The enemy castle was over a mile away so Delia and Sisruo saddled their horses and rode out to a hillside overlooking the small valley where the castle stood.
Delia dismounted and tied her horse to a branch. Sisruo did the same. They stood just inside the tree line, where, Delia hoped, they couldn’t be seen.
“How do you propose to see inside the castle?”
“I don’t know. Since father asked it of me, I assumed it could be done.” She could hear Sisruo draw a deep breath.
“I’ve never heard of it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. He may be relying on your magical strength.”
Delia thought so too. She switched to her magical sight. “I don’t see anyone’s aura outside of the castle except our own watchers. What do you see?”
“Not much. Not at this distance.”
She heard the disappointment color his statement. Another thing that made her different. “What I do see is…I don’t know what to call it, an aura of magic around the gate and the windows.”
“They’ve set protection spells. It makes sense. Can you tell me what they look like?”
“They’re lines of yellow, like hoops, around each opening. Over the entire castle is an aura of dark purple. At the windows, I can see some people, auras are all dark. I can’t see through the walls. I’ve failed Father.” Her shoulders slumped.
“I think not. You can see all of that when I can only see vague shimmers at best. I can’t even see our watchers. The news about the protection spells is important. It will change how the king approaches the castle.”
“I suppose you’re correct.” His comment did make her feel a little better. “We should get back and tell the council.”
Once back, she spoke to the king and his councilors, telling them what she found.
“Could you see the protection spells, Sisruo?” the mage asked.
“No, Master. I couldn’t. Nor could I see our watchers. Not at that distance.”
King Ucheni scratched at his beard. “What can we do about the protection spells?”
The mage spoke, “I’ll have to think, Sire. I’d like to work with Delia to try and identify what’s there.”
The king looked at his daughter. “Are you ready for that?”
She nodded. “I am. Whenever you’re ready, Mage Kaepli.”
“Let’s go to my tent. I’ll look in my books.” He gave the king a bow and headed for the door.
Delia and Sisruo did the same and followed the mage out. In Kaepli’s tent, they all took stools around the table. Kaepli handed Delia parchment and pen. “Draw what you saw. The patterns may help me research.”
While Delia drew, Kaepli pulled an ancient tome from a chest in the corner of the tent. He brought it to the table and sat down. “Protection spells can be tricky. A simple one could prevent anyone or thing from entering or leaving. As you add requirements, say, allowing exit, or specifying various creatures or beings, the spell can become a threat to the setter as well as anyone trying to break it.” He stroked his beard as he turned crackling pages.
Delia handed him the parchment. “I’m not a very good artist.”
Kaepli took the page. “You described them as hoops. Were the yellow lines thick or thin?”
“They varied, and as you can see, the distance between them varied as well. These aren’t identical representations. Just generalizations.”
Kaepli sighed and put the drawing down. “That’s all right. They may change constantly. But what you saw may help me pin down the spell.” He continued to turn pages.
Sisuro rose and got them all mugs of water and put them on the table. “Unless you’d prefer wine, Master?”
“No, water is fine. Thank you.”
Delia nodded her thanks and drank. She was getting a headache and wanted nothing more than to go to her own tent and sleep. Being a princess was tiring work. “What can I do to help?”
“Nothing, really, other than what you’ve done already.” The mage continued to turn pages. “I may know what they’re using but I want to be sure.” He looked up at her. “Go. Rest. When I confirm my thoughts, we made need you to help us break the spell.”
Delia nodded. “Very well.” She stood up. “I’ll leave you to it then.”
She left the tent and walked the short distance to her own. Delia didn’t bother to light the candle on her table but took off her boots and lay down on her cot, fully clothed. She wasn’t looking forward to being the spell breaker. She didn’t have the confidence in her own magic that everyone else seemed to have. It was still too new to her. Would they go to battle tomorrow? Iyuno must know that they were there. If she could see the watcher’s auras, couldn’t he? Or Nethene? She sighed and rolled over onto her side and tried to still the thoughts whirling around in her brain. Whether they went to battle tomorrow or not, she suspected it would be a full day for her. She needed her sleep.
She was woken in the dark by knocking on the tent pole. “Princess, Princess. Wake up! The king calls for you.”
Delia rolled from the cot, bleary-eyed and confused. It was still dark. “What time is it?”
“Just before dawn. Please hurry?”
“Is the king all right?” She sat on the edge of her cot and began pulling on her boots.
“Yes. But hurry.”
She couldn’t think why the king would be calling her in such a hurry unless there was something very wrong. “I’ll be right there.”
When she came out of the tent, the elf was still there. “This way Princess.”
The elf hurried away, but not in the direction of the King’s tent. She scurried after the elf. A feeling of foreboding washing through her. What could be wrong?
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 27.
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