She was called to the King’s office, a room off of his private bedroom, at midmorning. There she found Ucheni, Ralae, Lord Enaur and an elf stranger. He was dressed in dark purple robes, his white hair cut just to his shoulders and waving wildly around his head. They all turned as she entered.
“Mage Kaepli, this is my daughter, Delia.”
Delia stepped forward to shake his hand. “Sir. I’m so sorry we didn’t meet last night.”
“Happy to meet you at last, Princess. I was caring for your friends, Sachi and Kiri. They’re doing well. They’ll be up and around in no time.”
“That’s good to hear.” She looked to her father. “You asked him about masking auras?”
“Please, sit, everyone.” He sat down at his desk. “Kaepli, please proceed.”
Kaepli steepled his fingers. “I had to look long and hard this morning, Sire. But at the end, it is possible.” He turned to Delia, seated next to him. “You say you see his aura as black?”
She nodded. “As a moonless, cloudy night. But father says he sees Nethene’s aura as purple. Is that what you see as well?”
The old elf nodded. “Indeed.” He sighed. “It takes great power to mask your own aura and it has to be held day and night. At least to people you don’t want to know. I didn’t know Nethene had such power.”
“I felt a great evil from him.” She looked at Ucheni. “You say he’s a relative. Any indication of evil from him before? Is he a supporter of yours?”
Lord Enaur spoke first. “I’ve never heard him speak of anything but support for your father. I’ve never heard him say anything about Iyuno at all.”
“Daughter,” Queen Ralae spoke. “He’s a distant cousin whom I only saw a few times growing up. He joined us here when Iyuno declared war.” She looked at Mage Kaepli. “There was no rumor at all of him being powerful enough to mask an aura.”
“He’s always given good advice at council.” King Ucheni tapped his fingertips on the carved wooden arm of his chair. “This is very disturbing. I am thinking back over the years. Is it possible he’s informing for Iyuno?”
“That’s quite a leap, Sire.” Enaur’s eyebrows rose. “Do you have something in mind?”
The king shrugged. “I don’t know. We’d have to review every decision we’ve made while Nethene was in council and any correlating failures afterward.”
“There are records, Sire.” Kaepli stroked the skirt of his robe. “I could have two or three of my students search them.”
Ucheni drew a deep breath. “Yes. Do that. I need to be sure we don’t have a spy among us.” He stood up, then the others did as well. “Thank you for coming. Kaepli could you stay a moment?”
“Certainly.” He bowed as the others left for the door.
Out in the hall, Ralae threaded her arm through her daughters as Enaur went the other way down the hall. “Why were you looking at auras, daughter?”
Delia shrugged. “They’re new to me. They’re so pretty and so many different colors. Nethene’s was so… so violent. Evil.” She shuddered at the memory.
“Kaepli and your father will sort it all out. In the meantime, would you like a tour of the palace and the grounds?”
“That would be wonderful.” Delia broke into a grin.
It was two days before she was called back to her father’s office. Her mother, the king, the mage and Enaur were already there. “You found something?”
King Ucheni motioned the mage to go ahead.
“In a significant number of cases, there is a correlation between action taken by the council only to have it fail when executed. For every failure, Nethene was at the Council meeting.”
Enaur pounded the arm of his chair. “No wonder we’re not winning.”
“Calm, Lord Enaur.” The king raised his hand. “Let’s think this through. How might we use this to our advantage?”
Delia blinked. “Father. You mean to keep him here? A traitor?”
Ucheni folded his hands in front of him on the desk. “A real possibility. We could feed him false information. It would have to be handled delicately. An elf with power enough to mask his aura may very well have other powers we know nothing about.” He looked at Ralae. “Have you heard anything about his magical strength?”
“I sent word to various cousins, aunts and uncles. My mother, as well. But it will be days before the messengers can get to their homes then return.” She sighed.
“In the mean time I suggest,” the king continued, “that we not let him know we suspect him.”
“Won’t our aura’s give us away?” Delia thought this was a terrible idea.
“They will indicate we’re hiding something,” the mage said. “But except for newly fledged elves, no one really goes around studying everyone else’s auras.”
Everyone else nodded but Delia wasn’t convinced. There was nothing she could do about it though. There was a short discussion on how to work the council meetings when Nethene was present, then the meeting disbanded. Delia went to the armory.
She asked for a bow and arrows and went to the practice ground. There, other elves were target shooting. They nodded their acknowledgment of her then left her to her own practice. She stayed there two hours, her arm trembling at the end. She returned the bow and arrows to the armory then went to her room, throwing the bolt when she closed the door.
Delia paced until the sun began to set with no new ideas. She was going to have to go along with her father’s plan. But she intended to be there armed. Just in case.
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 14.
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