Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chapter 44

Thankfully one of the guards at the entrance recognized them and ushered them in, waving over a stable hand to take care of the horses.
Deanna mumbled a 'thank you' to the boy, who was no older than fifteen, as he took Krennan's reigns from her.
Normally she would object and insist she take care of him herself, but seeing as how she could barely keep her eyes open, she couldn't be bothered.
The guard led them up to the kings tent, where Cayle was almost tackled by Cadman, who had seen them approaching from a nearby tent.
"I'm glad you're alive!" He said, a grin breaking out in his face. "Where's the girl?"
Cayle glanced at the guard, who had been watching, and the man ducked his head into the tent and announced the three of them, then stepped aside so they could enter.
The king was seated on a wooden chair at the head of a long table, that would ordinarily seat his advisors and generals, but which is now empty of all but the advisor.
The king stood as they entered, an anxious look on his face that made guilt twist in Deanna's gut that they had been unsuccessful.
His face fell as he saw that none of them were his daughter.
"I'm sorry," She said.
The advisor coughed at her lack of formality and she glared at him. This was not the time for formalities.
"We know where they are taking her, so we will be able to rescue her here." Cayle said, then added, after a glance at the advisor, who was scowling in disapproval. "Your Majesty."
The king took a few deep breaths, clearly trying to calm himself before he spoke. "Your advice to me is to wait? Who knows how they are treating my daughter in the meantime."
Deanna opened her mouth to speak when a trumpet sounded outside and a man ran inside and hurriedly bowed to the king.
"Forgive my interruption, Your Majesty." He said, his breathing labored slightly. "But we have spotted a group of people approaching the castle."
He hesitated.
"Yes?" The king prompted, attempting to keep his voice neutral, but his voice still shook slightly.
"We believe we have spotted Princess Marianna among them."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Chapter 43

They looked at each other for a moment before acting as one, leading their horses off road into the small cluster of trees.
"Good thing the forest doesn't end for a couple more miles, huh?" Cayle whispered, grinning at her.
Deanna rolled her eyes as they crawled forward to get a view of the road.  
They stopped just inside the tree line, where there were a few bushes to hide them should whomever is on the horses look in their direction.
They didn't have to wait long until the horses crested the small hill.
There were 3 riders, each with their own packhorse tethered to their horses. They were silent as they continued passed Deanna and Cayle's hiding place, before splitting up.
One man took the road north, the other two took the road to the south.
Once the riders were gone from sight, they slipped out of their hiding place and back towards the horses.
"Did you see what I saw?" Deanna asked, a frown on her face as she removed a collapsible bucket from her saddlebag and filled it with water for Krennan to drink from.
Cayle nodded. "One of those men was bearing the royal crest, but he looked no more a royal guard than I do."
She sighed as she leaned against a tree.
"What do you suppose we should do?" Cayle asked as he filled his own collapsible bucket for Starfall.
"I don't know." She said. "If there is an imposter in the royal house, we should warn the king, but would he listen to us?"
"Why wouldn't he?"
She opened her eyes and looked at him. "Really? A farmer and a fugitive? We'd be locked up before we got within two feet of the throne room."
He opened his mouth to reply, then shut it again. He couldn't argue with that.
"Then what are we supposed to do? Just let an impostor, a possible assassin, roam the castle grounds?"
"No," She said, picking up the bucket and putting it away, while also retrieving an apple and feeding it to Krennan. "We head back to the Dukes castle and talk to the others, we still need to rescue Marianna."
He didn't reply, so she continued. "Once we've accomplished that, then we will try and think of something to do about the 'guard.'"
'He nodded agreement and they led the horses out of the small copse of trees and mounted, immediately breaking into a gallop.
They spent a restless night in the saddle, stopping only to water the horses, before they would set off again.
When the light of day was just cresting over the hills in the distance, the Dukes castle came into view, and with it the Kings pavillion.
"Finally." Cayle said with relief.
Deanna nodded agreement and they spurred the horses into a trot towards the kings' camp.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chapter 42

Herndon dismissed them all soon after, waiting until they had all filed out into the tunnel, before closing the door behind them and leaving the secret room with a smile on his face.
                                                                         * * *
"What should we do now?" Cayle asked, his blanket pulled up over his shoulders to ward off the chill of the night.
They had decided to camp in the clearing that night, and had deemed a fire too risky.
Deanna shrugged as she took a drink from her canteen. "We head back to the Dukes castle."
"Why?" He asked. "Shouldn't we try and pick up a trail?"
"Why?" She replied. "We already know where they're taking her."
"To be ransomed." Cayle said sullenly. "I don't like the idea of her being out there alone, with just her kidnappers for company."
"Neither do I," She said. "But there's nothing we can do; we don't know how much of a head start they have on us, and we'd probably just wander around the countryside in search of some clue, which they'd probably have covered up, costing us precious time."
He sighed. "I know."
"Besides, we need to head back to the Kings camp so that we can come up with a plan to rescue her."
"How are we going to do that?" He asked.
"I don't know," She said, laying down on the ground, wrapping her blanket around her. "That's why we need to head back first thing and make a plan. Goodnight."
"How is your ankle?" He asked, pausing. They had been leading the horses for a time to allow them to rest, and he had noticed that Deanna had started wincing with every step, which made him feel guilty, since had almost forgotten she had injured her ankle when they'd helped her escape from the Dukes castle.
"It's fine," She said. "Just twinges a bit."
"Well, we've been walking for a while now, I think it's time we switched to riding again." He said, preparing to mount his horse, who, since he didn't know the horses name, he had started calling Starfall.
"Wait," Deanna said, holding up her hand. "Do you hear that?"
"Horses." Cayle replied, putting his foot, which he had put in the stirrup in preparation of mounting, back on the ground. "Lots of horses."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Chapter 41

Harriet walked through the seemingly endless tunnel, her arm growing tired from holding the lantern aloft.
Her mood was almost as dark as the shadows that danced on the walls around her. Why had she been summoned? She hated talking to Herndon, he gave her the creeps, and she always felt as though he wasn't telling her the whole story.
Finally, the tunnel ended at a simple wooden door and she pushed it open and walked inside, quickly closing the door behind her so that the heat would not escape.
She set the lantern down on a table set up next to the door and walked over to the fireplace. She sighed in contentment.
This was much better than the cold, dank tunnels she had just spent an eternity walking down.
"Comfortable?" A voice asked, making her jump.
She spun around to face the speaker, seated in a corner of the room. "Why do you insist on doing that to me?" She asked, putting a hand over her heart.
The man stood and walked over to her. It was Cameron.
"Oh I'm sorry," He said, not sounding at all sorry. "Did I startle you?"
She opened her mouth to reply, when the door she had arrived through opened, letting in the chill of the tunnels, as well as two figures.
She stepped closer to the fire.
"Shut that thing, will you?" Cameron said, as one of the newcomers set his own lantern next to hers.
The newcomer, Harriet thought his name was Jared, cast an annoyed look at Cameron and closed the door, while the second, Jackson she believed his name was, looked around at the room.
He shed his cloak, revealing a clean military uniform, bearing the crest of the royal house of Huriendial: twin swords crossing over an Oak tree.
"Does anyone know why we were summoned?" Jared asked.
Harriet shook her head, as did Cameron.
"I suspect it is something to do with the Dukes plan." Cameron said.
"Why be so mysterious about it?" Harriet asked.
"You know that Herndon likes being mysterious." Cameron replied.
"Do I now?" A new voice said, and everyone jumped guiltily and turned to face Herndon, who was studying them all with a cool glare that set Harriet's teeth on edge.
She hated how he could make her feel so small so suddenly.
After an uncomfortable minute, Herndon's gaze relaxed a little from the icy glare he had been giving them, to his usual one of annoyance, as if he was surrounded by buzzing insects that wouldn't leave him alone.
"You are wondering why I summoned you." He said. "I have need of you."
"What do you need?" Jared asked after a moments hesitation. Apparently, Harriet wasn't the only one that Herndon made uncomfortable.
"You," He motioned towards Cameron and Jared. "Are to head to the Dukes estate and keep an eye on things."
They nodded as Herndon turned to Jackson. "How are things progressing?"
"The king is beginning to trust me," Jackson replied. "He has begun to take me into his confidences, but I have yet to learn of anything of great importance, but I am making progress."
Herndon nodded and finally turned to her. "And you, have you learned anything of use?"
She shook her head, trying to hide her unease. "No one has come asking about the Lady, but word has reached the village that she has been kidnapped, and that her father is camped outside of the Dukes castle."
"Anything else?"
"Rumors." She said.
She shrugged. "There are rumors that a ship has been sighted on the Westborn sea, and that the prince has been kidnapped. Some claim that the ship is filled with pirates who abducted the prince for ransom."
Herndon nodded thoughtfully and turned to Jackson.
"Any basis for this?" He asked.
Jackson shrugged. "The prince left for a minor excursion and never returned, some are claiming that he has been kidnapped by a rival king, others by pirates, as the girl says."
Harriet bristled at being called 'the girl'. After all, she was the one who had been trusted with kidnapping Marianna and keeping her hidden until it was time for her to be moved, but she said nothing.
She would let her actions speak for her.