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© Copyright peter maddison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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“Thank you,” I said, letting my damaged eye see the morning light. Alice had healed it with a magic stone just yesterday. It glowed a nice warm green, as I remember, else, if the feeling were filled with malice then the effect would differ… so poison.

Elvs usually create more potent and longer lasting magic stones. From my understanding, any injury can be healed under certain circumstances. One, is that the person pouring their magic into a stone for healing must also know the workings of a person’s inner body. If not, then healing will be very limited to repairing damaged outside skin, something that can be seen in the hands of a normal magic user. In other words, while there are other steps, just knowing where and how our organs works can provide a much more efficient healing stone.

“And the young princess will be fine, correct?” asked Lilia, being one to worry all night as our group tried to rest. She’d get up often throughout the night and was the only one opposed to forcing Dane out from Lis.

“She’ll be fine,” said Alice. “Just let her sleep.”

It was last night that Alice herself forced Dane into releasing Lis from his grasp. In exchange, we had to hunt down a giant wasp for it to take the mage’s place instead. This was all done by, as Alice described it, having Lehvie believe that she was in greater danger from the wasp than she was from Lis. This for certain proved taxing on the young princess’s mind, but it made Dane switch targets by the end.

Now we have a wasp that is covered in dark soot shadows, and a mage girl who attacked me just yesterday still recovering from Dane’s illusionary influence.

“Then she’ll be fine?” asked Marth, referring to Lis.

“Yes,” said Alice.

“Very well,” he said. “I will tell you what you wish to know.”

“Simple,” said Princess Nes. “Where is Liel?”

“We left the boy alone after we traded two magic stones for his life,” said Marth. “There was a Dahramn girl with him, protecting him.”

“…” This was not something I was expecting to hear, as it isn’t very much to go on with.

“Tell us everything from the beginning,” said Princess Nes.

“We followed them for a while,” said Marth. “We diverted a couple of chum bandits looking for an easy fight and pointed them to the soldier girl and the boy.” Marth sat beside Lis, and continued. “As expected, the soldier girl was more than capable and easily dealt with the bandits at first.”

“And the wolf mounds?” asked Nes.

“They belonged to us,” said Marth. “We sent them in to kill off the soldier girl and bring the boy back alive.”

“Why was a Dahramn soldier protecting him?” asked Nes.

“Don’t know,” said Marth. “I would have thought she was being careful.. just like us because of the magic stones he had on him.”

“The stones wouldn’t be activated unless he knew the activation sequence,” said Alice.

“They were definitely activated when he was brought to us,” said Marth.

“We even lost one of our men when he approached the boy.”

“Then,” said Lilia, “ what next?”

“He made an offer,” said Marth. “He would give us three of magic stones in exchange for his life. In the end, we only took two.”

“So you sold the magic stones?” asked Alice. “How much did you get for them?”

“Seventy gold each,” said Marth.

“To whom did you sell them to?”

“A woman in Aria,” said Marth. “She goes by the name Freyer–she specializes in buying and selling magic stones.”

“Was there no animal protecting him?” asked Lilia. “A summoning beast, to be exact.”

“No,” said Marth.

“What type of summoning was it?” asked Lilia.

“A young phoenix,” said Alice. “A gift from his mother, the Queen. It won’t listen to anyone but royal members of the family so if you spot it around with someone, then chances are it’s with Lee.”

“So you’ve been to Aria,” said Nes, looking to Marth. “Did you spot Liel in the city?”

“It’s a big city,” he said. “That and we kept close to the west side but only for a few days before heading out.”

“Is that all you know?” said Princess Nes.

“Yes,” said Marth. “We left them alone and haven’t seen them ever since.”

Princess Nes started walking away and to her phoenix. We all followed behind with Lilia carrying Lehvie on her back and left Marth and Lis now alone.

“We have to get to Aria,” said Nes and just as she said words, we heard heavy footsteps from afar, along with sounds of chains followed in rhythm and wood turning wheels. It’s a horse carriage headed our way.

“There is no one steering the horses,” I said, noting that there are two horses, and the carriage. Once close enough, we saw that it had the insignia of a lion. “Dahramiam carriage.”

“Think it came looking for the soldiers?” asked Lilia. She went over to Marth and came back soon after. “He said his group first spotted the soldiers with a horse carriage.”

“What will we do?” asked Lilia, troubled knowing that we couldn’t simply let the horses go.

“Normally, a trained horse will stay close with the group of soldiers, in the case that the soldiers are wiped out or just can’t be found.. then the horses will try to return to Dahramn,” said Alice.

“Remove the insignia,” said Nes. “We’ll ride the carriage into Aria.”

“I agree,” said Alice. “We can’t let the horses return and alert others. Then you’ll hover over the area and make sure we don’t come across anymore trouble?”

“That’s the plan,” said Nes. The princess then looked to her phoenix and it lowered its head, as if bowing for her royal blood. She mounted the phoenix. “It’ll be best to have Lehvie rest in the carriage instead of in mid flight.” The phoenix, along with Nes, flew off.

* * *

We cleared the carriage for space, leaving behind tents and unnecessary items. I suppose Marth could use it while he waits for Lis to recover and awaken. There are a pair of swords and some extra pieces of light armor, some food rations, and that’s about it. We left those items inside.

“Put this along with the items,” said Lilia. She handed me a rapier, a sword that belonged to the soldier we fought before. “We can sell these in Aria or use them in case something happens.”

“…” I took the Rapier and gave it a glance. A well made sword that will continue seeing use desppite having lost its former master. I placed it along with the other swords.

Now we have all our stuff in the carriage, the phoenix won’t have to carry as much either. Lilia then placed Lehvie, who was still resting, inside the carriage. In the mean time I felt someone.. something from behind me. Dane was lurking in his usual form as a shadow and made his way to Lehvie, now joining hers and closing its ominous white, empty eyes.

“…Is it fine to leave it like that?” I asked. Alice walked to us and sat her self next to Lehvie inside the carriage. Lilia sat on the driver’s seat to steer the horses and I sat next to her.

“A spirit beast is usually a manifestation of a desire,” said Lilia and we started moving through the forest. The horses didn’t seem to mind being led by strangers, as neither one resisted a gentle push given by Lilia to move. Lilia continued. “Dane is an odd exception, as it was a desire manifested belonging to someone else, but Princess Lehvie retains the right to deem someone dangerous or not, and this affects whether Dane will likely consider someone a threat and decide action from there on.”

“Then whose desire did it manifest from?” I asked.

“Alice?” said Lilia.

“I heard it belonged to a deceased member of the royal house,” said Alice. “The exact person is hard to say, because matters concerning a royal member are kept secret from the public.”

“…”

“Like the fact that civilians are not allowed to know which floating castle houses a royal,” said Alice. “We have four of them, and three are currently occupied despite one castle missing its lord.”

“Right,” said Lilia. “Queen Glinn’s old aunt used to reside in Liel’s castle before she passed of old age. Afterwards, it was redecorated on her aunt’s wish so that the next royal can call it home.”

“But there is something more important you both should know,” said Alice, Lehvie was still resting and I turned around to look at her. “I’m sure Lehvie lied to us when she said she had received permission to come look for the young Prince.”

“What about the seeker stone?” I asked, eyes wide opened and spun my words quickly out of my mouth. “Surely, knowing that it was activated meant that he was around somewhere?”

“By the looks of it,” said Alice, “it would seem the Princess Nes helped Lehvie steal the other half of the seeker stone before the Queen had a chance to send a team of her own to search. Without the stone, the Queen will have no clue where to even begin.”

“…Then that means there is a good chance…” I said.

“That we will eventually meet with other Talicians looking for us?” said Lilia. “Yes, the Queen might have sent groups to search for us. Of course, knowing the general direction we flew to from Talica only narrows down the locations, just barely.”

“Lilia,” I said hurriedly, “you knew that Princess Lehvie lied?”

“It was quite obvious,” said Lilia. “I thought you knew.” She then laughed at my concern. “If they find us, eventually, the only one in trouble is Alice. Nes and Lehvie may be yelled at by the Queen.”

“And us?”

“We are part of Prince Liel’s many servants,” said Lilia. “We are only obligated to take orders directly from him. Its a way to keep a power balance in the royal house.. and Alice, being a close friend to the Queen…”

“She’ll get mad at me, again,” said Alice. “Assuming she has time to get mad when we bring the Prince home.”

“…Assuming he wants to return,” said Lilia. She didn’t bother looking back to Alice, and simply kept her eyes on the forest ground as we traveled, feeling bumps along the way from tree roots or small rocks beneath the wooden wheels of the carriage.

“I heard he was kept locked in his room for a few years,” I said. “But why?”

“You’re new to those that serve in Liel’s castle,” said Alice, sounding annoyed, “however, ignorance is not an excuse.”

“Don’t mind Alice,” said Lilia. “She’ll get all lovey dovey when we find the young Prince, but she isn’t wrong on that. You should know that a male being born to the royal family can make our enemies decide to go to war.”

“…”

“If.. he is her son,” said Lilia, “then that means the Queen’s power has been weakened considerably, enough so that Talica’s enemies might believe they have a chance into winning a war against us.”

“There is only one problem,” said Alice.

“So long as there is no definite proof of who he is,” said Lilia, “then we can avoid coming to war that much sooner. The only two people that know for sure, however, are the Queen herself… and Alice.”

“It’s true,” said Alice, glancing over to Lilia. “Not even Liel’s close servants know of his legitimacy to the throne.”

“I remember the stories,” I said, finally settling down that I know no trouble will come to me. “A male heir is believed to be the reincarnation of the first Talician King and thus he takes what belongs to him—the power of fire.”

“That is exactly why others would think to attack Talica,” said Lilia.

“However, these are just stories.. but let us not ignore the fact that a single male has yet to be born to the royal family.”

“In other words…” I said, “we trick our enemies into coming out of hiding, make them believe a male has been born so that they go to war against us.. then we destroy them when they believe that they have the edge when they, in fact, do not.” Meaning that being absolutely certain of the young Prince’s birth could be the difference between winning and losing a war.. but that is assuming too much.

“It’s a crucial time now,” said Alice. “There isn’t a single country that isn’t ready for another war because of the strange anomalies happening all around the world, but if word gets out that Talica’s Queen has been greatly weakened..”

“Then they won’t hesitate to take out their greatest threat first,” said Lilia. We continued to make our way trough the forest, and because of the rough terrain, it will take about a day on horse to get to Aria. From above us flew Princess Nes on her phoenix, monitoring the area and keeping an eye on us. Higher above her still, were clouds coming together in a frenzy, collecting themselves in a build up of the color grey.

It’s going to rain soon.

* * *

We’re leaving Crater lake today.

“Perhaps a storm?” said Aril.

“Probably,” I said, having looked up at the sky, then to the lake and noting that the waters weren’t calm at all. “We should start packing. There is no need to risk it, and we can just come back to Crater lake another time.”

I called Kahl and Sophie over to me, as well as Selsie, to help pack our things into the horse carriage. The horse was in fine condition as we made sure to feed him regularly.

“Is that all?” I asked and looked over everything, making sure that nothing was forgotten.

“Yes,” said Aril.

We made ourselves into the carriage with Aril taking steer of the horse. Selsie wouldn’t fit, so as always, she walked along side us as soon as the carriage started moving. Like us, she also carried things on the forest vines I made for her to carry. Fish—that’s what she took with her. Likely to save for the trip or for when we get home.

We started leading the horse to the cave entrance that lead to the opposite side of the high hills that surrounded the lake. Inside we could hear drops of water from the cave’s ceilings and wall drop to the ground. Small holes on the walls and ceilings, some of which had bugs crawling out from them and I made sure to study their features and then deemed them safe and not poisonous.

“That one,” said Kahl, pointing at a bug with a white circle on its head that was a few yards on the ceiling ahead of us, complete with orange trimmed wings—it matched the description on the book of poisonous animals. Aril then pointed her hand toward it, open palms, and started concentrating. A small icicle formed from her hand and she focused on firing it towards the bug.

She shot the icicle.

She hit her mark just inches from the bug and scared it off back into its hole. There is no need to kill it, but just in case, Aril continued with another ice spell and as soon as we were feet away, she sealed the whole with ice and left it there to thaw out. Enough time would have passed and the bug would be safe to do as it pleases.

We continued through the cave and eventually made our way out.

“Okay,” I said, sitting by back against the wood from inside the carriage and looked over to Sophie. Kahl went and joined Aril along with a book on animals. I created a ball of water and hovered it over to Sophie, who was opposite to me. She put her hands up, just as I did, and proceeded to return the ball of water over to me. We repeated this.

“Like this?” she asked, and I nodded my head in approval. Then I turned the ball of water into ice, forming it carefully as it froze and into a flower.

“Once you get better, you’ll have no problem with doing this,” I said, and she smiled cheerfully.

A trip back to Aria shouldn’t take more than a day, so we should be back before midnight.

* * *

I woke up, got up, and looked outside from within the carriage. It was night and also raining heavily as the drops were more than obvious as I heard them hit the carriage top in large numbers. I actually like rain, and this felt soothing to me, but someone else might not agree. Aril.

“Are you okay?” I asked her. Aril had covered herself with part of the tent, most of which was still inside the carriage, but still proved useful on the go. Kahl, on the other hand, had went back inside the carriage and was sleeping next to his sister with backs against each other.

“Yes, master Lee,” said Aril. There was a faint fire flowing next the carriage, lighting the road along the way.

“Did you create that?”

“Yes,” she said. “Though I believe the road has been harder to travel on now that its raining. We should have reached Aria a while ago.”

I looked at the horizon in front of us. There is a very faint light, like one from a city, but much smaller since Aria doesn’t use electricity the way it is used in my world. An hour away, maybe two?

“There is something behind us,” said Aril, having looked back and to her left for a short moment. I moved over to the back of the carriage and opened the covers that kept the rain from creeping inside as the others slept. Then I saw what Aril was looking at. A more concentrated light hovering like the fire Aril Created. This one, however, was much brighter. It lit the way for two horses that pulled a carriage like ours. It was also moving quicker with double the horse-power. “Think they are friendly?”

“Probably,” I said, and closed the covers to stop any more rain from coming inside. “Where is Selsie?”

“Arf!” Selsie barked to me from the side of the carriage. I couldn’t hear her footsteps because of the rain and felt more than relieved to hear her. I then joined Aril under the tent covers and sat next to her. I moved and rustled over the covers until I felt comfortable. It’s unreasonably cold when it rains in this region as I’ve come to learn about it.

“There,” I said, but then Aril pulled me closer to her.

“Now we can be warm together,” she said and smiled.

 

End.

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