Chapter Twelve

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Merlin sat next to Thom with Nimue pressed against his side. Now that I thought about it, I hadn't really paid much attention to her when we first stepped through the portal. I was so amazed at the fact I'd stepped through a freaking portal and into a land many people swore never existed, I didn't have a chance to really see the woman Merlin was with.

Now, I realized, she had long, soft tresses of red hair—more copper and not at all like Aengus's bright ginger hair. Her eyes were strange. One eye was blue and the other was green. She was beautiful in an interesting way. In a way that, her features were so enthralling, you couldn't help but stare until you were sucked into her beauty.

Now I understood why Merlin was with her. She was beautiful, womanly. There was no way Merlin could ever call her a little girl.

After I had eaten my meal, one of the servants came to me with a large slice of pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

I laughed in delight, looking at her. "You have ice cream here?"

Her eyes grew wide as she looked at me in awe. "You know of this delicacy, m'lady?"

I raised a brow. "Yes," I answered slowly, looking around only to realize the dining hall was quiet and everyone was staring at me. Clearing my throat, I asked, "Is it not common here?"

"No, m'lady. Faelyn travelled all the way to Italy once and she learned this. It was a long trip. She made the trip seven days before you got here."

I smiled. "Well, tell her I said thank you. I love ice cream."

She curtsied once and hurried off. Everyone watched as I cut into the pie and ate. It was honestly the most awkward thing, having hundreds of people watching you eat.

Aengus guffawed suddenly, slamming down his cup and crying out, "Where's the ale?"

Everyone in the room laughed and cheered and just like that, my shoulders relaxed. I looked at him in thanks and he winked at me as a maid came hurrying over, filling his cup with ale.

☪ ☪ ☪ ☪ ☪ ☪ ☪ ☪

Later that night, I was in the large bed, staring up at the canopy. Arthur had promised that tomorrow, we'd discuss what needed to be done to save the kingdom and my mother. Now I was having trouble sleeping.

After dinner in the dining hall, Reyna had taken me away from everyone to ask me if I had any more questions for her. In only a short amount of time, she seemed to know me so well. Then again, maybe it was obvious how confused I was.

"Why is everyone treating me like their queen already?" I'd asked. "No one seems to give a rat's ass about Nimue."

"Nimue does not rule Avalon. She rules over the Lake of Avalon," Reyna explained, smiling in amusement. "Now that you're here, however, she will have to relinquish her rule over the Lake of Avalon. When you ascend the throne, you will rule all of Avalon. The lake included."

Getting out of bed, I put the cloak Merlin's mother had given me over my shoulders and headed out. I knew where I was going because Reyna had told me earlier. It didn't take long before I was at the stables, my eyes seeking out the familiar golden mane.

"Aurea," I said, softly, going to her.

Once I was in front of her, I stroked her soft mane. She snorted, bumping my head with her soft muzzle. Her eyes met mine and she seemed worried about me.

"I'm okay," I assured her, taking a deep breath. "Well, actually—if you want to know the truth—it's all happening a little fast." I shook my head. "I mean, can you imagine me being queen of anything, Aurea."

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