Chapter 2 - Best Friends

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"No need, Saffra, I've heard the rumors. I also know what you did for me a few days ago during court and I wanted to thank you. Thank you for vouching for me. You stood up for me. I also wanted to thank you for not mentioning that it was Kane I was supposed to destroy, but merely our enemies. I can only imagine how King Talon might have reacted hearing such a bold accusation."

"It was the least I could do, Claire. You do not need to thank me." Saffra grabbed her hand and squeezed. The affectionate gesture was appreciated. "The rest of the world will come around, I am sure of it."

While many in the capital were excited to welcome her as a newcomer, as royalty, others were leery. After Claire's magic was discovered, the king offered her titles to afford her well-deserved respect. He hoped that by making her royal, the gesture would eliminate any backlash her presence created. Outsiders were persecuted in the name of the law, and being an outsider, she was seen as a threat. Dragonwall knew nothing about the Beyond, a world that existed on the other side of their Gates, a world that happened to be her home. And even though these portals existed since antiquity, the monarchy made no effort to understand them.

A loud echo captured her attention. The doors to the dining hall closed and their latches clicked. Servants poured in from side entrances carrying platters of food. She gazed about for Desaree, eager to find her dear friend, but failed. Desaree was absent.

Once more her gaze fell upon the head table. She was relieved to find the king's attention occupied elsewhere. Perhaps she was being paranoid, but he seemed to do a lot of staring as of late. He probably still didn't trust her and wanted to keep her under his watch. 

"Glad you could finally make it. And what an entrance, I might add." Reyr sat grinning at her from beside the king. She was not in a joking mood, so shrugged and turned away.

As the food was served, everyone at her table took the opportunity to introduce themselves. She quickly noticed a pattern in their behavior: Every effort was made to flaunt importance and wealth, as if court positions might impress her. These introductions were a true test to her patience. Once the rigmarole was finished, she and Saffra settled into an easy conversation. They were careful not to reveal anything private because of the others at the table. Instead she told Saffra about her day shopping in the city.

"So that is where you acquired your stunning gown?" Saffra asked before taking a sip of wine from her goblet. "Madame Rosanne's work is incredible."

"You should see the others," she joked, thinking about the other gowns she had commissioned. "The king said I could pick whatever I wanted. To be honest, I'm afraid to know how much I spent."

"After what you have been through, Claire, I recommend going easy on yourself for a while. King Talon owes you—we all do. Live a little." Saffra nudged her gently in the ribs before offering a kind smile. She nodded, taking the Seer's words to heart.

Dinner flew by, and before she knew it, dessert platters were cleared away. The double doors opened, and everyone rose to leave. "We have some serious catching up to do," she whispered in Saffra's ear. The Seer nodded. "Come by my room tonight and I'll fill you in on everything. Bring Desaree if you can."

"I will be sure to, Claire."

Together they rose and left the hall. When she returned to her chambers, she set about lighting the lamps and candles until the room was blanketed in a soft yellow glow. Someone had already passed through to light a fire in the grate. That alone eased some of the tension in her shoulders.

It was a beautiful night, so she opened the glass doors leading out to her balcony. The sea breeze filtered in, rustling the sheer curtains that acted as the only barrier between her rooms and the darkness beyond. As soon as she was comfortable, she went to her wine cabinet and uncorked a bottle.

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