CASeries #5: COSMOS
Chapter 62 ♦ Black Vault
The discovery of the pure energy had shaken many minds. All those that witnessed the revolutionary breakthroughs of the young inventor, Kaleb, were left gaping. Bertram decreed a rule of silence on the matters witnessed that day as he would gather the high noble family heads for a meeting to discuss how they were to handle the news.
Lord Aeron, ever cunning, had long since dropped hints of this knowledge to the masses—although it mostly pertained to the honey-golden blonde with the rare power of purification. While it was no other than a rumor at the moment, it could easily turn out to be a belief should they publicize the news of the existence of pure energy.
The problem remained. Where was Valeriana? How were they supposed to find her? Lord Aeron said she was on a journey of self-discovery. While he would love to wait for her, these demons and the blood moon surely would not bother to do the same.
No matter how much Bertram wanted to remain optimistic, he could not help but worry himself over the negative possibilities. He wished he could attain the positive disposition of his uncle and the court leader. Unfortunately, it was not the case.
“Oh father,” he said, leaning back on the large chair the loomed around him like a comforting embrace. “What do I do? What do I do?” he muttered, fingers reaching to rub the space between his forehead to straighten the tightening wrinkles. He wanted the counsel of his father badly but that would not be possible now.
He looked at the documents spread over his table and felt the tension rise to his head. His jaws tightened, knuckles turning white and popping as he wrapped one fist over the other. When he felt like bursting at the seams, Bertram stood from his seat, taking a deep breath and turning to his open windows for a whiff of fresh air. The Rosellevienne Palace was most proud of its flower meadow and the king’s office was aptly placed in the most strategic location to admire it.
It was the young king’s favorite place of all Valemnia. He took every chance he got to see it.
Bertram thought back to the time Valeriana caught him standing outside, cloaked as he lamented over his situation. He was still lamenting now—just not over the worry of becoming a demon. Then again, he could not truly say he wouldn’t be worrying about it sometime in the future.
“Gods, why?” he muttered. His crown was not just heavy. It was hot, molten and singed him every time it got the chance. He was starting to feel like he wasn’t cut out for it—but who could ever truly be?
He was not yet king. He was a puppet to his crown.
Bertram turned away from the open windows and left the oppressive walls of his office, feeling like he would break if he continued to stay there. The guards stationed outside his doors lowered their heads when he passed by.
“I will be at my father’s chambers,” he said. “Know where to reach me when someone comes looking.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” the two guards chorused.
He made his way through the long halls and stopped before the chambers of his father. It has not been touched since the last time the young king left it. He hadn’t had the heart to enter—for it felt as though his heart journeyed with his father through the river of reincarnation. Bertram didn’t want to change the way things were. He wanted everything just as the late king left it.
Opening the doors to his father’s chambers, he clicked his fingers and light flared to life. The candles burned with intent, half melted where they sat.
The young king breathed in the smell of the room. The vestiges of his father’s scent flitted about in thin bursts. As he made his way further inside, his gaze caught the bed. While the sheets had been changed, the memories remained fresh.
Bertram went for the king’s drawers. In the bedside table were many of the things the late king needed ready—his pen, paper, eyeglasses among others. If Bertram wanted to see things more sentimental and related to his kingly duties, the desk drawers were more appropriate.
The young king lit the dainty lamp and ran his eyes over the tidied surface of the late king’s desk. He then pulled the drawers, reaching for the items inside. The contents were sparse. There was nothing but old memorabilia, trinkets his father treasured over the many years. Mostly, however, there were documents, notes, written speeches and many more.
“If you wish to see more, you will need this,” a voice reverberated.
Bertram jumped and turned swiftly to see his uncle, the Archduke Lienhard, holding up a small key. “Uncle. When did you come in?”
“A little after you did,” he said, approaching his nephew. “I dropped by your office only to have your guards tell me where you went.”
“Yes,” the young king muttered. “I needed to, um, get away from things.”
Lord Lienhard handed the small key to the young king. It was warm when it fell onto his palms. “Take this. You can look through your father’s personal vault hidden in that desk.” The duke nodded at the table behind Bertram.
“Where is it?”
“I’m not sure. Try taking it apart.”
“I see . . .” Bertram replied with a frown. “Uncle, have you come for something?”
“Nothing much,” Lienhard said with a sigh. “I wanted to check in on you. I’m worried you’re pushing yourself too hard like before.”
“I’m alright,” the young king told him. “I’m doing what I can.”
“That’s good.” The archduke patted him on the shoulder. “You are fine. Do not focus on the weight of the crown. If you let it distract you, you won’t see what needs to be seen the most. But do not look until your neck can turn because you’ll break it.”
Bertram’s forehead creased with deep lines but he nodded. Lienhard then left as fast as he came, leaving the young king to his own devices.
He turned back to his father’s desk and resumed going through it. Take it apart was what Lord Lienhard told him to do. So he pulled out the drawer until it was unfettered from the table. He reached inside and found a light box the size of his two hands. It was made of black jade with trimmings of gold.
A dark chest always meant the darkest of secrets—but they could also be the most treasured ones. Curious, Bertram stuck the key into the box and pulled open the lid. Among the things kept inside were letters and notes—some of which were from Laedin addressed to Ayslia and vice versa. He pulled out the letters from the black box when his fingers felt something particularly thick at the bottom.
He lifted what was on top and perted into the box. It was a journal of aged leather. There was no title which meant it could’ve been personal. Although it made him curious, the letters tugged on his attention the most. So first, he turned to it and set the black box on the table to open one letter.
While he didn’t want to intrude on his parents’ private affairs, his curiosity got the better of him. Laedin never deprived Bertram of stories about his mother and his uncles made sure to tell him all about her every opportunity they got. Unfortunately, the stories made her seem more like a myth from a legend rather than his own mother.
He took one letter addressed to his father and sat on the chair before the desk, his shoes brushing against the drawer he had left gaping on the floor. He then peeled the envelope flaps open, pulling the scented paper from its nest. It was still crisp and firm but some parts have caved and softened—probably from the fingers that held it a myriad of times, perhaps under the morning light or the golden glow of a lamp at night.
I feel compelled to tell you that your work is a fine piece. But while I feel flattered by your show of favor and effort, that was, by far, the most menial and inept poem I have ever read. You are a great man, however, you are no great poet.”
Bertram was somewhat taken aback by the tone of the letter that his eyes widened a bit. It took him a few seconds before laughter burst from his chest. It seemed his mother had a wild spirit and, like the stories, didn’t conform to the customs. He imagined his father’s embarrassment, the reddening of cheeks on his youthful visage. The image invoked yet another round of laughter that he had to cough into his fist to compose himself.
“I am aware that many would protest your poor choice of a lady to pursue. They wish you be with Saskia—and it is understandable for she is the perfect candidate for queen. They expect a fine woman like her to sit on the throne when I’d rather fart. If you want a gassy woman for a wife, why, sir, I do not know what to tell you.”
Bertram chuckled and shook his head.
“But if you prefer yourself buried in mud, I’m willing to invite you to a hunt. Lord Dillian’s forests remain ripe with many preys. The conquest shall begin before the sun is high. Invite yourself to the Kaiven Fortress and we shall thereto begin. Of course, you are a busy man. I know you will not bother to leave such important affairs just to dirty your fingers with the grease of a bow.
“Oh, she was definitely daring him,” Bertram whispered, shaking his head. “And I’m sure father was never one to back down from such a challenge.” He refolded the letter and slipped it back into the envelope. He thought about how beautiful it was—his parents together.
He looked at the bunch of letters and knew how important these were to his father for them to be stowed away, sealed from dust and other nasties. Laedin was never one to hide away the painful memories. Laedin would always, always celebrate Ayslia any way he could even if her death hurt him so.
Bertram was prepared to do the same. “No matter how much it hurt,” he said aloud.
He stood up and gathered the letters. The aged journal sat in the box, momentarily forgotten because of his mother’s letter. The young king stopped short and set down the letters once again. They formed in a neat stack beside the box and would be ready to be loaded into the vault once he was done with the brief perusal of the journal.
He picked it up and hatched it to the first page.
“Brion has the oddest way of expressing himself,” began the words. “But I suppose this is due to his lacking ability to look like what he intends to look like. He seems to be made out of the same stiff marble he uses to carve his sculptures. He is cold, brusque, a rather lonesome individual. He shows no smile—an eternal deadpan.”
Bertram’s heart sped up. “A journal from the Originals?” His knees shook. He landed back down on the chair and continued reading.
“Stories, however, are destined to be lost in the haze of legends. I am sure that, even with the history we carved on the face of this world, we will become a thing of the past. Brion seems rather keen on making things that last beyond his years and, until now, in spite of the peace we now have after a hundred long years of war, his heart remains uneasy. We all know our names will echo beyond our lives. While this is an honor to the sacrifices we have made for this world, for its people, for ourselves, and for the ones we love, the truth cannot be denied. Brion is set on proving this, hoping the future generations shall know. They cannot live in the comfort of the existing world without knowing the pains of their past—and of their future.”
The young king breathed. He trembled at the thought of the many secrets this journal had. He held it tight in his hands.
“Whatever those pains are, I’ll make sure this era doesn’t feel it—at least not as much.”