Chapter 9: Mutiny
            During my time of rest, I had overheard rumours of an uprising. The villagers were distressed about the King’s excessive taxes, the poor management of the treasury, the expulsion of Scientians, and the murders of the Oracle and Desiderium. The King splurged on new buildings to prove his glory, and on treatments to prolong his life. He had killed too many Scientians that they were forced to migrate to another kingdom. The Scientians had brought along their knowledge and trade to Urcis, which were what the villagers appreciated. The townspeople also respected the Spetians. The Spetians were recognized worldwide for their gifts; they were gifts from heaven. To kill what heaven had blessed the people with was sacrilegious.

            “Is it not unbelievable for a King to change to a tyrant?” A maid had gossiped with a fellow co-worker. My door had not been locked at that time, so I could hear everything.
            The other lady puffed, “Power must have consumed him.”
            “No,” another chirped, “it ought to be his past!”
            “What do you mean?”
            “Do not say that I was the one that said this, but I heard from my mother that the only way someone could change so much would be because the person has remembered his or her past.”
            “Those are just tales.”
            “No, they are not! Just because we do not remember does not mean they do not exist.”
            I was lying in bed at that point with my head propped by a pillow. As much as I would like to deny what the girl had said, I could not. I could merely agree because I felt Ghisaline’s presence in my dreams and from time to time. She would evoke her sentiments, which I could not control and thereby became my emotions. Through me, she demonstrated what she had wanted to express or . . . was it really her? Had it always been me? A misplaced, forgotten part of me?
            No, it could not have been me. I was still Renelle and I would always be her.
            “My dear sister, the King has ordered that you stay with him to be protected from the potential attack tonight.” Cael had interrupted my thoughts.
            “Attack?”
            “There has been word of Raul’s army and his supporters gathered along the border. It has been said that they strike tonight.”
            “Why would Raul want to attack the King?” I frowned.
            Although I knew there were people that wanted the King’s head, I didn’t expect Raul to be one of them. He had confessed to me before that he wanted to live peacefully. I doubted that he would like to be King. Power didn’t seem to have motivated him then, so how could it motivate him now?
            Cael’s voice was unwavering and in an all too steady tone, he explained, “Raul believes the King poisoned Paulette and now that she has passed—“
            “Paulette . . . has passed away?” I sputtered.
            “She had complications during the induced childbirth. Her body was already weak from the poison and the loss of blood.”
            I didn’t understand how Cael could be so emotionless, so callous like a never ending blizzard, which reminded me of Slianvwi. Even Slianvwi was never this bitter. That brief thought of Slianvwi prompted me to recall a certain boy, that rascal, Hendrick. Had he too passed away like Paulette? Brutally murdered while the assailants were free to roam? I shook my head and sighed. I couldn’t think this way. Hendrick had to be living. He was the Tsar now. Even if the Countess wanted power, she didn’t have the legitimacy to claim it. So, Hendrick had to be alive. He ought to be.
            “She could have been spared,” I whispered, feeling my lips chafing against each other just to utter these words.
            “It was her time and her child’s time, unfortunately,” Cael stressed.
            These were deaths that could have been avoided had Cael chosen to increase his risk. For a man that did minimize all possibilities of error, he would have treated their deaths like nothing. They were meaningless for him, but for me, I could not stand knowing that I had chosen for a child and for Paulette. I had selected the way their lives would end. Who would decide mine then?
            “Why am I to stay with the King then?” I wondered.
            “The King urges for your safety,” Cael answered.
            “Because?”
            “Because he believes that if you are alive, then he will always be alive.”
            What sort of demented reasoning was that? Then again, the King was a dangerous, unpredictable man now. My life was now in the hands of two people, the King and Cael. Perhaps to Cael, my time was up too.
            “That does not make sense,” I urged.
            “That does not matter.” He took a moment to accentuate his sigh. “What matters is that you obey his final command.”
            “Final command?”
            Cael now revealed a smug grin and immediately, I understood what he implied. The King was to die this day and Cael would be the cause of the King’s downfall.
            “I see you understand.” His smile grew warmer, almost too comfortable for my heart to rest. “This is the moment, my dear sister, the moment for which we have waited.”
            I should have been intrigued to know that I would no longer have to wait, yet somehow, it seemed safer to be the one waiting. If I could watch from afar, then I would have. Because I was involved, I had no choice but to act alongside Cael. The few moments where I was patient, I had to be impatient. Sighing at my own silliness, I followed Cael, who was leading me to the King.
            “You’re late.” I recognized this voice as Sir Nathaniel’s.
            “But, we are still here. His Majesty should not worry for Raul’s position has been identified.” Cael walked past the knight without even acknowledging his presence. I, on the other hand, still nodded at the old knight, who quickly bowed to the two of us.
            Now focusing my attention to the path ahead of us, I noticed how different this room had become. Sure, its grandeur was still eminent, but there was darkness shrouding the route to the King’s throne. I couldn’t look at that position with the same admiration as before. No, it wasn’t that position that had changed. It was the man before me, King Klaus III, that had changed. His eyes were consumed with recklessness, gleaming once meeting my eyes.
            “Good, good, you are here,” the King mumbled.
            His hands gripped too tensely onto the edge of the arm rests of his throne and his feet were rooted too firmly on the ground. He was sitting so unsteadily that all it would take was a breath of wind to sweep him away. Quickly, I lowered my head, almost forgetting my manners at that moment.
            “There is no need for formalities,” the King instructed and beckoned me to march forward with his bony hand.
            Limping towards him, I could see how much he had aged in such a short amount of time. I could barely recognize him with his now jutting cheek bones and nearly hollowed eye bags. His face was discoloured to pale yellow and even his skin sagged. Was this his own doing or was this Salim’s?
            “Father,” my voice seemingly croaked.
            “Not to fret,” he hushed me. “We will know the results soon. Your brother, for once, has prepared himself well. In the mean time, I would like to speak to you regarding a few matters. I was informed by Salim that you suffer from your dreams. Now, what sense do you make of your dreams?”
            I was dumbfounded to the point where I had to take a moment to digest his question before thinking of a solution. What boggled my mind was why he wanted to know what I dream. From the way he gazed at me, I knew he was desperate for my descriptions.
            “I do not suffer,” I mumbled.
            “How much do you remember?”
            “Remember what?” I pretended to act foolish, hoping that he would not question further.
            “Your . . . past.” His fingers were trembling once again as they pressed on my shoulders, gripping to the extent that I squirmed.
            “I—“
            He was almost on his knees, displacing himself from this throne. “You know who Orion is, do you not?” I rattled my head upon hearing that name, yet he still persisted to say, “You do know who he is in present day. Now, tell me who he is. Tell me!”
            The blood vessels in his eyes were bulging while his fingers were clawing into my skin. “I-I-I do not know,” I stammered.
            “No, you must know! You must! That man shall mark my death! Do you not understand?” He shot one of the most spiteful frowns I had ever witnessed.
            Facing that sort of attitude, I was inclined to answer, “I do not care.”
            However, Cael had announced from behind, “Your Majesty, here is what you seek.” Cael had held onto a perfectly fashioned square box and strolled to our direction. Planting one knee onto the ground, he proclaimed, “Please proceed, Your Majesty.”
            The King’s focus was now drawn towards Cael’s present, and so he instantly ordered, “Open it. Lift it for everyone here to witness!”
            I stood by the King’s side, wondering what could possibly be in that box. The answer was too horrific. It was Raul’s head. Before I could process what I had just seen, I had become an onlooker of another gruesome scene. Everything seemed to have happened within minutes, and by the time, my gaping mouth had shut, the King had already collapsed, planting his face to the ground. There was blood dripping from the blade of Cael’s sword, and blood acted like ink, blotching the already red velvet carpet to deep burgundy. Along with blood came the moans from the King and the cackles from Cael. As for everyone else, they were silent. They were too silent for guards of the King. They had to have already known what Cael had intended, and so it was everyone against one man, who thought everyone was with him.
            “Hahaha! Did I not tell you that I would fulfill my promise? Hahahaha!” Cael was boasting with his head hung upwards. He was smiling in the most genuine way, yet the sounds of his laughter were anything but genuine. What was even more brutal was how Cael would occasionally stab the King’s body.
            “You . . .You . . . are him?” The King was coughing out blood now.
            Cael only grinned and stooped to the King’s level. “I was, but I am free to be me. Really, you should thank me.”
            “I . . . should have . . .”
            Cael pushed his sword down on the King’s back, delivering the fatal blow. “Your time is up.” Then, he withdrew his weapon and tossed it on the ground. He glanced at me and uttered, “Come, my dear sister, there is much to do now.”
            There was nothing to do, but follow him. I was following a murderer. Needless to say, I felt my stomach constantly churning. The acidity was permeating to all parts of my body, and almost burning my throat. I didn’t understand how he could still walk with his back completely straight, stepping ever so firmly for each foot. By his looks and his character, I could never have identified as a killer. No . . . I couldn’t because I never expected him to be a cold-blooded killer.
            Was he truly cold-blooded though?
            I remembered what Morganne had said and what I had seen in my dream. He had vowed that he would take that King’s life the next time. He would curse that King and become that King’s nightmare. For what reason?
            My eyes were still fixated at his back.
            Sometimes, you can love someone so much that you’d do anything for that person. And when I say anything, I mean anything.
            Yes, he killed for love. He had killed for her . . . even if it also meant slaying her.
            “Cael,” I accidentally blurted, “I am sorry for your loss.”
            He halted right at his heel and turned to clarify, “What loss? You should be congratulating me for my gain.”
            No matter how much he had wanted to assert that this was all about power and authority, I could tell that this was all about her. His faltered snicker could not deceive me.
            “Can you at least bury her?” I quietly chirped. I could still recall how her body had disintegrated to ashes from a flaming fire.
            “No,” he responded rather monotonously, “she does not deserve to be buried. She had to be burned.”
            “Was that what she wanted before?”
            “Why do you care so much for a traitor?” he scoffed.
            “You are only saying that she is a traitor to ease yourself.”
            “You know nothing.” He proceeded with his march, yet this time, he walked at a faster pace.
            There was no sense in matching his speed, so I stayed and called out, “I know that she . . . was seeking revenge for you! It was clear that she still loved you very much.”
            “So?” His voice was draining away.
            “What good was it to kill her?” I demanded.
            “What good was it to keep her alive?” he asserted.
            He did not even wait for me. He had chosen to move with his plans, whatever they might have been. I was thus the one standing there like a fool, the one that was always living in the past. His question was unanswerable. Strictly speaking, there was no reason for her to live. She had finished playing her role. She had nothing to do with court, so she had nothing to do with him. Yes, she had nothing to do with him, but I still felt . . . that she had everything to do with him. I felt that that was why he lived. He lived for her.
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