Chapter Two: Jasmine

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The Arcan Realm was bitterly cold, as usual. But that hadn't stopped me from rushing down to the sea as soon as I finished my morning chores. I'd been there for an hour now, standing on the very edge of the shore, eyes fixed to the horizon. Facing the cold was more than worth it; today, Brae was coming home. 

Brae had been like a brother to me my whole life. We were like twins, everyone always said so, which was why being away from him---even if it was only for a couple of weeks---had been so hard. There had been so many moments when I'd wanted to find him, to ask him some crazy question that he would have thought I was insane for even coming up with, to suddenly remember that he was in another Realm.

I pulled the beige shawl Noni gave me for my last birthday a little tighter around my shoulders; protection against the icy wind that whipped across the sea. My shoes were off though, lying discarded half way up the beach; it didn't matter if I was about to turn into a glacier, I never missed an opportunity to let the waves break over my feet. Besides, once you got used to it, the water felt a lot warmer than the air; its temperature always stayed the same as it wasn't constantly fluctuating like the wind.

I let my bright, cerulean eyes scan the full length the horizon, but they couldn't pick out so much as a speck in the distance, let alone Brae's ship, the Aeolia.

Frustrated, I turned my attention back to the water, letting my feet trail slowly across the surface, sending ripples out into the sea. I closed my eyes, focusing entirely on the movement of the water as it licked the bottom of my feet like flames. I'd always felt drawn to the sea. In the same way that Brae liked to stand on the top of Bryer Hill and feel the winds whip around him, I liked to walk out into the open ocean. In fact, I really preferred to be completely submerged in the water rather than out in the open air, but I wouldn't have time to get dried and changed when I saw the ship if I did. Besides, I'd promised Brae that I'd try to keep myself out of harm's way, and swimming out into the open water without anyone nearby wasn't exactly the best way to stay safe. Not that I'd ever had any trouble out in the water over the sixteen years I had been alive, but it could happen.

I spun slowly in the water as I went in deeper, feeling it rise up almost to my knees. I opened my eyes to check that I hadn't got my dress wet, but before I had the chance to lower them, they caught sight of a large object obscuring the horizon. It was getting closer every second; its sails billowing in the wind as it travelled unnaturally fast towards the shore. Protectors must have been inciting the wind and that could only mean one thing; Brae was nearly home!

I hurried back to the shore to retrieve my shoes so that I could go out onto the quay to meet him. A playful breeze caught my hair, blowing a long dark ringlet across my face, which reminded me that I needed to put it back again before I went anywhere populated. I secured it in a loose ponytail with a blue ribbon before rushing back to the water to check my reflection, making sure that everything was covered. Once I was certain I was safe, I started the walk back across the beach towards the quay.

It was empty save for a few sailors, who were busy untying their dinghies so that they could get back to their ships. Brae had arranged to meet the rest of his family back at home and everyone else was busy preparing for the surprise welcome home party we were holding in the city centre later that night.

A few sailors acknowledged me with a polite nod, but the rest were too busy to take any notice. Most of them were Brizans, here for trade, which was evident from their sandy hair and pearly, ivory skin. I loved coming down to the quay to watch them work; they moved so gracefully, fluid like water. But today I had eyes only for the Aeolia. It wasn't long before I thought I could make out Brae on the prow, the silver streaks in his hair glinting like diamonds in the sun. As they drew closer I waved at him, realising at the same time that he was actually stood on the bowsprit and had stripped down to just a pair of shorts. When the boat came to a halt a little way off from the quay, he leaped off the edge none too gracefully and crashed into the sea, re-emerging a few metres away and swimming towards land. I rushed to the end, laughing, to meet him and threw my arms around him as soon as he made it up the stairs.

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