A New Direction
Rhyli and Kalen returned with three rabbits, five fish and a handful of roots and herbs. As they set to preparing a meal, Caelia announced her decision regarding her future.
"I have decided to return to Aelhall."
Kalen and Rhyli stopped what they were doing and stared at her.
"Are you CRAZY? You said that place was sacked by some invading force, and you want to go BACK?"
Rhyli stared at Caelia, her mouth agape.
"You are either braver than I thought, or absolutely insane."
Caelia agreed but felt she had no other choice.
"I agree with your assessment of my decision, and I rather think Evandri feels the same way, though he has not said so."
Evandri simply continued to watch the fire.
"But his coming has provided me with a mystery that I cannot ignore. The farther from Aelhall I get, the farther away from the answers I get. Don't you see? Why Ael took such an interest in my well-being is more significant than I understand. I cannot live with that mystery."
"Caelia, I understand your position, but you also understand that I cannot go back that way. Your road takes you too near Prydell."
"Yes, I know. And I am not asking you to come with me. This is my mystery and my risk. I plan to leave first thing in the morning, before dawn. I need to get into Prydell early enough to get some supplies before I go."
"They – the bad guys I mean – will recognize you. And if Ael was so concerned about your identity, you threaten the very thing he sent Evandri off to guard."
"I know, but I didn't know that the first time I was in Prydell, so it must be ok. My association with you worries me more than my own identity – whatever that means."
"Then because you helped me, I will go back to Prydell to get your supplies."
Rhyli looked at Caelia, her eyes hard and her jaw set. She was used to living on her own and needed no one and nothing. But a debt was a debt and even as irritated as it made her, she felt she owed one to Caelia.
Kalen listened patiently to the conversation, munching on rabbit.
"I am really no part to any of this, but I am curious to see how it plays out. I will go with you as far as the town and wait to see what happens."
A few hours after sunrise, Rhyli again walked the streets of Prydell, helping herself to the rich offerings of the city. She knew a smithy that would buy some of the more interesting pieces off her and she could use the money to buy food and whatever other supplies Caelia would need for her travels.
"Ah, Jonathan. So good to see you again."
Rhyli slipped into the back of the smithy shop through the alleyway behind. A short, wide, powerfully built man looked up from his forge and scowled at Rhyli.
"I thought I had seen the last of you after last year's harvest festival. Those ruffians didn't teach you enough of a lesson, eh?"
Rhyli laughed as she leaned against a wall and folded her arms.
"Why on the contrary, my dear Jonathan, I learned a very valuable lesson! Never trust a Feyen merchant to hold his end of the bargain on the last day of the festival. I will not make the same mistake again! But I am not here to reminisce, and I would be happy to leave you in peace. First though, I have some business with you."
She opened her cloak and pulled out an array of jewels and gold pieces.
"I am assuming you still offer a fair price?"
Jonathan huffed and turned towards the back room.
"I'll see what I can do."
While Rhyli waited, she perused the room. Around her she saw nothing unusual. The items necessary to the working of a smithy. In the darkest corner of the room stood a shelf with some curious items on it. Curiosity aroused, Rhyli strode over to it to get a closer look. There were items used to create pieces of jewelry and a few boxes labeled with the names of customers. She poked around in one but began to lose interest seeing that she would gain nothing from them.
She figured she had better not be caught going through Jonathan's things when one box caught her attention. The outside of the box was labeled with two simple words: Sunyha/Eld-ar.
Rhyli stood speechless. Her name and Caelia's name were paired together in one of the last places she expected.
"What are you doing?"
Jonathan had returned and stood in the doorway, hands on hips, staring angrily at her. Rhyli gathered her thoughts, stilled her shock and turned to face him.
"Nothing. Just waiting. Why, is there something here I'm not supposed to see?"
"Those are the king's things. I'm sure he has forgotten about them by now, but they belong to him nonetheless."
Jonathan strode over to Rhyli and pulled her away from the corner. The king did he say? Which king, the exiled king Ael or the usurper king?
"Here is your money. Now go quickly before anyone finds you here."
And with that, Rhyli was pushed out the back door. Caelia's identity was in question, but suddenly Rhyli had a reason to care about the solution to the mystery.
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