“Are you really sure this is the best idea?” Pria asked. “I’m worried about Riffen.”
It had been several days since Tak, Grace, Sigthyme, and Juniper had been called to the palace in the center of the city where they talked to King Forgebringer. Since then not much had changed. They all remained within the Selorn Embassy along with Riffen and Captain Evergreen. Security had been raised throughout the city but there was no sign of Krumb or whoever had caused the explosion at the gate. The streets of Xylon weren’t as empty as people seemed to come out of their homes and return to normal life. The group had spent most of their time inside the Embassy and they were feeling restless.
Eventually they came to Pria with a plan to leave the city with Riffen and make their way to Frost Haven.
“I understand that you originally wanted a whole army protecting Riffen, but obviously that’s not going to happen now,” Sigthyme said.
“Plus he did make it here with just us,” Grace added.
“A small group of people will raise less suspicion and we’ll be able to move quicker,” Juniper said. “We can get Riffen home safe.”
“Safe Riffen!’ Tak yelled out.
Pria let out a sigh and then nodded her head.
“You’re right. The Soulon Army has already left and it’s unlikely I could call more forces to us. The logistics of keeping a small part of our army outside another country’s capital city is a nightmare already. I’m not dealing with that again,” Pria said. “If we can’t have an army, then I guess you are the best I’m going to get.”
“Thanks?” Sigthyme said. “At least I think that’s a compliment.”
“What about Lillian? Is she interested in coming with us?” Juniper asked.
“Captain Evergreen has actually expressed her intention to stay here at the Embassy with me as a bit of added security. I don’t really think we need more security but I also understand that Lillain…er… Captain Evergreen does not want to return home,” Pria said. “Honestly I wouldn’t want to return to Frost Haven either.”
The group exchanged looks.
“Not because any of you would be in danger or anything. I just know that my father and my uncle can both have tempers. Riffen will soon see a whole lot of that. Anyway, Captain Evergreen is staying here,” Pria said.
“So it will just be the five of us,” Juniper said. “That should work.”
“I can provide you all with a cart and horses,” Pria said.
“Oh actually we have one of those,” Sigthyme said.
“Oh, right we do. Where did we leave that?” Grace asked.
“I’m pretty we left the horses at some stable near The Pilgrim’s Rest,” Juniper said.
“Well if they are still there, that’s fine. If not I can get you another horse and wagon alongside any food and supplies you need for the trip to Frost Haven,’ Pria said. “Any idea when you want to leave?”
“We aren’t exactly sure,” Juniper said. “It really depends on what Riffen wants to do.”
“But probably soon,” Grace said.
“I know you all are getting a bit restless, staying here. But things take time. And Riffen must be protected,” Pria said.
“We understand. We really do. We are hoping to leave here in the next couple days,” Sigthyme said. “If Riffen is feeling up for it.”
“I guess we should fetch him so you can solidify your plan,” Pria said.
“I can go get him!” Grace piped up.
“We have people who can…” Pria started.
“It’s really no problem. I’ll be back. Real fast,” Grace said as she hopped out of her chair and ran from the room.
“Lots of energy in her,” Pria said as the door closed behind Grace.
Grace ran from the large meeting room and down the hallway to Riffen’s bedroom. It was only a quick run before she was before Riffen’s bedroom door. She raised her hand to knock but stopped when she heard laughter come from the room. A woman’s laugh.
Instead Grace tiptoed close and placed her ear against the door. She heard some sort of conversation between a male voice and a woman’s voice, but she couldn’t quite make out the words.
Then she heard a loud dog bark and the voices stopped.
Grace quickly backed up as she heard Riffen call out.
“Hello, is someone there?” Riffen asked.
“Uh, hey. It’s me. It’s Grace,” Grace said. “I was coming to fetch you.”
“Well come in,” Riffen said.
Grace walked up and opened the door. Shadow, the blink dog immediately started to sniff at her and lick her hands.
“Hey Shadow,” Grace said as she rubbed the dog behind its ears.
Grace looked up and saw Riffen sitting on his bed. He looked a bit healthier. A bit of color had returned to his skin and his scars seemed to be less pronounced. Riffen still had dark circles under his eyes, but he gave a genuine smile when Grace entered.
Lillian sat beside him in a wooden desk chair, with her feet up on the bed. She had a slight smile across her face like she had just finished laughing at a joke.
“What can we do for you, Grace?” Riffen asked.
“Uh..well… Pria came… I mean Pria told me to get you and bring you to the meeting room. We’re discussing our plan to leave,” Grace said.
“So you’ve come to break me out of prison?” Riffen asked and then laughed.
“Yeah we’re really suffering here,” Lillian added with a laugh.
“Oh…yeah…ha,” Grace said, not getting the joke between the two of them.
“Alright, let’s go,” Riffen said as he stopped out of his bed and picked up his cane.
Lillian stood and helped Riffen to his feet. Both of them seemed very close to one another. Grace could only assume this was how close they were when they were living in the palace in Frost Haven.
The energy just left Grace as she walked back toward the meeting room with Riffen, Lillian, and Shadow trailing behind them. They made their way to the meeting room where the others were waiting.
“Good you are both here,” Pria said. “We were just discussing the plan to get you back to Frost Haven.”
“Really? Even without the army present?” Riffen asked.
“Your friends have convinced me that it will be safer for you to travel in a small group,” Pria said. “And it sounds like they are in quite a bit of a hurry. Are you sure you are ready to travel?”
“My friends rescued me from danger many times before. I trust them with my life,” Riffen said. “I will be fine going with them”
“What about you, we heard a rumor that you aren’t coming with us,” Sightyme said looking over at Lillian.
“That is correct,” Lillian said.
“Was it something I said? I figured you’d want to spend more time with us,” Sigthyme said with a smile.
“She does not want to return to Frost Haven until I clear her name with my father,” Riffen said. “After I do that…”
“I will decide my own path,” Lillian said. “Until then I will stay here with Pria and help out where I can.”
“I’m sure we can find some things to do around here. Or you can just attend meetings with me,” Pria said.
“How exciting,” Lillian let out a sigh.
“When are we actually planning on leaving Xylon?” Riffen asked.
The group exchanged looks before Sightyme spoke up.
“We were thinking about tomorrow morning,” Sightyme siad. “If that works for you, Riffen.”
Riffen looked over at Lillian, who met his gaze.
“Yeah. Yeah that works,” Riffen said.
Sightyme looked over at Juniper who shrugged.
“Well good,” Juniper said. “I do want to head over to The Wicked Scepter to see if Ms Zaffre has any more information for me about my brother.”
“I can go with you,” Grace said.
“Sounds good,” Juniper said with a smile.
“And I guess Tak and I should go see if we still have a wagon and horses,” Sigthyme said.
“Wagon!” Tak said with a toothy grin.
“What about me? Who should I go with?” Riffen asked.
The whole group exchanged some quick looks.
“Uh…” Sigthyme started but Pria interrupted.
“Actually Riffen I believe you should stay here for the evening. You need all the rest you can get and I want to prepare you with some things to take back to Frost Haven,” Pria said.
“Oh alright, sure,” Riffen said. “But we should meet up this evening for a meal. One good feast before we leave tomorrow.”
“Of course,” Sightyme said.
“Sounds perfect,” Juniper said.
“I’ll have something made up for this evening. Make your way back here in a few hours and we’ll have a meal ready for all of you,” Pria said.
With that the group split up once again and went off to make their final preparations. Juniper and Grace were allowed to leave the grounds and make their way toward The Wicked Scepter. They weren’t sure if Pria was too tired to care about sending guards with them or if the added security on the street was enough to put Pria at ease, but either way Juniper and Grace were able to go without being accompanied by guards.
As they walked, Juniper looked over and noticed Grace’s mood.
“Something wrong?” Juniper asked. “I figured you’d be excited about leaving the city.”
“Oh, I am,” Grace said. “I really want to get out of this place.”
“But you didn’t seem happy when you got back from getting Riffen for the meeting. Did something happen?”
Grace let out a sigh.
“How come you always notice everything?” Grace asked.
“I can read people pretty well. Plus I have eyes made for a hunter. I have to be observant,” Juniper said. “So something is wrong?”
“No. I don’t know,” Grace said. “It’s just that I haven’t really gotten a chance to hang out with Riffen. He’s always doing Prince stuff or whatever and when he’s not doing that he’s hanging out with Lilian.”
The last words were said in a mocking tone.
Juniper let out a small chuckle.
“Is someone jealous?” Juniper asked, cocking one eyebrow.
“I’m not jealous,” Grace said as she folded her arms.
“Right. Right,” Juniper said. “But you want to spend more time with Riffen because he’s your friend.”
“But maybe you want it to be more?” Again, Juniper cocked her eyebrow.
Grace tensed up as her hands moved her gripping the handles of the blades.
“What, no? Riffen and I are just friends, ok?”
“Well I’m also your friend. You can always hang out with me,” Juniper said.
Grace clenched her jaw.
“But I’m not a cute boy, I get it,” Juniper said with a shrug.
“If you tell Riffen this, I will stab you,” Grace said.
“Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me,” Juniper said. “Speaking of which, how are your…wings doing?”
“Fine I guess. I don’t really use them at all. I don’t even know how. It just kind of happens sometimes,” Grace said. “It’s like I can kind of summon them but not all the time.”
“But you don’t know why it happens.”
Grace shook her head.
“I have no idea. But I hope that this priest in Frost Haven has some answers,” Grace said.
“Yeah me too,” Juniper said.
It was a short walk across the city until they were standing at the front door of The Wicked Scepter. Juniper knocked on the door.
“Ms Zaffre, it’s Juniper,” She called out.
There was a moment of silence before they heard footsteps and the door opened a sliver. Surprisingly it wasn’t Ms Zaffre. Instead it was the young boy, Miles.
“Ms Zaffre isn’t here,” Miles said. “You’ll have to come back some other day.”
Miles started to close the door but Juniper grabbed it.
“Wait. Wait. You’re Miles right? I’m Juniper and this is Grace. Remember us?”
Miles opened the door back up and looked at them.
“You are the girl with..” Miles stopped. “With Piakol. And the thief girl. Yes I remember you.”
Juniper looked over at Grace.
“Do you have anything to say to that?”
“The thief girl. Fits me pretty well I say,” Grace said.
“Anyway, like I said Ms Zaffre isn’t here. However I just remembered she left something for you,” Miles said.
“Oh she did? May I have it?”
Miles nodded and ran quickly from the front door and into a side room. A short moment passed before he ran back to the front door holding a piece of parchment.
“Letter for you,” Miles said. “Ms. Zaffre had to go East to Garranthe and won’t be back for several days. But she said that if you came by, that that should help you.”
“Thanks Miles,” Juniper said.
Miles nodded and then quickly shut the door.
“Alright bye,” Juniper said.
“I don’t think that kid likes us,” Grace said with a shrug.
“I’m sure we’ll grow on him,” Juniper said as she opened up the letter.
I have been called away on short notice to The Epanary Magic Academy in Garranthe and I will not be returning to Xylon for several weeks or even months. During this time I will have other matters to attend to and will not be able to do any more research into your missing brother and the group he’s associated himself with. However I do know someone who might be a bigger help to you. If you make your way to Frost Haven look up my old colleague, Helena Gnash. She is an apothecary who always had the flair for the occult. She may have the answers you are looking for.
“So what does it say?” Grace said as she peaked at the letter.
“We just got another reason to head to Frost Haven,” Juniper said.