calm sea during golden hour





7/27/20236 min read

Chapter SEVEN


Lysistrata herself wore jeans and an anorak over a white turtleneck, Rose an emerald cloak , over what, Vienna never knew because her cloaks were always buttoned to the neck.

“You two are definitely going to go hunting with me right? Because it’d be dead awkward without you too. I feel like the Prince isn’t a big fan of me.” Vienna asked as they neared the actual gate, morninglight filtering onto her face in stripes and making her hair look summer-brown.

Rose looked uncertain, then smiled, and hesitated. “Well, the thing is, the Queen only asked YOU to go hunting with the Prince.”

“Yeah.” Lysistrata said, backing Rose up. “And besides, I’ve gone hunting with Elliot and Eleanora enough times. I feel like you need to shine.”

“I shine plenty.” said Vienna, improvising. “Please, girls, it’ll be so awkward!”

“No way it will.” Lysistrata insisted.

The three of them stood in the gate, trapped between light and dark, uncertainty and insistence. Vienna, torn between a hunting trip filled with awkwardness and Elswyth’s wrath, decided to choose the former and work through it come hell or high waters.

Judging the expression on Vienna’s face, Rose grinned.

“It’s going to be fun. You’ve never gone hunting before, have you, Vienna Alcestis? And besides, the Prince won’t be much of a bother.”

“He won’t.” Lyss confirmed.

Vienna, nervously, stepped out into the light.

“We’ll be in the castle. Go on, now.” Lyss said.

Vienna made her decision and started walking out into the grounds. She wasn’t sure she wanted to interact with Elliot after how rude he had been with both her and Elswyth, and based off of his persona, he seemed like trouble, but she really had no choice. Her mind was soon drawn away from the troubling dilemma at hand by the gorgeous grounds she had entered.

The lawn outside, now that the sky was dazzling with morninglight, greatly resembled Switzerland rather than the darkened calamity she had witnessed outside her window last night. Mountains she hadn’t noticed before ringed the horizon, and while lush mint-green grass grounds stretched out to her front and to her left, there was a natural fir forest to her right. A lone stable sat far away to the left.

“This is so pretty.” She said aloud.

“You bet.”

She wheeled around. As she had guessed, Prince Elliot. Prince of Ennui and Not Liking His Sister and Not Welcoming The Newest Extraterrestrial Arrival Appropriately. He was walking towards her, steps confident, with a beast beside him. Resembling a horse in structure, the only difference was that its skin was completely black, as black as the night sky, with hundreds of gold tattoos of moons, stars and constellations on its skin, which seemed to be natural. It wore gold horseshoes, and its eyes shone like stars.

“You should get your horse.” He said. A second horse came trotting up behind him, almost the same but dark Prussian. Only reluctantly, Vienna took hold of the reins, slightly scared.

“They won’t do anything. Yours is named Elysian.” Elliot paused, then added, “And mine’s called Rajah.”

Turning with her horse’s reins in hand, Vienna muttered, “Typical.”

“What was that?”


Vienna’s horse suddenly made as if to lick her and she dropped the reins. Elliot burst into laughter.

“Really, the way you handle horses makes one think you’ve never rode one before.” He said, almost seeming condescending.

“Well, I haven’t, Prince Elliot.” Vienna replied, vexed.

“That’s alright. It’s quite easy. There’s nothing to it if you have a good teacher.” Elliot said. He mounted his horse with ease, stepping one leg over Rajah’s body and holding its reins comfortably. “Step up and hold onto its mane.”

Hesitatingly, Vienna attempted, failed, and then hopped onto the horse. The horse’s mane was smooth but still, to her, felt strange to plunge her hands into.

“We’ll just be shooting some turkeys today. Nothing serious. Have you ever attempted archery before?” Elliot asked.

“Of course I have. I was the best markswoman at my summer camp.” Vienna said, exaggerating a little. It was true, but the camp in question was for writing, and archery had only been a minor side-hobby which was unfrequented by most. She was just the best shot amidst the 5 members of the archery club because she had managed to hit 3 bull’s-eyes out of five.

“Well, then, hitting them should be quite easy.” Elliot said, and tugged on Rajah’s reins, which made it turn round towards the forest and start trotting. Vienna did the same with Elysian, and soon they had trespassed the first boundaries of the forest.


“Has anybody told you how we got here?” Elliot asked once they had passed the sparse part of the firs and moved into the denser areas, where trees were thickly clumped around the trodden path and vines dangled from huge oaks. The air had turned a few degrees colder and Vienna didn’t feel the sun warming her skin anymore. She looked up and saw pale grey clouds approaching.

“I was told bits and pieces…” here, Vienna hesitated, not wanting to get Zinnia and Lysistrata in trouble by telling the Prince that they had revealed information about the Royal Family. “By someone. But not the complete story, Prince.”

“I suppose you’ll hear it from me then.” He said, and Vienna perked up in excitement.

Elliot straightened his back and ran his hands through his perfectly arranged bangs, then fixed them again. Then he corrected his grasp on Rajah’s reins and made it slow to a trot.

“I’m just getting myself into the story,” he offered. Then he started, and for the next half hour, Vienna was enveloped in an improbably fantastic story which was filled with hurt and ringed true.

“My parents were scientists or physicists of some kind. I don’t know which one you have to be to create dimensions. Anyways… They were unemployed, we were poor, and most days they struggled to put food on the table. We lived in a dingy basement flat in… what is it called again…? America. My parents had dug this makeshift basement inside our basement flat where they stayed all the time. I don’t exactly know what they did there, experiments, probably, testing of theories…a lot of stuff that would probably be illegal right now, if meddling with science and physics and creating dangerous breakthroughs are illegal. Anyway, Elswyth mostly stayed with our aunt, because our aunt put her through school, not far, probably 2 miles over. I and Nora (who you know as Eleanora, probably) were homeschooled when my parents could find the time to teach us. It was miserable, I’ll say that. We had no friends, basically, because we were poor, no toys, no food, no parents around to make it all better. Nora and I were very close. Elswyth…well, I’ll say that she never cared about us. She hated being poor, she wanted to fit in with the cool kids in school, and I suppose our aunt fulfilled some of that, because Elsywth rarely visited after our aunt started paying for her clothes and things.”

“This went on until we were 7. Then I suppose, my parents had some kind of massive breakthrough, something that would have won them the Noble Prize if they had ever dared to reveal it. I remember them talking about it…something about combining science and physics to create certain loopholes that acted like portals to another dimensions. They were working on it all the time, now they never came upstairs. Nora cooked and I cleaned.”

Noticing Vienna’s gaze, which had turned sympathetic, her eyebrows in a frown, he waved his hand in indignation.

“Let me tell you, living off of cookies for a week is great, especially when you’re seven. Then it happened. My parents bit off more than they could chew. They were tinkering with too much…”

Elliot breaks off and looks off into the distance, frowning.

“The police weren’t involved. My aunt had them buried in a little ceremony. Elswyth moved back home and I guess she picked up where Mother and Father left off. She was very good at whatever they had done, always hovering around them whenever she came for visits (which were rare). She perfected Niflheim. And a month after my parents… well, we teleported here.”

“But something happened to Nora. She was already delicate, and the teleportation affected her a lot. That’s why she’s bed ridden. It’s all her fault. Elswyth. She was never a good sister, not even an a bad one. She was horrible. She could have been there for us. She could have at least visited once. And then going and making herself queen- not that I care about being King- but she could have asked what WE thought. She should have asked us HOW we felt before dragging us into this, this STUPID HELLISH DIMENSION.”

Elliot was close to yelling, but didn’t. He seemed to regain his senses and piped down.

“I’m really sorry about all that, Prince Elliot.” Vienna said.

“Elliot.” He replied, not even looking at her but at Rajah’s mane. “And thank you.”

“My little brother always gets all the attention, too.” Vienna added. “Even though I’m older and generally better at everything, including studies, he’s always the centre of my universe. I know for a fact that if one of us was drowning and only one could be saved, both of my parents would definitely choose him.”

Vienna felt stupid for spilling her issues out, but eventually decided that Elliot’s words deserved a response.

“I’ve never felt like I’ve been enough. You know that saying, ‘if all the people you loved were in a room, who would you go to first’? I don’t think anybody would ever come to me. I…I’ve always been overshadowed in one way or other. Either by my mother, or by somebody else’s daughter, or by one of my friends. The day my fourth poem was published in the papers, it was also my mother’s promotion. I remember her getting a cake, a bouquet of flowers, gifts, whatnot. Nobody even congratulated me. Not even acknowledged me. I don’t think I’ve gotten a single flower in my life.” Vienna forced a laugh to show that she didn’t mind, but by Elliot’s eyes, she knew he understood. They trotted on for a little bit more before Elliot stopped his horse, jumped off and plucked a violet petunia from the mint grass. He slowly walked over to Vienna and handed it to her, Vienna grinning vividly as she took it and twirled it between her fingers, staring at it as if she had never seen a flower before.

“For my poor misunderstood confrere.” Elliot’s grin was slightly crooked.

Vienna snickered. “Thank you.” And she meant it too, with the first flower of her life between her fingers and this prince she only just had begun to know in front of her horse.

“I’m sorry I was so rude to you back there. And that I didn’t welcome you properly when you’re new here, and you were actually…good to me, unlike Elswyth.”

“That’s alright. It’s forgiven.” Vienna said graciously, feeling like she at least had one of the Royals on her side, not to mention someone who knew how she felt a lot of the time and related to it.


Vienna hesitated, and then jumped in.