|| DORAN - Part I ||

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Never had I ever thought that a carriage ride would leave me so drained, and I hadn't even been the one who drove it.

My senses finally came aglow as Dylan swept the carriage into a snowy clearing, while the entire journey - through green woods, bumpy dirt roads, and frost-laden pathways - I had been staring out the window, numb and with no sense of direction, wondering whether Eleni was just as cold as I was. On a whim, I had removed the thick overcoat I had been wearing and clasped my silky black cloak which she adored. I dragged a hand down my face, as the carriage halted and I landed down, wobbly and dazed.

Almost all the people, young and old scattered in the place, stole glances at me, whispering and speculating, for my face was hidden. It had taken us the better part of the night to travel to the border between Piscean and Scorpi districts. The snow was ankle deep - my boots, fortunately charmed by Una at the last moment - resisted the wetness to an extent that it seemed like I was walking over the red soil of my Realm.

"Look who decided to show up." A girl's voice spoke coming closer from behind a canopy. Dylan turned around, stopping in his tracks. I groaned, holding in a cold shudder.

"Celia, no time to talk now. Come along. Is the Chief in her tent or on some rounds?" Dylan said, his voice urgent.

"She is here, alright. But you have some explaining to do. Let's start with who is this guy and... um... have you lost your mind?" She said, voice crisp. Her dark green eyes speckled with black on the edge, blinked between me and her friend.

I wanted to scream at them both to stop wasting what little of the time was left, but I took a deep breath and unknotted the covering off my face, reminding myself that it was this girl along with Dylan who had rescued Eleni from the dungeon.

She sucked in a breath, eyes widening as she took my face in. I managed to speak, my voice coming out bleary. "The Chief. Let's go." She dipped in an uncertain curtsy and walked ahead of us, a determined spring in her steps now. And like a premonition I realized that she was Half-Earth elemental just like... Eleni. My heart slowed down further and I coaxed myself into believing that it was just because of the deathly snow all around.

I entered a grand circular ruddy tent, which was enlarged from inside to appear like a cottage. The magic was beautiful and... creative. No wonder the Eclipses were so hard to find - they had carved a whole new world for themselves, being shunned from the wretched one outside.

"So, we have yet another Summer royal amidst us now," I heard the Chief's weighty voice before seeing her. She was in a long green overcoat, and high boots that clanked on the hard wooden floor of the tent. Tall and muscular, long hair braided tight and eyes... eyes like her daughter.

"Chief, I can explain..." Dylan began, but the Chief cut him off - "You brought a royal in, and none other than your own Lord. This is not funny, Dylan." She turned and ordered to the girl, whose name I couldn't recall - "Go bring Althea, just in case."

"No, we don't need Thea." Dylan suddenly raised his voice and the Chief's nostrils flared. He leaned sideways towards me and whispered, "A Mind Healer to wipe your memory clean. Do not look into her eyes."

"You erase people's memories?" I deadpanned. Dylan shrugged, "Even the Winter Princess had found us. But she doesn't remember it now."

Arlette had found them, on Adrian's behalf! Of course, she did.

My carefully held in rage bubbled up. "You are so going to regret even considering to cast me out even before hearing what I have to say. Might I add, that I can bring you on your knees if I want." My voice like a pointed edge of a dagger. "Unless you have, in all entirety, washed your hands off your daughter."

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