"Somnus!" The voice of his older brother came from outside his chambers.
Somnus started, having been focused on looking for his satchel. It was one Ardyn handmade for him several years ago. A favourite of his but he always misplaced it. The boy frowned as he dug through his belongings once more. He knew it was here somewhere.
The younger Izunia finally caught a glimpse of it as he knelt on the floor to check underneath his bed. Somnus eagerly reached out and snatched it up.
"Coming!" Somnus called out as he threw the strap over his shoulder so the bag rested on his hip. He then quickly found his sandals and shoved them on his feet, nearly tripping in his haste. The floor of the castle was always cold, even carpeted as it was.
After that, the boy grabbed a cloak and draped it over his shoulders. It had been a little chilly these last few weeks and Mother reprimanded both her sons whenever she caught them going outside without one. Somnus wished to avoid any scolding today so he would listen.
Now ready, the younger Izunia departed his room. Somnus found that his brother was not in the hallway outside. He assumed Ardyn may have already gone to the castle doors to wait for him. After double checking that he had everything, Somnus made his way to the entrance.
A short time later, Somnus found Ardyn leaning against one of the outside walls. He wore his cloak as well and Somnus had to smile at that. Looks like he didn't want any scolding either.
Ardyn gave his younger brother a wide smile when he saw him approach. The look on his face caused Somnus's heart to clench painfully. He felt as if he had not seen that smile for ages, though that could not be as his brother was always so very happy.
"Today is a special day for you, is it not?" Ardyn said as Somnus approached.
"Yes!" Somnus replied excitedly. It was the day of his birth. At fourteen, the boy felt he might have been getting a little old for such things but Ardyn had always given him a present of some sort every year.
Last year, his brother had spent the entire day with him. They'd gone hunting, chocobo riding and even tried their hand at fishing. Neither fared well in the last activity however. The year before, Ardyn had given Somnus an adolescent hunting hawk and spent the next month training her with him. And the year before that, Somnus was gifted the satchel he currently wore. It was made from the best leather his brother could find.
The boy found himself eager to learn what Ardyn had in store for him today. He adored spending time with his brother as their parents were often far too busy. And recently, so was Ardyn with his training. Somnus was glad his brother had been able to make time for him today at least.
"Well, for this year I have decided that we shall be going on a little adventure," Ardyn announced with a soft smile, "now follow along. It may be a bit of a walk but I promise it will be worth it in the end."
Somnus found himself curious. An adventure? Had Ardyn found something? Perhaps a rare animal? Or even a new hunting spot? The boy found himself excited at the prospect.
"No hints?" The younger Izunia asked. He never was patient with these things. He wished to know already. His brother loved toying with him for that reason.
"None. My lips are sealed in this," Ardyn chuckled, "all I can say is that it is something you must witness for yourself."
Even more intrigued, the younger Izunia followed his brother when he began to walk away from their home and into the nearby forest. It seemed they would not be taking the path.
"Are we there yet?" Somnus asked after they'd been walking through the woods for quite a while. It was strangely quiet all around them. The younger Izunia had not glimpsed hide nor hair of any beast, however big or small. Sometimes he and Ardyn would make a game of what they encountered on their adventures. It helped pass the time during the journey to their destination.
"Exhausted already?" Ardyn laughed as he looked back at him. "Do not worry. We have almost arrived."
Once again, Somnus felt a strange ache. This time because of Ardyn's laugh. He felt a wave of sorrow surge through him. He shook it off, wondering what was wrong.
"Good," Somnus said with a tired sigh, "my feet are starting to ache."
"You will have plenty of time to rest once we arrive," Ardyn responded, a strange expression on his face, "it won't be long now."
Soon, a clearing opened up in front of them. Somnus froze when he entered it behind his brother. It was huge.
And at the center of it lay a large stone structure. It was massive, with two 'peaks' on either side. Pillars of some kind surrounding, looking almost haphazardly placed.
Somnus found himself in awe. What was this place?
However, even as the boy wondered, he felt a nagging sensation at the back of his mind. Like he should recognize this place. And that it didn't belong here. Faintly, Somnus questioned how he had been unaware of this place when it lay so close to the castle.
But those thoughts quickly fled Somnus's mind when he glanced around to find that Ardyn was gone. He felt a chill creep up over him at his brother's sudden disappearance. Soon after, the world began to grow dark. The boy looked up to see that the light was fading as if sunset had already passed.
"Ardyn?" Somnus called out, panicked. He heard a faint, sinister growl from behind in response. Somnus froze, feeling like a great many eyes were upon him. He carefully turned towards the trees but could make out nothing in the rapidly darkening day. Whatever creatures lurked in the forest were hiding from him.
"Over here, Somnus!" Ardyn's voice was far away but it was enough to snap Somnus out of his fearful state. Somnus looked towards the stone structure and glimpsed his brother's form entering a building at its base.
How had he managed to go so far ahead?
"Wait for me!" Somnus shouted and sprinted towards Ardyn. The boy's lungs burned and he was panting heavily by the time he caught up to him inside the building. They both stood in a hallway, with only a single door before them. It was quite dark inside.
"Something wrong?" Ardyn asked when his brother nearly bumped into him.
"Nothing," Somnus found himself responding breathlessly. He took a few moments to catch his breath as his brother pulled out a torch from his pack and lit it with magic. He handed it over to Somnus.
"Then let us continue," Ardyn said as he gestured for his younger brother to go ahead, "after you."
Somnus nodded and did as his brother bade. He held out the torch in front of him as he made his way further inside the ruins. He emerged into a much larger room. There was nothing inside, save for a circular pit at the opposite end.
"Ardyn, what is this place?" Somnus said, shivering. He didn't like it. Not one bit. He felt the urge to flee.
"Ardyn?" Somnus called again when he received no response. He turned back to look at his brother. The boy froze, his eyes widening in shock when he looked upon Ardyn.
"This…" Ardyn hissed as he faced Somnus. His face had changed. His older brother's normally friendly expression was twisted into an angry snarl. His eyes and mouth bled a viscous black liquid. The gold of his eyes too had shifted into an unearthly amber.
Ardyn took a stumbling step towards Somnus and the boy found himself backing up.
"... Is my prison." Ardyn finished, his voice echoing sinisterly in the chamber. "The place you abandoned me."
"Ar...dyn?" Somnus gasped in horror. What had happened to him?
"This was what you did to me, Somnus. And now… I feel it is only fair that you too suffer the darkness as I did."
Somnus found that he could not control his body, just stare at his brother in pure horror. Ardyn grabbed hold of his frozen form and began to drag him further into the room. Towards the opening on the ground. The thought of what was to happen finally snapped Somnus out of his daze.
"No, stop!" Somnus screamed as he was dragged. He attempted to break free of his brother's grip but was unable. Ardyn's strength was inhuman and no amount of struggling could slow him down.
Somnus was soon suspended over the pit, his brother the only thing keeping him from falling in. The boy could see nothing but darkness in the abyss beneath his flailing feet.
Ardyn was smirking at him, enjoying the fear he caused.
"I'm sorry! Ardyn! I'm so very sorry!" Tears in his eyes, Somnus apologized. He didn't quite remember what he was apologizing for but he knew it was his fault.
"Happy birthday Somnus," his brother grinned maniacally as he let go. The last thing Somnus saw was Ardyn's victorious expression as darkness swallowed him.
Somnus woke with a start, his heart beating madly in his chest and his breath painfully short. He whipped around, taking in the sight of his room. He was laying on his bed, the covers and pillows on the floor, as they had likely been kicked away in his sleep.
The man breathed a sigh of relief when he realized where he was. At home. Safe.
That had just been a dream. Nothing but a terrible nightmare.
Thankfully the Queen slept in her own rooms. Somnus had terrible sleeping habits since Ardyn's first 'death'. It was better if he slept alone. He did not wish his wife or children to lose sleep over his nightmares like he did. And Astrals forbid if he ended up unintentionally hurting them while in the throes of such a nightmare.
Somnus made his way out of the bed, feeling quite cool. His clothing was drenched in sweat, the man realized. He would need to bathe.
The Founder of Lucis walked over to his chamber window and gazed out into the darkness. Though he could not see it, he looked towards Angelguard. Ardyn was held in the island prison's very depths, chained and locked away so he may never see the light of day. Not until the Chosen King arose.
The nightmare had strangely placed the prison in the middle of a forest but perhaps it was because some of Somnus's fondest memories of his brother were when they'd be off adventuring together.
As always, Somnus felt guilt rise within him. He fervently wished he had been able to save his brother. He felt he should have done things differently, realized something was wrong. But it was far too late. Only the Chosen King, born long into the future could save Ardyn from the grasp of the Starscourge.
These thoughts never failed to make the King feel despair at his own powerlessness.
It had been over ten years since his brother's imprisonment. With the help of the Gods and Oracle, Somnus had driven back the Starscourge from his lands. His Kingdom was now safe, though all of this had taken its toll on its first monarch. There was a weakness in his body Somnus felt every day. His hair had begun to gray. He felt much older than he actually was.
But that was the price of wielding the power of the Ring and Crystal. Somnus had accepted this when he first donned the Ring given to him. Neither of his children would have to take on as great a burden, the man hoped. But down his line, Somnus knew others would have to suffer it as much as he did.
Somnus was wide awake and knew there would be no more sleep tonight. He decided it best if he took a walk around the gardens. Sometimes it helped calm him after such dreams.
Carefully opening his door, Somnus stepped into the hallway. He was startled when something rustled underneath his foot. The King looked down and found an envelope upon the floor.
Somnus bent over to pick it up, confused at the black markings upon it until he saw that they were little fingerprints. The wax seal was also their family's own. It took no time to realize what this was and the King found himself smiling despite his earlier circumstances.
The man broke the seal to find a piece of parchment with just two words written in his Queen's handwriting.
There were also more fingerprints all over this parchment. It looked like his five year old son, Aiden, had a bit of fun with the ink. There was a single, smaller handprint as well. It was carefully placed underneath his wife's handwriting. No doubt she had helped place that, neat and tidy as it was. Two year old Lyria would have made much more of a mess if left on her own.
The fear and sorrow began to fade to the back of Somnus's mind and a warmth began to replace it. His Queen knew of his habits. He spent many nights after a particularly bad dream wandering the darkened halls of the castle. She had mentioned the night prior that Aiden was asking about his father's day of birth. Aiden had wanted to wish his father a happy birthday just like he always did with him and Lyria.
Though Somnus no longer celebrated his birthday since Ardyn's imprisonment, he desired to make both his children's birthdays as joyous as his own used to be. The King made sure to make time for them as Ardyn used to do for him.
Somnus frequently suffered the worst nightmares on the day of his own or Ardyn's birth. His Queen had known Somnus would awaken this night. She likely hoped this letter would help cheer him up.
And Somnus found that it did. He knew he could not allow despair to overcome him. He had a kingdom and family to protect.
The King clutched the letter to him, still wishing things could be different but knowing they could not be. Maybe, one day long into the future, he would see Ardyn again. His Ardyn, free of the influence of that cursed disease.
Somnus would await that day, praying it would come soon... Yet also knowing it would not come for quite some time.
Happy birthday Somnus!
I did have a story, well more of a chapter in another story, written for Ardyn's birthday but then I didn't end up liking it. It will need some more work before I post that.
I've also been trying to rewrite and expand The Accursed, the story I wrote last year. This fic here would be part of that canon, not Episode Ardyn's. I might end of posting the revised version one day.
Thanks for reading!