Find Part 1 here.
At breakfast the next morning, Aduello sent a courier the inn-keeper recommended, off to the castle with a message. After they ate, they walked around the market. Delia told them about the desert caravan markets where there were stalls of exotic spices, silk, and slaves. Here it was different. There were no slaves at all, which she thoroughly approved of. Instead were stalls with displays of ore, money changers, woolen cloth, wood and ceramics. Both markets had grain merchants, she pointed out.
There were food vendors with foods she’d never seen. She pointed one out to Kaya. “What’s that?”
Kaya grinned. “Dwarf cake. I’ve only ever had it once and it was delicious. Honey and nuts, flaky and light. May we get one, father?”
He grinned too. “I believe so. It’s been many years since I’ve tasted any, myself.” He went up to the stall and ordered three from the dwarf woman running it.
She wrapped each in paper. “Three shillings.”
Aduello put the coins on the counter. “Thank you.” He bowed to the proprietress and handed the cakes to the young elves. They unwrapped the cakes and walked along.
“Oh my,” Delia said after the first bite. “This reminds me of the sweet cakes I had once in Encre but better, flakier.”
“Mmmm,” was Kaya’s response.
They washed sticky hands in the central fountain and sat on the edge, enjoying the day. It was cooler here in the mountains, but the sun was warm. Delia entertained herself by looking at the elves, men and dwarves that walked by with her magical sight. “Everyone has an aura!”
Kaya chuckled. “Yes. Every living thing.”
“The human ones don’t sparkle like elven ones. The dwarves,” she studied a pair of stocky ones thumping past in heavy-looking boots, “their auras, um, shimmer, I guess is the best word.”
Aduello nodded. “That’s why it’s a shame when we go to war with each other. He looked at the sun. It’s nearly mid-day. I’ll go back to the inn and see if a message has come from the castle.” He stood up and looked at Kaya. “Stay out of trouble.”
Delia could see he was telling his daughter to look out for her.
“Of course, father. No trouble at all.”
He left, and Delia and Kaya stood up. “Let’s check on the horses,” Delia said.
They went to the stable, where they said hello to the livery elf, and went to the horses. With nothing better to do, they curried the horses until their manes and tails were tangle free and their coats glistened. “We should have gotten them apples at the market,” Delia said.
“Oh, that would have been a good idea. Next time.” Kaya cleaned her curry brush and put it back where she found it.
Delia did the same. “I know we just had a snack, but let’s go inside and get some bread and cheese. I’m hungry.”
“Me, too. Days of short rations have made me famished.”
The two went in and were there, finishing a plate of bread, cheese and fruit when Aduello came in. “Glad to see you here. We have permission to see Yarami mid-afternoon.” He looked around the room. There were single elves, sitting far apart in the pub, far enough away that they couldn’t hear what was being said. Their eyes were on their mugs. “There’s a feeling about town that I didn’t notice this morning. I can’t tell what it is. How long have you two been here?
Kaya and Delia traded alarmed looks. “We left the square just after you. We spent an hour grooming the horses, then came in here to eat. We’ve been here since.” Kaya looked at her father. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know.” He glanced at the two other elves and back to his daughter. “But something is wrong.”
Delia stood up. “I’ll go look at the street.”
Aduello started to call her back but stopped and nodded. “See what you can.”
Delia walked casually to the open door of the inn and stepped just out of the door. There was still plenty of foot-traffic. A few elves and men on horseback rode past. What might be different? No one was on the bench outside the door, so she sat down and leaned back against the wall, feet out, at ease to the casual passer-by.
It took a while to spot. She went inside. “We should go to the castle now.”
Kaya and Aduello stood. He dropped some coins on the table. “Let’s go.”
They left the inn and headed to the castle. “What did you see,” Kaya asked.
“Black auras. Not on everyone, but yesterday I didn’t see any.” Delia felt for the knife at her waist.
“Should we have brought our saddle bags?” Kaya asked.
“There’s no time,” Aduello said. “It would have looked suspicious.”
Delia nodded, he was right. She did have a pang of regret for the few coins and jewelry she’d left behind. But better that than a slit throat.
They passed the market, which now seemed gray and ominous to Delia, and were not far from the castle when three elves on horseback, accompanied by four more on foot, appeared in front of them from several streets and alleys.
Aduello stopped. “Get behind me.”
Delia looked behind. “There’s more behind us.”
The three moved to stand back to back. Unbidden, a fireball formed in Delia’s hand. She had no intention of being captured by black elves again. It was no matter that none of them were wearing black, she could see their auras.
Kaya readied herself as well. “I think the sleeping spell, don’t you?”
Delia grinned as she squashed the fireball. “Yes. A much better idea than burning the town down.”
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 42.