Auberon cleared his throat, obviously taking pity on her, “I have a request to ask of you both.”
Ralian immediately stepped forward and pressed his fist to his heart, “I’ll do it.”
Anger boiled up in her. Auberon had said “both” but Ralian obviously wanted to do it alone. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
Mirroring Ralian she said, “I’ll do it.”
The King chuckled, “You haven’t heard my request yet.” He surveyed them both, his expression turning serious “I do think it best if you both go, it could be dangerous.”
The music switched to something more energetic and Auberon glanced around ruefully, “Maybe we should go somewhere quieter? Follow me.”
He led them through the crowd, which parted for them, and out through a large marble door at the back of the room. It was the office he used for public meetings.
Gesturing for them to sit, he moved around the desk to stand next to his vast, purple velvet throne. When they were seated he perched on the edge of his desk and steepled his fingers, “I want you to travel to the Forest of Ashes. Excuse me a moment,” he paused to get up and move to a bookcase on the far wall.
After searching the shelves he pulled out a large volume and carried it back to the desk and flicked through the pages until he found what he was after. He pushed it towards them and Aelita moved forward on her chair to read the page.
“The sapphire diadem,” she murmured.
“The diadem in question belonged to my family four hundred years ago and was on its way to an extended family member for her wedding when the carriage holding it, disappeared. My ancestors sent many search parties out to look for it over the years but they all came back empty handed.”
She glanced up from the book that showed what the diadem looked like and the story of its disappearance. “You’ve heard something.”
Auberon nodded, “I’ve heard from several contacts around the Forest of Ashes area that they’ve overheard stories of a rogue band of pixies who claim to have found a sapphire tiara. I have heard a description and it sounds very much like the one here,” he pointed to the book. “My families’ sapphire diadem.”
“You want us to find it.” Ralian said unnecessarily.
Auberon nodded, “And retrieve it.”
“Done.” Aelita said with a smile.
“Thank you. When will you leave?”
Aelita looked across at Ralian with a raised brow.
“Good. Thank you again.” He stood and grinned, “Now may I suggest we go and enjoy ourselves?”
Ralian got to his feet and held out a hand to help her do the same. Knowing Auberon was waiting for them, she placed her hand in his with a glare. He tugged her to her feet and she had to steady herself by pressing her palms to his chest.
His gaze took in her face and she lost her glare.
They’d never been this close to each other, other than in training.
Vaguely, Aelita registered retreating footsteps but she couldn’t look away from Ralian’s copper gaze. The colour seemed to change with every passing second. It was mesmerising.
It took the brush of his fingers on her cheek to snap her back to reality and she took a step back from him, nearly falling back into the chair she’d recently vacated in her haste.
A look of pain crossed his face but was gone almost instantly. Without another word he turned on his heel and followed Auberon out of the room.
What was that about? Aelita wondered.
Leanne Crabtree © 2012
The full story is available through Amazon