calm sea during golden hour





2/15/20243 min read

The stables door opened, and Decima rushed towards them both, her pale face immediately washing over with relief once she saw them.

“Vienna, thank Hel you’re safe.” Decima said, pulling Vienna into a side hug. “Princess.” She added, her tone more hushed as she looked at Evelyn.

“Oh, please call me Lynn...” Evelyn said, alarmed at this svelte woman addressing her in terms so formal, curtseying back. “…Militus Decima Ivanov.”

“It’s just Perimeter Custodes.” Decima cleared her throat, embarrassed at the heightened title. “We’re going to wait it out in the stables, come in.”

Lynn and Vienna were steered into the decrepit structure, Decima’s hands on each of their shoulders. Dimitri was sitting on the floor, the edge of his cape balled tightly in his fist, the knuckles white from applied pressure.

“You’re here!” he almost jumped up, striding towards them, his cape aflow.

Evelyn and Dimitri exchanged a side hug, the princess immediately updating him on the situation at the castle. When Dimitri turned to her, Vienna grinned awkwardly and extended her hand to shake, which he did, the expression in his gold-green eyes questionable…and a little hurt.

“I’m glad you two are alright.” He said, his voice more normal than before, when it had been shaking. “What’s with Elliot?”

“He betrayed the kingdom and-” Vienna started, then fell silent as her eyes fell on the four Crimson Guards still silently surveying them from the very doorway of the barn. She edged closer to Dimitri, Evelyn and Decima. “Are they listening in?”

“I’d hope not.” Dimitri whispered. Vienna raised her eyebrows and continued.

“He’s been planning this since last year. Only put it into motion before I got here. I…I refused to help him.”

“And right you did!” Decima insisted. “You did the right thing.”

“I hope so.” Vienna murmured. She could feel the gaze of the Crimson Badges burning into the side of her head and hoped they hadn’t heard her- if not for herself, for Elliot. However much she’d questioned Elliot’s choices, he was still her friend- and yet another troubled child who’d been thrust into situations they couldn’t handle quite well.

Might as well start a club, she thought. But instead of the The Tortured Poets Department or whatever it was, it could be The Tortured & Troubled Children. We’re all broken inside but we’ve tried to glue ourselves apart however much we can. It doesn’t matter. We’ll only be torn apart again and again until there’s nothing left to mourn.

“He’ll be alright, Vy.” Dimitri added, tone almost bitter, his eyes on the Guards. “I fancy Elswyth’ll give him a week-long trip to one of the best dungeons Niflheim has and then put him back in therapy and give him back his crown.”

“Dimitri.” Decima warned. “Not in front of…” her eyes shot to Evelyn, who had been standing stoically with her fingers in her pockets.

“No, Decima, we’re close friends.” Evelyn said. “And I understand how he…we seem to the citizens of Niflheim. Trust me, I want none of it. The wealth, the silks, the gold…it’s all nil to me.”

“And I understand that this speech means nothing to you.” Evelyn added. “Because even though I don’t want it, I still have it, don’t I?”

“No, we understand, Lynn.” Dimitri said gently. “Vienna, are you alright? You look pale.”

Vienna almost smiled despite the absurdity of the situation. Compared to Dimitri, she was darkest gold. She could map out every blue vein he had, and he’d still deny it. But now wasn’t the time for quips.

“I’m still just…processing it. I’m fine, Mit.” Vienna said. Then she felt a sudden coolness on her finger as she saw Dimitri slide a ring onto it. It was a smooth silver clock ring with a violet quartz interior. For a moment, she was breathless. Then her face was breaking into a wide smile as she looked at it.

“As a going away present.”

“It’s so beautiful!” Vienna said, unable to control her growing grin as she twirled it on her finger. “I love it. Thank you so much.”

Decima snickered abruptly, Evelyn joining in, her hands on her mouth as she struggled to keep in her laughter. Dimitri looked mortified as he realized that Decima and Evelyn had been silently giggling all this time. His cheeks were red.

Vienna smiled as she looked at them. Her friends. The smile only broke when the grounds outside began to sway as if in a maelstrom.

Lord save them.