Chapter 14



he royal jail was probably the least clean place in the entire palace. A few dim lanterns hung on the stone walls, illuminating the rats that scurried at his feet. Landon stared down the dark hall where the cells could be seen on both sides. Through the bars he saw that their idea of a bed was a pile of straw. Guards strolled routinely up and down the hall with obvious lack of interest. He stood in a room at the head of the corridor, waiting patiently as they searched him for weapons. Everything they found that could be even remotely dangerous was deposited on a table. Landon eyed his sword and absently imagined every possible escape as a guard felt down his pants for hidden knives. He was in no mind to break out anytime soon, but it felt good to have a plan.

            Satisfied that Tempest was the only weapon he had on his person, they proceeded to push him toward the hall. He wasn't forced onward—which was totally unnecessary because he could walk perfectly fine without the force—very long before they stopped at the second cell down. A key was jammed into the lock and the door slid open—just wide enough to fit him through. He didn't object as they pushed him in and slammed the door shut.

            "You know, it's not very polite to put an innocent man in jail. What would your mother say?" he told them.

            A scruffy guard looked at him tiredly and replied, "My mother would need proof." He had a point.

            Landon sighed and slumped against the cold stone wall. This wasn't going well. Tomorrow he would face the King to tell him why he had slaughtered ten men in an alleyway. He hoped Stefan would hold to his word.

            "What are you in for?" said a voice behind him. He jumped, spinning around to face whoever had spoken, his hand flying automatically to where his sword hilt use to be. Sitting pleasantly on a pile of hay was a boy that couldn't have been older than eleven. He had shaggy blonde hair and clear green eyes that were watching him with caution. His clothing were stained and tattered, but he held himself with admirable confidence, despite the fact that he was in jail.

            "Murder," Landon answered, realizing how guilty that sounded.

            The boy didn't even flinch. "And you claim you're innocent?"

            "It was in self-defense," he replied grudgingly, sitting down next to him.

            "Ah. That's understandable. Don't worry; they put all the temporaries in the royal prison to save space in the real jail. I'm only in for the night."

            "Why are you here?"

            "Theft. I know all the guards on a first name basis. I'm a regular." Where were this kid's parents? When he asked, the boy shrugged noncommittally. "My dad left when I was little. My mom died of the flu a few years back. Raina and I have been living on the streets most of the time. I'm fine, though. What's your story?"

            Landon pondered what he should tell him. He didn't seem like a threat, but there were others that might not respect privacy. "I've traveled all over Adria to get here and get ambushed on my first day. Some welcome, huh?" He leaned against the wall in defeat. "Say, what did you say your name was again?"


            "Dyn florai mendin," he tested. "My name is Landon." Lee looked at him like he had mental issues. "It's an Elvin greeting," he explained.

            The boy's eyes widened. "You speak Elvin?"

            Glad that he'd finally gotten an emotional reaction out of him, Landon smiled. "No. But I did spend a time with the elves. That was quite an experience."

            "Really? What were they like?" he asked eagerly. Landon told him about Winterleaf and how they all slept in trees. Lee thought it was fascinating, asking all sorts of questions and listening with keen interest.

            After telling his adventures—the edited version—deep into the night, Lee drifted off to sleep. Landon sat there with his elbows on his knees, staring at the boy's peaceful form. Back in Tiltook, a kid would never have been allowed to roam the streets parentless. Somebody would have taken him in, no question. But here was different. People in need were everywhere, becoming unnoticed and ignored. In the city, one could live there their whole life and nobody would know. He preferred the country life so far.

            Looking around, he began to feel a little claustrophobic. He'd gotten used to the feeling of the wind around him, but here there was nothing but musty air. It made him feel a little defenseless, especially since he was locked in a cold cell infested with rats. It was really disconcerting.

            Perplexed, he lay down on the straw and tried to sleep.


"Landon! Wake up! Do you want your breakfast or not?" Landon groaned and rolled over on his other side. "I'll eat it if you don't," Lee warned in his ear.

            "Alright, alright. I'm up," he mumbled, blinking to clear his vision. "What's for breakfast?" The food wasn't the best, but he'd had worse. Besides, he hadn't had a chance to eat the day before. He was starving.

            Munching on a roll, he watched the man in the cell across from him try to get up with a hangover, guessing why he was here. Tavern brawl most likely.

            "What time is it?" he asked absently.

            "They serve breakfast around dawn. I suppose it must be early morning," Lee estimated through a mouthful of cold chicken. Landon was glad he had been cooped up with such a pleasant and well experienced jail mate.

            After they finished their meal, they played games to keep themselves occupied. About an hour later the guards unlocked their cell and marched in. "Come on, Lee. Your time's up," said the bearded one. Lee looked almost hesitant to leave, glancing at Landon uncertainly. Landon nodded to him.

            "Thanks, Landon," he said. "You're the best jail mate I've ever had. Take care."

            "You too," he replied, and then Lee was marching out the door with an escort of guards, picking up a sword on his way out. He was going to miss that kid.

            "You," another guard barked. "Come with us." Landon stood and let them tie his hands behind his back.

            They pushed him roughly through the dank corridor until they reached stairs, and then they climbed the stairs for a short while until a room containing only a guard and another door stopped them. The guard nodded and unlocked the door, swinging it open to reveal a fancy hallway on the other end. It was in huge contrast with the dungeon, being well lit and expensively decorated. Large stained glass windows coated the wall to the right, illuminating the white tile floor with a pool of colors. The other was covered in tapestries and paintings depicting famous battles and previous kings.

            His stomach flipped nervously as he realized what was waiting for him. He was going to face the king! Sure, he'd traveled nearly all spring with a princess, but that was different. Here he was surrounded by people that would kill him at a single order. He wished he could say it was the first time he'd been in a situation like this.

            He felt unnervingly lonely as he listened to his boots click on the tile. There was no one that could help him here unless Stefan came through. It might end up him against the King. Just to occupy his thoughts, he planned what he would say. None of his imagined conversations ended very well.

            After a maze of hallways, they arrived to a huge set of double doors. Landon stopped to stare out the enormity of them before his escort pushed open the doors and shoved him in. What lay inside was even more breathtaking than anything he'd seen in the palace yet. Before him was a gigantic room—larger than any room he'd ever seen before—richly adorned with antiques and tapestries. In the middle of the far end of the room sat King Kenton in a huge red throne. The sight of him spoke power. He had a bushy brown beard and wore the traditional cape with the white lining. His hands were placed on the arms of the chair—the image of authority. It was really quite impressive. And terrifying.

            But if there was one thing he'd learned from Mark, it was that you should never act guilty. Confidence is the key to success.

            Raising his chin, he acted as though the guards were a personal escort. He took long, steady strides to the middle of the floor and bowed, following the other's example. Then the guards left him to attend to other matters.

            King Kenton studied him skeptically, looking as though Landon didn't strike him as anything other than he looked, which was just as well—he wanted to put off drawing any more attention to himself than necessary at the moment.

            "You are charged of murder?" he asked unenthusiastically in a deep, rumbling voice. Something told him that he did this often.

            "Only in self defense," Landon stated. "I was ambushed."

            The King raised an eyebrow. "Tell me what happened."

            He recounted the story leaving nothing out. When he was done, the King appeared mildly impressed. "Prince Stefan, you say? Why am I not surprised," he said more to himself than to Landon. "The two of you fought against ten men and succeeded? That certainly suggests you have an interesting background."

            "These men have been after me for quite some time, Your Majesty. I have experience in swordplay."

            "And who are "these men" that are supposedly trying to kill you?" he asked, beginning to show a spark of interest in his case.

            "The Blackmasks," he told him calmly. King Kenton looked taken aback for the first time.

            "The Blackmasks? I've heard rumors that they have begun to arise again, but I dismissed them as gossip. What did you say your name was, lad?" It was time to break the news. For a moment he was tempted to say "Landon Bren," but he had to be honest. He realized that this was only going to be the second time he willingly told anyone who he was, the first being Mark.

            "Landon. Landon Evers."

            This caught his full attention. "Evers?" he repeated. "As in David and Merilee Evers? How is that possible?" It was a good sign that he knew their names. That meant that he was trustworthy.

            Landon nodded. "They went into hiding as soon as my mom found out she was pregnant with me. Unfortunately, the Blackmasks eventually found where we lived and they were murdered. King Carlon was killed that night also." He left out the part that he had killed him. He couldn't tell his entire story at once or else no one would believe him. In retrospect it all sounded ridiculous. "I was seven at the time and left to be raised by a family friend in Tiltook—a small village on this side of the border next to Shendra." Shendra was city in the mountains that separated Saldi and Adria. There was conflict on which country they belonged to, but to this day they remained their own, belonging to nobody. "There I resided until this spring when I found out that I was a Windsinger and decided to go to the Palace of Songs to train. I was passing through the city when the Blackmasks attacked. This is not the first time they have done so. I'm lucky I made it this far." He didn't mention that he had traveled in the company of the Saldian princess—he didn't know if she wanted the King to know. If she wanted her identity kept secret then he would keep that secret to the grave.

            King Kenton sat for a moment to ponder this. "That certainly is a plausible story. How do I know if I can believe you?"

            "Because he's telling the truth," said a new voice as the door swung open behind him. Landon spun around to see Chelsea stride into the room, Stefan on her tail. King Robert showed his surprise only for a moment before putting on a mask of indifference. Chelsea was wearing her determined expression. Stefan caught his eye and winked. Landon felt a whole lot better now that they were here.

            "Princess Chelsea. Prince Stefan," the King addressed formally. "You claim that this man is telling the truth. May I ask why you think that?" He said it politely, but that was just out of courtesy. He could make her tell the truth if he wanted to. She was a princess, but he was a king.

            "I have traveled with him for some time now and I can testify that he speaks the truth," she said firmly. He had seen her scared and happy and angry before—he'd seen Chelsea. But he'd never seen her as the Princess. She held herself with perfect poise that only came with practice and diligence. Her chin was lifted but not so much that it spoke defiance. He suddenly felt compelled to kiss her, though he refrained. Maybe it was the relief of seeing her or the strange feeling that he was proud of her for some reason—he couldn't imagine why. Either way he stayed glued to his spot in the middle of the room. It would be considered in bad taste to start kissing in the middle of a trial before the King.

            The door swung open and a woman that looked to be in her early twenties walked in and stood next to Stefan, smiling up at him. She had light honey-brown hair that framed a pretty face. Her dress was an elegant brown that matched her eyes. "Father," she said calmly. She must be the Princess of Adria, Eyrabella. She looked around and her eyes found Landon. She frowned at his bound hands. "I'm truly sorry if I interrupted something important, the guards told me this was where I could find Stefan." Stefan smiled with a certain satisfaction that she had been looking for him. "Chelsea! I didn't know you had arrived!" she glanced attentively at her father. "We have much catching up to do when the time is more appropriate. Chelsea smiled and nodded. 

            "That's alright," King Kenton sighed. "I was just about to proclaim this man innocent. Guards! Untie him, please." A guard advanced and unsheathed a knife, carefully slicing the rope. As soon as the rope fell to the floor, Landon rubbed his sore wrists and thanked the King for his kindness. "If you would like, I can provide you two a place to stay," he offered to Chelsea and him. He looked to Chelsea and she answered for both of them.

            "We would be honored. Thank you. But we do have a few additional friends with us."

            King Kenton nodded tiredly. "They are welcome also. I will have some servants prepare you rooms." They were dismissed to move their stuff into their room. Landon felt as though a weight had been lifted from this chest. But as he looked over his shoulder one last time, he saw that the King never took his eyes off him as they left.



"Yes! We get to stay in the palace! I could kiss you, Landon," Mark rejoiced. Everyone looked at him in disgust and he added, "But I won't. I promise."

            "We had better get our stuff ready to move—not that we have a lot anyway," Chelsea said, but none of them made a move toward the stairs.

            Landon had told the others what had happened in the throne room as they sat around a small table at The Elf's Hammock.

            "What was that all about with you and Eyrabella, Stefan? She seemed very fond of you," Chelsea inquired curiously. A small smile made Landon want to kiss her even more. Or maybe he always felt like kissing her nowadays.

            Despite all the training Princes must have about hiding their emotions, Stefan blushed. "You're not the only one that has found somebody. I think I love her."

            Chelsea's smile grew. "I'm so happy for you! Not only is she a lovely girl, but if you two marry then we could join our Kingdoms! I really like Eyrabella."

            "I'm glad you approve," Stefan said somewhat shyly.

            "Why are you here in the first place?" asked Mindi. Both of the Merrins had been surprisingly quiet. Landon had forgotten they were there.

            "I came to recruit forces against the Blackmasks. I suspect that someone has installed large amounts of Blackmasks in disguise in our army. Or rather, out of disguise. If we are to launch a war against them, we are going to need more numbers. If a war becomes necessary, then I suspect most of the innocent soldiers will turn to our side, but we can never be sure. King Kenton has agreed to let me use part of his army, thanks to Eyrabella. I was going to be heading back soon."

            "You can't go back," Chelsea said and everyone looked at her, bewildered. "Blaze would kill you. He killed our parents, Stefan. He'd kill you, too."

            Stefan's face hardened. "You know this for sure?"

            "I saw him pay the servant that brought them their dinner. The servant left that night and everybody assumed it was him. Blaze was behind it all," she recalled. "Landon! Stop it!"

            "Oh, sorry," he apologized. He hadn't even realized that he'd caused a miniature windstorm inside the common room. Calming the wind, he made a mental note to control his temper.

            Stefan nodded, glancing at Landon in awe. "It is my understanding that you are going to the Song Palace?" Several of them nodded. "Then I will take the army with me there."          

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