The silence in the hall was heavy with thought, both Arderine and Nick had seated themselves, staring at the map with unseeing eyes, each lost in their thoughts.
Peritia traced the hills with her good hand, the other in a plaster. The cut had been deep, almost to the bone.
Leaving the two staring at the map, she settled down next to Aurora, who looked as confused as the first day she had met her.
“Do you remember the hills of Ammolofoi? “,she asked the quiet girl.
“Sand, that’s all I can remember”, came the quivering reply.
Peritia remained silent. The girl still had something to say.
Looking up to the veteran warrior with eyes filled with fear she continued ,”And Fear. I remember being afraid. Very afraid. ”
Peritia softened her gaze and wrapped her good arm around the girl. Sometimes they forgot how new she was to this world.
“They weren’t originally hills, you know. They were cities, under the rule of the Celaverian King. Your father ruled over it too”
She smiled slightly at Aurora’s longing to know about her parents and lamented having to say the next lines
“When the protectors….. formed the barrier, it wasn’t strong enough to stretch over the entire land of Celaver.
The cursed dunes are all that’s left of that prosperous land.”
There was silence for a while until Peritia felt Aurora wriggle out of the embrace and sit across her.
“Tvor lies on the other side of the dunes. Were they our neighbours once? ”
Peritia smiled slightly, but Aurora saw the armour around her eyes break and an intense loneliness take over.
Before she could ask anything else, the door opened, breaking everyone’s concentration.
Feeling everyone’s eyes on her, Amy scurried to the Queen and strod directly in front of her.
Telepathy, Aurora thought, as she watched Arderine’s eyes darken.
“Peritia, stay with Aurora and Nick, I’ll be back in a bit.”
The deceptively calm voice was what put all of them on high alert. Barely controlled rage quivered behind those words.
What in the world had happened?
On Peritia’s immediate nod, Arderine took quick long steps out of the room, her robes billowing.
The storm was arriving.
“Can’t imagine that conversation going well.”, Nick remarked after Arderine had left.
Peritia sighed. It had been a while since she’s seen Arderine get so angry.
“Peritia?”, Aurora’s soft voice implored her for answers.
“I can’t be sure. But I believe this is about the previous Consiliur.”
Nick’s eyebrows furrowed, but Aurora simply looked blank.
“Every member of the Royal family has an aide. Someone they confide in. Like Amy is to Arderine. The Position of Consiliur is the one given to the aide of the current monarch. In our case, Amy currently holds this position”
Aurora nodded, but wondered where Peritia was heading as she softened her voice further, almost to a whisper.
“The King was martyred on the battlefield. His aide was the one who drew the knife”
Aurora watched as all the blood drained from Nick’s face.
“She was touched by the shadow, and the darkness entered her blood. The Queen ordered her to be kept in quarantine, but not imprisoned. She is usually a peaceful person. ”
Picking on the sling around her injured hand, the warrior sighed.
“Ever since Quesios vanished, she has been asking to see you Aurora. The queen is against it. Your condition is already bad enough. No good can come of the meeting.”
“Take me to her ”
Nick’s loud voice nearly made Aurora jump out of her chair.
The urgency in his voice propelled the woman out of her chair and towards the door and Aurora, not wanting to be left out, followed just as swiftly.
Through the corridors and up, up, up the winding staircase they went, until Peritia stopped abruptly between the entrances of two floors.
Crouching down and reaching for something, she tugged and the harmless wall melted into nothingness.
Light barricade, she heard Nick whisper into her mind.
Nick and Peritia disappeared behind it, and she followed. Only after she had crossed the threshold did she notice Peritia’s deathly white face.
“The barrier is supposed to keep those with more than one colour of light from entering. The barrier is compromised! ”
The hoarse whisper seemed to increase the chill in the room and the three of them hurried forward, Peritia running even faster, her one good hand already clutching a blood coloured knife.
The ran full pelt until they all but burst into a room filled with so much light that they had to blink multiple times to get used to it.
“PERITIA, why are you here?”
The queen’s voice had risen, her eyes big and scared.
This was the first time she had seen Arderine like this. Her posture was slumped, her eyes afraid.
Aurora’s gaze shifted to the left to look at the slightly smiling woman sitting on the bed.
The voice of the woman was soft, gentle and calming and the woman called out visibly gulped.
“It has been a while since you graced my presence. ”
The anticlimactic nature of the room had left Aurora stunned. Even though Peritia had mentioned that the woman was not under imprisonment, she had not expected to end up in such a room.
Albeit small, the room was cozy and filled with the smell of books. A chalice and jug stood near the bedside, presumably filled with water. White flowers dotted the window will, their creeper looked well tended and cared for. What was going on?
“Be careful Aurora, she is the woman who killed your father”, Amy warned
Before Aurora could take a step back, Nick’s soft voice rang out with words that were met with sheer disbelief from everyone present there.
“She isn’t ”