“As Day to Night, Hot to Cold, they are the shadow reflection of each other….”
The world as they knew it consisted of two countries: Sigment, the land of mountain terrain and dark woods, and Lyra, a flat land dominated by fertile fields and orchards. The two countries had been at war as long as anyone could recall, but the last decade had borne a tense neutrality, a prolonged cease-fire, where border guards eyed one another suspiciously and the occasional ignitions of tempers resulted in sparse fighting.
Both countries shared the same rituals of which both would claim they were the sole inventor. Each child was believed to be born with a destiny concerning whom each should marry, and in the eighteenth year, each would travel to the High Temple in each capital, where the Royal Seer would ask them to gaze into the ever-flowing fountain to have the destined mate revealed. It was called the Ritual of the Reflection, as the seers could see the spouse as a shadowy reflection on the face of the young person in the water. In everyday life the event was simply known as the Reflection.
The Royal Family of Lyra looked forward to the crown prince’s Reflection. Yran, a young man, much adored by his people, pondered endlessly on the shape of his future mate. Would it be a woman or a man? For him, as crown prince, it did not matter. He was from birth ceremoniously married to a princess with whom he was expected to father an heir, but that lay years into the future. Who waited now was the mate he only recently had begun to feel. Each Reflection would send out a sensual ripple toward the intended; some only felt it after they had met, but Yran could sense something already and often felt consumed with a strange warm feeling all over his body. He knew it had to be his Reflection’s longing for him.
Times had been hard in Sigment. The people had just survived a harsh winter with much starvation where even the huge rivers had frozen solid, and the animals had been difficult to catch in the deep snow. Now the rivers were melting, the animals were yet again easy to catch, and life was strangely… comfortable, a most foreign concept to the rugged people of Sigment.
Crown Prince Flynn would be the country’s next ruler, though he could have sworn the thought never occurred to his feather-brained father, who still kept him out of the council’s meetings. Thankfully the king’s seer, Dydd, and his chief advisors saw the great danger of an inactive crown prince and often held council with him to make sure he knew as much or even more than the king. The men had watched the young man from birth and had soon discovered that he had an unusually keen eye and a sharp brain to match.
“So, Prince Flynn, do you feel nervous of tomorrow?”
Flynn looked up at his father’s seer, confusion easy to read in his blue eyes. “Nervous? No, it’s a ball just like the rest of the parties my silly siblings try to get my mother’s approval for, every day of the year….”
Dydd frowned. “No, my Lord, I speak of the holy event in the temple tomorrow. The Ritual of the Reflection. There is not a woman or a man your age alive in the land who will not toss and turn all night, both fearing and rejoicing at the thought of meeting their destiny….” His voice trailed off as he met Flynn’s clear blue gaze and sighed. “A little passion is not unwelcome in a ruler, my Lord,” he tried again. “Not too much, but just enough makes him understand his subjects better.”
He met Flynn’s cool eyes, which resembled the icy rivers a little too well, and was relieved when a smile appeared on Flynn’s face, showing another facet of his personality as he answered.
“I see enough passion in my father, most honored Dydd. I daresay I will meet this Reflection and mate with the same feeling I show everyone. Calmness.”
Flynn looked down at the book he was reading, and Dydd sighed, thinking: If the Gods are willing, then hear my prayer. Send someone to teach him just a little of the emotions that make the hearts of all men throb. He did not say it out loud, though. Not that Dydd feared to speak his mind to anyone, but the young man seemed tense lately, and it showed in the frown on his face and the tight muscles in his neck, as if he were caught by a strain he would not own up to. Dydd found himself wondering how indifferent Flynn really was.
Flynn did not lie, or he did not know he did, since he had absolutely no idea of what he dreamed every night, dreams of romantic conquests or violent passion, dreams that changed every night but had one person in them who always seemed to return. He would dream that he embraced that person and felt himself embraced, but in the morning he forgot everything. A part of his mind constantly tried to remind him of this face, and it made him tense and irritated, as if a part of him had escaped and could not be reined in, no matter how hard he tried.