Reginald finally reached his destination. He slung the unconscious Twila over his shoulder and moved further in. An elf, dwarf, human and dark elf met him.
“I see you were successful,” the human said.
Reginald nodded. “Phase one is indeed complete. Her dragon will undoubtedly tell the royal brat and her entourage where we are.”
“Preparations for two are almost complete,” the dwarf said. “We’ll be ready when they arrive.”
“Remind your troops not to insult Velvet’s mom,” Reginald said. “He’s unpredictable when he’s mad.”
“They are aware of that,” she said. “Don’t you worry.”
“And once they’ve been dealt with my mages are ready to take us to the backup location,” the dark elf reported. “It should all go smoothly.”
Reginald nodded. “Then I’ll take Twila to the temporary cell and stand guard. The silence stones are in place, I take it?”
The dark elf nodded. “They’ve even got the minor defect we discussed.”
Reginald nodded. “Good. We must leave them their little trail, after all.”
“Reginald,” the other elf spoke up. “If I were to ask that Bonnie Calendula be captured alive, could it be done?”
“I’m confident that I can best her in combat, but not if I had to hold back to bring her alive,” Reginald said. “My skills are not so far above hers.”
“Seems a waste,” he muttered. “A lady of aristocratic blood dying alongside a bunch of mongrels.”
“She’s made her allegiance to those mongrels clear,” Reginald said. “It’s a pity, but it is what it is.”
“She would have her uses, even without her allegiance,” he responded. “She is, after all, of pure blood.”
“That’s enough of that!” the dwarf snapped.
“You disgrace our great cause with your behaviour,” the dark elf added.
“Truly a despicable man,” the human said, speaking for the first time.
The second elf looked as though he wanted to speak, but hung his head in silence.
“So speak four of the noble five,” Reginald said. “It will proceed according to plan.”
“You’d better get her in the cell before she awakens,” the dark elf said.
“I shall,” Reginald said. “And Richard,” the second elf looked at him. “Tell your little hand picked squad that not even one of our allies shall be allowed inside and any who make the attempt will feel my steel.”
“No need to worry,” Richard said. “My lads wouldn’t touch a filthy hybrid, but I’ll tell them.”
“The stable hands are dead,” Bonnie said, after a quick investigation. “I found their bodies tossed in a corner. Twila’s horse is still here, but it’s prepared for a trip and we found some blood, and Axra’s note to Twila, near it.”
“Blood?” Lysara asked. “Then Twila…”
“Is alive,” Bonnie said. “The fact that he took her with him instead of leaving her for us to find proves it. Lilly is scouting for his trail.”
“Dammit!” Axra cried, punching the wall nearby. “It’s all my fault! I let that bastard trick me and now Twila…”
“Calm down, Princess,” Bonnie said. “Remember, the enemy has shown remarkable foresight into the way we think and respond. The attack on the temple was probably staged using as few expendable soldiers as they could get away with, soldiers who were told that you were the target. They knew that I’d make sure to capture one alive and they wanted you to be afraid for Twila’s safety, thereby preparing you to leave her behind so that they could capture her.”
“That seems awfully complicated,” Velvet said. “Maybe the soldier we caught just lied.”
Bonnie shook her head. “They wouldn’t take the risk. Besides, I did use a truth drug during the questioning.”
“I… I found the trail,” Lilly said. “Th… they tried to hide it… but I managed to find it.”
“Then let’s go!” Axra declared.
“A moment,” Bonnie said. “What if the trail is a fake? Reginald knows about Lilly’s tracking skills, surely he would have left a false trail that was lent credence by looking disguised.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Axra asked.
“Perhaps we should inform the Matriarch and work in conjunction with dark elf soldiers,” Bonnie said.
“That’ll take forever!” Axra declared. She looked at Lilly. “Do you think the trail you found looks like it was left deliberately?”
“I… I don’t,” Lilly said.
“Then we follow it,” Axra said. The group looked up at the sound of a roar.
“Fang?” Lilly asked. The little dragon flew down, hovering near her shoulder. He landed, flew off in the direction she’d come from and looked back, expectantly.
“Twila is that way!” Lilly declared.
Axra nodded. “The little dragon is connected to her so he’d know. Let’s go!”
Twila woke up in a small, barely furnished cell. She hurriedly went to work on a teleportation spell, only to have it fizzle out wit a loud popping sound.
“That won’t work,” Reginald told her.
“So I noticed,” Twila said. “Silence stones?”
“I don’t suppose you’ll tell me why,” Twila said.
“I will,” Reginald answered. “It doesn’t matter if you know at this point. Right now two kingdoms move against us. The dark elves of the underground and Nervius. The others… they’ll capture our agents and even execute them, but they don’t try to hunt us down as long as we stay out of their borders. With you in our hands, we can neutralise both threats.”
“Both?” Twila asked. “How do you mean?”
“When Axra comes to save you she and her guards will die,” Reginald said. “We release a statement that you, Twila Magia, lured them into a trap in exchange for your own life.”
“You think they’d really fall for that?” Twila asked.
“I do,” Reginald said. “Your house and theirs has a bitter history, after all. Upon hearing the news, Lulu and King Axel will undoubtedly have a falling out. Preferably resulting in both dying, but even should they both survive the bitterness will go into full swing. There will be war.”
“And I suppose you’ll kill me after that,” Twila said.
“Not at all,” Reginald said. “You’ll be unharmed and even given a nice room, one which you will remain a prisoner within, of course. We’ll periodically let it be seen that you’re doing well to feed the kings’ hatred.”
“Couldn’t you manage as much with an illusion?” Twila asked.
“You must think me a fool,” Reginald stated. “Neither Matriarch Elaine nor King Zero would be fooled by an illusion. No, you’ll just have to live. At least until both sides are so weakened that they can be dealt with.”
“There’s just one problem,” Twila said. “There’s no way for me to lure Axra here. Not with the silence stones.”
“They will find those quite intact when they investigate,” Reginald said. “And they’ll find that a minor defect allows mental links to remain open.” He smirked. “That’s right, your little dragon is undoubtedly leading them here as we speak.”
“There’s no reason for them to risk it,” Twila argued. “They’ll notify the dark elf military and…”
“They won’t,” Reginald interrupted. “That would take too much time and our headstrong princess won’t wait idly while the woman she loves is in peril. No, she’ll come for you and when she does…” Reginald swung his blade.