Salem carried me through an endless maze of halls and into a medium sized room. The room had a double bed, a wardrobe with matching wood, a white carpet and another door leading to the bathroom. There was a shelf full of books, but smaller than the one by the hearth downstairs.
“I hope you like it, you’ll be in here a while.” Salem sighed. He noticed me staring at the books and walked over to the shelf, picking one up from the top where I couldn’t reach. He leafed through a couple pages his eyes widening and his cheeks pinkening before putting the book back.
“They don't really have kid books for your age. You're kind of a rare case." Salem frowned.
"Why am I rare?" I asked.
"Because your father was a pure mage. You're his daughter, so you get all of his power. You're going to be amazing one day, and do amazing things. But, you’ve gotta eat your vegetables and get strong first," he said, mussing up my hair. He leafed through another book and handed it to me.
“Here, read this to me out loud. Let’s see how far your reading comprehension goes.”
“You know a lot of big words for a kid,” I pointed out.
“I read a lot. Now, c’mon, tell me a story.” Salem sat down on the bed, his back against the back of the wall, his arms out wide for me to join him, adjusting me in his lap. As I read to him, he'd tell me the words I skipped and what they meant. By chapter 3, my stomach began to growl. Ggrrrrrrrrrp.
"Alright, c'mon, I'll take you out for something to eat," Salem promised. Just as we opened the door, a man in a dark blue sweater and black pants appeared. His hair was curly and black, framing endless dark blue eyes and a white smile. He looked down at Salem and I.
"Good evening. I'm just visiting from a neighboring land." he briefly introduced. We locked eyes. "You. . . Come here." He beckoned me over with his finger. I climbed off of Salem's lap and sat next to him, shaking my head. "Come here, child. What is your name?" he asked, softly.
"Noneyo," I snapped. He chuckled, amused.
"I am Adrian WhiteBridge," he introduced himself.
"Your majesty." Salem got off the bed and knelt before the stranger. "Pup, it's polite to bow before a king." Salem tried to be subtle.
"Relax, young man, she doesn't know it, but we'll meet again. She is HIS daughter." His highness laughed. "He has never bowed before me. Nor would I expect his blood to. Young one, come, let's get to know each other better." His highness knelt before me and held his hand out. I hesitantly touched his palm with my middle finger and placed my hand firmly on the nearest wall.
'He speaks the truth. He is not safe, but he is no danger to you' The wall spoke. I took my hand away from the wall and tilted my head, before gripping his hand firmly. Well, as firmly as a four year old could.
"What was that?" asked Salem.
"She was using the voice of the spirits to assure her that I am safe. She's going to be very powerful indeed. Come with me, little one." His highness picked me up and took me out the door, waltzing right out of the castle with all eyes on him. He set me inside a long shiny black tube with wheels. It was like a car, but longer, as if someone had taken a black car and put it through a taffy puller. He buckled me in his lap and spoke to the driver in a strange language I had never heard of before. I gripped the seat belt as the ride continued on.
"I'm glad he found you, little one. It wouldn't have been hard to track you, however, the sooner we met, the sooner you could get things started." He started stroking my hair, and murmured something softly. The car stopped and the door to our right opened. A hand appeared through the opening. I leaned away from it.
"Si shilta itrewic sio vur wer fanol ekik." Adrian said. The hand disappeared. There was a click of the belt buckle, and the belt retracted from my sight. We stepped out of the car to see a giant, red bricked building with such wide, picture windows that I almost couldn't tell if they were there. They were so clean and clear, the only giveaway was the blue satin curtains. I looked down at the dirty clothes I had arrived at the school in.
"Don't worry about how you look. Appearances are important in front of the right people, but we're family, so you can relax," Adrian promised. He held me against him and walked us through the maroon double doors into an over decorated room. Tables with vanilla white table cloths lined in royal blue satin scattered the floor, crystal plants sparkled, reflecting the diamond chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The room was bright and very flashy. Men dressed in matching white button down shirts, black slacks, and a white square before them holding platters of food and drink. I tilted my head, narrowing my eyes. A woman in matching uniform, with the men holding two shiny rectangles the size of tomes greeted us with brown hair, green eyes and a white smile.
"Your highness, a pleasure to see you again, and who is this . . . lovely creature you're holding?" she paused for a moment in her greeting. I turned my head and looked at her from the corner of my eye.
"Amanda, a pleasure as always. She's shy, is there an available table?" he asked.
"For you, you're highness, always." Amanda assured. Adrian rolled his eyes.
"Amanda, you knew me before, you don't have to act differently." Adrian mentioned as he followed her to a deep blue satin table. Conversations were replaced with whispers as we weaved around that tables. We were seated at a table with napkins on our right side, and silverware that was likely made of actual silver. Adrian put me in a boosted seat so I could face him a little better. He sat across from me with templed fingers, his chin resting on them.
"So, little miss, if I may address you as such?" He asked. I nodded.
"What do you know? What do you remember?" he asked, curiously, staring me down. I broke the stare contest to pick up a knife. I looked at my own reflection in the knife, what little I could see. My snow white hair curled around my face, untamed and seemingly unmanageable. My dark purple eyes stared back at me with a determination I wasn't used to seeing, but then I never stared at myself in mirrors or reflections of rich people's silverware. My shirt was green and spotted with black and brown, the dirt and grime from being on my own. I didn't dare look at the pants I wore. The waiter, or waitress, I wasn't paying attention, gave us each a glass of water in crystal glasses. I pointed my index finger at the glass and coaxed out a stream of water. I outlined the knife in the water and hardened it to ice. I left it levitating in the air, poked the silver knife out, leaving a design of the knife floating between Adrian and I. He eyed it curiously. The knife hit the table with a small 'clang!' I blew on the outline gently before sending it his way. He accepted the ice outline, cradling it in his hand and inspected it.
"Impressive. Manipulation." he murmured to himself.
"Is there anything I can get her majesty and. . . What are you doing sitting with the king, urchin?!" A pair of strong hands picked me up from my seat at the table and began to walk away with me.
"Hey! What are you doing, manhandling my guest?!" Adrian stood and shouted, silencing the whole room. My captor froze.
"Your highness, I was merely taking out the trash!" The waiter argued.
"Are you calling my guest trash?!" Adrian sounded angry, but didn't move from his standing spot. The waited about faced and returned me to my spot at the table.
"My apologies, miss." I looked up at the waiter. Curly red hair with ocean blue eyes and tan skin in the usual waiter uniform.
"What can I get his highness and his guest?" he asked. Adrian answered in the language I didn't understand. The waiter nodded and left.
“So, little miss, is ‘tis your first night with the Arch castle, yes?” he asked curiously. I nodded, resting my right elbow on the table with my cheek on my right fist, and waved my left hand absently as I played with his glass of water. He watched, amused.
“I’ve never been to the Arch, unless you count visits,” he said as if to bring up conversation. “What did you do before the castle?” he asked.
“I ran. I was running with my Dad. We fell asleep under a tree and I woke up with Salem.” I looked down at the perfect dark blue table cloth. KAtshhhhh!!! My eyes widened and I looked up to see Adrian slightly wet. I looked for the water I was playing with, but it was gone. Both my glass and his glass was empty.
“Hehe, you’re wet.” I giggled.
“At least you’re smiling.” He picked up his napkin and dried off his hair. The waiter returned with a tray of food in each hand, putting Adrian’s plate down first: a giant steak with green beans and some other meats I couldn’t identify. Before me, the waiter placed a bowl of macaroni noodles covered in strange yellow sauce. I picked up a fork (one of many) and stabbed at it, waiting for it to move.
“It’s mac and cheese, but no ordinary mac and cheese, this is macaroni from the wheat farm of Louisiana and cheese from around the world. Five different cheeses to be exact.” Adrian explained, taking a bite of the steak smothered in sauce from a square bottle. I squinted at it. I picked up a forkful and took a bite. It was squishy and slimy, but in a good way. I nodded in approval. “I’m glad you like.” He smiled sweetly. The rest of dinner went by slowly and silently. He didn’t prompt me to continue speaking and I felt no need to speak. When dinner was done, my leftovers were crammed into a box for me to take back. He picked me up and walked out of the building. We climbed into the taffy car and drove off. With a full belly, I found my eyes drooping sleepily, my head bobbing from side to side, and a yawn escaped me.
“Sleepy?” he mused. I nodded, rubbing my eye.