Weaving Moonlight

The first in the Tales of Terrahgonia series.
Lux Robertson has a destiny.
Prince Stefan wishes to shape his own.
Jamie Cooper just wants to belong.
What do these three teens have in common? They all have a legacy to uphold. But to do this means braving a war against the tyrannical false queen of Terrahgoina, a mystical land long ago forgotten by mortals. But with hidden secrets and traitors in their midst, they may not survive to save the kingdom.

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17. Carnage of the Heart

Author Note: Another week, another chapter. I hope you enjoy this one.

Date published: Tuesday 29th April 2014

Carnage.

That was what Prince Stefan could see on that sweltering Terrahgonian afternoon. The mortals were causing riots at the town centre.

 For a start, they were not permitted in the town centre without a valid licence or their master to supervise them.

             Stefan scanned the area from the horse he sat upon. The mortals had already been given fair warning. They remained defiant until the end, chanting in an almost tribal and savage way, in a mixture of various languages. They may have had different backgrounds, but they were unified by one cause: the need for freedom. 

Stefan understood that, and he respected it. But that didn't mean he would hold back. He ordered the strike, and strike they did. The soldiers were ruthless as they vanquished a number of rioting mortals, both slaves and free. It was clear that some were already freemen, rioting for true equality. But that would never happen. 

            Stefan witnessed a soldier grab a girl by her hair. She was pretty and blonde, reminding Stefan of the girl in the die Zwischen forest that he had wanted to save. Unmounting, he walked towards the soldier as he struck the girl in the face. 

            “Redmayne, I'd prefer if you leave this one unharmed.” He instructed. 

            “With all due respect, my prince...”

            “You will do as I say or suffer the consequences,” he threatened. “Why waste something so pretty?” Stefan allowed himself to brush his fingers across the girl’s cheek. Her green eyes flashed with fear, as she gasped.

Redmayne leered at him, in a knowing manner. “As my prince commands. I'll take her to your chambers.”

            “See that you do.” The girl looked at Stefan with confusion and fear etched onto her face. Stefan held her gaze momentarily, giving nothing away. 

That was one less soldier to tame the wildness, but that was fine. There were soldiers aplenty and with only mortals to contend with, this riot would end shortly. 

            Wails and cries echoed through the streets of Altava. Some cried out for their mothers, others to non-existent gods. Either way, it mattered not. No one could save them.

            Not even me.

 

“Ow,” Stefan groaned. “You did that on purpose, Cassandra.”

            “Well perhaps if you would stay still then this fitting would be less painful.”

            The Giocomo Capello suit had arrived that morning but hand been too big, and so here was Cassandra, the royal seamstress ready to save the day. Needless to say, Yolanda would not be asking for Capello’s services again.

            “You do realise that attacking the prince is an act of treason?” he asked playfully.

            Cassandra smiled mischievously but otherwise did not rise to the bait. She never did, and this was why Stefan persisted. They were friends, of sorts, and Cassandra was determined that it would go no further.

            “Yes, my prince.” She pricked him again, regardless, this time giving him a cheeky wink. Stefan only laughed, and she laughed with him. When she stopped laughing abruptly, and lowered her head, Stefan immediately looked around and was unsurprised to see his mother. The queen had that kind of effect.

            “Well, don’t stop laughing on my account. I like a job as mush the next person,” she insisted.

            Cassandra curtsied to show her respect. “Your Grace.”

            “I see the suit is coming along. My thanks for fixing this disaster at such a late notice.”

            “Of course. It is an honour. Perhaps I might help with the wedding dress.” Cassandra had dreams of being a true fashion designer.

            “Oh, that shan’t be necessary. Perhaps you can give me a moment with my son.”

            “Of course.” She gave another curtsy, and left promptly.

            “You look handsome.” The navy suit fit him in the right places. All that was needed was some hand sewing.

            “Thank you. And you are radiant as ever.”

            She wore an elegant full-length backless black dress, thereby appearing more sultry than pretty. Yolanda gave him her monarch smile— cool and controlled.

            “Of course you know that this is not my true face.” This was not a topic that they often spoke of. His mother had confided in him once that she had long ago taken a new face to start a new life. She spoke nothing of the terrible life she had left behind, or why the new face was necessary. “Perhaps one day you will thank me for this marriage to come.”

            “Thank you?” he chuckled. Stefan immediately knew from her sour glare that this was the wrong reaction, but he did not relent. “I know that this is for the good of the kingdom. We are in need of allies. But what of me, mother? What of love?”

            “And where did love ever get me?” She fumed. “Nothing but heartache and misery.”

            “It gave you me.” Stefan stepped towards her and held her hands. “It gave you me,” he repeated.

            Yolanda did something unexpected then, and allowed herself to shed tears. “Yes, it did,” she whispered. “But I never want you to know my pain. Your father… your father was not everything that I have told you. He hurt me, betrayed me in a way I could not forgive.” Stefan’s mind was buzzing then. What could he have done? King Giacomo had been beloved by the people. Yolanda had not twisted his history as so many conquerors often had. But she was not a conqueror. She had been the Dowager Queen since cutthroat mercenaries had assassinated his father. “The commoners call me Usurper, and they are right. I killed the king. I killed your father in a fit of rage when I discovered he had been whoring about and had plans to divorce me and place that wretched woman as queen!”

But you loved him,” he insisted. “You said it yourself. Why would you kill him if you loved him?”

“Because I realised something that day that you are yet to understand.”

“Please. Impart your wisdom to me.” He was becoming impertinent and he knew it, unable to hide his frustration. Yolanda gave him a warning look but made no verbal reprimand.

“Love is weakness.” Stefan shook his head slowly, and then more rapidly.

  “No, mother. It cannot be. Do you not love me?”

“Of course I do. You are my son.” She grasped his shoulders and shook him slightly, as if that would shake some sense into him. “A mother cannot help but love her son. In any case, you mean a lot to me. That is why I have to do all that I can to protect you.”

Is it sad or endearing that she believes this is the best way?

“Of course. Protection.” What was the point in speaking out against her? It would not stop the arranged marriage, and it would not call off the war against Nisyros. She was a stubborn queen, with ten years of experience. She would not yield, not even to the pleas of her son.

But a plan was in motion and Stefan was resigned to it. With a number of elven tribes set as allies, as well as the Unseelie King, and with two Elemental Warriors already at his disposal, there may yet be hope for his cause.

Yolanda held Stefan’s cheeks in her hands, bringing him out of his stupor. “You are my weakness, and my enemies will find whatever means of exploiting that.”

She spoke the truth, of course. But what if she knew that her true enemy stood right in front of her, wearing the guise of a loved one? If she were to find out, then Stefan was convinced she would certainly treat him like any other traitor, or worse. And he could not allow that to happen.

“You never did tell me how you intended to march an army of twelve thousand all the way to Nisyros.”

She released him then, and sighed in exasperation. “Ye of little faith.”

            “The mountains are nearly impregnable, and you would lose many good men fighting Quinlan’s fey.”

             ”Fear not. I will create a portal. Or several.” It was just as he had thought. But a portal of that magnitude would further ruin the ecosystem. Using portals was well and good, but not if you practically lived in a Netherworld. The whole Realm of Terrahgonia resided both inside, and separate from Faerie. That meant that they existed between worlds: Between the realm of the Seelie Fey, and the realm of the mortal world.

             “Do you not think that is perhaps risky?” Stefan asked.

“Don’t tell me you believe in all these ridiculous forecasts,” she snapped.

            “Mother, there has been a 20% increase in the number of mortals appearing here. Terrahgonians are being sucked in by so called “wormholes” and ending up in the mortal realm!”

            “Traitors! They are traitors attempting to escape in the hopes of gaining a new life in the other world.”

            “Do you even hear yourself right now, mother?” She released her hands then, and looked away.

“I am the queen. My will be done.” Her barriers were up again. Her shoulders were squared, and when she turned to face him, the warmth that had radiated suddenly abated. “You will not question me or my methods. You will marry one of the Island princesses, and you will be present when I go out to war. I will not have that sexist Nisyrai king saying that I stood by in the safety of my palace whilst men fought for me.”

            “Of course, mother.” There was no fighting her. She was the queen. Her will be done.

 

Lunch was later than usual that day, due to the mortal rebellion. Stefan would have rather starved than sat between two princesses pining after him. Their fathers were also in attendance, doing a good job of irritating the queen. Erin was a welcome presence, as usual. A pang went through Stefan’s chest, when he looked at his sworn brother. The two of them had not spoken of what Erin had seen the other day. What was there to say? All that he knew was that Erin had not spoken a word to Yolanda either, but it was only a matter of time. He was loyal to their queen, as Stefan should have been. In any case, how could he take such a risk as to truly trust him?

            “Trust is a delicate thing. Do not give it away easily. Even those that you might otherwise love cannot be truly trusted.” This was the advice the Unseelie King had offered Stefan. The raw emotion behind his eyes— telling of unspoken pain— had stopped Stefan from making a flippant comment. It had seemed like the first time he had been truly honest, without making a joke at his expense. No matter what he did, it seemed that he was always to remain nothing more than a mere ‘princeling’.

            With the exotic, dark-haired Araceli on his left, and the fair, angelic Melinda on his right, Prince Stefan should have been in heaven, not in-between in No Man’s Land. Unfortunately the truth of the matter was, neither of these young women were angels. In truth, they were both hungry lionesses, in search of prey. He knew Erin would want to do anything to get this kind of attention. On the other hand, an arranged marriage was not ideal.

               The servants had brought out an array of afternoon tea snacks, including cakes and other pastries. The Victorian Sponge Cake was sliced into two layers, sandwiching the rich whipped cream, and bright raspberries and blackberries. There were finger sandwiches of various fillers to accommodate the guest's tastes. An exquisite red velvet cake decorated in white icing and red roses on top. Stefan could not help being reminded of the red blood he had spilled earlier at the rebellion. He stayed clear of the red velvet cake. But this was his life. His extravagance and wealth was built on thievery and deceits, treachery and murder. The House Rumianstev was built on it.

Stefan settled on the yellow tart instead. It had been especially for him by his all too kind brother, Erin. Yolanda took a bite out of an angel’s food cake. Stefan could not help thinking that she would be more suited to the Devil's Food Cake. Not that he believed in the devil. For if there was one, surely she was the vision of such a being. No. Such a fictitious religion was more suited to the factions of mortals who existed in Terrahgonia. Religion in general was ill suited for the prince. It seemed that the only one having a good time was Erin. That was no surprise. He was known to have a sweet tooth. 

 

Stefan kept talk to a minimum. The princesses seemed vapid and shallow. It was unlikely to get into intellectual discussions with either of them. True, they were pretty, but he desired more than a pretty face. Stefan could not fault their ambition to be queen, however.

            “Busy brooding, are we?” Erin asked. “I would think that with such desirable ladies by your side, you would be have a better time, dear brother.”

            Stefan gave him his careful political smile but did not reply. A burning sensation in his throat and belly had diverted his attention.

            Two servants came in, including Taravati, with special china and tea. Tara walked towards Stefan to pour him his tea and placed a note just below his teacup. They had not spoken much since the incident involving their kiss and she refused to make eye contact. It was just as well, considering the setting. A slave like her making eye contact with the Crown Prince would have been viewed as petulant.

            He poked idly at his yellow tart with his fork and read the note. Three words were imprinted on it: HE HAS ESCAPED.

            The pain searing through his throat intensified and he was soon choking. Stefan quickly lapped at his tea, which only scalded his tongue. A servant came running towards him and pressed him a glass of water.

            It was no use. The burning persisted. The fire in his throat spread like an infection, climbing towards his limbs and inner organs. It was all consuming.

            Stefan vaguely noticed that the others were in shock. Erin was the first at his side— at least he thought it was Erin. No one else called him brother. But it was getting hazy. He began convulsing and he fell of his chair. Someone caught him. Erin. All he could think was how stupid he had been. Why had this happened? It was all his fault, he knew. Yet here was Erin, wanting to take care of his dear brother.

            Stefan felt tears stream down his face. Vasvi-Shyama had lied. He could still feel the emotional turmoil inside of him. The creature had promised numbness. It was the only way he would be able to get through it all— the only way he could betray his mother and kill her.

            In that instant, Stefan wished that he could die. Just slip away. Perhaps he would get his wish.

 

 

 

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