volume 1 | spring of youth
story by Philomena Anne | art by J.Adupe
Eliana Imogene Wardwell found herself locked behind bars at the age of nineteen and for the continuation of the year, she would be in trial for the brutal death of her little sister and baby brother as well as for the murder of countless servants. For the first half of the year, she screamed and pleaded innocent to anyone who would turn her way. Her beloved parents, grief-stricken, were of no help. While her only friend and cousin were powerless to those in position. The Kingdom of Castell and its people only saw one thing about the situation. Eliana’s midnight black hair and eyes as red as blood were that of a witch. To them, witches were the daughters of the Demon King who once wreaked havoc to the Castellians.
At her twentieth birthday, from the goodness of the Emperor’s heart, her cousin was given a chance to visit her.
Her cousin’s face was gaunt from stress and more likely from malnourishment. She gently lifted her cuffed hands to her cousin’s face. A man in dark clothing clicked his tongue with displeasure.
“Will, you haven’t been sleeping well.”
“How could I sleep whilst you’re locked in here. This place, it’s so-”
It was true. The cell was musky and constantly damp. The smell of feces from other prisoners could make one gag from just a second of entering the dungeon but Eliana had gotten used to it already.
“You’ve also gotten thinner.”
“Not as thin as you! Please, Eli, don’t worry about me. Look at you!”
Eliana tried to chuckle softly but her throat was too dry. Her voice came out raspy and deep. Still, she remained elegant to her cousin’s eyes.
“Will, I have a favor to ask.”
“Anything, Eli. Anything.”
Eliana turned to the stranger beside her cousin.
“Do not come tomorrow.”
“No, you can’t lose faith, cousin. I’ll figure something out. I’ll break you out.”
A guard scoffed but did nothing.
“Wilhelm Apollina, don’t you dare break the law.” Eliana tried to sound stern but her frail face could barely keep her eyes open. “I would prefer it if you stayed this beautiful.”
Will tried to hold back his tears but they freely flowed down his cheeks. Again, Eliana touched his face. Within her hands was such a beautiful being that she wished wholeheartedly to take away the pain.
A tingle emanated from the palms of her hand and soft low glow released itself from Wilhelm’s chest. The stranger drew his sword out in response.
“Unhand him, you witch,” he exclaimed.
His eyes sparkled in the dark, a distinct set of purple irises glared at her.
Will’s crying stopped and the tears now flowed on Eliana’s face. The cousins looked at each other.
“What was that?”
“I am a witch, after all, Will.”
“Aren, it’s alright,” Wilhelm stepped away from the bars of the cell, “I’m alright now. But Eli, do not take my pain from me. Not ever again. I will come again tomorrow. I will watch. I will stand out there with you regardless of what happens.”
Stubbornly, Wilhelm kissed his cousin’s forehead and exited the dungeon without another word.
Eliana had awakened a long time ago, around the time of her sister’s death. Something within her screamed. That something saved her life only to punish her. Eliana thought, what is the point of magic. She never really understood the importance of it to the people of Castella. She lived a normal life for nineteen years without magic, so why were they so afraid of it.
But when she saw the calm and relaxed Will, void of pain even if only for a moment, she thought, magic is uselessly powerful.
The very next morning, Eliana’s gaze fell on her persecutor’s face.
Duke Arwyn Bela was the Emperor’s brother and a member of the Curia Regis. He was in charge of Eliana’s case, a house separate but not separate from the royal family and a house approved by the church. In which case, simply put, the only house other than the royal family with power strong enough to behead the daughter of a prestigious, long-standing family.
She stared into the dark purple eyes of the Duke, her eyes already dead.
‘Ah, those familiar purple eyes. I see they belong to the Ducal family of Bela.’
The passing thought made her laugh. She didn’t like the politics concerning her family name and theirs. Yet, here she was as a pawn of some unknown who wished for something. Though that something is beyond her knowledge, she understood that she was a part of it. The sleep that overtook her during her days in prison told her all she needed to know. Even with dreams, she must continue to play her part.
The Duke stared at her intensely as if waiting for her to speak. The Emperor addressed the public, the audience that came to see her die like the monster they believed her to be. Then the Duke took the stage.
“Do you have any last words, Eliana Wardwell?”
Eliana felt like saying nothing but the loud cries from Wilhelm berated her to speak. Oh, hadn’t she requested him not to come? Had she not been clear enough?
“Eyes that cannot distinguish, cannot see ahead. Those who are fortunate are given a warning. For those who cannot see, only pain and torture awaits them. I welcome death as I have welcomed life.”
The people shouted snide remarks. The royal family glared. The Church grinned from ear to ear. Wilhelm continued to cry in the arms of his adoptive father. The Duke watched with discerning eyes.
Eliana thought for a quick moment, how wonderful would it be if they could all feel the hurt that is loudly resounding from Will. And as she thought, a thrumming washed over her.
The audience fell to their knees leaving Will to stand on his own. It was like they were bowing to him and this pleased Eliana.
Will faced her head on as she mouthed, ‘goodbye’.
The blade of the guillotine whooshed.
It fell from the sky like a gavel.
Will screamed from the pain of a broken heart and thus awakened the blindingly bright magical power that lay dormant during his peaceful years with Eli.