(Chapter Two of the Reign on Me series.)
Chapter Two: The Dark Princes
“Welcome to the Dark Kingdom.”
She had never heard anything so terrifying in her life. She could feel her heart beating madly in her chest, possibly worse than when she had been hanging off the cliff. She gripped the saddle even tighter.
“Where… Where are you taking me?” She questioned, slowly gathering her courage, her tone getting more defiant by the second, “I demand you let me go this instant!”
The man didn’t even spare her a look, “Or what?”
“I’ll use my magic on you!” She threatened,
He stopped then, causing the horse to follow suit. He turned to look at her and raised a brow in challenge, “Really, now, do you want to duel against a mage?”
Finally, her gaze swept over him and took in every detail. How could she have missed it? He was tall and well-muscled. However, he was wearing a sleeveless shirt tucked into a white paji. If that had not been an indicator, his hair should have been. Well, what little hair he did have. His black hair was shaved close to his skull. The fact that it was his entire head signalled that he was a full mage.
Her eyes widened at the sudden implications. Even if she was able to get emotional enough to unleash her magic, she wouldn’t be able to control it, and going against a mage with that kind of instability was tantamount to suicide. She slowly attempted to sit up, trying to push away the pain lacing through her body, her arms shaking at the effort and her face screwed up in pain.
“P-Please… Just… Just let me go,” She stammered, “You said you found me by the river, so, obviously I d-didn’t come here on p-purpose.”
“My, how they’ve twisted the tales,” he said with a shake of his head, his tone lightly amused as he stepped closer and helped her sit up in the saddle, “You’re probably putting more strain on your body like that.”
“What do you mean?” She prompted, “About twisting the tales?”
He shot her an amused look, “I’m merely bringing you to my home so I can treat your injuries. Then you can return home. I’ll even escort you to the boundary.”
“How… How do I know I can trust you?” She asked, watching him suspiciously,
He chuckled softly as he pulled the horse into a trot once more, “You don’t, but what other choice do you have?”
“I suppose,” she murmured as her gaze dropped and she pulled the blanket closer around her. Suddenly, she realized that she was completely dry. Freezing, sure, but dry all the same; “You said you found me by the river?”
“You were hanging on the bank,” He answered as he tilted his head enough to glance at her with one eye, “I dried you, but you might still get sick. Who knows how long you were in the water.” When he saw a peculiar light in her eyes, he rolled his own, “I dried you with magic.”
“But Dark controls water and earth –”
“Indeed, so I drew the water from your clothes and hair,” He replied, “For someone who threatened me a moment ago, you don’t know a lot about magic.”
“I don’t know Dark Magic!” She defended,
“You should have been able to apply your basic knowledge of Light Magic to Dark. Regardless what they say in your kingdom, the two aren’t so very different,” He said simply as he looked forward again.
“So I’ve heard,” she murmured.
When their progress suddenly stopped, she looked up. Suddenly, they were before five large men on horses, each wearing some kind of dark blue uniform similar to the red ones the guards wore at the Castle of Light. Her eyes widened and she clutched the blanket – she realized, now, it was a black jungchimak - and hoped the mage would be true to his word and help her return to her kingdom.
“Guards, is there a problem?” The mage asked casually,
“There were reports of Light Magic near the river and were heading there,” the middle man stated simply.
The mage guided the horse to the side of the path, “Then let us not deter you,” he gestured for them to continue.
The men began to ride forward, when the last guard stopped abreast with Taeyeon and peered at her. “Hold,” He called to the others.
Immediately, Taeyeon touched her chin to her chest and averted her eyes. Did he see them? No, she hadn’t been looking at them. She silently prayed her gesture was seen as timidity rather than hiding something. Her hands clutched over her chest, holding the jungchimak, were trembling and she was sure she could hear her heart beating loudly.
“Yes?” The mage asked, easily sliding his body between the horses in a subtle, protective gesture.
“Miss, could you possibly look up?” The guard asked,
Taeyeon was surely shaking now. How could they not hear her heart beating so crazily? She clenched her teeth until her jaw hurt, just in an effort to stop from crying out. Indeed, she could already feel the burning behind her eyes. She wouldn’t cry. She wouldn’t show her fear. No. No. Was that pounding her heart?
“Can’t you see you’re scaring her?” The mage questioned.
His voice was low but lethal. Taeyeon suddenly turned her head enough to see the mage beside her. Silently, she thanked him, grateful for his intervention. Unfortunately, that twitch of her head was enough to bring part of her iris into view.
“Your eyes,” the guard stated,
Taeyeon turned her head the other way immediately, cursing herself and idiot. She had turned her head ever so slightly, had that truly been enough to show them? She slowly inhaled in an attempt to reign in her emotions, her teeth digging into her bottom lip until she tasted the coppery taste of blood. She shut her eyes tightly closed, silently willing them to go away, to let her go back home.
Please, please, please!
“You’re the magic user!” The guard accused then, “I saw your eyes – they were incredibly pale!”
When Taeyeon didn’t reply, the guard reached out to her. He yelped in pain and Taeyeon opened her eyes in surprise. The mage’s strong fingers were wrapped around the guard’s forearm, digging through the dark blue uniform’s sleeve,
“Leave her be,” he said slowly, each word its own threat.
“Light…” The guard stammered, his gaze locked on Taeyeon’s eyes.
Her eyes, pale amber, widened as the other guards came closer.
“Just let me go!” She cried,
Suddenly, all the guards’ horses were shoved back. They neighed loudly in surprise and the guards were jostled in their saddles. Only the mage was unmoved from the sudden burst of magic that had flowed from Taeyeon.
“Control yourself,” the mage said simply, looking over his shoulder at her,
When the guards got command of their horses again, they came forward,
“STAY BACK!” She commanded and suddenly fire was raining down around them. Taeyeon looked wildly around when she realized that the closest trees were burning, their leaves floating to the ground like little fireballs.
“I said control yourself!” The mage exclaimed as he turned fully to her,
“I can’t!” She admitted as the inferno beside her seemed to get hotter.
“STOP IT!” The guards ordered, drawing out their swords,
“STAY BACK!” She yelled through the tears, not caring she was crying as she watched the flames reach metres into the sky.
“Damn it,” The mage pulled the horse and Taeyeon away from the burning trees, putting himself again between the danger and her. He raised his hands before him and began tracing invisible patterns into the air.
Then, ribbons of blue and white jettisoned towards the trees. They turned into streams of water, looping and twisting around the burning trees, climbing higher and higher until all the flaming trees became towers of whirlpools. When he was sure the fire was completely gone, he slashed his palm before him and the water disappeared as if they never existed. What was left were charred, blacken lines amongst the forest. He turned back towards the others, but his eyes were on the ground, seeking for fallen, fire leaves. His left hand swept before him, palm down and the offending leaves were smouldering by piles of earth. When all was done, he raised his eyes.
“Damn,” he swore.
Taeyeon was completely surrounded by the five guards, their swords aimed at her as she was slumped over the neck of the horse.
The sky was still pale in the morning light. Few wisps of clouds hid the sun every so often. The wind whipped around him as he rode through the forest close to where he was supposed to meet her the previous evening. Sungmin crouched low over his horse, his eyes constantly scanning, his magic spreading through the area like little strands of thread trying to touch something – anything – familiar. He had never used his magic as such, but he had read it in a book and hoped it hadn’t been a lie.
It was his fault, truly, and he knew if it hadn’t been for the fact he was needed to search, the king would have killed him on the spot – friendship not withstanding. He would never forgive himself if anything happened to her. Hell, he’d never forgive himself anyway.
Suddenly, movement caught his attention and he turned his horse in its direction. He realized quickly that it was Taeyeon’s horse trying to run away through the trees. He halted his horse and whistled loudly. When the horse stopped but didn’t approach, Sungmin began to move his hand in a beckoning motion, small bursts of wind slowly edging the skittish animal closer and closer. When it was close enough, he grabbed its reins.
“Damn, you’re a nervous wreck… why the hell did you run away at my approach?” He hissed, more to himself than the animal. His pale, steel-blue eyes widened in realization, “You’re her new horse, aren’t you? You haven’t been trained around other horses yet. Damn, you must have taken off when I was coming last night.”
He looked down at the end in his hand, the reins looked like it had been burned through, the end black and charred. Sighing heavily, he smacked the rump of the horse, sending it bolting in the direction back to the castle. He hoped it went straight and didn’t veer from its direction. Slowly, he began to scan the ground, urging his own horse in the direction of ground trampled by Taeyeon’s horse.
He wasn’t sure how long he circled. Several times he had to back track because he had followed the trail of a different animal and had to follow another. Finally, he broke away from the trees, finding himself at a cliff’s edge. He jumped from the horse and tentatively walked to the edge. Peering over, he saw a drop that was metres high into a wide river. Returning to his horse, he slowly skirted the boundary between forest and simple ground. His eye caught sight of a cluster of footprints and troughs in the ground near the edge.
“The horse was struggling here,” he murmured, his hand absently patting the nose of his own horse, “But it got away so why didn’t… the reins! Damn, if she was panicking, then her emotions… she burned the reins herself and…”
Vaulting onto the horse, he began to follow the river as it flowed away from the direction of the castle. His progress was slower than he liked, but he wanted to be careful, especially with the cliff path. He wouldn’t be any help to Taeyeon if he died himself. Slowly, the land got lower until he was riding alongside the river. He looked ahead for any sign of her when he stopped, pulling the reins. He had a sinking suspicion he knew where Taeyeon was.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Sungmin headed into lands of the Dark Kingdom.
“Well, this is a first.”
Taeyeon felt cold all over and she was still hurting. God, how she hurt. Where was she? She acknowledged a wall to her left and two bars – one behind her back, the other beneath her knees. No, that wasn’t a wall, it must be a person. But whose voice was that? She didn’t recognize it. It was pleasant enough, not too high and not too low. She tried to remember what happened and slowly, as she became more conscious, the events of that morning replayed in her head.
That voice she knew, it belonged to the mage’s. The chest at her left rumbled and she realized it must be the mage who carried her.
“You walking into my study carrying a woman. A young one at that,” The other voice mused, his tone still without any emotion. “So she’s the Light user who could have burned the forest to the ground?”
“Hardly, your guards are overreacting,” the mage scoffed,
“Somehow, Kangin, I doubt that,” the other stated dryly.
Kangin? So that was the mage’s name. It suited him, somehow. She had only known him since waking up on the horse and yet, it suited him. It was strong, solid, much like the mage. However, as her musings about the mage dissipated, she began to consider her situation. She must be at Dark Castle, surely that’s where the guards brought her. Should she show she was awake or continue to pretend she was still unconscious? As she ruminated over that, she found some comfort in the fact that the mage had not left her when he could have.
“You could stop pretending,” the other said, “There’s no one in here but the three of us.”
Taeyeon hesitated. Did she believe him? No, the mage was with her, surely that counted for something in the Dark Kingdom. Tentatively, she opened her eyes. She blinked several times, getting accustomed to the bright sunlight streaming into what must be the speaker’s study. And if it was the speaker’s study then the speaker must be very important. Slowly, ever so, she turned her head in the direction of the other voice. Her heart stopped.
The man sitting behind the desk was striking, handsome. He work a black button up that formed to broad shoulders and chest, the material seemed a little strained over the muscles of his arms. His black hair was slicked back from his forehead, his brows thick, nose straight and a jaw that looked beautiful and strong at the same time. And his eyes, dark as obsidian, drew her in like nothing else. He was unbelievably handsome and Taeyeon found herself unable to look away from him.
“May I introduce the Dark Kingdom’s first prince: Prince Siwon,” the mage, Kangin, introduced formally. My lord, this is…” Kangin paused and looked at Taeyeon who managed to pull her attention away to look up at him, “I don’t know your name.”
“Taeyeon,” she said tentatively. She paused a moment before adding, “Princess of Light.”
When the two men remained silent, Taeyeon silently scolded herself. Had she been reckless again? Should she have hidden her identity to them? They were from the Dark Kingdom, heck, the one guy was a damn Dark Prince and yet… the mage instilled a sense of safety in her. She steeled herself for the consequences. She took a risk and it was too late to regret it now.
“You don’t look like the King of Light,” it was Kangin who spoke.
Taeyeon looked at him, “You know my brother?”
“Sure,” he shrugged.
“You could be lying,” Siwon stated simply.
Taeyeon’s gaze swung back to the prince, still like a statue, his expression blank, “Didn’t you just hear the mage –”
“Yes, and he couldn’t identify you. If anything, what he says questions your statement altogether,” he countered easily,
“Prince E- I mean, the King of Light does have a younger sister named Taeyeon,” Kangin offered,
“But you cannot confirm if that sister is this person,” Siwon stated.
“Look, just let me go –”
“After you nearly burned the forest and could have very well killed my guards and mage?” The prince raised one thick brow, his hands clasped atop the desk,
“She couldn’t kill me if she tried,” Kangin murmured, rolling his eyes heavenward,
“Fine, then send a message to my brother –”
“That’s like asking for war,” the prince interrupted again, “Anyone could get a hold of that message and read it. What then? That just opens up the Dark Kingdom to attack and war – again.”
“Then what do you suggest, my lord?” Kangin asked before Taeyeon could protest more.
The prince unclasped his hands and held them palm-up in a careless gesture, “The dungeons aren’t so cold now the snow is gone.”
Taeyeon’s jaw literally dropped and she wriggled until Kangin put her on her feet. However, the moment he let her stand on her own, her knees buckled. Before she could even protest, Kangin swept her up in his arms again.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured,
“You’re burning up,” Kangin noted, raising a brow. He glanced at the prince, “I hope this means you won’t send her to the dungeons?”
“He was being serious!?” Taeyeon gasped, suddenly coughing after the exertion of her throat,
“No,” Kangin insisted,
“Wasn’t I?” Siwon mused, “And I would appreciate it if you didn’t speak as if I wasn’t in the room.”
“My lord, think of a place to put the princess –”
“We still don’t know if she’s telling the truth –”
“Because if you put her in the dungeons and she dies – no, no, if her brother even hears that she has a fever while on Dark Kingdom land –”
“She could not be a princess –”
“Then you’ll get that war you’ve been trying to avoid,” Kangin finished as he placed Taeyeon down in a chair,
“Thank you,” Taeyeon said as she handed him back his jungchimak that had still been blanketed over her. She took off her own cloak, suddenly feeling too hot.
“I didn’t know princesses were also mages,” Siwon stated dryly.
Taeyeon blinked before looking down. She had completely forgotten the white paji and royal blue jungchimak she had been wearing. “They’re not. Actually, my brother wouldn’t let me practice. He always said…” She looked away then, suddenly very much aware of the two men’s stares. She tugged on the wide sleeves of the jungchimak and hugged her arms around her torso, avoiding their eyes and silently yelling at herself not to cry.
“I’ll have a room prepared for you,” Siwon said as he stood from his desk for the first time. He strode across the room and opened the door, quietly conversing with someone before returning to his desk.
“Can’t you just let me go?” She asked quietly, praying her voice didn’t break,
“I cannot ignore what happened earlier. I’m a prince, not the king,” Siwon answered, his tone as flat as ever. “The butler will show you to your room.”
Taeyeon forced her tears back and she looked over at the door to a very proper butler waiting at the study door. Before she could say anything, Kangin picked her up again. After a nod to the prince, he carried her out of the study.
The Dark Prince watched as they left and didn’t move an inch until the door closed after them. He slowly rose from his chair and strode over to a pair of glass doors, his dark gaze looking out sightlessly at the garden outside.
“He’s not so bad.”
Taeyeon looked up at the mage. She sat on the ledge of a window that was wide enough for her to sit on, even with her legs pulled up. The mage was standing in the doorway, a shoulder propped against the frame with his arms crossed over his chest,
“Prince Siwon, that is,” he explained.
Taeyeon looked back out the window silently.
Kangin sighed, “Will you at least let me heal your injuries?”
“What?” Taeyeon swung her gaze back to him, her pale amber eyes wide,
“Every time you move you cringe. I don’t know how long you were in the river, but it was enough to beat you up pretty bad,” Kangin stated, “I can heal your injuries if you let me.”
“With… Dark Magic?” She practically mouthed the words as if afraid to hear them aloud,
Kangin rolled his eyes, “I could have killed you several times already but I didn’t. Doesn’t that tell you something?”
“No,” she stated baldly,
Kangin glanced behind him at the hallway before stepping into the room and closing the door firmly behind him,
“Look, I believe you when you say who you are. Siwon doesn’t know what to believe and others might call you crazy, but I believe you,” Kangin insisted as he leaned back against the door, effectively locking her in.
Taeyeon slanted him a suspicious look, her eyes flashing like little flames, “Why? If no one else would believe me why would you?”
Kangin gestured to her with his chin, “Your clothing. It’s not yours, is it? They’re old.”
“I… How?” She looked down at her mage clothes before looking back at the mage,
“Those belonged to your brother,” Kangin stated simply, quietly, “They were bigger on him considering he was twelve, but those are definitely his.”
Taeyeon’s eyes widened again, “Then earlier when you said… you really do know my brother!”
“I knew him,” Kangin replied,
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” Taeyeon challenged,
Kangin blinked before chuckling, “Very well, ask me something about your brother that no one in the public would know. Unless he’s changed over the years, I can probably still get everything right.”
Taeyeon narrowed her eyes at him. He was correct about her clothes, but it could have been a guess. Mage clothing was supposed to be loose to allow one to move easily when using magic. The fact that hers was practically fitted, well, it was obvious the clothes didn’t belong to her.
“What is my brother’s favourite sauce when eating roasted duck?” She questioned,
Kangin laughed softly, “Unless he’s really changed, he hates eating duck. He hid from a banquet once just to avoid eating it.”
“No one knows that,” Taeyeon gaped, “Even the cook still roasts duck every so often.”
“Will you let me heal your injuries now?” Kangin asked, the hint of a smile still on his lips.
Taeyeon stared at him a moment before nodding. She swung her legs over the edge and sat up straight. Kangin slowly closed the distance between them.
“Where does it hurt?” He asked seriously, the familiar light gone from his peculiarly silver eyes.
“Everywhere,” she admitted,
“It’s hard to heal without… but…” Kangin shook his head, “I’ll heal the worse pains and then you can heal naturally.”
Taeyeon stared at him confusedly. However, the slightly pinking on the mage’s cheeks made her stop from pressing him with questions.
He really did like spring time. It wasn’t the fact that it was no longer cold, or that he didn’t have to worry about his shoes getting wet or cold. It was the fact that the land was covered in colour and he could find a semblance of peace in those happy blooms. It was out in the gardens where his younger brother found him. He was in one of the sitting areas of the garden marked by circular cement surrounded by blooms and furnished with a stone bench in the middle.
“Ah, watering flowers, always a useful tool for Dark Magic,” his brother said, his tone with its usual snarky edge.
Siwon didn’t even waste a look at his brother as his hand slowly moved, hovering above a bed of flowers, little drops of water forming and falling onto their petals, soaking into the dark soil and filling the air with the sweet smell of rain. “Don’t make fun of my flowers, Kyuhyun, you do not want to see me upset today,” Siwon stated simply as he closed his fist and the water disappeared. He moved over to the next bed of flowers and began the process of watering the flowers again.
“I never understood your enjoyment of just watering flowers. Like, when you plant and what not, sure, you’re doing something. But just standing here and water,” Kyuhyun mused as he ungracefully plopped down on the cement. He crossed his legs and, hands idly lying where his legs crossed, looked up at his brother expectantly.
Siwon looked down at him. Tall and lean, his brother was dressed in black slacks and a t-shirt. Everything from his clothes, to his position on the ground and attitude just blatantly declared anti-prince. He raised a brow before moving over to the next bed of flowers, which brought him further from his brother, “Don’t act like you don’t know.”
“Ah, my big brother, never able to joke,” Kyuhyun sighed in mock-hurt, “Of course, that’s why I was born.”
“Kyuhyun, although I usually don’t mind your quips, indeed, I usually appreciate them, but today, I could very well commit fratricide and not feel guilty afterwards,” Siwon said, his tone as even and casual as ever as he continued watering his flowers.
Kyuhyun blinked before he slowly stood to his full height. He walked closer to his brother before plopping down on the stone bench, “What’s wrong?”
“Where have you been this morning? You didn’t hear? I’m surprised, considering how fast gossip travels in the castle,” Siwon snorted in disbelief, one of the rare times his emotions coloured him,
“I… I was sleeping,” Kyuhyun replied, his words without a defensive tone, “Kangin didn’t come wake me up, so I slept in.”
“We have a guest at the castle,” Siwon explained, his tone flattening once more, “What I tell you next is something no one else can know.”
“She might be a Princess of Light,” Siwon confided as he squatted down and gently reached out to one of the smaller flowers in that particular bed.
He had noticed that it was being towered over by the other flowers. He cradled its head of petals in his hands, his thumbs gently stroking the soft pieces of orange. When the flower was the same height as the others, he released it and stood up again. He looked over at his brother who looked at him in confusion.
He smiled softly, “Don’t say I was garden-cheating.”
“This,” Kyuhyun gestured to his face, “Isn’t because you used your magic to speed that flower’s growth, it’s because of what you said before doing your little magic show. A Princess of Light?”
Siwon’s thick brows narrowed, the smile gone, “Be quiet. I told you no one can know.”
“But… I don’t… How? Why?” Kyuhyun questioned,
“I don’t know how, but there was an altercation with some guards and they brought her here,” Siwon sighed as he moved to the next bed of flowers.
That particular sitting space was circled by flowers of yellow and orange, the very apex of the circle, opposite to where it was met by the stone path that webbed through the gardens, was a bed of red roses. The colours made it seem like one was in a sea of autumn, but perhaps not quite yet; the roses were still budding. Outstretching his hand, he gently began to water the little buds.
“You have to send her back,” Kyuhyun stated then, “If anyone were to find out she could be in danger – worse, this could cause another war.”
Siwon sighed, he really wished everyone would stop telling him that. Instead of replying, he continued his work. Once he was sure they were properly watered, he stopped the soft rain and just stared at them a moment. Even prior to blooming they were beautiful. Their stems, their leaves a lush green, their vibrancy emphasized by the drops of water now coating them like little diamonds.
“Oh for the love of… you like her,” Kyuhyun said, half in shock, half in accusation. When his brother said nothing, he continued, “I know you like to act like nothing in this world affects you, but I know you better than that and I know that you know that she can’t stay here!”
Siwon didn’t say a word. Mutely, he moved onto to the next bed of flowers and tended to them as he did with the others.
Kyuhyun threw his arms in the air in exasperation as he got to his feet and began pacing, “And of all the people you could… have you forgotten all those ladies who come and roam the castle just to get your attention? There’s at least a dozen women who Father’s permitted to try for your damn attention and the one person who actually catches your eyes is a princess from the other kingdom!”
“That’s a little backwards, Kyuhyun. I should be the one pursuing my bride, not the other way around,” Siwon said,
“I don’t even know why they keep coming back. You pay more attention to your flowers than them,” Kyuhyun huffed. He stopped his pacing and breathed deeply. “Just… just, why? Out of everyone, after all this time… why?”
Siwon remained silent. Kyuhyun was close to hitting his brother when he realized that the flowers were drenched. Surely he was over-watering them? Realizing his brother was too distracted to answer, he turned on his heel in annoyance,
“Geez, even those damn flowers out-rank me,” Kyuhyun muttered.
Before he completely left the area and stepped back onto the garden path, Kyuhyun heard his name softly spoken.
“She’s like the only rose amongst a field of thorns.”
That evening was a clear night. The moon was high in the sky, the clouds were scarcely there and the twinkling lights only added to the beautiful, silvery night’s light. It was, perhaps, the worse night to break onto castle grounds. Unfortunately, for Sungmin, he had no choice. He had to get onto the grounds of the Dark Castle and find out if the rumours were true.
When he entered the Dark Kingdom, he wandered aimlessly, trying to think of where to go. At some point that afternoon, he realized that the answer had been in his pocket the entire time: he needed to find the Dark Mage. At first, he had been hesitant to approach the locals. Eventually, Sungmin decided to just go ahead and ask around. He acted like he belonged there. After all, they couldn’t tell he was a Light user just from sight. His eyes were a silvery-blue, a strange enough blend that no one could use them to place him as usual between those of Dark and those of the Light.
The few people who he asked directed him towards the Dark Castle. Most didn’t know where the Dark Mage lived, so told him to try the castle. However, the closer he got to the castle, he began to hear murmurs that the Dark Mage had been seen carrying a cloaked woman to the castle. Sungmin wasn’t sure why, but he knew it had been Taeyeon. He just knew.
And so, he was sneaking onto castle grounds.
Sungmin had to get in, but the security was just as heavy as in the Light Kingdom. He had had to set off little fires along one side of the castle grounds and then spread it with air. When the commotion began, he had managed to get over the walls on the other side of the grounds with air. He had to be fast before more guards had appeared to cover holes in the castle’s defence. When he had made it onto the other side of the wall, he found himself facing high bushes reaching at least ten feet into the air.
Eventually, he found a break in the bushes and began running down a path, keeping in mind his location to the castle. However, it took just a few twists and turns for Sungmin to realize he was lost in a maze-like garden. High bushes rose up everywhere bordering a stone path that seemed to run everywhere. Every once in awhile Sungmin would find himself in small, round clearings that would be circled by flowers and more high bushes. Once or twice, he would sit on the stone bench found in the middle of those clearings just trying to figure out the direction of the castle.
Sungmin was fast on the move. Usually, he would have waited until the day to sneak into the castle, but he didn’t want to stay within the Dark Kingdom’s lands for longer than he had to. Despite all his words to Taeyeon, it didn’t change the fact that they had fallen and that meant every moment Taeyeon remained within the Dark Kingdom, the more in danger she was. He had to save her and do it fast.
He was running now and stumbled back a few steps when he ran into a solid mass. A hand wrapped around his arm to steady him and he found himself looking into a shadow. Then, the few, wispy clouds shifted and he saw a face highlighted with silvery light. The sides of his face were soft lines while his jaw was strong; a long straight nose above lips that looked impossibly soft. And eyes so dark he felt as if he could drown in them and forget the Light; every once in awhile they seemed to reflect the silver light of the moon.
“Who are you?” The other man questioned suspiciously, his hand suddenly tightening on Sungmin’s arms, “Why are you in the gardens?” Suddenly, his eyes narrowed, “The fire on the other side of the grounds – that was you, wasn’t it?” Before Sungmin could answer, the other man laughed softly, “Another person from the Light Kingdom.”
Suddenly, Sungmin’s arm shot out, his fingers wrapping around the long column of the other’s throat, “Where is she?” He demanded, “Where’s the other person from the Light Kingdom?”
“I never said the person was female,” the other retorted, eyes still narrowed, his fingers digging into Sungmin’s arm,
“No, but you seem to forget that my hand is on your throat,” Sungmin hissed, “Take me to her.”
The other stared at him for pregnant, silent moments. His dark eyes seemed to sweep over Sungmin slowly, thoroughly and, he was half afraid of what the other saw. Finally, the other man said softly, “Follow me.”
The other man released Sungmin’s arm, but Sungmin was not quick in releasing the other’s neck, “Don’t forget that your life is in my hand. If you betray me to anyone I will not hesitate in killing you,” Sungmin said softly, deadly, his thumb stroking over the other’s Adam’s apple, his touch light like a butterfly’s.
The other man swallowed hard before giving one, curt nod. Sungmin let his arm drop and the other man turned around. Silently, he began leading Sungmin through the gardens. Sungmin was no more than a foot away from the other man, his hand hovering, almost touching the stranger’s back between his shoulder blades.
Sungmin had to keep his mind focused. He could practically feel heat radiating from the other man. He wanted to touch that warmth. Worse, his eyes kept roaming. He took in the dark hair, the moonlight shining off strands. He took in the breadth of the shoulders, lean but strong. He took in those long legs. Distantly, he replayed the other’s voice. Deep but cold like the currents of a river. He wanted to hear it again, wanted –
Sungmin’s eyes widened as they stepped through an archway in the bushes and the Dark Castle was before him. It looked exactly like the Castle of Light and why shouldn’t it? After all, hadn’t he been the one to tell Taeyeon it was the Dark King who had gifted the castle centuries ago? Sungmin had to blink several times as he mindlessly followed the other man.
The castle – this castle – was the exact same as the Castle of Light, but different, more. Its stone façade was white, almost silver in the moonlight, shining like a beacon in the night. Sungmin was sure that if he looked hard enough stars would be implanted into the stone. He shook his head and focused on the direction they were heading; he didn’t have time to be fanciful.
They approached a spacious stone patio.
Exactly the same, Sungmin mused, picturing the patio behind the Castle of Light.
As they stepped onto the patio, Sungmin suddenly notice a shadow moving amongst the perimeter of the patio. They walked closer and Sungmin began to see the details more clearly. This man was tall, his clothes barely concealing the strong muscles of his arms and long legs. As they approached, the other noticed them and slowly straightened. They stopped before him and this new man raised two thick eyebrows before they came crashing down in a narrowed glare,
“What’s going on here?” He questioned, his fists clenched at his sides,
“I know you have the Princess of Light here. I demand you release her to me,” Sungmin stated simply, coldly,
“So… we really do have the Princess of Light,” the new man said casually, almost flippantly, “We weren’t quite sure. Well… this changes everything.”
Sungmin’s eyes widened fractionally before he schooled his features. However, his slip up was enough.
“That’s right: we weren’t sure who we had. Not that we know… well,” he shrugged carelessly, turning back to a row of potted plants to his right. “I could ransom this princess. What have you to offer?”
“I’ll kill this boy,” Sungmin threatened, his palm suddenly making contact with the other man’s back,
“Boy!?” He hissed angrily,
“Don’t move,” Sungmin’s growl was soft, deadly,
The new man rose a brow, but his eyes were directed at the other man, not Sungmin, “You allowed yourself to be over-powered? That’s a little disappointing, Kyuhyun.”
“Kyuhyun… but isn’t there a prince with –”
“Ah and no manners at all. Then I shall do introductions. This is Prince Kyuhyun, Second prince of the Dark Kingdom,” the new man said politely, a hand held palm-up in a gesture towards the other man. “And you? Since you have come to our kingdom, indeed, to our castle and have even threatened one of our princes.”
“I’m the Mage of the Light, that’s all you have to know,” Sungmin said quietly.
His mind was racing now. This was a damn prince he was threatening. He had to get out of there with Taeyeon and fast. If any more people found out about this, he’d never make it out alive, let alone save the princess.
“Ah, the Mage of the Light,” the other man said, his tone patronizing, “Well, please do not be offended if I do not simply jump to do your biding. After all, it would be quite distasteful…” he paused, his brows slowly narrowing again, his dark eyes flashing dangerously, “especially as the First prince of the Dark Kingdom.”
“Damn it, Siwon, stop playing games,” Kyuhyun hissed, “Just do something.”
“Release the princess,” Sungmin demanded,
Siwon’s eyes slowly moved from the mage to his brother. His eyes settled on the face of his younger brother. Silently, he tried to communicate his thoughts to Kyuhyun. He tried to put all his emotions in that one look.
“Very well… I’ll order the princess’ release,” Siwon said quietly,
“Siwon…” Kyuhyun’s eyes widened in surprise,
Siwon laugh sardonically, “What do you expect from me, Kyuhyun? I will not risk your life for a random whim.”
“But you don’t want –”
“It doesn’t matter what I want,” Siwon said with a slight shrug. His eyes turned back to the mage and they narrowed once more, “If you can refrain from killing my brother, I’ll get a footman to fetch the princess.”
“Just let it go, Kyuhyun,” Siwon turned and began heading towards the double doors that led back into the castle,
“Damn it, Siwon!” Kyuhyun exclaimed angrily.
Sungmin, so confused by the byplay between the brothers, was not prepared for the sudden blast of energy. He fell back onto the cement, his head crashing against the hard surface. His vision blurred, his world tilted as black swirled before his eyes. No, no, that wasn’t because he had hit his head. Staring at the prince – Kyuhyun, wasn’t it? – swirls of black energy radiated from him, twisting and whirling around him like ribbons of smoke.
Sungmin’s eyes widened. It all made sense. It wasn’t moonlight he had seen reflected in the dark eyes, but actual glimpses of silver in his irises. It wasn’t normal body warmth he felt from the other’s body, but ill-concealed manifestations of fire. Prince Kyuhyun was blessed with the Dark and quite a bit of it to send him flying.
Now, the prince had his palm facing Sungmin. Not only was he blessed with the Dark, but he could use it too. Before Sungmin could react, however, his world really fell into darkness as his head seemed to split apart. His last thought was not the closest to him, even though he was sure it would be Taeyeon. Instead, his last thought were dark intoxicating eyes with their hidden depths of silver and power.
(Chapter 3: The Last Dark Spell)