Delia sat behind her father at the council meeting, three days after they decided to keep Nethene in place. Nethene sat two chairs down from the king on the left. Mage Kaepli was on the king’s right, Lord Enaur on his left. The Guard Captain, Neoi, sat next to Nethene and next to the Mage, the Chief of Scouts, Mysteso. Mysteso was telling the council about the movements of Iyuno’s forces. It wasn’t good.
“They’re massing, Sire, two day’s ride from here in the Diamond Point valley. I dare say there will be a challenge issued soon.”
King Ucheni nodded. “Captain Neoi, how are your forces prepared?”
“I’ve been recalling squads for the last week, Sire. Most are back. I’ve only kept a few watchers on key passes and routes. We can march in an hour, if you feel the need.”
“It seems prudent, Sire,” Nethene steepled his fingers, “to send your forces to Iyuno’s battleground immediately.”
Delia watched her uncle closely. Something about his tone of voice made the hairs on her arms stand straight up.
“Not wait for the challenge?” Mysteso asked.
Nethene shook his head. “If you arrive before the challenge, Iyuno will know that you’ve been watching him. That you’re not surprised.”
Nethene’s aura was black as night, Delia saw when she shifted her gaze to her magical sight. She clasped her hands in her lap to keep them from twisting. She didn’t trust Nethene and thought his plan to send all of her father’s soldiers to Diamond Point valley dangerous. It could be a trap, or a diversion. She nodded when Neoi said just that.
Nethene glanced at her over the king’s shoulder. She shuddered at his gaze and felt as though he knew exactly what she was thinking. Delia felt for the knife she’d taken to wearing at her waist. It slid a fraction of an inch from the sheathe easily. That made her feel a little better. If the evil elf decided to do anything, she was ready.
Mage Kaepli tapped the table in front of him. “I agree Neoi. We don’t know if these are his entire force or a diversion. Attack could come from any direction.”
“Have you done a scrying, Kaepli?” the king asked.
“Not yet, Sire.” The old mage bowed his head to the king. “But now seems the right time. I’ll prepare as soon as the council is finished.”
Ucheni nodded. “Good. I’ll await your word. That will be all for today.”
There was much scraping of chairs away from the table and bowing to the king. Delia caught Nethene glancing at her as he bowed. A look that to her meant he knew what she was thinking. A shiver ran down her spine and her left hand began forming a fireball of its own accord. She saw him restrain a smile as he turned to leave the council hall. She stood behind her father, ready to burn the elf down if needed.
Kaepli raised an eyebrow as he saw her behind the king. “Delia?”
Ucheni turned in his seat to stare at her. “What’s wrong, daughter.”
Nethene left the room. Delia breathed easier. “It was the way he looked at me, Father. My hand began to form a fireball without my conscious thought.”
Ucheni raised an eyebrow, then looked at the mage. “Is that possible?”
“Apparently. I just saw her do it. You were that afraid?”
Delia nodded. Her hands were trembling. “I don’t trust a thing he said, Father. It’s either a trap or a decoy.”
“You don’t think Iyuno will send a challenge to meet in Diamond Point valley?”
“I do think he will but I don’t think he’ll be there. He’ll be attacking the castle or ambush you on your way.”
The mage stroked his chin. “That could be true, Sire.” He took a deep breath. “Let me see what the scrying bowl says. That should guide your decision.”
The king nodded and the mage hurried off. Ucheni turned to his daughter. “Are you well?”
She took a deep breath. “A little terrified. I’ll recover.” Delia wiped her hand on her skirt.
He took her by the shoulders. “I worry that all of this is too overwhelming for you.”
“I’ll be fine, Father.” She raised her chin and looked him in the eyes. “I just found you, I don’t want to lose you just yet.”
He gave her a hug. “I’ve never had a more enthusiastic defender.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Back in her room she changed into practice clothes and went to the practice ground. She found a spot away from the others and began to throw fireballs. The other elves gathered around to watch. She practiced throwing far, then for accuracy. She answered questions about how she was forming the balls as best she could. Several of the elves began to try it. A few managed small fires in their hands but not the fire she could manage.
She was able to spar with one or two of the elves with staves, a weak weapon for her but one she felt she should at least have a basic grasp of. No one could tell what would or could go wrong in a battle. Delia was worried about that. Being the book keeper on a caravan hardly prepared her for going into a war. She wasn’t sure how she’d react. She thanked the elves for teaching her the staves and went back to her room.
As she washed in the cold water in her basin, Delia spent more time worrying about Nethene. Could he see her aura color with fear? Probably. She wondered if she could mask her aura. How to mask it was the first question. She looked in the polished silver of her mirror. Her aura was green with sparkles. Delia thought hard, pulling energy from her core, to change the color of her aura. It didn’t change at all as far as she could tell. She gave it up as a waste of time. Perhaps Kaepli would know how. She resolved to ask him at dinner. It would be handy to be able to hide what she was feeling from Nethene.
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 15.
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