Gosh, Wednesdays come around fast. It will be Christmas before we know it! Then another year will have whizzed past.
This week I chose the prompt of squirrels on the roof because it made me laugh, and I was determined to fit it in somewhere. I wrote that scene around them and their big bird friend.
When I recognize the Starbloom, I throw myself at Castien and knock it from his hands, but I am too late. The pod bursts, showering him with stardust. A few spores land on my arm and instantly burns. Castien steps back, rubbing his eyes, and hell breaks loose around us. I’m barely aware of the shouts, as I concentrate on Castien. If the spores have gone into his eyes, he will be blind. Ignoring the pain in my arm, I tear his hands away from his face.
“What’s going on?” Castien asks, dropping his hands and gazing around.
“Your face,” I gasp, my voice locked with shock.
“What’s wrong with my face?” Castien runs his hand over his perfect, unblemished skin.
“Nothing.” My hand trembles as my fingers brush over his cheek.
Castien frowns. “What’s wrong?”
“It didn’t burn you.”
“What didn’t? The pollen?”
“Stardust. It’s deadly. It burns.”
Castien’s brows draw together in confusion. “But it didn’t burn. Maybe it was a different flower that doesn’t burn.”
I shake my head and show him my arm. Instantly, his face changes, his eyes widening in shock and concern.
“By the Gods, Tian, you are injured. We must find a healer.”
“I’m alright.” I glance around, to see the guards have the situation contained. A number of men, and the young girl, are being led away.
“Castien, are you hurt?” Castien’s father appears at his side and, gripping his shoulders, turns him, eyes scanning him with deep concern.
“I’m fine, Father. Tian is hurt.”
“Let me see.” I jump as Father appears at my side and takes my arm, hissing through my teeth at the pain. “We must get you to a healer. Follow me,” he adds to Castien and his father. “We must get within the palace quickly.
I notice that my mother and sisters have already vanished through the gates and we hurry to follow. Castien hovers at my side as Father hurries me through the corridors to the healing quarters. It is not until we arrive that I realise Mother has joined our group. She clucks with concern as the chief healer tears off the arm of my shirt to examine the skin beneath. Other healers have hurried Castien away to examine him. His complaints keep me focussed as the healer probes the burns. I must not scream in front of my love.
I notice Father is gazing at Castien with a deep frown. I can’t help but remember his words on our ride. Is there something strange about Castien? Does he know? Is there something he isn’t telling me?
“This will hurt, my Prince,” the healer says, and he isn’t wrong. As he lays his hands over my arm heat radiates and my burns flare in a bright, hot pain that finally tears a scream from me, cut short when the pain shoots up my arm and switches off my brain.
I wake sometime later to the comforting sound of a ceiling fan. I smile at the sound of squirrels racing across the roof, their footsteps thundering like elephants. There is only one place where squirrels play so. I must be in my room, where overhanging branches provide a playground for not just squirrels. Indeed, as I lie and listen, lighter footsteps patter over the glass. and the fluting song of a temi bird float through the window. I have always wondered that such a large bird has so sweet a song.
“Tian. Are you awake?”
Castien’s worried voice draws me from my comfortable doze and I open my eyes to find him bending over my bed. I raise my hand to touch his face, but pain stops me. Memory returns in a rush and I allow my arm to fall back onto the bed.
“Don’t move your arm,” Castien cautions. “The healer says it will be fine in a few days, although you may have a scar. Don’t worry, I don’t care. Not that you will worry, but just in case….” Castien’s voice fades and he smiles. “I’m sorry. I’m babbling. I’ve been so worried.”
“How long have I been asleep.”
“Two days?” Suddenly I am wide awake and struggle to sit up. The room spins around me and I fall back with Castien’s hand on my chest, encouraging me.
“Don’t panic. The healers made you sleep out the worst of the pain. “They came a little while ago and announced you fit to wake. They said your arm would be painful but bearable.”
I test my arm with a gentle movement and it hurts but not too much to bear.
“What happened?” My memory of the period just before I passed out is hazy. I remember the Starbloom and its deadly spores, but why was it ever presented to Castien.
“Apparently there is a movement that strongly objects to our alliance. They distrust us as much as my people distrust yours. Unfortunately, in your case the resistance is not confined to the Counsel. A group of rebels decided to take things into their own hands and get rid of me. Apparently they want to go further than break the alliance and go straight to all-out war. They thought that if they hurt me my father would retaliate and provide an excuse to imprison him and use him as a hostage to bring The Kingdom to its knees.”
“That’s outrageous. Were they apprehended?”
Castien frowns. “Those present were, but they have, so far, refused to give up their leaders. The allege they do not know them, and that may well be the case. Security has been increased, and our journey to Nestra has been delayed until our safety can be guaranteed.”
That I can understand. “I should─”
“No. What you should do is rest and heal. I will stay with you.”
Castien’s beautiful eyes are soft and shine with love. An itch at the back of my mind forces itself into my consciousness. “Your eyes. Your face. Why did the pollen not burn you?”
Now go check out the rest of the amazing flashers