Axra was sitting at the table between Twila and Lilly. Lysara had taken the other spot beside Twila.
“Your dads are really friendly,” Lysara stated. “That took me by surprise.”
“They weren’t friendly to Lilly,” Twila noted. “Is this about the bath thing?”
“What bath thing?” Lysara asked.
“It’s definitely about that,” Axra said. “Still, Papa was out of line. He had no right treating her like that.” Axra put a comforting arm around Lilly’s shoulders. Lilly leaned forward in her chair, cheeks turning red.
“What bath thing?” Lysara asked.
“You don’t need to know,” Axra snapped.
“Oh, come on,” Lysara pleaded. “Please.”
“I… I’ll tell you later,” Lilly said.
Zero stopped by the barracks before heading to the table. He had time. “Velvet.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m here,” Velvet muttered. He was lying down in a cot with his eyes closed.
“Tell me, how was your journey?”
“Well,” Velvet began “we found the princess. We explored some weird caverns and fought a giant spider. Twila opened a magic door and found some strange lady who calls herself Gail. Gail gave us a bunch of treasure. We left the caverns planning to go to the great library so Twila can find out who Gail is. We stayed with my parents for a night and came here.”
“Did you have any trouble preventing Payapaya?”
“No,” Velvet said. “That was easy.”
“You’re sure that Axra never went off on her own with Lilly?”
“Just the time they got separated from Twila and me. They were probably gone a good couple hours.”
“You’re sure nothing happened during that time?”
“Like what?” Velvet asked.
“Never mind,” Zero said. “Bonnie!”
An armoured elven woman with light blue hair rushed forward and saluted.
“When Axra and her friends leave I want you to accompany them. You are to guard Axra’s life and her maidenhead.”
“Her… maidenhead, Sir?”
“Yes,” Zero said. “Axel believes her to be enamored with Miss Lysara, but I’m more worried about Lilly. I wouldn’t want anything to be rekindled between them.”
“I understand, Sir,” Bonnie said.
Zero nodded and headed back towards the palace.
“You girls doing okay?” Axel asked. “Lysara, would you like anything in particular for dessert?”
“No, thank you,” Lysara said.
“Good evening, Daddy Dearest,” A half elf with styled purple hair and a very fancy dress walked over. “And who are our guests?”
“‘Daddy dearest?'” Axra asked, looking quizzically at Axel.
“Axra, this is Rachel,” Axel said. “Zero and I decided to do an outreach program. We thought it would help us connect with the regular villagers if we brought a commoner into our home and treated her like family.”
“Axra?” Rachel asked. “So, you must be the real princess. I have so looked forward to meeting you.” She held out her hand.
“It’s good to meet you too,” Axra said, taking her hand. “I guess that makes us sisters.”
“Oh, what a lovely notion!” Rachel cried.
“That being said, aren’t you a little over-dressed?” Axra asked.
“It is a lovely dress,” Lysara noted.
“Thank you, Darling,” Rachel said. “It’s my own design. Putting it together was an absolute fright but it was worth it.”
“Oh, my,” Lilly said. “Y… you’re really talented.”
“Why, thank you,” Rachel said. She took a seat beside Lilly. “If you want I can make each of you an ensemble to match.”
“That would be… very kind,” Twila stated. “But we aren’t going to be around for very long.”
“Oh, really?” Rachel looked dejected.
“Yeah,” Axra said. “We’re going to travel to the Great Library in a few days.”
“That is too bad,” Rachel said. “I was so looking forward to spending time with my older sister.”
Zero walked in. “Sorry, I’m late. I was attending to some business.”
“What kind of business would that be?” Axra asked.
“Just some preparations,” Zero said. “I knew I had to hurry, though, since Axel was insistent that I come.”
“Idiot!” Axel cried. “It’s not like I wanted to eat with you or anything. I just didn’t want Axra to feel lonely. It can’t be helped, right?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Zero said. “By the way, send my regrets to Choltin. I won’t be able to go to their aid.”
“Choltin requested help?” Axra asked.
“I bet it’s because of the snow and the Lilly ice sculpture!” Lysara cried. “But why can’t you go? A mage king fighting a powerful curse would make a great story!”
“True enough,” Zero stated. “But we’re having some diplomatic problems with the dark elves at the moment and I couldn’t possibly leave Nervius.”
“What problems are you referring to?” Twila asked.
“Axel was investigating some criminals and, due to a misunderstanding, ended up in a fight with the Matriarch,” Zero explained. “I’ve tried sending my regrets and an apology, but I’m afraid that we’ve never had a very good relationship with the dark elves. I fear that there could be a war.”
“How ghastly,” Rachel muttered.
“Isn’t there anything you can do?” Axra asked.
“If only we could send an envoy they’d heed,” Zero said. “Unfortunately, I know of no such people.”
“I’ll go,” Twila said.
“You?” Zero asked. “I appreciate the offer, but why would they listen to you?”
“Because Elaine Silverstar is my aunt,” Twila stated. “I’m sure that she’ll listen to me if I tell her of your peaceful intentions.”
“Really?” Zero asked. “But, what of your journey?”
“The Library isn’t far from the underground,” Twila said. “It won’t be much of a delay.” She turned to Lilly. “Do you mind?”
“Oh, not at all,” Lilly said. “If we can stop a terrible war… that would certainly be for the best.”
“Then I shall have special supplies prepared for a trek to the underground,” Zero said. “After we’ve eaten, of course.”