Night fell, and Jocy was so tired, she felt like she was going to do the same. She glided through the air, instead of flapping her wings almost constantly like some other types of birds, but she was still tired. She had been flying for several hours, and normally she would have been asleep in those hours. She didn't dare to land while they were still in Tas-et-lal, though, even to rest for a few minutes. They were fugitives, and wouldn't be even remotely safe until they were in Jet-a-Miray. Anyway, they had to warn Sela Kotu about Kly quickly.
"Are you all right back there?" Jocy called to her partner.
"Yes, I'm fine!" shouted Hi-lee in reply. Jocy hoped that Hi-lee wouldn't fall asleep. If she did, then Jocy's two passengers would be likely to fall off. The eagle weighed the possibilities. They could land now, rest, and hope that they weren't caught, or Jocy could just fly smoothly. She even toyed with the idea of holding them in her great talons, but decided against it. Elk-lore would stand out like a torch in the night, and someone from the ground would surely spot them.
"Hey, Hi-lee. What if we land here, get some rest, and start out later today?" she asked.
To Jocy's surprise, Hi-lee didn't jump at the chance to sleep. "Are you crazy?" shouted Hi-lee more loudly than necessary. "We have to warn Sela Kotu! We could get caught here!" She spoke more calmly. "And anyway, what about Elk-lore? How much longer do you think he has in this country? If we don't get him into Jet-a-Miray soon, he'll die!"
Jocy hadn't thought of this before. "All right, Hi-lee. We'll keep going." She flew on with renewed strength and purpose: a life was at stake.
Finally, they crossed the border into Jet-a-Miray. Suddenly exhausted, Jocy landed near fairyland.
"I'm too tired to go any farther," said Jocy.
"But we have to!" exclaimed Hi-lee. "This whole country's in peril!"
"Peril...nice word," noted Jocy.
Hi-lee glared. "If we rest now, it could be too late when we warn Sela Kotu!"
"Hi-lee, I'm going to catch some food and then go to sleep. I suggest you do the same thing." Jocy left to find some food, and Hi-lee halfheartedly glanced around for any edible plants. Suddenly, Elk-lore stood up, looked around, and flapped his wings. He was overjoyed when he found that they worked.
"Hi-lee! I can fly again!" he exclaimed excitedly.
"I noticed. I'm just glad you're alive."
Elk-lore thought for a second. "Yeah, I am, too. So, we escaped, huh?" he asked, stating the obvious. Hi-lee wondered if Elk-lore had suffered brain damage, or was just really happy.
"Yeah," she replied.
"What's that?" asked Elk-lore, pointing at the cloth-wrapped bundle that had miraculously survived the journey.
"Oh, I don't know. Rosewood told me to give it to you when you woke up. Well, actually, he told the kitchen boy who helped us escape to tell me to give it to you when you woke up." She handed it to him, and he unwrapped it. It contained a long, thin piece of slightly bent sparkling wood, and a piece of string.
"It's my bow," said Elk-lore, amazed. He put the string over one end of the bow, and it settled there into two minute notches. He then turned the bow upside-down and bent it back against his shoe. While it was bent, he stretched the string over the other end, making it into the familiar shape of an archer's weapon.
"What are we waiting for?" he asked. "We have to warn Sela Kotu! Where's Jocy?"
Hi-lee yawned involuntarily. "She left to get some food, and then she's going to come back here and go to sleep."
"How can she do that?" asked Elk-lore. "Kly could take over the country before we even get there, and she wants to take a nap?"
"Not exactly, Elk-lore. Jocy must be really tired if she needs to go to sleep. Normally, she'd never do this. She wouldn't've even stopped here. We would have flown all the way to the castle, if we needed to." Hi-lee yawned again, for she was also tired. "Just 'cause you've been sleeping for hours doesn't mean that we're not tired."
"You're right. It wouldn't be good to have poor Jocy dropping out of the sky in exhaustion. You'd both be killed, and you two know more about what's going on than I do." He paused. "But there has to be a way to keep you two awake." In a flash, he flew into fairyland.
A few minutes later, Jocy came back. "Where's Elk-lore?" she asked with a hint of worry in her voice.
"He went into fairyland," said Hi-lee, trying to forget something that Elk-lore had said quite a while ago, when the three had just entered Tas-et-lal.
'The other fairies don't like the fighters.... It's a wonder I'm still alive. If I went back into my own homeland...'
Fortunately, Jocy didn't remember this at all, and Hi-lee didn't go out of her way to remind her, even if she would get to rub it in about remembering something that her partner didn't.
After about five minutes, Elk-lore emerged, with another fairy. They appeared to be talking to each other, and the unfamiliar one nodded. He pointed his hands and arms at Jocy and Hi-lee, and suddenly the two spies found that they were no longer tired, or even hungry. Jocy shook her head, thinking, 'I don't even want to know.'
"Come on!" shouted Elk-lore. "We have to fly to the castle!" In less than thirty seconds, Hi-lee was on Jocy's back, and Jocy was in the air.
"How'd you do that?" asked Hi-lee curiously.
"How'd I get you guys to wake up?" Hi-lee nodded. "Well, I hated to do it, but I had to get one of Kly's helpers to wake you up. Kly's helpers are the only ones with enough magic left to do anything like that. Anyway, as I suspected, the guy was basically a mercenary. He'd work for anyone if it gives him something he wants."
"So what'd you give him?" asked the mouse.
"Not much... A couple of diamonds is all." Hi-lee gasped, for even in that world, diamonds were valuable. "They're not worth that much in fairyland. He just wanted to make a necklace for his girlfriend, but that's not important. Jocy, can't you fly any faster?"
"Can you do any better?" asked Jocy. She would have spoken through gritted teeth but, as an eagle, she didn't have any teeth. Elk-lore knew better than to literally fly circles around her, so he just shook his head meekly. Even so, Jocy tried to fly faster all the way to the castle.
Kly pulled back her chair, and Sela Kotu took her seat at the head of the large table. Again, Kly sat to the left of the queen, and Tay-Bry to the right. Dewdrop sat on the table next to Sela Kotu, as far from Kly as she dared, and Mouser sat at the feet of his 'master.'
Though their seating arrangements hadn't changed much, the environment in the great hall had. A fire was roaring merrily in the fireplace, and some apples were roasting in the heat of the flames. A minstrel toured the hall, playing an instrument nearly identical to one of our guitars. A lady played a harp, and her music was in time with the music of the minstrel, making a strange but pretty combination.
There was a man, woman, or animal at every seat at the large table. Had Kly appreciated military women and animals in a royal banquet hall, he would have been glad to know that all of the creatures there, even the vulture, were well-known nobles or members of the Dumix in high standing. Zobo and Elay, two of the queen's friends, were seated near Kly and Tay-Bry.
Perhaps Kly shouldn't have been surprised by the first course of the long meal, but he was. Five people came in, each with a large, covered tray. Kly expected them to all have the same food, and to distribute it quickly to everyone. However, each servant had a different item, only some of which were edible by humans. For instance, one tray had grass for the two horses and the unicorn, and another had raw meat for the animals that preferred it, though they were free to eat the cooked meat that was the humans' main course. Another servant had a tray filled with corn on the cob, and still another carried cooked vegetables. Kly was shocked, but he knew better than to comment to Sela Kotu about it.
Each course was more splendid than the next, and Kly, who had taken large portions of everything to be polite, was full long before the ninth course. By dessert, the very thought of food made him sick, but he grinned and acted like he was still hungry.
"Sela Kotu, Your Majesty, I couldn't possibly make such a pig of myself as to eat anything else," said Kly. A well-groomed pig sitting at the table gave Kly a dirty look, then continued to eat.
"Nonsense," replied the queen, ignorant of the fact that Kly was no longer hungry. "Have some more pudding."
Kly felt like he was about to throw up. At that very second, however, an eagle with golden feathers flew into the royal banquet hall. She had a mouse on her back, and a small, glowing figure was at her side. Every human and animal in the hall looked at the three in the doorway. Kly's face bore a look of shock and recognition but, fortunately for him, Sela Kotu's eyes were on the newcomers.
"I am glad to see you back from your mission alive and well, but perhaps you could have picked a more opportune moment to make yourselves known?" asked Sela Kotu.
The three spies spoke, nearly at the same time.
"There's no time!" exclaimed Jocy. "It's about Kly!"
"He's a liar!" said Hi-lee angrily.
"And a murderer," said Elk-lore, his voice calm but dangerous. "Shall I kill him now, your Majesty?"
"No, Elk-lore, I've never believed in that." Without hesitation, Sela Kotu said, "Guards! Take this King Kly to the dungeon."
"Wait, Sela Kotu, your Majesty! Can't I say some words in my own defense?" The guards took him by the arms and were about to drag him away.
"Don't take him yet," said Sela Kotu," but keep a hold on him. Kly?"
"How do you know that I am a liar and a murderer? Why do you trust two animals and a fairy more than a fellow human being? How can you throw the king of your only ally into a dungeon?" asked Kly.
"Jocy, how do you know all these things about Kly?"
"We saw a meeting, your Majesty. His plan was to come here, get you to trust him, and then invade while your guard was down," replied Jocy.
"He's the one murdering the fairies, too. He's killing us, one by one, by taking our magic away," added Elk-lore.
"Do you deny this, Kly?" asked Sela Kotu.
"I can see that you trust these mangy spies more than you trust a king. All right. It's true. I do want to take over your country so Tas-et-lal can have a passage to the ocean. I am killing off the fairies so that my men can enter this pitiful excuse for a country. And yes, when I am ruler, Sela Kotu, you and your animal friends shall all be killed."
"Take him away," said Sela Kotu with a look of disgust toward Kly. Through some horrible sleight of hand, Kly managed to free himself from the guards.
"Listen to me, Sela Kotu," he said. "In three days, or seventy-two hours, I shall invade this country. I would prepare accordingly if I was you."
"You will not invade my country, Kly."
"I wouldn't bet on that. Farewell, Sela." In a blinding flash of light, Kly and Mouser were gone.
"I... I don't believe it," said Sela Kotu. "How did he do that?"
"He who can take a fairy's magic away can do almost anything," replied Elk-lore resignedly. "Hey, who's that?" Elk-lore pointed at the one thing that Kly, whether purposely or accidentally, had left behind.
It was Dewdrop, laying limp on the table.
Go on to Chapter 15
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