CHAPTER 5 - Of a Black Tower

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It was a short walk to the greenhouses. There was a throng of party-goers, onlookers, vendors, along with the traffic of carriages of all sizes, bearing different flags; the entirety of the gala was riveting. Wherever the eye could see, one would find noble-ladies all dressed up in their beautiful, shiny, woolen ensembles, guards looking sharp and vigilant patrolling high and low, children holding their parents' hands, eyes full of wonder. It was easy to identify the locals since they were in regular garments unlike the others' who were all decked up in warm knitted clothes. The aromas of hot sizzling smoked meat and freshly baked goods were wafting through the air. The trees were decorated with what looked like ice-lights, gleaming in different colors alternately, creating a radiant aura around the environment. It was all truly enchanting.

"Who the hell did he think he is?" Rosa groaned yet again.

"Yeah, the nerve. He didn't even apologize," I seconded as we stepped inside the wide entrance of one of the greenhouses.

"It's not as though the royals had gotten down the carriage to mind. Besides he could have seriously injured someone with the way he was driving," said Serena to which, Rosa pointed crossly at her jaw that had no bruise or swelling thus far, and Serena pursed her lips and amended, "well yes, someone other  than Rosa, I mean..."

"Just because he was handsome doesn't mean he had the right to be rude," said Rosa, and we both gave her incredulous looks.

"He was though, a bit striking," added Serena as an afterthought, her face breaking into a school-girl like grin. I shook my head as I chuckled. Very handsome indeed.

We had just gotten used to the bright lights inside, when our collective gaze fell over the huge red oak tree rooted firmly in the center of the main room. There was a huge circular platform around it giving it a very ancient gloom, with the beautiful shade of its red leaves complementing the golden ice-lights above. Its glow reflected majestically in the glass that formed the roof of the greenhouse. It was easily the prettiest tree; I had ever seen.

"How do they do it? How do they manage the plants here? It's so cold. The sun doesn't even shine on this Realm so much." Rosa was now looking widely in all the four directions.

Serena said with a distant voice, "Rosa, remember the Treaties of the Realms; there is a coexistent among all the Four Realms. The Earth Elementals must aid them in maintaining the plants along with the Fire Elementals. It is the only obvious answer. Though I wonder how the Earth and Fire Realms work together, their feud is so classic."

I heard their voices but couldn't comprehend their meaning, because this here felt different. I turned my gaze away from the oak tree slowly and let it traverse across the entire circular space. I spotted a familiar purple shade and before I could even utter its name, I had started walking towards it. The huge vineyard had spread in a perfect complete arc to the left of the room. Neither did I realize that there was someone already standing and admiring the beautiful vine of 'Midnight Blue.' I stared at the plant unblinking as I stood in front of it, my thoughts drifting to the memory when mother and I had planted it first in her small garden.

"They did as they were told or this plant would never have survived in this ridiculous cold." I blinked back to reality at the breathy voice by my side.

The stout lady, who seemed to be in her prime years, was looking proudly at the vines and held her dark brown cane in a firm grip. She was wearing a simple yet graceful green woolly robe with dark green drop-shaped emeralds studded on it, her hair tied in an elegant crown of braids over her head. And a silver crown neatly placed atop it. She wore the colors of her Realm, The Autumn Realm.

I was suddenly anxious and had recovered from my strange spell in a jiffy.

"Your ladyship." I bowed lower than I was taught to back at grooming lessons in school.

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