Prince of the Sea

Prince of the Sea

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Standing tall, staring down his parents, Emilod felt his stomach roil. This was always hard, talking to his parents heart to heart. It was too formal, too stiff. He stood in the center of their sitting room, two guards at the door. Like usual.

Who would hear it this time? He wondered as his Mesma flitted around the room, busy as always. Glancing at the two weapons-trained guards, he didn’t recognize either. Oh Good, he thought moodily, someone new.

His Kosir took the seat across from where Emilod stood, laughing and saying something to his spouse that the young maesa missed, too engrossed in his thoughts.

This was something he had been dreading for years. He had hidden himself away, squandering plenty of opportunity to speak up, and hoped it would be swept under the rug. It was time to fix that.

“Em,” said his Mesma, catching Emilod’s attention, as she finally came to join her spouse. “You should sit, too. Come, you are very stiff.”

Nodding, he sighed and sat across from them. His stomach was in knots. “My apologies,” he mumbled, looking away from his Kosir’s stare.

He always knew when something was wrong, and Vinruk Saeth Certia had quite the severe look about him. Even with the fanciful jewelry draped over him, even with the fine golden and silver woven into his hair, even with the coral decorative buttons and silk drapery, he looked intimidating. Perhaps it was the sharper-than-normal teeth, or the powerful magic that emanated from him, or the muscles that rippled under tight, black skin.

Saeth would never hit his children, but that didn’t stop Emilod from being afraid. Physical violence had never scared him, but the thought of disappointing his Kosir? Terrifying.

Reaching out to rest his hand on Emilod’s knee with a big paw of a hand was not abnormal, and he did so when Emilod seemed nervous sitting there in front of them. He did it with all the esa – and Em. “Tell us, what bothers you?” His voice was lilting in the way that all maesa voices were musical, but rumbling and deep, scratchy like his short-cropped beard.

Emilod swallowed and nodded again. “I suppose I should, since I called you here,” he started carefully. “I want to talk to you and Mesma about… Me.” Pausing for effect, he looked between the two sets of blue eyes before adding, “And my future as your heir to the throne.”

The two parents shared a look, and Emilod’s Kosir’s hand slipped away. Good, he thought. Perhaps they’ll take this seriously this time.

Clearing his throat, Emilod began with, “I know it has been a while since I wanted to ask about how you refer to me.” He started slow, saying encouragingly, “I know that you have done well to use the right referential words, and I appreciate your efforts. However, I wish to speak about my title as Vinev again.”

Vinruk Elsi Certia, Emilod’s Mesma, sighed deeply. “Emilod,” she began, but he cut her off.

“I am not going to ask any more.” Sitting just a bit taller, he tried to hide the way his hands trembled by clasping them tightly in his lap. “I have asked, in no uncertain terms, that you respect me as I am, and this has not happened yet.”

A dark look passed over Saeth’s face. “Em, we have done everything that you have asked. And you know titles are not as easy to change as you–“

“Kosir, cami,” said Emilod loudly. He didn’t want to beg, but this was getting ridiculous. Things had to change. His clawed fingers dug into the soft flesh between his fingers, pricking the webbing there. Emilod eased up a little as he looked pleadingly between the two most respected people of his life.

“It simply is not that easy!” His heart sank as Elsi spoke. “Your title as Vines is secured to another neloth, to change it to Vinev is unheard of!” Elsi’s normally serene face was twisted into concern and anger. For a moment, Emilod felt a pang of regret, but then his mesma added gently, “Besides, you will always be our esa,” and that regret disappeared into his own anger.

“That is too bad,” he snapped, “Since I am not an esa.” He almost wished he had kept his mouth shut when his parents stiffened.

“Emilod!” Saeth’s voice boomed and frown deepened as his gaze flicked to the guards at the door. “You will not start with this.”

“Is that why you called us here?” Elsi’s gaze didn’t waver. “To badger us with this nonsense again?”

Nodding, Emilod tried to keep the warble from his voice. “It is.” He held up a hand to quiet them as he added, “I am returning to our previous conversation, from eos thasta ago.” He remembered the last time this conversation had come up, the disappointment had been palpable. He had been only 15 then, and he was 19 now. Nothing had yet changed, but Emilod was still hopeful. As heir to the throne, he had a responsibility to be strong for his people, and without hope that things might change one day… Well, he didn’t want to think too hard about it right then, because his parents were still frowning deeply at him.

“We thought you had grown out of it.” Saeth’s words cut deep.

Grown out of being the man he knew he was. A phase. A triviality.

Emilod nodded to his Kosir, careful to keep the bitterness from his voice. “I was careful to hide my feelings.”

As eva do, he didn’t add. The expectation to be strong and silent through all suffering was something his Kosir embodied. It was something Emilod always knew was his responsibility as an eva.

“Why now?” The exasperation that coloured Elsi’s tone made Emilod feel bone-deep weariness. Why now, indeed?

Lowering his voice, he answered, “Because I can not keep living this bold-faced lie. I cannot keep telling everyone that I am something I am not, and I will not stand for this disrespect any longer. I am still your heir, but I am an eva and will carry no children for you.”

The best way Emilod could describe their expressions were wounded. His Mesma straightened up and spoke first, clearing her throat of the tremble, “You have a duty, Emilod, to continue our heritage. We all do. You know that, we have had this discussion before.”

“Dach, Mesma,” he retorted, unable to help himself, “You have spoken at length about your unhappiness, but you have not once brought up a duty to bring a child into the world with my own womb. A duty I resist, because,” raising his voice, he cut whatever reply she had off with, “I am not simply a baby-chamber.”

“I beg your pardon?” Elsi’s eyes bulged and her lips pressed into a thin line.

“You heard me. You are unhappy and I will not be made to be just like you only because you wish me to be.”

“Em!” Voice cracking like a whip, Emilod flinched, turning his burning glare back to his Kosir as he demanded, “you will apologize for that!”

Gritting his sharp teeth together, Emilod paused a moment before turning to Elsi and saying, “My sincerest apologies, Mesma.”

She nodded, saying simply, “Apology accepted.”

There was a pregnant silence between the three of them. Finally, Saeth asked in a much gentler tone, “And your committed partnership with Vinev Admia Teras?”

This was some kind of trap, he could feel it. “As long as our Commitment is honoured, I see no problems.” Emilod crossed his arms, looking between his parents.

“Vinev Admia has expressed much interest,” started Elsi, that pinched look still on her face. Pausing, she looked to Saeth, who sighed, putting that paw of a hand on his wife’s knee. Taking care of things, like he should.

Leaning forward, Saeth made pointed eye contact with his son, saying, “He has only expressed interest as long as you are esa.”

“Oh, for Sigil’s sake,” spat Emilod angrily. Something inside of him bubbled over with anger, “You would listen to the whims of a lesser Vela’s Vinruk with a quantra for an eva?” He swore loudly, wincing at the volume of his own voice.

Elsi’s hands clenched into fists, and Saeth pinched his nose. “Emilod,” said Elsi, “You know exactly why this stipulation is in place. Having heirs is of utmost importance to the continuation of the Certia line. So, if you are to marry you would need to remain esa–“

“To make me a baby factory.”

“That is not what your Mesma is speaking about.” With his booming voice, Saeth steered the conversation back, “This nonsense about being an eva is too much. You were assigned esa, and you will respect that! You have disrespected our doctors with this behaviour, and you insult the populace with this disgraceful insistence.”

Excuse me?” Emilod rose from his seat, quickly followed by his parents. A new kind of rawness rose up in anger’s place. It made Emilod feel sick and dizzy, but he carried on. “I am a disgrace now, am I? I am disrespectful? Fine.” Turning on his heel to face the guards, he motioned to the closest one to step forward. They looked startled, but did so. “Your name,” demanded Emilod, despite his parents’ protests.

“Sayka,” answered the Guard quickly, looking between the older, taller, stronger maesa that were Emilod’s parents, and the young Emilod.

“Sayka. I charge you will telling everyone with what you’ve heard tonight–“

“Dach!” Saeth’s voice cracked about the room like thunder, amplified by the high walls. “Emilod, you will return to your room this instant, and you will remain there until you learn.”

Spinning to face his parents once more, Emilod began to protest, but shut his mouth when the burning look in his Kosir’s eyes settled on him. He had gone too far.

“Dear,” started Elsi, but stopped when her husband’s severe gaze dropped from Emilod to her.

She is grounded,” said Saeth pointedly, jabbing a finger towards the door as his blue eyes met Emilod’s, “For the foreseeable future.”

Without bothering to argue, Emilod spun on his heel and fled, feeling his cheeks darken with blue blood and eyes sting with tears. As the door thud closed behind him, he heard his Kosir address Sayka and broke into a run.

“Ignore what she said.”

* * *

He waited for the sun to set above the water before sneaking out of the palace. It was easy, he had lived in it’s hectic patterns for his whole life, he knew when the guards passed by, he knew when the servants were meant to come through, and he knew his siblings by their footsteps as they padded down the hall after him.

Spinning to see his two youngest siblings, Emilod sighed, “Vaden, Tibas, go back to sleep.”

“But you get to be awake!” Tibas, the elder of the two, grinned to show off their teeth – one was missing right in the middle. “‘Sides, I want to show you!”

Vaden, holding tight to their sibling’s hand, wobbled sleepily, still clutching their security blanket. Tibas was always waking Vaden up for late night adventures, it was no wonder the poor child had trouble staying awake for meals.

Emilod chuckled and knelt down to be eye-level with them. “Show me what?” He reached out and steadied Vaden, who shook themself awake and took Emilod’s thumb in a crushing grip. He didn’t mind, letting the child play with his hand as his other sibling pulled up their shirt to reveal a big bruise on their ribs, just under the gills.

“See!”

“I see! What a bruise that is, you are very brave!” Emilod tickled Tibas under the chin, earning a screeching laugh that echoed down the hall and startled Vaden. It quieted quickly, and Emilod scooped Vaden up nervously. “I think it is time for bed.”

“Da, cami,” whined the two children in unison as Emilod guided them back to their rooms. It was a quick detour, tucking Vaden and then Tibas into bed.

He kissed each of their foreheads and set them in their water-filled cribs. It was a bit of a chore to lift Tibas now, but he couldn’t resist when his younger sibling asked to be thrown into the pool with a giggle.

But Emilod didn’t mind. He couldn’t see them again after tonight.

After all, he was leaving andĀ neverĀ looking back.

Glossary of Terms

Kosir – Father figure
Mesma – Mother figure
Esa – Assigned girl
Eva – Assigned boy
Esva – Child before assigned a gender; Assigned nuetral/intersex

Dach/Da – No
Neloth – Family

Cami – Please
Vinruk – A title. Monarchical ruler

Vinev – A title. Monarchical ruler’s son

Vines – A title. Monarchical ruler’s daughter

Vinez – A title. Monarchical ruler’s child