Chapter XIV

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Illustration by Hellyon White 2017

Illustration by Hellyon White 2017

The following days were utter chaos at the palace. Luna advised Father to wait a few days before I was asked to make my public apology. That way, she argued, the heat would die down a bit and the people would not be so outraged by my actions. During that time, Gaius and her visited the town more often than ever, meeting with influential friends and gauging the atmosphere.

I had, after all, the dubious honour of being the first member of the royal family, which had risen to that position by protecting and nurturing their people, who had harmed one of our citizens. Many people saw this as a breach of the trust they had put on us, and some were even clamouring for me to face a trial. It was not until Luna and Gaius had received enough assurances that everything was going to be okay that they allowed me to meet the citizens of Aurea again.

Father had decided that this was going to be done in the plaza in front of the Temple of the Sirens. This would, he hoped, send the message that I was not shying away from my mistake, and that I was willing to face the people I had hurt in the place where I had hurt them. Luna questioned this line of reasoning, on the grounds that it would only reopen the wound, but Father wouldn't listen to her.

When the day came, I was surprised to find all my siblings standing by my side—all save Nox. Even Stella had come out of her library, despite the unusual strain that it put on her body. I noticed, at first, that she moved in an unusual manner, almost as if she was floating rather than walking—until I realised that, after so many years using magic nonstop, it was probably easier for her to summon a gust of wind to carry her body than to move her legs. The thought sent chills down my spine.

This would be the first time Gaius would make an official appearance with the royal family, an occasion he didn't feel very comfortable about. He had had to leave his extravagant pink and purple robes behind to wear the ceremonial white toga. He looked completely uncomfortable in such plain clothes and having to behave so formally, but I loved him for going to such extents for me.

Needless to say, Alba didn't leave my side for a second. She didn't quite know what was going on, but sensed that I was in trouble, and so held my hand all the time and refused to let go.

A cohort of Sirens appeared carrying the litters we would be travelling in. We boarded them, and were carried above the rivers and the aristocrat's fields. It was the second time that month that I had seen Aurea from such heights, though I now did it with an even heavier heart. The beauty of the Flora Terra, with its many beautifully ornamented villas, was now lost on me. The city's sights that had once filled me with awe now seemed grey and devoid of wonder. All I could think about was the Aureans I had met, and the way I had disappointed them by turning my blade on one of them.

As we approached the Temple of the Sirens, I saw a large crowd waiting in front of the altar where I would make my speech. I could not believe so many people were interested in seeing me apologise publicly—I couldn't even believe there were so many people living in Aurea. Some of our family's servants were serving figs and honey to the crowd, a measure Luna had come up with to appease their fury. She seemed to be convinced that this would ingratiate us with the plebeians, but I wasn't so sure. There were many among them who made a show of not touching the food they were being offered.

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