Part 14: A Spell is Cast
Janus was still in his room later that evening, and had ended up skipping dinner. He felt very much like a child who hadn’t gotten his way, but he couldn’t help not wanting to see anyone. No, his chances to become a Knight of Dusk weren’t gone completely, but he would just have to wait much, much longer to become one. But…what was a while more of waiting when he had already been doing that all his life?
Sighing, he went to put on his cloak so he could go out and train, but a knock on his door stopped him. He wanted to shout at whoever it was to go away, but he chided himself and went to answer the door instead. His eyes widened when he found it was Princess Emerald.
“Oh! I wasn’t sure whether you would be here or not,” she said cheerfully, clasping her hands together. “May I come in?”
Janus found that his voice was lost to him in that moment, and he stuttered and stammered until he simply opened the door wider and stepped aside.
Emerald glanced at him nervously before stepping into his room. Her eyes immediately went to the multiple objects around the room that were broken; the window, the mirror…
Janus reddened. “Um…” He cleared his throat. “Not to be rude, Princess, but…what did you come here for?”
“I don’t think it’s right for someone to be all by themselves after something disappointing like that,” she said, seating herself on the velvet chair by the mirror. “You don’t mind company, do you? Hunter says you like to be alone, but…I can’t help but feel you’d like someone to be with you.”
Janus took a deep breath and fiddled the curtains that hung around the window. “I…I’ve been alone for a long time. I’m used to it.”
Emerald’s face had a sympathetic look on it. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Her didn’t want anyone’s sympathy. He certainly didn’t want their pity. “I…it’s wrong…what they did to you. You never did anything wrong.” Still, her eyes were taking in the broken glass. She was realizing what he could do. But even shattering objects with a rush of power was just barely scratching the surface of what he was capable of.
“I don’t want to dwell on it,” Janus said, turning away from the window. He grabbed his cloak and put it on. ‘If you don’t mind, I’m going to go out and train.”
Emerald rose, seeming more and more bashful. He swore he saw her cheeks turn pink. “O-oh…if…if you don’t mind, may I come with you?” She was looking at the carpeted floor now, like she was embarrassed.
“You’re the princess of this castle,” Janus said with a shrug as he opened the door. “You may go wherever you wish, with whomever you wish.” He stepped out into the hall, Emerald following. Once he shut the door, he turned to her with a raised eyebrow. “But shouldn’t you have…I don’t know, a bodyguard?”
Emerald gave him a sheepish smile. “I escaped from him. And I’ll have you, won’t I? You can protect me just fine!”
“You shouldn’t trust me.” He clenched his fists as he started down the hallway, his boots clicking against the polished floor. “I don’t know how the king would like it if you were caught with me out of the palace.”
“Oh, most likely, yes,” she said, giggling. “It doesn’t take a lot to upset him. But he’s not the boss of me!”
Janus stared at her, his jaw dropping. “He’s your king!”
Emerald’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “Hm, I suppose you’re right. But I still wish to come with you!” She smiled. “If anyone tries to get you in trouble, I’ll take full responsibility!”
Janus doubted that would work in the slightest, but he sighed, nodding. “Fine. Have it your way, then.”
She beamed, her whole face lighting up. Janus had to admit that he liked to see her smile…but he shook his head to get the thought out. How come every time she was nearby, his brain went haywire? He stole a quick glance at her, biting his lip. The flickering lights within the sconces made her eyes sparkle in a way that was almost captivating. He realized his “quick glance” hadn’t been quick at all, and looked away as his neck and face began to burn.
“Something on my face?” Emerald asked, lifting a delicate hand to her cheek. “Oh my…I don’t still have cake crumbs on my mouth, do I?!” She began to wipe the back of her hand across her face.
“Oh, no,” Janus stuttered. “I just…well…” The heat in his face grew to the tips of his ears. He hoped she couldn’t see it in the dim light of the sconces. When he didn’t say anything more, she simply smiled…almost like she knew what he had been doing. Great, now she would think he liked her!
They reached the doors that led out into the courtyard, and the guards standing there eyed Janus with looks that could kill.
“Don’t worry!” Emerald said, waltzing up to them. “I’m just going out to watch him train!”
“He’s…it’s not safe to be out this late, Your Highness,” one of the guards said in a deep voice that didn’t sound as if it should come from a man so thin. “Where is your Guard?”
Emerald waved her hand, her eyebrows knitting together. “I said not to worry. There’s guards all over the courtyard, I shall be just fine.” She stood taller, but she was still much shorter than Janus, and the guards for that matter.
The guards exchanged glances, then the one who had spoken sighed deeply. “All right…but if His Majesty finds out, he won’t be happy.”
“I know,” Emerald said. For a moment, a look of anger was on her face. Janus had never seen the likes of it before. It was gone just as quickly as it had come, and she skipped out into the night air once the guards opened the doors for her. Janus trailed after her, clutching the hilt of his sword under his cloak.
Winter was coming, and the night air was chilly and crisp. Not a cloud was in the sky, and although it was a New Moon that night, there were stars by the dozen. Janus suddenly wished he was back at his tower…nights like this were always so beautiful there in the vast Wastelands. The homesickness started in his chest, then grew to his stomach until it hurt, too.
Emerald was already shivering beside him. “Oh my! It might snow!”
“Not for another month or so,” Janus said quietly, trying to bury away the sudden homesickness. “It’s only October.”
“Did it ever snow in the Wastelands?” Emerald asked next. She was hugging herself tightly, trying to keep warm. “Oh…it is a desert, so I suppose it doesn’t.”
“No, it does actually. But just a little in January.” Janus bit his lip, trying to mentally make a decision. Well…it would be the gentlemanly thing to do… He took off his cloak and draped it around her shoulders.
“Oh! Thank you!” Emerald pulled the cloak around her tighter, smiling. “You…I wish everyone could know the real you…”
Janus unsheathed his sword, frowning. “The real me? What real me?” Like she could ever know the real him. He was struggling to hold back that part of him so hard. If she saw the real him, it could only be for a second before herself and everything around her turned to ash.
“You are kind…and generous,” she said, going to sit down at the edge of the large fountain that sat in the middle of the courtyard. “You saved me, after all.”
“Had to,” Janus said quickly. He twisted his sword in his hand a few times, testing the weight. He had just received it the day before after his had shattered when he accidentally rammed it against the wall during a mock battle. Anger started growing in his chest at the remembrance of everyone’s looks of horror…the dent it had left in the stone wall. For a moment, his real strength had shown itself.
“Hunter said that, but I don’t believe him,” Emerald said. He could hear the doubt in her voice, though.
“You should,” Janus said. “I did it because he gave me no other choice, and that’s that, Princess.” He swung his sword harder, his shoulder aching from the weight of it already. Had they given him a sword that he wouldn’t be able to swing? It only made him angrier.
Emerald looked hurt by his words. Perhaps she had strung together some fantasy where he had done it to rescue her, and someday he would marry her since it was “true love”. Maybe she had even done it because she knew the truth and she couldn’t bear it. Either way, he didn’t believe in true love, and he didn’t believe in love at all for that matter.
He swung his sword hard, faster, trying to perform every move and form that had been taught to him. It was difficult with such a heavy sword, but he knew he had the strength to wield it. If he had the strength to shatter a sword and turn part of a wall to dust with it, then he could fight with a heavy sword. Perhaps that skill would even grant him a place in the Knights of Dusk.
After a moment of watching him go through his forms, Emerald spoke again. “You don’t care for me at all, then?”
Janus felt his stomach turn at the words, and he lost his grip on his sword and it went flying across the courtyard thanks to the momentum he had built up in a swing. He whirled around the face her. “I don’t care about anyone,” he said, his eyes darkening. “I don’t care about this kingdom, I don’t care about the king, and I certainly don’t care about you.” He winced when he knew she could hear the unresolved in his voice…the way it quivered when he said “you”.
She stared at him with a soft gaze for a moment, then rose to her feet, leaving his cloak by the fountain. “Then,” she said as she approached him, her voice as soft as her gaze, “why do you want to be a Knight of Dusk?”
“Because it’s what I wanted ever since I was a child,” Janus answered. He forced himself to hold her gaze.
“But you must care for this kingdom if you want that position,” she said. “It is a job where you must place the lives of everyone above your own…far above your own. It’s sacrifice, and it’s being kind and generous to people. It’s risking your life every day for this kingdom and Hunter. You can’t even be a regular knight without that…”
Janus paled, realizing she was right. Was that…was that why he hadn’t been chosen? He had focused so much on physical skills…he was stronger, faster, and far more powerful than any of the Knights of Dusk…but he wasn’t like them in the sense of their morality. He wasn’t like them at all.
Emerald reached over to take on of his hands. Compared to his, hers were so tiny and seemed so fragile. “Janus, I…I want you to be happy…I want you to be a Knight of Dusk. But…it’s more than just skill. It’s…your humanity.”
“My humanity died when they sent me away from this kingdom and treated me like a demon,” Janus said, his voice going quite. He wondered what the guards were doing if they were watching…if they were getting ready to protect the princess from him.
“No.” Emerald shook her head and grasped his hand. “You just have to find it.” She looked up at him with such a soft gaze that all the anger in him began to melt away. Looking into her eyes, he a strange feeling suddenly took over him…something he had never felt before. It was like a string had been tied to him, and in turn tied to the princess. Or…had it always been there? If this the fairies were right…if Emerald really was his true love…then had they always been bound together by fate?
He lifted a hand to her cheek, rubbing his thumb over her smooth skin. “Emerald…”
“Please, call me Emmy,” she said placing her hands over his on her cheek.
Janus smiled, but quickly frowned when he realized what he was doing. All at once, he could feel the eyes of the guards surrounding the courtyard. He could hear the sound of swords being carefully, slowly pulled from their sheaths. It rang in his ears and rattled his bones. The cold was piercing through him like a knife, and even the still air rushed by him like a fierce wind. He pulled away from her and took a few steps back. “I’m deeply sorry, Princess,” he said. He ran to get his sword, then returned to her only to give her a quick bow, then hurried inside, forgetting his cloak entirely.
But even as he walked away, he was still aware of that string fate had bound them with, and it felt as though it was drawing taut the farther he went from Emerald. He had never felt it before, and he wanted it gone.
But the fairies had been right.
And the spell had been cast.
~ <♥> ~
Hey guys! This part is long overdo, but it is finally here! The spell has been cast, readers, and Janus is about to find it hard not to fall in love with Emerald…but can that save him from himself? We shall see! Anyways, thank y’all so much for reading, I am so grateful to you guys who have been sticking with this from the beginning! I have really enjoyed telling this story! Give me some feedback in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!
God bless you guys ad have a wonderful week!