calm sea during golden hour



Vienna talks with Princess Eleanora some more and narrowly misses death in the picturesque Tuscan vineyards. Who is the mysterious archer? And why is he intent on killing her?


dihaan k!

8/10/20234 min read

mountain ranges
mountain ranges

Chapter Nine

The Vineyards

“Vienna? You’re pale- are you alright?”

Vienna snapped out of it (Pardon my Arctic Monkeys reference) and realized that she had zoned out again- a common occurrence that had started happening frequently from the day she arrived in Niflheim.

“Did you zone out?” Eleanora asked as if she could relate. When Vienna nodded sheepishly, the Princess smiled.

“It’s normal. Something in the air?”

Vienna shrugged. Another thought appeared to her and she seized upon it.

“Why don’t you just leave Niflheim be? Let it self-destroy, save yourselves?”

Eleanora raised an eyebrow. “Elliot and I had the same idea. I’m afraid Elswyth would never do it. She’s adapted to the role of Queen. She despised Terra… and besides…” the young Princess’s face adapted a bitter expression, one Vienna had seen on Elliot often, but one that looked foreign on the more peaceable twin’s face, “We couldn’t leave even if we wanted to. We’re the rulers now, we signed a…parchment and everything, it’s done and dusted. We can’t leave unless we finish the end of our reign, which is 15 years I believe? Or unless we find the magical girl…you…and make her fix all this trouble.”

Goodness. Great heavens, that was quite pitiable.

“But I can, right? I can leave? If I wanted to?” the words were out even before she checked them. Horrified, Vienna clasped her hands over her mouth.

Eleanora laughed, unoffended. “Of course you can. If you want to. But it’s got to be after you take the test.”

“The test?” Vienna laughed nervously. “What test?”

“It’s a test to determine whether you’re our match. The perfect match, so as to speak.” Eleanora said. She leapt out of bed, and sat down in an armchair. Her stamina was well-preserved, all those months in bed hadn’t dented it. And anyhow, why did Vienna keep thinking of Elliot and Eleanora as ancient people when they were practically the same age as her? It must have something to do with the attire or the manners. Or maybe their demeanor. She was like a patient toddler in comparison to their paced selves.

“Anyhow.” Eleanora went on. “You seem different. Good different. Would you like to be friends? I really don’t have any apart from Elliot, and he’s my annoying older brother, and Lyss. Who’s my cousin. You can see I’m desperate.”

“Of course!” Vienna smiles. “I’ve met both of them.”

“I heard you write poetry.” Eleanora said, a smile playing on her lips.

“You know?” Vienna said, puzzled. She hadn’t mentioned it in front of Eleanora ever, that was for sure.

“Yes, Elliot told me.” Eleanora said. “I get most of your information from him. Not that I consider it information… I thought of it as research. And Elliot did keep blabbering. He’s an idiot, isn’t he?”

Vienna frowned. Why did Elliot talk about her?

“I have a feeling all brothers are.” Vienna said, distracted.

Eleanora giggled. “I’ve a feeling I took up enough of your time, Vienna. Perhaps I should stop irritating you now. But I do suggest touring the vineyards? They’re behind the stables and quite a specimen in aestas lumen.”

“Not at all, Princess. And I will.” Vienna rose and shook Eleanora’s hand. “I hope we can talk again later. Perhaps we could meet to talk every evening?”

“I would love that!” Eleanora said excitably. Vienna had once again forgot that Eleanora was just a girl like her, who needed friends and company to talk to, not just her brother and her younger cousin. How long could a book substitute friends?

“I’ll see you later, then.” Vienna gave a last grin.

“Call me Nora.” Eleanora smiled.

Vienna waved and left the dimness of the room for the brightly lit hallways.


In her room, Lyss and Zinnia were still bantering from their respective seats, slapping down cards on the carpeted floor, playing a game of Old Maid, probably the simplest game there was.

“Children, I’m home!” Vienna called as she walked in.

Lyss grinned, looking up from her fanned deck. “You think that’s funny? Mom! You don’t understand me!”

Vienna burst out laughing.

“Mommy, where’s our Syndicate?” Zinnia asked in a baby voice, grinning in that terrifying way Sirens had.

“Milk store, hun.” Vienna said amidst her laughter. The three of them kept laughing until they couldn’t. Somehow, Eleanora’s motherly words had lessened her depression.

“Anyway, I’m going to tour the vineyards.” Vienna said once they were all stable and Vienna had gone into the changing room for a prompt change of clothes.

“Want us to come along?” Zinnia asked. Both she and Lyss were fixated on their cards.

“Naw, you two look busy. The fresh air’ll do me some good, I’ve been cooped up since…” Vienna paused, forgetting the time.

“Two hours?” Zinnia smirked. “Brits.”

Vienna grinned back. “I’ll be quick.”

She carefully navigated the hallways again, tracing the corridors through memory to the exit. Once again, the gorgeous summer light played upon her face and she felt her skin warm. Was this the sun? Or some other star?

There was no one around to answer her questions now, though, so she set off towards the left, where the stables were. The long sleeved cheetah-print culotte jumpsuit she had put on made it much easier to walk than any gown.

She found herself humming a song as she walked. She had never felt more relaxed before, not even on Earth. She knew she should be worried, of course, but with no people gawking at her, no crowds, no car smoke, the air was absolutely nonchalant and she felt similarly so.

Soon she had passed the stables and was entering a picturesque vineyard. It was a scene straight out of Tuscany, plump violet grapes clinging to dark vines, rows upon rows of plants under the wide, vividly pale blue sky, the horizon never ending. Vienna knew the sea was to her back, but she could still smell its salty exhalations and fresh breeze. She felt at peace, in love with nature.

She had all but just relaxed, leaning against a tree, when she felt an arrow thud into the trunk, inches from her skin. A narrow miss, one that could’ve killed her.

“What do you think you’re doing in the Doyenne’s vineyards?!”