In the darkness, he felt Siah stir, and Severn was awakened from a deep sleep. No Siah, not enough time has passed. Please go back to sleep, he pleaded with her.
For Severn, enough time to heal his wounds would never pass, so he was very content to stay asleep. In sleep, he could pretend the horrors of the past were just nightmares. Yes, sleep was much better, but Siah persisted and soon other voices joined hers, some in agreement, some only angry at being awakened.
Severn blocked them all, determined to go back to sleep, but Siah would not be ignored. Her thoughts stabbed his mind like human arrows, bringing back painful memories. Yes, my love, of course I remember what you have sacrificed, he told her. You are right, it is my responsibility.
From the bottom of his soul, Severn heaved a great sigh. One could only hide from the past for so long. In the darkness, for the first time in a very long time, his large amber eyes opened.
For Kael of Renwick, it was to be a morning of many feelings. It began with the feeling of freedom as he ran through a lush valley on his father’s land, the feeling of the warm sun and of being alive, to be followed immediately by the feeling of dismay as he tripped and fell face first into the ground. Now he was feeling grass and dirt up his nose. It was a most unpleasant feeling. Cursing, Kael tried to pick himself up quickly, but felt his brother’s hands land on his shoulders, pushing him down again. Keaton leapt over him before sprinting oﬀ, laughing his irritating maniacal laugh.
He looked back at Kael long enough to yell, “Lucky for me twins are not identical in every way!” and he threw a rock back in his brother’s direction.
Dodging it, Kael now felt annoyed. If he wasn’t able to catch up to his brother, he would have to listen to Keaton gloat for the rest of the day, and his twin could be insuﬀerable when he won! Determined to make a strong last attempt, Kael found his legs and jumped up. Taking oﬀ at a full run, he soon forgot about his inopportune tumble. Keaton and Kael loved to race. It was a rare time they were able to spend on their own without always having to be watched over. Their father hadn’t been letting them out much lately. “Trouble brewing,” Lord Graydon would say as an explanation and leave it at that. Their father was a man of very few words, which was probably for the best since most often his words weren’t kind. While Keaton had grown bored, Kael didn’t mind the time at home so much. It gave him a chance to train with his horse and connect with people other than his brother. He got along with Keaton, mostly, but he had felt some awkward distance growing between them lately. Since birth they had been inseparable, but at age fourteen they were beginning to diﬀer in opinions, and this had been causing tension. It was a new and confusing feeling for both of them. After having just been knocked to the ground, Kael believed they were starting to diﬀer in maturity as well. He reached the forest trail and passed into the trees. He could hear Keaton far ahead, whooping like a mad man. Kael felt his chances of catching up becoming significantly smaller and decided to slow down a bit. If he could manage to fall down in an open field, he would certainly find a tree stump or branch to hurt himself on in here. Scanning the trail ahead, he looked for potential hazards but instead caught movement among some bushes. Slowing even more, he stared hard as the swaying continued, thinking only animals large enough to do him harm could make bushes move like that.
The rippling along the shrubbery’s edge suddenly ceased and along with it, Kael’s breath. He was stopped now and had focused on a darkened area where he was sure he had seen something shift. Gradually, he thought he could see a slight shadow emerge between the leaves. The whole forest seemed to still. He watched for so long; with no further movement, he began to feel a little ridiculous. He started to chuckle but choked it back when the shadow turned to him. Kael stood frozen in place as a rustling began moving towards him. Now, it was terror he was feeling. He opened his mouth, but no sound would come out. From what seemed like miles away, he heard Keaton calling, asking him if he had given up.
“Keaton. Keaton!!!” Kael tried to shout but it was only a strangled whisper. Black, shiny eyes had appeared through the leaves, breaking this hold over him. Shrieking like a little boy, he ran wildly down the rest of the trail, desperate to find his brother. Snapping noises behind him told Kael he was being pursued so he pushed on. There! There he was!
Kael could see Keaton by the road with his back turned to him, he was looking up at something. Kael felt panic! Had the creature made it to the road before him? Would it now eat his brother? A small part of him kind of hoped that it might at least take a bite. Still terrified, he ran to Keaton’s side and with his stomach churning, Kael saw it wasn’t a creature at all that his brother was looking up at. No, to Kael, it was something worse. Forgetting that he had just presumably been chased by a monster, Kael tried to appear calm and struggled to arrange his face into a nonchalant smile. There on the road, seated upon his stunning midnight black stallion, was Bladen. The proper, the polished, his own long, black hair shining in the sun; Bladen of Arrington.
Inwardly Kael seethed; Bladen was a rival for the attention of Lord Raine’s daughter, the lovely Letana. He also happened to be a great friend of Keaton’s. What bothered him about Bladen was he was hard for Kael to hate. The young man was genuinely a good person, and Kael felt guilty for resenting him so. Seeing Kael’s pale face and shaken demeanor had caused Keaton some concern but recognizing this wasn’t the best time to address it, he decided to make light of the situation, which is usually what Keaton did. He would, of course bombard Kael with questions later.
For now, Keaton had to smile as he watched Kael greet Bladen awkwardly. He knew of his brother’s feelings for Letana and that Kael got irritated whenever Bladen was around.
Keaton spoke to his friend. “Bladen, you recall my older brother Kael? He came out of the womb first, you know; that makes him the older one,” he said in his most serious tone.
Kael rolled his eyes and glanced at him with a vexed expression; Keaton always had to say this to people and of course Bladen knew him! Keaton ignored Kael, which was another thing he usually did. The brothers were fraternal twins and while they looked very much alike, Keaton had a mind of his own. It was stupid having a rivalry over a girl. Even for the lovely Letana, which is what the entire kingdom of Ryk seemed to call her. At fourteen, Keaton had already determined he had better things to do with his time than pursue girls. Before taking on duties from their father, a duke in these lands, Keaton had plans. He wanted to hunt and fight. He wanted to see the four corners of Ryk and meet exciting people. Basically, he wanted to muck about with his friends for as long as possible before being forced into a lifetime of responsibilities. What was so wrong with that? Keaton had watched these lords as they got older. They grew grumpy and bitter, like their father.
Kael was the complete opposite. He wanted to get married as soon as possible. Kael had great skill with the sword and was even better with a bow and arrows. He was a good hunter and horseman, but these were not Kael’s priorities. Winning Letana was. Ever since Kael had first seen her at a joust when they were twelve, she had never been far from Kael’s thoughts- or Keaton’s ears. Looking over at Kael and Bladen now, Keaton had to suppress a chuckle. That was an awful grimace Kael was making.