The End and the Beginning
The atmosphere changed as the Prince walked through, the air seemed charged, the dancers more frenzied. Eyes followed him, drawn by something they didn’t understand and Brokk faced him defiantly, though his heart pounded in his chest.
“Time to leave,” he said to Brokk, his voice pleasant but sharpness in those golden eyes that he couldn’t mistake. Brokk nodded and took Chloe’s hand and they followed him outside.
“What did you do?” The Prince didn’t turn around but led them into a field that sat beside the car park, his voice drifted back to Brokk who felt a thrill of fear; wondering if he would be punished for his actions.
“I couldn’t help it.”
The Prince turned and fixed his sights on Chloe who shrank back beside Brokk. He smiled at her and crooked his finger. “Come here, my dear.” She sighed, captured by the golden eyes, by the power that surrounded him and walked closer. The Prince put his hand to her cheek and she leaned into it, her eyes closing. “It’s so easy, isn’t it, Brokk.” The Prince gave him a hard look as Chloe’s hand covered his, turning her face to kiss his palm.
“No! No, don’t, it wasn’t like that,” he shouted before remembering who he spoke to. “Please, please don’t.”
The Prince lifted her other hand, looking at the pretty bracelet that encircled her wrist with a cold expression. “Then how was it, exactly?”
Brokk’s shoulders sagged and he held his hands out, pleading. “She caught me first,” he said, hopelessly. “I didn’t know it could happen so fast. You said they have no magic but... but it isn’t true, not entirely.”
“No... not entirely. They certainly have their charms.” The Prince laughed, though it wasn’t a happy sound. “Gods, I forgot how young you are; I should never have brought you. What a pretty mess you have made.”
He let Chloe go and she started, like she had woken from a dream, and looked fearfully at the Prince before returning to Brokk, clinging to his arm. “What’s happening?” she demanded.
“Yes, Brokk,” the Prince repeated, “what is happening?”
Brokk held his head up, looking him in the eyes. “I will come back for her.” He turned to Chloe and kissed her forehead. “I promise,” he whispered and she leaned into him, wanting to believe it.
The Prince shook his head sadly. “You are in no position to do that, even supposing I agreed to support you.”
Brokk got down on his knees and looked up, pleading. “But I will make it happen and when I do... you will?”
The Prince snorted and walked away muttering cursed before turning and nodding. “May the gods curse me for a romantic fool, yes, if you can make something of yourself, make a life that you can bring her to, I will. Now get up and make your goodbyes, for we must leave.”
They watched him walk away and the shimmer of the gateway flickering against the indigo sky as Brokk turned to her, his eyes glittering brighter than the gaudy lights of the club.
“Is it real... your promise, is it real?” she asked, emotion snagging the words in her throat. He held her tightly against him, so tight she could hardly breathe but she didn’t care.
“Yes.” He kissed her, stealing the last of the breath in her lungs as the Prince called to him. “Yes, I swear it. I will do everything, anything... I will come for you... I will.”
She had watched as they disappeared through the gateway, as it swallowed them completely, like they had never been. She had proof though, the beautiful dress that she could never bear to put on again, the little acorn, though the bird died a few weeks after he had gone and... the bracelet.
So much time had passed since that night, she knew she should give up, it was stupidity and she wasn’t stupid. She was a successful woman, a good job, flashy car, and nice house... no husband. There was no shortage of men who had shown an interest and occasionally she had dared to believe she could forget him and start again. Whenever the feeling struck the bracelet would heat, his magic twining down her arm, bringing the smell of apples and such a longing for him she would spend the night crying alone, alternately cursing him and praying for him to come.
When her father had died everyone had expected her to sell the little tumble down cottage in the middle of nowhere but she couldn’t. Every August she would return and spend her days, and much of the night, sitting in the garden and cursing herself for a fool... but he had promised.
She shifted, uncomfortable in the heat and smoothed down the dress. She didn’t know why she had chosen to wear it today, a whim perhaps. It still fit her and she wondered if she had his magic to thank for the fact she had aged so little, her figure as trim as it had been, though there was no one to appreciate that fact.
She got to her feet, angry once more, at herself, at him... for making her believe in fairy tales.
She would leave now, this instant and not come back and yet before she had left the shade of the apple tree she knew it was a lie, she couldn’t leave, not ever.
She started and turned around. She had been too caught up in regret to notice the prickle of magic slide over her skin, the sweet smell of it drifting on the heated air.
She stood looking at him, her heart in her throat, her mind unable to accept what she was seeing.
“Are you real or have I finally lost my mind?”
He stepped towards her slowly, afraid to move too fast, and when he was close he put his hand to her face, his thumb smoothing over her cheek. “As real as I was last time.”
She found she was shaking as she took him in; he looked just the same, hadn’t aged a day and yet, there was a confidence about him, a shimmer of power that hadn’t been there before.
“I did it, Chloe, everything I promised. I have made a life for us, for both of us... I have waited and longed for this moment for so long. I was so afraid you wouldn’t be here.” He lifted her hand and held the bracelet, releasing it and taking the magic away. “I should never have done this to you, I was young and foolish... and cruel. Can you forgive me?”
She opened her mouth to reply only to find she couldn’t, she didn’t know. He looked at her, his eyes full of regret. “Was it only the bracelet that made you wait for me... would you have forgotten me without it?”
There were too many emotions to find just the right words, she was angry and so very happy, relieved and terribly afraid of what was to come but in the end she was overwhelmed by the way it felt to be with him again, and she drew him close and kissed him.
“I’m not too old?” she said anxiously when they broke apart and he laughed.
“You are still far younger than I, my love.”
“But you look the same and I...”
He stopped her with a finger to her lips. “And you are beautiful and I love you. I cannot pretend to understand it; I only know that your magic is far stronger than mine.”
She wrapped her arms around him, breathing in the crisp scent that had haunted her dreams for too many lonely years. “I don’t have any magic,” she sighed and heard him laugh, the sound resonating through his chest.
“Yes, Chloe, you do.” He tipped her head up and gestured to the gate, shimmering in the afternoon sun. “Are you ready to come with me?” His voice was hesitant, fearful lest she would deny him, now the bracelet was gone.
She smiled at him, incredulous that he needed to ask. “I’ve been waiting, haven’t I?”
And they stepped through the gates, to a new beginning.