Hours earlier, Lynne’s day had started abruptly. He woke up, sitting up in his bed with his body covered in cold sweat. He panted heavily and clutched his heart, feeling as if it was about to jump out of his heart.
“What . . . “ Lynne’s eyes darted around the room, but breathed a sigh of relief when he realized he was alone. He pulled a hand through his midnight blue hair, trying to sort out his thoughts, but kept remembering those burning, golden eyes. Just the thought of that intense stare heated him up with longing.
“It was a dream?” He tried to say it as a statement but there was no conviction behind Lynne’s words. Looking down his waist, the thin bed cover did little to hide the activity between his legs. “Fuck.”
After hesitating for a moment, Lynne headed over to his washing basin and filled it with cold water, decidedly ignoring his misbehaving lower body. However, as the cool water ran down his body and forcefully calmed parts of him down, Lynne’s thoughts were still in a daze.
“I . . . do I li- . . .” Lynne shook his head, plunging it into the water. “No, it’s just a dream. Totally innocent. Nothing to be concerned about.”
Lynne lay in the water for a long while. “It means nothing . . .” he mumbled over and over, trying to convince himself that it was true.
“He’s just a bodyguard.” Lynne frowned, not liking the way the words sounded. “Well, maybe more than just a bodyguard. Friend. Yes, he is a friend. I’m just a bit . . . frustrated.”
Lynne might look feminine enough to pull of his current disguise with some make-up tricks but he was without a doubt a full-fledged young man. Due to the need of keeping his secret, Lynne had previously had very little close contact with people of his own age, both male and female alike. However, although there had been no chance to have any romantic relationships, Lynne had never doubted his sexuality.
Having grown up in a military fort, Lynne had seen plenty of bare chested men training for battle. While he could admit that some of them were objectively handsome, he had never had a physical reaction or felt a deeper interest in any of them.
The female soldiers on the other hand, well, Lynne enjoyed watching them train quite a lot. Seeing their flexible bodies glisten with sweat as they repeatedly lunged at each other with both swords and water attacks, occasionally getting drenched when they failed to dodge in time. . . . Lynne gulped. In his mind, the fighting females were exchanged with Adan, his golden locks clinging to his dark face, making those golden eyes of his shine with even more intensity.
He was back were he started.
It took quite a while for Lynne to calm down after that, and had it been a normal day, Lynne would most likely have spent all of it in a daze, mulling over what to do next. However, today was not a normal day and he had barely gotten himself out of the tub when his father came to his room with Branton and Imma in toe. Somehow Marquis Hayden managed to look both excited and worried at the same time.
“Today is the day,” he said and gave his still slightly damp son a rare hug. “No matter what happens after this, remember that today is a day worth celebrating. My eldest is getting Awakened!”
Branton smiled to and gave his brother a hard clap on the shoulder. “Make sure to suck in as much elements as possible – you’ll need it,” he joked, half serious.
Lynne smiled back at his family. Even with everything going on in his mind, Lynne could also feel that something was changing within him. He felt a deep rooted exitment that seemed come from his very core. However, when he thought of the multiple risks he would be facing during the day, Lynne’s mood couldn’t help but dampen.
At this point Imma stepped forward, with a loose white gown in her arms.
“Master Hayden, young master Lynne. It is time.”
His father nodded to the servant.
“My son, Imma will help you get ready and meanwhile you must eat. Today will be a long day.”
Preparing Lynne for today’s events was not easy. Traditionally, one would attend the awakening in an as natural state as possible, refraining from the use of heavy cosmetics and fancy hair arrangement. For Lynne, this was not an easy look to pull off, and it definitely couldn’t be done without meticulous make-up, applied all the more carefully to not make it too obvious.
It took over an hour to get ready. While Imma was working on his appearance, Lynne’s thoughts gradually moved away from Adan and focused instead on the day to come. It would indeed be a long day. First he would great the King and they would together meet his court and all the leading figures from the two churches at the large courtyard in front of the palace. There would be a mid-day ceremoni, celebrating the Eve of Moons – it was a very festive affair but Lynne couldn’t help but dread it a bit. This was because once it was done, the dangerous part of the day would truly begin. He would be lead by the Holy Mother of the Church of Moons to their most sacred place within the church and begin the long process of his awakening.
Lynne still didn’t know most of the details of the awakening, but he did know that it had a large focus on cleansing his body. While his father assured him that he had made proper arrangements for Imma to be the sole person to see him undress, Lynne couldn’t help but feel nervous. It felt like too big a risk. Add to this that they had yet to figure out anything more about who was trying to kill him and everything was even more risky.
However, there was no backing out now. His only possible way out was to trust his father’s plan and hope that the awakening made him strong enough to run away.
“Young mast-. . . I mean, young mistress, you are done.”
Imma’s voice brought Lynne’s floating thoughts back into the room. Looking at his reflection, even Lynne was a bit shocked at how naturally female he looked. From the side Branton gave a whistle and dramatically fell to his knees next to Lynne, gripping his heart.
“Be still my beating heart! I think I’ve fallen for my own sister!”
Lynne clicked his tongue in annoyance and smacked Branton over the head before the latter had a chance to dodge out of the way.
“Hey! It’s not my fault my big brother looks so good as a girl,” Branton stuck out his tongue teasingly while rubbing his head. “What man wouldn’t fall for you like this?”
Lynne froze for a bit and glanced towards the hidden passage leading to Adan’s room. He shook his head.
“It was a dream. A dream.”
The Eve of Moons celebration started and the first half of the day progressed smoothly. Lynne and his family met up with the King and as planned they went out into the courtyard together to greet the waiting people outside. A large donut-shaped stage had been placed at the center of the courtyard, but the normally present fountain of fire and water was gone.
As for rest of the large courtyard, it was filled with hundreds of people and you could tell at a glance that they had been organized into groups. The Priests of the Sun stood in neat rows with their backs to their church, dressed from head to toe in white, opposite them stood the Priestesses of the Moons in similar rows and clothing. Between them was a mix of people, their clothes varied and colorful and with little discipline within the group. They were the noble families and courtiers. Not a single Sun Tribesman was present.
King Fenix led Lynne by the hand to the front of the stage and held a lengthy speech about their nations future, condemning the boarding Valdmani nation for a recent string of attacks at the border and promising to work for long-lasting victory and prosperity of Solmane. Lynne didn’t really listen but he did his part obediently today and stood by the King’s side, smiling as softly as he could muster.
Once the speech was done, it was time for the Priestesses of the Moons to take over so the King and Lynne stepped to the side of the podium. Suddenly, King Fenix leaned in closer to Lynne and whispered “quite boring, wasn’t it? My speech I mean.”
Lynne blinked at him in surprise.
“You have grown up at the boarder. You no doubt know that peace there is not easy, neither by military force nor diplomacy. I hope we can work together after today to make it possible.”
Now Lynne was truly surprised. He looked over at the man by his side and for once wasn’t met with a lustful gaze in his brown eyes.
“Your Highness . . .” Lynne started but the King raised a finger to stop his mouth from speaking. The gesture seemed very intimate and even without looking, Lynne knew that the palace maids were shooting daggers at him with their eyes right now. No doubt his father was squirming with worry too.
“Just Fenix, remember,” the King chuckled. “Don’t worry, Lynne, you will be safe today. We will make a good team from now onwards.”
Lynne frowned. The King had never addressed him so casually before – he had played around and teased him, flaunting at their future marital bliss, but this was different. More real.
The bodyguard next to the King coughed. “Your Highness, the ceremony.”
“Yes, yes, Emberon, I know.” King Fenix leaned back from Lynne and smiled his usual lust-filled smile before turning his attention back to the Priestesses, who had faned out in a circle around the stage center.
Still confused, Lynne flowed the King’s gaze and missed the flash of deep contempt in the bodyguard’s eyes as he observed both himself and the King.
On the opposite end of the stage, the Holy Mother walked up with a large bowl made of glass. A fine grey powder could be seen inside it. The Holy Mother stopped at the front end of the stage and smiled warmly at the gathered crowd.
“Friends, today the Heaven’s grant us the presence of our most sacred celestial guardians, the Twin Moons. While the mighty Sun guards over our everyday lives, the Twin Moons bring us new life and cleanse our spirits. It is easy to get distracted by the struggles of our daily lives, focusing too much on personal gain and too little on the bigger picture.”
Behind the Holy Mother, the other women started to chant in low voices and, and at the center of the stage, a pool of water slowly started to form, wriggling around as if it was a living thing.
“Today is a day to honor our celestial guardians and remember their place in own hearts. A day where we discard ourselves and ask for the forgiving care of our celestial lords. Only by doing so can we hope to be blessed with yet another prosperous year!”
To the side, Lynn held back a snicker. Intentional or not, the Holy Mother’s preaching undermined the King’s speech quite elegantly, pushing any credit of the nation’s prosperity to the Churches rather than the King. The King himself seemed unfazed by it though and unconcerned by the implication of her words, the Holy Mother continued on.
She raised the glass bowl in her hands high above her head and shouted, “Oh Twin Moons, I ask of thee to cleanse these ashes of our wrongdoings and bring us all new life!”
With theatric elegance, the Holy Mother bent backwards, pouring out the grey powder behind her back. Before the ashes hit the ground, however, the water collecting at the center of the stage shot upwards in a thick column and swallowed it all up. The chanting of the priestesses increased and as the Holy Mother joined them, the column of water rose higher and higher into the sky.
Suddenly, church bells could be heard ringing from within the deep blue building of the Church of Moons. As they rung out, the sun in the sky reached it’s highest position and slowly one of the moons started to change color, shifting from a pale white to a pink rose and finally a deep red.
In the distance, cheers could be heard from the city as the red moon marked the true start of festivities for the citizens. For those gathered in the courtyard, all eyes where locked on the pillar of water that still stretched towards the sky. Lynne wasn’t sure if it was from the red moon in the sky or the powder added by the priestess, but the water had shifted color, looking more like pale wine than pure water.
Slowly, the tone of the chanting priestesses changed and the red water splitt up into many smaller streams, coiling around themselves like snakes. As the chanting grew more frenetic, the snakes started to spread out, revealing a clear, white ball of water in the center. One after another, small white spheres left the snakes and joined the larger one in the middle, making it grow in size while the circling water streams turned redder and redder.
Suddenly, the chanting reached its peak and the Holy Mother snapped out her arms wide. In that same instance, the red snakes exploded into a thousand sparkling dropps, almost floating to the ground like rose peddles. Meanwhile, a hazy, snow-white sphere the size of an small melon remained hovering in the air, spinning slowly. The watching nobles sucked in a collective breath of awe; it was truly a spectacular scene.
“Friends, the Twin Moons have cleansed the ashes of our wrongdoings and have blessed us with a bright future,” the Holy Mother’s voice echoed through the courtyard as she gazed up with reverence at the two moons. “Rejoice! This blessing shall help give birth to our next ice-bender and future queen!”
The audience cheered, and Lynne could feel all eyes returning to him.
“Princess Lynne of Gakkvisa, come and receive the first blessing.”
Lynne swallowed and forced himself to calm down. Giving his father at the sidelines a reassuring smile, Lynne stepped forward to take the outstretched hand of the Holy Mother. The young woman smiled at him warmly.
“Fear not, my child, the Moons will smile upon you this evening.”
The Holy Mother reached out her other hand towards the white sphere and two small drops popped out if it, hovering instead over her pale fingers. She moved the hand in front of Lynne’s face and the elegantly flicked her wrists. The drops stretched out into two small rings before flying over and seemingly melting into Lynne’s temples, leaving two snow-white rings on his already pale skin. A cool sensation filled Lynne’s mind, leaving him with a feeling of a spring breeze passing through him.
“The blessing has been received!” the Holy Mother bellowed happily, “The awakening shall begin!”
With a wave of her hand, the remaining sphere floated down into the glass bowl that was now in the hands of Imma, Lynne’s bodyguard. The crowd cheered and applauded warmly as the Holy Mother led Lynne of the stage and walked towards the Church of the Moons. A path was opened up for them through the priestesses and behind them followed not only Imma and the priestesses from the stage but also the King and Lynne’s family. No one else was allowed to even approach the building, with plenty of guards blocking the way and looking vigilantly at the gathered crowd.
Lynne and his entourage entered the deep blue Church building and walked past the long aisles of seats until they reached a smaller chamber at the far end of the building. Once inside, the Holy Mother took both of Lynne’s hands in hers and spoke to him softly. “My child, my queen, beyond this chamber lies the most sacred of places. As decided by the King and your father, Imma has been instructed on what to do inside, while we will remain out here and assist with the chanting. You have nothing to fear, just give in to the elements and it will guide you.”
Lynne nodded and looked over at his family. Both his father and brother had entered the chamber and stood to the side of the entrance next to the King and his bodyguard. They smiled at him reassuringly and even the King once again showed an oddly pure smile.
“Good look, sister,” Branton said while raising his hand in a quick salute. Lynne’s father mimicked the movement but remained silent, his steely gaze saying it all.
“See you at the other side, my Ice Queen,” King Fenix winked and Lynne couldn’t help but glare at him disapprovingly, not even noticing how much less pressure he felt from the man at the moment.
“It’s time,” Imma reminded, pulling Lynn’s attention away from his family. “This way, Mistress.”
The door at the other end of the chamber slid open and a cool and slightly damp breeze flowed out into the small room. Imma gestured for Lynne to walk in first so he collected his resolve and stepped through the opening, closely followed by Imma. Behind them, the priestesses started chanting again but the door slid shut and cut off both the sound and light from outside.
“Careful in the dark, master,” Imma warned and Lynne stopped for a moment to let his eyes get used to the dark.
It didn’t take long before a pale blue light caught Lynne’s attention. He found himself in a narrow corridor that led downwards, and that blue light came from the other end. Lynne followed the path down, eventually reaching a small cave. The cave looked a bit crude, but the walls were covered in intricate drawings that seemed to mimic the night sky and a clear blue pool of water took up most of the cave’s floor. It was from this pool that the faint light came.
“Please remove your clothes, master. I will help with drawing the marks of your Awakening on you.”
Lynne blinked and looked over at Imma who had just put down the bowl she was carrying on a nearby table. Seeing his gaze the woman blushed slightly but coughed to cover it up. “Don’t worry master, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
“Mhmm,” Lynne hummed and turned to remove his gown.
The loose fitting dress was easy enough to get out of and just as he bent down to pick it up from the ground, Lynne caught the sight of Imma’s reflection in the water. She had at some point moved to stand just behind him, her eyes were dull and her arms raised high above her head. The pool’s blue light was reflected by the knife she gripped with both hands.