Chapter Two: Jasmine

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Jasmine:

Did the Sephans really have no shame? Brae's world was crumbling, he was young and vulnerable and had a huge task ahead of him. Could they not have waited a few months? Why had they come now?

Beside me, I felt Brae freeze. His face paled as he looked back towards the castle. Were they here already? Brae was blocking my view...

I twisted round so that I could see past Brae's head. His hands, cold as ice, were still clutched in my own, but as I caught sight of the Sephan delegation, I dropped them.

Vibrant red hair, olive-toned skin, eyes the colour of coffee.

Roxy.

My sister.

She had grown thinner in the weeks since we had escaped from the Helian Realm. Her eyes were gaunt, her cheeks hollow. But worst by far: she was in chains.

She was being led by a Sephan Protector with savage emerald hair and mint eyes. A broad smile stretched across his face in a dramatic contrast to Roxy's evident despair.

They reached us far too quickly.

"Tristan Terra. The Sephan Realm's new President." The Sephan grinned and extended his hand to Brae, apparently expecting a warm welcome.

But Brae's eyes were fixed on Roxy. He didn't acknowledge Tristan's existence. A faint sense of unease crept through my veins as I watched him focus on Roxy as though she was the only other person in the world. His eyes were wide and his lips, which I had become so familiar with over the past few days, were slightly parted.

Sensing that Brae wasn't going to regain the power of speech any time soon, Grace stepped in. "The Prince Regent has had a long journey. As I told you earlier, now is not the best time for a meeting..."

"Of course, I understand perfectly. I would have given him time to settle in had my visit not been so important. Roxy's situation effects all four Realms and, due to her personal history with the Prince, I assumed he would want to see her as soon as possible." He was confident to a fault, but spoke smoothly, with a well-practised charisma. He was clearly going to be much better at his job than Erica.

But that didn't explain why he had Roxy. Or why she was in chains.

Was this what I had left her to? Imprisonment in the Sephan Realm? I couldn't even begin to imagine how she could have arrived there.

"Roxy?" I spoke softly; she looked so... broken. She wouldn't meet my eyes. Her gaze alternated between the floor and Brae.

Brae was still immobilised, watching her.

I could feel my chest tightening in panic. What was going on between them?

"What is she doing here?" Brae's voice caught me by surprise. He was looking at Tristan now, his usually warm eyes narrowed to slits.

"Like I said, she's our prisoner. We caught her on our land a few weeks ago-"

"A few weeks? Why are you only here now?" Colour was returning to Brae's cheeks and with it the frosty breeze that so often accompanied Brae's anger.

Tristan didn't miss a beat. "We were in the middle of an election. Nothing could be decided until the results were in."

We all shifted uncomfortably. Silly Sephans and their democracy. Nothing was ever done in a timely fashion.

Tristan must have sensed that he was slipping. "Erica wanted to kill her." Brae's gaze turned even icier, which I hadn't thought possible. "But I knew that would have been a terrible mistake. I've been looking after her. We set out for the Arcan Realm as soon as I was elected. Roxy claims that she had ended up in the Sephan Realm by mistake-that she was heading to the Arcan Realm to begin with, so I felt that it was important to get her here."

"Why the chains? If you're so keen to help?" Brae's voice was sharp, accusatory.

"Well she is a Helian: dangerous, unpredictable. I thought it was safest." Tristan smiled, but his grip on Roxy's chain tightened, making my stomach churn.

She shivered.

Her wrists were red raw and bloody from where the iron scraped at her skin. It was typically barbaric and backwards of the Sephans. If restraints were needed in the Arcan Realm, we used a thin, durable plastic which wouldn't harm the skin. I needed to get Roxy out of those Sephan relics. I needed to convince Tristan that she wasn't a threat. I glanced round at my friends, all of whom were looking at Roxy with a mixture of fear and anger. It looked like I needed to convince everyone that she wasn't a threat. All the while preventing anyone from discovering that I had lied to them. That I had lied to Brae.

Brae. He was still staring at her, unmoving. My stomach was full of shards of ice. What would he say if he found out what I had done? Could I still keep it a secret now that she was here?

"Why don't we go inside, where it's a bit warmer and more private-this isn't the sort of conversation we should be having on the quay." I spoke boldly-Tristan was a visiting leader and Brae was now the ruling monarch of the Arcan Realm. It wasn't my place to say what we should or shouldn't do. But the silence was unbearable. As was Roxy's evident suffering. I needed to do something.

"Of course," Grace agreed, putting on her best diplomatic smile. "We should really be having this discussion in the palace conference room. It will be much easier to talk inside. Devon, Cameron, would you escort the Sephans' prisoner up to the palace? Jasmine, would you mind showing the President to the conference room and getting him settled. I will follow with the Prince Regent momentarily."

I sighed, thankful that Grace had taken charge. She had also successfully removed Roxy from Sephan control. Devon and Cameron looked a little nervous beside her, but they wouldn't tug on the chain so that it tore at her wrists, like Tristan had. I wanted to glare at him, but I needed to remain diplomatic for Brae's sake.

I squeezed Brae's fingers firmly as I left him, trying-and failing-to get him to make eye contact with me. His eyes were fixated on flaming hair.

"President Terra, if you wouldn't mind following me..." Tristan didn't seem to mind being led up to the castle by someone of no diplomatic importance. On the contrary, I saw his eyes take in the colour of my hair with interest and he grinned broadly as I began to lead him to the Bubble Cart station.


{Please vote and comment to let me know what you think of the opening chapters. What do you think is going to happen next? Are you excited for Brae and Roxy to be in the same place again? I'm going to dedicate chapter three to my favourite comment.}




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