The Sentinel of Cassendar: Navalia

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Chapter 26

Roderick was awoken by a knocking somewhere out in the hallway. He sat up in the chair he had been sleeping in and looked around his room. From the faint light coming in the window, he guessed it was sometime around the sixth bell of morning. He heard the knocking again and got up to see what was going on.

He straightened his shirt and ran his fingers through his hair before opening the door to the hallway.

“Dracia?” he whispered as she turned and looked at him from across the hall in front of Galen’s door.

She was dressed in the dress and pants of her sentinel uniform, but her hair was down, and she was barefoot. She turned back to Galen’s door as it opened. Roderick’s brother stood in his door frame, wearing his novice uniform, his hair a mess.

“High Captain, is something wrong?” asked Galen quietly.

“I need you to come to my room to see Prince Leal. I think something is wrong with him, and I am hoping you can figure it out,” said Dracia as Roderick walked to her and closed his door.

“Something is wrong with Leal?” asked Lexine as she appeared behind Galen.

Dracia and Roderick exchanged glances before Dracia turned back to Galen and Lexine. “I think so, just come and see for yourselves,” she said as she turned and walked to the stairs.

Roderick followed her, catching up with her as she got to the fourth floor landing.

“Are you well?” he asked

“I am. I just want to know what is wrong with Leal,” said Dracia as she looked down the stairs.

“He didn’t seem well last night,” said Roderick. “He didn’t say or do anything to hurt you, did he?”

“No, not at all,” said Dracia with a slight smile. “But I believe Lilith and Lady Belleth have done something to put him at least partially under their control, and I want to figure out what it is.”

Dracia continued to look down the stairs as Galen and Princess Lexine appeared. She turned and walked to her door, placing her hand on it. She opened it and ushered Galen and Princess Lexine inside before following them, leaving the door open for Roderick. He closed the door behind him and look towards the bed.

Prince Leal lay on his back with the covers up to his waist. His chest was bare, and his eyes closed as Dracia sat beside him and took his hand.

“Dracia,” said Prince Leal opening his eyes, and sitting up slightly. “Where did you go? I woke up and you were gone. I was afraid last night had been a dream.”

“No, it was not a dream,” said Dracia smiling at him. He raised her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it before placing another kiss on a golden ring she wore. A ring that matched the one on the prince’s finger. A ring Roderick had only seen her wear once before for less than an hour.

“I brought Galen and Lexine to see if they could help you,” said Dracia as she stood up and moved back. She turned to Galen. “He says the past few days he doesn’t remember much of what he has been doing. He doesn’t remember speaking to me harshly or dismissing Malven.” She paused for a moment and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. “He says he has been doing things against his own will. Last night I saw him kissing Princess Lilith.”

“Oh Leal, you didn’t,” reproached Lexine.

“He didn’t want to,” said Dracia quickly. “I don’t know how, but I think he is being control by Lilith and maybe Lady Belleth too. Leal talked in his sleep last night. I think he had nightmares or maybe it was something else, but he mentioned both women.”

Galen already had his hands hovering over the prince. He moved them slightly as he closed his eyes, Lexine coming to stand next to him. He moved his hands around for a few minutes, everyone else staying silent. Galen finally opened his eyes and put his hands down.

“Your highness, have you drunk or eaten anything unusual lately?” asked Galen.

“Just whatever has been provided for me at meals,” said Leal with a small shrug.

“I would suggest you do not eat or drink anything from this point forward unless it is checked over by me, your sister, or Sarin,” said Galen.

“What is it, Galen?” asked Dracia, coming forward.

“He has been given something similar to the drink his father had in those flasks, but much stronger. I am not sure what it is, but I can tell it is there. I can sense some of the ingredients, but it also contains the same strange substance that I couldn’t identify from the king’s drink,” said Galen.

“So, you are saying it is some magic potion or elixir?” asked Roderick.

“I don’t know if I like those terms, but yes, something like that. Something that Sarin said was like old magic, the magic that existed even before the kingdoms. Do you still have that book, Lexine?” said Galen as he turned to the princess.

“Yes, it is in my room. I haven’t made much headway on it. I’ve been focusing on Dracia’s problem.”

“See if you can find some translation for tossia grass. It won’t be easy, but if you can do it, it will narrow down what your brother has been drinking or eating,” said Galen.

“Will he be alright?” asked Dracia. “How long will this affect him?”

“It should take about a week to leave his system completely as long as he doesn’t take in anymore. He will feel weak and tired for a few days just from all the ingredients I have sensed. He might become confused off and on due to the tossia grass. He shouldn’t be left alone at all,” said Galen.

“He will stay here,” said Dracia. “You will not go down for meals for at least a few days, Leal.”

Prince Leal nodded and smiled. “I have no issues staying your room and bed for as long as necessary, Dracia.”

Dracia smiled fondly at him. “I will make sure either I or someone else we trust is with him at all times. Now, I think he needs to rest, so you should probably all go back to your own rooms,” said Dracia looking at Lexine.

“Oh Dracia, it wasn’t like that at all,” said Lexine with red cheeks. “We were up all night trying to find a way to help you because I was very confused by what Galen found out.”

“What did you find, Galen?” asked Dracia.

Galen looked at Lexine for a moment with confusion before turning to Dracia. “I was able to confirm that those who marry into the Cassendar line are known to have the Cassendar power, at least in some form. I’m not sure how it could help you, but it does show that the power can be transferred.”

“But it should help you, Dracia. I don’t understand,” she said as she glanced at Galen. “Perhaps, I should speak with you in private.”

“No,” said Dracia as she smiled at Leal. “We are not hiding anymore; at least not from those we trust and care about, and I trust Galen completely.” She looked at Galen. “Galen, Leal and I have been married for over two years.”

“For two years?” said Galen in astonishment.

“Yes, I knew what I wanted, and I was tired of letting my father control my life. Maybe it was foolish, but I love Dracia too much to not be tied to her permanently. It took me a few months to convince her.”

“I wanted to marry you. I just didn’t want to cause problems between you and the king.”

“If he had caused me to lose you, there would have been no hope for any reconciliation between me and my father,” said Prince Leal. “I’m am still angry with him.”

“You should have more compassion for him,” said Dracia. “Especially now that you have a taste of what his life has been like.”

“But why does Dracia not have access to the Cassendar power, Galen? She has been a Cassendar for years now.”

“I have, but I have not thought of myself as one,” said Dracia as she played with her golden ring. “I have still called myself Yates. I have not worn my ring or lived as Leal’s wife. Do you remember what Lilith said the other day when we heard her in her garden, Galen?”

“She would have to be claimed in some way,” said Galen. “You think you had to claim the Cassendar name?”

“I think I had to admit who I was. I married Leal, but I still didn’t fully believe we could be permanently together. I thought eventually I would have to give him up. I didn’t refer to him as my husband; he didn’t refer to me as his wife. I didn’t wear my ring, at least not on my finger.”

“It was in your locket,” said Galen as Dracia nodded. “Do you think you have any use over the power now?”

“I don’t know,” said Dracia. “I guess I won’t know until I have need of it. I will worry about it later. I have other things to do today, and I need to prepare. Roderick, I need you to come back here at the tenth bell this morning. Find Lord Ethen and Lady Maia and bring them with you. Galen, you and Lexine work on seeing if you can find out what Leal or the king has been given.”

At the tenth bell of the morning, Roderick stood with Lord Ethen and Lady Maia outside of Dracia’s door. Roderick knocked and stood back slightly, waiting for Dracia to answer. After a couple of moments, the door opened, and Malven peeked his head out and seeing Roderick, opened the door.

Roderick let Lady Maia and Lord Ethen enter first, Roderick following them in as he nodded to Malven. He looked around the room to find Prince Leal sitting in a chair by the fireplace, drinking a cup of tea. Dracia was at the vanity in the room putting some pins into her braids. Lady Maia walked over to Dracia, seeing her struggling with securing one piece in the back, and held out her hand. Dracia handed her a hair pin, and Lady Maia carefully placed it into Dracia’s hair, testing it slighting, and then nodding to Dracia in the mirror.

“Thank you, Maia,” said Dracia as she stood up. She walked over to Lord Ethen and Roderick. “I have something I need both of your help with.”

“What do you need, Captain?” asked Lord Ethen.

“Last night Fannar told me Lady Belleth has her own space in the north tower. I want to get into her rooms and see if we can find anything that would explain all of the problems our kingdom has been experiencing. The mystery of the soldiers this summer, the uprising, the medicating of our queen, the king’s drink, and Leal’s condition, it all has to come back here to Navalia.”

“And you think Lady Belleth is behind it all?” asked Lord Ethen doubtfully.

“I don’t know, but I don’t believe Fannar has anything to do with it. King Arnar seems barely awake most of the time,” said Dracia.

“But all this down to one woman?” asked Lord Ethen. “That doesn’t sound likely.”

“Because she is a woman?” asked Lady Maia with irritation.

“Because she is one woman,” said Lord Ethen. “I am surrounding by strong women, my dear. I don’t doubt a woman being able to do anything, but could one woman cause so many problems?”

“If she is controlling the King of Navalia, I believe she could,” said Dracia. “If not, I still think she is behind whatever Leal ingested. I want to go into her tower and see what we can find.”

“You think you can get in?” asked Roderick. “She will have wards on her door, I am sure.”

“I’m not planning on using the door,” said Dracia with a smile. “Will you both come with me?”

“I will,” said Roderick. “I will do whatever you need of me.”

“I will come with you, Captain, if nothing else I am curious to see how you plan to get into the tower.”

“You probably don’t want to know, Ethen. I think I know how she is going to do it, and it is not comfortable,” said Prince Leal as he took a drink of tea.

“Galen didn’t complain at all. You have always been a tad overly dramatic, your highness,” said Dracia with a smirk.”

“Perhaps if you had warned me before forcing me through a stone wall, I wouldn’t have reacted so, my princess,” said Leal with his own smirk.

“Oh, are you two admitting you are married now?” asked Lady Maia.

“You knew?” asked Prince Leal.

“Yes, we both knew,” said Lord Ethen. “It is very hard to hide all your secrets from a High Noble of Siccaria.”

“I do not want the Navalians knowing,” said Dracia sternly. “At least not yet.”

“Understandable,” said Lord Ethen.

“Malven,” said Dracia turning to look at the attendant “Can you go put eyes on Lady Belleth and come back and tell me what she is doing. I want to make sure she is well away from her tower.”

“Yes, High Captain,” said Malven bowing to her. “I will go now and be back shortly. I know most routines of those who live in the Winter Palace. I do believe you will be safe to visit her tower at least until half past the eleventh bell. She likes to retire before luncheon.”

Malven walked swiftly out of the room.

“Maia, will you stay with Leal while we are away. I believe Malven will be here as well, but I would like it if two people were with him in case one of you needs to leave.”

“I would be happy to keep the prince company,” said Lady Maia as she moved to a chair across from Leal and sat down.”

“If anything happens, and Leal needs attention, you can find Galen Ellis and Princess Lexine in the small parlor on the first floor or in his rooms,” said Dracia.

“You will be careful, dearest?” asked Leal as he looked up at her. “Do not linger in that tower any longer than you have to.”

“I will not, but I believe Lord Ethen can provide us with some shelter if she comes along. I can get us out quickly if need be, though it might get interesting if we go that route,” said Dracia turning to look at Roderick.

“I know that look, Lord Ethen, and we best get out fast. Whatever route she is speaking of, I don’t think either of us want to experience it,” said Roderick as he smiled at Lord Ethen.

Malven came back soon, and informed them Lady Belleth was walking with Lilith at the front of the palace.

“Thank you, Malven. I shall have to speak with my husband about raising your stipend after this trip. Whatever he is paying you, I am sure it is not enough,” said Dracia.

“It is plenty,” said Leal as he seem to wake up from a slight doze in the chair he sat in.

“I will be the judge of that,” said Dracia. “We must go now, Roderick, Ethen. We have a little less than an hour to get in and out.”

They left the room together and walked to the end of the hall. Dracia opened a door to some stairs that Roderick had not seen. She motioned for them to be quiet as she looked up. After a few moments, she started walking up them, waving her hand behind her to tell Roderick and Ethen to follow. They walked up the stairs quickly to another door. Dracia opened it to a large room with white marble floors and a large glass dome on the ceiling.

Roderick looked around as they walked through the room. It was a beautiful room that looked very old, but it seemed to be clean and in good repair. Dracia led them to a set of double doors. She opened one, looked out, and then stepped out into the hall on the other side, Ethen and Roderick following her. They all three moved down the hall, past the stairs, and towards the opposite wing. They stopped when they came to a large wooden door against a stone wall. Dracia put her hand on the stone wall and closed her eyes. She moved her hand slightly, and Roderick could see she was in deep concentration. After less than a minute she removed her hand and nodded.

“This is it,” she said. “Come stand close to me. If I am touching both of you, this will be much easier.”

Roderick moved to one side as Lord Ethen moved to her other side. She touched each of their shoulders and bowed her head, closing her eyes. Roderick looked at her wondering what she was doing when he suddenly felt very heavy and very cold. The world around him seem to vanish in a blur. He looked around trying to figure out what was going on when suddenly everything became clear. Dracia let him go and bent down putting her hands on her thighs.

“Are you alright, Captain?” asked Ethen as he put his hand on her back.

“I am fine. I just need a moment to recover. I’ve never taken two people at once through stone. It took more energy than I thought,” she said as she took deep breaths.

Roderick looked around to find himself in a large circular room. There was a huge fireplace built into one side, curving around with the wall. All along the walls were tables filled with books, vials of different things, and papers. Where there were not tables, there were bookshelves, filled with books of different sizes and colors.

“How did we get here, exactly?” asked Roderick as Dracia straightened up and seem to steady herself.

“I brought us here through stone. I really don’t have time to explain it, but I used stone Mystics and bound you both to the stone in this room. There are a hundred other things I had to do to make it happen, but it won’t matter if I explain it to you, because the result will still be the same. We are here where we need to be,” said Dracia as she moved to a large table that had a map rolled out on it.

Roderick looked at some books on a nearby shelf. They looked very old. He picked one up and saw that it was in a language he did not understand as he flipped through it. He tried a different book and found it too was in a language he did not know. He moved to another bookshelf and saw large books on the kingdoms of Lanoxan and Siccaria.

“Roderick, come here and take a look at this,” said Dracia as she stood in front of the large map.

Roderick walked over and stood beside her. The map was of all the kingdoms of the land. He could see that Siccaria and Lanoxan were especially detailed and there were x’s in certain towns and villages.

“Look at these x’s. There is one over many of the northern lord’s lands including the Isadels and then a few over these southern lords. There are even a few on the border of Siccaria and Lanoxan,” said Dracia, her eyes roving over the map. “Ethen, come tell me if you know anything of these places these x’s mark.”

Lord Ethen walked over and stood at her side away from Roderick. “Yes, those lands belonged to some of the lower nobles of Siccaria. They had only daughters. Those daughters are now married to some Navalian nobles.”

“This all seems very strategic,” said Dracia “And look here, there are circles in different areas all along our borders. The ones we share with Navalia, Gedeonia, Aurumia, and Parvial.”

“Aurumia and Parvial are under Navalian control. Do you think Gedeonia has aligned with Navalia?” asked Roderick.

“It would explain the attack this summer,” said Dracia. “This looks very much like a planned invasion.”

“It does,” said Lord Ethen. “It looks like she has a number of lords on her side, and possibly some hidden forces stationed throughout your kingdom.”

“What else is in this room?” asked Dracia. She turned and looked around, walking to a table that held many vials and an open book.

“Many of the books here are very old and in some strange language,” said Roderick.

“This one looks to be as well,” said Dracia picking up the open book on the table. “I wish we could take it to Galen, but I do not want Belleth to know we have been here. I will see what I can memorize from the page.”

Dracia picked up the book and studied it while running her fingers over it as Roderick walked to her, looking at the vials on the table.

“Do you know what any of these are?” asked Roderick.

“Not really,” said Dracia as she looked at the page. “But I can guess. I am sure those are ingredients used in the drink for the king or whatever they used to control Leal.”

“Come see this,” said Ethen who was standing at another table, looking at a scroll.

Roderick moved to Ethen as Dracia set the book down the way it was. They each stood on either side of Ethen and looked down at the scroll. There were some phrases in strange languages written on it. Next to the scroll was a paper and quill. It looked like someone had been working to translate the scroll, as some of the phrases from the scroll were written on the paper, crossed out with familiar words over them. At the end of the paper were three paragraphs.

“I know this one,” said Dracia pointing at the second paragraph. “That is the Cassendar curse. Leal told me of it last year when his father mentioned it to him. I have never seen it in full, but this must be it.”

Roderick looked at what she was pointing to and read it:

Beneath their wings a bitter wind blows,

a fallen bird, prey for the peacocks, doves, ravens and crows.

Lifted up and healed to fly,

or struck down to wither and die.

The balm of winter can bring new life,

but the touch of summer causes naught but strife.

The land waits for new life as it toils,

a flower that blooms far from its home soil.

A way forward we can only see,

by a bird that nest happily within spring’s tree.

Ethen pointed to another one, and Roderick read over it. It said:

Rooted and strong, close and bonded

Finding its way, its family well-guarded

A threat looms ahead, harsh and cold

Bringing with it heartache untold

A new root sprung from one faraway

To keep home protected, a tree without sway

Safety comes from uniting one of its own

To a ring of a bird that is to it well-known

“This is a well-known prophecy of the High Nobles of Siccaria. No one has ever really taken it seriously, but I have seen it. There is a pretty copy of it in my father’s study. I don’t know why he keeps it there, tradition I suspect,” said Ethen as Dracia pulled some paper, and started copying the prophecies.

“I have memorized what I can from that book, but I will write these down. Surely she won’t miss one piece of paper.”

“What is this one about, do you think?” asked Roderick as he read the third paragraph.

Once taken away by the summer king

Exiled unjustly by those of spring

Banished no more by those who persist

To bring back a winter that will not desist

Another year gone without revenge

A wrong still unrequited a people to avenge

Reign again with power over birds and trees

Given to the people who freely bleed

Beware the flower grown foreign and bold

A tree of spring, a rest for a bird of gold

“Well, one of these is from your kingdom and one from mine. I am guessing this might be some Navalian prophecy, maybe?” said Lord Ethen as he watched Dracia write.

“It seems to be, but we will look closer at them when we are done here,” said Dracia as she quickly wrote.

Roderick looked around to see what else he could find. He saw a small portrait of what appeared to be a young Princess Lilith. He guessed she was no more than ten in the panting. He opened a door on one curved wall and saw it was a small bedroom with nothing more than a bed, a fireplace, a small vanity, and one chair. He went to close it just as he heard footsteps that seemed to be coming up some stairs outside of the main door of the large circular room.

Dracia rapidly waved the paper in her hands to dry it before folding it up and putting it in her pocket. She moved quickly to the door Roderick had just opened, grabbing Lord Ethen on the way. She brought him into the small bedroom, and Roderick followed her, closing the door. They stood by the door, looking at each other as they heard the door open in the main room.

“Where do you think Prince Leal has been all morning?” Roderick heard Lilith say.

“Perhaps in his rooms?” asked Lady Belleth.

“No, I had some attendants check there, he has not been to his rooms all morning,” said Lilith.

“Did he go for a ride or walk?” asked Lady Belleth.

“I don’t know,” said Lilith in irritation. “I can’t find him anywhere.”

“What happened last night? I thought you had him well in hand.”

“I thought so too. I even got him to kiss me right in front of that warrior woman he thinks he loves,” said Lilith.

Lord Ethen looked at Dracia as she rolled her eyes.

“Good, and what happened after that? Did you take him to your bed?” asked Lady Belleth.

“No, he pushed me away and said he wanted her. He ran from me,” said Lilith in an annoying tone.

“And you didn’t go after him?” asked Lady Belleth.

“No, I went back to my rooms and made sure that woman paid for spoiling my night,” said Lilith in a haughty voice.

“That was rather stupid. At least you didn’t kill her. You didn’t, did you?”

“No, I don’t think so. We would have heard something by now if I had, wouldn’t we?” asked Lilith sounding not very sure of herself.

“You will have to find a way to check on her this afternoon or evening, make sure she is well. It sounds like you can’t keep the interest of the prince even when I enchant him, so you will need her to ensure his cooperation,” said Belleth.

“This is all very annoying,” said Lilith. “I don’t even want to marry the hateful man.”

“I know my darling, but we all have to make sacrifices to get what we want. Do you really think I have ever liked going to your father? Besides him giving me you, I have hated every moment with him. It is too bad I had to kill his wife. At least she kept him occupied,” said Belleth with a laugh. “It would have been easier had I let her live in some way. It wouldn’t have taken me so many years to gain his trust and get him under my power if I had the health of his wife to hold over his head. At least I learned my lesson with the Lanoxan king.”

“I don’t plan to have to entertain my future husband very long. I will do away with him soon after I have what I want, his High Captain as well,” said Lilith with a small laugh.

“You will do no such thing,” said Belleth harshly. “You think the people of Lanoxan will follow you if you do away with their crown prince? How do you plan to hold the kingdom if you anger the most powerful lord in your court? What of Siccaria? What happens with the High Nobles if you kill the very woman they have paraded around your palace as one of their own?

“You will keep your prince under your control any way you can. Threaten the High Captains life daily if you have to, use your link to cause her pain occasionally, but don’t go too far. You can use her to placate him and the High Lord of Winsdell, at least until we have complete control of the kingdom. It won’t be forever, but you will do your duty as long as necessary. If you can carry the Cassendar heir, that would be even better.”

Lilith huffed, and Roderick could hear a sound as if she stomped her feet.

“You are too old to throw such tantrums,” said Belleth. “Now, it is time for lunch. Let me go freshen up a bit and we will go down and eat together. After that, you need to find your prince.”

Roderick looked at Dracia as she grabbed his arm, and hooked her other arm’s with Lord Ethen’s. She closed her eyes, and Roderick felt himself grow cold and heavy. The world disappeared in a blur, and when it became clear again, Roderick realized he was falling. He looked down to see the ground below them was coming up fast. Dracia let go of Roderick and moved her arm out, causing a hard wind to encircle them, and it slowed their decent. When Roderick hit the snow covered ground, he fell over and rolled until he lay on his back. He lay still for one moment checking himself over before he looked over at Lord Ethen and Dracia. Lord Ethen was on his hands and knees, breathing hard. Dracia was still on her feet, bent over with her hand on the ground. She seemed to be taking deep breaths with her eyes closed.

Roderick slowly got up, groaning, felling the soreness in his muscles of hitting the ground rather hard. He walked over to Ethen and held out his hand, giving him a boost up. By then, Dracia was sitting on the ground, her head bowed.

“Dracia?” asked Roderick quietly as he knelt beside her.

“I’m fine, Roderick,” she said with her eyes still closed. “Just give me a minute to rest, and we will go back inside. I apologize for the escape route, it wasn’t ideal, I know.”

“I wish you would have warned us, but you did get us out of there,” said Lord Ethen as he stretched his back.

“I believe I did warn you, Ethen, and I told you, you wouldn’t like it,” said Dracia as she opened her eyes and smiled at him.

“Fair enough, Captain,” said Ethen walking over to her. “I think your mission was successful. We definitely have a lot of information.”

“We do,” said Dracia as Roderick stood up. “Now we just need to put it all together. I do know some things we need to do quickly.”

“What is that?” asked Roderick offering his hand to Dracia. She took it, and he pulled her up.

“We need to tell the court to leave soon, and ready our Elites. After what I found out today, I will have to confront Lady Belleth, and I want as many of our people out of Navalia when I do it,” said Dracia as she dusted snow off of her body and started walking away.

“You can’t think you will face that woman alone, Dracia,” said Lord Ethen walking after her, Roderick following as well.

“What do you suggest, Ethen? Leal or the king can’t be around either of those woman. I will need Roderick to see to the Elites, and you and Maia need to leave Navalia immediately.”

“No, we will not leave you here in danger, Dracia,” said Lord Ethen grabbing her hand and stopping her. “You are not in this alone.”

“You are too important to stay here, Ethen. You are the future leader of your people, you and Maia. Besides, how could I face your grandmother and father if something happened to you?” said Dracia turning and looking at him.

“My grandmother and father expect me to see you safely out of Navalia. I promised her, Dracia. I promised her I would not leave you here,” said Lord Ethen.

“Why does I matter so much to her? I am nothing to your family,” said Dracia shaking her head. “I appreciate your support, but it is the truth.”

“You don’t know what you are speaking of; now stop being stubborn and listen to me,” said Lord Ethan pulling her close and staring into her eyes. “I agree you need to speak with Lady Belleth, but you will not do it alone. I and Maia will come with you. Now, Let us go to your room, and we will talk this over and think of a plan.”

Dracia dropped her head and gave a loud sigh. “I am too tired to argue with you at the moment. I will listen to your advice if you will give it to me, but I am still not sure of you staying in Navalia.”

“You don’t command me, Captain,” said Lord Ethen with a small smile. “Come on, let’s get you to your room to rest, and we can talk about what we have learned. We can call in Roderick’s little brother. He seems rather clever.”

Dracia nodded and started walking to the front of the palace.

“Is she always so stubborn, Roderick?” asked Lord Ethen.

“Only when she believes she is right,” answered Roderick as he and Lord Ethen started walking together.

“She is wise, and I believe she might even have a plan, but I am afraid she doesn’t think enough of her own safety. She has to leave here alive, Roderick. I will accept no other alternative.”

Roderick nodded. “I am not willing to accept anything else either.”

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