Please don't kill me for waiting so long with the update. I was going through a huge dry spell (not like that you dirty minded freaks!). My inspiration and motivation to write and read literally left me after my last chapter. I spent the summer moping around and generally not doing anything productive.
Enjoy this chapter and I'll have more news at the end of it (:
My prison cell was exceptionally dark that night. Not only was it a new moon, but a storm raged outside. I had been tossed a ratty quilt and a thin straw mattress by one of the guard and a hot bowl of soup had been given to me on account of it being my last day. I accepted them with grace and spread out to sleep.
I would need my sleep if I wanted to attempt any sort of escape tomorrow. Now, knowing I had substantial help from the outside, I allowed myself to be consumed by my reasoning. Yelena and Brielle needed me more than ever in this aftermath.
I closed my eyes and fell asleep more quickly than I would have thought possible on the night before my execution. I guess last night had caught up to me. Besides, I thought as I sunk into unconsciousness, it would do me good to be rested even if I die.
.oO° ° °Oo.
Morning was upon me much too quickly. I groaned uncomfortably at the loud banging on the cell bars, but pulled myself into a sitting position. I needed to get ready. I didn't know what I could possibly do other than put myself into a prepared frame of mind. Anything could happen. I could just as well make a slippery escape as end up a hanging, limp corpse at the end of a coil of rope. I would have to put my full faith into the people on the sidelines.
When the soldiers came in to manacle me, I surrendered willingly. I turned my back and allowed them to tie my wrists together. There was a short wait at the threshold of the courtyard while the announcements were made. There was a considerable amount of people in place. Looks like I hadn't lost my reputation after all.
The man who had led Yelena out the day before stood behind me. I was certain to a ninety-nine percent degree of his identity. I couldn't allow all my hopes to go for the bait until something happened, however.
As he guided me onto the stockade, I had almost lost hope. I searched the crowd for Yelena. She was in the first lines, her eyes red and puffy. Janco had an arm around her shoulders protectively, but I noted the way he held himself. His eyebrows were furrowed and his sword was hanging at his side. Scanning the crowd, I found several men like him. Blending in with their surroundings, but armed and strategically placed. I bit the inside of my cheek. I was usually very good at concealing emotion, but it wasn't every day that I was given the chance to escape the noose.
I stepped under the rope. The crowd was silent, but my steps concealed the snick of the switchblade used to cut my hands free. The soldier still stood behind me, 'securing' me. I swallowed.
The rope was placed around my neck while a knife was handed to me from the back. Yelena had a hand over her mouth to keep her crying quiet. I winked at her and lunged.
My hands clutched the rope above my head and I swung my legs up. The screams started when Janco and two dozen of my corps unsheathed their weapons within the crowd.
My neck was freed when I climbed on top of the wooden support that was supposed to be my end. I scanned the scenery for possible exits while the soldier who had helped me out battled with a magician. He grinned at me and I couldn't help but grin back. No matter the nasty things we had said to each other, how many times one had seemingly forgotten the other, he was my brother and that's where it ended. I had been though too much with Ambrose for him to simply abandon me in the end. I would have done the same. He threw me the sword of a discarded man.
"It's when you pull off stunts like that, I wonder how in the world I ever could have won a knife fight against you," he yelled.
I laughed and stood on the stockade, having spotted my next destination. I couldn't stay up here for long; I was making myself a target as it was. Jumping into the crowd, I landed in a crouched position, catching myself with my hands.
Someone was making a grab for Yelena beside me, but I spun her away, replacing the space she had been with the end of my sword. The person impaled themself and I winced at the crunch and grind his bones made against my blade. Pulling my fiancé against my body, I kissed her. In the middle of a battle, while a man was on the end of my blade, it was all very melodramatic. The heroine of the story making out with her rugged lover: a scene from a trashy romance.
I pulled back and leaned in close, "I know this will make it all the more theatrical, but I recall your request to run away…"
"Brielle is already on her way to the homestead. Let's go. We'll mail the wedding invitations."
And just like that, we were off. Yelena wasn't armed, but her Fire-Worldly magic was more than enough to keep everyone at a five foot distance. I just hacked away at anyone who dared come any closer.
.oO° ° °Oo.
The wedding planning was both joyous and incredibly sad. Yelena's mother was gone. She had passed naturally—thank fate, but still she was gone.
Yelena's panics were usually reserved for the night, but the news brought one on. Her family watched with wide and terrified eyes as I reasoned with a madwoman before finally lifting her into my arms and following Yelena's father to a room he had set up for her. I sat with her late into the night, listening to her babbling about her mother, family and some nonsense about the Shadow World.
It was only when Brielle was brought along the next morning that she started to think again. Her grief was great and, for once, I understood it, having gone through the same thing when my own mother died.
.oO° ° °Oo.
There were no real fireworks in the wedding celebrations. A local minister was called on and the vows were short and basic. I could remember saying the traditional "I do" and receiving the same response from Yelena. Then there was the kiss and the whole affair shifted into the after party as Yelena changed from her white wedding gown to a lighter dress with a red color.
I barely saw her after that, as she flitted from guest to guest, hosting, making a good impression, remaining calm as people gawked and stared at her scars, answering and asking question after question. All the while keeping an eye on our daughter, who played with the younger guests and was admired by the ladies that had come to the ceremony. I don't know how she did it. I had receded into a corner and hid from the world. This was not my game board of choice. Too many players and all out in the open.
Three-hundred-one was the number of people at our wedding. Three-hundred had been the original number, but, after much snooping and in spite of me, Yelena had tracked down Luna.
And so, I now not only stood awkwardly on the side as people celebrated, I was also dodging every single one of Luna's attempts to find me in the crowd. I had succeeded thus far, but I didn't think I'd be able to for much longer. There she was again, heading towards me, making her way through the throng of people in her way. I slipped to the side and escaped to the other side of the room, watching from my new location as she looked around confused and frustrated.
Yelena was there suddenly, holding her hands and frowning at me from across the room. She warned me to stay put as both women made towards me. I was sweating in the stupid dress-suit I wore. I tugged at the collar uncomfortably, wishing I could sneak off to sit under the stars. However, I didn't even have the time to think about that.
Yelena had guided Luna right in front of me. She now stood a mere three feet from my stiff body. I wasn't even sure I was blinking. She should hate me. I left her, broken her heart and trampled it. And yet, here she stood with a smile.
"It's been too long, Valek," she said. I didn't answer. I swallowed. I was certain she could see my Adam's apple bob. "Aren't you going to say anything?"
There was a long pause and I knew she wouldn't speak until I did. "Umm… Hello…" I finally mustered.
"You've been avoiding me," Luna told me.
"Guilty as charged," I chuckled weakly.
The silence grew long and tense before she finally said anything. "I'm not mad at you, you know…"
"You should be."
"And who are you to be the judge of that? You're happy. I'm happy. Where is there room for anger?" Classic Luna, seeing the best in every situation.
"During the transition," I reminded her.
"That's in the past. No use dragging it along."
"But you were angry at me," I stated.
"For a time… I grew up, Valek. You grew up. It's time we get over it all," she moved closer to me.
"I'm married," I said without thinking. It wasn't a response to her movement. It was just a sudden revelation. Luna was nothing. Well a friend. Like Opal. I used to be so afraid of how I would react if I ever saw her again; and here I was understanding everything.
"Why do you assume this is about you?" she asked angrily. "Those feelings are gone on my side. If you have to remind yourself of that, then maybe you should ask yourself where yours have gotten." She turned to go, but I grabbed her arm.
"It's not about me. I just… I understand now." I smiled at her.
She was quiet, observing me. "Let's start over then, shall we? Hi, I'm Luna."
"I know. I know you're Luna. And I want to thank you. For being the reason my life happened the way it did. For if it hadn't, we wouldn't be standing here today. And I wouldn't have all the blessings I do and you… you wouldn't have the life you have now. Thank you. Truly."
Luna's eyebrows went up. Then she smiled. "I hope it stays that way. For now, I think I'll stay in the Shadow." There was something about the way she said shadow that made it seem like a place rather than the simple noun it was. "After all, I've only come out because your lovely fiancée granted me that favor. Have a good life, Valek." And she turned and went before I could say anything else.
I didn't see her again after that. It was only late into the night when Yelena and I were already en route to our honeymoon destination that I realized what exactly had gone down.
Luna was no more. It was all Yelena's doing. Yelena had brought Luna back out of the Shadow World or wherever she had been so that I could say goodbye. So that I could close I case that had been bothering me. That was why no one had ever stopped to help Luna find me in the room. My breath puffed out of my chest.
I turned to my wife who rode on Kiki beside me. "What happened to her?" I asked.
Yelena smiled mysteriously, "I was wondering how much longer it would take you to piece everything together."
"I'm serious, Yelena. What happened to her?"
"The war happened. It was a freak accident; she was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her family is all right, though." Yelena's voice was sad and she looked at me in concern.
I didn't answer, I just looked ahead. I didn't mourn my best friend. I had done all my mourning long ago. Now all I felt was peace. I had closed my case with her and she was at peace. We rode for several minutes in silence before I finally turned to her again and said two words, "Thank you."
Did that sate any of the questions you left for me in the reviews?
Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that there are two more chapters to this story (including the Epilogue) and, if everything goes as planned, they should both be up before New Years. There may be a short sequel in the following year if there is enough demand for it and how busy I am.
What the King Does Not See is discontinued. I have no plot to it and I will not be updating it any further. I'm sorry.
Monster in the Mirror will stay up but will move forward very very very very very very slowly if at all. No promises to be made for that one. If you want more information, you can always contact Harlequin99.
Dark Secrets will be the same as Monster in the Mirror, although I do promise to finish this one. I cannot say when or how long it will be, but I will be finishing it. I swear on the River Styx.
I will be writing a lot less, as you may have gathered from all these anouncements. It pains me to leave this fandom, since it seems to have died. I am very busy at school with a bunch of accelerated classes, I have a part-time job now and I will be travelling this year. If you want any updates on my personal life, I'm thinking of setting up a vlog (any ideas for a title?) so I'll keep you posted on that.
For those of you that have actually gone through everything I just wrote, thank you for reading and please review!