lady Spark beyond what she is truly capable of for days on end once our contract had been formed. I have caused her to faint – clearly a product of failure on my own part – and I have finally understood that I know nothing in how the contracts are meant to truly work.” He then lifted his hands at his parents, who were simply staring at him with huge smiles on their faces to the point…it was pretty uncomfortable. “I am simply here to inquire if you know the location of more information.” 

A moment of silence flooded the room that hadn’t been there before. No one but Vainstrel and his parents were in there before, but everything seemed pretty loud up until this moment.

Then, as if someone turned up the volume to max, both of Vainstrel’s parents let out an ear-shattering screen.

“OUR SON GOT A BLOOD CONTRACT!!”

“HE GOT ONE!!”

Vainstrel’s parents interlaced their fingers with each other, both kicking up a leg behind them and leaning into each other. “And it sounds like she’s a great catch too!!” 

The both opened their sparkling, curious eyes at Vainstrel, who found himself frowning. “How did you manage to snatch someone so powerful?” 

“…” Vainstrel clicked his tongue. “I do not appreciate you using terms such as ‘catch’ and ‘snatch’ for Lady Spark.” 

Vainstrel’s parents both frowned, their legs slowly lowering to the ground. However, their hands stayed together. 

Vainstrel down casted his gaze. His cheeks flushed pink and a small smile hinted itself on his face. “I am aware that I seeked a blood contract out from her primarily for sustenance, but truly, there is more to the Lady Spark of Lightning than I could have ever imagined…or perhaps I knew upon the first meeting in which I woke up and she called me out for messing with someone like her. Truly, everything about her is a wonderful dream made real.” Vainstrel turned his smile to his parents. “Perhaps best of all, she generally understands what I am saying when I speak. And how often does one hear that?” 

Vainstrel watched his own parents slightly blush and found himself chuckling. “I simply want to provide the best experience for my lightning mistress – she must be treated right. I do understand as the vampire in the blood contract relationship, I must be the one to ensure she is well-taken care of and kept alive. And for that…” He bowed his head. “I request that you help me with learning more about blood contracts.” 

Vainstrel’s parents both had covered their mouths, both looking teary-eyed and happy. They both had one hand over their mouths. 

“Vainstrel, you grew up!” squeaked his father. 

Vainstrel’s mother walked over to Vainstrel, rubbing his arm. “Our dear son, we are more than happy to help you find the information.” 

“Dear, you can go and help Vainstrel find the information,” said Vainstrel’s father, gently tapping Vainstrel’s mother’s lower back. 

She nodded. “Come this way, Vainstrel – where have you checked so far?” 

“The library.” 

“Which one?” 

“The one on the way in the bloodbank itself.” 

Vainstrel’s mother chuckled. “Oh dear, that place’s not gonna have it.” 

Vainstrel scrunched his forehead. “Then where would I find it?” 

“In the other library, silly!” 

“…we have another library?” 

Vainstrel’s mother burst out laughing, the laugh echoing down the hallway as she lead Vainstrel deeper down the corridor. 

*** 

Vainstrel sat in a better-kept library on the other side of the mansion. His initial shock of their being another library in his home and how well-kept it was had already faded. His mother had very quickly grabbed several books off the shelf and explained the relevance of to the blood contract each one was and Vainstrel could not help but sit down and start reading immeditately. There is no time to waste.

Vainstrel’s eye mostly skimmed through the content on each page, pulling out the most important bits of information as he went along. Blood contract between a vampire and non-vampire…yes, yes…I am well-aware of this matter…responsibilities of a vampire contract holder…“hmm….yes…yes…” 

Vainstrel sat back in his seat, a single-seater couch that was deliciously comfy, and looked up at the ceiling. The contract is similar to a marriage, is it not? 

Just then, he heard a familiar “SLAM” on the door to the library. He turned his head, seeing Ria with Vladimir in tow. Vainstrel found himself slumping in his seat, scowling at the presence of his sister. 

“What the heck, you background standee! You went and got a blood contract?” 

Vainstrel sat back up. “Yes. Indeed, I have.” 

Vainstrel watched Ria’s eyes dart between Vainstrel and…he assumed it was the book in his hands, but that’s not actually what Ria was looking at. Instead, she had been looking at his pocket. 

Ria pointed towards his pocket. “Don’t tell me that was who you were crying over a few weeks ago!” 

Vainstrel smiled, but his eyes remained just as annoyed. “Indeed, my dear sister, that is whom I was referring to.” 

Ria stuck out her tongue in disgust.

Vainstrel gasped, pretending to be offended by his older sister’s reaction. “My dear sister, how dare you react in such a way to my love of Lady Spark!” 

Vladimir peered over Ria’s shoulder. “‘Love’? Are you and your witch in more than just a blood contract?” As per usual, Vladimir’s smile was a calming force.

“Ah, yes,” replied Vainstrel. He slightly blushed.

Ria turned pale.

Vladimir’s smile spread across his face.

“Lady Spark and I are simply friends.” Vainstrel’s smile was gentle and his gaze was downcast. His vampire heart squeezed. Friends…yes…Something almost akin to jealousy shot across his chest at the thought of simply being friends. 

He could hear Ria loudly whisper to Vladimir, “don’t tell me he’s going to fall in love with his food!” 

Vladimir replied in an equally loud whisper, “it’d be cute!”

Then Ria whacked her husband on the back of the head and grabbed his hand. “Come, I’ve had enough of this cheap background standee and his love sickness!” Ria stuck out her tongue, dragging Vladimir behind her. “I’ve got accounting to study and curtains to finish making.” 

Vladimir simply laughed. 

Vainstrel watched the two of them pour out of the room and found himself sighing. 

After a moment of staring at the air, his eye returned back to the book sitting on his lap and he became re-engaged with it once more. 

***

Vainstrel approached Spark’s family home, both hands preoccupied with a medium-sized woven basket filled with a variety of goodies – cookies, breads, fruits, juices, and water. His face was slightly flushed, just simply at the thought of seeing Spark after a few days. However, his face was perfectly determined all the same – the past few days reading up on blood contracts truly opened his eyes to the importance of taking care of his own partner…and that’s exactly what he was doing, starting with replenishing her blood and showering her with gifts. 

Vainstrel approached the door and tucked the basket under one arm while he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He quickly messaged Spark of his arrival. Just as he hit the “send button”, his stomach jumped at the sudden click of the door in front of him.

Already?!

Vainstrel’s eyebrows lifted, only to be met face-to-face with Coal, who yelped at the sight of Vainstrel right in front of him. 

“What the hell?! Girl, what you doing here?” 

“I’m here bearing gifts for Lady Spark.” 

Coal’s brows furrowed. “You’re not allowed here, vampire. I suggest you move your ass before someone else sees you.” 

Vainstrel held the basket in both of his hands once more. “I must simply deliver these gifts to Lady Spark. She should be –” 

Coal tore the basket out from Vainstrel’s hands and immeditately turned the whole basket and its contents into ash. Vainstrel gasped, his face turning completely pail at the sight of the falling ash. Coal simply leered at Vainstrel. “Now you don’t. Leave.” 

Vainstrel’s mouth gaped open, staring dumbfounded into Coal’s face. For what reason other than the fact I am a vamprie in a relationship of sorts with the mistress of lightning has invited such hostility? I simply wanted to help my dear lady. 

“If you’re just gonna stand there and look dumb, move it!” A heated palm hit in between Vainstrel’s shoulder and chest, followed by the slamming of the door. “I got somewhere to be.” 

Vainstrel watched Coal trudge off into the distance and pull out his own phone. He could hear Spark’s older brother start screaming about Vainstrel into the phone. The last thing he heard from Coal was “‘calm down’? y’all think I can just calm down when someone’s in my way?” before his voice disappeared into the forest that surrounded the family home. 

Vainstrel pulled out his phone. His fingers quickly typed out exactly what had happened: Coal had gotten to the door before Spark and burned the gifts Vainstrel had hoped to have give his dear lady. He sent the message and simply held his phone, frowning. 

Such unpleasantness…so truly undeserved. Vainstrel glanced over to the side. Well, I suppose it is somewhat deserved. I did put Lady Spark’s life into jeaporady, after all, due to my carelessness…but no more! 

The door in front of him suddenly swung open and starting there was an exasperated Spark. She looked down at the ash piled on the doorstep and wimpered. She frowned at Vainstrel, placing both hands on her cheeks as she did so. “Vainstrel, I am SO sorry! If only I had seen your text earlier, you could have actually give me the gifts!” 

Vainstrel grabbed one of her hands, holding it with both of his. He gave her a gentle smile. “It is alright, my dear Lady Spark. So long as you are with me, I shall give you the greatest gifts of them all.” 

Spark’s frown rose into a smile. “Does that mean you?” 

Vainstrel laughed. “If I am a gift to you, then I will give you all of me.” 

Spark leapt down a few steps down to where Vainstrel was standing, linking her arm into his. 

The two of them exchanged smiles, only for Vainstrel to watch Spark’s gaze be casted down to the ground. 

“Lady Spark, something appears to be amiss, beyond the burning of the gifts. What ever could be troubling you, my dear?” 

Spark looked around, mostly behind her, and started dragging Vainstrel with her. “Hmm…let’s go talk somewhere with less of a chance of interference from my family.” 

Vainstrel rubbed one of the hands holding on his arms. “Yes, of course my dear. 

***

Spark’s family home had long since disappeared behind them and the only thing they were surrounded by was nature itself. The air all around was pure and crisp to the point the very presence of Spark and Vainstrel seemed to upset it. However, that was more than okay – it just meant it was easier to sense when others were around, after all. 

Spark finally released herself as they neared a small circle of large stones, all perfectly shaped for sitting. Vainstrel watched as the girl gave him the saddest smile he has ever seen on her beautiful face. His body flinched. Is she to cry? 

“My parents asked me to opt out of the blood contract with you,” said Spark. Her usually chipper demeanor was no where to be found. Instead, her shoulders hung down and everything about her seemed almost gray in comparison to how she normally was. 

Vainstrel felt himself tear up. He bit the inside of his lower lip and nodded. “Yes…I understand…of course. It is too much on your body and I was so careless.” Vainstrel opened up his mouth, allowing his fang teeth to grow longer. “I shall start the reversal process right away.” 

Spark suddenly threw her hands out in front of her. Vainstrel watched as her face briefly flushed red, only to return back to the gray dullness it had before. She almost seemed desperate. 

“Uh…um…” Spark’s gaze casted down to the leave-covered floor of the forest and her beautiful golden brown eyes seemed to gloss over like rain covering the ground. 

“My dear…what is wrong?” asked Vainstrel. 

Spark hugged herself. “I…uh…I don’t want to undo the contract though.” 

“You…do not?” 

Spark shook her head. Vainstrel watched her face becoming increasingly red and her body kind of squirm. 

“I…I don’t mind the blood contract at all. Actually…I like it.” 

Spark covered her face. “It tickles and…and feels good when you..b-bite me…” Spark’s voice trailed off, but Vainstrel heard her loud and clear.

Vainstrel’s own face flushed red. He retracted his teeth at the sight of Spark holding herself, standing so seemingly embarassed in the middle of the forest where no other humanoid seemed to be at the moment. He soon found himself inches away from her, grabbing both of Spark’s hands. 

“My dear Lady Spark, I am more than happy to continue with you!” Vainstrel’s eyes glinted. “Although I respect that your parents what is best for you, I truly know that you, Spark, are the only one that truly knows what is best for you. This is simply an agreement between you and me and no one else – there is no need for others to attempt to throt our partnership!” 

Spark’s eyes gazed into Vainstrel’s. The temptation to hold onto Spark’s waist and feel it with his fingers was high, but he refrained…such an intimate sort of relationship was not what they had…at least not yet. 

Vainstrel gasped, taking a step back. He bowed his head. “But first, my dear lady Spark, we must replenish your blood! For both your sake and mine!” 

Spark giggled. “And how do we do that?” she asked, almost in a whisper so seductive, Vainstrel felt a shiver run down his spine for the first time in a very long time. 

Vainstrel slightly turned his head away, almost uncertain if he could even look at his mistress of lightning straight in the eyes at the moment. “I suppose we could always return to my home together, gathering the extra goods that I had planned to bring to you in a few days time. In addition to regular rest, of course.” 

“Oh! I would love to do that.” Spark’s arms were now around Vainstrel’s shoulders and her smiling face and sparkling eyes were thrust into his. “When do we do that?” 

“I had been planning tomorrow.” 

The smile on Spark’s face spread even further. “How about today?” 

Vainstrel hesitantly wrapped one arm around Spark’s waist and placed another on her chin. “My dear Lady Spark, I would be more than honored to have you accompany to my home today.” 

Vainstrel’s lips curled. “Please do be aware that you will be meeting my parents and perhaps my wretched older sister and her far-too-kind of a husband.” 

Spark’s forehead bumped Vainstrel’s. “I can’t wait!” 

The little sparks of electricity floating around Spark tickled Vainstrel’s forehead, causing the vampire to laugh playfully at such an unexpected sensation. 

*** 

Vainstrel had a forced smile upon his face as both him and Spark sat in one of the studies inside of his family’s manner. In front of them both was Vainstrel’s parents, frantically and eagerly making tea in front of Spark. He glanced over Spark, feeling relieved to see her usual spunky demenaor was very much present. If anything, she seemed to be enjoying herself.

“An Alamental, huh? Goodness! Thank you for entering a contract with our precious son!” 

Vainstrel’s mother placed a cup in front of Spark. “Would you like some tea?” 

Spark waved her hand. “Oh, no thank you, Mrs. Balan! I’m not a huge fan of tea.” 

“That is more than fine. Would you like anything else? And oh, please don’t call me ‘Mrs. Balan’! Feel free to call me Lana.” 

Vainstrel’s father leaned in, holding out a basket of beautifully wrapped cookies. “You can just call me Rapoto – here, have some cookies! Freshly baked two days ago!” 

Spark giggled, taking a bag from the basket. “Thank you so much.” 

“Would you like something else with that?” inquired Lana. “We have so many more drinks available to you.” Vainstrel’s mother swung open a mini fridge and a cabinet, revealing numerous drinks.

“Hmm…I suppose I could go for water right now.” 

Lana delightfully gasped. “Yes, right away, dear Spark!” 

Both of Vainstrel’s parents giggled with glee in ways that even Vainstrel almost found annoying. 

Spark turned to Vainstrel. “I can totally tell they are your parents.” 

“Oh? How so?” 

“They’re just as eccentric as you are, tee hee!” 

Vainstrel blushed. Have I taken on the mantle of my parents by mistake? I…suppose it is okay. As long as I do not appear like my wretched sister, I am safe. 

Rapoto slipped a pillow underneath Spark’s feet, while Lana placed a cup of water beside Spark. 

“Oh, thank you!” said Spark, watching Rapoto fluff the pillow underneath her feet. She held both of her hands to her cheeks. 

Rapoto finished flushing. “It is truly my pleasure. Blood contracts are rare, especially amongst our kind.” 

Suddenly, Rapoto and Lana leaned into Spark’s personal space. Vainstrel went wide-eyed, leaning into Spark’s space, pushing his parents out of the way. “Please, dear mother, dear father, please give Lady Spark the space she needs to breath!” 

Rapoto and Lana pulled back. Lana went behind Spark, rubbing her shoulders. “I do apologize if our behaviour is a bit rude. We are simply delighted to have you here! And so unexpectedly too!” 

Rapoto clasped his hands together, leaning forward to meet Spark’s face. “It is such an honor to have you here with us. Please, do tell us – what had you decide on a blood contract with our dear son?” 

Vainstrel turned to Spark, watching her own gaze meet his. Spark slightly blushed and grabbed Vainstrel’s head. “It wasn’t really anything much. I love Vainstrel and I could just tell it was the right thing for me.” 

Rapoto and Lana (who was still massaging Spark’s shoulders) seem to melt. 

“Did you hear that, Lana dear? LOVE!” 

“Yes! Yes I did!” 

Vainstrel couldn’t help but cough. “She meant that as a friend.” 

Again, Vainstrel felt something like jealousy scratch itself across his chest. Friend. It was that word. Specifically, that word in relation to Spark. His eyes met with Spark’s. They seemed to dull a bit, reminding Vainstrel of his own feelings. His brow furrowed, questioning such a reaction from the lovely Spark beside him, holding his hand. 

Spark then giggled, Vasintrel watching her eyes light up. “I was already giving him blood anyway, so why not? Even if we hadn’t been in a blood contract, I would have offered it up anyway.” 

Rapoto suddenly pulled out a notebook. “Is it true that your blood carries a specific element within it?” 

“Yes, that’s right!” replied Spark. Her smile was absolutely dazzling and Vainstrel felt his vampire heart start to warm. He squeezed Spark’s hand tighter. “We’re elemental witches, after all. Our blood doesn’t just have regular magical energy, but also elemental energy. It’s pretty special, if you ask me! Tee hee.” 

“Special indeed, I do agree, Lady Spark,” said Vainstrel. “When I taste your blood upon my tongue, I am forever greeted with delightful sparks of electricty that dance all the way down and around my body. It is simply magnificent.” He took his other hand and placed it onto the one that was holding Spark’s hand. “I am truly honored that someone like you agreed to such a thing.” 

Spark leaned into Vainstrel, her long eyelashes fluttering. “Oh, you! Stop it.” 

“No, I truly mean it, Spark. You light me up in so many ways.” 

Spark tilted her head into her shoulder. A grin curled its way on her face. She simply giggled.

Rapoto and Lana couldn’t help but yelp and coo at the sight of Vainstrel and Spark. 

“Oh. My. GOSH!” squealed Rapoto and Lana. 

“Do you hear them?” asked Lana. 

“Loud and clear, so loud and clear!” replied Rapoto. 

Vainstrel glared at both his parents. “Please, mother, father, calm down! I do not know what you are referring to, but it is making me feel slightly uncomfortable.” 

Rapoto and Lana both ended up giggling in response. 

Spark and Vainstrel exchanged rather uncomfortable glances, only to end up bursting out laughing themselves at the sight of the far too giddy parents of Vainstrel. 

Vainstrel’s eyes caught movement in the dooway from the corner of his eye. 

“What is with you making all of that –––” Ria had started, but her voice quickly trailed off. Vainstrel could see the partial horror in his older sister’s face as her eyes laid upon the beautiful lightning witch sitting right beside Vainstrel, being catered to and pampered in all sorts of ways by their parents. 

Ria and Vladmir exchanged looks. 

For the first time in his life, Vainstrel watched his sister stiffly walk through the door and approach him and his partner closer. The smile on her face was so obviously forced, Vainstrel couldn’t help but frown.

“O-oh…you must be uh…my brother’s contract partner, yes?” inquired Ria.

Spark jumped up, smiling at Ria. “Yes, that’d be me! Nice to meet you – I’m Spark Alamental.” She put her thumbs and index fingers together, creaating a lightning bolt shape. “I’m a lightning or electricty elemental witch.” She then waved. “It’s nice to meet you! Are you Vainstrel’s sister?” 

Vainstrel couldn’t help but laugh a bit, watching his sister flinch. Yet, his sister kept on her forced smile.

“Y-yes, that would be me. I am this dun…erm, dear…younger brother’s older sister, Ria Balan. It is…a pleasure to meet you.” 

Vladimir waved from behind Ria. “I’m Vainstrel’s brother-in-law, Vladimir. It is a pleasure to meet you. We’ve heard quite a bit about you.” 

Spark put a hand to her cheek and giggled. Vainstrel looked up at her, seeing her smiling at him with many sparks flittering around her head. “Vainstrel, what exactly did you tell them?” 

“Nothing at all, nothing much at all. I simply was talking about you to myself when they had overheard everything I was crying out about.” 

Vainstrel looked back over, seeing Ria looking as if she was about to crack. She was poking the air in front of her and her brow was super furrowed. Her body trembled, but she still was smiling. 

Ria grabbed a hold of Vladimir’s shirt. “W-well, i-it was a pleasure to meet you, Spark. We m-must be going now. Good day!” Ria dragged Vladimir out of the room. Vladimir waved good-bye to everyone as he followed his wife. 

A moment after they left, a screamed came down the hallway that Vainstrel just knew was Ria.

Spark covered her mouth. “Is she alright?” 

Vainstrel snickered. “Had I not told you many times before? She is simply my wretched sister.” 

Spark giggled. 

***

Spark raised her hand. “Is there a bathroom around here?” 

Lana stood up, extending her hand up torwards the door. “Just out the door. Turn right and go down two doors. You will find one of our many bathrooms located there.” 

Spark curtesied. “Thank you so much!” 

Vainstrel, Lana, and Rapoto all watched Spark skip out the door. 

The moment she disappeared out from the doorframe. Vainstrel’s parents grabbed Vainstrel’s hands and leaned into his face.

“OH. MY. GOSH!” they both exclaimed. “She is PERFECT.” 

Vainstrel leaned back, attempting to get personal space from his parents. “That I must agree.” 

Both of his parents were wiping tears from their faces. 

“I truly thought you simply found a consistent food source,” said Rapoto.

Lana sniffeled. “But you brought someone with so much more substance than that.” 

Rapoto and Lana then clasped their own hands together and pushed their cheeks together, looking straight into Vainstrel’s face. “And she loves you.” They then fell backwards onto the floor, their free hands resting on their forehead. “And you so clearly love her.” 

“I do love Lady Spark, but she is simply just a friend.” 

Rapoto and Lana both scoffed. They immedeately jumped back up, furiously leaning into Vainstrel’s face. “And who are you kidding with such words? Do you not know the way that you look at her and the way she looks at you?” 

Vainstrel placed a hand over his heart. He closed his eyes. “I…do suppose I love her, but that is not our relationship at this moment.” 

Rapoto and Lana both snickered. Vainstrel frowned, seeing the smirks upon their faces. He then sighed. 

“I am simply happy that you have seen Spark for who she is and not just simply a food source for I.” 

Rapoto and Lana both nodded. “She. is. INCREDIBLE.”

Rapoto pulled out his notes, peering into it. “Do you not see how rare she is? Even amongst the Alamentals, her element is quite uncommon. And she is simply kind. And the way those sparks around her head when her emotions are being expressed is so very fascinating. And the jolt in which you get from her blood simply because it has electricty through it. And the ability to control the levels from within the body for the element’s flow? How fascinating, so very fascinating!” 

Vainstrel couldn’t help but smile. “I am simply glad that you both like Spark.” 

Rapoto and Lana gasped. “Like? We LOVE her!” 

Vainstrel’s eyes popped, watching the glittering in his parents eyes as they declared that they loved Spark. 

“Hi!” greeted Spark, bouncing through the door. “Wow, your bathroom was AMAZING! Are they all like that? It was so roomy and beautiful.” 

Rapoto smiled. “There are plenty more around here.” 

Spark’s eyes glittered. “Oooo. Vainstrel, you’ll have to show me all of them one day!” 

Vainstrel stood up, laughing as he did so. He reached out a hand to Spark. “Anything for you, my dear lady Spark. However, I suppose it is time I supply you with gifts once more.” 

Spark took his hand. “Sure!” 

Lana and Rapoto waved to the both of them. “Spark, please visit again!!” 

Spark waved back to them. “I definitely will!” 

Vainstrel lead Spark out of the room and down the halls, making the way to his room. 

***

Vainstrel turned the corridor. “I do apologize for my parents. They are sometimes a bit too overbearing.” 

Spark giggled. “It’s fine! I like them. They’re cute.” 

Vainstrel laughed. His mouth dropped open. “Cute? My parents? Such an absurd idea…!!” 

Spark rolled her eyes. “Is it really absurd though? You could just tell how much they love each other.” 

Vainstrel shurgged. “I suppose  that is true…”

Vainstrel stopped in front of his bedroom door and turned the knob, opening into his bedroom. He strolled in, listening to Spark whisper “whoa.” 

“Welcome to my room, lady Spark,” said Vainstrel, extending his free hand out to the rest of the room. It was large, spacious, and well-divided into different sections, all loosely paritioned off by furniture. 

The room has roughly 4 sections: the study, the lounge, the entrance way, and the bedroom. Each place had varying levels of messiness, the study being the most cluttered of them all. The entrance way stood in the middle of the room and extended from the doorway to about the lounge, which laid north of the door. The lounge itself was simply a fancy fireplace with a fancy coffee table and matching couch in front of it. The bedroom was a canopy bed, two night stands, a table with a few chairs, and a walk-in closet that was tucked into the corner of the room. The study contained many bookshelves, drawers, and a table. The bookshelves acted as the most obvious partion of them all, standing back to back, creating temporary walls. 

Up on the ceiling was a stained glass dome that easily reflected light onto the walls. Additionally, Vainstrel had two chandellers that hung above both his study and his bed area. 

“It’s…it’s so BIG,” exclaimed Spark. “And so beautiful!” She pointed up at the stained glass dome. “That’s so gorgeous!” 

Vainstrel nodded. “Thank you for your compliments, Lady Spark. Now…please accompany to my study so that I may present you with gifts.” 

“Sure, of course!” said Spark. “Lead the way!” 

Vainstrel guided Spark, who had her arm wrapped around his, and the two of them entered the study. In the corner, on one of the table, were two full completely gift baskets and several partway done. Vainstrel stopped right in front of them, extending his hand out to them.

“My dear lady Spark, this is what I have purchased for your enjoyment and replenishment. Feel free to take what you would like for now – I shall treat you to more.” 

Spark released herself from Vainstrel’s arm and leaned in, her hands on her cheek. “Oh my goodness, everything looks so cool!” 

Vainstrel thought Spark might start drooling any moment, but found instead she simply picked up one basket. 

Spark gave Vainstrel a big smile. “I’m more than happy to just take this one!! If it’s okay with you, could I eat some now? I’m feeling like I could use some of this juice and bread now.” The witch then giggled. 

Vainstrel took her hand. “Of course. Let us move to the table in my bedroom.” Vainstrel picked up one of the baskets and the two of them moved over to the table set up close to his bed. He placed it down a short distance from where Spark had helped herself to a chair. 

Vainstrel gently opened the basket’s cellophane wrapping. “Now, which items would you like?” 

Spark stood up and leaned over the basket, quickly pulling out a whole wheat sourdough half-loaf, some fruit jam, and some juice, along with a beautiful intricately-decorated glass cup that she poured the juice into. “Oh my goodness, every single thing looks delicious!” 

Vainstrel walked over to a small table against the wall that was decorated with utensils and condements. He took the knife from the utensil stand and placed it in front of Spark, as well as a plate form beside it. “Truly, anything for you, my dear Spark. If you have any more request, I am here to serve” 

Vainstrel watched Spark blush as she quickly spread jam on her torn pieces of bread. The way she stuffed her mouth with the bread was particularly endearing.

“MMMMMMM! This. is. SO GOOD!” 

Vainstrel smiled. “I am happy to here that, Lady Spark! I ordered it from the best bakery I am aware of, simply because you must have the best of it all.” 

Spark sighed. “This is so good. I’m so sad Coal burned the first one to a crisp. I bet Aqua-marie would’ve eaten this stuff with me.” 

Vainstrel sat down in a chair himself, leaning onto one hand. “I am aware of your family’s hostilities torwards me. I can imagine Aqua-marie would have been more than happy to share, however. She seemed like a pleasant girl.” 

Spark nodded. “Yeah. Aqua-marie’s too young to really understand the family curse and stuff.” 

“The one regarding your great uncle?” 

“You mean my Grand Uncle.” 

“Ah, yes. You have once mentioned it before.”

Spark sighed, taking another bite form her bread. Vainstrel watched her prop her own head up with one hand. “You know…when my parents found out that I made a blood contract with you, they called me ‘cursed’. Can you believe that?” 

Vainstrel’s eyes widened slightly larger than normal. “You know, I heard them refer to you as that as well when you were still slumbering. I was confused by such a thing – I do recall your family believes your Grand Uncle is cursed, but I am not sure what it has to do directly with you.” 

Spark grumbled, stuffing the remainder of the piece of bread spread with mixed fruit jam into her mouth. After chewing for a moment and taking a sip of juice, she leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs. She folded her hands on the table. 

Vainstrel hadn’t seen such a solemn look on Spark’s face before. Normally she was smiling. Even when she wasn’t, her frowns and neutral faces still looked as if they were about to dance with sparks at any moment. But the thickening atmosphere and seriousness on her face indicated something else.

“I didn’t really feel comfortable telling you about this before because it’s pretty crazy, but I think since my family was super rude to you, I think you probably should know.” A small smile appeared on Spark’s face. “Plus, we’re blood contract partners now and I so totally think you’re entitled to the ridicliousness of my family.” 

Vainstrel took a moment to look at Spark in the eyes. What is she about to reveal to me? He then rested his hands on top of Spark’s. “Mmm,” he vocalized, nodding his head. 

Spark closed her eyes briefly, before opening them again, looking at Vainstrel. Her small smile faded as she opened her mouth. 

“So, my Grand Uncle supposedly has a curse that was given to him by the Great Mother, so his sister. According to this curse, if anyone in the family talks to him, they will be the black sheep of them family and be condemned to a lonely life.” Spark then chuckled, but her face looked pained. “I think it’s soooo stupid – the Grand Uncle isn’t a bad person at all. I don’t even know what he did to anger his sister like that.” Spark’s face scrunched. “He won’t even tell me and the Grand Mother just simply said they were having a stupid fight like siblings do.” 

Spark gasped, then lifted up her finger, removing a hand from underneath Vainstrel’s. “Oh! So, the Grand Mother is actually the Great Mother’s mother! Um, you see, I guess the Grand Mother had married an elemental king forever ago and the Great Mother was their child, which is why we are all born with elemental abilities. The Great Mother is why we all have it, since she was the combined presence and the first one with markings like mine.” Spark pointed to the markings on her face and arms. “Um…I guess the Grand Uncle is actually only the Great Mother’s half sister, from what I’ve been told. I guess he’s not an elemental at all, but just a pure witch.” 

Spark placed both of her elbows on the table, leaning into them and pouting. “I don’t even get why she’d do something as stupid as curse the Grand Uncle. I wish someone would tell me, but no one does. I wish the Great Mother was still around, but I guess she left for the elemental realm forever ago. I really want a clear answer!” Spark grumbled. 

Vainstrel’s brow slightly furrowed. How fascinating…but yet, something is rubbing me as very strange. 

Vainstrel raised his hand, keeping his elbow on the table. “Spark, my dear, may I inquire how far back your family line goes?” 

Spark tapped her cheek. “Hnnn….I think several hundred years.” 

Vainstrel’s eyes widened. “And you speak with the Grand Uncle and Grand Mother?” 

Spark laughed. “Yeah! Of course! They’re both alive and well!” 

“But they are only witches, yes?” 

Spark nodded. “Yeah, they are.” 

Vainstrel grasped his chin. I am aware that we all have such long life spans, but a witch to span over several hundred years…I do not believe I have heard of such a thing.

“Oh, uh, they’re the Naitmaric.” 

Vainstrel’s eyes slowly rose to meet Spark’s eyes. 

“…the Naitmaric?” 

“Yeah!” Spark smiled. Then she frowned, tapping her cheek. “Well, the Grand Mother always says they’re Naitmarian. Well, she’s Natimarian. And Grand Uncle isn’t, but is…and…” Spark held her head, her eyes spinning. “Aaaah, this all gets confusing! But basically, I guess the Grand Mother is from a place called Naitmaric, which makes her Naitmarian, like how we’re Ghoprean, since we’re from Ghopre.” 

Vainstrel’s lips stayed slightly parted, all while looking at Spark looking rather fried. Even her sparks of electricty around her upper body looked like they were zapping her rather than dancing about her. THE Naitmaric? Those hidden among us, said to have founded Ghopre? And she descends from such ancestory? AND they are available to be spoken to at one’s leisure? 

Vainstrel paused his thoughts for a moment. 

Just who IS this magnificent partner of mine? What else is hidden within the depths of herself and within her family? 

Vainstrel clasped the inside of his cape, looking down on the table. “Do…do you think the Grand Mother would accept me?” 

Spark giggled. “Yeah, sure, why not? I mean, she got together with an elemental king, after all! I can’t see why she wouldn’t. I bet if the Great Mother was around, she’d be open to it too!” Spark then hung her head. “Well, maybe not, if she actually cursed the Grand Uncle…” She immeditately sat back up, full determination on her face. “No! Of course not! There’s no curse on the Grand Uncle or me or anyone else in the family!” 

Vainstrel felt tension leave his body. “I am simply glad that there is most likely someone other than yourself and perhaps your dear younger sister, Lady Aqua-marie who will accept me.” 

“I’m glad too…oh, I hope Aqua-marie won’t turn out like the others…I’m disappointed in Coal too.” 

Vainstrel sighed. “I am very pleased that my parents have taken a liking to you.” 

Spark clasped her hands together. Vainstrel saw the zapping lightning bolts around Spark’s head change over to the happy, dancing flickers he was all too familiar with. The glitter in Spark’s eyes even returned. “I’m so happy too!” exclaimed Spark. She then placed a hand on her heart. “I was afraid they weren’t going to like me.” 

“I had no doubt that they would like you. My own concerns were the perspection they were carrying about you and my wretched sister’s behavior.”

“Ria seemed nice!” 

Vainstrel began to laugh, but it quickly turned into a groan. “I am truly surprised at how long my sister maintained a smile on her face – it was forced and clearly had been breaking her. But no matter. It simply is how Ria is. It is not my problem.” 

Vainstrel then smiled. “As long as my parents enjoy your presence in my life, we shall see no hardships from my end.” 

“I’m so happy about that too!” replied Spark. “What did they say about me?” 

Vainstrel’s face turned pink, recalling his parents insistence that he and Spark were in love. He pushed the thought from his mind, looking up at her. “They said that they love you.” 

Spark squealed. “Ooooh! I’m so happy to hear that!” She then frowned. “I wish my family could do the same with you.” 

Vainstrel laughed. “Perhaps, one day, they will come around.” 

Spark laid her head on the table. “Booooo…I hope so.” She scrunched her face. “At least let Aqua-marie grow up not judgemental from seeing us…I wish Coal would come around too.” 

Vainstrel cocked his head curiously. “You keep on mentioning Sir Coal. Are you close to him?” 

Spark lifted herself up off the table and nodded. “Yeah. We’re actually super close. He’s always trying to protect me and I appreciate it, but like…I know what’s best for me.” 

Vainstrel leaned back, nodding his head as he did. “I will admit, the way in which he carries himself was certainly different than the rest. Despite the rudeness he has repeatedly shown me and the burning of the gift, he seemed far more willing to hold a conversation with someone such as myself, even when he was about to burn me with his embers.” 

“Uuuugh, I am so sorry about that. I will have to talk to him about it…” 

“It is alright, my dear lady Spark. If it had not been for that, we may have waited a bit longer before you had a chance to greet my parents.” 

“Well then, maybe I should thank Coal for that then!” 

Vainstrel could feel himself melting under the brillance of Spark’s smile. 

***

Spark pat her stomach and yawned. “Heeeey, Vainstrel, can we take a nap?” 

Vainstrel stood up. “Yes, of course! Let me lead you to one of the guest rooms.” 

Spark waved her hand, standing up herself. “Nah, no need! Your bed should be just fine.” 

Vainstrel blushed. “What? Is such a thing even appropriate?” 

Spark chuckled. “What are you? A Tarheian? Who thinks like that?” 

Vainstrel watched Spark walk over to his bed. His heartbeat began to bound as he watched Spark remove her underbust corset from around her waist and grabbed the yellow part of her dress and began to lift it up. His face flushed and he slammed a hand down on the table, while extending out another one. “Lady Spark, may I ask what you are doing?” 

“Um, removing layers of my clothes so it will be easier to sleep.” 

Vainstrel’s mouth gapped open.

Spark’s mouth curled. “What? Did you think I was getting naked?” 

Vainstrel gulped.

Spark giggled. “I’m not going to do that silly!” 

Vainstrel watched as parts of the witch’s clothing dropped to the floor – first the corset and the yellow and brown parts of her dress, followed by numerous petticoats that had been hidden beneath her dress. Spark slipped out from her boots and for the first time, Vainstrel was able to see just how the birthmarks beautifully wrapped around her ankles and ran up her legs. 

A thought lingered in the back of his mind: I wonder where else on her body those marks lie? The thought got his heart pumping and face heated. What an inappropriate thought for the moment

“Hey, where can I put these?” asked Spark. 

Vainstrel looked over, breaking his thoughts, seeing Spark had folded her clothes while he was immersed in thoughts of how she must look underneath the remaining articles of clothing. She hugged them close to her body with one arm, while the other held her boots. 

Vainstrel jumped, pushing the basket of food aside. “You can simply lay them on this table.” 

Spark smiled. “You got it.” 

Vainstrel took a step aside, watching Spark place her boots on the ground near where she had once sat and the clothes up on the table. She then removed the small witches hat from her head and placed it on top.

Spark’s hands were then pulling at Vainstrel’s arm. “Come on, nap with me!” 

Vainstrel attempted to pull away. “But Lady Spark, I am simply not tired!” 

Spark, with such amazing strength that Vainstrel’s eyes popped, threw both herself and Vainstrel onto the bed. Holding onto him tightly, she smiled into his face. “Then just keep me company until I sleep.” 

Vainstrel was going to pull away, but the words he read from the blood contract books began to surface and he couldn’t help but remember as long as it is non-destructive to you or the contract partner, follow their request. And this request, no matter how he looked at it, could be considered “non-destructive.” 

Vainstrel nodded. “Yes, my dear lady Spark. I shall keep you company until you reawken from your slumber! But I do request we at least lay on the bed properly.” 

Spark giggled. “Yeah, sure! Of course.” 

Both Vainstrel and Spark crawled onto the bed properly, laying their heads on the pillows. 

Vainstrel laid on his side and Spark followed suit, her back to Vainstrel. Vainstrel watched as Spark backed into him. Vainstrel could feel his face heating up. 

Spark’s body was perfectly pressed against Vainstrel’s. One of her hands reached over and grabbed Vainstrel’s nervous hand that had been clenching his pants to around her waist. 

“M-my dear Lady Spark, is this comfortable for you?” 

Spark looked at him, nuzzling his face. “Yeah, it is.” 

Spark then rested her head on the pillow.

Vainstrel stared at her hay colored hair and the small flickers of light around her head. Is this truly okay? What are we even doing? Am I able to take her love for me…far more seriously than I had been before? 

Vainstrel took in a deep breath. The scent on Spark seemed notably stronger than it had been before. Vainstrel leaned his chin forward, his mouth touching the very back of her neck. “Spark, my dear, how are you feeling in terms of your blood?” 

“Hmmm…I think a lot better.” 

Vainstrel paused for a moment. “…if it is alright with you, may I simply check? It is only a quick puncture. Just enough blood will be drawn to determine how well restored you are.” 

Spark turned to him. “Of course you can! Tee hee. I trust you.” 

Vainstrel carrassed her cheeks, gazing into her eyes. He gave her a warm smile. “Anything for you, dear Spark.” 

He kept one hand on her cheek, allowing her head to turn and rest on it. His other hand followed the side of her neck down to the top of her shoulder. His body pressed partially against her’s and he leaned into her neck. His fangs grew out of his mouth and he opened it wide, punching her skin.

“A-ah.” 

Vainstrel slirped once and removed his fangs. He licked the puncture mark close. The blood he had only taken a small sample of proved to be more than enough to anaylze by the taste of it. 

Vainstrel looked into Spark’s flushed face. “My dear Lady Spark, you are on your way to a full recovery, but there is still yet more days to go.” 

“Uh…h-how long is a more days?” 

“Perhaps no more than a week.” 

Spark bit her lip. “Are you going to be okay?” 

“Yes, I shall be.” Vainstrel smiled gently at her. “I have had plenty of your blood already and even the bit now is more than restorative with all that you have already given me.” He grabbed her hand and kissed it. He could feel her heart pulsing underneath him. 

The next thing Vainstrel knew, he was being embraced with both arms of Spark’s. His face rested in the side of her neck. Her body was warm and the electricty around her tickled just a bit. 

Vainstrel paused for a brief moment. Do…I have permission? he wondered. He wrapped his arms around Spark himself, slightly pulling her away from the bed. Their noses met. 

“Thanks for taking me into consideration.” 

“It is truly a pleasure, Lady Spark. Anything for you.” 

Spark lightly knocked on Vainstrel’s forehead with her own. 

Spark then flipped back over and fell back into place with Vainstrel, still making sure Vainstrel’s arms were wrapped tightly around her. 

The last thing Vainstrel could remember as he was dozing off was the warmth of Spark’s body and her heartbeat. 

**END** 

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[UNEDITED FIRST DRAFT] Shock Bite (Temp Title)

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY. YOU are the very first person to read it – I haven’t even read it in its entirety yet!

You WILL come across numerous issues including:

  • spelling mistakes;
  • grammar issues;
  • weak sentence structure;
  • repeated words;
  • unnecessary words;
  • missing words;
  • lack of details/descriptions;
  • confusing details/descriptions;

Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.

Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.

The final clap of the day and the shout of “THAT IS A WRAP” broke through Vainstrel’s flow. It deflated faster than a balloon losing air. The emptiness he was left with, as per usual, was huge. He made his way back to his seat and collapsed into the chair. Surrounding him quickly were numerous assistants, stripping him of everything he was wearing – make-up, wigs, most of his clothes. 

“You def look like you need sleep,” remarked the make-up artist, a rather trendy looking cyclops who looked out of place in the plain “STAFF” t-shirt he was wearing. “You sure you don’t need some help?” 

Vainstrel, just as his regular shirt was slipped onto him, placed his hand on his chest. The kitsune – only partially transformed – glared at him, but Vainstrel paid no mind. He was about to speak! “Your kindness is appreciated, Ceallach. And it has reached my heart well.” He pointed his finger up in the air. “But though my role is done for today, I shall continue on playing the great hero!” 

He could hear a mixture of giggles and cheers from around him. Yes – I play the hero beyond the stage. 

“Vainstrel, put down your arms,” snapped Airi the kitsune. She took a hold of Vainstrel’s arms and shoved them down. “And stand up.” 

Vainstrel scoffed. “You dare interrupt my speech?” 

Airi’s lips twisted. “Who could say?” 

Vainstrel stared at the flickering playfulness within the fox-girl’s eyes, before giving in. He stood up. “For you, Airi, I shall stand and make your job easier than the water flowing in a stream.” 

“Mmhmm.” 

Airi finished dressing Vainstrel back up within seconds. Upon securing his cape, Vainstrel grasped the front edges, wrapped himself, and tossed it aside, allowing it to almost look like it was flowing in the wind. 

He extended his hand out in front of him. “Thank you all once again for another day to remember! I shall see you all again tomorrow!” 

With that, he dramatically turned on his heel and strutted out the door, simply giving everyone a wave he hoped was more than enough to make his thanks and gratitude a point. 

He strutted down the hallway, out the doors of the performance hall in which he had been rehearsing, and well down the walkways farther from the building, not once letting down his head. However…the second he could no longer see the hall in sight, his body began to fold. 

Sixteen hours full of love, of drama, and of action. There is nothing more I could ask for, other than some drops of blood to replenish me once more for the day so that I can make it home safe. Vainstrel dipped into his pockets, reaching for his vials of blood he carried with him. He fished them out in handfuls…noticing each and every one of them was empty

Vainstrel dropped down to a knee, looking down at all the empty vials in his hand. “What is THIS? Nothing more than specks of blood fill these vials?” He dug out more from his pocket and sure enough…nothing. “Surely, I must have planned properly…is there a mistake? Or had a made a grave error?” 

After digging out each vial and seeing that they were all, indeed empty, his already pale face turned green and he dropped to his other knee. I do not have anything to restore me! The vials poured through his fingers and onto the grass and cobblestone below him, making both a clinking and gentle crunching sound. 

How could I make such a miscalculation and risk putting myself at such a terrible fate? A single tear began to shed. I can only hope that one finds me soon enough, before the start of the show. Vainstrel hung his head. 

Vainstrel allowed his body to collapse onto the ground. He stared up at the trees, with their bare branches, and the light of the sun over the horizon. peeking through, although it was still dark enough to see the stars. He closed his eyes slowly, allowing his weakness to envelope his body even more rapidly than before. 

I thought I had been careful as I had all the other times…was this day particularly grueling? Why oh why must I lie here to shrivel? Why?

As his consciousness faded and he could feel himself drifting off into sleep, the faintest, sweet scent of herbs wafted his way. He sprung up immeditately, whipping his head into the direction of the alluring scent of magic. 

There, in the distance, not too far from where he had been ready to slumber, someone he could see was a witch

He stood up immeditately. What good fortune is this?! Have a been blessed? Most surely I have! 

He scooped his glass vials that had been laying on the ground back into his pocket. His eyes stayed locked on the witch in the distance. 

He had no idea what she looked like in the front, but from the back, he could see that she was wearing a yellow dress with puffy sleeves and a puffy skirt, accented with dark brown and black. Around her waist was most likely a black corset and she wore black boots that reached up to her thighs. Her permanently sun-kissed skin perfectly paired with her hay-colored, curly blond hair that was neatly placed to the left-side of her head in a high ponytail. Her steps seemed to have a bit of a skip in them, causing her ponytail to jump all over the place. 

Vainstrel jumped up to his feet upon finishing picking up his vials (minus a few he missed because he needed food. NOW.)

His feet were light to the point you couldn’t even hear them on the cobblestone. The most noise he made was a whoosh similar to the wind that gentle shook the tree branches. He source of sustances surely would not be able to detect him. 

He was close to the witch within a matter of seconds. His fang teeth, which usually stayed perfectly hidden within his mouth, grew large and his mouth watered. So much magic, so much blood, and so unguarded. I need enough to return home to safety and arrive to rehersals on time. ‘Tis all, ’tis all. 

He reached out his arms towards her shoulders. His teeth hovered near the exposed skin of between her shoulder and her neck. 

He grabbed her shoulders and sunk his teeth into her soft flesh. 

Then came the sudden pain of voltage surging through his teeth, gums, and entire body, along with a yelp he could only be partially sure wasn’t his. 

And then…darkness. 

***

Vainstrel’s eyes fluttered. What is this shade that shields my eyes from daybreak? 

His vision finally cleared, seeing the smirking face of a beautiful young woman stairing down at him with beautifully large brown eyes that seemed to be decorated by dramatic make-up. Her eyes seemed to glint with the light of a lightning storm. 

With one hand on her cheek, the young woman said, “that’s what you get for dealing with an elemental witch.” She laughed. 

Or rather, she giggled.

She giggled with the beauty of a chiming fairy bell. 

Vainstrel licked his teeth, which had mostly shrunk back into his mouth, feeling little bits of blood. But mostly, there was a lingering pain in his gums and his whole body. 

But the fatigue he had been feeling was gone. 

If anything, he felt better than ever before! 

My, what was that shock? Vainstrel placed both hands on his body, one on his chest and one on his stomach, staring up at the beautiful woman. Even now, it is as if the current is still corsing throughout my body. The pain itself bareable for such a jolt. 

His eyes opened wide and gasped. 

Vainstrel stood up. The young woman, startled, fell backwards onto her butt. Vainstrel turned around and got onto his knees, grabbing both of her hands. “LADY OF MAGIC! Never have I, in my life as a vamp, encountered such a life-giving jolt! The pain in which was given to me through the piercing of your flesh is nothing in comparison to the freedom and lightness I can feel throughout my entire being!” He lifted one hand up into the air. “What blessing has been bestowed up me, being hit by such a shock!” He returned his hand back to the young woman – the witch from earlier – grasping both of her hands once more. “Please, do tell, lady of magic, what is your dear name?” 

The witch stared at him with her big brown eyes. Her playful smile from earlier had faded, replaced by one of confusion. She was still smiling, but most certainly confused. Her fairy-chime giggle returned. “You’re funny.”

Vainstrel blushed.

“I’m Spark Alamental.” The witch grinned. “What’s your name?” 

“A name that suits you beyond compare.” Vainstrel cast back his cape and bowed his head. “Vainstral Balan, it is a pleasure, Lady Spark.” 

He lightly clasped one of her hands in his. “My dear lady Spark, I do apologize for the sudden intrusion and disruption to your day. The foolishness of hunger had settled in for me due to an unfortunate missight on the part of me.” 

“You’re hungry?” 

“Yes, that I quite am.” Vainstrel sighed. “The jolt in which you had given me through means unknown has shook me away, perhaps enough to be on my way, but yes, I am quite a hungry for blood as it is for a vampire such as I.” 

He watched Spark tap her cheek and glance off to the side. Something seemed playful about her actions. The witch leaned forward, smiling right into his face. “Hmm…well, Mr. Vainstrel, if you’re really that hungry, I don’t mind giving you some blood.” 

Vainstrel brought her hand close to his chest. “Are you certain? And please – you may just call me Vainstrel.” 

“Yeah, I’m sure about it. I just gotta tone down my electricity.” 

Vainstrel paused for a moment. Was that it? “Electricty, you say?” 

“Yeah,” replied Spark. “I told you – I’m an elemental witch.” 

Vainstrel nodded just enough for it to be seen easily by Spark. I see…I see. Lady Spark is an elemental witch…housing an element within the temple of her own body. “Lady Spark, I would love to be able to suck your blood and feel the current of electricity within my body once more.” 

“Okay, good!” Spark used her free hand to cover it to giggle once more. “I can’t turn off the electricty, but I can tone it down a lot. Just give me a moment. 

“That is more than okay, my lady.”

Vainstrel released Spark’s hand as the young woman turned around. 

Vainstrel could sniff the change in scent in Spark. The peppery tone that seemed to be prominent in her aura had been dramatically turned down.  I see…I see. A peppery-scent for her electrical current housed within her. A current she can control…my…my…my…how fascinating a person she. 

“You can suck now.” Vainstrel watched Spark’s fingers  gently caress the spot he had bitten into not too long ago. 

Vainstrel got to his knees. He carefully lowered his hands onto her warm shoulders. His vision seemed shaky. Am I…trembling? For what am I trembling for? 

His stomach bubbled up. If it wasn’t for the smile on his own face, he would have thought he was nervous. 

He opened his mouth wide, allowing his teeth to grow once more. He leaned forward into the spot that he had pieced before. This time, though, rather than crunching into her skin, he gently pierced it with his teeth. 

He could feel little jolts of electricty dancing around his teeth, but it was nothing like it had been before. Still though…his body seemed to warm just from the feeling of it going up his teeth. He could actually feel his toes! 

The taste of her blood was also perfect. Perfectly balanced, he could taste each mineral within it and the embued magic that was imbedded within her blood was deliciously herby and peppery. Nothing fresh nor stored has ever tasted as complex as this. 

Vainstrel lifted up his teeth licking the blood off from his fangs. He unrolled his tongue and gently licked the holes where he had punctured her skin. He could feel her flinch with each gentle lick of his tongue. She is of true perfection. 

With a final lick, he lifted his head and released her shoulders. He watched Spark to him with a flushed faced and bated breath. Her long fingers brushed against where he had punctured her. Vainstrel couldn’t help but feel elated seeing the absolute look of surprise upon the witch’s face.

“WHOA, they’re almost closed up!” 

Vainstrel nodded. “Yes, my lady. It is a specialty of ours to be able to heal the wounds that we inflict with our fangs.” 

Vainstrel could feel warmth throughout his entire body. Looking down at himself, he could see his skin had returned back to his normal pale white color, although perhaps with a slight bit more pigmentation than normal. Did I drink more than necessary? 

His eyes shifted over to Spark, who had suddenly appeared underneath him, looking straight up into his eyes. Vainstrel jumped. 

Spark giggled. “Are you okay now?” 

“Y-yes, my dear Spark, I feel restored to life once more, in great thanks to you.” 

“Tee hee, that’s wonderful!” Spark clasped her hands together.

Vainstrel gazed at her as if she were a bright super full moon, illuminating everything from within the darkness with her breathtaking glow. Her smile, her eyes, everything about her embodied the beauty of lightning itself. Vainstrel couldn’t really even put into words what he was feeling. And he always had words. Always. 

He watched Spark’s knees enter into his vision field. He looked up, seeing the witch waving at him. “Welp, I gotta get back to work now. See you later, Vainstrel!” 

Later…

Spark began to walk off. 

Vainstrel gasped and sprung up off the ground, quickly grabbing her hand. “W-wait! Please!” 

Spark turned to him, cocking her head. “Is there something wrong?” 

Vainstrel pulled her hand close to his chest. “What can I do to thank you for all that you have given me for today?” 

Spark’s mouth gapped. 

Vainstrel stared intensely into her eyes. “Please, allow me to return the kindness to you one day soon.” 

Spark’s cheeks turned a light pink. “Uh…I appreciate it, but it’s okay. There really is no need. There isn’t particularly anything I want at the moment.” 

“No, there must be something in which you desire!” 

Spark paused for a moment. Vainstrel watched her tap her cheek numerous times. 

What an adorable gesture in which she uses. 

“Hmmm…” 

Vainstrel tightened his hands around Spark’s. “Perhaps we could exchange our telephone addresses of the numerical value so we may discuss the future?”

“You mean my phone number?” 

“Yes, that would be correct.” 

Vainstrel released Spark’s hand as she gently pulled it away. He watched her reach into her skirt pocket and pull out a phone. “Yeah, sure!” replied Spark. “Let’s do that!” 

Vainstrel whipped out his own phone. He opened up the contact exchange application on his phone. The two of them tapped their phones together and with a confirmation BING, they both exchanged numbers, names, profile picture, and even email addresses. 

Then came a second DING DING DING from Spark’s phone.

“Oh no! I’m late!” Spark exclaimed. She clasped both of her cheeks. She put her phone back into her pocket. “I am sooooo sorry, Vainstrel! I REALLY have to go now!” 

“It is all right, my lady Spark. Please take your leave and I shall see you again another day.” Vainstrel lifted up her hand and gave her a gentle kiss.

“Yeah, see you,” replied Spark. He could see the pink on her cheeks get even more flushed as she turned on her heel and skipped off. 

The moment Vainstrel could no longer see Spark, he collapsed onto his knees. He held his phone in both of his hands, looking down at the address book page of Spark. His body was trembling, staring down at her photo. Her glinting eyes and playful green touched his cold heart in ways he had never known and only dreamed of. 

He was completely smitten. 

Perfect blood and electricity to boot. A glittering gaze and a smile to match the electricty of her body. A beauty that could rival the moon. He brought the phone even closer to his face.

I must make her mine! 

He turned his gaze up to where she had previously stood. 

I will get a blood contract from her. 

**END**

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[UNEDITED FIRST DRAFT] Untitled Spark & Vainstrel Story 2

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY. YOU are the very first person to read it – I haven’t even read it in its entirety yet!

You WILL come across numerous issues including:

  • spelling mistakes;
  • grammar issues;
  • weak sentence structure;
  • repeated words;
  • unnecessary words;
  • missing words;
  • lack of details/descriptions;
  • confusing details/descriptions;

Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.

Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.

About a quarter of Vainstrel’s body hung over the side of his bed. His fingers fiddled with his phone while looking at it upside down. His lips were exaggeratedly puffed out and his brows wrinkled his head so deeply. He let out a large, noisy sigh that seemed to echo off the walls of his bed chamber. 

He let his hands and arms hang loosely, his freehand resting upon his forehead. “Oh is the woe of the vampire who has desire for his one and only mistress!” 

He then grasped his shirt with his freehand, still allowing the one with his mobile phone to hang loosely and touch the ground. He leaned his head back into the matress. He raised his voice even more than he had before. “How cruel is she to be, not answer my request for her call or letter! Not a single sound from that single day.” 

He clenched both of his fist, tightly grasping both his shirt and the phone at the same time. “Was that moment just a mistake?” He dramatically looked to his left and closed his eyes. “Is fate truly the cruel mistress she seems to be?” 

“Vainstrel!” 

Vainstrel didn’t move. 

“What is your problem?!” 

SLAM. 

Vainstrel didn’t even need to look up, knowing his bedroom door had been slammed into his bed chamber walls once more. The raging storm has appeared once more, threatening to put another hole in the walls of my sanctuary. 

“If you’re going to practice your lines, keep your door close, you cheap background standee!” 

Vainstrel suddenly found the crown of his head on the floor.  With it, his whole body fell. 

“Ria, dear…we really should be ––” 

“Vladmir, SHUT IT.” 

Vainstrel stood up, dusting himself off. He slipped his phone into his pants pocket, just before adjusting the cape to his back. “My dear sister and my dear brother-in-law, what a pleasure.” 

Ria held up a fist, shaking it at him. “You aren’t fooling anyone with your bad acting or your poorly written script.” 

“Script?” echoed Vainstrel. “I am aware I have a show coming up that I have a significant role with soon, but today is a rest day.” 

“Vainstrel,” said Vladmir. “We have noticed you have been down lately. Whatever could be wrong?” 

Vainstrel whipped out his phone once more, holding it up in the air as if looking into a compact mirror. “My dear, sweet brother-in-law!” He pouted, scrolling on his phone. “A mistress whose blood is so electrifying has captured my cold heart. One could swear it was fate…” He brought his phone-holding hand to his forehead and tossed his head backwards. He put out his right leg as he did so, slightly turning his heel. His free arm extended over and out to the side as a single tear came raining down from his eye that wasn’t hidden by his long bangs. “And yet no words have been spoken since!” He then squatted down and hugged his legs. “…why does the mistress of lighting have to be so cruel…no words…spoken or written…since then…” 

Ria’s face scrunched. “How gross! Why do you sound like you are in love?” 

Vainstrel suddenly popped up and over to his older sister, leaning into her face, wide-eyed, his barring his fang teeth. “Because, my dear older sister, I have done just that.” 

Ria’s face scrunched up even more and she stuck out her tongue. “BLEGH! YAK! YUCK!” 

As Ria was making noises of disgust, Vladmir gentle folded his hands and smiled at Vainstrel. “How awe-inspiring! Who is this ‘mistress’ that has caught your eye?” His smile stretched even further. “A fellow actress, perhaps?” 

Vainstrel touched his cheeks, blushing like an innocent maiden. “Not an actress, but a lightning queen.” 

“A queen?!” 

Vainstrel held up his index finger, pouting for a moment. “Not an actual queen.” He then placed his hand over his heart. “Just the one in my heart.” 

“Oh.” 

Vainstrel looked up at the small stained glass dome in his room where bits of light helped to color his room with distinctly colored spots. “My lightning queen is no other than a witch who sent electricty through me like no other.” 

Ria gagged. She leaned over, placing one hand on her knee and the other in the air, waving it side to side. “I do not need to hear about my little brother’s new-found sexual expression! I’m out, I’m out.” 

Vainstrel scoffed. “ME? Sexual expression? I have not yet hit that point with my mistress – I simply want to taste her blood once more on my tongue and feel the electricity pulse through my body once more.” 

Ria’s face turned a greenish-yellow. 

Vladmir rubbed Ria’s back, but kept his smile directed towards Vainstrel. “What does ‘electricty’ refer to?” 

Vainstrel drew back his head and blinked a few times. “It refers to true electricty, like lightning on a stormy day. The mistress I desire is none other than an elemental witch, specializing in lightning magic, if I am no mistaken. It coarses through her body to the point it truly gave me the greatest jolt of my life when I sunk my teeth into her soft flesh and got the first taste of her blood pulsing with frantic electricity that was so strong, it knocked me out cold.”

Vladmir’s eyes popped. “Oh my.” 

Vainstrel held his clenched phone up into the air. “And now I am robbed of such an opportunity to speak with her once more!” 

“What are they ways you have tried to contact her?” 

“Through my own voice on my phone and through the letters sent through the air.” 

Vladmir looked at Vainstrel questionably. Ria waved her hand up and down. “The cheap background standee is just saying he called and texted her.” 

Vladmir chuckled. “I see.” 

Vainstrel covered his eyes with his arms, crying. “But nothing! Nothing at all!” 

Vladmir placed a hand on his chin. “Perhaps you could try writing her a physical letter?” 

Vainstrel stared at Vladmir, utterly horrified at the meer suggestion of such an old fashion way of sending letters! This wasn’t a holiday, you know! 

Vladmir laughed. “I suppose not. What about her physical address?” 

Vainstrel hung his head. “I was far too enthralled with my lightning queen to ask for something more than a phone number.” He then threw it back. “So deep is my sorrow for such an unfortunate oversight! HOW CRUEL FATE IS, PLACING PERFECTION IN FRONT OF I, YET TAKING IT AWAY ALL THE SAME!” 

Vladmir and Ria stared at Vainstrel, beads of sweatdropping down their faces. Vainstrel didn’t pay any attention to them – instead, he stood in a freeze-frame dramatic pose with his arms out stretched towards the sky, his head back, and his legs spread front and back, looking as if he was about to kneel. You could almost see lightning dancing behind him. 

“So, this is what you were doing?” asked Ria. 

“Yes,” replied Vainstrel, super flatly. He stood straight, looking at them both.  

She glared at Vainstrel and pointed at him. “Shut the damn door next time!” 

Ria grabbed onto Vladmir’s wrist, yanking him out of the room, slaming the door behind her. 

Vainstrel watched as the door knob from his end fell off and rolled on the floor in a circle. 

Vainstrel fell to the floor, groaned, and looked at his phone once more. With his thumb, he slid his finger over the keyboard and wrote “I want to see you once more” and hit “send”. 

Then he sighed. 

***

Vainstrel dragged his feet. If it had been a rainy day, his normally prestine shoes would be covered in mud. Luckily for him though, it hadn’t rained. Instead, he flatted and kicked up the grass under his feet. He, at some point, gotten off the cobblestone path while continuing to pout at his phone. 

“If only my lightning mistress would allow me to see her once more…” He brought his phone to his chest. “But alas, it shall not be. My only hope is that the freshly brewed coffee from beans so fresh will soothe my aching, cold heart.” 

He lifted his hands up in the air as if praying to the Gods, making his way back onto the pathway. He continued to keep his hands raised as he turned a corner and down a street lined with numerous buildings of various shapes in sizes, but all uniform in color scheme. 

bzzzzzt bZZZZZZZT 

Vainstrel ignored the sound of buzzing electricty coming from near him, just past a park bench and a lamp that clearly had just been illuminated based on the sheer brightness of it. He continued to walk past the park and managed to get to the building next to it, just before stopping in his tracks.

Hands still up in the air, he pivoted on one foot and turned his head at the hay-colored, curly/wavy side ponytail accented with a small witches hat clipped to the other side. He stared for a moment, his eyes lowering to the phone in her hands being zapped repeatedly with electricity. 

Vainstrel gasped, tears forming in his eyes. He leaped into the park over its fences and slid right in front of her. 

Just as she finished zapping her phone once more, Vainstrel grasped her hand. “My dear lightning queen, Spark!” 

He watched Spark visibly jump. Immeditately, his hand was zapped. Vainstrel winced. Spark gasped. “Vainstrel! I’m so sorry.” 

Vainstrel smiled, flashing her his fang teeth. “It is alright, my dear Spark. Seeing your light and feeling your zap is truly the highlight of my long life.” 

Spark giggled. Vainstrel watched her cheeks slightly flush. 

“I have been attempting to contact you by voice and electronic letter, yet I heard no word,” said Vainstrel. “I was worried you were not willing to see me once more.” 

“Oh!” Spark lifted up her phone, pointing to it. “I thought someone was trying to contact me!” She tapped her phone to her cheek, prompting the screen to turn out. Vainstrel could see that about half the screen was out and about a third of it had insane amounts of discoloration. If Vainstrel could go any paler with his skin, he would…instead, he just kind of turned blue, seeing the sight. 

Vainstrel grabbed her hand holding the phone, drawing it closer to him, staring at all the cracks and scratches upon its surface. “My! What happened to your phone?” 

Spark, as if she was teasing, poked the side of her own cheek with her free hand, giving him a warm smile. “I dropped it into water the day we met.” 

Vainstrel hung his head, his forehead tapping the phone.

“Oh! It’s not all that bad. A lot of features still work. Not all the time, but like…sometimes in the middle of sleep or something!” Spark waved her hand in front of herself, as if attempting to shoo away the bad. “Sometimes it wakes me up, but it’s not all that bad.” 

“How cruel it is to see you with a device that no longer does its job well enough,” replied Vainstrel. 

Spark jumped up. Vainstrel, who had still been resting his forehead on her phone, backed up, giving just enough room for Spark to lean in his face. She lifted up her phone, showing it being surrounded with electricty once more. “Well, that’s where I got the most brilliant idea! I could just use my electricty to fix it!” 

Spark then took a step back and looked down at her phone. As a result from her electricty, the discoloration on the screen changed…but nothing else. She frowned. “But it still doesn’t look like it’s going to work properly…

Vainstrel took a look at her phone once more. He raised an eyebrow and asked: “why not treat yourself to a new phone that will work for you?”

Spark gapped at Vainstrel. 

Vainstrel stared back at Spark, a bit surprised by her reaction.

“Whoa! I hadn’t thought of that!” 

Vainstrel turned around and wiped a single tear away from his eye while smiling. My lightning queen, mistress of my heart…who would not think of that. 

“Where would I even purchase a new one? I received this one from my mom…oh my goodness. I still haven’t told her that I broke it.” 

Vainstrel’s face lit up. He whipped back around and grasped her hands. “Spark, my love, I know a place most well suited for such a venture.” He raised a hand to the air, as if politely showing Spark something in the sky. He looked up in the dirction of his hand. “COME! Let me show you the way to the castle of celluar phones – with the best prices and selections as varied as gemstone.” 

He heard Spark giggle. Then he felt the warmth of her body draw closer. His arm that had been holding Spark’s hand was now fully covered in the warmth of Spark. Vainstrel’s cheeks flushed, looking over to see Spark smiling up at him. 

“Any place you call a ‘castle’ must be amazing” 

Vainstrel rested his hand that had been up in the air over Spark’s, leading her out from the small park. “I would only recommend the best for you.” 

Spark’s smile seem to twist a slight bit more and her eyes half lowered. “What other ‘castles’ do you know of?” 

Vainstrel returned the seemingly flirty smile back. “I will be more than happy to guide you there too, my dear.” 

***

The streets widened just a bit and the cobblestones changed to a notably darker color and slightly harsher shapes that helped to compliment the off-white buildings with pointed structures that raised up into the clouds. Vainstrel glanced over at Spark, whose face was lit up. A warmth he didn’t normally feel overtook his heart. He could see the pointed structures around them reflected in Spark’s eyes. For some reason, seeing them in her brown eyes made them just that more beautiful.

“My dear Lady Spark, have you ever entered into this haven before today?” 

Spark continued to look around. “No, I don’t believe I have!” 

Vainstrel stopped walking for a moment. He took Spark’s hands into his, gently bringing his lips to her right hand. “It is my uptmost desire to have you accompany me for coffee after we make our way to the castle of cellular devices.” 

Spark giggled. Her smile shifted from the scenery to Vainstrel’s face. “I’d love to!”

Vainstrel gave her a gentle kiss on her hand. Just as his lips rested for a brief moment upon her skin, he felt slight zaps of electricity. He lifted his head back up and stood back, seeing Spark slightly flushed. 

“Uuuuh, um…” Spark started to poke her cheek as she had done earlier. “I don’t drink coffee though. Do they have hot chocolate with chili peppers?” 

Vainstrel brought Spark’s hand to his chest. “Dazzling Spark, you are in luck – they have the finest, widest selection of hot chocolates within their coffee haven.” 

BA-THUMP BA-THUMP 

Vainstrel and Spark gazed into each other’s eyes. 

Spark’s smile widened and her shoulders lifted as she slightly shifted her body. Her hair bobbed a bit as she tilted her head. “Okay! Sounds yummy.” 

Vainstrel immeditately turned away from her and crotched, holding his head. Oh my dear goddess, this woman of lightning mastery is adorable. How forutune smiles upon me today! He clenched his fist. A river of tears dripped down his face.

“Are…you okay?” 

Vainstrel immediately stood back up, grabbing Spark’s hand once more. HIs tears instantly dried up and a smile grew within milliseconds upon his face. He lifted his free hand up into the air. “COME! It is just up ahead!” 

“What is?” 

“The castle housing cellular devices.” 

***

It was a meer two minutes when they arrived in front of the “castle of cellular devices” in which Vainstrel was talking about. 

The building itself wasn’t much different from the others around it: cream-colored white with accents in a dark grayish-blue color that perfectly complemented the rest of the walls. The “castle” only had two features that made it stand-out: extra ornate designs over windows that stood as tall as the building itself in the same cream-color as the rest of the structure and a sign that read “Count Cellular’s Electronic Castle” in a cursive font that was barely legible. The extra accents were illuminated by a back lighting, reminding one greatly of a lit screen in the dark. 

Vainstrel looked over to Spark. Reflected in her eyes was not only the light from the ornamentation, but also the inner walls of the store that could be soon through the windows. There seemed to be a twinkle in her eye that made everything so much brighter. Vainstrel couldn’t help but blush at her unabashed joy.

Spark gasped. “How beautiful!” Her smile seemed to freeze. Vainstrel lifted an eyebrow. 

“what is wrong, my dear?”

Spark looked at him. “I thought you were using ‘castle’ to mean a building. I didn’t expect it to have ‘castle’ in the name!”

Vainstrel couldn’t help but smile. “Spark, you are correct. I had been using it to mean building.”

Spark suddenly sighed, grasping her chest. Vainstrel reflexively put a hand on her back. “What’s wrong?”

“okay, PHEW! I thought you’d get mad if I said this place doesn’t look much like a castle!”

Vainstrel stared at her blankly for a brief moment, then laughed. “Oh my dear! How could I be mad by such a statement that is true!”

Vainstrel leaned into her face with a larger smile. “Although for this particular castle, the looks outside deceive the mind.”

Spark cocked her head. 

“Would you like me to show you?” 

Spark wrapped her arm around Vainstrel. Her smile seemed seductive. “Tee hee, sure!”

Vainstrel opened the door to the cellular castle and lead Spark inside. He couldn’t help but smile at everything.

The walls towered with electronic devices, each one neatly placed like the bricks of a castle. There was a low amount of light, but the amount there was was cozy-like, contrasting with the rather foreboding towers all around. Deep inside at the other end was a lit fireplace, numerous couches, and a large tea table – something that resembled a king’s den. 

“Vainstrel! What a pleasure and rarity it is to see you!”

Vainstrel and Spark both turned into the direction of the voice. Appearing out from the shadows was a tall, elegantly thin man with gorgeous long locks of hair framing his face. His ponytail of hair seemed to curl around his body. His pointed-teeth smile would have been full of otherworldly charm had Vainstrel and Spark hadn’t been otherworldly themselves. 

“Dermot!” Vainstrel extended a hand to the man. “A pleasant surprise to see you once more!”

Dermot approached closer. “And who might this be?”

Before Vainstrel had a chance say who was holding onto his arm, she introduced herself. Spark kicked up her leg behind her and lifted her hand, greeting Dermot with both her electrifying smile and a flash of electricity in her hand greeting him. 

“Hey! I’m Spark Alamental!”

“Ooooh,” said Dermot. “An Alamental? I’m an acquaintance of one of your brothers. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

Dermot reached out his hand to Spark, shaking it. 

“Welcome to Count Cellular’s Electronic Castle. We specialize in cellular electronic devices, but we have much more than that available. I am Dermot and I am more than happy to be at your service today.”

Dermot leaned in to give Spark a kiss on her hand, prompting Vainstrel to glare. Dermot wrinkled his brow and paused, switching to a simple bow of the head. His hair briefly brushed against Spark’s hand. Vainstrel, whose body had tensed up, relaxed.

Dermot returned a glance, standing back up straight. He clasped his hands and gave them a salesman’s smile. “What has brought you in today?”

Spark reached into her skirt pocket and pulled out her broken phone. “To get a new phone.”

While Dermot maintained his smile, beads of sweat started to roll down his face at the site of the badly damaged device. “I would be more than happy to help you find a phone today. Was there anything in particular that you were looking at?”

Spark tapped her bottom lip. She soon smiled. “Something waterproof and can be easily charged with my electricity.”

“Is your element electricity?”

“Yes! How’d you know?”

“Everything about you reveals your true nature, Lady Spark.”

Vainstrel leered at Dermot. Dermot, noticing his friend’s glare, backed up a bit from Spark. He shot Vainstrel a rather puzzled look before turning back to Spark with his usual salesman smile. “Come right this way – I believe I have the best selection of phones for you.” 

Spark squealed. She let go of Vainstrel’s arm and began jumping up and down, clapping her hands with pure delight. Vainstrel felt his cold heart thump more than usual, watching the young woman live up to her name in more than one way. 

Vainstrel and Spark followed Dermot into a room that was just as lavishly decorated as the others, continuing to give the feeling of a castle built with electronics. Dermot extended his hand towards a section on the wall in which everything displayed was back-lit by an almost white blue colored light, resembling the light of the stars dotting the sky. 

“These phones were made and designed for witches by witches. Every one of them works with magic of any kind. They are also water and fire proof.  I am sure there will be one that will suit your fancy.” 

“Ooooooo!!” Spark jumped up to the wall, looking over everything. “There’s SOOOO many!” 

Dermot laughed. “Indeed. Do you have any other specific requirements for your phone?” 

Spark stopped for a moment. Vainstrel couldn’t help but think the little scrunch of her lips to the side was adorable. 

“Nah, I don’t think so! I think I just need to decide what one.” 

“Very well. I shall leave you too it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I shall be standing just outside the entrance.” 

“Thank you!” 

Vainstrel watched Dermot lightly tug his sleeve as he walked passed him. Vainstrel nodded, fully understanding the gesture. He walked over to Spark, grabbing her chin.

“Whoa! Vainstrel – you startled me!” 

“Sorry, my lady Spark. I need to speak with Dermot for but a single moment. Will you execuse me?” 

Spark’s brown eyes twinkled. She lightly brushed his hand and smiled. “Okay, that’s fine. I’ll be here waiting – but please come back.” Spark pouted. “I’ll get lonely without you.” 

Vainstrel’s lips quivered. My, what is this magnetizing feeling in the depths of my body by a single look of her lowered eyes and lips so pursued. 

Vainstrel nodded serveral times. “Yes, yes, my dear Spark, I shall be right back.” 

Vainstrel slipped out and away, turning to Dermot. 

Dermot folded his arms, looking down on Vainstrel. His face was dark and his gaze sharp.  “Tell me – what were you doing, glaring at me?” 

“You attempted to kiss the hand of the lightning queen!” 

“…I do that to every customer.” 

“But you didn’t do that to me!” 

Dermot thrusted his hand in Vainstrel’s direction. “I know you!” 

Vainstrel pointed at Dermot. “Do not dare touch the queen of lightning!” He grabbed his cape and dramatically pulled it partially over his face. “For she is mine.” 

Dermot sighed, covering his face with one of his hands. “What did you do?” 

“Nothing yet.” 

Dermot was surprised. He stumbled backwards. “Nothing yet? You made it seem like there was something going on.” 

“Well, of course there is.” 

“…did you hang out with Tarhean vampires again?” 

“What? No!” 

“They’re the only ones who ever get jealous over any relationship their significant other or people they like have.” 

Vainstrel put down his cape and sighed. He placed his hand over his heart. “As I walked home, so weary, I happened upon her that day. So innocent and open. I bit in her smooth neck, sinking my teeth deep inside. Within that single moment, I was struck by lightning! I woke up to her beautiful smile, mocking me for my lack of consideration that, perhaps, she would have some defense. For the first time in my life, I felt alive.” 

Vainstrel then folded his hands together, as if in a prayer. He looked up towards the sky, tears in his eyes. “I feel for the lightning queen in an instant! I want nothing more than to form a blood contract with her, so that she will be mine and I be her’s.” 

Dermot frowned. His eyes closed in annoyance. “So, you just want her for food?” 

“NO!” said Vainstrel, pointing back at Dermot. “I see her as more than a food source. She truly gives me life.” 

Dermot waved his hand in the air. “I’m sorry I have to say this, Vainstrel, since you and your family have been so kind for me, but that’s just not going to happen.” 

Vainstrel’s eyes narrowed. 

“I mentioned I’m friends with her brother, right?” 

“…?” 

“The Alamentals are notorious for hating other species that are not witches nor elementals. If you aren’t either – which you aren’t – you have no chance.” 

“Then how are you friends with one of them?” 

“Because I’m not trying to get with them in any way other than a friendship. You aren’t going to have a chance.” 

Vainstrel leered intensely at Dermot. 

“Hey! I know what phone I want!” 

Spark’s cheery voice cut through the tension that had built up.

Dermot’s salesman smile returned back, glittering as it had been before. “Coming! Please, show me what you would like so that I may fetch it for you!” 

Vainstrel followed closed behind Dermot, sneering. 

***

Dermot had disappeared into a backroom, Spark’s old phone and her new phone in hand for a free transfer. Vainstrel and Spark looked at each other. The humid air in the cellular castle seemed to clear as they smiled pleasantly at each other. 

Spark tapped her cheek, leaning forward at each other. “You and that salesman seem to know each other!” 

Vainstrel nodded. “Yes, I do know Dermot. I see him periodically, when the moon is high and thirsts need to be quenched.” 

Spark giggled. “What does that mean?” 

“My family runs a blood bank, the largest one in all of Ghopre. We have volunteers from all over who help us, the vampires, with our plight.”

“Tee hee. And what ‘plight’ might that be?” 

Vainstrel leaned into Spark’s face, smirking, and holding up a finger. “To respect the free will of all those who are living, so they may not need to fall to our dasterdly jaws. Most vampires do not drink the most fresh blood, preferring to take it from ones that are voluntairly given.” 

Spark cocked her head. “They don’t create blood with alchemy?” 

Vainstrel laughed. “Of course not, my dear. But I am surprised you have heard of such a legend!” 

Spark narrowed her eyes, completely confuzzled. Vainstrel almost-smug smile kind of fell, seeing just how deeply she seemed to be going through her brain for a response. He extended out his hand to her. “Where might you have heard such a thing from?” 

Spark’s head snapped back up straight. “I sometimes provide extra electricty to Dr. Gladier.”

“I don’t know who that is.” 

“Do you know Dr. Hadley or the secretary, Victorina?” 

“No?”

“Well, they’re vampires like you and they drink blood made from alchemy?” 

…there is no way that is possible. Vainstrel turned his head away from Spark, unable to see the curious look on her face. Blood through alchemy? What a legendary feat! Is it worth seeking out this “had-lee” and “victor-reena”? My curiousity is almost aroused. 

“If you own a blood bank and none of you vampires want to attack the living, why did you attack me?”

“Ah, yes. What a wonderful thing to question!” replied Vainstrel. He lifted up his index finger. “You see, my family and I are of a unique vampire species creatively titled ‘witch-hunting vampires’. We get the most from witches – the magic that is embued within it truly brings up back to life, for as long as we consume it. While we have reserves for such things, fresh blood offers the briefest boost in life force, restoring us to a life we never knew.”

“Oh.”

“…” Vainstrel blushed and hung his head. “I may have also forgotten to take my extra blood along with me that day and was about to collapse.” 

Spark gasped. She leaned forward, tilting her head. “Oh my! What were you doing that would make you forget to take blood with you?!”

Vainstrel sat back up, placing one hand on his heart and the other in the air. “I am a stage actor! I was rehearasing for opening night so intensely and for so long, my mind had wandered deeply into my role and forgot to come back out.” 

“What happens when you don’t get blood?” 

“Well, we are simply inanimate. I would collapse, unmoving. We vampires are mostly certainly a type of living dead, after all – so we must sustain ourself with the life force of the living to continue on! Otherwise, we would be inanimate for all eternity!” He dramatically covered his face with his cape, while leaning into his arm. 

“Woooow,” said Spark. “That sounds awful.” 

“Yes.” 

Vainstrel grabbed Spark’s hand with both of his. “I do apologize, Lady Spark, for my absolute rudeness during that time.” He gave her a kiss on the back of her hand.

“Don’t worry about!” replied Spark. She flashed him in a toothy grin. Her cheeks seemed slightly flush. “We met because of it, didn’t we? And now we are out here, with you helping me get a new phone!” 

Vainstrel blushed back at her.

“Phone’s done!” chimed Dermot. “Now, that will be 310.31 GP.” 

Vainstrel, seemingly clamoring,  immeditately pulled out his own phone and payed for it with his electronic wallet. 

He could hear Spark audibly gasp happily from beside him. 

***

“Oh my goodness, thank you!” Spark exclaimed, holding her brand new phone in her hand. She was feeding electricity in through the socket at the bottom. Vainstrel could see just how fast her phone was recharging from the charge she was sending in. 

“Lady of Lightning, is your gift something you use on the world at large or just something that you keep close to your heart?” 

“Tee hee, you can just call me Spark, Vainstrel!” 

Vainstrel paused for a moment and nodded his head. “Yes, my dear lady Spark.” 

Spark flipped her side ponytail behind her shoulder. “And to answer, I use my electricty for pretty much everyone! It’s my job, after all, to provide electricty to the surrounding towns.” 

Vainstrel’s eyebrows raised. “What a way to use the gift that has been bestowed up you! May I ask how you do it at all?” 

“Hmm…it’s pretty easy. I just make a ball of lightning and feed it into a special device that will sustain it for about a week, although some places have machine that can sustain it for three months!” 

“How magnificent!”

Spark’s eyes glittered. “It really is! You should see how beautiful these giant balls of lightning are!!!” She turned to Vainstrel, as he was guiding her down the cobblestone pathways towards the café. She balled both her fist pumping them up in the air. “And the best part is that I get to help lots of people by cutting costs! I make good money and I have a special, rare skill, so it’s so much fun. And I get to be out all day!” 

“What a wonderful time that sounds. Do you see many sights and sounds as you go about?” 

“At first, yeah, but it’s kind of boring now. It’s all the same sights. But sometimes I have interesting things happen to me…like you biting me!” 

Vainstrel put a hand over his face and blushed. “I-I do a-apologize.” 

Spark waved her hand up and down. “I already told you it’s fine, right?” 

Vainstrel nodded in response. I cannot help but be embarassed by my own lack of foresight. 

Spark tapped her cheek. “Did you say you were an actor?” 

“Yes, I did!” 

Spark tapped on her phone. From what Vainstrel could see, she was pulling up the web browser. “What show are you in? I’d love to buy some tickets?”

Vainstrel gently place a hand over her hand, lowering the phone. “Spark, you do not need to do such a thing. When my next show is ready to perform, I will personally deliver VIP tickets to you.” He glanced up into Spark’s golden-brown eyes. He could see the witch meeting his, her cheeks read. 

“Me? VIP?” 

“Yes.” 

Spark placed a hand on her cheek. “Wow, first you buy me a phone and now I’m being given VIP tickets to a show…” She tightly shut your eyes. “I almost feel inspired to do something for you!” 

“But you are, Lady Spark!” replied Vainstrel. “You are accompany to the coffee shop.” 

***

Vainstrel opened the intricately detailed door to the coffee shop he had lead them to. The inside, in contrast to the door, was actually very simple – all black and silver with lots of tables and spacing. The only thing detailed inside seemed to be the handwritten menus and signs that plastered the walls. Even the bits of color from the plants were simple. 

Vainstrel and Spark walked up to the counter. 

“Oooo!!” squealed Spark. Vainstrel looked over, seeing the spunky witch jumping up and down. Spark pointed to a menu category on the wall entitled “Hot Chocolate”. Vainstrel glanced over it and saw exactly what she was so excited about.

“They have it!” 

“Did I not inform you of such a thing, Lady Spark?” 

“You did, you did!” Spark raised her hand up in the air, prompting one of the baristas – a partially transformed werewolf with quite a few piercings and a rock star-edge – to go to the register. 

“How may I help you today?” 

“Can I get a medium spicy hot chocolate with coconut milk?” 

“Right away…and for you?” 

Vainstrel lifted up his finger. “Ah yes, my usual.” 

“Plain earl gray tea, medium?” 

“Yes.” 

The werewolf quickly moved their fingers over the cash register’s touchscreen. “Will that be all?” 

Vainstrel drew out his phone and opened up an app. From this app, he pulled up a barcode and scanned it on the scanner right in front of the register. 

The werewolf nodded. 

“That will be all,” replied Vainstrel. 

With three taps on the screen, the register dinged and Vainstrel lead Spark over to the tables. 

“Wow, you must come here a lot!” said Spark.

Vainstrel smiled as he took a seat. “And what, my dear, has prompted such a comment?” 

Spark sat down. She folded her hands and rested her chin on them. She grinned. “Because they knew your order.” 

“You are indeed right. I do come here quiet often. I do not get to drink very often in the castle that is my home, as I am not active during the times in which my parents make it.” 

“I don’t get to drink spicy hot chocolate too much either.” Spark sighed. “My siblings think I’m weird for it, so usually there’s just plain hot chocolate.” 

Vainstrel dramatically covered half of his face “How I know the feeling of such a dilemma! For my very dear older sister, Ria, hates tea. As I try to ask for her to brew, she rejects me hard and acts so cruel.” 

“Oh? You have a sister? How many other siblings do you have?” 

“Just my older sister, Ria, and her kind-hearted husband, my brother-in-law Vladimir. I am unsure on how they work together, but I suppose he is just far too kind to my wretched sister.” 

Spark giggled. “I think I know what you mean. Most of my family doesn’t really like me much.” 

Vainstrel eyes popped. Spark’s normal sparkle in her eyes seemed to die. Her gaze was downcast at the table. He immeditately grabbed Spark’s hands. “Well, I like you!” 

Spark was clearly startled. 

“Ah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you like that.” 

Spark blushed, scratching her cheek. “It’s okay. I didn’t expect you to say something like that. Thank you.” 

“ORDER 62!” 

Vainstrel lifted up his finger. “I shall be right back.” He slipped out of his seat and went to the counter. 

Vainstrel placed a hand over his heart. My, she had such a look unbefitting for someone who is full of the spark of life. Who could possible hate her? Although I suppose one could ask why my wretched sister hates me so much too..

Vainstrel grabbed the drinks and returned to his seat. 

“Why…does your sister hate you?” asked Spark, grasping a hold of her cup on both sides. 

Vainstrel paused for a moment. …I am aware she is a witch, but is she a mind-reader too? He folded his arms and sat back. “I am not too sure myself. She has wailed for days on end that I ‘stole’ from her, but I have no idea what of.” He clenched his fist. “Worse of all, she repeatedly calls me a ‘cheap. background. STANDEE’.” 

Vainstrel huffed as Spark giggled in response. “I’m a pretty well-known stage actor around here and have roles that suited me quite well. Not one since over a decade ago would qualify as such a terrible thing as a cheaply-made background prop!” 

“Where would she even get that from?” 

“I am not quite sure myself. She has never attended a single one of my stage plays. There is no way that she would have such insight into my abilities or my position!” 

Vainstrel brought the pipping hot tea to his lips and took a big gulp to calm his nerves. Just thinking about that wretched sister of mine fires me in such a destructive way. 

“And what about you, my dear Spark? You said your family does not like you very much – may I ask for the reason why? If I am not overstepping boundaries.” 

Spark slowly sipped her hot chocolate. Vainstrel watch her gaze down cast once more. Her lips were smiling, but he knew they were just full of sadness. “I don’t mind you asking,” replied Spark. Her normally cheery voice fell fairly flat. 

Vainstrel flinched. Although the thought wasn’t full formed, he couldn’t help but feel like he had made a mistake asking. 

“Hmmm…where do I start??” wondered Spark. “I guess it’s got something to do with the Grand Uncle?” 

“‘Granduncle?'” 

“Yeah. Um…hmm…” Spark took a sip of her hot chocolate. “Our family is descendend from a woman who was the child of a witch and King of the Elementals. Uuuumm…I guess…how do I explain this.” 

Vainstrel removed the cup from his lips, carefully listening to Spark. He watched her nervous taps on the side of her cup and sparks of electricty dance over her head. Despite the sadness, she looked beautiful. 

“So, the witch – who we call the Grand Mother – had a child with someone else, I think before hand?? And my ancestor cursed her half-brother so no one can talk to them?? Something like that. Well, anyway, supposedly Grand Uncle is that child…but like, I don’t know. My family doesn’t usually refer to him as ‘Grand Uncle’ either, but I think that’s weird because the Grand Mother is his mother??” 

The sparks floating around Spark’s head were getting larger and more winding. Vainstrel reached out a hand. “Spark, my dear, you are sparking.” 

Spark took a few deep breaths, placing a hand on her heart. “Phew, thanks for telling me!” She rubbed her forehead. “Who would have known what would happen if they had gotten any more intense?” 

“Would you like to continue to talk about your Grand Uncle?” 

Spark smushed her cheeks together. “I think my mind might get fried if I talk anymore.”

Vainstrel took her hand and kissed it. “Perhaps another day, when you are ready.” 

Spark shrugged and giggled awkwardly. 

Vainstrel sat back and sipped his tea. I have not a single clue in what she is speaking about. But it may perhaps be an important piece as to why Dermot has stated that her family do not like outsiders, hmmm? 

“Do you need blood in your tea?” 

Vainstrel put down his cup, cocking his head at Spark. “Could you repeat that once for me, my lady Spark?” 

“You said you need blood to live, right? Do you need blood in your tea?” 

“What a wonderful question! Yes, normally I put some in, but I did not bring any vials out with me today.” 

The next thing Vainstrel knew, Spark’s hand was hovering over his cup of tea, close to his face. “Would you like some of mine?” inquired Spark. Vainstrel couldn’t help but blush. 

Vainstrel slid back a bit in his chair, looking up at Spark. “A-are you sure?” 

“Yeah! Sure! Let me just turn down my currents.”

Again, there was her beaming, radiant smile that set Vainstrel vampire heart ablaze. 

Vainstrel gently, but firmly, grasped her wrist and her hand. “Let me know when.” 

“Hmmm. Okay! They’re turned down. You can add some to your drink now!” 

Vainstrel opened his tea with his free hand, moving the lid over enough to allow Spark’s blood to drop inside. He barred his fangs – which had grown considerably in length as he went in for her hand – and nicked her just enough to draw a bit of blood. He watched his tea stain crimson and little sparks of light dance upon its surface.

When he finished, he withdrew his fangs for the most part and licked her nicked finger with his tongue. The coppery, irony taste of her blood and the clear remnants of her electric current lit up his body, even though it was such a small, brief moment of contact and mere drops. 

He released Spark’s hand, seeing her flushed. She gently wiped her hand with a napkin. Vainstrel covered back up his tea and swirled it around. 

“Thank you, Spark.” 

“Y-you’re welcome.” 

Vainstrel watched Spark as he took a sip of his earl gray tea mixed with the blood of his lightning mistress. He wasn’t sure if she was frightened from her stuttering, but he could see her body language and facial expression told a totally different story. If Vainstrel had to guess, she was probably fidgetting her feet underneath the table from how much she seemed to be moving around. 

He could feel the dancing sparks of electricty on his tongue and down his throat. The rush of the blood mixed with tea gassed his body up like an automobile and a quick glance down at his own skin indicated the effects of drinking the blood was working: he was becoming alive. His normally his deathly white skin flushed a beautiful shade of that was closer to peach. The extra jolts from the electricty made his heart pump. 

“Whoa.” 

“Hm?” 

Spark pointed at Vainstrel’s hand. “You totally changed color!” 

Vainstrel nodded. “Yes. As I said once before – we are witch-hunting vampires. One of the gifts is a temporary restoration of life when we drink the blood of witches…such as yourself. My skin is doing nothing more than turning to its form had I ever been alive.” 

“What does that mean?” 

Vainstrel continued to sip his tea. “We are unique amongst the vampires for we can leave our very own offspring – there is no need to convert, as we can birth. Of course, that still takes a considerable amount of resources. It is not recommended except for those with such resources, like my family.” 

Spark nodded her head. “Ooooooh, so like the fact you guys run a blood bank allows you to have extra access to witches’ blood so you can actually be alive long enough to have children…right?” 

Vainstrel lit up and snapped his fingers. “That is quite right! How marverlous!” 

Spark giggled. 

“It’s quite amazing the amazing feat that my own mother managed to have both my older sister and yours truly. For most witch-hunting vampires like us are not so fortunate enough for such a feat.” 

“Wow, that seems really hard.” 

“Indeed.” 

“We don’t have anything like that – but we are born with these birthmarks.” Spark outstretched her arms. 

Vainstrel looked down, observing the markings on Spark’s arms. The black markings cuffed around her wrists and ran up her arms, creating a lightning bolt shape as it run up her arms, disappearing underneath her sleeves. Vainstrel’s eyes followed the markings through where they disappeared and soon realized something. They run over her body

Spark pointed to her eyes. “They’re all over our bodies, even my eye ‘make-up’ is a marking too.” 

Vainstrel grabbed Spark’s right arm, gently stroking the birthmarks. They were clearly no different from her skin – they were on her skin. “Do you all have the same marks of beauty?” 

Vainstrel’s eyes stayed on Spark’s markings, but could see from his perphrials, Spark was shaking her head. “No. They’re all similar, but they shape differently depending on what element we are. Kind of like how you’re a witch-hunting vampire, we’re elemental witches. We’re born with the ability of an element of some sort…well, sometimes a sub-element like me…and we all have markings that represent them on us.” 

Vainstrel, his hands still grasping Spark’s hand and his thumbs gently pressed on her wrists, looked up at Spark. His lightning queen’s face continued to look flushed and she still seemed someone fidgety. 

Most of all, she looked beautiful. 

Vainstrel slid his hands into Spark’s, grasping it lightly. Their eyes met. 

“U-um, I suppose we should finish drinking our drinks…they’re probably cold by now.” 

“Ah yes, we should.” Vainstrel let go of her hand and watched Spark sheepishly drink from her cup. 

Vainstrel continued to sip his tea. He couldn’t but watch Spark and he could see her watching him back. 

Everything about Spark was beautiful. He couldn’t even pinpoint one thing – her looks, her personality, her facial expressions. Just everything was so beautiful. And there was something more he wanted than to form a blood contract with her.

He couldn’t help but feel that way – deep from within him, rising up, was the desire to only draw blood from her. Her blood was perfectly balanced and pontent, plus the electricty…goodness, what a charge! 

But it wasn’t even just her blood.

The way she smiles true to her name and the way we get along like flow of water. He closed his eyes and slightly blushed. And how could I not forget the generaosity she offered through kindly giving me her blood today. With no hesitation. 

I MUST, thought Vainstrel. I must absolutely get a blood contract with her. There is no one else who is as perfect as Lady Spark. 

He was pretty sure it was the lighting, but Spark seemed to be glowing a bit more in his eyes. Or perhaps it was the blood in the tea restoring him to life. Either way, she seemed to be absolutely glittering. 

DING DING DING BRRRRRING 

“Ah!” exclaimed Spark. She jumped up from her seat. 

Vainstrel put down his cup, looking up at Spark. She was staring down at her brand new phone. She then glugged down her spicy hot chocolate, wiped her mouth with a napkin and put her phone back into her skirt pocket. 

She clasped her hands together. “I gotta head out to do work now! Thank you SO much for today, Vainstrel. I appreciate everything you done, from the phone to the drinks!” 

What? She is leaving! Vainstrel himself stood up and grabbed her hand. 

They both gazed into each other’s eyes long enough that time seemed to stop. 

Vainstrel could feel himself trembling inside. He was hoping she wouldn’t notice. 

“Will you be able to grace me with your prescence once more through the short electronic letters from your cellular device?” 

Spark smiled at Vainstrel in such a way he couldn’t help but start to melt. Indeed, she was glowing. “Sure.” Spark took back out her phone and after a few swipes and taps of the screen, Vainstrel heard his own phone ding. 

He let go of Spark’s hand to grasp the sides of his own phone to reply back.

He looked up, seeing Spark wave to him. “I’ll be waiting for your reply – I will see you later!” 

And then she left. 

Vainstrel felt his face completely heat up, watching her, as if in slow-mo walk out the door and disappear down the streets with only the briefest glance back at him. He looked down at the simple text message she had sent to him: “Hi Vainstrel! Thank you for everything for today!” 

He plopped down in his chair and covered his face. 

She…she replied back to my letters. I got to spend the day with her. She was not ignoring me. She was not reject me. She willing gave her blood over to me and listened to me. She understands the dramatic way in which I speak. I…I…

He lifted up his tea and chugged it down, finishing off every last drop that made its way out of the cup. He slammed the empty cup down back on the table. His face was still deeply flushed. 

…WILL get a blood contract from her. 

**END**

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[UNEDITED FIRST DRAFT] Clyde’s Typical Day (Temp. Title)

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY. YOU are the very first person to read it – I haven’t even read it in its entirety yet!

You WILL come across numerous issues including:

  • spelling mistakes;
  • grammar issues;
  • weak sentence structure;
  • repeated words;
  • unnecessary words;
  • missing words;
  • lack of details/descriptions;
  • confusing details/descriptions;

Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.

Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.

From the floor “MMMMMWWWWWWWRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR,” groaned the zombie…

…cat. 

Clyde groaned back and flipped over onto his stomach, burying his face in the pillow. He pressed the sides up towards his ears in a fatal attempt to block out the sound of the zombie cat’s cries.

MMMMMMRRRRRRRRRRRWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWRRRRRRRR,” the zombie cat on the ground once more. 

Clyde let go of the pillow and punched it, using the force to lift himself up and send a death glare at the already dead zombie cat staring up at him with a single eye. 

“You’re lucky it’s not tea time!” 

“Mmmmmrrrrrwwwwwwwrrrrrr.” 

Clyde pushed himself up to sit, his usual morning scowl firmly planted on his face as he did so. He stared at the cold cave walls for a brief moment, before reaching out to his left and grabbing the bathrobe that hung off from the headboard next to his pillow. He stood up, feeling the cool ground beneath him. He wiggled his toes as he covered his naked body with his blue robe. His body felt more grounded each each tap of his toes on the ground. 

Clyde pulled his long pink hair – almost bubble-gum pink with a tinge of silver – out from underneath the robe, allong it to drape in its full length, past his behind. He glanced at the zombie cat, who was still “mrwring” behind him. “You are one annoying cat…” he grumbled. He put his face to his palm, shaking his head. “Why did I ever take you in?” 

“Mrrwrrr?” 

“Come along now. You’re just hungry, are you not?” 

The zombie cat stared at Clyde, cocking its head. The eye that was hanging loose from its socket bounced with the slight tilt of the head. 

Clyde and the zombie cat had a stare down for a good, long moment. 

Clyde flicked his arm out towards the staircase. “You went up yourself yesterday. Why do you just stare at me like that?” 

After another good long stare, Clyde had ENOUGH. He couldn’t help but scoop the cat into his arms – tightly to his chest to prevent the wraps he had so kindly placed around it much earlier in their days of meeting – and stomped up the stairs. “There better not be a call before we’re done.” 

“Mrrrwwwrrrrr.” 

Clyde shut the basement door behind, turning the corner into the kitchen. The dull color kitchen – shades of blue-black – was accented by blue-silver appliances and furniture. The refridgerator was no exception. Clyde placed the zombie cat on the ground and opened the refridgerator door. He knelt down and peered inside, onto the second to last shelf, just above the drawers. He pulled out a slightly condensation-filled jar of rat brains. 

His eyes scanned the remaining two jars. Goodness, I have to go shopping too? Perhaps Sadia…no, I can’t deal with someone that annoying today. Perhaps Celestyn or Gork– 

SPLAT 

SQUISH

Clyde whipped his head, looking behind the his dining room table that was in the center of his kitchen. 

Attached to the head of the nail sticking out the side of the table was the wrap that had been keeping the zombie cat’s insides inside. Following it was a trail of those insides. 

“CALICOOOOOOOOOOO!” yelled Clyde. 

“Mrwrrrrrrrrrrrrr.” 

Clyde slammed the glass jar of rat brains onto the table and stomped on over to Calico. He unlatched the wraps from the nail head and grabbed Calico’s insides. 

Before Calico could run away – it had begun turning around as soon as Clyde was walking towards it – he had grabbed it and shoved it’s insides back into its partially open cavity. “You really need to stop doing that!” 

“Mrwrrrr.” 

Clyde tightly wound the cloth back onto Calico, holding the cat with one hand and wrapping with the other. Calico cried out, attempted to run away. Clyde quickly lifted him up and held the squirming zombie cat close to his chest. “Hold on a moment – I need new safety pins!” 

Clyde went over to the drawers beside the refridgerator, pulling the top drawer open. He rummaged through papers, rubber bands, scissors, and other sorts of office trinkets, but there was not a single safety pin to be found. He opened each drawer after that. Finally, the second drawer from the top, farthest from the fridge, revealed to have some safety pins. 

Clyde bent over just a bit to have a good reach inside, while still holding Calico firmly against his chest. The cat had since stopped squirming, instead staring up confused at Clyde. 

BUMP

CRACK 

Clyde pulled out the box of safety pins stashed in the back of the drawer all the while turning to the floor covered with broken glass and rat brains. 

As you can probably imagine, his frown – the one that was already on his face, intensified. He turned to the innocent stare of Calico, who continued to peer up at Clyde’s face. He rolled his eyes and placed the box of safety pins onto the table, quickly opened them and stitching Calico’s wrappings closed with them. 

He released Calico from his grasps onto the table, returning back to the drawers behind him. He shoved the safety pins back into the drawer they had been hiding in and went back to the top middle set of drawers to pull out a pair of rubber gloves. He slid them over his fingers and flexed his hand, letting the gloves settle into place. He turned to the mess on the floor and began carefully picking up the rat brains, examining each one for glass just before placing them on the table. 

“Mrwr!!!” Calico gleefully dug into the slowly forming feast of brains before it on the table. 

After each one was picked, Clyde grabbed a broom and dustpan hanging by the pantry closet and began to sweep up the glass. 

He sighed, followed by a groan, sweeping up the pieces of glass and the no-good rat brains that shards protruded from. 

***

Clyde returned back to his basement bedroom, shutting the door behind him. Not that it really was going to keep Calico out anyway – he had a pet door built right in, so it was of no use for that. It didn’t even have a way to lock it. 

Clyde returned back to his mirror taking a look at himself. He glanced at his hands both physically and in the mirror. Although they had nothing on them, the vague feeling of the zombie brains through the thick rubber gloves was enough to make him feel as if he was covered in dirt. He combined his hair with his fingers, as if trying to wipe them clean. 

“I suppose bathing is in order.” 

He stripped himself of his bathrobe and proceeded to an off-shoot room of his basement room – a full-fledged bathroom, completed with a toilet, sink, bath, and shower. It was decked out in marble and crystal, alongside many other materials. It was significantly brighter than the rest of his home, with pearl whites and faint grays. 

He turned on the shower and walked away, going to the closet that offshoot from the bathroom. The closet was divided by clothing and linens. He took a set of clothing off from the hangers and grabbed a towel, returning back to the bathroom. He draped the clothing over the counter next to the sink and hung his towel on a silver knob right beside the shower just above his head. 

Clyde entered into the shower, allowing the warmth cover his entire body. He let out a sigh and the scowl that had once covered his face no longer was there. Instead, he was clearly relaxed. What tea shall I drink today? 

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH

Clyde jumped, his hand landing on the handle of the shower. He glared out the door at the deafening screech that he knew was coming from a particular lanturn situated on his bureau. 

“I didn’t even get to have my TEA!” 

He quickly scrubbed his body and washed his hair within minutes. “Could have the decency to wait once? If it’s not before the tea, it’s just as I am about to taste it’s leafy, herby splendor!” He yanked over the shower door while turning off the water. He reached over towards the silver knob, removing his towel in one fellow swoop. He quickly patted himself dry, then proceeded to wrap it around his waist. 

Clyde rushed over to the screeching lanturn, seeing it glowing rotating colors of green and purple. “Yes, yes, I hear you! Interrupting my time once more, I hear you.” He grabbed the lantern with both hands. His eyes bore into the middle of the lantern into the ball of light of green and purple.

The light brightened, turning pure white, and appearing within it was an image. Dark and dreary trees were illuminated by the light of the full moon overhead. Ghastly beings of all kinds ran in terror as a single ghost – one with almost no form – flailed around. It bounced off the trees, hit people passing by, and honestly, to Clyde, was clearly just another headache for him to clean up. Deep from within his mind, the location emerged – Death Forest. 

Clyde rolled his eyes. “I’m supposed to meet up with Celestyn and the others at early afternoon.” He glared into the lantern’s fading light. “This had better be quick.” 

The lantern screeched, as if responding back to him. 

Except it wasn’t ’cause the lantern simply helped Clyde direct his own energy and was imbued with magic strictly to help Clyde with his job of clearing away mindless Ghopreans who had clearly lose their mind and were so far gone, there was no way to lead them back. 

Clyde lifted up the lantern, holding the base from the bottom with both his hands. He peered into it and the light that had faded began to glow once more – first white, then to that of orange fire. He held the lantern up in the air in front of him. A vortex spilled out from the top, spreading out and raining down like a fountain of pale fire over Clyde. The energy spilled onto the floor and ran deep down into the earth

After a mere few seconds and the fiery energy fading, Clyde was completed dry. He lowered the lantern and grasped the handle with one hand, returning back to the bathroom. 

He placed the lantern beside his clothes. He quickly put on each layer – his unitard and socks, followed by his white undershirt and pants, then his cropped long-sleeve top (only a smidge shorter than his undershirt) and his capri pants. 

Clyde then turned to the mirror, staring at himself. He reached to a large trinket tray beside the sink and pulled one of many clear octopus clips from it. He grabbed his hair, pulling it all to one side of his head. He wound the base just a bit to create a tight cylinder. Holding it tightly in place, he put the octopus clip on the base. He then let go of his hair, allowing it to unwind and drape down the side of his head. 

He flipped his long side ponytail behind him and gave himself a nod, just as the lantern begun to screech once more. Clyde slammed the top of it, quickly causing it to shush up. 

“I’m going, I’m going!” 

Clyde grasped its handle and waltzed right out the bathroom door. He burst out of the basement, causing Calico to give him a confused stare from its bed in the corner of the living room that occupied the other side of the staircase. 

“I’ll be back,” said Clyde. He stopped at the mat by the door to slip on his buckle shoes and then he was out the door, trudging towards Death Forest with an eye on the sky. 

*** 

Sure enough, there it was. The ghost with almost no form. It looked like a melting green orb with a face. It bounced around, hitting each gray tree, hacking away at the trunks. It’s shrieks were almost ear-drum piercing and the few people who hadn’t fleed the area was desperately trying to stop it with ineffective nets and other weapons, which it easily cut right through. 

Clyde rolled his eyes, watching the chaos in front of him. He began to walk forward into the center of the action. 

“Move it,” said Clyde, snapping his fingers. 

Immeditately, out from the the top of the lantern spurred dozens of long arms and hands, grabbing each person attempting to capture the mindless ghost. Each one was tossed aside, further back into the woods, without a single care whether or not someone would get hurt. Clyde paid no mind to the yelps and cries from the fellow ghoulish citizens. 

As the hands finished clearing everyone out of the area, a light blue, translucent force field came down from the sky, creating a dome around the are of the forest the mindless ghost bounced around. 

The hands all returned back into the lantern. The orb of light in the middle of it quickly flashed a bright indigo, before fading and changing to green. 

Clyde let go of the lantern from his hands, allowing it to float in mid-air. He used his hands to guide it to align in the center at the same height as his chest. He continued to walk forward, approaching the center of the dome. 

The mindless ghost bounced around from wall to wall, nearly hitting Clyde numerous times. Clyde, however, simply took a step aside each time. The most it ever seemed to do was ruffle his side ponytail. 

Clyde cupped his hands underneath the lantern. The green light began to whirl around like an ominous cloud of gas. It seeped out from the top and all the little nooks and crannies. The haze rose up and out from the top. It curled up like a drill and went straight ahead to the mindless ghost that wasn’t even aware of it. 

The mindless ghost rammed into the haze. Like a mouth, the haze swallowed the mindless ghost whole. The green haze retreated back quicker than it had left back into the lantern. The haze formed back into a ball, flashed white a few times, before shrinking down to a single dark indigo flame. 

The lantern fell from the air and plopped right into Clyde’s hands. The forcefield around him disappeared and surrounding him now were the people he had tossed away. 

Clyde let out a loud sigh as he grasped the handle of his lantern with his left hand. He wiped under his one eye and yawned. “No matter how many times I do this, I just cannot get used to not having my morning tea…” 

He turned around on the ball of his foot and left the Death Forest. The peopel whom he had tossed simply just stared at him and exhcanged awkward looks, not even saying a word. Although, they were definitely thinking something – something along the lines of “should we thank him or yell at him”.

*** 

Clyde turned to the sky as he approached his home. The position of the moon overhead hinted it was just mid-noon for him alright! His steps became faster as he turned his head back forward. 

“Hey, Clyde!” 

Clyde promptly ignored the zombie leaning over the stone fence that clearly had seen better days. The zombie waved to him as Clyde sped right past him and down the dusty pathway back to his home.

“Clyde! Hey! Clyyyyde!” 

Do not even say it. They must have already arrived. 

After a few more minutes of kicking up dust with his feet, his home came back into view. 

Sure enough, standing there were three fellow Ghopreans – Celestyn the ghoul/banshee, Gorkkobin the goblin, and Tarny the giant baby tarnantula. 

“CLYDE!” cheered Tarny, jumping up and down. If it hadn’t been for its tone of voice, you would not have been able to tell the giant baby tarnatula was so happy to see its friend. 

Celestyn simply raised her hand brief and smiled, while Gorkkobin snickered. 

“Nyehehehehehe, that thing got you workin’ before your tea time?” asked Gorkkobin. He slapped his knee as he cackled, prompting Clyde to leer at him. 

“They just don’t know how to respect a good old tea time, you know?” replied Clyde. He proceeded to his front door, slipping the key into its lock. He ignored Gorkkobin’s michevious cackling and pushed open the door. 

“Mrrrwwwwwrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr,” greeted Calico, staring up from right in front of the door. Clyde’s eyes followed the mouse dead in between its jaws to the trail of blood drizzled around the entrance way. The blue of Clyde’s face dropped a few shades icier. 

“CAL. I. COOOOOOO,” he growled. 

Gorkkobin gawfawed, hitting the side of Clyde’s home with his hand. 

“Oh my,” gasped Celestyn, peering into the room, right down to the trail of blood. 

Clyde whipped around to Gorkkobin, grabbing the goblin by the collar of his white tank top. If it hadn’t been for Gorkkobin’s long, french baguette-esque nose, Clyde would have drew his face close to his friend’s. However, Gorkkobin DID have a baguette-esque nose, so long and bulky, there was no way Clyde could get in close to him. Instead, he simply glared. “You knew all about this, did you not?” 

“Nyehehehehehehe.” 

Clyde scoffed and dropped Gorkkobin. “Now the tea is going to be delayed!” He placed his hand on his forehead, stepping over the mouse blood and into the household.

Gorkkobin and Celestyn followed right behind him. 

“I’ll make the tea then, nyeheh!” 

Clyde glared at him with darts. “I wouldn’t trust you within 10 feet of tea making!” 

Clyde turned on the ball of his foot and placed his free hand on his hip, looking to Gorkkobin, eying his pocket. “You most likely have some sort of practical joke just waiting to be used on us, yes?” 

Gorkkobin just gave him a toothy grin. Clyde frowned deeper. 

“Celestyn,” said Clyde, turning his head to the light-purple haired half ghoul looking around awkwardly. “Could you please start the tea for me while I clean up Calico’s unforunate mess?” 

Celestyn nodded. “Yes, right away. Was there anything in particular you were looking for today?” 

“Hmm…no. Just grab what you feel from my tea cabinet.” 

Celestyn stepped past the snickering Gorkkobin and into the kitchen. 

Just before Clyde turned, around, he called to Celestyn once more. “Make sure Gorkkobin gets no where near the tea!” 

“I got this! I got this!” exclaimed Tarny, immedtiately standing tall. Out from its front legs spat out silk that quickly covered Gorkkobin’s large feet. 

“Wah, nyeeeeeh?” 

Clyde turned around and flipped his hair, smirking at the scene unfolding behind him of an adult goblin being restrained by a young giant tarantula’s silk. 

*** 

With his lantern placed back on his bureau and cleanin supplies in hand, Clyde returned back to the entrance way to clean. 

Calico was no where to be found, but the blood of the dead mouse still remained. He filled the small bucket in his hand with warm water from the kitchen sink, getting a whiff of the tea Celestyn was brewing and the cookies that were baking in the oven. 

It’s been quite a while since we’ve had something with our tea, has it not? thought Clyde. His tense shoulders relaxed each time his inhales took in the scents of the air. 

He went back to the entrance way and scrubbed the floor clean with a large sponge as quickly and thoroughly as he could. His eyes scanned for each spot, following the trail to a small hole in the wall. He looked tapped it with his glove covered hand. Inside, he knew that this was exactly where the mouse had come in and how it became an extra meal for Calico for that day. 

Clyde took a look at his hand free hand that had just tapped the wall. Although he wasn’t thinking anything in particular, he was definitely feeling it – the inability to control his own magic without an object to direct his energy through. A slight sense of melancholy over took him. Somewhere deep within his body, he could feel that this strange inability plagued him even in his previous life, but he wasn’t quite sure what he did back then. He still didn’t and couldn’t remember the details. 

Quite the shame though – he would have loved to use magic to instantly seal the hole. But he wasn’t about to go back down to his room to grab his lantern and he didn’t trust any of the other objects in the area to direct his magic through.

A familiar screech rang through the area. Clyde stood up from the floor and turned to the kitchen. 

“Clyde, the tea is done!” called Celestyn. 

“Thank you, I’m coming!” 

Clyde walked to the kitchen and placed down the bucket and sponge into the sink. He removed his gloves and threw them into the box labeled “to compose” on it right underneath it. He washed his hands and dried them with a towel hanging beside the sink on a hook. He then turned to the kitchen table and sat down. 

Celestyn poured him a cup of tea and placed a small plate of shortbread cookies right in front of him. Clyde leaned back and sipped his tea – certainly green tea this time with a few extra herbs – feeling the warmth spread down through his esophegaos and across his chest. Soon, his whole body was warmed and relaxed. 

Clyde looked up, seeing Tarny nawing away at the silk bonds it had made around Gorkkobin, who didn’t seem to thrilled for once in his life. Clyde couldn’t help but smirk. 

After a few minutes of watching the struggle, Gorkkobin was set free and sat down in between Tarny and Celestyn. 

“Are you okay?” asked Tarny. 

Clyde tilted his head. “Are you speaking to me?” 

“Yes! You look tired.” 

“Well,” said Clyde. “I was woken up by a certain zombie cat who caused or lead to multiple messes today. I also had to deal with another mindless ghost before tea time once more.” Clyde took a sip of his tea. “I suppose you could say I am okay. And I suppose you could say I am tired.” 

“Ooo!!! Another mindless ghost?!” Tarny’s front legs pushed against the table top and Tarny’s multiple eyes gleefully stared at Clyde with anticipation. “What kind of fight did you have today?” 

Clyde found himself leaning on the table. “None.” He sipped his tea. 

“Huh? Noooone? Awww.” 

“‘Aw’ indeed…” Clyde put his tea cup down and swapped it for a cookie. He let the buttery shortbread melt in his mouth, lending sweetness that his tea lacked – the absolute perfect compliment. 

“Hmm…it sounds like they have not been fighting back much lately,” replied Celestyn. 

Clyde slammed his tea cup on the table., causing the crack in it to crack even further. He then slammed his other hand down, followed by standing up, gawking at Celestyn. “They used to put up so much of a fight when I first started, I nearly thought I’d be killed!” He sat back down once more and crossed his legs and his arms, turning his nose up towards the ceiling. “But now they are all terrible dull.” 

His friends looked at him in silence. Clyde turned back to them, rolling his eyes. He picked his tea cup up once more bringing it to his mouth. “And it’s certainly not because of anything I did. Unlike those who came before them, all the seem to do now is bounce around.” 

“Are they playing?” asked Tarny.

“Most certainly not – they’re mindless. They couldn’t have a shread of thought to play.” 

“Nyehehehe, sounds like my kind of people!” 

“They’re not people,” snapped Clyde. He lowered the tea cup from his lips, leering at the grinning Gorrkobin. “They’re merely a fraction of their former selves, left behind with no recollection of who they were.” 

“Like you?” asked Gorkkobin. Clyde did not like the smirk that was stretching across the goblin’s face.

“I at least remembered my name and that I like tea.” Clyde went back to sipping. 

Celestyn grabbed another cookie from the tray she had placed in the middle, filled with additional ones that didn’t fit on the plate distributions from earlier. Her eyes down casted. “That sounds sad. I couldn’t imagine it.” 

“You don’t want to,” replied Clyde. “They’re simply nusances.” 

“Wow, Clyde, you sound like you really hate it!” remarked Tarny. Everyone looked at Tarny – Gorkkobin snickered, Celestyn’s eyes popped and her lips flickered between a smile and a frown, while Clyde simply eyed the young tarntula. “Why do you go?” 

“It truly is an annoyance of mine. I don’t particular like it. At least before they were hostile and made it feel like a job well done, but now, their damage is so minor, I’m not even sure if it’s worth me using my magic on them.” 

Celestyn sat up and grabbed the tea. “You said that put up a fight before, but now they just bounce around. What kind of damage are they doing instead?” 

Clyde held out his cup towards Celestyn. “They used to kill people and damage properity like a hurricane. Now they chop down trees, break windows, and knock down little old men walking back from the food market.” 

“Nyehehehe, you sure it isn’t just the types dyin’ and turnin’ into the mindless beings?” 

Clyde shrugs. “I do not know. All I know is —” 

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH

Clyde slammed down his tea cup again, the cup finally shattering. Celestyn gasped, pulling the teapot close to her body. Gorkkobin and Tarny simply just stared. 

“I HATE when my tea time gets interrupted!” 

Clyde got up from his seat and rushed down to the basement, grabbing his lantern. 

“Where? WHERE?! Show me, now!” he commanded. He peered into the white light and clearly saw the image of the area. And just like before the information was downloaded into him.

Clyde quickly rushed back up the stairs. He turned to his group of friends and pointed to his lantern. “The damned mindless are at it again. Please excuse my rudeness, for I must get this solved. It should only take 20 minutes.” 

Celestyn waved. “We are fine Clyde, go do your job.” 

Clyde bowed his head and headed on out, ignoring the zombies and ghosts that were attempted to chat with him in the graveyard on his way to the place. 

***

Clyde hadn’t needed to go very far. It was only on the other side of the graveyard. 

Sure, it still took him 15 minutes (speed walking) , but it was still more or less in the area. 

Trodding around was a zombie. Well, it was mostly a zombie. 

Clyde could clearly see the zombie was only partially solid. Parts of it was fragmented – it’s normal blue magical glow was spotted with orange. Anything that had been solid within those orange spots had completely disintergrated into oblivion. It was clear it was in the midst of transforming. 

The zombie wasn’t really doing anything. Other than few fallen headstones Clyde couldn’t remember if they had been standing before or not (after all, the graveyard was in grave need of repair, yet none of the zombies or other residents even wanted to do anything. BAH.), it seemed pointless. 

Clyde stood a good few yards away, staring right at the mindless zombie. The zombie didn’t even look towards him. 

Clyde lifted up his lantern, still staring down the zombie and…nothing. 

The zozmbie just kept waddling with an occassional lunge forward. 

Anger surgered up Clyde’s back – so much so, the flicking indigo flame within his lantern turned a vibrant red. Clyde’s eyes locked onto the zombie like a video game’s targeting system. He narrowed, honing in on the zombie’s head. 

He reached out his opposite hand, aligning it with the hand that held the lantern, and snapped his fingers. “GO!” he roared. 

The red light twisted and turned, shooting out from the top. As it sped to the zombie, the red light shed itself to reveal an eerie green underlayer. The underlayer formed a hand at the very end and with one single grab, the hand yanked the zombie into it’s vortext. 

The zombie’s body folded in the middle like a book and the hand seemed to vacuum the rest of it up. 

The green light retreated back to the lantern and returned to its former shade of blue-purple.

Clyde huffed. 

Just as the numerous residents of the area of this part of the graveyard popped out from hiding – from underground, from behind and under the headstones – Clyde turned on his heel. 

He was so fast, the collective yell of a handful of the residents fell deaf to his ears. 

The last thing I want right now is bad tea! 

*** 

Clyde slammed the lantern on the bottom of drawer in the clearing he had just made. He proceeded to cover it up in numerous blankets that had once occupied the drawer. Other than the few that didn’t fit, he stuffed the drawer and slammed it shut. He made his way back up the stairs and into the kitchen, where he promptly sat back down and folded his arms. 

Celestyn walked over with a piping hot pot of tea and a new cup, placing it down and serving it to Clyde. Clyde unfolded his arms and partially refolded them as he brought the cup to his mouth. He took a sip. His tongue sung with delight at the perfectly balance between water and herbs. 

“You remade the tea?” 

“Yes,” replied Celestyn. 

Clyde couldn’t but laugh. “It’s a good thing I put you in charge.” 

“Nyehehe, you came back in quite a hurry.” 

Clyde narrowed his eyes at Gorkkobin, glancing over at Celestyn. “Please tell me you did not let him touch the tea.” 

“Of course I did not,” replied Celestyn. Her own lips curled, perfectly ghoulish. “I am certain you would have heard my banshee shriek if he had.” 

Gorkkobin flinched, sweat crossing his brow. He leaned over to Tarny, mumbling, “remind me never to cross paths with her, nyeheh!” 

Tarny’s front legs clapped the table. “What kind of ghost was it this time? What kind of ghost?!” 

Clyde frowned. 

Tarny cocked its head. 

“It wasn’t a ghost. It was a zombie in the stage of being a mindless ghost,” replied Clyde. He took a sip of his tea once more. 

“Ooo!” squealed Tarny. “And what kind of fight did it put up?!”

The cookie Clyde had picked up off the tray near him became crushed in his hands. “One of the worsts yet!” he grumbled through his teeth clenched. “The damned thing did nothing. I couldn’t even tell if the headstones that were knocked over was its doing or not!” Clyde tossed the cookie crumbs onto the tray. He then proceeded to grasp his head, shaking it. “And I thought the other ghosts were terribly inactive…” 

Tarny’s let out a disappointed sigh. “I’m sorry, Clyde.” 

“Not your fault – I just do not understand why this even happens in the first place. Surely my abilities could be part of something far more useful, like getting rid of nusances in the council.” 

“Nye..heh…getting rid of council members…” snickered Gorkkobin, with a tinge of discomfort revealing itself in his voice. 

Clyde leered at Gorrkobin, who flinched under Clyde’s single eye. “What? Do you not agree that some are nusance?” 

“Nye heh heh.” Gorkkobin nothing but grin. Clyde’s eye narrowed at his friend – clearly, Gorrkkobin was uncomfortable with such a suggestion. 

Does he know something I don’t? wondered Clyde, carefully sipping his tea. 

“Why do you two seem awkward?” asked Tarny. Clyde and Gorkkobbin’s eyes widened in surprise at the young trantula’s words. 

Celestyn immeditately jumped in and placed a hand over Tarny’s mouth from underneath his body. “Tarny, there is no need to be rude! Clyde and Gorkkobbin are just communicating the way that they do.”

“Right,” agreed Clyde and Gorkkobbin. Clyde took a sip of his tea, while Gorkkobbin bit into a cookie as if checking for the authenticity of a gold coin. The two glanced at each other as the air seemed to become more dense. 

Celestyn released Tarny, who let out an “oooooooooooooh”. The tarantula then giggled. “Wow, humanoids sure are weird!” 

Celestyn patted Tarny’s back. 

Clyde leaned back, enjoying his tea to its fullest depths. 

A faint screeching sound could be heard coming from the basement, but it was so light that Clyde could easily ignore it. For once. 

He took a big gulp of tea to drown out the sound of his lantern warning him about another mindless ghost that was probably being a minor problem somewhere out there. 

*** 

Clyde released his hair from his side pony, letting it rain down on his body once more. He then walked over to his closet and stripped off his clothes in every single layer – from the top most to his unitard, he removed them all to release his body from the hold it had on him. He place each one into its own hamper and returned back to his bathroom once more. 

He walked over to the bath and turned on the water, allowing it to run for a good minute before adjusting the water temperature that felt more friendly to his body. As the water in the bathtub ran, he stepped into his shower and brought a small stool from the corner to underneath the shower head. He turned on the shower and after a good few seconds, sat down on the stool and began to rinse himself.

He reached over to his right-hand side, grabbing a large jar filled with a sugar scrub. He removed the cap and out poured the smell of florals with a hint of citrus. He scooped his hands inside of the jar, removing a large amount of sugar. He placed the scrub jar beside him and began to exfloate his body. He made extra sure to scrub the bottoms of his feet – every part that ached the most – just before washing everything off. He replaced the cap and the jar back into their rightful positions, stood up, and shut off the shower. He patted himself down with the towel that hung beside the shower just before getting out and going back to the bath. 

Halfway full, Clyde popped open a jar full of salt, herbs, and oils and scooped out two cups full using the large wooden scoop inside of it. He sprinkled it above the surface of the water. He placed the wooden scoop back into the jar and sealed it once more. He then took his finger and dipped it inside. In the water he traced a sigil, reciting: “Water heal me, Earth ground me, Fire warm me, Air relax me, Spirit Fill Me. So mote it be!” 

The water flashed numerous colors. Clyde trembled as the magic flowed from his own being and into the water. 

His magical ability was simply far too strong without some sort of surge protector, like his lantern. In this case, the water itself acted as the perfect middleman and the tub held it all together. 

He took a handful of lavendar out from an open container beside his tub and sprinkled it inside of it. In his mind, he pictured himself relaxing. He didn’t dare do anything more than that though – if he had even remotely tried, the lavendar itself would’ve been fried…the last thing he wanted in his nice, relaxing bath! 

As the tub finished filling, Clyde made his way upstairs and into the kitchen where he had a kettle full of water sitting. He turned out the heat and waited a few moments, just to hear the kettle’s screech. He removed it from the heat and removed the top off of it, just before dipping a ball of a tea mixture into it and let it seep for a bit. 

Once the tea had seeped for long enough, Clyde transferred all of it into a large ceremic cup with a lid and a hole for drinking. He tossed the kettle into his sink – causing the sleeping Calico to wake up, shriek, and scurry – and returnd back to the basement where the bath was perfectly filled. 

Clyde stepped in, left foot first, into the water. He lowered himself in slowly and leaned back onto the specially designed pillow for his bath. He couldn’t help but feel his whole being relax. 

After a few moments of just simply being, he lifted the ceremaic cup to his lips and sipped his tea, enjoying each and every relaxing moment. 

***

Clyde was finally all dry, minus the very tips of his hair. He placed his book down on the small end table beside his couch and stood up. He walked over to his bed and placed his bathrobe back onto the rack nearby. 

He clapped his hands twice and all the lights in his home, minus the few floorlights he kept on for walking’s sake, and slipped into bed. 

He drifted off into the deep abyss that is sleep and dreamtime. 

* END * 

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[UNEDITED FIRST DRAFT] Untitled Bedelia Story 1

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ROUGH DRAFT. It is the VERY FIRST DRAFT OF THE STORY. YOU are the very first person to read it – I haven’t even read it in its entirety yet!

You WILL come across numerous issues including:

  • spelling mistakes;
  • grammar issues;
  • weak sentence structure;
  • repeated words;
  • unnecessary words;
  • missing words;
  • lack of details/descriptions;
  • confusing details/descriptions;

Critiques/criticisms, while appreciated, most likely will be discarded at this stage! Thank you.

Additional Note: Doodles, Sketches, and Artwork may be added over time. These are not the story illustrations! They do feature characters and places within the story, however.

Bedelia stood, hands folded, with bated breath. Her eyes stared at the most horrifying scene she had ever witenessed unfolding: the brand new servant boy, holding the hands of the princess – the ONLY child to the King & Queen. Not only that, the young boy proudly declared the princess to be his future wife! 

And EVEN WORSE – the Princess agreed! 

Bedelia watched Lillian, the brand new servant who brought her only son along, immeditately jump and grab the young boys shoulders, pulling him back. “I am SO sorry!” Lillian deeply bowed her head. “I apologize for my son’s rudeness…” 

Bedelia slowly let her breath escape from a small parting between her lips as she pushed up her glasses. Good. She understands her place. She turned her face torwards the King and Queen. Now, what of the boy? 

Images of a stern face king and his quiet, but equally as stern queen demanding retribution for such rudeness flashed across her mind as she turned towards the King and Queen. Her brows furrowed seeing a scene that conflicted with her own expectations. Instead of sternness, the King and Queen looked like they were about to melt.

“There is no need to apologize,” assured King Engelbert. “He’s just a child.” 

“Ooooh!” cooed Queen Pleasance. “And an adorable one at that!” 

Bedelia gawked, watching as Queen Pleasance reached over to King Engelbert, pulling him closer. The Queen, was in fact, melting. “They’re so cute,” Queen Pleasance whispered. 

Giddy?! She’s GIDDY?! 

“No, no! I am so sorry! My son shouldn’t have done that – Brent, don’t do that!” 

“But she’s going to be my wife,” replied back Brent, pointing to Princess Angelica, who seemed to swoon just as much. Princess Angelica trotted over to Brent, grabbing his hand. 

“I have a husband!” 

“Oh, Princess, I do not mean to be rude, but you don’t need to entertain my son’s –” started Lillian. 

Bedelia tightened her folded hands, turning her attention back from Brent and Princess Angelica, back to the King and Queen. She widened hr eyes at them. Do something! This peasant is being extremely rude! 

King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance appeared to not even see Bedelia’s silent begging. She followed their gaze back to Princess Angelica who began chatting up with Brent, holding his hand, and then back to them. 

“Lillian, yes?” 

“Yes, that is my name.” Lillian stood up straight. 

“Your son and our daughter seems to have taken a liking to each other,” said the King. 

Will they address the issue? Bedelia’s brow sliglhtly bent.

“Y-yes. I am so, so sorry for his rudeness.” 

“I would aruge you are being rude to us by ignoring us saying no apologies necessary.” 

Bedelia watched Lillian flinch. 

“Your son is absolutely wonderful!” commented Queen Pleasance. Bedelia watched the Queen lay her head on the King’s shoulder.

The King nodded. “We can already see how much they love each other.” 

Bedelia’s chest tightened. Do not….do not…tell me…

King Engelbert stepped off from the throne and walked over to Brent. 

Bedelia’s shoulders relaxed. Good. He’s going to put the child in his place. 

King Engelbert knelt down to Brent. “Hello, Brent. I’m King Engelbert. Welcome to castle.” He extended his hands out at Brent. 

Bedelia felt parts of her upper arms and parts of her legs began to heat up and tense up. She grasped her index finger and squeezed it, attempting to reroute the memories of pain shooting up from her skin. Put him in his place, King Engelbert. She briefly cast her gaze down. In the next moment she looked up, she saw Brent shaking the King’s hand.

“Thank you for letting my mom and me work here, King Engelbert! I love Princess Angelica!” 

“Will you protect her?” 

Brent leaned back and placed both of his hands over his heart. “Of course! I would give my life for the Princess!” 

“And will you be her friend?” 

“Yes! With all my heart!” 

King Engelbert then patted Brent’s head and turned to Lillian. “I will have Bedelia arrange playtime for the two of them.” 

Bedelia slightly stumbled backwards. No…hitting? She gasped and straightened herself up. She pushed up the rim of her glasses and nodded. “Yes, I will be able to make the arrangements.” Surely there must be a more approrpriate child for the Princess to play with. 

“We will make living arrangements for the two of you. Welcome to the castle.” 

Lillian curetsied. “Yes. Thank you for welcoming us.” 

“Brent, come on now, let’s go to the servant quarters that we were shown yesterday.”

“Okay…bye Princess Angelica!” 

“Bye, Brent!” 

She watched the two children blow kisses in the air at each other as Lillian dragged Brent out of the room. Bedelia let out a small sigh. King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance are far too kind, sparing that boy. She watched Lillian quietly nag Brent as the turned the corner out of the throneroom. At least Lillian knows her place and promptly reacted. She must not discipline her son enough if he thinks it’s okay to proopose to the Princess of Astral Isles like that. 

“Bedelia?” 

“Yes, your highness?” asked Bedelia. She stepped into the middle of the carpet, facing the King and Queen. 

Queen Pleasance pouted, leaning onto the side of her throne. “Why didn’t you tell us that she had such an adorable child?!” 

“Was it necessary for the job?” 

“Well, no…” 

“Queen Pleasance, I apologize I had not informed you more about the child.” 

King Engelbert laughed. “Now, now, it’s fine. It’s not a job requirement for a child to be ‘cute’.” 

Princess Angelica stood beside her father. “Father, when will I be able to see Brent again?” 

“Soon, dear.” 

Bedelia watched Kign Engelbert turn his attention back to her with a smile that Bedelia could only interpret as being entertained. She cocked her head. 

“You may want to take out some paper.” 

“Yes,” replied Bedelia. She whipped out a small, tattered brown notebook and a pen. She flipped open to a blank page and nodded at King Engelbert. 

“Prepare one of the connected rooms for Lillian and Brent. I do not want them sleeping in the servant quarters.” 

Huh? 

“What?” Connected rooms? 

King Engelbert folded his hands into his lap. “I would like to keep parent and child together. Set up one of the connected rooms.” 

Bedelia lifted up her finger. But they’re SERVANTS! Before she could say anything more, King Engelbert gazed at her knowingly. “We have plenty of space for it.” 

“Y-yes, your highness.” 

“Please also prepare their schedules. At least three hours of playtime with Princess Angelica.” 

Bedelia nodded, although inside she was screaming. Separate rooms from the rest of the servants? PLAYTIME? With the PRINCESS? They are far too kind. Far, far too lenient. 

“And that should be all for now.” 

“Yes, your highness.” 

Bedelia placed her notebook back in her pocket. “Anything else, your highness?” 

“No, that will be all. You are dismissed.” 

Bedelia bowed and headed off. Underneath her skin, she fumed. Her neck felt hot, as did her upper arms and various spots on her legs. Parts of her adomen seemed to pulse with pain she had long forgotten about. Why didn’t they hit him? 

She balled her fist and held her breath. She shoved the feelings down as much as she could. No, no, they’re not King Siegbert. She stopped walking, looking down at the textured carpet underneath her feet. No…even if they are not, it’s still not acceptable. She looked up to the foryer. I’m only a servant. I’m here to serve the King and Queen. My opinions do not matter. But I can still do what I can. 

***

“It has been a long time since we hired a child,” said Bedelia, handing Lillian the schedule. Her eyes observed the gracefulness that Lillian embodied. “I know that King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance, as well as Princess Angelica, have taken a strong liking to him, but please remind Brent of his place.” 

Lillian tucked her pin-straight hair behind her ear. Bedelia watched as Lillian’s black hair’s purple sheen shifted in the candlelight. What unique hair. She eyed Brent, who was playing with some wooden dolls on the ground, noticing his wavy black hair with a dark blue sheen. Both unique. 

“I do apologize for my son’s behaviour today. I did not expect him to do anything to the Princess, let alone a proposal.” 

Bedelia forced a smile. What 6 year old says such strange things? “He is a child.” 

Lillian nodded. 

Bedelia observe Lillian carefully go through the schedule, her long, slender fingers running across the dried ink. 

“You and your son shall start working next week,” explained Bedelia. “Brent will be given scrubbing duties up until 3 PM, after Princess Angelica’s lessons. From 3 PM to 6 PM, you are to take Brent and supervise their playtime.” 

“Yes.” 

“Your schedule varies from week to week, other than the 3 hour block. Brent’s schedule will not vary until he is old.” 

“Yes.” 

“Would you like some paper to mark down your schedule?” asked Bedelia, standing up. “Most servants have to check back regularly the first few weeks.” 

“No,” replied Lillian. Bedelia’s eyes followed a plum purple glow sparking from her index & middle finger and thumb. She watched Lillian tap them together a few times before touching the paper. The paper faintly glowed a plum purple and just as quickly faded. 

Bedelia jumped. Magic?! “W-what was that?” Bedelia took off her classes and wiped them with a cloth. 

Lillian gasped. “Is magic not allowed?” 

“N-no,” replied Bedelia. Magic! MAGIC! I haven’t seen anyone other than the royals and teachers use it before. And even then, it’s not used all that often. “It’s not. I apologize for my…sudden reaction. It’s not too often I see magic being used.” 

“It’s not?” asked Lillian.

How does she not…oh yes, she is not from here, is she? “You said you were from the planet, Magirery, yes?” 

“Yes, that is correct.” 

“If I am not mistaken, on Magirery. magic is a regular occurance.” 

“That would be correct.” 

Such oddity. Bedelia crinkled her nose. “While magic isn’t illegal, per se, it’s not widely used here, at least in Astral Isles. Please refrain from using it, at least in front of other servants.” 

Lillian deeply bowed. “I apologize. I was not aware.” She sat back up. “I don’t…have much access to my magic in the first place, but the bits I do have make life more convinent. I’ll make sure to conceal it.” 

Bedelia paused for a moment. ‘Conceal’? “Y-yes, very well.” 

A knock sounded on the door. Bedelia stood up and walked over to it. What now? She opened the door, seeing a servant about a decade younger than her standing there. 

“Yes, Esma?” asked Bedelia. Out with it. 

“The rooms are ready,” 

Bedelia felt herself heat up in anger once more. And once more, she stiffled it. “Thank you, Esma. You are dismissed.” 

Esma bowed her head and walked off.

“Lillian,” called Bedelia. 

“Yes?” 

“Your rooms are ready. Let me take you there.” 

“Coming!”

Bedelia closed her eyes and took a deep breath – this is the King and Queen’s orders. This is the King and Queens orders. This is the King and Queens orders…

*** 

“They’re the same age as me?!” exclaimed 8-year-old Bedelia. She pointed at the princess twins, Alida and Alina, who had just nonchalantly walked into the room up to the side of the throne. Her mother, Mona, had whispered the fact they were the same age as Bedelia, without getting to finish her sentence. 

Bedelia’s eyes glittered. I can make friends! Before she could swoon at finally being able to achieve her biggest wish of all, her eyes caught her mother’s pale face becoming even paler. “Mother?” 

A dark shadow suddenly hovered over Bedelia. She jumped back a foot, looking up. Towering over her was King Siegbert – the King who was ruling over Astral Isles when she and her mother arrived. 

Bedelia watched the king’s large hand raise high up in the air and come down, almost in slow motion, across her mother’s face. 

“Mother!” cried Bedelia, watching Mona hit the ground with a hard thud. Mona sat up, her head hanging. 

“Loose mother! What folly you have commited, allowing your child to exclaim in the presence of us!” 

“HEY!” snapped Bedelia. “DON’T HIT MY MO–” 

SLAP 

SLAM 

CRACK

Bedelia was no longer looking up at the king, but the intricately decorated ceiling of the throneroom. Her mouth tasted of copper and she felt a tooth swimming around. Her cheek was stinging so bad, half her face was numb from the pain. 

“Baadur, you were the one who hired these imbeciles, yes?” 

“…yes, your highness.” 

SHING. 

Bedelia heard Baadur gasp. Then there was a disgusting sound that was a mixture of squishing and breaking for a brief moment. Bedelia ever so slightly turned her gaze towards the lifeless head staring back at her. 

She held back her desire to vomit. Instead, she silently cried.

It’s my fault. 

*** 

Bedelia held her head, standing in the door way as Lillian and Brent explored the rooms. Her hand moved to her cheek, the same one she had gotten hit with as a child. How did I…almost forget about that? It’s rude to speak to royalty and become friendly when we’re just servants. We can’t…. Her chest tightened. A scream stared to call up from the depths of her being. ‘I do not want anyone else to get hurt! It was my fault! It was all my fault!’ 

“Ms. Bedelia?” 

Bedelia jumped. She straightened herself out. “Yes, Lillian?” 

“Are you alright? You look sick.” 

“Yes, I am fine. Just a bit tired.” 

She forced a smile upon her face. The child and his mother are cursed. “Do you have any other questions?” 

“No, I do not. But may I request an opportunity to thank the King and Queen for their generosity?” 

Bedelia nodded. “Yes, of course.” Far too generous for measly servants. “I will make…arrangements.” 

Bedelia watched Lillian curtsey, followed by calling to Brent. “Brent, thank Ms. Bedelia too.” 

Brent scurred next to his mother’s side and saluted Bedelai, just before bowing. “Thank you, Ms. Bedelia!” 

Bedelia simply bowed her head, directing her attention back to Lillian. “Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Cecily will be here tomorrow to take you around the castle.” 

“Yes.” 

With that, Bedelia turned on her heel and quietly shut the door. She walked a few feet down the hallway and stopped just before one of the lamps hanging on the wall. She held her chest and glanced around, before huffing. Her mind went back to Brent and Lillian. Lillian’s grace and Brent’s innonence just…made her blood boil. Her stomach clenched. She balled up her hand that was holding on the wall and she slightly bent. The flickering light of the lamps only amplified the intensity of her leer. 

She wasn’t even leering at anything in reality – just down the long hallway partly illuminated by the mid-afternoon sun. Instead, it was herself. As she looked down, to the ground, she could almost see herself as a child staring up and back to her. 

Her eyes narrowed. 

Had I stood here before? She asked, looking down at her child self. Tattered and ragged, bruised and cut, her child self looked up at her. The coldness in her own eyes only fueled the rage she was feeling. Her mind drifted back to Brent in comparison. His eyes were so bright and warm. Her own, just slightly older than he was, had lost its own wonder.

“Why…” escaped from her lips. 

She pulled herself up straight and grasped the fabric over her heart. King Engelbert is not King Siegbert nor is he King Wilibald, King Gerhardt or King Leberecht. He is just far too kind. He’s a romantic. His goal is for happiness and fulfillment of the kingdom, is it not? Yes…yes. There’s no need for me to get jealous over a child. Who am I to do such a thing? I’m in my in my sixties…goodness me. Am I child? 

“Bedelia?” 

Bedelia jumped. She quickly shifted over to her usual stance and turned around, seeing one of the servants standing there. “Yes, Thomas?” 

“There’s a water leak in the kitchen. There are repairers working on it, but it’s really bad…” 

Bedelia’s stomach unclenched. A smile rose to her face. “Thank you for letting me know. Let me go access the damage. Have all the works left the kitchen?” 

“Yes.” 

“Good. Please inform the King and Queen dinner will be delayed while we access the damage.” 

Thomas bowed. “Yes, right way.” 

Bedelia straighted out her top and looked over her shoulder. Her child self was gone. 

*** 

Bedelia sat at her oak desk, sorting through her reports. She lifted up a small rag from the corner of her desk, from the one almost-clear spot and wiped her glasses. She placed them back upon her nose and flipped through the various size papers. 

Every week, the servants report back to her. Not all of them, of course, but many of them report back to her in written form. She carefully read and every report that went through her desk and inside of a small notebook that she had stashed inside of a drawer, she went through and made a list of everything that needed to be addressed within each letter. 

Manure is running low once more…fertilzer needed…problems with the hose systems… she read in her head, skritching down each concern. She paused for a moment. It’s almost time to redo the gardens, yes? She glanced over at her calendar with numerous mark-ups and highlights. Yes…yes…better order extra…

skirtch skirtch

She finished reading off the note – torn at the edges and lightly dirty with dried soil that had once been wet and sat back. She reached over to her right and pressed down a stamp that had been sitting ontop of an open ink pad. She then lifted it up and stamped the letter in a bright red ink. The stamp was of a large circle with the words “DONE” written in the middle of it. Surrounding the word “DONE” was numerous decorations of vines and flowers. 

She placed the stamp back over the ink and picked up the rest of the letter. 

“Head Servan Bedelia, the King and Queen have requested your prescence.” 

Bedelia looked up, seeing a young man holding out a letter sealed with wax. Bedelia stood up and leaned over, lightly grasping the high-quality envelope. Her fingers felt the woven texture as she sat back down. “Thank you, Antonius.” 

Antonius nodded in acknowledgement and exited the room. 

Bedelia sat back in her wooden chair, neatly cushioned with red crushed velvet. She opened up the wax-sealed letter careful as not to rip it. She could feel the wax was still moderately warm – cool enough not to get on her fingers, but warm enough to tell that it was sealed not too long again. 

Head Servant Bedelia, 

We request your prescence tonight in the royal study to discuss scheduling details at 8 PM. 

Signed, 

King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance 

Bedelia nodded as she read the note. A special request? She smiled softly to herself. “I don’t get these too often.” 

She taced the letter up on the wall beside her and got back to work. 

***

Bedelia walked down the dimly lit halls and up to two large, dark wood doors. she knocked firmly. “It is Head Servant Bedelia.” 

“Yes, come in!” replied the voice of King Engelbert. 

Bedelia opened the door and stepped inside. She quietly closed the door behind her. She smoothed out her skirt and walked inside, greeting the King and Queen with the bow of her head. 

While most of the room was dark, the King and Queen were illuminated brightly by the crackling fire dancing around in the fireplace. Queen Pleasance was seated on a chair, her legs propped up with a foot rest. King Engelbert, on the other hand, had been pacing around. His faced seemed to glow just as brightly as the fireplace. 

“Thank you so much for coming, Bedelia!” 

“Of course, as it’s my job,” said Bedelia.

The King and Queen both laughed. 

Bedelia pulled out a notebook from her skirt’s pocket, along with a pen. The cover was more intact than some of the other ones she kept. This particular notebook was a dark teal color with a contrasting red strap that kept it closed. Little tabs hung out from the book, but not too many of them. Bedelia removed the strap and opened the notebook up to a blank page that had been marked by a red bookmark. “What would you like to discuss today about scheduling?” she asked, very matter-of-factly. The smile on her face was calm, although she was just brimming with delight. Oh, how I love serving the royal family. 

Bedelia watched King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance exchange looks. Bedelia could feel her own smile dropping a few notches. Her swelling chest full of delight started to sink. They seem far too giddy for an event. 

King Engelbert pressed his palms together. “We both have discussed and agreed…” 

Bedelia bit the inside of her lip. staring at the King in anticipation. Oh no. 

“We want Brent’s schedule to be reduced further,” said both King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance.

Bedelia gawked. “Wha…w-why?” 

Queen Pleasance stood up from her seat and walked over to King Engelbert, wrapping her arm around his. The dreamy, delighted smile pricked Bedelia all over. The giggle coming from the Queen’s mouth almost seemed like it was mocking Bedelia – before Bedelia could even finish such a foolish thought, she shoved it away and focused on the royals right in front of her. 

“We want Brent’s duties to be reduced to 3 hours in order to increase studies and playtime,” replied King Engelbert. The King and Queen exchanged romantic grins with each other before they looked back to Bedelia. Bedelia could feel herself tensing up in anger once more. Only a brief, quiet deep breath seemed to keep it at bay.

“You would like me to reduce is hours…?”

“Yes.” 

Bedelia folded her hands and stood up straight. “Your highness, the child has only been here for a little over two months. He is doing well enough as is, is he not?” 

“The poor child keeps falling asleep while doing schoolwork,” replied Queen Pleasance. She rested her head on King Engelbert’s arm.

“We’ve received feedback from numerous servants, including Lillian, as well as feedback from Princess Angelica and witnessing with our own eyes. Brent does an outstanding job serving as well throughout the castle, but a child ought to spend more time on play and learning.” 

Bedelia’s head briefly shook and she stared at the two wide-eyed. Learning? Learning what? “What does he need to learn?” He has all his duties down, so there’s nothing left to learn for now, is there?

Queen Pleasance cocked her head. “The same education as all the other children in the Kingdom.” 

Bedelia gasped. Yes, that’s right, they passed a law regarding education shortly after King Engelbert became king, didn’t they? Bedelia deeply bowed. “I apologize for my rudeness.” 

Clip clop clip clop 

Bedelia felt a warm hand on her shoulder. She looked up, seeing King Engelbert warmly smiling down at her. “It’s okay, Bedelia. You’ve been with us for a very long time and we don’t normally have children other than royals in the castle. It isn’t necessarily your job to remember every law we create.” 

Bedelia touched his hand. “Thank you so much for your grace, your highness.” 

King Engelbert nodded. 

Bedelia lifted up her notebook as King Engelbert removed his hand from her shoulder. “You would like Brent’s schedule to be reduced to 3-hours, correct?” 

“Yes.” 

“Should I keep playtime as is?” 

King Engelbert glanced at Pleasance. “Keep playtime with Princess Angelica the same, but allow him time to play and explore for himself…so perhaps another 3-hours.” 

“Alright. And what should I increase his lessons to?”

“Make it 6-hours for now.” 

“Would you like me to make arrangements with Ms. Hendry for extended tutoring hours?” 

“No.” 

Bedelia drew back her head in shock. 

‘We would like you to arrange Taliesin to take over his lessons.” 

The teacher of THE ROYALS?! 

“W-when would you like Taliesin teach Brent?” asked Bedelia. She could feel herself starting to shake. Don’t tell me.

King Engelbert’s smile grew. Bedelia could see love and delight radiating from it. For her, however, it seemed to yank her gut down.

“At the same time as Angelica,” responded King Engelbert. 

SHATTER

Bedelia mantained her smile. Inside, anger started to seep through the cracks in her calm demenor. “Will that be all?” she asked, listening to her voice crack ever so slightly. 

“No, that will be all.” 

Bedelia bowed. “I will make the arrangements right away.” She scribbled down the notes, put a tab on the page, and turned towards the door. 

She quickly opened the door. Within the door way, her hand still on the knob, she wished the King and Queen good night and shut it as quietly as her body would allow…which was a quiet slam. 

She walked at top speed down the hallway and back to her own study, where she collapsed on a couch by the window. She looked out into the moonlit night and the illuminated star grass – grass with bioluminense that looked like the stars were being reflect on the Earth (the very reason why Astral Isles has its name). She pulled the notebook out of her pocket and briefly glanced over the notes she had taken. 

How improper of me…I was quite rude to the King and Queen…

She gently tossed the notebook off to the free seat beside her and sighed. How I wish I could scream. She swallowed, tasting complete bitterness. How dare a SERVANT child learn! Learn with the Princess! And the royal teacher! She pressed her fingers to her forehead. I agree that children ought to have a proper education, but is it really necessary to have the royal teacher teach a child who is just going to serve all his life. Goodness me, I know that King Engelbert married a peasant woman, but he was third in line…is he so much of a romantic that he is truly entertaining the idea of his only daughter, his only heir to the throne, marrying a SERVANT? 

She glared at the notebook. And he’s going to be learning with the royal family’s teacher. 

A thought bubbled to the surface from the depths of her body and into her head: “You don’t need an education. You’re just a servant.” 

***

Young Bedelia, 14-years-old, was in charge of cleaning the royal library that day. She carefully dusted each and every book on the shelves, plus washed each and every bookcase in the whole room. She celaned th efloors, the desks, the lamps – literally everything – until there was nothing left. The room seemed to be shining and new again thanks to her thorough cleaning. Her chest welled up in pride, but she just as quickly stuffed it back down. This is just my job, I have nothing to be proud about

Bedelia turned to the very first bookshelf in the room – the one staring right at you when you walk through the door – and pulled off the top most book. She laid it on a desk and flipped through each page carefully one-by-one, remove little bits of dusty and crumbs and unfolding pages that were bent dog-eared. Her fingers brushed over every paragraph on the page. She could feel the slightly raised print of every paragraph on the page tickling her fingertips. She smiled at the pleasant sensation, but her shoulders revealed another emotion: sadness. I wonder what this all says…

Click

Bedelia jumped looking over her shoulder, seeing Princess Johanne struting into the library. Bedelia quickly stood up straight and curtsied. “Good day, Princess Johanne.” 

Princess Johanne returned an obligated smile. “Good afternoon.” 

“Is there anything I can help you with?” 

“Yes, I am looking for ––” Princess Johanne started, just before walking over to the book Bedelia was in the midst of cleaning out. She lifted it up and looked at the cover. “Oh, yes! This is exactly what I was looking for.” 

“I was in the middle of cleaning out the book,” stated Bedelia. watching Princess Johanne flip through it. 

“’tis fine – I am just here to look up a paragraph for study.” 

Bedelia watched Princess Johanne sit down in the chair at the study desk, going to the beginning of books to a list of spaced out words and numbers. Princess Johanne then flipped to the back of the book and started going through numerous pages of smaller font with words and numbers mixed together. 

“What are those?” asked Bedelia. 

Princess Johanne jerked her head, then laughed. “You don’t need to know.” 

Bedelia’s stomach tensed up. She immeditately hung her head. “I apologize for my rudeness. My curiousity got the better of me.” 

“You are fine,” replied Princess Johanne, flipping the book to another page. “I won’t tell my father.” She then rolled her eyes. “His punishments are too severe anyway. I’m waiting for Willibald to ascend the throne.” 

Bedelia curled her lips inward, looking at the book with curiousity. She inched in slightly closer to Princess Johanne. “If it is okay with you, may I asked what the words say?” 

Princess Johanne laughed again. “You are a curious one, aren’t you? What is your name again?” 

“B-Bedelia.” 

“Bedelia, I appreciate your curiousity, but it’s not welcome here.” 

Bedelia cast her gaze downward. “I apologize, I was out of line.” 

“As I keep saying, you are fine. You are keeping me entertained.” Princess Johanne pulled out a notebook and began to copy down some notes. “The homework this time around is rather dull and I would rather not do it, but you know – politics!” 

Bedelia nodded. She watched Princess Johanne pull over an ink bottle and a pen and she began to write. Bedelia’s heart fluttered at the beautiful calligraphy that was being painted onto the pages of the notebook the Princess was using. A quiet, but audible gasp escaped her mouth.

“Is there something wrong?” inquired Princess Johanne.

“No, your highness,” replied Bedelia. “It’s just that your handwriting is most beautiful.” 

“Did you never learn how to write?” 

“No, your highness. Never. I never learned how to read either.” Bedelia frowned. “I would love to learn though, if given the chance.” 

The next giggled from the Princess cut into Bedelia’s skin unlike the previous ones before. Her stomach nodded. Princess Johanne replaced the pen into the ink jar for a brief moment and turned to Bedelia. “You don’t need an educationt,” she said. “You’re just a servant.” 

Bedelia felt as if King Siegbert slapped her again like the first day she had arrived. Her hands jerked to touch her face, but she held them back – she wasn’t actually slapped, not physically, at least. 

The Princess turned back to her notebook to write. “I, on the other hand, have a duty to become educated – must be perfect, you know? Whether to prevent my future husband from embarassment or ascend the throne if none of my siblings before me bear heirs before they pass.” She began to skritch in her notebook.

Bedelia’s eyes glossed over. “Do you need anything, Princess Johanne?” 

“Just for you to clean up the crumbs.” 

Bedelia nodded her head. “Yes, right away” and began cleaning. 

*** 

Bedelia’s face was stained with tears. If anyone heard her, they were certainly being quiet about it. Her heart – no, her whole chest – felt like it was in pieces. Her shoulders jerked and she sniffled, muffling her sounds with her pillow. I want to learn…why can’t I have an education as a servant? Is the only reason I exist is to work and do nothing else? 

She slightly moved the pillow to glance over at her mother, a woman she hadn’t talked to for almost as long as she had been in the castle. Is it such a terrible thing that I desire more than this? she asked herself. 

Unable to sleep and wanting to cry even louder, she got up from her bed and through on her day clothes. She placed her coin pouch into her belt and wiped her tears with her sleeves. She made her way quietly out of the room and down the corridors, out to one of the many doors to the castle yards.

She walked out into the partially moonlit night and walked down the long cobble walkway towards the gates. She waved to one of the guards who waved back at her and within a few minutes, the gate had opened and she walked out beyond it. 

She ventured past the lantern-illuminated, treelined streets leading to the castle and went down into the village. It was relatively quiet, but she could hear the faint sounds of insturments being played from one of the many pubs in the village.

She took in the damp air and spread out her arms. Maybe I can just run away, she thought. She saw herself in her mind, leaving Astral Isles and going across the water, into another land. Something, however, kept her wanting to turn back to the castle. I…I don’t know much else, do I? 

She stopped in front of an illuminated pub and collapsed on one of the benches, hiding her eyes that were filling with tears once again. “What am I doing?” she whispered. I can’t run away…what if he kills mother? Bedelia paused for a moment. Is that woman even ‘mother’ anymore? 

“Hey, girlie, why you so sad?” 

Bedelia looked up, seeing a middle-aged man – clearly drunk – looking down at her. He was squinting his eyes at her. Who…? Bedelia squinted back at him, notiicng his face.

“Ah! I know you!” said the man. He sat down on the bench next to her. “You’re that, uh, girl, Bedelia!” 

Bedelia froze and backed slightly away from the strench of alcohol. “Y-yes?” 

The man snapped his fingers. “You’re one of the servants in the castle! I’m one of the gardners!” 

Bedelia breathed a sigh of relief. 

“Whatcha doin’ out here?” asked the man. 

Bedelia shurgged. “Nothing…” 

“Doesn’t look like nothing!” 

“Bernard!” came a voice. Bedelia and the man looked up and over, seeing a thinner, younger man peering out from the pub. The young man had a scowl on his face. Bedelia turned to see Bernard giving him a loving, but goofy smile

Bernard, the middle-aged gardner, waved and began to point at Bedelia. “Hey, hey, Henry! Look! It’s Bedelia.” 

Henry looked surprised. Bedelia watched him hop over the pub steps and peer into her face. “Well, look at that, it is!” 

Bedelia could feel her face starting to blush. Why do they both know my name? 

Henry frown. “Are you alright? You look like you’ve been crying.” He then galred over at Bernard. “What did he do to you?!”

Bedelia waved her hand. “H-he didn’t do anything. he was just asking why I was so sad.” 

Henry sat down beside Bedelia on the other side. Bedelia leaned slightly closer to Henry, who seemed to be free from the stench of alcohol. “What happened tonight?” 

“Huh?” 

“I sometimes see you wandering around here, but not usually crying. Did something happen while you were exploring?” 

Bedelia shook her head. 

“Then what?” 

Bedelia kept her mouth shut. I really don’t want to tell anyone. 

“If someone hurt you, I’ll beat ’em up!” announced Bernard. He stood up quickly, nearly falling over. He swung his fist forward and began to punch the air repeatedly. “I’ll beat ’em up! Makin’ anyone cry for no good reason….”

Bedelia looked between Henry and Bernard. Henry was rolling his eyes. “Ignore him. Unless you want him to get beat up.” 

Bedelia giggled.

“There’s a smile!” Henry pointed out. 

Bedelia nodded and sat back. The brokenness she was feeling seemed to slowly float away, but she was definitely still left with such heaviness that was almost comparable to the time she got Baadur killed simply because he hired her and her mother, 

“So, what would the Great Bedelia like to drink tonight?” 

Bedelia tilted her head, looking at Henry. Not alcohol. 

“Non-alcoholic, of course,” he replied. 

Bedelia pasued for a moment. Wait…“did you just call me ‘great Bedelia’?” 

“Yeah!” 

Bedelia looked at him confused.

Henry light punched her arm. “Oh, come on, like you don’t know your nickname.” 

Bedelia slowly shook her head. I have a nickname? 

“The Great Bedelia, Cleaner Extradoniare! The most resilient servant of them all!” 

Bedelia gawked. “I…I am…what?” 

Henry nodded and folded his arms. “You win for the most abused servant who comes back stronger than ever. Even your abusers are impressed. You should just hear the Head Servant!” Henry held out his hand into the air in front of his face and began to flick it open and close with every word he spoke. “‘Bedelia – that girl just keeps getting better and better and brighter and brighter.'” 

“From what I hear, you’re the most resilent, he’s ever witnessed over the past few decades.”

Bedelia blushed. “There’s no way…” 

“You’re really well known.” 

“But Princess Johanne didn’t even know my name.” 

Henry raised an eyebrow. “Oooh, you got to talk to the elusive Princess Johanne?” 

“Yes, she came into the library while I was cleaning.” 

Bedelia could feel her face heating up more, with Henry’s eyes boring into them. She felt herself to shiver in embarassment. “W-what?” 

“Did…the Princess say something to you?” 

All of a sudden, tears burst forth from her eyes once more. No, no! Don’t cry now! Her shoulders trembled and her voice crackled with wailing. She clasped her skirt tightly between her fingers to try and negate the pain that was coming up.

“HENRY! WHAT DID YOU DO?! I’m gonna beat you ––” 

“Bernard, no, wait! I think it was Princess Johanne!” 

“Princess Johanne?” Bernard looked down at his balled fist. He frowned. “I can’t hit the princess. I don’t wanna get killed.” He began to sulk. 

Henry placed his hands on Bedelia’s shoulders. Bedelia covered her face with her hands. “What did she say to you?” 

Bedelia bit her lip and shook her head. “I-I c-can’t say it. I-I can’t!” 

“Was it a secret?” 

“N-no.” 

Bedelia pulled her hands over her face, dragging her tears along with them. She looked into Henry’s calm brown eyes and took in a deep breath. She then exhaled. She took in one more breath and said: “She told me I don’t need an education because I’m a servant.” 

Bernard and Henry went silent. Bedelia casted her gaze down towards the cobblestone and looked away in shame. 

*** 

Bedelia pulled a cloth from her skirt, removed her glasses, and wiped the tears that had started raining down her face. “I…I had forgotten about that.” She picked up the teal-colored notebook from beside her and lifted it up, looking at her own scribbles of writing. 

Henry ended up finding me a tutor that I could meet at night who taught me to read and write and I took advantage of the castle’s library to educate myself in other subjects. She closed the notebook and stood back up, softly smiling to herself. In the end, the education I received lead me to be where I am right now – the Head Servant. She looked forward to her oak desk, covered in papers. 

She walked over to it, carefully touching the desk with the tips of her fingers. She chuckled to herself. “How could I forget my own rebellion helped me get to where I am today?” She placed the notebook onto the desk.

“Perhaps the best thing for Brent would be the education…who knows, perhaps he could be the next head servant?” 

Although a smile was on her face, her heart ached even at that thought. Her stomach twisted. When she looked over into the dark corner of the room, she could see herself as a child once more, staring at her with cold eyes. 

She flicked her wrist as if she was flicking off water. 

What is with me? Feeling jealous a child? I’m beyond that, am I not? 

***

Bedelia carefully checked over the work of the servant walking two feet behind her. She dragged her finger periodically against each nook and cranny. She looked down at it and rubbed it on her thumb. Good, she thought. She turned the corner and checked the parameter of the wall. Her eyes looked up and over the window frame. 

Did they get it up here? Bedelia turned to the younger person behind her. She jestered at the step stool sitting folded beside the door. “Please.” 

The servant nodded. “Right away. Ms. Bedelia!” 

Bedelia folded her hands and watched the servant awkwardly scurry over the wooden step stool, bringing it over besides the window. The servant unfolded it and locked all of its pieces into place. Bedelia nodded at the servant in thanks. 

She slightly lifted up her skirt, just above her ankles, and stepped up onto the step stool. She very carefully traced the top of the window frame. She drew back her finger, feeling it just a smidge drier than it should be. Bedelia cracked a smile. She glanced over her shoulder at the servant, who stood rigidly in place. “Lilac?”

“Y-yes, Ms. Bedelia?” 

“You were almost perfect.” Bedelia looked at her fingers, seeing specks of dust. “I am aware of how difficult it is to get to these spots. May I ask what tools you used to clean this window?” 

“Y-yes, r-right away!” 

Bedelia nodded. She watched Lilac step out of the room. She turned back to the window frame and continued to trace down it. It really is almost perfect. Was this carelessness or improper use of equipment? 

Bedelia stepped down from the stool. She bent at her knees and folded the stool back up. She grabbed it with both her hands and stood straight back up. 

And then her eyes locked to two giggling figures playing away in the garden, holding hands. 

The sight was like a large knife being dragged quickly down her chest. Her muscles tightened and her eyes narrowed.

“I-I g-got the supplies, M-Ms. Bedelia.” 

Bedelia shoved the stool into Lilac’s chest, who could barely grasp it with their arms. She didn’t even look at Lilac – her eyes were too occupied at the giggling children outside the window. “Stay here and do not move – I will be back within 20 minutes.” 

She barely heard Lilac respond “okay” as she rushed from the room and down the corridors. 

She made her way down flights of stairs. She could vaguely hear people’s voices directed at her, but she didn’t hear a word they said – it didn’t matter. There was a far more pressing matter to attend to! 

She finally hit the ground floor and cut through the kitchen, shoving each and every person occupying the space out of the way. She left through the side door and followed the long, outdoor patio hallway into the central courtyard where the largest garden in the whole castle was located. 

She trudged past the vibrant green bushes and the fruity colored flowers towards the giggles and delighted chatter. She turned the corner and walked into a wider clearing in the middle of the garden, where she saw Lillian sitting straight up in a chair, carefully observing Brent and Princess Angelica, who were sitting down next to each other, holding hands and sharing tea. 

“Lillian!” snapped Bedelia. 

Lillian immeditately stood up and she curtesied. “Good day, Head Servant Bedelia.” 

Bedelia’s eyes locked into Lillian’s. Inside of Lillian’s deep purple eyes seemed to be a layer of nervousness combined with the unnatural elegance Bedelia still could not lay her finger on. Bedelia glanced over at the children, who were staring at the both of them. 

Bedelia could feel her rage expand and just as quickly lose all momentum. She glanced over her shoulder and gestured to Lillian. “Come around the corner – I must talk to you at once.” 

Lillian nodded. Bedelia walked around the corner, feeling Lillian closesly behind. 

Just around the corner and out of sight of the children, but still at an angle where Bedelia and Lillian could watch them themselves, Rage returned to her body once more. She briefly wondered if her face was red with the amount of heat it was producing. “I thought I told you not to let Brent get too close to the Princess!” 

Lillian flinched. “Yes.” 

“Then what. is. THIS,” hissed Bedelia. They are FAR too close. “They are holding hands. They are leaning in on each other. They are GIGGLING! What part of this do you think is acceptable?!” 

Bedelia watched Lillian lower her head slightly, however, she could see the rest of her body remained perfectly calm. Bedelia put her hands on her hips. “Do you think this is a joke? This behavior is completely unacceptable! They are meant to be playing, as in a form of exercise, not having a date!” 

Bedelia watched a flame flicker in Lillian’s eyes. Bedelia leered. 

Lillian lifted her head and raised her hand. 

“What?” spat Bedelia. “What is it?” 

Lillian flinched once more. 

“I had been following your orders exactly as you had requested them. However…” 

Bedelia’s stomach dropped.

“…the King and Queen ordered that I allow the children to do as they please, including holding hands and leaning on each other.” 

Bedelia’s face completely drained of color. 

“The only thing they requested is that they do not kiss or consumate.” 

***

Bedelia burst into the King and Queen’s study, her face changing from almost green to a bright red. Her jaw was clenched and se couldn’t help but sared intensely at the king and queen, who had looked at the door suddenly, clearly startled. Bedelia watched King Engelbert stand up from his chair, facing her with a sternness that reminded her of his grandfather, King Siegbert. Something akin to an electric jolt ran its way down the left side of her back, snaking its way down just short of her leg. 

Bedelia was brought back to the reality of her own actions. She curtsied. “I apologize, your highness for my rudeness, but I really must discuss this issue with the both of you! You surely will agree that it is most urgent!” 

“What may it be, Bedelia?” asked King Engelbert. 

Bedelia watched the king’s face relax. All traces of King Siegbert were instantly wiped away. Her shoulders dropped. I am not talking to King Siegbert. 

Bedelia lightly held her hands together. She lifted her sternum and her chin, looking at the king with her own brand of sternness. “I was doing my cleaning checks when I witnessed Princess Angelica and that servant boy playing in the garden in a way most unacceptable! They were loud and giggling.” 

Bedelia paused for a moment as a chuckle came from the King and Queen themselves. King Engelbert and Queen Pleasance both smiled. King Engelbert extended out his hand. “Bedelia, they are children. It is expected that they are loud and that their playing will produce giggles full of joy.” 

Bedelia’s lips pursed a bit more. “They were holding hands!” 

Queen Pleasance placed her cheek on her hand. “We are both aware they do that,” she sighed. Bedelia could feel a pinch in her upper gut. 

Did she romantically sigh? Goodness, goodness me…

“And they were leaning against each other,” stated Bedelia. 

The King and Queen exchanged glances. King Engelbert took a step forward, entering into Bedelia’s space. “Bedelia, I appreciate your concern,” he said. “However, we have already informed Lillian that these behaviors were perfectly acceptable. It was a decision that Queen Pleasance and I have made jointly for the continued well-being of our only daughter and for the only young child in the castle.” 

Bedelia lowered her head, keeping her eyes locked onto King Engelbert’s. “I am aware that you are both supportive of the development of their relationship. I am highly concerned about the servant boy’s behavior towards the princess – it may seem innocent and harmless right now, but what about when they are older? What about when the Princess reaches the age of marriage? They are servant and master – not friends! If the boy does not know his boundaries now, how will he know them later? How will the princess be able to separate herself from him when the time comes when she needs to do that?” 

Queen Pleasance appeared out from behind King Engelbert, wrapping her arm around his. “Bedelia, thank you so much for your ongoing concern – however, the behavior is quite alright by us.” 

King Engelbert placed his hand over Queen Pleasance’s hand. Bedelia looked at the warm, loving exchanges in their eyes. Her heart, on the other hand, felt like it was being crushed under a bolder. “We have no intention of separating them, even as they age.” 

Bedelia shifted her hands to clasp them tightly together. If her fingernails had been long enough, she would have dug them into her skin. 

King Engelbert softly smiled at Bedelia. “Once again, thank you very much for your concern. However, this is perfectly acceptable behavior. They are not allowed to kiss nor consumate – everything else is fine.” 

Bedelia’s eyes widened and glazed over.

“You may return back to your duties.” 

Bedelia took in a deep breath and gave him a nod. She curtsied. “Yes, right away, your highness.” 

She turned around and walked out the large doors, shutting them behind her with both hands. 

Her throat seemed to ball up in her neck. ‘Acceptable’? What about their actions are ACCEPTABLE! I am so very frightened that the boy will cross boundaries in ways that are irreiverable! 

She let her arms fall to her sides, off from the door handles. Her bottom lip quivered. I do not understand why they let them be so close – yes, they are children and I am aware the kingdom’s outlooks have changed, However, has it really changed so much so that a servant and a princess can be friends? That they can fall in love without any serious repercussions? 

She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath through her nose. No… she thought. The King and Queen are simply far too soft, far too lenient. Is it because King Engelbert married purely out of love, rather than duty? Or is it simply because they have only succeeded with bringing a single child into this world? 

She exhaled, bringing her hand to her heart. Water slowly dripped from her eyes and glided down her cheek and dripped onto the floor in spots you could barely see. Lady Johanne…

*** 

Bedelia excitedly made her way to library once more for clean up duty. Hanging over her shoulder was the bag of cleaning supplies and behind her was the trash cart, which she dragged quickly down the hallway. She slipped into the library when dawn was barely peeking through the top-most windows of the room. She lit the gaslights next to the entrance way and pulled the trash cart further inside, placing it beside a desk. 

She made her way around the library, turning on each and every gaslight there was that wasn’t hooked up to the few study desks that had them (most of them had candles instead). She soon returned back to the trash cart and clapped her hands together. A large grin spread across her face and her eyes lit up brighter than any of the gaslights flickering away. No one should come in this early. 

She whipped out her duster as if it was a sword and got to work, carefully, but quickly working her way around the room. Her eyes honed in on each speck of dust they could spot and each rub she did, the more vibrant the bookshelves and the books themselves seemed to come. She read each and every one of the spines at a glance – her heart swelled with pride. It may have taken her almost two years, but she could read. 

She could read with ease. 

And she could read complicated things. And understand them. 

She whipped out an even smaller duster and scrubbed in between everything and the normally hard-to-reach corners. She blinked hard with delight, fully smiling at the tiny duster. Who would have thought a book would have directions for such a wonderful tool? She kept going down the shelves, all the way to the floor. 

The room was soon flooded with sunlight from the dawn and just as fast, Bedelia had finished with the dusting. She grabbed went to grab the broom and dustpan from the trash cart, only to hear the sounds of ever-elegant footsteps step through the doorway. She turned her head, her face lighting up. 

She curtesied. “Good morning, Princess Johanne.” 

Princess Johanne seemed to light up just as much as Bedelia. “Good morning, Bedelia.” 

“I apologize for the —” 

Princess Johanne lifted her hand up. “No need. I catch you more often than not cleaning – you do not need to apologize.” 

Bedelia bowed her head. “Yes.” 

Bedelia watched Princess Johanne place her hand underneath her chin. The fingers slightly bent except for the index finger, her limp wrist, the way her right elbow rest ontop of her left hand, and even the crossing of her legs…there was a certain alluring air Bedelia struggled to put into adequate wording. Her mouth couldn’t produce anything more than a quite exhale as she stood mesmerised by the Princess. 

“I’m here for just another book today – do you suppose you can help me get it down?” 

“Absolutely. Will I be needing the ladder?” asked Bedelia, beginning to walk over to the book ladder hanging off the wall. 

“Mmhmm!” 

Bedelia grabbed the ladder with a bit of a skip in her step. “What book?” she asked. 

Archedukes of the Valley. Some stuff old book we must read, as always. It’s on the top shelf, near…” 

Archedukes of the Valley by Simon Cheshire! Oh goodness me, that was such an interesting read! Who would have known how many archdukes from beyond the isles influenced Astral Isles so much? Bedelia laid the ladder against a bookshelf nearby a large oak desk where the royal teacher would often lecture in front of. She climbed up it and after a brief scan of her eyes, she picked up the book. 

Bedelia turned to Princess Johanne with a large smile. “Archdukes of the Valley: the Outside Influences that Shaped Astral Isles by Simon Cheshire!” 

Then she froze. 

The princess was staring at her funny. Bedelia maintained the smile on her face, even though her heart began to beat so hard, she felt like it was about to hurt her. Did I do…something wrong? 

“…I thought you couldn’t read?” 

Bedelia’s eyebrows raised and her smile disappeared. Her eyes shifted around nervously. Her body tensed up. Oh no. I didn’t when she spoke to me the first time….

Bedelia slowly climbed down from the ladder with the book underneath her arm. She hung her head. How I wish I had bangs to hide my embarassment…please, please, do not get me in trouble…

Bedelia extended the book out with both arms to the princess. She bowed her head. “Here you are, Princess Joanne – the book you requested.” 

Bedelia stood there, bowing her head, her arms extended with this heavy book in front of her and waited. And waited. And waited. Even though she waited, nothing seemed to move. Her arms were istarting to get sore in that position! I must have done something wrong…. “Please forgive me, your highness.” 

Bedelia felt the book and her arms being pushed back into her chest. A pair of cool hands with long nails meticilliously manicured and painted grabbed her cheeks. Bedelia hugged the book to her chest as she shivered, her eyes meeting Princess Johanne’s. She doesn’t look mad. She felt the tips of Princess Johanne’s long, pointed fingernails brush against her bottom lip. To Bedelia, Johanne’s eyes looked like a gemstone polished by the Gods. 

“Bedelia, dear, you didn’t do anything wrong,” assured Princess Johanne. Her eyes lowered into a curious leer. “Now tell me…” she said in a breathy whisper. “are you able to read?” 

Bedelia blushed. Her head wanted to turn to tear her gaze away from Princess Johanne’s eyes – but she could not with the princess’s hands caressing her face. “Y-yes, your highness.” 

Princess Johanne’s hands moved from Bedelia’s face and onto the dark green, fabric-covered book with gold lettering. Bedelia could hear the sounds of the princess’s nails lightly clacking against the book. Soon. she felt the weight lift off her arms and chest and finally noticed her mouth was gapping. The princess’s smile seemed to be on the verge of a giggle. 

“How did you learn?” inquired Princess Johanne. 

Bedelia flinched briefly before standing up straight. “I had lessons after work was over for the day.” 

“‘Had’? You are no longer taking them?” 

Bedelia shook her head. “No, your highness.” 

Bedelia watched Princess Johanne look down at the book and run her fingers over the cover. “Have you read this before?” 

Bedelia hung her head. “…yes.” 

There was a brief moment of silence before Princess Johanne’s voice cut through: “Good! You can help me with my studies in the future then.” 

Bedelia cocked her head. “Huh?” 

Princess Johanne stepped into Bedelia’s space once more, looking at her in the eye. Bedelia took half a step back. 

‘You know,” said Princess Johanne. “I never thought a servant needed to read.” 

Bedelia’s stomach flipped.

“But just knowing you have read something like this —” Princess Johanne held up the book just below her chin. “— I am starting to believe I am wrong about that.” 

Wrong? Bedelia placed a hand over her heart. There is no way Princess Johanne could be wrong…

Princess Johanne turned around. Bedelia watched the shifting of the princess’s long hair as her head lifted. “Oh yes…thank you for grabbing the book.” 

Bedelia’s lips cracked a small smile. 

Princess Johanne looked over her shoulder. “It’s almost a shame you are cleaning at the moment. I would have had you help me otherwise.” 

Bedelia gasped and looked at the bag still hanging across her body, then over to the trash cart with the broom and dustpan. 

*** 

Bedelia found herself summoned later that night by the Head Servant that night. Her body trembled and her breaths were short. It’s not time for schedule changes yet, is it? Her eyes whirled around. She pressed her palms against her forehead and threw her head back, feeling the sticky sweat the covered it. Her throat seemed to be swelling with each step she took.

She turned the corridor and walked straight to the end of the hall. There stood two fairly large doors in a dark wood. She grasped the handles and pulled them open, hoping her own nervousness wasn’t going to tear them off the door itself. (Even if that was probably impossible for her.) 

Bedelia entered into the room as quietly as her body could muster and shut the door behind her. Her eyes glanced up at the man standing in front of the fireplace, only for her to lower them back to the ground a second later. 

The man turned to her. “Ah, Bedelia. As expected, you’ve finished your duties in a timely manner.” 

Bedelia curtesied. “Y-yes, Head Servant Roldan. Y-you r-requested me?” Be still, my trembling voice! 

Roldan turned away from the fireplace and walked over to his desk. He lifted up a piece of paper and tapped it with the back of his hand. “It seems you’ve earned favour with the elusive Princess.” 

…Princess Johanne? 

Bedelia folded her hands and stood up straight. I’m not in trouble? 

Roldan laughed. “I’m not going to hit you this time. You haven’t done anything wrong.” 

Bedelia fllinched as soon as her ears heard “hit” leave Roldan’s mouth. Her stomach tightened and the places where her bruises had long since disappeared heated up. Her heart went to scream, but her lips kept it sealed. Instead, Bedelia simply nodded her head into the silence. 

Roldan walked up to Bedelia and handed her the letter. Bedelia face scrunched, unsure what she was looking at. Her eyes gave a quick glance over the letter. Head Servant Roldan….Bedelia has been pleasant to interact with…smart servant…request to serve me exclusively….Princess Johanne of Astral Isles…

Bedelia’s head slightly cocked. Her eyes re-read the words: ‘request to serve me exclusively’.

Request…to…serve her…exclusively? Bedelia’s eyes slowly began to widen and her head straightened. Bedelia opened her mouth to speak, but the words became stuck in her throat. All she could do is blush and look up at Roldan. 

Roldan nodded his head up. “She’s requesting you to serve her and her alone.” 

The firewood cackled with delight behind him just like Bedelia’s heart. She couldn’t help but place her hand upon it in a futile attempt to quiet it down. She wants me to serve her…just me? She could feel her cheeks turn hotter than the fireplace behind Roldan. Can I do that? 

Bedelia raised her hand. 

“Yes?” 

“D-don’t I have to be approved by King Siegbert, i-if I am to serve a member of the r-royal family ex-exclusively?” 

“That is correct.” 

Bedelia’s heart sunk. 

“But you have already been approved.” 

Bedelia gasped, covering her mouth as the air left it. Her eyes began to well up with tears. Don’t cry….don’t cry…you don’t want to get hit…

“You are to finish your duties for the week. Starting the first day next week, you now exclusively serve Princess Johanne. Galiena will explain your new duties to you.” 

Bedelia. nodded enhustatically. “Yes! Yes! I will serve Princess Johanne until she needs me no more.” She held the letter out to Roldan, who took it back from her. He folded up neatly and placed it back on the desk. 

“Serving the Princess, eh? You’ve come along way, Bedelia.” 

***

Bedelia had been serving Princess Johanne for quite a few months by then. She stood behind the princess, carefully combing her hair to keep her curls intact. There was something pleasant buzzing around in the atmosphere and Bedelia couldn’t help but lift her sternum full of delight. She loved feeling the princess’s hair – it was thin and silky, but she had a lot of it. It was almost like the highest of high quality doll hair. Heck, Princess Johanne herself looked almost like a doll of an adult in a lot of ways. 

Bedelia peered out from beside Princess Johanne’s head, watching the princess’s calm gaze shift over to the small prayer book on the corner of the vanity. Princess Johanne’s long, slender fingers reached over and pulled the book towards her. Bedelia moved her own gaze back to Princess Johanne’s hair. 

“Have you read this before?” inquired Princess Johanne. She lifted the book over her head and into Bedelia’s view. 

“Princess Johanne, please don’t move!” 

Princess Johanne’s hair pulled out from the comb that had been pampering it and over her shoulder. Bedelia and Princess Johanne’s eyes met. Johanne’s eyes seemed to glisten with mischevious intent to Bedelia. And that playful grin that arose across the princess’s face reinforced it. 

“Do you really like my hair that much?” asked Princess Johanne.

Bedelia blushed. “Yes, your highness. It is beautiful.” 

Bedelia’s eyes followed Princess Johanne’s right hand reach out to her own hair. Bedelia’s cinnamon brown locks were slowly being stroked between Princess Johanne’s fingers. The princess twirled Bedelia’s slightly thicker strands and slightly drier locks. Princess Johanne brought Bedelia’s lock of hair up to her mouth. “I think yours is quite beautiful too.” 

Bedelia’s face heated up. She hugged the curl comb to her chest and stared at Princess Johanne. 

KNOCK KNOCK click 

Bedelia’s attentioned turned to the door. It was then she realized that she had been holding her breath the entire time Princess Johanne had been touching her hair….no…even before that. When they had caught each other’s eyes. She bowed in the presence of the woman a few years older than Princess Johanne. “Good morning, Lady Clotilda.” 

Bedelia flinched under the gaze of Lady Clotilda’s leer. 

“Good morning, my dear sister,” said Princess Johanne. Bedelia glanced over her shoulder, seeing all traces of playfulness removed from the princess’s face. In its place was pure unamusement. 

“What do you think you’re doing?” asked Lady Clotilda. 

All sense of safety began to drain out from Bedelia. Her gaze lowered to the floor. I don’t want to be hit…I was just doing her hair…

“Discuss hair with my personal servant.” 

Just discussing?” 

“…yes. What else would we be doing?” 

“If it was just discussing hair, why are you holding your servant’s?” Lady Clotilda pointed at the lock of Bedelia’s hair still held between Princess Johanne’s fingers. 

“Can I not enjoy the hair of someone else’s?” 

Bedelia could feel the lock of her hair that was still being held move again. She didn’t dare look behind her. 

“She’s a servant, Johanne.” 

“Does that matter?” 

Lady Clotilda clicked her tongue. “I’m telling father what you are doing.” 

Bedelia managed to stifle her own gasps as Lady Clotilda went to close the door and Princess Johanne sprung forth to stop her. She watched Princess Johanne grab Lady Clotilda’s wrist and yank her back. 

“Don’t. You. Dare.” 

Lady Clotilda yanked her wrist away. She rubbed it, glaring at Princess Johanne. “…just remember she’s a servant and you are her master. You are not friends. Understand your place and her’s and I won’t say a word. Do not let me catch you again.” 

Lady Clotilda disappeared down the hallway and Princess Johanne slammed the door behind her and locked it shut. Bedelia jumped at the sudden noise. 

Princess Johanne’s hands grabbed Bedelia’s cheeks and she placed her forehead on Bedelia’s. “She’s right, you know…” 

Bedelia’s body began to tremble, feeling the warmth of tears streaming out of Princess Johanne’s eyes and down both of their cheeks. She took in a deep, shaky breath, listening to the rest of Princess Johanne’s words. “…you and I are just servant and master…” 

Bedelia couldn’t tell whose tears were who and who was actually shaking. Nor could she understand why it felt like someone just shattered her heart. 

In between the quiet sobs of the two young woman, Princess Johanne whispered, “I am going to protect you.”. 

Bedelia gently squeezed the princess’s hands without even considering their position. 

*** 

Bedelia was halfway down the hallway, far away enough from the king and queen’s study, to sob and pull out her hankerchef. She wiped her tears away and promptly began to shoved back down everything she had feeling surfacing. Why I must I remember such a thing now? 

She sniffled. And how did I forget it? 

Her hand rested over the slightest bump in her multi-layered shirt. She could just about feel the shape of the pendant that laid layers underneath. Lady Johanne… 

Bedelia placed her hands together and silently recited an old prayer from the book Lady Johanne had once asked her if she had read. She hadn’t at the time, but ended up reading it shortly.

*** 

=== NOTE TO SELF: This might be a part 2 section….but I’ll write it in here just for now ===

  • Bedelia hears a scream. She chooses to ignore it, but is promptly grabbed by one of the other servants, saying Lillian is dead. She goes to the scene and after trying to dismiss the King & Queen, is shocked at their decision to continue letting Brent stay at the castle and continue as normal. Bedelia is told to assign him caretakers; 

Bedelia was carefully combing over the paperwork of requests and events when a bloodcurling scream echoed throughout the castle. She cringed just as the screams faded back into the distance. She exhaled, as if that was going to stop her beating heart. What was that? She stood up for a brief moment, staring at her door, but quickly sat down again. 

if it is something important, someone will inform me. She took in a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm her nerves. Soon enough, she was back skimming through the requests loaded up on her desk. She meticliously copied each request – clear, concise, and all the important details listed – to a notebook for further review. 

KNOCK KNOCK 

Bedelia found herself holding her breath as she stood up from her desk. “Come in,” she called. 

A middle-aged servant, several years younger than Bedelia, stumbled into the room, completely pale. Bedelia looked at him, feeling her heartbeat speed up again. She took a deep breath. “Jaan, what is it?” 

“Lillian is dead.” 

If Jaan wasn’t on the other side of the room, Bedelia honestly would have thought he had slapped her with a bag of bricks. She hadn’t even noticed she had stumbled backwards from the shock of the sudden news, lightly bumping against her desk. She grasped onto the edges for support – otherwise, she was pretty sure her legs would have given out. 

Bedelia glanced up at Jaan, seeing the man tremble in his boots. A strange calmness washed over Bedelia and she stood up straight. She bowed her head. “Thank you for informing me. Who else is there on the scene?” 

“Aubrey and Lamech a-are investigating what h-happened. Mx. Taylor is d-directing everything. Helix i-is m-making s-sure Brent is s-safe.” 

Bedelia paused for a moment. Oh, yes…the boy…something will have to be done about him. 

“Please let the King and Queen know that Lillian has died and they will need to decide what to do with her child in the morning.” 

“Y-yes, Ms. Bedelia!” Jaan saluted Bedelia and walked out of the room. 

She let out an annoyed sigh. It cannot be helped. She walked over to her wall where the premade schedules hung up on the wall. She tore them off and threw them onto her desk. She grabbed a brightly colored piece of paper — different from the others she normally wrote on — and wrote a note to herself: remove Lillian from schedule. 

Her eyes narrowed for a brief moment before writing down another note: remove the boy from the schedule (?). 

She replaced her pen into its holder, pushed in her chair, and walked out the door. 

She walked up the nearby staircase and down a corridor, firmly knocking on a powder blue door close to the end of the hallway on the right hand side. 

She took a step back and waited. 

click 

Bedelia looked up at the woman smiling down at her. “Ah, Ms. Bedelia! Good evening!” 

“Good evening, Dr. Allard.” 

“What brings you here at this time of night?” 

Bedelia pursed her lips. Dr. Allard’s curled. “Ah…the scream. Wowee, that was sure a loud scream…who got hurt?” 

“According to one of my servants,” said Bedelia, folding her hands. “the servant, Lillian, is dead.” 

Dr. Allard gasped. “Elegant Lily?!” 

“Yes.” 

Dr. Allard covered her mouth. She turned away from the door. Bedelia couldn’t see what face she was making, but seeing the doctor’s stance made her pretty certain it was of disbelief. 

“Isn’t…isn’t her son only 13?” 

“I do not know.” 

“Wow…13 years old…only family member known to him…dead!” Dr. Allard gasped and turned back to Bedelia. “How’d she die?” 

Bedelia raised an eyebrow. “I am here to ask you to figure that out.” 

Dr. Allard’s eyes popped. She then awkwardly smiled and scratched the back of her head. “Ah…right…right. I’m the royal physican. For both the servants and the royal family….right…” 

“Let me get some of my equipment and I’ll be right there.” 

Bedelia nodded. “Yes. I will see you there.” 

Dr. Allard waved her hand and disappeared into the examination room. 

Bedelia turned away from the doctor’s room and took a brief look into the air with thought. Who else shall I reach out to before I see the scene for myself? 

TICK TICK TICK TICK 

Bedelia’s head turned to the clock hanging above the office. Goodness, it’s half past 3 in the morning? She pushed up her glasses. There is no more time waste. I must get…

Bedelia felt into her pockets. She patted around, quickly realizing something important to her was missing — my notebook! 

Bedelia rushed off back to her quarters to fetch the notebook, fully well aware that it was just sitting on her desk, wide open, waiting to be written in. 

*** 

Bedelia fixed her postured and took in a deep breath as she entered the proximitiy of Lillian and Brent’s rooms. She could hear the buzzing noises of the castle staff investigating and taking care of Lillian’s only child. 

She also heard 3 voices she hadn’t been expecting, at least, not so soon. 

Staying calm and collected on the outside, frantic and panicking on the inside, Bedelia walked into the room. Standing in front of her, facing the bed where Brent sat was the King and Queen. Bedelia’s stomach flipped, seeing the only Princess to the Kingdom sobbing and holding onto the servant boy, as if they were friends. 

The only thing more horrifying than seeing the princess hugging the boy around her age was seeing the King of Astral Isles gently stroking the boy’s head. With kindness! Bedelia’s stomach knotted up. It didn’t help either the Queen was hugging him as well. 

Bedelia took a deep breath as quietly as she could, stepping within the vacinity of the royals and the boy. She could feel the eyes of the servants around the room on her. She acknowledged their gazes before turning her attention back to the royals and the servant boy. 

“Your highness,” said Bedelia. Anger started surging up the sides of her body, but she managed to mentally shove it back down into the depths of her being. “neither one of you had to be here.” 

King Engelbert, his hand still on Brent’s head,, turned to Bedelia. “Bedelia, this child just lost his mother.” 

Bedelia stuck up her nose. “We simply asked you to decide what to do with him in the morning.” 

Bedelia watched as the Queen let go of Brent and placed a hand on his back. Queen Pleasance and King Engelbert exchanged glances, before King Engelbert removed his hand from Brent’s head. He extended out his arms, giving Bedelia a small smile. “We have already made a decision.” 

Bedelia’s lip quivered as she lowered her nose, peering up from behind her glasses right into the eyes of the King. “Oh?” 

King Engelbert lifted up his arms higher into the air. “Brent shall stay in this castle. He shall continue his studies as is and will be assigned caretakers until he turns 16. From there, his duties as a servant will be increased, although he is free to continue his studies in his open hours.” 

If she wasn’t where she was standing, Bedelia was fairly certain she would have vomitted in that exactly moment – the King, announcing that Brent the Servant Boy was just going to simply continue almost as nothing had happened. She tightly squeezed her folded hands together. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH, she could hear herself scream in her head. Or at least, a younger part of her did. 

Bedelia quickly forced a smile on her face, hiding the agony the best that she could. She had far too much of an audience around her to act the way she was inside. It is like he had done a speech for the people! His own father would never have done this. She lifted up her head a bit and pushed her glasses up the brim of her nose. “Are you sure, your highness?” 

King Engelbert’s leer shot Bedelia right in the center of her being and slashed across her like a sword. Bedelia’s whole body tensed and her mouth gapped open. In the split moment, King Siegbert seemed to be in the room with her, staring her down, threatening to kill her for incomptience. She could feel her 8-year-old self quake. 

“Are you questions me, Bedelia?” snapped King Engelbert. 

Bedelia held up her hands just below her chest. “Ah…I apologize, your highness.” Bedelia quickly bowed forward, creating an almost perfect 90 degree angle. “I spoke out of line.” 

“Please pick the best servants for the job.” 

King Engelbert’s kind smile she was used to seeing had returned to his face, but Bedelia couldn’t help but truly see King Siegbert – his grandfather – behind those eyes. How…how dare I think kindly King Engelbert is King Siegbert. Bedelia, dear, you must be far too exhausted…yes…that must be it. 

Bedelia bit the inside of her lip, nodding to King Engelbert’s request. “Yes, your highness. I shall assign him them in the morning.”  

She glanced over at Brent, who she could feel was staring her down in a way she hadn’t seen in years. It was the same look of disgust the Princesses had given her when she had attempted to speak to them on her first day at the castle. Her heart completely sunk and she couldn’t help but wince a little. 

She gave everyone in the room a small curtesy and began to leave. 

The second she was out the door, her body began to tremble controllably. 

Only shifting her thoughts over to who could watch after the 13-year-old boy stopped the old hurts from surfacing. 

*** 

Bedelia finished scribbling in Brent’s caretakers – Lilac, Jaan, Peter, and Timothy. She let out a huff, folding the last letter and slipping it inside of an off-white envelope. She wet her fingers inside a shallow glass dish of water and sealed the evelope up. She took all four and slapped them on her opposite palm, stood up, and walked over to the servant, standing at the door. 

“Take the letter to the receipient on the envelope,” instructed Bedelia. 

“Yes, right away, Ms. Bedelia.” 

The servant opened the door and got about halfway through it before Bedelia yelped. “Lalana!”

Lalana jumped. “Y-yes, Ms. Bedelia?” 

Bedelia folded her hands. “Please make sure that they come see me tomorrow – many of us need the extra rest.” 

Lalana nodded. “I will deliver the message.” 

“Very well – you may go.” 

Bedelia gently closed the door behind Lalana, locking it quietly. Everything about her demenor appeared calm – from the way she closed the door, to her light footsteps to other side of the room near the window. Her heart was calm, but something deep inside of her was bubbling. 

She sat down on the brown armchair nearby the window, looking out to the fields surrounding the castle. The morning sun was just peeking over the horizon. The sky was still mostly a dark blue with hints of twinkling stars slowly fading into the background of the lighter blue horizon. The clouds in the sky were beginning to be dyed a light orange. Below on the ground, the biolumensent grass of Astral Isles (mostly where it got its name sake, besides from its North Star location) continued to twinkle brighter than the stars above. Bedelia couldn’t hear it, but she could definitely see a soft breeze rolling over the grass. Each time she could see the evidence of the breeze upon the grass, she let out her own gentle sigh – it was just enough to lessen the anger attempting to surface. 

She removed her glasses from her face and rubber her eyes. She let her hips sink into the cushions as she placed her glasses on the table. She sat back and leaned her head on the back of the chair. She let go and her body slouched. 

Do I hire someone new to replace Lillian? It is not time yet…I suppose King Engelbert will inform me if it is needed…

Bedelia’s heart jumped and she lifted up her head. “I need to redo the schedule!” Her attention quickly shifted from the thought of redoing the schedule to her eyes. She rubbed them in an attempt to clear the extra blurriness from her eyes, but to no avail. Ah…I must sleep…must sleep. It’s no good if I cannot even see, let alone think. 

She lifted herself off slowly from the armchair and slipped behind her partition. She quickly slipped into a cozy white nightgown with lace-like embrodiery around the edges. The clothes she had been wearing were neatly drapped on the rack beside her and her skirt over the top of the partition. She smoothed everything out, gave herself an affirming nod of a job well done, and made her way over to her bed. 

She pulled her covers up to her chin. Her eyes started to flutter close the more her head sunk into the pillow. Lillian’s dead and all we have is her son, Brent. 

Her mind went back to King Engelbert, who declared what he and the Queen had decided on for Brent – their decision to keep him there and continue his studies. But why? 

Far too kind…they are far too kind…

“I’m worried about the princess,” she mumbled, dozing off. 

The boy is treated far, far, far too well for a servant. Anger bubbled up as she drifted off into sleep. 

***

Bedelia lifted up the box, raising an eyebrow. “And what might this be?” 

“From my understanding, it’s letters from Brent’s father,” replied Nakisha, one of the servants from the night before. 

“…from your understanding?” Bedelia’s lips pursed. She watched Nakisha every so slightly flinched. 

Nakisha paused for a moment, extending their hand to the box. “I briefly looked over a few of the letters. It’s pretty clear that they are from Brent’s father.”

Bedelia placed the box of neatly opened envelopes onto her desk and pulled out one letter. She randomly picked one from the pile – a light pink envelope on high-quality woven paper with gorgeous calligraphy on the front reading “Lillian”. She flipped ran her thumb over the raised textures and flipped it over, pulling out the letter. The letter inside was also written on high-quality cream-colored paper and ink Bedelia could just tell was of the upt most quality. 

Her eyes narrowed curiously at the quality of the papers and the handwriting. Who IS this man? 

“From what I can gather, his name is Kegan. He has been in contact with Lillian this whole time. Brent is often mentioned, but it looks like it’s in reply to something Lillian had said.” 

Bedelia scanned the letter briefly. Indeed, it was signed by someone named “Kegan” and throughout the whole letter were sprinkles of love and fatherly pride towards Brent, as well as a much deeper love for Lillian. Where…is he from? 

“Did you find anything about his location?”

Nakisha squinted. “Huh?” 

“Where’s Brent’s father?” 

“I saw him mention moving into his villa, as well as something about Magirery?” 

“Magirery…” mumbled Bedelia. Isn’t that…one of the neighboring planets?  “Did any of the letters say where in Magirery?” 

“Not that I saw, but I only looked at a handful of them.” 

Bedelia placed the letter back into the envelope and put it back in the box. I suppose I will have to take a look…it’d be much better to send that boy somewhere far away from the Princess. “Thank you, Nakisha.” 

“My pleasure. Is there anything else?” 

“No, you are dismissed.” 

Nakisha bowed her head and slipped out the door. 

Bedelia took the box and placed into one of her drawers. She then took out her notebook and skritched into “read letters sent to Lillian”. 

What was Lillian doing with a man of such high status? Bedelia paused for a moment, replacing the notebook back into her skirt pocket. I suppose all of Magirery could just write on paper such as that…something so high quality for a peasant or a servant would be proposterious… Bedelia grasped her chin. Unless Magirery does not have a class system? She let out a sigh. I truly do not know much about the other planets out there – it could very well be that way. Or perhaps it’s similar to us…maybe Lillian had been his mistress?

Bedelia’s mind quickly flashed images of Lillian’s gestures and postures, her way of speaking when she was just simply talking and not attempting to cater to those around her. Her eyes slowly opened and a cold, sinking feeling ran down her spine and in her stomach. She…no…no. 

Bedelia cleared her throat. No point in digging deeper into a dead woman. I’ll put someone onto digging deeper…but whom? 

KNOCK KNOCK 

Bedelia glared at the door unintentionally. “Come in.” 

The door opened and in bumbled in a short, stout man with rosy cheeks. “Uh, Ms. Bedelia?” His clothing and body were dusted with dirt and his overalls in particular looked oddly damp. 

“Hello, Gerald.”

“The sprinklers broke.” 

Bedelia slapped her forehead. “Again?!” 

Gerald quietly nodded. 

“I’ll be right there,” said Bedelia. 

Gerald quietly slipped back out the door. As soon as he was gone, she let out a loud groan and went to the door herself. 

**TO BE CONTINUED**

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