Fifteen minutes or so into dinner, my mother said ‘Oraelia, your father tells me that you found a room containing various things including a Grand Piano, on which he found you playing.’
Everyone else seated at the table except for my father stopped eating, and cast their eyes over to me.
The hand holding a fork-full of tortellini stopped halfway towards my mouth and, setting my fork down gently into my bowl I folded my hands in my lap, I answered the question – though I was not speaking solely to my mother as I did.
‘It is true that I discovered a room I’d never noticed before as I was on my way to change for dinner, within the centre of which was a piano.’
Harry was staring at me from across the table.
‘Harry is something the matter?’ I asked.
He blinked at me a few times, as if waking from a trance or spell.
‘Oh, no I – it’s just that I remember you telling me back when we bumped into each other in the park, that you’d given up piano after you started your GCSEs. The fact that you’ve started playing again came as a bit of a shock’ he replied.
I smiled gently over at him and was just about to tell him I had only been testing myself to see if I could still play as well as I used to, when my father spoke.
‘Harry, have you and Oraelia seen the capital properly yet?’
‘No, Your Majesty.’ Harry replied politely.
‘Then that is what you two shall do tomorrow. Jaron and Kenton, you will accompany them.’
The brothers bowed their heads and looked at me and Harry.
‘Is a ten thirty departure okay with you two?’ Jaron asked.
‘Fine with me’ Harry replied coolly.
‘What about you, my Lady?’ Kenton asked.
‘That’s fine with me.’
‘Excellent! Be outside in front of the palace gates at ten o’clock so we have time to ready the horses’ Jaron replied.
I nodded my ascent before turning to my father, asked ‘I am rather tired, could I be excused?’
‘You don’t want dessert?’ he answered gently.
I shook my head.
‘All right, off you go, and hopefully I’ll see you in the morning before you leave.’
Two or three hours later, I was lying in bed with a book on my lap when there was a knock at the door. Placing the book face down on my stomach, I called for the knocker to come in.
Aiolos poked his head round the door.
‘Hey sis. Mind if I come in?’
‘Of course not, come on in’ I smiled, pulling myself up a little and leaning back against my pillows.
‘So, how are you finding the palace, and royal life in general?’ he asked, sitting on the edge of the bed.
‘Still getting used to it, I guess’ I replied, closing my book after memorising the page I was on and placing it on my bedside table beside the cream coloured lamp there.
He smiled reassuringly, ‘don’t worry, you fit in perfectly already.’
I gave him a small smile in return before looking him in the eye.
‘Aiolos, can I ask you something?’
‘Um…o-over time will you…I mean…’ I stammered, unable to ask him outright what I wanted to know.
‘Are you trying to ask whether I’ll age, like other human beings?’ he asked, his tone kind.
I opened my mouth to reply, then closed it and simply nodded instead.
‘It’s understandable you’d want to know that. I will age for a time, but after I’ve turned twenty-five I’ll stop, just like you will.’
‘Does everyone who is saved by the Elandrean royal families stop ageing after they are brought here?’
He was silent for a moment before opening his mouth to answer me.
‘Yes…and no. They all stop ageing after a few months, but after they have been here for thirty years they are collected by the Queen of Angels, Iona, and her husband Gardohil, the First Elf King. Once collected, they live with them in the kingdom of Teralien beyond the clouds above Elandrea.’
‘Iona and Gardohil, Teralien – I think I read about them in one of the Elandrean history books from the library.’
It was as I said this, that something unimaginable crossed my mind.
‘Does that mean you’ll be taken too, once you’ve been here for thirty years?!’ I asked, tears pricking my eyes and a lump of panic forming in my throat.
‘Oh sweetheart, no’ he replied as the tears broke free and flowed down my cheeks. He moved closer, wrapping his arms around me as I choked back a sob.
‘I’m not going anywhere. I promise you that’ he murmured into my ear as I slid my arms around his middle.
‘How can you know?’ I asked as he pulled gently away from me.
‘Because when your parents saved my life, and adopted me into your family, they requested an audience with Queen Iona and King Gardohil stating the nature of their request. It was accepted, and the King and Queen of Teralien met us at the cliff that overlooks the Dracorian Ocean, ten miles west of Ledoran. Following a quiet discussion that I did not catch much of, Iona and Gardohil each touched me on the forehead with two fingers, leaving a glowing mark that faded within seconds. An invisible mark that tells the angels who come to Elandrea every thirty years that I am never to be taken with them to Teralien.’
Once he’d finished his anecdote my brother leant over, and kissed my forehead before holding me within his gentle gaze.
‘You are never going to lose me Oraelia. I will always be here, okay?’
I wiped away my tears, sniffing a little as I nodded with a small smile.
He smiled back and gave me a hug before turning off my lamp, getting up and going over to the door.
‘Night’ I replied, suddenly feeling sleepy as he left and, slipping further under the covers, soon fell asleep dreaming of what tomorrow would bring.
You have wings. Believe in them and yourself, and you will fly.