Marion had called it a special skill, his ability to fall asleep anywhere. He’d been able to take a nap splayed out in the lavender field, squished between his sisters in their giant bed on the farm, and even the ratty couch at their apartment on Enola Avenue hadn’t posed a problem for him. He’d even fallen asleep in the bakery from time to time. That has caused Lingrint a great deal of grief….
But now, in this soft plush bed, with the roar of the fire, the light of the flames dancing across the white sheets…Timothée didn’t think he would ever sleep.
Something had crept into his mind and refused to leave. Something had taken root since the square. He’d pushed it back as soon as the rain began to plop over his blood-streaked hair.
But now, alone in the darkness, he couldn’t push it away anymore.
A terrible awareness crept over Timothée. It was such a feeling he knew his life would never again be the same. Some sort of terrible destiny had claimed him when he and his sisters glowed in the square. When the Dark Prophet gazed at him. He knew it was a gaze, even behind that sharp angled obsidian mask. And that monster had spoken a word that broke flesh and bone and blood and descended all the way down to Timothée’s wicked core.
The way he’d spoken the name, a splintered sort of sound…it was the sound of utter agony, though Timothée couldn’t explain why he thought that.
He couldn’t stop replaying the night over and over in his mind’s eyes until some parts sharpened to focus so clear it was if he were there now. The fluid way the Dark Prophet had moved, the deep richness of his black sword made of gravastarium, which swallowed light instead of reflecting it.
And he thought of the prophecy the Dark Prophet had foretold – the words echoed in his head.
The God of Shadows will return.
Mountains will crumble, rivers run red, and the sky will weep.
Timothée rolled over, covered his head with a pillow, but the voice only grew louder and louder and louder.
Noctis and I stood side by side, as we did at the start of his world.
Twice the Dark Prophet had said that name… the first time spoken with such reverence. But the second time, when the Dark Prophet had looked down at him…the word was agony. Reverence and agony. What did it mean?
Reverence and agony.
He had called Timothée, Noctis.
Noctis was the son of the gods. And Setviren and the people were calling the Greywicks the children of the gods.
Was he really the brother of a god? The son of them? Hot tears streamed down his cheeks as the thought washed over him. It made him question his own belief — he realized he’d never truly tried to make sense of it all: the making of the world, the vast skies, the magic, and the stars that fell…
He’d spent the last nineteen years dreaming of destiny, and now that it had befallen him, he found himself drowning under the vast awareness of what it could mean. A part of him found himself understanding Marion, her desire to shuttle them away to a simple life. And he knew in that moment that his sister had felt it too, that vast purpose of what it all could mean. That was why she ran from the terror of it all: the unimaginable spread of the universe before them.
His fingernails dug bloody circles into his palms. Another part of him – that deep dark seed – knew there was no place in all of Thraina they could run to now.
Laugher sounded in the hallway and Timothée bolted up, gasping. His body and limbs felt heavy, like the shadows of his waking dream were pulling him back down to the bed.
He shook his head. His mind felt foggy, distant. He needed to sleep and rest. But if these thoughts plague me during awakeness, what nightmares wait for me in sleep?
Slowly, he stepped out of bed and padded across the floor. Slivers of sunlight crept from underneath the long curtains. It was day then. But this was when stars slept. This is when you sleep.
Another laugh, and this time he recognized it at Vivian’s. It was a strange realization. How long has it been since I heard your laugh, sister? He realized with great sadness that he did not know.
He pushed the door open a crack and peered into the hallway. Vivian stood out there, back against the wall as the Prince leaned over her. Yvaine sat happily in his arms.
Traitor. He had thought himself a special sort, with Yvaine taking a liking to only him, and tolerating his sisters. But he couldn’t blame her for liking the Prince. He was handsome and brave—braver than anyone! He had stood against the Dark Prophet and survived.
“I really should let you rest,” the Prince said to Timothée’s sister. He ran a thumb over her cheek, an intimate gesture.
Something tightened in Timothée stomach. He had been with many more people than his sister. It wasn’t hard because she’d never even kissed anyone. But no one had looked at him the way the Prince was looking at her.
And no one ever will. He couldn’t stop the dark clouds of his mind. Not when you’ve got such a wicked heart.
Then the Prince pulled Vivian up against him, kissing her. Timothée began to shut the door when he caught Vivian’s closed mouth smile as she pulled away.
She’s happy, he thought. Happy but scared.
He knew that expression. He hated to interrupt her, but this was for her own good. Drat, he thought. I sound an awful lot like Marion.
Timothée stepped back from the door, then started to call loudly for Yvaine. A moment later, he heard a little meow, a scuffle, and then Vivian—Yvaine clutched in her arms—crept through the door.
“Sorry,” Vivian said. “She followed me through the castle and…” She trailed off and narrowed her eyes at him. “But you already knew that. You were watching me.”
Timothée realized he was grinning. He skipped over and Yvaine immediately jumped to his shoulder. “I had to save you.”
“Your fangs are out, aren’t they?” He reached for her mouth and pulled back her cheeks. Sure enough he saw two white fangs. “But you’re not hungry, are you?”
“Stop it—” She swatted his hand away. “You only know that because of all those terrible banned books you charmed Jenny Cotswood into giving you.”
Timothée laughed. This felt like the best revenge for all the times she’d teased him about the boys and girls he saw around town. “Hey, those books were packed full of information that has helped us along the way. Like if you get enough blood, you can eat real food and—”
Vivian crossed her arms. “Yes, that’s why you read them. To get information to help me.”
Timothée shrugged. Vivian was in a good mood. It had been a long time since he had been able to joke around with her like this. This was how the two of them dealt with what she was, through jests and jokes. But when Marion was around, not a word was uttered about Vivian’s illness. For her, it became too real, the terribleness of it brought forth in stark colour.
With his sister here, hearing the lightness in her voice, the dark thoughts from earlier felt further away. Or deeper down.
“But the fang thing,” Timothée smirked, “that’s true, huh? You also get them when you feel desire?”
She smacked his arm. “I’m not talking to you about this.”
“Come on, I know you want to tell me. He kissed you?”
“I kissed him.” Vivian looked down, bit her lip. “I just wanted to…I needed to know what it was like before…”
Timothée felt it, the necessary hard conversation, lingering just on the edge of their laughter. Soon the two of them would have to sneak out and meet Marion. They’d creep through the streets and go to who knows where.
“It’s for the best,” Vivian said sadly, giving a finale to the unspoken words.
“No, it’s not,” Timothée said. He suddenly felt a great unfairness was occurring to his eldest sister, an unfairness from this whole world. “He loves you and you love him.”
“Timothée.” Vivian stumbled back.
“I’ve read hundreds of books, and none of them ever came close to describing how Darius looked when the Dark Prophet had you.” He ran a hand through his hair. “And when you ran out to him…you were like the hero of all those stories. You can’t just leave him.”
Vivian took his hand, squeezed it three times. “Even if that’s true, he doesn’t truly love me. He can’t. He doesn’t know me.”
He gave his sister a sidelong glance.
She smiled sadly. “Fangs, remember?”
“But what if love is enough for him to—”
He broke off as they heard a commotion at the door, and a great deal of squawking and bickering.
The two of them crept forward where they heard Marion.
“What is she doing back?” Vivian looked over at Timothée who shrugged.
“I am perfectly fine making it to my corridors on my own.” Marion’s voice carried through the door.
“I was just trying to be a gentleman.” Timothée recognized the smooth-talking cadence of the Medihsan ward, Khalid Ali Bagheeri.
“You being a gentleman is like a rat calling itself a wolf,” Marion said.
“I’m wounded! That’s the third time this moon I’ve been compared to a rat, but never so viciously as you’ve delivered.”
“Good night, Mr. Ali Bagheeri,” Marion said firmly.
“Good day, actually.”
“Well,” Marion’s voice suddenly got lower, breathier, “good day, then.”
“Good day, Ms. Greywick.” Khalid’s voice pitched so low, Timothée could barely hear it through the door.
“Oh stars,” Timothée mouthed over at Vivian, who was looking back at him with wide eyes.
What was happening behind the door?
Suddenly, there was a high-pitched yelp—but it wasn’t his sister. Marion said: “Good NIGHT!” The door flew open and Timothée caught a single glance of Khalid rubbing his nose before Marion slammed the door.
Marion studied them. “What are you two doing?”
“What are you doing?” Vivian said. Her fangs had retracted, so at least she wouldn’t have to explain anything to Marion right away. “We didn’t expect you to come back.”
Marion dropped a large bag by the door. Her usually well-kempt hair looked tangled, and the buttons on her bodice were done up askew.
Timothée and Vivian exchanged a look.
“What?” Marion snapped, shuffling over to the chairs by the fire. She slumped down as if carrying a great weight. “I ran into Khalid in town. I was getting information out of him.”