Chapter 3

Thankfully my cottage was not far from his and the walk back to my home was swift. I kept that in mind as I struggled to keep his pants around my waist.

Killian agreed to keep some of the stones yet few. On my way out I slipped a few more into a pile without him looking. The rest would be sold and shipped to who knows where by tomorrow morning.

I fumble awkwardly as I search for my keys while holding one hand to the waist of his pants. "I should leave a pair of clothes at his place for nights like these," I mumble to myself as I stumble through the door of my cottage. My living room was surprisingly warm and the candles were already alight.

Someone is here.

With a sigh, I fly down the three wooden steps.

He's here.

"What do you mean – nights like these?" he asked from where he sat on the small sofa nearest to the fireplace, his feet resting on the glass table in the middle.

I stand rooted to the spot as I button up my coat, "What do you want?"

He rested his elbow on the arm of the sofa, rubbing his thumb against his index finger, "I want to know why you are wearing Kilian's clothes."

"Who said they are his?"

He gave me a look, "Are they?"

I shifted, "Yes, they are."

He huffed and stood to attend to the dying fire. His long blond hair glowed as he threw a log onto the flames.

I wasted no time and reached for the hidden blade I stashed between the pillows of the long sofa nearest to me.

"I heard something quite interesting." He stated as he stared at the fire, his back turned to me.

"Yes?" I said absently as I slowly crept up to him. "Will that be all, Little Birdy?"

Little Birdy was one of the many thieves here in the village. I never pay the rest any mind but he was the one that irked me the most.

No one knows his real name, and that's the only thing I allow we have in common.

I swiftly hid the dagger up my sleeve as he turned to face me, "Do not be cute." He turned back to the fire, his long hair falling over his shoulders. "The king will opt for a bride in the next fortnight, a grand event will be held, hundreds of women will be there. I heard they are extending the ballroom to house so many people."

Silently, I slipped the blade back into the palm of my hand. "I'm glad you told me."

He continued, "I assume you know this but hundreds of diamonds will attend as well, and I am planning to take a few home with me."

I roll my eyes and ready myself, "Why are you telling me this?"

If I can keep the Bird singing, I could distract him just long enough…

He sighed and looked at the ceiling, "I Just wanted to let you know that my belly will be full for the next few months that follow and you will be begging at my feet for my crumbs."

I lunge forward, the blade gliding over my head.

Little Birdy curved my attack and the dagger sunk into the wood of the wall.

He leaned down to whisper in my ear, "You are just like your father."

This time, I didn't miss and I slapped him across the face. His head whirled to the side, making him stumble, almost making me laugh.

Rubbing his red cheek, he watched me with disdain as I wiped my hand off on my coat.

His brown eyes widened as I pulled the dagger out of the wall. "I know I am." I sank into the small sofa and stared at the fire, "Now be gone, I'm tired of you." I rested my chin on my fist as I listened to his heavy footsteps. "Leave them," I said calmly to him. To my surprise, he sniggered like a boy and left after setting my stolen stones on the glass table.

xxx

I was at the docks before dawn. Sailors were already preparing to head for the horizon, hauling crates of salted meats and bread. It was easy for me to get around with all the chaos going on – sailors were returning home and greeted their families in tearful hugs, others were too busy shouting orders or following them. No one had time to notice a mouse between the crates.

Wordlessly, I handed over the stones to a young fisherman who would sell the stones to whoever over the sea. He gave me two bags of coins for the rubies which now lay deep in the inside pockets of my black coat.

And with a friendly nod, I was off. I was gone before the cold sea air could pull its effect on me.

I headed straight to Killian's cottage after that and found him waiting for me by the door.

"I'm not late, am I?" I asked as I eyed the piles of velvet boxes at his feet.

A little smile spread on his lips. "The wait is never long."

Killian told me about the extra rubies he found and tried to uphold his statement that he will never sell stolen stones. I convinced him the best I can to keep them and told him that I'll just steal him some more if he doesn't.

I don't know why I wanted him to keep the stones so badly. Was it some type of payment I was trying to return from all those years ago? Or was it a symbol for something more?

The sentries at the gates didn't notice me from yesterday night and let us through with no second thought. Killian and I walked deeper into the city, velvet boxes in hand and a few more in bags.

The people here look so clean and happy, their faces rounder than the mouse's outside the gates. Princesses pass us with smiles and giggles, not paying much attention to us.

Kilian tried to balance between holding the velvet boxes and keeping the bags from slipping off his shoulders. He looked disarranged holding dainty boxes with his tall build.

Kilian said tiresome, "That Little Birdy is stepping over the line. He can't just break into your home like that for no reason. He's such a child."

Killian was red when I told him what happened last night but I reassured him that I can protect myself. It didn't seem to settle him down.

I tried to keep up with his long strides as the streets became more and more crowded. "For years he has been a pebble in my shoe, but these last few weeks his started to become a menace. If he ever returns to Le Lare, I would die a happy man."

He huffed, "He should fight somebody his size."

"You calling me short?"

"I'm calling him a coward for trying to out best someone far younger than him."

I almost laughed at his pore argument. "He is only a year older than me. For Lord's sake, he is your age."

I couldn't place it, but it seemed he was mad at something entirely different. It annoyed me, we weren't the type to keep secrets. But I knew the jeweller long enough to think better of it.

We thread through the ocean of people to the palace. I keep close to Kilian since people seemed to make way for him and his tall form. I have to make my through the crowd with pardons and excuse me'sto keep up.

I struggle to push my way through the mess of expensive fabrics and hold the boxes at the same time.

He replied over his shoulder, "Try to keep up Palace."

Sometimes the thought of him never knowing my reel name killed me. I would give all my pearls just to hear him say my name. But him knowing my name – or anyone for that matter – was too big a risk. It could give away everything.

I shifted the boxes and clutched the fabric of Killian's shirt like a child. For a moment, I struggled to keep up to his pace but I managed. I must have looked silly squeezing his shirt, almost resting my head on his back at how closely I walked to him. Yet, it made me save. It was better than drowning in the sea of princesses and noblemen.

I could feel the muscles under his shirt stiffen. "Is that better Palace?"

"I'm no child, Botkin." I tied to defend myself.

As requested, we deliver the queens jewels first. But as we draw closer to the palace, the streets become more and more littered with construction workers. Everywhere I turn I see men and women carrying large boxes or big sheets of glass to and from the palace gaits. I watch as two men stand over a table covered with maps of the interior of the palace, pointing now and then at the castle then back at the various maps and papers.

"So the rumours are true," I say to Kilian as we make way for the two men carrying a thick piece of glass.

He struggles to hold both his balance and the velvet boxes as he ducks and swerves. "I don't need to guess who might have told you that." He replies. Without specifying, we both knew who he was talking about.

"I don't know what's wrong with him. He is rubbing a lot of things in my face to make me feel inferior, trying to make himself feel like he has the upper hand."

"And he succeeds?" he smirks over his shoulder at me.

"Rhetorical question."

Low emotional games are child play; I rather neglect it or simply win.

The streets and the plain near the palace were filled with people, like ants running from the rain. The ballroom could easily be spotted from the way people hurried to and from the glass dome. Half of the sphere-like wall seemed to be cut in half – people worked on the other half like bee's working on their hive. The glass ballroom sits snug between two halves of the palace. Gold engravings of birds and dragons are carved against the light green, slithering up the walls till the tall towers of the palace.

"Not big enough for all the girls that will be attending?" I keep close to Kilian as we make our way to the west side of the palace.

"The young king finally gave in and decided to marry – he probably marry marriesichest girl he can find but won't admit it – every girl that owns a dress will be there." He answers, staring at the way the morning sun fell on the glass walls.

"The woman there are probably going to try to out-best one another – biggest dress, smoothest skin, most expensive jewellery…" I say more to myself.

Killian, unknowing of my true meaning, adds, "Why do you think I have been so busy this past month – every girl in all three kingdoms will be seeking his royal highnesses charm."

My arms shoot out in front of me as I go tumbling to the ground, tripping over my own feet.

Maps and papers fall to the grass as I knock over the nearest table on my way down. Chaos unfolds as papers go flying through the air.

People start running after the maps and papers, not paying me any mind. Some try to help Killian pick up the mess I made but he dismisses anyone who tries to touch his velvet boxes – he plays it save, not trusting a soul. Anyone could be a thief.

In between the hast and chaos, I manipulate the wind around me to stir up the madness, all while I clamp down a flying map with my hand. I snatch the paper to my chest and crumble it into a little ball.

I slip the paper into one of my hidden pockets as Killian helps me to my feet. "What are you doing." He whispers harshly in my ear.

I wipe to dirt from my coat while Killian dusted my back. "I tripped," I replied.

For a second he rested his hand between my shoulders and gave me a stern look.

I shrugged, "That wasn't a lie."

"You know that wasn't what I was referring to." He bent beside me to help the architectures gather their maps. I did the same, spilling fumble apologies as I go.

My hand briskly slithers into one of my pockets, reassuring myself that the pears were still there. All eight of them.

Wind, water, indiscernible, nature, flight, life, light and darkness.