Tallis’s “chamber” was more like a house tucked away in a part of the castle. There was an entryway, a lounging room, a dining room and several bedrooms.
After we’d washed and ate the food Tallis had the castle servants bring us, we met in the lounging room—a room lined with couches, cushioned chairs, and small tables made of shining wood with glass ornaments on top.
Rachael sat on a couch with her father. Faiza sat in one of the chairs with her legs stretched in front of her. Ethan took a seat on a cushioned bench and I sat on the couch across from Rachael and her father. Samel, now visible, joined me.
“Now,” Tallis said taking a breath, “we can all discuss what is going on.”
I opened my mouth to begin explaining, but Tallis wasn’t finished speaking.
“Samel appears at my door this morning and tells me that my daughter is here along with some others who escorted her from Hashna. And that no one would listen to her when she told them I was her father, so she ended up working in the kitchens—“
Oh, so that’s where she’d ended up.
“How did you know she was in the kitchens?” I asked Samel.
“After you told that ugly guard that you wanted to be soldiers, I had to wander around the yard until someone opened a door.”
“Why didn’t you open one yourself?” Ethan asked. “You can grab things when you’re invisible.”
“It’s a good way to be discovered, that’s why,” Samel said. “Do you think people will calmly accept that the door just opened on its own? Even if I make sure that no one is there to see me, how do I know no one is on the other side of the door? You have to think of these things if you’re not going to get caught.” Samal tapped the side of his head.
“Thank you for the lesson in invisibility,” Tallis said looking slightly amused. “Now, what does this have to do with how you found Rachael?”
“Well because the first door that was opened lead to the kitchen. It was hot and steamy in there, but the smells.” Samel closed his eyes. “The smells were amazing. And the taste was even better.”
“You ate the food?” Faiza frowned. “What happened to being stealthy?”
“I made sure no one was watching,” he huffed. “I’m an expert.”
“Samel was still in the kitchen when that girl brought me,” Rachael said, speeding Samel’s tale along. “So by the time he found my father, he knew where I was.”
“And were you hard to find,” Samel said, looking at Tallis. “I wandered around for hours and still couldn’t find you. This place is a city in a building. And it’s not like I could ask someone where to find you—not unless I wanted to give them the scare of their life.” Samel grinned mischievously and I wondered if he had talked to someone, or at least moved something while someone was looking just to see their reaction.
“Once I finally spotted him, I still couldn’t show myself because there were others around. I had to wait until he went back to his room.”
“I’m not sure which surprised me more,” Tallis said. “The fact that there was no one at the door when I opened it, or that once I closed it, Samel appeared.” He gave Samel a wry smile, then looked at the rest of us. “But what I don’t know is why you are here. Samel mentioned something about a mission from the council of dwarves?”
I pulled the Hashna Stone from under my shirt. “I found this.”
Tallis’s mouth parted and he looked at the stone as if seeing a grimulin.
“How did you find this?”
I explained how I’d found it in a cave and how I started having dreams that urged me to take it to Hashna. I told him about the grimulin, which didn’t seem to shock him as I thought it would. I finished my tale with the dwarves’ charge to take the Hashna Stone to him.
“They said you might know what’s going on,” I said.
He let out a breath and looked out a window streaming in late afternoon sunlight. “Knowing what is happening isn’t much use. It’s what to do about it that I wish I knew.” He looked back to the stone on my chest. “But having this back is a relief. The King’s life is in danger without it.”
Did he mean Radon or Ryker? Having two kings was really confusing.
“When you say the King…?”
“I mean Radon. The true king, not his pretender brother.”
“So he is still alive?” Rachael asked.
“You know where he is?” I asked.
Tallis nodded. He leaned forward and lowered his voice even though there was no one else in the room but us. “He is in the castle dungeon.”
“This castle’s dungeon?” Ethan asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Ryker wanted to keep a close eye on him I suppose. He couldn’t kill him with that around his neck.” He gestured to the Hashna Stone.
“But how did Ryker get him there in the first place?” I asked. “No one can harm you with this on.”
“Ah, but that’s just it,” Tallis said. “No one can harm the person wearing the stone. Being put in a dark cell under the castle isn’t exactly harm. The Hashna Stone prevents swords and arrows from piercing the skin. It keeps the wearer from feeling the full effects of punches thrown or from being strangled or drowned. But it doesn’t prevent the wearer from being kept in a room.”
“But how did they get him in there?” Faiza said. “He wouldn’t just let someone lead him in there.”
Tallis took in a weary breath and began.
“The King—King Radon—had no need of someone to taste his food or drink for him after he was given the Hashna Stone. If something was poisoned, the food or liquid would simply refuse to go in his mouth. It would fall off the spoon or spew on either sides of his mouth. But what the stone wouldn’t protect him from was something that would send him into a deep sleep, like Hopsik.”
“Hopsik?” I asked.
“It’s a plant.” Ethan perked up, eager to explain. “If you eat its leaves, it will put you into a deep sleep. Almost like a coma if you eat enough.”
Tallis nodded. “Its leaves can be boiled into a tea and slipped into almost any other liquid and because it doesn’t have a strong taste, it is almost undetectable.”
“Ryker had someone put it in Radon’s drink,” I said.
Tallis nodded again. “It takes affect slowly, so Ryker didn’t have to worry about Radon suddenly falling to the floor in a deep sleep and drawing suspicion. Once the king was asleep, all Ryker had to do was have the group of soldiers that was loyal to him take the king to the dungeon and lock him up. They left the stone around his neck, knowing that there was no way to get it off without being shocked by a bolt of lightning-like substance.”
“So when Ryker showed up in Hashna three years ago,” Rachael said, “he was hoping that the dwarves would believe the story that he’d lost it and make him a new one so he could be just as powerful as King Radon.”
“He never would have gone if he had known that the dwarves had the ability to see the person wearing the stone,” Tallis said. “Once he found out, he knew the dwarves would locate the stone with their sight after he left, which is why he broke the alliance and forbid dwarves from entering Minaria.”
I understood all that. We knew why Ryker broke the alliance when we left Hashna and why he’d gone to Hashna in the first place. What I didn’t understand was how the Hashna Stone got in that cave. The dwarves had explained that an item of powerful magic could transport itself to another place if it was in danger. Sort of a self-preservation mechanism. But if the danger was three years ago when King Radon was put into a cell in the dungeon, then why did it take this long to move itself? The dwarves said they saw it on King Radon until about six months ago. Something didn’t add up.
“Do you know how the stone moved itself to the cave?” I asked. “The dwarves said it moved about six months ago. Not three years ago when the King was put in the dungeon.”
“I know exactly how long ago it was when the stone was lost to the king,” Tallis said, his face clouding. “It was a dark day. Losing the stone meant the king could lose his life at any moment. If anyone found out that he no longer had the protection of the stone, it would mean instant death. Luckily the king’s brother seems to have forgotten him there and no one checked to see if the stone was there. Well, no one but Bayvlad.”
There was that name again.
“Who is Bayvlad?” Ethan asked before I could. “The guard at the gate mentioned him and so did that girl, Nakin.”
“He is the Royal Sorcerer,” Tallis said.
That was why his name seemed familiar. My father must have mentioned him before. The Royal Sorcerer would work with the army if there was ever a battle, using his magic to defend and attack.
“Why was Bayvlad checking to see if King Radon had the Hashna Stone?” Rachael asked. “Is he on Ryker’s side?”
“He is,” her father replied, “for the most part.”
“What does that mean?” Faiza said.
“It was because of Bayvlad that the stone transported itself.”
Before Tallis could go any farther, something clicked in my head.
“It’s Bayvlad!” I exclaimed. “He’s the one that conjured the grimulin.” He was the royal sorcerer. He could do something as powerful as summons a grimulin.
Tallis nodded solemnly. “The Hashna Stone can’t be taken by human hands. But something that is technically a spirit—the stone can’t do anything against.”
“Except send itself off to someplace,” Samel chimed as he flicked the tassel on a pillow beside him.
“But if Bayvlad was trying to get the stone for Ryker,” I said, “then why didn’t he tell Ryker that his brother isn’t protected by the stone?” Every moment Radon was alive was a moment that someone might discover Ryker’s deceit. He may have a few loyal followers who knew the truth, but most of the kingdom didn’t know that it was Radon’s identical twin that was on the throne. Ryker wouldn’t last long if people found out.
“He wasn’t getting the stone for Ryker,” Tallis said. “He was trying to take it for himself.”
“He’s trying to overthrow the King…er…Ryker?” Ethan asked, blue eyes wide.
“I don’t know his reason for wanting the Hashna Stone other than the power it gives,” Tallis said. “If his attempt to get the stone was for Ryker, Radon wouldn’t be alive right now. The only reason he wouldn’t tell Ryker that his brother is no longer under the stone’s protection is if he didn’t want to explain why it disappeared in the first place. As far as I know, Ryker knows nothing of the grimulin.”
We all sat silently for a moment, soaking up the information.
“What are you going to do?” Rachael asked her father.
“We’ll return the stone to the king,” he said. ”But after that, I don’t know.”
“Can’t we free him?” I asked. “You know where he is. We can get him out.”
“I don’t have keys to any of the dungeon’s cells and, as you can imagine, the guards posted there are loyal to Ryker. They wouldn’t just let me walk out with Radon. The first thing we need to take care of is getting the stone to King Radon.” His brown eyes rested on me. “I’ll be counting on you for that.”
“Me?” I asked. I thought that once I brought the stone to Tallis, he would take care of it. Why did everyone want me to take care of it?
“Since the Hashna Stone disappeared,” Tallis said, “I’ve been sending food to him by a servant loyal to the true king.”
Rachael interrupted to explain. “The stone keeps the wearer’s strength up and doesn’t let them feel hunger. As long as he had it on, he couldn’t die of starvation.”
I guess this whole time I could have eaten nothing and still been fine. Not that I really wanted to give up eating. Especially not after bringing Rachael and her cooking skills to our group.
Tallis continued. “You will take the place of the servant tonight.”
Whew! That was a long chapter. See why I didn’t post it last week? 🙂
So, tell me what you think of the story so far. Who’s your favorite character? What scene did you like best?
And of course, make sure you vote! I can’t write this story without you.
If you are new to Hashna, this page has all the chapters listed in one place so you can catch up on what’s going on. It also has a fun list of all the characters, so even if you have been following along from the start, check it out.
Until the next chapter!