Find Part 1 here.
Delia took a stool, folding her hands in her lap. More prophesy? What now?
Kaepli cleared his throat. “We haven’t told the others, though the king knows the whole prophecy. He was much encouraged when you arrived last night. We were sure Iyuno had you.”
Master Juner took over. “We encouraged the king to make that challenge. The prophecy is quite clear. You will be the one to win against Iyuno.”
They let that sink in.
Delia blinked. “But, the duel is between the two of them. How will that work?”
Kaepli shook his head. That is still to be revealed. The prophesy says what happens, not how.”
“That seems less than helpful. It could be today or in a hundred years.” She was disgusted with the whole prophecy thing. Just because she had black hair instead of everyone else’s blonde, she was the most powerful? It was just ridiculous. Delia stood up. “I’m not going to base my life on some mystical pronouncements. Father is a strong elf and can fight his own battles.”
“Wait, Princess.” Juner held up his hand. “The line of succession falls to you. If, and I do mean if, your father falls, you must be there to take over the duel. Otherwise Iyuno’s forces will keep attacking until he’s killed you or you kill him. The line is not free for him until you are dead.”
The bluntness of his words gave Delia a shiver. Chased across the world by Iyuno because she was Ucheni’s heir? The thought was horrifying. She sat back down. “So, I must stand by while father duels?”
Both mages nodded. “The fight must end today.”
“What about Nethene and Ceinno? They’re nearly as powerful as Iyuno.”
Kaepli sighed. “It is unfortunate, but they’ve made their stance clear. They must perish as well.”
Delia rubbed an eye. More killing. More death. Wasn’t there enough already? “You have a plan?”
“We think they’ll each be leading an arm of Iyuno’s army. We mentioned last night that we have traps in all of the approaches. Iyuno’s force will be allowed into the valley with him but then all the passes will be blocked. We have men along all of the routes, ready to attack.”
Delia licked her lips. The carnage would be terrifying. Her stomach rolled, making her glad she hadn’t eaten anything yet. “This has to be done?”
Kaepli looked at her with a mix of kindness and sorrow. “Yes.”
That seemed so final a word. Yes. We must kill hundreds of elves. This is not what she imagined as a slave in the caravan. Delia stood up again. “I must eat.”
The mages rose and bowed. “Thank you, Princess.”
She bowed and left. The sunshine outside the tent belied the dark words she’d just heard. The sky was an amethyst blue. Puffy clouds drifted across the sky in a soft, warm breeze. Birds were singing in the trees and a butterfly crossed her path, searching for an untrampled flower. She walked to where the cook tent should be. There she found Sisruo, sitting at a table with a mug in front of him.
He leapt up when he saw her. Sisuro stopped as he looked into her face. “What’s wrong, Princess?”
He doesn’t know, she thought, then schooled her face into a happier one. “The mages have been telling me the plan. It seems desperate.”
“It is. But come, let me get you some food.” He walked with her to the cooks, finishing up the service. “A bowl for the Princess, please.”
The elf at the long board table nodded to the Princess and brought a bowl of mush, honey on top and a sprinkling of nuts, along with a mug of tea. He bowed as he handed it to her.
“Thank you. Very kind of you.”
“Anything we can do, Princess,” he said.
She nodded and walked to Sisruo’s table. “We haven’t had time to talk.”
He nodded and waited for her to sit before he did. “True. I wasn’t with the mage last night. I had my own preparations to complete.”
She stirred the mush around, mixing in the nuts and honey, then scooped a small spoonful and ate it. It tasted like so much sawdust in her mouth, but she knew she needed the strength, so swallowed. “Much has happened since the battle at Iyuno’s castle.”
Sisruo shrugged. “You’ve grown thinner, Princess. Great hardships have befallen you.”
Delia appreciated the look of sympathy on his face. “I have. There were some long, hungry days on the road. Kaya was a wonderful companion.”
“She’s a good elf.” Sisruo took a sip of his tea. “She says the same of you, by the way.”
Delia had to smile. “A bonding experience, you might say.” She ate more of the mush, feeling better for the kind words Kaya had said. She took a deep breath. “And your role today?”
“I am to block Iyuno’s escape. I have a small force and we’ll come in behind Iyuno. At a signal from Mage Kaepli, I’ll attack.”
Her spoon stopped just above the bowl. “Just a small force?”
Sisruo shrugged. “He is only allowed a hundred elves. We should be fine. The sleeping spell will be the primary weapon.” He tapped the sword at his hip. “But we have these as well.”
“Don’t forget the fireballs.”
He smiled. “I won’t. But I am not as good with them as you are. We’ll be fine. Couran and Pelan will be with me.” He brightened. “Your Captain Catari was a welcome guest. He’ll be leading a group at the south pass. They left very early this morning.”
Again, Delia spared a thought for young Gallett. She hoped he’d be spared today.
“Eat, Princess. We must go soon.”
She nodded and spooned more into her mouth. Too soon.
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 48.