Chapter 10:

Be Still, My Heart (Part 1)

The Curious Case of Clemsey

“Good Sir, what is this? It is such a familiar scent” I asked, while tracing back in my memory, a possible encounter I might have had with the fresh, citrusy, somewhat woody and almost snuggly, captivating fragrance. I am pretty certain, I haven’t come across this aroma here in Alcione.

The bright-eyed merchant leaned closer to me. My round, tinted spectacles reflected in his glossy pupils. “Cypressia, young Miss. An ever-green, native in the highlands of Stussa.” He moved another step closer, as if he’s about to share a trade secret. “It was a recent discovery that its potency is at its peak when extracted in the early autumn.”

“Ohh, I see, what is it used for?”

“You see, this is really good for healing wounds and muscles and worries of the mind. You know young Miss, in the Kingdom of Stussa, a Cypressia tree symbolizes life after death. The scent strengthens a soul, especially those who are rooted in the past and seeking transformation. It’s so popular, actually, that’s my last bottle you’re holding there young miss.”

I stared at the clear liquid inside. Its hue, darkly filtered by the tint of my spectacles, much like the rest of curiosities in his cart, parked in the midst of the beautiful harbour of Daucus. “Then I shall take this last bottle from you good Sir. I must say, you have some really good quality Bellano and Chirika extracts as well,” I gladly replied.

“Oh, by the way young Miss…,” the lively merchant suddenly exhibited a serious countenance. “I believe you know of the Hajione Group of Alcione? They disappeared from the scene for more than a year now. Word has it that the they died in the sea.” He crossed his arms and muttered, “—but the child, the one they said to have peculiar eyes, would you know if it’s true that she’s here in the town of Daucus?”

My chest tightened from the unexpected query. With my right hand, I pushed my slipping spectacles up to my face and tightly, hugged the bottle of Cypressia oil with my left. Stop shaking Clemsey.

“Good Sir,” I said, as I prepared my cloth bag and neatly placed my purchases inside. “They are not dead. I believe they are very much alive. There’s just… uhm—“ I looked ahead at the direction of the sea, as if searching for an answer myself. “There are circumstances, I guess…, and their child, yes, she is still in this town.”

Circumstances—that was how my parents, Jiro and Hana Akisa, vaguely stated it in a letter that was sent to Uncle Gionne when they left the Kingdom. That was a year and a half ago. To be exact, they left on a voyage the day after I turned 16. Several months prior to that day, a conflict took place and was dubbed as the “Prystina Incident” by those who were involved— the Hajione Group, fellow associates and the Royal Court of both the Kingdom of Prystina and Alcione. It was the incident that carved a scar from under the left side of my neck traveling down to the center, just above my chest. I hid it like a close guarded secret, under high neck clothing or any scarf that will do the job. I guess, my feelings towards my scar is comparable to that of Uncle Gionne towards his family name— an equal amount of disdain and acceptance. My Mother told me off regarding this thinking and behaviour. Once she told me, “Clemsey, stop living in a perpetual winter...” I promised my Mom that time, that a day will come when I’ll find enough strength to do so.

For now, my mind is brimming with intense yearning to find where my parents are. I put my constant search to unravel my “familiar feelings” into the back burner. They left Alcione to fulfill one last job, before our group refrain completely from any sea voyage. The Hajione Group, planned to start building the pieces back together through a small apothecary shop in Daucus, our hometown. Long had Uncle Gionne and I waited, but my parents, to our utter disbelief, returned only, in a form of an ambiguous letter.

That said, when the curious merchant started asking me about the “child with peculiar eyes,” I can’t help but be reminded of the kindling which started the fire, the catalyst to the narrative of events that took place afterwards. I was 10 years old then, when my vision began to develop. A word spread like wild fire, among associates, people from the same line of work and clients in various Kingdoms— a young girl with peculiar eyes, suddenly healed despite being born with visual impairment. For my family, it was an absolute miracle. For some physicians, it was due to a delayed development. For few associates, the word was that, I was experimented on. I kept on firmly denying that accusation. Clients demanded for Hajione Group’s services, but I thought nothing beats the curiosity over the artificial gem stone which my parents invented. It was a gem stone called “Luminare.”

Now that I think of it, the root of this history in my family’s lives goes way far back, I thought.

“Clemsey! Clemsey!” I was startled by the abrupt interjection. I heard the clinking of the bottles in my cloth bag. A voice from an old woman called me from behind.

“Oh, good day Miss Anessa. I am on my way back to the shop now. I had the aroma oils and the candle holder you ordered, ready for pick up,” I said, to my good natured client.

“Clemsey, actually…,” Miss Anessa muttered with a nervous expression. “There are men from the royal palace, looking for you. They are outside the shop right now.”

Oh no.. My heart started to beat so fast, my mind began running through things I might be guilty of.

“I supposed you are Miss Clemsey Akisa of the Hajione Group?” In front of the store, I was greeted with a bow by a middle aged man in regal uniform and an air of superiority. At his back, are two other men, whom I supposed, from appearance, are Royal Palace guards. “My name is Nunzio, a messenger for King Auren De Lucine. I would like to have a word with you.”

“Uhm… yes, uhm, okay”, I replied a bit awkwardly. Despite visiting various royal palaces during our sea voyage, Uncle Gionne would always tease me about the lack of formality in my behavior. I can picture his smile in my head as I rummaged for the key in the deepest corner of my cloth bag. “Ah, found it,” I muttered to myself, as I open the door of Haelan Herbs to my unexpected visitors and perhaps maybe, to unexpected circumstances.

“Miss Clemsey Akisa,” Nunzio said. He cleared his throat, looked intensely at me and continued, “King Auren, would like to invite you to the Royal Palace tomorrow morning. I was sent here to formally ask you to accept the important invitation. The King wanted you to meet Prince Larsen as well. Also—“ He moved a step closer to where I stand, the guards behind him followed. “I was asked to let you know in advance, that the King, wished for you to reside in the Royal Palace for the time being.”

“For the time being? wait… what do you mean by that?” I can feel in my skin, the strings wrapping me up in a rather complicated situation. What a familiar feeling, I thought.

Nunzio, raised his left hand to the royal guard, motioning for something. A scroll was handed to him. I saw a small smile formed in his lips.

“Here’s the thing, the King believed, that you, more than Gionne Adleigh, could solve this matter.” He opened the scroll in front me. I think, I can see where this is going.. In the scroll, is a list of familiar components and an incomplete illustration of a certain machinery. “The process of creating the Luminare stone,” I said. Relative silence soon followed between all of us inside the store. It felt unnerving.

“Sir Nunzio, the whole of Luminare stone account was already procured by the royal court in exchange for assistance during the ‘Prystina Incident’. If King Auren wished for me to stay inside the Royal palace premises to provide answers to incomplete processes, I must say that, what you have acquired is also as far as me and my Uncle know.”

“Miss Clemsey, if we are not mistaken, you used to be the Assistant and also the Archivist to the Hajione Group, that position speaks for itself. I’m afraid this is an order from the Royal court and you must abide,” he said, looking menacingly at me. “That would be all. We’ll see you tomorrow at the Palace.” The entrance door slowly closed before my eyes.

“Gionne, there are circumstances me and Jiro needed to see through before going back to Alcione. We are in a safe place. We will come back—.” It was part of the letter we received from my parents. I missed their presence. Uncle Gionne at present, is out on a voyage in search for my parents’ whereabouts after learning of a lead that points to their location. For hundreds of times now, I have begged him to let me come in his search. I was declined over and over. In the end, I was always the one being protected. But this is no time to be scared. I need to finally make my own move.

I rushed to the counter behind me, swiftly swiped away bottles of aromatic oils and candle holders I crafted out of clay. On a cleared surface, I laid three things next to each other. Three paths, and three choices, and one decision to make.

A scroll with a written order by King Auren, summoning me to the Royal Palace of Alcione;

a key to my family’s townhouse in Port Lucia where Uncle Gionne told me to go to If I am in need for a safe place and a company of people I can trust;

and lastly, an item that was burning at my back pocket— a letter, which I received several days ago from a very good friend of mine, Ashke Mashima, asking me to travel to the Kingdom of Stussa to try my hand on a particular job.

“All right…” I said to myself after a moment of deep thought. As soon as I delivered all of my clients’ pending orders, I went back to the shop and started filling my huge bag with clothes, some aroma oils, medicinal herbs and small pack of snacks. I cleaned my dark tinted glasses, pinned my Luminare brooch on the left side of my vest and put on an extra layer of cloak with a hood. When midnight struck, I closed the door of the Haelan Herbs with a heavy heart and ran towards the only help I believed I can possibly get. I ran to Farrence, who was once a navigator of the Hajione merchant ship and as always, a loyal friend to Gionne Adleigh. She would always look after me, whenever Uncle Gionne was out on a voyage.

“Farrence, this is me Clemsey,” I said in a low voice, while knocking at her door, which she hurriedly opened.

“Clemsey, oh dear! Are you all right? Come on in, you can stay here tonight okay?”

“Farrence, I am sorry, I desperately need your help,” I said with a bated breath.

“Hmm… right, why am I not surprised? Gionne once told me, that most likely, a day would come, when you will knock on my door and ask for help.” She patted my head and continued. “Clemsey, you are a family to me. I will give my best to help so just ask.” I looked at Farrence’s face, young and beautiful yet fierce and determined.

“Farrence, can you please help me—“ I took an item from my back pocket and showed it to her, “—I need to go to the Kingdom of Stussa.” I presented her the letter from my good friend Ashke Mashima.

I have no way of knowing whether I chose the right path. At times, you may stumble upon a door, opening up to a route so strange and unknown that it scares the heart out of you. It tugs on your soul, like an old forgotten friend, that you’ll be inclined to throw logic and reason behind, to search for. I guess, sometimes, that’s just how you choose things— despite the uncertainty, you open the door anyway.