Part 6

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Cricket ran all the way to her room. She was too mad to shed any tears. He shouldn’t have treated her that way. She slipped out of the green dress and into the medieval nightgown the fairies had laid out for her. She unbraided her hair and sat down in front of the mirror to brush it out. Her face was flushed with frustration and her eyes burned. She pulled down the sleeves and saw giant red marks on each shoulder.

She ran the brush through her hair and thought things through. Cricket supposed she shouldn’t have said such things about his ancestors, but he had no right to try and squeeze her to death. Part of her wanted to go strangle him, part wanted to apologize, part wanted to never see him again, and part wanted to die.

She wanted to help the Ledians, if not for him, for SIlver. But how would she do it?

The door opened. Cricket jumped.

It was Silver.

“You were expecting someone else?”

“No. No, I wasn’t.”

“Oh,” she said. “Are you okay? You left awfully fast.”

“No, I’m not okay.” Cricket turned around, her eyes flashing. “I don’t care if he is your High Lord. I don’t want to hear about or see any part of that—that—him again!”

“What happened?”

Cricket told her story, reliving every detail. He she was finished, Silver spoke.

“I can’t believe—well, I can. He has a temper. But something must be terribly wrong. These storehouse raids and the many missing warriors really has him on edge. And he just went overboard when you mocked his ancestors. You shouldn’t have done that. But he shouldn’t have treated you the way he did. I’ll get something for those bruises.”

She left and returned soon after with a tiny pot of cream. Cricket rubbed the cool white salve on the red areas. “There,” Silver said. “The pain will go away, but it will remain discolored for a few days.”

Then she sat down on the bed beside Cricket. “You must understand something. Airik never knew his mother or father. He takes all remarks about his family to heart, and he can blow up when someone says something to offend them.”

Cricket looked down. “I’ll remember that. I just wish it had ever happened.”

Silver got up. “Well, it’s done. I must be going. Tesser keeps the night watch, so don’t worry. Sleep well.”

Cricket got into bed when the door closed behind Silver. She felt bad about what happened with Airik.

She blew out the candle and only wished sleeping tonight was possible. She eventually fell into a fitful sleep.

Nightmares haunted every moment as she slept. Airik kept saying “Don’t mock my ancestors!” She tossed and turned. The high-pitched scream of a n infant rang in her ears. Paralyzed from the neck down, she turned and looked. A tiny, lavender-eyed baby pounded on two abandoned gravestones.

She was on the balcony again. Airik came up to her and came close to shaking the life out of her.  A diamond-studded dagger appeared in his hand. He came toward her—she was between him and the railing. She jumped and watched herself fall to the rocks below…

Cricket hit the floor and sat up immediately. She had broken out in a cold sweat, and she could not stop shivering. She was afraid to go back to bed. She put on the jeans and shirt she had come to Golendria in and slipped on her shoes. She walked down the corridors and stepped out into the chilly night air.

She slowly walked along the stone path that led to the Sea. There were no lights—the whole city was dark. She crept silently along, until she felt a hand tap her back. She jumped and let out a shriek.

“Isn’t it a bit late to be outside, milady?”

It was Tesser. Crisket let out a sigh of relief. “I can’t sleep. I wanted to sit on the beach a while.”

“All right, milady, but take care to watch the tide.” He walked off into the night whistling and swinging his lantern cheerfully.

Cricket walked down to the shore and sat on the white sand. She picked up a handful and let it sift through her fingers while listening to the fading tune of Tesser’s song. She watched as the breeze picked up a few grains of sand and carried them down the beach. She leaned back on a big rock and looked up at the stars. Each one twinkled brightly in its own light, and now only four of the nine moons were visible. There was a blue one, a silver one, and two pale orange ones.

She took off her shoes  and clenched her toes in the soft sand. She was glad she was by herself.

Little did she know, she was not alone. Up on a high castle balcony, lavender eyes watched her every move. Airik wished he was with her, he wished things were different. He had never before hurt a woman; unfortunately, there was a first time for everything. Even more unfortunately, the first one he hurt happened to be the one he would never dream of hurting.

Airik wondered about her blush as he kissed her hand. He wished he knew the thoughts that went on I the mind behind those luminescent eyes.

Another presence watched the troubled girl too. Mechanical black orbs were fixed on the scene at the beach. The vision was magnified from a mountiantop miles away. The large bird sat staring with its unblinking eyes. A voice echoed in the golem’s hollow head, an evil voice that bounced off the black walls of a stone castle.

“She is here. Let the games begin.”

The bird flew off across the vast desert and headed back to Castle Vavisor.

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