A/N: Okaaaayyyyy...Sorry for the loooooong, delay. My mind can be very mean. i.e. getting distracted, school, video games, constantly creating new stories, wanting to write these new stories, new drawing ideas, and drawing these ideas. Sorry, and hopefully this chapter makes up for it.
And thank you all for all the reviews and encouragement! I really needed it, as you can tell. But it worked! I got this chapter done :D
Chapter 5—The Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean
Supper was quick and silent for the youngest of the seven princes of Stormhold. It had been weeks since he had left the castle and his legs had been itching to get out and go riding for days now. Tonight was the night. He was to quickly eat his supper with his brothers and sister, feign tiredness, and leave quickly. That was the easy part. It was sneaking down to the stables without being seen that was going to be the hard part.
Finishing his meal as quickly as he could without causing suspicion, Septimus told his brother's he was going to bed and left the table. Luckily for him, his chambers were on the way to the stables and it was easy to fool his brothers. When he reached the end of the corridor, instead of turning right into his bed chamber, he turned left and down a flight of spiral stairs to the ground floor of the palace. Dismounting the stairs, he strode quickly out the door to the courtyard and walked straight to the stables. There he passed several stalls with many horses until he came across his own midnight black stallion.
A bridal hung on a nail posted on a wooden column by his stallion's stall. He grabbed it and entered the stall, quickly and silently placing the bridal over his horse's snout; careful not to bump the metal bit on its teeth. As he led the horse out of the stall, he shut the gate behind his stallion's rump and tied the reins to a tether post at the other end of the stable. It was when he went to grab the saddle and blanket from their places along the wall of the stables that he heard someone enter behind him.
"I thought I had asked you to take me with you when you go to see Cecilia," a mischievous female voice sounded from behind him.
Septimus spun around on his toes to come face to face with his twin sister. He frowned at her and hefted the blanket and saddle over his shoulder. "And I thought I never mentioned courting anyone or giving you any reason to come with me," he retorted as he set the saddle on the ground leaning it against the horn as he placed the blanket on his stallion's bare back.
Una let out a slight chuckle. "You may not think you have, but you did." Her brother glared at her questioningly. "It's in your eyes, all in the way you've been acting ever since you've returned home. You like her, that much is certain."
Septimus paused in the middle of placing the saddle over the blanket. He stopped, turned to stare at his sister. "What makes you say that?" he asked.
This time the only daughter of Stormhold released a hearty laugh. "Septimus, dear brother!" she quirked. "I'm a woman, am I not? And I'm your twin sister. I have had many experiences with men and I have become well attuned to the sense of when a man is interested in a woman."
The seventh son stared at his sister for a moment before silently placing the saddle on his horse's back. The stables were uncomfortably quiet and the only sound that could be heard was that of the prince cinching the saddle tight across his stallion's belly before tying the saddle knot.
Finally, after several minutes of eerie silence, Septimus turned to Una. "Okay, if you're going to come with me, you have to saddle your own horse. Don't be asking me for help."
Una's face lit up just like a young child's on Christmas morning and she ran off to grab her own horse; a young, dapple-gray mare. "Thank you, brother!" she cried as she grabbed the bridal from where it hung on the wooden column.
Septimus shook his head. This was going to be a long trip.
It was more of a nagging hunch than suspicion that made the second Son of Stormhold follow his brother from the supper table. However, the fact that Una was quick to follow Septimus was more than enough to perk Secundus's suspicions of his siblings. Still in the middle of his meal, the second brother wiped his mouth with his napkin, placed it on his plate over his half-eaten dinner and left the table.
Secundus was never one to trifle with Septimus. He knew his brother's potential with a blade and given his families violent traditions, feared that one day it would soon rival and possibly surpass his own. With a case of paranoia that could not allow that to ever happen, Secundus took to watching his youngest brother's every move, keeping a schedule of his habits, and taking note of every change in mood or behavior. Unfortunately, lately Septimus had been away from the palace a lot more than usual and with his now sudden need to go to bed early and his twin sister soon following not a moment behind him, things were looking rather out of sorts. Secundus did not like that. Secundus did not like that at all.
Running through the corridors of the palace, the second son arrived at his brother's bedroom door only to find it slightly ajar with enough room to peek in for a glance at the bed. There was no one, not even a crudely placed lump of pillows that might possibly pass as a sleeping man. The bed was neatly made and tucked in which raised Secundus's suspicions immensely. Leaving the door, he ran to the only other place he would think his brother to be; the stables.
As he silently jogged across the courtyard, Secundus could hear voices coming from the stables. Ducking down so the two inside could not see him if they looked out the window, the second son of Stormhold hid himself against the side of the wooden building just in time to see Septimus and Una leave the stables, each with a saddled horse trailing behind them. A heavy purse hung strapped to Septimus's belt indicating that he was planning on traveling for more than one day…again.
Quickly deciding on a plan, Secundus bolted into the stables. Ignoring the quiet rumbling in his stomach that reminded him that he had not finished his supper, he found his own horse, saddled it up, and quickly followed a good distance behind his brother and sister.
Where are you going, brother? He thought to himself.
Cecilia sat wearily on the beach sand just below the small cliffs next to her cottage. She enjoyed listening to the soft crashing of the waves as they came in through the breaker and hit the smooth sand of the coast, the smell of the salty water that blew in with the spray to cool her face, and the feel of the cool water hitting her skin and soothing her aching feet as tiny sand grains whirled about her toes and ankles. Even though she could not see the full beauty of the vast ocean, she still had the luxury of experiencing every other aspect of it which in her mind, was much more beautiful.
As the sound of yet another crashing wave rolled in on the sand, the blind healer smiled as she felt the cold water engulf her body and almost laughed when she felt it trying to pull her out with it into the endless sea. Leola was nearby with their horse and by the sound of things, she was enjoying herself very much. Cecilia could hear the sound of the horse's hooves splashing through the salty seawater pass in front of her every few minutes and the blind healer could feel joy for the girl when she called out merrily from the back of the horse.
But soon Cecilia heard something out of place. It was not a change in the waves, nor in Leola's riding. It definitely wasn't the wind due to the fact of the calm weather, and she soon realized that the sound was coming from behind her. Frowning, she turned her head around as if she would be able to see whatever it was that caused the strange noise.
As the sound grew in volume, the cause of it became more apparent to her ears. Feet; someone was walking up to her from the cliffs. But as that person came closer, Cecilia realized that it was not just one person, but two. Then the sound of a sword clanking against a belt resounded in her ears and she smiled. She knew exactly who was there.
"Greetings Septimus," she said, turning her head back around to face the salty sea air. "And Septimus's companion. May I inquire as to your name?"
Cecilia could hear whispering behind her that sounded suspiciously like: "I thought you said she was blind?" and "How did she know there were two of us?" The healer smiled at the questions.
"My name is Una," said a female voice behind Septimus. "I am Septimus's twin sister."
Standing up, Cecilia felt her way across the slippery ground with her toes and approached the two siblings. "Really?" she asked, not sure which one of the two she was walking up to. "I didn't know Septimus had a sister, let alone a twin."
The Prince's deep voice sounded from her right and she cocked her head in his direction. "And I didn't know you actually came down to the beach. I guess we're both bad at communicating."
Cecilia smiled at him. "I don't normally," she replied. "But Leola wanted to go and I had nothing to do so I couldn't refuse her. I usually try and shy away from water because I can't swim."
A surprised voice came from Una at the healer's left. "You can't swim?" she asked.
She shook her head. "No. I've been an orphan all my life so I never had anyone to teach me."
There was a silence for a few moments that made the healer a bit uncomfortable not knowing what was happening but it was not long before Septimus spoke again.
"Then we must teach you," he said in a flat voice.
Cecilia wasn't sure but she thought she was getting a feeling of dread deep in the pit of her stomach.
It felt strange floating in the bay, unable to see with nothing under her feet but water and Septimus's and Una's hands helping hold her up. Every muscle in her body was tensed and she was almost frantic in the way she kicked and paddled the water with her arms. Unable to see and unable to feel anything but water all the way up to her neck, Cecilia was near on the verge of panicking. Every time the swells rose and splashed her chin she half expected a big wave to crash on top of her and drown her. If it were not for Septimus and Una keeping her afloat, she probably would have panicked and most likely drown.
"Septimus, are you sure this is such a good idea?" she asked, not sure which arm he was holding on to. She heard a chuckle to her left.
"Relax, Cecilia." By the sound of his voice, she assumed he was smiling. "Una and I both swim very well. I could do this in my heavy jacket and riding boots if I wanted to."
"Even so," she said, her voice beginning to shake. "Would it be okay if we took a break? This is making me very uncomfortable." There was silence for a moment. Cecilia didn't know what was going on even though Una's and Septimus's hands never left her. Maybe they glanced at each other. Or maybe they were silently deciding what to do. Either way, the overly long silence made her insides churn.
"Alright," she heard Una say. "We'll head back to shore." Both she and her brother took a hold of Cecilia's waist and helped her back through the waves to the warm beach. It was tough going back. Una and Septimus made her attempt to swim the entire way. She tried, she really did, but to her it seemed it was more their arms supporting her that got her back more than her actually swimming.
The waves didn't help her either. With each rising swell, she struggled to stay afloat. As the waves rose and fell, they receded back into the open ocean, making returning to shore quite difficult. If it weren't for Septimus and Una, she would have drowned long before she made it to shore. When they finally made it, Cecilia relished in the feel of the soft sand beneath her feet. She inwardly rejoiced and exhaustedly sat on the warm sand and let the sun dry off her wet dress.
She heard Una and Septimus sit down on either side of her, but did not pay them much attention choosing instead to listen to the waves and the approach of Leola atop their horse. She heard the soft snort of the horse, its hooves shifting restlessly in the sand, and little bare feet hit the beach when Leola arrived.
"How was your swimming lesson?" the girl asked. The sound of sand shifting came to Cecilia's ears as her apprentice walked towards her and the Stormhold twins.
Cecilia shuddered at the memory, but shrugged it off before she answered. "It was unnerving," was all she said.
"She did alright," Una's voice said from her left. "For her first time, anyway."
"She does need more practice, though," came Septimus's voice, but Cecilia ignored him. She had heard a quiet shuffle behind her and she turned around suddenly in the direction she heard it in.
"What is it?" Septimus asked. The direction of his voice told her that he had turned to search for whatever it was she had heard. She shushed him and held up her hand, straining her already acute ears for anything else that gave away their intruder. She felt Septimus's hand on her fingers and felt a little comforted at his touch, but was still uneasy with the feeling of someone watching them. When several minutes when by with no sound, she unfurled her eyebrows and turned back around. She hadn't even realized she had been frowning. Turning back around to face the ocean, she shrugged.
"Must have been nothing," she said to the silent three around her. But she didn't entirely believe her own words.
Secundus huddled behind a rock, his heart pounding loudly in his ears. He didn't move, not even to make his position more comfortable. He held his hand over his mouth, trying desperately to calm his breathing. The blind bitch had heard him, and if he made even the slightest sound, he was dead. Septimus would kill him, there was no doubt in his mind that he would.
The few minutes that passed seemed like an eternity and he almost sighed in relief when he heard the peasant woman shrug off what she had heard. Secundus mentally scolded himself for trying to get a better look over the boulder. His silent attempt had turned into a not-so-silent attempt when his booted foot had slipped in the sand and he quietly cursed as he had slid back down into the sand. Silently cursing his stupidity, he now had to wait until everyone on the beach returned to the hut at the top of the cliffs.
He thanked whatever god existed when the group left the beach soon after hearing his slip. Once they were at the top of the cliff, he left his hiding place and hopped onto his saddle horse he had left at the edge of the woods and rode off. His brothers and father had to hear of this.
A/N: Hmmmm, what is this going to do? Bet you anything, Septimus is in troooouuublllllle lol Hopefully I get the next chapter up in good time so that you all can find out (and I can as well haha)
Review please! They help me finish! ;)