A Cell Made of Glass

Chapter 2 — Capricious Studies

In the world of Ayni, imperialism and monarchies were the only forms of known government. Oftentimes, these monarchies would cite that they have a specific ”way of life ” which oftentimes included killing ones own siblings just to become the next ruler. Many royal families noticed this trend, oftentimes ensuring their bloodline would survive beyond one child by having many. This had become a common practice for centuries, even beyond the Centhos familys rule over Kairos.

The kingdom of Kairos is quite the extravagant place, holding festivals that are known all over the continent. The amount of traffic that went through the kingdom was astounding, something far beyond what any of the other countries could handle. Due to their high population of skilled entrepreneurs and educational institutions, Kairos has remained as the oldest country in the entire world; however, they have seen many different royal families come and go. The Centhos family is only one of the hundreds that have graced their land.

― ― ― ― ―

”Oh, Aithne~! Where might you be hiding, darling child? ” A voice called out from the entryway.

Cairbre was known for showing up unexpectedly, making it a habit of making his younger sisters staff uneasy with his presence. Even if he were not the Emperor of Kairos, they would still find reason to be terrified of the man. Aithne was one of the few people that he genuinely cared about in their family, but that was not saying much. Many of their siblings had betrayed one another to slowly have the crown closer to their hand.

Whispers could be heard from the halls and other corners of the room. Somehow, the palace seemed empty with not a soul in sight besides the poor servants tasked with greeting any guests and the guards at the front door. Bits of these hidden conversations caught the ears of the Emperor such as ”Does she know…? ” or ”Hopefully he does not… ” After the staff of Innes Palace had caught wind of his arrival, nearly everyone disappeared once his carriage approached. No one would dare to approach Cairbre first.

He was known for his tendency to solve familial disputes with violence, something that everyone in the kingdom was aware of. Yet, at the same time, it was almost a normal thing at this point. Even though the Centhos family had only presided over this land for just over a century, it had become a common occurrence for each generation to result in bloodshed just to secure what they considered their ”birthright ”. It seemed as if just being born into the family was a death sentence in itself. Greed and pride had permeated through the walls of the main palace as if it were death, itself.

The tall figure made his way into the center of the foyer, unfastening the clasps that held the cape on his left shoulder and tossing it towards one of the servants by the door who scrambled to catch it before the precious white silk touched the floor. Cairbre should have been in Hiemal for another few weeks, obviously deciding to stop by his younger sisters palace on the way home. Much to the discomfort of the staff, he of course had decided to arrive wearing traditional military dress, equipped with a sword, medals, and sash to really add to the ”murderous monarch ” idea. Of course, he knew how this made others feel… And he loved to know how much it made others squirm.

His gray eyes shifted around the room, debating on if he should go find the princess on his own or if he should send for her. ”I know she is listening, ” he thought to himself. Placing a hand on his hip while he gazed at the monsoon of polished white marble and slate before him. Aithnes palace was somewhat of a labyrinth if you were not used to it, especially with how similar everything looks as you travel through each hallway.

”Cairbre? ” Aithne asked, almost as if she were in awe. The princess made her way towards the Emperor as she practically appeared out of nowhere. ”What are you doing here? I was told that you would be away for at least another month. ”

In the main entrance, everything was very bright and orderly. Golden, silver, and red accents could be found decorating the walls while wide twin staircases broke up the spacious area. Five halls could be found in the foyer: three on the first floor with one on each wall, and two on the second floor on the far wall. Lanterns offered little light in the chamber, but that was mainly due to the towering windows beside the front door.

”I am on my way home, but I wanted to see you first, ” he explained, meeting his sister halfway through the lobby.

”The thought is appreciated, but why are you really here? ” As soon as she had finished her sentence, a sly grin appeared on Cairbres face. ”You never visit just because you want to see me. What is it, ” Aithne asked, very bluntly.

”Come to the capitol, stay with me for a week, then you can go home. ”

Aithnes eyes fluttered, obviously not pleased with the idea and equally as bewildered. She hated even the thought of staying with the rest of her family. The entire purpose of her moving into Innes, the palace farthest away from Kairos capital, was to get away from everyone in the royal family. Cairbre out of everyone knows this and her reasoning all too well.

”No―, ” she began, immediately cut off by her brother.

”I mean, if you would rather everyone celebrate your birthday at your home… That will work as well. The choice is yours. ”

”No, no! No need at all, ” Aithne quickly replied. ”Although, I would like to know why you are so set on celebrating my birthday which is not until the end of next week. ”

A sense of dread filled her heart as soon as the words left her mouth. Cairbre had something planned. The sly grin turned into something more mischievous, almost as if he were daring for her to ask more questions. To prevent herself from the trouble, Aithne held up her hands and took a step back.

”Nevermind, I do not think I really want to know. ”

Just as she was about to turn around and leave, Cairbre grasped onto her arm and pulled her in for a hug. Even if her older brother was absolutely intolerable at times and she despised their conversations or his plans for whatever else he has in store for her for next week, she could never tell him no. The two had been through too much together for Aithne to entirely push him away at any given point. After all, he is the very reason she was allowed to continue living.

Aithne never celebrated her birthday, nor did the majority of her siblings. Being born as the third princess into a family full of power-hungry beasts, she would eventually fall victim to someones tirade while on a conquest for the throne. After her birth, the Emperor declared her his successor, not trusting any of her corrupted siblings to ever lead the country properly. In his mind, an infant who has yet to taste the blood of their kin in the name of a fruitless war was the far better alternative. The only one of her siblings to actually respect this decision was Cairbre, a child only eight years older than her. He, alone, had watched three of his other siblings perish due to attempts on her life by his hands. Even though she had nothing to do with this, Aithne felt as if she owed her entire life to him.

If it made Cairbre happy to celebrate her birthday then she would not mind putting up with a few drunken relatives for a couple of days. After all, he did not mention anything about actually interacting with any of them, just that she would be in their presence. Thankfully, the capitols castle was quite large, so she would only run into someone if she actually intended to do so. Not too many of their siblings were still alive, so the main concern would be running into any loud-mouthed nieces or nephews. Aithne did not know if she could remain civil if a child were to pester her too much, especially when she was intentionally avoiding the rest of the royal family.

Cairbre pulled away, holding his hands on her shoulders and gazing proudly at her. ”You will not regret it, I promise, Aithne. ”

The princess looked slightly up at her brother, observing the satisfaction on his face before shifting around so he would not grapple her again for another embrace. As tradition, she was dressed more elegantly than usual due to knowing that she would have company of some sorts today. While she did have a few guests upstairs to help with a small ”research ” project that she had orchestrated, it was still expected of her to dress to the occasion when receiving others. After putting forth that much effort to meet the standard of others for the day, she was not going to have her brother be the reason for someone finding fault in her appearance, even if it were due to a slight wrinkle in her clothing.

With a faltering grin, she smacked his hands away. ”I already do regret it. ” Turning around and making her way towards a staircase, Aithne added ”Just let me know when to leave. Im busy receiving guests at the moment, so go rest for a while until lunch, Cair. ”

”Will do! ” He proclaimed as he motioned for the servant that held his cape to follow him on his way towards one of the downstairs hallways..

― ― ― ― ―

Aithne Elspeth Niamh Centhos, the third oldest princess in the Centhos family, was quite the interesting woman. Very few people in Kairos know much about her outside of the rumors that circulate around different towns. Some claim that she is a witch, ostracized from her family due to practicing dark magic, while others claim that she is a true deviant, causing chaos and destruction wherever she goes. While these stories vary from place to place, everyone has collectively agreed that she is not someone to be trusted, harnessing some sort of evil and malicious mindset that will be the undoing of the kingdom.

In addition to the idle rumors that have been spread about a woman, many things were said about her due to her appearance and the types of visitors that appear in her palace. Of course, she was as beautiful as the rest of her family, but her blood red hair and soft blue eyes made many question if she were truly a member of the Centhos family. Many of her friends ended up being male figures which caused a lot of curiosity between the commoners as they wondered if she were truly acting as a real princess should. Of course, rumors are made up out of gossip when others have nothing more to complain about, so she never saw a real reason to dispel this commentary.

In all honesty, the only reason why Aithne does not wish to live with her family or claim the throne is due to her disinterest in their politics. Of course, it entertains her to no end how easily the men in power will fight and argue over land that they may never even step foot on, but she would never want that sort of responsibility. Just having the title of princess and an easy life to follow was good enough for her. If the rest of the royals wanted to argue and murder each other just to have a crown and hold ceremonies then she would not be in their way.

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