"Um, we lived close to each other. In the Stilts." Mare stammered, not sounding very convincing due to her worry for her twin sister.
"Oh, so you were close?" A glint had formed in the Queen's blue eyes.
Thinking fast, Arriane knew that if the reality of Mare and Arriane's relationship was revealed, Arriane could be imprisoned. Or worse, executed. Clearly, if Mare was dressed in finery and walking around with a new name, something had happened. Arriane used her training from the Scarlet Guard and spoke clearly without hesitation in order to protect her sister from whatever mess she had gotten herself into.
"Hardly. We were in the same class and exchanged words when necessary. That was all." Arriane's lies flowed smoothly off her tongue and her sister had to hide her shock at how easily she had done it.
Lies had been Arriane's armour for years. The one thing that had kept her, and more importantly, her family safe. Lies were nothing but words holding carefully clever deception. Only the most skilled liars were the ones who appeared to never lie at all. The biggest liars were the most honest.
Since joining the Scarlet Guard, she had received a far better education than she had at home. She had learnt about various places in the world and their cultures, about politics and warfare, how to fight and wield a weapon; they had even taught her how to read and write in two languages. But, the most important thing they had taught her was how to become invisible when infiltrating households. And now, all the hard work she had been doing at the palace for years was about to fall to shambles because of her sister's stupidity.
Elara's eyes finally turned to Arriane for the first time since the interrogation had begun. Looking the Red servant up and down, Elara held nothing but contempt and slight disgust for the young woman before her.
"You are well spoken for a woman of your station."
"Just because I am Red, does not mean I must be stupid." Arriane shot back, unable to control her sharp wit. It was the only thing the Scarlet Guard hadn't been able to tech her.
The Queen of Norta glared at the Red stood before her but decided that lashing out at her would only make Elara look unreasonable. Dismissing the servant, Elara informed the Red she had to arrive to work an hour earlier tomorrow morning as her new job would be to attend Mare. However, when Mare was busy, Arriane should continue with her housework.
Head held high, Arriane bowed to the Royal family before marching out of the servant's door and into the passageway to the kitchen. Cal watched the auburn beauty, and the way her figure moved, until the door swung shut and blocked her from his view.
In the safety of the kitchen, Arriane let out a shaky sigh. That was too close. Since the day she had started working at the palace, she had constantly feared the one day she would be caught. That she would be called to stand before the Royal family and have her secret revealed; her powers, her allegiance, and her reason for being there. And now, that fear was only heightened.
Mare was in the palace. Mare was parading around as a long lost Silver and had come so close to ruining all her hard work with a single gasp.
Sighing at the crockery piling up on the side, Arriane made sure that nobody was lurking before she reached out to the metal dishes and using her power, she transported them to the deep, wide sinks without ever lifting a finger. Satisfied that her job was done, she brushed down her apron and left the kitchen. The dishes were piled up neatly in the sink awaiting the women who would wash them. Feeling the familiar itch of magic waiting to be released, Arriane obliged and watched as the metal stools tucked themselves back under the wooden table. Job well done, she thought smugly to herself, despite not having moved a muscle.
Cleaning the small, private library reserved only for the use of the Royal family had always been Arriane's favourite part of the day. It was her last chore before she could go home but that wasn't why she enjoyed it. The library was her favourite place in Norta because of the quiet solitude. Surrounded by books – full of knowledge, stories of far away land, love, and great adventures, wars and ferocious battles – was Arriane's most treasured time. Books helped her escape from the harsh reality of life as a Red. Running her hand along the worn spines of old books, the auburn haired woman smiled at the smell of yellowing pages and millions of words. Plush, red armchairs were dotted throughout the room, tables with lamps (casting a warm glow around the room) sat beside them. Heavy drapes adorned the windows and once shut, they plunged the room into darkness. This library was built for hours of solitude; built to allow the Royal family to get lost in knowledge for as many hours as they wished.
Such a shame, Arriane thought to herself, that none of them ever use it.
Dusting as she went, Arriane turned the corner and came across a secluded spot already shrouded in shadows. Only two armchairs were placed in the tucked away space and both were impossible to see in the dim light. Hurrying over to the table, dodging stacks of books (the layout of the room memorised), she turned on the little lamp and waited for her eyes to adjust.
"Please, forgive me. I did not mean to startle you." Prince Tiberias 'Cal' Calore VII was sat in an armchair, smiling apologetically at the Red servant before him.
"If you do not wish to startle someone then you should not be sat in the dark," she snapped before remembering whom she was talking to. "Uh, forgive me, I did not mean to be so harsh."
Brushing aside her apology, and amusing temper, Cal stood and brushed himself down as he did. Offering his hand, he introduced himself to the woman with the unforgettable eyes.
"Arriane," she responded, shaking the Crown Prince's hand.
Even if her life was on the line, she wouldn't reveal her last name to the Future King of Norta. Especially now her sister was residing with Silvers.
"I am very sorry, Sire. I did not realise anyone would be in here at this time, it is usually empty. I will leave you immediately." Grabbing her cleaning supplies, she hurried to the door.
A large, warm hand grasped her upper arm, spinning her around. "I would not wish to keep you from your chores. Please, continue as if I wasn't here."
Blushing deeply, Arriane began dusting the shelves and spines of the ancient spines of books, brushing her finger along them as she went. Lost in her own world, she was unaware that the prince's eyes were tracking her every movement.
"I know who you are." Cal's deep voice echoed throughout the previously silent room, causing Arriane to drop her duster.
"Of course you do. I just told you." Arriane stated, voice as cool as steel.
The lack of fear in the girl intrigued Cal and he leaned forward to get a closer look at the woman masquerading as a docile, little girl. Her curly hair was pulled into a tight bun but some strands had fallen out and now framed her face, freckles were spattered across her nose and cheeks, and her arms and hands were littered in small scars – which was unusual for a Royal servant as they were meant to look as pristine as possible.
"I meant, I know who you are to Mare."
The fact that he had used her sister's real name, and not the alias she was now sporting, had Arriane's heart beating faster yet her training reminded her to keep cool and deny everything.
"Once again, that is because I told you." A muscle in her jaw ticked and if he hadn't been gazing at her, Cal would've missed it. "In the dining room. Queen Elara demanded to know.
"You have a lot of nerve for a Red."
"Being oppressed by Silvers tend to do that to some people."
Eyes widening, she bit down on her tongue once she realised what she had said. Numerous times Farley had warned her that her quick tongue would get her into trouble, and now it was about it.
"You intrigue me." Cal chuckled, sliding his hands into his pocket as he stood. "Goodnight, Arriane Barrow."
He brushed past her, hand brushing the back of hers. His scent was overwhelming her.
"Goodnight, Your Highness."
It wasn't until the door closed behind him and she regained her senses that she realised he had known her last name.