Slave Elf Part 47: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Part 47

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.

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Slave Elf Part 46: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Part 46

Find Part 1 here.

 

Delia saw Master Kaepli and Master Juner leave together with Kaya. Aduello followed after greeting the king as an old friend. Neoni and Mystesto took Captain Cateri with them. Finally, she and the king were alone.

“How are you, father?”

He took her into another hug. “Better now that you are here. How did you escape?”

“A long story, father. Better left for a quiet winter’s night in front of the fire. But, one thing came of it, I found the key to Iyuno’s and his nephew’s, power. Fire.”

Ucheni looked at her. Puzzlement clear on his face. “Fire?”

“Yes.” She looked at the lamp hanging over the map table. “Look with your magical sight.”

She stared at the small flame, willing it to share its power with her. A tiny thread left the flame and came to Delia’s hand. As soon as it touched her, the soreness and weariness of the last two days left her. She stopped the call there, so she wouldn’t extinguish the lamp. “You see?”

The king looked at her, open mouthed. “How did you learn that?”

“I saw Iyuno do it in the dungeon.”

Her father started to speak.

“For another time, Father. Really. But as I realized when I was first returned to you, most elves don’t use their magical sight very often. I still do because it’s still new to me. So, one day, he was in the dungeon, gloating, and I saw what he was doing. They made a mistake. Usually they left with the torches but one night they forgot. I took advantage and got both Kaya and myself out. Then when we got to the palace, it was protected, everyone gone. I was so worried.”

“I am sorry, daughter. We needed to protect everyone. It seemed best, especially since Master Kaepli knew how to set the protection spell.”

“I thought so. Anyway, Kaya and I went to her home. We arrive half-starved and bedraggled but Aduello and his wife Phara have been wonderful. He was injured in a skirmish we had in Verda.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” He sighed. “Go, rest. Someone will take you to a tent.” He smiled. “I’m glad you are here.”

“As am I. Rest well, Father.”

“And you.”

When she left the tent, a guard walked her to a tent set aside for her. Her saddlebags and bedroll were there. The bedroll already spread out on a cot. She drank some water from a pitcher and mug left on a small table for her and some bread and cheese. That at least stopped the hunger pangs enough that she could relax.

The brief burst of energy she received from the lamp fire had gone. She was just tired. She lay down, thinking about the next day but was asleep before she could form a whole thought.

The next morning, she awoke late. She left the tent and went in search of Master Kaepli. His tent was full. Sisruo stood up when she entered, a grin spread across his face. “Princess Delia!”

Everyone turned to see her. Kaya was beaming from next to Master Kaepli. “I told you.”

The whole group gathered around her for hugs and handshakes until Master Kaepli cleared his throat. The group settled down. Beside Kaepli was Master Juner. “Kaya was telling us about your escape. Power from fire?”

“Yes, Master. I can demonstrate if you have a torch.”

Kaepli nodded to Couran who dashed out of the open tent door. “We’ve been telling Master Juner about the protection spell. Kaya tells us that you broke the one at the palace.”

“I did. With the help of what I’m going to show you. But tell me about this duel? What will happen?”

Master Kaepli sat down. “It’s hard to know. Iyuno has the more powerful magic. Your father, has his own strengths, of course. They can duel with magic, with weapons, or both. It’s their choice.”

That did not sound good to Delia. She knew what Iyuno could do. The fear must have shown on her face.

“Do not fear, child. While your father is keeping Iyuno busy, we’ll be dealing with his army.”

Her eyebrows drew together. “Doesn’t that break protocol?”

“A little,” the mage shrugged. “But Iyuno’s conceit is so huge, he decided to accept the challenge.”

“Nethene and Ceinno are very powerful. Not elves to be trifled with.” Delia had a flashback to the dungeon and shivered. She shoved the memory away.

“We know. Kaya has told us.” He looked at her with sympathy. “We have you.”

She didn’t know what to say to that. Everyone was putting entirely too much faith in her new powers as far as she was concerned. That was when Couran came back with a torch. He stood in the middle of the tent.

“Go ahead,” Kaepli said.

Delia took a breath and held out her hand. It was harder to see in the daylight but everyone in the tent gasped when a small tendril of fire power reached her fingertips. Like it did last night, she felt better, stronger, immediately. She drained the torch of power in preparation for mid-day. “That’s it. I took all the power it had.”

“And what does it do to you?” Master Kaepli asked.

She told them.

Kaepli looked at Kaya. “Have you tried this?”

She nodded. Both my father and I after we saw what she could do. “Neither of us could do it.”

Couran lit the torch. Each apprentice and Kaepli and Juner tried. They couldn’t do it. “You say you broke the protection spell by using the power of a bonfire?” Kaepli asked.

“I did.” Delia nodded. “The bigger the fire, the more power I can draw.”

“And Iyuno, Nethene, and Ceinno can all do this?”

Kaya and Delia nodded.

Kaepli stroked his beard. “How far can you draw the power?”

“I don’t know. I’ve only drawn from fires close to me.”

Juner and Kaepli traded glances. “All of you go. Eat. You’ll need your strength. Delia. If you would stay just a moment.”

The rest left. Sisruo exchanging glances with her until he was out of sight.

“Have you eaten?” Kaepli asked.

“No. I slept late. The ride was very hard.”

“We’ll let you go in a moment.” He again looked a Juner. “We think you need to know more of the prophecy.”

Delia’s heart raced. More? How much more could there be? It already put all of the weight of the kingdom on her shoulders.

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 47.

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Slave Elf Part 45: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Part 45

Find Part 1 here.

 

The meeting at dawn at the west gate was uneventful. The night guards unbarred the town gate and let them through. They rode silently through the dawn mists. Delia pulled her cloak around her tighter. The weather was getting colder. Summer was nearly at an end and fall would arrive soon. With luck, this would be finished soon, and she could go back to the palace and learn more about being an elf than fighting.

They rode steadily, only stopping at noonday to rest the horses and eat. Then it was back in the saddle. Delia rode beside Captain Catari after they left their lunch spot. “How long until we reach the king, Captain?”

“Another day. We’ll camp tonight and begin again in the morning. It will be after dark when we arrive even riding late into the night tonight. It seems to me speed is most important right now.”

Delia agreed with him. “And Iyuno?”

“We don’t know where he is. His forces are spread throughout the mountains.” His look went hard. “He attacks anyone not pledged to him. We’ve lost many elves.”

“Gallett told me about his family. I am truly sorry, Captain.”

“Thank you.” He looked at her. “This prophesy, do you think it will come to pass?”

Delia shook her head. “I don’t know, Captain. I only heard about it when I was returned to the elves. It seems to me to be far-fetched. I’ve only practiced magic for a handful of months. I don’t see how I could be more powerful than Iyuno or his nephews. They’ve had decades or hundreds of years of practice and study.”

“I’ve heard you can do some amazing things.”

She shrugged. “I can throw fireballs, which isn’t common but not unusual. I can throw an invisible heat ball, kind of like force that pushes. Master Kaepli taught me how to put an opponent to sleep but he taught that to all of his apprentices, as well as how to build a protective wall and how to take it down. But again. He taught that to his apprentices at the same time.” Delia shook her head. “No. To be honest, I don’t feel special at all.”

“Don’t discount your abilities, Princess. I do not have those skills and neither do any of my men. Perhaps Master Juner does, but if so, he’s never told me.”

Captain Catari pulled away from the head of the small column and dropped back to check on the rear. Delia gave some thought to what he’d said. Perhaps it was true, then. Sisruo, Kaya and the others were powerful elves, as was Master Kaepli but even though Kaya and her father knew about pulling power from fire, they’d never said if they’d tried it themselves. And who knew what she herself could do if pushed. Though what else could push her after being tortured for days in Iyuno’s dungeon, she shuddered to think.

They made a quick stop at sundown, again to let the horses graze and grab a cold bite of food for themselves, then remounted and rode into the night. It was close to midnight, Delia thought, when they finally halted for the night. The horses were hobbled so they could graze or sleep. The elves didn’t set up tents. Everyone rolled into their bedrolls and slept under the stars.

The next morning came all too soon for Delia. Cold biscuits and jerky were handed around as breakfast and water from the stream was all there was to drink. Delia was stiff and cold from sleeping on the cold ground and wet from the heavy dew that had fallen. She retrieved her horse and saddled her herself, tying the damp bedroll on the back of the saddle. I’ll take it down and spread it out to dry at noon-tide, she thought. That way it will be at least a little drier when I have to sleep in it tonight.

They formed up and rode just as the sun began to brighten the eastern sky. The second day was much like the first. Delia found herself dozing in the saddle. She nearly fell off of her horse once when it stumbled. That had frightened her, but she realized as she looked around, nearly everyone else was in the same condition.

More jerky was for supper when they stopped just before sunset. She pulled out the apples and handed them around to Kaya and Aduello. Her horse whinnied her happiness when Delia presented the little mare with it, on the flat of her hand. The filly munched it messily then leaned down to lip up the pieces she’d dropped. A small kindness, Delia thought as she stroked the horse’s neck. A battle was coming, she could feel it and perhaps the little mare wouldn’t live through it.

They mounted up and Delia looked at the guards, Kaya, and Aduello. Perhaps none of them would live through it. She felt bad about Gallett, especially. He really shouldn’t be here. He was too young. Did he even have any power yet? How would he defend himself?

She dropped back one spot to talk to Master Juner. “Master, I worry about Gallett.”

The mage nodded. “Young yet, it is so. But the troop is fond of him. He’ll be protected.”

“That’s good to know.” She took a breath. “And how are you? It’s been a hard ride.”

He smiled at her. “It’s true I’m getting old, but my strength is not diminished. Tell me about the spells Master Kaepli has taught you.”

They spent many miles talking about the protective wall, the sleeping spell and much more. Delia was surprised when Captain Catari raised his hand to halt the troop.

In the dark, everyone behind her stopped because she was stopped. Was something wrong? She looked around, trying to sense trouble coming.

“We’re here,” he announced. “Stay here while I ride ahead to announce us.”

Delia breathed a sigh of relief but didn’t stop trying to sense the darkness around them. Knowing her uncle, this would be when he’d attack.

For once, she was glad to be wrong. Captain Catari returned. “Forward!”

They rode into a well-guarded camp. Defensive spikes and ditches surrounded the tents. Guards were on duty, as far as Delia could tell, every thirty feet or so with fires. Elves from the camp took the horses as the Captain, Mage Juner, Aduello, Kaya, and Delia were led to the king’s tent. Even at this late hour, he was still awake. Master Kaepli was with him as well as Mystesto and Neoni, looking at maps on a table in the middle of his tent.

King Ucheni opened his arms. “Daughter, come, let me give you a hug of welcome.”

Delia had tears in her eyes when he released her. “Father. I was so worried about you.”

“And I you, daughter.” He grinned at the others in the tent. “Look, my daughter who was lost has been returned to me!”

After grins all around, she introduced Kaya and Aduello. The king shook both of their hands. “Thank you for keeping her safe.”

“It was she who kept me safe,” Kaya told him. “She arranged our escape.”

Ucheni nodded. “A tale for another day, I’m afraid. You’ve come at a desperate time.”

Delia stepped back from the map table. “How may we help, Father?”

“Master Kaepli?” the king invited.

The mage stepped forward. “Iyuno is just about finished blocking us into this valley. But,” he nodded to the king and Delia. “It’s a trap of our own choosing.”

Delia didn’t think ‘trap’ was a good thing.

“We have set up hidden traps in the passages leading here. We’ve trained more elves in how to use the sleeping spell.” He looked at Delia. “And now, we have the Princess of prophecy.”

Delia blushed under everyone’s stare. “And the plan, Master Kaepli?”

“We draw them down here. A challenge was issued, from the king,” he nodded to the king, “to Iyuno.”

Delia’s heart sank. She knew from personal experience how powerful her uncle was. “A duel?”

The mage nodded. “We have to stop Iyuno himself. Stopping his army isn’t enough.”

Ucheni spoke. “My uncle has accepted. We know he’ll try some trickery. We’ve done what we can to defend against whatever it may be. We meet tomorrow at mid-day. So. Go. Rest. The battle starts tomorrow.”

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 46.

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Slave Elf Part 44: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Part 44

Find part 1 here.

 

Yarami smiled. “A good question, Princess.” He took a breath. “You want to join him? You seem to have the skills to be of use.”

Delia nodded. “We all do. Kaya is a great healer. Aduello, an old friend of the King. We can help.”

“I believe you can. I can have someone guide you to them.”

“Do you know where Iyuno and his forces are?” Aduello shifted in his chair, cradling his arm in its sling.

The mage stroked his beard. “In a canyon, playing cat and mouse with his uncle.” He shook his head. “It’s bad business. Outposts and homesteads are being destroyed. The skirmishes spill over into the dwarves’ territory and they’re none too pleased about it.”

Lord Yarmai studied Delia. “You know about the prophesy?”

“I’ve been told. But I don’t feel like a very powerful elf.”

Yarami’s eyebrow went up again. “Perhaps. But the speed with which you learn, and the number of unique powers, you’ve learned may prove otherwise.” He pushed a lock of his loose hair behind an ear. “I’ll send you.” He looked at Aduello. “You’re injured. Would you prefer to stay here?”

“My daughter is a good healer. She can tend to the wound.”

Yarami nodded. “Very well. I’ll send a small force with you.” He looked at Captain Catari. “You’ve been itching to go. Set up Lieutenant Gormaldi to be the leader of the guard. Take up to ten of your best.”

“I’d like to go as well, Lord Yarami.”

Yarami turned to stare at Master Juner. “And you? I didn’t know you had any desire to go to battle.”

“You misunderstand me, My Lord. I want to talk to Master Kaepli.” He looked at the two young elves. “He apparently has an amazing ability to create spells.”

“Ah.” Yarami smiled. “A professional curiosity.” He nodded. “Very well. I know your assistants are quite capable.”

“Thank you, My Lord.” He gave a gentle bow from the waist.

“Go with my blessings. All of you. Tell the king I’d send more elves if I had them.” He looked at Delia. “But I suspect he has all the help he needs.”

Delia and her companions rose, as did Master Juner. Captain Catari led them out of the room and down to the main entrance. “Do you have everything you need?” he asked.

“We don’t know.” Aduello adjusted the sling a little. “We abandoned everything at the inn when we realized there was trouble. Everything, including the horses, may still be there or not.”

“Gallett,” he called.

A young elf stepped forward. He’d been one of the elves in the Lord’s office. “Sir.”

“Go with them. Find out if their belongings are still intact. Bring them back if not.”

“If everything is in place, Aduello, meet me at the west gate at sunrise.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

The three turned to leave, the young guard followed. Aduello and Kaya walked side by side. Delia followed beside Gallett. She smiled to see he was distressed by that. “Where are you from, Gallett?”

He looked at her wide-eyed. “Um, nearby, Princess.” He ducked his head and touched his forehead.

“No formalities with me, Gallett. Is there a title I should use with your name? Soldier, Guard?”

“No, Princess. I’m new. I don’t have a rank yet. They just yell, Gallett!”

She smiled. “That’s what my master used to do. ‘Delia,” he’d bellow when he wanted me.”

He looked at her sideways. “I thought that just a story, Princess.”

She sighed. “No. No story. Sixty years, close enough, I was a slave on a caravan. Back and forth, up and down through the desert selling slaves and assorted goods for my Master.”

“That’s not right, Princess.”

“No. But my parents, the king and queen, were trying to hide me. But now I’m back,” she said in a more cheerful voice. “What about your parents?”

He sighed. “We had a homestead, to the south. I’m here because Iyuno’s elves destroyed it.” His voice was hard, but a tear formed and raced down his cheek. He dashed it away quickly.

“I am so sorry, Gallett. Is that why you became a guard?”

“Yes, Princess. I had no one left. So even though I’m too young, Lord Yarami let me join.”

“That was kind of him.”

“Yes. Yes it was.”

By then they were back at the inn. Everything seemed peaceful. They checked the horses first. They were in their stalls, dozing. Delia was relieved. She liked the little mare she’d been riding and had been anxious that something may have happened to her.

They went to their rooms. Nothing had been disturbed. Aduello sighed. “That’s a relief.” He looked at Gallett. “Tell your Captain that we are fine. We’ll meet him at the west gate at dawn.”

Gallett nodded, gave Delia a shy smile, and left. Aduello sat on Kaya’s bed. “Let’s spend the rest of the afternoon preparing. Kaya, could you take a look at my shoulder? It really hurts. Delia, could you arrange with the inn-keeper for trail food for the three of us. Five days-worth if possible. Then with the livery elf for provisions for the horses.

He reached into a pocket and drew out a pouch. “Take this to pay.” He held out several gold coins.

“I have some money. And I brought jewelry to sell. I can take care of it.”

“Nonsense. The king will repay me. Trust me. Keep your things. We may have need of them later.” He urged her to take the coins.

Delia didn’t want to. She felt like a burden. After shoving his hand at her again, she relented and took the coins. “Very well. I’ll get everything arranged.” She put the coins in her pocket and left.

The inn-keeper was agreeable to provide the food. They discussed what would be best, then Delia went to the livery elf. The same there. She paid the elf and told him when they wanted to go. He agreed to have the horses ready.

There were a few coins left. She went to the market, closing down, and bought six apples. Three for the horses and three for them. Delia had a feeling the horses, and the elves, would need a treat before the battle began.

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 45.

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Slave Elf Part 43: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Part 43

Find Chapter 1 here.

Delia took a deep breath. She and Kaya could take out a large number of attackers quickly with the sleeping spell but what could Aduello do? Too late to ask. The black elves were attacking. She and Kaya raised their hands as one and one black elf after another with their horses slumped to the cobbled streets. When those facing her were down, she turned to help Aduello. He was hard at it, using some sort of lightning to fight. Arrows were whizzing past. Delia’s first job was to put them to sleep. Soon, Kaya was helping, but not before an arrow hit Aduello in the shoulder. He cried out in pain as Delia and Kaya put down the last one, at their very feet.

Kaya knelt beside her father, down on one knee his hand around the arrow. “Father. Let me see.”

That was when the castle guard arrived. The Captain was on a white charger, men before and after. “Halt!”

Delia raised her hands as the guards surrounded the three, stepping over the bodies of the black elves and horses. Kaya did the same. Aduello raised his uninjured arm.

The Captain surveyed the scene. “Explain yourselves!”

Aduello winced but replied. “I’m Aduello Herberi. I have an appointment with your lord. We were set upon by these elves and defended ourselves.”

The Captain raised an eyebrow. “You’re a formidable fighting force.”

“Not me so much as my daughter and,” he hesitated for just a moment, “her friend.”

The Captain reined in his prancing horse and sighed. “Collect all of the downed elves.” He looked at Kaya and Delia. Can you wake the horses at least?”

Kaya answered. “Yes, sir.” She looked at Delia. “But I recommend we not wake the elves until you are ready to ask them your questions. We can do that one at a time.”

The Captain’s eyebrow rose again. “Very well.” He motioned to one of the elven guards. “Go get a wagon.” The elf hurried off. “I’m going to have to secure your hands.”

“But father is injured.”

“We’ll deal with that.” He motioned to his guards.

Two guards came to each of them. Helping Kaya and her father to their feet. They tied Delia and Kaya’s hands behind them and Aduello’s to his side. They were escorted, led by the Captain, to the castle.

Delia thought this was an inauspicious way to meet the castle’s lord but there was nothing she could do about it. The guards were courteous enough but brooked no nonsense. Fair enough, she thought. They didn’t know she was on their side.

All three were taken first to the healer, an elf nearly the age of Master Kaepli. After Aduello’s wound was dealt with, they were taken to a clean, dry cell with three wooden chairs and a table. Water in a pitcher and 3 wooden mugs were on the table. The door was closed behind them and they could hear the lock turn.

Aduello sat down and Kaya poured him water. Delia studied the door. “There’s no protection spell.”

Kaya nodded. “I suspect the Captain believed us. But he’s just making sure we stay put until he talks to Yarami.” She poured a mug of water for herself and Delia, handing it to her. “The master did a good job on your shoulder, father. I should have no trouble with healing it as we go forward.” She sipped her water.

Delia sat down as well. She could sense two guards on the other side of the heavy oaken door. They would be summoned soon enough. “Well, that was a good start.” She drank about half her mug of water.

Aduello nodded. Of course, not the introduction I would have preferred.” He sighed and sipped again. “But, we’re not dead or captured, so that’s something. And, Yarami now has prisoners to interrogate. A good thing, I think.”

The two young elves nodded. They spent the rest of the time with their own thoughts.

Delia was considering whether they could have done anything else. What if they’d just stayed at the inn? No, that wouldn’t have been good. The black elves would have forced their way in. Perhaps hurt any guests and the inn-keeper and his family. That would have been a disaster. She played with the wooden mug, turning it around and around as she absently looked at the patterns in the grain.

“Aduello, you were using lightening to defend yourself. How do you…”

The key in the door lock sounded. Delia put her mug down and turned to look.

The door opened. It was the Captain of the Guard. “Come with me.”

The three rose, and followed the Captain. Four guards followed. They traveled up and up, three flights of stairs, and were ushered into a pleasant room. Books and scrolls lined shelf upon shelf on the side walls. In front of them was a large window, an elaborately-carved desk in front of it, a silver-haired elf sitting behind in a matching wooden, high-backed chair. The three walked to the front of the desk and waited as the elf finished his scroll and rolled it up.

He looked at them. “Aduello Herbei, daughter Kaya, and,” he studied Delia. “You must be Princess Delia. No one else has black hair.”

Delia was impressed. “Yes, Sire.”

“I’m not a sire. Lord would be the appropriate title.” He motioned to the three chairs in front of the desk. “Please sit.”

The three sat down on the plain wooden seats as Yarami folded his hands on the desk. The Captain of the Guard stood to the side. Delia turned to look. Two of the guards had stationed themselves on either side of the now closed door. She turned back to Yarami.

“Captain Catari told me what he found and your story. I find it disturbing that these dissidents are in Verda.” He sighed, a look of regret, then resignation crossed his face. “You suspect I know where the king is.”

Aduello nodded, wincing at the pain in his shoulder it set off. “Yes, Lord Yarami. Delia had a vision.”

Yarami’s eyebrow rose. “Weren’t you just released from human slavery?”

Delia nodded. “Yes, Lord. I was, just a few months ago. Apparently I’m a fast learner.”

A knock sounded at the door. One of the guards opened it. In came the healer.

“Master Juner, come in. We were just getting to our mysterious guest’s abilities.”

The old elf looked at Delia. “I didn’t ask in the dispensary, but you’re Delia, am I correct?”

“Yes, Master Juner.” Delia sighed. “Apparently not as inconspicuous as we’d hoped.”

One of the guards brought the mage a chair. He sat down. “No. I should think not. What did you do to the elves who attacked you?”

“A sleeping spell. Kaya and I both have learned it. Master Kaepli developed it, knowing we were going after Iyuno and his forces. It’s much better than killing them.”

The old elf nodded. “Indeed.” He looked at Yarami. “I can’t wake them.”

“We can. We can teach you the spell and how to wake them.” Kaya offered.

The lord and the mage studied Kaya, then Delia. “An interesting development.” Lord Yarami drummed his fingers on the desk. “I accept your offer.”

“Do you know where my father, the king, is?” Delia just blurt it out, then round-eyed, covered her mouth. That was too abrupt. She put her hands back in her lap, head down. She could feel a blush creep up her neck to her cheeks.

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 44.

1255 Words

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Slave Elf: Part 42: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Part 42

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.

“Good idea.”

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.

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Art, All About the Odds, Joshua Robertson: Monday Blog Post

Rufous Sided Towhee using Filters to Make an Oil Painting

 

Newest News:

I write this blog on Sunday for posting on Monday. So right now, I’m looking forward to going to a painting class in a couple of hours. I haven’t done oil painting for decades and when a friend invited me to come along, I jumped at the chance. I think I’ll enjoy a more physical and colorful method of being creative as a break from my daily writing. If it’s any good at all, or maybe even if it isn’t, I’ll share a picture of the painting next week.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on the second story in my All About Bob Series. Over the course of last week, I changed the name of it from All About the Game to All About the Odds. I have to say I’ve written my main character, Bobbie, into quite a pickle. Let’s see if I can get her out of it!

Did you know I have a Pinterest page? It’s here: https://www.pinterest.com/conniecockrell/. I have a board for my books and stories and just Saturday, learned how to link my book pin to the Amazon buy page. I’m so excited about that! I don’t have all of them linked yet, but soon. Anyway, I have lots of other boards on there, including one for Paleo recipes, so I hope you stop by.

Giveaways:

The Lovestruck Authors and Bloggers Valentine’s Day giveaway has 32 authors giving away at least two prizes each and there’s $100 in PayPal cash for the grand prize winner. This is a great way to find new to you authors, but it doesn’t last long. It’ll be over on Valentine’s Day. Check out https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/giveaways-and-prizes/ and click on the Rafflecopter link to enter the contest. Books, ebooks, jewelry and more is being given away. You don’t want to miss out.

Shout Out:

Author Joshua Robertson

Hey, it’s time to shout out to Joshua Robertson. Joshua Robertson is an award-winning author in epic, dark fantasy. You may recognize him as the dude whose dragons were said to destroy George R.R. Martin’s and Christopher Paolini’s dragons in a very biased Twitter poll. His first novel, Melkorka, was released in 2015, and he has been writing fantasy fiction like clockwork ever since. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys an ever-expanding and extremely loyal following of readers. He currently lives in North Carolina with his better half and his horde of goblins.  You can find out more at: Newsletter

Amazon

Instagram

Facebook Page

Facebook Group

Twitter

Author J.C. Boyd

He’s co-authored his newest book, Heshayol, with JC Boyd. J.C. lives in the Midwest with his wife and two dogs and has an M.A. in English Literature. The first novel in his world, Blood and Bile, was released in 2017. Before completing junior high, J.C. had received his first box set of Dungeons & Dragons and devoured J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Since, he has been heavily influenced by a myriad of fantasy authors, such as Weis and Hickman, Robert Jordan, and Ed Greenwood. You can find out more at: Amazon

Facebook Group

Twitter

Here’s a bit about Heshayol.

Over a millennium ago, at their father’s command, Tyran and Drast sent the Horned God to the Netherworld in hopes of gaining everlasting life. Instead, they sparked a chain of events that led to the near destruction of the Ash Tree and the liberation of the old gods. Now, with the world waning, the two brothers are freed from Anaerfell to travel to the frozen realm of the dead and resurrect their enemy with hopes of restoring balance. Tyran and Drast journey between time and space with limitless magic at their fingertips to face demon legions, forsaken immortals, and the realization that the malevolence of their father is not yet done.

They knew killing a dragon wasn’t going to be easy. Especially not one that was also a god. But they never expected to be punished so brutally, or for so long. Death is no escape when you’ve already slain the Horned God to the Netherworld.

Heshayol releases March 5th so get your Pre order for only $2.99 and for a limited time you can get the first book Anaerfell for only $.99.

Where Will I Be?

Check my website, https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/where-will-i-be/ for my next engagements.

The 20th Annual Women’s Wellness Forum
​Saturday, April 28, 2018

I’m excited to say I’m booked for the Payson Women’s Wellness Forum on April 28th, 2018. What’s more healing that getting lost in a novel! I’ll be there all day and you can buy, and I’ll sign, any of my books. SciFi, Fantasy, Cozy Mystery and more. You can find tickets at https://www.mhafoundation.com/upcoming-events.html

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on both the regular and the Brown Rain newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

Tested released January 31st and I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords, today! You can also see all my books on https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

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Slave Elf: Part 41: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Snow mountain tops in clouds. Dawn. Mount Mamkhurts. Northwest spurs Greater Caucasus Mountain Range. Caucasus mountains. Karachay-Cherkessia. Russia. from Depositphotos

 

Part 41

Find Chapter 1 here.

 

They left the next morning after an early breakfast. The dew hadn’t dried yet before they were on the road. The plan was to ride hard, to get to the king as fast as possible. On the ride Delia wondered what they would find when they got there. Or, just what it was she could do when they did.

The far south of the kingdom where Sochiro Yarami was a many days ride. In the evening, Delia had Aduello tell her about both Sochiro Yarami and Lady Dedalia.

“Lady Alia Dedalia is an old friend of your mother’s.” Aduello stirred the small campfire. “She’s from an old family, older than your father’s, who have guarded the eastern borders for thousands of years. I believe Queen Ralae spent some time there as a young woman, learning about the area and making friends with Alia and her daughters.” He sighed. “You came here via the eastern border, Princess.”

Delia nodded. “I didn’t see a border or guards, though.”

“No. You were brought by secret elven paths. The king did try to keep your homecoming a secret.”

“It didn’t work.” She remembered that desperate run to the palace gates. “Not his fault, I expect. Nethene’s and Iyuno’s spies must be everywhere.”

“True.” He drank the last of his tea. “Sochiro Yarami is like me, not a lord but the guardian of the southern borders anyway.” He shook his head. “That was traditionally Iyuno’s post. But when your father was crowned and Iyuno disappeared, it was given to Yarami. He’s a good elf, loyal and smart. I agreed with the king that he was a good choice.”

“What’s on the southern border?” Delia leaned forward. If nothing else, riding around the entire elven kingdom was giving her a great insight into her land.

“We share that border with the dwarves. That region is mountainous and full of ores. We have a good trade with the dwarves and it goes through the town around Yarami’s castle.”

Delia remembered seeing dwarves in a few of the desert towns her caravan went through, but she’d never had an opportunity to talk to them. “Do we get along?”

Aduello laughed. “As much as dwarves get along with anyone. They live nearly as long as we do and are a little sensitive, taking almost anything said to them as an affront. They’re good fighters, though. We have histories of elves and dwarves fighting together against dragons and orcs.”

“Orcs? I thought they were a legend?”

Kaya smiled. “They may be. The last great war, even men were involved. We believe the orcs were wiped out, but no one knows. None have been seen for over a thousand years.”

“Good to know. The myths made them sound evil.” Delia wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. The evening had turned chill and the stories of orc’s destruction were horrific.

“They were.” Aduella got up and banked the fire. “That’s one fight I’d rather not attend.”

It took ten days to get to Yarami’s town, Verda. As they entered the gates, Delia felt right at home. It was very similar to the caravan towns she’d grown up visiting. As they passed through the streets, she didn’t see any particularly large group of soldiers. None in her father’s colors. They went to an inn where the tired horses were watered, curried and led into roomy box stalls and fed. Aduello instructed the livery elf to clean all the tack and offered coins in advance. The elf gave a quick bow and promised it would all be cleaned by morning.

They went into the inn where Aduello ordered two rooms and baths. They went upstairs and found two nice rooms, both with a view of the street in front. “We’ll meet downstairs after cleaning up and have dinner and make a plan.”

That sounded good to Delia. After ten days of hard riding and sleeping on the ground, a nap in a soft bed sounded grand. They met in the pub, ordering stew, bread and wine, and talked softly while they waited for it to arrive. A trio of dwarves sat in the back corner, while a party of five men sat under the windows. Aduello chose a table in the middle, where he could watch the door to the inn. “In the morning I’ll send word to Yarami that we’re here. If we can get an audience, we’ll know where the king is soon enough.”

Delia nodded. “Should you tell him I’m here?”

“I did think of that but in case there’s a spy, I think I’ll leave that out.”

Both Kaya and Delia agreed.

“I didn’t notice any unusual number of soldiers as we rode in,” Delia said.

But I did notice,” Kaya added, “that they seemed very alert. You’ve spent years in trading towns, Delia. What did you think?”

“A town’s guards are always alert. Trading towns are rife with thieves and cut-purses, kidnappers and scam-artists. I’m sure Verda isn’t any different. But no, I didn’t think so, at least not at the time.”

“Good points, both of you.” Aduello stopped talking as a serving elf brought their wine.

“The food will be out in a minute,” she said, then went back to the kitchen.

“And,” Delia said as she picked up her wine. “Where is Iyuno? If the king is here, shouldn’t he be nearby?”

“This is a mountainous region. He could have three armies in any canyon, hidden, ready to attack at any time.” Aduello sipped his wine. “We’ll just have to see Yarami.”

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 41.

921 Words

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Slave Elf: Part 40: Flash Fiction Friday Post

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Part 40

Find Part 1 here.

 

Delia froze. “Bad news?”

Phara shrugged. “A little of both. Let’s let you clean up and eat then we’ll talk.”

Delia and Kara exchanged glances. To Delia, Phara sounded like the news was too bad to talk about. “As you wish.” She and Kara grabbed their saddlebags and went inside and took turns at the bath, then, dressed and ready, went to the kitchen.

Phara was standing at the fireplace, stirring a pot. Aduella was at the table, a mug of tea steaming in front of him.

“The horses are taken care of.” Aduella sipped his tea.

“I’ve made stew.” Phara tapped the spoon on the side of the hanging pot and put it on the spoon rest. “It’ll be ready soon if you’d like to set the table.”

Delia went for the silverware while Kaya got the bowls. Phara cut slices out of a loaf of bread as Aduella got a crock of butter from the cool box. Table set, the two young elves and Aduella sat down. Phara scooped stew into a tureen and brought it to the table. “There. Let’s get you all fed. That was a hard ride if you only took a day and a half.”

Delia’s stomach growled in answer. Despite her fear of Phara’s news, she laughed with everyone else. It didn’t take long to eat, or to clean up, either. They met in the library and settled in, goblets of wine in each hand. Delia sat on the edge of her chair, expecting the worse.

“We had all but two pigeons return. Most of the answers were that they didn’t know where Iyuno was. Some offered rumors.” She looked at all of them. “One, from Lord Rado, said he’d helped King Ucheni with warriors and supplies two weeks ago.”

Delia looked around at the surprised faces. She knew so little about the elven kingdom. “Who’s Lord Rado?”

Aduello had fallen back into his chair. “Lord Rado holds a castle on the far western border.” He shook his head. “Why was the king so far west?”

“No word of the queen?” Delia twisted the goblet around and around in her hands.

“None so far. The two missing pigeons were to Sochiro Yarami, who lives to the far south, and Lady Aila Dedalia.” Phara looked at Delia with concern. “She lives east, near the desert. It’s possible the pigeons never made it to either place. Or they made it and were sent back but didn’t make it here. Or,” Phara paused, “they’re still there and haven’t been sent with a message, for whatever reasons.”

Delia sipped her wine. It was a dark red, the full-bodied smoky, fruity flavor filling her mouth. “Perhaps Mother is at one of those places, hiding. That’s why no one has news.”

“It’s possible,” Aduello said. “How can we find out where they all are?”

Kaya spoke up. “Let me try scrying.”

“Don’t you need a special bowl or something,” Delia asked.

Kaya shook her head. “It helps to have a bowl that’s been used for scrying before, but it can be done in anything that can hold water, or a still pool.” She licked her lips. “I cannot guarantee anything. Scrying isn’t my strong suit. I have to be able to do it to pass my Master’s exam, but it’s not my strongest skill.”

That brought the memory of Sisruo to Delia’s mind. He was supposed to take the Master’s exam soon. Was he still alive to do so? “You won’t get hurt, will you?”

“No.” Kaya shook her head. “But I may not see anything.”

Phara looked relieved. “What do you need?”

Kaya thought a moment. “A large, wide silver bowl would be best. Failing that, a wooden bowl.”

Phara looked disappointed. “I don’t have a silver bowl of any sort.” She thought a moment. “I have a large wooden bowl I use for salad. Will that work?”

Kaya nodded. “I can make that work, I think.” She blew out a deep breath. “I’ll have to prepare the bowl and myself. I’ll try at dusk. The beginning and ending of a day are when the ether is thinnest.” She stood up. “Let’s get the bowl, mother.”

The two walked back to the kitchen. Delia sat back in the chair, Aduello doing the same. All she could think about was where her parents were. Where was Mage Kaepli and Sisruo? She sipped her wine and wondered how Kaya would fare. She hoped Kaya was telling the truth about not getting hurt scrying. In her limited experience, magic had a habit of blowing back on the user if they were doing things wrong.

It was getting dark when Kaya came back with her mother. Her hair was unbound and combed through. She wore a robe with no belts or bindings. “You all may come and watch, but don’t talk or move. I need to concentrate.”

They all left and went out and down from the tree. She went to a small glade and put the bowl on the ground. She took the bucket of water from her father and poured it into the bowl. Kaya knelt beside the bowl and took a breath before beginning to chant.

Delia made herself comfortable and waited beside Phara and Aduello. The chanting was low, slow, soothing, actually. The evening birdsong decreased with the light. A soft breeze wafted by, rustling the leaves. The quiet chanting with the dying light and sound was making her sleepy.

She woke, standing, with Kaya’s hand on her shoulder. “Delia?”

Delia blinked. “What happened? Did I miss your scrying?”

Kaya chuckled. “You didn’t miss much. I didn’t see anything. But you!”

Delia looked at Aduello and Phara, standing on each side of her. “What?”

Phara reached out a comforting hand. “You spoke. You gave us both your mother’s and your father’s locations.”

Delia found that hard to believe. “How?”

Kaya nodded. “I’ve read that it can happen. You were tired. My chanting and the evenfall relaxed you. You are part of prophecy. So, prophecy is helping, apparently.”

A little panic-stricken, Delia shook her head. “I don’t remember.”

“That’s fine. We do. You told us your mother is with Lady Dedalia and the king with Sochiro Yarami.”

“Did I say where Iyuno is?”

“No.” Aduello shook his head. “But we can assume he’s near your father. Iyuno has to kill him before he can be king.”

Delia swallowed. Full night had fallen. She felt light-headed and confused. “What do we do?”

“Your mother is safe. I think, Princess, we need to go help the king.” Aduello waited.

“I feel sick, Kaya.” Delia put a hand over her stomach.

“I had that reaction after my first scrying. It’s normal.” She turned to her mother. “We should go in. Let Delia sit down with a goblet of wine to restore her.”

So, they all went in. They put Delia in front of the fire with some wine and Phara went to get her a snack. After she ate the fruit and cheese, she felt better. “Thank you. I was a little disoriented.”

“That’s fine.” Phara gave her a smile. “It’s hard to remember that you’re new to all of this. You’re taking it rather well.”

Delia sighed. “Yes. I feel like I’m always running to catch up.”

Aduello nodded. “Have you give thought to your decision?”

“I have.” Delia drank the last of her wine. “We go to the king.”

 

Thank You! Come back next week for Part 41.

1235 Words

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Slave Elf Part 39: Flash Fiction Friday

Read Part 1 here.

Part 39

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.

974 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

 

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