Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of “lost and found” more generally in this post.
What has Prince Zarrek lost, and what has he found? I have shared about his father, and about Eledrynne. It is Starshine, however, who really makes his heart beat faster. She has been denied to him, and on more than one occasion. He has been warned to stay away from her. He ignored her father’s demands, of course, but it was when she hesitated to be at his side that he began to doubt that she was worth pursuing. He left Onsira to study at the academy and thereby met Princess Eledrynne. And just when he thought that he had made up his mind about things…
It was only another two weeks before Zarrek found out what the letter he had given to the flames was all about. He had almost forgotten about it in between his classes and spending his free time with the princess. To be sure, there were hours when they could not be together, and he spent them in pursuit of his own interests, but he looked forward to having her near, even if they were only reading silently.
The snow was melting, the cold air fading into the gentle warmth of spring, when things began to stir at the academy. Zarrek returned with Eledrynne late one afternoon, having taken her to a shop in the city that sold ensorcelled crystals as well as a place where they could have lunch, knowing that they had missed it at the academy. Several of the other nobles gave him strange looks, then quickly turned away to speak to one another. A few of them left the room when he entered.
“Something is afoot,” he noted to Eledrynne the fourth time that it happened.
They had just entered the library, which was not as quiet as it usually was. There was a buzz in the air, as though too many voices were whispering to one another. They stopped beside the librarian’s desk, near the doors, while he looked around warily.
Before Eledrynne could make any reply, Rhiannon appeared before them. “Where have you been all day?” she asked, her voice hurried but low.
“In the city,” he answered, as though it should not have been so difficult to guess. “What is going on in here?”
“Someone arrived at the academy today,” Rhiannon explained. “She has been asking for you.”
Zarrek very nearly turned pale. What woman could have come looking for him? Had his mother come to chide him for not writing back about the baby? Did she plan to take him home? The last thing he wanted to hear was that he could not spend another day with Eledrynne.
“Who is it?” he managed to say without showing his worry.
“You would not believe me if I simply told you. Come with me and I will show you what has happened since you were not here to greet her.”
Zarrek gave his princess a curious look, but agreed to follow Rhiannon all the same. She took them to an upper level of the library, where a crowd had gathered to watch, or pretend to not watch, a group of people seated around a long study table, talking together rather casually. The upper level was split in some parts by lower areas, which were set up as something like a pit in which to study or conduct research without being disturbed, but also not entirely cut off from the rest of the library. The group that was causing such a stir had taken a table in one such area, and were paying no attention to the crowd hovering around the railing.
Rhiannon and the others found Dioni and squeezed forward until some of the others saw that Zarrek was there, who then hurried to make room for him. Some of them whispered to one another and left the area hurriedly.
“What are they–” Zarrek did not finish asking about them. Dioni had taken his arm and pointed, careful not to make the gesture too obvious, to the group gathered around the table.
There was Méylanni, clinging to Balaraj’s arm and fawning over him as though eager to take him back to their room. Across from here was her precious prince, who for once had removed his long-brimmed hat in the presence of a lady. Zarrek did not like the sight of who he was acting so formally for. She was letting him touch her hands, even her shoulder, as he went on and on with whatever he was telling her. K’humdallin had turned the chair away from the table to face the newcomer, one ankle crossed over his knee , and was acting far more interested in the young lady than he should have been.
“Why is she here?” Zarrek nearly growled, wondering to himself whether he cared enough to actually go down there and get her away from him.
“Rhiannon and I know the history that the two of you have,” Dioni said, nearly into his ear, “but I was sure that you would still want to know about this.”
Zarrek gave him no reply, but stared intently on the way the young woman sat facing K’humdallin. She was listening to him in the same open way she used to listen to Zarrek, unafraid and sincerely interested. He thought about turning away and leaving them to one another and letting her defend herself, but faltered when he heard a paused in their conversation. The Thiizavian prince has changing the subject, asking her something else.
“The library is warm enough, my dear,” K’humdallin’s slithering voice began. “Surely you do not need your cape in here.”
The brown-haired girl beside him blinked and glanced at her shoulders. “I assure you, I am quite comfortable.”
“Are you really?” K’humdallin asked, his voice sly. Then, as his fingers reached out towards her, “Or are you trying to hide what you really are?”
Zarrek’s eyes widened when he saw what the other man was doing. He was on the opposite end of the pit from the stairs, and refused to waste a second trying to get past everyone else, even if they would have moved for him. With a growl in his throat, he climbed onto the railing, and leaped down to the level below, his boots hitting the wide tiles heavily. He crouched for a moment, glaring at K’humdallin.
“Do not touch her,” Zarrek ordered him from between gritted teeth as he rose, not taking his eyes off of him for even a second.
K’humdallin’s hand halted, although he would not have admitted that it was because of the other’s prince’s words. He, too, stood up, and crossed his arms over his chest, meeting Zarrek’s gaze as though unaffected.
“The angry prince has come after all,” K’humdallin noted.
Across the table, Balaraj and Méylanni stood up as well, each of them watching Zarrek intently. Sensing how uneasy everyone was, the brown-haired girl turned and looked up at him, and her mouth opened as if in awe of the sight of him.
“Oh, Zarrek!” Starshine cried. She was out of her seat in an instant, crossing the small distance between them as fast as her small feet would carry her. Her arms went around him, her head to his chest as she held him in her warm embrace. “Zarrek,” she whispered his name again.
He took his eyes off of K’humdallin only to look down at her, and returned her hug reluctantly. “Starshine,” he said, hardly believing that he was saying her name. “What– what are you doing here?”
She looked up at him as she stepped back, a bright smile on her face. “Have you forgotten my letter already?”
“Your…” He sighed, realizing that he had burned the last letter that he had received. Of course, he did not tell her what he had done. “Why?” was all that he could say.
“Zarrek,” she laughed, holding his hands as she smiled up at him. “You have been studying too hard. I have come to Kaj’Darem for an education of my own, or did you forget already?”
Swallowing hard, he blinked and only stared at her. This was a great shock to him, having her there in front of him, as joyous as though their last conversation had not been curt and bitter. The rest of the library was completely silent, but he could not move to send them all away.
“Are you all right, Zarrek?” Starshine worried, laying a hand on his forehead.
He took her wrist gently and met her eyes. “This place…”