“My heart is a chamber of darkness
My voice echoes in fear
I have lost all hope but still I call you
Hear me and grant me reprieve
Summon me from the night
Give me life.”
He was naked.
His hair was a bright auburn that tinged itself with blonde, his eyes were a milky swirl of silver and blue. His body was lean and unintimidating, dusted with fine blonde hair across his belly and his legs and between them in a concentration above his groin. His face was something like handsome, though there was an emptiness behind his eyes. He stared forward but he didn’t seem to exist at all.
It wasn’t me.
This person was not the embodiment of the voice in my mind, this person was not my soul personified. But it was my body. And it stared back at me from a reflection in glass, like a stranger meeting my gaze. I didn’t entirely believe the reflection, I was sure that I’d still never seen my own eyes.
Dim light at the edges of my vision swirled about behind the figure in the mirror. Fire was moving through the air. I could feel it prickling the inside my head, I could feel it breathing. Fire, individual flames moving through the air in a rhythmic dance, slowly, breathing, breathing, breathing.
I closed my eyes. I almost imagined there were lights dancing in the darkness of my eyelids. I could feel the light from each flame as it danced along the air in a current that swirled around my body. I reached out with some kind of limb I didn’t understand and snatched the flames from candles that were placed in a circle on the floor around me. Come up, join the others. I pulled the flames from the wicks and they kept burning. They kept breathing. The little flames joined the larger ones in the silent song the fire sang, and they grew, breathing, hotter, and hotter.
Footsteps clicked in the hallway.
The flames whisped out, not one by one, not unanimously, some dying faster, but they all fell into sparks and died in the air.
The door to my bedroom was opened.
“Good afternoon, Lord,” said a friendly and companionable voice. Trust him not to knock before he enters. “I’d advise against standing about in the darkness without any clothes on, it’s unbecoming of royalty.”
The young man to whom the voice belonged strolled easily past me and pulled open two huge, thick velvet drapes, and sunlight burst hungrily across the floor and onto every surface of my room, and flooded my eyes, so that I saw a glimpse of the boy of with the light brown hair illuminated so brightly he seemed to change, and just as my eyes closed I could almost swear I saw someone else in his place, but I couldn’t place it, and my eyes were stinging, and the thought was lost.
“Honestly, you’d think you might remember you have a schedule,” said the young man impatiently, ruffling the drapes and smoothing them before turning and marching across the room to shut my door behind himself. “I leave you alone for one morning and you start having séances in the middle of the afternoon.”
I sighed and shook my head, “Eric, you know I can’t handle doing anything royal without you,” I said.
“That’s all very well,” he replied in a tone of trained annoyance that bordered between that of a disrespectful child and an overbearing mother, while strolling over to the drapes and unlocking the window latch, “But I’ve been your attache for two years and you’ve still to learn a thing about acting like an adult.” He whipped the window open and a chill that was not the breath of winter but not quite the sigh of spring whistled in and caught my bare legs, causing me to shiver and cross my arms in something like embarrassment.
Eric was already flinging open my wardrobe and grabbing undergarments, tossing them lazily on the bed behind him, though they landed in perfect order. I glanced below myself at the ring of burned out candles. The wicks weren’t black, still white. The fire had barely touched them. I wondered for a moment what Eric thought I was doing, he was too smart not to guess something.
But then, you don’t often guess that your master can wield fire with his mind. And if you do guess it, you probably don’t ask questions.
I sauntered over to my bed, which Eric suddenly noticed was completely unmade and almost rolled his eyes as he went to tuck the duvet back into the corners of the mattress. “One day you will learn to be something like self-sufficient,” he said in that same parental tone.
I realized that I was chuckling softly, standing there naked and looking like a fool, while Eric ran around behind me cleaning up my messes. He’d already managed to lay out my day’s attire on the bed and swept behind me to grab the candles from the floor. “But I can always rely on you, can’t I?” I asked.
“For a time,” said Eric, setting the candles down quickly and in neat order on a dressing table in the corner that I scarcely used for anything, “But you’re nineteen years old and you may be royalty, but you should still learn to take care of yourself. What will you do when I’m not around?”
“You’ll always be around,” I said defensively, grabbing a pair of short cotton briefs and slipping them up my legs.
“I wasn’t around until a couple of years ago,” he replied, “When the Chancellor appointed you a much smaller contingent of factotums,” Eric was already pulling a silk shirt over my head while he spoke, and I abliged him like a child who resented the act of being dressed, “Now I need you to try and act something near stately today, and tonight when we’re done with business you can pull off your dress clothes and roll around on the floor like a stubborn child.”
I giggled. I enjoyed Eric’s admonishment, because it was playful. He was incredibly skilled at his duty, he was loyal and trustworthy, and life had been a little easier to understand since he’s come into my life. His fingers worked at the buttons of a jacket he’d pulled onto me, and he clipped a green silk scarf onto the neck to trail behind me. “Do you have to add the scarf?” I asked.
“The accouterments of rank, lord,” he said kindly, “You’ll learn to live with it, one way or another.”
“You really do dote on me,” I said.
“And you dance upon my nerves, little princeling,” he said, “But I am older than you and you know to listen to your elders.”
“You are exactly seven years older than me, and as I see it you’re barely an adult yourself,” I replied.
He leaned in close to me and raised his eyebrows. “I set out my own undergarments in the morning, my lord,” he whispered, and he winked.
As breeches were hoisted upon my waist and a pair of stately black shining boots buckled and strapped at my feet, I stared back out the wide window that opened almost from floor to the grand tall ceiling of this vast chamber where I lived most of my time. I thought for a moment I could almost see something out there in the vast cloudless sky, like a small bird or maybe a large fairy tale pixie, but whatever I thought must have swam into the light of the sun because my eyes were stinging again and I looked away.
“Do try and behave yourself, Lord,” said Eric in a tone that sounded nervous, “And remember to rise when they say your full name and title.”
I rolled my eyes and announced it in a mock ceremonial voice, “Noble Heir to the Throne of Alexandria, fourteenth in the line of royalty since His Eminence King Hamlet, prince Lucas Ballanehim.”
“You’re the FIFTEENTH of the line since King Hamlet, Lord,” corrected Eric.
“Well I never met my father,” I said with an arrogant swivel of my head.
“And neither did I,” replied Eric, adjusting the belt about my waist and buckling it, “But I still know to stand when my name is called, and keep my mouth shut when appropriate. Learn from me.”
“Are you afraid I’ll get myself in trouble?” I asked
“I’m afraid you’ll get us all in trouble,” Eric said, and he almost yanked me forward and toward the door, “The conclave begins in less than an hour, so please, for me, practice being quiet while there’s still time.”