All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Stefan’s bright green eyes surveyed the grey, desolate, landscape of Cancaria, the ‘’Grey Land’’ as it was known to outsiders. A frigid breeze brushed his dark brown curls, and his black cloak fluttered in the wind.
He could hear the laughter, the clinking of glasses, and loud applause from inside the castle; sounds seemingly out of harmony with the bleak surroundings he saw from the balcony. He shot a frustrated glance backwards, and closed his eyes, sighing. Darkness was better than false mirth. He shut out the clamor and locked himself in silence.
He was the secondborn of his father, Elmand of Cancaria.
There had been an uproar when he said he would not come. He had been brought before his father, whose blue eyes had pierced him, cold and sharp to his sight, biting like steel. But it did not matter; still he would not come to his father’s remarriage.
Stefan knew that those gathered in that room were celebrating an alliance. It was his father’s ambition that drove him forward.
Stefan began to pace a narrow line, his arms crossed tightly.
Stefan wore black that night, in mockery of those dressed festively, in green, a shimmering gold, and a blue unlike the Cancarian sky. They wore large, bright, gaudy jewels, on their necks, on their fingers. But none adorned him that night. He would be simple. He would be true. He would pretend to celebrate what he saw no joy in.
With bitterness he knew that Haymir would see it differently than Stefan, his brother who shared his father’s looks; hair of gold, and eyes of blue.
Accusing glances met his eyes because he had not come. He walked past with an anxious, rapid step, speeding silently through halls and stairs. He darted a glance, looking for his brother. He was tossed in turmoil, struggling between hatred and hunger of the news he would ask for; news of the woman who was his father’s wife.
He saw Haymir walking lightly, irreverently, his head tilted back in a slight swing. Stefan could smell the reek of wine on his lips, from last night’s revelries.
‘’ What do you want?’’ asked Haymir, heedlessly, his blue eyes idly taunting him; he knew what Stefan wanted, but it was such a pleasure to play with him.
‘’Give me news,’’ asked Stefan, an uneven, frantic tone in his voice.
‘’ What news?’’ asked Haymir, a cruel grin playing at his lips.
‘’ News of the woman who married our father! Give it to me.’’
‘’ Are you sure that’s what you want to hear? I don’t know-’’
Suddenly, Stefan seized his brother by the throat.
‘’ Wait,’’ choked Haymir . ‘’Wait. I-I will tell you.’’
Stefan stood above Haymir like a god of wrath, his eyes burning in fury, or madness.
Stefan let go his grasp.
‘’She seemed to have signs that she is what we have heard,’’
‘’She is an sorceress, then?’’
‘’Yes, most definitely,’’
When Stefan was safely out of sight, Haymir laughed at his brother. He laughed at the remembrance of him, scurrying past in his drab black. Oh, he was too good. He would be a wreck before long. A pity; he even managed to carry off sullenness with a certain grace. It was not in Haymir to care much; he had grown too hard.
His brother couldn’t know the least of what had happened.
She was quite beautiful, that sorceress, Venna. Her lips glimmered with the hue of rubies. Her hair, a velvet midnight, fell softly to her shoulders, hiding the skin of her olive toned neck. But it was her lavender eyes that had captured him.
He had watched, as she said her vows with unbreakable coldness. Oh, she couldn’t fool him, but he admired her for it. Her eyes were magic. And in one irreplaceable moment, she at looked back at him and he had seen himself mirrored, her darkness the same as his.
She was younger than his father, younger by far.
He knew that he wanted her. Stefan knew nothing, he knew no pleasures, and could know no ecstasy.
Attention broken, Haymir drowned himself in the pleasures of merriment, of food, and wine, more than anyone.
Lavender eyes. The eyes of an sorceress. They always were that color.
Through the days that followed it was as if there was a disease coursing through Stefan’s bones. He could feel the wrath slowly boiling under his veins. It stirred at certain moments, like when he caught a look, a glance, between Haymir and Venna, when with pain, he watched his father grow to weakness. He could see a clear plan in the minds of Venna, and Haymir. King Elmand was made feebler everyday by Venna’s sorcery. They were planning to take over the kingdom.
While his father reigned there was some semblance of stability. But with Venna and Haymir in full power there would be chaos. Venna knew too much of sorcery and nothing of governing. Haymir could not care less for the people, gorging himself on his own wants.
That woman’s name was death. Death trailed Venna’s footfall, and they did not notice it. He had to put an end to what had started here.
That next evening he stood before his father, and as he looked at him closer, he was left dry and hopeless by what he saw there.
His father’s hair which had once shone radiant gold against the light of the sun, lay dull as hay, with strands of wasted grey. His father’s once bright blue eyes, gazed at him, wearied and watered. Now, his skin had a pale sheen to it, and was frail as an onion’s peel.
Stefan realized how his father had changed since his wedding day.
‘’Father,’’ began Stefan. ‘’ I ask that you send Venna far away until she learns your law and loyalty to her king. She will cause too much destruction to be allowed to remain here much longer. In fact, she already has. Cancaria is on the verge of chaos! She has deprived you of your full authority, your power! I ask this for your own good.’’
Stefan knelt by King Elmand’s side. Suddenly, Elmand began to wave his hand wildly, at the air, at nothing.
‘’No! I-I cannot. I love her.’’
‘’But don’t you see? She can’t be left to do whatever she chooses. Don’t you care for our people?’’
‘’ I will NOT!’’
Stefan saw how deep her magic had sunk. From that moment Stefan became a lion in his fury.
Haymir stood in the armory. He held the dagger in his hand. It was the perfect instrument for his aim. He paced the floor, gazing at the rows of gleaming weapons. They were beautiful. All deadly things are beautiful in their way. Like Venna. He would kill King Elmand for Venna and she would be his queen. It won’t be long now, my Lovely, he thought to himself.
At that moment, Stefan broke through the door.
‘’I know what you’re about do,’’ he said. ‘’And I’m here to stop you.’’ His eyes shone with a grim light, a kind of fierce courage.
‘’What?’’ said Haymir, leisurely, fingering the cold steel dagger in his hand.
‘’You plot the murder of the king. And would leave this kingdom to ruin. I will not allow Cancaria to crumble!’’
With that, Stefan drew forth his sword, aiming a blow at Haymir. Haymir put away the dagger, and drew his sword, swiftly parrying the blow. Their blades met, clanging, the only sound in the empty armory. On they fought, neither one gaining an advantage.
‘’I will have her!’’ Haymir shouted, in the midst of their battle. Stefan could feel the rage building inside him.
‘’She is death!’’ he shouted back. Quickly, he dealt an offensive blow, piercing Haymir’s chest. The blows came quicker, now. They cut and slashed at each other’s mail armor and blood ran on the stone floor. At last, Stefan bore down on Haymir, as he frantically tried to ward off the blows, and he gave Haymir his mortal wound to his side. He fell to the floor, dead.
His blood spilled, seeping into the floor, staining it a dark, ugly, crimson.
Whether by intuition, or by magic, Venna knew something was wrong. But nothing could have prepared her for what she saw. She burst through the door, gazed around the room, then her eyes fell, horrified, on the sight of lifeless, bloodied, Haymir, and a dark Stefan, victorious that day. She let up a cry.
‘’Haymir!’’ was her last, agonized word. She disappeared into a cloud of smoke.
King Elmand’s authority was restored. Cancaria regained its proper order. Stefan was hailed as victor, as hero, by the people, and by his father.
His felt like no victor, he felt like no hero. His memories came back with terrible, vivid exactness. He could recall with icy clarity every bright, bleeding, wound he dealt Haymir, and Venna’s chilling tone of voice, when she had seen him there, dead, and called out his name. Couldn’t they understand that he had only done what he had to? That he couldn’t bear to see his father, the way he was? That he couldn’t allow Cancaria to fall to pieces? His brother’s death was a scar on him that would haunt him for the rest of his days. It was no honor, only an ever-living horror.
All was well in Cancaria.
Months later, Stefan was standing in the armory once again. The floors had been cleaned, but he could smell the taint of blood.
He practiced his swordsmanship, aiming with precision, thrusting fierce blows at an imaginary foe. He tried to keep his mind off Haymir.
Haymir was dead.
He would be the next king. It was the last thing he had wanted. He was not lazy, a man to evade responsibility. It was that he felt he could never be enough. He could not be enough, no matter how he strived for it.
He was praised for his victory over Haymir, but was unsatisfied. What kind of king regrets the death of villains? was the reproach ringing in his mind. It is good he is dead, he tried to tell himself. But still, he regretted and saw Haymir’s death vividly before him.
For years, there had been a measure left unfulfilled, one he had not met. It was why he fought even as his arms were sore. It was why he locked himself in musty, murky, stifling library, pouring over the complicated syntaxes, and often archaic words, in the books of Law and History, then wrote analyses on what he had read, till he could write no longer, till his mind was dulled, till the words floated over his head. Countless other things he had done, but always his mind perceived the one fault, the one flaw in his work.
All this he had done, while Haymir was yet alive. The standard was there, then. It is here now, thought Haymir. And it is only worse.
His spirit was restless. He gained no contentment because of what he did, and he gained no pleasure. He could not remember the last time he laughed. The strain of his standard was slowly breaking him.
He let his sword drop with a clatter. He put his hands in his face.
At some moment, he could not take it. At some moment he would collapse. He needed to hide the despair that threatened.
He fought a war against the strong tides.