It was the thunder that woke Tehveor, but it was the scream that made him jump. Clutching his covers, his heartbeat throbbed in his ears as his eyes swung to his door. There was a second flash in the window, another crack echoing against the walls, and another wail that sounded like it came from Darshon’s room.
Tehveor sat up, pressing against the headboard and peering at the door.
He heard the patter of bare feet, saw a flash of candle light beneath his door, and then hid beneath his blanket as the king’s voice boomed just outside.
“Mommy!” Darshon wailed.
“It’s all right, Darshon.” Margaret called. “It’s only lightening.”
King Galephy’s voice cut her short. “Darshon, go back to sleep! Margaret, you leave him alone!”
“He’s frightened, Galephy.”
“He needs to learn to be a man!”
“He’s a child!” Margaret snapped.
Tehveor winced at the sound of a slap. Margaret yelped. Darshon began to cry.
“I said go back to your room, Darshon, before I hit you, too!” King Galephy growled. “Get in there! Margaret, come with me.”
Another door shut, creating a moment of silence, before the muffled crying began again. Another flash of lightning was followed by a boom that vibrated the walls.
Tehveor sat still for a moment, then crept out of bed, peeking down the hallway before he scampered to Darshon’s door pushing in without even a knock.
Darshon lay completely still and quiet. Tehveor blinked. Darshon’s fire had died, and the room was even darker than his own.
“Kael?” Darshon’s whisper broke the stillness.
“It’s me,” Tehveor spoke up.
“What are you doing here?” Darshon’s voice hardened.
“Are you frightened?”
“No,” Darshon snapped.
Tehveor frowned. “Do you want me to leave?”
“Oh.” Tehveor took a step back.
“Wait!” Darshon called softly. “Are you scared?”
“No.” Tehveor thought of Galephy. “Well—maybe.”
“You can come in—if you’re scared,” Darshon offered.
Tehveor shut the door softly behind him, bumping into the chest near the wall.
Tehveor stepped onto the stool to climb into the large bed. “Maybe we could start the fire again. It would make it lighter.”
“Darshon?” It was Setta’s voice in the doorway, soft and warm. “Are you feeling badly?”
“I hate it!” Darshon’s voice quivered again.
A moment later, a candle sputtered to life from the embers of the fire, and Setta set it on the table near the bed to hug Darshon. “No harm will come. It’s only noise.”
Darshon’s face twisted. “It makes my heart hurt.”
Setta bit her lip. “Did you take your herbs?”
He shook his head. “Mother forgot. Or Father would not let her leave.”
“Darling, you should have told Remarr,” Setta said. “I’ll make them for you.”
“Father was yelling at him,” Darshon said.
Setta blew out a breath. “It’s alright. I’ll go make you a tea, and then you’ll feel better.”
The room felt colder when she left. Darshon scooted closer to the candle.
“Why don’t you like thunder?” Tehveor asked.
“It’s loud and it makes my heart pound.”
“I like to watch it.” Tehveor started to go to open the windows so Darshon could see, but his cousin bounded after him.
“Don’t open it!”
“It won’t hurt you,” Tehveor said.
Darshon spoke through clenched teeth. “Everything hurts you.”
Setta returned with a glass of warm tea. “Drink this, Darshon,” she whispered. “It will make you feel less scared.”
Darshon pulled back, crossing his arms. “I don’t want to.”
“Well then, at least hold it.” She handed it to him, glancing back toward the door. “I cannot stay. Your father may search for me.” She smiled at them. “You’ll be fine. The worst of the storm will end soon, and then you’ll be able to sleep. Now, I want you to take just one sip of the drink before I go.”
“I don’t want to,” Darshon pouted.
“Just one sip. You can do that much,” she encouraged.
Darshon sighed and brought the liquid to the edge of his lips. He grimaced. “You forgot the honey.”
“But you are brave to drink it anyway. Drink it quickly before your father checks on us. I must go.” Setta said before slipping out the door. “Tehveor, don’t stay too long.”
When things were quiet, Tehveor slid from the bed, whispering, “Do you know why I’m not scared of lightning?”
“Why?” Darshon asked.
“Because Lady Lesonna said that the light that you see is really only a crack in the sky. It’s the sunshine trying to get back through the clouds, and the noise is only the clouds coming apart to let it come through. And when the sunshine has broken up enough of the clouds, they run away and it’s able to shine again. So it’s really a good thing.” He walked to the window and opened it. “See?”
“That’s stupid,” Darshon said. The room lit with a flash, and he gulped the bitter tea.
Tehveor looked into the night. “Lady Lesonna didn’t think that it was stupid.”
“Maybe she was stupid,” Darshon snapped. “Will you shut it already? You’re going to let the rain in and then we’ll be in trouble.”
Tehveor turned back to him. “Come watch it with me.”
“No,” Darshon answered.
“Why not?” Tehveor asked.
“Because…” Darshon looked down at his cup. “I’m not finished drinking this yet.”
“Then drink it,” Tehveor answered. “I’ll wait for you to finish.”
Darshon looked at him and then at the cup and gave a slight shrug. He brought it to his mouth and sipped it, making a face.
“Did you finish?” Tehveor asked.
“Hurry up then.”
“Don’t rush me!” Darshon shook the cup a little, spilling some on himself. Seeing that Tehveor was not going to go away, he sighed as he raised it to finish.
“Now come.” Tehveor waved him over.
“I…” Darshon slowly inched toward the window. “Why?”
“Because I want you to see.”
“It’s cold,” Darshon protested. “You should go back in bed. Father might come back.”
“Come see first. Then we will go to our beds.”
Darshon hugged his pillow, resting his chin on top of it. “I wish that lightning would hit Father.”
“Then why did you want to go to Kellel with him?” Tehveor asked. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere with him.”
“Because if I could show him that I can be like him, then maybe he would like me.” Darshon’s voice dropped. “He grows angry at Kael because Kael doesn’t like to hurt people. But I don’t mind. I could hurt them.”
“But then nobody would like you,” Tehveor said.
Darshon shrugged. “Nobody likes me anyway.”
“But why do you want them to be scared of you?” Tehveor asked.
Darshon’s eyes glowed as he glared into the fire. “Because if they are afraid of you, they won’t hurt you. No one dares hurt Father. I want even Father to be scared of me.”
“But if you’re mean, then your little boy won’t like you, either,” Tehveor argued.
“Yes, he will.” The darkness left Darshon’s eyes, and he moved his pillow. “Because I won’t hit him.”
Tehveor blinked, then whispered, “Does your father hit you?”
“No!” Darshon snapped. “He’s too scared to. Now go away.” The boy plopped onto his pillow, turning his face to the wall.
Tehveor put another log onto the fire before edging back to his room, feeling along the walls to guide himself. He was so sleepy that he bumped into his door frame and stumbled toward the bed.
He touched the bed and stalled, glancing into the corners of the room, feeling eyes on him. He turned, pressing against the mattress, calling, “Hello?”
A gust of wind gusted through his window, and Tehveor forced the wooden shutters closed.
A whisper, or perhaps the wind that rushed through the crack in the shudders, breathed his name. His fire glowed even brighter than he’d left it. Tehveor grabbed his pants from the neat pile on a chair and pulled his day clothes back on. Where was his mother’s room? Was it the fourth door, or the fifth? If he ran to the wrong room, he’d go into the king’s chamber.
The floor doubled, one side dipping beneath the other. He stumbled, catching his balance and pressing his palms to his eyes as a wave of dizziness washed over him.
“Celestion.” A deep whisper echoed around him. “Answer to your name.”
Tehveor lurched toward the door, feeling his knee buckle before he fell, scraping his palms on the stone. He pushed his foot back beneath him, stumbling into the hallway. As he rounded the door, he ran into a soft body and arms that enclosed him in a protective embrace. He thought it was his mother until an unfamiliar voice whispered, “Shh, Tehveor. Don’t speak. Come with me.”
Her face was shadowed by a gray cloak, and he glimpsed only blue eyes, before the woman grasped his hand, pulling him down the hallway. “Hurry. He is searching for you. I have many things to show you, but we don’t have much time.”
“Where are we going?” Tehveor asked, rubbing his eyes to clear their blur.
A very faint cry came from somewhere down the hall and the woman glanced toward it, tightening her grip on Tehveor’s hand. “You must stay away from the king. He will try to hurt you.”
“Why?” Tehveor asked.
“Because of your eyes,” she answered. “Soon they will require you to answer to Celestion. But never forget your real name. You must always search for the truth hidden among the lies.”
“Are you from the Caves?” Tehveor asked.
“Yes. And no. I watch all things in the Caves, but they will not know me there. No one knows me, Tehveor, except for you. And they will not believe you if you tell.”
She tugged Tehveor into a dark room, kneeling in front of him and sweeping the hood back. A crack of light glowed against golden hair and a pale face as she whispered, “He can’t hear us here, but we don’t have much time. I have much to tell you, so you must pay close attention. You may never see me after tonight.”
“Why not?” Tehveor asked.
“Because you are asleep,” the woman replied quickly. “And you must never tell anyone about this dream.”
It didn’t feel like a dream. Grit crunched beneath his toes and the cold seeped into his skin. The woman’s hands felt real as she squeezed his shoulder and hissed, “Now listen!”
“There are many things,” continued the woman, “that you will encounter during your training to rule. There is a round room which will show you where you came from and reveal inside what you may become. There is a castle that leans, which someday you will discover. They mean you to be coroneted in it, but there is much danger inside. There is a sword, which you will take up to use either for good or for evil. Remember, you must always search for the truth within the lies.”
Footsteps brushed the stone in the hall, and the woman put cool fingers across Tehveor’s lips, lifting wide, blue eyes to the door. When the steps faded, she whispered, “They will tell you that Fate dictates your life. That is not entirely true. You have a choice, Tehveor, in everything you do. Fate is only the tool which will guide your choices, but he will bring either a blessing or a consequence. You will know if you have chosen rightly.”
There is a bridge that you must cross, but never do so until you have decided who you are. If you cross this bridge taking the name of Celestion, you shall fulfill both his destiny and fate. If you cross as Tehveor, they will destroy you. Now look around and tell me what you see.”
“Nothing.” Tehveor whimpered.
“Yes. Nothing. A cloak of blackness that envelops the light. You must beware of that cloak.”
“I don’t know what you mean!” Tehveor whispered.
“You will, in time, when you need to,” she said. “I can’t fully explain to you. Now come back to your room. When you wake up, lock your door.”
“I don’t want to go back!” Tehveor hissed.
“You can’t wake up until you’ve laid back down,” the woman said. “He’s gone.”
“Who’s he?” Tehveor asked.
“Fate.” The woman eased open the door, before turning her face back toward him. “The one in the cloak. Your room has a passage to Sentarra. Someday you will use it, but for now, use the key in your door to lock it when you sleep.”
“What passage?” Tehveor asked.
“There’s a panel by your desk,” she said. “Don’t let anyone know about it.”
She took his hand, pulling him into the hallway and Tehveor pressed his lips together, too afraid to speak. His room blazed with firelight, warming the colors and he sat on the bed.
“Now lie down and close your eyes,” the woman said.
He didn’t want to, but he wanted her gone. Tehveor lay on the bedding, squeezing his eyes shut. He heard footsteps, a soft whoosh and when he peeked, the room was empty.
He rubbed his eyes, feeling another wave of dizziness. A dream? Even the conversation with Darshon had seemed a dream. He slid from the bed, creeping to the wall next to the desk and pushing on the panel. It gave beneath his weight and he pushed it to the left, watching a crack open.
Panting, he closed it, ran to jerk his key from the hall door and returned, searching the baseboard until he found a key hold in the crack. It clicked, and the door held fast.
Tehveor leaned against it, shaking so badly that he felt the energy seep from his body. Both doors were locked. No one could come in. But a black cloak lay on the floor a little way from him, and underneath, his father’s letter peeked from beneath the hem.