I arrived in my chamber. Drake told me that we were alone. I sat on my bed. I was thinking about the meeting being cancelled. I had a terrible feeling. Drake started screeching crazily.
“You made a huge mistake.” It was mother’s voice!
“It can’t be,” I said. “You’re in Het Wald.”
“Pan?” I asked, uncertain. “Is that you again?”
I heard a laugh. It wasn’t any voice that I’d heard before. “You’re perceptive as ever,” Pan said.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“Foods that are improperly prepared leave a bad taste in the mouth,” Pan said. “Words that should never have been said leave a bad taste in the gut. Isn’t that mysterious?”
“This is about what I said to Sadow,” I observed.
“Of course,” Pan answered in Sadow’s hollow voice. “Powerful mortals frequently have two faces. One is a mask to appease those less powerful.”
I heard Pan’s hooves move closer. “When this mask is removed then you need to be wary. If you’ve forced the mask off this is doubly true. Powerful mortals dislike showing their true selves.”
“You’re saying that I’m in danger,” I said. Silence answered me.
“For those reasons, my love accepted should be,” Steelspine concluded. His speech had revolved around how much wealth and prestige he commanded. Of course, it was his little obsession. It was still less creepy than Elaine’s. Artura had kept hers really brief, a simple little speech about how she would protect and cherish me. Among the three of them, they’d made the ceremony last until nightfall.
“I’ll go now,” Callie whispered. She didn’t have to do it so close to my ears. I would have heard her anyway. Still, I couldn’t be even slightly annoyed at it. I did owe her.
I took her hand and placed a ring from my finger into it. “I want you to have this,” I whispered. “Consider it a token of friendship.”
Callie slipped it onto her finger. “I’ll treasure it, always.” I felt her a folded up parchment being slipped into my hand. “A map,” she whispered. “It will lead you to my home, should you need a place to go or simply desire my company.” I folded up the map and slipped it into my pouch.
“You never know,” I whispered. “I may just visit you.”
Callie moved to the forefront of the stage. “Aphrodite’s art is far more complex than any mortal can understand,” she began. “As a result different races have developed different measures of love. Sir Montgra’s declaration might be good, for a dwarf. I could tell you all of the reasons that I should be accepted based on vampiric standards, but I’ll focus my line of reasoning on the elven perspective since, in case anyone missed it. the lovely princess is an elf.”
As Callie continued speaking everyone listened. Soon the guards, the other suitors, the musicians and even my father were all watching her intently. I did appear to be the only person who wasn’t drawn to the stage.
I carefully crept to the door. I did my best to open it lightly, but I still looked out at the crowd. They were all watching the stage. No one had moved in the slightest. Callie looked directly at me and gave me a quick wink while she continued to entrance the assembly. I slipped out of the ballroom and bolted.
I removed the gel from the glass. I quickly separated it into four pieces as evenly as I could, using a small stone. My guard watched me intently with an upraised eyebrow. He was suspicious. It would not help. Not at this juncture.
I threw each piece onto a different leech stone.
“What are you doing?” he cried. He moved to wipe the leech stones clean but was stopped. The wind rose to push him away from the cell. He looked at me in shock as the magic coursed through me.
“I will not cause permanent harm to you,” I reassured him. The winds rose to tear the cell door from its hinges. I rendered the guard unconscious with a heavy blow and permitted his body to slump to the ground.
I was sweating. I couldn’t believe that I had been caught so quickly.
“Lyn, what are you doing?” Lan asked.
“Don’t try to stop me,” I pleaded.
“I see,” Lan turned away from me. “You’re running away again.”
“I don’t want to hear about duty!” I cried.
“Then I won’t mention it,” Lan said. He looked me in the eye. “But is it okay if someone suffers because of you?”
“Father will be fine,” I said.
Lan shook his head. “Lyn, your actions have had an impact on more than you and your family.”
My ears perked. I knew who he was talking about. I turned toward the prison. “You’re right,” I admitted. “There is one thing I have to do before I escape. Will you tell anyone?”
“I saw nothing,” Lan said. He hugged me. “I hope that you find happiness and please, find a way to keep in touch.”
“I will,” I promised. “Maybe someday I can even return.”
“If you can’t, then I’ll visit you,” Lan said. “Now hurry! Free your friend and get out of here.”
I broke the hug and hurried on my way.
Leaf and Lofu crept up to the trolls. They were lying on the ground, fast asleep.
“There isn’t a sentry,” Leaf observed. His voice was barely distinguishable over the sound of the wind.
“They’re arrogant,” Lofu whispered. He beckoned for Leaf to hurry forward. They rushed over to Larick and Lyon.
Lofu cut Larick’s bonds and removed his gag. Leaf went to work on Lyon’s.
“All conditions have been cleared,” Larick stated.
“Keep your voice down,” Lofu requested, looking over to the sleeping trolls. “Do you want them to…” the words died in his throat as a dagger severed his jugular.
Leaf looked over at the scene. Larick had vanished from sight. The same dagger went deep into Leaf’s back. His body collapsed onto the ground.
Lyon retrieved his folding spetum and pointed it at the Magi.
“You will find their horses in the wood to the west,” Larick said. He looked directly at Lyon. “You will not attack me now. You know that you must return to the castle to tell the Royal One that his eldest sons are dead, and that the ‘medicine’ I gave him is going to see him follow.”
Lyon looked from Larick to the west, but held his ground.
“If you do not give warning and tell of my deeds,” Larick began, “there will be no one to stop me from repeating this performance at the capital.” He stared directly at Lyon. “Or do you think that you have the ability to stop me by yourself without waking my allies and being killed?”
“Damn you,” Lyon said. “You’re right, but this isn’t over. I will make you pay for your crimes.”
Larick watched as Lyon vanished from sight. “No,” he whispered. “You won’t.”