A burning sensation at the nape of Ruby's neck caused her to stir in her sleep. Subconsciously, her hand grazed over the skin on her nape and was met with a sticky salve. A hand clutched her wrist. Ruby's eyes shot open. A small rotund woman was standing over her. Wide, eager eyes bore into her own. Ruby's mind reeled as it woke up her brain. An alarming scream tore free of her lungs as Ruby went into defensive mode. Without thinking about it she shoved the woman hard and she staggered away.
Ruby glanced down at her new garments. She was dressed in a sinple white gown that was laced in a corset fashion in the front. Her hair was uncharacteristically woven in along braid that fell over her shoulder. Panic surged through to her core. " What am I wearing? Did you take my clothes?"
The tiny maid regained her composure and nodded nervously. "Our king ordered that I do so, so you would be more comfortable."
Ruby's memory was hazy, but she knew there was a confrontation with an assassin, anything beyond that was blurry. "So Co- um I mean our king, he's okay?"
The maid nodded."He remains worry ridden over your condition, otherwise he's perfectly well."
Ruby quickly inspected her body, making sure all of her limbs were still intact. Embarrassed, she asked the attending maid; "What exactly is my condition."
The maid walked over to the picture of water and poured some into a clay mug. She forced Ruby to drink it. "You were poisoned when Yvelle, the traitor stabbed you. We believe his knife was laced with dragon blood; a lethal toxin. After you staggered to the ground our young king took it upon himself to save you.
Ruby blinked." Save me?"
The maid blushed, her eyes averted to the satin coverings. She deliberately took her time smoothing the blankets, ridding the surface of wrinkles and folds with her hands.
After a minute Ruby impatiently clutched the maids hand. "How did the king save me?"
The maid's eyes finally focused on Ruby."Forgive me for being so bold, but the king um.. H- he sucked the blood and toxins directly from your wound."
The maid's confession brought back a clear memory. Ruby slowly recalled the ecstasy of Cole's lips on her neck and the intense moment when their eyes met just before he finished. A warmth spread through her body like a wild fire. Abruptly, Ruby sat up and pushed the coverings off of her body.
The maid grabbed her elbow. " Be still, you may need some more time to regain your strength. Wait right here while I fetch the King." The maid turned to leave but Ruby caught her by a fist full of flowy fabric on her dress. "Please, don't get Cole. He's probably way too busy right now anyway."
The maid pried her dress out of Ruby's clutch. " I am sorry miss, these were his strict orders." With that she left.
Ruby hopped off her bed and knelt down to retrieve the tome. She had stored it underneath the bed for safekeeping. She carried it back to the bed and sat with it spread open in her lap. She hunched over the foreign pages until she came to the only one she could read. The prophecy. She read it again, hoping it would offer her more clarity,
Underneath the pale moon, amid the summer's eve Magic spell complete the doom, and awaken the ancient tree A kingdom cries in lamentation, divided with no king A monster yields untold damnation, seeking the ruby ring A hero is born from a shooting star, to face the immortal foe The time has come to lift the scar, and end the kingdom's woe A mighty warrior of noble birth, with heart of determination Will test the monster of its worth, and fearlessly lead his nation Arise! Arise! The spell is cast, the portal has been unfurled Mortal blood from distant past, you are called to save the world.
She read it over and over, but still nothing came to her. She had to find someone in the village who could translate the text. Before Ruby could make her move to bolt, the door to her chamber opened. Cole stood with the petite serving maid. He dismissed her and made his way over to Ruby.
Ruby folded the page of the passage and closed the tome. Cole smiled at her sheepishly "How are you feeling?"
Ruby shifted uncomfortably. " That, is a loaded question, but I suppose I should thank you for saving my life."
Cole nodded. " It was my pleasure.... It wasn't actually, I mean I took no pleasure from it, I um, I simply mean I'd do it again if I had to."
Ruby fussed with her braid. " Yeah, I know what you meant." Ruby reached for the tome, at the same time Cole decided to pick it up. Briefly, their fingers brushed. Ruby stole her hand away quickly which caused Cole to offer her a look of confusion. Mentally, Ruby reprimanded herself for her behavior. She had known Cole all of her life, why should things get awkward now?
"S-sorry, you startled me. Anyways you can look at the book. I've read the passage twenty times today."
Cole nodded. "Well, you were always better at word games than I was."
Ruby nodded. " We have to find someone who we can trust to read it."
- "Because people here are so trustworthy."
Cole was right. This kingdom was crawling with traitors and haters.They had a long road ahead of them, and if leaving Avelen meant entrusting one of its citizens with the tome, there was a good chance they would never find a way home.