Vance has always been the quiet twin, the one more likely to observe than act on impulse, but as Ostara approaches he discovers a desire to stand out. While his twin may have been a boisterous Winter, his Summer is no less powerful and when volunteers are called forth for a chance to win a Prince, he must decide whether he’s truly comfortable in the shadows.
“Spring is a t-tragedy born of winter, f-flowers sprout and then die. Rain f-fa-falls and then halts, new green lea-leaves that grow too s-s-slow die within a few d-da-days,” one of the actors on the stage proclaimed to the audience.
He was dressed in a cloak made of fabric leaves in all the colors of autumn. It covered his entire body in an attempt to hide the rather plain gray clothing under the richly dyed fabric. On his head was a crown of bittersweet that had been dried and the leaves crackled against his hair as he shifted nervously from foot to foot.
“Autumn is the death of warmth,” the other actor on stage said. He tilted his chin up just slightly too high and the antler headdress fell off his head.
Both actors froze as the loud clatter filled the nearly empty theater around them. A slow clap rang out from somewhere behind the spell lights that shone out from the back of the theater.
“Oh, goody,” a male voice drawled, “two days from the End of Hunt celebration and Riley still can’t keep his crown on his head.”
“Shut up, Ed,” a female voice snapped and the spell lights went out. “Can’t you go half an hour without being an asshole?”
“What? It’s true,” Ed said. “At least he’s not as bad as Adam, he keeps stuttering.”
“Why don’t you get up on stage and recite it then,” another male voice growled from somewhere near the center of the chairs. “It’s not like the Prince is going to show up here.”
“He could,” Ed said, sounding offended. “Violet is the strongest magic user in the region. We’ve gotten visits from Princes before, Vance.”
“Not Spring,” Vance scoffed, “and not in over fifty years. And what if Violet doesn’t volunteer for the Hunt?”
“All right you two, calm down,” the female voice said. “Amelia, bring up the lights, please.”
“Got it, boss,” another female voice said and a group of greenish lights slowly brightened close to the ceiling.
A blonde girl of about nineteen years of age strode down the center aisle of the auditorium to stand in front of the stage. The actors fidgeted under her warm brown gaze as she looked them over from head to toe before floating up and onto the stage. She bent calmly to pick up the antler crown and examined it for damage.
“Can you two do this?” she asked calmly, voice carrying in the silence.
“Yes, ma’am,” the two boys chorused.
“I don’t think you can,” she told them. They sagged under her gaze. “At least, not as you are now. Adam, give Riley your cloak.”
The boys perked up and Adam scrambled to do what was asked of him. Riley took the cloak without question and slung it across his shoulders. Violet nodded and then set the antler crown on Adam’s fiery curls.
“Good, now you will be performing your parts in reverse, do you understand me?” she asked in a conversational tone.
“But I’m not an Autumn,” Riley protested.
“And I’m not a Spring,” Adam added.
“It doesn’t matter.” Violet shook her head. “And if anyone asks we’ll just tell them it was a creative decision meant to show the unity between the two Thrones. But this play is going to go well if it kills me.”
Vance winced from where he was sitting, opening his mouth to comment, only to be interrupted by the sound of bells in the distance. All heads turned to look at the doors to the theater as they counted the tolls.
“Eight?” Amelia asked from where she floated in the webwork of lights above them.
“I counted nine,” Ed said from the wooden chair he had leaned against the back wall.
“Nine,” Vance and Violet confirmed in unison.
The two boys on stage sagged in disappointment and grumbled as they started to take the costumes off. The four older teens helped pick up the few props that had been scattered across the stage during the play’s run through before they all piled out of the theater. It was almost dusk, sun slowly sinking toward the horizon and painting the sky orange.
The air was chilly but not bitingly cold and snow was slowly melting on either side of the street. Violet and Vance turned left while everyone else turned right. The inn where they lived was on the eastern side of town, closest to the main road, and the theater was in the center. It was slightly lonely given that their friends lived on the other end of town, but Violet had always been outgoing and tended to drag her twin along behind her.
“You know,” Violet said as they got far enough away from the others to be able to talk without them overhearing, “I’m pretty sure Ed wouldn’t say no to hate sex.”
“Violet!” Her brother’s moss green eyes were wide with horror.
“What?” Violet gave him an exasperated look. “You don’t think I’m that oblivious do you? For Spring’s sake, Vance, I have eyes you know.”
“I don’t want to have sex with Ed.” Vance groaned and covered his face with his hands.
“Oh, really? Then, why are you so determined to get his magic up?” Violet asked.
“I’m just…” He paused and dragged his hands down his face. “It’s the Hunt, okay? You’re going to volunteer for it and the Prince is going to show up and take you away from this tiny little town in the middle of nowhere and you’ll be treated like a princess in a castle far, far away.”
Violet looked at him with narrowed eyes. “That’s not it, you’re lying. Why are you lying? You know I can tell when you lie.”
“It is the Hunt!” Vance snapped at her.
“You want to participate,” she said after a moment of contemplation, ignoring the scoff her brother gave. “You want to get Caught. Oh my Spring, you want to be the Prince’s Chosen. How did I not know this?”
“Shut up,” Vance moaned. He sped up in an attempt to leave his sister behind him.