Not long after, the sun began to rise above the horizon of Avelen, and the next morning was already upon Ruby and Cole. Neither of the companions slept well, and their fatigue could not be masked no matter what length they took to conceal it. Ruby's emotionally turbulent dream and late night visitation had rendered her spirit abject, and thoughts of Cole, as well as Jace, were in the front of her mind. Her friend received little respite, but for other reasons. The so-called 'star-born king' tossed and turned while he laid in a foreign but comfortable bed. He reminisced on memories formed with Ruby in West Sparrow, then he would ponder their arrival to the kingdom, and while he concentrated on the current circumstance at hand, he caressed the scar upon his cheek. He thought of princess Aira, and of the sages, and he contemplated Malachai's plead for assistance in a matter that seemed so farfetched and unrealistic that he wondered if perhaps, when the new day had come, he would awaken inside the tree house once more.
His hope that the fantasy of Avelen would cease quickly dwindled, after he continued to stare out one of the stone windows of the castle, and he watched on for countless hours as the stars faded and the light of morning began to paint the sky in majestic hues. His concentration was broken when Malachai had summoned the young man earlier than expected.
"My king, I trust you slept-" but when the woodsman examined Cole's drooping expression and exhausted demeanor, he decided to advance to the next statement without finishing his former one. "A new day is upon the kingdom of Avelen, and many labors are at hand. If you will follow me," he bowed and gestured to the space occupying the exterior of the king's chamber.
He was weary, and the young man could not even muster the energy to interrogate Malachai, so he quietly obeyed; reluctantly Cole dawned the royal garments of the kingdom, but hidden away underneath his ornate cloak he remained partially dressed in his modern clothing.
The pair of men traveled down the corridors that were still foreign and unwelcoming, in Cole's eyes. The walls were constructed from a strange stone, one the young king had never seen in West Sparrow, and they polished to a gleam, yet there remained the faintest marring of tinged blackness from Avelen's dark past. The young man's thoughts began to drift, and he contemplated upon the hope which was being placed on his shoulders, as well as Malachai's request; the image in Cole's mind gave him an uneasiness, and he could feel the restraints of responsibility beginning to coil around him.
The woodsman accompanied Cole into the dining hall, and at once the young man surveyed the chamber for his companion, but to the king's dismay Ruby was nowhere to be seen. "Where is she?" He inquired as his uneasiness turned into panic.
"Worry not, your eminency - the girl is safe." A voice called forth from the entrance of the room, and standing in the doorway was the Elder, clutched in his hands was a musty and yellow colored scroll. Cole was not satisfied with the sage's answer, and he moved to depart from the chamber, but the Elder waylaid him before he could leave. "Let the maiden rest, my liege. The detoxifying elixir is still battling the poison that resides within her being. She is like a trampled flower; let her be, lest you cast a shadow over her and lessen her source of light."
The sage's words were spoken softly, and the wisdom of his statement did not fall upon deaf ears. Cole determined, after a straining mental deliberation, that Ruby's fatigue would subside if she were to sleep through the morning. "Besides," he thought to himself, "if she is in a better mood, maybe I won't have to apologize for yesterday."
Malachai, the Elder, and Cole took their seats at the elongated table once more, and a pair of castle servants waited on them as a kingly portion of breakfast was delivered to the dining chamber. After the meal had ended and the table cleared of its dishes, the Elder gently placed the yellowish scroll near his table place, and he uncurled it to reveal the papyrus' contents.
The sage and the woodsman were well acquainted with the symbols and letters that were painted upon the scroll, but the king could only stare on in bewilderment at the strange paper. "What is it?"
"It is an old scroll, my lord." Malachai stated, and he wondered how bizarre Cole's homeland was if the young man could not perceive such a thing.
The king's eyes narrowed at the remark. "I mean, what does it say? I see nothing more than code or pictures."
The Elder, who was holding the scroll open, slid one of his hands toward the center of the papyrus and tapped his finger upon the place his extremity halted. "It is a divination, and one that couples with the prophecy of the star-born king. Written here is a journey, one which you, my lord, must embark upon - it is a trial, so to speak."
"And if I refuse?" Cole abruptly interrupted, and cold sweat was beginning to form on his brow. He felt the pressures of responsibility weigh down upon him, and the young man did not want to make any formal decision without his truest advisor's approval.
Malachai's expression grew grimace, and he said in a severe tone, "The denizens of the kingdom will not take kindly to being deceived a second time; they already distrust the castle and the Council because of the traitorous former king, and even Aira or myself cannot appeal to all of Avelen's citizens. If you refuse, you shall forfeit the lives of you and your companion, as well as anyone connected to or dwelling within the castle, including the servants." As he said this, one of the royal servants was still in the dining chamber, though she was departing from the interior of the room with the last of the used dishes. The horrid image of the castle being overrun by fae and other Avelen inhabitants overwhelmed her mind, and she accidently dropped a tray on the stone flooring; it crashed upon the ground, and the sound startled the group of men momentarily. The servant quickly gathered her wits, and swiftly cleaned her mess, then she closed the chamber door behind her as she exited.
Once more the direness of his current plight increased, and Cole longed to know what Ruby would have to say about the matter. He concentrated deeply on a mental portrait of his companion, and he searched his memories for a resolution to his predicament. At length he could not find an answer, and the thought of yesterday's spar was the closest memory to affect him. He pondered over the young woman's words, and began to believe in the opinion of his friend; he did not want to give up, but instead prove to Ruby he could accomplish something great.
His eyes turned from meditative to external confidence, and the strength of Cole's soul returned to him. Malachai and the Elder were fixated on him with curious expressions, and he nodded once in affirmation toward the sage and woodsman.
"What must I do?"