I’m reviving a novel I haven’t touched for a while, picking up where I left off in the middle of the story, planning to write a scene or about a page every day.
Standing at the window of the tower, King Doran looked below on the gray, lifeless land spread around for miles. The land of Myrasia had fallen into a strange and gloomy darkness ever since he took the throne, and today, his mood especially matched the weather.
His eyes hovered on the horizon, studying the hazy yet menacing lines of a distant row of mountains. Beyond them—unknown lands, full of secrets and covered with legend. The very place he needed to get to…yet couldn’t reach.
“Aggh!” His face wrinkled in anger as he slammed his fist to the sill. Moments before, he had received news of the exploration party he had sent to venture beyond that border. They had not returned.
Just like the group before them.
He slumped into the chair behind his map-strewn desk with a groan. Every plan, every order, every moment of his life had been poured into the pursuit of this one, ultimate weapon. The power to rule the lands of Arona lay so close—so close—yet secretly tucked away for ages beyond mountain, canyon, and mystery. And if he could find no one to send for it who could succeed, it would all be for naught.
A pounding at the door drew him out of his brooding.
“King Doran, Captain Perradon of the southern watch here to speak with you,” the guard announced.
Doran’s head rose up slowly. “Perradon, you say?” He considered the name. Turning his head to gaze at the horizon through his window, a calculating smile began to glimmer across his face.
“Well. Send him in.”
“King Doran,” Perradon entered the room, his feet trembling as they made their way to stand before the king’s desk. The sound of the door thudding shut behind him resounded heavily in his ears. If the king was in a foul mood, there was no telling how harshly he would be dealt with for the news he carried.
The king eyed Perradon, studying him carefully. “Well, Perradon. You’re hardly the face I expected to see this evening. What is it?”
“Your Majesty, there was a…disturbance at the border mid-night yesterday.” Perradon’s fingers fidgeted with his sword hilt. Did he dare speak more?
Doran’s eyes narrowed. “What sort of disturbance?”
“A man from the mines escaped into the Woods. We pursued him, yet he only escaped deeper into that dark place.” He hesitated before raising his troubled gaze to the king. “He was not alone. Two archers appeared in the trees and injured several of my men severely.”
“Who…?” Doran wondered aloud, tracing possibilities in his head before discarding the worry. “Ah, well, two bowsmen? 1 escapee? They hardly pose a threat. However, I do have some greater issues pressing hard on my mind. One, specifically, I believe you could assist me with.”
“Anything, Your Majesty.” Perradon felt flooded with relief. No death penalty born of wrath and temper.
Yet the next words from Doran’s mouth laid out a different kind of death sentence. And an hour later, Perradon left the room with a burdened heart and mind. Within the week, he would depart for the Kila mountains and journey beyond.
He would follow his king’s whim across mountains and into the unknown, all to pursue a nameless, legendary weapon of power.
To return with what the king desired would be close to impossible.
To return without it would mean certain death.
And of course, there was never a guarantee that he would return.
Peter lowered himself slowly to the ground from the branches of the tree. Back pressed against the rough bark and breath coming ragged, he edged sideways to glance around the broad trunk. His gaze swept over the long, solid wall of stone that marked the border between the Dark Woods and Myrasia. Two soldiers stood erect on either side of the single entrance. Each held a torch that flickered and burned against the settling darkness of the evening. They were speaking to each other, but Peter was too far away to make out their words.
One of the men turned his head to glance in Peter’s direction, and he quickly ducked himself down. His heart raced inside.
Now that he was actually this close, his resolution to enter seemed unsure, all his reasons hazy and weak.
He was only a boy—an orphan at that—who couldn’t even hold his ground against a bully. Who was he to think that he could actually get inside those walls alive? That he could somehow make a difference in that kingdom when his feet could only tremble beneath him and his heart felt so far from courageous? Yet…
He tipped his head back to rest against the tree. The moon’s light was just beginning to fall through the clouds, only a soft and silent glow against the darkness.
What if he didn’t need to feel strong enough for the steps in front of him?
In that moment, the voice he had heard a few evenings past spoke again. It was but a gentle whispering that wasn’t so much a sound he heard, as it was a nudge he felt.
I am enough.
Peter closed his eyes as a shiver of wind brushed around him.
“What…” He whispered in a breath.
Choose to be courageous. I am strong where you are not. And I am here.
Peter gazed at the wide and deep sky above him and wondered at the words. His eyes probed the clouds as if trying to capture a glimpse of who had spoken, ears eager to listen and receive again. But there was only quiet.
As he sat there on the edge of two worlds, Peter made his choice. He was going in.
With another glance around the tree, he carefully studied the wall. Trouble near the Dark Woods was obviously not expected, because the border was crudely constructed. The thick stones jutted out in places, and the top of the barrier—while standing well above a man’s height—dipped and rose unevenly along its stretch.
Peter’s eyes found a section of the wall further away from the guards, where the top dipped lower than the rest. It looked to be his best chance for getting in. His heart caught within him in fear of what he was about to do, but he breathed deeply and pushed it back. As silently as he could, he rose to his feet to step around the tree.
A hand gripped his shoulder and swiftly spun him back to the ground, pulling him deeper into the woods. A muffled gasp of surprise burst from him.
“What are you doing?” Rayne’s voice whispered harshly. “You just disappeared!”
Peter didn’t meet her gaze. “Just…go back to the fortress. This is something I have to do.”
He could feel her staring strongly at him, trying to see past his words to the things he wasn’t saying. “Why are you trying to pass the border?” Her words formed a question, but underneath them lay an insistence, a command. Answer.
Peter was silent for a moment before meeting her eyes. “Clarius told me my parents are prisoners of King Doran. I have to find them.” He hesitated, with something else he was unsure of saying.
Rayne’s forehead wrinkled in question as she waited for him to continue.
“…I’ve heard a voice—several times now, actually. Telling me that I’m not alone. To be courageous.” He paused and shook his head. “It sounds kind of strange now.”
Yet Rayne did not appear to find the words strange. A blend of awe and surety filled her eyes as she said, “If Dios is calling you across the border, I will help as I can.”
The whispering of the wind in the woods seemed particularly loud this evening. Nalin shifted uneasily on his feet. He gripped the blazing torch in his right hand a little tighter, wishing for the morning to come sooner. A few nights ago, this position had been a boring, slow watch. Yet here he was, standing tense and alert in the shadow of the looming woods, wondering if the warriors in the trees would reveal themselves tonight.
Nalin glanced at the older man standing a few paces away from him. He couldn’t tell whether it was just the shadows, or if the man’s eyes were closed. “Leo?”
In an instant, Leo straightened and sent an irritated glare his way. “Be quiet, boy!”
They stood in tense silence as their torches burned and the night wore on. Nalin grew accustomed to the sound of the wind’s rhythm until he was almost numb to the noises around him. So it took a moment for him to register the light but steady patter of footsteps nearby in the woods.
Startled, his head snapped up. “Leo!”
“Stay here. I’ll take care of it.” Leo was already moving toward the trees, stepping surprisingly fast into the shadows and trees and out of sight.
Nalin’s every sense was on fire as he waited. He could feel the air whipping harshly around him and hear the sound of the mingling, quickening footsteps in the distance. Especially loud was the sound of his heart’s pounding within him. His eyes were fixed on the bobbing point of Leo’s torch as it dwindled in the distance.
Suddenly, the light disappeared. A thud and groan reached his ears and struck him with fear as thoughts raced wild in his head. Was Leo hurt? He desperately wished someone were there to tell him what to do, where to go. Who to be. His fear nearly sent him running through the border to hide behind the safety of the wall.
Yet he could not be a coward. He could not run.
Instead he willed his feet into the woods. Holding his torch high to burn away the night, he tread on quickly.
From a distance, behind a tree, a boy with a bow tied to his back and courage in his hands watched the young guard carry his light away from the wall. Then quiet as a shadow, he slipped to the border.
Tera’s eyes cracked open to a dim piece of light. There was so little of that here, and how rare it came. Boots thudded down the cold, stony passageway that separated two straight rows of barred dungeon cells. The Tera who’d been brought here years ago might have edged closer to her cell’s door, and stood there with a protest in her eyes and a word or two. Or many.
Yet she was changed. The soul that might have stood for goodness then was too broken now. All she could do was lean her tired head against that solid wall and watch the guards bring new prisoners to their cells.
The guards came to a rapid halt before her cell and the captain thrust the door open. She stiffened back in surprise as a slight woman with her hands tied tightly before her was pushed through the group of guards and hustled into the cell. The harsh clang of the door struck fear and distress in her worn and tear-stained face. She continued staring at it long after the guards had gone.
A few moments passed before the woman turned her eyes to Tera, quite apparently startled to see her there.
Yet Tera did not find what she expected either in the woman’s face. “Keia?” she whispered in recognition.
A kindling of joy and tears spread into Keia’s eyes. “Praise Dios, you’re alive, my queen.”
Rayne could hear the young guard’s loud, trampling footsteps as he wandered into the woods. She was already moving away from the place where she had left his companion lying on the ground, unconscious. She had swiftly knocked him out. While he would awake with a heavy ache in the head and a bit of a bruise, he would live.
Now her focus was entirely on Peter. She was going to follow him in. She had heard him say he needed to do it alone, but honestly, she didn’t think he could. He had little experience with the weapons he carried, and would be an easy capture for the soldiers he was certain to encounter along his way. And besides, she had overheard the conversation between Clarius and Peter. She knew that as the crown prince of Myrasia, he was the only one who could challenge the reign of King Doran and restore the kingdom.
For there was evil in these lands now, evil that had not been visible before. It was seeping its way into what had once been the joyful lives of normal folk. It tore mother from son and cast a covering over the light of day. There was something deeper than King Doran’s greed and pride at work, and Peter had a quiet strength that pushed that darkness back. It seemed the only hope for the lands of Arona lay in this quiet and unsure boy.
She watched that shadow of a hope fumble his way over the wall. Then after a few moments’ wait, she followed his path over and in.
Clarius came to a sudden halt near the edge of the woods. He could have sworn he had heard something moving…there! Hand gripping tightly to the hilt of his sword, he approached. The dim light of day was seeping into the sky, somewhere behind the mist and clouds. He took a few more steps, carefully taking in all the noises filling the trees and air in between. Then Clarius saw him.
A weary old man was lying against a tree, his chest only barely rising for breath. He had no shoes, and his hands were cracked and furrowed with lines of dirt and age.
The man’s eyes widened as he took in Clarius’s sudden appearance above him. With a cough, he whispered in a harsh voice of confusion, “Another…another one in these woods.”
Clarius bent down, questions filling him but his focus centered on the man’s words. Energy rushed into him at this information. “Did you see them—a boy and a girl, neither past twenty years? When? Where did they go?”
The man shook his head as his mouth slowly moved to form the words. “Over the wall…”
Clarius stood and gazed at the wall, a sinking feeling entering him as he realized what was happening.
Did they even know what they were doing? Or what would happen if they failed?
Peter had already been walking for at least an hour. He was on edge, having not encountered any people, soldiers or common folk, along the road. Peter had spotted the guard tower further along the wall when he had first crossed it, but at that point it had been dark enough for him to move unseen. An odd mist hung over the land in the light of the dawn, and it was making him nervous. He tried to keep his eyes firm on the path, but sometimes they would wander to look over the harsh lines of hills and jagged boulders strewn across the setting.
Up next to the path on the horizon, he could make out the rooftops of a small village, and quickened his steps towards this sight. Before long, he came upon a sign marking the name of this place: Trinell.
He knew he must be a strange sight—a lone, armed traveler walking through this little town. Yet he was too caught in concern for something odd he had noticed. Children played along the edges of the road in the grass, while mothers went about their day at work. Peter spotted the occasional old man leaned up in a chair or hobbling down the street, yet that was all.
There were no men. And there were no boys. In fact, Peter found himself very out of place in this small town as he passed along the street. Hands stopped their work and eyes raised to his face, widening in curiosity or narrowing in suspicion.
It was dark and cold by the time Clarius and the old man, Andrik, reached the fortress in the heart of the Dark Woods. Clarius had deeply wanted to follow Peter and Rayne across the border. Yet he knew it would be too dangerous to follow them. His appearance in Myrasia after all these years would stir up questions and issues where Peter and Rayne might safely pass in peace without him.
As it was, Clarius had enough before him to think about and process. He glanced behind at Andrik who was slowly fumbling his way down the hill toward the massive, looming stone walls of the fortress. Once inside, Clarius helped the old man to a seat and some water. In his unrest over what had happened in the past day, he barely let Andrik rest before laying down questions. He was determined to discover this man’s story.
“What brought you into these woods?” Clarius asked as he scooted himself into a chair across from Andrik. “I can only assume you came from Myrasia. I am quite anxious to know of life in that place.”
After a few moments’ pause, Andrik lifted his weary eyes to meet his. Clarius had to lean in to catch the man’s soft and tired words. “I was a prisoner there for many years past. Held with several other men of the king’s army in the dungeons of Doran. Only a short while ago—”
Clarius reached out his hand to pause Andrik. His eyes narrowed slightly in thought and question. “You said ‘king,’ yet it you do not speak of Doran. For whom did you fight?”
Somewhere inside that tired soul a light sparked. A piece of strength edged into Andrik’s voice as he said, “King Henri of Myrasia, may he rest in peace.”
The words hit Clarius with great force and he fell back into his seat. “The king is dead? How do you know this? He disappeared many years ago, yet there was never certain word of his death.”
Andrik shook his head. “I was there when he died, only a few cells away. His last few breaths were tortured out of him, yet…I have never seen someone so strong.” He settled on that thought for a moment. “Whatever it was that they sought to beat out of him, he did not break or tell.”
Clarius closed his eyes, pained. The faces of his wife and daughter lingered in his mind. He choked to voice all the fears that had been magnified by this news. “How can all this come to a good end? Surely the world will never return to the way it was before. Does all good die only for evil to laugh and grow stronger? There are so few able to fight against Doran and his intentions. What hope have we?”
He had endured all these years with the hope of King Henri’s survival and the knowledge of his heir’s existence, hidden away in a small orphanage. Yet now those plans were crumbling. And all that was light in the lands of Arona seemed sure to be taken away.
They sat in the heavy silence for a while.
-Peter is walking through Trinell
-People are giving him weird, questioning, suspicious looks
-There are few men in village (most having been required recruits in Doran’s army)
-Some lady ushers Peter into her house
-She inquires after who he is, what he’s doing…
-He gives vague answer (…?)
-She speaks sadly of what is going on there (her husband gone in army, hard life)
-Soldiers come—have been notified of his presence by the townspeople
-Rayne manages to duck out of sight with the help of the lady, because they aren’t specifically looking for her
-Peter is escorted to Zanrof
-Rayne sticks around, learns what that means
-She sets out to follow them
-Meanwhile, Andrik finishes telling Clarius the story of his escape
-Andrik’s story imparts info about Doran’s army plans
-The news alarms Clarius, yet he resolves to go warn people/gather resistance
– Peter is in the Zanrof prison
-His mother is in an isolated section, so their paths do not cross yet
-Rayne works her way inside (…?) to free him
-They are shortly recaptured afterward, however, and their presence is brought directly to King Doran
Peter had come to stand in the middle of the rugged dirt road that wove through the hills and cottages of the town. He had hoped to not make much of a disturbance, but to pass through quietly and unnoticed. That was beyond possible now, though. It seemed the eyes of everyone in this small village had turned from work and play to fix on him.
A few moments past before one lady moved toward him. A young girl hung close to her steps. “Hello. Who are you? What brings you through Trinell?” Her voice held an edge of uncertainty, not quite suspicious yet not welcoming either.
“Peter.” He nodded at her. After a pause, he added, “I have been traveling for a while, and have a ways yet to go. If you could direct me to where I might find some food and water, I would be very grateful.”
The lady’s eyes narrowed a bit as she studied his appearance, testing what she saw against the words he had given. Finally her face relaxed to some extent as she said, “My house is not far. I can find you something to get you on your way.”
Relieved and thankful, Peter waited as she collected her children before followed her down the road. Shortly, they came to a small, rather worn looking cottage. Smoke was puffing lightly from the chimney, and when she pushed the door open and they walked inside, Peter was overcome.
A small fire blazed a welcome in the fireplace, its warmth radiating into the room. Six chairs were clustered around a table in a kitchen that smelled marvelously good. For some strange reason, tears blurred their way into Peter’s eyes at the sight. Clarius had spoken of darkness, evil kings and armies and a doomed country. Yet…he had not mentioned the little things. The glimmers of light, love, and hope. Family. Peter’s steps fumbled into the room as he watched the children enter their home.
Home. He ached inside for never having knowing this kind of haven. Would he ever? His resolve, which had been wearied down by his journey, fired once again. He was determined to find his parents. To finally be part of a family.
“Who is this, Mother?”
Peter’s head spun toward the sound of the voice. He had not noticed that a boy who seemed to be about his age sat in a chair beside the fire.
The lady, who had made her way into the kitchen, set about pulling some things off shelves and laying them on the table. “Ah, Luca, he is passing through town and in need of food. Peter, you said your name was?” She directed this across the room to him.
Peter nodded and stepped toward the table. “This may be an odd question but…I’ve noticed very few men in your village.” The question hung in the room for a very still moment.
Then she gestured for him to take a seat as she pushed a simple but appreciated plate of food onto the table for him. She ran her fingers through hair that was beginning to strain with gray, her mouth hardening into a thin line. “Yes, well. All men have gone to join the armies, by order of the king.” Her distant expression was filled with thought and weariness. “Even young ones who are yet to become men.”
Peter glanced back at the boy, Luca, sitting by the fire. How had he managed to stay behind? Then he noticed the awkward, limp way the boy’s left leg rested. Realization dawned as his eyes lifted to meet Luca’s blazing gaze. Shame bled through him. He quickly turned back to eating. “Thank you so much for your kindness, ma’am,” he told the lady. “You have no idea how grateful I am for this meal.”
“Where do you come from, that you have traveled so long without rest?” She inquired of him for the second time.
The beginning of nightfall covered Trinell. The occasional lantern hung outside a store or cottage to burn against the deepening dark and reveal the road. Riley slipped her way deeper into town. There were few people out in the cold evening to notice her passing, but she noticed one older man turning toward a door near the center of town. She paused for a moment before deciding it would be worth the risk to ask of Peter.
“Sir,” she said softly as she drew closer. He turned rather quickly in surprise at the sound of her voice. “Did you happen to see a traveler pass through town earlier today? He would have been young and armed.”
The man eyed her suspiciously. “Well, yeh, I s’pose did. What about ‘im?”
“How long ago did he leave?”
“Why, he came thru’ here not too long ago. Went on up to…ah…Warner’s place.” He raised a wrinkled hand to point her in direction of the cottage.
With a relieved “thank you” slipping quickly from her, she ran down the road.
A knock on the door suddenly pierced its way through the sounds of an enjoyed family dinner in the cottage. Leigh rose from the table to answer it. “Who…?” Peter stiffened. Could one of the soldiers have tracked him here? After a moment’s pause, Leigh opened the door with a look of question.
Peter could not see who stood in the doorway, but a familiar, confident voice filled the now silent room. Relief and anger mixed in him as she spoke. “Hello. I was inquiring in town after someone and was directed here. Have you seen a traveler about—”
Peter was already standing up and moving toward the door. “Rayne! Why did you follow me?” Frustration swelled inside him. For a moment it felt wrong but then he was only caught up in all of his feelings. Tired. Lonely. Upset. “I told you this was something I needed to do!”
Leigh closed the door as Rayne stepped inside, out of the cold and into the much less appealing rapidly fired words. Peter had much more to say but suddenly felt the eyes of all the young children silently fixed on him. He breathed deeply.
Leigh stood still by the door, watching them carefully. Finally she said with quiet authority, “I do not know who you are or what is going on. But I think it would be wise for you both to leave now.”
After a moment’s pause, Peter nodded to her. “Well. I do not mean to bring danger to you or your family.” He crossed the room to raise his pack onto his shoulders, his eyes raising in a moment to meet Rayne’s across the room. She seemed as cold and calm as anything as she stood there strongly. Did she ever tire or bend? Peter could not help but feel a touch of suspicion. She had evaded all questions of her past. She spoke of “before” yet did not say what it was, this life before. He could only wonder who she really was, when all those layers were cracked back—and if she was trustworthy.
He walked toward the door. For now, he had no choice. Whether he trusted her or not, she was here.
He gave his thanks to the woman who had fed him and offered him a rest from the long stretch of his journey. His hand was on the knob of the door, about to pull it open and step out. Loud voices outside suddenly stopped him. He held his ear close to the door to hear the sound of heavy boots and harsh voices as they made their way to a house nearby. “Open up!” They called. The soldiers did not wait for an answer, and immediately the sound of heavy thuds resounded through the air. They were forcing their way in.
Peter turned toward Leigh, an urgent plea rising through him. “Please. Help us. Our journey is to save your people. If they capture us, Myrasia will never be free from Doran. Please.”
Leigh’s eyes widened as she took in the sound of the soldiers nearing, her children silently pressing together in fear, and the desperate faces of the strange travelers in her home.
Leigh could feel time pressuring in on her as she struggled with what to do. But in a quick moment, she committed to her decision and could not take it back. “Here, quick.” She beckoned Peter and Rayne toward a door covered in shadow at the back of the room, and opened it. Peter urged Rayne ahead of him. Before she stepped through the doorway, Leigh whispered to her, “Follow the hallway back and there’s a door at the end. It will take you outside.”
Rayne nodded and moved quickly and silently through the doorway and down the dark hallway. Yet before Peter could escape along with her, the fierce pounding came to the door. And the door did not hold.
Several soldiers heavy with armor clamored into the room. “That’s him!” A younger one tagging behind cried out in a loud voice, pointing at Peter. In a jarring moment, Peter recognized him as the boy from the border. His heart dropped within him as he thought of the moment he had stolen across the open ground toward the wall. He must have been spotted well enough to be recognized.
A large, burly soldier grasped Peter’s arm roughly, dragging him back. Peter’s gaze darted back into the hallway for a brief second. It was empty, and the door at its end closed. Rayne had escaped. He breathed the hope of that over and over to himself as he was pulled from the cottage and bound at the wrists.
The soldier who had hauled him out was now eying him oddly by the light of his torch. “He’s awful young. Sure don’t look too dangerous. Where are we takin’ him?” He directed this last question toward an older soldier who was obviously the one in charge.
“Zanrof.” He said firmly.
Rayne stopped, halfway through the yard behind the cottage. The sound of her breathing was loud and heavy in her ears. Otherwise, there was only silence. For a few minutes she stood there, pressed against a tall tree underneath its shadows. The silence of the soldiers could only mean they had entered a home. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly after glancing around the grassy, full garden barely lit by the moon. She prayed that they had not found Peter.
When the soldiers’ voices finally poured back into the street, they did not continue loudly to other houses. Instead they stayed in the street, murmuring quietly. Dreading what this delay could mean, she slipped over to the back door, prepared to quietly knock. It opened under her fist, and the lady who had let her in before pulled her inside.
“Your friend has been taken.” The woman told her gravely.
Rayne had expected this, but still felt the weight of it hit her. “Where will they take him?”
“The prisons in Zanrof.” A firm and quiet voice at the end of the hall drew their eyes. The boy Luca was standing there, leaning hard on his stick. “I heard them talking. If you do not follow them closely, you will never see your friend again. Those prisons are deep. People go in and don’t come out. It is said the king and queen have been held there.”
“Hush, Luca.” His mother spoke sharply, as if trying to take away his words. “Do not speak of those rumors. There is no hope in that.”
Rayne wondered aloud in amazement. “So he is being taken right to them. How far away is Zanrof?”
“About a day’s worth of walking,” the lady provided. “Do you mean to follow them?”
Rayne nodded. She turned to leave, yet felt a heavy despair hanging in the room. After a pause’s silence, she spoke words to push it back, just as much for herself as for this woman. “Do not give up on hope,” she whispered. “So much is changing.” She tipped her head and slipped out the door.
Peter gazed up the long, stony walls. It had been a long trek here and he felt entirely exhausted. He had been roughly pulled along and the soldiers had had no interest in slowing their travel pace to rest. Here in the prison he was pushed into a long hallway that led into a row of cells. Thick bars held tired, worn faces behind them. Peter didn’t want to wonder how long they had been there, or if they would ever be free of this place. The thick stone walls seemed to hem in tighter, closer to him with each step further.
A hard push and a hollow metal clang brought him to the other side of bars from freedom.
King Doran studied his hands. Perradon was to leave for the mountains before the next day’s light. He squinted into the midday sunlight that streamed from the window. How anxious he felt. He fumbled in the drawer beside him for the one small piece of this puzzle that he held. He would show it to Perradon before he left.
If only he could pull more information out of the queen. He could sense she knew something. But she was so strong and not even the threatening of her own life moved her. How was it that he, the king, could feel so powerless in the face of such defiance? He would try again. Hard enough this time to send Perradon on his way with everything he needed to claim utter success.
He pulled the door open and stepped into the hallway. He turned to the guard, whose head was bowed in timid deference, and issued his command. “Have five guards on prison duty take the queen to the great hall. Do not delay.” Then he turned his intimidating presence down the stone staircase and out of sight.
Clarius gazed in shock across the table at Andrik. “You are sure of this?”
Andrik nodded heavily. “Doran will not be shaken from what he wants. If Rahal does not agree to bind their kingdoms, Doran will invade and conquer.”
Clarius’s eyes lit with anguish over this news. “Rahal is not strong enough to withstand that kind of attack. Yet is there anything that could prevent Doran from striking?” He ran his fingertips over the edge of the table, back and forth, wearing a line into the wood.
Andrik leaned back in his chair. “I am afraid…” His eyes shifted focus in thought. “I wonder. There is something greater Doran desires, more than ruling all the kingdoms of Arona. He has repeatedly sent groups to the Kila Mountains and beyond. He is…searching for something.”
Clarius’s hands stilled.
Rayne quickly pulled close to the wall, breathing in sharply. She had spotted a guard when she came around the corner. It struck her as strange—she had encountered fewer soldiers than she might have expected. Was the prison always guarded this loosely, or had they been called away? Either way, it was working out well for her.
She tipped her head around the corner, where the hall turned. Her eyes fixed on the gate at the end. A faint light was coming from inside, and she could guess that Peter was through there somewhere.
Yet the guard…he could be an issue. The hall was long enough that he would see her coming with plenty of time to prepare and raise an alarm.