“I didn’t mean to… “ Evren stopped. “I wasn’t trying to steal it or anything -“
“Then give it back!” As Evren had surmised, the High Priest did not approve of him.
Evren took a deep breath, then he said it, the thing he’d been afraid to admit even to himself until then – “I can’t take it off.”
Lord Calius said nothing for a moment. “What?”
They sat in a side room upstairs in the palace; Evren, his aunt, Lord Calius, and two other priests.
“I… I don’t know,” Evren said. “It seemed to be telling me… to use it. To put out the fire,” he finished.
Lord Calius was speechless. His posture seemed tired in ways that Evren could tell were unusual for him, even though he had never seen Calius before two hours ago.
“It sounds to me like it’s chosen him,” Melisse said. Calius turned sharply and looked at her. She smiled through the high priest’s glare, looking him right in the eyes. Evren tried to follow their conversation, but… Chosen me? He thought.
“Excuse me, but…” one of the other priests started. Calius glared, making the other priest almost jump back, but then calmed himself.
“Speak,” he said.
“Well, it’s just that…,” the priest said, “It can only choose someone of royal blood…”
“Oh, he is,” Melisse said. Evren stared at her. “This is His Highness, Prince Silvio Evanderin Clement de Varine.”
All eyes were on Evren again now.
What? “I… I’m not…” he waved his hands in front of himself.
Calius fumed. “He didn’t even know?” he said, losing whatever calm he had regained.
“You know it was his mother’s wish to keep it that way,” she said. Evren simply stared at her. She turned to him. “I wanted to tell you some other way, but…”
“Wait, how is that even possible?” he asked. “My parents were-“
“Your father,” she said, “My brother, was exactly what I’ve always told you. But your mother was royalty.”
Evren just stared, still mostly sure this was a joke. There was no way – even in his wildest dreams – he was actually sitting here, bonded to the real Varinian Amulet. He looked at it. He felt it – not with his other hand, but with his – his soul, practically.
Is this… what it feels like?
He felt the magic energy of the amulet’s stone flowing through him, he understood how the light in it reflected his heartbeat, his breathing… and the tension and confusion he felt right now. Could this really…
“Well, if it has chosen him, it’s chosen him,” Lord Calius said. “There is nothing we can do,”
And then he knelt on the floor.
Evren felt his jaw drop, but caught himself and closed his mouth, shifting in his chair nervously.
“Your highness,” Lord Calius began. “Prince Silvio, chosen holder of the Varinian Amulet. I hereby swear my devotion to you. My duty from this point forward shall be to assist you in your role as a magician prince, to support you in preparing and enacting vital rituals that protect us all, and to – to serve you, in any way that I can.”
Evren blinked. Lord Calius was a real high priest. Lord Calius was kneeling before him. This was… real?
“You understand,” Calius continued, “That this is the highest honor. This amulet, one of the most powerful in existence, originally given to the first king of your line, chooses its holder to carry on his ancient legacy.” Evren knew all of this, but he didn’t respond, he just stared. Calius rose. “I will see to it that you become worthy of this honor,” he said.
Evren didn’t know what to say, though Calius noticed him opening his mouth to say something. Calius shot him a disapproving glance, and Evren gave up and closed his mouth.
Calius sighed. “And I suppose the task of finding out how this fire started falls to me as well,” he said.
“No need,” said someone, from the door. “It was me.”
Evren looked to the door, and blinked. “Kayir?”
“You…?” Calius said.
“Well,” Kayir said, entering. He wore that clever smile that was so familiar to Evren, his blond hair clipped behind his head as it always was, the same playful energy in his athletic frame. All of this familiarity just made him seem more out of place in this bizarre circumstance. Kayir continued as he approached. “I thought facing a crisis would give him more of a chance than your tests.” He smiled at Calius, as if oblivious to the High Priest’s annoyance. “You’d make him too nervous.”
He stood before Evren and, as if he’d just realized the only way to make all of this any more strange, he kneeled. “Your Highness.”
Evren gaped. Kayir was a cousin on his mother’s side – that’s what they had always told him, at least, but now he wondered how much of it was true. Throughout his life, Kayir had been like an older brother to him. But had he lied about everything?
“Kayir…” Evren said as Kayir stood. “You knew? About…” The words to even describe it escaped Evren.
Kayir’s joviality faded into seriousness. “I did. And I have faith that you’ll be as great as anyone could want.” He glanced around the room, acknowledging the rest there. “And,” he said, facing Evren again. “I’ll be the one training you in magic.”
“Magic…” Evren said. “Right”. He blinked and shook his head. This was his dream, wasn’t it? Then why…?
“Oh, give him a break,” Evren’s aunt said. “He’s had a lot of shock.”
Calius shook his head. “In any case,” he said, “We have a holder for the amulet. He can have the remainder of the day to rest. His training must begin tomorrow.” He pointed a glance at Kayir as he left the room, the other two priests following behind him.
Two attendants led Evren up a couple of flights of stairs, and down a long hallway. They both occasionally glanced back at him, hoping he didn’t notice – of course he noticed. He could tell they hardly believed he was actually the prince.
They didn’t accept him, Calius didn’t accept him… and he certainly didn’t see himself as… any of that.
His fingers clenched, pulling at the bottom of his sweater. His left hand pulled his sleeve over the amulet. This was going to be such a pain.
Kayir walked beside him. Evren desperately avoided looking at him, or letting Kayir see his face.
Before his aunt had gone home, she had given him her assurance that he would be fine, but it didn’t do much to settle his nerves.
They stopped in front of a large door. The attendants swung the door open and gestured for Evren to enter. He did, and he heard Kayir’s footsteps behind him.
The room was large, and it seemed to be an entry hall into a section with several other rooms. The walls were stone, as was the floor, like the hallway they had just come through. The air felt as if this space had not been used for a long time, and every footstep, every breath, created an echo. A large, round table sat in the center of the room, with a vase on it, but no flowers. On the walls to either side of him were two doors, and on the back wall was a large window, looking out onto the palace gardens. The light coming in was bright, as he sun began to set. It was the only illumination into the room, and the dust in the air caught in the rays of sunlight.
As Evren looked around, taking this all in, he heard the attendants inform him that this would be his living quarters from now on. He spun on his heel.
“Wait, what- ” he started, but the attendants had already left. He looked up, and Kayir caught his eyes before he could turn away.
They stood for a moment, neither of them speaking. Evren turned towards the inner doors.
“This…” Kayir started. Evren tensed. “This must be really strange for you, I know.”
“Do you?” Evren asked.
Kayir didn’t respond.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
Kayir started to react, then sighed. After a moment, he responded. “Your mother… she thought it would be better for you to grow up as a normal person with your father’s family, than in a palace with people she barely knew.”
Evren turned to look at him. “And you were, what?” he asked. Kayir had always been something like an older brother to him, teaching him all sorts of interesting and useful things, and Evren had always trusted him more than anyone, but now… “Were you just sent to keep an eye on me?”
“… more or less,” Kayir admitted. “I needed to get to know you, see what your skills were and things like that… I was the one who suggested that you be brought here and tried for the amulet.”
Evren breathed in sharply. His expression softened a bit as he tried to figure out what he was feeling. “Did you think it would really choose me?”
Kayir smiled a bit, still keeping the distance between them. “I wasn’t sure, but to be honest,” he said, “I hoped so.”
Evren didn’t know what to say.
“I think you’ll be great,” Kayir told him. “You have what it takes, I know you do.”
“I… think I need some time alone.” Evren said.
“Of course.” Kayir responded. He took one last look at Evren, to make sure he would be alright, then took his leave.