It was a beautiful day, a little cloudy, but the weather was nice, not too hot but not too cold either. All in all it was a perfect day to go out, especially to the theater. Delaney quite enjoyed the plays put on at this particular amphitheater, and the opportunity it gave her to hang out with Alex, her brother, and her dad made it even better. Even the presence of the Shephards couldn’t dampen her spirits.
The play was a good one; it was a comedy and those were always the best. It made her laugh on many occasions which made the whole experience even more enjoyable. She watched as the actors started putting away their costumes, admiring some of the pretty dresses that some of them had worn. ‘I bet mom would like those…’ she thought as she spotted a few extra fancy dresses complete with jewels and intricate embroidery.
“I am the great and powerful…Bobadil! Fear me!”
Delaney quickly turned to see her friend Alex puffing out his chest as he quoted the play. A giggle escaped her mouth at the sight only to grow as her brother joined in on the charade.
“You are but a mere jester, what have I to fear?” Nathan responded to Alex’s words, quoting the play word for word.
“You have everything to fear! For I have more power than any king with my jokes, I can make you laugh and laughter is very powerful!”
Delaney continued to giggled as the two of them bantered back and forth, quoting lines to the best of their ability. At one point Nathan flipped his sandy blond hair back as if to emphasize his importance and when Alex tried to copy the image she couldn’t help laughing all the more. After all there was a big difference between Nathan’s curly hair and Alex’s shorter black hair.
This went on for quite a while but eventually the three of them were laughing so hard that they had to stop. Only after she had caught her breath did Delaney speak and even then a giggle or two broke out.
“Haha, you two are almost as good as the actors themselves! Maybe you should try out for their next play.”
“I’m sure I would become a star!” Nathan said, puffing out his chest for a moment before adding in a more serious tone. “But alas I have other duties to attend to, like learning how to run a country.”
“Yeah, being an actor might be fun but I’d rather become a guard. That way I can protect people, just like my dad!” Alex said, grinning at the thought.
This made Delaney smile, “Haha yeah I guess that is true, but acting could always be a back up option!” They all laughed some more and then continued talking. At one point Nathan got up to walk around for a little bit and Delaney was just about to try her own hand at reciting the play with Alex when a tap on her shoulder quickly distracted her. Turning her head she saw her dad holding a paper hat, “Here you go Laney, I thought you might like this,” he said smiling as he handed it to her.
Delaney took the hat and smiled. It seemed a little to small to fit on her head but that didn’t bother her, it was still neat, especially as she saw all of the folds in the paper that made it what it was. “Thanks Daddy!” She said, grinning at him before examining the hat again.
“Anything for my princess,” Bhatiar said then put his hand on her shoulder, “I’m going to get up for a bit, want to come?”
“I think I’ll stay here for now. Are we going to be heading home soon?” Delaney asked, not that she wanted to go home but they had been sitting there for about an hour after the play had finished so it was a reasonable question.
“Yes, that is if Joshua doesn’t insist on ‘being witty’…” Bhatair said, making air quotes in the air as he spoke. Then he gave her another smile before walking forward.
Delaney was just trying on her paper hat when she heard a voice shout. She didn’t even have to look to know it was her dad shouting at Joshua, apparently he had been more wound up than she had thought.
“Why can’t they just leave us alone?” She mused aloud as she took the too small hat off of her head.
“I don’t know but I sure wish they would. King Bhatair can get kind of scary when he’s mad,” Alex answered from beside her.
She nodded silently in agreement. As much as she loved her dad she still had to admit he could be quite frightening when his temper got the best of him. Unfortunately Joshua Shephard seemed to think it was funny and thus he constantly tried to irritate Bhatair.
“Are you coming?” her dad’s voice called out and Delaney glanced up to see that her brother had returned. He shook his head in response to the king. “Suit yourself.”
“Why didn’t you want to…?” Delaney started to ask Nathan but another voice cut her off.
Head snapping around, Delaney just caught sight of her dad as a strange man threw a knife at him. Gasping she started forward but was stopped by a firm hand grabbing her arm. Looking up she saw Nathan staring forward at the scene that was starting to unfold.
He turned his gaze to her and crouched down behind the seats, pulling her down next to him as he did so. “Stay low. We don’t know what these people want but it’s better to be safe than sorry,” her brother said then grabbed Alex and pulled him down next to her. “Stay next to Delaney and keep her safe. Don’t try to run until these guys leave, unless they start coming after you, then run like the wind. Got it?”
Alex nodded in understand, “You can count on me,” he said, then pulled out a small knife that his father had given him a few months ago.
Nathan nodded then carefully stood up, narrowing his eyes as he watched what was happening. Even Alex tried to peer over the wall, but he wasn’t quite tall enough to see much of anything.
The sound of swords and The Silver Eye echoed all around, tempting Delaney to look as well, but she knew she wouldn’t like what she saw and she wasn’t about to disobey her brother. She jumped a little as a hand rested on her shoulder but she quickly relaxed when she realized it was only Alex. He would keep her safe, and so would Nathan…and her dad would be fine too, right?
All of the voices and noises started blurring together so that Delaney couldn’t tell who was speaking or what they were even saying. But suddenly a voice rang out louder than all of the other noises and the words sent a wave of fear over her.
“N…n..Nathan what is going on?” she asked, her voice shaking but as she looked up she saw that her brother no where to be found. Delaney started standing up but Alex quickly pushed her back down.
“What’s going on? Where did Nathan go?” She asked, wanting to stand up but freezing as she looked up and saw Alex’s face.
His eyes were wide, fear and shock was shining in them; whatever he saw wasn’t something she wanted to see. But still she had to know, “Dad…is dad ok?”
Alex looked away from her and that made her blood freeze. Surely Bhatair was ok. Maybe he was just hurt? It couldn’t be anything too serious right?
“Alex?” she asked again in a hushed voice, as she tried to reassure herself that everything was going to be ok. The noise that had been echoing through the air was starting to die down, and that’s when she heard a strange voice.
“Cut him up until he is no longer recognizable as being human.”
Fear gripped her heart. Who? Who were they talking about?!? Was it Bhatair? Or Nathan? Or Joshua? As much as the king of Cedulan annoyed her she still didn’t want him to be killed…Once more she tried to stand up to get a glimpse of what was happening but Alex’s hand was planted firmly on her shoulder, forcing her to stay sitting.
“Don’t…there…there are still a lot of the attackers left…” Her friend’s voice sounded different. It was heavy, sad, surprised, or something like that, maybe even a mix of all three. Before she had a chance to respond though he spoke up again, “Oh wait, there are more soldiers rushing in.” As he spoke Delaney saw him tense up and immediately her body did the same, if these were more enemies they might need to make a run for it. “Wait, they are Celudan…I…I think they are here to help…”
At that Delaney relaxed some, but her muscles still refused to release completely. Curiosity and fear mixed together in her mind. She wanted to know what was going on but she was scared of what she might see. All she wanted was to be affirmed that her dad and brother were ok, but most of all she just wanted all of this to be over, for all of them to be able to go home and forget any of it had ever happened.
“I see Nathan…”
Alex’s voice broke through her thoughts and Delaney quickly looked up. “You do? Where? Is he ok? Is dad with him? Can I get up now?” she asked, her fear and worry making her talk faster than normal. What she needed right now was assurance that everything was alright, that was all she wanted but she was only met with silence. After a moment Alex spoke up again, but his voice was strained and he quickly looked away from the wall. “No…you don’t want to see this…and…and Nathan told you to stay put…”
Delaney nodded slowly and stayed where she was, but waiting was agony, especially since she still had no clue what had happened or what was still going on. Looking down she saw the paper hat on her lap. Picking it up she fiddled with it a bit, bending it back and forth but being careful not to mess with any of the folds.
Looking up quickly Delaney saw Nathan looking down at her. His blue eyes were bloodshot and there were tear stains on his face.
“Nathan! What happened? Are you ok? Where’s dad…?” Once again fear made her talk faster than she would have liked, but her words were cut short as she saw her brother’s reaction when she said the word ‘dad.’
“Nathan?” She asked, her voice was barely a squeak as she felt fear grip her heart. A thought had been forming in the back of her mind ever since she had seen Alex’s reaction to what had been going on. It was a horrible thought, one that didn’t deserve to even be thought, let alone be true. But then her brother spoke and his words confirmed it.
“Dad…” Nathan’s voice cracked, “Dad is gone…he…they…”
Delaney heard him, but she didn’t want to believe. She couldn’t believe it. How could her father be gone? He was still young, he still had a long life ahead of him, he still needed to be there as she grew up, to be there when she got married, to give her advice and help guide her through life. It couldn’t be true. He couldn’t be gone; she was only a kid, she needed him still. She couldn’t imagine going to the beach or watching the night sky without him. All of these things swirled around her mind but they all came back to one thought that played over and over again in her mind; it couldn’t be true. This had to be a joke, though what kind of sick person would play this cruel of a joke? Still, she had to know, she had to see him for herself. Standing up quickly Delaney took a few steps forward but Nathan stepped in front of her.
“But…but…I have to see him…” by now she was shaking, the shock of the whole thing was setting into her body. Her brain was slowly starting to process it all, but she still didn’t want to believe it.
Nathan crouched down so he was level with her and looked her in the eyes, there was a haunted look to them and the emotions swirling around in his gaze confirmed it all. He couldn’t be lying; it was true. No one could act this well,”It…it doesn’t even look like him, you can’t even tell…”
“How? Why? I…he can’t be gone!!!” The wall of emotions that had been welling up inside of Delaney’s chest broke. She couldn’t hold it in anymore. A sob escaped her mouth and tears started welling up in her eyes, “Please…Nathan, please…he…Daddy..he..he can’t be gone…”
Arms wrapped around her as the first tear fell and before she knew it she was sobbing, and by the shaking of his shoulders she knew Nathan was crying too.
They sat there for who knows how long, shaking and crying more than they ever thought anyone ever could in one lifetime. Tears were still streaming down Delaney’s face when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Pulling away ever so slightly she saw Alex holding the hat Bhatair had given her only a few hours ago, when he had still been alive. Reaching out she grabbed it and brought it close to her chest.
“It’s ok Delaney…” Nathan said, leaning back a little before grabbing her shoulders. When he did so she looked at his tear stained face and saw determination glowing in his eyes. “Mark my words little sister. Whoever did this will pay and they will regret this day for the rest of their lives.”
The words were barely out of his mouth when everything started fading into darkness.
Delaney’s eyes snapped open. She wasn’t looking into Nathan’s bloodshot eyes anymore. No, she was on her side staring at her dresser. It has been a dream, but it was the worst kind of dream. It wasn’t a nightmare that she could dismiss, it was a memory, one that would always haunt her. True, things had gotten better over the years. She had moved on, as had her mother and brother, but that didn’t mean she still didn’t miss her father.
Sitting up slightly, she leaned over and opened her dresser drawer. Narrowing her one good eye she rummaged through the contents, most of which where a variety of eye patches. Judging by the light coming from the window it was already morning, so she figured she might as well get up. After all she doubted she would be able to fall asleep again. And even if she did there was a small prickle of fear that she would have the same dream and she did not want to have to live through that all again.
Catching sight of one of her favorite eyes patches Delaney grabbed it and was about to close the drawer when she saw it. It had been covered by the eye patch but now that she saw it all of the emotions of her dream came rushing back.
Placing the eye patch on the dresser she carefully reached down and grabbed it. The paper was wrinkled and it had a few rough spots from where tears had fallen onto it, but she hardly took any notice of the imperfections. She fingered it gently, remembering all of the times she had pulled it out of her drawer in the middle of the night and clung to it. It had comforted her in many times of distress; her little paper hat.
She pressed it to her chest and lied back on the bed for a moment. Closing her eyes she tried to picture her father’s face, his minty blue eyes, his slightly crooked smile, his curly brown hair. There was an ache in her chest at the picture but it also comforted her. She hadn’t forgotten him, she still remembered what he looked like, and not just from the portraits in the castle. No, she remembered the way his eyes would sparkle when he laughed, how his hair would rustle in the salty ocean air, and how his smile could lighten up even the darkest of days.
As she lay there Delaney let herself be lost in all the good memories of her father. She wouldn’t ever forget him. No, she would always remember. Clutching the hat a little bit harder she opened her eyes and looked at it one more time through a misty eye, then in an almost inaudible voice she whispered, “Miss you Daddy…”