46 Days Until Parties And the Uncertain End (part 1)
Evester jumped when Europa slammed the gold leaf papers down on the table before Uly. Evester saw them, saw Europa’s face, and turned his gaze his mother who sat eyeing Europa carefully. Europa’s sudden choice was a surprise to her, Evester could see it in the way that her gaze twitched and she began to frown.
“What is this?” Uly asked with a yawn. He was not yet awake, and not yet focused on the fact that Europa was standing in all purple, the family color. Her hair was down, which it never was. She was wearing the family crest. Her makeup was flawless, her nails were beautiful. She was ready for a photoshoot. Uly may not have noticed but Evester saw the way that Europa stared at Uly. There was an intensity in her gaze with such a desire, that Evester felt embarrassed for her.
Evester knew then that Uly was right. Europa was acting on emotion rather than logic. He shot his brother a look. Endwin went to speak as Uly started to read the papers. Instead, Maverin interrupted Endwin by clearing his throat. Evester watched as his father offered his hand to Estashia. She put her hand in his and Evester’s father kissed her hand before resting their hands visibly on the table. He leaned closer to her and whispered to her. She nodded. They were a united front, regardless of what that decision was.
The table was silent. No one ate. No one moved. There was a general confusion from everyone save the original EverDanger members Karla, and Zeydar. They may not have known what was going on but they did not move or speak. Instead they watched as Uly read through all of the documents quickly. Evester knew that Uly was not actually reading them. He did not have to the moment he saw the gold leaf insignia and the first line. Uly was contemplating his words and centering himself. Uly already had the marriage contract memorized for nearly a decade. Evester knew Uly was trying to figure out what to say.
When Uly looked up, Evester saw the cold rationality in Uly’s eyes break upon seeing Europa. Whatever he was about to say was shaken from him. Uly would have agreed if it weren’t for the fact that he knew Europa was acting outside of protocol. Uly looked back to the paperwork as if he weren’t flustered. Where Uly might have said yes, upon seeing Europa’s emotions there was no way Uly could. Uly was figuring out how to say no without saying no. The contract had been given and he no longer had the choice. Instead he had to appeal to get it postponed. Evester watched as Uly’s brow furrowed knowing what to say, and he placed the paperwork down.
“Are you certain this is the appropritate time?” Uly’s voice was crisp and collected, as he turned back to Europa.
“What?” Europa hissed.
“We are not off Earth yet.” He tapped the papers, and then glanced to Estashia, pleading to her rather than Europa.
“You are saying no?” Europa’s words felt like a knife, as if asking Uly whether he thought he could say no. He couldn’t even if he wanted to.
Uly did not balk at the word and the way she used it as a curse. “This contract is necessary to the protection and continuation of the civilization of humanity. It is not something you can throw down when we haven’t even arrived. It must be available to ensure the best possible path for our people.”
“You are acting as if its not my choice. You are my choice Uly.”
“It never was.” He glared at Europa. “The progress of society. The Circles and their best interests. That is what the Choice is about. The Choice gives you the tool you can use to best serve humanity. You know that I have prepared for this my whole life.” He then looked at Estashia once more, to appeal to her as she had final say. “And I’m okay with it, should I be what is the best tool, but there is no proof of that. And there won’t be until we get there.”
Uly wasn’t saying no because he disliked Europa. He wasn’t saying no because he liked Europa either. There was no feeling from his part that was influencing his decision. This was cold logic, even if Uly felt betrayal. Evester knew that then Europa was not acting out of cool wit or self sacrifice. This was not for the good of the people, or a political marriage, or a technology marriage, or even a marriage that was best suited for leading the people forward. No. She was acting out of her own emotions, emotions that were unlike her. They were emotions that were telling Uly that for a second she doubted him. It told Uly that she was breaking her training, that she was faltering and breaking the very rules she was to follow until death. Evester was not sure it was true but it seemed as if she doubted that he’d found a new home. As if she doubted that they’d survive the Uncertain End. More than anything it felt as if she doubted that she’d ever get the chance to fight for him, if that was what she truly wanted.
But Evester knew that Uly knew that emotions had their part to play in the selection. Evester’s mother had fallen for Maverin, even though Micah Rayblay was a better choice as a political opponent. Maverin had always made that clear. There was a reason that Estashia’s anti-faction had traction about her loving Maverin to begin with. Estashia truly loved Maverin, and Maverin had always made that clear to Uly and Evester. Maverin loved her too, but love could never be the only reason. Love had to always be secondary and in this moment it was not. Uly knew she loved him. Uly knew she knew he loved her. Yet, Uly had his pride. Uly was undoubtedly the best candidate for the Choice, but love could not be the reason he was chosen. Evester knew that pissed Uly off even to consider.
“I will say yes, should you wish me to.” Uly said to Estashia rather than Europa. Evester saw as his sister grew flustered and then paled. It seemed to dawn on her just what she had done.
“Europa. You and I will need to… discuss this.” Estashia said saying that Europa was going to have to be reeducated. She had made a massive blunder and they knew that. “Uly is correct and this decision must be made when we make it to the new home world.”
Evester saw the way that Uly relaxed a bit. Evester also saw how Uly’s heart broke. Uly did not look at Europa as he folded the contract papers. He then slid it towards Estashia who took it with her free hand and flipped it open. She gave it to Maverin. Maverin glanced to it, reading. Estashia leaned forward, still holding Maverin’s hand. She was not done.
“For the time being, however…” Estashia said as Maverin removed his hand from Estashia’s. From his inner jacket pocket he pulled out a purple envelope with the gold family crest stamped on the back. Evester felt a shiver run down his spine as he looked to Endwin who stared at the envelope with large eyes. Evester looked back to watch as Maverin opened the envelope, pulled out a singular sheet of purple paper. he unfolded it, revealing the large gold crest that took up the entire back and placed it with the original contract. He folded the gold leafed sheets above the purple, folded them again, slid them into the envelope, and handed them back to Estashia who handed them to Uly.
“Mother?” Endwin asked his voice shaking just a bit.
The other EverDanger members were confused. The only ones who knew what it meant was Uly, Kim, and the Igilistal’s. Evester turned back to his best friend who was struggling to pull out the paper from the envelope. His hands were shaking ever so slightly and his face held genuine shock. His cool mask had been shattered as he flipped the contract back open and scanned the purple paper. When he looked to Estashia, he nodded: emotions being contained once more.
Europa tried to look at the documents knowing full well what the purple paper was. Uly folded it with the others, before she could and stood up. The action was abrupt with het loud shriek of the chair echoing in the room. Uly looked at Europa and for a long moment, taking in the sight of her, before he moved a free strand of hair out of her face. It was, perhaps, the most romantic gesture that Evester had ever seen enacted on his sister.
Uly spoke, “Reevaluate when we get to our next home. You know what is at stake.”
He then left the room without an excuse, without being excused, and with the documents in hand. Uly had received the finalized conditions of his marriage. The purple paper was prepared by the family head to explain to the chosen suitor what they would receive as the heir’s spouse. The marriage proposal that Europa handed Uly was the standard proposal. It was a contract that explained how the relationship would function and the legal matters. The purple sheet was the special details that would not be written, but upheld. It dictated in few words the career trajectory designed for him as well as what other aid or support he would be given. His life was written on that page as well as what powers and positions he’d be given. By receiving it Uly was told that he was going to be chosen unless special circumstances arose.
It was Estashia’s way of telling him that she supported Europa’s decision for a logical reason. If Europa had given Uly the contract in any other situation, their marriage would have been decided then and there. Within thirty days they may have been wed and the legal matters would have been settled. Considering the current state of affairs, Evester was uncertain what his mother would have chosen: pre or post departure. The fact that Europa had decided based on emotions and doubt, was enough for Estashia to place a hold on it. However, Uly was going to be chosen when they got to the new home. The purple page would give Uly time to adapt and understand what would be expected of him.
Evester knew that Uly had left without eating because he would have been unable to remain in the room after gettin the news. He could not be in the same room as them all, despite the fact that it was the one thing he wanted. He couldn’t let his own emotions take over him. He was already the best Choice. He knew that, and he had to act like it. However, his emotions had gotten the best of him and he had left in order to rectify that.
“Evester?” Estashia directed the table’s attention to Evester who gathering a plate of food. Kim helped him.
Evester threw on a smile knowing that only his family knew what the paper meant. “The room is too crowded.”
“You are excused.” Estashia nodded. “Europa sit. After you are finished with your food we will discuss.”
Europa nodded solemnly. The weight of her decision weighed heavily on her. Evester wondered how much she was cursing herself for the emotions she had shown. Estashia continued to eat, signaling for them all to continue. Evester left the room, followed by Kim, with his and Uly’s food.
“It’s happening.” Kim whispered when they got far enough away. Her excitement could not be contained.
“It is.” Evester was giddy. He had been waiting for this.
“Take care of him. I’ll manage the others.”
The found Uly sitting on his bed, contract in his hands and pen at his side. He stared at the folded documents. “Who can be certain?”
“She’s not.” Evester answered placing the food on the bed. Kim placed drinks down and then kissed Uly’s head whispering to him a congratulations. She then left shutting the door behind her. Evester handed Uly a glass and slid the documents from his hands. Evester sat on the bed, started eating and watched as Uly continued to stare at the glass in his hand. Evester scanned the contract. Nothing was different save the signatures by Uly and Europa on all the dotted lines.
Evester read over what had been determined for Uly on the purple page. It was all in line with what Evester would have suspected and expected of Uly. It was what he would have expected from Europa’s consort. There was nothing about it out of the ordinary, yet the papers sat heavily in his hands. He flipped them closed and placed them away speaking to Uly again.
“There are too many unknowns. That’s why she’s agreed on you. Mother and father would never make this choice without serious contemplation. You, like father, are in the best position to ensure that we survive whatever is thrown our way. Europa will be able to lead the species and you will protect them through science and knowledge. You aren’t called the genius for nothing.
“You and I will do whatever it is we have to. With the remainder of EverDanger, we are in a superiority position to manipulate society and survival. Mother will ensure that every member of EverDanger gets a special position of power that best uses their skills and aids the family. You will be used either way, and as someone who already knows how to be an Igilistal it was a nonstarter.” Evester drank.
“I want this so much.” Uly turned to Evester.
“I know.” Evester smiled at him. “Gather yourself Uly. You haven’t become my brother yet, and as it is, mother probably wants to hide this development, which is why she did not rebuke you. She and father were prepared for Europa to throw this at you. There is no way they did not know.”
“Why did she have to—“ Uly placed food in his mouth to cut off his own words and Evester laughed.
“She already knows her mistake.” Evester thought of his sister who had been blindsided just as they all were.
“She’s going to visit me tonight.” Uly looked to Evester. Evester kew that the two of them often slept with each other when no one was watching. Or at least everyone pretended they did not know. Everyone knew, and it was a well kept secret that none outside of the family publicized. It rarely happened in the past because of how rarely the two met in person, and more recently, due to how much Uly had to do. Yet, this time would be different. It would be the first time that they both knew that the contract had been nearly settled. All they needed was Estashia’s signature, to formalize the contract.
“Don’t give your heart so easily.” Evester warned him.
“I know.” Uly sighed. The two then began to discuss the contract and what Estashia was guaranteeing him. For the next Igilistal consort, Uly was getting a far better deal than Maverin had received. The two finished eating when there was a knock at the door. Evester got up and opened it to find Endwin and Maverin.
“Europa is with Estashia. Come.” Maverin held an opened bottle of wine in his hand. Uly got to his feet. He handed Maverin the signed contract placed in the purple envelope. Maverin took it, and placed it into his pocket.
“Do you have the last page?”
Uly held up the purple page. Maverin nodded and then led them to the roof of the house.
“Here.” Endwin handed Uly a box once they got to the top. In it was the family sigil stamp, a signet ring, and a wax seal. There would be additional things given to him, for him to put in the box at a later time. It would be where the final signed contract would remain, along with the purple page, but for now it was a simple wooden box with the Igilistal crest on it.
Uly took the box; Endwin smiled at him. Maverin locked the door behind them. He offered everyone a wine glass and the haphazardly poured the wine into their glasses. The day light bore onto their skin, and Evester wondered if the world could see them drinking in the morning. After pouring everyone a glass, Maverin spoke.
“Put down the box.” Uly did as he was told. “Take the bottle.” Uly took the bottle. “Your grandfather did this when I was chosen.” Maverin sighed. “Evescar would have told you the same that he told me. Don’t let this get to your head. The world is unpredictable and until the ring is on your hand anything may change. The wolves will try to rip you apart. You are an outsider and they will never let you forget it.”
Evester remembered his grandfather fondly. Evescar Igilistal had retired and given his position to Estashia when Evester had been born. He was the one who had decided on Europa being heir. He had been in the Ovaria house for months at a time teaching Kim, Evester, and Uly many things. Maverin had been the one to train them as Igilistal’s but Evescar had tested them and told them so many stories. He could not reconcile the man he knew with the cold ruthless family head that the world had known. His grandfather loved to make cookies not causing people to cower in terror. He had died shortly after Evester’s grandmother died when Evester was fifteen. Yet, Evester knew the words his father said next. His grandfather always ended his stories with them.
“But you are with the snakes now. Never forget that. Of healing and luck. Of wisdom and cunning. Of transformation and immortality. Now say the eternal vow.” Maverin lifted his glass. Together the four of them said the family words together. “We protect. We destroy. We survive.”
They then drank their wine and Uly sighed.
“Drink it all. Finish the whole bottle.” Maverin said sitting on the ground.
“Right now.” Maverin answered as he leaned back. Uly did as Maverin said and finished his glass of wine. Maverin sighed and looked to Evester and Endwin. “Your mother didn’t have any siblings. It was a choice of your grandfather to ensure that there would be no issues. His brothers had been turned from him, and he refused to have that happen to her. Your mother and I raised you all so that it may never happen again and it is your responsibility to do the same. Endwin, who you choose while be a monumental choice. Europa is choosing Uly. Evester is choosing Zeydar. And you? Have you seen what is needed? Or original target is no longer viable.”
“I—“ Endwin hesitated. “I understand.”
Evester paused for a moment. Endwin’s old target was Hester Phyn, or Micah Rayblay’s kid depending on Evester’s path. If it was to change, that meant that Endwin was going to go after an X for political stability. Uly continued to drink the wine from the bottle.
“Won’t he get sick?” Evester asked.
“I hope so.” Maverin laughed as Uly coughed and breathed out taking a break. “Keep going. It needs to hit and hit hard.”
“Why?” Uly asked him.
“Its the last time you get to be free. The last time to be sloppy. Evester and Endwin will take you out today and you will make a mess of yourself. And then when you return home, you and I will talk.” The way Maverin said the words told Evester that he did not want to be in the conversation, not that he thought he’d be invited. “I spoke with Karista and now I am going to tell you. Only someone marrying in can tell you and it is time for me to pass on the wisdom. Your embarrassment will be the family’s after tonight. This is the last time it will be tied to you and you alone. Remember that.” Maverin sipped his wine and Uly nodded continuing to drink from the bottle.
“I’m afraid.” Uly admitted when he finished the bottle.
“I know.” Maverin nodded. “Fear is rational, but you have been primed for this.” Maverin motioned to Evester and Endwin to finish their glasses. By the time they did, the alcohol had begun to hit Uly. Maverin handed Evester a new sheet of paper. It was an itinerary. “The arrangements have been made. In traditional order of things, Uly is supposed to only go out with the men of the family, however Estashia believes that all of EverDanger should be together. This includes Heia, Shawn, and Zeydar. The others are too young for the plans. Do not lose sight of him. Do not let him talk about her by name. Have fun. Bring him back here to me by midnight.”
Evester nodded and together with Endwin, they took Uly back downstairs. Evester helped Uly change as Endwin changed. Evester placed Uly’s purple page in the Igilistal crest box for Uly and then messaged the others to get ready. Kim answered that they already were and when Evester rolled up with Uly fifteen minutes later, he saw that they were waiting.
“Are you sure about this?” Evester asked Zeydar who was coming with them. “It will be—“
“Is this a usual tradition?” Zeydar asked, cutting Evester off.
“No. This is specific for Uly,” Endwin answered. “You—“ He stopped himself. “No other person has to do this. Only Uly. It’s apparently a family tradition.”
“Good.” Zeydar sighed, before making eye contact with Evester. He then answered Evester, “I will be fine. You will be there. This time, however…” Zeydar walked closer to Evester so that only Evester and Uly could hear him. “Don’t fuck me over.”
Uly laughed at the words, and Evester smiled to Zeydar. “Understood.”
“It’s time to go wild!” Phil laughed, and they all knew that this was, perhaps, the very last time that they ever would be able to. Like Uly, they were losing the chance to be reckless ever again. This would be the last time, and like Uly, they were not going to waste it.