Ruby's eyes flashed at the word, and the sapphire blue within them burned with an infuriated irritation. The young woman scanned the princesses up and down, and already she had a severe natural distaste for the royal maiden.
"Mistress?!" then her scorning glance darted quickly toward Cole, who was still utterly stunned at the sudden interruption. "Well, Cole?"
"Uh - well...she's not really my mistress." The young man's words were tottering upon his tongue, and his voice trembled even more so when his dumbfounded gaze met with the flaring hue of his companion's eyes.
"Perhaps she is your queen then, my liege?" The princess suddenly displayed a disheartened look, and her pouty eyes batted at Cole momentarily, then she said to Ruby with a temperamental tone "Queen or not, it is unbecoming of any servant of this kingdom to refer to the king without designating him a proper royal title."
"She's not my queen, either!" Cole blurted out instantly, although he saw his answer effected his friend after it was stated, in a way he could not guess. Ruby was firmly gripping the ancient tome, and when Cole spoke her knuckles flushed with a brightened pallor as she tightly grasped the manuscript even more so.
"Oh?" The response revived the princess' spirit, and all at once she clasped both of her hands around one of Cole's, then the pair crossed the chamber toward the door which remained ajar. "Please my king, allow me to escort you-"
"And just where do you think you are going?" Ruby raised her voice, and the pitch halted Cole's tracks to a deadened stop. His companion was gazing at him; her eyes were no longer fueled with fiery annoyance, but instead they were flooded with a pleading look as if the young woman was afraid to be forsaken by, or separated from, her childhood friend. Given the circumstances, Cole felt as if he were being stretched in several different directions within the same moment.
The princess was quick to retort Ruby, and the royal maiden said with a snap in her tone "Many nights and countless moons have passed since the prophecy came to be, and the kingdom of Avelen has patiently awaited the arrival of their star born king for far too long. We cannot afford to remain idle; the fate of Avelen is suffering at the hands of a wicked foe, and a strange darkness swallows the kingdom more and more with each fleeting hour. The Council of Sages is gathering as speak, and the king's presence is required at the assembly. It will be there that we shall decide, with your kingly discretion of course, the proper plan of strategy to combat the scourge of Avelen."
"Well I'm coming too!" Ruby began to work her body off the comfortable bedding, though it was a feat more difficult than she had imagined, and she briefly struggled around in a comic fashion.
"The king has declared that you are neither his queen, nor his personal interest." The princess deliberately rephrased the title of mistress in order to coax the young woman's annoyance to a greater extreme. "Since you are not a sage, and obviously not royalty - you are not permitted within the chamber while the deliberation commences."
"But I am Cole's friend." Ruby debated with the princess, and her eyes fell pleadingly toward her companion once again.
"That's right, she is my friend." Cole nodded with confident affirmation, and he hoped to lift Ruby's spirits while regaining an equally favorable disposition in the minds of both of the women.
This did not appease the princess, and she continued on with her dispute saying "Friends are not allowed at the gathering, either. I would advise you to stay put, and the king shall return to you after the deliberation closes."
Ruby had a natural talent for being quick-witted, and the word that the royal maiden had sharply stressed gave Cole's companion a keen idea. "I am also his advisor." She presented the ancient tome, but she retained her immovable grip upon what was considered the only way back home.
The princess curiously glanced at Cole, and he could see the sense of hope in pacifying the arguing women swiftly dwindle. His thoughts traced back to the memories shared between the childhood friends, and he vividly recalled all of the advisement Ruby proposed to him time and again. She relentlessly encouraged Cole, and always she was quick to lecture him on proper and logical conduct.
"I s`pose she has given me some sound advice in the past, although she would agree I'm not the best recipient." He said to the royal maiden, and her face slightly fell into a disappointed frown while the pair of companions joined each other in reminiscent laughter; which was none too inviting for third parties.
"Very well, I shall arrange for a tailor-maiden to visit you shortly. If you are to attend the deliberation, you shan't be dressed in such an unsightly costume." The princess sneered at Ruby, then her attention fell affectionately onto Cole. "My king, I will personally escort you to more private accommodations. If you are to lead Avelen, you must dawn the kingdom's royal garments. This way!"
Before Cole could utter a word of protest, the princess forcibly yanked him into the corridor outside the chamber, and she turned to grasp the handle of the opened door. Without uttering a single word more to Ruby, the royal maiden curtsied to the young woman and nodded with a scoffing "Hmph," as she shut the wooden door; the lock clicked, and the sound of footsteps grew faint before altogether ceasing.
Later on, Ruby was accompanied by two of the castle's servants to the room where the Council of Sages had assembled. The décor and ambience of the chamber boasted the intrinsic and impeccable craftsmanship of Avelen's royal masonry; towering pillars raised up from the marble floor to lift the elaborately decorated ceiling of painted frescos, and upon each pillar were glowing torches that were lit with a magical, burning green flame. The assembly was gathered around a large, wooden table which was constructed into a circular shape. Judging by their grim expressions and laconic demeanor, they had already been debating for quite a while before Ruby had arrived. Candelabra's that illuminated cerulean lights revealed weathered and worn maps, as well as piles of countless manuscripts, which spread across the table's surface in a mountain of clutter.
Among the assemblage of Sages was Duphan the Noble, Arnin the Red, Teirgon the Seer, Yvelle, as well as the five enchanters and the Elder. They were presently slouching in chairs that rivaled royal thrones, and those among the council who had beards were stroking theirs; all of them had contemplative expressions, until Ruby approached the table, then their eyes reflected looks of astonishment. As she crossed the chamber, Cole became relieved to be reunited with his companion, and the princess grew irate when she had noticed that the young woman remained wearing her modern clothing; copper colored boots and all.
"Ruby, I'm glad you're here! I've been trapped at this discussion for so long, I think my head is spinning." Cole clutched at his hair which revealed the scar upon his cheek, then he continued on, "I don't understand any of this, but I think you might be able to. They're speaking like the characters in those stories you would read me."
While the childhood friends were reacquainting with one another as the sages stared on in bewilderment, the princess had noticed that one of the castle servants remained inside the chamber. The royal maiden politely spoke in a whisper "You are dismissed," and she began shooing him off by daintily waving her hands.
The servant continued his path in the direction of the Council, and he hastened upon the pair of companions. Ruby glanced up from Cole's gaze, and she jostled from a sudden surprise; the man brandished a blade from a sleeve of his garments, then he held the blade aloft. The weapon gleamed from the illumination of the dancing lights, and the castle servant revealed himself to be an assassin as he cried aloud "Die wretched star born imposter - faith in the Overlord!"