THIS IS THE EDITED VERSION. I hope I fixed most of the kinks some people mentioned, and that this makes the story even more immersive!
In the quiet nights of Firefly Forest, the earth and skies seemed to hum with the beautiful song the universe murmured to them; the birds chattered softly in the trees, the branches bending in a peculiar dance to the frolicking wind, and the hissing of the infamous fireflies as they buzzed about as the lights for the forests’ performance. The most prevalent sound for some were the groans of the stars and the moon, seemingly echoing back and forth to each other the pains that they had gone through. Quite faint, isn’t it? A single star murmured, twinkling brightly. The song of the universe. Do you think it will turn into a cry, like the echoes of my shimmering friends?
Sitting in one of the tallest branches of a pine tree, an elated young man with raven black hair spoke softly back to the wincing star. “You worry yourself so much, Lynx,” he told the star. “You will be fine. I’ll care for you. I always have. And, even if I can’t save you, I can at least preserve you.”
Ha, the star chuckled. The laugh echoed and created a small earthquake throughout the land. Quite confident in yourself, aren’t you? But I’m glad for it.
The boy smiled, reaching out his hands and murmuring once more to the star.
“Laisse-moi te sentir, ton éclat, ta présence. Il vient avec la gratitude de Luminance et des mains du Stalker.” The star glittered.
You’re not going to get everything you want, you know.
A lightning bolt struck from the sky, landing perfectly in the boys hands and retreating, an orb of light now in the young man's arm. It twinkled brightly, surrounded by falling stardust, and rings of different colors of light all eventually blending into a single glow.
“I did get what I wanted from you, though.” He smirked and began delicately plucking and rubbing the orb. Soon, he began to twist it into rope, wrapping it around his hands and arms, watching as his own body began to shimmer with the presence of starlight on his skin. Soon, the light began to retract and bond tighter to his skin. He could smell burning. He could see the light begin to dull.
“Retourne chez ta mère,” he growled, watching as the light gathered back into an orb and lightning began to carry it back into the sky.
The boy called the orb back once hoofsteps and chatter began to interrupt the first’s quiet melody. The King’s men had arrived in bright, golden armour, mounted with backs straight on spindly palomino horses, calling out the boy’s name and holding out their lanterns filled with glowing white fire. He began to recede back into the tree branches.
“Prince Lucian!” they called out. “Your Highness?” Lucian stayed silent, wincing as he twirled the orb between his fingers. His burn felt infected. He wanted to put up a fight, to spook their horses by throwing the orb into the ground and running off into the tree canopy, but he couldn't. He was already quite visible, with such light in his hands. He murmured a goodbye to the glittering stars above and sent back the orb, climbing down from the tree.
“Your Highness…” A knight gasped, grabbing hold of Lucian’s bad arm. He winced, forgetting that it was covered by his sleeve.
“You’ve been injured!” another man gasped. “Get on my horse. We must take you back to your Bender immediately.”
Lucian shrugged off the knight's arm and got onto the saddle of the other knight’s mount, reins in hand.
“I need no Bender,” he growled. “And if I’m going anywhere, it will be with my control. Understood?”
“We had directions to-”
“Hush.” Lucian cast a stern look on all of the knights surrounding him. He nodded for the ones still on horses to begin the trail back into the valley, whereas the first knight who spoke began to fix his stirrups. Lucian eyed the feeble little knight-most likely just finished as a squire- and kicked at his horse.
“You,” he began, “will walk.”
“But Your Highness, that’s-”
“You want to stay a knight, do you?” The little knight nodded. “And you want to stay in the King’s First Line?” He nodded again. “Then know when and when not to bite your tongue for your superiors.” Lucian kicked the horse once more and began to gallop far faster than the rest of the men down the valley. His heart ached at what he had put the young, new knight through, but he had no one to cast his anger on. It was simply easier to act as if it all came from one person’s harmless mistake.
Lucian walked in before the guards and cast a glare strong enough to send depression through the entirety of the palace. He recognized every inch of it; the cold, stone floors, the quilted portraits on the walls, and most importantly noted, the eerie blue light that gave the feeling of something watching. Hiding. The boy felt ill at its sight, though he usually wasn’t so distraught. In some moments, it was even comforting. But it wasn’t just the blue light. It was the creature he could see from the light; a man, sitting on a throne of ivory and copper, dressed in a dark blue robe. A king. He had a tired expression on his face, sagging and supported by a pale fist. He knew that look all too well, but for some reason, it made him angrier than usual. He wanted to throw up his hands, run away into the cold night, and do anything he could to get away. But none of those were his options. The only reasonable thing to do was to follow directions.
“Leave me!” the King growled, sending the knights off to their quarters. Gasps from the few young daughters of noblemen echoed throughout the room. Lucian smirked at them. He was prepared to put on a show.
“This better be riveting,” the King groaned. “I’ve been up all night, searching every little crevice in this place, only to find you were doing that little magic of yours on top of the tallest tree across the kingdom.”
“Since when do you say ‘riveting’? You’re not an Englishman!” The boy was trying to avoid the obvious. But that wouldn’t be easy.
“An Englishman has ten times the chivalry as you.” Placing a hand on his chest, the prince showed him a fake expression of shock. “What? You don’t think I have chivalry? I’ve been a Starstalker for five years! I’ve had to have learned something by now.”
“You’re straying from the point, Lucian!” He yelled. “I’ve been staying up night and day for three days, worrying myself sick that you’re going to kill yourself with one of your stupid, stupid ideas! Since when did you think it was sensible to go prancing around on our borders? You could’ve been assassinated! Or worse, busted your head on a rock if you fell!”
“How vivid,” the boy said coldly. “I wouldn’t be doing any of these things if you weren’t such, such…”
“Such what?” he asked slowly. The boy let out a breath. “Such a cosseter.”
“Oh, a cosseter?” the King asked. He pointed to his extravagant headpiece. “Do you not see this crown on my head?”
“Not exactly a crown,” he murmured. The King groaned, watching the prince kicked his feet on the ground and avoid eye contact. There was a comfortable silence for a while. Then, finally, the boy’s father spoke.
“Is this about that girl you like?” he asked. The prince’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Why would that assumption pop into your head?” The boy sat down on the ground. “Father. I have baby skin. Not a single scar. All I’ve ever experienced is galas and tutoring. Day in, day out, endlessly repeating until I feel like every memory I’ve ever had is morphed into one. I just want to have something to cherish. To look back on when I’m older. Sure, some of the things I do are a bit rough, but I’ll find something different to do. I promise. Could you just please free me from this cage of a palace?”
The King wasn’t listening. Every word he said sounded like a pencil on a chalkboard, aggravating and droning on and on until he was practically forced to tune it out. The fact was, the prince was trying to be aggravating. He could be kicked out. All he had to do was drive the King mad.
“Your sister has been fidgety today,” he murmured. “Go to the Bender. Then you may have a short visit with your sister.”
“Did you even hear a word I said?”
Lucian hissed as the Bender began pouring a strange, bright green liquid onto his burn. He watched as she meticulously twisted cloth around her fingers, dabbing at excess liquid, or organised the jars of poultices on her rotten wooden desk. It was nearly impossible not to watch someone like her at her craft. It was such a shame that she seemed so shy towards the Prince.
“This bed is so stiff,” he grunted, adjusting his seat on her mattress. “I could get you a new one, if you like. With lots of windows and silk. Wouldn’t that be nice.”
“It would be nice if you stopped moving,” she murmured, taking tweezers and plucking any hairs still growing on the forming scabs. “You’re worse than some of the children I’ve healed.”
“I’ve never exactly been one that likes to stay still.” Lucian looked at her stern face; the plump cheeks, the upturned nose, the deep, bronze eyes. If it weren’t for her horribly thin lips, she would almost be attractive. He scooted farther off the edge of the bed so his legs brushed hers.
“What are you doing?” she growled, scooting farther away on her little stool. “It isn’t your leg that’s injured.”
“Oh, but my heart seems to be burning for you,” he laughed. There was a hint of sarcasm in his voice. The Bender cocked her head to the side as she began to wrap bandages around his swollen arm.
“I don’t know what tricks you’re up to,” she murmured, “but I want no part in them.”
“What? Can’t I be a little flirtatious without you busting your head off?” Lucian once again scooted closer, a desperate look in his eyes.
The Bender stared deeply into his ice blue eyes, a tired but sorrowful look on her face.
“You live days in the palace without any freedom over where you go, with a father that doesn’t even love you. You must have snuck out hundreds of times to go out into the world with hundreds of girls that are prettier than me, as an overcompensation for this horrible lifestyle you keep making your sorrowful Bender treat.” She tightened the bandage a little more aggressively. “I don’t want to be ‘girl one-hundred-and-one’.”
“What makes you think I ran around so much?” The Bender tapped her chin.
“You're a prince, a Starstalker, and despite your lounging around in the palace all day, you have a fair build.” The Bender shook her head. “You could’ve answered that question on your own.”
“Come on Rubie, what is so horrible about me that you can’t even take a chance?You just listed all of the things that make me perfect!”
“I must have forgotten arrogance on the list of things that make you ‘perfect’.” She pinned the bandage and stood up, bowing. Lucian made his way to the door, casting one last sorrowful look at her.”
“At least tell me why you loathe me so much. Why do you avoid me with every ounce of your being?”
Rubie looked back at him with the vile of the green liquid in her hand. With an unwavering gaze, she slid her stool back to her small desk and set it down. Lucian knew he was starved of love, and her decision was probably right. But he wanted to hear her voice.
“Let me ask you this, Your Highness.” Rubie walked up and began to close the door. “Why doesn’t the rabbit play chase with a starving fox?”