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Chapter Three

I sat at the end of the bed I had woken up in, lost in thought as I waited for Yuki to fetch me for my bath. It was so strange, feeling the silky sheets under my thighs when I was used to the scratchy sheets at my crabby apartment, used to the sound of leaky taps dripping while I waited for sleep to embrace me. Here, it was the dancing flames of candles and the dying rays of sunlight sneaking through the gap in the curtains that eased my racing heart.

“Your Highness, it’s time,” Yuki said softly, pulling me out of my thoughts as she broke the stillness of the room.

Nodding, I got off the bed and followed her into the adjoining bathroom. The steam from the hot bath water made my skin feel clammy as my feet padded on the slick tiled floor. Back home, this was a luxury to have compared to my spluttering ice-cold shower.

“I will attend to you, if you do not mind,” Yuki said, her head tilted to the floor. After dinner, she had escorted me back, insisting I bathe before resting. No doubt Levi was having a similar situation forced onto him by Blaze.

“I don’t mind. I am quite alright with you being here,” I lied, slowly unbuttoning my shirt as I turned my back towards her. Why was I acting like this? Yuki would understand if I told her to leave.

“As you say.”

Fiddling with the last button, I gulped before sliding my work shirt off before moving to the zip of my skirt. My fingers froze there as the beating of my heart became a war drum in my ears.

“Uh, please excuse me, I forgot about your nightshirt. Please make yourself comfortable in the bath so long,” Yuki rushed out, her boot heels click-clacking on the tiles as she briskly walked out the bathroom. Sighing, I silently thanked her before stripping fully and climbing in the lavender-scented water.

I soaked for a couple of minutes, running my hands over the surface of the water before Yuki was back with a white garment in her hands. Instinctively, I pulled my legs to my chest, leaning my chin on my knees.

Yuki kneeled down at the side of the bath before taking my arm and gently washing it with a soft cloth. She silently did this until both my arms and legs were clean before she moved to sit behind me to work on my back and hair. Here, the silence was broken.

“Earth is a fascinating world. It’s very different compared to us, its animals and races. Even the terrain is so weird. But you would say the same thing for Evaron, wouldn’t you?” As she spoke she undid the band keeping my hair up in its high pony and pouring water over it.

“Y-yes. It feels like a dream. I’m supposed to rule over a kingdom and yet I have only met three of my supposed subjects. I have not even gotten to see what outside looks like.”
“Kit is trying to make these first few days as easy as possible and it is so like them to draw it out like this. But, if Kit has not taken you out to the grounds tomorrow afternoon, I will happily do so. Just keep in mind you have dress fittings to do tomorrow too as well as get your armour sorted.”

Yuki brushed my hair, catching the many knots I could not care to get out every morning. She began to hum as she worked, using gloved hands to do the tedious task. When she was done, she dried my hair, giving it a final brush before helping me out of the bath with averted eyes and wrapping a fluffy grey towel around me. As I dried myself, she kept herself busy inspecting the garment she had brought me. As soon as I was done, she pulled the nightshirt over my head and stepped back with a satisfied grin.

“To think my Queen stands in front of me after so long and is wearing one of my nightshirts.” She smiled, head tilting to the side. How could she say that with ease when I felt and looked nothing like the royals in the books and movies? “Come, you must be tired. Tomorrow is going to be busy and the castle will be like a beehive as the news of your arrival spreads to your territories.”

Not knowing how to react, I nodded and hugged myself. My hair was too soft on my neck, my skin smelling too strongly of the natural lavender oils. The nightshirt made me feel so exposed with nothing underneath it. But in the eyes of Yuki, I was anxious for sleep and cold.

When she had tucked me in with the covers and blown out the candles, Yuki wished me good dreams. Sleep, however, never came fast enough and when it did it brought nightmares and fitful awakenings with the hissing of the reptilic humanoid still echoing in my ears. When my body finally decided it was time for me to get up, I found myself compelled to sneak into the library.

The library was silent, its tapestries moving with the slight draft from the windows. A hunched figure leaned against the wall, their legs were drawn up to their chest as a hand reached out to pull at the thick curtains. Morning sunlight beamed across their face, revealing a slight smile on their lips. Levi.

“Couldn’t sleep?” His voice echoed, question staying unanswered as I padded my way towards him, holding myself to keep the cold away. As I stood next to his body, I peeked through the sliver of view he made. The sun was just coming out from behind a dark forest, its light sending long, jagged shadows towards the castle.

“I slept enough. Why are you here?” I finally sighed, walking up to the nearest bookcase and leaning against its cold surface. Levi glanced at me, his nightclothes baggy yet still managing to hug around his broad shoulders.

“Nightmares, I suppose, but mainly the sunrise, best part of the day,” He admitted, letting the curtain fall into place as he shifted to lean against the wall with his back, one knee up to his chest so he could rest an arm over it. We studied each other in silence before I dropped my gaze to the floor. How was I supposed to marry a complete stranger and rule a kingdom?

“Where you from, Grace?” Flicking my eyes up, I regarded him for a time.

“Originally London, but my father moved us around until we ended up in Manhattan. You?”
“Australia then New Zealand.”

Humming, I let my eyes drift to the tapestries before trailing back to Levi. His eyes were still on me, making me shift uncomfortably at his questioning expression before it abruptly changed to that of boredom.

“There you two are,” Blaze exclaimed, voice making me jolt as I glanced over my shoulder at him. He was wearing a dark tight-fitting jerkin and light matching pants with sandals. “Ready for your first day?”

Levi and I sat on the same side of the black desk in the library, books on the history of our kingdom spread in front of us as Kit, Blaze and Yuki entertained themselves while doing other things. It was not exactly what I had expected when Kit said today, we would be taught more on Evaron and Wylan. I expected more of a classroom-type of setup and teaching style not getting handed books and told to read. Was this what students who went to university experienced?

“This is interesting,” Levi mumbled, bumping my knee with his. He had changed into a black shirt that did not mesh well with his rough face and tight-fitting pants that exposed him more than needed or wanted. With that in mind, I was grateful Yuki was only but happy to lend me one of her plainer looking dresses even though the bust did not quite fit, being a bit too snug.

“What’s interesting?” Glancing at the beginning of a sentence he had placed his thumb on, I began to quietly read aloud so only we could hear. “Wylan’s native tribes, known as Lizard Folk, begrudgingly accepted humans into their tribes once they had landed on the beaches in broken states. Many arguments and wars came about until eventually the first line of royalty was made, the joining of a male Lizard Folk and a woman began the line of Wylan royalty.”

I digested what I had read, letting the words sink in before looking at Levi who had a smirk on his lips, jade-green eyes showing amusement.

“What?” Leaning away from him, I turned my attention back to my book which spoke about the deities of Evaron.

“Your ancestors fucked reptilic humanoid creatures in order to make peace, isn’t that cool?” His voice made his words mocking, his question coming off sharp. Rolling my eyes I glanced at Kit who was reading a leather-bound book on poetry.

“You realize, yours did too, right? The difference is, mine was of royal blood, yours not so much or else maybe you’d be where I am,” Snapping, I closed my book and stood up to move. My words must have hit a sore point because he watched me with narrowed eyes and clenched jaw. Good.

It was not much longer until Yuki took me away to get my measurements done for my wardrobe of black, purple and gold dresses. I did not like the idea of just dresses, so when her back was turned, I whispered to the seamstress to make me a handful of leggings as well to wear underneath. The woman scribbled down the order happily, making sure to measure my waist and hips again for a tighter cut. When she left, I finally let myself breathe, slowly stepping off the wooden stand I was standing on when the door opened again. My skin crawled.

It was a Lizard Folk woman. I had to keep myself from gawking at her gleaming, ebony scales and fire-coloured eyes. A ragged scar ran its length from one nostril down the side of her face, revealing her top and bottom fangs. A gold ring rested between her nostrils while similar ones punctured the ridging’s on her slim tail. She was stunning yet terrifying in her tight-fitting leather jerkin and hide leggings with thin leather sandals showing off her pointed nails.

“Queen Harper this is Shimmer. She’s one of the best blacksmiths in the castle and here to help you with your armour,” Yuki explained, causing me to stand back on the wooden stand.

Gulping, I watched as Shimmer padded in, tail gently swishing behind her. She stood taller than me even while standing on the box. She did not courtesy like the seamstress or bow when she was in front of me. No, instead, she lowered her head and leaned her cool forehead against mine and took my hand to her chest, hovering above her heart, before bringing it to her smooth, scaled lips. Only then did she step back from me.

“Yuki, please leave us, you know how I work,” Shimmer said, words raspy and clipped with her harsh accent I presumed came from one of the tribes deep in the forest. Yuki gave me a hesitant glance before leaving, closing the door behind her gently. Shimmer hissed through her teeth before turning her fiery gaze on me. “Give me the measurements Carla took.”

“Uh...” Blinking, I held myself, trying to remember the seamstress’s measurements. Shimmer waited patiently yet her tail showed her irritation at being kept waiting. Taking a deep breath, I rattled off the numbers. Shimmer tapped her foot with every measurement. It only stopped when I told her my foot size.

“Well, I have something in mind you might like and, looking at the likes of your hair, it defies tradition which my predecessor would have my tail for. But, Queen Harper, what’s life here without risk?”

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