Larell’s heart was full to the brim. His audience with Aurelia had been unexpected and full of wonder. He was not surprised she was aware of his plans to send a force through to the other side. Aurelia always knew everything going on in her world. At times he thought he saw the weight of it bearing down upon her. Then he wished to take her in his arms and carry her as well as the burdens she bore. But of course he would never do this, merely imagine it. It made him love her all the more. She thought he did not know how she came by her information and he planned on keeping it that way. It was the only way he knew to express his love for her without feeling foolish.
In the crystal lined chamber he felt her load more palpably than usual. He knew it was simply his foolish love-sickness for his Queen but he let the feeling soak through him regardless.
Aurelia's lips twitched briefly as though she was amused. She was kind in her tolerance of his ridiculous obsession.
Larell finished his daily report to her and there was a pause in their conversation. They were both reclining in the cushioned area near the window which looked out towards the Blueridge Mountains. But the main focus lay within the room. Aurelia stood and moved towards the window seat. With her back to Larell she spoke as though to the view. “I approve of this mission, but I want to ask that you lead it.”
Startled, Larell sat up to attention. “But my lady…”
She did not let him finish. “I know. You are Chief of Security and your place should be in The Citadel.” She turned to face him. Her eyes burned with an intensity he had not witnessed before. “I believe, deep within my heart, you are the only one who can make this end as it should.” She raised a hand to stall his interruption. “I do not say your lieutenants are untrustworthy. It is simply that they are not you.”
Larell could not speak. He looked at Aurelia in wonder. What does she mean?
“Larell Lac Taal, there is within you a seed of hopeless romanticism which is what we will need for this mission to succeed. There will be many obstacles upon the way but the biggest one of all is that we are warring with ourselves in this. And in this fight I want only my most dedicated warriors on my side.” Aurelia waved her hand to still the argument she saw rising to his lips. “Don't remind me you do not consider yourself a warrior. Whatever else your failings there is one thing in which I know you are constant. This is what I am counting on.”
And there it was; the final acknowledgement that his Queen knew how deep his love for her ran. He waited for a sense of shame to wash through and over him, but rather her steady gaze stilled and bathed him in awe and majesty. For the first time in his life Larell felt his love for Aurelia was not simply the ridiculous notion of a foolhardy knave. It was as though the walls of the crystal chamber reflected a jumbled and yet incomplete narrative of how he could unravel the mystery of the strangeness making itself more evident in Faetaera every day. More than he could express, Larell wanted to save his world from any unknown quantity which could bring unlooked for terrors in its wake. And another part of himself saw too how a life without his world would be far worse than anything else.
So Larell drew his attention away from the distortion of mirrored images the crystal flashed at him and looked into the eyes of his Queen. He rose from his pile of cushions and joined Aurelia at the window. Made brave by the partial visions he had seen, Larell reached across and took Aurelia’s hand in his. For the briefest moment he thought he saw a flicker of displeasure in her eyes but then she turned to face the mountains and did not remove her hand from his. They stood hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder till the sun set behind the snow-capped peaks. Then Aurelia slipped her fingers from his and left the chamber.