“And you,” Allison responded, trying to use as few words as possible.
Alyssum’s eyes darted around the immobile group. Quickly, she smiled brightly and clapped her hands before the widespread stillness could become awkward. “Come. Let us take our seats.”
Landick, Talone, and Jonathan shuffled themselves around so that Allison sat opposite the sorceress and lady with Landick to her left and Jonathan to her right. With a quiet flurry, they settled around the table and serving men who had been waiting in the shadows stealthily moved forward to set down platters of various fruits and cakes and glass water glasses before silently withdrawing.
“We are very honored to be the first to greet you,” Kassia said, resting a hand on Lisette’s shoulder. Allison gave her a small smile before Kassia turned to Alyssum. “I was just a girl when you refused the crown. My mother was Sorceress then and hoped to see the Star Queen. Sadly, she passed four years ago, but I am glad I was selected to follow her as Sorceress and it brings me great joy to meet the Star Queen.”
Alyssum’s eyes softened. “I had heard of your mother’s passing. I am sorry we could not have met again.”
Daniel leaned forward. “You know, Kaieela has been teaching me to make contact with the spirit world.”
“Absolutely not,” Alyssum said sharply before Daniel could continue. “You are too untrained and you should not call a spirit unless the spirit requests contact with the world of the living. It is disrespectful to do otherwise.”
Daniel frowned and sat back, but said no more.
“I’m curious,” Arnold said, turning to Lisette, who sat beside him, “how you came to be the lady of Kai-Na-Lin, or are all rulers from that island young?”
Lisette gave a thin, haunted smile. “Not at all. Kai-Na-Lin has a blood throne.”
“What Lisette means,” Landick said hurriedly, breaking in as Lisette’s voice began to crack, “is a single line holds the throne of Kai-Na-Lin. No one of another blood can sit on it. It was established when the island was established and her line has ruled for many generations.”
“Like royalty back on Earth?” Daniel asked.
“In a way. The throne and the blood of Lisette’s family are bonded, so only someone sharing her blood can rule. Legend says it was established by the god of time himself.” Landick’s eyes softened as he looked at the young woman. “Sadly, Lisette’s entire family was wiped out last year in a bloody rebellion. It wasn’t the first, but the most destructive.”
“My people don’t realize the island will fall if my blood also falls,” Lisette said softly. “I was lucky I was away with a friend at the time. The people were not pleased by my survival, but the remaining court knows the truth and ensured my life was spared.”
Arnold gently rested a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
She smiled, but didn’t say anything, though unshed tears sparkled in her eyes.
Jonathan cleared his throat as he noticed an odd, malicious glean in Allison’s eyes as she watched Arnold and Lisette. He didn’t know what it meant, but he didn’t want Allison to get out of hand or cease pretending to be Cass. “Since you’re young and also new to a throne, I’m sure the Star Queen would appreciate any advice you have to offer.”
Allison smiled politely and clenched her hands in her lap.
Kassia leaned forward, her eyes sparkling. “And should you have any questions about earth magic, I’ll be more than willing to help. There are so few of us that survive into adulthood. I can’t help much with the Star Queen powers, but can guide you in your earth magic.”
“Yes, thank you,” Allison said quietly, her eyes not quite meeting Kassia’s. “I’ll let you know if I have any questions.”
Kassia sat back with a satisfied smile, but Allison could feel unease rolling off of Landick. This wasn’t something he had anticipated. Allison wondered if Kassia would be able to tell whether Allison actually had earth magic or not. Regardless, she resolved to stay as far away from Kassia as possible and to rein in her fire magic, if possible.
Allison swallowed hard. Impersonating Cass was going to be a lot harder than she thought.
Cass and Chely pushed themselves to make the usual five day trip to Dainadala from the forest in three days. Cass’s uncertainty about the minstrel entering the palace, the carriage’s destination, and whether the riders in the carriage would notice a fissure in the forest and two dead men had them pushing to reach Dainadala earlier rather than later so Cass could disguise herself.
By the time they walked through the flowered arches into the town, Chely was exhausted and her head was drooping and Cass was shaking slightly from the amount of magic she’d managed to use to help Chely run faster.
I hate to say this, my lady, but I will require a few days of rest before we can go over the bridge.
Cass nodded, also tired. “Don’t worry, Chely,” she said, patting the dhakyr’s neck. “Once I hide my hair, I’ll feel much better about taking it slower.”
Relief washed through her mind and Cass smiled faintly.
As tired as she was, though, Cass was instantly lifted like a drooping flower as soon as the first floral scents hit her nose. Her head had been bent forward, her trust entirely in Chely, but now she looked up and her jaw dropped.
The town was quaint with winding cobblestone roads too narrow for wagons and carts to comfortably pass through, though they entered into a large, open market square where several carts were parked along the sides. A fountain draped in garlands oversaw the bustling market from the center, surrounded by tall lamp posts wound with more floral garlands. The buildings were no more than two stories tall, but Cass couldn’t tell what they were constructed from; almost every inch of them was blooming with bright, colorful blossoms.
Cass blinked and looked around. Almost every surface save the roads was bursting with flowers. They either seemed to be growing straight out of the walls or were heavily draped with garlands.
The flower city.
They call Dainadala the flower city. It has been many years since I was last here, but it hasn’t changed. The whole town seems to be blooming.
“Um, yeah,” Cass said, still looking around in awe. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many flowers before.”
Look at the people.
It wasn’t easy for Cass to tear her attention from the flowers, but Chely’s voice sounded insistent. The market was filled with colorful stalls bursting with flowers. The people were dressed in colorful clothes and wore wreaths or garlands of flowers, practically blending in with the town. But Cass saw what Chely wanted her to. Close to half of the people she saw had ginger hair.
I don’t know what you know of your line, but I believe one of your great-grandmothers came from Dainadala.
“That would explain the ginger hair.”
You fit right in here.
Cass nodded, feeling the tension seep out of her. For the past three days, she had traveled with her hood up, but now she pushed it back and let her braid hang over one shoulder. It was nice to feel the sun against her hair and skin.