Earth's End

Page 71

Eventually their heaving chests slowed and the two lovers stilled. Vhalla drifted off to sleep with Aldrik’s arms tightly around her. The events of the day began to blur as Vhalla eased into the land of dreams.

Vhalla instantly recognized Aldrik’s memories. Perhaps it was from her acclimation to the dreamscape, or how she and Aldrik pushed deeper into their Joining, but she had little trouble identifying the memory and separating herself from Aldrik at the start.

Her eyes focused on the dark-haired boy strolling up the tower. His body was lanky and awkward; it was as though his arms and legs had grown overnight and the rest of him had yet to catch up. He wore a white jacket, open over a light golden shirt, with red trousers. Vhalla admired the color on him, red of the West, gold and white of the Empire. His hair was unbound and went past his shoulders, straight and black.

Walking with Aldrik was a southern man with hair cropped in layers around his ears. He rubbed the hint of a goatee on his chin. The boy glanced up at him with a laugh.

“It looks like fuzz.” Aldrik’s voice was higher than she was used to, cracking from time to time to a deeper resonance.

“It’s only been four days,” the man said with a laugh.

“It still looks ridiculous.” Aldrik placed his hands folded behind his head as they walked. It was strange to see him stroll so relaxed.

“Whatever you say, my prince.” The man placed his hands in the pockets of dark blue pants.

“Aldrik is fine, Victor,” he sighed. “How many times do I have to tell you that?”

Victor, Vhalla thought. This was a young Minister of Sorcery?

“My prince, you are almost a man; you need to take your station seriously,” he scolded lightly.

“I do take it seriously,” Aldrik protested indignantly.

“Oh? Is that why I’ve seen you sneak off from your lessons on multiple occasions, with a Miss Neiress?” Victor grinned at his companion.

“Larel is different.” Aldrik crossed his arms over his chest.

Vhalla thought the color on his cheeks was adorable. It settled sweetly over the grief that the mention of Larel instilled in her.

“Is she?” Victor asked

“You know she is.” Aldrik’s hands dropped to his sides.

“Fine, fine, my prince. But I would not be your mentor if I did not mentor you from time to time.” Victor kept his eyes forward, waiting, and Vhalla saw the moment he waited for arrive.

“It’s never been like that between us.” Aldrik inspected a button on his coat.

“Truly?” Victor considered the young prince curiously.

“I, we thought—” The boy prince paused uncomfortably. “But it isn’t. We’re just friends.”

Victor gave him a knowing smile but said nothing. He seemed equally as charmed as Vhalla was by the awkward nature of exploring young love.

By how Aldrik spoke of his relationship with Larel, Vhalla placed this memory before Baldair’s black sheep comment, before Aldrik’s first kill, but sometime after him and Larel kissed on the timeline of Aldrik’s life. She sadly absorbed the young Aldrik. Vhalla wondered how many happy moments there were after this time. How much of his life had been spent in darkness and loneliness? She wondered how far the man she knew today was from the boy she saw here, from where a normal man would be.

The two finally stopped before a door that Vhalla recognized, the door to the Minister of Sorcery’s chambers. Aldrik raised a hand and knocked. Vhalla thought through the history she had been shown via Aldrik. If he was a boy, about this age, if Victor was still a young man ... a chill horror crept through her.

The door opened and Egmun stood before the two.

“My prince.” Egmun gave a small bow.

“Minister,” Aldrik responded. Then, to Vhalla’s utmost horror, the boy smiled to the man she hated more than anyone in the world, and that man smiled back. “How are you?” Aldrik asked nonchalantly, letting himself into the room.

“I have little to complain about.” Egmun closed the door behind the two and Vhalla realized that she was somehow standing in the office alongside Aldrik. “Especially when I am in the presence of the most powerful sorcerer in the realm.”

“You flatter me, Egmun,” Aldrik said with a wave of his hand, sitting in one of the chairs. Though the small grin at the corner of his lips said that he did not mind the flattery much.

“How have you been feeling since our last session?” Egmun sat behind the desk, pressing his fingertips together.

“You should know by now that such trivial things cannot hurt me.” Aldrik smirked, and Vhalla saw the boyish confidence for what it was.

“Of course.” The Minister chuckled, turning to Victor. “And you?”

“I am fine,” Victor said stiffly.

“Liar,” Aldrik yawned.

Victor shot him a glare.

“Victor, you need to be honest with me.” Egmun looked at the young man expectantly.

“My Channel felt a little strange the other day.” Victor glared at Aldrik, who shrugged.

“We will observe it, but you may need to stop,” Egmun noted.

Stop with what? Vhalla wanted to ask.

“I can carry on,” Victor said definitively.

“We will see.” Egmun’s tone had a hint of finality. “Today then, my prince, it shall just be you.”

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