calm sea during golden hour



Apologies to my readers for holding out so long! As exams are finally over and I am catapulted into yet another semester, my uploading schedule will inevitably improve. Thank you for reading!



9/23/20236 min read

“And anyway,” Eleanora went on, unnoticing of Vienna’s annoyed expression, “Did you need anything?”

“Oh, no, remember you wanted to talk every evening?” Vienna asked, storing away her irritation and presenting a pleasantly likable front. She had gotten good at hiding her emotions and bottling them up for later.

“Oh…oh, yes.” Eleanora ran her hands through her hair. “Do you want to have an art competition? I have art lessons every morning, but you’re probably very good at it too?”

“I guess.” Vienna said. This would be easy, she had done art contests enough at home with her brother, but she hadn’t had lessons in a long time.

“We’re going to draw a…why not a self-portrait?” Eleanora said, grinning. “Wouldn’t be bad to improve our ego, eh?”

Vienna nodded, another thought coming to mind.

“Oh, and Nora, that test you told me about, when is it?”

Eleanora, in the midst of shuffling papers from a drawer, looked taken aback by the question.

“Elswyth will probably tell you when that is.” She said nervously. “Art contest, haha! Remember?”

Vienna was a bit wary of the way Eleanora skirted about the question. Perhaps it really was something macabre? Perhaps they intended to kill her, perhaps it was all another elaborate ruse? Or maybe it was just a joke Eleanora had made up in boredom, perhaps they were having her as a clown.

Nonsense, Vienna told herself, you’re over thinking again. It’s the fatigue making you think irrational things. These people are your friends.

Eleanora had finally rustled up some art supplies from wherever she kept them.

“Apologies for the delay,” she chuckled, seeming embarrassed. “I keep these where Lysistrata can never find them. She loves looking through my drawings, but I like to keep them private.”

Vienna laughed. Eleanora had put her at temporary ease. She seemed to have a calming aura about her, much like an older sister.

“Lyss is a bit of a kid, alright.” Vienna agreed, drawing her supplies about her. Pencils, kneadable erasers, electric sharpeners, parchment, the most advanced type of art supplies only experts used. Now it got Vienna curious about Eleanora’s art- yeah, people deserved privacy, but this princess was bound to be the duchess of art, the way her art supplies looked. Vienna would pay her a million corn ears just to catch a glimpse at some of her creations.

[Don’t ask me why I inputted corn ears. I’m officially insane :D]

“We begin now.” Eleanora said, cranking up the table two bits until it was up to the comfortable point where they could rest their hands while sketching away. While Vienna was into the suit of her spidersona, the door flew open and Elliot and Lyss rushed in.

“Heard y’all were having a hangout without us!” Lysistrata said, looking exhilarated. Her golden hair was in two neat ponytails and she was dressed in a pale pink hoodie and a rose gold skirt. Elliot looked disgruntled, as if he had been dragged here all the way by his younger cousin. He was wearing a white button shirt -with the first two buttons unbuttoned- tucked into jeans, his hair unstyled and just mussed up.

Does this guy always dress formal?

“It’s just an art competition.” Eleanora said, sounding just the tiniest bit…annoyed? Vienna had sensed this feeling in Eleanora’s siblings’ voices multiple times, but it sounded alien in the calmest sibling’s voice.

“Oh, wow, now I have to see this.” Elliot said sarcastically, sitting down. He flashed Vienna a grin. “Just watch how she makes the most amazing art and doesn’t show anyone.”

“Just get out, jerk.” Eleanora said, sounding vexed.

“Okay, OKAY! We are going to have a great hangout, with no sibling tension, and Vienna, I could sense that you totally like Dimitri so I invited him too!”

Vienna was still struggling to process all the things when Lysistrata tossed her in the fire from the fat.

“I don’t like Dimitri, I just said we were friends.” she said drily.

“We are friends. A vaguely familiar voice. Dimitri walked through the door. Dude had ditched the cloak and went full grunge, hickory brown collared shirt with a single silver thin chain, dark brown slacks and hazel converse, with a white full sleeved shirt underneath. Everyone’s personal aesthetics in the room so clashed against each other that it hurt Vienna’s eyes a bit. Eleanora’s vanilla girl aesthetic, Lysistrata’s pastel core, Elliot’s old money aesthetic, Dimitri’s grunge, and her own mixed casual-dark academia-indie aesthetic.

The whole room went quiet when he walked in. Elliot rolled his eyes and muttered, “Oh great.”

“Well, hey, Dimitri!” Lysistrata said, her voice going two octaves higher just to hide the nasty things she had said about him before. Vienna rolled her eyes. Double standards.

Dimitri stood there awkwardly, forcing a small smile towards Lysistrata, all eyes on him, until his eyes fell on Vienna and he beamed, revealing his fangs slightly.

“Hey, Vy. Thanks for inviting me here.”

Vienna nodded, smiling slightly. “I…didn’t, but you’re welcome here anyway.”

Elliot made a scoffing sound but Eleanora sounded pleased.

“You’re Dimitri Alexei, aren’t you?” she asked, putting down her pencils.

“This is he, Princess Eleanora.” Dimitri bowed slightly.

“Eh, no need for formalities. Call me Nora.” Eleanora said pleasantly. “I’ve seen you around, aren’t you Elliot’s escort?”

Dimitri had just began to nod when Elliot chipped in,

“You and I know very well I don’t need an escort, Eleanora.” Elliot muttered, looking piqued.

“Calm your horses, Prince Mistral.” Dimitri said lightly, raising his eyebrows.

The tension was palpable. Elliot looked like he was about to jump on Dimitri or do something equally drastic, and Dimitri’s face still bore that same maddeningly amused look.

“Calm down both of you, jeez.” Lysistrata piped up. “And you wonder why there aren’t many boys around in Niflheim…”

Vienna glanced between Dimitri, Elliot, Eleanora and Lysistrata and secretly thought, Wish I’d just stayed in my room instead.

“Anyway, anyhow, we are now going to play a very interesting variation of…what’s it called on Terra? Monopoly? Well, we’re going to play Niflpolium.” Lysistrata said again.

“What’s Niflpolium?” Vienna asked, intrigued.

“It’s like…Monopoly, but a bit different. We have flowers and gold instead of money.” Dimitri said.

“There are palaces and manors instead of houses and hotels,” Elliot said, shooting Dimitri a dirty look.

“And we bet to decide who becomes a Siren and who’s a human. The humans get gold and the Sirens get flowers.” Eleanora chipped in.

“And if a human steps on a Siren’s property or the other way round, they have to trade flowers and gold.” Lysistrata added.

“It’s a bit capitalist, really.” Dimitri said.

“Oh, you think you know all about capitalism, don’t you, Blue Badge?” Elliot scoffed angrily.

“I might know more about it than you do, Prince Mistral.” Dimitri said equally firmly.

“Oh, pipe down, both of you.” Lyss said. “It’s time to bet.”

The tween threw a seemingly harmless bit of ruffled pink paper onto the table and as it hit the table, it instantly extended into a giant Niflpolium board, with neon squares on the board, and pretty bougainvillea- twined manors and bigger stone palaces in a separate box.

“Alright, everyone list their favourite color.” Lysistrata said, squishing into a small space beside Eleanora. She seemed to have taken control of this hangout which was swiftly progressing into a game night. “And Dimitri, please do sit down.”

Dimitri sat down as far away as Elliot as he could, between Vienna and Eleanora. “Thanks, er, Lysistrata.”

They all said their favourite colors twice in a row, Elliot’s was navy blue, Eleanora’s was cream white, Lysistrata’s was periwinkle, Dimitri’s was Brunswick green, and Vienna’s was English violet.

“Okay then.” Lysistrata said. “Elliot and I are humans, Dimitri, Vienna and Eleanora are Sirens.”

Elliot flashed Dimitri a smug look, but Eleanora looked quite pleased.

“I always like playing on the Siren side,” she told Vienna, who nodded. “It’s fascinating; there are different flowers to indicate different levels of currencies.”

And so the game began. Vienna quickly saw the well worn loopholes everyone fell into. Lysistrata was the player who never seemed to land on a buyable property, Elliot bought and charged mercilessly, Eleanora was the one who genuinely seemed to play it just for the fun, and Dimitri was the serious player, assessing every move critically. Vienna, well, she got bored after a while and just played because she couldn’t back out.

Elliot seemed to be intentionally butting heads with Dimitri, no matter how many times Eleanora or Lysistrata piped up about it. Vienna was playing but not really there, head in the clouds, but her gravity was centered right there on the Niflpolium board, in this strange dimension she had grown to accept. Not that she was accepting her fate. Her mind had already grasped the beginnings of a wild escape plan she was almost certain would never work out. But hope was something she was learning to feel again, a 14 year old cynic whose background was inevitably sprinkled with trauma she didn’t care to ponder on or revisit

.A plan involving the careful manipulation of Lysistrata, the coaxing of Eleanora and surreptitious questioning of Dimitri.

An almost whimsical smile crossed her face as she stared down at the board, the place markers blurred as her eyes focused on her thoughts instead of the fact that she was in an active hangout.

“Vy, you alright?” Lysistrata asked.

Vienna’s smile slightly lessened as she tore herself away from her thoughts but it still played on her lips nevertheless.

Oh, you bet, kid. But you won’t be, pretty soon.

“Oh, Lyss, I’m as alright as you get after someone kidnaps you from your family and traps you in another dimension.”

The raised eyebrows only brought a grin.

“I’m fine.”

But what else would she say?