The door swung open, and Valkin led the group down the prison hall. Mary was behind Valkin, followed by Duncan, and then Justin, Vinea and Dusak were the last in the line. They made their way carefully through the prison.
Quietly, at the next door, Duncan held the pendant to the lock and the door also opened as if never closed. They filed their way through. Mary almost fell on the rough floor once, but Valkin quickly steadied her with his arm before they went on. A guard almost walked right into them, but the humans and elves flattened themselves against the wall while Duncan held the pendant in front of them as a shield, keeping the guard’s eyes from them. The guard passed after mumbling something about black magic, and the group went on.
Suddenly, Justin stopped. The line stopped when he did and he turned to them, frowning as he just remembered something.
“Wait a bit.” He said. “We’re forgetting something.” Mary looked at her brother.
“What are we forgetting?” she asked the question on everyone’s mind. Justin looked at them.
“We have to tell the princess that Valkin is her brother!” he said. “It’s part of our mission!” Mary slapped her forehead with the palm of her hand.
“Ah, I knew we were forgetting something.” She said, giving Justin a grateful look and then turned to Valkin. “Let’s escape the prison and then get to the castle and find the princess. She’ll want to know she has a brother, and I think she’d prefer sooner rather than later if I had to guess.” Valkin replied to this statement with a quick nod, and the procession continued, carefully but with speed through the prison.
Suddenly, the procession stopped again. Valkin held up a hand, and the group became still. In the cell next to them there came a consistent scratching sound. Valkin laid his ear next to the wall, listening closely. Scratch…scratch, scratch, scratch…scratch…scratch, scratch… scratch, scratch…scratch…scratch…scratch, scratch, scratch. Valkin’s face was grim, and he motioned the others to come closer.
“Duncan,” he whispered. “The elf in this cell is one of the king’s mother’s men. He is to be killed tomorrow. We must rescue him.” Duncan gave him a puzzled look.
“How could ye know that’s what he said?” he asked. Valkin chuckled.
“It’s a secret code we elves on the princess’s side use to communicate with others of the same loyalty.” He replied. The humans were impressed.
“Can we learn?” Justin asked. “After all, we are on the princess’s side.” Valkin smiled.
“Yes, you could learn.” He said. “But shouldn’t we let this poor man out first?” Duncan hastily apologized and held the pendant up to the lock. The door swung out silently and a haggard elf stumbled out.
At the sight of him, Mary drew back, a bit frightened, for the elf was thin and pale, his clothes hanging loosely on him, worn and ragged. But when his hollow, hungry eyes looked at her white face, he smiled kindly, and his entire frightening figure melted away under it.
“I am afraid I do look a sight,” he said, his eyes somehow twinkling from the depths of his face, “For I have been starved and tortured for many, many days.” A cloud passed over his cheerful face, but only for a moment. “I had almost given up when I heard this young man’s voice.” He smiled at Justin, and Justin smiled at him. “I am very grateful to you all.” He gave a deep bow, that made Mary smile despite her timidity. Valkin laid out a palm facing upwards, and the elf solemnly laid his own hand on top. The same procedure occurred for the elves, but for Justin, Duncan, and Mary, he gave them all a proper handshake. In reply to their astonished looks, he said, “I learned how to greet humans from Elliot. He was a great friend of mine.”
Suddenly, Mary looked over a Valkin. “Come on!” she said. “We need to get to the princess without further delay! It’ll be morning afore long!” Valkin agreed and explained to the new elf their mission quickly as they continued. The elf looked at the castle as if an idea was coming to him. He turned to Valkin.
“I’ve an idea, why don’t we free all the elves that are still loyal to the king’s mother.” He said quietly. Valkin smiled, this was an idea he liked, after all, they had the Silver Flower, and with that, who needed the keys. He turned to the humans.
“Can we?” he asked. The siblings exchanged looks. It would definitely delay the princess knowing she had a brother, but all the prisoners could be on their way to death by be-heading or hanging. With an anonymous decision, Mary turned to Valkin.
“Aye.” She said. “Let’s free the prisoners. The princess has waited this long, surely she can wait a wee bit longer.” The elves exchanged smiles, and they went to work, quietly and swiftly.
The human’s helped as they could and soon the jail was free of all loyal elves. They all ran through the prison and over the wall while the humans kept watch and soon were gone. That was one thing about elves that the humans learned: not only were elves quick, but they were always efficient. The jail was now mostly empty, and the loyal prisoners free. The one elf they had freed earlier decided to help them rescue the princess, so they now went to the castle. Mary still had some of her left over supper in her pocket, so she gave this to the prisoner (they found out his name was Felin Deena: Acorn Hill) who devoured it.
They soon came to the same wooded area they had used for cover the other time and Valkin shinnied up the wall with the help of his elfish rope again. The other elves followed, and then helped the children. At last they were inside the castle again. Valkin led the way, and in single file they made their way carefully to the princess’s room. The guards were awake this time, but with the stealth that only elves could have, Valkin, Dusak, and the Felin had all the guards knocked out and tied up in no time at all, and with little noise. Mary gently opened the door, and they crept into the princess’s room again.
She was standing with her back toward them, looking out the window behind her desk. A small sigh of longing escaped her lips and she turned sorrowfully back to her bed. Then she saw the elves, and her hand flew to her mouth in surprise when she recognized the humans.
“You are here again?” she said, somewhat breathlessly. Mary smiled.
“We delivered yer letter.” She said. “And now we’ve come for ye.” The princess gasped, and a smile of utter happiness came over her face making her seem even more radiant than usual, but Mary wasn’t finished. “Shetta, meet yer brother, Valkin.” Valkin stepped forward, and Shetta almost fainted, but he explained to her quickly the history of his birth and answered her questions until she was satisfied.
“I have longed for this day of freedom for many months, it seems as if it a beautiful dream.” She clasped her hands blissfully in front of her. “If it is a dream, I never want to awaken.” Justin grunted.
“Dream or not, we’d better go, or it’ll become a nightmare.” The elves and his siblings chuckled together, and the princess hurriedly donned her cloak and gathered all her money. In reply to the sibling’s questioning looks as to why she took her money, she smiled in grim satisfaction.
“I’m not going to leave anything of value here for the counselor to claim.” She said, and her eyes began to gleam dangerously. “He’s claimed far too many things that aren’t his, and I don’t intend to reward him by fleeing. No, he shall suffer even more with me gone.” She paused and flung her sack over her slender shoulder, despite Justin’s offer to carry it for her. “I am ready to go.” She said with a triumphant ring in her voice. Valkin smiled, and beckoned the group to form into a line yet again.
Through the castle and into the star-filled night the procession went. The princess’s face was pale with fear and excitement, but a reassuring squeeze from Mary’s hand brought a hopeful smile back into her eyes, and she gave a grateful look to Mary, who replied with a warm smile. They arrived back at Dusak and Vinea’s house, but realized it would not be safe to be there anymore. The sky was starting to grow brighter, and a thin line of gray showed on the horizon. They had to find shelter before daylight, or they would be found.
Valkin quickly led them deeper into the wood for a ways, switching directions so often it made Mary feel dizzy. He at last stopped in front of a house. The house was nearly invisible, even as they were standing right in front of it, for it seemed to be a part of the hill it sat in front of, and it was covered in brush of all kinds. Valkin scratched a signal of some kind on the door, and it was opened by a very old elf. He smiled through his many wrinkles, showing his missing teeth, and showed them in. He bowed respectfully to the princess, and kissed her hand as if he was still a gallant young knight. She smiled and he led her into his humble abode.
They gathered around the crackling fireplace and the old elf served them all some delicious soup. While he bustled around his home making them as comfortable as possible, Valkin told him their story. He was quite happy to see them all safe, and Dusak quickly whispered to the humans that the old elf was the midwife’s husband, and so he was Valkin’s foster father. They chatted in elfin tongue for a while and Mary provided the two boys’, who still hadn’t learned the language, with translation.
Finally, when all three humans were beginning to nod, the old elf showed them their sleeping quarters for the night, and they soon went into a deep, dreamless sleep.
Duncan awoke first, and for a bit he couldn’t remember where he was. As his mind slowly came into focus, he sat up and took a good look at his surroundings.
Right now, his two siblings and the four elves were sleeping in a medium sized room with beds lined up along the walls. It looked as if Valkin’s foster father was used to a lot of guests at the same time. There were three empty cots, but only one of them looked like it had been slept in. Duncan realized that must have been where Valkin’s foster father slept.
Duncan’s gaze wandered from the beds to the widow, which he could hardly see out of because it was almost completely covered with some sort of vine and a few different types of tree branches.
Now fully awake, he jumped out of his bed, making no noise in his stocking feet and found that he had slept in his clothes. A step saved, he merely shrugged and ran a hand through his hair quickly before opening the door.
He was greeted silently by the old elf that smiled at him and gave him a bowl of some sort of mushy substance. He shuddered inwardly, but only smiled back at his host, afraid to hurt his feelings, and hoped against hope that it would taste better than it looked. He warily tried a spoonful, and then quickly finished the dish off while the elf looked on in some amusement. It tasted like a pancake with maple syrup drizzled over the top and milk. He was also quite full by the time he finished, and pushed his plate away with a satisfied sigh.
The old elf was looking at him curiously, so he decided to introduce himself. “I am Duncan.” He said, pointing to himself. The elf nodded to communicate he had understood.
“j klos Wenkin.” (I am Wenkin.) He said, pointing to himself. Duncan, who had been picking up a few elfish words here and there decided to try his hand at speaking it now.
“j…fetick…desh…gresi…adenk…dessinkae.” (I…do…not…speak…your…language.) He said slowly. The elf smiled.
“A cesik?” (a little?) he asked, and Duncan closed his eyes to remember what those words meant. There was a moment of silence, and he heard the others getting up. Then he remembered.
“Nedin…a…vennae…cesik.” (Yes…a…very…little.) Just then, Mary came in followed by Justin and the elves. They all sat down, and Duncan thoroughly enjoyed watching his siblings’ reactions to the mush. He asked Dusak behind the host’s back what it was made of, and Dusak told him it was made out of a special kind of moss found deep within the forest. Duncan raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.
After breakfast, Valkin stood up, and cleared his throat. He spoke first to his foster father, explaining why they were leaving, and then spoke in the children’s language so they would be able to understand their plans.
“We will leave the princess here where she is safe and Vinea is going to stay and help my foster father with the house and care for the princess. Dusak, Felin, you children, and I, will get into a disguise and go to the king to tell him his daughter is free and he can give up his throne.” Mary was chewing on her lip thoughtfully and she finally looked up from her musings.
“What about the counselor?” she asked. Valkin’s eyes darkened.
“He will be thrown into prison.” He replied.
“What about his followers?” Valkin smiled grimly and looked over at Felin, the newest addition to their group.
“Did your men take care of the dangerous ones?” he asked. Felin nodded with a gleam of satisfaction in his eyes.
“Yes.” He said. “Last night they were put into the cells we were taken out of.” He replied. The human’s glanced at each other. Elves really were efficient; they thought of everything.
“So…” Justin was now speaking. “Do we just march into the king’s throne room and demand that he give up his throne?” he asked. Valkin smiled, but shook his head.
“It’s not going to be quite that easy, Justin.” He said. “It will take some caution. Just follow my lead and you’ll do fine.” He rose and spoke to his foster father, Wenkin. He turned to a smaller door and led them into another room that had a huge chest in the middle of it and a few smaller chests. The walls had several different mirrors on them and the chests were opened to reveal clothing, fake hair, and fake jewelry of all shapes and colors.
The three siblings had fun, too much fun, trying on different outfits over their own, and finally Valkin had to stop their games when Justin tried on a beard and a cape that were much too long. Mary finally settled on a simple brown peasant gown, a fake black braid, a dark blue cloak, and a small dagger that fit into a beautiful silver sheath. Justin chose a dark green shirt and brown pants, with the finishing touch of a dark blue cloak and dagger in a sliver sheath. Duncan dressed similarly to Justin, and they both had a small beard applied on them by Valkin to hide their facial features that may give them away.
The elves all wore outfits that matched the boys’ outfits, but they had swords as well as daggers. Mary was allowed to bring a bow and arrows when she told them she could shoot them better than use a knife, and Justin and Duncan were allowed another dagger, hidden in their cloaks. The adventurers looked themselves over and were quite pleased with their looks, but Mary had to put a hand over her mouth to keep her laughter hidden at the sight of her brother’s in beards.
She could barely recognize herself in one of the mirrors with her fake black braid hanging down over her shoulder and the cloak shadowing her face. She suddenly felt years older. Here she was in a strange land, helping others and endangering herself by doing so. It made her feel queer to think she may die in the attempt, so she shook off the feeling and followed Valkin, Dusak, Felin and her brothers outside after a hurried goodbye to the princess and Vinea.
Valkin again lead them in a zig-zag pattern through the forest, and they were soon back inside the village. The castle came into view and Mary swallowed her fear as she thought of the many elves depending on them. Sadan Flettica, the guard let them past, and Mary suddenly realized that he was one of the loyal elves. She smiled at him, but he merely shrugged slightly and gave a small salute.
They went on down the hall, and stopped outside the king’s throne room. The guards gave the procession a curious look and opened the doors. Down the rich carpet they continued and stopped in front of the throne. The king was sitting in his throne still, but it was obvious his time was up and he was finished. Glevanne stood to one side of the king, and the counselor on the other. The latter frowned at the new comers menacingly, but Glevanne seemed to see through the disguise and gave a small salute behind the king and counselor’s back. Valkin spoke first, his voice ringing clearly through the room.
“Your Majesty, I am here.” He said. The king looked at Valkin.
“Who are you?” he asked hoarsely. Mary stepped forward on Valkin’s signal, and threw off her cloak and fake braid. The king sat bolt upright in his seat when he recognized her. She gestured towards Valkin.
“As ye ordered me.” She said. “I’ve brought yer son, the rightful heir of yer throne.” The counselor turned white, whether from fright or rage, Mary was not sure, but the king was undecided as to cry or to laugh and finally ended up doing both at the same time, he was so relieved. Glevanne was grinning widely, as were the children and the other elves. The king and Valkin embraced for a long time; the king apologizing, and Valkin forgiving. The counselor tried to sneak off, but Glevanne caught him and he was soon locked up in one of the deepest dungeons.
The hours went by as Valkin explained everything, from beginning to end, about the children, about Shetta, about Glevanne, about the history of his birth. The king just kept having tears of joy running down his old cheeks, and embracing his new son.
Valkin was given the crown by the king himself showing he willingly gave his throne and kingdom to his son. Shetta and Glevanne were married, Mary was the maid of honor, and Valkin was the best man.
The day ended much happier then it started, and the children felt that they had at least one mission that finished well. Shetta and Valkin insisted that they stay the night at the castle before leaving, and were told to make a speech at the wedding feast that night. How could they refuse?
Ah! My book is soon to end! Thankfully I have plenty more where it came from! :) *sigh*
One more chapter, a short break, and then you will be enthralled in another of my stories. ;) (...hopefully...)
Any ideas on what you want my break to be?
Should I give you a few pictures of what the characters looked like?
Should I give you a picture of the book?
Do have any ideas for the story's improvement?
Let me know! :)