2 | Brighteyes

Chapter 2

With sweaty palms and a faster heartbeat than normal, Darkeyes stood before a closed pinewood door, collecting the courage to open it and enter the room behind. The door would lead him to one of the many back chambers of the Citadel, a unique remnant of times long past. The Citadel was built many centuries ago when the Vulpidei were at the peak of their influence. Legend tells it was gifted to the Vulpidei by the mighty Jade foxes, not only to honor their friendship but also to have a common place for all foxes to worship the Moon Brothers. However, this legend is only known by the oldest and wisest of VFoxia, as all younglings know what was enacted at the historical events of 200 years ago. Now, the Citadel is only used for boring ceremonies and overly expensive weddings.

The heavy wooden door screeched when Darkeyes finally pulled the lever towards him. The room was dark, and his eyes needed a few seconds to adjust. A small candle was lighting the stony room, casting its humble light on the walls, a wooden desk with a matching chair, and a fancy-looking mirror. In that mirror he could see … It’s HIM! shot through his mind, causing all hairs of his golden fur to stand up. With his ears down to show respect and scraping his throat to set up a soft and modest voice, Darkeyes finally said “Lord Alphice, it’s an honor. My name is Darkeyes and I have been appointed your new squire until the day I die or the day you deem me worthy for knighthood.” The boy paused a moment to wait for a reaction, but Lord Alphice remained seated and didn’t look up to greet his fresh squire. “If it’s okay with you, my Lord, I can proclaim my vows right away.” Once more, Darkeyes waited for the Lord’s response, but that never came. “Lord Alphice? … Are you ok?” And then it suddenly struck the boy, as thunder created by the most powerful bolt of lightning. You fool of a fox … he is an Ice Lord … he can’t speak to you told Darkeyes to himself. He must think I am an idiot. Well done, Darkeyes, well done. You ruined your only shot at a good first impression. The boy just stood there, feeling horrible and swearing at himself, until a surprisingly warm hand on his shoulder lifted his negative feelings and ended his cursing spree. It was a comforting gesture by the Lord, and Darkeyes had the feeling that it was Alphice’s way of saying “It’s all right, son.”. Alphice moved on and stepped towards the door to open it.

“Doo L-lord Alphice!!” The Old Fox was standing at the door with his arm raised and his hand in a fist, ready to knock on the door. “You can’t startle me like this, I have a weak heart.”. Darkeyes remembered this moment dearly, as it was his first time experiencing the Lord’s smile. “Now follow me! You too, young boy. The moment is there. Everyone is waiting!” They followed the Old Fox outside, welcomed by some friendly clouds who were afraid of the sun as they never got close. They walked slowly, matching the Old Fox’s pace until he stopped before the main entrance to the Citadel. It didn’t have any doors, as the Vulpidei believed that any fox that needed friendship and faith was required access at any time of every day. The building was one of the biggest in the capital, not gold, but made of the purest white marble. Aside from thousands of candles, the only light source comes from the oculus, a circle-formed hole in the roof with a diameter of 12.34 meters. Right below the oculus, on the marble floor, stands an impressive round table, made of rare black marble. Movable and adjustable mirrors, smartly placed on the walls and ceiling of the Citadel, guaranteed that rays of light were always warming the black round table. While the open doors welcomed all foxes, the floor of the sanctum was divided into 12 equal pieces, marked by a pattern on the floor of the same marble as the table. Each tribe had its place within the Citadel.

At last, the ceremony had begun. Alphice walked through the entrance, followed by his inexperienced squire who didn’t know where to feast his eyes. As the first two sections on his right were empty, Darkeyes had a unique view of the contents of the Citadel. Never had he seen so many foxes gathered in one place. For the occasion, they had placed a comfy seat on the narrow part of each partition, facing towards the center. The dareful duo made a circle around the table and were saluted by the ten seated Clan Leaders, backed up by their kin. Darkeyes already spotted the Jade Sword, sleeping in its golden sheath and surrounded by dozens of snoring Geckos enjoying the warmth of the rays of light, guided by the mirrors to shine upon the black table. A Gecko was considered a weapon; therefore, it was written law to place your beloved pet on the darkened marble and your weaponry against the side. Am I dreaming? thought Darkeyes, full of excitement. He felt his heartbeat increase. He started to feel dizzy and as he looked around the hall, his vision faded more and more until there was a flash of green and it all became black.

“Are you feeling better?”

Darkeyes sat up straight immediately, disoriented by the lack of light, not knowing where he was or who was asking him that question. He looked around the room, trying to find something he recognized. Is this the back room again? wondered the young squire. I didn’t notice this bed the last time I was here … when I was with … Oh No! And he started to panic as his memory flowed back into his head.

“Calm down, everything is all right. You’re not the first one to pass out from its energy.”

Darkeyes looked around the room again. Where is this voice coming from? He spotted a faded greenish reflection in the mirror. There was no candlelight to help him see. He then noticed the dark shape that sat on the chair and … That must be the sword! But if that is Alphice sitting at the desk, then where is the other fox? Darkeyes scanned the room once again with the intent to spot someone else. Was it the Old Fox again? And he focused his eyes on the dark space where the door must be. But nobody was there.

“There is no one else, boy. Old Fox is meeting with the Clan leaders and the rulers of the city. It’s just you and me. You’ll have to get used to it!”. Now get yourself ready, we have a boat to catch.”

What is happening? Darkeyes pinched himself to make sure he was not dreaming. Can Lord Alphice talk? But he is an Ice fo --- He got interrupted by Alphice who was standing up and moved towards the door.

“I cannot speak. I might be a bit rusty, but I am well practiced with the energy emitted from Jade stone. Hearing me in your head proves you really devoted your life to me.” Alphice paused and looked into the boy’s eyes. “This means that you are now officially my squire.” He smiled. “Now hurry up, Brighteyes. I will see you at the harbor.

Brighteyes? Thought the boy while struggling to get out of bed. “Yes sir, but my name is Darkey …” He never finished his sentence as his eyes met his reflection in the mirror, seeing nothing else but two bright lights watching back at him.

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