"My liege, please wait!"
Aira hurried to her feet, but as she finished brushing blades of grass off the elegant white gown that adorned her, she perceived that Cole was already gone. The crowd culminating for the Tahni festival swelled and buzzed with vitality; the king was lost to the crowd.
Unfortunately the princess, with all of her planning and scheming, had not predicated this outcome. Cole's body and will wasn't as strong as he postured it to be, but there was a particular sense about him.
The tainted drink she tempted him with was supposed to eliminate all ideas of the consumer's mind, leaving a solitary thought to solely concentrate upon. Aira wanted herself to be what was fixated upon, but Cole's heart could not be so easily tamed.
His eyes darted and searched, from bazaar to booth to dance circle, but Jace was nowhere to be seen. The young man peeped his head inside tents, viewing strange scenes of circus performances and exotic sights of colorful magic. Cole was possessed by a poisonous suspicion of the fae that took a liking to his friend.
"If he's daring enough to spike my drink," he said to himself, scanning the numerous participants of the festival for any sign of a blue eyed girl as well, "then he won't hesitate for a second to do so to Ruby." The king lived as most did his age back in West Sparrow; though he was in his early twenties, twenty-four to be exact, he was well acquainted with parties. The fae were openly drugging themselves, and imbibing wine by the barrel, which caused Cole's stomach to churn.
"Ruby is smart enough to say no. She's always been the good one," he assured himself.
There was a reason Cole was unable to locate Jace and Ruby; they were together, and Jace, being a fae, knew the in's and out's of the festival all too well. He guided the beautiful human throughout the roads of Aura, escorting her arm in arm, just as many other denizens were traveling. It was a fun little game he was having, straying as far from the star-born king as manageable, while entertaining his present company.
"This way," Jace said with a laugh, bringing Ruby closer to quite an unusual sight. Suddenly she was standing in the presence of a creature towering over her, as well as many others, including all of the fae. Its exterior was covered in a fine coat of bushy brown wool, and a noticeable under bite revealed its strong jaw and massive teeth. As they approached, it swayed one of its heavy claws over a basket filled with brown loaves of flatbread.
"Gogee?" The creature's tone bent with inflection as it offered a glimpse at its reserves. Jace gestured with one of his hands, then the burly beast withdrew two loaves.
When she finally accepted, Ruby enjoyed the food's aroma, realizing it smelt delightfully appetizing, then she felt colorful bulbs with a curious texture that were baked inside the bread. "What is it?" She inquired, examining the food with a positive interest, holding the loaf under her nose.
"It is a rare delicacy. They are quite expensive cakes, and most common-folk cannot afford them, but with Tahni, everything is for everyone. Today, we are all friends! Well go on, try it."
"I don't know-"
"Come now, Ruby - if you are afraid I am trying to poison you, then look for yourself." Jace grinned while he spoke with a tone of excitement in his voice. Even he could not resist the charms of the Tahni festival.
Ruby was hesitant, but as she watched merry folk stroll and pass by, joyously dipping their hands into the basket, retrieving loaves of bread and breaking them, feeding half to themselves and half to their companions, her reluctance faded. She nibbled on the smallest bit; the slightest taste of the cake was unlike anything in West Sparrow, and certainly far from the delicacies of the castle. A surge of sweetness convinced her the food was more than edible, and she tried more of the snack.
"What do you say?" Jace folded his arms as he asked, smugly grinning.
After a moment of chewing, deliberating, and a hardy swallow, she responded. "Delicious!" Her face beamed with a smile, then she took another, larger bite.
"Try not to eat the entire cake at once; it's customary to share with those you are with. Here!" He broke his loaf, then endeavored to feed some to Ruby, but she politely refused.
"We feed ourselves back home." Her despondency could not be concealed, and for a brief moment she thought of her life in West Sparrow. In her sadness, she finished the remnants of her snack.
"How unbecoming, especially during Tahni, for such a lovely flower to wilt. I saw you dancing so gaily when you arrived, where is that spirit now? Ah! I know," he snapped his fingers, coyly smirking. "If you wish to see something fascinating, follow me."
Fascinating? She had already witnessed so much while in Aura; astounding attractions and sights for story books. What could be fascinating to the fae, who seemed like a chiseled veteran, compared to the doe-eyed young woman he escorted?
Her curiosity seemed bewitching. Ruby's feet were lighter than before, and her head felt as if it were sailing in the sky. They both shared laughter as Jace roped an arm around her own, and the two walked toward the sounds of foreign, yet enchanting, music.
Unknown to them both, a very jealous star-born king was not far from them.