Chapter 59: The Maze

When Yanira was very young, she was drawn to the maze in Balwar Kingdom. This maze hid the location of the Chestnut tree that was said to hold the Precious Stone of her kingdom that had yet to be found. It was said only royalty of Balwar Kingdom could locate the Chestnut Tree within the maze. Yanira was one of royalty and had found the tree at a young age. Ever since she laid eyes on the tree within the maze, she continued her travels in the maze in hope of finding something of equal value with the tree.

Presently, she now discovered a new maze in the form of a test given to her by the fairies of Rheolis Kingdom, but instead of being puzzled by the twist and turns of the maze, she grew more excited eager to discover what she would find in the maze.

“This way, this way,” chirped Yanira as she pulled Grian into another path of the maze. Grian sighed with a hand against his forehead. Unlike the excited Yanira, Grian was beginning to get disoriented in the maze and felt like he was turning in a storm.

“Lady Nira, can we please rest for a moment?”

Yanira paused looking at the mentally exhausted Grian.

“Are you OK?”

“Just a little dizzy.”

Yanira placed a hand to his forehead making him slightly red in the cheeks.

“You do seem a little hot, but not quite a fever,” muttered Yanira, but then gasped with an apologetic look, “I’m sorry, I forgot that mazes can disorient most people. I was so excited that I didn’t even check if you were all right in the maze.”

Grian smiled saying, “Don’t worry, Lady Nira. I just need a moment to rest and then we can continue.” Yanira nodded with a concern look in her eyes.

They sat against the wall of the maze in silence, until Grian looked at Yanira and asked, “So you mentioned that this maze reminds you of the one from your home, how was that maze?”

Yanira smiled as she thought back at the maze in Balwar Kingdom.

“That maze was amazing. I entered it for the first time when I was just four and discovered a Chestnut Tree said to hold the Precious Stone. After that, I continued to travel in it and I always found treasures, especially near the base of the Chestnut Tree.”

“That maze sounds pretty interesting, especially that Chestnut Tree. I have never heard of a Chestnut Tree holding a Precious Stone. Is there a story behind it?”

Yanira nodded and began to recount the legend of the Chestnut Tree as she told the story to Grian.

“Many years ago at the time when Balwar Kingdom was first established, there was a princess named Rena, who fell in love with a stable boy named Sparrow. They were both deeply in love meeting under this very Chestnut tree every new moon to express their love, but the king and queen were against their love and forced the two lovers apart. In her grief stricken state, the princess died of a broken heart. Sparrow was saddened and ended his life under the Chestnut tree where they had first fallen in love. Ever since the princess and the stable boy’s death, the chestnut tree never withered and revealed colors representing the lovers: cherry pink for the princess for her lips were cherry pink and snow white for the stable boy whose hair was white as snow. The legend says that one of the chestnuts of the tree holds a precious stone with hues of white and pink and it says that whoever finds this stone will find true love. The story is so romantic.”

“…It sounds more like a tragedy.”

Yanira paused in thought and then began to giggle making Grian raise an eyebrow in confusion.

“What’s so funny?”

“You said the same words a man once told me when I told him the same legend,” stated Yanira, but then showed a forlorn look adding, “That man, I haven’t seen him in so long.”

Grian noticed Yanira’s look and wondered who this man Yanira mentioned was, but decided not to question her about this man when he felt that the answer might anger him.

Yanira shook her head and stood up saying, “We should get going.” Grian nodded standing up as well.

They took a few steps only for Grian to collide with something that sent him flying to the ground. Yanira gasped in surprise asking if Grian was all right. Grian nodded in response wondering what hit him. While Grian was a little muddle headed, Yanira looked at what or in this case who collided into Grian: a blonde haired boy who didn’t seem to have reached the age of a man yet.

The blonde haired boy immediately stood up rubbing his head and then glanced at Grian and then at Yanira with a look of bewilderment.

“Who are you two?”

Grian immediately stood up with a slight glare saying, “We should be asking you that? Who are you and how did you get in this maze?” The boy frowned crossing his arms.

“And why wouldn’t I be in this maze when this maze is part of my kingdom.”

“Your kingdom?”

“Were you born under a rock?” scoffed the boy with a slight glare toward Grian and Yanira, “This kingdom is Balwar Kingdom and I am the first born prince: Zuriel Castleheart.”

“Zuriel Castleheart?” echoed Grian with a raised eyebrow filled with bewilderment. Grian was well aware that the name Zuriel Castleheart did belong to the first prince of Balwar Kingdom, but the last he checked, Zuriel was a man and not a boy that looked like he hadn’t even reached puberty yet.

Besides Grian, Yanira was the most surprised. Zuriel, her older brother who she had not seen in so long, stood before her, but the way he looked was different from her memories. She felt that this was her brother, but he spoke differently and he obviously didn’t look older than her.

“Big Brother?” Yanira muttered, but the boy heard her words and scowled saying, “Who are you calling Big Brother? I only have one sister and she is definitely not you.” Yanira felt a slight sting to her heart when she heard these words, but shook her head and then faced Zuriel asking, “Big…I mean your majesty, is this place truly Balwar Kingdom?”

Zuriel nodded and added, “This is Balwar Kingdom and this maze is part of the castle’s garden, so tell me who you two are and why you are here?”

Grian found Zuriel’s command rude, but decided to bow his head and state his name before holding his hand toward Yanira and introducing her as “Lady Nira.”

Zuriel frowned at the two and stated, “I don’t know how you two got in here, but I will give you a chance to leave before I call the guards.” With those words, Zuriel turned to leave.

As Zuriel began to walk off, Grian glanced at Yanira and asked, “Is he also part of the test of the fairies?”

“I don’t know.”

“This is so confusing. Are we really in the maze of Balwar Kingdom?” muttered Grian, but then faced Yanira again and asked, “Lady Nira, you called him Big Brother, right? Are you related to the royal family of Balwar Kingdom?”

Yanira nodded with a slight smile.

“I am the youngest princess of Balwar Kingdom.”

“A princess…amazing,” Grian stated with a smile, but then his smile changed to one of confusion saying, “But I heard that the youngest princess vanished.”

Yanira smiled at Grian saying, “That’s true, but I am here.” Grian felt obliged to change his tone with Yanira, since he discovered that she is in fact royalty, but he considered that since they were in the middle of a test, it wasn’t exactly the best time. Grian, instead felt that it was more appropriate to hold her hand to lead her through this maze instead of her leading, but the moment he reached for her hand, Yanira stepped away saying, “We have to find the tree with the fruits of flames.” Grian nodded and began to follow her wondering when would be the best time to hold her hand.

Yanira felt puzzled as she walked thinking back at the young boy, Zuriel.

He’s too young, but I know he’s my brother…could this be the past…a past before I was born?

Yanira turned a corner and was startled to run into young Zuriel Castleheart.

“You are still here?” Zuriel snapped making Yanira flinch, but Zuriel only scoffed before entering another path. Grian caught up with Yanira and asked, “Was it his majesty Zuriel again?” Yanira nodded, but gasped when she saw Zuriel emerge from another path.

Zuriel cursed under his breath as Yanira and Grian stared at him. Yanira noticed the perplexed look of the boy and giggled making Grian glance at her.

“What’s so funny?”

Yanira hushed him and then approached Zuriel calmly. She poked his shoulder making him glance at her.

“You again?”

Yanira nodded.

“Do you want me to call the guards?”

Yanira shook her head and then asked, “Are you lost?” Zuriel flinched and shook his head saying, “I am a prince of this kingdom, so how can I be lost in a maze that my family owns?”

Zuriel crossed his arms trying to avoid eye contact with her. Yanira smiled brightly saying, “You are definitely lost, right?” Zuriel was beginning to sweat before he answered.

“…I’m lost.”

Yanira giggled making Zuriel glare at her.

“Don’t you laugh! You’re lost too I bet.”

“We are.”

“See?”

“But we admitted it, unlike you.”

“…”

Zuriel groaned averting his gaze from Yanira. Yanira tugged his sleeve making him look at her. Yanira tilted her head with a bright smile and asked, “Do you want to travel this maze together until we find a way out?”

“Why would I do that?”

“Then I guess we can go our separate ways,” stated Yanira with a saddened look.

“…It can’t be helped. I’ll accompany you two until the exit.”

Yanira perked up at Zuriel’s words and grabbed his arm leaning on his shoulder.

“Then let’s go!” cheered Yanira. Zuriel only sighed wondering if this unknown girl was right in the head.

Yanira glanced back at Grian saying, “We’re going to travel together.” Grian wanted to refuse, but the moment he noticed the happiness in Yanira’s eyes, he sighed and joined the two.

As they walked, they failed to notice the vines of the maze begin to move like snakes in hiding.

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