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Thunderlight, p.7
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       Thunderlight, p.7

           Adrienne Woods

  Isabel wore an emerald green dress that was shorter in the front and cascaded down in the back. Her sequined stilettos shared the same color as her dress and she wore silver pearl drop earrings with a matching bracelet. They both looked so young and happy. I guessed both of them lived for these kinds of nights. It was sad thinking just how much they’d had to give up.

  We took two separate cabs and I shared one with Lucille and Becky who were chatting away about the event.

  When we pulled up to the curb, I took a deep breath as a million light bulbs flashed like strobe lightings in front of the museum.

  Not this again, please.

  Lucian and I were careful not to get in the same mess as we had that Sunday at the art gallery. It would be just my luck if tonight one of them would call my name and I would turn around. My body’s temperature went a degree higher as I looked out the window and I felt like I was trapped in a sauna. I fanned myself with my hand and prayed that my make-up wasn’t running down my face.

  “Don't worry. The Rubicon and Royals will be here tonight, Elena. It’s normal for them to stalk the front of the museum.” Lucille tapped my arm softly as we both watched through the cab’s window.

  “They won't ask any questions, will they?” I knew I would stutter and say the wrong things if I was asked.

  “If they recognize you, I guess, but we can always try to slip in.” She smiled a comforting smile.

  “Elena, just suck it up,” Becky’s voice came from the seat next to her mother. “It comes with the territory. You’re dating Lucian, and it's only a matter of time before everyone is going to know who you are.”

  “Becky!” Lucille tapped her on the leg. “Still, there are ways to help Elena get used to them. She’s not a good swimmer,” Lucille said the last part softly to Becky, but I still heard.

  Through the corner of my eyes I saw Becky wave it off as she mouthed something I couldn’t make out.

  The cab driver parked the car across the road under a large oak tree. Lucille paid him with a generous tip and we got out. The sound of their heels clicking on the pavement made my heart bounce faster. I wiped my hands on my pants and tried not to look nervous.

  I froze as I noticed a big limo with small purple flags and white flowers printed on them parked in front of the entrance.

  Deep breaths, Elena. It would not be good if Lucian got out of that limo and gave you a hug. Camera flashes and speaking to the press…deep breath, you can do this. First impression…for the love of blueberries!

  “Don't worry, it's just Arianna,” Becky grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the museum. We slipped past the photographers whose cameras flashed like mad as the Princess exited the limo in an overly dramatic fashion. I took a deep breath and thanked Arianna silently for showing up at the right moment. I only had one first impression to make an impact on Lucian’s parents, and I needed it to be a good one.

  “All that money and she chooses to wear that?” Becky said with a raised left eye brow.

  I looked past the one photographer and saw a small black number clinging to her body. It barely covered her ass, but I had to admit she looked verautiful. She had the legs of a supermodel.

  Her words about her and Lucian suddenly jumped into my mind. A feeling of kicking her rose up inside my gut, and the fleeting moment of gratitude I had felt toward her for showing up the right moment disappeared in a flash.

  She gave her million dollar smile to all the flashing cameras and as I watched her mother climb out, I could hear Lucille speaking to the host behind us.

  “Deep breaths,” Lucille whispered next to me as we entered.

  The entire museum had been transformed into a five star event. A three member orchestra played soft music in the far corner as beautiful curtains covered some of the other exhibits. Some had been removed from display to make space for tonight’s gala. In the corner a huge case that almost reached the ceiling was covered with a white curtain and a bow tied around the middle. Right next to it was a podium with a microphone and more lights than I could count. In the opposite direction four thrones stood on a second podium. Ice sculptures and balls crafted from what seemed like hundreds of flowers hung from the ceiling. For a moment I forgot that there were other people in the museum too but was brought sharply back to reality as I almost bumped into a short, fat man with a huge mustache.

  It appeared that everyone wanted to look more beautiful than the person standing next to them, and there were small groups of people huddled together having private conversations. I jumped as a man with peppered hair wearing a black jacket laughed loudly. I noticed that two of the other men in his circle both wore the same kind of jacket as him. It was black with so many medals stuck to their chests it was a wonder they could stand up straight. They saluted with their champagne flutes held high in the air and they all laughed after they’d taken a sip.

  Waiters in cream tuxedos wearing white gloves walked through the crowds carrying trays of champagne and a stunning array of appetizers.

  “Sorry,” I mumbled as I almost smacked into one of them too.

  Becky seized the opportunity and grabbed two glasses from his tray.

  I gave her the look.

  “My mom said it’s fine.” She sang back and pushed one into my hand. “Drink! It will calm the nerves.” She looked like she was born for nights like these and I could tell she was a natural. I, on the other hand, needed a fan desperately.

  “I will see you girls later,” Lucille said in a sing-song tone behind us as she glided over to a small group of women who appeared to be in their forties.

  “Urgh! I don't know why she hangs with that group,” Becky complained with her arms crossed, holding her champagne glass.

  “Why, who are they?”

  “The single mommies club or I should say cougars.” She didn’t take her eyes away from the four woman dressed as twenty something girls. They’d all been clearly under the knife at some point as their breasts perked up unnaturally and their bodies resembled women of half their age. “It’s disgusting how they drool over boys George's age,” she said repulsed as she took a big sip of her champagne. “My mom is way too good for them. They are so shallow and only noticed her right after she sold some sculptures.”

  I huffed. I had to agree, it was quite sickening.

  Sammy and her parents reached us. All three of them had a glass of champagne in their hands. We started to speak about some of the fashion choices of the ladies and I smiled every time Isabel gave me her verdict.

  A man with peppered hair glided past us and gave Sir Robert a menacing glare.

  I could hear Sir Robert mumbling something to Isabel but she just smiled and said something back to him softly.

  Another couple glared at him as they walked past, too.

  What’s their problem?

  Isabel just gave them the biggest smile she could muster, she didn’t even look phased. “See, you kill them with kindness.” She winked at me as she caught me staring at her.

  Isabel and Sir Robert left shortly after that. I guessed he wanted to get away from all the glares or maybe he wanted to search for Blake.

  Becky grabbed the half-filled champagne glass out of my hand and put it on the nearest tray with hers. Before I could ask what the hell she was doing, she and Sammy curtseyed as they pushed me down with them.

  “Your Highness.” Both the girls greeted an older replica of Arianna and a dark curly haired man with a long nose. They nodded toward Becky and Sammy, and gave me a raised eyebrow.

  Glaring at me was more like it, as both the King and Queen’s eyes scanned my body. It made me feel so uncomfortable and I wished that I’d left with Sir Robert and Isabel.

  “This is Becky Johnson,” Arianna introduced Becky to her parents. “She claimed George, the Moon-Bolt a couple of months back.”

  The King of Areeth knew immediately who Becky was. “I believe he is your dent?”

  “Yes, Your Highness.”

  “Isn't that rare?” the Queen asked
her husband, and he gave a soft nod. She just raised her eyes once more pretending that it was nothing.

  “Sammy Leaf,” Arianna said in the sweetest voice she could master. “She was so brave, Daddy.”

  “What did you expect, pumpkin, she is the Rubicon’s sister. We’d expect nothing less from her.”

  “And this is Elena Watkins,” Arianna said my name clearly mustering the coldest tone she could.

  The king looked down at me which made me feel ten times smaller than I was. A thick vibe formed around us, the kind I’d only felt once before, in the Viden’s tower.

  “The mastermind behind the mission,” he said. “It would have been great if all the members of the mission had come out with their lives, wouldn’t you agree, Elena?”

  I didn’t know what to feel as he said those words. Becky’s jaw muscle slightly twitched and I knew she would’ve said something if he wasn't a King.

  “You are from the other side, I believe?”

  I nodded.

  “The offspring of a dragon, or so I’ve been told,” he said.

  I nodded again. For some reason I didn’t want to speak to him. Frankly, I didn’t care who he was. He made being a dragon’s offspring sound like the plague. “I wonder how a small insignificant outsider knew where to locate the sword, while the Royal Council couldn't. It makes you wonder if there’s a hidden agenda, doesn’t it?” he said, and Arianna’s lips twitched slightly upwards in pleasure at the cruel words of her father.

  I was starting to get beyond pissed off at what he was implying and bit hard on my tongue, trying to keep the words in and my mouth silent.

  “With all respect, King Caleb,” Master Longwei’s voice suddenly came from right beside me. “Elena did come home with the sign of the Keeper. This makes her the sixth person to come out of the Sacred Cavern alive. We should really talk about adding her name onto the brass plate.”

  My heart bounced in my throat but King Caleb just looked blankly at Master Longwei who was grinning very politely. He looked stunning in a golden chinese robe with buttons all the way to his neck. The King gave Master Longwei a fake smile back. “Yes, we should.”

  “She really is a brave young lady, and we hope that the next time something life-threatening happens it will not be left to an insignificant outsider to save our world.”

  The King's jaw muscles tightened and Arianna rolled her eyes slightly. I could see Becky looking at the ground, sucking her lips. A soft dimple dented in her cheek and I knew it was taking all her strength to keep from laughing.

  “Yes, let's hope. Enjoy your evening girls, Master Longwei.” The King, Queen, and Arianna glided away.

  “That was so cool, Master Longwei,” Becky whispered through a huge grin after the Royal Family of Areeth disappeared.

  “What are you talking about?” Master Longwei walked away whistling softly. We just laughed and grabbed more champagne glasses from a waiter who was making his rounds. The King's words still bothered me.

  “He’s such an asshole.” Becky said as she thrust another glass into my hand. “Don't listen to him. I don't know what King Louie was thinking when he gave Areeth to king Caleb’s father.”

  King Caleb’s father used to be one of King Louie’s most loyal and bravest knights. It was why he gave Areeth to him and Tith to King Helmut’s father.

  “Maybe he wasn't.” It barely came out.

  “Unbelievable,” Sammy shook her head. “Did you see how Arianna gloated and what was up with the, “She’s the sister of the Rubicon” thing?”

  They made me laugh and I felt the anger begin to fade away.

  Suddenly, I froze as people started yelling King Helmut's and Lucian's name outside. I really wasn’t ready to meet his parents yet, and needed to check my appearance in a mirror first. “I need to go the bathroom.”

  “Elena, you look fine.”

  I didn't say anything as I walked away with my heart thumping inside my throat. If the King and Queen wanted to meet me, this would’ve been a different situation. But forcing them to meet me had a very different effect on my stomach.

  I moved swiftly down one of the passages and turned a couple of times, until the buzzing of people at the function started to fade away. I could find no freaking sign of a bathroom anywhere. As I was looking around, my eye caught the wax figure of the Viden against the far wall.

  I suddenly remembered what I had been looking forward to tonight and ran toward the book. Paging through it as if my life depended on it I found the page where my foretelling had appeared. My throat became dry once more as I read the words inked onto the page. “A day will come and a day will go.” Goose pimples flushed my skin as I kept on reading. “A choice you’ll have to make, otherwise the truth will never be known.”

  My heart stopped in my chest, the ink was still black.

  HE BLACK INKED words of my foretelling made my head start to ache as I tried to figure out what it meant. If retrieving the sword wasn’t what the Viden had meant, then what did she mean?

  I must have stood there for a long time as the booming voice of the Master of Ceremonies pulled me back to reality. I walked back to the function, but by now it was so crowded that it would be a mission in and of itself to get to Becky and Sammy. I slipped past a couple of people and found a secluded spot right next to the wall.

  The cool surface pressed against my bare arm helped ground me and my worries about my stupid foretelling had started to calm a bit.

  The Master of Ceremonies called Lucian first and the photographers that were inside the museum flashed their cameras like mad.

  I smiled at him with admiration. He didn’t even flinched or become tongue-tied as he spoke about how brave all of us were and how King Albert had been right about the Chromatics being just as noble as the Metallics. Brian had proven that, and if any of them ever forgot that, they should visit the museum. Brian was the true hero.

  Everyone applauded as he walked off the small podium. I stood on my toes and reached out my neck as I followed him with my eyes.

  He smiled politely and kept nodding his head, but the way his eyes searched the crowd told me that he was trying to find me.

  He took his place next to a huge chair where the royals were seated. I hid again behind a large gentleman standing next to me.

  Next up to speak was Arianna. Funny how she didn’t mention saving all of us with her super incantations the way she had in the newspaper. It was a sweet speech though and she even managed to shed a small tear that melted everyone’s heart.

  If I didn’t know her better, she would’ve fooled me.

  Before she finished, she bent down toward a woman with blue streaks in her hair and a large gentlemen.

  “I wish with all my heart that Brian hadn’t passed. I would’ve gladly taken his place.” She said over the mike and the woman smiled, but I could tell on her face that even that small gesture was difficult. They must be Brian’s parents.

  A couple of other people, mostly men, spoke next. It was boring as they prattled on about great events in history. When the Master of Ceremonies took over he tried to lighten the mood again. This is it; they are going to do the revealing.

  The room fell into utter silence as everyone held their breath, waiting for him to pull of the curtain.

  He called up Brian’s parents and allowed them the honor of revealing what was behind the large white cloth. They did it together.

  Everyone in the room gasped as it revealed a huge Sun-Blast with Brian’s human figure holding my axes in his hands.

  They’d chosen the subject perfectly and tears threatened to roll down my cheeks as I gazed upon his wax doll.

  “I’ve changed my mind.” Blake’s voice came from right behind me. I turned around and found him leaning against the wall inches away from me. He gave me a seductive lop-sided smile with a wink. “Don’t go anywhere,” he mouthed.

  My eyes grew bigger as hot flushes raised the temperature of my body. I pulled my top away from my skin with fast movements hopi
ng it would cool me down.

  I watched as Blake stumbled through the crowd and slipped as he went to step onto the podium.

  Oh, crap, he’s drunk!

  He found his balance fast and took a glass of champagne off a tray as a waiter walked past the podium. Liquid spilled everywhere soaking a few of the ladies dresses standing nearest him.

  He laughed as he grabbed the microphone. “I’ve decided after all to give my speech.”

  I closed my eyes, not knowing where he was going to take this one.

  “Nice outcome.” He looked at the crowds and his gaze stopped on me. He looked at me for a couple of seconds and I looked down as another set of heat waves ran through my entire body.

  When I looked back up, his gaze was on the glass box. “Brian,” he said as if Brian was alive in that box. Saluting him, he finished the glass of champagne.

  The crowd fell dead silent.

  “There is one thing missing though and by the buzz going on before this spectacular event started, I need to put one thing straight.” He paused for a couple of seconds. “You forgot to put Elena in that box.”

  My face went red. He did not just say my name!

  “None of you on that mission, including myself can take any credit for how any of this turned out. Not even the Princess of Areeth,” he looked at one of the reporters right below him. “You’re taking this down, right?” A smile appeared on his face as the man nodded slowly. “Good. As the papers stated before, the Princess of Areeth saved the day with her enhanced ability in incantations, blah, blah, blah. Biggest load of crap! She wasn’t even worthy enough to enter the Sacred Cavern.”

  As much as I wanted to gloat at his spoken words, it was too harsh.

  At that moment, Sir Robert walked onto the podium and grabbed Blake’s arm.

  “No, you wanted me to speak, now let me speak.” He growled softly at his father, but the microphone was still in his hand so the entire room heard.

  I shook my head as my eyes caught on a blond gentleman with a mustache who was sitting on one of the thrones. By the look and resemblance I knew it was King Helmut and he was staring straight at me. He had a huge frown dented on his forehead and his gaze looked puzzled.

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