The maid was helpful as I bathed, and even more so as I got dressed. She complimented me on the navy blue dress, and handed me black flats when I declined heels. Kai was purring about matching my dress as I sat at the vanity, allowing the maid to work with my thick chocolate hair. After managing to get it back into a smooth braid, she let it hang down, giving up on anything further. She added a clip to my hair and a short necklace to my neck before deeming me ready. Feeling much more like a princess than myself, I shyly followed her out of the room, both hands laying on my skirt, prepared to pick it up if I felt like I was going to trip and make an embarrassment of myself.
Elijah, along with the one-winged dragon I came to view as a friend, were both at the bottom of the stairs as we approached. The maid skipped forward a few steps so that there was distance between us as I blushed, clutching the railing with one hand and lifting up my skirts with the other.
"Sir," the maid said softly, the Prince and dragon still distracted, and I was already halfway down the stairs. My blush increased as she pointed my way, and both of them stared at me. Elijah remained stone faced while Kai's one wing wiggled in delight, his tail following suit. The blue dragon slid toward the first step, putting his head down at my height as I stood on the second one.
"Hello," I greeted him softly, scratching the scales on his head. The dragon nudged me with his head, his scales glittering under the chandelier's light. We really did match, as if I owned him and not Elijah.
"You look ready to see my mother," Elijah interrupted, offering me a hand. Kai huffed as I took it, stepping down the last few steps. The dragon remained beside me as Elijah turned away without another word, walking toward another hallway. I laughed silently as Kai pushed me to follow along, acting playfully as if I wasn't in the middle of the castle trying to get free to go find my kidnapped brother.
If I was being honest, I would've said that I didn't expect anyone to have an entire room dedicated to tea in their house, royal or not. Then I would've been wrong, is what I discovered as Elijah approached a door with guards on either side. They said nothing as Elijah held the door open for me, and still held their silence as I looked back at the dragon.
I'll wait, Kai said, what looked like a smile appearing on his scaly face. I flashed him a real smile before heading through the door, skirts sweeping across the floor.
Inside was a decently sized room with a wall entirely made of glass. Various tables were scattered around the room, the chairs ranging from two to five around each. Closest to the window was Queen Amara, her blue eyes focused on something outside the window, a tray of tea set in front of her. Elijah wasted no time; he dragged me along behind him directly to her table. He bowed before taking a seat, and I followed suit, giving her my best curtsey.
"Your Grace," I said, making myself comfortable on the cushiony chair. I didn't dare touch the tea in front of me, placing my hands in my lap as to not disturb anything.
"I see you've recovered. Are you feeling better, Cloud?"
I nodded, giving up on making eye contact. The Queen was still focused on the outdoors, and I followed her gaze. The room was placed on the edge of the mountain, meaning we could see the Valley below. From here, I could spot the edge of my parents' farm. There was even the indent of Kai from where he'd fallen.
"I want to make you a proposal, Your Grace," I began, Elijah tensing up beside me. I shot him a confused look, but his eyes were trained on the table. Pushing aside his weird behaviour, I focused on the outdoors again. From here, I could see for miles. The beautiful landscape of Mythira was vibrant and alive, and I felt the joy I knew that the royals shared.
"What would that be?" She inquired, throwing me a sideways glance.
Twiddling my thumbs, I exhaled slowly and straightened up. "If you help me, lend me your forces, to find my brother, I will pledge my loyalty to you. Once I have control of the magic you say I have, I will pledge it to you, Your Grace."
Queen Amara faced me at that point, lips twisted into an amused smile. "Selling yourself so quickly, Cloud?"
Deep down, I knew I was rushing into it. But Queen Amara had saved me as a child. She cared, and had the power to bring Terrance back home.
If he was still alive.
Clenching my fists under the table, I balled the skirts up in my hands. My eyes trailed to the Valley down below, watching the people move back and forth. How many of them had already written Terrance off as dead?
They can teach you magic, Storm-Cloud. Make them take you in. Make them turn you into a warrior, and send you to save your brother.
Taking Kai's advice, I leveled a strong gaze on the Queen.
"I want you to teach me. Education and physical skills. And I want your forces to help me save my brother. And," I hesitated, swallowing past the lump in my throat.
"And, if my brother is dead... I am free from my pledged loyalty."
Her eyes were amused, but her face was blank as she processed my words. In my head, Kai was approving of my conditions, and beside me, Elijah looked less worried. Confident that I'd gotten myself something out of the deal, I relaxed my hands and posture, comfortable in the chair. It was my turn to look out the window, letting the Queen stare at my face.
"You have grown up well, Cloud. We have a deal," the Queen announced, waving her hand at Elijah.
Minutes later, I was signing an official contract and being swept away by maids once again.