calm sea during golden hour





3/19/20243 min read

Eveline and Dimitri’s heads were turned towards the castle, towards the unnatural sheen emanating from it, but Vienna’d followed a brighter beam of light leading from the edge of the grounds, where the shooting ranges (she’d never seen them but heard a lot about) began. It was…dare she assume? A tiny spark of fire, growing larger and larger as it slid along the line of sheen along the grounds. The grass lit up in flames.

“Mit, Linn…” Vienna whispered.

“What’s that light?” Eveline had a hand over her eyes, trying to make out the mysterious glow. “Some kind of halo or…”

“FIRE!” Vienna shouted, making the other two jump.

“Hel save us.” Dimitri inhaled sharply, the fire reflected in his emerald eyes. Vienna resisted the urge to look over and whipped out the Teleportation Token she still had, running her fingers over the pearl-like material. She brought it to her lips, murmuring a name before she felt the familiar rush of air over her and she was standing directly before Elswyth, the older woman’s eyebrows raised as Vienna almost collided into her.

“Hel, I’m sorry.” Vienna said, out of breath, “Doyenne, the castle’s on fire-”

Elswyth’s cool blue eyes flashed from her to a shadow disappearing around the corner. Vienna turned around and saw a woman’s long merlot hair whipping out of sight.

“Selineh.” Elswyth’s eyes were blazing. “They used the meeting as a distraction.” Her eyes went to Vienna. “Get back to the stables now, Vienna Alcestis. I’ll take care of this.”–

Vienna nodded and ran her hands over the TT, now back beside Eveline and Dimitri, who were looking at the castle with glazed, wide eyes. The fire had caught the bottom left side of it, slowly but surely blazing its way up. The light of the fire was so bright as to be blinding. Vienna, who had seen it before, only shielded her eyes, but Dimitri and Eveline had their eyes shut, heads turned, wincing: Dimitri hadn’t ever seen a light so bright, and Eveline possibly couldn’t remember fire.

“Elswyth.” Eveline whispered, voice unsteady. “She needs to-”

“Selineh, they need to be stopped.” Dimitri added intensely.

But Vienna was worried about everything they said and everything in between. The Doyenne, Elliot and Lysistrata, the hundreds of Blue Badges in the castles, the Crimson Badges on the front line, the castle itself, and-

No, Vy. Stop. Your mind is racing more, its speed faster than your actions, that’s not good. It never gets you anywhere.

She clasped and unclasped her fingers, eyes downcast. Blonde hair intercepted her thought train. She looked up and saw Elswyth, now fully clothed in the dark mauve royal robes Vienna’d seen her don a few times, in the planning sessions she held every week with Acacius and the highest ranked Crimson Badges.

Elswyth looked fully alive now, the only time Vienna’d seen her look so lively. Her usual cool blue eyes were blazing, her hair full of life, skin positively glowing. She was rapid in conversation with her sister and Dimitri, both of whom were deeply rooted in the conversation and kept throwing surreptitious, covert looks her way, concern in their exotic eyes.

“I’m alright, just so you know.” She said loudly, so that they heard. Their heads turned her way, and Elswyth strode towards her, lips tightly pressed together.

“Vienna Alcestis, we need you to go back to Terra, right now.”

“Not right now.” Vienna pleaded abruptly, the turn of events almost too much for her to handle. “Please, Doyenne, I have to stay for a while. Not even a while, maybe only a few hours, I need to stay.”

“For what, kid?” Elswyth ran her fingers through her blonde hair, looking frustrated. “To watch this castle- which I’ve put eight years and my life and blood into, burn to ashes? Or…” Elswyth’s voice softened, as they turned to look at the castle, which was now properly blazing. “Selineh royals have gone and eloped, they’ve taken the Niflgem, but all I can do is watch.”

“But why? We could-” Dimitri started.

“Their guards are hovering in the stratosphere. One move we make, they strike. They outnumber us by a thousand, we are helpless.” Elswyth murmured. “And Elliot is in their hands, Lysistrata has disappeared, Zinnia Emerson is likely to be in enemy bounds.”

Hundreds of Blue Badges had swarmed the grounds, now standing in circles in front of the huge gates, which were thrown open.

“What’re we waiting for?” Evelyn whispered.

“Their soldier has Elliot.” Said Elswyth. “And we can’t risk shooting in fear of shooting Elliot, too.”