That night, Aife, Yura and Sloane made their way down the mountain. Aife held a jar of ashes in her hands, a single golden feather hanging from her neck on a makeshift necklace. Yura lead her young charges to a sliver of a river. Aife laughed under her breath. She hated rivers now.
The moon, pregnant from the reflection of the sun, made the river seem like a tiny scar flowing through the trees, ending at the ocean leagues from where they were. Aife handed Yura the jar, taking off her boots and leggings. Yura handed the jar back, Aife gingerly taking it.
“Dearest, closest Friend of my mother’s,” Aife whispered at the jar, slowly stepping into the water. The air around Aife suddenly was still, the creatures of the forests quiet, as if they were listening. Yura watched from behind her heavy scarves, Sloane sitting at the water’s edge yards away, watching Aife.
“I hope you have been resting well. I am sorry to have moved you as such, but you deserve to be free, not hidden away in the dark like some monster.”
Aife set the vase down. While it wasn’t heavy, it wasn’t exactly light either. It sat on the surface of the water, slowly floating away from Aife. She clasped her hands together, lowered her eyes, watching the fish of the river follow the jar. She smiled slightly, closing her eyes. With a big FWOOSH, the fish swam away from the fire that suddenly started on top of the water. The jar cracked and shattered, the ashes exploding into a golden fire.
Yura and Sloane stared in awe as the fire swirled around Aife. Aife laughed, watching the fire turn into her mother’s Friend. It let out a long, deep SQUAWK, followed by a long sigh. The spirit of Friend looked down at Aife, looked at Yura, looked at Sloane. It let out one shriek before exploding into a rain of golden sparkles. Sloane slowly stood up, taking a step in the water. Aife looked over at them and smiled sadly before looking away. Sloane’s heart fluttered.
Sanjo sat in his second-hand stolen throne. Everything he had ever gotten, the King before hand had gotten his first. The throne, that ice queen. Even in claimed the seed that he had planted in the Queen. The blessing curse of fire that Aife also has proved it. He snarled and stood up, angrily walking to his room.
How was it this hard to find a child of royalty? How was it this long since someone had seen the brat?
He was stopped in the hall by the adviser who knew Sanjo wasn’t actually the King.
“My Lord,” the adviser said in a shaky voice, bowing deeply and quickly. “We’ve heard word she was spotted in Lilium.”
Sanjo squinted at the adviser.
“Why would she go back there? There’s nothing but dirt and sickly children.”
“My Lord, Lilium is a, if you pardon my pun, a blossoming city with trade. Reports say that she was only there a month, mind you. The Consort there must not know who Princess Aife Mujahida is.”
Sanjo was quiet for a moment.
“Send word that we are… visiting Lilium,” Sanjo said, an evil grin spreading across his lips so many fires he had started. “I would very much like to meet this Consort.”
Sloane had woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. As soon as they woke up, the dream that caused the sweat disappeared as quickly as it came. They looked around Yura’s old and hidden cabin, seeing Yura asleep on the floor by the floor. They looked over to Aife’s spot by the window but it was empty. Sloane slowly pushed the heavy blanket off and walked over to the window, looking out of it. Aife was sitting the grass, looking up at the full moon. Wyk sat with her, surrounding Aife with their huge body from the cold. Sloane gathered their robes, pulling them on before heading outside. Wyk lifted their giant head, looking at Sloane before letting out a noise and going back to sleep. Aife looked up at Sloane and smiled.
“Hello,” she said quietly.
“Hello,” Sloane replied back, sitting a few feet away from Aife.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Aife asked, watching Sloane for a moment. The butterflies that usually happened when Aife looked at Sloane didn’t flutter this time; her heart was broken. Instead, Sloane had felt them in their chest, in their stomach.
“N-No. Bad dream,” Sloane said softly with a small smile. Aife nodded and looked out at the open patch of tree in front of her.
The way that Yura’s cabin sat in the forest, it was hidden by all the wood and bushes, almost as if the forest knew it needed to be hidden away. A small window opened up in the canopy, wide enough for Yura’s own Friend to fly through, small enough so that the moon didn’t give away the cabin’s location.
Sloane glanced over at Aife, the moonlight illuminating her face in a soft glow. The golden ashes that had rained down on Aife still glittered her skin. Sloane’s face got hot. They quickly stood up, making Aife jump. Sloane’s heart was in their throat now, the breath in their lungs suddenly on fire. Sloane stared at Aife, who stared back in confusion. All the words they wanted to say sat heavy on their tongue, making it hard to talk. Sloane screamed in frustration and stormed off, away from the cabin.
“Sloane!?” Aife called out, standing up. A few moments later, Yura walked out the cabin, pulling a blanket around her.
“Wha’ go’n?” she asked sleepily. Aife looked over at her then looked back in the direction Sloane went.
“Sloane just… left.”
Yura blinked, eyes following Aife’s head. With a blink of an eye, Yura took off into the wood, her blanket turning into her signature cloak. Aife and Wyk watched on, the woods giving up no secrets to where they were.