The Fae Worlds

Birthday Night

Aurora stared into the flames, wondering how other people felt on their eighteenth birthday. It was a day that would define the rest of their lives, but no one ever talked about it. She knew why. Talking about it would make the possibility of it happening more real. Being a magic user could be a death sentence, if the wrong person happened to hear of it. Parents dreaded the thought of losing their child, while her generation was worried they’d never fulfil their potential. They all had plans for their future, something she’d never been able to do. After spending several days poring over the family trees of everyone in town she knew that she was the only person who had two magic users for parents. Her fate was inevitable.

Sighing, Aurora sipped her tea. For the first time she wished she had something alcoholic in the house. Her low wage meant that she could only just afford the rent on her cottage and food to eat, so alcohol was out of the question. Then came the knock on the door. She’d been expecting it, even though she hoped he wouldn’t. Moments later the door swung open because Harrison had his own key, and she knew there was no possibility he’d leave her to deal with something as important as her eighteenth birthday alone. He didn’t say anything until he’d closed the front door, locked it behind him, and hung up his cloak.

“How are you feeling?” Walking into the living room Harrison looked at her, their eyes meeting for a moment. “Stupid question. Sorry.”

“Like I could do with something stronger.” She sighed. “You didn’t have to come.”

“I wanted to.”

“When my powers bloom you’ll be in just as much trouble for harbouring a magic user as I will for being one.”

He shrugged. “Then we’ll just make sure no one finds out if your powers bloom.”

“I’m not having this debate with you again. There’s absolutely no point because you don’t listen.”

“I listen to everything you say. I just disagree with you, and there’s just as little point in arguing with you because you’re stubborn.”

“That’s because I’m right.”

“If you want some, I brought a bottle of elderflower vodka.” Aurora knew Harrison just wanted to change the subject. “There was nothing else available.”

Smiling gently at him, she accepted the change of subject. “I’ll have to borrow some absinthe next time I visit Father.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“It can be.”

She watched as he got the glasses out of her cupboard. Sometimes Aurora thought he probably knew her house better than she did, because there were days when she couldn’t remember where she kept the glasses. It was either that, or she was losing her memory, and she knew which option she preferred. He poured what could be called a drizzle of vodka into both their glasses before giving her one. Elderflower vodka wasn’t her favourite drink in the world, so she just stared at it.

“Why are you really here?”

Her diverted attention didn’t stop her from feeling Harrison stare at her. “I want to look after you if your powers bloom, Aurora.”

“It’s dangerous. I could kill both of us.”

Thoughtfully, Aurora sipped the vodka, and then winced. If anything it tasted worse than it had the last time she’d drunk some. Really, when she stopped to think about it, drinking any form of alcohol wasn’t a good idea if she wanted to keep control over her powers, but part of her really didn’t care. That was the part she normally ignored.

“If I die then I die. I can’t think of any place I’d rather be.”

“I can.”

“Where would you rather be?”

“There are a couple of places. One of them is a clearing between here and the mountains. It’s where I meet your brother.” She glanced at him to make sure the mention of Griffin hadn’t been too difficult for him. “Then there’s the library.”

He smiled at her, which didn’t quite hide the pain in his eyes. “Only you would rather be in the library.”

She shrugged. “I feel safe there. Books don’t expect anything more than you can give, and they don’t expect you to sit down for a chat every time you’re feeling down.” Smiling, she sipped her drink again. “They remind me of you.”

“You give the strangest compliments, Aurora.” He reached out, and squeezed her hand. “I’m glad I make you feel safe though.”

Their eyes locked. It was easy to be herself when she was with him, which was something she was grateful for. She knew if he hadn’t been there for her during the bad times then she probably would have hidden away in the library for the rest of her life. Instead he’d coaxed her into living her life in a way she never would have even thought about doing.

“Remembering will be one of my powers, so if there’s anything you want to tell me then now would be a good time to do it.”

“I tripped over your foot on purpose.”

Her only reply was a raised eyebrow. Aurora hadn’t been expecting a confession from him, and she wasn’t entirely sure what to think or feel. He looked down at his drink, which made her feel guilty because she’d made him upset.

“I was young, and stupid. When I saw you for the first time I wanted to do something to get your attention because…” He sighed. “I knew who you were. Everyone knew who you were. That first time I saw you I knew I wanted to get to know you as a person. Part of it probably was the fact you were the daughter of two magic users. Maybe you can tell me if you ever Remember that day. The main reason was simply because I thought you would be the one person who could understand the feeling of being alone even when you’re surrounded by people.”

“We were both different.” She nodded, understanding the young man who had done everything he could to convince her that he did truly want to be friends with her. “You were the Crown Prince, and I was the outsider.” When he looked at her, relief in his eyes, she smiled at him. “I probably would have done the same thing if I was in your position.”

“You would have been much more suave.” He smiled back. “I’m sure there was something better I could have done to get your attention.”

“Something less painful would have sufficed. The blood was not nice.”

Harrison rubbed his nose with his free hand. “Father was angry I’d broken my nose, because he thought it was going to put off all my potential brides.”

“Which you followed up by inviting me back to yours for tea.”

They grinned at each other. Remembering the good times they’d had always made Aurora feel better about everything. Her life had been difficult, in ways it was hard for someone like Harrison to understand, but there had always been happy moments to make up for the bad things.

“Father was never going to like any of the friends I made at school. If it had been up to him I would never have gone, but Mother thought it would be good for me to get to know the people I’d end up ruling.”

“Your mother’s a good person.”

Even though the King had made it plain he didn’t like her she’d never had any problems with Harrison’s mother. Like Aurora she’d once been the girl living in town who was friends with the Crown Prince and it made her more understanding. Occasionally she would visit the cottage by herself, or drop into the library to check on Aurora, which was something it was hard not to appreciate, but then the Queen saw the whole kingdom as a family that needed looking after.

“I think so.” He poured a tiny bit more vodka into his glass. “Sometimes I wonder why Mother married Father when they’re obviously such different people.”

“It would be hard to say no to the Crown Prince if he asked to marry you.”

He studied her. “What would you do if I asked you to marry me?”

“I have no idea, but I hope that if you did I could be gracious about saying no.” She sipped her drink, and winced again. “You’re my best friend, and I love you in a way I can’t explain to anyone, but there’s no way I would ever marry you. The thought of being Queen fills me with a dread I’ve never felt before.”

“I feel exactly the same way about being King.”

Aurora squeezed Harrison’s hand. “You’ll be a good King.”

“I hope I will. Even if you won’t marry me I’d appreciate it if you’d be one of my advisers.” He smiled. “I think you probably know more about my kingdom than I do. People talk to you.”

“I’m a librarian, Harrison. When I talk to people it’s about where the book is that they need.”

He looked at her, putting his glass down on the table. “The last thing I want you to do is to betray any confidences.” For a moment he was silent, staring thoughtfully at her. “No one would ever know what it is you’re talking about, but I’ve been watching, and I know you’re someone people trust. Sometimes I actually get special gifts from people because I’m your friend, and that makes me less of an enemy than the King.”

“If they give you special gifts it’s because you’re the Crown Prince. Everyone wants you to remember them when you’ve taken the throne.”

He shook his head. “I don’t believe you.”

“If you travel anywhere in the kingdom you will be given gifts by people. It’s what they do when there’s a Crown Prince.”

“Father’s suggested I take a trip around the kingdom now I’m eighteen.”

“That will be good for you. There’s more to the kingdom than this city.”

“I don’t want to leave you here alone. Father may take the chance to get rid of you while I’m gone.”

“He wouldn’t do something stupid. If I go missing then people will notice, even if it is just the library staff.”

“You could come with me.”

“I couldn’t afford to. I’m only just paying my bills as it is, and I think taking time off work to travel round the kingdom with you would lose me my cottage.”

“If that happens you could move in with me.”

Aurora stared at him. “I’m sure your father would love it if we were living together.” She could see the look on the King’s face, and the certainty he would then do anything he had to in order to get rid of her. “Until you become King I’m going to stay in this cottage. When you get crowned I might move in, but I like having my own place. I like being able to cook what I want, and fill my cottage with books.”

“That’s why I like visiting. I’ve never felt like the castle was home. This place…” He looked around with a smile. “It’s the only place that’s ever felt like home to me, and I don’t know what I’d do if you had to move out.”

“You could pay my rent.”

“How much is it?”

“I was joking.”

“Aurora, I spend as much time as you do here, so it’s only fair I go halves at least. Father gives me a generous allowance I can spend on whatever I want.”

“Until he takes it away because you’ve been spending it on my rent.”

“He can’t do that. It’s something the Crown Prince always receives, and to stop it would mean passing a new law none of his advisers would ever let him write.”

“I’m glad, but you’re still not paying any of my rent.” She reached out to touch his hand, just for a second. “Fancy a cup of tea?”

The look Harrison gave her made it obvious that the conversation wasn’t over. “Anything would be better than this. Who ever thought elderflower vodka was a nice drink?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Yawning, Aurora glanced out of the window at the moon. There was no definite time when she would bloom, so it was just a case of waiting until it happened. Her older brother had bloomed at about midday, at least that’s what they told her, but she wanted hers to happen earlier. Once her powers had bloomed she wouldn’t have to hide away in her cottage.

Making tea was a nice distraction. Even though Aurora helped people to bloom she couldn’t imagine what it would be like to actually go through the process herself, and the worst times were when they let their fear of blooming get the better of them. Keeping calm was a necessity, and yet… she breathed in deeply. Helping others, who’d never thought it was possible, was easier.  Knowing what she knew about her family made her entirely certain that she was going to bloom. By the end of the night she was going to be a magic user, unless something really unexpected happened, and she wasn’t certain what she would prefer. Not blooming would be easier, and yet she’d come to terms with the fact she would have magic. Well, mostly.

Aurora stirred honey into the mugs. Having spent so much time with Harrison she knew exactly how he took his tea. Normally she didn’t drink sweetened tea, but hopefully it would help her to bloom safely, when it did finally happen, as she would need the energy. Eating was something she didn’t think she would be able to force herself to do – drinking tea she could. Before she had a chance to turn around she felt a pair of arms wrap around her waist and she lent into Harrison, letting him comfort her. Even though it wasn’t entirely safe for him she was glad she had him with her. Griffin suggested she go to the mountains for her birthday, but she knew people would notice if she wasn’t in her cottage, so she didn’t dare leave.

“It’s going to be fine.” Harrison gently kissed her cheek. “You are going to bloom safely, Aurora, because I can’t imagine you not being a part of my life.”

Smiling, Aurora shook her head. “That’s not going to make the process any easier. I’ve seen it go wrong so many times, and when it does happen…” The smile faded. “If it does, Harrison, you have to give me the berries, otherwise I’m going to take you, and the cottage, with me, and don’t you dare say what I think you’re going to. You have to live, for me. We need to have a King on the throne who doesn’t hate all magic users.”

There was a long silence. “Life wouldn’t be worth living without you, but I will keep going, because I know I have to. I’ll also have to tell Griffin and your father what happened, otherwise they’ll never know for certain.”

“Griffin wants me to visit him tomorrow. I know he’s worried about what might happen and wanted to be here, but there was no way we could get him in safely, let alone get him back out again, so I don’t doubt that right now he’s pacing the clearing we normally meet in, staring at the sky as time passes too slowly for him.” Aurora sighed. “He loves me.”

“We both love you.”

“On the day Mum died I promised myself I would never have children. I don’t want to bring them into a world like this, especially not when I know what will happen to them if they do bloom, and having helped so many people to die…” She shuddered. “Having to give the berries to my own children…” Blinking away tears she lifted her tea to her mouth, not caring if it was too hot. “That is something I couldn’t do, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to have a long term relationship with someone who doesn’t want children, not even Griffin, because he’s talked before about how much he’d like to have his own family.”

“He has a family. Maybe I haven’t met him, but I still think of him as my brother, because I’m not the person my father wanted me to be. Fortunately Mother’s insistence I went to a public school, rather than have a tutor, means that I’ve learnt more about magic than he ever did, and it means I have a much better understanding of the difficulties that my people deal with on a daily basis. I know what it’s like for them to have to hide family members, to have other family in the mountains, to wonder what will happen on their child’s eighteenth birthday, so I should, hopefully, be able to be a much better King than he could ever be. When I do take the throne Griffin, and all the others in the mountain, will be welcome in this kingdom.”

“Changing the laws that have been put in place to make magic illegal is going to be hard.”

“Hard, but not impossible, and I am going to do it. I want there to be somewhere safe for all magic users, because it’s not fair every single one of them is seen as dangerous, even though the majority aren’t. Blooming is dangerous, some magics are also dangerous if the person wielding them doesn’t know how to control them, but magic itself isn’t. What we’re doing makes it so much more dangerous than it should be.”

Aurora found herself smiling again. “You’re right. If we could prepare everyone for what might happen on their eighteenth birthday it would be much easier for me, or someone else, to get them safely through the blooming process. We could teach them what sort of magic they might have, as I think that would help as well.”

“Do you know much about how the date of birth affects the magic that someone has?”

“I’ve learnt more than I thought I could from the mountain communities, in part because Calix took a whole load of books up there when he went, to keep them safe, although they didn’t know a lot more than we do now. Apparently a lot of information was lost before, during the first time magic was made illegal.”

“The first time?”

Nodding, Aurora turned to face Harrison. “I didn’t know until I was reading through the books Calix took with him.” She looked into his eyes, seeing once more the King he would be when he took the throne. “The few mentions of it weren’t enough to tell me exactly what happened, but one thing I did find out was Sauin was murdered. We know so little about him, about the first magic users, I desperately wanted to learn more about what happened when they first bloomed, but the books that held that information are probably long gone, if they ever existed at all.”

“Sauin might have kept a journal.”

“Maybe, but if he did no one’s found it. I keep a journal myself, documenting what I learn from every bloom and how their magic can be used, knowing the time might come when someone else might need it. Our history has repeated itself already, so I don’t doubt it will do it again. You may change things enough to make magic legal once again, yet there will come a time when it will be made illegal once more, when all the books on magic will be burnt, and we’ll have to start from the beginning again.” Aurora sighed. “While I’m working I’ve been hunting for hidden books, in the hope that I might stumble across something useful, but if there was ever anything there I haven’t found it.”

“I’ve started doing the same thing in the libraries in the castle, but there are more of them. At the moment I’m working on the main one, where I used to do my homework, because I think it’s unlikely there will be anything there, before moving on to the ones that are more hidden.”

“When I was reading Calix’s journal he mentioned he had a hidden library, although he didn’t say much about it. Maybe, if you’re really lucky, you might be able to find it.”

“Calix was the second son, right?”

“Yes, he was, which is why he was the one with magic.”

Harrison nodded. “We both know it’s not always the second son who has magic, but that’s down to luck more than anything.” Aurora studied him, wondering if maybe he’d been unlucky enough to bloom, but she would have to wait until he told her to know for certain. He was the sort of person who would keep that a secret from her if he thought it was for the best. “I might be able to find it, if you can give me some idea of where it could be, and then hopefully we’ll be able to find out something more about our past.”

“Possibly, but I really do doubt that, as I don’t think he could find much out himself. That, unfortunately, is one of the issues you have to deal with when the books on the history of your kingdom have been burnt, and I do have this feeling that we may never find out the truth unless…” Aurora bit her lip. “Certain things Calix wrote about makes me think Sauin might have had an ability that we know nothing about now. It wouldn’t surprise me, because we don’t know anywhere near as much about magic as they seem to have learnt before the first time it was made illegal, and if he did it’s likely to be the same one that two mountain people had, although we have another issue there – even the mountain people have destroyed parts of their history.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Fear, I think. Whatever ability those people had, it scared the majority of magic users.” Aurora shrugged. “I don’t know why. If I did I might be able to give you some idea of what it might be, but all I know is that they didn’t want other people to learn about it, so they made sure it was impossible by tearing out certain pages or scribbling out sections that mentioned them. There is a chance I might be able to find out what was behind the scribbled out sections if I’m very careful, though.”

“You already have notes on the magics the majority of people have.” Harrison stepped away from her, and went over to where she kept her journal. “If we think about what magics might be missing from that list, we could, possibly, take a step closer towards learning what sort of magic Sauin might have had.”

Aurora followed him, holding their teas, grateful there was something she could do that would take her mind off what was going to happen. The magics Sauin had been able to use was a subject that had fascinated her ever since she realised he might have been able to do something unusual, although she never thought someone would join her in her search for the truth. She should have known Harrison would be just as interested as she was, because he always had been. For Griffin it was much harder to be interested in magic when he didn’t have any himself, even though that was why he’d been dumped in the mountains, so she tried not to talk to him too much about the research she was doing.

“Might be missing?” Aurora put his tea on the table next to him. “How do we know what might be missing when we know so little about magic?”

“Think things through logically, Aurora. Everyone with magic has some sort of elemental ability – they can work with earth, air, fire, or water. You, if you bloom, will be able to work with water. According to your list you also have memory magic.” He looked at her. “What exactly is memory magic?”

“It basically means I’ll be able to use my magic to affect someone’s memories, so I’ll be able to add new ones or take old ones away. Honestly, I doubt it’s something I will ever use, because I think it would be easily abused, and I don’t really want the wrong person to find out what I can do.”

“Yet you’re happy to tell me.” Harrison sipped his tea. “I could end up being the wrong person.”

“I don’t believe you, of all people, would come to think of magic the same way your father does.”

“Aurora…”

“No, Harrison. I accept there is going to be a reason your father feels the way he does, but I can’t see you becoming him.” Aurora shrugged. “Maybe I am wrong, and you will end up being his clone – I just have real trouble imagining it. You’re such a good person.”

“Being a good person doesn’t mean I’ll always do what’s right, Aurora. If something happened to you, because of magic, I can’t help thinking I might become my father.”

“Do I really mean that much to you?”

“Yes, you do. If I didn’t know you were in love with someone else I would marry you.”

She stared at him. “In love with someone else?”

“Maybe you haven’t noticed, but it’s obvious to anyone who knows you you’re madly in love with my brother.” Harrison shrugged. “Even though I know the time may come when I propose marriage to you.”

“Why do you think I’m in love with Griffin?”

“The way you talk about him.” He shrugged again, biting on his bottom lip. “Every time you mention him there’s this lilt in your voice, as though just mentioning him makes you happy, and you get this shine in your eye that you don’t get when you’re talking about anyone else.”

“Apart from you, apparently.”

Harrison laughed. “I take it Griffin thinks you’re in love with me.”

“From the conversation we had last time he seems to think we’re about to get married, even though I’ve told him more than once the two of us are best friends.”

“You’re his best friend as well.”

“I am. You both mean the world to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m in love with either of you, so I would really appreciate it if I could not have this conversation again with either of you.” She shook her head. “I didn’t expect to have it with both of you as it was.”

“Sorry…” He grinned at her. “This won’t make you feel any better, but my sister thinks you’re in love with both of us, and she’s been planning what the kingdom would be like when we both propose.”

“Tell her when you get back that is never going to happen. Marrying one of you would be bad enough, but both of you…” Aurora shook her head. “Both of you nag me more than enough separately. I think I would end up walking out if I had to put up with that on a daily basis, from both of you at the same time, and I dread to think what it would do for the kingdom.”

“When I do take the throne Griffin is coming home.”

“He thinks of the mountains as his home, Harrison. I don’t think you’d be able to convince him to leave them behind for any reason.”

“Oh, I think I could. If he cares about you that much then he’s going to jump at the chance to live here and look after you.” Harrison brushed a hand through his hair. “Would you marry him?”

“Not when I can’t give him the family he wants.” Aurora stared into the distance, unable to forget a time when everything was different. “I care enough about him, and about you, to know the most logical thing would be to step away, to let you both build different lives, so you can have the families you need. I’d still be there when the time came, for all your children, and your sister’s, but I can’t be the person you both seem to need.”

“I love the way you’re marrying us all off.”

“You have to marry. It’s important you have heirs.”

“My plan is not to marry until Father is dead. That way he won’t be able to put my second son out in the mountains, to protect this kingdom from magic.” He sighed. “I might not have a second son. I might get really lucky, and only have daughters.”

“A Queen on the throne.”

“If I’m going to change the kingdom, Aurora, I might as well do it properly.” He sipped his tea again, before turning back to the book he’d been studying. “Magic will be legal if I become king. All of the people currently trapped in the mountains, no matter what kingdom they’re from, will be welcome here.”

“The other kingdoms aren’t going to like that, Harrison. Remember what happened to Haerith.”

“We have a big enough army to be able to protect us from anyone who might want to try to take my kingdom over, and I’ll have magic users on my side, who I hope will be willing to fight for me.”

“Giving them a real home again would make them willing, I think.” Aurora shrugged. “I don’t know you’d be able to get them all in this city though. There are too many of them for that.”

“Can you give me an estimate of how many people there are out there?”

“Even though I can’t be certain, I think there’s at least a thousand from different kingdoms. We have some space here, but not enough for a thousand people. I think we could probably fit less than a tenth of them here, and then we’d have to spend time finding homes in other places for the rest.”

“How many people successfully bloom in a year in this kingdom?”

Aurora sighed. “Why are you asking me?”

“You’re the sort of person who knows these things, if only because you want to know as much as you can about the magic users of this kingdom.”

“Okay, well, about half of all bloomers survive, maybe a little more. You’re looking, if there are a thousand children turning 18 in the same year, at about ten percent of them blooming, with around five percent of them surviving, which makes around fifty a year. I don’t know what the current population of the kingdom is, but you can work it out from there.”

“Is there an equal split when it comes to magics?”

“Generally, no, and there is very little you can do to increase the number who survive, sadly, although there are people who try.”

“Like your mother.”

“Harrison…”

“I’ve done my own research into your family, Aurora, not that it really matters to me. You are you. You are my best friend. Nothing else matters.” He smiled at her. “Your mother was being watched very closely before she died, in part because she had a lot of visitors who never returned, which makes me think she was helping people get to the mountains.”

Even though Harrison was her best friend there were things she hadn’t told him, for his own protection, and he was getting too close to a secret she was keeping from him for that very reason. Asking about her mother was one thing. The only people who didn’t know what she was doing were those who were loyal to the King, which didn’t include the Queen. She visited for tea too often not to understand what Aurora’s mother did for the magic users of the kingdom, and it seemed likely she was getting news of Griffin at the same time.

“That was what Mother was doing.” Aurora’s eyes met with Harrison’s. “She spent her whole life trying to help magic users, knowing there really was only so much she could really do. The first thing she’d do was make sure they had something to eat before the journey, and got a good night’s sleep. She’d check out what they had packed, and always added a couple of blankets. Once she was certain they were ready she would take them as far as she could, giving them another package to take with them for the rest of the people who lived in the mountains.

“She always knew what they needed more of. I’ve got into the habit of doing the same thing when I go, because it’s not as though they can go to the market to get something, and by doing that I help them to survive. I help Griffin survive. He needs me, Harrison, and I’m never going to walk away from him, no matter how hard he tries to convince me I’d be much safer if I stop visiting. I know I’ll be safer. That doesn’t make it the right thing to do, when I know how much they all need me, as living in the mountains isn’t easy. That won’t stop them from trying, though, as they have no other option – not when all of the kingdoms around them have the same laws.” She shrugged. “Being able to have their families in a town will make them much happier, I know that, but it could cause war.”

“Then that’s what it will do, because my brother is out there, Aurora, and I’m not going to leave him there. He deserves to call this kingdom his home the same way I do.” He shook his head. “My father may well have been okay with doing what ‘had to be done’, but I’m not, because it didn’t have to be done. The right thing to do would have been to make magic legal.”

“Your father will never do that.” Aurora reached out, and took Harrison’s hand. “Mother said there was a time when he was different, but that faded away when he turned eighteen, and she never knew why. After that it became obvious he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps.”

“I’m eighteen now, and I haven’t changed.”

“How long will it last?” Aurora sipped her own tea, sighing. “What if I die when I bloom?”

Harrison studied her. “Do you honestly think that’s going to happen?”

“I don’t know. It’s possible. I’ve prepared as well as I can, but that doesn’t mean my body will accept magic. That’s how people die, Harrison. For some reason, one we haven’t yet worked out, their bodies can’t cope with the magic that’s infusing them, and they die, a very slow painful death if they don’t have the berries, which can destroy entire cities.”  She bit down on her bottom lip. “Magic being illegal is logical. It’s dangerous in more than one way, but by making it illegal they’ve made it much harder for someone to help anyone who’s blooming badly. Anyone who helps is seen as harbouring magic users, whether they’ve survived or not, and are exiled.”

“We’re lucky really. Exile is better than execution.”

She nodded. “That’s true.” Their eyes met. “At least out there I would have a chance to survive.”

“Maybe, when I become king, I can convince the kingdoms who still execute their magic users to exile them instead, so they can find their way here, and we can keep them safe.”

Brushing a hand through her hair, Aurora shook her head. “You never did answer my question.”

“Personally I don’t think you are going to die, because it’s you, but if you do I can’t see why it would change anything. Magic may well have been the cause of your death – being angry with it isn’t going to change anything. You will have died due to a natural process, and I’m not likely to see things any differently, even with Father trying to convince me otherwise. As far as I’m concerned magic is something that should be legal, no matter how many people it kills.”

Nodding, she sipped her tea. “Remember that if your emotions try to get the better of you.” She brushed her hand through her hair again. “I don’t want to ask this of you, but I would appreciate it if you could check on the mountain dwellers every so often if I do die. Like I said they need me and for me to be suddenly gone…” She sighed. “It wouldn’t be good for them and it wouldn’t be good for Griffin.”

“You aren’t going to die, Rora.” Harrison sounded more certain than he could be, but it was reassuring he truly did believe that. “I just hope you bloom soon, because it isn’t going to be much fun sitting around waiting for the rest of the night, the day, and the night that’s to come.”

“No, it’s not, and I’ve told you before that you don’t have to be here. I’m entirely capable of waiting for this to happen by myself.”

He smiled. “I know you are, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to leave. We could get some sleep. That seems a better way of using this time, as you’re going to need all the strength you can get.”

“Sleeping?” Aurora shook her head. “I thought about that, but…”

“Come on.”

Even though Aurora didn’t think she’d be able to sleep she followed him into her bedroom. He laid down on her bed fully dressed, and gestured to her to lie with him. If it had been anyone else she wouldn’t have done it, but it was Harrison, so she curled up next to him, letting him wrap his arms around her in a way that made her feel more grounded than she had in days. Knowing her birthday was coming affected everything. 

Harrison did fall asleep long before she did – she could tell by the way his breathing evened out, and it reminded her of all the nights they’d spent together over the years. She loved him more than she thought it was possible to love someone. They weren’t related by blood, but she still thought of him as her brother. The sound helped to relax her, and she, slowly, felt sleep beginning to creep closer, wrapping around her the same way his arms were.