The sun wakes me, shining through the window. For a moment I forget where I am, it all comes flooding back as my eyes open. The Dwarven castle. The sun is high already. I sit up in the bed, every one is still asleep except Cerberus. He’s standing next to the door looking pointedly at me. The table has been cleared of the platter from the previous night, a new platter, filled with more meats, bread, cheeses, pasties and coffee has replaced it. A small envelope sits among the offerings. Four packages are laid out at the base of the beds. I carefully open mine, doing so as quietly as possible and find a simple dress made of linen and embroidered with small sun’s, a pair of simple leather sandals are placed neatly beneath the dress. The un dyed fabric slips easily over my head. Surprisingly the sandals fit well and are comfortable.
It isn’t form fitting, but it isn’t terribly loose either. They must be fairy made. A fairy is able to size up anything and they make the best tailors. I go into the bathroom to relieve myself and find that someone has removed the clothing from the laundry machine and replaced all the robed and towels used. Dante was right, the hospitality of a dwarven castle is un matched, especially in Encantadia.
I check my reflection while washing my hands and then fluff my hair. It’s always effortlessly perfect, a perk of being a sorceress. I use a strip of cloth and tie my hair up behind my head. After making a face at myself I examine the platter of food. I offer a piece of cured pork to Cerberus and select a pastry for myself. I love sweet breads. The coffee smells like vanilla and tastes exquisite. I’m not sure if I should open the envelope or leave it for Dante. Just as I reach toward it I hear a small sigh.
“What time is it?” Chloe asks, making a small squeak noise as she stretches.
“I’m not sure… But it looks to be nearly mid-day from the sun” I continue nursing my coffee and pastry as she untangles herself from her bed and stands up.
“Oh, I love presents!” Her eyes light up as she see’s the package at the base of her bed.
She isn’t nearly as quiet as myself as she rips it open. Her dress is similar, decorated with small flowers and dyed a pale yellow. She turns away from me and slips the dress over her head, throwing her robe over the bed. Her feet slip easily into the sandals and after she gives a swirl, she jumps onto Marcus.
“Oof” He grunts as his eyes snap open. “Chloe, fuck off love”.
“Get up, clothes and food” She sing songs at him, poking him repeatedly.
Marcus rubs his eyes as he sits up, gently pushing Chloe off his bed. She plugs her nose in jest and waves a hand in front of her
“Take a shower, stinky” her smile is contagious, Marcus and I both laugh as she twirls and skips to the table.
“Yeah, yeah. Pipe down, I’m going.” Marcus gathers himself and his package before heading into the bathroom. Soon the sound of the shower joins the sipping of coffee and chewing of food at the table.
“What’s in the envelope?” Chloe reached toward it, as she pours herself more coffee from the pot.
“No clue” I watch as Chloe opens the envelope and pulls out a folded sheet of paper.
She read’s aloud
“Welcome to Gilramore. We are pleased to have you. Please accept these complimentary gifts as a token of our hospitality. Your clothing has been taken for repair and drying, they will be returned before you depart. When you are finished with breakfast, please send word with the goblin stationed at your door. An ambassador will be made available to you.”
“Nice” I take my time selecting another pastry from the tray. “Does Cerberus always stand at doors like that?” I look from the beast to Chloe.
“No, that’s unusual, I had better wake Dante” Her dress swishes gracefully as she crosses the room. Bending low over Dante’s sleeping form, she whispers something to him. He must have enjoyed it because he pulls her into a hug, without even opening his eyes.
Her squeal makes me flinch, and Cerberus answers with a swift bark.
“I’m up” groans Dante, releasing his hold on Chloe.
“Cerberus chewed your shoes again” Chloe’s voice floats through my dreams of pale, violet eyed Dӕmons.
I can feel her hair on my face as she leans over, whispering in my ear. I wrap my arms around her and pull her down, tickling her under her ribs as payback for disturbing my dreams. Her squeal sets off Cerberus and I release her.
I scan the room as I sit at the edge of the bed to stretch. XOTӔL is sitting at the table, Cerberus is standing at the door and Marcus must be in the shower, I can hear him singing.
“How long as Cerberus been standing there” I ask Chloe, her shrug turns my attention to XOTӔL.
“Since I woke up, about 30 minutes at least” She looks well rested and her hair is tied back in a pony tail. I want to wrap my hand around it and… No. She is on a mission to rescue her lover and I need to distance myself from her.
Cerberus doesn’t move even as I stand up from the bed, a package at the base of the bed catches my eye and its just then I realize my towel hadn’t made it out of the bed with me. Chloe and XOTӔL are staring. “Ladies” I try to sound offended but my laugh ruins the attempt. I grab a sheet and stoop down to pick up the package. “What is this” I hold it up.
“Package” Chloe winks at me.
“Thanks, genius, any idea what’s in it?” She’s so snarky at times.
“Clothes and sandals” For emphasis she raises her legs up, leaning back in her chair and showing off her sandals.
“Nice digs” I offer, noticing she’s clothed in a dress I’ve never seen on her before, and XOTӔL is in a similar one.
I unwrap my package, and unfold a simple shirt, linen pants and sandals.
Marcus emerges from the bathroom as I’m donning the pants, he’s fully clothed in an outfit identical to mine. I pull the shirt over my head as I join everyone else at the table, ignoring Cerberus’s stance at the door. He’s quiet so there isn’t danger he’s just on alert.
“Anybody check out the goblin in the hallway” I ask aloud as I read the letter sitting in front of Chloe.
“Goblin” Marcus can barely talk with his mouth full of meat and bread.
“nu uh” Chloe’s eating happily
“I didn’t think it necessary, should I” XOTӔL looks at me.
“Nah, its just I bet that’s why Cerberus is standing there.”
XOTӔL nods, but doesn’t say anything else. She looks deep in thought.
“I’ll send ‘em off to get the ambassador then?”
I’m met with nods and shrugs.
“I’m sure we can arrange provisions and a couple horses to assist with your passage to Edipsos. Be sure to travel straight through Gilramore, don’t get mixed up and accidently cross into Cullfield.” The ambassador, a fairy, shudders when he says the name of the Orc settlement. “We’re close to their northern border, we lose so many travelers due to raids and poor direction” he looks sorrowful.
We are standing in a large room somewhere near the courtyard of the castle. The ambassador gave us a tour while we explained our situation and needs.
“We won’t get lost, we will stay away from the border.” I assure him.
“When can the horses and provisions be ready” XOTӔL asks, as politely as she can manage.
“By early evening I suspect. However, it would be best if you waited until tomorrow and left with first daylight. Traveling at night is not recommended this close to Orc territory”
“We’ve wasted so much time” she hisses at me. Anger and panic flaring in her eyes.
“We can’t get to her if we get eaten by Orc’s” I remind her firmly.
“Thank you so much for your hospitality. We appreciate everything.” I bow to the fairy. His wings tucked expertly behind his back as he stands in front of us.
“No problem, no problem. Feel free to explore the armory, the garden or almost anywhere else in the castle” The fairy bow’s out, handing each of us a hand drawn map of the castle, with a star drawn over our room.
“Armory” Marcus’s voice announces as he heads toward a staircase to the right.
“Garden” Chloe heads off toward the sunshine coming through the adjacent chamber.
“Guess it’s just us” I look at XOTӔL, searching her face for a clue of what she’s feeling besides annoyance. She doesn’t respond, just turns on her heel and heads back toward the room.
“It’s just us” I repeat, this time looking at Cerberus. His tongue is hanging out of his mouth with a dopey look on his face. He must have had a good grooming with the palace groomers. “Probably treated you like a horse” I mumble to my large companion.
I look up just in time to see a visiting elf give me a judgmental look.
The King of Encantadia:
My voice is hoarse from yelling. Where is she? She is one single measly, low level Dӕmon, why is she not imprisoned. I don’t understand. I don’t know how long I have been pacing until my son, Prince Greg, first of his name, enters the throne room and heads straight toward me
“Father, I want to see my bride.” His demanding tone is getting old. Who does he think he is, I am the king.
“No. I’m very busy.” Go away, your horrid brat. I’m glad my thoughts are private, sometimes I wish to tear him limb from limb, but he is my successor”
“Your majesty” The trackers have returned.
“Where is she?” I demand as Greg spins around to face them.
“We lost her at a Dwarf tower. Her scent disappeared. She is accompanied by two humans and a half – “
His head clatters as it hits the floor.
I look at the second tracker, standing tall, unshaken from his partners sudden demise. He waits for the headless body to slump to the floor before he takes a step forward. “She will be going to the Garden sire. She has the key. Send me to the garden and I will await her arrival and dispose of her.”
I turn away from the tracker Dӕmon, considering it, wondering how much more can happen in Lysandros before they realize I have imprisoned one of their goddesses. Surely XOTӔL wouldn’t let anyone know, that would start another war. We barely survived the previous one. We would have won too, if it wasn’t for the Goddesses. Our sorcerers are the only match for them, the full-fledged ones at least. We have… how many in training now? And 20 underlings working directly in the castle…
“No one must know your mission or hers.” I sink into my throne and wave my hand, dismissing the tracker, and signaling to an underling to clean up the mess on the floor. Greg is standing there, mouth open like a fish.
“Father” he starts toward me, I cut him off with a wave of my hand.
“This is all your fault. If you hadn’t taken her, we wouldn’t have had to hide her.” I snarl at him.
“Father, I want her” he pleads, begging like a fool.
“Get out!” I yell at Greg, then more quietly at his retreating back I call over my servant. “Send a messenger to the Orc’s. There’s a rogue Dӕmon near their northern border. There will be a substantial reward for her capture. They’re free to dispose of her companions as they wish but I want the Dӕmon alive. Include that the messenger is a gift as well, a show of trust if you will.”
The servant backs away nodding, I heard his audible swallow when I mentioned letting the orc’s keep the messenger, He knows what’s implied, and if he’s going to be upset about it I may as well send him next time and get a new servant who doesn’t have opinions.