Scarlet Dusk

Caso Fornax has been given the most important mission of her life. In a move to seize power from the oppressive Kaiser Draco Cetus and his daughter Princess Virgo, the rebel organization Scarlet Dusk sends her into the palace to pose as a maid. Caso's job is simple: find out how to get the organization around the security and into the palace to assassinate Kaiser Draco and his daughter on her wedding day. This is one of the easiest missions Caso has ever been given, but everything starts to go wrong when she starts to fall in love with someone destined to die. As the wedding day quickly approaches, Caso must choose whether she should stay loyal to Scarlet Dusk or follow her heart no matter where it takes her.


2. Chapter One


CH. 1


    The Half Moon Pub was alive with its regular evening hustle and bustle. All the tables were filled with men laughing drunkenly and knocking back drink after drink. I didn’t know how Lupus, the bartender, could hear his own thoughts over all the noise. The sound of all the shouting carried all the way to the private room upstairs that was permanently reserved as the meeting place for Scarlet Dusk, a rebel organization that opposed the monarchy.

    I was sitting next to Crux Borealis, the head of the organization, and across from his son, Taurus. Crux was like a second father to me and Taurus was practically my brother. They took me in after my father was arrested for treason. My mother died many years before that after giving birth to my younger brother.

    Crux cleared his throat, calling the meeting to order.

    “Who’s ready to bring Kaiser Draco Cetus down?” he asked.

    A cheer rose up from around the table. Ara Caelum grinned widely and squeezed my hand. She and her identical twin sister Aquila have been my best friends since I was a little girl. Taurus, however, was frowning for some reason.

    “Mission Genesis must succeed if we want to be free from Draco’s tyranny,” Crux continued. “Y’all know the plan. Caso is the key piece of this mission. The Kaiser’s daughter gets married three weeks from tomorrow. That’s when we’ll strike and assassinate the entire royal family. Caso, you know your part?”

    “Infiltration,” I replied, “I’ll pose as a new maid and spend my time in the palace mapping out the ways in and learning where security will be the weakest. Then I’ll report back to the organization so Scarlet Dusk will have a way in on the wedding day.”

    Crux nodded. “Exactly. You’ll leave tomorrow with the other girls enlisting as maids and have three weeks to get inside information. Do you accept this mission?”

    “I do,” I said, swelling with pride. I was honored to have such an important role in liberating my kingdom. I’d go down in history and be able to redeem my father’s name.

    Taurus shifted in his seat nervously, a sour look on his face. “I object,” he interrupted.

    “Taurus!” I hissed, glaring at him across the table, “What are you doing?”

    He ignored me and faced his father. “I don’t think Caso should be the one to lead this mission.”

    “Excuse me? What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, clearly offended. Taurus was excited when I was first assigned the mission. Now it was like he had hit his head and wasn’t thinking clearly. He still wouldn’t look at me. His face was pinched with concern.

    Crux raised his eyebrows at his son. “Are you insulting Caso’s honor as a valuable member of Scarlet Dusk? Do you think she can’t handle this mission?”

    “Of course not!” Taurus said quickly, “I would know better than anyone else what she’s capable of. It’s just...she’s too good if that makes sense. Skill is important, of course, I just think Caso is better suited to lead the assassination team on the actual wedding day. Someone else can pose as one of the new maids.”

    I could not believe what I was hearing. My biggest cheerleader was trying to take the most important mission of my life away from me. Anger bubbled up inside of me.

    “Why would you say that?” I asked, my voice breaking slightly.

    He was still ignoring me like if he stopped he’d have to realize that the words coming out of his mouth were complete bullshit. I rolled my eyes and kicked him under the table as hard as I could. Taurus jumped back suddenly, rubbing his leg.

    “What the fuck Cassiopeia!” he said angrily.

    “Right back at you, fuckwipe! What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I shouted, shooting out of my chair.

    Ara was quick to pull me back down into my chair, her hand firm on my arm to keep me from getting up again. “Calm down, Caso,” she soothed.

    “Someone needs to point out he’s being a dumbfuck,” I snapped, shooting Taurus a cutting glare.

    “Actually, I agree with Taurus,” Ara said quietly.

    “What?” I pulled my arm away, shocked that my best friend would take his side.

    “I just think it’s for the best. You don’t have to overreact.”

    “I don’t fucking believe this,” I muttered, pushing her aside to talk to Aquila. “Can you please talk some sense into your brain dead sister?”

    Aquila stiffened slightly. She was the quieter one of the two and usually kept to herself. I wondered if she’d heard the rumors going around about her. I also wondered if they were true.

    “This is Caso’s mission,” she said finally.

    “I agree,” Crux said, eyeing his son disapprovingly.

    “Well I don’t,” Taurus argued, crossing his arms over his chest.

    “Taurus, a word,” I hissed through gritted teeth, gesturing to the door. “Now.”

    He got up without a word and I followed him through the door, making sure to close it behind me. Hopefully the noise from downstairs would drown out our arguing. The last thing the organization needed was disharmony between members right before such an important mission.

    “What’s your fucking problem?” I asked in a harsh whisper.

    “Nothing!” Taurus insisted. “I just don’t like the idea of you being away from home for three weeks. Something could happen. I—we could lose you.”

    I couldn’t take it anymore; I shoved him back into the wall with all my strength.

    “God, you’re such an ass!” I yelled. “This is all about you? You’ve got to be fucking with me!”

    Taurus grimaced and rubbed the back of his head. “You mean a lot to me, Caso. More than you do to other people.”

    I knit my brows. “I know we’re practically siblings but that’s not an excuse.”

    He smiled weakly, reached out, and trailed his finger down my arm all the way to my hand. Giving it a squeeze he said, “I really hope you don’t actually mean that.”

    “Which part?”

    He put his other hand on my shoulder and I was starting to get a little creep out. Taurus pulled me close and whispered in my ear, his warm breath tickling against my skin.

    “That we’re like siblings. We could be so much more than that, Caso. Stay with me. Tell my father you don’t want the mission after all. Someone else can do it and then we can have each other.”

    I moved so fast he never saw it coming. One moment he was holding me, the next I had him pinned to the wall with a knife at his throat. He seemed surprised for a moment, but it quickly melted away into a large grin. Then he laughed.

    “No need to get feisty, Caso. You don’t need to prove anything. I already want you.”

    I dug the knife in deeper, causing a thin line of blood to appear.

    “Say anything like that to me ever again and I will cut your dick off and make you eat it,” I threatened.

    Fear blossomed in Taurus’s eyes. He knew not to mess with me. Unlike most girls, I actually followed through with threats like that and the aftermath was never pretty. He swallowed hard.

    “Sorry,” he mumbled, “I crossed a line.”

    “Not good enough. Say, ‘I apologize, Miss Fornax.’”

    “I apologize, Miss Fornax.”

    I released him, wiping my knife on his shirt before backing away. On the inside, I was slightly shaken. Never would I ever had thought Taurus of all people had a thing for me. Just the thought of kissing him made me feel gross; he was basically part of my family. I wondered if Crux knew. He wouldn’t even think about letting us be a couple, not even as a joke. Not when he called me the daughter he always wanted.

    I was almost at the door when Taurus called out, “It’s not just me, you know! Ara wants to fuck you too!”

    “Don’t try to drag Ara into this!” I yelled back, slamming the door in his face. He didn’t come back into the meeting after that.

    Ara looked up when she heard her name. “Drag me into what now?”

    I waved her off and retook my seat. “Nothing, he’s just an ass.”

    Crux sighed loudly. “I don’t know what’s gotten into that boy lately. He must have a girl on his mind.”

    I didn’t say anything. Taurus and I were not going to happen. Not ever. Not even just a little bit. The whole issue had a big, fat fuck no stamped all over it.

    “He’ll be fine,” Ara said, “Mission Genesis just has him a little anxious.”

    “Right,” I agreed. “That’s definitely it.”

    “I hope so. He can’t afford to be getting distracted,” Crux said. “If no one else objects to Caso’s role in the mission, we can adjourn.”

    The room was silent. Even Ara wisely held her tongue. A smile stretched across my face. I had won. The fate of the entire mission weighed heavy on my shoulders. No pressure. There was no way anything could go wrong. One way or another, Pagonia would be free soon.


❈ ❈ ❈ ❈ ❈


    “Do you have to go, Cass?” my little brother whined, tugging at the sleeve of my shirt. I had just finished packing a small bag to take with me. The palace would have everything I needed while I stayed.

    I laughed and ruffled his hair. “Yes, Leo. It’s only three weeks.”

    He pouted at me. “Then I’ll come too.”

    My brother was by far my favorite person in the world. He was a mini-me with almond eyes and dusty brown hair. Leo was the sweetest kid, but sometimes he could get a little too attached to me. This was one of those times.

    “You can’t come, little buddy,” I said softly, lifting his chin. “This is official Scarlet Dusk business.”

    He crossed his arms and put his nose in the air. “Then let me join. I promise not to get in the way. I can help.”

    I sighed. “I know, Leo, but you’re not old enough. Crux said you have to be fifteen.”

    “But I have to go on the mission now, not in two years! Someone has to protect you!” Leo protested.

    “Oh, Leo, I can protect myself.”

    “I know, but…” he trailed off and started to tear up. “Who’s going to protect me?”

    Leo started crying and I pulled him into a tight hug. “I’ve already arranged for you to stay with Aquila while I’m gone.”

    He stopped crying right away. Leo loved Aquila. She almost had a closer bond with him than I did. Aquila had always treated him like the little brother she didn’t have.

    “I’ll miss you,” he whispered.

    “I’ll miss you too, little buddy, but we have to go now or I’ll be late.”

    He pulled away and I grabbed my bag off the bed we shared. It was a short walk to the twins’ house; they only lived two streets over. Aquila was waiting outside for us.

    “Hey, Leo!” she said, a big smile on her face. Her blue and black hair was swept over to the side. I had no idea how she could see through it when it was always in her eyes.

    She turned to me and said, “Ara should be out to drive you soon.”

    “I’ll just go get her,” I said, pushing the door open to get into the house. The twins’ house was small, smaller than Crux’s house where Leo and I lived. I went into the room Ara and Aquila shared, but Ara wasn’t in there like she usually was. Peaking out into the hallway, I noticed the back door had been left open. Something was off; Ara wasn’t the careless twin. I crept down the hallway towards the open door. The closer I got, the louder the voices outside got. I stopped at the door and peeked out to see Ara and Taurus in a heated argument.

    “Why the fuck would you say that?” Ara asked, her arms crossed over her chest.

    “It’s not like I made something up to cover my ass!” He protested, running his hands through his blond hair frustratedly. His blue eyes were bloodshot and he looked exhausted, like he hadn’t slept in weeks. I was concerned for a moment, but it was quickly pushed away by leftover anger from last night. One sleepless night was a lot less than I thought he deserved, but I’d have to settle this time around.

    Ara shoved Taurus into the big oak tree in her yard and got up into his face. “Just because you fucked up your chance with Caso doesn’t mean you have to ruin mine too!”

    He laughed. “Oh come on, Ara, we both know you never had a chance. Caso’s the straightest girl in the town, probably the straightest one in the entire kingdom.”

    Ara slapped him across the face so hard, I was sure Aquila and Leo would hear it from the front of the house and come running. Blood trickled down Taurus’s cheek from a long scratch made by Ara’s moonstone ring.

    “Calm your tits, bitch!” Taurus growled, clutching his face.

    She punched him the stomach and he doubled over.

    “Just get the fuck out of here,” she said, her voice breaking. A tear traced its way down her face and she wiped it away. “Caso’s probably here by now anyway.”

    I slipped back down the hallway before Ara could turn around and see me eavesdropping from the doorway. She told me she liked girls years ago, but I never in a million years would’ve guessed she had a thing for me. Or Taurus either. I would never labeled myself as an oblivious person, but clearly I was one. The mission was more important now than ever. It was the perfect way to get some time off from my psycho, lovesick friends.

    Ara came inside, looking startled when she saw me.

    “Oh, you’re here,” she said in a small voice and could see on her face that she was trying to figure out how much I had heard.

    “I just got here,” I lied. “I was about to look outside for you.”

    Relief flashed across her face briefly before she covered it up with a fake smile.

    “Let’s get going then. Crux dropped the car by last night after the meeting.”

    I let her lead the way out of the house. Aquila was still waiting on the front steps with Leo. They both gave me one last hug and wished me good luck before Ara ushered me into the decrepit station wagon left over from a time when Pagonia still manufactured cars. Kaiser Draco shut that industry down before I was born. It made people too rich. To keep control, he had to keep the kingdom poor and at his mercy. He was wrong if he thought he could prevent an uprising. Scarlet Dusk was relentless. We were unstoppable.

    Ara, still shaken from her fight with Taurus, was unnaturally silent for the first part of the ride. The closer to the palace we drove, the bigger the houses got. Some of them still had families living in them. Most, especially the bigger mansions hugging the palace estate, were empty. No one could afford to live there anymore. That would be changing soon.

    “I wish you’d stay home and let someone else do this,” she said quietly, her eyes glued to the road.

    “Not a chance,” I said. It came out harsher than I intended. “I mean, I have to do this.”

    “Aquila could’ve done it. She would’ve been happy to.”

    I tried to play it off as a joke. “I can’t believe you’re more concerned for my safety than your sister’s.”

    She laughed weakly. “She can take care of herself.”

    “And I can’t?”

    Ara didn’t answer. We stopped at the palace gates and a guard approached our car. He gestured for Ara to roll the driver’s side window down.

    “What’s your business here?” he asked, leaning in through the window. I knew he was scanning us for weapons or anything else dangerous.

    “We heard there was an open call today and my friend would like to apply to be a new maid,” Ara replied. Her hands were tight on the steering wheel.

    The guard looked at me. “Go ahead and say goodbye and step out of the car.”

    I was about to slip out of the car without saying anything when Ara grabbed my arm.

    “Caso…” she started saying, “I want to…”

    She reached around me to relock the door and I couldn’t pull away fast enough. Ara pulled me close and tried to kiss me, but I turned my face away at the last minute. She pulled back, flustered.

    “I’m sorry…”

    I got out of the car and slammed the door before she could finish. She started to roll the window down, but stopped when I flipped her off, sinking back into the driver’s seat looking defeated. I threw my bag over my shoulder and turned to the guards. One of them unlocked the gates and escorted me through. I heard the gravel fly as Ara drove away and I couldn’t help but smile in relief that she was gone and I wouldn’t have to see her again for awhile.

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