calm sea during golden hour





1/15/20249 min read

That was a severe understatement. And as she turned over in bed, insomnia plaguing her again for the millionth time this week, she stared out the huge window at the tyrian blue night sky extending over the whole of Niflheim.

Her life was a wonder and a mystery.

She should go to the roof.

Yes, she should.

Her impulsive thought won over and she hopped out of bed, kicking away the sheets and tearing on a light parka over her PJ’s, a pair of olive green cargo pants and a black baby tee.

Hell, she didn’t even know where the roof was but she still ordered a flask of hot cocoa and a few chocolate beignets just so she could have a mini picnic all for herself. She was a sucker for chocolate. She’d even sell her kidney for it, in fact. She’d forgone alone time since she arrived here, always having to provide company for one or all of the Royals or her friends, but, she ruminated, she’d probably have fun stargazing. She’d never done it before. The skies of America were too smog-ridden to see a single star from where she always sat on their ledge of roof.

Perhaps the stars could cast a little light on her situation.

She stuffed the food into a bag, her throat a little drier once she realized she wasn’t the 15 year old girl who would wake up to her family telling her it was time for breakfast and that she wouldn’t meet them again, most probably. She wasn’t the same person anymore. Not Vienna Hawkins, that girl who wrote. That girl who was always around her family. No, here she was just Vienna Alcestis of the Semi Mortals.

Semi- Mortal. Another title she’d have to figure out.

She’d wake up to this room. And probably one or another of the Guards milling around cleaning it. They’d bid her good morning and leave, and she’d trudge down, get her breakfast while Elliot and Elswyth glared at each other, go down to the vineyards to kick around vines with Dimitri, then draw a little with Elwynne. Then lunch, dinner, and sleep, if she was lucky.

She shook her head to clear her thoughts. She glanced at the clock she had requisitioned from Elswyth. Almost past media nocte, as they called it. The clock itself was gorgeous. It was a black marble, with ivory hands ticking away the hour. She tore her eyes away from it and focused on opening the door with nary a squeak. The entire castle would be asleep right now, all the Sirens and Blue Badges off home, the Royals snoozing peacefully in their grand bedrooms, the Crimson Badges presumably guarding the country.

Good luck, you red-cloaked soldiers, she thought grimly and almost laughed out loud before she realized what time it was. She quietly, slowly slipped out the door and began padding down the labyrinthine hallways. Easy to get lost, harder to find your way out.

She eventually found the stairs and climbed until she almost felt hot under her parka and then climbed some more until the stairs ended, leading into a huge, golden-lit attic. The room was, unlike all the other castle rooms, lit up with strip lights emitting a low golden light that was pleasant to the eyes. The dimensions were immense, almost, she looked around, amazed, as huge as all of the rooms in the castle combined. Here there were no passage ways, only intricate wooden chests placed at equal distances along the walls. Vienna could only imagine what they contained.

Gold, she ruminated, jewellery, platinum, silver, the works.

The roof sloped up into nothingness, no false ceiling concealing the tiles and beams. Majestic, the way it just slanted and then disappeared into the darkness above.

She unconsciously touched a finger to the gold hoops in her ears and went on into the attic, wandering and looking around. Here and there chunks of amethyst and jade were thrown down, the placement seemingly random.

But then where’s the heck the actual roof?

Her eyes wandered to the other end of the room. A squat ladder was placed against it, made of wood and looking as if it hadn’t been used in years.

Queer, she thought. Vienna’d thought it was the type of place traumatized traitors frequented. She almost snickered, but thought better of it.

“We might seem different, but inside…we’re just the same, you and I.”

Oh, but she shouldn’t think of that.

Shuddering, she started to climb up the ladder, almost frozen with fright when the ladder trembled and swayed from the wall once. She swiftly went up the narrow rungs and pushed open the trapdoor, almost shivering in the breeze that hit her.

Amazed, she slowly swung herself up until she was sitting on the edge of a tile in the most tapered middle part of the roof, staring out into the wide, seemingly bottomless night sky. No stars, no moon, just a huge expanse of tyrian blue sky. She slowly pulled her legs up and balanced her body weight until she was lying on the roof, staring up at the endless sky. The raised middle of the roof cut into her back, and she was hyper-aware of the long sliding parts of the roof around her which she could easily slip off of and die immediately, but she felt relaxed enough- and free enough to not pay heed.

“I’m Vienna Ellerie Alcestis Hawkins,” she whispered to herself under her breath.

Yes, she was.

“I’m a Semi-Mortal.” She said.

No, she wasn’t.

But everyone thought she was.

She should be happy. Everyone thought she was a good person. That she was talented. That she was kind and quiet and sweet. But she craved more. She just wanted not to be judged. Not to be called names. Just sit around all day reading with no care in the world. She couldn’t stop thinking of those lyrics from Recess.

People gonna say

"If you need a break, someone'll take your place"

People gonna try

To tell you that you’re fine,

With dollars in their eyes

That was her. And everyone else. Nobody was her enemy. But nobody truly understood her. Cliché, but true. When it really came down to it, nobody really knew each other. Not in the Grand Scheme of Things. Friendship, relationships, marriage, everything was just an arrangement of sorts. Souls can never be unified, not really. Every person is a mystery, even to themselves.

But everyone hides from the truth, Vienna thought, even she did. Even she knew she would die and rot in Niflheim, even her remains wouldn’t make it out. But ignoring the bitter truth is so much better than choking on its scraps.

Oh, how alone she felt.

Vienna sat up amidst her thoughts, the contents of her small purse almost spilling out onto the roof.

It would be oh-so easy to just…slide off.

She found herself extending a toe onto the slope of the roof. Slippery. It had evidently just been cleaned, too.

What are you thinking!?

She immediately withdrew her legs, her hands clenching into fists as if to berate herself for such stupid thoughts.

This is why you don’t stay up past midnight, girlie. You start getting crazy thoughts and pretty soon you feel like acting them out. Next moment, you’re dead.

Vienna opened the trapdoor and shimmied down again, feeling the warmth inside the castle immediately hit her. It did her good.

She was trip-trapping back to her room, climbing down the stairs from the attic when a Crimson Badge scurried down past her, almost scrambling down the stairs in a hurry. They breathed out a sorry, a scroll in their fingers, and Vienna, again overwhelmed with curiosity, slowed her pace until she was right on the Crimson Badge’s trail, who didn’t seem to notice.

She felt like laughing with how absorbed the Crimson Badge was with the scroll, so concentrated they barely noticed Vienna almost tripping over their cloak. The Crimson Badge, (one of the highest ranked ones, Vienna noticed by the gold engravings on their deep red cloak), descended floors until they were on the Royal Quarters. The one Elwynne, Elliot and Elswyth resided in. Floor Six. It was the word glamour defined. Sunrooms, picture galleries, music rooms, grand balconies overlooking the turbulent sea. Everything anyone could dream of.

The Crimson Badge headed straight down the corridors and stopped in front of a particularly grand door. Elswyth’s bedroom? Vienna hastily shuffled a little down the hallway, flattening herself against a wall.

She watched intently as the Crimson knocked on the door, once, twice, politely.

The door opened with nary a squeak, and Vienna caught a glimpse of silky blonde hair in a loose braid and fair skin in a silk chemise with an off shoulder light coat.

“At this hour, Acacius?” Elswyth’s voice murmured, still composed and elegant in the late hours of the night.

“Doyenne, it is most urgent.” The Crimson Badge pressed, unraveling the scroll. “For days we have been getting unusual activity from the north of the terrain. Last evening, a strange light was spotted settling over the northern lands. We sent a troop to investigate.”

“Why was I not informed of this?” Elswyth’s voice was graver the next time she spoke, more demanding, more responsible. Vienna couldn’t see her face but she knew Elswyth’s pale blue Siren eyes (pun absolutely intended) were boring into poor Acacius. “This is concerning the kingdom, is it not?”

“Absolutely, Doyenne.” Acacius stood straighter, his posture immaculate. He was the head of the Crimsons, Vienna knew. She had seen him only once, but intimidation emanated from him. Nevertheless, everybody feared the Doyenne. “The fact is that with your Royal work pressure, we simply did not want to worry you. However, the troop returned today.”

Acacius’s face grew paler still. His white eyes bore terror.

“We have a possible invasion.”

The color drained from Elswyth’s face.

“An invasion?” Elswyth’s voice was sharper and sharper, almost in shock. “An…invasion? From who? Niflheim is well-secured and protected, there could be no invasion from anywhere!”

Acacius sunk into a deep bow. “The Sol Dynastia, Doyenne, is a possible invader. Their crafts have been circling Niflheim for months, as you know, but they hadn’t found a way in.”

“Until today?” Elswyth demanded, her eyes flitting to the wide windows in the hallway looking out onto the wide fields and vineyards outside. It was a miracle she didn’t catch a glimpse of Vienna. Vienna cursed under her breath, thinking for a moment Elswyth’s eyes had skated over her vibrant parka.

“We can’t be sure.” Acacius sunk deeper into his bow.

“Check right away!” Elswyth’s eyebrows drew together. The light from her eyes had all but vanished, replaced with concern, anger, and a deep-seated responsibility.

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Acacius whispered and disappeared at once. Vienna flattened into the wall more, watching as Elswyth stepped out for a moment. The queen looked stunning in even her night robes, and her braid flipped from her shoulder to down her back as she looked around the hallway in suspicion and quickly retreated back into her room, striding out a little while later in a champagne colored blazer, her hair blazing out behind her as she climbed the stairs to the 7th floor.

Vienna breathed a sigh of relief, her hand against her heart as she slowly edged from the wall and to the stairs, descending quietly as she tried to comprehend what was happening.

Niflheim was getting invaded.

She was ashamed that the first thought was of herself. That she would never see her family again.

I never got to tell Elswyth about Elliot’s plans.

It was partly her fault! She was responsible!

No she wasn’t. Shut up, you stupid side character, and focus!

She scrambled down the stairs, almost slipping once, and ran into her room, banging the door behind her and heading for the closet, where she shoved things aside and threw heaps of clothes on the floor until she found it.

Her precious necklace.

The one the Parcae had given her.

She picked it up and held the delicate chain in her fingers, firmly pressing the first option, the violet colored segment. The one that called Decima, because right now, she needed an older sister figure in her life.

There was a strong disturbance in the air as a violet aura materialized, Decima appearing at once, her height, robes and dark hair immediately making Vienna realize how much she had missed her. This woman she hadn’t seen in weeks but who had made her feel like she was cared for in a younger sibling way. She hadn’t known she had craved that feeling until it came rushing to her.


Vienna awkwardly hugged the woman, who looked mildly surprised, patting Vienna on the back.

“Vienna Alcestis. Are you alright?”

“I’m fine!” Vienna detangled herself from Decima’s robes, looking at the woman, who seemed to be concerned. Dark circles adorned Vienna’s eyes, and her skin looked paler than usual. No wonder Decima looked shocked.

“What have they done to you?” Decima said softly, staring at Vienna.

“They didn’t do anything!” Vienna butted in. “Elliot’s betrayed the Doyenne, now the Sol Dynastia are invading Niflheim and we’re all going to die!”

Decima’s face paled. “Right now?”

“I overheard the Doyenne and the head Crimson talking about it, Decima! You have to get Dimitri and get out of here. Anywhere you can go. Tell Morta and Nona too, okay?”

“We’re going to be fine. Niflheim has been invaded before, Vienna.” Decima said, her eyes fixated on the wall as if thoughts were flitting through her head a mile a minute.

“Alright. Here’s what we do.” Decima said after a while, passing over the heaps of clothes, walking towards the closet door. “You go and inform the Princess, her cousin. Do not talk to Elliot, alright? He’s dangerous now. Don’t go near him.”

“And what about Dimitri?” Vienna choked, bewildered by the turn of events. “And where are you going?”

“Dimitri will be fine. I’ll let him know. Go to Elwynne. I’ll be in the Excogitation Room with the Doyenne.”

Decima doubled back once more and knelt down, gripping Vienna’s arms.

“You’ll be alright, I promise. I won’t let anything happen to you as long as I’m here. So don’t worry, hm?”

Vienna nodded, somewhat reassured.

Decima gave her a brisk nod and stood up, walking out of the closet and into Vienna’s room, from which Vienna heard a whoosh, as if the air was rushing into a space where a person had formerly stood.