Coal stood outside of Chalcedony’s thick wooden door and straightened his brown pants and the white shirt he wore underneath his green jerkin. He ran a hand over his braids and noticed one of them had unraveled. He cursed under his breath as he re-braided his kinky textured hair as fast as he could before he knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” asked a gruff voice from inside the room. He immediately recognized the voice as Chalcedony’s advisor, Madoc. Coal was convinced that Madoc’s primary goal in life involved making Coal miserable.
“It’s me,” Coal said in his most formal voice. “Legacy told me that Chalcedony is looking for me.”
The door opened and Princess Chalcedony stood on the other side. “Legacy’s right. I am looking for you.” She wore a black sleeveless shirt and matching pants that were only a few shades darker than her brown skin.
Coal bowed, bending low at the waist, while happiness surged in his chest at the sight of his oldest friend.
“How can I help you, Princess?” he asked.
“Come in.” She stepped back from the door, her muscular arms flexing as she motioned for him to step into the room. “Since when do you bow or call me princess?”
Since last week, when Madoc lectured me for ten minutes about properly addressing a future queen, Coal wanted to say, but instead he kept quiet. The least he said, the least Madoc could use against him when Chalcedony left.
Once he stepped in the room, he saw there were three other fey sitting around the table in Chalcedony’s office. Madoc sat closest to the door, scribbling on a sheet of paper. He scoffed at Coal before he turned towards the stack of papers.
“If I am no longer needed, I’ll be retiring to my room,” said Binti, the female waif who had been sitting at the end of the table. She had a jumbled network of tiny blue veins that showed underneath her pale translucent skin. As she stood up from the table, the loose pink dress she wore buckled around knobby knees before she pulled it down.
Binti and her twin brother acted as a tether between the two realms. If a rogue fey used magic in the human realm, her brother felt it. Through the link the siblings shared, her brother would let Binti know. Then Binti would alert Chalcedony in the fey realm.
“Go ahead,” Princess Chalcedony said. “Thanks for your help.”
Binti nodded briefly at Chalcedony as she walked away from the table and towards the door. Coal shivered as she passed. The waif lowered the temperature of any room by five degrees just by her presence. They were rumored to be children of reapers sent into the physical world to live until they replaced their parents as harvesters of souls.
Motion next to Chalcedony caught his attention. He was drawn to the blonde, blue-eyed elf standing next to Chalcedony.
Chalcedony had spent the past two years with the high-born elf. He was appointed by his mother, Queen Tasla, to teach Chalcedony how to patrol her part of the human realm for fey who were there illegally. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like me to escort you, Princess?” Tetrick asked.
As usual, the royal elf paid Coal no attention. Coal didn’t know if it was better to be ignored and made to feel like he wasn’t worth a second thought or to be constantly ridiculed and belittled like Madoc treated him.
“No, thank you, Tetrick,” Chalcedony answered.
“You should let him escort you,” Madoc said with a tone that suggested it was more of an order than a choice.
“No,” Chalcedony said with such intensity that her long, sharp incisors were visible. “But thank you anyway,” she said to Tetrick, her temper back under control.
“Very well, Princess.” Tetrick bowed and then the elf disappeared as if he’d never been there.
“You should have let him take you,” Madoc said.
“Take you where?” Coal asked. “I thought we had plans for today.”
“We do.” Chalcedony’s red eyes were wide with joy. “It’s a surprise. But first, go get your clothes. Then I’ll meet you upstairs in my room.”
“What clothes?” Coal asked, confused. She’d changed from all business to playful so quickly it took Coal a moment to adjust.
“The ones you bought back with you from the human realm.”
Coal hesitated. He was seven the last time he’d worn those clothes. “Why?”
“You should not question a princess’s orders,” Madoc said.
Chalcedony huffed and turned to Madoc.
“You’re dismissed, Madoc,” Chalcedony ordered.
Madoc shot Coal a hateful look, before he bowed towards Princess Chalcedony and left the room.
“Don’t worry about him. He’s in a bad mood.”
“He’s been in a bad mood for eleven years,” Coal said. “I think it’s safe to say he just really hates me.”
“He doesn’t hate you. He treats you just like he treats everybody else.”
“Really?” Coal asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Okay, he may dislike you a little bit. Go and meet me upstairs.”
“But—” he began.
“No more questions or you’ll spoil the surprise. Just go get them.” Her voice was full of joy and mischief. He’d missed it. He’d missed her.
Coal bit his lip, stifling his next question before he left the room.
What could she possibly want with his human clothes? They were all he had that proved where he’d come from, but he hadn’t touched or thought about them in years.