Being this close to Alara makes Arya’s insides churn, but it’s a necessary evil. For the longest time she just watches Alara interact with her child. She hasn’t had the nerve to go near her. The last time she allowed herself to get close to Alara her throat was slit. She didn’t trust herself to be alone with Alara. There was too much temptation there and Arya didn’t know enough about the shadows around Alara to breach proximity. She left that up to Tomich. Alara seems to have a soft spot for the Historian and her shadows seem to purr whenever he’s near.
“Your majesty,” Evander startles her, “Forgive me for the fright, but we’ve heard back from his highness prince Jarrah and he’s denied your request for council.”
“He what?” Arya scoffs.
“He denied your request.”
Irritated she asks, “Well did he give a reason why?”
“No your majesty,” Evander shakes his head.
Of course Malich Jarrah would punish her for breaking off their relationship. She saved him and he still couldn’t extend her this one courtesy. Arya sighs. There’s rumors he’s been working his way through the female population at the Summer Court and she wonders how true they are. Part of her can’t fathom the thought of him with anyone else so she quickly pushes both Malich and his nighttime activities to the back of her head.
“We need to learn everything we can about her,” Evander stares over Arya’s shoulders watching Alara. “She’s Darkin. Power like that only comes from the Unseelie Court or the Gods who rule it.”
“That would require going near her, which I haven’t found the nerve to do.”
“Well, until you do, a particular fire-breathing monstrosity keeps eating the towns livestock.”
“Drakor?” Arya sighs.
“It appears so. The nobles and the citizens of the Seelie Court are rather afraid of the cranky old bastard. If he won’t return to the alumni training camp, then perhaps a conversation with the beast is in order,” Evander suggests.
Arya nods then heads out into the garden. She calls to Drakor and he presents himself several minutes later. “I hear you’ve been a naughty boy,” she gently rubs his beak, along his neck and then over his shoulder. “You must stop eating the livestock here. Go to the Summer Court and eat their livestock. Anan knows those nobles there deserve it.”
Drakor bobs his head and nudges her with his beak. She laughs and steps back to watch him launch into the air. “Was that wise?” Evander smirks.
Arya shrugs. “They have more than enough livestock, and if he should happen to char the arse of a particular reluctant prince I can kill two birds with one stone.”
Evander laughs. Arya can’t help but think smiling suits him. His green eyes dazzle when he smiles and for once he appears as youthful as he looks. Evander is over five hundred cycles old. Like Malich, the cycles have been kind to him. He doesn’t look a moon over twenty-five cycles.
Arya takes in his proud stance and the muscles protruding through his clothing. Her eyes rake over his abs and drop lower but she is unable to discern how blessed he might be. “This is highly inappropriate,” Evander catches her gaze and flushes red.
She too flushes red, “Forgive me general, it’s been at least a turn since…” Arya’s voice trails off. She misses him. She misses them both.
“If you were to ask my advice as your advisor I’d tell you his Majesty King Rayne would be a better suitor, stationwise. But if you were to ask for my advice as a friend, I’d tell you that we both know your heart has already decided. You simply need to act on it. The longer you straddle the fence of indecision, the more you risk the circumstances changing without you, taking away your right to decide altogether.”
“If I choose someone will get hurt,” Arya sulks.
“Two people are already hurting because you haven’tchosen,” he points out.
His logic is undeniable. Both of them didn’t have to suffer. She needs to choose in order to set one of them free. “Would you think less of me if I didn’t choose Ihsan? He deserves me more, but our love was long ago and Malich has since filled that void in my heart. I still love him; I’m just not inlove with him. I know that now.”
Curious, Evander asks, “Then why are you so afraid to admit it? Why are you afraid to make that choice?”
Arya inhales deeply and blows the air out slowly. “Because it would mean I’ve fallen in love with someone who tormented me as a young girl. And not just me, he tormented Ihsan too. I know he never asked to be viewed this way, but I thought of Malich as a father for a good part of my life. That circumstance alone causes me to war with myself.”
“But he’s not your father and from what I gather he never asked for that title, you gave it to him.”
Arya nods, “True.”
“Again, why are you so hesitant to follow your heart?”
Arya shrugs, “What would I be telling Ihsan if I chose the man who tortured us both over him? I’d be telling him our suffering didn’t matter. I’d be telling him I chose a man with so many flaws when he has none. I’d be telling him that every good thing about him isn’t enough for me.”
“Is it?” Evander asked.
“I suppose not.”
“Then you need to be honest with him, with yourself and with Malich. Preferably before the latter grows weary.”
Arya wraps her arms around Evander. With Lumi, Rayu and Dax at the alumni camp he is the closest thing to a friend she has here. He’s given her the strength she needs to do what she should’ve done in the first place. “Request an audience with his majesty King Rayne.”
“And his highness?”
“Something tells me if we request audience again he’ll just deny it, so I’ll go there personally when I can.”
Evander nods in approval and leaves the room. Alone with her thoughts, Arya realizes she needs to confront someone else she’s been avoiding and heads to lower levels of the palace that run beneath the surface of the ground. It’s heavily guarded with more than a few mechanisms in place to stifle the threat known as her sister.
Ihsan shared his only weakness with Arya. A weakness he and Alara both share…hushstone. Hushstone can be found deep inside the caves of the Seelie Mountains. She had Evander hire a few males looking to earn some coin in trade. They built Alara a wing beneath the palace made completely of hushstone. Alara was surprised when she felt the stifling power of the stone, but she didn’t put up a fight. Her only request was that Arya visit her and her son at least once a day and that her son be allowed outside the confines of their wing.
Alara sat, breastfeeding her son as Arya walked into her sitting room. Alara smiled at Arya who sat down across from her. “He’s a big eater,” Alara blushes.
Arya searches for something civil to say, but nothing good came to mind. “Why did you do it?” She asks instead.
“I told you why.”
“Kahlem had your son?”
“Yes,” Alara nods.
“You’re lying,” Arya studies her body language. “You have a tell.”
Alara takes a deep breath and becomes visibly nervous. “I don’t want to put you in any more danger.”
This time it’s the truth, but Arya is more concerned with what she’s choosing notto say. “Why not? You’ve already slit my throat and threw me off a cliff. What’s more dangerous than that?” She narrows her eyes at Alara.
“There are things I can’t say. Things you’d be better off not knowing.”
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that? You’re living in my home for Anan’s sake; hiding from a threat only you seem to be aware of with a baby no less. Where is the child’s father? Why didn’t you go to him instead?” Arya asks.
“I can’t,” was all Alara said in response.
“How can I help or protect you when I don’t even know what I’m protecting you from?” Alara stops talking. She focuses her attention on her son, rocking him to sleep and then placing him in his cradle. “Are you even my sister? And what kind of person kills her own sister?”
“Yes, I’m your sister,” Alara sighs. “At least I’d like to be. I’d like to start over with you.”
“And you give you another opportunity to finish the job you started with my throat?” Arya scoffs, “I think not.”
“I’m sorry for slitting your throat, but I’m happy it worked out in your favor.”
Arya couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Alara spoke as if trying to kill her somehow did her some good. If she weren’t holding her son Arya would smack her across the face. She stands and leaves, sarcastically throwing over her shoulder, “Nice chat sis, wemustdo this again sometime.” ns22.214.171.124da2