It wasn't long until my father set his plan in motion. Elijah and the other three went back to the castle to bring more men over to help us move our stuff while my brothers packed. I, too, grabbed a few things from my old room and slipped them in my pockets as I followed my father around, helping him prep the farm for sale. Thankfully, he seemed to be happy enough to sell it, and even a little excited for living in the castle. His excitement rubbed off on the rest of us, and I found myself grinning from time to time as we ran around cleaning things up. My father was writing up a proposal to post on the town's newsboard when my brothers finally lugged their boxes of things out the front door, placing them down for the castle men to find. Travis arrived soon after, holding a contract in his hand. The five of us stopped what we were doing as the warrior came inside, looking around at the progress we'd made. He then went to my father, and the two had a quiet discussion in the corner as we slowly got back to work.
What do you think they're talking about?
I jumped as Warren's voice echoed in my mind. There hadn't been much telepathy since the night before, and Warren's strange Lightblood telepathy was a little different from what I was used to. I shot him a glare before shrugging as I began to wipe down the countertops.
You're jumpier than usual. Normally you're okay with telepathy, Warren pointed out, crossing his arms. He was out of view of the two whisperers, meaning they couldn't get whiff of him talking in my mind.
"You're different than Darkbloods," I whispered, looking away. Having him in my mind was like a strange cool breeze, while Darkbloods felt like a natural thing. Elijah felt like a Darkblood as well since he was copying Kai's telepathy, and Warren was the only Lightblood I knew who could speak in someone's mind. It was refreshing, and the Lightblood in me felt a little less suffocated.
But it's okay, right?
I waved him off, turning back to the counter. Warren wasn't helping my nerves as I strained my ears, my heightened senses not able to kick in since I was forcing my Darkblood back for the moment. The extra width, height and risk my wings and tail gave me were dangerous in our smaller house, not to mention I had been hitting things with my horns by accident.
My snooping didn't do much as Travis and my father separated, the man who raised me looking a little disappointed as Travis came to my side.
"We need to talk," he hissed in my ear, hand wrapping around my arm. A wooden spoon clattered to the floor as he dragged me out of the house, going around to the side. Even now, I could see an indent in the plants where Kai landed. There were also scratch marks on the side of the house, reminders that there were other Darkbloods out there who were coming after me with force.
I shivered, turning to face Travis as he began to pace. "Are you okay?" I prodded, crossing my arms. The warrior stopped briefly, glancing over at me before he sighed.
"Darkbloods have been getting unusually quiet lately, and if we add that with the problem that is your existence, no offense, it means the Queen has a full plate," Travis blurted, pacing faster. "She couldn't really find a punishment for you because they're busy with things. But Elijah found the perfect solution."
I raised an eyebrow. Wouldn't a few days in a dungeon work?
"There's going to be a ball. Everyone is coming. And it'll be centered around you. I think the Prince is hoping that kind of attention will smarten you up, but there's another thing."
My palms began to sweat as I imagine a room full of people staring at me in horror.
Forget never having time or a chance to have friends. I was just told I'd be the center of a royal ball.
The teenage girly side of me wanted to run into a corner and panic, and the mature side of me was trying to plan a way to survive this without making a fool of myself.
If my wings aren't out I can hide easily...
Travis waved his hand in front of my face. "Cloud? Did you hear me?"
I flinched, looking up at him. I hadn't heard a single thing as I panicked internally.
He rolled his eyes before crossing his arms. "We're inviting Darkbloods, Cloud. You are. Whoever was in that camp that gave you Terrance back is permitted to come as long as they stay with you.
"Remember, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness know who you are, more than even you know. They recognize the fact that the Darkbloods handed your brother over."
I crossed my arms this time, straightening up. "They may know," I snapped, "but they're not the only ones. And the Darkbloods are the ones who actually shed some light on the situation."
He sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. It seemed like there was something he wanted to say, but he pushed it away and ignored my words.
"You can go and invite them today. The ball is in four days. Once you're done, come straight to the castle."
With that, he turned away, clearly done with me. I sighed, grimacing as I turned toward the house and nearly slammed my forehead into the wall. Despite wanting to split my head in two, I gently tipped my head forward, letting out a long sigh.
"Cloud," a deep voice said gently. It was one of the twins, but at the moment I felt like talking to neither.
"I'd like to be alone," I responded softly, lifting my head from the wall. Glancing over my shoulder, I realized it was Terrance watching from a couple feet away, his eyes filled with worry.
Terrance shuffled toward me, averting his eyes. "I snooped a bit, and I know you hate that, but you need to hear me out, Cloud," he pleaded, holding his hands at his sides in a show of innocence.
"You saw how I was in that Darkblood camp. They hate us Lightbloods, and you can't watch them twenty-four seven. They'll try to hurt the people at the ball," he said firmly, his opinion unchangeable. "They attacked our house for you, Cloud. Don't you realize that? They already hurt your family without caring. One of them hurt you."
Memories. Thoughts from not too long ago. It all came rushing back, and I was surprised that it had easily slipped my mind.
"Did they hurt you?" I asked shakily, picturing Rebecca's kind face, the face I'd torn into with my tail.
Terrance looked at the ground, clenching his fists. "Just a lot of bruises, but they weren't merciful Cloud. You can't bring them to a ball. You can't trust them."
You don't know anything, one side of me wanted to scream. The side that shared their blood and anger. I exhaled, calming myself down, reeling in my form.
However, Terrance's words had shaken me. People had proven that I had to trust myself, because they also had their own agendas and goals.
A muddled tangle of someone else's words drifted back into my head. Someone in a hall. A figure I didn't recognize.
Find whom you trust the most.
The Gray War has nearly begun.
Your brother will not be the last.