The dining room is charming. The walls are covered with sparkling sapphire flakes and in the middle of the ceiling is an enormous chandelier whose blue stones are gleaming with the light. There is a large glass table in the center of the room, standing on white marble. Polished gold cutlery decorate the table, shining like sun rays. Dinner is already served and the members of the Royal Family are already occupying their seats. Ashryn greets the King and Queen with a small nod and smiles to the Prince who stands up to bow to her and guide her to her chair. Now that he’s wearing a white shirt opened to the chest, she can see the glowing blue mark on his skin. A sapphire stone is carved on his flesh, highlighting the color of his eyes.
“I hope you rested well, your Majesty.” speaks the Prince with a gentle voice.
“I did, thank you.” smiles the young Queen. “This palace has a relaxing ambient with the birds chirping outside and the calm wind.”
A large grin appears on Erdan’s face, “That is the charm of this kingdom.”
“Unlike Diamond.” mumbles King Eldwin. “Too cold, too dead.”
Ashryn frowns, her fists clench under the table and her anger comes back to haunt her heart. Erdan notices her displeasure and looks at his father with a disagreeing face. “I would not say that, father.” he speaks calmly. “The Kingdom of Diamond has indeed not been in its best look after the way but I recall being amazed when I visited long before. The villages were filled with families having walks and eating by the river. There was music everywhere and smiles and joy sparkled on every corner of the capital.” he finishes, smiling to Ashryn. “I’m afraid you do not remember, your Majesty. But I can guarantee you that your kingdom is most beautiful I’ve been to.”
The white haired Queen is delighted to hear the Prince’s kind words. She doesn’t answer Eldwin nor look at him anymore as she prefers to stay silent and eat her dinner peacefully.
Queen Eliyen tells her husband about her journey, the ladies she has met and their projects to help the young women of the villages to learn to read and dance. But the King doesn’t have the slightest interest in what she does of her days, he doesn’t even look at her while she talks to him with a smiling face. Eldwin keeps nodding boringly while drinking his glass of wine.
“That’s very kind of you, mother.” the Prince smiles to her. “Helping the young women is amazing. I am proud of you.”
Ashryn watches the Queen give her son a small smile before lowering her head. She is aching inside, helping others and doing her duties doesn’t make her attractive to her husband, it won’t change his mind about keeping his mistresses by his side.
“I was wondering, King Eldwin.” speaks Ashryn, to change the mood around the table. “I’d like to see my friends from Silver and Ruby, is there any way you can help me get there?”
The silver haired man raises an eyebrow at her, asking himself if he should really answer to such an obvious question. He places the glass of wine on the table and looks at her with mocking eyes, “You must already know the answer to your question, Queen Ashryn. The Silvers and the Rubies are not my allies and they will never be.” he shakes his head, scoffing. “If you would like to go, you can ask your guards to get you there, I am sure they know the way.”
The young woman gives him a fake smile and looks away. “That’s very kind of you.”
“It was never in my intention to be kind to the Diamond sovereign.” Eldwin shrugs. “Your relations with your allies do not matter to us.” he frowns and leaves the table. His wife looks at her guest with a sad smile before following her husband outside the dining room, leaving Ashryn alone with the Prince.
Erdan sighs and rubs the back of his neck, “Excuse my father’s rude behavior, your Majesty. He should not act this way toward you.”
“No, it’s alright.” Ashryn shakes her head. “I came here prepared to be rejected by him.” he chuckles. After she finishes her dinner, she stands up and Erdan soon joins her. “May I walk you to your chambers?” he asks.
The young woman can’t help but smile as she’s still not used to such politeness. She looks at him and nods slightly, “Yes, please.”
They leave the dining room and walk in the empty corridors, followed by the guards. Ashryn looks at the paintings hung on the ceilings while the Prince walks by her side, his hands behind his back.
“The friends you mentioned.” he starts. “Are they Prince Nesterin and Princess Arlayna?”
Ashryn doesn’t say a thing for a moment, remembering if her friends’ real names are the ones he mentioned. She chuckles, feeling strange to hear names other than Nate and Ruby. “Yes.” she nods. “Have you ever met them?”
“Prince Nesterin, yes.” answers Erdan. “Twice in your castle and once when I accompanied the Prime Minister to the Silver Kingdom before the war. He seemed quite friendly.”
“He is.” laughs Ashryn. “We’ve met in the world, it was just by coincidence. Since then we’ve been very good friends.”
Erdan looks at her with a smile, “Is that so? It must have been nice over there.”
The young Queen nods, “Honestly, yes.”
They keep walking silently for a moment until the Prince asks, “Would you like to see them? Your friends.” Ashryn nods, “As your father said, I will ask my guards to get me there.” she laughs.
Erdan looks at her, surprised that she’s not the slightest hurt by his father’s harsh words. In the contrary, she’s taking it well and even laughing about it. “Your Majesty.” he stops walking and faces her, “Would you like to follow me for a moment before going back to your chambers?”
Ashryn shrugs, “Of course.”
They take the stairs leading to another large hallway illuminated by stones which are placed on the ceiling. They hear whispers and giggles, small voices sound near to them. Ashryn watches the Prince shake his head and chuckle. “Come on girls, I know you are here.” She follows his gaze, her eyes landing on three small figures appearing in front of them. Three little girls, dressed in their night robes, giggling. “Say hello to Queen Ashryn girls.”
The small creatures bow to the young Queen and look at her shyly. Ashryn is confused, she doesn’t know who they are so she looks at Erdan, searching for answers. “They are my little sisters.” he rubs the back of his neck. “Step sisters.” he adds in a whisper so that the girls don’t hear him. Ashryn nods and looks at them with a large smile. There’s no much appearance between them and their brother as he’s the son of the Queen and they’re daughters of the King’s mistresses. She thinks they’re too adorable in their robes and their long braided hairs.
“You are beautiful.” one of them approaches Ashryn. “Can I touch your hair?”
“Of course.” Ashryn smiles and crouches down to give the girl access to her long white hair. “What’s your name?”
“Suzan.” answers the child with a soft girly voice. She places her small fingers on Ashryn’s hair to caress it gently.
“Girls!” a young woman who must be their nanny, arrives and gasps when she spots the Queen and the Prince. “My apologies, your Majesty and your Highness.” she bows. “I failed to put them to sleep.”
“It is nothing to apologize for.” laughs Erdan. “The girls are being naughty again.” he looks at his step sisters and crosses his arms. “Come on, time for bed!”
Ashryn laughs as the little girls hurry to follow their nanny, still giggling and whispering to each other. “They’re so adorable!” she exclaims.
Later, Erdan opens a door and welcomes the young Queen to a large space which he illuminates with blue sparkles coming from his hands. The woman widens her eyes when she takes a look at the round space surrounded by broad glass windows overlooking the gardens outside the palace. There’s a humongous tree around the room’s white walls, whose blue branches are serving as supports for books and jars of stones. A marble table is placed in the center of the room, where lie piles of papers and blue flowers.
“Is this your office?” she asks and the Prince looks at her with a polite smile, not understanding what she meant. “Your study, I mean.”
“Oh, yes.” he nods while he looks for something in the drawers. He takes a large map and spreads it on the desk. Ashryn approaches him and takes a look at it. It’s nothing like the world map she was used to see in the other dimension. This one is smaller and every kingdom is represented with its official colors. “This is the map of the Six Kingdoms.” says the Prince. “We are here now.” his fingers points at the capital of The Great Sapphire. “This is where you want to go.” then he points at a smaller kingdom right next to Sapphire. “This is Silver. A you can see, it is not very far.”
Ashryn nods and traces the road to the neighbour kingdom with her finger. “It won’t take me long to get there I guess. A few days.”
“The travel there is quick.” says the Prince. “Once you will get there, the Silvers will be so glad to show you the way to the castle.” he smiles and rolls the map before giving it to the Queen. “For you, your Majesty.”
She looks at his with surprise and shakes her head, “No, it’s yours! I can’t take it.”
“Please, I know my way everywhere around the Six Kingdoms.” he chuckles. “You will need it more than I do.”
Ashryn takes the map and looks at him with a sad smile, “You’ve done so many kind things for me since I arrived. You’re making it difficult for me to compensate your generosity.” she chuckles.
“No.” the prince shakes his head, surprised by her words. “I am not seeking for your repayment, your Majesty. You are our guest, the Queen of Diamond and an old friend of mine even if you do not remember.” he smiles. “But if you are really eager to repay me, I have something.”
“Tell me.” Ashryn says eagerly.
Erdan laughs and says, “I would like to accompany you to Silver. Only if you want, of course.”
“Is it alright?” she looks at his confusingly.
“You mean with my father?” he asks. “It is not alright at all.” he chuckles. “But I have been a good son for many years now, it is time for me to follow my own path.” he sighs and looks away. “Time for me to finally be useful to someone.”
The young woman looks at the Prince with sad eyes, wondering how can such a kind and generous young man not be living the life he needs and receiving the love he deserves.