The Changing of the Seasons

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  1. Whispers were on the chilly wind that always puffed against the stone wall of the city. People spoke in hushed tones about how warm the days were, even if their homes were filled with a perpetual coolness. The mix of heat and the absence of it made for some strange times, that was for certain. But it wasn't supposed to be that way. Not this late into the year. Soon, everything would be warm, warm enough to heat the wind and threaten to melt their city.

    "Yuck!" Keiran's youngest sister spat, walking alongside him with her tongue rolled out in disgust. "Why does it hafta be so hot?" Her definition of hot differed from the norm. The City of Winter was well known for its lasting cold, always dropping below the average. Even its citizens seemed cooler to the touch than they should have. As such, the younger girl, despite the crisp breeze floating about them, had rolled the sleeves of her coat all the way up to her shoulders and was fanning her hands on her face.

    "I do not know," he answered, calm as always. "It will not be for much longer. And I suggest you be careful with that coat. Mother made it just the way you wanted, and she won't fix it if you rip it, you know."

    For only being eleven years old, Kriya already had a slight disrespect for authority. She showed off that little tidbit by flipping her hand at him, but she did roll the sleeves down to her elbows. "I know... It's just... Did she hafta make a real heavy one like this?" She tugged at the material for dramatic effect.

    "Yes, because you know how cold it can be." The age difference between the siblings was beginning to show. "When we bring about winter again, you'll find--"

    "Royal Keiran!" someone called, running forward to stop Keiran and Kriya. Keiran saw the man as a messenger, marked by his cap made of all colors. He was unconnected to any place, choosing to deliver messages across the Seasonal Cities. "I have a message from...," he bent to catch his breath, "from your Council. It's about the City of Summer."

    Summer? They have no need for us, Keiran thought, taking the outstretched papers from the messenger's hand. "Thank you." He fished a few silver coins from his pocket, throwing them toward the messenger. "For your trouble."

    "Thank you, Royal," he replied, giving him a slight bow before jogging off. The action wasn't necessary, but some people believed the Royals to be above everyone else. He'd learned to ignore that fact. Besides, he had more important things to think about now.

    He flicked his thumb, opening up the message. "What is it?" Kriya asked, hooking her hands over his forearm and pulling herself up to try and read the message. Keiran's dark eyes scanned the paper before narrowing, and he snapped the message shut.

    "Go home, Kriya," he ordered, watching her face fall. "I need you to tell Mother that something is happening, and I'll do my best to find out what it is."

    "Are we gonna be okay?" she questioned, a twinge of fear creeping into her voice. Kriya was too young to understand the message, but he smiled anyway.

    "Yes, we'll be fine. Now go on." Giving her a pat on the shoulder, he watched Kriya skip away. As soon as she was out of sight, he whirled on his heel and made his way to the far end of the city. A tall steeple climbed into the sky, signifying the ceremonial building of the Royals. It was used as a meeting house, the Council headquarters, and the summoning platform for the Royals. Most people spent so much time there, the building had been affectionately referred to as the Second Home.

    "Keiran! We have important news," an old woman, Royal Issen crowed, beckoning him forward. They were all twice his age and then some, but he shared their dark, dulled eyes and their white hair. It was the price he'd paid for extending his power to help them.

    "So I saw. We have no business with the City of Summer, nor have we had any problems with them. Why are we discussing them?" he asked, choosing to cross his arms and stand beside the wide summoning altar.

    "You've noticed how the days have grown warmer, yes?" asked another man. He was Royal Tellean, the oldest, and therefore wisest, of the remaining Royals. Keiran had put years of trust and faith into the man, so he was inclined to nod at the question. He had felt the days growing warmer; it hadn't been Kriya's imagination. "The Summer Royals control the warmth, but it has only become stronger, not weaker. Autumn will be upon us soon, and I fear that with such a rising heat, the new season will not come."

    "The City of Autumn would never agree to that!" The last Royal stood, hand planted on her staff. The most outspoken of the Royals, Royal Pymata also happened to be the strongest, even in her decaying age. "They would not stand for such a betrayal!"

    "They may not have a choice," Tellean replied, watching Pymata glare at him. "If Summer reigns, their only option would be to confront the City by force. A war like that hasn't happened in centuries! The City of Summer would not risk a prolonged engagement with them."

    Pymata and Issen looked ready to counter, but Keiran straightened up. "We should speak to them," he offered. All three Royals looked his way, but only Pymata answered.

    "You want to travel all the way to the City of Summer? That's a two week journey! We need you here, Keiran," she said, watching as the others nodded in agreement.

    "Sitting here discussing won't help us figure out why the air is warmer every day," he said. "Everyone has been feeling it."

    "Then you, Keiran, will be our envoy, our messenger," Tellean said, pushing himself from the long pew. "Our allies in the City of Spring should know of this. They too will have felt the effects of the heat on their land. Tell them what we know, even if there is little information. The Spring Royals aren't politically inclined, but if a threat was coming, they would want to know and stop it."

    The Royals continued to discuss the other cities, and after a while, it was decided that Keiran would become a living message for the City of Spring. He would travel to the Null, the wide, expansive forest where their power would not work. From there, he could find out why the sun beat down harder than it ever had.
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  2. Daisy chains and flower crowns were on the babysitting agenda, leaving Odette to the mercy of her niece - Aerona (Air-row-na) - when she received her own message regarding the City of Summer from her own Council.

    The increased heat was also of concern amongst those on the Council within the City of Spring, often leaving them searching for their next drink or some ice to use in an attempt to cool down.

    Aerona raced up to her as Odette's gaze raced over the words printed elegantly to the paper. "Oh-det? What's going on? Do you have to go?"

    "Yeah baby girl," she smiled gently as she turned to crouch down, folding the note closed and kissed the top of her niece's head, "I'll be back in time for dinner though okay? I think your daddy will drag me back even if I can't. This shouldn't take long. Keep care of the crown for me."

    Getting a determined and serious nod, she stood again to hug her sister-in-law goodbye. Whilst she said she'd be back in time for dinner to Aerona...she couldn't exactly promise that it would happen, not with what she had just read within the message given to her.

    "Tell Weldon that I'll make it up to him and come to dinner another time, or you can all come over to mine whenever I have free time. I don't think I'll be able to make it."

    "Odette, again? This isn't healthy for you, you need to spend time with your family and not just with your fellow Royals." Florentina sighed, casting her gaze away however, to keep an eye on Aerona as the little girl began to chat animatedly to the doll she had sat up on the table before her so the toy could speak to 'The Crowned Princess of Spring.'

    "I can't discuss this now, Florentina, I have to go. I promise to rearrange this." She repeated with a shake of her head before giving a final hug to the other young woman and swiftly exiting the gardens.

    The Council building within the City of Spring was adorn with ivy climbing up the side, flowers usually blossoming within the flower boxes that decorated the windows and trees that lined the pale bricked pathway toward the steps to the front entrance. It was always the most beautiful part of the City, especially the Seasons were in their domain. It was their crowning jewel, so to speak, and a home away from home for the other Royals and herself.

    "What seems to be the issue? I've had to cancel some important plans to be here." Odette immediately asked as soon as she approached the others in the building, eyes searching each of them in turn.

    Being the youngest on the team didn't really help, however, they treated her as fairly as they could.

    The Elder Royal brought himself forward to explain the details to Odette, clasping one of her soft hands between both of his, "We're under the impression that the City of Autumn may have forged an agreement with the City of Summer. The heat is not diminishing and we fear that it will only continue to expand and take over the control that the City of Autumn should have soon." He explained, his voice rasping slightly with age.

    "We...fear that the Cities may have gotten wind of our plans to expand our own Season. We fear that they have misread our intentions and are preparing themselves for some form of conflict." Another joined in, brow furrowed faintly with worry.

    Odette stared between them, lips parting in shock, "But...but how could they see malicious intent with our plans? For everyone to have fresh crops and plentiful amount of could they see evil-?"

    "Because to have control over a Season is seen as power over everything and everyone. They may not enjoy the idea of us...controlling everything."

    "We must speak with them, hold a meeting with the two Cities and explain ourselves so they understand-"

    Tregan, the Elder, cocked his head lightly to the side, "Are you volunteering to go and represent our City, Odette?"

    Pausing and glancing around the room, she shuffled under the scrutinizing gazes that were focused upon her, "I-I will put myself forward, yes. For the good of our City. I'm sure the City of Winter is also feeling the heat, it's not something that will go by unnoticed."

    Tregan nodded slowly, releasing her hands and motioned with a wave of his own toward the door, "Then you may depart. Go through the Null, at least you may get some relief from the heat along the way if you take that route. The City of Winter will need informing, if they aren't already currently aware. We will need to join forces...if conflict is something we are unable to avoid between the Seasons...and Heaven help us if that is the only option that we have left."
    #2 Viverescribere, Mar 19, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2015
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  3. A few days was all it had taken for both Cities to contact one another. It seemed as though the Summer Royals had come to the same conclusion as the Winter Royals, which was worse. It meant that both sets of Royals knew what was happening. The air continued to heat up and the City of Winter suffered for it. The citizens weren't used to such climate change when it wasn't meant to be that way. Kriya had complained too much, sparking Keiran's other siblings to voice their own opinions. Only Keiran and the second oldest, Kadar, held down the fort. Keiran's mother was in a frenzy, though she kept it from her children. As the mother of a Royal, she was privy to more knowledge than she ought to be, which served to cause more problems. Still, she was quiet to all except her oldest son.

    It was how Keiran and his mother had found themselves near the gate, the only entrance to the city. "Are you really traveling to the Null?" she asked, her gaze pleading. Caring for four other children without Keiran's help would be tough, but he had to go.

    "Yes, Mother. If the Spring Royal and I discover what is behind this heat, it should soon stop." Moving forward, he pulled his mother into an embrace. She returned the gesture, her grip tighter than his.

    "Then you be safe, you hear me? If we lost another Royal...." She didn't finish the thought, but she didn't have to. Her concern was for the City, but Keiran was her son. He couldn't come back injured or worse.

    "I will," he said, pulling away and straightening up. He fiddled with the strap of his bag before he gave his mother a gentle smile and turned to leave. If he stayed any longer, he wouldn't want to go. But the heat would become unbearable and destructive if he left it alone.

    It was that sobering thought pushing him forward, all the way to the stables. Only a few animals stayed inside the City, given that many were untamed and dangerous. The walls surrounding the City were meant to keep them out, but being the City of Winter, it was more defended by the cold and snow they brought about every year. Still, some animals got bold and attacked hunters during the winter, prompting many citizens to not keep animals. Horses were spared, and the beasts served their purpose well. They were the primary source of transportation, they pulled the machines needed for crop care, and they hardly ever harmed anyone.

    "Royal Keiran! You're leavin' today, right?" The stablemaster poked his head from one of the stalls and smiled at Keiran as he entered. "Lucky for you, I just fixed up one of the shoes on this big lug! He's just itchin' to go out."

    "Thank you, Haras. I'll gladly take any horse you give me," Keiran answered, watching the older man tug the reins of a large Clydesdale horse. The animal had a deep brown coat with tufts of white hair hanging over his hooves. His long legs would provide Keiran with the speed he needed to get to the Null as fast as he could. Each day he spent traveling meant another day of intense heat.

    "Name's Tangle, 'cause he's got a habit of tanglin' his hair in stuff," Haras explained as Keiran took the reins. "He'll serve you well."

    "I appreciate it. I'll bring him back to you," Keiran promised. With that, he let Haras saddle the horse before he took Tangle to the gate. The horse was calm and collected as Keiran pulled himself into the saddle. He only got as far as the open gate before he saw the Winter Royals waiting for him.

    "Be safe, Keiran," Issin said with a sad smile. "We're counting on you."

    "Figure out what those hot Summer bastards are up to!" Pymata exclaimed, but Issin was quick to hush her.

    "Come back to us and share what you discover," Tellean said, patting Tangle's neck.

    "I will," Keiran reassured before he and Tangle took off into the heated expanse leading up to the Null. It would be a long and lonely trip, but it was better than being uncomfortably hot for the rest of his life. The citizens of the City of Winter... His friends and his family, they were already suffering from the warming days. They couldn't go on like that.

    He had to stop whatever was happening. He held onto that though as Tangle cantered along the grassy path. Few people had few reasons to ever travel to the Null. It... did things, messed with the natural balance in a person. Royals were especially bothered by the apparent lack o power in their blood.

    But Keiran would travel to the ends of the world if it meant saving his family. He would remain strong, even in the Null.
    #3 Saren, Mar 19, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2015
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  4. "Make sure to eat, but don't gorge yourself - you'll make yourself ill but also you'll run out of things before you get to the Null...we wouldn't want that."

    Odette was forced to refrain from rolling her eyes at her mother's fussing, sighing gently as she reached out to carefully pry Tanya's hands away from her clothes and braided hair, "I wish you'd stop being a mother hen for two minutes," she teased lightly, "I'll be fine, this shouldn't take long and I'm sure the Winter Royal won't be as cold as their title makes out to be." She leaned forward and pecked her mother on the cheek.

    "It just makes me nervous, seeing you go out there. Your father too, even if he doesn't show it." Tanya fidgeted restlessly as she looked over her second oldest - but also second youngest - child. She never wanted to see her children leave the house let alone the actual City.

    Pulling her mother into a warm hug, Odette kissed the side of her head reassuringly, "I promise I'll return home, nothing will happen to me. There's just been a misunderstanding that needs to be resolved. I'm not going off to fight a war."

    "But you've been fighting a battle really, haven't you? The moment you became a Royal. Battling for your season changes. Battling for us, the City."

    Odette paused, considering the words but eventually just past them off with a quiet smile, "I'll try and get messages to you whenever I can if anything does happen and I have to stay elsewhere. Stay safe here, keep hydrated and in the shade and cool...this heat is certainly taking us all through our paces."

    With that, Odette bid her family one last goodbye before leaving for her arranged travel method. Horse-back riding. Was there any other way?

    A beautiful palomino Colorado Ranger mare. Perfect for speed but usually used for rounding up stock when needs be. The City of Spring had a complete opposite approach to animals to the City of Winter, keeping a fair few due to having to provide the other Cities with food and other supplies when needed. Cows, pigs, dogs, horses, sheep, name it. There were plenty around.

    Odette didn't bother lingering for any sweet sorrows, believing it would all be over soon enough and she'd be back home with her parents. Perhaps not recognized for what she had done but maybe respected more by her fellow Royals. Whom of which hadn't turned up to the gates to wish her a safe journey and a good luck. Not that she cared, they had discussed what they needed to previously and she didn't care for false words from her fellow Royals. She just wondered how many of them believed she'd fail the task that had been set for her.

    With that thought in mind and the Spring Royal's mood momentarily soured, she clicked gently and tapped her heels against the side of the horse from where she sat in the saddle to begin the long journey ahead of her.
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  5. Almost a week and a half had passed, and all Keiran had to say for it was a sweaty horse companion and a dwindling supply of food and cool water. The heat drained him more than it should have, but he was a being of winter in a wide plain of warm, dry air. Still, he trudged on. He had to get to the Null. There was no other way to figure out the Summer Royals' plan without the help of the Spring Royal.

    From the message the Spring Royals had sent, Keiran knew the envoy's name was Odette, but it was the only information he had. The messages had to be short, for the messengers had to run to all Cities to deliver letters. It wasn't uncommon for citizens to mingle and even move Cities. There were even rumors of people leaving the Cities to set up homes outside the walls, but Keiran had never seen anyone do that. The Cities were just too safe to want to leave. But people did strange things, that much he knew. He would have to see these outside places to believe it though. The most important place beyond the walls was the Null.

    Tangle slowed to a halt and flicked his matted tail, panting from the heat and his last run. Keiran slid from his back, letting the horse take a rest. Now that he was closer, the trees were enormous, bending at the top with the weight of the branches. The leaves were a deep green with blue, iridescent tints. They were unlike any sort of tree he'd ever seen, since evergreens primarily grew around the City of Winter. They were one of the few hardy trees able to survive the cold winter he and the other Royals brought to the world.

    "Well... We shouldn't waste any more time," Keiran mused to the horse, who had become his friend over the course of the journey. Tangle didn't seem to enjoy running as much as other horses did, but he didn't fuss. He followed as Keiran pulled on the reins, taking both of them under the wide, shady branches. As soon as his form passed over the barrier of the Null, Keiran felt hollow, like he'd left his soul outside the trees. It was strange, and for a moment, he was disoriented. He hadn't entered the Null often enough to get used to the sensation, and hopefully, he never had to get used to it.

    The Null was dead silent. Hardly any animals lived inside the copse, even though the place could sustain life. It was simply too eerie to remain in for long, which was why Keiran wanted to find the Spring Royal and leave as soon as possible. The middle of the Null was a large clearing filled with soft grass, while a stream flowed right through the middle of it. He didn't see Odette right away, so he took the time to remove his gloves and splash water over his face. Tangle followed of his own accord, sucking down water to replenish after the long ride.

    Keiran didn't look the part of a Royal with his dirtied coat and unkempt hair, but he stopped caring. He was here to save his family, not to look fashionable.
  6. "Such a pain, isn't it? The heat I mean."

    Odette had resorted to speaking to her own animal in order to not feel alone on the journey, having allowed the animal to take breaks during the hard and long distance that they had to travel. She'd push the horse at a fast pace until she was sure they had both reached their peaks, before slowing and dismounting to walk along side the animal. The poor thing was a mare of course, a young one at that, she didn't want to break or maim the beast...she still had plenty of years to become the mother to leggy foals if they were lucky and Fates willing.

    She had long lost the will to keep her own appearance tidy, or at least tidy to the standard her mother would have liked or the Royals expected. Her once braided hair being tangled into a messed-up bun whilst she had to lose some layers of clothing along the way. And that was hard to do considering the little layering the People of Spring wore anyway. Just perhaps her corset and stockings, but who would know? She definitely wasn't going to be lifting her skirts or undressing before the Winter envoy for him to find out.

    Yes, it was a him. She was informed before she left. What was his name? It began with a 'K'. Kyle? No. Kaiden? No.
    She couldn't turn up and not know his name. How insulting would that be? She wouldn't be allowed this sort of freedom or task ever again, she already felt under enough scrutiny back home, she didn't want it from the other Cities' Royals as well.

    Keiran! That was it! Thank the Seasons.

    Approaching the Null, Odette gently pulled the mare into a halt to inspect the surrounding area. How desolate and empty it looked. How eerie and repelling it felt. It was so quiet. Odette didn't like the made her nervous, hence why she was always talking to her horse, fondly named Bramble.

    "Is that? I think it is...what do you think, girl?" She murmured finally as her gaze latched onto the appearance of a dark and lone figure just a little way off. "That could be Kai-Keiran, right? No one else would be here. What should I refer to him as, do you think? Winter Royal? Royal Winter? Royal Keiran? I suppose we'll find out, shan't we?"

    It wasn't long before Odette herself was crossing the threshold, missing half a step as the void was breached and her muscles felt slightly heavier and the weariness gained from her travels settled further onto her shoulders. She couldn't recall ever having been to the Null before, with so many Royals in the City, they often had someone before her that they would pick to go instead.

    She did take a moment to study him as he was busy making use of the stream which Bramble, whom she had lead into the Null by the reigns, also decided to take the opportunity to have a good and long drink. She was grateful to see the Winter Royal looking just as ragged as she, not wanting to be the only one that was truly effected by their situation.

    "Are you the envoy from the City of Winter?" Odette inquired cautiously as she slowly approached him, head tipping to the side and her dark mop within the bun flopped to the side with it, "Winter Royal Keiran, is it?"
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  7. A feminine voice was shocking in the quiet of the Null, causing him to look up. A quick expression of alarm crossed his face before he realized she was asking about his status. This was the Spring envoy. Given her dress, she couldn't be anyone else. She was pretty with her dark hair and tan skin. She was quite the opposite of Keiran with his own pale skin and snow white hair. He didn't look old outside of of that, but he felt it on some days. But he couldn't focus on his own weakness.

    "Yes, I am," he answered, pushing himself from his knees to stand in front of her. "You may call me Keiran." He thought about bowing, but he didn't know the customs of the Spring Royals. They had always hung back, preferring to take calm approaches to whatever problems they encountered. However, this newest development was too big to ignore.

    "You are Spring Royal Odette, yes?" It was a nice name, flowing from his mouth like a smooth wind rather than the harder sounds of his siblings. "I know our messages were brief, but it seems that our Cities arrived at the same conclusions. This heat is overbearing, but it won't stop, even with the approach of Autumn. It can only come from one place, as far as I've deduced. Do you know anything else about this? The Summer Royals cannot possibly think this will help anyone."

    At least the Null provided some relief from the heat. No sunlight filtered through the heavy branches, and though the air should have been cool in the shade, it was stagnant and unchanging. It didn't seem to have any real temperature, and the same applied to the water. It tasted as if he'd left it standing in a cup in his house for a few hours, but it was better than the lukewarm water being heated by the sun day in and day out.
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  8. Sometimes Odette just wished that her seasonal 'powers' - for a use of a better word - worked on people and not just the land and earth around them. The young male before her seemed tired, carrying more on those broad shoulders then he should be for someone his age. She had the urged to just reach out and brush her thumb up from the spot between his eyes to the top of his forehead and then do the same to the corners of his eyes outward to sooth the wrinkles and furrowed brow. White hair and pale skin, it was like he was blending into one. Did the City of Winter really not see that much sun? He seemed like the personification and embodiment of Winter. It only made her wonder what she seemed to him.

    Odette politely bowed her head and did the smallest of curtsies, all for respect of course. She wouldn't have done so in front of the Royals back home, with the equality process and none of those 'below' them bowed or curtsied for them either. But since she was unsure as to what it was like in the City of Winter...she believed it better to play it safe.

    "Pleasure to meet you, Royal Keiran." Her lips pulled upward into the beginnings of a faint smile and she reached out a hand for him to shake, should he accept it, "Odette Azalea, but Odette is just fine. I think that the whole Royal title added to my name is a bit too formal, not something I'm overly eager to encourage." His name was harsh on her tongue, the hard noises and terse sounds. Were all names like that in the City of Winter? The names back home just rolled off the tongue, like a breath of air...not something you had to make an effort with pronouncing.

    Giving a soft sigh, she shook her head and shrugged lightly, "I have not, I'm afraid. My knowledge about the City of Summer's plans is just as limited as your own. I can't think what could drive them to believe a whole life of heat would be good for the people in any of our lands. Crops will die out, as will the cattle and then soon the people. Our best hope is to get to them and question them personally.

    Her gaze briefly flickered to the stream for a moment and eventually back to Keiran, "Excuse me, just a moment." This time she was the one to kneel besides the stream, unable to help herself any longer, and allowed herself to splash some water over her face and her bared forearms. Ridding herself from the faint sheen of sweat that had gathered whilst outside the Null, it was a relief to get away from the heat in the void, but with no cooling just wasn't the same.
  9. He indeed took her hand, but her words dissuaded him. She didn't know more than he did, which made their problem all the more stressing. He didn't want to believe that the Summer Royals were trying to kill everyone, since if the heat continued for long enough, not even the City of Summer would be immune to the sun. But Odette had a point; they would find out more if they went directly to the City of Summer.

    Keiran stepped away as she knelt beside the water. She and her horse were just as tired as he and Tangle were, so he didn't complain. "It's unfortunate that we don't know anything. I had hoped we could avoid going to the City of Summer, especially with this heat, but it appears we have no other choice."

    Another week long journey would put them in a worse spot, being out in the open with little protection. Keiran wanted to send a message to his fellow Royals and his family, but he would have to wait until they arrived at the City of Summer to tell anyone anything.

    "We should remain here for the night. Perhaps we may be able to figure something out if we talk, and I doubt any of us want to be back out in that heat." The downside was the emptiness invading his mind with the lack of his Royal abilities, but it was better than feeling like he was burning alive.
  10. Odette turned her head slightly so she was able to look up to him, forearm resting upon her one knee as she balanced herself besides the stream. Bramble by this point had already made her way across to the stream, settling besides his own mount which Odette had quickly admired. It had interested her what the differences between the Cities would be like, a part of her rather glad to have been pushed into the responsibility that she had been given. It could broaden her knowledge and expand her views and opinions, giver her more opportunities and experiences.

    She shook her head in an attempt to clear her mind of unimportant thoughts and took a deep breath, cupping her hands together to bring water up to her lips to drink down heartily. With her fresh water supplies having dwindled toward the end of her journey, she had to ration and be careful with just what she allowed herself.

    At his suggestion, Odette choked slightly on the mouthful of water she had just swallowed, peering back to him, "Stay here tonight? Do you really think that's safe? I mean, it is the Null, after all, you can never be too sure." She pushed herself to her feet and ran her fingers through her hair.

    As much as it was cooler in the Null and they didn't have to worry about the ever growing heat, but the lack of power that she usually felt thrumming through her veins - a sensation she had grown used to and linked with safety, made her a little nervous. "But I do suppose it is the...lesser of two evils."
  11. Keiran didn't like the Null any more than Odette did, but the horses seemed content enough to pull grass and drink water. They deserved a rest for carrying the Royals as far as they did. It was one of the few things the Null provided that wasn't a setback to the Royals. The shade blocked the intense sun and there were few animals, not enough to stalk and kill them. However, the longer they stayed, the more they risked going crazy. The Null did things to people, and there was no explanation as to why. It was mostly Royals, or so the stories said. People had once tried to settle in the Null, enjoying the protection it provided to the surroundings. But the prolonged exposure to whatever protected the Null caused everyone to kill one another and themselves. Why the survivors decided to use the Null as a meeting place, Keiran didn't know.

    "I understand, but it is better than subjecting ourselves to the heat." Even during the night, the heat lingered on the ground, in the air, and all around. There was no escape from the blistering, hot waves. If the Null didn't make him crazy, the heat would.

    Keiran picked his gloves from the ground and walked to Tangle's side. Half of his supplies were gone, which wasn't the best sign. He didn't want to run out of drinkable water before he and Odette reached the City of Summer. His food consisted of dried meat and fruit, items that wouldn't rot in the heat. He'd grown tired of such food, but it was necessary. It was eat bland food or starve, and he vastly preferred the former.

    "Well, I suspect we will be here for some time while we wait for night to pass," he said, turning to face Odette. The passage of time was difficult to perceive in the Null, and Keiran had to rely on his tired body to even attempt to sense the turn from day to night. "We will be traveling with one another for a while, so it is in our best interest to learn some things about each other, wouldn't you say?" If she didn't want to talk, he wouldn't force her, but the thought of a traveling companion who he knew nothing about was unsettling.
  12. Odette turned away to begin just unsaddling Bramble so the poor creature found it easier to breath and was more comfortable. She always enjoyed the company of horses - or dogs, for that matter. They never talked back when you needed someone to just listen. She then dropped to one knee and rummaged through the one saddle pack to pull out a towel and brush, wetting the towel before beginning to rub the animal down as it lazily grazed along the riverbed. It was definitely difficult, even within the first few minutes of being in the Null. She longed for the familiar hum of her powers that usually rang through her body and the sight of the trees actually swaying in the breeze. Everything was extremely quiet and still, it made her nervous, even if it did provide them with a much needed break from the heat and sun.

    She peered over to him from over the horse's back as she continued to cool the beast down, "I suppose you're right. Fine, but only tonight. The quicker we get to the City of Summer the better. I wouldn't be able to bear two nights and a full day in a place like this."

    "I suggest that we both get some rest, perhaps take turns to sleep for a few hours or so. This may be the Null but I wouldn't put it past anyone to attempt to steal some of our supplies...that is if there are people around the area and are aware of our arrival." Odette commented, keeping her tone light and airy as to not dampen or place a heaviness on the situation. They needed to rest properly and not have to worry about being harmed or attacked. Not that it was a known issue within their lands...but there was still the chance of it someday happening.

    One she was done tending to Bramble, she allowed the horse to continue and moved the saddle and bridle across to where her other items lay near Keiran and the river. "I can't see the harm in getting to know the person that I'll be stuck with over the next few days," she agreed with a seemingly warm smile, "What would you like to know? Obviously the Cities that we come from are already known, as are our names unless you've really not been listening." She laughed a little, head tipping lightly to the side.
  13. Keiran agreed with her on that point: the Null was, at its most basic level, terrifying for Royals. He felt as though his soul had departed his body, like he should have been dead, but there he was, rummaging around Tangle's saddle. He eventually took the saddle from Tangle's back, watching the animal flick his tail and shake his head in appreciation. Odette had done the smart thing and brought materials to cool her own horse down, but Keiran had nothing. Tangle was no doubt sweaty and tired from the long journey, but the horse only pulled at the wavy grass and didn't mind Bramble as she joined him.

    Keiran took out some of the dried beef from his pack, along with a leather skin full of water. He hardly felt the need to eat, but he knew he needed the sustenance. He and Odette were going to suffer once they left the Null, so there wasn't any reason not to take advantage of the quiet. The horses seemed to be enjoying the lack of running, at least.

    He sat beside the river, tearing apart a few pieces of meat. "Odette Azalea," he repeated, marveling at the lack of hard sounds in her name. It flowed so well, and it made him wonder if all the denizens of the City of Spring had names like that. "You share a name with a flower, yes? We do not have such flowers in our City. The perpetual cool air does not help them grow." While it was true that they both knew where the other was from, the inside information was rare. Citizens hardly left nowadays. It had been more popular a few years ago, but it became increasingly uncommon in the recent months. He didn't know if that had anything to do with the growing heat or whatever the Summer Royals had planned.
  14. Upon realizing that the Winter Royal had no means of helping his horse cool down in the summer heat - even when they were in the Null - she stepped forward with the rag she used on her own horse to begin rubbing his creature down gently. She was careful not to startle the giant, knowing that the last thing they needed was for one of them to become injured through a spooked animal or a suspicious case for the other to go home with. Murder was extremely rare, almost so that it seemed to be a myth and a legend...but of course it was in many books, or at least it was that way for the City of Spring.

    Odette knew that she had to sort out her own food and supplies, refuel herself too, but she had to arrange other things before hand. Bramble was the most important thing to ensure, without the mare, there was no way Odette would be able to travel as quickly as Keiran and only sharing his horse would slow them down. No. The naive and rookie Spring Royal wasn't going to be the reason why they failed. She was determined of that.

    Her lips quirked upward as she heard him test out her name again, finally chuckling as he seemed to roll the vowels and pronunciation out as if testing some rich and fine wine. "Odette means 'wealthy', really...but Azalea is 'flower', yes. Azalea is actually a deciduous flowering shrub with clusters of brightly coloured flowers which sometimes are fragrant." She explained, peering over Tangled's back as she continued to rub the animal down. The beast seemed more than happily, leg lazily cocked as he grazed and his ears relaxed, one flickering to capture any other noises whilst the other was turned back to listen to her as she spoke. "You don't have flowers? Then...then what is it you do have? Just ice and snow? What do you use to colour your homes and cities? To make your rooms smell nice?"
  15. Keiran watched her, doing her best to peer over Tangle's back as she spoke. The horse was tall, even for his breed, but Odette seemed to be handling him just fine. Keiran, on the other hand, found that his stomach demanded attention. He'd been sparing on using his supplies, leading to him having more than he should by the time he'd reached the Null. It wasn't the smartest choice, given the intense heat, but it was only going to get worse. He and Odette were going to need every last drop of water and sliver of meat they could spare.

    "We don't always have and snow, but it is much more common there than it is for other places. Our plants consist of pines and evergreen trees, though we have grassy patches for what few animals we have." They were lucky enough to keep small pastures alive, even though it was colder in the City of Winter than any other place he'd ever been to. Not that he made a habit of traveling. His journey to the City of Summer was the longest he'd ever been gone, and he hadn't even gotten to return home yet.

    "It's possible that we could have flowers. I just don't ever see them." His words were followed by a quick gulp of water and a few bites of dried meat. It was bland, but he forced it down anyway. It was better than nothing. "Our homes are the color of what we build them from. Stone, some wood." Now that he thought about it, the City of Winter was neutral. It wasn't bright, but it wasn't dark. Nothing drew the eye, but nothing went unnoticed by the citizens. The idea of having other colors was strange. Odette had some interesting ideas, to say the least.

    "Our homes smell as we do. Masking the scent of hard work, of home... I would miss it if my home smelled of flowers all the time," he added, though he smiled. He wouldn't dare insult his traveling partner, especially not when he needed her help to figure out what the City of Summer was planning. "I'm sure your homes smell like flowers because that is what you associate with. It is simply not so where I am from." Their differences in something as small as scent showed just how much the cities didn't interact with one another, even if it was for the better sometimes. Each set of Royals could focus on their city and season, unworried of the others' affairs.
  16. "Huh...I always imagined your City just immersed in ice and snow," Odette chuckled softly, head tipping lightly to the side as she continued to tend to his horse. She didn't care about looking after the creature, she loved animals, especially horses with dogs next in her list. "I suppose we hardly see enough of one another to correct any stereotypes or ideas, right? I think we should meet up more though, it's hard to keep track of what the other seasons are doing without regular meetings. Sure, letters and written communication works, but a single missing letter could make the whole system collapse."

    It was ironic how she was speaking in such a way considering that the ideas from the City of Spring were the reason - not known to Keiran and Odette being to naive to realize - for this ungodly heat.

    The young woman carefully moved around the horse, murmuring gently to the creature and patting his neck as she began on his other side. "You mean, you don't paint? You don't have any visible flowers? Doesn't that get boring then though?" She inquired, brow furrowing despite him being unable to see her mildly confused expression. "I'd find it strange without colour around us back home. But I suppose that is what makes us the City of Spring, right? The dawn of freshness and warmth."

    Eventually she was done rubbing down Tangle, and she moved to kneel besides the saddle she had removed from Bramble's back to shove the cloth into one of the smaller pockets. "Yes...I suppose you're right. We all associate with different things, hence why we all belong to different seasons." She laughed a little once more with a light smile.
  17. "As do many who have never been inside," Keiran answered, but his words were followed by a smile. If any travelers or wanderers went somewhere, they often strayed toward the warmer side of the country. The City of Winter was too far for anyone to really notice it, so it was rare to see a new face. Not that anyone really seemed to mind; it made the entire City more comfortable and cozy. They never worried about defectors or newcomers, and the bonds of trust between each person were strong. In a strange way, they were much like a family, even if not everyone was related.

    As she voiced his opinions, he nodded, taking one of the last bites of the dried meat. "Yes, I agree, though I do not believe everyone shares that sentiment." Given that no Royals had ever offered to visit the City of Winter, he didn't think they would want to at least see how their fellow Royals lived. At the same time, he had never extended any invitation, nor had he thought to send a messenger to ask any other City to open their gates for him. It was a very closed off world they lived in, but at least he had an ally who wanted to be more open.

    He stood up, brushing dust from his pants and watching the particles float down slower than they should have. It felt like time stood still in the Null. Everything was pristine and untouched, but... dead in a way. Like the life of what could have been inside was sucked away from exposure to the Null's oppressive atmosphere.

    "Thank you for taking the time to see to Tangle," he said, moving to the saddle bag and tying the water pouch back on. "I'll admit, I don't have much experience with animals. We don't have many except for these horses and some cats. Any other animals we encounter are the wild ones." Keiran patted the horse as he stood up, making sure the reins were secured around a branch. He didn't think the horse would wander off, but the Null could do strange things to both man and animal.
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