This was the first storm of the season and it had him stranded in Nilian. The last place that he wished to be. It was the closest to home that he had been in over two years. He was here because of her. The plain princess from across the border.
The plain princess looking for the red sapphire and not knowing that she was the Red Sapphire.
It was probably good that she left the palace when she did. Arro-Bar had married a muddy witch, more than likely under magical persuasion. It would only be a matter of time before the witch discovered the princess’ secret from which no possible good could result.
If he hadn’t seen it for himself, he wouldn’t have believed it. But in the woods she had transformed before his eyes. She looked like an avenging angel clothed in red fire burning away at the darkness. She had more of her mother in her than she realised. In that form she was beautiful. Terrifyingly beautiful. A red goddess.
Well that certainly explains the temper. He thought. He closed the window and moved to floor on the opposite side of the room which he claimed as his bed. It was easier to explain that they were travelling together as man and wife to the inn keeper, so they had gotten one room to share.
He looked over at her sleeping in the bed. He supposed it was noble of her to go off to find something that she thought would save her country from its ills. She was noble but quite naive. He wondered if he should tell her the truth about herself as he didn’t think she actually realised what happened tonight.
“You will have to think more on that tomorrow Milos.” he whispered to himself. Right now, he needed sleep. He had earned it.
When he woke, he found himself staring in the face of the princess. “If you wanted something, you could have just shaken me, and I would have gotten up.” he said as he threw off sheets that had somehow been draped over him. He frowned as he looked down at the starchy material.
“You looked cold.” she gave as a way of explanation.
He looked outside the windows. It was still dark. “You are up early.” he said not accustomed to this unusual show of concern.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“Those too, but mostly because you talk. You talk a lot when you sleep.”
He knew that he was a sleep talker. His brother had never quite let him live it down growing up. “What did I say?” he said warily.
“From what I heard, it seems that you miss your mother and complained quite a lot about not being perfect enough and that you could never go home. It seems that you have some deep-rooted familial issues.”
“If that is an invitation for me to divulge even more of my past to you, you will be sorely disappointed.” he said trying to hide his chagrin.
“Oh, I don’t think I will be. All I have to do is wait for you to sleep and who know what tales you will tell then.” she got up and moved over to the table and took up a piece of parchment which she brought over to him. “I went downstairs and found this on one of the notice boards.”
“What is it?” he asked gruffly as she held the paper to herself.
“It had a drawing of a missing person. Seemed quite worn as well. It says here that anyone who finds this man would be granted an earldom.”
“Let me see that.” he said taking the parchment from her and laying it out on the floor. It was picture of him, how he looked two years ago. His face was clean-shaven and his hair much shorter. His face was fuller. The sign only said WANTED and listed the ransom. It didn’t say who he was or what he was wanted for. That was a relief. What made him uneasy was that they were looking for him.
“The likeness is quite uncanny don’t you think?” said Aliana.
He knew that it was pointless lying to her. “I thought I had removed all of these last night.” he said as he crushed the parchment up and tossed it under the bed.
“I saw you. That’s why I went hunting for one myself.”
“Well it is no secret that I am a criminal. I have told you that many times before leaving Arnay.”
“You did, but I just can’t help but wonder what you did that is worth an earldom.”
“I defied the king and then ran away.” he said simply. Aliana waited for him to say more but it was obvious that he wasn’t going to volunteer any more information than that given.
“So we both ran away from kings and here I thought that we had nothing in common.” she twirled and went to sit on the bed.
Milos chuckled slightly. “Why do I have the feeling that this is leading up to something.” he said looking up at her.
“We need to leave before dawn. If I recognised you from the drawing it won’t be long before someone else does.”
“I agree.” he said folding his arms. “I want to enter the Ashlands.”
“And you can do that as soon as you bring me to Turion.”
“I am not going to Turion.” he said sharply.
“If you ran from the king, it meant that you probably lived there long enough to know how to move in undetected.” she said undeterred.
“And if I choose not to you are going to blackmail me into going by threatening to turn me over to the authorities.” he said getting up to face her.
“Once again you have proven to be quite intuitive.” she said folding her arms.
“I could just leave right now.” he challenged.
“And I could scream bloody murder and send everyone in the inn running towards you.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” he said narrowing his eyes.
“I would.” and from the firm set of her chin he knew that she wasn’t bluffing.
“I honestly pity the man that you will marry as he has no idea what kind of hellion he would have tied himself to.”
“I will take that as a compliment. It’s almost dawn so we can get provisions from the vendors and then leave town right after.”
“You have no idea what you are dragging yourself into princess.”
“I must find the sapphire, so I am willing to pay any price for it.”
“Famous last words.” he muttered then he spun to pick up their belongings scattered throughout the room.