ashes and snow

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They stopped in front of her door, where Zandro stood motionlessly.

Cailin stood back, a bit hesitant. Her hands were fiddling in front of her pink skirt. “I’m afraid that I’ll have to leave.”

Eira’s brows furrowed, and she turned to her. “Where are you going?”

The girl gave her a small smile. “I’m supposed to help with the preparations.”

She nodded and smiled. She didn’t want her to leave, but she couldn’t keep her away from her duties. “Alright, I’ll see you later then.”

Cailin bowed her head with a smile and left with a whispered goodbye.

Now it was only her and Zandro. She turned to him. His blond hair was neat, not a single strand out of place. It was unnerving.

“Hello, Zandro,” she smiled wickedly, looking up at him. He remained unresponsive. “How has your day been so far?”

He stared straight ahead, not even bothering to look at her. Maybe he was still upset that she had left without him the other day. She didn’t care.

“Zandro?” she asked again, her sickly sweet voice awaiting an answer. His gaze flickered to her for a second. But then, he went back to ignoring her.

“You know,” she whispered out to him, “it’s not right to disrespect your queen.”

She walked up to him, stopping just a step before him.

He finally gave her the attention she wanted and looked into her eyes. He seemed bored, almost tired with the faint blackness under his eyes. “What is it?” he asked slowly.

She frowned fakely. “I was just asking you about your day,” she smirked. “Is there any problem with that?”

He didn’t answer. Only raised his brow, his shoulders tense.

“I’m getting tired of this,” she muttered, tilting her head to the side. She took a step forward and dove into her magic. Zandro’s eyes widened when he noticed the glow of her eyes, and he tried to take a step away from her. She didn’t let that happen, though. “Stay where you are,” she whispered, magic in her voice.

His hazel brown eyes turned golden.

She raised her right hand to his cheek. “See how easy it is?”

His eyes fell close under her charm, and his head fell forward. The muscles in his body loosened. She had to control his legs to keep him standing.

It was so easy to get him to do what she wanted.

She looked left and right in the hallway.

Then, she took his hand and pulled him into behind her into her bedroom. There wasn’t anything else she could do but to find out a little bit more about her guard. Maybe she could use some of his memories against him in the future.

“What happened to your poor soul?” she whispered, stroking his blond hair back behind his ear. Her hand lingered on his neck, pulling him closer to her. She laid her forehead against his, closing her eyes.

Pictures flashed in front of her mind.

She saw him as a child, a youngster, a man. How his body changed over the years, his skin cleared over time. He had smiled once, but that lay way back in his childhood.

What had changed him so drastically?

She went back into the past, and a child appeared in his stead, barely able to walk straight on his weak legs. The child seemed to be six, maybe seven, but it was him.

His eyes gave him away.

He was running around a withered garden, laughter all around in the air. There was a small girl behind him, her black hair flying behind her as she ran after him, giggles leaving her plump lips.

“I’ll get you, Zandro!”

He threw her a look, a broad smile on his lips. “Never!” he laughed. The gap where his front teeth should be was visible now. He ran even faster, letting the space between them grow. The girl tripped in her steps, almost fell, but continued to chase after him with a giggle.

The running children faded away from her grasp onto his memories. Pictures flashed, and months passed in seconds. Now she saw him pacing around a small room that only contained a small bed and a nightstand.

His hair was ruffled, and there was a frown on his face.

“Where is she?” he muttered to himself continuously, stroking his hand through his hair. He sighed loudly and let himself fall down onto the bed. “It’s been two days.”

He stared at the ceiling.

Eira wondered what had happened. Had the girl run away? Why would there be any reason for her to do that? She had seemed happy.

But, looks could always hide something.

Maybe there had been something behind the scenes that had led her to leave. Or she had died. That was always a possibility with humans, especially the younger ones.

They weren’t able to protect themselves.

Loud footsteps sounded behind the door to the room. Zandro’s eyes widened, and he rushed to his feet. “Basil!” He ran to the door and threw it open. It banged against the wall.

A tall man appeared in the hallway, his beard grey, and his eyes as green as grass. He gave him a disapproving look. “My wife already told you to not do that, Zandro. Do I have to repeat that?”

His eyes went wide. “No- no! I know! I just wanted-” he shook his head, “Did you find her?”

The man’s mouth closed, and his Adam’s apple bobbed. Something was definitely wrong.

“Where’s Inez?” Zandro asked. He seemed so innocent. So young.

The man sighed deeply and looked away.

Zandro stepped closer. His brows furrowed. “Basil?”

The man’s mouth twitched. “She’s gone, Zandro.”

The boy went still, not moving an inch. “What do you mean?”

“A friend of mine found her a few hours ago.”

“But, but that’s good-” he tried to look passed the male as if he was searching for her, “I mean if she’s fine-”

Basil stared down at him with sad eyes and shook his head lightly. “She’s dead,” he whispered.

The images flashed forward, and weeks, months passed before everything came to a halt again. Zandro had grown, his hair longer. Now, the area under his eyes was painted in black, his eyes tired.

He was sitting on a windowsill, the sky still dark. He was staring into the darkness, lost in his thoughts.

“I wish you were here,” he whispered, his head leaned against the cold glass. Silence hung in the air, full of grief and loss. “I wish death had taken me in your stead.”

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