Part 21: The Silence of Snow
As the days went on, Janus poured his focus into training, and did his best to avoid Emerald. At times he would catch her watching him as he ran through drills with the other knights, or they would pass each other in the hall. He would force himself to ignore her. He knew it hurt her. He wasn’t too thrilled about being away from her, either, but it was for her own good. Soon, she would be married to Hunter, and safe from harm. Hunter could make her happy. Whatever feelings she had for Janus…they were just a child’s infatuation.
When Hunter and Emerald made their courtship public, the kingdom rejoiced. The wedding was set to happen on the eve of the monarchy’s founding, just two months away. The palace was bustling with activity nearly every hour. Decorations were being put up already, tailors were preparing the wedding dress, and cooks were discussing what the feast would be like. There was always something to be done.
Janus, however, tried not to think of any part of it. He was lucky the knights were being made to work extra hard so they could be ready to secure the palace on the wedding day, and this stole most of his attention from sunup to sundown.
He woke up early one morning to see snow beginning to pile up on the ledge outside his window. It was December now, just a few weeks until Christmas. Though he knew Christmas was probably going to be overshadowed by the wedding preparations. He had never had a real Christmas before, and wondered if this would be the year where he got to partake in…well, whatever people did on Christmas.
He got dressed for the day, even though it wasn’t yet light outside, so training would not begin yet. Still, he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep any longer. Not when he had been dreaming of her. Every now and then, Emerald was in his dreams, and he never knew what to make of it. They were not good dreams, either. They were nightmares or the worst kind that left him gasping to breath, not knowing where he was whenever he woke from them. It always made the day more ominous, when he dreamed that something terrible would happen to the princess. Something terrible that he would bring about.
All was quiet in the darkened hallways and empty rooms. He stepped through the palace as quietly as a mouse. He wasn’t sure where he wanted to go, but he knew he needed out of these walls, and to be as far from Emerald as possible. He has pulled on gloves and thick black cloak before leaving his room, though the cold wouldn’t be as sharp to him as it would to others.
It was beautiful outside. The sky was turning a dull shade of gray, and a dim blue light was casted onto the gently falling snow. It had quickly piled up in corners and on the streets. His breath turned to visible clouds as soon as he stepped out the door of the barracks, where the other knights and soldiers were all fast asleep. For a moment he simply stood, relishing the strange silence that came with snow. It had snowed in the Wasteland at times, but not like this. He never dreamed it could be this beautiful.
He decided to take a walk. The snow crunched under his boots and stuck to his hair and clothes, and the flakes didn’t melt on his skin. They stayed just as frozen as ever.
He left the courtyard to travel the streets. Windows were still darkened for the night, though some held a single candle. He eventually left the streets to head out towards the forest beyond the city boundaries. The snow was piled high and the sun was rising by the time he got to it, but he felt better than he had in weeks thanks to the stinging, cold air.
Rays of sunlight broke through the trees, but did nothing to melt the snow. It still fell around him, slower than it had been earlier, but it was still there. And he had never imagined such quiet before. Even the Wastelands had not been this peaceful.
But as soon as he had the thought, three familiar puffs of smoke filled the air in front of him. He stopped short when the three fairies appeared. They didn’t look happy.
“Janus,” the blue fairy said, crossing her arms and standing as tall as possible, even though she barely reached Janus’ hip. “The wedding is in less than two months.”
The sound of their voices were strange to hear after being in utter silence for the last few hours. “And?” he said, his own voice raspier than usual.
All three of them rolled their eyes, and the red fairy sighed deeply.
“You will just stand by and let it happen?” she asked, tilting her head.
“What can I do? Hunter is the king, and I am no one,” Janus said, shrugging. No…he wasn’t no one. To the kingdom, he was a demon. “Hunter will take care of her. He is a good man.”
“That is not the point!” the red fairy cried, waving her arms. “You are defying fate by burying your feelings and letting her marry the king!”
“So I’ll defy fate,” Janus said calmly, as if the statement didn’t hold the weight that it did. “I can’t stop the wedding, and I don’t really want to. Emerald will be much safer without me. You know as well as I do what…what I can do.”
The fairies exchanged glances for a long moment. They were doing that telepathic communicating that set his nerves on edge. Finally, the blue fairy glanced up.
“She is coming,” she said, her eyebrows raising. Even as she said it, Janus could hear footsteps in the snow, and a quiet, gentle humming. “We must go, but do not think that you can get away with defying fate, Janus. A price will have to be paid.”
“I don’t care what happens to me,” Janus said as he narrowed his eyes.
“Do you really want to test that theory?” the green fairy asked carefully. There was a look in her eyes that told Janus she knew more than she let on.
“I mean what I say. As long as Emerald is safe from me, I don’t care what fate does to me.”
The red fairy’s expression darkened. Her voice was like ice. “So be it, Janus. But you may learn to regret those words.”
Before Emerald could reach them, they turned into puffs of red, blue, and green smoke.
~ ~ ~
Things are moving a little quicker now! I had originally intended this to be a character driven story, but I had a lightbulb moment and was inspired to do something more with it! I’m not too sure how things will end up yet, but I will say that it’s going to be a bumpy ride. So buckle up!
I hope you enjoyed this part! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!