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The sigh he heaved displaced some of the dust in the otherwise unperturbed room – untouched by time and locked in its own little bubble in space.

He wondered if even the spirits of the forest dared to encroach the space around the room – an eerie sadness framing the beautifully set furniture lying forever in wait for its true owner to come claim it. For them to walk in and turn it into the paradise it was built to encase.

His eyes trailed from the ornate loveseat nestled cozily next to the elegant fireplace – a haven tucked into the grand room, meant only to be touched by intimate whispers of love and life. He dragged his gaze past the intricately carved table – meant for lazy mornings and missed breakfasts. A wistful smile took over his face as he caught sight of the porcelain water fountain – sourced from a spring in the forest that would never dry, it was to ensure the health and glow of the occupants.

At last, his eyes glazed over as he watched the light reflect off the canopy of the bed for the first time in decades as he cracked open the window to let out the musty smell that caked the room and made it appear even more gloomy than it already was. As if a mere window could let out the memories that were never made, moments that were unravelled before they could form – their ends untied as the wisps floated away and disintegrated into nothingness.

Fondly moving his eyes all over the room, he stops at the dresser, the mirror propped up on it still glittering – he had promised it would last a 100 years, he had simply never thought it would never see the face of its true owner.

Pain zapped through him and he sighed once again, feeling eyes on him but knowing exactly who stood in the doorway – the only other person who could possibly understand the meaning of this room.

He continued to move around, slowly savouring the decor – the soft green stones glittering silently, as if they knew not to speak loud enough to break the trance.

After what felt like an eternity, he turned to the tall man at the doorway, awaiting his report only to let out a whoosh of breath at the man’s words.

The witches have confirmed it – a bond has been made.

Prince Arbor’s hands tightened into fists and relaxed slowly in the presence of his friend. The dragon in the doorway didn’t need to know the vicious imprints his nails had left on his palm.

Two moons ago

Nick opened his eyes blearily, blinking to bring the saludom into focus.

Flashes of swirling lights attacked his eyelids, making him recoil before adjusting to the brightness. He felt around with his aura, panicking for a moment before realising the saludom was shielded and wouldn’t allow his aura detection to work. All else failing, he turned to his physical body.

He screwed his face into a grimace as the pain slammed into him – his arms, ribs and head pounding like they had taken a considerable beating while he was rendered completely defenseless.

Swallowing against a dry throat, he barely registered the water being slowly fed to him as a blurry silhouette sat up against his left. He wouldn’t have noticed at all if not for the feeling of a mind soothing his pains.

Lying back down and taking stock of his injuries, he stilled as he registered the meaning of the presence of another person in his body. The Aide Claiming had worked – the wheels began to turn.

“I can feel you”, a voice came from the silhouette. “In here”

He didn’t need to turn his head to identify the person anymore – they’d built a permanent link in their mind now. He didn’t bother looking to confirm where the voice had pointed to, he could feel her presence in the same place. Simple Aide Claiming rarely complicated any process. He didn’t know if the claiming they’d just performed could be filed under simple though.

Closing his eyes against his burgeoning headache, he thought of Aurora’s secret – the other prong to their two sided mind contract. To think he thought he would be the one doing the shocking, if he had the energy, he would scoff.

Lying in the silence, he knew Aurora was letting him rest before they had to get up and moving. What she had just told him changed things drastically.

The respite in the moment was but the calm before the storm. And the storm was almost rearing its head.

Two knocks alerted her of someone’s presence and Peritia turned slowly, out of force of habit rather than danger. The danger was kept firmly at bay by the Light Barrier. “Or Aurora’s body”, her mind suggested. She decided not to pursue that thought any further.

Arderine stood at the door, her dainty figure framing the door prettily as she hesitantly raised her fingers to knock once more, her smile turning a tad mischevious.

Peritia faked a sudden lunge and cackled loudly as Arderine almost jumped out of her dainty Queen’s shoes.

She watched, stilll cackling, as Arderine tried to fight her pout and her cackling slowly melted into a fond smile as she pulled Arderine into a tight fond hug.

These moments were her favourite ones. Where she could forget everything that had happened in the past 8 decades and relive the moments when Arderine was just a starry eyed child – a perfect mix of her loving parents. It was only in these moments that she could catch a glimpse of the carefree child who would knock on doors and then hide while the occupants searched for the culprit – missing the fond smiles on everyone’s faces as they played along to her innocence.

She pressed a tender kiss to Arderine’s head, stroking her long hair and holding her tight, knowing that the journey was going to be long and there were chances that she would never see her favourite person again.

She was brought out of her thoughts by Arderine pressing something into her hands.

She looked down, unwilling to break the embrace and her eyes widened at the object.

An eight pointed star. The mark of the General.

She looked questioningly at her Queen and was met by a soft smile in return.

“I tried to hold on to it, I really did. But I wasn’t strong enough.

As long as I have this, no one else will ever be a good enough General for me, because no one but you deserves to wear that badge.”

Sensing a rebuttal, Ardeine powered on,” I will not be without a General – make no mistake. I’m not giving you back your post.

I’ll have a new badge made. A blank slate. Something tells me it’ll suit the next General better than a badge that carries too many ghosts”

In the split second that Arderine dropped her telepathic walls, Peritia heard the thought slip towards her like a secret note.

There is someone else more deserving of that momento.

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