Chapter 16

Going to the goblin market wasn’t as bad as I first thought it would’ve been. There were definitely crowds of shady people and occasionally I had one or two approach me with offerings to buy my blood or my body.  I shudder at the thoughts but all night I had my self-nominated body guard, Rafe, he glared his steely, hard gold eyes at anyone even daring to make a suggestion to me.

Half the time I had to pull him away from getting into a fight, my cheeks flushing and skin tingling each time I touched him. Eventually we managed to gather clothes for the winter climate, Rafe also investing in items here and there. I’d never thought about it much before but he barely carries anything on him, his coat must have magic pockets at the very least. I shake my head at the memories of last night at the market; the sun had now raised high in the sky and was bouncing and glaring over the white covered ground that signified our entrance into the Ice Plains.

The trees had started to drop away as we continued walking on the worn and beaten path, I now wore my chunky boots that although made it look like I had golf clubs for feet, I secretly loved them, I couldn’t help going for the ones that even had little chains hanging from the shoelace holes and the occasional buckle. On the outside they appear mean and chunky but on the inside my feet were cushioned like I was walking on fluffy clouds.

My new coat cinched in at the waist, form fitting yet made of a material that kept your body heat from escaping, the hood on the back had faux, well I hope it was faux, fur around the edge, I now also owned a pair of gloves, slim and almost like a second skin they were white and had a suede feel on the outside. I shivered as a cold gust blew across the back of my neck, while walking I quickly put my hood up, escaping from the sudden cold into my warmer cocoon.

Rao and Nevan were up ahead, Nevan acting unusually quiet since the goblin market and the further we entered the Ice Plains the more serious and solitary he became. Rafe walked next to me in peaceful silence making the odd comment to explain what was coming up along the path. “Have you ever been to the Ice Plains?” I ask as sudden nervousness envelopes me the further we trek. “Once, it was an age ago though. They have this set up that they call the Ice Palace and they’re not wrong, it reaches high into the sky the outside walls made of ice and it glistens in the day and night. Inside the halls and corridors are like mazes to new comers, it’s crazy but beautiful.”

I look up at him as he describes this palace, his eyes far away as if they are in another time. By the time he finishes and his voice trails away he looks down and into my eyes and I look back at him, we hold each other’s gaze as we walk and I feel myself moving towards him and notice his steps towards me. No longer travelling forward we were moving towards each other and nothing mattered around us, we belonged to our own isolated world the ether thick like syrup as we wade towards one another.

Standing just inches away from each other a noise breaks our gaze making us both turn; Nevan stands looking at us with an incredulous look on his face, amusement gleaming in his kohl rimmed eyes. Raoul grumbles to himself, shaking what snow had covered his thick fur and turns around to carry on walking; I throw a brief glimpse towards Rafe his face as shocked as mine as he catches my gaze and we both look away quickly, cheeks flushing, breathing making our chests heave we take a step away from each other so that we were at arm’s length.

Nevan waits for us to walk the fifteen paces distance and inserts himself between us, his eyes laughing though his mouth never betrayed him. We walked in awkward silence for a while and my thoughts drifted, what had happened then? We were drawn to each other like magnets and as I processed the memory I knew we wouldn’t be able to resist if it wasn’t for the noise to break our gaze. Casting a glance sideways as we catch up to Rao, I notice Nevan looking pleased with his self yet looking displeased at what I can only assume as his intended magical experiment gave him unexpected results.

I sigh as we trundle on in silence, I couldn’t just assume from his expressions that he did something magical to us. But then why did he look like he had conducted an experiment and wasn’t satisfied with the results? I push the thoughts out of my mind, paranoid much? I keep my eyes set on Rao’s dark form against the white backdrop that now surrounds us. As I focus on his form, I feel my eyes getting heavier and the cold biting at my face, we’d been travelling for the majority of the day now and the sky was beginning to darken around us. I shiver involuntarily and look up noticing the only light that is guiding us now is the moon beaming against the snow making the light seem as bright as day even though the sky rapidly turns darker.

My steps falter slightly in exhaustion just as Rao stops ahead of us up the small snow bank and Nevan’s face furrows in what looked like disgust for a brief second before he turns to smile a sharp toothed grin at me. “Dahlia Arcana, welcome to the Ice Palace.” He reaches the top of the small hill standing next to Rao before they exchanged a few words and Nevan loped off ahead of us. Rafe quickly closes the distance between us; he must have sensed my hesitation of both exhaustion and wariness to what this Ice Palace holds for me. He places a reassuring hand on my shoulder before moving it down to the base of my back, guiding me up the inclining bank.

We reach the top, even though it was a small hill, I feel my legs getting heavier the cold snow finally soaking through my jeans, maybe they weren’t such a good idea after all. My eyes drift close but I force them open as Rafe gently nudges me, pointing ahead of us. Apprehensive to look right away I let my gaze move from his shoulder down his muscular biceps that are shaped perfectly through his coat, along his forearm to his hands, his fingers slightly spidery in length yet elegant almost like a pianists, his index finger was extended and I take a moment looking at his neatly trimmed fingernails. Finally I lift my head, my jaw drops.

The Ice Palace wasn’t an understatement, ice soared into the sky making towers and turrets, and there were too many windows to count. It was spread out over hundreds of acres; the main entrance was a magnificent drawbridge. The ice was a multitude of colour, reflections shining from within as well as the moonlight dancing over its surface creating whites, blues and silvers. I gasp at its beauty and begin the final steps of this part of the journey; Rafe brings me out of my trance as I stumble on my tired legs “Not so fast, it will still be there if you walk instead of run.” He smirks at me, amusement dancing in his eyes. He pulls me into him so that my head rests against his collarbone, wrapping his arm around my shoulders to help keep me on my exhausted feet.

The closer we get to the palace the bigger and more impressive it seems to get. The ice is patterned and they seem to shift and move, the work of warlock magic most definitely comes to mind. The more I stare the more my eyes become heavier, Rafe shakes me whispering in my ear to not look at the walls, his breath so close to my skin makes my body shiver and tingle, I nod in response and watch Rao. He trots slightly in front of us stopping as we reach the bridge, across from us stands Nevan and a welcoming committee, we finally reach the entrance and I gather all the energy that I can to stand up straight to meet these people.

“Welcome to the Ice palace,” an elderly woman with bright, ice blue eyes greets us “I see that you travelled with our very own Prince Nevan, in celebration of his return we are to have a ball. I hope you will all come, it will be tomorrow evening.” My eyes widen in shock at the news that Nevan is a prince; he said he was a high-end warlock but a prince is something else. The woman’s eyes are still focussed on me as she waits for an answer and I nod my head drowsily. Rao begins speaking but I don’t register his words, my eyes travel to Nevan’s his usually humoured eyes are now dark and distant. He notices my gaze and smiles at me putting up his façade, carrying on the show of welcoming the guests.

“Well as lovely as this chat is, we have some very tired guests.” I see Nevan nod towards me and the blue eyed woman gazes at me intensely, she nods in agreement and gestures for the doors to be opened. Rafe guides me into the palace and I’m too tired to even notice the spectacular walls and maze like corridors that we are lead down. People and beings pass through my vision until finally we reach a door, the blue eyed lady opens and gestures inside, Rafe takes me into the room and too say it’s made out of ice it wasn’t cold a fire was even burning in a small hearth. Wouldn’t that melt the ice though? I hear a chuckle from Rafe’s lips “You know. That’s a good question.”

I didn’t even realise I’d spoken out loud and I blush as he sets me down on one of the beds in the large room, he helps me take off my chunky boots, gloves and jacket before letting me lie back on the bed closing my eyes. I feel a hand brush my hair away and the light pressure of lips touch my forehead, it felt like a dream as I hear the quiet whisper “My crazy Dee.” I sigh and “My Rafe” escapes my lips as I drift away, the last image I see before black are those piercing blue eyes.

The End

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