ashes and snow

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Out of the corner of her eye, Eira saw Cailin trip over her own feet before she quickly followed her. There was a slightly panicked look to her eyes. “I’m really not sure if we should do this... I mean-”

“Oh, come on,” Eira chuckled. “It’s not like I want to rip his head off, Cailin! I just want to see what he looks like- we don’t even have to talk to him. I just need to see if he’s worth it.” More likely need to see if she needed to straighten him out.

They walked through the castle.

“Do you think he is in the kitchen?” Eira asked. She looked over to Cailin and watched as she bit her lip.

“He could be,” she answered cautiously. She sighed and continued, “If he’s not, he might be outside, taking care of his father’s horse. Ever since he’s grown old enough, he was the one that groomed her and gave her food.”

Eira hummed in response. She had owned a horse once, in another life. She had treated it with respect and love until it had been taken from her. Time had always been a traitor to her. It took everything she loved and turned it to ashes.

“We’ll look for him until we find him,” she said to Cailin.

They rounded two corners to the kitchen, walking right through the swing door. The chefs and maids were cooking eagerly, the windows opened to let out the heated air.

Eira inhaled through her nose and savored the smell of her dinner. Then, her gaze wandered to Cailin. She was looking around, searching.

“Do you see him anywhere?” Eira asked, following her gaze. They still hadn’t been noticed by the workers. They had to be too focused on their tasks.

She shook her head. “Not yet, but-” recognition flashed through her green eyes. She pointed to a tall, blond-haired male that wore a white chef’s uniform. His hair was curled around his ears, making him look younger than he possibly could be, having a son in Cailin’s age. “There’s his father. Let’s ask him where he is.”

Cailin grabbed her hand and pulled her with her. In comparison to her, Cailin’s hand was burning. Eira didn’t know why, but her skin had always been almost as cold as snow. Maybe that was the reason why she loved it so much.

They walked to the man. He was stirring something in a big pot, adding spices with his other hand. He only noticed them after Cailin cleared her throat with a bright smile.

His eyes widened, and he flinched before he turned to them. “Oh, god, my dear. You can’t do something like this to an old man like me,” he laughed, not noticing Eira. “Do you want me to be six feet under any time now?”

Cailin chuckled. “Of course not, Theon! I just wanted to introduce you to someone!”

“And who might that be?” He turned to Eira and looked at her for the first time. His eyes widened, almost in a panic, and he took a step backward.

Eira smiled sweetly at him, taking her time to really look at him. His eyes were of a soft blue that reminded her of the clear sky. “It’s nice to meet you, Theon.”

He bowed his head for her, “The pleasure is all mine, my queen. I apologize, I didn’t recognize you sooner.”

“Oh, that’s all alright,” she said. “It’s probably because of my height. I go unnoticed pretty often,” she joked with a small chuckle.

The cook snorted in humor and gave her a smile before he focused on Cailin again. “I haven’t seen you in a while, dear. Have you even talked to my son? He didn’t mention meeting you in these past few days. Normally you’re all over each other!”

A blush appeared on her cheeks, and she gave Eira a short glance. “I guess I was a bit too focused on work. I was announced to be the queen’s head maid.”

Theon’s eyes widened, and he patted her on the shoulder, “Congratulations!”

She nodded and smiled, a small chuckle left her lips. “I was pretty excited too! But that wasn’t the only thing we came here for.”

His brow’s furrowed, and his gaze wandered between them. “What is it?” he asked, sounding confused.

“We’re actually looking for Bastian right now.”

Theon’s gaze immediately fell on Eira, “Is my son in trouble?”

She raised her brows, “Well, I hope he’s not. We’re just looking for him because Cailin wanted me to meet one of her friends.”

“Alright... wait-” his gaze fell on Cailin. “Is that your name? In all these years, you never gave me an answer!”

Eira heard Cailin’s breath hitch, and she almost laughed out loud. Why had no one thought of giving her a name before her? Maybe she’d find out soon.

“It’s just-”

“I didn’t want to call her after a number,” Eira explained. “She is not an object, so I wanted to treat her like an actual human being by giving her a name.”

Theon’s eyes moved to her. “That is very kind,” he spoke softly.

Eira said nothing. Had it been? She wasn’t exactly sure.

Theon shook his head and stroked over his curly, short hair. “Bastian’s probably in the stall with our horse, like he usually is,” he sighed. “I think Calista went with him.”

“Alright, we’ll go there right away! Thank you, Theon!” Cailin smiled.

After a short goodbye, they left and made their way outside. Cailin guided her through the garden, and they passed the rose fields.

They walked on the paths in peaceful silence.

And then, out of boredom, Eira bumped her hip against Cailin’s.

She stumbled.

Eira grabbed her arm and pulled her to the side, rescuing her from the bushes she would have walked right into. “Careful there,” she muttered, chuckling under her breath. She laid her arm around her shoulders, continuing to walk.

Cailin’s cheeks reddened, and she let out a quiet chuckle. She gave Eira a short look and smiled warmly.

The only thing Eira wished for at the moment was for Cailin to not lose that twinkle in her eyes. Everyone that would even dare to hurt her would be damned.

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