The riders were approaching quickly, and, now that they were closer, the group could see that they were soldiers.
"Probably a patrol," Alroy said, sitting in his wagon, arms resting on his legs as he watched them approach.
"You think?" Cadman said, his voice having the slight hint of sarcasm. "I can spot a patrol a mile away without your help."
"Be nice." Cayle said.
"Announce yourselves!" The man leading the riders said, once he was within shouting range.
"We are but a group of travelers, sir, passing through." Cayle shouted back.
There was a sharp bark of laughter. "You take me for a fool? You are no mere travelers!"
"Sir?" Cayle asked.
"Drop any weapons you may have on the road." The man ordered. "And then dismount."
"Now!" The man screamed.
They all unsheathed their weapons and dropped them on the road before dismounting, hands in the air.
"Was that so hard?" The man smirked.
* * *
Deanna sat on the cushioned bed, staring in amazement at her surroundings. She was sitting in an elaborately decorated room, with ornate ceramics sitting on oak dressers and tables.
Paintings of landscapes hung on the walls; and the canopied bed was draped with burgundy silk, with matching bed-sheets, and a large quilt lay on the bed, adding more color to the intense room.
She couldn't believe it was hers. It was quite the jump from the prison cell she'd woken up in. She stood and began wandering the room, looking more closely at the furniture and the ceramics. They were all quite valuable.
She paused when she passed a painting of an open landscape with wild horses running free and it made her think of Krennan and how much she missed him. She found herself wondering what had happened.
A sudden thought occurred to her and she ran out of the room, trying to find her way back to the throne room.
She passed a maid with short brown hair that she had pulled back off her face with a bandana and asked for directions. The maid, after a short pause, pointed her in the right direction and soon she was running through the halls once more, trying desperately not to fall flat on her face.
She came to the door from which she had been lead through after it was revealed she wasn't this Marianna everyone kept talking about.
She was about to burst through the door when something made her pause. She could hear voices through the door and her curiosity got the better of her and she put her ear against the door.
"-care!" A man shouted; she recognized it as the voice of the lord of the castle.
"But, my lord," Another man whimpered, the terror clear in his voice. "The girl!"
Deanna wondered what girl they were talking about.
"I don't care what you have to do!" The castle lord said again. "Convince him that she is his daughter!"
"My lord," Another man spoke up, his voice cautious, but not filled with fear, like the others. "If he does not believe we have his daughter, perhaps we should send him proof?"
"But what?!" The lord demanded. "We don't have anything of his daughters' to send him; he wouldn't believe some ribbon or a lock of hair, it would have to be something personal that only she would have or a note with something that only she would know written on it! He's too smart for that!"
There was a pause.
"Perhaps we could ki-" The man began, but was interrupted by a loud banging sound that made Deanna jump.
"My lord! We caught intruders in the land," A new voice said, his voice dripping with glee at his capture. "They claim to be travelers, but how lucky can we get? First the girl, and now them? They're obviously working together!"
"Thank you, Captain," The lord said tightly, obviously annoyed at the interruption. "But why don't you leave the allegations to us?"
"What girl?" A voice that sounded familiar asked.
"You dare address the King of the Shore?!" One of the original voices said indignantly.
"King of the what?" The familiar voice asked, slightly amused. "That's the best name you could come up with?"
Then it finally dawned on Deanna who the owner of that voice was. And she stepped away from the door in shock. How had he found her?
The voice belonged to the boy she had encountered in the woods, the one who she's heard singing.