The Bond of Sun and Rain
Goal of the day: don't fall on your ass in front of everyone.
Nike stumbled through the enormous main hallway of the palace, heart pounding in her rib cage. She skidded to a halt in front of two staircases and glanced back and forth between them, a bead of sweat forming on her forehead. One of these lead to the ballroom, but she couldn't remember which one. She hadn't had the opportunity to spend much time in there since it was usually reserved for special occasions. Like, a coronation for example.
Goal number two: don't be late for your own coronation.
Her hands fumbled wildly, one securing the folds of her gown so that she wouldn't trip and the other pressing firmly against her hair in an effort to keep her curls intact. It was hard enough to run in heels without pounds of frilly fabric weighing her down. She made a mental note to scold her maids later for forcing her into this particular mammoth of a dress. They had insisted she look her best for the occasion. She imagined the moment when Livi would see how ridiculous she looked. He would agree that this kind of lavish ensemble didn't suit her personality at all.
I guess you can dress up anything.
Nike's lips quirked into a small smile, the memory of Livi's sarcastic words to her the first time they had attended a social event together still vivid in her mind. Her nerves thrummed with anticipation as she quickened her pace. She hastily decided on the left staircase and started upward, each step like a bolt of lighting on her already sore feet. The sound of trumpets echoed through the halls and made her grit her teeth in frustration.
By gods, if they hadn't taken so long to dress her...
She rounded a corner and had to grab hold of a tapestry to keep from tripping over herself. She couldn't delay the momentum, though, and bumped face first into a soft body. She cried out in surprise, but the person caught her hand and steadied her.
"You certainly know how to make an entrance," a smooth voice said.
Nike looked up and immediately blushed. Livi was standing there, dressed in a fine outfit that coupled with hers. His hair was slicked back and he wore a decorative sword at his waist. He looked much older than she knew him to be.
"Livi, you scared the crap out of me," Nike breathed.
A vein popped on his forehead out of annoyance.
"Yes, well, I've only been waiting here for you for an hour," he grumbled.
Nike rubbed the back of her head with a sheepish grin.
"I'm sorry," she said, then gestured to her dress, "but don't blame me. It took twenty minutes just to get me in this monstrosity."
The young king's eyes scanned her over as if just realizing the change. He cleared his throat and tried to hide the blush forming on his face by turning his head to study a vase of flowers.
"You do look...very nice."
Nike blinked. "Oh?"
Livi's shoulders stiffened.
The redhead leaned in close, her lips quirked into a grin as she teased, "What's this - a compliment from the great Sun King? What has this lowly being done to deserve such an honor?"
He turned to her, face red as a tomato. "Don't mock me!"
Nike laughed and reached a hand out to pet his hair, but was intercepted by Livi's hand. He clasped her wrist and pulled the soft, pale skin to his lips, all traces of embarrassment gone. They lingered there, even as he opened his eyes to stare directly at her. She saw something new in those indigo orbs: desire. Now it was her turn to blush.
"Tell me, Nike," he began in a low voice, "do you still not see me as a man?"
Nike couldn't answer. Her skin tingled where his lips touched. Between that and his intense gaze, a fire was ignited inside her.
Livi mistook her silence. He lowered her hand to smooth back his hair and his dark eyes flashed briefly with an emotion she couldn't place. She clutched her hand to her chest, her cheeks still tinted pink.
"Just you wait," Livi said, eyes forward. A small smile played at his lips. "The adventure has just begun, my queen."
After the introductions had been made and prayers recited, it was time for the crowning ceremony. Nike knelt on one knee in front of the two thrones she had just sat upon beside Livi, eyes cast downward as a show of respect.
Even though it grated on her every last nerve to have to show respect to Lani Aristes, after everything he put her through.
It was customary for the head of the Ministry of Priesthood to also perform the crowning ceremony for any new monarchs of the Sun Kingdom. As much as he wanted to, Livi could not refuse the head priest's presence since he had just as much power as the king. Nike could almost feel Lani's gaze burning the back of her neck as he was offered the crown on a plush red pillow by Neil. She knew Livi was watching him with narrowed eyes, in case he tried to pull anything.
The head of the Ministry of Priesthood began citing the official rites. Nike didn't pay attention to his words much, just offered a "yes" or "I do" whenever necessary. She was too busy replaying the previous interaction with Livi over in her mind. Sure, he had stolen kisses plenty of times and even slept in the same bed, but nothing had ever incited such a strong reaction in her before. He had just seemed so...mature in that moment. She snuck a glance up at him on the throne. He had rested his hand on his cheek with an expression that betrayed the boredom he must have felt. Still, he looked so regal. Had he gotten taller?
"Prime Minister, do you approve of the prestige that has been placed upon this woman?" Lani asked over his shoulder.
Bard stepped forward, his delicate blond hair falling forward as he placed a hand over his heart and bowed.
"King Livius, do you also give your blessing?"
Livi was standing now, and he caught Nike's gaze. She swallowed hard.
"So shall it be," Lani said in a monotone. He lifted the crown and let it hover in the air above Nike's head. Three enormous jewels glittered at its center, the same ruby color as the ones inlaid into Livi's crown. Nike waited patiently for him to bless the crown before he placed it atop her head. "May I now present to you, Nike, Queen of the Sun Kingdom."
As he was speaking, a powerful jolt shot through Nike's body. It knocked the wind out of her for a few seconds and she looked down at her hands, which were shaking. Frightened, she instinctively sought out Livi, who was staring at his own hands with wide eyes. Had he felt something too?
Lani cleared his throat in annoyance.
Embarrassment colored her features as she rose to her feet and faced the rest of the room. Everyone in the crowd had their heads bowed in her direction. "All hail Queen Nike," they chanted in unison.
"I promise to protect this kingdom, as your new queen," Nike said in a firm voice. She felt Livi walk up beside her and fold his hand in hers.
"And I promise to protect her as well as this kingdom, as your king."
The ballroom erupted with applause and the musicians began strumming their instruments as a sign of the start of the festivities. Servants poured into the room with trays of hot food and wine to be set up on large tables. The lords and ladies broke away into small groups and excited chatter and dancing filled the space. Nike and Livi glanced at each other. His wide grin ignited one of her own and their hands remained firmly pressed together.
Lani sauntered easily away from the crowd, out onto the balcony. A lone figure stood in the shadows, his features hidden by a thick cloak. Lani narrowed his eyes as a cold chill fell over him. He could feel the menace radiating from this person.
"Were you seen?" a raspy voice questioned.
"Of course not," Lani scoffed. "They are too busy fawning over their new monarch."
"I trust everything went as planned?"
"The jewels were replaced, just as you instructed."
"Excellent," the figure cackled. "Now we just wait for the rain."
Nike took a deep breath, and began to sing.
Everyone had moved to the outdoor arena, in order to experience her rain firsthand. Some of the lords and ladies had come from far off principalities and had never experienced the phenomenon before. At first, Nike had grumbled when she was asked to perform a rain summons for entertainment yet again, but enough begging from Neil had guilted her into it. Livi sat in his usual spot accompanied by Bard and Neil, while the rest of the crowd watched from the stands with anticipation. It was a perfectly sunny day in the kingdom, but that changed as soon as Nike began to sing. The sky became overcast and gray clouds rolled in along the horizon. Nike reached the second verse of the song and soon enough tiny droplets of rain fell from the clouds. She heard gasps of amazement from the crowd, but tuned them out. She only wanted to focus on one thing. One person.
She closed her eyes, and in her mind's eye she saw Livi. She had promised herself that if she was ever forced into song, the song would be for him and him alone.
You have to connect with the feelings of the one who wishes to call the rain, she remembered telling him once.
Her eyes were closed, but she swore she could feel him there, beside her. His heart beat in time with her own, as if spurred by the melody. It was the perfect symphony.
But then something shifted, and suddenly the rain was not hers.
This rain was heavy and threatening. It pelted the onlookers and chilled them to the bone.
What's happening? Nike thought with panic.
Then, another jolt racked her body and the force of it brought her to her knees. She doubled over, clutching her arms to her chest. She heard someone shout Livi's name and tried to focus her vision in his direction. He was slumped over in his chair, surrounded by multiple guards who were shouting orders to bring a medic. Neil was in an absolute panic, as was the rest of the crowd. Nike reached out to her king, but her body became very weak. Someone called out her name before her vision went black.
The crown clattered to the ground beside her, rubies glinting sharply.
To be continued...