Verulus’ home was located on one of the smaller floating islands that made up Vale’s residential district. On that particular island, the center was a pretty little community garden, flowers of all colors grew nearly in little groups around a small fountain. Five houses surrounded the garden, made of the same white stone and oak wood as the main island of Vale’s shopping district. There were stairs to the floating islands, ornately decorated. Verulus informed me that there was a spell that kept the paint from paling due to sun exposure.
Verulus opened the door to his home, letting me inside. Floating candles automatically lit up the first room, a small kitchen and den. With a wave of his hand, logs in the fireplace burst to light, lighting the den more than the candles.
“It’s been a few months since I last stayed here, so I’m sorry I can’t offer you food. Give me a few minutes and I’ll make some tea, we can at least have a drink while we make a plan.”
I nodded. “Anything I can help with?”
“No, it’s alright.” He flicked his hand; a kettle filled itself with water and floated over to the fire. “Please have a seat.”
I sat down on a red sofa, admiring how dustless it had remained. Verulus had walked away to another room, moving things around, searching for something.
My mind wandered to the vision of the child being taken away. I had recognized the woman that had shown up towards the end, she was the Lady of Irinis, my false mother. I shivered as a chill ran down my spine, the idea of that being the uprising I had been told of made sense.
Verulus came back in, rolled parchment in one hand, two cups in the other, setting them down on the small table in front of the sofa. I frowned as an idea crossed my mind. The child that was taken away…
“Verulus?” I looked at him. “I need to ask you something.”
“Um, sure? I’m assuming it isn’t plan related.”
I nod. “Can you tell me about your parents? I mean, you know about my real mother, as Sir Andrias had told us, so I was wondering about your parents.”
He frowned. “My parents are dead sadly. My mother died in childbirth when I was three, I had a younger sister named Amara and she also died due to illness before she was four. Meryl and I were upset; naturally, we tried so hard to get her back to health. Meryl is thirty-two years old now, and I am twenty-two years old. Our father, even before we lost our mother and Amara, worked in the Vrovahmn mines. He passed away a few years ago while I was training with my master, one of the mine corridors collapsed.”
The kettle floated over as he put a few teaspoons of tea leaves into the cups, waiting until after he did so before adding water to the cups. He watched it float back over to the fire.
“What would Meryl tell me if I asked her?”
He turned his attention to me, handing me one of the cups. “What did you see when you try pushing me out of your mind? By the way, you’re the first and only person to manage trying to push me out; how you did it is beyond me.”
“I saw a pregnant nurse take a child to a figure. The figure took the child away.”
“You didn’t tell me everything.” He was squeezing the cup tightly in his hand, a mix of anger, fear, and sadness contorted his face.
I put my cup down and grabbed his from him, placing it beside mine before placing my hands over his. “You know what I saw, Verulus. That child was you.”
He gave me a weak nod, his voice cracking. “Yes. I was two when the failed uprising in Irinis happened.”
I hugged him, tightly. I didn’t need to ask who the nurse was; his tears and my age were enough to confirm she was my mother.
“I’m so sorry, Alys. Had I not been taken, you wouldn’t have been used as a replacement for me. You suffered in my place, dealing with that wretched woman for twenty years while I was cared for by a loving family.”
“Stop apologizing and stop crying. I do not have any right to get mad at you for something you could not control, nor blame you for what happened. I’m glad we’ve met, and to think we’ll go on an adventure together gives me more reason to be happy.” I smiled at him. “You’re nothing like her.”
He smiled a bit and nodded, rubbing his eyes with his cloak sleeve. “Thank you.”
“So, back to the planning! Do you have a map by any chance?”
He unrolled the parchment. “Here. I was thinking, to start with, we could visit the capitol. We should warn the King of the incoming darkness Lord Erwignan spoke of. It’d be a good opportunity to see if we can gain any information or rumors of the princess of Alame’s location.
I nod. “We could also see if we can speak with Sir Aindrias if he is around, the same with the King’s assassin on the whereabouts of the lost princess.”
“Agreed. The only problem is that we cannot directly teleport to the capitol. The closest we will get to is, unfortunately, Irinis. Going around Irinis will take us out of the way, and I’m certain we shouldn’t waste time with unnecessary detours.”
I shuddered. “Going there isn’t a good idea Verulus. She’ll find me fast, thanks to all the guards follow that happily follow her command. Even if I could master a glamour spell she’d see right through it.”
“Do you know anyone in the town that would not hesitate to help you?”
“Maybe the best plan is for me to go in ahead of you. The Lady probably has no clue I’m her son, so I could go into Irinis and ask around covertly who among the people would pledge allegiance to you.”
“Perhaps, but I am not fond of that idea.”
“It is better than us waltzing in.”
“True.” I frowned. “If she truly is a black witch, you will have to be extra careful. She probably could have placed a listening spell in the homes of the people.”
“Good point. I’ll figure out what to do about that without dispelling whatever she could have casted.”
I nodded. “I guess I could stay at the Tavern while you do this? I can do chores for Meryl while I wait for you.”
“Alright. Then when we get there, I’ll head on to Irinis on foot as to not draw too much attention to myself. Then I will find us someone that will help us get you through undetected, and as soon as we’re far enough outside Irinis, you and I will continue on to the capitol.”
“After doing business in the capitol, we head for the Temple.”
“When should we head to the Tavern?”
“Soon. We’ll get some supplies while we’re here in Vale.” He downed his tea, glancing at the leftover leaves.
I downed my tea as well, flinching as the heat seared my throat.