I stretch and turn in the bed, waking slowly I sit up feeling disorientated. Looking around the room I remember last night’s tired trek and reaching the glamorous ice palace, stumbling through the corridors whilst leaning against Rafe until finally my head hitting the pillow. The room gave off a bluish glow, the centre of the room turning orange as a fire blazed quietly in the hearth, there were two beds in the room but only one was occupied by me. I glance around the room but find it empty; no one was sat in the plump high backed arm chairs that circled the crackling fire or stood by the fancy dark oak armoire that was set on the other side of the room.
I get out of bed, the blood rushing to my head making me sway as I stood up too fast. I take slow deep breaths and sit back down telling myself off for getting dizzy, like I do every time. Sighing I finally get up and walk around the spacious room, I look around for my pack but find no sign of it taking initiative I head towards the grand armoire. As I get closer it gets easier to notice little patterns swirling through the ice walls and these patterns are mirrored in the carving of the armoire.
I pull open the heavy oak doors instantly hit by the musty, moth eaten smell of fabrics as I look closer my own clothes have been placed within, my pack and my two pairs of shoes sit at the bottom, odd ones out next to the dainty boots and heels that were already in there. My feminine side kicks in as I spot the shoes, sitting on the floor my eyes pour over their dainty beauty I smile like a child at a sweet shop running my fingers over their soft texture; I pick up a pair that seems to glisten over the rest. They were a couple of inches high, the heel itself thin but slightly wedged, closed toe they were a dark shimmering green with silver and had an emerald ribbon to tie around your ankle.
Looking at them longingly I finally put them back and stand up, closing the armoire doors and head towards the door just as it opens. “Oh good, you’re up.” An elderly woman walks in as she looks up at me I see her piercing blue eyes, remembering her from last night I straighten up “Hello?” I greet unsure. She raises her brows at me and busies herself around the room, tutting as she goes to make the bed I slept in, she then heads towards the armoire and hangs up a covered piece of clothing. Turning to me with her hands on her hips “That is your dress for tonight, do not ruin it,” she stays sternly and I look at her puzzled until I remember the dress from my bag “Yes, yes it’s that one but it’s been altered so that it’s more appropriate.” She carries on as if reading my thoughts, straightening up anything that I’ve touched or moved.
Turning to face me her eyes meet mine and she finally introduces herself “I’m Tabitha the head of this ‘palace’ also one of the head Warlock’s on the council for the Ice Plains. I know exactly why you’re here so don’t go demanding information from me.” She looks at me sternly finishing her introductions leaving me with nothing to say, she briskly walks to the door saying over her shoulder before exiting “Your wolf is in a meeting but your cursed friend is in the library,” and just as the door closes “oh and you can where those shoes if you want.”
I stare at the closed door for a few minutes and start debating on what footwear to leave the room in, finally deciding on my converse slightly more worn now since the start of the journey, I also change my top to a close fitted shirt that I spotted in the armoire, deciding that my jeans could last a few more days. Taking a deep breath I open the door. Ahead of me people walk the corridors their skin tones and species varying, the floor was ice and had snow built up in small corners I step out cautiously but find that my feet don’t slip. I realise that I have no clue to the whereabouts of the library and so decide to head to my right following a petite girl around my age with silver hair flowing down to her waist, a tattoo spiralling in changing colours down her arm.
The more I follow her the more lost I become, as she takes turns at sudden angles and goes up and down stairs, I constantly have to apologise to whichever victim I stumble into, step on toes of or knock out of the way. As I follow I peer through doorways witnessing scenes aiding the set up and hearing the chatter for the upcoming ball, apparently these are regular occasions but I never see the library. Eventually the girl with silver hair slows down and as she turns the corner, she glances over her shoulder a smile tugs at her lips and I swear she makes eye contact with me. I hesitate before carrying on around the corner suddenly realising how much of a stalker I’ve been acting for however long I’ve been following her.
I debate with myself swaying on the balls of my feet to take the next steps; finally I let my feet lead me forward secretly hoping that she would still be within sight. As I round the corner I have to come to a sudden stop, which for an accident prone person is not easy and so I end up stumbling forward. Stumbling straight into the silver haired girl. I struggle to maintain my balance, my shoes failing me and my arms flailing I finally regain myself, cheeks flushed with the effort and the embarrassment. She stands in front of me, her arms folded across her chest and a smirk at her lips, I smile at her sheepishly "You... Err knew I was following you all along but I can explain. I sort of nearly got lost and the back of your head seemed friendly an-" She cuts me off from speaking, a full grin on her face, her shoulders shaking and eyes laughing in amusement.
"Don't worry about it. Dee. That's right isn't it?" She puts one hand on her hip and holds out her other hand I nod gormlessly, smiling shyly I take her hand and we shake. I take the time to look her over, long silver hair hanging straight to her waist with the tips of her pointed ears showing through some of the strands. Her skin was pale, making her cat shaped eyes appear to be darker than they actually are. "You finished staring honey?" She raises her eyebrows and lets go of my hand, I blush not realising that my staring was so obvious. She turns to leave and looks over her shoulder waiting "Are you coming or not? I thought you needed to go to your hunky, brooding man." I stare shocked for a little while, before gathering my senses and rushing to catch up and walk beside her, protesting "He isn't my- "
"Sure, sure he isn't your hunk," she waves off my protest before continuing "though he is brooding. Anyway I have decided to be your guide and helper. I'm gonna take you under my wing, hypothetically of course I couldn't handle wings, a tail is all I can cope with." I smile at her words and double take as she mentions her tail, she'd concealed it well underneath her fitted trousers and knee length, sleeveless coat. She continues to lead me up and down stairs, twisting left and right in corridors until finally we go through a darker archway, her eyes glistening in the dimmer torchlight.
"One brooding hunk at your disposal." She waves her hand at the heavy dark oak door, smiling as she turns to walk away, her hips swaying down the corridor "Thanks. Can I at least know your name?" I call down to her just before she reaches the corner. "Faline, you sweetie can call me Faye." She laughs as she disappears around the corner.
I shake my head in amusement, looks like I've made a new friend. Turning towards the doors I take a deep breath and push. The door opens with a creak and I flinch at the sound that's loud and echoes around the quiet room, the sight before me makes my jaw drop. Stacks of books shelved up towards the high ceilings ladders leaning precariously against uneven stacks, piles of books balance on tables dotted randomly around the vast room. For once since walking into the Ice Plains and reaching the palace, I felt at home, breathing in the deep musty scent of old books I begin to search the stacks, zigzagging up and down the aisles and aisles of books looking for Rafe.
I lose myself amongst the stacks, content to be lost in this wonderland of fiction, even if some of it is non-fiction. At least a couple of hours must have passed as I worked my way around the shelves, I stop to look at books every now and again their leather-bound covers intriguing me. I find myself sitting down in a rusty coloured and cracked leather chair, that had seen way too many decades of comfortable reading that it had now become a sink hole for the unknowing occupant, sucked into the world of some old maiden from 'yonder years.'
Focused on the book I subconsciously begin to reposition myself, the chair sucking me down to its sunken seat making it difficult to move. "You know, I wondered how long it would take you to find this place." The voice booms out around the quiet making me shriek and fall back into the chair, my legs flailing above my head as I sink on a soft spot, the familiar voice laughs at my predicament watching me struggle for a few seconds more before reaching his hand out to me. I look into the amused melted golden eyes of Rafe, he smiles down at me and pulls me out of the seat. "I was looking for you." I say the first thing that comes to my head and he laughs, his laugh making my legs turn to jelly even more so that his hands still held mine.
"It looked like you were." He says teasingly as he nods at the book that had fallen from my grasp onto the floor. His hands still holding mine I blush and pull away from him, he looks at me and his eyes flash hurt for a brief second, so fast that it's gone and I think that I've imagined it. "I was searching but then I got a little bit lost... And distracted." I say picking up the book, dusting off some muck and putting it back on the shelf, I feel his amused expression burning into my back but as I turn around his face gives nothing away. "Well, we better get you out of here before Tabitha comes on a manhunt. The ball is only a couple of hours away and I do believe she has extensive plans that need to be kept to perfect timing. That which includes you getting ready." I look at him shocked and worried at the thought of Tabitha's piercing blue eyes appraising me before the ball, making sure I looked perfect for her schedule.
Rafe chuckles lightly "Don't look so worried, she's just an old mother hen underneath that icy demeanour." He holds out his arm in a gentlemanly manner and I laugh, cocking an eyebrow at his niceties, I take it and let him lead me out of the beautiful room and back towards the icy walls of the palace. I shiver not realising just how warm the library was as we step out into the corridor, glad that Rafe has my arm and is leading the way as I know I would have just as easily have got lost. "I told you I'd take you to a ball." he comments, bringing me out of my daydream and I smile at the now distant memory of his promise to take me to a ball.
"I suppose it would class as you taking me to one then?" I ask, silently hoping that it means more than just taking a friend. I stare straight ahead, focusing on the bustle of arrangements being set up, attempting to avoid being in the way as we walk in the middle of the passageways. I feel his eyes on the top of my head, trying to work out what I meant by my, admittedly cryptic, question. "I will be there waiting for you as you enter the hall." He claims and I smile despite myself, maintaining my composure I pretend to concentrate on not falling over, still clinging to his arm.
Before I realise it he is pulling his arm from mine and we have stopped walking, "I'll see you tonight Dee." My eyes are still focused on the floor, but he lifts up my head to meet his soft golden eyes, his hand resting on my chin he slides it up so that my cheek is leant against the palm of his hand. He sighs and seems to lean forward and I subconsciously follow his lead, stopping a hair's breadth a part, he looks down at my lips and butterflies soar uncontrollably in my belly.
I close my eyes in anticipation but feel the pressure on my cheek removed and the air around me grow colder, I open my eyes controlling the hurt that must have flashed through my eyes and letting out a small sigh of frustration. He smiles at me apologetically and I take my cue to go into my room, the butterflies officially dead and gone "See you tonight Rafe." My voice comes out a little colder than I intended and I cast him a quick apologetic smile before he turns to walk away and I close my door.
Taking a deep breath to calm down my fast beating heart, passion in both the forms of hatred and love runs through my veins. Love? I didn't love him, did I? Sighing I head over to the heavy set armoire pulling the plastic cover off the dress that Tabitha had brought into the room hours ago and my jaw hangs open, it's beautiful. The dress emerald green and stunning, I doubt myself to whether it would actually suit me, running some of the fabric through my fingers a mixture of silk and tulle.
"Yoo-hoo! My little duckling, I'm here to take you to the baths." her voice makes me jump and I turn around to see Faline's mischievous grin, leaning against the door frame, her silver hair now piled up on top of her head, revealing her elegantly pointed ears and showing off her strong cheek bones. Her cat-like eyes glisten in the fire light; a towel hangs over her arms as she waits for me to move. I run my hand over my face and hair, feeling all of the grime and muck from the past few days or was it weeks? Of the journey. I inspect my nails and grimace at the extent of the dirt encrusted beneath them.
Shivering in disgust I look at her gratefully "Do you just show up whenever I need you?" I head over to the door ready to follow her and she laughs before turning and leading the way through the maze of halls and corridors. I take this time to actually look at my surroundings rather than panicking like before, I focus on the array of people around me receiving curious looks as I pass by. We pass one of the vast windows that were imbedded into the ice walls and I catch a glimpse of the sun, still high in the sky, but slowly on its way to setting which meant that the party, well ball, was only a matter of hours away.
Faline catches my glance out the window "Not long now and you'll be meeting just about every warlock in the palace, but you'll look fabulous with my help of course." I laugh and we stop outside an open archway and into a steamy room. Faye leads me around obstacles towards the back where the room splits off into a changing room of sorts. I look at her and she smiles a toothy mischievous grin "You're getting the full treatment." I start to protest but she pushes me into the room where a line up of women wait for me, I watch Faye as she speaks to one of the women who has faint scales over her skin and sea green hair. Faye returns to me laughing at my worried look "Don't worry you’re in safe hands and maybe a few claws. Now they're gonna need you to strip." She pats me on my cheek and walks out the room, hips swaying and shoulders shaking in laughter as she leaves.