The Choice – Part 2

A continuation of the flash fiction I participated in. Rough, much like flash fiction as I didn’t spend a lot of time revising. However, I am finding I rather like these characters . . .

 

Sylenea tugged on her nana’s hand. “You’re still mad at me.”

“I’m not mad at you, little one,” Rhianna said as she stroked the girl’s copper curls.

“You wanted me to become a Priestess of Thalia, but the priestesses didn’t want me. I’m sorry they didn’t want me, Nana.”

“It’s not that they didn’t want you. You don’t have the Calling.”

“The Calling?”

“You don’t feel the pull to serve Thalia, and there’s no shame in that.”

Sylenea chewed her lower lip. “The priestesses were nice, but I don’t want to be one, if that’s what you mean.”

Rhianna nodded and hugged her close. “I know, and that’s okay. We’ll figure out what you’re destined to do. I just wish we could do it away from Emberfall.”

“Why? Emberfall is our home.”

“I think there are better teachers for you,” Rhianna hedged.

Sylenea brightened. “But they did say I’d make a good healer one day. They said the priestesses at the temple near us would train me.”

“So they did,” Rhianna agreed. “Do you want to train to be a healer?”

“I do, but you’re still sad. Did they say something else that makes you so sad?”

“Look, that’s where my sister Jyss works,” Rhianna said, changing the subject as she pointed to a castle peering out of the morning mists.

The dawn light colored the turrets pale purple, adding a whisper of mystery to the towers of the keep that looked like cut crystal. High walls encircled the castle, their covered parapets and guard towers promising protection in times of war.

Sylenea’s eyes widened. “Even from this far, I can tell its way bigger than Emberfall Manor. I didn’t think anything was bigger than Emberfall Manor.”

“Lord Emberfall wants you to believe that,” Rhianna said, her derision lost on Sylenea. “But Castle Darkshield is the ducal seat of this province, and Lord Emberfall must answer to the duke.”

“Aunt Jyss takes care of it all by herself?”

“No, but she is charge of the housekeeping staff. It takes a lot of people to run such a large place.”

“Is Aunt Jyss nice?”

“Very nice, and once she sees you, she’s going to fill you up with cakes, pies, and sweetmeats. Her son is about your age. You remember your cousin, Arkanear?”

Sylenea shook her head. “I don’t remember him or Aunt Jyss.”

“I suppose not. You were such a little girl when they last visited.”

Sylenea wrinkled her nose. “I wish Arkanear was a girl. Boys are such a bore.”

“Why do you say that?”

“All they ever want to play is mage battle, and I get stuck being the princess. I’m as good a mage as any of them.” Sylenea crossed her arms over her stomach and stuck out her chin.”

“So you are,” Rhianna said, trying to hide her fear. “So you are.”

Sylenea rubbed her stomach and looked toward the castle. “Let’s hurry. I’m hungry, and you said Aunt Jyss has cake.”

Rhianna laughed, took her daughter’s hand, and they walked to Castle Darkshield.

 

When they arrived at the castle, Jyss ran down the steps of the staff entrance and hugged her sister.

“You made it!” she beamed. She smiled and then hugged Sylenea. “Look how big you’ve gotten. Last time I saw you, you were knee high to a grasshopper.”

“I was never that little,” Sylenea protested.

“Maybe not.” Jyss hugged her again. “Doesn’t my sister feed you? You’re so thin. Come inside, you must be starving after such a trip.”

“Nana said you had cake.”

Jyss laughed. “I do, and fresh strawberry pie as well, but you’ll have to wait until after supper for that.”

Sylenea beamed at her, and Jyss ruffled her copper curls then led them into the stone castle. Holding tightly to her nana’s hand, Sylenea gaped up at the high ceilings, sparkling windows, and lavish tapestries. Her small feet were silent on the thick rugs, and fresh flowers filled crystal vases, their scent spilling through the lofty halls. Sylenea’s eyes saucered as her head turned from side to side.

As they walked through the halls back toward the kitchens, she spied a boy dressed all in black. He was sitting alone in one of the grand rooms, his spine erect as he read a book. His hair was darker than night, and when he looked up at her, she saw his eyes were as blue as a summer sky. His lips thinned when he saw her, and he scowled.

Her cousin Arkanear, Sylenea decided, and he was probably mad his mother had excluded him from the promised array of treats. Sylenea slid out from under her nana’s arm and raced across the hallway toward the boy.

Rhianna’s eyes widened in horror as she snatched at Sylenea and missed.

Jyss laid a hand on her arm and shook her head.

“Hi,” Sylenea said as she smiled and stood in front of the boy.

The boy’s scowl lifted, and he couldn’t help but smile back at her. “Hello.”

“I’m Sylenea.” She stuck out her hand.

“A pleasure, m’lady. I’m known as Vaundryn.” He took her hand and executed a perfect court bow over it.

“You’re not my cousin Arkanear then?”

His scowl returned. “You have me mistaken.”

“Sorry about that. I only ever met Arkanear once, and I was a baby then.” She looked at his pristine jacket, shined boots, and the silver embroidered crest on his lapel. “You’re dressed like you’re going to the temple. Are you about to leave?”

Vaundryn looked down at his play clothes. “No.”

“Good.” Sylenea grinned. “Aunt Jyss is giving us cake. I’m sure there’s enough for you if you want some. If not, you can have half of mine. Then we can go play. Anything but mage battles.”

Vaundryn said nothing.

“All right, we can even play mage battles. But I get to be a mage too.”

Vaundryn set his book aside.

“Well, do you want to come?”

“What kind of cake?”

“Who cares, its cake,” Sylenea said as she took his hand and towed him after her back to her nana and Aunt Jyss.

“Nana, this is Vaundryn. He can come and have cake, too, right?”

“Of course,” Rhianna said, her smile strained as she stared into the face of Duke Darkshield’s only child.

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