Rhiadi sat at her rough wooden bench some weeks later, stunned at what had happened. Looking around, she might still be in her tower room; too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, but overlooking the Eastern Sea with birdsong in the eaves. The stairs had been rickety and full of bent nails, and sometimes the whole building seemed to sway with the wind. She had felt like a bird in a high nest away from everything, safe because of the dangerous inaccessibility of her home.
Now she walked up smooth granite steps to her solid tower, but somehow the magic of the royal court had transported every other article of her life to the round room at the very top of the Eastern Tower of the palace. Here it was hard to tell that there was a busy castle below her. Her spacious windows faced the sea and the wild cliffs that stretched northward from Ameer City.
A breathless gasp sounded behind her and she smiled fondly at the sound.
“Oh… oh my dear Rhia, must you live up so many stairs? I wear corsets, you know! One can’t breathe!” She pressed her hand to her side dramatically as she panted from her climb.
“Surely, my Anna, you must be fit from chasing the merry Queen at all hours? Some stairs should not wind you.” She turned her body on the bench and leaned on one bare arm, admiring the aesthetic of her dear friend. Anna was always dressed in the latest fashion with colors to compliment her cinnamon hair and milk-white skin. Rhiadi loved to look at her, and to feel her soft warmth.
“Now, Rhia, it’s certainly not that hard of a job to do, you know. She does love being that lioness! One can’t dress and wait on a big cat!” The petite woman dropped herself on a stool just by the doorway and looked around. “Goodness, Rhia, I didn’t even look around to sit! It is exactly where it’s always been, right here by the door! However did they manage?”
“You know the ways of court magic better than I,” Rhiadi turned back to her workbench and sat still, her hands motionless in her lap.
She heard Anna rise and the rustle of her skirts as she came up to rest a small hand on her friend’s shoulder.
“Rhia, whatever is the matter?”
Rhiadi shook her head. “Everything is exactly where I left it last, and yet my mind is far away. I cannot create today.”
Anna gave her shoulder a squeeze, “Well nobody said you couldn’t have a settling-in period! Goodness, I forgot what I came to tell you! It’s so exciting I’m not sure how it slipped my mind. Do guess what news I brought you!”
Rhiadi closed her eyes and smiled down at her lap. “Anna, you know I never guess.”
There was a giggle, “No, but you did smile, Rhia darling. I’ll tell you. There is to be an official messenger arriving tonight!”
The soft brown curls which cascaded past her friend’s pale hand shook with the negating motion of her head. “What is exciting about a messenger? I am sure many come to and from the palace.”
Another giggle issued forth, and Anna leaned in to whisper, “It is a Hivvin, darling!”
Rhiadi sat up straight, and turned to look in Anna’s green eyes, “A Hivvin?” She found she could hardly breathe. She, who was so fascinated with all things feathered, would be able to see a Hivvin? Even as far back from the dais as she would be, she would still be able to see one. It was the chance of a lifetime for someone of Rhiadi’s background.
Anna’s other hand reached to cup Rhiadi’s slender face gently. “Oh yes, Rhiadi. You will see it. I will make sure that you meet it.”