Delia stood outside her parent’s private rooms, staring at the door. Her escort, Lord Enaur, had just knocked on it. As the door opened ahe ran her sweaty palms down the skirt of the dress she’d been given.
There stood a female elf, her golden hair braided and put up around her head like a crown. She was simply dressed in a sky-blue gown, embroidered with silver in leaves and vines. She was stunning. A wide smile spread across her face. “Delia!” She opened her arms and wrapped them around Delia in a warm embrace. “I’m so glad you’re finally home.”
Delia had never felt more welcome anywhere before. It seemed to flow from her mother like a warm blanket. “Mother.”
Ralae let Delia go and stepped back to look at her. “You look wonderful. So lovely. Come, meet your father.” She threaded her arm in her daughters and went into the room. “You as well, Enaur.”
They proceeded into the room where intricately woven carpets covered the stone floors. There was a huge fireplace on the opposite wall and a desk under a window, the elf seated there turned around and stood up. His hair was so blond it was nearly white and hung down loose over his shoulders. Dressed in a green tunic with gold embroidery, and black trousers tucked into boots to his knees, he met them half way across the floor, next to a dining table and chairs. He took Delia by the shoulders, his face solemn. “We’ve missed you terribly, Delia. Can you ever forgive us?” He embraced her.
Delia chose to look at his aura, it was silver, sparkling. She could feel his power and sadness and grief and hugged him back. “I understand it was something you felt needed to be done.”
He released her and stepped back. Looking at her, then Lord Enaur. “You arrived in a rush.”
Enaur nodded. “They ambushed us at the stream. Kiri and Satchi?”
Ucheni sighed. “They were both injured, they’re with the mage now, healing. I’m sorry about the attack. They hid well as I had ordered the approaches to be swept just this morning.”
“We’re all safe, that’s what matters,” Enaur said.
Ralae walked to the upholstered chairs in front of the fireplace. “Come, sit down. Tell us about you, Delia. We want to know everything.”
They talked for two hours, telling each other about their lives, the war, and her training.
“Delia has a gift, Sire, for languages and writing but she has the strength to throw fireballs and is very accurate with them.”
The king and his queen smiled. “That’s good to hear. We have so few with the power to do that. It will be a great help in the war.”
Ralae stood up. “It’s time for dinner. We can go down together. Everyone is eager to meet you. There will be a feast and music all night to welcome you.” She took Delia by the hand. “I never want to let you go again.”
The banquet was set up in a hall on the main floor of the palace. She’d never seen anything like it. Sconces on the wall and chandeliers hung from the ceiling were lit with glowing orbs casting a soft clear light over everything. Massive wall hangings in brilliant colors hung on the walls. Long tables filled the room and elves were standing, wine cups in hand, waiting.
They cheered when Ucheni on one side and Ralae on the other, escorted Delia between them to the head table. Delia blushed at the overwhelming wash of love and welcome that flowed in her direction. Ucheni raised his hands and the crowd quieted. “Thank you for your warm welcome to our daughter, Princess Delia. Please, let us enjoy this feast.”
Another cheer went up as everyone claimed a seat. A group of musicians played, people sang, she hardly remembered what she ate as one person after another came to the table to greet her. After the banquet, there was dancing and one young male elf after another took turns teaching her to dance. Her parents joined her on the dance floor and the hours passed so quickly she hardly realized dawn was breaking.
She stood with her parents as each elf took their leave. Delia was enjoying looking at everyone’s aura. They were in every color she’d ever heard of and all who said their good nights were full of good wishes. She was shocked, then, by one of the last elves. An elf with age etched on his face, he was dressed all in black. The only one in that color.
“Lord Nethene, my daughter, Delia.”
The blackness of his aura caused Delia to shudder as he bent over her hand. “I’m so glad you’ve finally returned home.”
Delia took her hand back as fast as she could. “Lord Nethene.”
He studied her, a smirk on his face. Was he reading her aura as well? “We all look forward to your help in this unfortunate war.”
“I’ll do what I can.” She could feel her skin crawling. Didn’t her parents feel it?
Nethene left and Delia trembled with relief. She barely heard the last of the guests speaking to her.
Alone, her mother took her arm. “I’ll lead you to your room, Sweetness. Did you have a good time?”
Ucheni walked with them.
“I did, until just now.”
Ucheni’s eyebrows rose. “Just now?”
“Yes. Couldn’t you feel Lord Nethene’s aura? It was black as a well bottom. He is evil.”
Her parents looked at each other. “His aura is purple, Delia. He’s a distant cousin on your mother’s side of the family. Are you sure?”
Her nod was emphatic. “I could hardly stand for him to touch my hand.” She shuddered. “Can an aura be masked? Hidden?”
Ralae shook her head. “I’ve never heard of that. But perhaps the mages will know.”
They reached her room. “I’ll ask in the morning,” Ucheni said.
Delia nodded. “Thank you.”
Her parents nodded. “Sleep well,” Ralae told her.
“You as well.” Delia experimented. “Mother. Father.” The words didn’t feel natural. She closed the door and leaned against it. She had a horrible feeling about Lord Nethene that just wouldn’t go away.
She splashed her face and dressed for bed, throwing the bolt on the door before she lay down. Everyone in the palace would know where she was and she didn’t want Nethene sneaking in.
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 13.