calm sea during golden hour



Vienna and the teens sit down to a well-meaning meal. Vienna, Nora and Dimitri get along well, as our protagonist notes, but sibling tension and Elliot's antagonism eventually wins, leaving Vienna with an awkward confrontation and two people to talk to.



11/2/20237 min read

“That’s great, you’re finished.” Elswyth said. In the two hours it had taken her to write the story, she had undergone an outfit change and was primly dressed in a square cut body con dress with full sleeves, her flaxen hair falling in a waterfall down her shoulders. A double diamond necklace hung round her neck.

“Yeah.” Vienna agreed, shifting her feet nervously. She crossed over to the dim room and followed Elswyth out into the hallway, where Elswyth went on.

“Are you hungry? Or thirsty? We can arrange a meal before the next stage.” Elswyth offered, her hands clasped, sounding almost like she cared. Vienna knew she probably didn’t. That deadpan expression, the perfect eyebrows slightly raised, the carefully mauve painted lips firmly together, the lashes almost hiding away the piercing blue eyes, they spelled deadpan, and to Vienna, schizoid syndrome.

“Thank you.” Vienna admitted.

“And you can partake in the meal with your friends… Nora, Elliot, Lysistrata, and that Blue Badge…Alexei. Dimitri Alexei.”

Vienna internally groaned. She was fine with Nora and Dimitri (their effect was like placeboes), but the very thought of enduring Elliot’s ambiguous glares and Lysistrata’s endless chatter made her cringe.

“That’s…thank you, Doyenne.” She said reluctantly.

Elswyth turned round. “Follow me.”

She complied, turning into another hallway and into another one behind Elswyth until they reached a black door that looked just the same as any of the others, until Elswyth swung it open and it revealed a very futuristic, very monochrome dining room. A white slab of marble carved into a dining table stood in the middle, flanked by five Queen Anne chairs.

Elswyth casually slid into one, crossing her legs and nodding her head at a chair to ask Vienna to sit down, which she did.

“I assume you enjoyed the second stage of the test, even if the first was rather confusing for you.” Elswyth said, eyebrows raised.

“It was entertaining. Rather like the hobbies I had back in Terra.” Vienna replied, forcing a smile. A sore point.

“Yes, well, they all said that.” A mildly bewildered expression crossed the older woman’s face as she realized what she said. “All the…Pneumas.”

Vienna nodded, her eyes flitting to the empty seats, wondering where her real buds had gotten to. Elswyth’s gaze followed hers, and the corners of her mouth turned up as if in a smile…or a grimace.

“You really like them?” the older woman asked, sounding unsure.

“Well, yes. I wouldn’t befriend them otherwise. I’m…selective. It’s one of the worse things about me, not that there’s any end of those.” Vienna laughed.

“You’re too hard on yourself, Vienna Alcestis.” Elswyth said, sitting up straight, her expression darkening. “We’re all just trying to go along to get along. We have to be who we are to not get stamped on in this…multiverse. And you’re just a kid. Just a kid who can still change herself for the better. That’s it, we were all just kids who didn’t have childhoods to reminisce or remember, only regret.”

As a writer, Vienna felt intrigued. As a person, she felt empathetic. As a raging teen, she felt like another piece of the jigsaw had just fallen in place.

Alright, this is getting to be a little…web series type of thing. So everyone has their share of trauma! That’s so cute! It’s like everyone getting a slice of cake but it was cut equally with a pair of tongs :D

No, no, shut up, Vienna.

This is serious.

“I’m glad we share backgrounds.” Vienna said, trying to be understanding. It came out more sarcastic, so she cleared her throat. “I mean, I’m sorry for both of us.”

“It’s mutual.” Elswyth said, carelessly glancing at her watch, which was made of a rose gold marble- type of material, and inside of which stars twinkled like diamonds. “I’d better be going now. Your friends will be here any minute.”

Vienna nodded and stood up as Elswyth left the room soundlessly. She sank back in her chair, and minutes later, the door opened again and Dimitri and Eleanora walked in, looking pleasantly surprised to see her.

“Not the first person I expected to see here,” Dimitri laughed, sitting down across from Vienna. It looked like somebody had tied him down and gelled his hair, and literally tore his cape away, because he was dressed in proper clothes, a tuxedo. Vienna just knew he would’ve never dressed in one otherwise-his cape was too precious to him.

“I suppose you expected to see Elliot?” Vienna grinned, returning Eleanora’s smile. She had changed as well, garbed in a white v-neck, tie knot button down and flared black jeans, in that old money aesthetic she adored so much.

Dimitri scoffed, rolling his eyes. “No offense, but I’d rather feed myself to a wild Wendigo after cutting myself up and dousing myself in battery acid.”

Vienna started snickering. “How do you cut yourself up if you’re dead?”

Eleanora and she burst into laughter at the strange idea. Dimitri eventually joined in, and then the three of them were laughing so hard tears poured from their eyes.

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever laughed at.” Dimitri chuckled, running his hand over his eyes. “And the funniest, too.”

“Yeah, you’re definitely the type of guy to laugh at things like weasels and people’s ice-creams falling over.” Eleanora snickered.

“And you probably laugh at those…blue cat things. The ones mixed with some other creature in a forest?” Dimitri countered, laughing again. Eleanora seemed much happier not arguing about sides and sisters for a change.

“Yeah, well, have you guys forgotten the main character of this tale?” Vienna joked, grinning as she jerked her thumb at herself. “Me, obvi.”

“No, the main character is most definitely not you.” Eleanora laughed. “It’s our favourite cousin, Lysistrata.”

Vienna pretended to be hurt. “How could you Nora? I thought we were friends.”

“No, no, Lysistrata definitely shows more potential.” Dimitri snickered. “Nah, we’re kidding. We love you.”

Vienna laughed. “Aww, you do? Thanks.”

Dimitri grinned. “I mean, you did introduce me to a lot of people, and you were my first friend, and you did accept me for who I was.”

“A good guy? Definitely.” Vienna replied, smirking. “But a sore loser at Scrabble? No way.”

Dimitri groaned, burying his face in his hands. “Don’t mention that, please, Vy.”

Eleanora swiftly zipped a finger across her mouth as the door opened again and Elliot entered, dressed in a black suit set with no tie. The room quietened as he sat down- one seat away from Dimitri, facing nothing, somberly.

“Hey, El.” Eleanora started in order to make small talk.

Elliot looked up from his careful scrutinization of his hands and raised an eyebrow.

“How’s life treating you, Prince Mistral?” Dimitri asked lightheartedly.

“Despicable, as always.” Elliot said, deadpan, throwing Vienna a glance, who returned it almost cursorily.

“I’m sure being the Queen’s favourite can’t be that bad.” Dimitri said, leaning back to grin at Vienna and Nora away from Elliot’s eye. Vienna had warned him of keeping off of touchy subjects like that, subjects which invariably hit nerves with Elliot, and she threw a napkin at him under the table. Eleanora exhaled between her teeth, looking from Elliot to Dimitri.

They all sat there, steeped in silence, Elliot finally uttering a sound of derision and looking away.

Elliot never being someone to swallow down a retort, this interaction bewildered Vienna as well as brought back to mind a flood of memories she had been working hard to suppress.

A hillside entrance. 3lliot. 3. M1stral. A wine cellar decked out with maps and notes of other worlds, and…

Lunae Regnum here…the castle for Sol Dynastia…make sure to confirm ignition…Nora must understand and relate…make Elswyth absorb what she’s done to us…Lyss is already on side but cannot be trusted since she is immature…locals are expendable.

Locals are expendable. Make Elswyth absorb what she’s done. Nora must understand. Lyss is already on side but cannot be trusted.

Alarming, yes, but if she told Elswyth it wouldn’t just be Elliot at the guillotine and the court, it would also be her for withholding information (and possibly joining forces with the enemy, since Elswyth thought she and Elliot were good friends), and then there would be the backlash from Elliot and Lyss. She couldn’t snitch, no, she couldn’t.

But I will have a talk with Elliot. And I’ll be confident and I won’t threaten him, but I will tell him what I know and ask him about his plans. I won’t join his side though, no falling for that intense glare. I won’t be fooled even though everyone might be. And why hasn’t anybody caught on to what he does? Only the smart ones, like Decima, think he’s fishy. Maybe it’s just the fact that he’s arrogantly good-looking and nobody can get past those looks to the interior. Yes, that’s why all the Blue Badges and Sirens fawn when he walks past. Utterly stupid, of course.

Vienna, unbeknownst to herself and lost in her thoughts, had been glaring at Elliot, who himself was too preoccupied in the room’s design to notice. Eleanora nudged her, whispering a quick, “What’re you up to?” while Dimitri just buried his face in his hands, shaking in suppressed laughter.

“I didn’t- er, I was just thinking. And I got distracted.” Vienna whispered back, her cheeks heating up at the embarrassment. “Lyss would really lighten this up, wouldn’t she? Where even is she?”

“I could, you know, call her.” Eleanora said, tilting herself in her chair to rummage in her pockets for something. “Forgot I had this.”

With an expression of triumph on her face, she held up a walkie talkie like phone, hot pink with millions of pink sticker all over it. Bold white letters above the screen declaimed: E.S.M.

Eleanora sheepishly ran her fingers over the phone. “Yeah, Lyss made it for me. We all had one actually, mine was pink, hers was orange, and Elliot’s one was green. It is loud though, I’ll warn you.”

Dimitri was staring at the phone with a mingled expression of amusement and bewilderment, his eyebrows raised and his emerald-gold irises dilated.

“You’re telling me that guy used a phone like that?” he whispered so that Elliot wouldn’t hear, jerking his thumb at the man in question, “Prince Oh-Mighty Mistral?”

Eleanora laughed. “We all did. We were eight, Lyss was five, and I guess I had nothing better to do.”

“We had nothing better to do, Eleanora.” Elliot butted in. Vienna and Dimitri redirected their gazes to the more antagonistic sibling, whose eyes were narrowed and who leaned forward on his elbows. “What did we have to amuse ourselves with in this idiotic old castle? Not a toy, not a playmate, just etiquette training classes and teachers telling us how to balance books on our head when we walk. You wonder why we have trouble socializing… ask dear old Elswyth.”

Dimitri looked from Elliot to Vienna, his eyebrows raised, as if asking why she hadn’t told him all the sibling drama. Vienna shrugged- when she was with Dimitri, anything about Elliot and Elswyth slipped her mind, they were too busy discussing theories about Niflheim and escape plans to even care about all the drama in the Mistral ancestry. But he- Dimitri- might consider it a breach of his trust, to keep him from the subjects he indulged in the most.

Fine, then. Just another person she had to talk through something.

“There’s a time and place for every talk, El.” Eleanora replied calmly. “And now and here is just not it.”

“You’ve been avoiding me.” Elliot snapped, his eyes flitting to Vienna’s, the next sentence invariably directed towards her.

“And so have you.”