Weak sunlight filtered through the sheer curtains of Richard’s bedchamber. The Prince sat up in his mangled bedding, hair plastered on one side, sticking straight out on the other. His groggy eyes regarded the torn curtains of his four post bed. The closet went miraculously unscathed. Everything else however, had some degree of char or rip.
Richard drug himself out of bed, his limbs heavy and sore, to the large bath near the window. He turned on the hottest water to fill the bath, along with a glug of scented oil to sooth his aching muscles.
While the prince soaked himself awake, his friends were scarfing down their breakfast. Briar picked at her ham, in awe of the sight before her.
Awen decided not to wear a shirt to the breakfast table, seeing as how he just got done with training. His large chest was a striking shade of milked coffee. Sweat glistened off his skin like glitter. Briar was never around the male species much, having lived with a hermit teacher for the last four years. Her teacher was old, unconcerned about having her charge interact with others her age. This had to be the first male body she had seen since her father, and she couldn’t get enough. She was so focused on the sculpture before her, she didn’t notice Awen leaned across the table to her until he whispered to her.
“You need to eat so you can keep up today.” He purred into her ear.
Briar stuffed ham into her mouth, wondering why the simple sentence sounded so dirty to her.
Laschet watched Briar stare at his best friend like he was a piece of cake she didn’t know how to eat. Awen, as usual, was ignorant of the hungry stare directed his way. He was regaling Laschet with a story about a sand snake and how he was fighting it off poisoned and half blind. As usual, Laschet only listened to the tall tale with half an ear.
Alright this staring had to stop; he could see drool working its way out of her mouth.
He nudged Awen and had him lean close. “Tell her to eat.” He pleaded.
The way Awen executed that maneuver was far from ideal, for as soon Awen sat back down, Briar’s face lit to a bright blue, her odd coloring on display for everyone to see.
Laschet gave up, shaking his head at the two carefree humans.
It was midmorning when Laschet was finally able to get outside into some fresh air. It was comforting to see the sky above, even if he was surrounded by buildings on all sides. He contemplated the mental state of his friend now. The death of a loved one was hard on many, but in Richard’s case it seemed extreme. How had Richard befriend the woman lying in a coma up in the tower? Richard was a very private person, only showing interest in his studies, whether it was knowledge or strength. It took two whole summers at the royal mingling retreat to be called a friend by him. Last time he saw Richard in the flesh was during the harvest season, and he had made no mention of anyone besides family. Who was the female that had ensnared his friend so quickly?
Something nagged at the back of Briar’s mind as she examined the comatose patient. The woman looked really familiar. Briar started cleaning off the wax and sacred oils when she noticed a scar on the woman’s outer calf. It was an old scar, its tone lighter than the rest of her leg. Briar remembered Mary had a scar just like it, she had got it when they had raced up a rocky hillside to pick berries, but a flash storm came in and Mary had cut her leg, falling, while trying to escape the storm. Briar noticed a new scar on the other leg’s thigh, a strange star shape that was still pink and puffy.
Briar’s nagging feeling grew more pronounced as she peeled the metallic wax off the fingers of her patient. Little divets cut through the whorls of the woman’s finger tips. They were all straight across the pads of her fingers, like someone held her hand flat while slicing the fingers with a razor.
Only one person in the world had these almost invisible scars. Briar’s one and only friend, Mary.
Laschet came upon the two auras inside the comatose woman’s room. He could feel Briar’s, like a warm gel that made his skin tingle, and the small flicker that was the lady he had to save. He entered the room silently, the door latch not making a sound. He studied the Death mage before him, she moved with grace, her hands steady and strong. He wondered if she knew what kind of faces she made while she worked. The narrowed eyes and pursed lips made her look older then her years. She cleaned the body with a damp cloth, starting from the bottom and working her way up, covering the rest of the body as she did so. Briar paused at one thigh; a little half smile graced her face as if she remembered something then moved on. The small smile faded when she saw the palm of her client. Shock was apparent on her face, then she took a deep breath and continued on. Tears glittered in her eyes as she pulled out a small lacquered box, to pull out a coin.
The coin was large and thick. Made of opal, its surface glittered and sparkled.
Laschet wasn’t sure when his two friends entered the gently lit room. They stood to either side, watching as the Death Mage placed the opal coin under the hand of her friend.
“Do you want to see how Mary lived? Before the dragon took her away?” she asked, her voice soft like fresh cotton.
They nodded, Briar placing their hands on top of the hand that held the coin.
The four appeared like apparitions inside a rustic cabin. The colors were oversaturated, the white almost blinding. By a cold hearth stood a cradle, paint chipping, a faded lamb gracing the ends. Inside a small pink baby slept, unconcerned about the hollering of other older children outside, or of the birds chirping in the trees.
The baby fades, instead replaced by a chubby toddler, hair like sunshine, a smile kept on by two dimples; waving a stick, babbling at a cat.
Mary was six now, hands held palm up, as if praying; concentrating, her eyes screwed shut tight. The natures sounds filtering in from outside the old home was now joined by a melody. The sounds of trumpets and flutes resonated throughout the home. The girls face smiled wide as she mastered her first spell.
A knock sounded on the door, a gangly 12 year old, with her blonde hair hastily braided back with a small blue bow, opened the door to find two adults, their faces shrouded in shadow, accompanying a girl her age, Hair black as night, her skin as white as milk. Mary pulled the girl in, assured the parents of safety and rounded on her new friend in glee.
“I’ll be your friend. We’ll be like Nido and Hito.” Mary declared to her friend.
“We’re going to rob banks, then fly off a cliff?” the new one assumed.
“Noooo. We are going to be bosom sisters. It’ll happen, trust me. We mesh well.” Mary hugged her friend close. “by the way, what was your name?”
The bewildered girl blushed sapphire. “My name is Briar.”
“Like a rose.” Mary looked at her new friend, Briar. “And a rare blue one to boot.”
The next scenes passed quickly but always showed Mary and Briar. Dance lessons, while being the only ones in boots; studying thick texts by the winter fire; laughing about a funny story while in a hot spring; walking down the small town street, heads together whispering secrets. One good scene was the two up on a hill, the summer passing by while they read a mystery series.
It was the next fall when Briar tearfully left her home and family. Weeping, she said goodbye to Mary.
Richard watched as that fall passed. Her bright smile now faded to a half hearted laugh or grin. The scenes showed Mary alone, watching the world go by through the winter, her hair kept in one messy braid, as opposed to the buns and intricate hair styles she used to wear.
Spring was visible to the watchers as the window showed buds of leaves on the trees. Mary laid in bed, oblivious to the sunshine or the laughing of children outside. Her mother came in, tempting her only daughter with sweets and a new book. Mary only quietly refused.
It seemed to be later that same week when Mary’s mother pushed her daughter out of bed and sat her down in front of the fire built to keep out the morning chill. Her mother told Mary that a substitute teacher was needed for a reading class and for a basic spell class at the school. She pulled her daughter’s hair into high bun and threw clothes at her.
The plump woman set a stack of old work books by her daughter. “You need to take your mind and do something with it. I know Briar is your close friend, but you need to accept she is far away and won’t be coming back for a long time. Help out those little ones. Figure out what you want to do for a career.”
Teaching the young ones was like a balm to Mary’s soul. As the spring eased into a cool summer, Mary dove into reading books with a passion. She was now seen carrying at least one thick tome with her everywhere. The years faded into each other. Mary didn’t return to the same level of happiness she had with her friend around, but she could laugh and smile for real again.
Mary sat in a room full of self moving pens and quills, an elderly man with a curly mustache read her application to the prestigious school.
“Well now, you certainly have the grades to be admitted. Are you willing to live in a dorm room with another person?” Bushy brows framed pale cloudy eyes as they narrowed to study the girl before him.
“I do not mind sharing a room at all. I understand there are plenty of places to study that are not my dorm room.” Mary hastily promised.
“Well everything seems to be in order; you’ll be taking basic classes for the first year to gauge learning styles and to acclimate. Where do your interests lay? Science? Mathematics? Engineering? You would be excellent doing those things.”
“Actually I want to be a teacher. I want to teach children to love learning and trying new things.” Mary sighed and thought of her new dream.
“We will keep that I mind then.”
Briar was surprised when she saw the dark prince before her had met her best friend. She watched as Mary and Richard grew closer and talked more and more, their sessions in the library spilling over into a few breakfast or dinner meals together. Briar felt heartbroken as Mary saw her hexed and destroyed room, the only thing left was a bauble and the clothes on her back.
Laschet gazed at the young woman called Mary with a sense of pity as she was shown digging through pile of forgotten or donated clothes and uniforms trying to find things that fit. He watched as his best friend took her in and while she didn’t notice, looked after her, sneaking a couple coins in a cushion or two then suggesting she search for pocket change to buy decent clothes. When a hair brush broke, he gave her a newer, better one; shrugging his shoulders when asked where it came from.
Laschet and Briar didn’t realize they would be front row seats to pure nakedness when Mary met Richard in the bathhouse. Laschet wasn’t sure if he wanted to see either of them stripped down, while Briar was overwhelmed trying to take in Richard’s solid body.
Awen chuckled and nudged his stoic friend, “You don’t look like you’re that big.”
Laschet instantly recognized the little girl Mary took care of as Lily, one of his younger sisters. Developmentally she was way behind the curve it seemed, so his parents had sent her to a boarding school that had others like her and in her own young age group. Lily must have improved dramatically or fooling them all, when he watched his little sister chatting away to a complete stranger.
Richard felt shame and guilt as the events leading to Mary’s situation started to play out. What seemed to be predictable and normal behavior; turned out to be erratic silly. Why couldn’t he have just explained the situation to his mother? Mary could have held her own. He could have explained that it was his mother to Mary, that he treaded a fine line with coming to the university instead of doing his family duties. He could have said anything and she would understand. He watched her in suffocating agony as he snubbed her and abandoned her without cause. He simmered with anger towards himself. This was not the way a Prince acted towards anyone. He tried hiding his roommate like a child hides a stolen toy.
Awen watched as the woman sought comfort from the frozen river. He remembered how it felt to be shoved aside by peers. He had hidden in a cave on numerous occasions when he was small. He emphasized with her as she tried to shut away what seemed to be an uncaring world.
Briar felt murderous for the first time in her life. How dare this person shove her best friend away. Any excuses, even a feeble lie about a headache would have been enough for Mary to understand and she would have gone off to do her own thing for the afternoon.
Everyone watched in horror during the encounter with the Dragon of the river. Laschet felt sick to his stomach as he watched the once vibrant girl deteriorate into a shell of her former self. He looked to the frail woman on the bed and wondered if she would even bounce back from this ordeal like the other times.
Briar burned with rage towards the prince who hurt her friend. He hurt her so much and now her friend was in a place she couldn’t reach, forbidden to go.
“You better bring my friend back or I’ll make sure you have to go through hell before heaven.” She threatened from her prone friend’s side. “Mary is the purest person and you threw her away. You are no better than scum.”
The vision of Mary’s memories faded, presenting the Queen and Richard’s mother Vivian at the chamber door.
The Queen looked at everyone in the room with eyes that saw everything. “The portal is ready. You don’t need to bring weapons, they don’t translate from our world to the next.”
Richard walked back to his roommate’s side. He laid a kiss on her pale fingers and vowed silently to bring her back into one piece. He brushed a piece of hair out of Mary’s face and walked out the door.
Laschet hurriedly nodded to Briar and followed his brooding friend out the door.
Awen hung behind, observing the death mage as her trembling hands put small bottles and the opal coin back in her box.
He knelt down in front of her and stopped her fingers when they made the whole box of glass ware clang together.
“You save to save her.” Her voice barely reached his ears. “Mary is my only friend. She can’t die now. I need her.”
“We will bring her back. I promise. Do you want to come with us? You know her aura and energy better then everyone here.”
Tears snaked down her cheeks as Briar shook her head. “It is forbidden. It is too dangerous for me to go. But here,” she gave him a small faded blue bow. “It was her favorite thing to wear in her hair for years. It’s soaked in her aura.”
“Thank you Briar. This helps a lot.” He went to stand, only to be stopped by her pale blue fingers on his leg.
“Look for the large white phoenix. It’ll take you to the light where I’ve put her.” Her hand tightened into a fist. “You must never touch those with black eyes.”
Awen’s eyes narrowed, for he knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park to get to heaven, so what sort of information was she giving him?
“If you are touched by those with the black eyes your soul will be born again. No living person is supposed to be in the spirit world. If you were alive when you went to the spirit world, you will die if stabbed through the heart, severed head from your body, or touched by the black eyed spirits.”
Sobered by the advice given to him, he thanked her and left for the portal.
Morianu observed his son and his friends as they filed into the small room where His portal sat in a box on a pedestal.
“My son.” Calling Richard’s attention to his face.
“Do you remember the stories and fables I used to tell you when you laid sick in bed when you were little?” Morianu crossed his arms in front of his chest.
“Yes father. But what does that have to do with getting back my roommate?”
“They are real.”