One Day at A Time
The next morning was like any other morning at Whitepearl. Elentaari
bathed and dressed, then went to the dining hall to eat her morning meal
alone. When she was done, she would go to the second room of the western
hall where she would be tutored in language, mathematics, science and
etiquette. There was a small break for her noon meal where, again, she
went to the dining hall to eat in solitude. More schooling followed, then
she went to her room do her homework. Then she bathed again and dressed
for dinner. When she got to the dining hall, her parents were already
seated at the table. She sat down and looked from her father to her
mother. "Am I late?"
Alina smiled. "No dear, not at all. We were just talking about you,
Here it comes, Elentaari thought. She told Father about last night.
He's going to be angry.
"We're going to have a ball," Kenneth said.
She blinked. "We are?" He nodded. "May I ask what for?"
"To formally announce you."
She froze for a moment, repeating those words in her head. Slowly,
she turned to look at her mother. "Excuse me?"
Her mother beamed. "We are going to formally announce your
engagement to Prince Aidan!" Elentaari reeled. She put her head to her
forehead, feeling all the blood rush from her face "Are you alright,
"Of course she is," Kenneth said. "She's just excited, aren't you?"
He watched her take her goblet of water and drink almost the whole thing.
"Mother, last night I thought you said."
"I was tired, dear. You must understand that we only want the best
for you. And we believe Prince Aidan is what you need. What?" Elentaari
realized she was looking at her mother like she was crazy. For an instant,
she was going to say something more, but she thought better of it.
"Fine," Kenneth said. "The seamstress is having a dress made for her
now. Something light in color so her hair and eyes don't stand out too
"Perfect, "Alina said. They continued on as if Elentaari wasn't even
in the room. But she hardly heard them anyway. Her mother wanted her to
marry Aidan? Now they wanted to play down her hair and eyes? What was she
going to do? She suddenly felt uncomfortable in her own home, and she
wanted to cry. Her parents didn't feel like her parents anymore. She felt
the walls closing in on her as thunder rumbled in the distance. She found
herself short of breath and everything was spinning.
Miska's eyes focused on the vision, her fingers twitching around the
flame. "Easy," Tanya said softly. "Easy."
"Elentaari?" Her mother's voice sounded like a distant echo. She
looked for her face, but fell out of her chair, losing consciousness. When
she awoke, she was in her bed with a wet cloth on her forehead. Chessley's
old wrinkled face bent over hers.
"Are you awake?"
She sat up, taking the cloth in her hand. She looked around,
confused. "What happened?" She tried to take a deep breath but couldn't.
"Easy child, I'm not exactly sure what happened. How do you feel?"
Chessley touched the back of her hand to Elentaari's forehead.
"I can't breathe," she said, her hand going to her throat. Lightning
flashed outside and she jumped. She felt lightheaded again and lay back
down. "What's happening to me Chess?"
"Shh, close your eyes. It will pass." Elentaari closed her eyes,
soon falling into a dream. She saw the two figures again. This time they
were a little closer. The couple danced still, but she saw the man was
taller than the woman he was dancing with. They twirled and spun and moved
to a music she did not hear. She drifted in and out of the dream, thunder
echoing in her mind, and feeling the rumble of it gently rock her body.
After some time she opened her eyes. Chessley was gently shaking her.
"Wake up. Come to the terrace."
Elentaari stood slowly and made her way out onto the terrace. The
storm was passing and, despite the clouds, she could see a few patches of
clear skies and some brilliant stars. "How do you feel now?" Chessley
asked, almost at a whisper.
Miska smiled and stepped back from the flame. Wista leaned forward,
her face inches from the vision in the fire. Her lips pursed as she blew
Elentaari's hair blew in the slight breeze, and she breathed in. "I
can breathe a bit better, but not like I usually can." Chessley nodded, as
if expecting that exact answer.
"Just wait." She went inside and got Elentaari's robe. She came
back out and draped it over her shoulders. "Just you wait," she repeated.
Elentaari looked down at her.
"What are we are we waiting for?" Chessley didn't answer. She
placed her hands on the railing and watched the clouds. Elentaari said
nothing. She turned her face back to the sky, watching the clouds roll by.
She caught a glimpse of the moon and she almost felt light hearted. Soon
the rain died and not a cloud could be seen.
Chessley looked at her, expectant. Elentaari looked up at the full
moon. The light shone on her face and she smiled, her eyes sparkling. "I
feel so much better." Again, the old woman smiled. She went inside
wearing a grin.
"Sleep well, Taari." She went inside also to see Chessley had gone.
The days seemed to drag on as the date of the ball drew near. She
didn't see Chessley very much, and when she did, others were around so her
questions went unanswered. Her mother and father disappeared more
frequently and talk was always centered around her future.
She tried on her gown, a lavish silk and velvet gown of white with
gold trim and lace on the bodice and sleeves. She looked at herself in the
mirror when she had the gown on, and for some reason, her thoughts went to
the shadow woman in her dreams. She closed her eyes and imagined dancing
with someone taller than she. Aidan was her exact height, and that was
fine, but she really dreamt of a man whose eyes she could look up into when
they were in each others arms.
"What's going on in that head of yours?" Elentaari opened her eyes
and saw Chessley in the mirror standing behind her. She blushed.
Chessley stood next to her, adjusting the small train on the gown.
She smiled. "You are going to take his breath away."
"If only," she mumbled.
Chessley suppressed a smile. "Now now, child." Elentaari watched
the seamstress bend and adjust the hem line.
"Chess," she whispered. "When can we talk alone?" To her surprise
and confusion, Chessley acted as though she hadn't even herd her.
"The prince will be here in two days," she said
"Two days! But the ball isn't even close!" Chessley looked up at
"He will be staying to spend more time with you, and I'm sure, your
parents." Elentaari growled and crossed her arms. "Now stop that,"
Chessley scolded. "Just because I call you child doesn't give you leave to
behave like one." She unfolded Elentaari's arms. "You had best remember
that you are a princess, young lady, and stop acting like the spoiled brat
you appear to be."
That night, Elentaari tossed and turned, finding no position
comfortable. She kept hearing Chessley scolding her, over and over. She had
had small fights with her before, but the sting of her chiding words stuck
with her like never before. She sighed and pushed her covers back. Swinging
her feet over the edge of the bed, she slipped them into her slippers and
put her robe on. When she opened her door, the moonlit hallway was empty.
She padded down the stairs to the main floor, then opened a door that
led to the basement, the servants quarters. She grabbed the lanterns that
was hung just inside and always lit, then went swiftly down the stone
stairs, her steps taking her to the very first door she laid eyes on. She
bit her lip, then knocked softly. When no answer came, she knocked again a
"Come," came a raspy reply. Elentaari pushed the door open to find
Chessley sitting on her bed, her mess of gray curls spiraling in tangles
down her back. "What is it child? Is everything alright?" The old woman
reached for her robe, but Elentaari stopped her with a nod, and sat at the
foot of the bed. Chessley took the lantern from her and set it on her
nightstand. "Is everything alright?"
Elentaari looked at her with sad eyes. "Are you mad at me, Chess?"
Chessley blinked. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
"You told me to stop acting like a spoiled brat this morning."
She smiled, then pulled the young girl into an embrace. "That's
because that was exactly the way you were acting. But I could never be
angry at you, Elentaari. I love you too much."
Elentaari smiled and closed her eyes, squeezing Chessley tight. "I
love you too, Chess. I just wanted to make sure everything was alright
between us. I just couldn't sleep knowing that you were angry with me." She
sat up and Chessley put a hand to Elentaari's cheek.
"Well now you can sleep. Everything is just fine."
"Alright." She leaned forward and kissed Chessley on the cheek, then
took the lantern and went to the door. Looking back, she smiled.
Prince Aidan arrived under the noon sun, two days after Elentaari's
fitting. He rode a brilliant white stallion with two guardsmen at each
flank, also on white horses, though not so grand as the prince's. The king
and queen of Whitepearl were there to greet him when he rode up to the
gates, as was their reluctant daughter. His horse's reigns were held as he
jumped down and bowed low before the king. He took Alina's hand and gently
touched her knuckles to his lips. He did the same to Elentaari.
"Welcome, lad!' Kenneth said, giving the prince a friendly pat on
the back. "It is good to see you. How are your parents? Well, I hope."
Aidan smiled up at the king.
"My father does well in the matters of running his kingdom, but his
health has been failing him as of late."
Kenneth nudged him with his elbow. "Well, we had best get this
marriage going then, hadn't we?" Aidan smiled again, revealing two rows of
perfect teeth. "Come inside. Your men have stalls for their horses and
the stable boy will take your horse down as well."
The four ascended the stairs and went inside. They all followed
Kenneth to an open room on the right where they could sit and talk. The
king and queen sat on a lavish red velvet loveseat in front of a large
picture window overlooking a small rose garden. Elentaari sat in a
cushioned wooden chair next to them and Aidan stood, looking around the
room at the furnishings and the books that lined the walls.
"Exquisite taste, whoever decorated this room," he commented, sitting
down in a plush red velvet chair across from Elentaari.
"Thank you," Alina said. "I personally dictated where things should
go in almost every room of Whitepearl."
"I should love for a tour, if it isn't any trouble."
"Let's talk first," Kenneth said. "Then Elentaari can show you
around. You'd like that, wouldn't you , Elentaari?" She nodded, her gaze
fixed on the floor. As conversation turned to the goings on in Aidan's
homeland and of his journey, the wheels in Elentaari's head began to spin.
There has to be a way out of this, she thought, hearing nothing of
what was being said around her. If I can't get out of this before the
ball, then I will be trapped. There has to be a way to convince Aidan that
he doesn't want me. Or I'll run away. I could do that too. She thought
of packing her bags and stealing away into the night, leaving her title
behind her. The idea was beginning to appeal to her, until she realized
she'd never even spent a day among the common people, and she knew she
wouldn't be able to survive. She could be recognized and held for ransom.
Or worse! Her thoughts only went downhill from there.
Chessley soon entered the room with tea and cake, saving her from her
own thoughts. She smiled. "Thank you, Chessley." Chessley nodded, leaving
the tray on a table at the side of the room. Elentaari got up to pour
herself a cup. Before she could ask if anyone else wanted one she heard
Aidan right behind her.
"Would you mind pouring me some as well, love?" Love? She bit her
tongue and poured him a cup, forcing a smile. "Thank you," he said, taking
the cup from her. He turned around. "Your Graces?" They both declined
and they sat back down. Aidan watched Elentaari from the corner of his
eye, a smile teasing his lips as he took a sip of tea. She wanted to ask
him what his problem was, wanted to wipe that cocky look off his face. But
she knew she had to behave in front of her parents. When they were out of
sight, was another story.
"Would you like a tour now, Prince Aidan?" He set his cup down and
smiled at her.
"Come now, Elentaari. If we are to be married, I think it would be
fine for you to just call me Aidan, don't you?"
"Of course, " Kenneth said. "We're going to be family. There's no
need for titles here."
Elentaari pasted on another smile. "You are right." She put her cup
back on the platter. "Shall we?" He stood and walked over to her. She
stood, slipping her hand into the crook of his arm. They left the room,
leaving Alina and Kenneth to discuss wedding plans.
"I do not like him." Miska frowned at the vision in the flames. "He
is not the one."
"I'm confused," Wista said, her head tilting. "Is she, or is she not
Tanya pressed a finger to her lips, her ruby eyes still on the fires.
"And this room up here is the study. My father spends very little
time in here, but he likes it to look like he does all of his best thinking
in here. Next is my bedroom, nothing to see there. Now we cross over into
the western wing of the hall." Elentaari and Aidan walked arm in arm
around the bend where the two halls met. Stopping briefly, Aidan looked up
at the gigantic portrait of a great king from long ago. "That's my great
great grandsire." Aidan nodded and they started walking again. As they
walked around the bend, Aidan stopped.
"What does this door lead to?" Elentaari looked at the wall Aidan
was staring at.
"That's a wall." Aidan shook his head. Letting go or her arm, he
walked to the wall.
"No, look at the outline." He placed his hands on the wall, tracing
fine lines of, what indeed looked like the frame of a door. Elentaari was
confused. She never knew of that door. She thought quickly.
"That's the secret room where we put guests who are unwelcome or
overstay their visit."
He turned and looked at her, a small smile on his face. "So she does
have a sense of humor." She smiled slyly. "And a real smile. Must nicer
than the ones you were forcing." Elentaari quickly lost her smile.
"Well, that's the castle. What else would you like to see?" He
walked to her, taking her hands in his.
"More of that smile." She looked away. "Listen, Elentaari, I
understand that you don't like the idea of being my wife. But sometimes we
don't have control over things like this."
She looked at him, her eyes narrowed. "What are you saying?"
"All I'm saying is, if we can become friends, at least, this union
may go a bit smoother."
She considered it. It did make some sense. "I don't know, Aidan."
"What don't you know?" he asked. "Tell me what I can do to make this
easier on you? Is there someone who already has your heart? Because if
that is what is holding you back, don't let it. I will look the other way
if you wish to continue a relationship with him."
Elentaari looked at him, appalled. "Are you serious?"
"Only if you want me to be," he grinned. Elentaari shook her head
and walked away from him.
"Aidan, I just don't think it will work." She sat on a cushioned
bench leaning against the wall. "I want to marry because I am in love, not
because I am told to do so by my parents. Do you understand?" He nodded,
walking over to her. He sat and laced his fingers together.
"I do understand, and I am in complete agreement."
She looked at him. "Is there someone else you would marry if it were
He shook his head, laughing a little. "No. There isn't anyone. But
you never said if you had someone."
"No," she said quietly. "But if you agree with me, then why are you
willing to go through with this? I know it's not because you are in love
with me.is it?" Again, he chuckled.
"You're quite charming in your own way, Elentaari, but no. I am not
in love with you." He sat up straight, his dark eyes meeting hers. "But I
would like the chance to spend more time with you. Maybe, like I said, at
least become friends. Who knows what kind of feelings could grow from that
Elentaari nodded. "That does make sense." She cocked her head. "I
guess you should get to work then."
She grinned. "On winning me over."
Tanya waved a hand and the fire shrank to smoldering embers. "He is
not an elf." Tanya met Ambar's eyes.
"Not he is not," she agreed. The eldest sister crossed her arms and
frowned slightly. "Where is the book?"
Ambar walked to the cavern wall and reached into it, the rock surface
rippling as she pulled her hand back though, an old green, leather bound
book in her hands. She walked to Tanya and handed it to her. Tanya
flipped through the worn pages, stopping close to the beginning. She shook
"The prophecy says nothing of this prince."
Wista sighed resting her hands on her hips. "I guess we just have to
wait and see what part he has to play in all of this."
After dinner that evening, Elentaari and Aidan walked in the gardens
under a full moon. "I respect what your father has done. He's a great
leader, and it seems like his people really look up to and love him."
Elentaari was stunned. "How do you know that?"
Aidan shrugged. "I was hungry and we stopped at this little inn and
tavern just into town. I hid my marks and my men waited outside. I asked
around, like I was someone from another village, which, in essence, I am."
Elentaari smiled in disbelief. "Everyone told me that the king was well
loved and everyone had complete trust and faith in him and his rulings."
"What else did they say?"
"Well, they said the queen was both beautiful and wise, and the king
had much love for her." He stopped walking and looked at the roses. "But
they also said the queen's beauty paled in comparison to that of her
daughter." He looked at Elentaari. She blushed. "I think I would have to
"Did they teach you that in school?" she asked, recovering quickly.
"How to be a charmer."
A grin spread across his face. "Actually, they did." They both
laughed and continued walking. "So tell me, Elentaari, what is it that
"What do you mean?"
"I love to ride and hunt.and read. I spend many daylight hours
losing myself in page upon page of many books. What is it that you love to
"Well," she frowned, thinking. "There really isn't much I'm allowed
to do. I don't ride or hunt.but I do read. And music." She smiled. "I
would be lost without music."
Aidan nodded. "The music I can do, but the rest of that being
sheltered stuff will have to go. I need an adventurous bride."
"And who is to say, Prince Aidan, that you have won me over yet?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Who is to say, Princess Elentaari, that I
haven't?" She smirked. As they approached a clearing in the garden, they
stopped and stared up at the night sky.
"Sometimes I come out here late at night, if I can't think or escape
"Why would you want to escape your dreams?"
She sighed. "Only one. It frustrates me, and sometimes I need to
get away from it."
She stared up at the sky, not answering for a moment. "I've been
having it almost every night since I got back. It's changed little." She
was silent again for a moment. Her eyes seemed to dull a little, as if
remembering it was painful. "It started out as two shadowed figures, far
away from me, dancing." He nodded. "Then they got a little closer, and I
could see it was a man and a woman, the man considerably taller than his
partner. But I still couldn't see them."
"It's still the same.they are so close, but I can't see their faces."
She looked down. "It frustrates me."
He smiled sympathetically. "I can see why. You have no idea who
They both fell silent. The stars burned bright above them, and
Elentaari smiled. "I feel so free out here. Sometimes I pretend I can
talk to other people by my thoughts." She stopped, feeling silly, and
sighed. "Aren't they beautiful?"
Aidan nodded. "They are." He looked at Elentaari. "So are you."
She blushed, and upon instinct, she brushed her hair behind her ear. He
stopped, surprised. Realizing he was looking at her hideously pointed ear,
she quickly pulled her hair back down. "No," he whispered, pulling her
hand away from her ear. He brushed the hair back. "Why do you hide like
that?" She looked at the ground feeling like a rabbit who is being held by
the gaze of a hungry lion.
"Please, I'm not supposed to."
"Why? No one should be ashamed of who they are."
She bit her lip, feeling angry at herself for suddenly wanting to
cry. "Because I am different. My hair, my eyes, my.my ears."
"Elentaari, you're not."
"Yes I am.I'm a monster." She turned from him and fled inside.
Chessley saw her run up the stairs and heard her close the door to her
bedroom. She watched as Aidan entered.
"What happened?" she asked.
He shook his head, staring after Elentaari. "I don't know. We were
talking and I complimented her. She pushed her hair away from her face."
"Oh dear, " Chessley whispered. "You saw her ears?"
"Yeah, but what's the big deal? I've seen elves before."
"Hush!" She grabbed his arm, forgetting he was royalty, and pulled
him into the kitchen. She looked around. Finding no one else in there, she
stood in front of Aidan, her face close to his. "She doesn't know she is an
The idea seemed absurd to him. "How could she not know?"
"You may not have noticed, riding through town Prince Aidan, but
there are no elves around here. They are forbidden to come anywhere near
Whitepearl or any of it's towns."
"But why? What does this all mean?"
"I'm afraid you know too much already, boy. Just keep your wits
about you, and mention not a word of our conversation to the king, the
queen, Elentaari.no one if you know what's good for you." She turned and
left Aidan alone in the kitchen.
Chessley knocked on Elentaari's door. She waited for an answer, and
when she got none, she knocked again. "Elentaari, it's Chessley. May I
come in please?" There was still no answer. She took the knob in her hand,
turning it slowly. The door opened slightly and Chessley poked her head
"I'm out here," came a distant reply. Chessley went in, closing the
door behind her. The glass doors to the terrace stood wide open.
Elentaari was outside, leaning on the railing, looking up at the night sky.
Her long hair blew in the slight breeze. She looked over her shoulder at
Chessley. "If you came to check on me, I'm alright." She looked back up at
Chessley nodded, joining her outside. "I do not doubt that you are
alright. But are you okay?"
Elentaari looked at her. "Didn't I just say I was?"
"No, you said you were alright. To me, that means you are fine,
physically. But being okay, means being wholly alright. Physically and
She frowned. "I feel lost, Chess."
"That's natural," she replied. "You're growing up, going through
"I don't mean like that." Elentaari turned to face the old woman.
"Something about me is different, and I have the feeling you know a lot
more than you let on." Chessley said nothing. "Chess, I love you like a
grandmother. I feel closer to you than my own parents at times." Again
she said nothing. "And I trust you. I chose to believe that, whatever it
is you know about me, you're keeping it from me because you believe that
it's the right thing to do." She turned back to the sky. To her surprise,
she saw Chessley wipe her eyes. Elentaari hung her head. "I didn't mean
to make you cry, Chess."
"Oh, child." Chessley reached out and took Elentaari in her arms.
They stood there for a moment, holding each other. When Chessley finally
let her go, she looked up at Elentaari. "There is much you do not know. I
have been torn about what I should and should not tell you." This time,
Elentaari was the silent one. "I still am unsure of what you are ready to
know, but I see now that you need to know everything, ready or not."
Elentaari's heart flipped. "What are you saying Chess?"
"Get ready for bed, child. I will return in a few hours, when I am
sure everyone is asleep."
"Chess, I have so many questions."
"I know you do. And I will answer all that I can." The two women
stood for a moment, smiling at each other. "And we have to decide what to
do about the young prince." Elentaari nodded. They gave each other one
more quick hug and Chessley left. Elentaari stood alone on the terrace,
her heart racing. Things may finally begin to make sense to her tonight.
She bit her lip and smiled, trying to get all the questions she wanted to
ask in order.
She turned to go back inside, but heard a whistle below her that made
her stop. She leaned over the railing, looking for the source of the
sound. The whistle came again, and she saw Aidan walk out from the shadow
of a tall weeping willow. "What are you doing out there?" she hissed.
"I had to apologize to you."
"It was never my intent to see you upset, especially at my own
doing." He held up a handful of flowers from the garden. "A peace
offering." Elentaari gasped.
"If my mother finds out that her flowers were cut."
"Oh, come now," Aidan said, laughing. "How often does your mother
actually walk in the garden that is so precious to her?"
Elentaari grinned. "You're crazy."
"Self proclaimed." She stared at him for a moment.
"You're not the person I thought you were, Aidan." He cocked his
"I could take that statement for good or bad."
She gave him a half smile. "From now on, please call me Taari."
They smiled at each other, then she turned and went inside, closing the
doors behind her.
Aidan stood there for a moment, looking up at the place she had been
standing. "I'll take that as good then, Taari." He looked at the flowers
in his hand and smelled them. With a smile, he turned and left to go
inside. As he entered, he spotted Chessley coming through a door that led
to the servants quarters in the basement. She had some papers in her hand.
He grinned. "I think she likes me."
Chessley crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. "And what makes you
He handed her the flowers. "She told me to call her Taari."
She was impressed. "Well, boy, it seems as if you are well on your
way." Aidan was confused.
"On my way to what?"
"Winning her over.." He smiled. Chessley handed the flowers back to
him. "Just be careful."
"She has many people who would see you hanged, royalty or not, if her
heart gets broken."
Aidan nodded. "I understand."
Chessley walked over to him. "No, I don't think you do.." He
blinked, a bit startled at her forwardness. "There is a lot more to this
princess than you may surmise."
Chessley's voice grew quieter, yet somehow more menacing. "Meaning
that you are only beginning to scratch the surface of who Elentaari really
is. She is much more complex than even she knows."
"But how can."
"Just be careful." Chessley said once more. Aidan nodded, knowing
this woman meant business.
"I mean her no harm, Chessley. Honestly, the more time I spend with
her, the more I like her. And despite what she says, I think she feels the
same way about me. I only wish the best for her, and if I am the one to
make that happen, then so be it. I promise, I will let not harm come to
her. I will protect her by whatever means I can." Chessley narrowed her
eyes. "Yes, but can you protect her from yourself?"
Aidan shook his head. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"I thought that the two of you didn't see eye to eye, and neither of
you wanted this marriage to take place." He nodded.
"That was true in the beginning. But like I said, the more time I."
"I heard what you said, boy. But marriage means you stick together
through good times and bad.even when you don't agree with one another ."
He seemed confused. She sighed. "I have no more time for this useless
prattle tonight. I have other matters that need to be attended to.
Goodnight, young Prince."
"Chessley, wait." She stopped and turned around. "What can I do to
prove that I am sincere?"
She shook her head. "I don't know." She climbed the stairs and left
"I like that handmaiden."
Wista raised an eyebrow and looked at Miska. "That's saying a lot
since you don't like many people, Tanya."
Tanya shrugged. "We have been watching Elentaari for many years now,
and it is good to know that someone is there to watch out for her."
Ambar smiled softly. "You almost sound protective of her."
Miska blinked. "What is she doing now?"
Elentaari sat before her fireplace. The two logs inside of it were
cold and dark. Her brows were furrowed together in concentration and her
long legs were folded under her. "Ok, I did it the other night, I can do
it again. But how?" She scooted a little closer to the fireplace.
"Fire!" she exclaimed. Nothing happened. She bit her lip in thought.
"What was different then? I thought that I was cold.Ok, I got it." She
straightened, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "I'm cold," she said. "I
think I'll make a fire." Her eyebrows raised expectantly. But again,
nothing happened. She sighed. "Fire, please?" As she said this, she
lifted a finger, pointing at the fireplace. To her surprise and much to
her delight, blue and gold flames sprang to life before her. She let out a
whoop and jumped up on her bed.
"I did it!" She sat and looked at the flames. "But how did I do
it?" But she didn't have time to think about it. Footsteps approached her
door and stopped.
"Chessley, what are you doing?" Elentaari walked quietly to the
door, straining to hear her mother's voice. "What are those papers in your
"M'lady, you startled me." She listened hearing footsteps come
closer. She assumed her mother was the one who moved. "These are
Elentaari's papers, she left them for me to look at and wanted them back
"Let me see those."
More footsteps, heavier than Chessley's and Alina's. "Actually, Your
Grace." It was Aidan. "It's a letter to Elentaari. I asked Chessley to
give it to her." There was a moment of silence.
"That looks like a rather long letter, Aidan. If you have that much
to say, I'm sure my daughter would appreciate you talking to her, rather
than trying to deal with her through quill and parchment."
"You are probably right, M'lady." She heard the papers being
"Then this can be discarded. Chessley, could you send some tea up
"Of course, M'lady." Footsteps lead away, then stopped. "Right
away, Chess." Elentaari listened as Chessley left the hallway and waited
to hear what Aidan and her mother were going to say.
"She's right in there, Aidan. I suggest you get on with it."
"Yes, Highness." Elentaari dashed to her bed as his knock came on
her door. "Elentaari, it's me, Aidan. May I come in? We need to talk."
Elentaari walked to her door and opened it. She caught her mother's
eyes briefly, and closed the door behind Aidan when he was in. He put his
finger to his lips to tell her to be quiet, and they both listened as Alina
came up to the door to listen.
"Elentaari, we really need to talk. I don't think you're really
listening to me."
She looked at him, confused. He motioned with his head to the door
and mouthed, go with it. She shook her head slowly. "Ok.talk."
"I just think we should try and be friends."
"You're right." He shook his head violently. "No, you're.wrong?"
He nodded. "Elentaari, I'm telling you, we just need to sit down and
talk about this, and I'm not leaving until you listen to me." They were
quite for a moment, hearing Alina leave.
"What was that all about?" Elentaari whispered.
"I was hoping that you could tell me," he whispered back.
She frowned shaking her head. "I know nothing." She walked back to
her bad and sat on the edge of it, her gaze fixed on the floor. Aidan
pressed his lips together and looked at her.
"Yes you do, I can read it on your face." He sat next to her. "I
thought we were friends now, Taari." She growled low in her throat and he
almost laughed. "What was that?"
"Are you going to use our friendship against me every time you want
something. Because if that is how this is going to work, I'm out."
He nodded. "Okay, let it out. I understand that you're angry or
upset in someway. Go ahead and take it out on me."
She jumped up and began pacing her room. He stared for a moment at
the strange color fire in the fireplace. She caught him staring and
groaned. "Don't look at that, please." He lifted his eyes to meet hers.
"Chessley was supposed to come back here tonight. We were going to talk."
Her eyes grew sad, then a spark started in her. Her green eyes flashed
with anger. The fire jumped in response to her strong emotion. Aidan
watched silently as the passive, quiet, sometimes sarcastic princess her
knew sank to her knees before the fire, so many emotions playing tag inside
her head. His heart went out to her.
He stood and went behind her, placing a hand gently on her shoulder.
"Taari, just tell me if there is something I can do." She shook her head,
her face a blank slate. He got down on is knees beside her. "Were you two
going to talk about you mother and father?" he guessed. Again she shook
her head. "The wedding?"
"No," she said, sniffling. She sighed and wiped her eyes. "Aidan, I
think it would be better if you left. I can't marry you."
"Why not?" he asked quietly.
A tear slid down her cheek. When he reached out to wipe it away, she
stopped him. "Because I don't even know who I am. And how can I give
myself to someone, when I don't even know what is being given?" She moved
closer to the fire, shivering a little. "I told you, I'm not like anyone
"I understand that, Taari, I really do." He moved closer to her. "I
see that you are only told what the king and queen feel you should know."
She looked at him, surprised. He smiled a little and brushed the hair away
from her face, revealing her pointed ear. "I'm not leaving," he said
softly. "There's something about you that makes me want to help you. Even
though it would be so easy for me to leave right now. I'm staying." His
hand gently brushed her cheek and she closed her eyes. "You can trust me,
Taari. Let me help you."
She opened her eyes, trying to read his thoughts to see if he was
being sincere. His brown eyes told her that he only wanted to help her.
At last, she nodded. "Okay," she said, just above a whisper.
"Okay," he smiled. "Where do we start?" For some reason, Elentaari
laughed. "Did I say something funny?"
She shook her head. "I was going to ask you the same thing." She
watched him grow serious and look at the fire.
"How about telling me about this strange fire you have." At this
Elentaari actually looked excited.
She sat up a bit straighter and sniffled, pushing her hair behind her
ears. "The other night, Mother, Chessley and I were lying on the floor,
and I thought in my head that I was cold and I wanted to make a fire. I
only thought it, I didn't say or do anything! And it just happened!"
"The fire lit itself?"
She nodded. "So I was up here waiting for Chess and I thought I
would try to do it again."
"So what did you do?"
She shrugged, looking at the flames, the colors dancing with each
other. "Well, I tried just saying fire, then said what I thought the other
night when it happened, then I just asked it nicely and it happened.."
He raised an eyebrow. "You just asked it, and it worked?"
"Well," Aidan said. "It's obvious you have some sort of connection
to the fire somehow."
"What do you mean?"
"When you got really angry and then weren't sure what you were
feeling, the fire reacted accordingly. When you first got mad, the fire
jumped. When you were sad, it died some and wasn't burning as bright. Do
you see what I'm saying?"
She nodded. "I do. When I was a little girl, my father was telling
me this story. He did or said something that scared me, and when I jumped,
the fire reacted to my action." She bit her lip, furrowing her brow.
"Stop," Aidan warned, knowing exactly what she was thinking. "You're
not a monster. I'm not exactly sure what you are, but you're not a
monster." He eyes widened as she looked at him "I'm kidding."
She frowned. "Are you ever serious?"
"I'm working on it." They sat in silence, each with different
questions running through their heads.
"The other night there was a storm, and I couldn't breathe." He
looked at her, a bit alarmed. "It was strange. The more clouds there were,
the harder it was to get air. But as the storm passed, and the more stars
I could see, the better I felt. And when the moon was over me." She took
a deep breath, a calm look settling on her face. She closed her eyes.
"When I felt it's light on me, I almost felt like I could fly." She sat
like that for a moment, Aidan studying her face. She opened her eyes and
looked at his. "I felt better than I ever had."
"Do you think it had something to do with the light?"
"I do," she said. "It happens during the day too. I feel suffocated
when so many clouds surround the sun." She shook her head. "And I never
liked the rain."
"Fire and light," Aidan said to himself. "Do you think there's a
connection between the two?"
She shrugged. "All I know is when I don't have some sort of natural
light, I feel really weak, and I can't do anything." He nodded and fell
back into thought. "I wish Chessley were here. I bet she would know."
"Yeah, what was that all about?" Aidan asked.
Elentaari's eyes narrowed. "I don't know, but it's almost like my
mother knew Chess was coming here to tell me something I'm not supposed to
know. I heard her ask for tea, but if she has her running errands all
night, I wouldn't be surprised."
"Oh!" Aidan stood and pulled a crumpled piece of parchment out of
his breast pocket. "I snatched this from Chessley before your mother took
the rest of them." He uncrumpled the paper and handed it to Elentaari.
She accepted it with a shaking hand. She took a deep breath and got up,
walking to her bed. She sat, the paper in her hands. "Aren't you going to
She glanced at the paper, then looked at Aidan. "I'm a little
scared," she admitted.
He sat next to her. "Why? What is it?"
She sighed. "Chessley said she knew things.about me. That's what we
were going to talk about tonight."
"But I thought you wanted answers."
"I do," she agreed. "But I'm afraid of what I'm going to find out
about myself from this single paper."
He squeezed her hand. "I'm right here with you."
She took a deep breath and lifted the paper close to her. Aidan
watched her face as she read. Her brows furrowed at first, as if she was
trying to make sense of what it was she was reading. Then her eyes clouded
over a bit. She looked up for a moment, then kept reading. "What does it
She shook her head and began to read out loud. "Well, it starts mid-
sentence. It says.and I was told to stay silent. I have been in the
service of this family for two generations and this will be my third. I am
honor bound to stay silent. But how long will it be before people question
our new princess.'
She is fair compared to everyone else, with piercing green eyes. And
she has those pointed ears that everyone else will be talking about for
sure. She looked so scared. I wanted to take her and run with her, to
give her.and there it stops." She looked at Aidan as if he would be able
to translate the paper for her. "What does this all mean? Give me what?"
He took the paper from her, reading it over. Frowning, he shook his
head. "It almost sounds like." He trailed off, rubbing his chin.
"Like what?" She grabbed his arm. "What does it sound like?"
He shook his head. "We can't really get anything from this until we
have the rest of those papers Chessley had." He looked at Elentaari. "But
your mother took them."
She stuck her finger in her mouth, chewing on her thumb nail in
thought. "So we have to get those somehow."
"Good luck," Aidan said. "She crumpled them up and probably threw
"No," she argued. "I think she wanted those papers."
"Chess never came back," she pointed out. "My mother had to have
some idea of what was going on. I'm not sure how, but she obviously
thought something was going on. She wouldn't have wanted to see those
papers otherwise. And why else would she take them after?" He shrugged.
"We have to get in there somehow and get those papers. I just know she has
"So let's go."
She looked at him startled. "Go where?"
"You said we had to go get the papers." He grabbed her arm and
started ushering her to the door.
"We can't just go over there and ask for them and expect to get them.
We need a plan!"
He nodded. "I have a plan. I'll cause a diversion downstairs and
you'll sneak in and get the papers when they leave the room. I'll keep
them busy until I know you're out."
Elentaari crossed her arms. "And what do you plan to do? And what
if they both don't leave the room?"
He sighed. "Come on, let's just go see if it works." They opened
the door and Aidan headed down the stairs. He turned and pointed down the
hall. "You go get their attention," he whispered. "I'll do the rest.
Wave when you're out." She nodded and hurried down the hall. Walking
swiftly and quietly, she approached her parent's bedroom. She took a deep
breath as she stood in front of the door. She raised her hand to knock,
then lowered it, biting her lip. She turned to leave then decided against
it. You have to do this, she told herself. If you want the truth, then you
have to do this.
But what should she say? Taking another deep breath, she knocked.
Her mother opened the door and looked at her, surprised.
"Elentaari?" she questioned. "Is everything alright?" She stepped
into the hall, looking around. "Where's Aidan?
"That's what I came to talk to you about," she said loudly. She
hoped Aidan heard her and was ready to do his part. Taking his queue, she
heard him downstairs complaining in a loud voice.
"What's that?" Alina asked.
"And I want to know what is being done about it. f I had any sense,
I'd take my men and leave right now!"
"Leave?" Alina looked at Elentaari. "What did you do?" She rushed
off and Elentaari stood alone, a bit stung by her mother's accusation.
Shaking her head sadly, she glanced in the bedroom. Her father wasn't
She went in quietly, hurrying to search through the drawers in the
nightstands and the dressers and searching the closets. But she found
nothing. Leaving the bedroom, she tip toed to the top of the stairs,
hiding behind a suit of arms.
Alina's back was to her, but Aidan made sure he had a clear view of
the landing. "I just want to make sure my horses are alive when I am ready
to leave. A stoat in the stables is a serious thing!"
"I understand," Alina was saying. "I assure you it will be taken
care of and never happen again."
Out of the corner of his eye, Aidan saw Elentaari wave to him, lift
her hands and shrug, the disappear back down the hall. "Very good," he
said quickly to Alina. "Good night, your majesty."
Alina watched him go, silently confused by his abrupt acceptance of
her apology. She went back to her room and closed the door without so much
as a second thought of Elentaari.
Elentaari, on the other hand, had gone back to her room and was
standing on the terrace, thinking about her mother. She had accused her of
being the reason why Aidan was upset before she knew all the facts. She
never used to be like that before. It felt like everything she knew to be
true and normal in her life was quickly becoming un true and out of the
"Hey, did you find anything?"
She jumped, startled. "Aidan, you scared me. I didn't even hear you
"I didn't," he grinned.
She shook her head. "No, I couldn't find any papers or anything."
She looked at him. "Do you think she might have thrown them away?"
"I don't know." He frowned. "I went to Chessley's room to talk to
her and she wasn't even there."
"I told you," Elentaari said. "My mother has her running all around.
She knows that Chess was coming to tell me something. She has to."
They stood outside for awhile, not saying anything, just staring up
at the night sky. She glanced at Aidan out of the corner of her eye. She
was still a little surprised that he wanted so much to help her. She
thought for a moment that he might be part of her parents' plan, that he
knew everything she wanted to know and that she couldn't really trust him.
But she quickly dismissed the thought. She watched his brown eyes sparkle
as he stared up at the stars. He looked at her and smiled. Her stomach
flipped and she cursed in her head. Frowning, she looked away from him.
"What is that look for?"
"Nothing," she said quickly. "It's getting late though, and there's
nothing else we can do tonight."
He turned to face her. "Are you trying to get rid of me?"
She shook her head. "No, I'm just very frustrated and I need some
time to think." She looked at him, her green eyes dull. "I'm just really
He nodded. "Alright then." He took her hand gently and kissed it.
"Sleep well, Taari, and try not to worry too much. We'll figure this out."
She gave him a small smile and he said goodnight, leaving her alone
with her thoughts. She sighed, the moon reflecting in her eyes. She
remembered her fire and turned to look at it. She went inside and climbed
into bed. Laying back, she went through everything that had happened since
Aidan arrived in her head.
And as sleep tugged on her eyelids and the beautiful blue and gold
flames helped keep her snug and warm under her covers, she yawned, deciding
that Aidan and alright, and a future with him just might be possible.
"Should we tell Him about this?"
Tanya tore her eyes from the fire and looked at her youngest sister.
"Who? The Giver?"
Miska blushed slightly. "That would be silly I suppose."
"He has been watching too, Mis." Wista smiled. "He has a plan."
Days later, after the noon meal, Kenneth asked Aidan if he would like
to accompany him on a hunting trip to Dragon Canyon. "I have some business
to attend to in town and I thought, perhaps we could find a little game on
the way. We should return the day of the ball."
Aidan didn't hesitate to accept the offer. As he walked Elentaari
back to her classroom, he told her in a hushed tone, "This will give me a
chance to spend some time with your father. Perhaps he will give me some
She smiled and nodded as they entered the classroom, her teacher
waiting for her. "Safe journey, Prince Aidan. Good Luck to you on
your.hunt." Aidan glanced at the stern looking man at the front of the
room, then raised her hand to his lips. When he left, she smiled and
looked down at her hand. He had slipped her a small note when he kissed
her. She tucked it safely away in the folds of her dress and sat down for
the rest of the days lesson.
The sun was low in the sky as Aidan sat atop his horse. He stared,
admiring the gold's, red, and oranges that filled his view, blemished only
by a single cloud. As the king rode up beside him, he turned in his
saddle. "If I may be so bold as to ask, Milord, what business are we
Kenneth laughed. "Aye lad, that is a bold question. What's the
matter? Afraid of the canyon?" Aidan looked anxiously ahead of them, not
answering. This only made the king laugh again. "Relax, young prince.
There's not been a dragon there for generations. Not since my father's
father have there been dracklings in this part of the world."
"Why not?" Aidan asked.
"Burned," was his grim answer. "The whole canyon became a dragon
Aidan felt his stomach turn. "You mean they were killed? All of
"Yes," Kenneth said proudly. "From scale to shell, there was nothing
left." He spurred his horse on and Aidan followed, not sure if he felt
much like hunting anymore. He held no love for dragons, but had no desire
to see them slaughtered like cattle with a deadly disease. "Now, let's
find some game."
Aidan held his tongue and rode beside Kenneth. He enjoyed the
surroundings as they slowly made their way. Kenneth looked at Aidan who
was watching the trees pass, a small smile on his face. "Anticipating your
"Enjoying the view, actually." Kenneth blinked as if not
understanding what Aidan said. He smiled. "Your daughter has had a
strange effect on me, I'm afraid."
For a slight moment, Kenneth looked panicked. "How so?"
"She sees things.differently." He thought a moment. "The other day,
we were sitting outside and a spider crawled out from underneath something
and we sat there, just watching him." He smiled, remembering. "She even
made up a story about where he was going and what he was thinking."
"She sees beauty in the ugliest of things," he went on. "It's quite
"Yes, " Kenneth said, almost sounding disgusted. "I don't know where
she gets it from. I remember telling her about the fires in Dragon Canyon
when she was younger. She got so upset, and when I told her how it got so
hot, and so much pressure was being built up inside the birthing caves that
there was an explosion, I must have scared her. She screamed so loud, it
made the fire." He stopped abruptly.
Aidan nodded, connections being made in his head. He remembered
Elentaari telling him of a story that her father told her once that scared
her. And it made the fire jump when she jumped. "What of the fire?" he
"Nothing," Kenneth mumbled.
Aidan gathered his courage and stopped his horse. Kenneth looked
back at him, then also stopped, turning his horse around. "What is it?"
Aidan looked at the king, disapproval covering his face. "I would
choose not to marry into a family whose love for each other is built on
Kenneth shook his head. "I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking
about. Come, if we want to hunt, we must make up some time for our slow
pace." He started moving again, and glanced back at Aidan. He wasn't
moving, nor had his expression changed. Kenneth frowned. He looked at the
three guardsmen that were with them. "Take a break men. Water your
horses. Prince Aidan and I are going to ride ahead some."
Elentaari closed her door quietly. She threw her books on her bed
and went outside on the terrace. The wind blew slightly, scattering leaves
across the sky. She smiled and looked at the setting sun. She pulled the
note out of her pocket and unfolded it.
"Look for Chessley," it read. "I haven't seen her for days." She
crumpled the paper and went inside. Tossing it into the fireplace, she
smiled and laced her fingers together. "Fire, please." Nothing happened.
She frowned, highly confused. It worked last night. She bent down, a
slight smile on her face. "Temperamental, are you? Well," she said
waggling a finger at it. "I would like a fire." Blue and gold flames
jumped up from the logs, eating the paper. "Hmm." She sat down on her
bed. "I pointed at it. I'll have to try that next time." She nodded,
satisfied, then walked back outside. Her gaze set on the sun.
She sighed, her thoughts racing. Chessley was missing, so were the
papers, and she had no one here on her side. She almost felt afraid. She
leaned on the railing, the sun sinking lower in the sky. "I wish I knew
what was going on with Aidan." She thought about him, and played out a
scene in her mind, seeing him and her father riding side by side.
Suddenly, she felt like she was being pulled, off of the terrace,
racing over trees and pools of water, until it was as if she were right
over Aidan and her father. They we standing, facing each other. Aidan had
his arms crossed, a slightly saddened look on his face. Her father seemed
to be looking anywhere but at Aidan. Neither of them was talking. But
when they did, she heard them loud and clear.
"Flight," Ambar whispered.
"I'm afraid I don't understand," Aidan said.
"You had to have guessed something, Aidan. You're a smart boy."
"I knew she was different, yes. It's obvious to see she's elvish.
Where did she come from?"
Kenneth sighed. "Those are details you need not burden yourself
"I think that I do, your majesty. If you expect me to go through with
Kenneth looked at him, a strange gleam in his eye. "It doesn't
matter. She's my daughter now, and she will soon be your wife. I have
told you all you need to know. Now." He climbed up onto his horse,
reigning him in. "We need to make up time. Let's go."
As she was pulled before, it seemed like something let her go. She
moved quickly backwards over the same tree's and landmarks she saw before.
With a sudden rush, she was back on the terrace. She looked wildly around.
Everything looked the same, save the sun that sat lower on the horizon.
She raised her hand to her forehead, unsure of what had just happened to
her, and confused about what she heard.
Thinking for a moment, she decided to go look for Chessley. And if
she couldn't find her, then she would go to her mother, demanding answers.
And she wouldn't leave her alone until she got them.
She walked quietly down to the stairs and glanced into the kitchen to
see if Chess was there. Only the usual kitchen staff was there, and she
turned to leave, only to be face to face with Alina.
"What are you doing down here, darling?"
Elentaari backed up a few steps. He mother seemed unusually sweet.
"I was looking for Chessley," she said with a slight hesitation in her
voice. "Do you know where she is?"
Alina put her arm around Elentaari's shoulders, leading her away from
the kitchen and back up the stairs. "Of course not, dear. I don't keep
track of the help."
"Oh yes," Alina said suddenly. "I remember now. Chessley had to go
away for a few days. Her only living sister is dying."
Something about the way she suddenly remembered made Elentaari
uneasy. "Without telling me?"
They stopped and Alina looked at her, angry it seemed all of the
sudden. "She doesn't have to answer to you, Elentaari. I am still the
"I.I know Mother, I."
Alina smoothed her hair, regaining her cool attitude. "I have some
work to do now, if you'll excuse me." She walked up the stairs slowly, not
Elentaari bit her lip and looked up at Alina. "Mother, what does the
word, elvish, mean?"
Alina froze. She didn't move for several moments, then turned slowly
, her face as white as Elentaari had ever remembered seeing it before.
"Where did you hear that word?"
"It was in one of my school books," she lied.
"It's an evil word," she answered, feigning calmness. "It is a term
for those vagrants in Suskas.those thieves and murderers. And I never want
to hear you say it again." With that, Alina walked swiftly up the stairs
Now Elentaari was truly confused. Aidan had said she was elvish. So
that meant she was from a family of thieves and murderers? She walked back
to her room, as if in a daze. She didn't know which was worse, being from
a family who lied to her, or a family who robbed and killed people. She
lay down on her bed, hugging a pillow. She was too numb to cry, and all
she could think about, was that she really wished Aidan was there to hold
As they approached the small village of Dragon's Den, the king grew
uneasy. "You may go about business as you like, Aidan. I have some things
I need to do, and I need privacy to do them." Aidan was a bit taken back,
but said nothing. He followed the king to a stable where they paid a small
stable boy three silver pieces each for the horses. Kenneth said not a
word to Aidan, but left him alone in the dusty village as his men followed
him into a small house nearby.
Aidan sighed, crossing his arms. What was he going to do now? He
decided to walk around a little bit, to see what wares were being sold
outside of peoples houses and shops. There were fish marts and fruit
stands and many tables filled with jewelry and different kinds of baubles.
At one of these he stopped, examining a jade hair comb. Taking it gently
in his hands, he examined it. The color reminded him of Elentaari's eyes
and he smiled. Looking up at the man behind the table, he asked, "How much
The man smiled revealing four rotted teeth. "I can give you a good
deal for that, sir." Aidan listened. "There is a necklace that will go
nicely with that.for eight gold pieces."
Aidan laughed. "Forgive me good sir, but I believe your price to be
a tad too rich for even my blood." He put the comb down and started to
"Wait, sir!" A small smile teased Aidans lips as he stopped and
turned around. "Did I say eight gold pieces?"
"Indeed you did, my friend."
"I meant to say six gold pieces." Aidan picked up the comb again and
looked at the necklace. He pictured Elentaari's long, slender neck
encircled by the glittering green jewels and sighed. "See the spell women
put us under?" the shop keeper asked.
Aidan laughed whole heartedly. "Yes they do, sir. Yes they do."
Though the price had been reduced, he pulled out eight gold pieces and
handed them to the shop keeper, slipping the comb and the necklace into his
breast pocket. He smiled. "Thank you."
The man counted the gold pieces and smiled broadly. "Thank you to
you, sir! And have a lovely day!" Aidan nodded and went on his way, happy
with his purchase.
Standing in the cold basement a night later, Elentaari held a light
in front of Chessley's door. Her bare feet felt like ice and her head was
spinning. She knocked on the door, wanting to make sure no one was in
there before she entered. No answer came and she turned the small wooden
doorknob and entered.
As the small light cast shadows around the room, she looked at the
furnishings, her brows drawn tight together. Chessley had more things than
this. And her bed was in the wrong spot. And what happened to the chest
that belonged at the foot of the bed? Confused, she tuned to leave and was
nearly knocked over by a large woman she had never see before.
"Princess Elentaari?" she asked, truly confused herself. "What are
you doing down here?"
"I.Chessley." She didn't know what to say.
"I'm sorry, M'lady, but I don't know a Chessley. This is my room."
Elentaari turned, looking into the room once more. Turning back to
the woman, she tried to understand. "No, this is Chessley's room. This is
"I'm sorry, M'lady, but I don't know a Chessley. I just started
today. Perhaps you have the wrong room?" She looked at the princess,
feeling a little sorry for her. "They told me I could have the first empty
room on the right. And that is this room."
Without giving her an answer, Elentaari rushed up the stairs. She
extinguished the light and left it on the table in the dining hall. She
paced before the windows, so many questions running through her head. But
she didn't want to go talk to her mother. She seemed like she was losing
her mind, or becoming a split personality.
"What do I do? What do I do?" she asked herself quietly. It made no
sense at all to her. Why would Chessley's room be cleared out? Why would
they give it away? Did she leave forever? Was this woman to be her new
hand maiden? She thought of possible reasons for her sudden disappearance,
and why Chess wouldn't have told her. She stopped and looked out across
the moonlit garden. No matter how much she didn't want to, she knew she
had to ask her mother.
She found her in her father's study, sitting at the desk. Her head
was bent low over a piece of parchment, a quill in her hand. She didn't
even notices Elentaari enter.
"Mother," she said quietly, her voice shaking.
Alina looked up and smiled. "Taari, what are you doing in here?"
"Mother, I need to talk to you." She sat down in a plush red velvet
chair across the desk from her mother. Her knees felt weak and she didn't
trust her voice for a moment. As soon as she entered the room, something
didn't feel quite right.
Alina sat up straighter, brushing a stray dark curl from her eyes.
"What is it love? You look upset."
"I..." she stopped. She didn't know why, but she was scared. She
was afraid to ask her questions and afraid of the answers she would get.
She trusted her mother, and knew she wouldn't lie to her, but she didn't
know if she could handle the truth.
She looked up at her mother, sadness reflecting in her eyes.
"Mother, where's Chessley?" She watched as her mother didn't move and her
concerned expression didn't change. But her dark brown eyes slowly filled
with tears. Elentaari felt tears sting her eyes too, though she wasn't
sure why. "Mother, please.where is she?"
Alina sniffled and wiped at her eyes. "Taari, I don't know how to
tell you this."
"She's not coming back is she?"
Alina looked surprised. "How did you know?"
"I went down to her room to see if she was back yet, "she said,
wiping her eyes. "And there was another servant who had moved in. None of
Chess's things were there."
Alina nodded, not moving to comfort her daughter. "I'm sorry,
heartling.I didn't know how to tell you."
Elentaari sniffled, then stiffened. Heartling? Why did that name
sound strangely familiar? Someone had called her that before, but not her
mother. But it didn't matter now. "Why did she leave? Will she let me
write to her? Will she come to my wedding?"
Her questions only made more tears slide down Alina's cheeks.
"Taari.she can't.I thought you understood."
"She doesn't love me anymore?"
Finally, Alina got up and wrapped her arms around Elentaari. She
stroked her fine hair, rocking her gently. "Oh no.she would never stop
loving you. ..she's." She trailed off momentarily, then hugged Elentaari
tighter. "She's dead, love."
Elentaari heard the words, but it took a moment for them to register.
She pulled away from her mother and looked her in the eye. "What?"
Alina nodded, her tears falling faster. "Her carriage was recognized
as one from Whitepearl. She was just passing by Suskas, and she was
ambushed. They took everything they could and killed Chessley and the
"Taari, I didn't know how to.."
"You're lying!" Elentaari jumped up. She stood facing her mother.
"She's not dead! Chessley can't be dead!"
Alina wiped tears from her daughter's face. "I'm so sorry., angel."
"No." Her knees gave out and she sank to the floor. Alina went with
her, taking her into her arms. They stayed there together for a long time,
crying and holding each other.