Home > The Savage and the Swan(8)

The Savage and the Swan(8)
Author: Ella Fields

Bron’s general offered a hand when the prince tripped over nothing, then took it back when he was reprimanded.

It didn’t matter that the Spring Forest lined a lot of the coastline, stretching from Gracewood and through to Errin. They were here. Yet again, they’d crossed over.

Enough of them to wipe out a portion of the prince’s army.

 

 

After pacing my rooms for what felt like hours, I retrieved the prince’s cloak and perched upon the window seat that overlooked the gardens below to follow through on my promise.

Invisible thread flowed from beneath my fingertips, and I willed it to match the same shade of golden brown as the cloak. The scent of the prince, sea salt and something sweet like burnt sugar, rolled off the weathered velvet.

His lips, full and soft and warm and unexpectedly rubbing over my skin, the specks of gold in his brown eyes… Those fluttering moths died, replaced by molten heat when a different set of eyes and lips entered my mind.

When I imagined it’d been Fang’s cruel yet sensuous mouth to grace my skin, and his fingers so delicate at the arch of my ear.

Opening my eyes, unsure when I’d closed them, I folded the mended cloak in my lap and leaned my head against the glass window. I wondered what Fang was doing, what his beastly king might have him do on a daily basis, and if he’d been amongst the murderers in the village town and Spring Forest.

Two attacks. Both brutal and swift and close together.

A thud on the door interrupted my fear-spiked thoughts, followed by another. I climbed down and sped across the room, knowing the scent on the other side did not belong to my parents nor any of our staff.

“Good evening,” the prince said, fine lines deepening around his eyes and his hair finger-worn. “I do hope it’s not too late, but I’ve come for my cloak.”

“You’re leaving?”

He nodded, his gaze never quite meeting mine. “Yes, it was foolish to come in times such as these.” A wan smile wriggled his lips. “My mother always chides me for being too curious for my own good. An adventurous spirit.”

I could empathize, so I smiled and handed his cloak to him. “I’ve repaired it.”

The prince nodded once more, unfolding the cloak to look for where the tear had been while I leaned against the wood and studied him beneath the glow of the flames in the sconces on either side of the door. His low lashes shadowed his cheeks, mouth pressing into a thin line. “It probably isn’t wise, as I’m sure my father has told you, to be leaving—”

The prince’s eyes jumped from the mended tear to mine, wide and dark. “Gold.”

“Excuse me?”

He tapped a nail upon the tear, and we both heard the tiny clink before he shook the cloak at me, blinking fast. “The stitching, your stitching, it’s…” He gulped. “It’s gold.”

No.

I could feel my face drain as I snatched the cloak and fumbled for what I’d done.

But there it was. Each perfect stitch was thick, woven gold.

Shit. I swallowed down the shock, the shame, the scared little youngling I’d once been that tried to resurface. “It would seem I chose the wrong color,” I muttered, hoping he’d buy the excuse.

Scowl deepening, he fastened his eyes upon the cloak, evidently unsure.

“Excuse me while I see if I can have this undone.” I could undo it myself, but I raced past him and down the stairs in search of my mother in the tower opposite mine.

Down the shadowed hall and up the stairs I flew, the heavy skirt of my tulle gown catching on the stones, causing me to stub my bare toes. Opening the door, I found their chambers empty and backed into the small entryway, my heart a lump of un-beating fear in my chest.

My father caught me as I descended and rounded the last of the stairs, eyes bright as they drank me in and sensed what I couldn’t say. Gazing behind him, he then tugged me to a nearby cleaning chamber, tucked away from the meager light.

“Look at me, honey bee. Watch.” I did, as I always had, while he made his eyes change from a deep green to gold and then to brown. Such antics had me in fits of giggles as a youngling, and as I’d grown, they had helped temper the storm inside me. The wild that awaited and sometimes insisted on release. His presence alone—the time he’d spend with me regardless of the reason—was usually enough to distract me.

It wouldn’t work now. We both knew it, and after minutes of feeling my breathing quake, breaking over my lips, he released me and stepped back. “Go. Run.”

So I dropped the cloak, and I did.

It wasn’t safe to be leaving the castle right now. I knew that, and so did he. But I had to. The alternative, according to him and my mother, was far worse.

Racing out of the kitchen’s exit once more, I then checked for soldiers on patrol and waited until their torches faded before taking off through the vegetable garden and into the fields beyond.

Gold.

The look of awestruck horror on the prince’s face. The consequence of releasing such a secret into our world… I ran faster, harder, my blood pressing at every vein, each muscle tightening and bending.

It had first happened when I was young. I’d been mending my mother’s favorite plum gown, the silken one she’d said had been my brother’s favorite, and with images of her serene smile, the portraits of them together, it had just… happened.

I’d been excited, so sure she’d be pleased by what I’d somehow managed to do, but she and my father had looked at one another with fear-bright eyes and had then warned me to never speak of it.

To never do so again.

For years, I hadn’t been permitted to mend a thing until one day, I’d done so against their wishes—proving to them that indeed it wouldn’t happen again.

They hadn’t seemed to believe me, but once satisfied that no sign of gold was amongst the thread, they’d nodded and said to confine any mending I did to my quarters.

It was in our blood, a part of our souls, to heal and build and repair and create and amplify growth. We could seldom keep it contained to nature. It was a song in our hearts, and when that song demanded freedom, it was painful to ignore its call. Just as it grew painful now to ignore the pounding rhythm inside me that begged to be set free.

I ignored it—I had to as I rushed through the forest, bounding over the familiar path and around each well-known boulder and snare.

I knew before I ducked under the small opening and crawled to my feet inside the cave that he wasn’t here.

Still, I climbed through the tree to sit atop it, and there, I saw what had the townsfolk boarding up their shops and homes.

Blood.

Starlight twinkled over the water’s dark surface, highlighting the darker strands marring it that wove along it like slithering snakes in search of a never-ending feast.

He wasn’t here. He wouldn’t be coming.

And instead of thinking about every horrific reason, I allowed the current inside me to pull me down.

And inside that darkness, I let go.

 

 

Mother was waiting in my rooms when I returned with the rising sun, her voice solemn. “Do you know what you have done?”

I shook out my hair and dragged my fingers through it, the glimmering blue that hung from the twisting wooden posts of my bed shielding my mother’s expression.

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