Part 24: Soft Magic
On Christmas morning, the entire palace was in a bustle. The kitchens were swarming with cooks as they prepared the Christmas feast, and the palace servants were making sure everything was perfectly clean and decorated for the festivities that would begin later that day. With the wedding coming, they had to be twice as busy, as everything that was related to Christmas would have to be removed as soon as possible thanks to the event that would be happening next.
Janus did his best to stay out of peoples’ way, but stuck close to Emerald. He wasn’t sure why, but a strange uneasiness had settled over him regarding her safety. He couldn’t shake the feeling her safety was being endangered by him, but he didn’t want to just quit being her guard. Still, what if something bad did happen to her because of him? Or was he just being paranoid?
That morning, He stood at the door of one of the parlors. Inside, Emerald and Hunter were exchanging each other’s gifts inside, and he had been excluded from the room by Hunter. The king’s dislike of him was getting more and more apparent. Well, Janus didn’t care. He disliked the king just as much, if not more.
It was an hour later before they emerged from the parlor, Emerald with blush on her face and her hair falling out of the bun it had been tied up into. Janus gave Hunter a suspicious glance, but then quickly hurried to Emerald’s side.
“I trust the morning has been…pleasant?” he asked lightly.
“Oh yes, it has!” Emerald said brightly. “Janus, could you take me out for a walk?”
“It’s rather cold out there, Princess,” Janus said in reply.
“Besides, I could take you just as easily,” Hunter said with a slight undertone of annoyance in his voice. He gave Janus one of those looks that said back off.
Emerald smiled at Janus. “I got knew mittens this morning for Christmas, and I can dress warmly enough,” she said to him. She turned to Hunter next. “And dear, I know you must be busy now. I’ll be fine with Janus! I want to talk to him, anyway!”
Hunter looked as though he wanted to protest, but he relented. “Fine…just make sure to come inside to get warm if you get too cold.”
Emerald kissed his cheek. “I will!” she said, and then she was running off to dress for being outside in the snow. Janus hurried after her before Hunter could say anything to him.
“Do you mind explaining why you just ditched your future husband, Emerald?” Janus said once they got to her room.
Emerald huffed a sigh as she gestured for one of the maids to help her get her clothes in order. “I just wish to speak with you, Janus, alone,” she said with less cheer than she had in the parlor. She waved her hand at him. “Now get out, would you? I’ll be ready in a moment.”
Janus, wanting nothing more than to simply take a nap for Christmas, did as she said and stepped out of her room. While he waited for her, he tried to calm his rising temper. Ever since he had become Emerald’s Guard, and began watching her interactions with Hunter, he felt himself becoming more and more angry. Even now, that rage was piling up, adding to the frustration he already felt at not being able to make it as a Knight of Dusk.
And suddenly it was there, taking his breath from his lungs and making the light coming in through the windows dim. His hands trembled, and when he looked at them, the tips of his fingers were turning black, and it was beginning to spread to the rest of his hands.
No, he thought, sucking in a deep breath and holding it. He couldn’t lose control here, definitely not now. Not ever. When he exhaled, the light began to turn back to normal. The skin of his hands were still black, however.
“I’m ready!” Emerald announced as she came out of her dressing room and into the small sitting area.
Janus hastily shoved his hands into his pockets. “Good,” he stammered. It was all he could get out before her eyes widened.
“Good heavens, Janus!” she cried, her hand flying to her mouth.
Janus raised his eyebrows, but his heart sank when he realized what must have frightened her. “What…what is it?”
She hurried over to him. “It’s your eyes! It’s like…like the irises are bleeding!”
His mind raced to find an excuse, but could find none. How on earth could explain? And if he did…what if she no longer wanted to be near him? But that would be best…wouldn’t it? “I’m fine,” he said as he turned his back to her and strode out of the room. “You wanted to go for a walk, so let’s go.” He just needed to get far away from anyone else until his bleeding irises corrected themselves. This had happened once before, back when he was a child. He had thought he had better control of his magic, but it turned out he was dreadfully wrong.
Emerald followed him with a worried expression the entire way through the palace. Once they were outside with the snow and cold winds biting at their faces, Janus made a beeline for the forest, trying to keep his head down. The snow fell on his skin and clothes, but didn’t melt. It was just another reminder that he wasn’t human.
“Janus, please tell me what’s wrong,” Emerald said when they were hidden by the pine trees that made up the large forest. She went to take his arm, but Janus flinched away.
“Don’t touch me!” he snapped, but upon seeing her hurt expression, his heart softened. “I…I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I know you wouldn’t hurt me,” Emerald said with an emphatic nod of her head. Her nose and cheeks were rosy from the cold. The rest of her was covered with layers of thick clothing, and the fuzzy hat on her head covered her hair. She looked different without the golden locks cascading down her back.
“No, you don’t know that!” he cried, startling her. He stopped to calm down, then started over. “You don’t know that, Emerald… I can’t even control myself. I shouldn’t be near you. I…I don’t know what I might do to you.” He slowly removed his hands from his pockets. The black coloring had begun to fade, but it still looked as though he had ink stains on his fingers.
“Oh my! It looks like you have the Black Death!” Emerald said. She shrunk back from him.
“It’s not the plague,” Janus explained. “It’s my powers…they’re getting harder to control. That’s why my irises are bleeding.”
She studied his fingers, then his eyes. Fright was in her eyes. After a moment, she reached out and took one of his hands, and just like that, the inky black faded at her touch, and a warmth he never felt before coursed through his veins.
His eyes went wide. “How…how did you do that?”
She looked just as surprised as he felt. “I don’t know,” she said softly. She took his other hand, and it went back to normal as well. “I just…want you to be okay…”
Along with the black on his skin, he felt the rage lessen inside of him. The darkness he had been carrying in his heart was suddenly gone, like a weight was removed from his chest. If he had a mirror, he was sure his eyes were normal again, too. “Do you have magic?” he whispered. “Counter-magic, perhaps?”
“I feel like I’d know that by now,” she said with a small shrug. Her gaze locked onto his. Their breath turned to clouds between them. For half a moment, they remained perfectly still. Janus knew he was too close to her. If anyone saw them, he would be arrested for being intimate with the king’s betrothed.
And yet, he couldn’t make himself pull away.
~ ~ ~
About halfway through this chapter, I realized I didn’t really know what I wanted to happen for the next few chapters. Of course, this usually happens since I’m not too big on planning out what I write, but I still have a general goal of where I want to go (I just wasn’t sure how to get there). The idea of…well, whatever Emerald can do to Janus’ magic (that’s for me to know and you to find out) came to me, and it was just the perfect filling for a plot hole I was worried about, and now I could move full steam ahead towards my evil plans! Wait, did I say evil? …Just forget that.
ANYway, let me know how you like this part in the comments! As always, God bless y’all and have a wonderful weekend!