It was while my sister was examining the glass dome that she heard a melodic sound, like that of something small and bright striking the glass. Beside her, a young man rushed past. His golden hair was in disarray and he was hastily pulling a hood over it. His bright eyes were nervous and afraid when they met my sister’s. From the stones around the edge of the dome, he plucked something small, round, and metallic. It looked much like a pea, if one were made of metal. With wild eyes, the man looked around before pocketing the metal ball and raising a gloved finger to his lips before rushing off. My sister, ever curious, rushed after him
Adrian strode into the throne room behind his parents. His sister trailed a little behind, but he didn’t pay her much mind. Instead, he stripped the riding gloves from his hands as his boots beat out a staccato against the marble floor.
All around the sides, courtiers were gathering, whispering and shouting at each other. Maps and missives were clutched in hands and fabrics and strings trailed here and there. Quiet servants slipped between them like ghosts, filling cups and plates. He ignored them, his eyes on the wide table set up before the dais. Maps were spread out as the kings and queens of the Pearl and Glass Kingdoms shouted over it. Merike stood nearby, stiff and still and a little bored, one finger playing with a slim golden chain around her neck.
“My son wouldn’t run away!” King Gray shouted, hammering a fist down on top of one map. Adrian had rarely seen his uncle red in the face. It made him pause a moment. “One of your own must have kidnapped him and used your daughter’s handmaiden to spirit him away.”
“As if you have no other enemies?” King Alon sneered, his long hair, tied back, swung over a shoulder as he leaned forward.
“None who would dare cross our borders,” Queen Coryn said, her voice icy and quiet.
King Alon’s head snapped in her direction. “Then your son must be a runaway.”
“Never!” King Gray shouted. “Never. My son would never shirk his duty, his responsibility.”
“Peace!” the Prince roared as he and the Princess approached, Adrian on their heels while Andalissa drifted off to listen in on the courtiers with a wink.
Silence fell over the room. The Prince’s voice was powerful, for he used it seldom. A quiet fury in his steps, he approached the table, neatly between the warring monarchs.
“We have a missing Crown Prince and a missing handmaiden,” the Prince said calmly. He turned to look at the mermaid princess. “Your Highness, is there any reason why your handmaiden would leave your side?”
Merike lifted her chin, her eyes cool, her cheeks pale. She looked a bit like a porcelain doll, cold and hard. Adrian pressed his lips together, certain he knew what his cousin had chosen. He hated to condemn his cousin to a life with that living doll, but James was born to a duty.
“None, Your Highness,” she responded, crisp and clear.
Catch up on Sisters of String and Glass
Check out Queen of the Garden of Girls