I am

"She was made out of pure spirit and life. A star on earth. Yet a hurricane in space. Cassiopeia Turow was different."
I am a girl who dared to dream. I am someone who sought adventure. I am a person who will learn and thrive and satisfy curiosity. These are all qualities most people share. But most people can't say that they overthrew a monarchy or helped burn down the world.


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43. "...colours started to come back."

 

FORTY 

“The world greyed for them. Then as time went on colours started to come back.”

 

Now,

Queens, Irille.

 

Tommen would have liked to say that he moved on straight away, that he hopped back on the Night Thief and sailed away to live a happy life. But the unfairness of life didn’t make it that easy.

Cassiopeia’s death was like a scab that he couldn’t help but pick. Each time he picked it, it would bleed and irritate him and then scab over again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

He stayed in Irille for a couple of days, using his money to buy a simple room in a tavern. Not the Golden Compass, there were too many memories floating around there.

He had begged Avery not to come with him and so Avery had obeyed his request.

He let the world turn around him as he sat in his room and watched as the days changed. He needed to stand still for just a moment, to wallow and then to heal. He ate and he drank and he survived but he was a statue, a breathing statue.

Cassiopeia would be disappointed in him but he needed to be a statue. The pain would overwhelm him if he became a human for just a day.

The world had robbed him of the girl he loved, the girl that he was meant to have a chance with. And he was angry. He was so angry that he wanted to curse the sky and punch a tree.

He had actually done that on the day of her death. He had went into the forest that they had encountered that waterfall and punched a tree, relishing in how the pain made him feel something other than emotional hurt and anger.

 

It was after four days that he decided that he needed to do something. He had been a statue for long enough. He went over to a drawer which hadn’t been opened since he had rented out the room. Inside it there were a bunch of letters and a photo of a smiling girl, her legs crossed and her hair frizzy and her smile wide as it could be.

He scavenged to the back of the pile of letters and pulled out the only unopened one from the bunch. This was Cassiopeia’s last letter to him and it was about time that he opened it.

 

Dear Tommen,

Let me begin by saying that I have never loved someone in the way that I have loved you. You are my first love, the only one that has, and will ever, get my heart racing in the way that you do.

I wish we had longer, to be able to live out our lives and see where this love would take us, but we don’t.

We have little time. It’s unfair I know but some time is better than no time at all, and we have to appreciate the small things.

The small things like the way your face crinkles when you are frustrated. How your tongue pops out between your lips when you are concentrating. How your hair doesn’t bother you even if it is in your eyes. The way you heart beats. The way you hold me and kiss me and love me.

I’m getting distracted just thinking about it.

My death will hurt you, I am sure of it, but do not let it weaken you. You have to keep living, please keep living for me.

You are only nineteen, don’t let two lives be taken when only one was meant to be.

Keep travelling and seeing the world like you want to. Keep seeing new places and finding more pieces of yourself along the way. Keep generating and creating stories of the things you see out there. Maybe collate all of those stories in a book and make some money from it, engrave your memories onto pages.

 

There may be a time when you meet someone else, a girl or a boy who takes your fancy and takes your breath away. It will hurt because you will be reminded of me. It’s okay to love another and still think of me. You can’t stay still forever and keep yourself for me, there’s still years of your life to live yet. Love like there is no tomorrow because there may not be. Love with all your soul because you soul will crumble if you don’t.

Be happy and don’t let my death cloud your every day.

 

Don’t push people away and embrace your new found family with open arms if you can. You’ve finally found you father, the one you’ve been asking for since you were little. Take that chance and run with it, run with it until you can’t run anymore. Go back to Marta, I know you miss your home, visit your mother and patch your life back together. Don’t let old regrets haunt you forever.

 

All I’m saying is that you will miss me, I will miss you in every way too, but you need to love and laugh and forgive. You need to live. That’s all I’m asking of you. I have died living my life and I need you to do that too, hopefully not dying until seventy odd years down the line.

 

I’ll meet you in paradise one day and watch over you with wide eyes.

Love with all my heart and soul,

Cassiopeia Turow.

 

The paper crumbled in his hands just a little and he fought with himself to not harm it in any way. He sighed and folded in on himself. He could do what she said, he could live for her but for himself as well. He had to get up and be a human once more. The world called for it and his soul thanked him for it.

 

The next day he hunted out Avery, “It’s time,” Tommen said and helped Avery pack up some belongings. They were making their way back to the Night Thief when Avery asked him why it was now that Tommen had decided he needed to leave Irille.

“We need to move on,” Tommen said, “Not forget her but just move on,” Tommen sighed and looked at his father full on, “We can’t stop living now, life has just got interesting.”

He tried to smile and together the son and the father walked to the docks, leaving with heavy hearts but with hope on their shoulders.

 

The trip to Sars was a long one, they stayed on course and only went elsewhere when it was necessary. They had a mission and that was to deliver the news of Cassiopeia’s death to her parents. Sars was a small island burrowed in the chain of islands known as the Quadrants. Traders had given them numbers to make it easier when navigating through them.

Now number six would always be known as Sars to the Night Thief.

When the crew had learned of Cassiopeia’s passing they had lit their lanterns to shine into the sky and bought paper ones to fly high into the darkness. They had been silent and reflective and then they had drank and moved on with their mission.

Tommen knew where her parents lived because the Sect had had surveillance on the island to inform the Sect and to threaten people if needed. There had even been a Sect member of the Night Thief before Avery had chucked them overboard.

He had told Avery that he could come and they stood shoulder to shoulder as they knocked on the door. Tommen knew her parents’ names Olivia and Elijah and he didn’t expect Cassiopeia to be a near carbon copy of her mother but the mixed eyes and the nose. Cassiopeia had had her father’s nose. Tommen clutched the letters and things in his hands, to keep his fingers from trembling with his nerves.

The door had opened and Tommen had had to clear his throat to begin to speak. “You’re Cassiopeia’s parents aren’t you?” he asked and inwardly cringed because he knew that they were.

The pair nodded, “And who may you be?” Olivia asked – calling her Cassiopeia’s mother hurt just a bit.

 

“I’m Tommen and this is Avery we are members of the Night Thief, the ship your daughter boarded a few months ago.” Tommen answered and could see the exact moment that Elijah’s face shunted. He knew where the conversation was headed. “She spent a couple of months on the ship before she docked off at a place called Irille, there she worked in a tavern and made friends with the King. Sadly, while fighting for her own protection and for the rights of others she was sentenced of a crime – “ Tommen couldn’t bring himself to say the exact words and he had to gulp several times to prepare himself. “The sentence was to the death.” He watched as Olivia crumbled and Elijah had to hold her up.

“She wrote a letter for you and some videos for you to look at,” and Tommen handed over the tapes and letters to Elijah who seemed to be doing his best to stay together.

On top of the stack there were a few photos, of a smiling Cassiopeia, of a Cassiopeia working in the tavern, of her dancing and having fun.

“Look Elijah her hair has grown,” Olivia said wistfully and looked at the top photograph.

“You better come in,” Elijah offered and they went into the home that used to Cassiopeia’s.

 

They sat down in a modest living room and Olivia looked like a second away from bursting into tears. “What was Cassiopeia like to you?” she asked as she smiled to try and remain together.

“I loved you daughter with all of my heart…” Tommen said his mind falling into memories. He and Avery stayed and told Cassiopeia’s parents stories of Cassiopeia and when they left they saw her parents finally opening their final letter.

Their mission had been completed but it had been far from easy.

 

Tommen’s next mission was slightly harder. His was a personal one; to go home. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Avery asked as they plotted the course to Marta.

Tommen nodded, “You went home and faced you parents, I’ve done half of that but it’s time that I do the same.”

“I go to Irille and lose two children at once,” Avery muttered and Tommen knew on how Avery had viewed Cassiopeia as a daughter.

“You’re not losing me,” Tommen asserted and went over to hug his father, “The Night Thief comes to Marta every six months anyway, I’ve saw the charts remember. I’m going to see my mother and in four months’ time, the Night Thief will be docking there again. I need to see her Father, I need to make it right.” He muttered and Avery hugged him back.

“You’re a little smart arse, you know that?” Avery jested and Tommen laughed.

 

Marta had not changed much when he arrived, there was a fine misty rain when he arrived and it felt familiar on his face. Tommen was only supplied with a duffle bag full of memories and so he hopped on a train, a little more upgraded than he was used to, and went home.

He knocked on his door, his very familiar door, with trepidation and waited with a tapping foot. The sun flower was still in full force in the front garden angling east for the sun.

Then the door opened and a calmer woman opened the door, a familiar woman.

“Hello mother,” Tommen uttered, his words quiet and honest.

“Tommen!” His mother shouted and launched herself at him, forcing him to drop his duffle. “I’m sorry, so sorry,” she was murmuring and Tommen was repeating those exact words back to his mother.

The hug of his mother had not changed and Tommen melted into it. It was good to finally be home.

Avery didn’t read his final letter until after they had dropped Tommen off at Marta. The familiar country made something ache in his chest. He decided that when he was going to pick his son up he would see his first love once more. He knew that when the time came he would try and talk himself out of it but for now he was set on the idea.

His letter did not look as bulky as Tommen’s had when Cassiopeia had handed it to him. When he lifted the letter out he found it was only one page.

 

Dear Avery,

When I first saw you I didn’t know what to make of you. Then when you trained me I didn’t hate you but I disliked what you did. By the time I left the Night Thief I knew that you were a man who loved his ship and his duties, but there was something missing.

I learned that the missing thing was your lost love and your lost son. You solved the son part, finally confessing to Tommen and taking him under your wing. You haven’t solved the lost love one though. That’s what I want you to do.

A love that hurts your heart is a love that means something, a love that is the right one. Just look at me and Tommen. You need to get closure, you need to see her again.

Fully fight your demons just like you’ve done with your parents. Don’t bury it in your boat – and yes I said that to annoy you.

Thank you for training me and being there for me, it’s shaped me into who I am today. Hopefully you can pass your wise wisdom onto someone else and help another girl to realise that she means the world to someone just for being who she is.

With all my love and bless and don’t forget who you are.

Cassiopeia Turow.

 

He laughed at it and pulled it to his chest. Cassiopeia Turow was sure a girl he wasn’t going to forget in a long time. He looked back at his ship, at the people sprawling about and his smile turned.

“Alright sissies, we have work to do!” He shouted and his crew jumped to attention.

He loved being a Captain, he really did.

Lisa and Bruce had a collective letter. One which showered them with devotion and thanks and stories.

One paragraph got to them though.

Lisa make sure that you don’t annoy Bruce too much, he is your husband and he deals with a hell of a lot. Bruce make sure that you love Lisa with the love she deserves, handle her like she’s a newborn chick because underneath the tough exterior there is a person who yearns to be a mother. You were my pseudo mother and I cannot thank you enough for being there for me, even though the start of our relationship was a bit rocky I must admit.

Keep the tavern going, keep dancing and surviving. Hopefully you can still cook for the palace on occasion. Keep the dream alive and never forget that the tavern is your happiness. Maybe offer my room to someone else so they can see the tavern from another point of view like I did.

The tavern was my second home and every home is loved because of its quirky character. Make sure that that quirky character exists for a long time.

With my heart and soul and many, many thanks.

Cassiopeia Turow (your pseudo daughter)

 

They had cried and Lisa had denied that the tears had ever left her eyes. In remembrance of her they changed the name of the tavern from the Golden Compass to the Golden Poppy and they cried once more when the sign was put up.

Cassiopeia would always live there even if it wasn’t in the flesh.

Samantha’s letter was even shorter. She opened it as soon as she got back to the town house and she loved what was written on it.

Dear Samantha,

Keep drawing and please stop singing when in public. But if you are going to do something, do this; Give Irille Hell for me.

Cassiopeia Turow.

 

The capitalization only made the impact hit harder. Oh I will Cassiopeia she thought. The day after she accepted a governmental position in parliament, the first female Sect member to be in parliament. Her voice would be heard and what Cassiopeia fought for would finally come to pass.

Nox didn’t open his letter until he was able to get back to the palace gardens. These gardens meant a lot to him and it was the first place where he had met Hadrian. He sat on a bench, dirt covering the knees of his pants and his nails black with the mud, as he opened the envelope. It was hard to get smudges on the paper but he tried.

 

Dear Nox,

You were the other trainer that I had and so you also taught me who I really was. More than that you helped me find a purpose, a reason to fight. I can’t thank you enough for that.

You have confronted your own demons, I don’t know what they truly were because Hadrian never told me but you have and for that I congratulate you. It’s hard to confront something that haunts us.

I want you to do something for me and that is to finally tell Hadrian how you feel about him. I bet you’re shocked right now because you didn’t think that I would pick up on it. But I could pick up on how you looked at him, the longing glances and hopeful stares just hoping that he would look back and meet your eyes. I could tell that something about him made you tick in the right way, your heart pick up, your skin sweat. You shifted how you carried yourself each time he came in the room.

I know you’re frightened because he’s the King and Irille hasn’t seen a gay union in an age or so. But you need to take that leap and dive, you never know unless you try and you can never get back up if you don’t fall.

Don’t be afraid of falling either, sometimes it can teach us how to fly.

I don’t trust anyone better to look after him. I trust you with my entire being.

I need you to also take care of yourself. Patch yourself up when you’re hurt for example. Work your way back up the Sect and be a powerful member for example. Be proud of yourself and what you have achieved.

Do what you can to achieve happiness.

I know you will try your best.

Keep living and flying high,

Cassiopeia Turow.

 

Her words comforted him and he made sure that the dirt on his hands didn’t ruin her words. He knew what he needed to do. To be happy he couldn’t go home again, he had to stay away from Irene. He would finally buy a house here in Irille and finally start living the life he wanted to live since he was little. A life without fear that his father was going to come and beat him if he said something wrong.

Now all he had to do was get Hadrian to read his own letter and then Nox could properly do what Cassiopeia asked.

Hadrian didn’t even know he had a letter from Cassiopeia until Nox handed it to him after Lucian’s funeral.

The day of the funeral was hot and Hadrian hated it because his black suit clung to his skin in a horrible, sweaty way. He did not need things like that distracting him on such a monumental occasion. There had been a good turnout, the Lords and wives, and some of the citizens who had interacted with Lucian turned up. Even a prostitute called Mary, who was apparently fond of Lucian, came despite the controversial nature of her visit.

Lucian got a plot two over from his father’s since Hadrian knew that he wouldn’t appreciate being next to a man he nearly despised. Instead Hadrian would take the plot in between them when his own time came.

His mother had even turned up, the death certificate reaching her from whatever country she had been staying in. Hadrian himself had allowed entry the day before. She stood in a black lace dress, her blonde hair wavy down her back. She had changed from when Hadrian had saw her last. She had aged and her posture had relaxed. Being away from their father appeared to do her some good.

“I am sorry for everything,” she said, her voice lighter than he remembered as the proceedings began. She meant everything in the way that she was apologizing for leaving him.

“I actually can’t remember you leaving, Father had me forget it because of the phobia of abandonment that developed afterwards. Even so I don’t want you in this country unless you have to, so you have today or tomorrow and then you go back to where you came from.” He answered and didn’t look at her. Maybe it was because it was his brother’s funeral that his tone came out harsh and unforgiving or maybe it was because Hadrian couldn’t be bothered to deal with his mother. He saw his mother nod and back off, her head sinking just a little.

He knew that Nox was there somewhere, he saw a flash of dark hair in an equally dark suit earlier on but his mind was beyond distracted. This was his brother’s funeral for god’s sake and he carried the coffin along with some other lords.

His life was defined by a cluster of seconds, a nightmare of a gunshot to his brother’s chest, a red poppy blossoming where unbroken skin should have been. Except it wasn’t just a nightmare of the past, it came back to haunt him each night and sometimes in the day. He was having night terrors just like his father and even he had taken to walking around the palace just to alleviate some of the stress. Lucian’s room had remained untouched ever since Hadrian had been there for the journal and Hadrian didn’t know how to deal with it.

He felt more emotion at this funeral than he had at Cassiopeia’s. He had been angry and frustrated at Cassiopeia’s but now all he felt was sadness and he couldn’t push it down far enough to forget it.

He was the last person there when the funeral finished and he was glad it. Even the priest had left.

He looked at the empty space in between his brother’s and father’s plots. His father’s gigantic stone was due to go on any day now and Lucian’s was already in production, it wouldn’t be as grand but Hadrian ensured that he would have a good send off. There would be a wake but Hadrian wouldn’t go to it. He hated wakes, the only reason he went to his father's was because of Lucian.

 

How had this happened?

Just last year he attended his father’s funeral and became a King and now he had attended his brother’s funeral and he was alone. Well not as alone as he thought he was. Nox was still there, lurking in the shadows.

“Shouldn’t you be at a wake drinking or something?” Hadrian directed towards the man who tried to hide himself behind a tree to the left of him. Hadrian didn’t look away from the brother’s plot.

“Shouldn’t you?” Nox said as he emerged from his tree and came to stand next to Hadrian.

Hadrian shook his head.

“How are you doing?” Nox whispered to him, laying a hand on his arm.

“I’ve never felt more alone.” Hadrian croaked out, the honesty tasting acidic as it rolled off his tongue.

“You’re not alone Hadrian,” Nox crooned and pulled him into a hug.

Hadrian hiccupped and swallowed back his sadness. “Do you know how my father was killed? We found out after we interrogated an SIE operative named Reg.” He whispered.

“How?” Nox questioned.

“Father was trying to stop a shipment from West Callie to Irille and some SIE thugs went after him, stopping the shipment prevented a lot of money coming their way and that’s where their anger came from. The drug only heightened their anger when they were under the influence of it. All Lucian wanted to know was how father died and he died associated with what Lucian was a boss for. All SIE does is cause more problems…” Hadrian forced out with one big breath.

“We will squash it for good, we know the capital now, and the Sect is powerful. We will get rid of it for good Hadrian.” Nox comforted and put their heads together to make sure that Hadrian could see the truth in his eyes.

“Good,” Hadrian whispered, “Now let’s get out of here,” Hadrian ushered the other man out of the cemetery and they went to the gardens where Hadrian knew that everything would be fine.

 

The gardens were his safe place and they had been sat in silence before Nox began a conversation. “Before Cassiopeia died she wrote these letters to everyone and there’s one for you,” he said and watched as the King winced. Nox took the envelope out of his pocket and smoothed it down, passing it to the other man. Hadrian took it but reluctantly. “I’m going to go and leave you be – “

“No, stay,” Hadrian whispered and it took him a while to open the envelope and take the letter out. It took him even longer to concentrate and read it.

 

Dear Hadrian,

I haven’t had a chance to talk to you properly since I was captured.

I need to say that I wouldn’t have done what I did if Lucian hadn’t come after me or if Lucian had not been involved in SIE. I’m not victim blaming but you have to realise that Lucian does not fit on the high, high pedestal you have him on. He belongs on a pedestal, but a realistic one.

I think that for the entirety of your life you have relied on your brother for so much and therefore it has painted an unreflective view of your brother. I’m only saying this because lowering that pedestal will make it easier for you to cope with his death.

I’m sorry for everything I’ve done towards you. That doesn’t mean much but that’s all I can say.

I don’t blame you for the sentence I was given - my death – I know that your reputation would have been on the line if I received something more lenient.

 

In every one of these letters I have wrote something that I wish for them to do. I hesitate on your letter because I don’t know whether I deserve to tell you what I want you to do.

I’ve decided – I’m going to do it anyway and if you want to do them then you will. I’m just going to rephrase them a little.

You should get to the bottom of SIE and eradicate it from existence. People can’t be trusted with the power that it brings. I can say from personal experience that SIE lowers your conscience and broadens your horizons on what’s moral and immoral. For your sake too I think doing this goal will benefit you. SIE has infiltrated so much of your life and that needs to be changed. You need to infiltrate it rather than the other way round.

You also should prevent as much corruption as you can. I know you have modelled some of your ruling on what your father did or what your brother would have done. You deserve to be the better King, the best King that Irille has ever seen. I trust you with Irille in your hands, you are honestly the best King I could imagine in your circumstances. You deserve it as well.

Last but not least I think you should get over your fears concerning Nox. I know that you are not as far gone as you might need to be to take these steps but I’ve saw how you look at him. You feel comfortable around him and that is the formation of love I think, in my experience anyway. You need to let go and be yourself otherwise your life won’t be lived to the fullest. All I wish for you is to be happy. You’re happy with Nox and I hope that you realise that you can help each other out.

 

I hope you live a long and happy life, leading a country you are proud of.

I’m glad that I got to know you. I’ve learned a lot from you actually and I can actually say that I was friends with a King. Because I loved being your friend and I hope that our time together was worthwhile for you as much as it was for me.

All my hopes for the future,

Cassiopeia Turow.

 

Hadrian looked away from the letter and back to Nox who had been sat patiently and quietly beside him. “Cassiopeia was a special girl,” he murmured.

“That she was,” Nox replied, looking at Hadrian carefully.

“I’m sorry for how I went about her situation,” Hadrian mentioned and looked at the other man and how concerned he was for Hadrian. Cassiopeia was right, he had never felt more comfortable than he was in this man’s presence. A realization registered in his blood. He almost jolted with the force of it. “I may be sorry for what I’m about to do,” Hadrian whispered low and deep, and watched as Nox’s eyebrows furrowed.

The letter lay almost forgotten on Hadrian’s lap as he positioned his hands on the other man’s shoulders and tilted his head. Slowly he leaned in until his lips connected with Nox’s. His nervousness melted into hesitant confidence as fireworks rushed through him. Nox’s lips were soft, and god did it feel amazing to kiss him, to let go for once. Nox kissed him back and they melted into one another.

Hadrian could have stayed there for days but he couldn’t. He ripped his lips from Nox’s and stood, placing the letter in his pocket. “I’ll be back,” he muttered and walked out of the garden.

 

He rushed to the church. Hadrian didn’t know why but he felt like he needed to get things off of his chest. His skin felt hot and his head felt dizzy as he walked and he regretted ever leaving Nox on that bench in the garden. For once he wanted to do what Cassiopeia had suggested. He would always go back to Nox and tell him exactly how he felt, he would do that after he confessed.

That’s what he needed to do.

The church was empty and there was only the priest there at the back. “King Hadrian I didn’t expect you here,” he uttered as he saw Hadrian.

“Neither did I but I think I need to confess some things.” Hadrian said and moved to where he knew they held the confessions. Irille was strict on a one God principle and Hadrian wasn’t a specifically religious man but he respected the practice.

The priest looked surprised but humoured him anyway. “What is it that you needed to confess King Hadrian, and remember everything you say is confidential and will be forgiven by God when you walk out of this room.”

The confession room was dark, and there was only a grate to separate him from the priest.

Hadrian took a deep breath before he began.

“There’s so many things that I’ve been keeping close to my chest and I need them out in the open,” he took another deep breath, “my father was not the man I thought he was, he did some despicable things in his time – which reminds me I need to cancel a certain contract tomorrow. My brother wasn’t who I thought he was either, he was deeply involved in the SIE campaign. But most importantly I have something to confess about myself…” Hadrian hesitated.

“It’s alright my King.” The priest assured and Hadrian had to say it, it felt right to say it.

“I’m gay,” he smiled as he said it, “and I think I’m falling in love with a certain man.”

This was it. He had done it. Now he could move on. 

 

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