“I told you” -- Qildor forcefully pushed his voice down -- “not to do anything stupid. Yet you did the stupidest thing you could possibly do!”
“But now you got confirmation that she’s the assassin!” I said.
“Thank you for confirming something that I already knew. You made this whole thing a lot more complicated. I don’t think you realize what you’ve done.”
I opened my mouth but closed it immediately after. I wasn’t expecting Qildor to be that mad.
Qildor released another long sigh. “She’s a water mage. And a really strong water mage. So, we need to do a lot of preparation to arrest her. We need a different kind of special magic to be ready to take her down. And we need a lot of ice and fire wizards, so they can freeze any water magic she tries to use until she runs out of magical essence.
“And getting such force together takes some time and preparation. Right now, we are not ready. And if before we knew she was at her home, now we don’t even know if she really stays there. We were prepared to take care of her tomorrow evening, away from the city. Everything was perfect. But you might’ve just ruined it. Entirely.”
I raised my eyebrow. “I don’t understand. Why can’t you do it tomorrow then?”
“Because if she finds out that you actually managed to survive her attack, she might escape. She can assume that you know. And if you know, we know,” Qildor said, walking back and forth.
“Qildor. Relax. You’re the head of our country security. You’re the brightest head when it comes to this. You can figure this out!” Rowley said, leaning back.
“You’re awfully calm, taking into account that it’s your advisor we’re talking about!” Qildor said out loud, stopping, and looking at the king.
“Because you’re my security. I trust you, Qildor. I may not like this since I’ve known Alwine since she was only a baby. But what you told me can be real. She might still feel the hostility towards me, even if she never showed me one. It breaks my heart, but I'm the king.”
Qildor looked at Rowley, sighing. “Sometimes I think you're an ass, human king. But at least when it comes to politics, you know when to listen, and when to trust.”
“That’s the biggest compliment I’ve heard from you, the first elf,” Rowley replied.
Qildor sighed. “There is a way. It’s a long shot, but the best one we have.”
I crossed my hands. “And?”
“You leave the town, together with the hamster.”
“He’s a mouse-”
“I don’t care. You leave now, and you'll take your companions with you. You will stay inside a hidden cart, and go to the next town. And you will stay there for the next few days, hidden. If Alwine hears that you’ve disappeared, she thinks that she succeeded.”
Rowley began to scratch his beard. “That might work."
“We will spread a whisper that the hero has disappeared. But we will deny and keep it quiet publicly, just to not create any chaos. We will ask Alwine to stay at her own for now, since she was with you and might be in danger. This is how we would’ve acted if you really did disappear, either way. Then we have to hope that she takes the bait and that her magic isn’t powerful enough to actually tell her if she caught you in your room or not.”
I frowned. “Is there anything I can-”
“You have done enough!” Qildor shouted. “Hero. I have huge respect for you. You’ve already done a lot for our country. You’ve revealed some information that no other hero could. And you’ve saved us from a possible catastrophe. But your time here is up. Go back to Kirkwall. Deal with the demon problems. This here is no business for the hero. This is where I draw the line.”
“Hero!” Rowley interrupted, leaning towards me. I was slightly irritated by the fact that they kept interrupting me. “You have no power here. While we have beyond the wall, elves have before it. His word is final. Qildor will provide you a secret carriage, and you will take it with your companions.”
Qildor looked at Rowley. “Thank you.” He turned dramatically towards the big doors and began to walk away, showing me his super beautiful fancy colorful red cape. At least something nice to eye at this late hour. I love capes. I need a better cape.
I turned to Rowley, sighing. “I’m sorry about Alwine. I liked her. Even though her clumsiness was… something.
Rowley looked at me. “I always felt that she was loyal. But her betrayal… clumsiness… that’s one way to call it.” He stood up and began to walk towards the door as well. “Go rest while you can. We’ll call you when the time is right," he said out loud without looking back.
I had a long sleep. Since the potion had stopped working, I was hit by unbearable fatigue. So, the next time I woke up, I was in a carriage, head resting on Alice's lap. To be honest, I didn't even remember going in the cart.
"How long did I sleep?" I asked immediately.
"Twelve hours," Aldrynte said, looking down at me. I slowly pushed myself up, getting seated.
"Here!" Alice took hold of her backpack and took out some bread. "Eat!"
"Thank you," I said as I took it. "So, we're already past the first town?" I asked.
"Change of orders," Squeek muttered. "Get them as far as you can. One town is not enough," he mimicked Qildor. I turned and looked at him. "You're here too."
Squeek frowned and gave me a slow nod. "Didn't have much of a choice."
“Okay, before I kick your ass, I want to ask you something,” Aldrynte said, comfortably sitting next to Alice, looking at me. Next to Aldrynte was Alice, who was also in front of me. And finally next to me was Squeek.
“Yes?” I said.
“Somehow, you manage to attract all the women whose name starts with A. Aldrynte, Alice, Alwine,” she mumbled.
“And I’m pretty sure that Aurora has also a thing for you,” Alice said, thinking.
Aldrynte gazed at Alice, and then back to me. “There you go. What’s up with that?”
I was utterly confused. “I… What?”
Aldrynte smirked. “I just think it's very funny. It's probably just a coincidence.”
“Come on! Not every affection is love. Aurora probably just admires me,” I said.
Alice shook her head, slowly. “You haven’t seen how she looks at you.”
I leaned slightly towards Squeek. “They’re evil. Alice used to be innocent, but she has changed. And now that they are besties, first they burn me, and then they apply cold to burn.”
“Leave me out of it,” Squeek mumbled. Both Aldrynte and Alice stared at me, hands crossed.
“Hey. I fucked up, alright? I was supposed to keep the whole Alwine thing as a secret. I promised that to Qildor. You two would have acted differently. Plus I enjoyed seeing you two jealous.”
“Did you now?” Aldrynte asked.
Alice sighed. “I can understand though. But I don’t understand the risk you took with the sleep. You could’ve told us the truth. Something. Anything! It feels like a stroke of pure luck that Squeek happened to be with you.”
Squeek shook his head. “Pure skill.”
“Stay out of this,” I told to Squeek, gazing at him for a moment. “You two were fighting. And now you finally got along and began to talk to each other, properly. I didn’t want to make you worried.”
“I think you don’t understand, Hiro,” Aldrynte said.
“Not at all,” Alice agreed, nodding.
“We are getting along because of you, and for you. You’re the connection. If you died, what’s the point? I understand your concern, but do you understand our concern?”
I sighed. “I’m sorry, alright? I fucked up. And we’re all paying the price.”
Aldrynte sighed, leaning slightly forward and taking my hand. “It’s fine. We'll figure this out!"
Alice stared at Aldrynte, at took my other hand. “It’s fine.”
Squeek slowly put his hand on my leg. “It’s fine.” We all turned to stare at him. “It’s a joke, alright?” Obviously, he found it all hilarious.
I sighed, pushing myself away from everyone. “You bullies! All of you!”
“Well. If it makes you feel better, we are slightly at fault as well. Alwine, she fooled us pretty well when she ‘accidentally’ stumbled against you in front of us,” Aldrynte said, sighing. “That made me jealous, and that made you wary.”
It hit me. Something weird. Something that didn’t make any sense. Something that I should’ve realized sooner. But perhaps it was the fatigue that didn’t let me think straight?
“Squeek. You were right,” I whispered. “Speak… very… quietly, and come closer!” Slowly, we all got our heads together. “SI think she did send you to save me.”
“You're saying that she didn’t attack us?” Squeek whispered, getting his hopes up.
“No. She probably did attack us. However... How long have you known Alwine? Years?”
“Years. But I haven’t been in contact with her the past few months, besides getting basic information, such as this.”
“How clumsy is she?” I asked.
“She isn't. Why?”
I grinned. “She has been really clumsy this past few weeks.” Aldrynte and Alice stared at me with slightly stronger intense. “I mean real clumsiness. Not what you saw the very first time,” I said.
Squeek looked at me. “But she’s not…”
“Exactly. Which means that’s not her. Or it’s her, but she’s being controlled. The clumsiness must happen when she resists whatever charm she has on her.” I turned to look at Squeek. “When Alwine told you to come to her room, was she unsurprisingly clumsy before that?”
Squeek began to scratch his fur, as he was thinking. “She fell, just before that. Then she stood up, looked at me, and told me to come to her room at that time when I did. Then she cleaned her shirt, said she had to go, and left.” Squeek sighed. He seemed to understand. “You’re saying that’s the moment she fought against the charm. And as she had a moment of control, she managed to give me a singular order?”
“And whatever that order was, the charmed Alwine couldn’t remember it,” I said.
“We need to save Alwine!” Squeek, said, starting to stand up. I immediately put my hand on his shoulder, pushing him back down. “This carriage is Qildor’s. His direct order was to take us to away, no matter what. We aren’t allowed to interfere. Not anymore.”
“Do you think that Qildor…” Alice was the first to say it.
“What? That’s impossible,” Aldrynte said immediately.
I sighed. “I think he might be deceived, and not know the truth. Which means that he might be heading for a trap. Especially if Alwine is not the real mastermind.”
“Then who is it?” Squeek asked.
“I think there’s only one person who knows for certain,” I said. They all looked at me. “Alwine herself.” I turned to look at Aldrynte. “Do you know anything about charms? Any potions?”
“There’s only one potion that’s considered as a charming, and that’s a love potion. However, it’s a very illegal potion. And that wouldn’t change Alwine herself. She would still be herself, just falling in love with whoever is being targeted.”
“Which means only one thing,” Alice continued. “It’s a special magic.”
I continued looking at Aldrynte. “Anything?”
“I’m not a library!” Aldrynte hissed, leaning back, and trying to remember. “I can remember only a single occurrence of such a possibility. The Harem King.”
I looked at her, thoughtfully. “Really?” It felt like she was mocking me.
“I’m not joking around. I find it as amusing as you, taking into account our recent… events,” Aldrynte said. Alice was just giggling. Squeek was trying to stay as straightforward as he could.
“So, what do you know about this Harem King?” I asked. For once, I wish I could have read about him. Maybe my father had a special section. But I had no memories of this guy. Not even a single mention.
“He was an adventurer who had around fifty wives. It happened a long-long time ago. But he wasn’t really strong or special. Nobody really understood why he had so many wives. Yet some of them, who even questioned him, changed very suddenly and followed him mindlessly. The story ends with his death, killed by his own wife. After that, all the wives changed… once more. Some say back to who they were. Others say to entirely something different, broken.”
I frowned. “Nothing about specifics?”
“There might be. But nothing I can remember. I’m sorry. I’ve only heard the tale, told by my father. You know Elbert very well now. He likes weird stories like those. I don't even know if he made it up or not.”
I turned to look at Alice and Squeek.
“Don’t look at me. I have no idea,” Squeek said immediately. Alice just shook her head.
"Okay. Listen here. I want to save Alwine. And I want to figure this out. But that means going against Qildor's orders. This means going against the king's orders. You know what that means. Are you still willing to join my plan?"
I looked at all of them. They all stared at me, smirking in their own way. It was a good-enough answer to me.
“Alright. So. Here’s my plan. We escape here and break into two groups. Group A is me and Aldrynte. Group B is Squeek and Alice. Group A goes straight to Alwine. We need to protect her, but also to buy some time. Group B goes straight back to the capital. You’ll contact all my students, and make them learn information about this Harem King. Once you gather this information, you’ll come to Alwine’s place and deliver us the information. If there's any ingredients or such, bring that too.”
Squeek raised his tiny hand. “Why such groups?”
“You’re fastest of us all, Squeek. You…” I looked around the group and sighed. “No secrets. Alright? We need to be honest to do it. We need to be a group!”
They all took a moment but finally nodded.
“You can transform into something fast, and carry Alice back to the capital. Eagle, perhaps? You need speed. And after that, you also need to rush to Alwine. We need you to be really fast. Alice knowns my students. And she’s a bit nerd like me. So while you rest, she will deal with the rest.
"Now, I know Alwine, so I can pretend to be still at her side and buy us some time. Now since Aldrynte is a dragon” -- only Squeek’s eyes widened. It seemed that Aldrynte had told Alice her secret. I was so proud of her -- “and things go bad, we need someone strong. She probably has firepower, so she can keep water at bay for a while. While Alice’s ice could be more effective, I can’t risk her magical pool. I think the pool size difference is day and night. And we might need her magic later.”
There was a moment of silence, as they all consumed the information, thinking. “Alright,” Squeek said, nodding. “I will trust you, Hiro. I hope you’ll do everything to protect Alwine. I owe her my life.”
I nodded. “I promise.” I then turned to face Alice. “One more thing. When you're flying to Alwine, bring Aurora.”
“Why?” Alice asked.
“She might be the key to our problem.” It chuckled. If only they could understand the joke. “It’s very important. Bring her no matter what.”
Alice nodded. “Okay. Alright.”
“I’m sorry. I wish I could tell you more, but this is something I can’t.”
“It’s fine. I trust you," Alice said.
“And if Loid demands to be brought, bring him too. I bet he refuses to let Aurora come alone,” I said, smirking. “Let’s just say that Loid is very fond of Aurora.”
“Really?” Alice said.
“The way he looks at her… You have no idea,” I said, smirking.
Alice and Aldrynte both sighed, understanding my reference. “Fair enough,” Alice murmured.
“What about those?” Squeek said, pointing towards the elves who were steering the carriage.
I sighed, “I have no idea. Any suggestions?” There was a moment of silence. “Nothing fatal, please,” I added.
Squeek sighed and began to search for something from his bag. He finally removed a tiny vial. “One sip and they will sleep for a few days. Takes around five minutes to start working.”
I smiled, taking out my own bag, removing an expensive wine from the bag. “Remember this?” I whispered, looking at Alice.
“Hey. It’s that wine we got from Cornwall’s tavern!” Alice responded.
“What better time to open this than now. I bet Bill would be proud.” I opened it, and let Squeek pour the sleeping potion in it. “I’m not going to ask why or where you got this,” I whispered to Squeek. "That only leaves the question of delivery."
Aldrynte and Alice smiled, looking at each other, nodding. “Leave the rest to us.”
I smiled. "I hope everything goes well. Let's meet again at Alwine's."
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
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