Being back in the capital city made me miss my father. I’d spent my whole life here until he died. The smell of roasted corn, the shouts of the venders selling their wares, the constant movement up and down the streets like a river with opposing currents—it made me nostalgic for better days. I couldn’t help but look at the men’s clothes to see if I recognized them. All of mine and my father’s things were auctioned off so I could afford to live at the orphanage.
When we finally reached the castle gates, I almost expected my father to come strolling out of them. But no one came out of the gates, and the soldier that stood in front of them didn’t look happy to see us.
“What do ye want?” He grumbled. I looked at the pommel of his sword to see if it was a wolf’s head. There was a good chance that someone in the castle bought my father’s sword. It was too nice a sword for a commoner to afford. But the guard’s sword was plain.
Rachael stepped forward. “I am here to see my father. Tallis. The former ambassador to the dwarves.”
The guard scratched his head. “Why would there be an ambassador to Hashna when we broke the alliance?”
“I said former,” said Rachael.
“Well if he is a former ambassador, then what would he be doing here?”
“Please,” Rachael said. “Can you just have someone tell him I’m here? I’m—“
“I don’t know why ye want in—most people your age stay clear of the castle unless they have an adult along—but I’m not going to look like a fool by disturbing the Master of Relations because a group of dirty children want to see him.”
I guessed Master of Relations was the ambassador’s new title.
“I’m his daughter,” Rachael said indignantly.
“And I’m a dwarf.”
Rachael’s cheeks turned pink and she pressed her lips together, struggling to keep calm.
I stepped up. “If you could just give him a message from us—or her—telling him that—“
“I’m not giving anyone messages. Now move along or I’ll decide that you’re all orphans and take ye all to Bayvlad.”
Bayvlad? His name seemed familiar. But I thought it best not to stand around and try to figure it out.
“Come on,” I told them. Both Rachael and Faiza looked like they wanted to stay and keep trying to convince the guard to let us in. Rachael looked between me and the guard a few times before moving, and Faiza stood glaring at him until the rest of us had walked off before finally turning.
“So what are we going to do?” Ethan asked once we were away from the guard. None of us said anything for a moment. If we couldn’t get in using Rachael’s father as a reason, how would we get in?
“Easy,” said a voice from the air. We all jumped and looked to the spot between Rachael and me.
“Samel.” Rachael frowned at the space. “Be quiet or someone will hear you.”
Samel continued talking at the same volume. “You all get the guard to open the gate and I’ll sneak in and find Tallis.” His voice was gleeful, like a child playing a game.
“Just how are we going to get him to do that?” Faiza asked.
There was an idea building at the back of my mind. It was a crazy idea, but it was better than waiting around out here for a grimulin to find us and attack. I didn’t want a repeat of what happened in the woods that night when we came across the soldiers and orphans.
“We could join the army,” I blurted. Everyone looked at me.
“Right,” Faiza said, “I spend years hiding from them—hiding others from them—so I can walk my tail in there and give myself over to them.” She crossed her arms. “I don’t think so.”
“It’s the only way we’re sure to get him to open the gate,” I told them.
“We could wait for the guards to change,” Ethan suggested. “Maybe a different one wouldn’t mind taking a message to Rachael’s father.”
“Who knows how long it could take for the guards to switch,” I said. “And the next one will probably be just as mean as the first. Besides, I don’t want to wait here until a grimulin shows up. Then we’d really be in trouble.”
We’d probably be hauled to jail for conjuring grimulin.
“But joining the army?” Rachael’s eyebrows creased.
“All we need is for Samel to get in there.” I looked to the place where Samel’s voice had come. “It shouldn’t take him too long to find your father, and once he knows where we are, your father will come get us.”
Ethan looked to Faiza and Rachael looked to the space where Samel was.
“I say we do it,” said Samel. He was the only one who sounded enthusiastic about my plan.
Rachael looked a bit concerned but said, “I guess we could try it.”
“I don’t like it,” Faiza said, “but I don’t want to draw attention to ourselves by having a winged beast coming after us either.”
“I still think we should wait for the guards to change,” Ethan said.
I understood why they didn’t want to turn themselves over to a bunch of soldiers, but if a grimulin attacked and whoever was sending them was in the area, our location would be given away. It was best to get in the castle where they couldn’t find us.
Check out the Hashna Stone Page for previous chapters.
Incase you missed the announcement I made last chapter, we are halfway through The Hashna Stone. Since you guys are voting on what happens, I can’t know for sure how many chapters the story will have, but I’m guessing 30 to 40. So we are halfway to the end!