The next evening a four course meal was served in the banquet hall in honor of Cole's victory.
Ruby glared at Princess Aira as she ate the hearty stew. The exchange of dirty looks amongst the two did not go unnoticed by the others at the table, though it was quickly dismissed as a dispute of jealousy.
Earlier that day Ruby had heard the servants talking amongst themselves, and romanticizing the quarrel. They referred to it as a battle over the Starborn King's heart. Naturally Ruby pulled a disgusted face, though their proclamation wasn't too far from the truth.
Asides from the drama inside the castle, the greater issues lay outside these walls. Their presence in Avelen, and their return back home. By placing the tome in Ruby and Cole's path, Penelope had roped Ruby into a horrible situation, and she had gone through great lengths to do so. Penelope have betrayed her people.
After the dinner crowd had dispersed. Ruby retrieved the tome from her bedchamber and slipped away unnoticed to meet Cole in the foyer. Once she was sure they were alone she turned towards Cole. There was no easy way to break the news, so she started right in. "I think Aira is evil."
Cole chuckled. "Yeah, yeah."
Ruby shot him an annoyed glare. Why wasn't he taking this more seriously? "No really, I saw her in her chamber performing dark magic. She's in cohorts with the devil!"
Cole rubbed at the dark circles under his eyes. "She isn't evil Ruby." He said in a matter of fact tone.
Ruby blinked. "Wha- were you listening to what I just said?"
He nodded. "Yeah, but just trust me on this. She won't be a threat to us."
Ruby scoffed. "How do you know? Wait did you bribe her not to hurt us? Did you... Sleep with her?" Ruby asked incredulously.
Cole reached for Ruby's free hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "No, I didn't sleep with her. Yet," He teased.
Ruby pulled her hand away and gave him a hard shove. "Please take my warning seriously."
"She's not a threat," he insisted.
-"How can you be so sure?"
He groaned at her inability to drop the subject. "I can just sense it."
Ruby crossed her arms, unsatisfied."So what, you have Spidey senses now?"
"No I have Winsor senses." He winked.
Ruby shrugged. " Just don't trust her. Or sleep with her!"
A soundless, petite figure entered the hallway, making her presence known before Cole could respond."Don't worry mortals aren't my type," Penelope announced in a crisp tone. Her wings were concealed against her spine and under a cloak. She hugged an obscured object against her chest.
Ruby wondered how someone so young and innocent looking have such an air about her.
"Now. I need to get you into Aura unnoticed."
Ruby's eyes widened in alarm. How had she not considered the possibility that the tree would be located on fae land?
Cole raised his brow suspiciously.
"It's the only way. I'll be careful with you."
"There's a bounty on my head!"
- "Nobody is looking for you. Jace told them you were dead."
"Did I miss something?" Cole injected.
Ruby bit her bottom lip. She may have failed to mention a thing or two to Cole. " Penelope's brother Jace came in my room a few nights ago. He was sent here to kill me."
"What? Why would you keep this from me!" Cole demanded.
"The Fae suspected I had the tome. They don't trust us, only Penelope does."
Penelope shot Ruby an apologetic glance. "They don't know I planted the book for you to find. If they knew I had stolen the tome from the dragon king, only to entrust another outlander with it they'd outright ban me!"
Cole's hands clenched into fists as he processed the information that had been withheld from him. He didn't have time to stew right now. Taking in the information with a grain of salt, he glanced at the fairy girl, debating if he could trust her.
His hand grazed the sheath and sword that hung at his hip.
The young fairy met his gaze and nodded. The silent message had been received. He would defend himself and Ruby by any means.
"Now can we get a move on before the offering rotts?"
"Offering?" They both asked at once.
Once outside Penelope revealed the small package in her arms. In a box lay a dead humming bird. It's coloring was a beautiful array of fluorescent blue and green. It's neck appeared to be snapped violently.
"You killed it? I thought you didn't harm nature!" Ruby snapped.
"I promise it didn't kill it without it's consent." Penelope replied.
Ruby narrowed her eyes at the girl, unsure of how to take her last comment. She moved towards Cole, but he backed away, leaving her to reel. Clearly, he was angry at her for withholding information.