The preparations went quickly and on the morning of her departure, Delia had said good-bye to Pricilla at breakfast. “You’ve been wonderful, Pricilla. Thank you.” She handed the maid a tiny, paper-wrapped package. “Open it.”
Pricilla nodded and carefully unwrapped the gift. “Your handkerchief! I can’t.” She tried to hand it back. “You worked so hard on it.”
“You keep it. You gave me the gift of teaching me how to embroider. The least I can do is give you my first, not very good, effort.”
“It’s beautiful. You did wonderful work on it.”
“You’re nice to say so, Pricilla. Thank you. But keep it. I’m sure I can find needle and thread with the elves and make more.” With that she gave the maid a hug. “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you as well, Princess.”
Now the Trafords were at the stables to say good-bye. Delia hugged Lady Traford and shook hands with Alexis and Lord Traford. “Thank you all for allowing me to stay so long. You’ve been lovely and gracious hosts.”
“Nonsense, Princess,” Lady Traford responded. “You are a delightful guest. We’re very happy to invite you back any time.”
Lord Enaur mounted his horse. The two other elves were already mounted. “Time to leave, Princess.” He nodded to Lord Traford. “I’ll send word when we arrive. I have your messages to the king.”
Lord Traford nodded as Delia mounted. “Thank you, Lord Enaur. You’re welcome here any time.”
The elves wheeled their horses around and waved.
“Safe travels,” Lady Traford called out.
Delia waved and followed Enaur. The other two elves followed her.
It didn’t take long to be outside of Katzin. Delia rode beside Enaur. “Do you think we’ll have trouble along the road?”
“It’s possible. Your uncle has had weeks to move his people into place to find you. Nothing is a secret for long.”
Delia turned in the saddle to the elves riding behind her. “What are your names?”
The elf on her right bowed from the saddle. “Sachi Arako, Princess.”
The elf on her left also bowed. “Kiri Dan’os, Princess.”
“Their families are loyal to your father, Princess.”
Delia nodded to the two and turned back around in her saddle. “How long to get there?”
“A week, Princess. I’ve cast a glamour on us, making us hard to see. But of course, to other elves, we are detectable. I’m planning on speed to get us there more than magic. We can hope that speed will be enough.”
Delia nodded. It had only been an hour and she was already feeling the pain begin in her thighs. It was going to be a long trip.
They’d been six days on the road without incident. Delia was looking forward to arriving at the castle today. A hot bath would be welcome. She worried about meeting her parents as she saddled the horse. What did they look like? Would they appear old or young, like Enaur? How should she greet them? Bow? Hug? She had no idea.
The morning passed uneventfully and they had dismounted at a stream to water the horses. Delia chewed on a piece of jerky as she held her horse’s reins in the middle of the shallow stream. The day was warm and the sound of the water dancing over the stones in the stream was soothing. She was half dozing when an arrow whizzed by her head and thunked into the stream bank. Her head came up and wide-eyed, she looked around.
“Mount. Mount up!” Enaur cried out as he leapt into his saddle. “Ride!”
Delia dropped the jerky and scrambled into her saddle, the horse dancing in the stream in confusion at the commotion. In the saddle finally, she wheeled the horse around as more arrows whizzed by. She kicked the beast in the sides and scrambled up the stream bank after Enaur. Sachi and Kiri were right behind her.
Kiri cried out in pain. Delia turned to look. “Run, Princess. Don’t wait. Ride! Ride!”
She saw Sachi help Kiri so she kicked the horse again. It sprang forward, nearly unseating her, after Enaur.
“We’re almost there. Ride, Princess!”
The two raced along the road, Delia glancing back for Kiri and Sachi. “Kiri was hurt!”
“Can’t be helped right now, Princess.” Arrows thudded into the ground on either side of them.
“I don’t see anyone,” she called out.
“They’ve covered themselves in a glamour. Can you throw a fire ball behind us?”
Delia had all she could do to hang on. She didn’t think she could turn around and throw a fire ball with the horse at full gallop. “I don’t know.”
She let go of the saddle horn with her right hand and twisted a little in the saddle. She didn’t see anyone there until another arrow flew by her head. There, in the middle of the road, a glimmer. Delia gathered her focus and in almost one motion created a ball of fire and threw it directly behind her.
A horse’s scream came then the glamour collapsed. There were six riders behind them, gaining ground. She kicked her horse again and threw another fireball and missed. The riders spread out.
“We’re almost there,” Enaur called.
Delia took a look ahead. She didn’t see anything. “Is it also cloaked?”
“Yes. They’ll be watching the fight and be coming out to us.”
She threw another fireball at the lead rider. It hit the horse in the chest. It reared, screaming and dumped the rider in the dirt.
The sound of horns came from ahead of her. She turned to look. There, a castle wall appeared and a gate opening. A column of riders came out and broke around them as they pursued the attackers. Enaur and Delia raced through the gates. The horses came to a stop, breathing heavily and covered with sweat. Elves raced to them and helped them down. Delia watched the gate, no attackers came through. She realized she was shaking.
“We’re safe, Princess.”
“What about Kiri and Sachi?”
“Our people will find them.”
Delia looked around her. This was no ordinary castle. It was made of stone but in form, it was light and delicate. A fountain was in the center of this courtyard and trees and flowers grew around the edges. “Is it all like this?”
Enaur smiled. “Better. This is a work space, so less decorated.” An elf came and took the horses’ reins. “Come, Princess. We’ll get you settled. We meet your parents before dinner.”
Delia shuddered. The thing she’d most hoped for was finally coming true. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it.
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 12.
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