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Crimson Memories

Chapter One: Wine

by Lassarina Aoibhell

Edgar, King of Figaro, took very little notice of the door slamming shut behind his twin brother. The wineglass in his hand--or rather, the lack of wine in said glass--held his entire attention.

Rather unsteadily, he poured more of the rich Tzeni red. In the dim light, it resembled a cup full of blood. He supposed it was fitting. Blood was all he could see anyway.

He remembered the dark red marks on his mother's handkerchief, refreshed every time she coughed. He remembered his father coughing up quantities of red-stained liquid on his deathbed, poisoned by the Empire.

And, too, he remembered the scarlet staining his own hands as he frantically tried to stanch a lethal wound.

Blood, blood, so much blood. Edgar tipped back the glass and swallowed its contents in two gulps. It helped, a little, sometimes. But he wasn't even drunk enough to forget his parents yet. He certainly hadn't had enough to blur the memory of her life pulsing over his hands.

He cursed the large build that made him nearly immune to the wine. His body might be unsteady, but his mind was as clear as ever.

With great care, he poured another glass and drank it. How much had he had tonight? Ten glasses? Twelve? No, only two pitchers gone. Ten then.

He'd have to down at least that much again before the merciful blurring set in and washed away the sight of red blood and wide, dimming emerald eyes into blessed darkness.

It wasn't that he objected to remembering her. Those memories were some of the best he had, during the day. But at night, as the sun sank into the Figaro sands in a blaze of colour and brilliance, other memories surfaced. During the day, he remembered her laugh, the way she looked lying in his bed with morning sun glowing in her golden-brown hair and shimmering across smooth pale skin, the way she would smile when he presented her with some little gift or another. But as the evening sun dyed the sky with blood, he remembered her death.

Silver clanged on stone when he misjudged his reach and knocked over an empty pitcher. Grumbling to himself, he swayed to his feet. More wine would dull the pain. It had to. Nothing else did. One more pitcher, maybe two. He stumbled toward the bell pull that would summon a servant.


He woke as his head connected with the stone floor of his bedroom. Pain screamed through his skull, intensified by the morning desert sunlight that stabbed into his barely-open eyes.

"Get your ass up off that floor, put on some clothes that don't reek of wine, and for the love of all that's holy chew some mint leaves. You have an audience in twenty minutes. And fine behaviour this is for a King of Figaro!" the deep voice rumbled.

"Get out, Sabin."

"I'd like to. I don't particularly enjoy the reek of several days' drinking. But you have responsibilities to yourself, your kingdom, and your people. I'd have thought you had more respect for Father's memory than to neglect them like this!"

Large feet shod in heavy boots clomped over the stone floor, making him groan as he tried to pull himself upright. Sabin grabbed his shoulders and hauled him to his feet. "I don't know what the hell made you think that drowning yourself in wine was a good idea, but you'd better unthink it."

"Who asked you?" If he kept his eyes shut, the pain in his head was less, though the abrupt shift in position hadn't made his stomach particularly happy.

"Oh, get dressed. You smell like a dockside tavern." Sabin strode over to the dresser and rooted through the drawers, flinging tunic, trousers, undertunic, and socks onto the still-made bed. "There, you don't even have to choose an outfit. I'm not changing you like a baby, Edgar, so get moving," he added with an edge to his tone more suited to Celes' caustic demeanour than his own. "Huh? What's this?" He paused in his efficient movements to pick up the pearl-encrusted miniature on the dresser. "Who's the girl?" He tipped the miniature so the morning sunlight shone on it, and whistled. "Nice choice, brother."

"Give me that! How dare you!" Edgar teetered across the room and snatched the miniature from Sabin's hands, cramming it under the thick down pillows on his bed.

Sabin studied him for a split second. "Hmm. Get dressed. Audience in the throne room in ten minutes." He strode out, slamming the door behind him with a crash that nearly split Edgar's throbbing head.

When the sound of his brother's footsteps had faded, Edgar pulled the miniature out from under his pillows. Siona's vivid emerald eyes laughed up at him from a triangular face amid a tumble of wavy golden-brown hair. She had dressed for the miniature in the emerald silk gown he'd given her on her birthday, and wore a collar of pearls dripping emeralds, also given by him. Carefully he stroked a fingertip along the painted cheek, and put the miniature aside. Whatever he chose to do with his nights, he had responsibilities to the people of Figaro now. He changed into the clean clothes his twin had set out for him and headed to the throne room.

The morning's audience consisted of the usual petitions from his subjects. Several merchants from South Figaro wanted him to end the import tax. Did they think gold sprang from the sands? Mechanically he responded to each person, barely even registering their faces. Sabin, in the throne beside him, dealt with some of the less important petitions.

Gradually the throne room emptied. Edgar leaned back with a sigh to watch Sabin deal with the last petitioner. She stepped out of the shadow of the marble columns, and his breath caught. A silky chignon of gold-brown hair shone above a triangular pale face. Emerald eyes glinted in the morning sunlight. Siona?! Hope was painful and sweet. His stomach flipped over, leapt up into his throat, flipped some more. No, it couldn't be. Siona was dead. But she looked so much like... No, not tears. He dared not cry when he sat on this throne in full view of his subjects. He brushed a surreptitious hand over his eyes and tried to settle his nerves with a deep breath. It didn't work.

The woman walked up and curtsied gravely to both of them. The sunlight sparkled on a simple gold chain hung with an emerald. Siona's necklace. She had always worn that necklace. No, this woman's emerald was cut in a teardrop shape. Siona's had been marquise-cut. He swallowed hard. She just looks like her. Damn you, get a grip. When are you going to learn she's dead? "Your name and petition?" Strange that he sounded so calm with his stomach churning and tears burning behind his eyes.

"My name is Siara Bhelin, and I have no petition. I wish to speak to Your Majesty of my sister, Siona."

Sisters. That was why they looked so much alike. Sisters....Siona had never mentioned a sister. He shook his head, dazed. Oh God, Siona. My Siona. He couldn't get over the resemblance. He shook his head again, struggling for some kind of equilibrium.

"Edgar?" Sabin muttered. "What the hell is she talking about?"

Edgar gripped the arms of his throne and pushed himself to his feet. "Perhaps we should discuss this in a less public setting, Lady Siara."

She narrowed her eyes at him, but nodded. Edgar led the way out of the throne room, unable to look at her for fear he'd break down in tears.


Chapter List

Chapter Two: Roses

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