One beautiful day, a week before her twenty-first birthday, Rae set out on a trip. She wore a hood to cover her face. She also stowed her wings under a thick traveling cloak, passing herself off as an elf. She walked. She knew it would be a two-day journey before she reached the dragon’s lair.
In the middle of her first day of travel, at the outskirts of the central city, she encountered Coal, resting under the very tree she intended to rest under. She recognized Leaf’s good-for-nothing brother, cooling himself with the ridiculous fan he usually carried with him, an affectation she could not understand. It made him seem feminine, sometimes making people forget that he was quite the ladies’ man. Not feeling sociable, especially with Coal, and not wanting to have to explain herself, she decided to continue walking.
“Your Majesty, what are you up to?” Rae heard Coal’s deep and mischievous voice and she bristled.
“I don’t know what you mean, good sir, I am just a country elf journeying,” Rae said in a soft high voice.
“If you’re an elf, then I’m the fairy king,” he jested. “Have a rest. I have water and food, which I notice you didn’t bring any with you.”
Rae was feeling thirsty and hungry and Coal was right, she had forgotten to bring any supplies. She felt so stupid and unprepared. And people expected her to be queen?
So she sat before the man she detested, ate, and drank. She removed her hood and cloak. No use trying to fool someone who had already found her out. Her braided, long, jet-black hair tumbled out. Coal smiled inwardly. He loved Rae’s hair, and he took pleasure in tugging at it when they were young. He always teased her about it, because normally, queens had golden hair, like Fall. And he knew Rae would have preferred it short, in keeping with her active lifestyle.
“So, where are you going, Your Majesty?”
“Can you stop calling me that? I am not the queen,” Rae said with a frown. She had hated Coal her entire life because he was such a big bully. That he grew up to be so good-looking had made her hate him more.
“Yet,” Coal stressed.
“Do I call you sis, then? As you will be marrying my brother?” Coal looked at her with the familiar twinkle in his eyes.
Rae grimaced. Why does he look so . . . damn cute?
“Why the face? Many women would jump at the chance to be with my brother,” Coal challenged.
“Yeah, I know. My sister is one of them.” Rae thought about Leaf and tried to determine why she didn’t share her sister’s infatuation with him. Leaf was extremely good-looking, but he was just too good-looking and too “good” for Rae. Coal, on other hand . . . was definitely not a good person.
“Your sister is the one he loves, he says, but don’t worry, he will honor tradition and be a good and kind king, by your side,” Coal smirked.
“I hate tradition.” Rae stared back.