Chapter Twenty Seven: Jasmine

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"Ah, Roxy, there you are. I wanted to know if - oh. Who's this?" A man approached us from the corridor behind Roxy. He was smiling at her, but when he caught sight of me his expression changed suddenly. It was as if he had seen a ghost. Roxy didn't seem particularly pleased that he had noticed me either, which was the last thing I needed.

"This? This is Jasmine. She's an Arcan." She said the last word as though it would put an end to any further questions. The man seemed to disagree.

"One of the delegation?" He looked at me as he spoke, addressing me rather than Roxy. The Helian appeared content to answer for me though.

"Not initially. She only arrived a few days ago. Jasmine made her own way here."

"You travelled alone across the water?" Again he spoke to me. There was something strange about the way he said water, as though that were the most surprising part of my trip. Helians seemed particularly wary of the water.

"I came across with some news for Brae," I said, finding my voice and speaking before Roxy could answer for me.

"I see. You're connected to the royal family?"

"She's adopted, Dad," Roxy cut in again. "Abandoned at birth and brought up with the Prince." I blushed at the mocking tone of her voice. She made me sound like some tragic lost soul. Why was she so mean? And that man was Roxy's Dad? They did look a little alike, I supposed. He had similar eyes - although that could be said of most of the Helians. His hair was uniformly dark brown, a stark contrast to the fiery red of hers. And his features were less severe - they were almost kind. Most interestingly, he looked at me with interest rather than disdain.

Roxy had linked her arm with his now and began to steer him away and walk down the corridor. But before she had gone too far, she turned back around and called: "Don't forget to stay in the public zones!" Her eyes narrowed and I got the distinct impression that she was trying to let me know that she was keeping an eye on me. Well I was watching her too. There was no way I was letting her get to Brae.

This place, the people in it, it was all so confusing. I didn't know what to make of any of it. Everyone seemed to have something else going on beneath the surface, something they were hiding. It was the opposite of the Arcan Realm, where honesty was valued above all else. Not that I'd been all that honest recently, I supposed. My eyes moved automatically to my hair, paranoid that a strand of purple could have come loose.

I had wandered back to the entrance hallway by this point, passing a number of formidable closed doors and one which opened on a room filled with books. I decided to go up to the room I was sharing with Imogen and Devon to wait until Brae and the others were finished with their official business, which had been keeping them busy all morning.

The rooms in the palace were strange. The bizarre, unnatural light from the second sun burst through the glass taking up most of the external wall, filling the room with dancing, orange beams, so that it looked as though flames were licking the walls. Much of the space in the room had been taken up by three large beds (the third of which had apparently arrived only minutes after I did). There were also three wardrobes. However, these had been put in place before I came, to accommodate Imogen's over-packing.

A few books had been left on a green glass table. They were on Helian history and had probably been left there for 'educational purposes'. At a loss for what else to do, I picked a copy up and lay down on the bed to read. It was by someone called Dr Scott and the front cover informed me that it was volume 7 of 10 and dealt with 'myths and legends'.

I opened it mid-way through and ended up on a chapter on 'Inter-Realm Relationships'. Intrigued to see what the Helian take on relationships between members of different Realms would be I read on. I realised very early on that Dr Scott was not a romantic. He related the tale of Daphne and Evander (about a Helian girl who unwittingly fell in love with a Brizan boy she saved from near death after a shipwreck) without any emotion at all. Daphne was despicable, wicked and licentious for even considering running away with Evander when she discovered where he was from. Evander, on the other hand, was cunning and manipulative and overpowered the Helian's sense of propriety.

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