“Who?” Katie asked.
“But there hasn’t been any prophecies for a long time,” Richard said, ignoring Katie. “Why would one be coming up now?”
“Not one,” Ridley said. “But many.”
“Many?” Richard said. “Tell me about this one about the man named to even out the powers of magic.”
“I don’t know the words to the prophecy. I only know what I was told,” Ridley said.
“Tell me what it is that you have learned, then,” Richard said.
“Well, it is said that the man named in prophecies will rid us of the evil tyrants that rule the lands,” Ridley answered.
“How can you be sure that it is going to happen now?” Richard asked. “Astroth does not rule all of the lands yet.”
“As you may well know, prophecies only come out into the open when they are about to come to pass. This is why it is rare that prophecies ever come up. And Astroth may not rule all the lands, but he does have power over them.”
“You said there are many prophecies that have come up?” Katie asked. When Ridley nodded, she went on. “What are these other prophecies about?”
“All sorts of things. Some aren’t important, while others are extremely important,” Ridley answered.
“Can you tell us one?” Richard asked.
“I may be a high rank of the Knight’s Seal, but I am not an officer. I don’t know any of the prophecies,” Ridley said, sitting down.
“But you know what they are about?” Richard asked.
“Of coarse I do,” Ridley said with a smile. “But I want to wait until you have spoken with the Queen before I let anything out. For all we know, you could be the people named in prophecy and you will save us.”
“If we are the ones who will save the world, then why can’t we know about the prophecies?” Katie asked.
“I did not say that you won’t know about the prophecies,” Ridley said to her. Richard carefully sat down near Ridley. “I only wanted to wait until my Queen has talked with you. She may be able to explain everything better than I would.”
“So you are going to take up to the Queen?” Richard asked. Brianna still stood, starring into the surrounding forest.
“That is the plan,” Ridley said. “You will be safer there.” Richard nodded his agreement.
The dark sky started to turn to a pale peach color. Dawn was on its way into the world. They would be off again. Katie was glad that they would leave this forest behind soon.
“We should get going,” Ridley said, standing. Katie and Richard did the same. “Pack up and be ready in ten minutes.” Katie walked over to her blanket. A sword still sat in the ground. She gripped the hilt and yanked it out. She threw it to the side. The effort hurt her arm. She stood there a moment, gasping in pain.
Then she carefully folded the blanket and walked over to Ridley. She handed him the folded blanket. He grabbed it and stuffed it into his pack. She smiled when he looked up. A smile came in return.
“Are you ready?” he asked her. She nodded, having had nothing other than her sword and dagger. He looked over at Brianna and Richard. They each nodded in turn. “Off we go.”
Ridley turned and walked through a gape of the trees to the southeast. Richard gestured for her and Brianna to follow after him. He took up the rear as they carefully walked into the trees.
“Try not to step on the leaves,” Ridley warned them.
“Why?” Katie asked, stepping on a large rock instead. She had to be careful not to hurt her arm.
“We aren’t as loud that way,” he said over his shoulder. Katie carefully picked her way through the trees, following after Ridley. She tried her best not to step on the leaves. When she got the chance, she stepped on rocks.
She couldn’t hear Ridley in front of her, but she could hear Brianna, and occasionally Richard, behind her. Brianna sounded like she tried her best, same as she, to not step on leaves. Richard was much quieter.
They traveled further South as the sun started to rise into the sky. A morning breeze caused Katie’s hair to fly in her eyes. She brushed her hair away and followed after Ridley. He moved quickly through the forest. He seemed to be right at home in this area. She imagined that he had traveled though here many times. Each step Katie took caused her to hiss in pain, but there was no choice. The pain in her shoulder was a deep throb.
They remained silent as they walked. Katie felt her breathing get harsh at times. She gasped air as she continued to stay close to Ridley. He seemed to be getting further away from her with every passing minute.
Nearly an hour later, they emerged from the trees of the forest of the satyr. Katie turned back to watch Richard and Brianna exit the horrible forest. She was glad to be away from the threat of the satyrs. It had scared her to see one.
She looked around ahead of them. Trees lay in a few places, some in bunches. The sun brightly lit the green grass ahead.
“Only about two hours of quick walking, and we should make it to the Palace of the Lady,” Ridley said, smiling over his shoulder. “You think you can make it?”
“I hope so,” Katie said. Her shoulder hurt even worse. Ridley pulled his pack off his back and pulled something out. He handed her a few crumpled leaves.
“Eat this,” he said. “It will help with the pain.” Katie put the leaves in her mouth and chewed. After a few moments, the pain in her shoulder seemed to reduce. She sighed in relief.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Any time,” Ridley answered, turning around again.
Katie was in a sweat. Her shirt stuck to her like a second skin. Her hair was starting to stick to her neck and forehead. The hot sun over head was making it harder for her to keep going.
“Ridley, tell me about the palace,” Katie said. Looking around, she thought the countryside was amazing. Ridley nodded over his shoulder.
“The palace is nearly ten times the size of Hellio Prison,” he said. “There are statues and paintings and such all over the palace. Flowing fountains fill areas where there was plenty of space. It is an amazing sight.
“Sisters and other sorceresses live at the palace. As do wizards. Many townspeople or travelers come to the palace. It is a place of commerce, especially durning the autumn, like now, and during the spring.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Katie said. Ridley nodded.
“Yes, it truly is a wondrous place to be,” he agreed.
“Tell me about these sisters,” Katie said. “Who are they?”
“Well, they are simply sorceresses who have donated their powers to help those in need. The palace kind of serves as a place where those with magic can go and learn how to use it.
“The sisters and mages teach younger magicians how to use their gift in the correct manner. There are books of all the history of the world there as well. I don’t think anyone alive, save the Queen, has read every book in the palace.”
“I don’t fully understand this business with the sisters,” Katie said, frowning.
“What don’t you understand?” Ridley asked.
“How does one person become a sister?” she asked.
“Simply,” Ridley said. “They start as novices to the palace. They learn respect and proper responsibility by humiliation and a busy schedules. Once they have fully grasped their duties, they are promoted to the second rank of the novice. It is here that they read books from the libraries.
“When they have read a good many books and are able to answer many questions, they are, then, promoted to a mage. A mage is a more interesting place to hold,” Ridley said.
“Why is that?” Katie asked him.
“Because they are taken to place where they are trained in combat. This is a good way to see who could be personal guards to the King or Queen. Most people fail this part of the ranking.”
“What happens if they fail?” Richard asked.
“They must work extra hard to get promoted. After a certain amount of time, they are given the chance at getting promoted. To gain that rank, the mage must show an exceptionally good task. The Queen is the only one who can promote a mage to a sister.” They walked near a small patch of trees.
“So the Lady of the Palace is the person who is in charge of all this?” Richard asked.
“No, the sisters are in charge of such things,” Ridley replied.
“What does the Queen do, then?” Richard sarcastically questioned as he followed after Ridley. Ridley opened his mouth to answer the question when they hear a rustle behind them.
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