“Well that was incredibly tedious,” Linnaea said with a sigh. Arm in arm, she and Alaina fled the Illiera’s personal chambers in the King’s castle. Lisbeth lingered behind, still talking the dress maker’s ear off about this or that alteration. They could hear her voice clearly as they made their way through the white stone hallway.
“Thank you for being the one to say it,” Alaina murmured, genuinely grateful. She tried not to let her frustrations get the best of her when it came to Lisbeth and her constant need to make everything a competition, but sometimes she failed. It was really difficult to not let it show to Linnaea when it did get under her skin. Though her sister rarely let on, Alaina knew the feuding distressed her.
Her fiery haired sibling rolled her eyes. “Every time you had an idea for your dress mother had to change something on mine to make it better than yours. It is becoming exhausting. If I do not care then she shouldn’t either. It’s not like we are competing against each other. You’re not a Fire Elemental, you can’t be father’s heir. What is she so worried about?”
Alaina shrugged even though she knew the answer. It wasn’t a competition between she and Linnaea, it was a competition between Lisbeth and Talia. It was a bitter truth, but an honest one. She wasn’t going to say it though. Linnaea wasn’t naive but Alaina didn’t like to discuss the negative aspects of their life. She preferred to focus on the positive.
So instead they just walked in silence for a while, smiling at the servants and nobles they met along the way. The castle was bursting with life thanks to the upcoming ball. It was one of the biggest events of the year, when the entire Kingdom of Estellias came together to celebrate the blessings Dia’veh had given them. Everyone would be there that could be there, so the guest quarters were rapidly filling up with visitors. The girls had heard that even the High Priestess had arrived and that her counterpart was not far behind. Alaina hoped to have a chance to talk with Marina Svitlosha during her visit. She was said to have a very clear sight into the future and could commune with the great creator, Dia’veh, himself. Occasionally Alaina thought it would be nice to go and stay at the Temple for a while, just to get away from court life and relax. There were many great healers there as well which was a skill Alaina had always wanted to cultivate. She knew Linnaea wouldn’t like the idea, so it was one she had kept to herself.
A clear voice calling out to them caused the sisters to pause their casual stroll. Together they turned and peered behind them curiously. A streak of gold made both of them smile and they turned to receive the flying hug from the young woman running towards them.
“Eilis!” The sisters said together, giving their golden haired friend a tight squeeze.
“When did you get back to Siralene?” Linnaea asked, smiling broadly.
Eilis smoothed the fabric of her gauzy dress and tossed a few wayward strands of hair out of her face. “We arrived this morning. My parents and the Kavannaghs are reporting to the King now on the information they gathered from their province. I should probably be there but the temptation of a nice hot bath was just too much to pass up! It was such a long trip and the town leaders had a lot to say. I am so happy to be home! I won’t lie, living on the road is not for me. I’ve been spoiled by life here at court, with all the delicious food and wonderful clothes. Everything is so grand here.”
Alaina grinned and stifled the laugh bubbling up in her chest as Eilis went on and on, barely breathing between sentences. Her excitement was palpable and quite contagious. Though technically older than them, Eilis had a childlike air to her that made almost everyone smile.
“So are you two ready for the ball? I cannot wait for a little culture and fine dining! Some of the humans in the little villages live in such simplicity! I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it off course, but I did miss the Elemental court.”
“We just met with the dress maker,” Linnaea answered. “I am excited too, I think this year is going to be something special, what with it being the King’s final year of service.”
This made Eilis’ eyes light up. “The Kingdom is absolutely abuzz over Prince Malvynn’s upcoming coronation. Everyone wants to see what he is going to do with his reign. The Counsel has so many plans they want to discuss with him. He’s presented himself as a very progressive man. My parents keep saying that he is going to really bring change to Estellias.”
Alaina smiled and silently wondered if that would be true or not. She did not know the crown prince very well, having only met him in very formal occasions. He was always busy and surrounded by friends, with his younger brother ever present at his side. The pair were probably more inseparable than she and Linnaea. He seemed to be a good man, from the little she’d heard of him, but while his father ruled it was hard to gauge. At the Elemental court, when a sovereign reigned for near a hundred years without aging, things moved very slowly.
“Catching up on your gossip, Eilis?” A male voice asked from behind them. For one second Alaina thought it would ironically be the prince, but when she turned she felt relief flood through her.
A golden skinned blonde stood before them, smirking at Eilis who didn’t look even slightly embarrassed.
“Well of course, Dronan! I’m sure I have missed a lot while we were away.”
Dronan Kavannagh rolled his eyes before turning them to the Illieras. He bowed his head respectfully, touching his fingertips together then putting his left hand over his heart in proper court greeting. Alaina and Linnaea did the same and then offered smiles.
“Lord Kavannagh, welcome home.”
“Lady Linnaea, Lady Alaina, thank you. It is a pleasure to see you and to finally be back in Siralene.”
Alaina smirked, “I can imagine. You were away for months.” And you’re even more spoiled than Eilis by life at court, she thought to herself. Though they were never outwardly unpleasant, she harbored little love for most of the Counsel members and that included Dronan. She hoped that if Eilis replaced her parents as a Counsel member that she wouldn’t get sucked into their political games. Most of them spent so much time caught up in power plays that she didn’t know if she could even trust any of them. Her father had warned her that what a Counselman said and what a Counselman did were two different things.
“Such is my duty to my province,” He said with a fake sounding sigh. His chest puffed out ever so slightly as he raised his chin. “I cannot serve the people who chose me if I do not speak with them often.”
The two sisters glanced sideways at each other and Alaina could tell from the sight crease of Linnaea’s brow that she did not want to get into a long discussion about “the duties of the Counsel”. It was a speech they heard far too often. The Counsel was a little too proud of their place in Estellian government.
A mischievous glint entered Linnaea’s eyes as a streak of yellow melded into the green in them. Alaina tried not to grin as she waited to see what she would do. Then a servant shrieked down the hallway as a pile of linens she was carrying burst into flames. All four Elementals turned as the human girl threw them to the ground in obvious panic.
“Oh dear, excuse me please!” Linnaea said immediately, dashing towards the fire she had created. It had been so subtle that Alaina had not even sensed her sister’s power release. By the surprise on Dronan and Eilis’ faces, they had not sensed it either.
“I’m going to go check on the girl,” Alaina said to Dronan, who had already begun to look bored. “We can catch up some more later, Eilis.”
Without waiting for their reply, Alaina strode towards the servant girl without looking back. She knew Dronan was pompous enough that he wouldn’t care to check on a human servant. His interest was probably already elsewhere, most likely on Eilis.
Linnaea waved a hand over the burning linens and the bright red flames were quickly snuffed out. She winked at Alaina, who had reached the servant’s side. The girl was breathing hard, most likely just from the initial shock of what had happened. Anyone who worked in the castle of Theo Talas was used to things catching fire, floating away, water dancing through the air, and plants actually acting out.
“Are you alright?” Alaina asked gently as she feigned surprise.
The girl nodded her head even though she was holding her palms up slightly, like they hurt. Upon further inspection, the Earth Elemental found that she had been burned just a little. This earned a scolding look for Linnaea who merely shrugged in response. Alaina sighed and grabbed ahold of the girl’s wrist.
“Here, let me take care of that for you.”
“Oh no, m’lady…”
Before the girl could protest more, the green skinned Illiera let loose the power of her bloodline. She felt it flow out of her chest, down her arm, and into her finger tips. Silently, she willed the energy out of herself and into the servant’s hand. The burn wasn’t that bad. Alaina eased the ache first and then mended the flesh before forcing the layers of skin to regenerate until there were no signs of the wound left. When she was done she turned her attention to the other hand and did the same for it. After her task was complete, the young woman released the girl and offered a smile.
“There you go, all fixed up.”
Soft brown eyes examined Alaina’s handiwork before looking at her gratefully. “Th-thank you, m’lady. That was very kind of you to do.”
“It was the least I could do,” Alaina murmured pointedly. She shot Linnaea a glare and her sister had the decency to at least look apologetic.
“I couldn’t save the linens,” The Illieran heir interjected. This made the servant sigh as she glanced at the charred fabric.
“That’s alright. I will just go get some more.” She turned to go before wheeling back around and dropping into a curtsy. “Thank you again.”
Alaina and Linnaea both made uncomfortable sounds as they waved the girl away. Once she was gone they chanced a look back and found the intended goal had been met, Dronan was gone. Eilis had disappeared as well but that was alright, they would no doubt see her again soon. Realizing they were alone, the women glanced at each other, then the burnt linens, and then burst into a fit of laughter.
“A little more destructive than intended, but it got the job done,” Linnaea laughed.
Alaina opened her mouth to respond but was interrupted by a terse male voice.
“Luckily it wasn’t as destructive as it could have been.”
The sisters froze instantly as they stared at each other, contemplating whether to flee or face whoever had caught them in their mischief. Laughter danced in their eyes, bubbling just beneath the surface.
“I hope it was worth it, scaring the wits out of that poor girl.”
This made Linnaea’s sharp wit quickly come out. She whirled on the newcomer.
“To get away from a long, drawn out, pompous monologue about the great Kavannaghs, it absolutely was!”
Alaina turned and stepped up to her sister’s side, ready to back her up. She was immediately barred by Linnaea’s arm as she guffawed blatantly at the men before them. A gasp escaped her and she knew right away they had traded Dronan’s bragging for another scolding from their father.
“Oh dear,” Linnaea murmured, earning her a grin from one of the men. The two of them had seemed to have materialized out of no where.
The slightly taller man glanced at his companion and then back to them. “You’re the Illiera sisters, aren’t you?”
“I’m Alaina, this is Linnaea.” Her mouth suddenly felt dry and she didn’t know whether to be nervous or just laugh at the irony of this turn of events.
“It’s a pleasure to finally be formally introduced. I’m Mal…”
“Prince Malvynn,” Alaina corrected for him. This made the crown prince grin again, while his ever faithful sibling held back an obvious laugh.
“Yes, Prince Malvynn Farquhar and you obviously know my brother as well, Prince Delziel.” He took that moment to elbow the other man, no doubt for his clear amusement.
“Please,” the younger royal said with a toothy smile. “Call me Del.”