See Part 1 here.
They hustled through the woods as best they could in the dark, circling around the castle until they were headed in the direction of the camp on the road they’d come in on. “What if they aren’t there?” Delia asked Kaya?
“Then we’ll head home. Not much else to do if we don’t know where they are.” After a moment she asked, “Your strength?”
“Fire. I saw Iyuno drawing power from fire. That’s why they have torches all over instead of the magic lights.”
“Yes. I puzzled over those torches from the first.”
“You think all of his forces can do that?”
“I don’t think so. Just Iyuno, Nethene and Ceinno.”
They walked along in silence until they reached the spot where the camp was. Delia looked around at the spot where her tent once stood and sighed. “It’s going to be a long walk home.”
“You’re right.” Kaya took a deep breath. “Let’s walk farther tonight. I still feel too close to that castle.”
Delia nodded. “Agreed.”
They headed off side by side, stopping very late to sleep. They woke at dawn and continued on their way. It took ten days to get back. They stopped on a hillside overlooking the valley where the palace was. “It doesn’t look like it’s under attack. Maybe Iyuno lied about fighting with my father. Maybe he’s not dead.”
“It would be just like Iyuno to tell us that. Making us grieve.” Kaya crossed her arms. “Let’s go. I’m looking forward to something to eat besides berries.”
Delia laughed. “And just splashing my face in cold streams.”
As they approached the gate, Delia felt as though something was off. “The gate is shut. Why would that be?”
Kaya shook her head. “I don’t know. It’s always open during the day.”
Switching to her magical sight, Delia gasped. “It has a protection spell over it. I can’t feel anyone inside!”
“Oh no,” Kaya said. She grabbed Delia’s arm. “Don’t go any closer.”
“What happened here?”
“No idea.” Kaya turned to leave. “We can’t stay here.”
“Where did everyone go?” Delia felt crushed. She so wanted to find her mother, take a bath, eat, and she wasn’t sure in what order.
“We’ll go to my family’s home.”
Delia nodded, fighting back her tears. “Of course.”
She followed Kaya back down the road. Her feet hurt and she was hungry and worse, she didn’t know if her parents were alive or dead. And what about Mage Kaepli and Sisruo? The tears leaked down her face.
Kaya put an arm around her shoulders. “We’ll figure it out, Delia.”
Delia nodded but at the moment, she just felt exhausted.
It was another five days before they reached Kaya’s home. Even in her exhaustion and hunger, she was amazed at the woodland setting that Kaya called home. The house was in a huge tree. They climbed up stairs that wound around the trunk until they reached a platform. Kaya opened the door. “Mother! Father!”
A dog came running, it’s whole body gyrating in welcome. Kaya squatted down to greet the dog. “Sandy, Sandy. Hello, girl. Hello!”
“Kaya!” An elf appeared in the doorway across the room.
“Mother!” Kaya left the dog and hurried across the room. She embraced her mother in a bear hug. “I’m so happy to see you.”
The two hugged and hugged, finally separating. “This is my friend, Princess Delia. Delia, this is my mother, Phara.”
Delia stepped forward extending her hand. She felt shy and a little out of place. Phara wrapped her arms around Delia. “Welcome. Welcome.”
When Phara finally let her loose, Delia had to sniff back tears. “Thank you for the warm welcome.”
Phara looked at both of them. “We heard you were captured or lost.”
“We were captured, Mother. But can we tell the tale later? We’re starved.”
“Of course. Of course, how silly of me. Come. We’ll get you something quick, then you can bathe and we’ll eat again. Your father is out in the woods.” She patted Kaya’s arm. “He’ll be so happy to see you.”
After a quick snack of bread and cheese, they bathed and Kaya loaned Delia a dress. They finished at supper-time and Kaya led Delia to the dining room. There they found Kaya’s father.
“Father!” Kaya dashed across the room and in a repeat of earlier with her mother, embraced him in a huge hug.
She introduced Delia. “My father, Aduello.”
He shook Delia’s hand, clasping her’s in both of his. “Welcome. Thank you for bringing our daughter home.”
Delia could only nod she was so overcome with the warmth of her welcome.
“Sit, please. Your mother is bringing out dinner.”
They sat and he poured them each a glass of wine, just as Phara brought in a platter of roasted venison and vegetables. “There. Eat till you’re full.” She beamed at the two of them.
Delia could hardly restrain herself as she loaded her plate with meat and vegetables.
Phara left and returned with a bowl of gravy. “This should help.”
Delia poured a generous amount on her food and passed it to Kaya. “Thank you so much. It’s been a very hungry fortnight.”
After dinner, they retired to a study. There, Aduello poured more wine and they all sat in front of the fireplace. “Are you ready to tell your tale?”
“We are,” Kaya said. She related the whole story to her parents and when she finished, both of her parent’s faces were full of worry. “But what happened to the king and the palace? Do you know?”
Aduello shook his head. “We know the king left the battle at Iyunno’s castle, but the entire army and the king just disappeared. The palace was attacked by Iyunno’s forces, but no word has come about what happened. And you say there’s a spell over the palace.” He sat back in his armchair and sighed.
Delia didn’t know what to think. “No one returned from the battle and no one escaped from the palace? Are they still in there? Frozen or worse?”
Phara shrugged. “We just don’t know.”
Delia rubbed her finger at the spot between her eyes. “I’m too tired to think.”
Phara and Aduello rose. “We’ve kept you up too long. Rest. We’ll figure this out in the morning.”
Delia stood. “Thank you for taking me in.”
Phara gave her a hug. “Don’t be silly. We welcome you.”
In her room, Delia climbed into bed in her borrowed nightgown and stared at the ceiling. What happened? Were her parents alive or not?
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 37.
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