Stars Riddle

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Chapter Six

Raederle looked around her in awe. This was the Dark Elf demension? It looked like a palace! There was rich gilding but it was not gold. The mettle was unlike anything Raederle had ever seen. It was a bluish black and it covered everything!

Her eyes scanned and room. She turned her head to see the whole room. Her head stopped the movement dead when Caidan’s eyes met her’s. Raederle moved toward him and noticed all the other people in the room. They all had pale skin and blond hair. They were all tall like Caidan. It was clear that he really was one of them!

In a flash she felt his arms around her. “Raederle!” Caidan called in surprise. “How in the world did you get here?”

Raederle could see the depth of his hazel eyes. She could feel the heat of his body. She moved closer to him to take in his earthy smell. She wanted to stay in his arms forever but she knew it was not meant to be.

“Braudin!” one man ordered. “This girl is truspassing. She may well be a spy. Fire when ready!”

“No!” Caidan screamed. “She’s not a spy. I know her!”

He tried to shield her with his body. He moved her behind him and stood tall and solid. Caidan’s eyes bore into the man who had been giving orders. Caidan clearly wanted to intimidate him. Raederle decided that this was a man who needed watching...

“You take responcibility for this girl?” He asked with a dangerous light in his eyes. “You give your word that this girl will not endanger our race or use anything she learns here against us?”

“I give you my word,” Caidan promised.

The man giving orders nodded and moved to take Raederle from Caidan’s arms. Caidan tightened his hold on her and Raederle felt her heart beat faster and faster. Raederle buried her head on Caidan’s shoulder but she still felt more bodies closing in. The guards were here.

“These guards will take your friend to the medical wing. She will be given the best care,” the leader assured Caidan.

Caidan ignored the man and tried to move towards the door with Raederle in his arms. Raederle could not ignore the tention in the room. She lifted her head and said, “I will go with the guards, Caidan.”

“I won’t let them take you,” Caidan swore.

“I won’t let them hurt you,” Raederle told him just as firmly. She put her lips to his ear. “Let me go with them for now,” Raederle whispered. “I have a way out of here. The Nemph showed me a way home.”

Caidan nodded looked for Edwin. “Allow my servant to help tend her,” Caidan demanded more than asked.

“I believe that can be arranged. You will need rest yourself.” He motioned to several guards in crisp uniforms. “There won’t be a need to leave your rooms for sometime.”

Raederle was escorted out of the room. She tried to ignore the men carrying her but she could not close out the whole world around her. She could not help but stare at the strange mettle. It made her feel cold.

She looked around for Edwin. Raederle could see that Caidan trusted him. She could see that she would have to as well.

Caidan watched Raederle being taken away and felt dread clinch his heart. The king had given his word but Caidan already knew that he couldn’t be trusted. The king said that deals should not be made with honest men but Caidan knew that people who said what they meant kept their word.

Caidan heard Donal’s voice tell him, “A man is only worth what his word is. A man who cannot keep his word is no man at all.” Caidan knew that Donal was not his real father, he had known it for some time, but Donal was a father in every way that counted. His heart ached to think that he would never see him again.

The king mistook Caidan’s silence as the sullen silence of anger instead of the closed silence of sorrow. His eyes turned to ice while his kneck changed colors. His eyes were as hard as stone.

“I’m not sure how you did it, boy, but I know that you sent a message to the girl. How else could the girl get here?”

“How could I do that? I don’t even know where I am,” Caidan said in anger. “I couldn’t draw Raederle a map!”

“Something made the girl come here and someone has to pay for it.” The king’s voice took on a manacing tone.

“You’re punishing me? We won’t be able to work together well if you can’t trust me,” Caidan reminded him.

“This is not about trust,” the king said. “There are a few things that need to be arranged.” The king waved towards Caidan. Braudin appeared at Caidan’s side like lightning.

“You will not be needed for some time. Take that time to cool down.” Caidan could see that Braudin’s words were meant to calm him but he felt his temper rise with the heat in his cheeks. Braudin must have seen Caidan’s anger because he continued, “Think about the girl. This is already hard on her.”

“What do you mean? What happened to her?” Caidan asked with real fear.

“Getting thrown into a new world will shock anyone.”

Caidan breathed a sigh of reliefe.

“I think you already know how this works,” Braudin said. “If you behave the girl will stay safe.”

“She’s not just a pawn,” Caidan almost growled. “She deserves more than this.”

“The girl could have a good life if she learns to accept her place.”

“This is not where she belongs!” Caidan screamed his rage.

“The girl thinks she belongs with you,” Braudin pointed out. “You belong here. She would not have run after you if she did not feel for you. Women follow their passions.”

“You don’t know her,” Caidan told Braudin.

“I know women,” Braudin said angrilly. “You are young yet.”

“I still know her,” Caidan insisted. “You’re just guessing based on what the other women you know whould have done. Raederle is not like everyone else. You don’t know what she’ll do.”

“You know one woman you’ll know them all.” Braudin laughed as he walked out of Caidan’s room, leaving Caidan alone with his thoughts.

The room Caidan had been given was nice even though it was sparse. He sat on the room’s large bed and waited from Edwin to return. He had signaled Raederle, letting her know that the young servent could be trusted. He hoped that Raederle had understood and given the boy a message for him. Edwin was an outsider here and he would go against the king’s wishes to learn more about earth.

Caidan’s thoughts seemed to summon the young servant. The door cleaked open. Caidan could see guards by the door and Braudin across the hall when the door opened. He had expected to see the men but the idea of being guarded so heavilly still made him uneasy. Edwin did not seem to mind the guards at all. He ignored them as he ignored the guards before.

He smiled at Caidan and said, “Your friend told me all kinds of stories about earth. She must have traveled all over!”

“She is a villager like me,” Caidan told him, “but she remembers everything she hears.”

“She told me that I need to remember something.” Edwin had an intense look of concentration on his face. “I want to make sure I get it right. She said to tell you that the Dark Elves came to our demension through a hole. She used the hole to get here. There must also be a hole in this world.”

Caidan looked at the boy in confusion. The servant must have seen. “A door goes both ways, see?”

Caidan breathed a sigh of releife. “All we have to do is get to this door?”

“That is all Raederle said but things are never as simple as that,” Edwin reminded him. Caidan could already see that things were geting more complicated than they appeared.

Braudin banged a knock on the door a second before entering and announcing, “The king will see you now.”

“What does he need to see me about? What is going on?” Caidan tried to hide the fear in his voice.

“Your friend’s dramatic enterance was something of a surprise. Your father has had to make extra accomidations for her,” Braudin explained as he flew ahead of the prince, using walls of air to make sure that the villager followed.

Caidan had to run to keep up with Braudin’s fast pace. He was gasping for air by the time he made it to the king’s study.

“Your son to see you, my king,” Braudin announced.

“Good. We need to discuss the presence of the girl. She will need a back story to tell our enemies.”

Caidan looked at the king in shock and could not find words. He had not thought of the enemies the king had mentioned since he started learning to defend himself.

“I assume you will want the girl to be protected too,” the king said after impatiently waiting for his son to speak.

“You think that a story will protect her? The truth will be more useful than a thousand stories!”

“I forgot that you were a believer in Creators and Fate. Braudin and I will soon teach you the truth of it.” The king’s voice had an acid in it that Caidan had never heared before.

Evan took a calming breath and tried to exxplain everything to the wolves. He had hardly finished when Snow let out a mournful howl.

Two words are at stake! These creatures play with the futures of earth, the dream world and the fate of their own lost world. Their world is dying and they want the whole galaxy to die with it! Snow growled out in frustration.

“There is a way to fix this,” Evan tried to calm her. “We must trust Fate and work together.”

These Dark Elves do not think things through but we can use that, Plum agreed. Their thoughtlessness will be their downfall. The Creator has given us the tools to defeat them.

Snow seemed to hear what the two of them said, taking in all their words in one second. Has the Creator spoken to you?

The Creator will speak in His own time. All we have to do is wait, Plum reminded her friend.

“We must take our cares to the Creator,” Evan reminded them, thinking of the masons up in the Floating City.

We must go to the caves, Snow agreed.

This is the world of dreams, Plum said. This is no need of caves or books. The sky above is all we need.

“Lead the way. Show us how to talk to the Creator from the dream world.”

Plum jumped to action. She raced through vallies and into the woods. She ran to a scream in the middle of the thick forests. Plum dove in while Snow and Evan waited on shore.

Plum looked up and saw a hole fill the sky. Plum and Snow howled in dismay.

“I should have sinced this,” Evan told them. “This is a demensional hole. The Dark Elves are using this to get in.”

“We have to close it,” Snow declared. “That hole needs to be healed.”

“We have to travel to that hole in the waking world to close it,” Plum said.

Evan looked down in dismay. “I cannot get to the real world. A group of shadows has me trapped. The shadows are punishing me,” Evan tried to explain.

“Why would they punish you? Do you know them?” Plum searched for answers.

“They believe that I am the last male decendant of the Nemph who trapped them.”

“They will not be able to trap you once the hole is closed,” Plum promised. “The shadows are trapping you in a different demension but your blood calls you back to earth. You would not be able to travel here if it was not. The earth lets you travel to the dream world. Once the shadows are trapped you can travel from here to the waking world.”

“I can wait here until you trap the shadows but there must be something I can do to help,” Evan pleaded.

“My pack cannot reach the humans, not even the wolf brother,” Snow admitted with sorrow. “Maybe you can reach them.”

“I came to here to ask you to warn them,” Evan reminded them. “I have not been able to reach them myself.”

The three of them stopped and thought. They tried to think like the humans who were not there. Caidan would have known exactly what to say and Pete would have been able to come with a plan. Will would know what to say to make everyone laugh. Raederle and Morgan would bring everyone together and help them work as a team.

How could they do anything without the humans here? Thinking of the humans made Evan remember a story his mother used to tell him. She would read him stories about humans before he went to bed. Evan would listen for hours as she read about humans making deals with strange creatures. One creature, he remembered, could travel across demensions and even through time. Evan and his friends could use an ally like that now. The question was, were these creatures real?

“Have you ever heared the story of Shadows and Foxes?” Evan asked in a whisper.

The story of the tricksters? All pupps have heared this story, Snow said in surprise.

Plum sat still thinking while the others talked. She could see where Evan was going with these questions. The tricksters can get us to the humans but they cannot be trusted. Do not make a deal with them!

Evan could not ignore the pleading in Plum’s words. “What did I miss? Why are you both so nurvious about all of this?”

I cannot explain centuries of history in seconds, Plum told him gently.

You’ll just have to trust our judgement on this, Snow commanded.

Evan could see that the wolves felt passionate about these tricksters. He did not want to pry but he needed direction. “I trust you. How do the two of you think that I can reach the humans?”

We have allies here in the dream world. You must find them and wait for your people’s Floating City with them, Plum told him.

“I saw the vines bring the humans into the Nemph City. My mother would not have left without bringing our allies to safety. If I wait for the Floating City I’ll be able to warn the humans!” Evan reliezed.

I will call my friend in the dream world to you, Plum promised. She trew back her head and howled.

Juniper appeared beside his sister and nuzzled her kneck. I have not seen you in some time, sister. I was beginning to fear for you and young Will. Sargento came to me to get the net but I could not talk to him.

The humans could not hear our calls either, Snow told him.

“The masons will be able to figure out how to fix that,” Evan assured them.

We need your people on our side, Plum agreed. They have knowledge of every world and truely know the Creator.

“Your pack truely reliese on Fate. We Nemph can do nothing less,” Evan agreed.

We will meet your courage, Nemph, Juniper promised.

Eratian guards glided into the villiagers’ wing. The villiagers were gathered in the sitting room so the guards did not have a hard time finding them. All the villiagers were calmly sitting and relaxing but the guards could not help their suspicions from raising.

Three guards went to stand directly in front of Will while the rest of the men stayed near the door.

“The empress will see you now,” the man with ribbons on his arm announced.

All the villiagers stood without resisting the guards. The man with ribbons, and the guards around him, closed in on Will before saying, “The empress has only requested an audiance with this man. The rest of you will remain here.”

“The empress will want to see all of us,” Alona assured him.

“We will all be going with him,” Donal Tallon said.

“I won’t go without them,” Will told him.

“I’m afraid this is not up to you,” the guard declared.

The men posted at the doors kept Master Tallon, Sargento and the women from going to Will’s aid. The three guards who approached Will now wrestled him to the ground. His hands were forced behind his back and cruely twisted. The men forced him out of the doors and through the halls before he could blink.

Will could hear the others call out to him but he did not have time to answer before disappearing down the coridor. He saw Alona’s worried face before they forced him out. Will wanted to offer her a comforting smile but the Eratians were not going to allow him even that. Will had hated to Eratians for what they did to his sister and his home. He thought that he would grow to understand them, as Caidan had, but their cruel treatment was not doing much to cool his hate.

Will was pushed to his knees before the empress. He looked up and saw that she was in full regalia and he doubted that she was decked in all her finery for him. She wore her branch crown and a crisp gown in full pleats. Who was she dressed up for?

“You look fine this morning, your highness,” Will complemented with a sly grin. “Crisp gowns are all the fashion, I’m told.” Will’s comments urned him a slap. He had to remind himself to be quiet. These men would not hesitate to hurt the others if he did not co-operate.

“A deligation of Nemph are coming to make a treaty,” the empress revieled. “You will tell me what will be agreed. I will make the best treaty possible by being prepared.”

“The visions don’t work like that,” Will protested.

“They will today.” The empress guestered to the guards around her. They all swung into motion, beating Will with fists and kicking him again and again.

“Is this the only trick you have? Do you plan on beating a vision out of me each time?” Will called out between punches to his stomach.

“Do I need to bring your sister here, Will?”


“Then tell me your vision,” the empress commanded.

Will could only force himself to be still as the beating brought on a vision. He could not control the visions and could only hope that he would see the Nemphs agreeing to a treaty. Will did see Nemphs but they were fighting, not signing a treaty. Arrows flew through the air and the ring of mettle on mettle sang through the night. It was clear that he was in the middle of a battle.

Will looked around further and saw that the clouds were level with the ground... The battle must be in the Floating City! Will could see the hole in the universe above him. He could see the painted armor of the Eratians to the south. The Eratian army was moving closer and closer to the center of the city and to the hole.

Will could see that the Nemph forces were not fairing well. They were falling back as the Eratians surged forward. The Nemphs were already injured. Many of them had wounds and hastey bandages. Still, the fighters did not look worried. Will quickly saw why. Nemph re-enforcements were coming!

That’s when the vision ended. Will found himself back in his body at the here and now. Bruised muscles screamed their pain and Will let out a small groan.

“I am pleased that you have returned, seer,” the empress greeted. “You will tell me your vision now.”

“Why should I tell you anything?”

“I thought we already decided that you did not want to involve your friends in this. It would be a shame to have to hurt them.”

“I saw the Nemph,” Will told her. “I’ll tell you more after you let Master Tallon and Alona go.”

“Freedom is not a bargaining chip, Will. Your friends will be hurt if you fail to co-operate.”

“I don’t see the problem here,” Will said, trying to hide his frustration. “I’m agreeing to help you. I don’t see why you won’t help me. We are supposed to be partners.”

“You refused to partner with the empire,” the empress reminded him. “I made a bargain with your people but you went behind my back and made a partnership with the Nemph.”

“That’s not what happened!” Will interupted.

“I will have your sister brought her and collard if you continue to refuse. I order you to tell me your vision!”

Will breathed out in frustration and said, “I saw the Nemph. They were in the Floating City. Your guards in their painted armor were also in the City. They were fighting the Nemph and they were winning. The Nemph kept falling back while your Eratian forces moved foreward.” Will left out the part about the Nemph reinforcements. Will did not see the outcome of the battle but he wanted to give the Nemph a chance of winning.

The empress put a thin finger to her mouth in thought. “The peace treaty will not be signed then. Eratians and Nemphs will go to war. Thank you for your help, Will.”

The empress did not need to wave her hand. A rough hand grabbed the back of Will’s neck and forced him back into the hall. He twisted and struggled but physical resistance did little good. Will’s hands were still tied behind his back so could not use them to fight the guards. Even if Will could have fought, fighting was futile. The guards had more men, more weapons and more knowledge of the terrain. Will did not need to be a general to know that fighting the guards here was not a smart move.

Will allowed himself to be lead back to the wing he had been given. The guards shoved him into the sitting room before releasing his hands. Guards still stood around the others. Each of them had a guard behind their chair. The men escorting Will pushed him into a chair and tied him to it securely before leaving. Only one guard remained by the door before the others moved to untie Will.

“The Eratians will go to war with the Nemphs,” Will told them. “I saw it in a vision. They will attack the Nemph city.”

The guard at the door gave Will a sharp look. “Your visions are for the empress and her empire. Your friends cannot use your visions,” the guard reminded him.

“They’re my visions and they’re for who ever I want to tell!”

“Calm down, son,” Master Tallon soothed. “The empress knows that we can do nothing to change her plans.” Master Tallon was saying this for the guard now. “She will not care if we know.”

“The empress has given you an inch of freedom and you have taken a mile! Be sure that your words will find their way back to the empress,” the guard warned before leaving.

“Get out the map quick,” Will said in excitement. “I need to write it before I forget.”

“Where did they take you?” Alona asked in a worried voice.

Will ignored her question. “We need to get out of here and warn the Nemph.”

“I’ll try to give them a message in the dream world,” Sargento promised. “I’ll get them a message in time. We can’t rush this escape.”

“He’s right,” Annesta said. “We only have one chance at escape and we cannot waist it. This escape plan has to be perfect before we risk everything.”

Will nodded. He kept his eyes on the door as he drew. “Use the dream world. The rest of us will keep our eyes open and keep working on the map.”

Sargento opened his eyes to the dream world. He looked up to see the colorful, boiling sky. There was only one sky with such colors! The wolf Juniper frequented these vallies and hills. The Nemph were known to move about here as well. Sargento was glad to know that friends were near. The only problem now was letting them know he was here.

Sargento raised his head and howled. He could not howl as Pete or the wolves did but he knew that his allies would recognise the sound all the same. Sargento feared that the Nemph would not be able to hear him but he was sure that at least one ally would be able to hear and answer the call. He would give the message to an ally.

“I heared your call,” Juniper said suddenly appearing behind him. “I could not understand the call but I knew what it was asking.”

“Thank you for coming. I need you to deliver a message to the Nemph.”

“That is strange,” Juniper said. “The Nemph have given me a message to give to you.”

“What?” Sargento could not hide his confusion. “They have?”

“Evan was here. Snow, Plum and Evan were all working to warn you but none of them could get through to a human. There is a hole in the demension.”

“We know,” Sargento interupted. “Will saw it in a vision. The Eratians are going to attack the Floating City.”

“The Eratians cannot hope to win. The Nemph have the high ground.” Juniper knew more about human battles than any other wolf. His views of the battles themselves were still very simplistic.

“The Eratians have numbers,” Sargento told the wolf. “The important thing is letting the Nemph know that the Eratians are coming. Can you get a message to them?”

“The Nemph are worried about that hole,” Juniper tried to explain. “Evan and the wolves are going to close it.”

“The Eratians are going there too. Will saw the Eratian army at the hole in his vision. The demensional hole is in the Nemph’s city. Surely, they already know it’s there.”

“The Nemph know. Evan plans on escaping to the dream world and finding his people now that he is free from the shadows.”

“The Nemph helped some of our friends escape,” Sargento told Juniper. “The Eratians deny it but I think the empress wants to invade the Nemph to get them back. The hole is just an excuse.”

“I will make sure that the Nemph are prepared for the Eratians. I do not know how I can help you get away from them yourself.”

“Just warn the Nemph,” Sargento insisted. “Tell Evan where we are. I’m sure that the Nemphs noticed that they are missing some of us. Master Tallon is making a map to help us all escape.”

“Juniper!” A booming voice called. “I heard voices. Have my people made their way here?”

Evan ran into view. Sargento was more than a little shocked to see him there! The Nemph were supposed to be safe in their city. Morgan, Raederle, Pete and Caidan were all supposed to be safe and Evan was supposed to be with them. Could it be possible that they were all in danger?

Evan could not believe his luck. He could warn his friends! Sargento was standing right there! He felt his heart quicken with excitement and his veins surge in hope. Evan let hope fill him as he ran to embrace his friend.

“I feared for you in the excitement,” Evan told his friend. “The Eratians were sending armies and the shaodws were attacking, the wind blew and thinder rolled. So much was happening at once!”

“There was top much happening. Some people were lost in the excitement,” Sargento said saddly. “Will, Annesta, Alona, and Master Tallon are all trapped by the Eratians still.”

“Oh, no,” Evan moaned. “Mother planned the rescue so carefully!”

“She knew this would happen?” Sargento asked in amazement.

Evan could see where Sargento’s thoughts were taking him. The Nemph put up his hands in a placating guester. “She suspected... she guessed.”

Sargento took some calming breathes, unable to even speak. Juniper filled the silence for him.

“We are lucky that your mother is a planner. She has made it possible for us to survive enemies on all sides.”

Evan nodded his thanks and Sargento clasped his hands to Evan’s. “I will do what I can when I am reunited with my people. The Nemph have already outwitted the Eratians. They can do it again.”

“I’ll tell the others,” Sargento promised. “They will be ready when you come.”

Evan recognised a farewell when he heared one. “Can you not stay a moment longer to explain things to the Nemph? The information you have would be invaluable to them. They will want your first-hand account.”

“The Eratians will hurt the others if I do not come back when they call. I can feel their pull building,” Sargento explained quickly.

“I understand,” Evan said saddly. He was not sure if he should be glad to see the Floating City flying through the air so very close to him. If the city had just been a few seconds faster! Evan was about to call to Sargento but a woman’s voice echoed from the city.

“Sargento! I can’t believe you made it,” Mistress Tessa called excitedly from the Floating City, which was in both worlds. “Did Will and Alona come with you?”

“They are with the Eratians,” Sargento explained. “Master Tallon is planning an escape but I fear for all of us. We will need all the help we can get.”

“We will give you all the help we can,” Tarale promised. “My son was taken but you have brought him back!”

“Evan got away on his own,” Sargento tried to explained.

But Evan broke in, “The wolves helped me. They wanted me to come here and warn you. There is a hole that stretches across the demensions and it is in our Floating City. We must close that hole.”

“Caidan was captured and pulled in the hole into the Dark Elves demension. Raederle went in to save him,” Tarale explained.

“We all promised to leave the hole open until she returned with Caidan,” Mistress Tessa reminded them all.

“Oh, no!” Evan yelled. “Snow and Plum are on their way to close it now!”

“Pete can warn them. Have him howl,” Sargento ordered.

“Pete disappeared too,” Mistress Tessa groaned.

“A way will be found,” Juniper promised. “For now, we all must play our parts.”

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