Flight Chapter 13
The first night that Eurielle was able to transform without dry heaving was a momentous occasion for her, though none of her sisters seemed to notice her accomplishment. While she was a bit disappointed, she couldn’t really blame them for their preoccupation. After all, planning their escape—or as Eurielle liked to call it, Operation Fly the Coop—did tend to take a lot of their time, not to mention their concentration. Their days were spent fulfilling the tasks that each had been allotted individually, while their nights were given to revising and updating their strategy together in their chamber.
For the moment, preparations for their escape were largely dealing with gathering information. In this respect, the princesses found their daily transformations into swans to be a blessing in disguise. Soran saw the princesses in their avian forms to present little to no threat to his plans, as they could neither communicate their need for help, nor could they escape from the castle for longer than a day—at least, not unless they wished to remain swans forever. Keeping Raia locked in her room in human form provided him with extra insurance. Soran was confident that he had the sisters well and truly trapped.
And they used this arrogance—and their freedom to roam—to their advantage.
Thaleia was allotted the responsibility of observing the guards. She noted their exact positions around the castle, as well as made mental notes of shift changes. She had also taken to perching above standing guards on multiple occasions, so as to eavesdrop on their conversations. In this way, she was slowly coming to recognize the men, as well as ascertain any possible weaknesses they displayed both as individuals and as a unit. At one point, Eurielle had witnessed her elder sister taking advance of her lofty perch above one of the many guards, and had had to admire her sister’s aim—not to mention her daring.
Cliodne had been given the task of familiarizing herself with the surrounding environment. As she had been staying in Deturus for months prior to her sisters’ arrival, she already had an extensive head start in memorizing the different possible routes out of the kingdom. Furthermore, having been led by Soran himself on many of her outings meant that she was already aware which trails were more commonly used by the man whom the princesses most wanted to avoid. Cliodne spent hours during the day flying over the lesser-used forest paths, sometimes landing on the ground to investigate a cave or hunting trail that she suspected might prove useful. She disappeared most days as soon as she grew wings, and Eurielle often did not see her again until they were all debarking in the pond together for their transformation.
A similar mission had been given to both Eurielle and Petra. Instead of investigating escape routes through the forest, however, they were instructed to concentrate on finding ways to escape the castle itself. They investigated every nook and cranny from the outside, and even ducked through an open window in the lower hallway on several occasions to observe the interior as well. At one point, Eurielle had only just avoided being scalded by a hot bowl of soup after flying too quickly around a corner and startling a stray kitchen maid.
Callia’s responsibility was perhaps the most time-consuming task of them all, though Eurielle suspected that her sister didn’t much mind. She spent nearly all of her time in the library, trying to find a way to break Soran’s curse over them. Eurielle sometimes wondered how Callia managed to turn the pages with wings instead of hands and feathers in lieu of fingers, but she did not doubt her sister’s ingenuity when it came to reading. All of the princesses knew that they needed the right spell or counter curse to ensure that they would no longer have to worry about being human only at night following their escape from the castle. Indeed, their entire escape plan hinged on Callia’s success, for without such a spell, they were effectively tied to Soran’s enchanted lake if they wanted to become human at all.
As Raia had not been included in the daily swan transformations, she was not given the same freedom as her swan sisters. Eurielle knew that she chafed at the restriction. Raia was locked in their bedchamber around the clock, and was only allowed out at mealtimes. Soran permitted Raia to eat breakfast and lunch in the small dining room located in the south tower. This room had only one entrance, and was sparsely furnished but for a table, one chair, and the ever-present Deturian stained glass window on the far end. She was kept under heavy guard throughout each meal, and was never allowed anything sharper than a butter knife.
Dinner, however, Raia was forced to take every night with Soran in the royal dining room, where he peppered her with questions about her experiences in Faerie.
“I just don’t respond,” Raia told her sisters one night. “I haven’t even spoken to him for the last three days, at least. But it doesn’t seem to bother him much.”
Eurielle stared at her. “But he’s not suspicious at all, right?” she asked anxiously. Raia shook her head, her mouth twisted in disgust. Due to the close watch Soran kept on her, her role in Operation Fly the Coop was essentially to keep the sorcerer from finding out about their plans. Eurielle had already heard her complain to Thaleia several times of feeling useless in regards to helping them all escape.
“Well, I have good news,” Callia suddenly announced. She hesitated, then added. “Well, kinda.”
Eurielle squealed. “Did you find a way to break the curse? Is it a spell? Can I be the one who casts it? Or maybe a potion, that would be so cool!”
“Hush, Eurielle!” Cliodne said. Eurielle clamped her mouth shut, not bothered in the slightest at her elder sister’s admonition. She gazed eagerly at Callia.
Callia nodded and withdrew a piece of paper from her pocket. One edge of the paper was ragged, and Eurielle realized with a small gasp that it was a page ripped from a book. This went far beyond using one of the volumes as a weapon. Callia had defaced one of her oh-so-precious books—permanently. As far as Eurielle was concerned, that action more than anything else testified to the seriousness of their situation.
“I was sure it was going to get drenched when I landed, but I couldn’t think of any other way.” Callia said. “It’s not like I could write it down.”
She lay the page down on the bed, pressing it with her hand to try to smooth out some of the wrinkles. Eurielle leaned in and followed along as Callia read the words aloud.
Knit of nettles and speak no word
to change a form from man to bird
A lonely task, for only one
may touch the thread after it’s spun
And once complete, the spell be broke
when feathers all, the garment cloak
Yet changing those who are enthralled:
it’s all at once, or none at all.