The dining hall was full, but Daniel didn’t worry about having to find a seat for supper. He was disgruntled, having been looking forward to having supper with the palace guards, but Landick’s order had been firm: the prince expected the younger prince’s presence at supper.
With a plate towering with smoked meats, fish, bread, something akin to a sweet version of asparagus, and what looked like a bushy salad, Daniel ambled over to the head table where Landick was already seated. Around him, he found his sister, Arnold, Jonathan, and a pretty girl around his age. He eyed the girl with curiosity as he took the only available seat, right across from her.
Her hazel eyes sparkling, she gave him a wide grin, tucking a strand of mahogany hair behind an ear. Landick, seated next to her, placed a hand on her shoulder and spoke quietly in her ear. Daniel watched while he ate slowly. Her sparkling eyes turned serious from a moment before regaining their glimmer. She glanced at him from the corner of her eyes and one side of her mouth quirked up in a smile.
“So,” Jonathan said, leaning over to speak quietly to him from where he sat to Daniel’s right, “I hear you got to search the grounds with the Captain of the Guard.”
Daniel grinned. “It wasn’t hard. I think Marinel was amused by me, but, as the Star Queen’s brother, it’ll be my duty to oversee the guard.”
From his other side, Arnold leaned in. “Don’t get to friendly with him, Dan. He’s a lot older than you and probably doesn’t want to lose his lofty position. He’s sizing you up and trying to get in good with you.”
Daniel turned to him, a piece of bread halfway to his mouth. “You think so?”
Arnold smiled and rested a hand on his shoulder. “I wouldn’t be surprised. Just remember that you are the brother to the Star Queen and anyone would want to be your best friend.” He jerked his head to Allison, who was seated across from him. “Though, instead of Marinel, you should stick close by Allison.”
Jonathan grimaced. “They couldn’t find Cass, so Allison is going to pretend to be Cass when the lords and ladies of the other islands get here and whenever Landick deems it necessary.”
Daniel frowned. “But everyone here already knows Cass is missing. Someone will probably say something, so why bother hiding it?”
“They’ve been sworn to secrecy,” Arnold said. “No one outside of the palace can know. If they do find out, it’ll cast doubt on Cass. Who would trust a leader who runs away?”
“Daniel.” Landick’s voice abruptly drew their attention. All three of them looked up to find Landick and the girl staring at them. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I did ask you to join us for a reason.”
Daniel put down the piece of bread. “Okay. I’m all ears.”
“Earlier today, I explained to your sister and friends about magic.”
Daniel nodded. “Marinel already told me everyone of Saironian blood has magic, which means I do, too.”
“Yes,” Landick said, nodding. “Lucky for you, you grew up on Earth, otherwise your magic would have consumed you.”
Daniel’s eyebrows rose. “If magic is dangerous, why do we have it?”
“Everyone’s magic is different,” Landick said patiently. “Some have more and some have less. Some are only capable of basic spells and conjurings while others can harness the elements, though that is extremely rare.” He leaned forward, and odd light in his eyes. “Elementals are the rarest mostly because many do not survive into adulthood. With few elemental mages to teach the younger ones, their magic is capable of overwhelming them if they lack focus. What is even rarer is a Spirit Mage.
“For decades, we thought there were no more Spirit Mages in the world. Theirs is a dangerous magic as they have power over the dead and can also call to the spirits of the living. But the spirits can quickly overwhelm a Spirit Mage, causing their magic to implode and kill the mage, or the dead can sense weakness and drag the mage under.”
Daniel shivered. “That doesn’t sound like something I’d like to do or be.”
Landick sighed. “There’s a reason why I’m telling you this, young prince.” He glanced at the girl beside him. About a decade ago, we learned there was a lone Spirit Mage. We tracked her down to Serrialda, only to find that the spirits of past Spirit Mages were teaching her.” He shook his head, a wondering look on his face. “The spirits know a great many things. They knew the Star Queen would need all five elements on her side, knew there would be a Spirit Mage to work with her. They knew it was not this girl from Serrialda, but she would be instrumental as teacher to the Star Queen’s Spirit Mage.”
Daniel shifted his eyes to look at the girl. She smiled at him, her hands neatly folded on the edge of the table.
“You might not like it, but you are one of only two Spirit Mages,” Landick said, pulling Daniel’s attention away from the girl.
“But the spirits have been leaving you alone because they know the Star Queen will need your power,” the girl said, her voice lilting and melodic. “So, don’t worry, Daniel. They will protect you.”
Landick smiled and put a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Daniel, this is Kaieela. She will serve as your teacher and guide as you learn how to use spirit magic.”
Kaieela grinned at him. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Your Highness.”
“Daniel,” he said quickly. “I didn’t grow up a prince, so just call me Daniel or Dan.”
Her smile widened. “I think we will have a lovely time together, Daniel. I look forward to helping you with your magic.”
At the reminder that he had one of the most dangerous forms of magic, Daniel’s smile wavered and he turned back to Landick. “Will everyone else have a teacher, too?”
“They do not require instruction like you will,” Landick said. “Their’s harness the elements of fire, water, earth, and air. All they need is focus and to feel the elemental they have control over in order to be able to shape and wield it. Yours is trickier because it involves the spirit of a living thing and the dead. It will require focus as well as authority. Kaieela will help you establish dominion over the spirits of the living and the dead so that they will come when you call.”
“Why would I want to call them?”
“We’re headed for battle, prince,” Landick said, his face grim. “Your powers may be needed more than you think.” He smiled at Daniel and then at Kaieela. “But, first, you two should probably get to know each other better. You’ll be spending a lot of time together.”
Daniel frowned. “I thought that, since I’m going to be leading the guard, I would be spending more time with them.”
“That will come later,” Landick said. “I am glad that you’ve found a purpose here, but it is more important that you get a handle on your magic.” He glanced at Arnold and Jonathan, his eyes carefully avoiding a glaring Allison. “You both should also find a purpose here.”
“I don’t just want to be a stand-in for my sister,” Allison said, anger lacing her words.
Landick flicked his eyes over to her. “We’ve discussed this Allison. Until Cassidy returns, we cannot have you roaming around Sairon.”
Scowling, Allison turned her eyes back to her nearly empty plate. Daniel glanced over at his sister with raised eyebrows before he turned to look at Landick with questions in his eyes.
“You’re making my sister stay in the palace?” Daniel asked, incredulous.
Allison’s scowl deepened. “As long as no one sees me, no one will know we’re twins. After all, our arrival hasn’t been announced at all. No one knows there are any twins at all. It’s a good thing the palace is big.”
“Daniel,” Kaieela said, drawing his attention from his sister, “there’s a lovely terrace overlooking the ocean. We can go there if you’re done eating and get to know each other.”
“Sure,” Daniel said, poking at his salad with his fork. “I just have to eat my salad.”
Kaieela choked back a laugh. “Daniel, have you had that before?”
“No, not yet. I saw it last night, but wasn’t really in the mood for salad.”
“I wouldn’t eat that if I were you,” she said, her eyes sparkling.
Daniel looked up at her, his eyes narrowed. “Why? What is it?”
“Daniel, it’s garnish. I mean, it’s edible, but it tastes like roses. Unless you like the taste of flowers, I very much recommend that you don’t eat it.”
He pushed his plate away. “Okay, guess I’m done with dinner, then.”
“I mean supper.”
She smiled and rose. Bowing to Landick, she murmured a few words and then beckoned for Daniel to follow. His eyes slid appreciatively over her slender frame encased in light brown pants and a form fitting dark green shirt. A slender belt wrapped around her waist, three gray gems twinkling at the front in the light.
Arnold nudged Daniel and grinned at him. Blushing, Daniel muttered under his breath and rose to quickly follow Kaieela out of the dining hall. He could hear Arnold and Jonathan talking behind him, but didn’t choose to try to hear their words. Instead, he matched Kaieela’s quick pace as they strode through the halls.
“Here we are,” she said a few turns later, throwing open the doors to a large balcony.
A gentle breeze wafted over them, carrying the characteristic scent of the ocean and thousands of flowers. The railing was crafted from black and white stones twisted together and large orbs of light sat at equal distances along it, lighting up the entire balcony. Round pots of white porcelain lined the perimeter, each overflowing with colorful flowers. A handful of round tables surrounded by wrought iron chairs were scattered across the balcony. Daniel followed Kaieela as she headed for one closest to the railing.
They sat across from each other and eyed each other for long moments. She seemed to be sizing him up and coming to a decision or two about him while he just stared at her. He’d dated a couple of girls in high school, but neither of them had the poise and beauty of Kaieela. If all girls on Serrialda were as pretty as her, he wouldn’t mind taking a trip over there.
Kaieela shifted and crossed her legs, the breeze gently blowing her long hair around her face.
“What is it like on Earth?” she asked.
He blinked at her. “Why? Do you want to go?”
She turned her gaze out to the ocean. The sun had set long ago and the moon was high in the sky. They could see the waves reflecting the light as they rolled in to crash against the shore.
“Before coming here, I never left Serrialda. It’s a beautiful place, Daniel, full of smaller islands. We call ourselves an island of isles. The ocean is so peaceful there. But, as I traveled here, I came over other islands and saw that they are unique. I want to know if Earth is also different from here.”
Daniel laughed. “You have no idea. We have islands, probably more than here, but it’s a really big world with seven continents.”
“Really big islands.”
She smiled at him. It softened her face, especially with her hair playing around the edges. Her slender fingers repeatedly moved to smooth the strands back, but the wind was persistent.
“I’d love to take you one day,” Daniel said softly. “You know, if I can ever figure out how to travel on the winds.”
She laughed, a light, musical sound that made his heart jump. “Oh, I don’t think you should. Anyone can summon the winds, but it takes ages to learn how to do it right and make it blow you where you want to go. The wind mages study for years before they’re allowed to even apprentice at one of the landing sites.”
“The winds seem like an efficient method of transportation, but it kind of makes for a rough landing.”
She smiled at him again. “Only at first. You’ll find your legs soon enough.”
“Tell me about Serrialda,” Daniel said. “Do you come from a large family?”
“Not quite as large as yours. It’s only my father and me. My mother passed years ago, but, since I have spirit magic, I still talk to her almost every day.”
His brows rose. “Will you be telling her about me?”
She looked him up and down, a playful appraisal look on her face. “Perhaps. I think you’re very interesting and we do have the same magic. I think our time together will be quite fun.”
He grinned. “I hope so.”