ashes and snow

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twelve


“Are you alright, Alastair?” someone was touching her shoulder- his shoulder. In full control of his body, she turned to the side and looked at the blond male.

Confusion was painted on Jaron’s face. He was a bit smaller than Alastair and had to look up at him. Only from this height, Eira was able to notice the small birthmark on the right side of his forehead.

She glanced into his green eyes before she remembered that she had to answer. She cleared her throat and lifted her hand to her neck, rubbing it. “I am fine,” she assured him. The deepness of her voice threw her off a bit.

Jaron narrowed his eyes as he looked at her- at Alastair. “You’ve been staring at the ground for a few minutes... Are you sure?”

“Yes,” she shook her head and chuckled deeply. “I was just in thought.”

“Alright, then let’s go,” Jaron turned on his heels. They left the courtroom and went outside. “Do you still have to do something, or can we leave for the castle?”

Another carriage had already been prepared for them, their coachmen sitting on his bench behind the two brown horses. He was smoking a pipe, looking around as he waited for them.

Eira straightened her shoulders, searching Alastair’s mind for the answer. No, there wasn’t anything he had left to do. The guards had already taken care of everything for him. They had been trained well for situations like these.

“We can leave,” she told him. She began to walk to their carriage, not looking back for Jaron to follow her. She didn’t think that waiting for someone other than the king was something that Alastair would ever do.

The footsteps behind her told her that she had done right. She got into the carriage without greeting the coachman while Jaron did the complete opposite. From the inside of the carriage, she could see him bowing his head for the man. There was a gentle smile on his face.

She leaned back in her seat.

After Jaron had taken his seat in front of her, the carriage started its bumpy way to the castle.

“Alright,” Eira spoke out slowly, crossing her muscular arms. She wasn’t used to handling a body this big, didn’t know what to do with her hands. “What is this all about, Jaron? You spoke about a body?”

He nodded. “Yes, he was found about fifty meters out of the forest, not far away from the maidens house.”

She blew out the air in her lungs and shook her head. “Was it murder?”

“Let’s talk about this with the king,” Jaron said. “It’s a bit complicated, and I’m afraid that both of you won’t like this at all.”

Eira nodded in agreement. She couldn’t demand his answers just now, she needed to wait. Sure, Alastair was an impatient man, but he surely had to know when it was time to shut his mouth. He wouldn’t have gotten his positions as the captain if he didn’t.

Only a few minutes passed before they finally reached their destination. They left the carriage in silence and immediately went through the grand hall to the conference room.

They sat down on the grand, round table that stood in the middle of the room. Occasionally, Eira glanced over to Jaron, watching him.

On their way, they had brought vine from one of the maidens. Jaron was only playing with his glass, not yet drinking from it. She sighed and raised her own glass to her lips.

The exquisite liquid ran down her throat, the taste of grapes on her tongue. It had been a long time since she had tasted such sweet alcohol, so she savored every bit of it.

“You can get drunk later, too, Alastair,” Jaron spoke to her. He had leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair.

Eira wanted to raise her brow but refused to. Her gaze drifted to the window to their left. From here, she could see a different part of the garden, filled with flowers.

“Do you have any idea how long it will take until he comes?” she asked as she watched the roses sway in the cold wind. Against the white of the snow outside, the roses made a deep contrast. Others would have found it beautiful, but to her, the red only reminded her of blood.

Jaron shrugged. “He is probably still with his wife. He will come whenever he pleases.”

She knew that he wasn’t with her, but where was he then? A lot of time had passed since he’d left her in their room. And yet, there was still no sign of him.

Eira sneered and shook her head, “I swear to god if he will not-”

“What is that, Alastair?” a voice asked from behind her. Her eyes widened, and she stood up. She turned on her heels, quickly regaining her stance. Not being in her own body made her powers useless.

“Nothing, my king.”

Jaron’s footsteps echoed around the room as Arkyn assessed her from top to bottom. Raised a brow. “I sincerely hope that you don’t think this is how you should greet your king.”

She let Alastair back into the front of his mind, giving him parts of her memories as if they were his own. He needed to think that nothing was wrong, she couldn’t risk his panic.

He would need to take care of this for her now.

A shudder corrupted his body, and he stumbled a step forward. He frowned but quickly regained his balance.

“Alastair?”

He looked behind his shoulder. Jaron had stopped in his tracks a few steps behind him, his hand lifted up in case he would fall and needed help. Alistair shook his head and ran his hand through his hair.

He wasn’t exactly sure how he had gotten here, the pieces of his memory were only now starting to settle. His ears were ringing, and the world around him shook. He chuckled. “It feels like I just awoke from sleep,” he muttered to himself. In the back of his mind, Eira rolled her eyes. She had wanted him to handle this situation and not act like a fool.

“What was that?” Jaron asked with furrowed brows and a tilted head.

“Nothing,” he said and went back to his chair.

Arkyn rounded the table, sitting down at the head. He sighed. Looked at the glass that stood in front of Alastair. “I see, you could be drunk already too.”

Alastair’s cheeks warmed.

Jaron cleared his throat. Both of them turned to him, and Eira was glad for the distraction. She knew she wouldn’t have liked the outcome of this conversation.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I think we should start now, my king.”

Arkyn nodded at him. “Tell me what all of this is about, Jaron. I need to know everything before sundown.”

Jaron put his hands together and laid them an the table. His focus was only on them as he started, “We found the male’s body only a few hours ago, near the forest. His body laid in the garden.”

Their silence lasted only a few seconds.

“What is this about? Was he murdered?” the king sounded frustrated. His lips formed a thin line, and his brows were furrowed.

Jaron looked up at him. “We think he died from the cold... his body was stiff and his skin red when we found him,” he shook his head in disbelieve. “I don’t think he would have stayed outside willingly when it was so cold, my king. There’s something very foul about this.”

“Was it a magician?” Arkyn asked as he looked at Jaron with furrowed brows. Something dangerous lingered within his blue eyes.

Eira wondered where this idea was coming from. The only magic in this world was possessed by her. She had made sure of that when she had taken it.


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