CHAPTER 4 - Of a Cold Stranger

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"Father, where are you going?" the girl asked almost in tears.

"I have to take Aunt Zelda and Uncle Matt to a safer place, my child. You stay with Mother and take care of little Amelia." He placed a loving departing kiss on his beautiful daughter's black hair. "My little sunflower. Stay safe."

The girl cried herself to sleep again that night and that was the last time she ever saw him again.

***

I woke up suddenly. The dream a distant blur already. A noise had woken me up and I saw Serena was up at the door; it was hard to tell whether she was coming in or going out. "What are you doing?" I asked with a raised eyebrow taking in her complete winter ensemble.

"Uh, why are you up so early?" she asked with teasing narrowed eyes and sat on her bed.

"That's not the answer to my question, is it?" I sat up whole and saw over her shoulder that Rosa's bed was unmade too. "What time is it?"

"Only a few hours short," Serena tilted her head to a side, "of noon, Eleni. Wake up." She giggled as she saw my confused face.

"It's that late! Why didn't you wake me up?" I put my feet down on the surprisingly not-so cold floor. The temperature of the rooms had been controlled by the heating spinners, which were the products of Summer Realm. They warmed up the air in the room with some weird magic and propelled it farther into the surrounding. I didn't really comprehend the working, but was deeply grateful for it. The guests of the other Realms were all provided the little reprieve of enjoying normal climate when they were in their rooms. I groaned at the thought of going out in the open again. I had not been able to exercise at all. So damn cold.

I thought of how excited I had been to see the Winterland and had dreamed of gliding through the slopes of hills and throwing snow up in the air only to have it splash on my face back. But reality had hit me hard like an avalanche. We had been sick from the week-long journey and had felt dizzy as our legs landed on firm ground. The first sight of the coast of the Piscean district, the seemingly wonderous, white, magical snow had put us in awe. The cold had been unbearable but the phenomenal sight gave a relief though only for a fleeting moment. Serena and Rosa, had seemed to gotten used to the cold better, and even Kevyn who was a gangly young kid my age. But not me. We had then made our way through the swept pathways that lead up to the dockyard and found Winter Realm's carriages awaiting the guests. Thank goodness, the journey had been finally done with.

I cleaned up myself a bit hastily after Serena left for the working tent, not wanting to be late on the first day. And stepped out in the blazing cold, wrapping myself into every single clothing I had bought. I found everyone had been already in the somewhat-warm tent for a while, that was allocated to the Liberan Corresponders. It was right up next to the accommodations that House of Libra, were given. There were several other tents of off-duty Air Guards, the royal domestics, and of ladies-in-waiting. I went up to the smartly dressed, older letter-writer, Violette who had already scribbled my notes in her disgustingly ineligible handwriting, which I and Serena had mastered understanding quite well.

I read the first sentence absent-mindedly and realized that this news-journal had to be written and duplicated into thousands of copies by tonight and was to be sent out to the Spring Realm by the next evening. It was about the health and fitness of all the twelve Defensors of each Realm who were going to take part in the Conquest of the Thrones. So that meant all the Defensors were already here and getting acclimatized to the weather. Would I get to see any of them?

I sat down next to Serena who gave me a small wink and went back to copying a subtext from the similar horrible hand of Violette. She was scrawling about the abundance of trees and fresh air despite the cold of the Winter Realm and how the environment had been sufficiently altered for the Spring, Summer and Autumn Realms' guests.

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