Chapter Two- Ten Years Later

Chapter Two- Ten Years Later

A Chapter by Megan C. Goff
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Ten years after chapter one. No narrator throughout :)

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            Jessiah awoke one morning to find that he was a man, at last. The windows of his room were covered; his curtains were thick, impenetrable, velvet green, and they resembled his eyes. Though his eyes were bright. And he was no longer called Jess, not even by his own mother. His hair was thin, but it fell in waves, and was golden, shining blond. He was still thin, but he was tall, though not very much so. He was outstandingly healthy. His face resembled those of the stone angels in his mother’s courtyard, carved out of flesh.

            And all of this, everyone noticed.

            And it did not seem to bother him, at all.

            Jessiah was modest. Jessiah was kind. Jessiah was compassionate. And every woman, young and old, dreamed of being his wife. And not just for the prospect of becoming queen. They would have yearned for Jessiah the same if he walked among them. Only then he would’ve been more accessible.

            He took his maturity as a reward for his years of suffering, and he took his beauty, though really he had no idea of it, as a reward for his years of being ignored. There was a joy to him that was untouchable. There was an air to him that was pure, and Godly, like that of a saint.

            He took his maturity as a victory no one could ever tear from his hands.

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            Stefan came into the castle unnoticed. He went over the gates with no difficulty. Even though the wrought iron swirls and gold plated filigree looked beautiful, by its very nature it formed holes big enough for his feet to fit through, and he climbed over the gate with ease. He was small, and he was finding his size to be much to his advantage. He felt ill and exhausted. He had walked since before dawn, out of the deepest country, to Ebonestre in the early morning mist and cold.

            He thought if his brother was with him, it would have been easier. But if his brother was with him he wouldn’t be doing it to begin with.

            But it was something he had to do. 

            He had never seen anything as huge as the castle. From yards away, he could scarcely see the top. He didn’t know what it could have been made of, but it was a strange, light brown, and there were patterns like vines carved all over it that reminded him of the gate. His brother would have called it “ornate.” Stefan thought it was very pretty. Stefan thought that if there was anywhere in the world his brother could be, it would be there.

            It had only been a guess, but a guess he hoped was right.

            Stefan had the musky smell of grass and earth on him, and as he got closer to the castle he began to feel more self-conscious. He didn’t know how he would get in.

            It had only been a guess.

            He decided to go where he thought he would belong. He approached the stables cautiously. Inside stood a man, a very ugly man, he noticed as he got closer. The man wasn’t much taller than Stefan, but he was much older. And much fatter. His hair was dark brown and greasy. His face was covered in warts.

            He turned around quickly, shocked at the presence of someone else. “Who are you?” the man asked, but his voice was not what Stefan expected. He had a very sweet voice, like a singer.

            “Stefan Crawford,” he said, or bellowed, rather, taken aback at the unintentional volume of his own voice. He had spoken more loudly than he intended, and more than he thought was possible. The man in the stables looked confused. “Is my brother here, do you know?”

            “I--”

            “Do you know my brother?” Stefan interrupted, he asked quickly, “My brother Nathanial, do you know him?” The ugly man still looked confused, and now slightly amazed. And now he laughed, an annoying, squealing laugh that made Stefan cringe.

            “You?” he laughed again, and Stefan thought the man would die at the effort of it. “The prime minister’s brother, you are?”

            Stefan had no idea who or what a prime minister was. But the ugly man was making him very angry, and very uncomfortable. They were around the same size, and no doubt Stefan was quicker. He was about to, when�"

            “Perhaps he is, Nicholas,” when he heard the voice, Stefan could not move. He had never before heard anything so lovely, so beautiful. It flowed through the air around him like a shimmer of silk, or gold. It wasn’t his brother. From where he stood he saw Nicholas, the ugly man, make a bow as elaborate as his squat little body could. He looked ashamed.

            “Turn around, boy,” he mouthed the words, and Stefan did.

            The creature that stood there was unlike anything Stefan had ever seen. It had long, shining hair like gold and pale white skin. It looked somewhat human, in spite of its striking beauty. It looked down at him with wide, green eyes.

            “I know your brother very well,” he said gently, “and I can take you to him.”

            Stefan smiled.

            He tried to say “Please,” but his great, billowing voice was gone.

            Stefan noticed nothing inside the castle. The experience swirled around him like a dream. He didn’t know who the man was, but around him Stefan felt more at peace than he ever had in his entire life. They walked side by side through the corridors, up the grand staircase, through rooms that blurred together in Stefan’s mind and became one. One gigantic archway that they walked through together, and Stefan felt the layers of his ignoble past fall from his flesh.

            He had almost forgotten completely why he was there.

            It had been years that they had been apart. Many times he had tried to find his brother, and many times he had failed. He felt, finally, that he was succeeding.

            “We’re close,” the angel told him quietly as they walked together through the castle. “Your brother likes to be very far away from us all,” Stefan smiled, “he likes to be very alone.” Stefan thought Nathanial missed him horribly, and that was why. The man knocked on the heavy door. It amazed him still how gargantuan the palace was. It seemed like they had walked for centuries. Suddenly his little heart began to beat quickly, and he felt fear swelling inside him.

            But he knew Nathanial loved him more than anyone. He knew Nathanial would be happy he had come.

            The door opened quickly, and as soon as Stefan saw him he thought he would die of happiness. His brother had changed. Where his skin was once glowing with life it was now gaunt. His eyes, still the same bright blue, were nonetheless far away. But Stefan ignored all of this. It was irrelevant.

            “Jessiah,” Nathanial said, his voice weak. His hair was loose across his shoulders. Jessiah glanced at Stefan with pity in his eyes, and Stefan did not understand why. “Who is this, Jessiah?” Nathanial looked quickly at Stefan and looked away. “You know well how busy I am.”

            Jessiah smiled. He spoke to Nathanial, but Stefan couldn’t hear the words. It was inconceivable that his brother not recognize him. He felt suddenly that he mst be asleep, in a nightmare. He tried to throw himself back into consciousness, but he knew, as the cold sweat began to trickle between his shoulders, and the palms of his hands became cold, that he was awake.

            He felt himself begin to cry.

            He could hear the dull roar of their conversation in his ears. He could feel the blonde man’s hand touch his shoulder, and he felt him remove it.

            He became aware very suddenly of how ridiculous he was, and in a second that felt like years, Stefan Crawford ran away from his brother, the castle, and the prince, for what would be the first of many times.

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            The thought of the young boy weighed heavily on Jessiah’s mind. He had had no doubts; when he looked into the child’s eyes he saw only honesty. It had shocked him completely when Nathanial, distant as only he could be, had said he did not recognize him. When he looked into the child’s eyes he saw himself. He saw something akin to his love for his mother, in the past and the present. He remembered early mornings when he would wake, with the sun glaring into his eyes, and he would want nothing but his mother, and she would be unreachable to him. He remembered searching the entire castle for her, in every corner and every room, and failing. He remembered the pain in his heart when he was denied the one and only thing that he wanted.

            For days Jessiah had avoided Nathanial, not afraid, but angry. For the first time since they had met, the prince was upset with him, truly, truly upset with him. Through Nathanial Jessiah had found a way to become normal, or at least what he envisioned was so. And now the only person in the world Jessiah had reason to trust had failed him, and for a reason the prince was sure was a lie. But he could never confront Nathanial. He didn’t have the courage, yet.

            For days he had not seen Nathanial, and while he thought it would make him content, some small part of him felt deprived. Some small part of him had not grown up, and was still that little, sickly child he knew he had once been. He did not search for Nathanial the way he once searched for his mother, though. He did not search for Nathanial at all. He waited. He waited for a moment he knew would never come.

            He had asked Stefan to stay, he had allowed him any room in the castle, but Stefan had run away. Where he was, Jessiah had no clear idea. He had been searching, but each day he tried he was unsuccessful.

            He decided it was time to look in the forest. He had a feeling, deep inside himself, that the boy had not gone far. He had the look of the country about him. And if Stefan was as much like Jessiah as he thought he was, his disappointment would force him to move slowly, like a dying animal. He had asked Nicholas, but Nicholas had told him nothing. Nicholas did not know anything, he thought. Nicholas barely knew his own name.

            The forest enveloped everything around it the same way, Jessiah thought, the sea might; but he had never seen the sea. He had never been near it. In a way he never wanted to. It seemed deep and endless and terrifying, while the forest made him feel safe.

            He had never noticed the cottage before; he knew it was there, obviously, but he had never been as close to it as he was then. It was small, he thought, but everything was compared to his home. If it could be called his home.

            He knocked on the door.

 

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 Claudia had never been inside the castle, but she had imagined it. She had visualized its high-vaulted ceilings, its sparkling chandeliers, the airiness of its rooms and windows. It had been a lifetime, her whole sixteen years, that she had spent doing this. She would stand at the edge of the forest, where her cottage lay, and stare at the beauty of the castle, the elegance and unfaltering perfection of it. Her father had been the groundskeeper. He had died the previous year.

            She had wanted to die with him. But she clung to something no one dared to take away. She saw him walking in green silk, his hair tossing in the wind around him, and she thought she could love him without question. He was alone, and she saw the wideness of his eyes narrow, as if he were thinking of something solely his.

            She held her memories of Jessiah deep in her heart, where they could not be taken from her.

            When she went into the city, she heard the women and girls talking, whispering and giggling about the love for Jessiah they swore they had, and endlessly. She heard them speaking as if he had any knowledge of their existence, or cared.

            She thought how she had been the only one of them who had had the opportunity to reach out her hand and touch him, just once, though she never had. She could have.

            She heard them talking as well about his teacher, who, though it was only a rumor, had been asked by the king himself to become something of a prime minister. Those who did not live for Jessiah lived for Nathanial, lusted for him in a way they could not for Jessiah, so blindingly white and pure the prince seemed to be. Nathanial was something entirely different. Claudia felt nothing for him. He exuded sensuality in a way that made Claudia cringe, but made the women of the city thirst for him. She thought she could never understand it, how some women could be so fascinated by sin.

            She had found the little boy probably a day before, running wildly through the forest, crying. She knew he was lost. It was easy to get lost in the forest; while she had been born and raised there, she still found herself stuck in it sometimes, unable to find her way out. She helped him. He had been very polite to her, but very silent, and whenever she would ask why he had come to the castle he would not reply. He would not tell her anything specific, not even his name. He seemed frightened of her, and of speaking to her. She thought this was strange.

            When they heard the knocking, he looked up at her with huge, sad eyes. And she was sure she looked terrified. No one ever came to the cottage. No one ever came near her, even when her father was alive. It was as if she and her home were not real, as if she was a ghost living in a ghost house. But she felt she had to be strong for the boy.

            She opened the door with shaking hands, trying to smile.

            And when she did she thought, surely, she must have been dreaming.

            The prince smiled at her, not noticing her eyes, which, she was sure, grew inhumanly large, and the way her face, she was sure, was bright red, even more so when she realized how rude she was being. She dropped practically to her knees, but she tried her hardest to appear graceful. She wanted to greet him, but found she couldn’t talk. She could only smile.

            The little boy jumped up and appeared in the doorway beside her.

            “Hello!” he said.

            “Hello, Stefan,” the prince said gently. Stefan, Claudia thought to herself, so that was his name. “So this is where you’ve been?” he asked. Stefan nodded his head.

            Claudia thought that finally he was acting like a child. And she had no idea how to act.

            “Yes. This is Claudia,” Stefan said to the prince, taking Claudia’s hand. She smiled. “She’s been nice to me.”

            “Has she?” the prince looked at Claudia with something like gratitude in his eyes.

            Stefan saw the castle behind Jessiah, and immediately his thoughts went to Nathanial. But whenever Jessiah was near him, Nathanial was practically nonexistent. Nathanial did not matter. But at night, the pain of it dug at his little heart, until all he could do was cry.

            “Your brother hasn’t come around yet,” Jessiah said, “but I’m sure you could stay with Claudia,” Claudia looked at the ground, “until he decides to.”

            “Yes,” Claudia said, her voice a little more than a whisper, and she looked at Stefan. He never would have come, she thought, if Stefan was not here. She thought she could never be anything even close to important to such a perfect man. She thought she was not worth even the small amount of recognition he was giving her.

            She would have done anything for him.

            “You can stay here,” she said sweetly to Stefan, “if you want, I don’t mind.” Stefan pressed her hand against his face and smiled, a little, pitiful smile that Claudia thought spoke more of despair than happiness. “He’s been very good,” she said to Jessiah, softly, as if she was in a dream, “but he’s been sad, I think.”

            “Can I come to the castle some days?” Stefan looked at Jessiah eagerly. “I won’t bother him, I promise.”

            “Yes,” Jessiah laughed, “of course, yes.”

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            It was always dark. Once he had seen the colors, the patterns and the opulence of his room. And after one time it no longer interested him. The darkness covered it, and the darkness helped him forget, as it had once forgotten him. As it had once abandoned him, and denied his existence. He now denied it. At the most he lit one candle. He belonged in the darkness, he belonged in the shadows.

            Nathanial drew the blade across his wrist slowly, as he had done before many times. The flame of the candle and the slow, bow-like motion of his hand were the only things moving, the rest of the room was as still as death, as silent as his breathing.

            He hoped he had not given it away. He hoped Jessiah had not believed it. He had spent a decade building up the prince’s trust, as thick and as solid as the castle walls.

            No one would dare to threaten that, he was sure. But that was before Stefan came. He knew the boy immediately, of course. He knew the boy, but he said nothing. He regretted that he had allowed Stefan to live, and that while he had known him he had been so kind to him. Of course Stefan believed they were truly brothers, he would be so pathetic as to believe something like that. He would be so pathetic to think Nathanial had ever cared for him, even the smallest bit.

            He had seen the boy’s birth, and he had been very protective of him. But he never meant it. It never meant anything to him. Stefan never meant anything to him, as much as the boy thought he did. And now he had the nerve to show up at the castle, after all of Nathanial’s careful planning, and nearly ruin everything.

            Nathanial thought that if he ever found the boy he would kill him, without any questions, without any hesitation. He drew the blade again.

            He hadn’t wanted to begin it so soon, but he felt he had no choice. If Stefan told Jessiah anything, anything at all, the façade would be ruined, and he would have failed, miserably, without any excuse. Luckily for him, he knew that when Stefan was upset he was nearly catatonic. He knew Stefan was probably hurt beyond anyone’s understanding. That was what he had tried to accomplish, anyway.

            Nathanial felt something like sorrow that he would have to actually do what he had set out to do that day neaten years ago. He needed more time, he thought, he had to have more time. But it wasn’t possible. At that very moment he knew he was losing time.

            He covered his scars, stifled the candle, and began.

 

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            Jessiah had begun wearing his golden, shining hair in a long braid over his left shoulder, tied with a dark green ribbon. To his dismay his eyes saw perfectly. He had begun to wear black, the only interruption being the white lace he wore on his neck, and around his wrists. He was not nearly as tall as Nathanial, however, and though he was thin he did not match his slenderness. And though he was graceful, as a prince should be, he sometimes caught himself looking at Nathanial with awe in his eyes. Still.

            Jessiah was seventeen.

            He was growing older every day.

            But Nathanial had changed not at all. He remained exactly the same, after years. It frightened Jessiah in a way he could not understand or explain. But he liked it.

            He was alone when his mother came to him. She entered his room without so much as a knock, but it didn’t bother him. He smiled at her.

            “I forbid you to do this,” she said, hysterical. She pulled the ribbon from his hair, so much like her own. She undid his long braid with trembling hands.

            “What are you doing, mother?” he asked calmly, trying to steady her hands. She had been crying for some time, he could tell; her own hair was coming unpinned, and her skin was a mess of red blotches. “Mother�"“

            “I forbid it!” she screamed, “How do you not understand, Jessiah?” She tore the white lace, shredding it as if it were paper. “How do you not remember?” The prince was paralyzed, unable to move in the face of this, the surprise of this. Never in his life had he seen his mother so unable to control her own actions, her own emotions.

            It made him feel lost.

            She gathered her son into her arms as if he were a child, and as she never had when he was a child. He had never known her to cry out like this, so wounded, as if she were dying. He saw the bright glimmer of Nathanial’s shoes pass the barely opened door, and for a moment he thought he heard his teacher, his idol, his God, laugh with satisfaction.

            But he couldn’t be sure.

 

 



© 2012 Megan C. Goff


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Megan C. Goff
No narrator throughout :)

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Added on April 17, 2012
Last Updated on April 17, 2012
Tags: fantasy, kings and queens, royalty, kingdoms, princes


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Megan C. Goff
Megan C. Goff

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Chapter One Chapter One

A Chapter by Megan C. Goff