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The Baby

High Prince Leo of Stella sat down at the large circular table. It was rare for them to eat breakfast in the dining hall of the castle, but the rest of his twelve siblings arrived last night at the behest of his sister, Candace, who had an announcement. Of course, he knew what the announcement would be, they all did, but he played dumb anyway. This would be the first grandchild for his father, and so it warranted a special breakfast.

Bright yellow lights hung from the ceiling, and the floor glowed white. Light flowed from nearly every surface, as the darkness could be suffocating. Thank the stars for magic. Leo looked around the noisy table. Over the last few years, the number of people around the table had grown. When they were children, there were only twelve of them, plus his father and his father’s wife. Now, couples were starting to emerge. Three of his older siblings were married, and others had steady relationships. At seventeen, Leo had had a relationship or two, but at the moment he was free. Which was a lonely place to be when his favorite sister was about to announce that she was pregnant. Where in the depths were Ari and Sage? They would keep him entertained. But they were always late.

Candace caught his eye, and he smiled at her. She practically glowed. She wore her deep black hair swept up in a twist. He hadn’t seen her wear it down since she got married.

He missed having her around. They were the only two siblings who shared the same mother, and that created a special bond between them. But now Candace was a lower queen and had too many responsibilities to come home often.

A hand thumped him on the shoulder, and his eldest brother, Ari, collapsed into the armchair to Leo’s right. He sat with his leg flung over the armrest, his blue hair hanging in his eyes. To Leo’s left, his sister Sage sat down, flicking her rainbow-colored hair over her shoulder. She had deep purple bloodshot eyes. She yawned and put her head on the table.

“Late night?” Leo asked.

Sage nodded into her arms. “Has she announced that she’s been knocked up yet?”

Ari straightened in his chair and poured himself a glass of juice. “She can’t be knocked up if she’s married.”

“She’s only been married for a month. My guess is she’s a few months along. That’s knocked up,” Sage said, sitting up and rubbing her forehead. “Remind me to never drink again.”

Ari laughed. “You say that every time we go out. The last time I reminded you, you punched me.” He turned his attention to Leo. “How come you didn’t come out with us last night? I sent you a few messages.”

“I turned off my disc. I wanted to spend some time with Candace. She won’t be here long.”

“Right,” said Sage. “You just don’t like to party. Maybe you should go live in Sol.”

Leo snorted into his glass of orange juice. “If I have to live in Sol, you two are coming with me.”

“They’d kick us out so fast. Ugh, what did I do to my hair?” Sage asked, examining the multi-colored locks. She squeezed her eyes shut, and it returned to the brilliant violet she usually rocked. She dug into her pocket, took out a small bottle, and downed it.

Before Leo could ask what it was, Candace stood, and the whole table fell silent, except for Sage, who was giggling. Candace glared at Sage, and Leo squeezed her knee. She covered her mouth and tried to stifle the giggles. The small bottle clinked next to her plate, and he picked it up. The label said “Giggle.”

“That’s not nice,” Leo hissed at her. “Taking this potion right now. You’re going to ruin the announcement.” As the tenth child, Sage got away with more than the rest of them, but sometimes she took things too far. This wasn’t fair to Candace.

“Sorry.” She giggled. “I thought it was Sober. My head is killing me. For what it’s worth, the giggling isn’t helping.”

Candace cleared her throat as the door creaked opened. Every head in the room turned.

An old woman hobbled in. She was large with a pale weather-beaten face, and she wore a bulging tattered coat. An earthy odor emanated from her. She crept slowly to the table and then plucked an apple from a bowl. She took a bite and spit it out, revealing gray teeth.

“Blech, those taste much better in Sol. I need to remember to eat before I come next time.” She looked around the table. Her blue eyes pierced Leo’s, and he shivered.

The entire table sat in shocked silence. No one moved. Leo had heard the stories about the Old Mother who gave horrible prophecies that required someone to make a great sacrifice. He didn’t know anyone who had actually met her. He assumed the rumors were simply scary stories kids told each other.

The old woman cackled and pointed to Candace. Leo’s stomach clenched. Not now. Not her. He pushed his chair back, ready to help Candace if she needed it. He crept around the table and made his way toward her.

“A prophecy I have for you. The vipers grow restless. They long for the blood you deny, and they are changing. If the kingdoms of Stella and Sol are not joined by that child’s first birthday, then he will die,” said the Old Mother.

She stared at each of them in turn, making eye contact. “And he will not be the last. The union must be strong. You must prove to the earth that Stella and Sol will be forever joined, or the vipers will eat you all.”

With a poof and a cloud of dust, she disappeared from their midst. Not a sound was heard in the room except Sage’s giggling.

sol_stella_by_mistybeee

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