Chapter 27

ScreenshotThe sky is dark tonight and full of stars. One star, I see, is shining brighter than the others. Gaea.

It is a world amidst the stars. Perhaps fate’s fingertips will pluck me from my sleep and lift me to her shadowed shores…

Screenshot-103The young man put his pen down as the door crept open.

“Oh! Forgive me Lord Falcon. I did not been to disturb you. I thought you were… someone else. I’ll leave you to your work.”

Screenshot-135“Do not worry yourself, Grinwoody. I was just taking a break from writing all these invitations anyway.”

Falcon had not spoke in an unkindly way, yet the the footman went running as though he had been shouted at.

Screenshot-132“That old popinjay is like a dog with a bone!”

Falcon glanced down and had to grin. Vaughn was crouched beside the desk so Grinwoody could not see him, his wiry body contorted like a stork trying to bend itself double. His brown eyes twinkled with mischief, as usual.

Screenshot-124Falcon scoffed as the younger male folded himself into a chair opposite.

“You can’t avoid Father forever, Vaughn.”

“I’m not avoiding him. I’m just eager to take some time… not away from Father exactly, just… without him.”

Screenshot-30“Indeed.”

Falcon said flatly.

“The question, little brother, is why.”

Screenshot-29“I think he suspects I might be the one who—

Well, it doesn’t matter, I suppose. He only ever summons me when he wishes to scold me.”

Screenshot-117Falcon took pause at the melancholy in the boy’s tone.

“That’s not true, Vaughn. You must understand, Father is Earl Afonsine and has a lot of responsibility. Since I am the elder son that title will be left to me, one day. That is the only reason why he appears to pay more attention to me.”

Screenshot-133“Shall I tell you a secret? When Father and I are alone, he only ever talks about you. He tells me that your skill with piano is second to none!”

“… truly?” 

“Truly. All he ever does is sing your praises – it’s actually quite irksome.”

Screenshot-11“There have been many a time where I have envied you, Vaughn, feeling much the same. If all you ever hear are his praises toward me, rest assured that none have ever reached my ears. “

Screenshot-25Vaughn’s countenance brightened.

“Let’s go before Grinwoody comes back. Charles and I caught a big, old badger – all grouchy at being pulled from its den. I was thinking of letting it loose on the green and watching the girls run.”

Screenshot-24Falcon’s smile broadened. The idea did not sound as appealing as it might have a year or two ago, but Vaughn never seemed to grow up.

“I’m afraid I can’t – Father would have me finish these letters.”

Screenshot-116“Mother is anxious to arrange my engagement. As a result, I’m tasked with writing invitations to suitable debuntantes…”

“Blergh!” Vaughn exclaimed with immeasurable distaste. “I never took you for such a blind fool, Falcon!”

Screenshot-120“And how do you deduce that?” Falcon asked the younger boy in good-nature.

“Well, you can’t be very bright, or they’d never have been able to shove you around so much! One thing is for certain: it isn’t going to happen to Vaughn Afonsine!”

Screenshot-12“So you say,” Falcon chided, “But I believe Mother has invited Lady Landgraab for high tea today. I do hope Millerna is with her. Watching you stare at her all day looking like you’ve been poleaxed will be as good as a badger any day.”

Screenshot-123Vaughn flushed. He really had just managed to put Millerna Landgraab out of his mind.

At the very best of times he was never very nimble with girls, but whenever Millerna gave him that intent look, as if every last ounce of her attention was on him, he just could not seem to make the words go where he wanted.

Screenshot-27“Now, won’t you tell me why are you hiding from Grinwoody this time?”

Vaughn shrugged. 

“I told Charles that some of the staff had seen ghost hounds breathing fire and running wild in the estate. He ate it up like clotted cream.”

Screenshot-34“And Father is mad at you for that?”

Falcon said doubtfully.

Screenshot-106“Um. Not… exactly.” The teen hesitated for a moment.

“You see, I covered the hunting dogs with flour, so they were all white and let them loose on the grounds. But how was I to know they would run straight back into Father’s study? It really wasn’t my fault.”

Screenshot-139“Vaughn!”

Said teen immediately schooled his expression into one of perfect innocence – he’d had years of practice – as their mother stepped into the room, obviously having heard the entire admission.

Screenshot-63Vaughn leapt to his feet at the first word and began backing away. “Mother! Father sent me to—”

“No doubt he did,” Moiraine said with a knowing look, “And no doubt, since you are a boy who does as he is told right off, you’ve finished already.”

Screenshot-48His mother so held his attention that at first Vaughn failed to see she was not alone.

When he realised his mistake, he began to think of leaving no matter if his Father’s slimy servant found him or not.

Screenshot-54Charles’ mother, Countess Marlene Landgraab, and her daughter, Lady Millerna Landgraab, stood only a few paces behind his mother, watching intently.

Screenshot-95As usual, Millerna held herself up with a grace and air of command that made Vaughn feel awkward and stumble-footed. She was barely tall enough to come up to his shoulders, but her presence was such that her height seemed the proper one, and he felt at once ungainly in his tallness.

Screenshot-145“If you are done staring like a moonstruck lamb, perhaps you might remember your manners and bid our guests good day, Vaughn.

What was it you were just saying? Isn’t going to happen to you? Just keep your mouth shut and bow for all you’re worth, and I’ll pull your bacon off the coals.”

Screenshot-93Vaughn nodded, then swallowed around the lump in his throat. Because Millerna was two years older than him, it had never before occurred to Vaughn that he would reach marriagble age at the same time.

Screenshot-150Falcon always seemed to know what to say, where women were concerned. His mother already appeared pacified by Falcon’s attentions, as they conversed jovially in rather rapid French, while Countess Landgraab looked on.

Screenshot-158Millerna approached him, giggling.

“Your face truly was a picture, Vaughn! Why, I haven’t seen you look quite so terrified since your Lord father caught you and Charles up in his apple trees when you were ten.”

Screenshot-156The corners of her mouth quirked in a smile so beautiful that it made Vaughn’s mouth go dry.  

… but whatever he had been about words he was about to flounder for died in his mouth as Grinwoody marched back through the door, eyes narrowed.

Screenshot-198Almost a decade on and Millerna Landgraab’s beauty still managed to melt Vaughn’s insides.

Just looking at her he remembered why he’d been so intimidated by her when they were children.

Screenshot-199“Vaughn. It’s been a while since we last spoke, has it not?”

A twinge or resentment curled inside Vaughn’s belly. It had been – indeed – quite a while since they’d last spoken.

Screenshot-205“So… how have you been?”

Vaughn smiled beignly. “Haven’t you heard the rumours? They are all over the place.”

“Rumours are rarely truthful, Vaughn.”

“And what part of it seems untrue to you, my lady?”

Screenshot-209“I heard…” Millerna ventured at last, “That you and Lady Harrington are courting. Exclusively.”

“You heard correctly, then. See? Not all rumours are pure rubbish.”

Screenshot-200“Vaughn…”

Millerna’s voice was pitched low, a tone Vaughn could recognise anywhere.

“… you still haven’t told me how you’ve been.”

Screenshot-220“I’ve been—“

How have I been, really? Vaughn paused, thoughtfully. Angry? Happy? Relieved? Tired?

“… fine.”

Screenshot-11Millerna’s calm, grey eyes watched him softly. It was a weak answer and they both knew it.

“Fine?”

“Yes, perfectly fine.”

Screenshot-204He certainly wasn’t feeling defeated or upset or anything. Why should he? Wasn’t this the natural outcome that everyone had seen coming? Why wouldn’t he be okay with something he couldn’t possibly do anything about?

If only his chest would stop aching, everything would be completely perfect.

Screenshot-186“You’re terrible, Vaughn.

I can only guess what goes on in your head, because you don’t talk. I shouldn’t even care.”

Screenshot-224“I’m just giving everybody want they want…”

Vaughn muttered sullenly, almost too low to be heard.

Screenshot-210“What about what you want? What happened to the boy – no, the man – who stopped at nothing, and cared for no one, until he got what he wanted? What happened to that drive?

What happened to you, Vaughn?”

Screenshot-219“Oh yes, my father would just love that.” Vaughn remarked darkly.

“I think he would be content to know you’re alive and happy.”

He blanched at that. “You think I’m happy?”

Screenshot-223“I think — “

Millerna took a deep breath and let it out in a heavy sigh.

“I think that you could be. You don’t have to keep paying for his death. It wasn’t your fault.”

Screenshot-18Vaughn’s face took on a sickly pallor.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Two weeks from now I’m going home – I’m going from here and from this cursed country both.”

Screenshot-19Millerna froze.

“I’m sorry, Vaughn. Please don’t misunderstand me – I didn’t mean… I only meant that it’s time to find a new reason to stay now.”

Screenshot-6“And you want that to be you?”

Vaughn laughed suddenly, a bitter sound.

“Now that’s what I call humble.”

Screenshot-231Millerna took a deep breath. The implication of her next statement felt like a weight upon her lungs, making it slightly difficult to breathe.

“Do you enjoy being cruel and beastly to me? Why can’t you understand? I love you, Vaughn.”

Screenshot-250“You tell yourself that, but what’s the point in it? You can’t even deal with me in reality.”

Vaughn’s voice sounded unbearably weary.

Screenshot-226“Millerna I… I’m not the Vaughn that was. Can’t you understand that? I can’t be that person anymore, because when I am… I can’t breathe, I can’t even move.”

He drew in one shaky breath.

“Falcon told me not to cross the bridge, but I… I didn’t listen, just like I never listened. I always thought I knew best.”

Screenshot-235“… I can’t live my life knowing that’s he’s dead because of how I was back then because it cost me everything, and I hate it. I hate it!”

Millerna swallowed, incapable of saying anything to that. She felt helpess and devastated because this was something she hadn’t even suspected.

Screenshot-16“Millerna… this is what I want. At least like this, I’m not… me. And… I’m not even sure what that is anymore, anyway.

Why not choose this then? Why not be… what I can be?”

Screenshot-32Dark eyes regarded her with deeply troubled shadows at the edges.

“I’m not who you want me to be, Millerna… and I never will be.”

Screenshot-232Millerna felt the hot prickling of tears in her eyes.

It hurt to say the words and bare herself to such extent when Vaughn wasn’t giving an inch.

Screenshot-246“Why do you forbid what your heart is saying to you now?”

“It says nothing.” Vaughn replied flatly.

“You’re wrong! I can hear it louder than music!”

Screenshot-35“How can you stand here beside me and pretend not to remember? Not to know that my heart is breaking for you? If you just looked at me once with what I know is in you, I would be your slave.”

Screenshot-182“You don’t need that Harrington girl. Look at me. I’m pretty, I’m a woman and I love you! You’re all of life to me! Please, let me be a single breath of it for you!”

Screenshot-239Vaughn shivered, mouth pulled down in a grimace. “Millerna…”

“If she loved you with all the power of her soul for a whole lifetime, she couldn’t love you as much as I do in a single day!”

Screenshot-17Vaughn’s lashes were long and when he drooped his eyelids they hid the quenched flame of his gaze. Something flickered and guttered out in those dark depths.

“I told you— I told you this wouldn’t work.”

Screenshot-234“I told you—“

I’m not who you want me to be… and I will never be.

“— you should have let go.”

Screenshot-253“Good day, Lady Landgraab.”

Vaughn made to leave, but her hand shot out to grasp his wrist, effectively stopping him.

Screenshot-2Dark hair fell over one eye as he stared her down, implacably.

“Please let me go.”

Screenshot-172

Millerna squeezed at his wrist, staring deep into his eyes, willing him to understand that somehow – stupidly – she still loved him, still loved all of him. Just like Vaughn had never stopped loving his brother: with that same loyalty, the same sorrow.

“But I still love you!”

Screenshot-256“Then…

….let me go.”

Screenshot-258She did.

Numbness crept over her as he hurriedly walked away.

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8 responses to “Chapter 27

  • LilyParker

    Vaughn and Falcon were adorable as teens. As always, you take great pics! Love the closeups for the facial expressions.

    Back to present day … I think we BOTH know there’s only one woman who can turn Vaughn’s frown upside down. Estelle!!! He’s so broken. 😦 Alas, it seems I must wait (im)patiently for another update to see if I get my wish. 😛

  • Tiff

    Wow that was intense..I can’t believe she threw herself at him like that. Like LilyParker said, Vaughn is really broken. It’s so sad to see him that way 😦

    • Becki

      Intense good…? I hope so!

      I didn’t mean to just THROW the whole Vaughn/Millerna thing out there like that… but yeah, just assume they have some intense history. We’ll be seeing a bit more of her in coming chapters ^_~

  • marsar2

    Vaughn is utterly devastated. He’s beginning to show a part of himself that he’s kept hidden for too long, it was really sad seeing him like that :(, but somehow I can feel he needs to free himself from the burden of his guilt.

    And that Millerna is a bit too clingy, isn’t she? 😉

    I missed Estelle in this one, but it was, as usual, a great update :D.

    • Becki

      Hey, I’m glad you liked it (…despite the overwhelming sense of despair, haha)! Yeah, Millerna is clingy. She’s obsessed with Vaughn, or, at least, what Vaughn used to be before Falcon died. She just can’t differentiate, unlike Charles.

      I plan to do alternate Vaughn/Estelle chapters ~ so chapter 28 will be Estelle 🙂

  • vampireXheart

    God, I am so completely in love with the way you write and take photos. Your characters, and scenes, and everything. All of it together is just so breathtaking.

    I hope that Vaughn can let go of his past and finally move onto something better. Love. I think one of the reasons he’s still getting married is because she doesn’t love him, and he thinks he deserves to spend the rest of his life with someone who doesn’t love him. And I think that Milerna loves the old Vaughn, but Estelle loves him for him.

    I just wish he could find peace.

    • Becki

      Thank you ❤ ❤ ❤

      ~ You're completely right! He's not thinking of himself. He's only going through the motions in order to fill his brother's empty shoes~

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