The winds had halted, their very breaths held in anticipation, all eyes set at the Consiliur’s tower. The second princess would pick an aide tonight.
Aurora breathed in and out several times to calm herself. She had been through these routines so many times that she could be half asleep and still not make a single mistake.
This was no practice, however.
The Orange draped room was bare but for the things needed for the ritual.
Nick stood facing her, his posture calm but not relaxed.
Then the Consiliur gave her signal, a soft flutter at the edge of everyone’s conscience.
Aurora blinked slightly and felt the unnerving feeling of losing her self return. Before it could fester in her consciousness, she felt an ebb of worry, calming her instantly. Nick. She was in Nick’s mind.
Once the worry had dissipated, she felt him retreat and scenes began to move by her with tremendous speed, he was likely searching for a memory.
Before long, she felt a memory stabilize, and sucked in a sudden breath.
She was back in the same hall as her dream,though it looked a bit different, on the throne in the centre of the room, was a smiling man who seemed to be in hearty conversation with another.
It wasn’t either man that interested her.
To his right stood a woman in the same long tunic she had seen in her dream, listening intently to the conversation, laughing lightly when necessary. The tunic was red this time, but the botttle green eyes and blond hair reminded her of the mystery man. In fact, if she hadn’t clearly been distinguishable as a woman, she could have been mistaken for him.
They were speaking, saying something to each other, but it was like her ears had been stuffed with cotton balls. Her only companion was silence.
All eyes suddenly turned to her right and she followed with hers hesitantly to witness a pompous entry of two beings.
The first had her arm in the other’s though she looked like she needed no support. Cloaked in white with a veil around her face, her partner dressed similarly, the both seemed to command attention.
All the men in the room rose and bowed, the women courtseying gracefully, acknowleged only by a slight nod of the head of the two in question.
A conversation seemed to be struck between the two in white and the king, and all was normal until she saw the cloaked man flinch and turn, looking her straight in the eye.
A chill ran down her spine as the man’s eyes focussed.
The last thing she remembered before being jarred back to the the fast moving memories were a pair of mismatched eyes looking through her very soul.
Disquieted, she remembered the reason she was here.
Taking in a breath to calm herself down, she mustered a flickering orange light at her index finger. Slowly moving it in the air of his consciousness, she made the sign of fire, the brand she had chosen.
The brand glowed for a second, then dissolved into nothing.
Her work done, she pulled her consciousness toward her physical body. She would ask him about the memory later.
The Consiliur hurried down the tower to Quesios’ room. She trusted him no better than an outsider, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
Banging the door open, she rummaged through his drawer to find his integration records. As she flipped the pages feverishly, an electric blue telescope greeted her at the corner of a page.
He was the only other person that knew about the aide ceremony for Aurora.
“Consiliur, what happened back there? ”
She was damned if she couldn’t answer it.
Back in the tower, there was a shocked silence. Nobidy had dared to move since the Consiliur had flown out of the room.
There were four types of marks possible – flame, sword, telescope and wings. Nick had chosen wings.
Aurora felt the brand on her fingertip, an unlikely place, and traced the small markings of the sword. Not the mark that was expected.
She was sure she had marked him, the drawing of the flame vividly etched in her mind. Yet, Nick’s body contained no trace of the mark.
Which raised a simple question.
If not Nick, who had she chosen as an aide?
“It isn’t Quesios’ mark?”, Arderine asked.
The Consiliur shook her head.
“Who else could have known of the ritual?”, Amy asked
The Consiliur looked at the five others in the room.
Aurora, Arderine, Peritia, Nick, her and Amy.
“The only one who could have was Quesios.”
“But it wasn’t him.”, Aurora’s small voice sounded.
A deep sigh was heard, “Now what?”, came Nick’s tired voice. “No one has come forward to claim the title of Aide. Aurora’s mind remains unprotected, and we are continuing to run out of time.”
Another sigh was drawn, this time from the Consiliur.
“Then we continue without an Aide. We leave for Ammolofoi tonight”
The slight train of knocks on the door made Aurora look up from her backpack.
Peritia smiled tightly as she walked in.
“Are you done organizing?”, the older girl asked and Aurora simply nodded shortly.
“I think so”
Keeping the tight smile on her face, she sat herself down on the bed, seemingly noticing the second Princess’ jittery behaviour.
“Do you want to go through the plan once more?”, she asked kindly.
The girl with the unmatched eyes nodded intensely. She was beyond scared.
This wasn’t a play treasure hunt. This was a hunt that would decide how long she lived. She could feel the light getting more and more out of control inside her. She felt the little prick of electric blue in her subconscious that was Maya. She could feel her being taken over by the dark.
Most of all, she was afraid of being all alone. Neither Peritia, nor Nick could accompany her anymore. It would only be the Consiliur and her.
Peritia smiled a little more when she went through the whole plan successfully.
“Here, a reward”, she whispered, shoving something in her palm and closing her fingers over it.
Aurora opened her palm. There, nestled comfortably was a vial of some liquid.
The liquid appeared clear, but some sort of light seemed to be lit inside it. It seemed to be glowing.
“Moonlight”, whispered the Warrior.
“This is one of the very last vials of Moonlight that were rescued when Moonsbeam was destroyed. It has tremendous power, and a tremendous downside.
Think of it as a wishing well. Except, it will take as much as it will give. Ask for great strength, and it will take away you longevity. Ask for beauty and it will take away love.
Never use it unless you are in an oppressive dark with no way out. Keep it well hidden”
A knock startled the both of them and they leapt apart, Aurora quickly shoving the vial into a compartment of her backpack.
“I didn’t mean to startle to you so much”
Aurora turned to the doorway to see Nick leaning with a slight smile. Everyone seemed to be forcing smiles for her sake.
Peritia stood up and laughed, “The day you manage to beat me in combat, I’ll accept that you could even come close to startling me.”
She mouthed a Thanks to Peritia when Nick’s head was turned for a retort.
“You’re good together”
Nick’s head whipped around so fast, it must have given him whiplash, coupled with his disgusted expression made Aurora launch into hysterical laughter.
“Good to know that teasing me takes higher priority than double checking everything you need to pack”, he said sullenly, still sulking.
” I have double checked.”, she said, quieting down.
“The road will be tough. I’m not here to comfort you. I’m here to warn you. I do not know what kind of world Tvor has become since losing contact with Celaver. Nor can anyone predict the dunes of Ammolofoi.
However, if you’re completely at a loss, look toward the sky. Remember how I taught you to read the stars. Look to them for guidance.
It was odd how just words, from Peritia, Nick, all those who had visited before them, had significantly calmed her down.
Resolutely, she nodded.
The future looked bleak, but she would persevere, she would find the Living Water, and she would find a way to beat the shadows.
She had to.