In the Shadows

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Chapter 12

The weather was warm but there was a chill developing in the air. Autumn would be arriving soon and with it several festivities. Iselora and Asmodeus walked arm and arm, strolling towards the pavilion that was stationed in the center of the massive garden. The majority of the garden was inhabited by grass and shrubs, but there were a few sections brightly decorated with colorful dots. Iselora laughed freely. For the first time in her life, she did not have a care in the world. The world outside of her scope had no significance. The couple paused one section away from the pavilion to admire the large sunflowers that were so laden with seeds their heads tilted towards the ground. A few still clung to their shriveled yellow petals.

“They are magnificent.” Iselora commented, reaching out to admire a particularly large face just out of reach. Asmodeus reached past her to pull the stalk closer. Iselora ran her finger along the rugged surface of the flower. Asmodeus watched Iselora as she admired the flower. The sparkle in her eyes made his heart squeeze. He vowed to have the whole garden filled with sunflowers for the next year. An angry sound from Iselora’s stomach interrupted the touching moment. Laughter erupted from them simultaneously. Asmodeus placed his hand on Iselora’s waist and led her the rest of the way. The pavilion was nicely decorated with hanging plants weaving through the eaves of the ceiling. The table was set with a wide array of light finger foods, it looked more like a tea party than an elegant dinner. Asmodeus pulled a chair for Iselora, a smile decorating his face. Iselora sat happily, not wanting to look away from his face. She loved his smile, it made her heart do flips every time. As Asmodeus made his way to his seat Iselora scanned the table more thoroughly. Her eyes landed on the Sun Lime-Coated Cakes and her mouth instantly watered. They were her favorite, but Iselora restrained herself by first eating a few finger sandwiches. As soon as it was acceptable, Iselora reached for a slice of cake. It was an elegant sponge cake with hints of sun lime peaking through, alternating layers of the sun lime curd and vanilla buttercream, and then decorated with glistening white icing, candied citrus and sprigs of mint to top it off. The appearance itself was beautiful and perfect. Iselora pierced the delicate sponge, gathering the perfect bite onto her fork. Excitement and ecstasy took over as she placed the fork in her mouth. The sponge was light and airy with the frostings sparking with bursts of citrus. The combination was so amazing that Iselora closed her eyes and moaned, savoring the perfect flavor. Asmodeus chuckled from across the small table. Iselora opened her eyes, spying him watching her. Iselora, slightly embarrassed, laughed with him. “I never took you for having a sweet tooth.” Asmodeus chuckled out. Iselora blushed, “ I was not allowed to have sweets while living in the tower and these are the most amazing thing I have eaten yet.” The couple looked at each other as Iselora plopped another bite in her mouth bringing forth more laughter.

The conversation remained light hearted as Iselora learned a little more about Asmodeus. She learned that he was a music lover, preferably of string instruments. That he had traveled extensively when he was younger, but the mischief and chaos aspect would have to wait till a later date. The couple were so engrossed in each other that they did not notice the sun was beginning to set and with it a servant walking towards the pavilion. It was not until the man kneeled at the archway of the pavilion that his presence was noticed. “Your Majesty, I apologize for my intrusion, but we have a situation. Rebels attacked a village by the western border.” Asmodeus’ face darkened, “Casualties?”

“Numbers are not available, but the loss was great.”

“Any idea of who is behind it?”

“No Sire, but I have placed spies in surrounding villages. I will report as soon as I hear anything.” With that Asmodeus waved his hand and the servant melted into the fading sunlight. With a sigh, Asmodeus turned to face Iselora. “We have a few things to talk about.” Iselora looked at the man who was seated before her, his demeanor had shifted drastically from what he was just a few moments prior. Asmodeus watched Iselora carefully. “I need to know what happened after I broke the seal.” Iselora swallowed hard. She simply wanted to forget the day’s events. She was free now but Asmodeus’ gaze told her that he would not accept ‘no’ as an answer. With a deep breath, Iselora told him about falling into a white room and the mirror. Asmodeus frowned at the thought of another mirror. “The mirror spoke.” Asmodeus raised his eyebrows at this. “It said that you had materialized it for my escape and then warned me.”

“Warned you? Warned you about what?” Asmodeus’ voice was tense.

“It warned me to find my companion before it wakes up. That it would destroy everything if I did not connect with it.” As the words spilled from Iselora’s mouth, she thought of how ridiculous she sounded. Asmodeus closed his eyes in thought. Iselora watched him, almost seeing the thoughts scattering in his head. After a few moments Asmodeus met Iselora’s stare. “I know where it is.” Iselora’s mouth hung open. Asmodeus held her eyes with his as he continued. “Its lair is quite a few miles south of here. Svila is standing guard -”

“What? Why would you do that? Svila cannot possibly be able to fight off anything. She is so young and small.” Panic for her friend threatened to bring tears to Iselora’s eyes. Asmodeus was taken aback at the sudden outburst. Then keeled over in laughter. Iselora stared at Asmodeus as he fought to stop laughing. Before Asmodeus could explain, Iselora roughly pushed herself away from the table and stormed towards the castle. Asmodeus caught up to her quickly. “My lady please forgive me. I need to explain.”

“There’s no need. How could any one send such a sweet, innocent girl on a suicide mission like that? That is heartless even for you.” Iselora did not hold back as anger seeped into her words. Asmodeus frowned, taking a hold of Iselora’s wrist. Blocking her other one from slapping him, taking it hostage too. Asmodeus held a struggling Iselora as he spoke “Now, wait a second. Svila is not defenseless or innocent. She’s a valkyrie.” Iselora stopped struggling. Asmodeus laughed darkly, “I would not be surprised if she has killed more men than I have. In fact she scares me sometimes.” Asmodeus released his tension of Iselora’s wrist, bringing his hands to hold hers. “I may seem like someone who only wants to cause harm and chaos, but I am attempting to be a civil being and a fair ruler.” Asmodeus pecked Iselora’s knuckles. Iselora looked at Asmodeus, reading his facial expression told her that he was telling the truth. “Can we go to her?” Iselora’s eyes pleaded. “We will go first light.” Asmodeus answered as he escorted Iselora inside.

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