Series: Melting Ice series
Succeeding: The Betrayal
|A baby is orphaned. A fey dies. A secret is created. These are the pieces of the puzzle young Ariella is trying to recover while her relationship with Prince Ash blossoms over time. But can Ariella figure out the secret that's left her blinded for too long - before it's too late?
Note: This fanfiction was written before The Iron Knight was released, so Ariella's appearance, personality, family, and more does not align with the book information.
In the coming dawn of a beautiful, frosty day in Tir Na Nog, a deathly ill Winter Fey lie limp on a large bed, coughing and shrieking. The midwives swarmed around the pregnant sidhe, desperately trying to save her.
The father was absent.
The wife, Frostwood, had refused to tell anyone who the father was. The fey pressured her to confess, but she wouldn't have it.
For reasons unknown to anyone but Frostwood, she lasped into a deep despair. She came down with a mysterious sickness that wracked her body with coughs, shakes, and vomiting, just days before her child was born. The midwives and healers were fearful she would not survive.
Frostwood let out another shrill scream, her long, wavy brown hair damp and warm. She gasped and panted, and finally, her daughter made her entrance to the world. Frostwood let out a little breath and fell back on the bed, her midwives and healers carrying various remidies and potions.
A tall, slender black-haired fey immediately rushed toward the newborn on the bed, her gorgeous, long emerald green dress billowing. She was the baby's ever-lasting nursemaid, from the time she was born until she herself died.
The baby did not move. She did not let out a breath. She was motionless, silent, eerily beautiful.
The nurse scooped up the bloody baby, wrapping her in a warm towel, and hurried outside the nursery doors, clutching Frostwood's daughter tightly. No one paid her any attention. She knew best; she knew where she was going with the baby.
A blast of cold hit the fey nurse, Maple, and she pushed herself through knee-deep snow as snowflakes brushed against her cheeks. She broke into a gentle run, entering the forests. The trees were tall and branchless, though thick. Maple squeezed herself through two enormous oaks and let out a tiny gasp of relief.
In the middle of a small clearing lay a large, clear golden pool. Maple crouched down and shakily removed the blanket from the naked baby. Frostwood's daughter was the most beautiful she'd ever seen.
Dark brown hair, the color of mortal chocolate, already in waves, with a rather dark complexion and rosy cheeks. A perfect face. Her eyes were closed and her hands were balled into tiny fists. Her skin was cold.
The baby was clearly stillborn - and the most beautiful creature in the universe.
Closing her eyes, Maple lowered the baby into the pool. The clear gold liquid oozed over everything but the baby's gentle face, wiping away the blood. The molten was warm and thick.
Maple looked deep into the child's face. She was obliged to save her at any cost and felt a deep pang of affection. Gold glamour, the color of the pool, surrounded her. Her job description didn't include sacraficing herself, but that was what she would do.
She closed her eyes and murmured a few ancient words, older than the oldest tree in the Nevernever, older then Mab or the Summer King, Oberon. She decided a name for the baby. A name came to thought, and she smiled.
"My love, don't forget me. You will always remember me. Don't forget me."
The strength flooded out of her body and into the child's. Maple bit down a scream as unbearable pain lanced through her.
For the child, for the child.
She fell facefirst into the gold pool, twitching. The baby began to glow with silver light. The babe didn't sink. She floated, and the last thing Maple saw before black entered her vision was the baby open her eyes, the most beautiful shade of of color.
They found a beautiful, wailing orphan on the snowy bank and Maple dead in the pool hours later, a whisper of the baby's name on her blood-red lips.
I opened my eyes and found myself staring at the familiar gold-and-black swirled ceiling of my home. I was too lazy to get up; the thick quilt kept me warm, something Winter fey usually despise. I snuggled the covers over myself again, and just as I closed my eyes I heard a cheery voice call, "Ariella! Wakey-wakey!".
I stifled a low moan and sat up, rubbing my eyes. A woman of medium height bounced on the foot of my bed, her tight red curls bouncing with excitement. Her hair didn't conceal two furred ears, however.
Siotha, my phouka-nursemaid since birth. I loved her to death, but we were polar opposites in personality and appearance.
I climbed out of the bed, stretching my long legs. "Good morning, Siotha." I greeted. The phouka ruffles my hair and grins. She laughs, "You need to get prettier than Gabriella."
I let out a giggle; it was a inside joke between us. Gabriella was the ugliest female troll in the Nevernever. She was employed by the royals to scare off all intruders at the gates.
Siotha eyed me. "Mab wants to see you." she purred. "C'mon; go take a bath. Julie and Ceclia will be there." I shifted uneasily on the bed, but shoved aside my nervousness. "It would be an honor," I said quietly.
Siotha flashed me a knowing smile and clapped me on the back with a loud, "That's my girl!" I got up from my bed, noticing Siotha had drawn the curtains from the window and the weather outside was chilly but beautiful. Mab must have been in a good mood, I thought.
I pulled my hair into a quick, sloppy braid, and I heard Siotha say, "Lady Weaver's making you a dress," before she turned into a sleek, ginger-furred cat and slunk outside my door to get Lady Weaver.
I smiled and walked across my room, opening the bathroom door as I slipped inside. The bathroom was rather large, as I had a pool hollowed from the ground in the corner. Water shot out of the side.
Two nymphs were at the side of the pool, drawing out my bath and lining up various shampoos, lotions, and gels in a little table.
The taller nymph turned around and regarded me. "Tsk, tsk, Ariella." she purred. "You look like a wyvern got your hair!" I hid a smile.
"Just because you always look perfect, Cecilia, doesn't mean you can tell me that." I defended myself. And I meant it. Cecilia's straight, dark golden hair was always pulled into a tight ponytail, not a hair out of place. Her clothes was always clean, and she just looked... professional. Cecilia laughed. "Actually, it does."
Julie spun around and snapped at me. I didn't like her nearly as much as Cecilia. "Ariella, quit fooling around and get in the damn pool," she snarled.
I blushed and shed my nightgown, stepping into the ebony pool and making sure not to accidentally fall at the steep steps. The water, warm as usual, quickly filled up to my waist and I sunk down as Ceclilia poured some water on my head. She gently soaped my long, straight, pale silver hair as Julie rubs me down with various sweet-smelling gels that only make my extremely snow-white skin whiter.
Soon I am done, and Julie hands me a thick towel to wrap around myself as Cecilia blow-dries my hair.
There's a knock on the door, and Julie quickly opens it, a blast of sudden hair making her auburn hair blow. Siotha hurries inside with a dress in her hand. Siotha holds up the dress, her golden eyes glowing.
"Isn't it amazing?" she cooes. It certainly is. Strapless, simple, a beautiful violet the shade of my eyes. Floor length, with a curvy shape and diamonds engraved at the bottom and top.
My jaw drops. "Am I suppose to wear that?" I squeal. Julie stares at the dress. "I suppose you are." she finally concludes. I can tell she wants to try it on.
I drop my towel and slip the dress over my head as Cecilia quickly combs through my hair and adds a sparkling jewel, a diamond to match the ones on the dress.
Julie, who is best with makeup, touches up my face just a tiny bit, since I honestly don't need any. My cheeks are always slightly rosy and my skin is unmarred and smooth. I'm still a teenager; in the mortal world I would appear to be fourteen, I guess, but I've been alive for much more than that. Hundreds of years. But when you live almost forever, hundreds of years isn't anything. We loose track of time. Time, it seems, isn't important.
I haven't even met Mab's sons yet, and that's a shocker, since I'm considered one of the nobles.
Cecilia drags me to the ceiling-to-floor mirror and I gape at my reflection. I look... simply stunning. My waist length hair, wavy, silver, and shimmery, makes an amazing contrast against the bright purple. My eyelids are violet, same shade as my eyes. My ears poke out of the sheen of my hair, and my face is all gentle angles.
Siotha wastes no more time. I thank Julia and Cecilia and she ushers me out the door, back into my bedroom. Handing me a pair of glass slippers, I hurry out of the room, into the snow. Siotha follows behind, guiding me through the snowy city, until I see the large castle and make my way into Mab's throne room.
Siotha sends me a comforting smile and stops outside Mab's realm. I know she's not coming with me. Two guards bow and open the 12-foot high dark-wooded door wide. A cold blast of icey air rushes toward me, and I feel my hair blow away from my face.Mab is on her throne, two young men on her left side and the smallest one on her right. Mab watches me with cold black eyes, and I silently walk towards her, my glass heels quietly clipping the marble floor.
Her wide room is empty, without chairs. On purpose, I know, so her subjects or enemies must stand or sit at her feet. Mab's throne is gorgeous, the darkest ebony embedded with rubies. I hesitate and then curtsy, red blooming across my cheeks.
The room rises a couple degrees, and Mab and reaches out a hand to caress my cheek with a tiny, strained smile. "Ariella, my love. How are you?" she askes. Her dark hair is braided beautifully, I notice.
"My lady, I am doing well, thank you." I answer. Mab retreats her hand and says, "Ariella, you know, I've always wanted a daughter. I only have my sons. You would have made a wonderful queen." She waves her hands toward the black-haired boys by her side.
These are her sons? I look at them closely. The tallest one, in mortal age 20 or so, with long black hair and green eyes. The second one next to him, with shorter black hair and blue eyes that are giving me the impression he's trying to see through my dress. I supress a shiver. Creepy. The son by himself is my age; in fact, he looks the older. Shoulder length black hair, shaggy bangs that fall in front of his face. All her sons are achingly handsome. I study the youngest son, and he shakes his hair away from his face. He has bright silver eyes and high cheekbones, with a proud, cold, blank expression as he studies me intently.
I've never talked to any of her sons, but I know the oldest one is Sage, the middle one Rowan, and the youngest one- Ash.
Mab laughs coldly, and I can tell she's actually genuine. Many people tell me I bring out the best in her (though her best is still pretty scary). I don't know why; she just likes me a lot. I think I remind her of her dead husband somehow. Maybe my hair...? I have no idea.
"Ariella, you look stunning today. I just wanted to ask you if you'd like to learn how to... hunt and defend yourself. I'm afraid you'll grow into some delicate thing that's only worried about her nails."
I jerk my head back to Mab, smiling. "That would be amazing, my queen. It is greatly appreciated."
Mab shooes me away with her onyx-striped nails. "Wait at the edge of the forest, my dear. Ash will go teach you."
I smile and turn around, practically jogging towards the doors. The guards bow once again, and before I leave, I hear Mab screaming at a guard who entered her room. The doors whip closed with a cold draft and a shriek.
And ruthless Queen Mab of the Winter Court and Unseelie Court is back.
Five minutes later, I'm dressed in chocolate brown leggings and a white sweater, my hair tied into two braids. I shiver and wrap the sweater tighter around myself as I wait at the edge of the forest for Prince Ash.
I can't get the way he looked at me out of my head.
I look up at the darkening sky, the cold, bitter wind, and the light snow that's begun to fall as I hear the crunching of boots approaching. I turn around to see the youngest prince, back against a tree causually. He's dressed in a black coat with black boots, opposite of my high white ones. A sword is hung at his belt and he has a bow and arrow at his shoulder.
"Prince Ash?" I ask. He gives a little start at my voice. "Um..." he clears his throat and attempts to sound less flustered. I inwardly smile.
"Yes, I'm Your Majesty Prince Ash." he answers cooly. "And you're Ariella, Helena's daughter, right?" I stiffen. Helena is not my mother. She's a woman who does not care for me who happened to give birth to me.
I guess Ash sees my reaction because he quickly covers it up. "Never mind."
I shrug. "It's alright," I whisper, though inside I'm scarred and sad. His icy demeanor softens a bit. "C'mon." He gestures toward the forest. "I'm going to teach you how to hunt." He passes me the bow and arrow and I stroke it gently.
It's a delicate thing, made of plain, simple, smooth white wood. Thin golden bands encircle it. I look up at Ash. "It's beautiful." I breathe. Ash nods approvingly. "Mab requested it especially for you." Ash frowns slightly, watching the bare-leaved woods, and then says, "Follow me," as he begins to jog into the woods. I sling the arrow over my shoulder and catch up.
I curse lowly under my breath most of the time, because I keep on getting stuck in the deep snow. I drag myself after Ash, who's a couple feet before me, and I swear I hear him faintly chuckling.
Ash brings me to a small clearing where the ground is hard and only a inch of snow is scattered over the surface. Four dead trees are adjacent to each other to each other, having an even three feet between them. The trees are gray and twisted, their long branches rising high and twisting into the other's like they were holding on to each other for dear life before they died. It's completely silent.
I shiver and see Ash looking much less uncomfortable. "Okay, so it's going to take some time for you to shoot that arrow as good as Sage can. Right now, just practice pulling the arrow back." Ash says calmly.
"Kay," I murmur, before stringing the bow. It's seriously hard and after more half an hour of pulling the arrow back and forth, beads of sweat begin to form on my face and my arms ache and burn.
"Holy shit. What the hell? How can I not even string a damn arrow?" I gasp. Ash, who's sitting on the ground, hands on his chin, looks up and his mercury-colored eyes twinkle for a brief second. "Practice. Now, let's shoot that damn arrow." He cracks a faint smile, a wry curve of his lips. I can tell he doesn't smile often.
"Okay, pull back that arrow, close one eye, and imagine a target point at the foot of the tree. Bend a little and take a deep breath. Try not to move the bow a lot. I'll help," he says, standing up and walking over to me. He holds the bow steady and I hear myself hitch a quiet breath at him being so close.
"Alright. Shoot." he whispers, and I do as he says. The bow snaps and flies at the tree, hitting the left side of the roots.
Ash looks impressed. "Nice. You've got natural talent with that bow. Let's do that again."
We practice and practice and practice for weeks until I can hit that damn arrow squarely in the tree.
A couple weeks later, I'm running through the trees, shoulder to shoulder with my friend Ash.I make sure not to hit him with the bow and bag of arrows I've slung over my shoulder, and my brown cloak flutters in the wind. It's freezing.
I can't help but notice how much we're like wolves right now: silent, graceful, fast, deadly, and beautiful. Ash and I make no sound as we prowl through the woods. Trees flash past us as we sprint through the woods. Suddenly, Ash stops at the edge of a snowy clearing and moves his mouth to my ear. Red flushes across my cheeks. I've never gotten use to him being close to me. In a barely audible whisper, I hear his voice.
I slowly turn my head and look at my prey: A female doe, limping, halfway across the clearing. "Load your bow. Hold it tight. Focus on her. Then let it fly." I do as he says, straining my muscles to stretch it.
The poor doe doesn't even realize she's probably about to die. She'll bolt anyway, fall, and break her other leg if I miss. She's is small and delicate, with a lovely fawn colored coat and wide, gentle brown eyes with long lashes. But I can tell she's ill. I can tell though she's rather plump, her ribs are showing, a sickly sweet odor surrounds her, and her eyes are dull. She's so innocent I feel sick.
Ash looks at me, and I see the question in his eyes. What's taking so long?
And just as I'm about to let the bow go, it stops to to paw some frost, where underneath it might find some nutrients for the life inside her. It's pregnant, as I suspected. Immediately, I let go of the bow, dropping it, and walk slowly towards it, leaving a stunned Ash by himself.
I splay my hands in front of myself. The doe notices me, and her eyes widen. She tries to run, but her broken leg stops her. "Don't go." I whisper. "Don't go."
The doe stops as I approach her, my voice gentle and calm. "I'm going to help." The doe lets out a tiny bleat and then collapses, folding her legs underneath her. Her breathing comes low and shallow.
I quickly advance, kneeling down beside her. I run my hands along her side. "Shh," I comfort. I summon all the Winter glamour I have inside of me, feel it rushing through my bones, gold and radiante. I let it flow towards the doe's mouth.
The doe convulses with a low moan, and the life inside her slides out into the snow, bloodied, battered, and tiny. I know the doe won't survive. She's too sick for me to heal her. As I watch, my heart failing, she raises her head, thankfulness shining in her eyes. I know she's grateful. Her head falls back and she does not move again.
A tear slides down my cheek and I gently skim my hands over the fawn. It's not breathing. I feel no life under the thin pelt, no beating of her heart under my cool fingers.
I have a vivid memory. A woman, brown-eyed, leaning over a beautiful dark-haired baby. The babe is suffocating; it can't breathe. The strange picture is gone from my mind in a second and I take off my cloak, folding it gently around the fawn.
It's so small it fits in my hands. I knead its lungs, rub my hands along her fur the right way, wipe mucus from her nose and remove her sac. Then, with the last of my glamour, I insert it in the fawn.
Its lungs move and, jubilant, I snuggle it in my arms and stand up. I feel the fawn nestle its head in my chest and fierce affection rushes through me. The baby is an orphan, and I'm its mother.
The falling snow has already covered the dead doe. I murmur a prayer to her and turn around to see Ash at the edge of the treeline, pulsing with white rage.
I'm so dead.
The Winter Prince throws up his hands, exasperated. Ash's personality can go from calm to furious in seconds.
"You had a great aim!" he growls angrily. "You could have gotten that deer and brought it home for a feast, Ariella!"
The fawn's ears lay back against its head, not liking the angry glamour surrounding the three of us. I defend myself. "No, not unless you want every damn fey sick and dead, Ash! The doe was really sick, and it was pregnant." I hold up the fawn carefully. "I put it out of its misery and saved its babe."
Ash regards the fawn coldly. "Why didn't you just shoot the doe dead, then? That's putting it out of its misery."
"Because it would have killed the fawn!"
"So if I shot Mab when she was pregnant with you, you wouldn't care?"
I feel raw fury coursing through my veins and know I'm going to loose it any second. So to save myself from blasting Ash to rubble and soot and Mab's fury, and I spin around, snatch my bow laying in the snow, and stalk off into the forest. I hear Ash calling. "You have no idea we're you're going!" he yells.
I don't bother answering. The fawn has finally fallen asleep, and I smile. The sweet little thing. It must have a name. I walk for ten more minutes before I stop.
"Hm, Miracle?" I ask it. "Nope, that sounds bad. Sierra?" I like the name but a beautiful name forms in my head.
"Awentia." I whisper. It means 'little dear'. "Little Awentia."
And with that, I burst into tears and sit on a cold log, bundling myself into a upright ball.
I have an awful mother, a prince that hates me, I can't hunt, I'm lost in the woods, and now I'm the mother of a female doe. I'm screwed in the head.
I cover Awentia with my sweater, shivering violently. I was stupid to wear a chocolate-colored, strapless, sleeveless corset and skirt under my thick cloak. Well, it wasn't exactly my fault. My hunting clothes was being washed. Awentia looks up at me with wide brown eyes and then lays her head back down, digging into the sweater. I wipe my eyes. Luckily, when I cry my eyes don't turn red and my nose doesn't run.
A hear a rustle on my left side and my head snaps up, my violet eyes narrowing. I carefully slip the bow from my arm and aim it in that direction. I won't let anything hurt Awentia or I.
The snow is piled thick, at least a foot. The sky is nearly black, and I hear the distant clap of thunder. A shadow emerges from between two trees. I let the bow fly.
It's a nice shot, I must admit. It flies right at the attacker, and if he wasn't so fast, it would have beheaded him. He ducks quickly. It's Ash.
Ash walks toward me, nimbly twirling his black sword in his hands. I heard him chuckle and surpressed a snarl. "Great shot. You would have punctured my throat and killed me clean."
"Thanks." I keep my voice cool and untouched. Ash gives me a faint smile and holds out his hand. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped like that." he asks.
Suprised, I stare at his hand, calloused and pale. Sighing, I shake his hand. They're ice-cold and I catch a scent of him: frost and sharp peppermint.
Ash sits down next to me and absentmindedly strokes Awentia's head. Awentia stretches her head closer to his hands and I smile. Ash looks at me, slight concern in his silver eyes. "What's wrong? Why are you crying, Ariella?" I look down at Awentia. I'm already attached to her strongly. "I just feel... I just feel like something's being kept secret from me. And I couldn't have Awentia.."
Ash's mouth curves and he says, "Awentia? Little deer? That's what you named her?"
My voice comes out defensive and a little bit angry. "Yes."
"It's a good name." That surprises me. "Thanks," I voice. Ash stands up and grabs my hand, pulling me upwards. "Awentia is getting cold. Let's go home."
I walk alongside Ash, shoulder to shoulder. Awentia gives a soft cry and shakes with the cold. Pressing her closer, the snow crunches underneath our boots as we walk through the forest.
We break through the tree line into the city and I stop. Bowing, I recall Siotha's lessons and murmur, "That was greatly appreciated, Ash. I regret not killing the doe." Ash stares at me for a moment and then rolls his eyes. Surprised, I straighten. "What?"
Ash snorts, his dark hair ruffled by the wind. "Quit being silly. It's alright you didn't shoot the deer. I'm going back to hunt anyway. I was just suppose to help you." A smile forms on my lips and I hear myself say, "I'll see you around, Ash." I turn around and walk home, feeling Ash watching me from behind.
I adjust Awentia so I don't disrupt her. Tir Na Nog is quiet, and no one is out in the market or walking around. I near my home, the largest house, right next to the forest. I hold Awentia in one hand and unlock the door, using my shoulder to shove it open.
Helena's not home (probably at court) and Siotha, Julie, and Cecilia aren't either. I slam the door shut, kick off my boots, and hurry to the bathroom. I gently place a shivering Awentia in the pool and pull the faucet as hot warm floods the bath.
I stop the water when its at Awentia's white belly. I unwrap the bloody sweater and throw it in the sink. I'll wash it later. I take off my leggings and snatch some shorts I had lying on the floor as I enter the pool.
The water around Awentia turns a pale shade of pink and I scoop it out with the bowl Cecilia uses to water my hair. I hear Awentia, little bleats of pleasure. As if I can almost understand her, a sentence of exclamation bursts into my head.
Dear my, how strange. It's warm.
It's louder than a yell and I drop the bowl. Spinning around, I spot Awentia watching me with wide brown eyes. It's confirmed. I'm going mad. I'm imagining my deer is talking. But just to make sure, I close my eyes and think, Awentia, is that you?
Who else would it be? Awentia cocks her head, as if asking a question. I seriously almost faint. I remember something Siotha told me once.... "Ariella, beautiful, have I ever told you that if a sidhe becomes maternally attatched to an animal she or he saves, and the sidhe and the animal are... special, she would be able to speak to the animal mentally, and can understand its thoughts?"
My hand covers my face in a facepalm. Awentia, can I talk to you? The voice inside my head is quiet for a moment and then, Yes.Bleat if this is really happening. As if on cue, Awentia lifts her head and gives a little grunt, shaking her long ears. I fall on my knees, splashing water all over me. "Omigosh, I can talk to a deer!" I say loudly. Awentia pads up to me, lifting her long legs out of the water. She can walk already. She presses her muzzle into my shirt as I stroke her soft pelt.
So, are you my mother? she asks. Quietly, I respond, Your mother died. I'm not keeping secrets. I'm your adoptive mother.
Good enough for me. Awentia's voice, gentle and soft, connects with my mind.
Suddenly, I hear the doorbell ring and I curse loudly. "Shit." Awentia, I'll be right back. Stay here and lie low. I stand up and grab a towel from the shampoo table, hurrying out of the pool and drying myself. I grab my leggings and shove them on again. Awentia trudges to the corner and curls up into a little ball, keeping her nose above the water.
"Coming!" I yell, and then, shutting the bathroom door, run to the living room. I look through the peephole and almost do a double take. Ash's older brother, Rowan, the one who made me feel uncomfortable, is waiting outside, foot stamping impatiently. I swing open the door breathlessly.
Ash's brother looks up and the foot stomping stops immediately. He's wearing a dark blue coat and his dark hair, stopping after his shoulder, is combed. He bows and murmurs in a deep voice, "Ariella Tularyn. I'm afraid I haven't introduced myself. I am Prince Rowan, second son of Queen Mab and brother of Prince Ash and Sage."
"To what do I owe the pleasure, Prince Rowan?" I ask politely. Rowan straightens and brushes some snow off his coat. "I just wanted to say hello. It is customary for the prince to send his greetings to the most beautiful sidhe, is it not?" I blush deeply.
"Come in," I mutter, humiliated, as the red creeps down to my neck. Rowan grins, sensing my discomfort, and walks inside the house as I step aside.
He admires the house for a moment and signals toward the black chairs. "May I sit?" he asks. "Oh- of course, sit. I'll be right back. I'm sorry about how I wasn't prepared for your arrival." Bowing, I exit the living room and run to the kitchen, filling up two glasses with faery drink. It was a attractive dark purple and I placed it on a tray, satisfied.
Why the hell is he here? Is he like all the other damn fey who like me because of how I look? I wondered. I heard Awentia answer, irony in her sweet voice. You are very pretty.
Awentia, shh. I'll be there soon.
Grabbing the tray, I opened the kitchen door with my foot and graced in. Rowan was sitting on the chair with a smirk on his face.
He looked up at me, holding the drinks, and his smug face got even wider. I felt a rush of dull anger. What was his freaking problem?
I hand Rowan a glass and sit across from him. He raises it to his lips, slowly and delibrately. I'm struggling not to roll my eyes. Gulping, he downs a quarter of the drink and wipes his mouth with a white napkin.
"So," he purrs, "Did you catch anything with my idiot little brother?" I shift uncomfortably on the couch. No way I'm telling him about missing the deer and saving Awentia.
"No, my lord. I wasn't good enough." Rowan chuckles coldly. "Well, it's not your fault, of course. Ash was teaching you. All the fey says he's the best at hunting, but I don't think so."
I don't want to sound to eager to defend Ash, so I say simply, "He taught me well. I just wasn't fast enough to hit the doe." Rowan regards me, his ice blue eyes narrowing.
"I see. Do you-" A knock on the door interupts us, and I stand, heart pounding. Nodding to Rowan, I stride to the front door and substain a low moan as a skinny black haired fey stands at the door, tall and imposing, her black coat rippling in the wind. "Ariella," she says coldly. "Good afternoon. Do your mother a favor and prepare me a hot drink. I've had a long day." It wasn't a quesiton. It was a command. "Of course, m'lady." I stepping aside. Helena walks in, and even Rowan stands and deeply bows. "Lady Helena," he murmurs. Helena has a high place in the court, somewhere alongside Queen Mab. Helena regards him with faint interest. "Prince Rowan. To what do I owe the surprise?"
"Just visiting, Helena. I suppose I should go now." He nods his good-bye to Helena and gives me a little secreative smile, like we did something we shouldn't have. Rowan walks out the door, leaving Helena and I alone.
Helena snarls at me. "I asked you to get me a hot drink, Ariella!" I shrink and bolt to the kitchen. Opening a drawer, I select the best tea and add boiling water to the cup. No glamouring it. Helena would kill me. I sit down on a chair with a sigh and prop my elbows on the counter, supporting my head. I watch the red tea contact the water, and it mixes with it, like blood staining clear water.
I take a spoon and stir it until the color is even, and then walk back to the living room, hot drink scalding my palms. Helena is lying back in a chair, eyes closed. Her black hair is in a neat coil at the top of her head, and her face is bony and thin. Not saying anything, I creep towards her and place the tea on the little table next to her.
I don't look like her at all. Me, I have silver hair, violet eyes, full lips, and a gentle face. I'm slim but not skinny. Helena is also tall, but her face and body is bony and stick-like. Her face is stern, her lips are thin, mouth drawn into a straight, fine line.
Helena hears me and says tiredly, "Ariella, go clean the bathroom. I'm taking a shower when I'm done with the tea."
My voice comes out weakly. "Of course, m'lady." Ariella! Are you coming back?! Awentia's voice, high with anxiety, echos through my head.
Crap. I'll be right there, Little Deer. Wait for me.
It's nighttime a few days later and I open my diary that I write in every night. Actually, my hundredth diary. Being almost immortal, I've ran through quite a lot. I don't even recongized the dates. They're so old and I don't even realize it. Like I said, we're like the tree nymphs. Time almost doesn't exist.
Awentia is curled up under my bed sleeping so Siotha and Helena don't find her. I stuffed one of my pillows in the corner so she can sleep on it, along with a tray of water and warm milk.
I lay down on my quail-feather bed and grab my black ink pen, and begin writing. My handwriting is neat, elegant, and curvy.
I stifle a yawn and blow out the candle. Leaning back, I close my eyes and dream of the violet-eyed man and a tall woman with blue eyes laughing in a forest...
I don't know how she does it. After a few week's she's broken the barriers of my heart. I don't want to fall in love with her. The curse... I wasn't worried about it before; I thought it was stupid because I would never fall in love with anyone... but I've falled in love with her and worried she'll be taken away from me and I'll loose her.
Is this love? She's so calm and sweet and beautiful. The court hasn't crushed her spirit. She isn't cold or reserved. She's bright and joyful and I'm afriad... I'm afraid.
I wake up early in the morning and meet Ash in the clearing we're I used to practice shooting those damn arrows. Awentia comes with me this time. She's already big and I can't hide her under the bed... I glamoured an invisible crate made of coldless icicles.
My high, long ponytail swishes behind me as I catch up to Awentia. "Awentia! Did you forget that you don't know were you're going, even though you're so fast?"
Awentia, leaving small hoofprints in the rather thin snow (we gave the Sceptor back to Summer), turns around, batting her long, thick black lashes. Ariella, I know my way around the forest. It's an instinct. I can't argue with that and my adopted daughter leaps snow like a puppy, the white dapples on her fawn's coat almost gone. She's long-legged and graceful.
It's a rather beautiful day if you continue towards Arcadia. The forest is slowly re-growing its leaves and the weather is chilly, sunny, and breezy.
Ash is already in the clearing, and his eyes widen for a moment as he sees Awentia trot into the opening. His hand slides to his sword but he quickly drops it when he sees me behind her.
“Hey Ash,” I say cheerily. “Remember a certain deer you wanted killed?” Awentia looks at Ash and I swear, if deer looks could kill, Ash would be a pile of soot on the floor.
“Hi, Ariella,” His eyes reveal something for a moment and are quickly sucked up by slight boredom. I bite my lip to stop from sighing. Why can’t he ever show his actual feelings?
“Um, is Awentia going to kill me?” he says cautiously. I giggle quietly and Awentia bounds near me, brushing her head against my waist. “Nope. Not on mommy’s command.” Ash smiles. I hesitate. “Ash, I can talk to Awentia in my head.” Ash stares at me for a second, disbelief in his eyes, before he gives a little gasp. “No way.” he murmurs. “You’re a Whisperer?”
I shrug. “Ever since I saved her, I've been able to." Awentia's voice rings through my head. Tell him I'll eventually get my revenge on him eventually. Awentia shoots me a wicked evil deer leer and I laugh shamelessly as I adress Ash.
"She says she'll get her revenge on you eventually." I choke. Awentia glares at Ash just to prove the point. Ash mutters, "I believe you, a hundred percent with the look your dumb doe is giving me."
Awentia gives a snort of anger and I shove her playfully away with a smile. "Awentia, stay around here. Don't get caught by a hunter and stay safe."
Of course, mother. Awentia's voice isn't mocking and I smile at her gently. Awentia swiftly gallops into the deep woods to explore.
"Okay, I want to take a break today," Ash says, ruffling his hair with a hand. He looks oddly uncomfortable, and I briefly wonder what's up with him. "Ash," I begin, "I have... a question. I've been having dreams of a man with purple eyes, black-haired fey with brown eyes, and a tall fey with blue eyes. And... a beautiful baby with dark brown hair. I have a feeling Helena isn't who she says she is and I don't know who my father is."
Ash looks at me, indesicion battling in his eyes as he gazes at my pleading expression, and sighs loudly. "Alright. Bring me someplace quiet where we can talk about it.
Fifteen minutes later, I drag Ash to a cliff near Arcadia. The air here is warm and breezy. Ash is sweating slightly under his long black coat and he shrugs it off, revealing muscular arms. No that I'm trying to look or anything. He peers down at the ledge. "Don't fall," he murmurs, and I can't ignore the catch of protectivness in his voice.
I smile and clutch his hand tighter. He's become so much closer to me. I depend on him, like he's my oxygen - what keeps me from drowning in misery. Ash looks at me and his gray eyes melt. It's amazing how he can be so kind to me and in a flash turn icey and cold.
I tug him down to the ground and sit crisscross. I take a deep breath and begin. "I know you know more then you're letting on," I say quietly. "You were born long before me, and even though we seem the same age, I know you realize something's up."
Ash sighs. "Helena is not your mother."
My hands fly to my mouth, ripping from Ash's grip, to stop a ragged shriek. My long, manicured gold nails dig into my cheek.
How could this be? Who am I?
I feel tears forming in my eyes, pooling in the beautiful shade of violet. The faint gold aura that always surrounds me turns the color of the palest liquid gold, and the air becomes frosty.
Ash cocks his head and holds out his hands. The tears finally come and he wraps me in his arms as I sit in his lap, legs behind him, as I sob silently into his shoulder, my body quaking with quiet cries.
His nimble fingers find a way into my hair and he runs his hands through it, delicately, a arm at my back. He speaks into my silver hair. "Shh, Ariella, mon coueur, mon amour."
Ash tilts my head up slightly and I whisper, "My whole life is a lie. Who am I?" Ash hesitates. "You are the daughter of the sidhe Frostwood and an unknown father. She died in childbirth with you and refused to tell anyone who your father was. You... you died, but your soul-maiden Maple sacrificed herself for you in the Pool of Life, which only she and I know about. That's why you always have a golden aura surrounding you, your skin and your hair is silver. Your skin used to be dark, your hair brown."
"How do you know this?"
Hesitation again. "I helped Maple save you. I showed her where the Pool of Life was."
"You saved me.
"I did." He smiles. "Maple is the black-haired fey, the blue-eyed fey is your mother, and the purple eyed-man... I assume he is your father."
I wrap my arms around his neck and pull him closer. I need him. I need to find my father. I need to know who I am.
"Help me find my father," I look into his eyes and feel strange. Hm. His pulse under my fingers quickens, and then I remember what he said earlier. He called me mon coueur, mon amour.
My heart, my love.
He loves me. I gaze into his eyes, feeling my own widen. And, I realize, a wry smile tugging on my lips, so do I. Ash's fingers tightens around my back and before I know what's happening, he presses his lips against mine, softly. He's not pushing it - he's giving me time to decide. My hands creep up his neck and curl in his silky black hair and I kiss him deeper. At first he seems surprised, but then he parts my lips and all coherent thoughts fly from my mind. A low moan escapes his lips and he kisses me harder as I wrap my legs around his waist.
"My heart," he whispers, and then my brain crashes.
And we sit there, seemingly for hours, delighting in each other, kissing and whispering endearments and just loving until the sun goes down and night replaces it.
And I love Ash.
I wake up, my hair rather ruffled and my mind just as disheveled. Blinking from the ground, I stare at my surrounds. Ash is sleeping fitfully, his arms wrapping me from behind, protecting me from the slight cold. His eyes are closed and I take a moment to look at him. Pale skin, dark hair, ruby lips, not unlike Mab's. He is truly my prince.
The ground is cold beneath me and my shirt has slipped off my shoulder - purposely? I don't want to think about it. Blushing though Ash is not awake, I quickly slip it back on and slide from Ash's killer grip without disturbing him. It's morning and I need to get Awentia, though I'd rather stay with Ash all day in a heartbeat. I can't call her from my mind, I realize with a grin, because the only damn thing it's thinking about is Ash and more more more.
Standing, I brush snow off my clothes and boots. I pull my hair up again in a bun and purse my lips. Ash looks so forlorn, lying there alone. I press two fingers against my lips to stop from smiling. I bend down and kiss him gently on his cheek, whispering, "I'll be back in a minute, Ash. I need to get Awentia." I don't stop as I murmur, "I love you."
Ash mumbles in his sleep and weakly grabs out at my waist. I give a quiet, tinkling laugh and dart out of his range, silently slipping into the forest. The leaves are half-grown in, the ground under my boots dirt and wet snow. I stare straight ahead and the moss-covered forest before mentally hissing, Awentia! Here!
It's the last thing I know before I feel a sharp pain at the back of my neck and I slump to the forest ground, unconsious.