Ruby was awoken by jubilant cheering outside of the castle. She reluctantly pushed her blankets off. Any hope she had at salvaging a restful sleep was diminished, though her current curiosity allowed her to forget the awkwardness of her dreams. She walked over to the arched window to see what the fuss was about.
People had gathered around their new King. It seemed more people had embraced his presence today. In spite of her unwillingness to be in Avelen, Ruby smiled down at her friend, wishing she were amongst the crowd and in the know. Cole glanced around as if looking for something and that's when Princess Aira latched onto his arm. The crowd cheered louder at the site of the royal bloods linking arms. Ruby's stomach churned and her smile quickly vanished.
Stepping away from the window, she dressed in her clothes that had been washed the night before. Doing her best to ignore the crowd in the courtyard; she reached for the tome under her bed. She hugged it close to her chest. Who would she get to translate the text of the fae? Going straight to the fae was out of the question now that they wanted her head on a stick. Ruby suppressed a cry. She would have to find a better hiding spot for it, just in case Jace decided to make another surprise visit. She would have to keep on the down low now that the fae were onto her. Hiding the tome under her bed would no longer suffice.
From what Ruby understood about old castles; many of them had secret passages and hiding places. A castle like Avelen's, with an abundance of secrets was sure to fall prone to that assumption. Ruby began tapping on the wooden planks of the floor with her foot to see if any were loose. To her dismay, none were. She ran her hands along the bricks covering every inch of wall. There was no budge.
She was quickly growing anxious with her failed attempts ar finding a hiding place. Then she noticed something slightly off. A simple painting of the castle's garden hung crookedly on the wall. Slowly, without releasing her breath, Ruby walked over to the picture and straightened it. She heard a click as if she had unlocked something. Then, mechanically or magically, the wall began to slide open. Not a just a single brick but an entire wall, that was her first mistake; checking for lose bricks.
The partioned wall opened up to a dark and drafty narrow passage. Ruby debated entering for a second. She had nothing for light and for all she knew there were rats the size of Godzilla lurking in the shadows.
Ruby hugged the tome tighter to her chest. She was running out of options. Cautiously, she entered the passageway. Abruptly afterwards, the entrance had closed, another clicking sound signified that the wall was locked in place and that she was secured into the darkness. Ruby began to feel claustrophobic and had to lean on the cold cobweb wall for support. As she did this the passageway became illuminated with candelabras in wall scones. She didn't question the logic behind it,but continued to search for a place to set the tome down.
The passage to a sharp turn and as she rounded the corner she noticed what she suspected to be a stair well. She crawled into the tiny space, deciding that it would be perfect housing for the tome. She set it down and continued down the passageway. A few yards down she heard voices. Which meant there was a thinner wall somewhere, probably another door to the passageway. She was ready to call out for help, but stopped herself when she heard a familiar voice on the other side of the wall.
"Do you have the offerings?" It was Princess Aira.
" Yes, your highness," an unfamiliar male voice responded. " But are you sure you want to go through with this. You know there is a price to pay when practicing dark magic."
Ruby could hear the sarcastic humor in Aira's dry tone. " Yes, isn't there always?"
Ruby stilled her breathing. Afraid of losing her balance or making any sort of sound, she leaned against the wall opposite the one securing the conversation. Had she heard right. Black magic? Was that what Aira was about? Was that what she was up against?
As Cole's friend and false advisor she felt every need to rush to him with the news.But the more logical, less fearful side of her will kept her feet planted to hear the rest of the conversation.
"Anything else that you require Princess?" A deep, muffled voice asked.
"His beating heart in my hand." The animosity in her voice provoked a
deep, thundering chuckle to escape the male servant.
"We must find the scepter and bring that sorry excuse for a king down!" Aira exclaimed.
"No!" Ruby screamed absentmindedly. She was horrified at her sudden error. The conversation came to an abrupt halt. Before Ruby could turn to flee, the wall slid open and a large hand latched onto her arm.