A prophecy written thousands of years ago is coming to life. Broken together, Ashter and Arecel hope to survive the pain of life but fate and destiny have other ideas. The Great War is said to have ended years before the heirs were born, however, it has only just begun. The dreary fort of the North holds more secrets to the future than anyone can imagine; the past holds the future and the present simply observes in anguish...
'Wings of the West,
Strength of the East,
Breath of the North,
Blood of the South'
Night had fallen; the eerie sounds of faraway beasts could be heard throughout Darkrise, the dreary fort in the North, although these sounds were nothing new to the Northern folk who had probably fought those beasts worst nightmares. Besides the far off noises, the castle and surrounding town were quiet leaving a sinister shadow of silence to suffocate Darkrise like a hand wrapped around a mouth in the darkness. It was the month of Frangulh, the coldest and final month of the year, which meant that a thick layer of beautiful and deadly snow stood everywhere – turning a normally grey and brown town into one of pure white, which would be only there until the morning came. A scene of perfection.
Like a great galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas of the sky, the gleaming moon shone down creating a ghostly glow throughout the castle grounds, although no one should have seen this sight because sleeping hours were deep underway. However, two pairs of sapphire eyes watched, hypnotized, by the beauty of the castle on this cold winter’s night. Looking left then right, to check for oncoming troubles, the first pair of eyes relaxed slightly, paranoia ran deep in the veins of the owner of these eyes, her name was Arecel.
Arecel was often described as beautiful but in herself she couldn’t see why, her white hair matched the colour of the snow when it was untouched but its wildness and tendency to knot and curl around her waist had got her the nickname ‘Snow Lion’, as well as her love for the month Frangulh and strength in hunting. Another glance around by Arecel calmed her once again, her features were that of a delicate child, her nose was small and referred to by her peers as a ‘button nose’ – she hated it – her lips were small and dainty and to her extremely boring, her facial shape was that of a heart and her defined cheek bones stood out across the lightness of her skin. Many people thought she was beautiful but all agreed she had the most marvellous of eyes, ‘Like sapphires’ they’d compliment, ‘Fashioned from the Gods’ they’d repeat – Arecel didn’t mind her eyes but couldn’t understand why people would gaze at her all day long just to see her eyes…
She glanced again but this time when looked left she was looking straight into eyes that matched her own – the owner of the second pair of eyes was frowning at his sister. Ashter was pouting because unlike his younger sister he wasn’t cautious or worried about capture, he simply wanted adventure. Even though the years between Ashter and Arecel were few, maturity had clearly developed Ashter into adulthood whereas Arecel was yet to be touched. Like his sister, Ashter had hair that was ghostly white and wild but it fell only around his shoulders which earnt him the name ‘Bear’, his hair wasn’t the only thing that granted him this nickname though; Ashter’s love of the fifth month, Grendt, and talent for the forest lands was an unmistakable connection to the animal bear. Unlike his sister, Ashter had no delicate features and was not childlike in any way – he was tall, taller than his peers and had muscle that made him look extremely intimidating, his facial features were sharp with a curved nose, ordinary lips and defined cheekbones that looked like someone had carved him out of wood. Like ancient wood, woven with magic and knotted with stories of the past worn into his skin like the scrapes of a stag on a tree. It was as if his face could tell the story of his ancestors, all their woes and loves represented in the paleness of his skin, like the trees knotted together in the old lands, touched by every soul in the four kingdoms. One thing Ashter did share with his sister in appearance was their eyes, he also got the ‘Like sapphires’ remarks and those people who wouldn’t stop staring at him because they couldn’t look away from his eyes…
Raising one eyebrow at his sister, Ashter whispered in a gruff tone “Stop worrying; let’s go down to the woods.” Nodding in agreement, Arecel followed her brother along the stone corridor of the castle; she’d always loved the castle but hated it like a prison too. Upon reaching the top of the spiral staircase, Ashter allowed his sister to place her head against the wall and listen intently – Arecel’s hearing was impeccable, her point ended ears could pick up sounds that was ages away, a talent Ashter was extremely jealous off. Although useful in some moments, Arecel often found this ability bothering, when the castle was sleeping and the world at rest mice from rooms away could be heard by Arecel, her sleep disrupted by their feet scrambling against the cobbled stones. The faintest sounds could heard by Arecel, which in a time of war is useful but the final Great War had finished before either of the heirs were born which left her power redundant. Shaking her head and mouthing the word ‘Nothing’ Arecel went first into the darkness as her brother followed close behind.
It seemed like hours of silence and darkness before they reached the half way candle that lay by the only window in the spiral staircase; the window itself was too high for Ashter or Arecel to see out of but the candle was a sign that they had travelled over half way of their journey down the stairs. After again what seemed like an exponential amount of time, the siblings reached the end of the spiralling staircase, “finally” hushed Ashter, summarising what they were both thinking.
Before them, lay a long wide corridor with sixty seven doors and sixty eight portraits placed in between each arch, portraits of the rulers of Darkrise – the ancestors of Ashter and Arecel. Often Arecel wondered about the amount of doors, each ruler of Darkrise had added a certain amount of doors to extend the corridor but none had chosen to split the corridor like many of the other rooms. It was strange and Arecel couldn’t help but wonder why? Often when sneaking out, Ashter and Arecel would find their feet running them to here in order to see the paintings; there were hundreds of paintings, the first being Lord Daltis and Lady Laerra – the first to build and rule Darkrise, it was said they built it with their bare hands. Lord Daltis looked exactly liked Ashter, except from one very large detail, Lord Daltis had smooth jet black hair like the wings of a raven, besides that Lord Daltis and Ashter were identical. Across Lord Daltis’s face was a hard expression, that of honour and integrity, Ashter felt the pressure greaten on his shoulders and in disgrace he looked away from the honourable Lord Daltis, Arecel noticed this – as she always did. Not taking her eyes away from the eyes of Lord Daltis, Arecel took her brothers hand in her own rather like a mouse placing its hand in that of an ice bear. Lady Laerra shared no similarities with either Ashter or Arecel, her face was hard and expressionless which sent shivers through Arecel’s spine because she couldn’t understand how it seemed as if no one was there, it was like there was no soul in Lady Laerra. Unlike any of the current heirs to Darkrise, Lady Laerra had bright red hair but it wasn’t wild or crazy, it was smooth and polished, her eyes were dark brown and emotionless, her skin a beautiful caramel colour that Arecel envied greatly and her features pointed and sharp. Lifeless was Lady Laerra and noble was Lord Daltis.
Ashter squeezed his sister’s hand as they walked to the next portrait, the next rulers of Darkrise – Lord Nestar and Lady Milah; they were very different from their predecessors. Lord Nestar shared his father’s hair and looks but his expression was that of happiness, Lord Nestar wasn’t looking off into the distance like the previous portrait but instead at his wife with a big goofy grin spread across his face. Ashter smiled at this painting, it was a pressure reliever, Lord Nestar was said to have been so infatuated by Lady Milah that he often remarked that she was the single greatest thing in any of the four kingdoms. Lady Milah, looked exactly like Arecel, except for the button nose, Lady Milah’s nose was curved and ordinary, and just like her husband she too was not looking honourable or noble but happy and in love because she was looking straight back at Lord Nestar, a beautiful smile spread across her lips. Both Ashter and Arecel were smiling but soon they remembered how this tale of love ended, with death. In the month of Frangulh when the snow came and covered the castle, it trapped Lady Milah in the orphanage and within a day, Lady Milah had given everything she could to the orphans but in doing so sacrificed her own life. Lord Nestar dug for days and lost three toes and a finger to the cold but when he arrived he was too late. Lord Nestar died within hours of finding his wife; it was rumoured he died of a broken heart.
For hours the white haired heirs gazed at the portraits of their ancestors before reaching the second to last portrait, the portrait of their parents – Lord Tarik and Lady Arah. Standing nobly next to his wife, Lord Tarik bore the expression of honour and dignity- a frown was not on his face but a smile of kindness and happiness, his hair was pure white like his children’s and his eyes deep brown. Lady Arah, their mother, had deep red hair and a button nose that she had given to her daughter. Lord Tarik’s eyes were not looking directly at the person looking at the photo but instead shyly at his wife and she too was looking back at him a smile on her face. A moment of love captured forever in a painting that will forever remind the people of Darkrise that their Lord and Lady were good people, not that anyone in Darkrise needs reminding of that. Lord Tarik was hung three years ago. For treason… Lady Arah was burnt two years ago. For treason…
Holding each other’s hands tightly, Ashter and Arecel moved on to the final painting, it had yet to be started but the names at the bottom had already been engraved ‘Lord Ashter and Lady Arecel’.
Fleeing the castle, Ashter and Arecel ran hand in hand over the snow leaving footprints of their warm winter boots in the snow. Another difference between the two siblings was that Ashter hated wearing the winter clothes; he loved wearing nothing but shorts and a shirt in the month of Grendt where as Arecel loved her winter clothes, she loved everything about the month of Frangulh. Ashter wore: two white shirts, two black trousers, three pairs of black socks, black boots that went up to his knees, a green winter coat and black gloves that had holes in the end from where he had clambered up the mountains in the previous year. Arecel wore: her favourite winter dress – a green dress that went to her knees and was fur lined inside, woollen black tights and her brown snow boots as well as a big black coat that made her look like a giant black snowball. Old lady Yvonne made these clothes, she was a wonderful seamstress and a loyal friend to the Darkrise heirs. Often in Ashter’s and Arecel’s parents time of need she would hide them and during the Great War she had hidden many friends of the Lord and Lady’s. Surely, Ashter thought that Old lady Yvonne could be trusted to hide them if the time ever came, Ashter shuddered at the thought. He hoped that day would never come. However, the inevitability of time and the cruelty of man, made that day seem almost certain.
Reaching the edge of the wood, Ashter and Arecel turned and saw that Darkrise was just beginning to wake up, the early morning darkness still clouded their vision but a line of smoke was heading up into the sky from the chimney so it was clear that breakfast was being cooked and soon the castle would be humming with the sound of another boring day…
Hand in hand, Ashter and Arecel roamed the forest like birds flying through the sky with no particular reason or purpose but that of the pursuit of peace and happiness. Emerald bushes and ruby flowers grew wildly throughout the tangled ruins of the wood, it was ancient and beautiful. Squeezing her brothers hand, Arecel spoke, her angelic voice giving happiness to the life around her, “This wood is like an ancient heartbeat, drumming forever whilst the world moves on…” Bending down and releasing his sister’s hand, Ashter stroked a red rose affectionately before replying, “It’s not like an ancient heartbeat. It is an ancient heartbeat, one day our hearts will beat with the same tune of peace and finality”.
Time and seasons seem to not have affected the wood, it bore not the withering death of nature but nor that of the full bloom flowers which in the West were said to be as tall as a horse. Beauty and serenity enveloped the wood, it was calm and without order yet chaos did not roam here. It was the simplicity of nature at its height and not many noticed the constant angelic life that bloomed so wonderfully all year round. Above the white haired heirs, there could be seen no stars but only tall trees shadowing the old path made by Lady Laerra all those years ago.
Sitting down, Ashter looked up at his sister and gave her a goofy grin “I know what you’re going to say now”. Frowning, Arecel sat own opposite her brother, her legs crossed and her eyes glinting in the darkness of the wood, “Yes?”
Leaning back and looking up at the silent trees, Ashter sighed heavily and then changed the pitch in his voice to mimic Arecel’s, “You know, Lady Leanna, the first Lady of Darkrise, built these paths because like us she roamed these woods without care. Rumours and stories say she was looking for something… Or someone…” Letting out a small giggle, Arecel nodded and leant back also but an eerie and sinister atmosphere filled the air around them. Small bumps shot through Arecel’s skin and her hairs stood straight up, like soldiers waiting for the oncoming battle. Ashter couldn’t help but feel uneasy too, even though he’d made the joke the cogs at the back of his mind were clicking.
Closing her eyes, Arecel imagined her red headed ancestor roaming these woods in the dead of the night, wide eyed and fearful. What was she looking for? Her dress was covered in mud at the end and tears rolled down her cheek as she fell to the ground in despair. A shadow of inevitability clutched her heart and was squeezing tightly, suffocating her. Why? Finally, the vision subsided and when Arecel opened her eyes, Ashter was leaning over her – his worried expression torn across his handsome features.
Pushing Arecel’s body up so she was sitting, Ashter sighed again, he did that a lot. Looking down at the floor, Ashter whispered “Was it the same vision as before?” Once again the atmosphere took a deadly turn, it was prickly and it was obvious it was painful to both heirs. Nodding, Arecel whispered in a mouse like vice “Yes”. Silence suffocated the siblings now, it was as if someone had their hands around their throats and was holding tightly, they were hurting but wouldn’t say. Looking up, Ashter swooped his little sister into his arms and slung her over his back, she screamed playfully in protest but soon her laughter filled the air.
By the time Ashter reached the edge of the forest with his sister strung over his shoulder like she was a rabbit, the pair were laughing so much that they were shaking uncontrollably. Dumping Arecel into the snow, Ashter picked up a handful of snow and curved it into a ball and aimed it perfectly at Arecel’s face. Coldness hit Arecel like the shrill voice of the student teacher, her expression had Ashter bellowing and lying on the floor.
Smiling cunningly, Arecel made her own and with perfect precision hit Ashter straight in the face which wiped the grin from his face. Soon both siblings were screaming and shouting in laughter and freedom. In this moment, happiness was in full bloom and it was as if nothing could change that. Years were forgotten and memories lay still in the back of their minds whilst one emotion filled their hearts, love. Love was enough for them. Love to them could fix anything and in this moment it was perfect. Perfection will always be described as the moment on the final Frangulh before the change when the sun rose and snowballs were thrown.
Cascades of curls matted around Ashter’s face as he raised his hands in defence. Seeing her brothers surrender Arecel whooped and cheered and then leant into his ear and teased, “Race you back?” At that, Ashter pushed his sister away and ran head strong and free towards Darkrise, his home, with his sister following behind him eager to catch up and overtake.