Chapter 63:

Red Like Roses

Lovely kNight

“The Starlight Sanctuary was commissioned to be built by my father and although he could have created it to match the rest of the castle’s architecture, he instead chose to make it distinct. The colors and patterns will invoke the feeling that one is drawing closer to the stars, he would say.

“He always believed that the day when this sacred chamber would fulfill its purpose was soon to come. And by his designation, the view of the sky was expanded above head so that the heavens would be close to those within. It’s radiantly beautiful every hour of day but I hope someday you’ll come to see it during the peak of dusk and when the stars are out to shine. It’s so magnificent it feels like one has stepped out of this world.”

He chuckles to himself while his tone is overcome with the sounds of a bittersweet reminiscence. He touches his hand to the puddle of roses and picks up from where he’d left off.

“I was a curious child and I couldn’t resist the beauty and allure of this Sanctuary. It was as if its drawing was supernatural, how much it beckoned me to visit. But my father would warn me that it wasn’t a place to play. That it was a very hallowed chamber. He’d passionately insisted that I’d not enter, but that wasn’t enough to prevent me from trying. Kids truly can cause so much trouble when they’re curious. And the word no often only serves to incense them into deeper desiring. One night I’d crept my way through the halls and then inside just so I could watch the stars as they flowed overhead. I’d sat on the bed and gazed up to them while overcome with wonder. I was so taken that I hadn’t even heard the door open.”

“You were caught?”

“By my own father.” He laughs to himself a little more. “I’d expected him to be more than displeased. It was rare that I’d ever disobeyed him and I was fearful. Yet rather than escort me away, he’d sat down beside me and joined me in looking to the stars. We were both silent the entire time. Time had passed until I’d began to tire. He laid me down in that bed and continued looking up to the stars until I’d fallen fast asleep.

“The next morning come, I’d found myself in my own chamber’s bed. I’d wondered to myself if it was all a dream. Yet later that day he’d confessed to me his hopes that it would be in my lifetime when the Sanctuary would come to life. The twinkling in his eye when he’d spoken that to me affirmed for me that our time beneath those stars was a secret between us.”

I’d been so taken by his story that I remain silent even now and wait for him to proceed. He obliges my silence.

“That was one of my most favorite memories of my father. Though he was a busy man, he would give his efforts to make all the time that he could for me. And although he very well could have become furious and punished me for my actions, he’d instead chose to make that time a moment for the two of us, never to forget. I think of that often and understand with my heart that that time was a moment that changed me. It only made me love this place and my father even more. After that, I was more than desiring to honor his wishes. I hadn’t ever returned nor trespassed into this Sanctuary from that day onward. But I had returned one final time before I’d become king.

Even if he remains so peaceful and calm, the tone in his voice reveals his heart as he arrives at the turn in his tale.

“It was the Day of Eclipse. The day where this kingdom changed so suddenly, so terrifyingly beyond what my young mind could comprehend. My father had commanded for me to stay in this Sanctuary while the kingdom was under siege. He had lead his men to protect the castle and to fight with every breath they’d had to give. He himself had stood before the doors to the Sanctuary as a knight to protect me. He kept the doors locked and barred so tightly that nothing, nobody could enter. I’d heard all the sounds of the skirmish from within and waited for him to return and hold me in his arms to comfort me and tell me that all things would be okay. And yet…”

His voice pauses and the sunlight touching him catches the tears on his face in a faint shimmering.

“It was as if the entire attack had been planned by Eclipse. How even if my mother was so guarded, she had fallen so mercilessly to a group of savage Loveless. It all happened so abruptly that she could only be protected where she had been, but the numbers were overwhelming. The last time I’d seen her was in the morning while she had been preparing herself for a meeting that would convene in the noon. But I count my blessings that she’d spoken her love to me one last time as she’d embraced me before we’d parted ways.

“When the sounds of war had finally settled, I’d heard the doorway being unsealed. I’d jumped to me feet and ran to before the doorway, hopeful to see my father return to me victorious. He was bloody and wounded. Barely able to carry himself upright. There was this wound that peered out from behind his torn shirt. It glowed with such strange colors. Colors unlike anything I’d ever seen before and since. He was suffocated with such tremendous pain yet kept his face calm before me as the last knight left standing after the attack.

“He held me close as he fell upon the stairs and the life he had left drained from his body. Even if he had laid before death’s door, all that he’d said was how grateful he was that I was safe. He had perished there beside me and I’d stayed with him, holding him near until the sun was on the horizon.”

“Your father died in front of you? In your arms…?” Innumerable emotions overtake me in the same charge as the shock that shakes my system.

He shallowly nods to me for his answer.

“It wasn’t until later that I’d learned the truth. He’d been stricken by the hands of Eclipse itself. He’d received the famous wound that is a curse of pain unimaginable. Though most everyone with that wound eventually took their own lives to know freedom from its tyranny, my father had died bravely protecting my life and the future of Celestia. The first order I’d given as king was that every drop of blood he’d shed in that hallway and in this Sanctuary would be commemorated.”

His hand gently strokes the embracing bouquets of roses at his hip. Tears flow forth unrestrained and yet he’s resilient to speak without a single wavering in his voice. When he wipes away the tears from his eyes, he meets them with my own.

“Anyone wounded by Eclipse is to be commemorated and highly honored no matter what. That is an order by my own rule.”

His unrelenting gaze pierces through me like a double edged sword. The scar upon my chest begins to ache and moan while his story brings me to wonder.

To ask a dangerous question.

What if I’d told him of the scar? What if I’d revealed to him my own pain? And for an instant I think to do just that. But my mouth locks shut as I remember just how hideous that wound is. How undignified and monstrous.

“I’d known that you’d lost your parents at a young age but I’d never imagined that it was so horrific. I’d heard well since I was a child that you were the youngest king in our kingdom’s history.”

“Even if that is truth I wasn’t alone and I never have been. I had my father’s right hand, Barnard, to teach me the ways of a king and to guide my first steps I’d taken. He still serves me to this day and is my own right hand by my choosing. He’d survived the Day of Eclipse serving by my father’s side as a fellow knight though he had been knocked unconscious during that calamitous battle.”

He stares down at his father’s memory while recalling his own history. Yet one last thought freed from his mind strikes me through all of my armor and into my soul.

“I’d believed that of any man alive, you would be the one to understand the greatest of all. The one who would know just how difficult it is to lose one’s own parents so suddenly. I suppose I look to you as a brother for a great many reasons and although we were born from different families, I believe we share our heart. I’ve dedicated my rule as the king to delivering justice and fixing all that the Day of Eclipse had harmed and the misery it had brought into this kingdom. So many were lost that day and you would understand that reality most intimately.”

The two of us come to a silent understanding as our conversation reaches its conclusion with those final words spoken from his heart.

✩ ✩ ✩

“Are you certain? I’m more than willing to have my chauffeur bring you to your destination. It’s of no issue to the kingdom.”

“It’s quite alright, thank you. I’m grateful for all of the consideration you’re always showing me. It’s still early enough in the day so I’d thought that I could go for a walk before the time for my meeting comes around.”

“I suppose that’s as far as I’ll go. The road to is certainly close enough to be there by foot quickly. You’ll have a great amount of time to patrol the streets as well if that’s what you’d had in mind. I’d heard how that was your own personal calling before you’d become the Celestial Knight.”

I say my parting and step onward yet my heel comes to a sudden stop.

“About everything we’d spoken over.” I face him once again. “I’m grateful that you would share yourself with me. It was honestly quite a bit to take in, being shown that level of kindness and trust. To think that I would get to speak with my own king so intimately. I know you’d asked for me to be your friend and see you as nothing but a friend. I’m still working on that but some habits take time to be purged.”

“You’re a knight first and foremost. You always have been. I understand. Next time we meet, I’d enjoy to hear more of your own stories. I know we’ve only just begun and we have both our worlds and our lives to speak; our dreams and our thoughts.”

“I look forward to that more than I can say.” I intend to bow but quickly catch myself. “Hopefully that day will come again very soon. For now I’ll make the best of my time. By the end of today, I’ll be one step closer to making Celestia a safer kingdom.”

We part from each other not as a knight and a king, but as a duo of friends. While I step away, My mind is filled with one thought that continues to bring my heart and soul to flight. My childhood self would never once believe me if I’d told him what I’d experienced.

“…My brother… The king… called me his brother…”

The Starlight Sanctuary was a truly breathtaking place and yet it was outdone by one simple fact. Beneath its sacred light was where mine and Ophikka’s relationship as brothers was born.