Flight of the Five Swans

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Finished Chapter 39

Raia

A shocked silence greeted them all upon the completion of Cliodne’s tale.

“Incredible.” King Naaman said, shaking his head, and Raia knew from the tone of his voice that he did not mean the word to be a compliment.

Ayden agreed with his father, saying, “I would find it a hard story to believe, if not for—“ he broke himself off as he caught Raia’s eye. He made to gesture towards Thaleia’s feathered remnant of the curse, then changed the motion to one that encompassed all of the princesses together, rather than simply the one who still sported feathers. “—the evidence.” He finished lamely.

Gustave needed several minutes before he could contain his anger enough to respond rationally. “It is certainly troubling.” He said through gritted teeth. Raia smiled at the vast effort he was making to remain calm. Gustave had always been rather overprotective as a parent, but in this situation, he had a legitimate reason for being furious with Soran. Sadness mingled with the anger in his expression. “And Einor was a close ally. And a friend.”

“I had never met him.” King Naaman said. “But I knew of him as a wise ruler. We had no quarrel with Deturus while he was king.”

“And now?” Thaleia all but snapped, and her tone was far sharper with the king than Raia knew was wise. After all, the peace treaty had not yet been signed by either royal, and it was still entirely possible that the wrong word might yet lay waste to all their father’s negotiations. Cliodne looked at Thaleia reproachfully, but King Naaman merely looked thoughtful.

“Now?” he repeated, responding to her question rather than her antagonism. “Now, I fear the new king of Deturus may seek quarrel with us all if something is not done.”

The thought of taking proactive action seemed to have calmed King Gustave’s anger more than anything else. His arguments sounded quite rational when he next spoke, addressing King Naaman. “He has committed crimes against my country and yours, as well as his own, using dark sorcery to gain power against even his allies.” Gustave pounded his fist against one knee in emphasis. “This cannot be ignored.”

“And it won’t be.” Ayden assured him them all swiftly, responding for his father before Naaman had a chance to reply. “This is a matter that must be brought before the Council of Kings.”

The Ithcarian king looked long and hard at his son, then clasped his hands and nodded.

“And so it shall be.” Naaman agreed.

Raia gave a half-hearted sigh at the consensus. The Council of Kings was surely the best possible avenue towards ensuring that Soran was not left to his own devices to plot against them…or anyone else either, for that matter. Yet though Raia wanted Soran to get what was coming to him, her heart nevertheless sank at the thought that such an action might lead to more complications—or even war—with Deturus. And then there was the question of the amount of time that it would take to pursue such a course.

“Father,” she said slowly, as though weighing her words carefully. “Will we be required to give testimony before the Council?”

King Gustave hesitated, but then shook his head. “At some point, yes, you will be asked to give testimony as to your ordeal.” He told them. “But for now, a letter to the council will suffice to get the ball rolling. A strongly-worded letter.” He emphasized.

King Naaman agreed. “Addressed from both of our kingdoms—united for the first time in decades—the Council will not disregard the seriousness of the issue.”

Gustave nodded in gratitude at the Ithcarian king’s words. “And,” he added, looking around at his daughters. “For the moment, the only thing that you will be immediately required to do is rest. If I’m not mistaken, our new peace treaty will be ready to sign in but a few days. But if you prefer—and if our host does not object to the idea—we need not travel home immediately after the treaty has been signed. We can wait a couple days more, or even a couple weeks, so that you have more time to prepare yourselves for the journey home. Whenever you are ready.”

Raia’s gaze locked with Ayden’s for a long moment, and she barely heard King Naaman confirming the invitation for them to stay. Yet when she finally broke eye contact, a mere glance around at her sisters’ faces was enough to tell her what their response would be. Tears in her eyes, Thaleia answered for them all.

“Daddy,” she said in a softer voice than she was wont to use. She wiped at the moisture on her face with her wing. “Daddy, I just want to go home.”

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