Find Chapter 1 here.
They left the next morning after an early breakfast. The dew hadn’t dried yet before they were on the road. The plan was to ride hard, to get to the king as fast as possible. On the ride Delia wondered what they would find when they got there. Or, just what it was she could do when they did.
The far south of the kingdom where Sochiro Yarami was a many days ride. In the evening, Delia had Aduello tell her about both Sochiro Yarami and Lady Dedalia.
“Lady Alia Dedalia is an old friend of your mother’s.” Aduello stirred the small campfire. “She’s from an old family, older than your father’s, who have guarded the eastern borders for thousands of years. I believe Queen Ralae spent some time there as a young woman, learning about the area and making friends with Alia and her daughters.” He sighed. “You came here via the eastern border, Princess.”
Delia nodded. “I didn’t see a border or guards, though.”
“No. You were brought by secret elven paths. The king did try to keep your homecoming a secret.”
“It didn’t work.” She remembered that desperate run to the palace gates. “Not his fault, I expect. Nethene’s and Iyuno’s spies must be everywhere.”
“True.” He drank the last of his tea. “Sochiro Yarami is like me, not a lord but the guardian of the southern borders anyway.” He shook his head. “That was traditionally Iyuno’s post. But when your father was crowned and Iyuno disappeared, it was given to Yarami. He’s a good elf, loyal and smart. I agreed with the king that he was a good choice.”
“What’s on the southern border?” Delia leaned forward. If nothing else, riding around the entire elven kingdom was giving her a great insight into her land.
“We share that border with the dwarves. That region is mountainous and full of ores. We have a good trade with the dwarves and it goes through the town around Yarami’s castle.”
Delia remembered seeing dwarves in a few of the desert towns her caravan went through, but she’d never had an opportunity to talk to them. “Do we get along?”
Aduello laughed. “As much as dwarves get along with anyone. They live nearly as long as we do and are a little sensitive, taking almost anything said to them as an affront. They’re good fighters, though. We have histories of elves and dwarves fighting together against dragons and orcs.”
“Orcs? I thought they were a legend?”
Kaya smiled. “They may be. The last great war, even men were involved. We believe the orcs were wiped out, but no one knows. None have been seen for over a thousand years.”
“Good to know. The myths made them sound evil.” Delia wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. The evening had turned chill and the stories of orc’s destruction were horrific.
“They were.” Aduella got up and banked the fire. “That’s one fight I’d rather not attend.”
It took ten days to get to Yarami’s town, Verda. As they entered the gates, Delia felt right at home. It was very similar to the caravan towns she’d grown up visiting. As they passed through the streets, she didn’t see any particularly large group of soldiers. None in her father’s colors. They went to an inn where the tired horses were watered, curried and led into roomy box stalls and fed. Aduello instructed the livery elf to clean all the tack and offered coins in advance. The elf gave a quick bow and promised it would all be cleaned by morning.
They went into the inn where Aduello ordered two rooms and baths. They went upstairs and found two nice rooms, both with a view of the street in front. “We’ll meet downstairs after cleaning up and have dinner and make a plan.”
That sounded good to Delia. After ten days of hard riding and sleeping on the ground, a nap in a soft bed sounded grand. They met in the pub, ordering stew, bread and wine, and talked softly while they waited for it to arrive. A trio of dwarves sat in the back corner, while a party of five men sat under the windows. Aduello chose a table in the middle, where he could watch the door to the inn. “In the morning I’ll send word to Yarami that we’re here. If we can get an audience, we’ll know where the king is soon enough.”
Delia nodded. “Should you tell him I’m here?”
“I did think of that but in case there’s a spy, I think I’ll leave that out.”
Both Kaya and Delia agreed.
“I didn’t notice any unusual number of soldiers as we rode in,” Delia said.
But I did notice,” Kaya added, “that they seemed very alert. You’ve spent years in trading towns, Delia. What did you think?”
“A town’s guards are always alert. Trading towns are rife with thieves and cut-purses, kidnappers and scam-artists. I’m sure Verda isn’t any different. But no, I didn’t think so, at least not at the time.”
“Good points, both of you.” Aduello stopped talking as a serving elf brought their wine.
“The food will be out in a minute,” she said, then went back to the kitchen.
“And,” Delia said as she picked up her wine. “Where is Iyuno? If the king is here, shouldn’t he be nearby?”
“This is a mountainous region. He could have three armies in any canyon, hidden, ready to attack at any time.” Aduello sipped his wine. “We’ll just have to see Yarami.”
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 41.