Chapter 18

I stand frozen for a few seconds before the green haired lady approaches me. "Don't worry honey, Faye likes to add fear into the mix, we won't bite." I smile at her kind words and let her guide me into the room. "I'm Andrina and these are my sisters." She waves her hands in front of the three other women in the room and on closer inspection they all had faint scales and resembled one another in some way. Feeling slightly more relaxed I let Andrina lead me to a further back room where she let me remove my clothes and thankfully, left a fluffy dressing gown for me to wrap myself in.

Walking out the room, I feel slightly self conscious in just the dressing gown but Andrina gives me an encouraging smile and I follow her into a vast room that is filled with little pools of steaming water. She tells me to take my time and that one of her sisters will be there shortly to help with my hair. "Can't I do my hair myself?" I ask as she turns to leave, she gives me a pitiful look as she glances at my hair. I lift my hand up to feel my hair, okay it was a mess but a wash would save it, right? Apparently not as Andrina leaves the room without giving me an answer I can assume that no, I can’t just do my hair myself.

Sighing I briefly look around and lower myself into the steaming pool, I sigh again on entry as I feel the hot water soak away all the travel encrusted dirt and muck from my skin and nails. Lathering the soap all over my body felt like a relief, I sigh as the hot water washes away all of my worries, for now anyway. Inspecting my nails I submerge myself under the water snagging my fingers through the knots and I swear pulling out a good proportion of my own hair. Grabbing something that resembles shampoo from the line up of lotions on the end, I lather it into my hair and submerge again, whimpering occasionally to myself as I snag and pull at another knot trying to wash it all out.

Finally I give up and just soak in the water, relaxing and letting the hot water and steam do what it's supposed to. "Well that was an interesting show." I hear a chuckle approach from behind and try my best to cover my body before I see that it is one of Andrina's sisters. "I thought my sister told you to wait. That hair needs serious treatment." She folds her arms across her chest with an amused smile on her face and I smile at her sheepishly. She comes closer and hands me a towel, gesturing her head for me to follow. I pull myself out of the steaming pool, regretfully looking back as I wrap myself in the towel, leaving behind the fluffy dressing gown and follow her into a room laid out like a hairdressers, mirrors lining the walls and seats with sinks for your hair to be washed in.

She gestures to a chair "Sit." she orders and heads into a room off the side. I sit in the chair, wrapping the towel more tightly around myself, my hair clings to my head in straw like strands and I cringe as I look in the mirror and see how unhealthy it looks. She comes back into the room carrying an armoury of products and instruments to use on my hair, I look up at her nervously and she smiles. "Don't worry; we'll sort that out soon enough. Now where are my manners? I'm Alina." She pulls my shoulders back so that I'm leant against the chair, tilting my head back she lathers on a sweet apple scented shampoo and begins to massage my scalp. I feel my eyes closing "That's right sweetie, just relax and I'll wake you up when I'm finished."

I nod my head, my eyes feeling heavier as she continues to massage the lotion into my scalp. As I relax through her treatments, I feel the transitions between as she pulls a brush forcefully through my knots, apologising to me as I gasp occasionally and then muttering to herself under her breath as she chastises me for my hair care routine. I feel the chair being rolled towards a sink and she washes out the shampoo and starts applying more lotions before she carries on rinsing. "I'm going to have to cut off some of the split ends and the occasional knot... Can I get rid of this pink bit?" She asks, I can picture the look of muted disgust on her face, I open my eyes a little bit taken aback, I loved my pink streak but maybe it would be time for a change?

I think it through for a moment, debating with myself before I finally sigh and nod "Okay, but it has a permanent charm on it." I blush as I confess. It's definitely time for a change. I hear Alina move away and start to route through bottles of lotions, the clanking going on for quite some time before she returns. "Don't worry, I can tackle this plus Faye can always help you put it back in, that girl has got plenty of tricks up her sleeve." She chuckles and I hear a hint of bitterness in her tone, sensing that Faye is quite the trickster when it comes down to it.

Again she continues with my hair, finally I begin to have the feeling of lighter weight hair as she gently tugs out the damaged strands. She wheels me back to the mirror and I don't dare look, keeping my eyes closed I let her reposition my head forward as she teases out the final knots trimming the ends. She starts to dry my hair and I let out a sigh of relief as my scalp tingles with cleanliness. "All done." She declares and pats me on the shoulders telling me that I can open my eyes and get up.

I open my eyes slowly and inspect her work, my eyes widen in shock as I see myself without my pink streak, my hair looking lighter and healthier, its natural pale waves cascading past my face. She smiles at my reaction and I smile thankfully back, she holds up a hand stopping me from vocalising my thanks. "Don't worry about it. Andrina will be with you shortly and take you back to your room." She waves goodbye and hurries from the room, back through to the steaming bath room. I stay sat in the chair, remembering that I'm only covered by a towel, "Come on my dear, let's get you something to put on while we take you to get ready." Andrina enters the room and takes my hand leading my back through the baths and into the changing room, she hands me my underwear and a cotton dress. I take them gratefully, a small part of me hoping my clothes are back in my room, Andrina turns her back and I quickly get dressed.

She leads me back to the room and smiles before walking away, "Faline says she'll help you get ready properly." I sigh and enter the room, suddenly nervous for tonight’s event. I start to pace back and forth, unsure of what to do, I decide to sit in one of the high-backed chairs fidgeting as I look at the gorgeous dress across the room. Muttering to myself that it won't fit or suit me. I turn startled as my door bangs open and Faline saunters in carrying a covered dress in her arms and a pair of neck breaking heels, she smirks at my look of horror at the heels "Don't worry darling, these are for me!" She walks in like she owns the room and hangs her stuff next to mine.

"Now as beautiful as your hair looks, we need to do something about it." I still stare at her as she stands with her hands on her hips, pondering what to do with me. Walking over, she pulls me out of the chair and appraises my cleanliness, apparently satisfied she orders me to sit at little dressing table, that I swear wasn’t there a moment ago. "Make-up is a must... Then more curls- though having it all down will be perfect..." She mumbles to herself setting up a plan of action as she attacks my face.

"Do I get any say in this?" I ask timidly knowing the answer already as she pushes me back into the chair and gives me a look that could quite possibly kill. I sigh and let her do whatever she wants, in no mood to argue as I suddenly remember my minor stint with Rafe. Although that wasn't necessarily my fault, maybe he's giving off the wrong message... Maybe I'm coming on to strong. I mentally tell myself off and to grow some confidence, tonight I'll confront him.


Time seems to fly by as Faline finally finishes messing with my face and hair; she still doesn't let me look in the mirror and just orders me to shimmy into the dress while she sorts herself out. Sighing I walk cautiously over to the dress, afraid to put it on, pulling it off the hanger I pluck up the courage and step into the array of fabrics, letting it slide over my body. "Can I have some help over here?" I call out to Faline exasperated as I spin in circles trying to pull up a tiny zip. She laughs and saunters over to me already dressed and looking drop dead gorgeous, I find my jaw dropping as she approaches, her eyes lined with thick black kohl making her cat eyes sparkle and appear even more menacing, her lips are pulled up into a smirk and are tinted a deep sultry red. Her silver hair cascades down her back.

"Take it all in sweetie." She raises her perfect eyebrows and laughs as I blush, yet I can't stop staring, her dress hugs tightly to her body almost too tightly following her curves the dress elongates her legs further and is a deep red that matches her lips, still hugging tightly to her body until the last second and then the dress flares outwards. She already has her killer heels on as she towers over me, bending down I hear the satisfying sound of the zip being pulled up. I sigh in relief that it fits and can't help but look puzzled as I glance over at Faye who has another smirk on her face. "I have created a work of art." She praises herself and carefully covers my eyes as she leads me to a mirror, which again I could of sworn wasn't there before.

"Ta-daaa!" She removes her hands from my eyes and I stare in puzzlement at the person in front of me, then shock registers on her, well my, face as I realise it's me. My hair is still tumbling down my back but has a few more curls incorporated to make it appear more 'glamorous' as Faye explains. My eyes have the faintest touch of kohl around them, making my green eyes appear larger and brighter against my pale face, the lightest of blushes is on my cheek to show that I have some colour and my lips are a faint yet tainted pink that looks just too pink to be natural. Then I look at the dress.

The dress is breath taking; it hugs my upper body with a subtle heart shaped neckline, causing me to blush as it shows off a little bit of cleavage. It comes in at the waist before flaring elegantly out into a full skirt that sits just right off my hips, the dress glistens in a mixture of sea greens and blues with black elegantly laced throughout parts of the skirt and bodice. I'm speechless as I stare and jump as Faline comes into my eye line in the mirror. "Finishing touches." she announces and steps behind me clasping a necklace around my neck. I gasp as I realise it's my lapis lazuli, transformed from its rough cut stone on rope, to a delicate and elaborate yet simple necklace. A tear drop shape hangs at the base of my throat, with smaller tear drops either side on a delicate black chain. "Thank you." I manage to gasp out as I try to register what I'm wearing and how I look. Faye just smiles and waves a hand as if it was nothing.

"Shoes and then its show time!" She declares as she practically throws the sparkling shoes from the armoire onto my feet. I stand up wearily as I get my balance in the low heels. She approaches the door gracefully and holds it open, an overwhelming sense of stage fright causes me to start panicking. "I can't! I can't even dance; I don't know anyone, what if I make a fool of myself? What if everyone hates me?" I carry on asking questions my voice reaching hysterical and my face turning red as I continue with the rant. All the while Faline stands there looking at me like I've grown two heads.

She calmly approaches me, but I don't notice as she takes one of my hands and apologises, at least I think she apologises as I continue my hysterical panic and she scratches my palm "Hey!” The shock of the pain makes me stop and I look at her confused as small beads of blood start to rise on my hand. "Will you pull yourself together." She demands rather than asks, her calm voice making my breathing slow down.

She holds her hand over my now slowly bleeding one and a slight burning sensation spreads. She takes her hand away and it looks as if nothing had happened "You- you- you-" I struggle to finish a sentence and she takes my hand this time with a her usual mischievous grin on her face, and pulls me out of the room, not even letting me have one last look back, to the new found safety of my room.

I control my breathing as we make it to a new part of the palace, less busy now as everyone appears to be heading in the same direction. Finally Faye released my hand and trusted me not to panic and run away, which I was still debating on, we reach a quickly shortening queue and Faye turns to be "This is it little duckling, see you on the other side of those doors." She leaves me stranded in the queue and I seriously question whether or not to just bolt then and there. I catch a glimpse of her silver hair disappearing further down the corridor and picture her sauntering into that hall with her hips swaying.

Sighing in defeat, I fidget as I wait in the queue excited chatter surrounds me as they talk about some long lost daughter of the prince being here and I shut out the gossip, who cares about a long lost daughter when you have to worry about not falling flat on your face in front of a lot of people?

The queue shortens quickly and soon I'm stood at the massive oaken doors with a man that is sporting an extremely long beard and hat with feathers on. "Name?" he asks and at first I don't answer as I thought he was talking to someone else, then he coughs and grumbles something about ignorance until a lady behind me tells me to actually give him my name. "Ohh," I laugh lightly to try and lighten the mood, but he just grumbles some more "My name is Dahlia," he looks at me expectantly waiting for a last name and reluctantly I continue "Arcana, Dahlia Arcana." the gossip is suddenly quieted and even the bearded man's eyes widen in surprise, I look around at everyone confused and suddenly the chatter erupts around me. I block it out as someone tugs me through the doors.

I shriek in shock and my eyes meet the piercing blue ones of Tabitha, suddenly even more nervous as I know she'll be inspecting my look. I subconsciously stand up straight as I feel her eyes burning into me. "Well you do scrub up nicely... You may continue." She offers me a smile and I visibly relax, having passed the Tabitha test, as I now dubbed it, I continue through a small curtain to hear the sound of my name being announced. I freeze on the spot and turn to go, but Tabitha stands behind me, eyes burning into mine, I smile weakly and turn back around, taking a deep breath to step into the room. I swear I hear Tabitha utter "Good luck." after I step through the curtain, but it could have been my imagination.

Again I freeze at the top of the stairs as I see all eyes in the room are drawn to me, taking a deep breath I look around the room first, we were in a vast banquet hall with rows of tables laid out to either side of the room, an orchestra was playing soft tinkling music, just the right sound for small talk warming up to the dancing later, great chandeliers made of ice hung from the ceiling. My cheeks burn red as I remember all the people staring and I look down at my dress concentrating on walking down the stairs.

Taking the steps one at a time I slowly raise my head looking for Rafe. At first I don't spot him and disappointment lines my face, but then right by the stairs I catch a golden glint and I see him staring up at me. His face is closed, showing no emotion but as I get closer I see his eyes are a soft melted gold and I notice they travel up and down my body, darkening slightly as he sees the neckline and the way it hugs my waist.

I bite my lip as his eyes got to my face, lingering on my lips before meeting my eyes, I smile at him and his face opens showing a bright smile, showing a hint of adoration... Maybe? Reaching the final few steps, my eyes are focussed only on him and his on mine. Of course the inevitable had to happen and as I walk stepping onto the last step, my toe gets caught on my dress and I trip forward, letting out a shriek of shock. Instead of hitting the ground I found that I've fallen against a hard chest, a soft chuckle escaping his lips and I groan in embarrassment. "Did everybody see that?" I say, my voice muffled against his chest as I cling onto the front of his jacket.

He laughs harder and sets me up right, his hand brushing strands of hair out of my face. "Just the whole room, but don't worry nobody will remember tomorrow." I groan and look up at his amused face. He holds out his arm and I link it with his, gratefully he leads me away from the stairs and towards Raoul. "Oh good, you showed up. I expect it was you who took a tumble on the stairs?" He huffs at me and I scowl at him, suddenly realising I haven't seen him all day.


As the ball continues, waltzing music begins. Me and Rafe had circled the room mingling with unusual characters and had caught up with Nevan very briefly as he complimented me on my dress and wished us a great evening before unofficially dismissing us. Rafe took me to a table and we sat and watched as people began to pair up to dance, he catches me watching and smiles "Would you like to dance?" I look at him with wide eyes and shake my head.

"No, I think I'm good for now." I say to him feigning confidence as I twist my hands together watching elegant dances all around the room, even spotting Faline with her arms wrapped around a light haired warlock whose hands were gradually travelling lower with each time she was spun around, the end of her dress fanning out like an uncontrollable fire. I spot Rafe shake his head in amusement as he gets up and heads towards a waiter. He brings back a champagne glass for each of us he hands me one, smiling encouragingly as I get the scent of the alcohol burning my nose lightly and I frown. "Drink up, it helps with nerves." He chuckles holding his glass up for me to clink mine to. I smile nervously as another waltz comes to an end "Cheers."

He holds my gaze as he drinks, finishing his glass he places it on the table. He looks at me expectantly and I take a deep breath and drink, instantly I am hit with the taste of bubbles, a sweet taste then filling my mouth as I swallow and a burning at the back of my throat as it travels down. The pain was pleasant and the taste was even better, I down the drink quickly a confident smile playing on my lips as Rafe shakes his head in amazement. Placing the glass down, still unsure as another waltz begins, I fold my arms across my chest. "We are dancing the next one." he looks at me with an amused smile playing on his lips as he watches me register what he said.

I instantly frown and he laughs "I don't know how too." I whine, making his smile widen even more, his eyes glistening in amusement. I feel the burn of the champagne ease on my chest and a brief light headedness makes me shake my head, before I realise it he is pulling me to my feet laughing at my resistance he takes me to the centre of the room, just as one waltz finishes another begins. The music starts low and sinister, slowly and Rafe smiles down reassuringly at my scared face "Just follow my lead Dee." I nod my head nervously as he places one hand on my waist, the other on my hand, my skin flares at his touch hypersensitive to every pressure that he applies.

Copying Rafe's lead and taking a deep breath I close my eyes letting him lead, our footsteps small as we bring our bodies together then back apart. I occasionally step on his toes as the music begins to build but he just smiles down encouragingly at me and I can't help but smile back, letting the music take me and an eternity seems to pass before the cymbal crashes and we were waltzing.

In our own world now, I spin away from him, my dress flaring out, twisting against my body as he brings me back. My body presses against his and our faces are inches apart as the music slows again and he dips my body backwards my hands gripping tightly against his hand and shoulder. Lifting me back upright, slowly we step in time, getting faster as the music reaches its new crescendo and both his hands shift to my waist, mine to his shoulders as he lifts me above his head. We spin and spin before he brings me back down, turning my body so that my back is pressed against his front. Ghostly yet beautiful women begin to sing, like a sirens call and we become even more entranced, our bodies moving as one until the end feeling like we were under a spell. When the music stops my front is pressed against his, our bodies heaving from lack of breath, our eyes focussed on one another, intoxicated by each other’s presence.

We stare at each other gasping for breath for a while, eventually we both notice the silence in the hall a pin could drop and you would hear it. We separate and against our will break eye contact, chests still heaving, I look around and everyone in the hall is looking at us even the orchestra had not continued onto their next set. My cheeks get even redder as the whole room stares at us holding their breath, I spot Faye with a satisfied smirk on her lips and see Nevan looking almost proudly towards us. I see Rafe's eyes equally scanning the room at our apparent audience and he smiles down at me taking a bow. I blush even more as he looks up at me with laughter in his eyes, I try to swallow as my mouth feels dry and I attempt to curtsy.

The room erupts into stunned applause, the orchestra starts up its music again and the chatter continues, Rafe takes my hand, which is clammy and I try to resist the urge to pull away and wipe it. He guides me through the throngs of people whose chatter I occasionally hear seems to either have some mention of my name or some of the main gossip of the night about this long lost daughter. Rafe continues to guide me not stopping at a table but to a small arch way, leading me out of the room and through into an enclosed garden. It had a glass roof which kept the heat in and was lightly lit with orbs, the flowers bloomed and glistened in the night light, the music from the hall drifted in gently.

I sense Rafe looking at me, his hand still in mine I turn to look up at him smiling shyly. He smiles back and grasps my other hand so that we are facing each other I suck in a breath as he leans forward to whisper in my ear "You were wonderful out there, we should dance more often." I shiver as his breath tickles my cheek and ear, he moves his hands from mine onto my hips and I feel my body tremble at his touch. I automatically move my hands to his shoulders, feeling his tense muscles under my hands. I take a moment to actually look at what he is wearing, slimming black trousers, with a crisp yet soft white shirt hugging his chest, a few buttons open enough for me to want more. I bite my lip as an image off me ripping open the buttons and kissing his bare chest pops into my mind.

"What are you thinking about?" His eyes search mine with a slight smirk on his lips and I blush at my thoughts, shaking my head to clear it and indicate that it doesn't matter. We were swaying to the music, our bodies naturally in time moving together and I sigh plucking up the courage to rest my head against his chest. I feel him freeze slightly but relax in the next instant, bringing his arms up from my hips to my back. I let my hands glide to the back of his neck connecting them together. I take note of my quickening heart beat and the butterflies in playing havoc in my stomach, constantly flipping as I feel his hands applying pressure against my back.

He sighs and brings his head down to mine kissing the top of my hair again I shiver and my cheeks redden. I lift my head up and look him in the eyes, they were dark and unreadable. I think back to when I was getting ready and declared that I would be more confident towards him. He leans away from me slightly, his hands lowering back to my waist I start to speak but he cuts me off "We- we shouldn't do this Dee." I furrow my brow confused as he still has his hands around my waist.

"You can't just dance with me and lead me away and then say actually no. No we can't do this. Whatever the hell this is." I step away from him forcefully, breaking apart his hands. I can feel myself getting angry as I fold my arms across my chest glaring what I hope would be daggers at him. His face is still unreadable and seems to shut down before he replies "I have no soul Dee. I can't love or feel what you might feel and if I did it would be because of her manipulating me." He says exasperated running a hand across his face and down into his pocket, I still glare at him watching as his hand clasps around something in his pocket.

Pulling his hand back out I see that it is the black tourmaline I gave him. "This, this crystal is the closest thing I have to actually feeling something. The moment you gave me this I felt, felt a spark and the shadows cleared and she didn't get through to me but this stone did..." He looks at the crystal in wonder running it through his fingers, I can't help but stare at him confused as I take in what he's saying. I try to find an argument to declare back but nothing comes to mind even though my anger still lingers. "... You did." He seems to whisper and I barely catch his words, I stand frozen still with my stony glare and arms crossed. I look down unsure, anger still permeating around my body I hear him step towards me closing the gap between us.

One of his hands clasps my arm and the other tucks under my chin lifting it up so that I look into his eyes. They were so full of sadness and hope that my glare soon melted and the butterflies returned I couldn't make the anger dissipate quite as easily. I stay still as his hands trail across my cheek, I suck in a breath fast as his other hand travels up my arm making goose bumps rise after his trail. Sighing he steps even closer and I freeze "I can't let this happen." He says through his teeth struggling with an inner battle, my breathing quickens and I can't deny the tingling in my skin as his hands rest one on my cheek the other now sliding up over my bare shoulder and round the back of my neck.

I gasp and this time he freezes before he leans forward his eyes search mine for permission and I feel my body tremble through his touch, I step forward bringing my body even closer to his, giving him his answer. Suddenly we are together, his lips crash hard against mine, desperate and needy, I hungrily kiss back feeling like I need more of him I slide my hands across his jaw line and into his hair, tangling my fingers in his dark locks. His own hand leaves my cheek tangling in my hair, I gasp against his lips and he hungrily kisses for more, kissing my jaw line and tracing his way down my neck kissing underneath the tear drop pendant. I tug him closer to me and his lips rejoin mine. An eternity seems to pass as his lips never leave mine, his hand slides from my neck and down my back to my hips and I find myself moving closer, occupying a space that would be non-existent if we weren’t kissing right here, right now.

He moans against my lips and I slide my hands down his back curling my fingers into his shirt. He nibbles at my lip and I moan in response bunching my fingers even tighter into the shirt and he responds as we push our bodies against each other, both of us cursing the clothes between us. As his hand travels up to the zip of my dress I freeze against his lips, he notices my hesitation, thoughts suddenly clearing we step apart. Silence hangs in the air between us, both of us breathing heavily, cheeks flushed and eyes dark with hunger, with passion.

We look at one another and I see his eyes change turning to stone, he shuts off his emotions and I feel my heart shatter as he turns to me and without looking at me for a final time, not saying a word, he brushes past me, leaving me standing alone in the orb lit garden. A sob rips through my chest as my emotions swirl around, a torrent of passion, anger, lust... Love.

I turn and head back towards the ball, pulling myself together my breathing now back to normal, the music is still going and the chatter is louder as many have consumed fairy drinks and alcohol. I daren't dwell on the kiss as fresh tears want to surface. Holding them back, I stride across the hall, seeing the back of Rafe as he storms from the room, tearing a new hole through my heart.

 I stay in the hall for a while watching the people dance and drink themselves silly. A couple of gossipers approach the tables and sit down near mine, to carry on with their nightly chatter. "I can't believe that the daughter is actually here tonight, who would have thought she'd still be alive after all that drama 18 years ago." I sigh as I hear the gossip, the same that had been circling around for the entire ball.

"I still can't believe that Nevan ever had an offspring, the way he steers clear of a female like they have the plague. What was her name again... That girl he fell stupidly in love with?" she asks her friend and my ears perk up slightly at the sound of Nevan in the conversation. "Oh her, she was some young, hippy girl from the woods- related to that Oracle hag. Arcana, Pythia Arcana!" She exclaims and I feel my stomach drop at the mention of my mother. Breathing becomes more difficult as she continues rambling on "That daughter of hers, Dahlia was it? Dancing with that handsome Raphael... Shame he's cursed. I wonder when Nevan will step up and tell her who she really is, that's what I'm willing to bet my money on." The second of the two women pipes up and my vision blurs, I feel physically sick as I hear my mother's name followed by Nevan's.

I stand up, knocking the table making the two gossipers jump and gasp as they recognise me, I look at them with unseeing eyes and turn running from the room, hearing their insensitive chatter start back up again as they discuss their shock. Running through the corridors I hear the same words go around in my head Nevan is my father, my mother and him, love, me. Then I remember Rafe and him walking away from the kiss and I scream out.

Emotions building around me, I find myself down a solitary corridor, my eyes blurring as tears leak freely and sobs rip through my chest. Down the corridor is a familiar heavy oaken door and I run towards it, running like there is someone chasing me I throw myself against the doors and stumble through the stacks, my thoughts not even comprehendible as books surround me. I go to a dark corner, I bring my knees to my chest and sob as everything crashes down around me and my world turns black.

The End

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