Kingdom of Sanctuary


Prince Caleb, heir to the throne of Irtrea is reaching marrying age. His father must point a woman out for him to marry to, but this all happens against Caleb's will. Now he believes love is out of the question for him. AU/Fantasy

A/N: This is an Alternate Universe, meaning they aren't WITCH anymore with magic powers and all. There will be OC's in here and slight changes in the relationships between the characters, seeing as I want this to be an epic story, I need more characters than I can use from the comics and use characters in a different way. Just wanted to let you guys know. ;)


Prologue
and so the nightmare begins


The sun was setting low, near the horizontal line which divided the sea and the Earth, marking the beginning of dusk. The sky was beautifully painted with different shades of orange and red, and a few splashes of purple. The last remaining rays of sunshine illuminated the still waters of the pond, where the ducks were hastily swimming away to seek shelter for the night. Which made him the only one left behind in the garden. He should head back inside the palace to keep himself warm as well, but he didn't feel the need nor urge to move away from his spot next to the pond. He had been sitting there silently for more than three hours, pondering over a few small things. Or perhaps it was the fact that he didn't want to go inside.

He much rather spend an entire night in the cold than waltz in there and feeling very uncomfortable. Once again, there was taking an important ball place inside the palace. Never in his life did he enjoy these grant events, but since he was royalty he had to attend each and every one of them. Being Prince of the well-developed country, Irtrea, had his disadvantages, such as this one for example. But this ball in particular had more than the usual downsides of a high-class ball. Because this time there was a huge ball in honour to him, since he was turning twenty-one today and reaching marrying age his father must choose a future wife for him.

He didn't want to settle down and get married just yet. And especially not to a woman that he didn't love. Never would he admit it, but deep down there was a romantic irking and waiting impatiently to rise to the surface. Thus, he wanted to get married the old-fashioned way, meet someone somewhere unexpectedly, fall in love and know and feel that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

"You look quite handsome today," someone commented out of nowhere, interrupting his trail of thoughts abruptly.

He didn't need to look up to see who was standing behind him, he could recognize her fake sugary voice in thousands and he could regard her reflection in the pond. And knowing who was speaking to him he didn't respond or make any indication that he wanted to respond, because frankly he didn't feel the need to waste his energy on her. And he thought if he didn't give her any kind of attention she would march away, feeling rejected and not welcome… which she wasn't.

As he could have anticipated, she couldn't care less of what he would remand and she scooted down next to him graciously as the true Princess she was. They remained sitting there in silence, not even uttering a single word to each other, until she shifted in her spot uncomfortably, making it public to him that she was bored out of her mind. Normally, she would make a snappy remark on something that concerned him or anyone that he loved dearly, and every time he tumbled in her little trap by trying to defend himself or the person he cared for and she would find rejoice in his agony. However, he had grown out of that habit and concluded long ago that the best way was to ignore her—even with how difficult it was to—and just have a completely Zen aura around himself. That way, and which was the case lately, she would hunt someone else down to toy with—mostly one of her so called friends—and she would leave him be, much to his delight.

She heaved a sigh when she finally seated herself comfortably and she whipped her head around to examine him better. He felt her piercing, golden eyes burn into his flesh, but he didn't make any movement, he wanted to deny her the pleasure. There was no doubt that she was contemplating on which she would say to assault him.

"Shouldn't you be inside, instead of meditating out here?" she asked suddenly, seeming to attempt to make a decent conversation with him, but he already saw through her and knew what she was implying.

Still not looking at her, he inhaled the fresh air gently. "No," he simply replied, still looking at tiny ripples circling, flowing in the water. He dipped his finger in the fluid texture, just for less than a full second and wiped his finger dry with the end of his crimson-coloured shirt.

"And why is that?" she prodded on the matter, apparently not having anything better to do than irritating him and knowing he would crack since she knew for certain what was bothering him so much.

"Because," he hissed through gritted teeth, already breaking down in front of her.

Absent-mindedly, she twirled the strand of ebony black hair around her index finger. "Because why?" she questioned in a singsong voice.

At last he watched her directly in the eye at and he noticed the glint of mischief sparkling in her amber-coloured irises. "You know perfectly why."

She stopped encircling the strand of hair and neatly tucked it behind her ear. "Yes, the ever-lasting romantic, wanting to wed with a woman he loves and live happily ever after," she snorted conspiciously, looking away from him and once again adjusted herself into a more relaxing position in the grass. She laid on her back, with one foot over the other and supporting the upper half of her body on her elbows. "That's so pathetic."

He shook his head slightly. "I don't agree."

"Well, you ought to."

He furrowed his brow at her.

She merely rolled her eyes at him. "It's only for the better that you accept the fact that father is going to choose a bride for you. It has always been like that, I won't be able to decide my own future husband either—"

"Like you care."

She decided to ignore his little comment and simply continued her story. "Grandfather Tyro didn't receive the opportunity to choose and so did father. It was grandfather who picked mother out for father. It's like that in every generation and it will always be like that."

"Then perhaps the time has come to end that idiotic tradition," he said sarcastically, because he perfectly knew that wouldn't happen in a million years. Irtrea was a beautifully, greatly structured and well-established country, but was strict when it came to traditions.

There escaped a quiet laugh from her red-painted lips. He believed it was the first time that she genuinely laughed at something he quipped. She only laughed sincerely when she was torturing him or one of her friends, but it had a maniacally tone in it. They never had a well-built brother-sister relation, there was only hate and disgust towards each other. However, they never showed it to the outer world, no one was allowed to know about it. Especially because she appeared like a sweet angel to the people, she had a good reputation amongst the people in Irtrea. Always polite to everyone, always being well-mannered and always friendly, when in fact she was neither of those things. Except for the well-mannered part, since she and him were taught the etiquette since they were still in their cradles. She deceived all those around her, particularly the men. He would never confess it, but she was very gorgeous, a real treat for the human eye and she was well-developed for a girl of her age. She had always been pretty, but her beauty only increased by the years and she came to realization that with only a wink or smile she could make every boy jump up for her and make them do whatever she wanted.

And that made him hate her even more.

"Besides." A sneer graced her features out of the blue. "Love doesn't exist anyway."

He arched an eyebrow rhetorically. "How could you possibly know that?"

"Love is an over-used concept and very well exaggerated. No one feels love."

"Well, you don't feel anything," he insulted her, but still meaning what he said. He never had experienced otherwise with her, she only felt hate and jealousy when someone did something better than her, or when someone succeeded in something whereas she was struggling with it. She was always the best in everything, she always beat him or anyone else for that matter.

Irately, she directed a scowl at him, but recovered from it rapidly. She too didn't want to grant him any satisfaction of showing that those words stung. Not really stung, but got to her, even for a mere second.

"You should head in there. Father might announce who's going to be your fiancée any minute now," she scoffed at him, retaliating at his previous words.

She saw him dropping his eye-lids and pursing his lips into an angry, thin line. A self-satisfied grin dawned her lips as she was pleased by his reaction. Revenge tasted sweet and she always hungered after more of that delicious candy.

He heaved a shagged sigh. "You're right."

His eyes met hers briefly before he stood up and dusting his clothes from the dirt. As usual, he realised she was trying to hurt him and he didn't want to play her cat-and-mouse-game no longer. Therefore, he would simply obey to her words and amble towards the ball.

"What do you mean by that?" she snarled, regarding his retrieving form.

He kept strolling further and further away from the pond and her, while he mentioned airily. "You're absolutely right… for once. I should go inside and check out for myself who father has chosen for me. Besides, I do need to make an appearance since it's my birthday and since the party evolves around me," he emphasized those words on purpose. He wanted to brand them into her memory, to remind her that this was about him for a change and not her. She had always been daddy's little angel, the one who did top notch work at school and could never do wrong in his eyes—or anyone else's for that matter. On every aspect, on every area she conquered him and made him look like the failure he was.

With his chin high, he entered the large room, filled with guests, music and conversations. All eyes turned on him once they acknowledged his presence and the room roared with applaud for him. With much courtesy, he bowed slightly before he scanned the room in search for his uncle whom he actually cared to chatter with, or more likely his merry, old uncle chattering and him listening (albeit not so intently or with much interest, but he would listen all the same).

Sadly, he couldn't find him and ended his frantic search for the tea-loving man. His uncle would probably be busy with charming the woman his age and the Prince didn't want to witness that again. However, he did observe his sister joining the party and he felt her piercing gaze on him, which made him avert his amber orbs so he needn't meet her eyes making him all the more unsettling. He heard her footsteps coming closer to him and he wanted to march away, but didn't see the point in doing so. She would proceed on following him, just so she could toy with him some more and by fleeing from her, she would already win her little, twisted game.

And he didn't want to give up so soon just yet.

"Couldn't find your precious uncle? His tea-loving cookieness?" she prompted in his ear when she finally reached his side. She grimaced, when she stood two centimetres behind his right shoulder and clasped her hands behind her back.

He attempted to swallow the lump down that was stuck in his throat. But it had no avail. Within every second, he was getting more and more anxious about the whole situation, but at least with his uncle by his side, he would feel a little less tense. He would never admit that of course, but he did feel better and more open when he was in the presence of his uncle. On contrary to the presence of his baby sister, who made him feel nauseas and made his stomach churning of a whirlpool of pain and shame.

Suddenly, she outgripped her own hands and unwrinkled the red fabric hanging on his shoulder. "My dear Prince, shouldn't you at least try to be more social and make other friends than just jolly uncle? Perhaps you should be less grim and dark, and be more open to other human beings. I'm starting to worry about you," she spoke as though she was his mother, while dusting of his fine-embroidered red with gold tunic. "I don't need anyone," he barked at her, trying to get her of his case and leave him be. He just wanted to get rid of her.

But his prayer was answered (for once) when silence descended upon the entire room. Everyone stopped babbling about God knows what, the music stopped playing and there was nothing else than pure quietness. Every head turned to the King, who entered with two servant boys guiding him. Each man or woman the King passed, bowed their heads down in proper humility. His father didn't tolerate anyone daring to look him in the eye, unless told to (actually, that was the deal with every King).

The King seated himself on the throne specially reserved for him only, that was situated at the very front of the room on a little stage so that he would receive a magnificent and detailed view over the room. During the process, his dragon-shaped crown slid crookedly on his head and one of his servant boys noticing this, rushed to him to adjust the crown. His father made a gesture to the other servant to fetch him something to drink.

All eyes remained glued to the King, still an eerie silence clung in the air. He grinned wryly, seeing that everyone was still so loyal and respectful towards him. He lifted up his arms spread them out to each side of him warmly.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he addressed everyone with his strong, deep voice, his eyes casually glancing among the people and rested on his son. "Today is a special day for Irtrea. 'Cause today we celebrate a remarkable occasion, namely the twenty-first birthday of my son, your prince and the heir to the throne," he announced haughtily and deliberately.

The Prince heaved a desperate and tired sigh upon hearing his father's speech. Whilst everyone was rejoicing this very moment, he was feeling a lump of nervousness sinking in the pit of his stomach.

Many cheered drunkenly, while others lifted up their cups of wine to congratulate the good news coming from the King. A young man, around the age of twenty standing next to the honoured guest, patted him on the shoulders with his free hand because the other was wrapped around a goblet of alcohol. As response, the Prince growled quietly, but still noticeable to the youth's ear, who was startled by the reaction and blinked his vacant eyes confusingly.

"Hereby I invite my son to come forward and sit next to me," his father called out to the crowd and ushering the Prince to come to him.

He cringed realising his father's words and tried to escape this nightmare. Much to his luck, his sister pleasantly pushed him forward to urge him to do as their father requested. Still with numb legs, he waddled to the front feeling that he could collapse from embarrassment anytime soon. He didn't asked for all this unnecessary attention from the guests. He didn't even ask for his twenty-first birthday.

Once his son planted himself down on the seat next to him, the King shared proudly to his guests. "I feel obliged to announce that my son reached legal marrying age and that I must choose his future wife—"

This was the moment all the nobles were impatiently waiting for. This would be the declaration of who's going to marry the Prince. Obviously, they all hoped one of their daughters would be the fortunate lady and become future Queen.

The birthday-boy averted his emerald eyes away from the stares, even though they were directed to the King anxiously. His heart pounded hard in his chest, while salty droplets originated on his forehead since he was starting to get very nervous. He was truly thankful that his father offered him a seat, because his shaking legs would barely support him if he would be standing up. This was about his future after all.

"But for now, I want to put political issues such as that aside and focus more on my son becoming adult." He hoisted up his golden goblet with diamonds plastered in a circle, which he received from the servant meanwhile his speech. "So let's resume the party!" he enthused before sipping from his wine.

At first every member of the room gaped at their King from shock, but shrugged the matter away so easily (partly due to the alcohol intoxicating their minds) and began talking and drinking again.

His father's unexpected choice of words aroused suspicion from the Prince. He knitted his eyebrows together in a thin line inquisitively at his father, who wrapped an arm around him amusingly and pulled him closer to his chest. After giving his son a rough kiss on the top of his black hair, he whispered loud enough to be heard over the crowd's noise.

"If I make a decision about something so fragile and important as this, I will tell you firstly. It's still your future we're dealing with here. Not theirs. Now, simply relax and revel in this moment, turning eighteen is a big event, son."

Then he let go of his son, waltzed onto the dance floor and grabbed one of the women standing there, who was probably one of his many concubines. The woman yelped, most surely out of happiness, as she was being borne by the King towards the dance floor.

The Prince eyed that scenery with disgust, something he didn't want to witness. It was worse enough that he's uncle was like that, it was even worse he had seen his uncle act like that, but he especially didn't need to see this from his father. His father was this powerful man, reigned strictly and with much discipline, yet with much justice too. Which made it very odd to watch him scampering around with a woman, dancing very close to another. Moving his eyes over the rest of the guests, he finally spotted his uncle, who was singing on the top of his lungs and when their eyes met, his uncle smiled toothily at him and even wiggled his eyebrows at him, while snaking an arm around a woman standing next to him. Annoyed and embarrassed, the Prince clapped a hand in front of his already closed eyes not wanting to watch more of this all.

Out of nowhere, his sister shoved herself onto the railing of his seat. She sat there back straight, with her legs crossed and supporting her head with a fist underneath her chin. Then she bended forward so that their faces were only a couple centimetres away from another.

"I sincerely hope you aren't disappointed with papa's speech. I knew how much you got your heart set on finding out who daddy has chosen to be future Queen." She feigned a small yawn and waved her hand in front of her parted lips. "Too bad, you'll just have to wait then." She crawled away from her spot and before retreating back into the mass, she sent him a malicious smirk.

He frowned angrily at her, when realization dawned him. She had been playing with him from the very beginning, while knowing all along their father wasn't planning on telling the big news tonight. He grumbled furiously and roughly snatched a cup of wine away from the plate as one of the servants passed him with it. After gulping down a huge amount of his wine, he wiped his mouth clean with the back of his hand, because a stripe of the red-coloured substance oozed down from the corner of his mouth.

Exasperatedly, he heaved a loud sigh.

And so the nightmare begins, he thought to himself.


tbc


A/N: There, I hoped you all liked this so far. Just tell me what your thoughts are, I'd like to get some constructive criticism to improve my writing. ;)

6/27/2007