Three girls underneath a hedge, trapped in a love triangle
How Journeys End

How Journeys End Chapter Seven: The Royal Magician

How Journeys End by Pineapple | Content Warnings

In the middle of Camellia’s third month as personal guard, the royal magician returned from her sojourn with the Nastur Kingdom’s allies, where she had been teaching magic to promising students. There was a banquet to welcome her back, to gather allies and prospects, so she could tell of her journey and what she had learned.

Camellia watched as she was led in, carefully observing the new addition to the court and the castle. This was the person who had the authority to send Viola on a mission with confidentiality. She walked with the same grace as the princess and the same purpose as a soldier. Her eyes were a vivid purple, and large with long lashes, but serious. Nothing would get past her and she made sure that everybody knew it with a direct stare. There was a permanent pout on her lips, and she had a small button nose. As she walked to the banquet table, her cape billowed out behind her.

“Via Aster,” someone announced in the fringe of Camellia’s consciousness. “The Nastur Kingdom’s royal magician.”

Siana smiled at her, and the mage nodded, something like friendship tugging at the corner of her lips.

“Your Highness,” the magician greeted. “Lovely to see you again.”

“I’m glad to see your safe return, Via.”

They fell quiet as the king entered and the meal started. It didn’t take long for Via to look up from beneath her lashes. “I kept in contact with Viola while I was away,” she began delicately.

“Oh?” the princess urged.

Via nodded. “I’ve heard you’re still having problems with the insurgence and the Gladiolus Kingdom,” she said. She gave Camellia a slow up and down look. “You should be careful who you bring to your side, Your Highness.”

Camellia swallowed hard, stiffening as she felt all eyes turn on her.

“Excuse me?” Siana struggled out.

“I have heard that the Venus Flytrap knows all about their strategies and defenses. Isn’t it strange? A foreigner of our country, a soldier who happens to excel in combat against her own people? I wouldn’t trust someone who so easily turns on her own kind. If your army is still searching so hard for them, I would start with those at your side,” Via said. Then she turned back to her meal and took a demure bite.

Siana’s head snapped to Camellia.

The king raised a brow, lacing his fingers together in front of him on the table.

“I… I mean the Nastur Kingdom no harm,” Camellia stuttered out.

Via, the magician, smiled to herself.

“Are you a spy?” Siana hissed out before her father could.

“I am from the Gladiolus Kingdom,” Camellia answered, her eyes dropping to the floor. “The far reaches, across the ocean, but I… I fled. My home was destroyed before Nastur had even thought…”

The king waved his hand. “I’ve heard enough,” he decided. “You’re dismissed.”

Camellia looked up slowly.


“We’ll discuss this more later,” he said. “For now, this is time for celebration at our magician’s return.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Camellia answered dully.

“Cera,” he called, waving the young knight over. “Take a unit and watch her.”

Cera padded over, eyes wide and sorry as he looked at Camellia. She gave him a small smile, and the two exited the room together. A few guards followed them, hands on their weapons.

Siana watched them go.

A new knight slotted themselves at her side for the time being as whispers picked up around the table.

Siana took a deep breath and then plastered on a smile. “Via, you must tell me about the new earrings you seem to have acquired while you were abroad…”

Once the welcoming party was cleared away, the royal court went to the king’s waiting room. He spun around as he reached the head of his table, the façade of a gracious host falling to reveal one of a stoic wartime leader. Before he could even speak, Siana was slamming her hands on the surface in front of them.

“You’ve just returned, and you stir up a controversy like this?” she shouted. “In front of our allies, no less! We look like fools! Camellia has been an asset to our army and a wonderful companion for me.”

Hyssop Nalis, a lady-in-waiting, tried to calm the princess, but Siana shook her off.

Via rolled her eyes. “Of course,” she said. “Nobody else seemed to want to say anything. I figured I should inform you all of the potential danger as soon as possible. You would welcome just anyone into the castle, wouldn’t you?”

“It isn’t like that.”

The king cleared his throat, and Siana shut her mouth. He looked straight at Via. “Do you feel the new knight is a threat to us?”

“You knighted her?” Via scoffed.

“It would have been improper to have a plain soldier as the princess royal’s personal guard,” Miss Hyssop said.

“We were suspicious, of course, after the first meeting,” a man explained. Narsi, a general close to King William.  “But nothing could be confirmed, even with General Helianthus.”

Via pursed her lips as she stared straight ahead at the smooth marble table in front of them. “I would be wary of her. She seems to have a difficult history, and I wouldn’t trust her with delicate information.”

The king held his hardened expression, barely glancing at Via. “How so?”

“Her country was ravaged by war! Of course she has a difficult history,” Siana cut in.

The king then sent the princess a glare, and Siana snapped her mouth shut.

“Her Highness is not entirely wrong, Your Majesty,” Via said delicately, a sickly-sweet smile curling onto her face. “I would advise caution is all. Viola is investigating a bit more about the rebels. I heard some rumors while I was abroad. It may lead us to know how much Gladiolus is involved and how deeply…”

He nodded. “We will keep a close eye,” he decided.

“And if all else fails…” Via smirked. “I have ways of making her talk.”

Siana swallowed hard.

The king waved a hand. “Siana, I want you to be on guard while she’s around. Do not speak of politics with her, but she is the best guard we have.”

“You’ll trust her with your dear princess?” Via asked.

“We will let her assume we trust her still,” the king said. “We will observe her. Cera will continue to watch, as will Viola when she returns.”

The magician laughed. “So you were keeping an eye on her beforehand?”

 “Would I let just anyone near my daughter?” he shot back haughtily.

Via shrugged, a smug smile on her face. “Of course not, King William.”

“We will return to normal, but I will tighten security around the castle,” he decreed. “Siana, you know what to do.”

The princess nodded.

He dismissed them, and Siana left before everyone else.

Camellia was leaning against the wall, drawing circles in the dirt with her boot. Cera was following the motion with his eyes, trying to think of some way to ease the tension. He wrung his hands around his sleeves, searching for something to say.

“You know, whenever I was feeling… down, Viola would take me out for a ride along the river. A bit of swimming always made me feel better,” he offered.

She hummed in response. “I’m sure Leif would love that. If I’m not immediately dismissed or executed, I should take you up on the offer when we have some free time.”

“I don’t think…”

Camellia shrugged, smiling up at him, glancing at the soldiers on guard a few feet away. “Don’t look so sad. It’s possible the king would have my head.”

His frown didn’t ease.

“Cera, I… did do some undercover work for the Nastur army when I first joined the military here. I could easily blend in with the rebels when they were recruiting. I knew what Nastur had done to Gladiolus. It was easy to be mad about how ravaged we were.”

Cera sighed softly, looking back down at their feet and the space between them.

At the sound of clicking heels, the two knights looked up to see their princess approach. Cera straightened his back and bowed his head. Camellia did not, keeping her stance leaning against a wall.

“You all are dismissed,” Siana declared. “Thank you.”

The soldiers shouted a response and scattered, but Cera stalled. He looked nervously between the two women. Camellia glanced at him, giving him a small smile and a short nod. He scurried off and finally Camellia stood up to greet the princess.

“Your Highness,” she said.

“Not your,” Siana snapped.

Camellia kept her eyes down. She heard Siana take a step closer, her voice lower now. “How could you have lied to me for so long?”

Camellia sighed, eyes fluttering closed. “I wasn’t lying. I am not loyal to Gladiolus any longer. I betrayed them several times over.”

“And so?”

“In fact, it’s thanks to my expertise that your kingdom has won over my birthplace.”

Siana prickled at the words. “That’s not what I want to hear.”

Camellia raised her eyes. “Do you want to hear that I am loyal to Nastur?” she asked, her voice cold and sharp.

“You left one war to join another so easily,” Siana ground out.

Camellia shrugged. “I joined who I thought would win.”

“Not who you thought was right?”

Camellia didn’t even flinch. “I did what I had to so I could survive, Your Highness.”

“Tarra warned me about the way you fight.”

Camellia shrugged. “You should have made her your knight,” she decided, nodding her head. “She’d have been a better fit for the Crown Princess of Nastur. I have no chivalry to speak of.”

“You still saved me,” Siana argued, her voice weak. Unsure. “You stayed when I asked. You came to me when I needed help.”

There was a calm set over Camellia—the same feeling as the first time Siana had ever seen her—the façade of indifference. Her eyes were icy, her voice like stone. “I saved you because it was my job. I knew how to save you because I thought of how I would have captured you, where I would have taken you.”

“When I was abducted… those people… they were your countrymen?”

“Not all, but most likely some,” Camellia answered. “Hiding in a cave… the way the boy spat in my eyes… desperate people fight desperately. Gladioli people are desperate.”

Siana’s eyes and throat burned. “But he died anyway.”

Camellia’s eyes fell to the ground. “He died anyway,” she echoed hollowly.

“If he was so desperate to survive, why am I still standing? Why is he the one that died?” Siana asked, her voice cracking.

“He was soft,” Camellia answered dully. “I would have killed you if you hadn’t been any use to me.”

“I would have killed myself before you could.”

Camellia raised her eyes to look back up at Siana.

“I’d… I’d have swallowed my tongue. Or bit my wrists open. Something.”

The icy look on Camellia’s face shattered. “Princess…?”

“Either I die, or I’m used against my own people?” she screamed. “Fine! Kill me then!”

“Princess Siana, I don’t…”

“He was soft. He was soft and young and he was right.” Siana huffed, the tears she’d been so fiercely holding back finally spilling from her eyes. “I killed your people and their blood is on my hands.”

“Your Highness…”

“Do not call me that!” Siana grabbed a fistful of her own hair, tugging at it. “If you’re a spy—if you want to kill me as revenge—just do it! Don’t lie to me and don’t try to use me against everything I love!”

“Princess…” Camellia reached out a hand, placed it gently on Siana’s arm.

But Siana jumped, flipped her skirt and snatched the knife from its sheath. She sliced at Camellia’s closest arm, and Camellia deflected it easily with the arm guards she was wearing. She caught the princess by the wrist.

“My lady!” Camellia shouted.

Siana hooked a foot behind Camellia’s knee and tripped them backwards. They fell into the dirt, Siana straddling Camellia.

“Why aren’t you angry? How can you not hate me and my people?” The princess cried.

Camellia frowned, blowing her hair out of her face. She kicked herself off the ground, flipping them over. She wrenched the knife from Siana’s hand and stabbed it into the ground above her.

“When I look at you, you… you’re as desperate as they are.”

Siana threw dirt into Camellia’s face. “I don’t need your pity!” she shouted.

Camellia sighed, wiping her face. “It isn’t… it isn’t about pity. It’s about you. I want to help you.”

Siana stopped struggling beneath her, her breathing ragged. “What?”

“You fight just like everyone I knew then. You want to do good. You…” Camellia paused, eyes searching the princess’ face.  “You want to help people, but you don’t know how. I want to help you know how.”

Camellia reached over her and took the blade, sliding it back into the sheath beneath Siana’s dress. “This? This is not the way for a princess to help her people. This is the way for a soldier. The way for someone like me, someone who lived their whole life just trying to survive. Let me protect you, so that you can do it the way only you can.”

“And when you can’t protect me?” Siana breathed.

“Keep that desperation close to your chest,” Camellia advised. She took Siana’s hand, placing it over her heart. “Like how the rebel boy did, people will treat you gently. With respect.”

“I don’t need that.”

Camellia smiled, a small, light smile. “It is an advantage to be treated well,” she said, shifting her weight off the princess below her. “Once they know what you’re capable of, they won’t hold back.”

“Then neither will I,” Siana decided.

Camellia shook her head, offering a hand and pulling Siana upright. “You don’t want to live the life of someone like me. If someone has to give up their kindness and humanity for their safety… if someone must be desperate and ruthless, let it be me.”

1 thought on “How Journeys End Chapter Seven: The Royal Magician”

  1. Wow!! Didn’t see that coming. Not sure I trust Via. 🧐🧐🧐. U really stirred up some trouble with her arrival.


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