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Blue eyes shone back from the reflection in the pool of water as her hands came up to wash her face in the fountain. She looked up to see a handsome man walk towards her and felt her body straighten and a smile pull at her lips at the sight of him.

She was now used to the disconcerting feeling of being a spectator into someone else’s memories, whichever ones Nick allowed her to see anyway. She knew he had enough control to shield himself if need be.

When she’d approached him with the task of choosing him as her aide, she had one condition – he would let her know at least a bit of his past, specifically that of the reason he now bears the sign of the Marred.

She knew it would be a painful recollection and on the Consiliur’s advice, they started from smaller, more commonplace memories before they built enough trust to give out their secrets.

As she’d read in the texts Nick had translated, the ceremony was age old. It involved the slight tying of two people with light, such that a betrayal would lead to both recipients being Marred, carrying that mark as their shame.

The bond was sealed with an absolute truth that was held dear to both members’ hearts, a truth that must never be spoken to anyone else but that of the two involved and the officiator. The Officiator, after the ceremony was completed, would take a potion to forget all the happenings of the ceremony and it would forever lock the secrets within the two that were now sealed.

In folklore, it was a highly romanticized idea, but in true life, those bonded as Aides seldom held romantic interests. The bond simply enabled a lifetime of friendship and advice, not that of love and the act was not even a little reminiscent of that of a true soul bond.

She was pulled out of her thoughts by the man turning around once more, leading

her into a regal looking room, drenched in shades of white. The Protector Of Light – a White Haired woman stood ahead, Aurora had seen her before in Nick’s memories. She was often smiling softly, but never laughing or chuckling, only demurely raising the corners of her lips in order to put everyone at peace.

The handsome man, her husband, stepped forward to kiss her tenderly on her head, turning afterward to say something to Nick, who nodded and smiled at both King and Queen before heading to the inner rooms where numerous maps were rolled up neatly.

Another issue with the sharing of minds, one could never hear what someone had said, all conversations were silent, as if the listener had gone deaf. Only something that was discussed between her and Nick afterward could be confirmed.

She watched the King walk into the room a few minutes later, smiling to acknowledge her presence before turning to an ancient map laid out on the table.

Aurora forced herself to concentrate, this was a portion of the memories Nick had never shown her before, day by day he led her closer to the heart of the betrayal, letting her feel the normalcy of his life before she knew it had turned upside down.

Her eyes however, could only follow what path Nick’s had taken in that very moment. She felt him pulling her consciousness out of his memory, her last glance was that of white hair and silver eyes and a smile that was much too sad.

She surfaced slowly, feeling her mind fill out her own body, slotting into place perfectly before opening her eyes to face Nick.

She nodded to show she had fully surfaced before she felt him close off his mind. The smokescreen dispersed and the Consiliur came into view once more.

She had a feeling it wouldn’t be long before she would know his truth, the time was ticking, her truth would be out as well. They nodded at the Consiliur and walked out, a time set for the meeting on the next day, and she had an inkling it would be the last.

“Queen Argia, the last protector of light I knew. Quite possibly the last I will ever know”, Nick quietly said, his voice reverent.

She looked at him as he led her to the garden to sit. This was where they discussed his memories, where he clarified what she had seen through his mind.

“She plays a huge part, doesn’t she? In whatever happened to you?”, Aurora cautiously asked.

His ensuing silence was answer enough.

Peritia walked into the Queen’s Consultation Room, a room built for her advisors to convene with her when needed. Her Queen was seated on her straight backed chair, looking weary and tired.

She felt a surge of sympathy for the young Monarch, who lost her parents and sister in one night, reunited with her sister only to almost lose her sister, lose her adopted sister and in all probability her only uncle in the span of a few days.

Her request weighed heavily on her chest but she knew there was only one course of action and it was possible the Queen had simply been waiting for her to bring it up.

Walking forwards, Peritia bowed and knelt in front of the Queen. The sad flecks in her Queen’s eyes told her that she knew what was to come.

Aurora would come to a conclusion tomorrow, and either she would choose Nick as an Aide or she wouldn’t. In either case, they would set out as quickly as possible.

Plans had been drawn for long and Peritia wondered with a heavy heart if Celaver would be fine.

The Queen accepted her request. Vigour renewed, the former princess strode out of the chamber, her badge as General laid by the Queen’s side.

© Sonali Mukherjee

I actually debated for a while if I wanted to include a part of the next chapter in this chapter itself, but I wanted the ceremony to take place in a chapter on its own, just so we have the illusion of the characters stewing in their thoughts.

Nick’s back story is one of the most complicated ones, there is so much that is unknown at this point and he’s a character that is both mysterious and suspicious.

I wish I could say it would be clear in the next chapter, but the chapter will likely raise more questions than it will answer.

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