There was soon a response, and a small door opened in front of them revealing another elf, only slightly shorter than the guide.
“Halden kassit, Valkin Tredhale?” he said, not noticing the three children. Justin looked at Mary, who hurriedly translated into their own language.
“He said: What is your business, Finch Moor?” she whispered behind Valkin’s back. Justin nodded and turned back to listen to the elves converse.
“j seeta blettash koona Glevanne Addets, Saden Flettica.” Valkin said. Mary quickly translated.
“He said: I have outsiders who want to see Glevanne Addets, Falcon Cave.” Valkin heard her say this, and turned around.
“Would you speak to the guard in our language? I think you may have a better chance of getting in if he knows you know our speech.” He said. Mary nodded.
“I’ll try.” She said to him, then, looking at the guard, she spoke in the elfin tongue. “je kentre koona Glevanne Addets.” This time Valkin translated for Justin and Duncan.
“She said: We would like to see Glevanne Addets.” He said, himself still amazed at her wisdom of their language. At the sound of the human girl speaking his language, the guard, whose name we now know, softened visibly.
“Addene geklen kassit dessinkae?” he asked. (You [feminine] know our language?) Mary smiled and nodded.
“Nedin, a cesik.” She replied. (Yes, a little.) Saden, for this was the guard’s name, looked at her.
“j retin gresu tu Glevanne seshi adenne.” He said, (I will speak to Glevanne for you [feminine].) and closed the door. Mary returned to the group she had left temporarily and shrugged her shoulders.
“Do ye think it will help?” she asked. Valkin nodded, a smile on his face.
“Yes, you will get in. Saden is not nearly as bad-tempered as he seems.” Mary smiled.
“That’s good to know.” She replied. They were silent, all waiting for the guard to return.
When he did, the door swung open silently, and the small group went in. Mary did not forget to thank Sadin, who retuned her thanks with a gruff, “j fetik jaeta.” (I did nothing.)
The children followed Valkin down the majestic hall and Justin gazed open mouthed at the high vaulted ceilings and strong stone walls, covered with tapestries illustrating gory battle scenes or portraits of kings and queens of the elfish kingdom. The floor was made of marble, painted over with beautiful gothic designs. Justin, at the end of the line, traced one of the designs with his foot, marveling at its delicate detail. Duncan, in the middle, looked in delight at one of the tapestries, the solemn look on the man’s face almost made him laugh, but he swallowed it quickly realizing that it may offend the elves. Mary, also in the middle, looked all around her, her gaze at last resting on a tall tapestry with a woman on it. Something about the queen reminded Mary of someone, the sorrowful, but kind smile, the flowing hair, and the shape of her face.
She stopped suddenly, as Valkin walked by it, causing Duncan to run into her, and Justin run into Duncan. The boys both yelped in surprise and Valkin turned around, giving them all a warning frown.
“You must not speak loudly,” he said, proving his point by speaking in a stern, soft voice. The boys hung their heads guiltily, but Mary stood still, looking at the tapestry carefully. Valkin returned and watched her as her eyes studied the face.
“Who is this woman?” she asked softly, her eyes not leaving the face. Valkin looked up at the face for the first time, and looked at it for a long while. When he at last spoke, his voice was full of respect and awe.
“This lady is the king’s mother. She is no longer with us.” His voice grew sad. “It is a great sorrow for my people, for she was a wise and just counselor for the king. Now he is growing old, and his new counselor…” his voice sank into a whisper, “his counselor, some say, is an evil elf who intends to take over the kingdom by marrying the king’s daughter, Shetta Gloriheem.” Valkin said all this while looking at the tapestry, so he did not see the glances the three siblings exchanged behind his back when the name was spoken. A short silence went over the four as they looked up at the woman in respect, although the three children never knew her. It was broken by Valkin, who sighed and beckoned the humans to follow him again.
They continued their way to a door on the other side of the hall, but long before they reached it, Valkin turned to a smaller door, and slapped his hand against it as he did with the front gate of the castle. A window opened, and another guard (they soon found out his name was Dusak Aknae [Hawk Meadow]) had a quiet converse with Valkin, who seemed to know him better than Saden Flettica, the first guard. Soon, Mary was called upon to again speak to the new guard in the elfin speech. The guard looked at her quizzically when she stepped up.
“Adenne gecklin kassit dessinkae?” (You [feminine] know our language?) he asked, curious. Mary smiled.
“Nedin, a cesik.” (Yes, a little.) She replied. Dusak turned to Valkin.
“j retin gresu tu Glevanne Addets seshi, adek.” (I will speak to Glevanne Addets for you [Masculine].) He said, and with a quick smile, disappeared. Again, the group waited. Valkin was chuckling to himself about something he had shared with the young elfish guard. Soon, Dusak returned, and opened the door. The four people were ushered into a warm room. A servant girl came and took Justin and Duncan’s jackets, Mary’s shawl, and Valkin’s cape. The servant and Valkin smiled softly at each other, and to the three children’s surprise, they hugged. Valkin saw their shock, and he chuckled, leading the servant over to them.
“This is my sister, Vinea Aknae (Vixen Meadow). She is the wife of Dusak here.” The boys’ mouths stayed open, but Mary smiled warmly at the young servant girl, and very soon the two were friends.
“Seket tu pretik tendille Glevanne Addets’ hatten.” (Welcome to my master Glevanne Addets home.) She said.
“j adigen.” (I thank you.) Mary replied, returning the greeting. Vinea looked at her brother.
“Adeck fetick desh gresu tet adin gecklen kess dessinkae.” (You did not say that she knew our language.) she said. Valkin shrugged.
“j dani.” (I apologize.) He said. Vinea shrugged her shoulders and took the coats away to a different room, and her husband, Dusak, led the small group to a staircase. Again, Valkin and the guard conversed in under tones, and soon, the guard left Valkin to guide them alone.
They went up the staircase and found themselves before a long hall. Valkin seemed to know exactly where he was going, so the three children didn’t contradict his judgment. The four arrived at yet another door, but this time, when Valkin gave the slap of his hand, no guard appeared. Glevanne himself opened the door. The children realized this because Valkin bowed his head in respect, and they quickly followed his example. Glevanne spoke in a language the children could understand, realizing that they were not elves.
“Why have you come here.” He said in a tired voice. The siblings looked up in wonder, all of them becoming conscience of the fact that Glevanne was not an old man, in reality; he was quite a young man. He continued, unaware of their astonishment. “The king does not like visitors at this moment. I am surprised that you have made it this far. Valkin must be a very good guide.” He said this with a smile towards the guide, who took the hint and left, the door closing with a solid thunk. “What is it that you want to tell me that is so important that you must risk a long imprisonment.” Justin looked worriedly at the door.
“Can no one hear us?” he asked. The elf looked at him.
“Why do you ask?” he replied.
“Because we must show ye a secret.” Glevanne looked slightly puzzled, but assured the children that they were indeed alone. Justin gave a sigh of relief, and took out the note, handing it to the elf. He looked at it. With a glance he knew it was the one he had tried to send by hand to the princess. His gaze darkened, and he looked at the three humans.
“Where did you find this?” he asked sharply. Duncan spoke.
“We found it laying aside the road.” He said truthfully. Glevanne softened.
“Ah. Then you do not know what happened to the elf that was delivering it for me?” he asked. They all shook their heads. “That is a pity. He was,” he stopped and re-said his thought. “He is one of my most trusted servants.”
“We are very sorry we don’t know where yer servant is, but we knew that ye would most likely not want just any person to pick yer note to Shetta up, so we thought we’d find either ye or Shetta and deliver it.” Duncan said quickly, forgetting himself in the presence of a highly ranked elf. Glevanne smiled, liking the honest humans more and more.
“I thank you for your concerns, they are much appreciated in times like these.” His face darkened again. “Most letters are not private any longer, and I especially wished this one to remain so. You helped in that way, I am very grateful.” He paused a moment, his eyes going from one of the children’s face to the next. He found all the faces to be honest, and loyal. This pleased him, for this was the type he needed for the mission to be done. His gaze rested at last on Justin, and he spoke his daring plan.
“You are aware of the contents of the letter?” he asked. Somewhat guiltily, Justin, Duncan and Mary nodded their heads. He encouraged them with a smile. “Then you know that it is an urgent message?” he asked again. They again nodded. He again looked in all their eyes, deeply. “Can you deliver it for me?” he asked. There was a long silence, and the three siblings exchanged looks. They silently agreed on their answer. Justin spoke for them.
“Aye, we will.” He said. Glevanne smiled again.
“Then, here.” He placed the note back into Duncan’s outstretched palm. “Take this back. I believe Valkin will be available to escort you to the princess’s quarters. She is safe from the king’s counselor for the moment.” He sighed as he said this, a soft shadow coming over his face. He turned around. “You may go, and my blessing goes with you.” The siblings exchanged another look, and turned around, going out the door. Suddenly, Glevanne called out to them.
“Wait!” he said quickly. The trio looked at him in surprise. He scribbled something down onto a piece of paper quickly. “Take this to her as well.” He said, and shoved the new note into Duncan’s hand as well. The elf turned from them and his frame shook slightly with sobs as the door closed behind the siblings.
Valkin was waiting for them, just outside the door. He looked into their faces, reading their thoughts.
“You have a mission.” He said simply. “Is there any way I can help?” The children looked at him, gratefully. He took this for an answer and quickly added: “Dusak could help too, he is always longing for adventure.” Again, the siblings agreed to this, any help they could get they wanted. Valkin led them silently down the stairs, spoke to his brother-in-law, and turned again to the children, a smile lighting up his features.
“He will come.” He said. There was a collective sigh of relief from the children. Dusak came up behind Valkin and gave them a grin.
“j hesik flenitt.” (I want adventure.) He said, “demis de aknef.” (This place is dull.) Mary and Valkin laughed with Dusak, but the boys gave a confused smile to the group. Quickly, Mary translated, and soon Vinea joined them and let Dusak know that she had made dinner for all of them. She looked at the three children and smiled.
“I made enough for them, too.” She said. Justin and Duncan both rubbed their stomachs, hungry at just the mention of food; they hadn’t had breakfast or lunch, let alone dinner.
During dinner, Duncan leaned over to Valkin.
“How many elves know our language?” he asked. Valkin thought awhile.
“Well, all the elves in the castle know, or at least understand, your language. There’s a few others milling about, and most elfish school children are taught it as a second language, but with communicating, we mostly speak in elfin tongue.” Duncan sat back in his chair, satisfied with an answer, but Justin now turned to Valkin.
“Can we, Duncan and I, learn it?” he asked. Valkin looked at him with a smile.
“Anyone who’s willing enough can.” He said. Justin was also satisfied.
The conversations continued, but altogether too soon, Valkin arose from his seat and said that it was time to go.
After an affectionate farewell from Valkin and Dusak to Vinea, the group left.