Read Part 1 here.
Inside the gate Delia saw the empty courtyard. Normally this space would be bustling, even with the army gone. Now, there was no activity except a couple of leaves drifting across the paved yard in the slight breeze. They put the horses in the empty stable, in itself a troubling sign, and proceeded to the palace.
No one was inside. Delia checked the kitchen, the great hall and both of her parent’s rooms. She stood in front of her mother’s dressing table and surveyed the room. “I don’t understand. Everything is in its place. There’s no sign of any struggle anywhere in the palace. But no one is here.”
Kaya put an arm around Delia’s shoulders. “Should we check the Mage’s rooms?”
Delia sighed. “I don’t expect to find anything different there. But we should check.”
The three went outside and stopped outside the workshop door. Kaya drew a deep breath and opened the door. The three went in. It was the same as in the palace. Everything in it’s place. “I’ve been using my magical sight,” Delia said as she brushed her hand across the table where she’d studied. “There’s nothing. No spells lingering around. Nothing to indicate where everyone went.” She looked at Aduella. “That’s not usual, is it? For every single elf in the palace to just leave?”
Aduello shook his head. “Not that I’ve ever heard. Ever. Even if the king and queen were travelling to another castle, there’d still be caretakers left behind. Spare horses. Guards.” He rubbed his chin and looked around the workshop. “I have no idea.”
“Let’s go back to the kitchen. We didn’t check for food. If there’s something here, let’s eat and think about this.”
They left, Kaya pulling the door shut gently, and went to the kitchen. The kitchen cupboards held some dry sausage and cheese. The fireplace had been swept clean. Rodent droppings were on the counters and table. Kaya cleaned the table while Delia sliced sausage and cheese for each of them. Aduello pulled plates from the cupboard and drew water for them to drink. They sat at the table and ate, saying nothing. Delia felt as though her heart had been squeezed. She’d only just reunited with her parents. Now they were gone. She was surprised when a tear fell on her hand.
Kaya reached out and patted it. “I’m sorry, Delia.”
Delia nodded and sniffed, reaching up with her other hand to dash away the tears. “This is unbelievable. Where could everyone have gone? Did Iyuno do this?”
Aduello shook his head. “Over a hundred people live and work here. Someone must know something about where they went. Perhaps the queen sent everyone away because Iyuno was going to attack.”
“There’s no sign of damage, though,” Delia said, sniffing again. “If he attacked, wouldn’t there be some damage? Bodies? Broken equipment?”
“There is that,” Aduello said. “You’re right.”
“Maybe he came. Saw the palace was empty and put the protection spell up out of spite.” Kaya patted Delia’s hand. “He’s mean enough to do that.”
“Yes. But he wants to be king.” Delia squeezed Kaya’s hand, then reached for her water. “Wouldn’t he move in right away?” She drank and put the mug down.
Aduello tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. “A good point, unless he was still chasing your father. If the king wasn’t here, then he’d have to chase after him. He wouldn’t want your father to gather another force and return.”
Delia leaned forward, elbows on the table, and rubbed her face with both hands. “We don’t have enough information. We should close up the palace and go back to your home. Perhaps the pigeons will have returned with clues.”
Kaya nodded. “I think that’s a good idea. Would you like to get some of your own things before we go?”
Delia pushed away from the table. “Good idea.”
“We’ll clean up while you go,” Aduello said, standing up.
Delia went to her rooms, a little spooked at the lack of people in the halls. She selected another travelling outfit, a comb and other essentials and stuffed them into a spare saddlebag. She went to her dresser and opened her jewelry box. There wasn’t much in there. Just a few coins and a couple of necklaces and bracelets she’d brought with her and her mother gave her. She scooped it all up and dropped them into a pouch. She needed someway to pay others. She couldn’t keep depending entirely on the generosity of others. Delia put the lid down and stuffed the pouch into a pocket. Perhaps there was a strong room in the palace where there was more coin, but she’d never asked about it and no one had thought to talk to her about it. What she had would have to do.
Back in the kitchen, the others were ready to go. “I packed the rest of the sausage and cheese,” Kaya told her. “It seemed wasteful to leave it for the rodents.”
They walked out to the stables and saddled up their horses. Aduello cleaned up after the horses and shut the doors after Delia led the horses out. Delia closed the gates to the palace and looked up at them. “I’m going to set a protection spell,” she said after a moment. “To keep others out.”
She set the spell and mounted her horse. “Maybe that’s what happened.” She studied her work with her magical sight. “Perhaps Mage Kaepli set the spell, so the palace would stay safe when they left.”
“A hopeful thought, Princess.” Aduello turned his horse. “Let’s hurry home and see what news has arrived.”
The three rode off at a fast pace. By riding long into the night, they were back at the treehouse in a day and a half.
Phara hugged them all. “There’s news.”
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 40.
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