They arrived back at the palace. Katie was awoke, having falling asleep while riding, by Richard gently shaking her awake. She rubbed her eyes and looked up at the palace.
He held a hand out to help her jump down. She took it, grateful for a reason to do so, and jumped down. When her feet touched down, the stable boy grabbed the reins and pulled the horse away.
Richard pulled her into a hug. She gratefully returned the hug. Ridley and Robert stood nearby, waiting. Katie gestured to them and Richard nodded. He grabbed her hand and walked with her through the open door after the others.
“We should go straight to the Queen,” Ridley said.
“If you wouldn’t mind, I have something else I need to do. I will see to her afterwards,” Robert said, sounding upset. Ridley nodded and Robert departed down a hall.
“Will she be awake?” Katie asked Ridley.
“I bet she didn’t get any sleep since we left,” Ridley said. Katie nodded. She knew all too well the fear of someone not coming back and sitting up waiting all night.
They walked in silence. Katie was glad that it wasn’t a long walk. Soon, they arrived at the door to the conference room.
“You think she is in here still?” Katie asked. Ridley nodded and opened the door, Katie and Richard followed him into the room.
As Ridley thought, the Queen was indeed in the conference room. She sat with Zoey. They looked to have been talking. When they heard the door open, they turned. When they saw who entered, they both jumped to their feet.
“Sir Ridley,” the Queen said. “Richard, Katie, I am glad you all are well.”
Katie smiled her thanks.
“You both are covered in blood,” Zoey said. “But you are both healed. Good to know.” She smiled at Katie.
“Sir Robert will be here to see you in a little while. He said he other business to attend to first,” Ridley said. The Queen nodded.
“I am relieved to know that he is okay,” she whispered, her voice shaking. Katie could see just how worried she had been about her brother.
They were silent for a moment. Katie sighed and rubbed her wary eyes. She wanted nothing more than to go to sleep.
“I take it you bring good and bad news?” Zoey asked. Richard nodded. “Give me the good news first.”
“I have killed Zarha, the man you said I was destine to get rid of,” Richard said.
“I never said such a thing,” Zoey said, smiling. Katie saw the Queen’s eyes go wide. Zoey didn’t appear to think this was unusual. Richard ignored her. “And the bad news?”
“Brianna has betrayed us,” Richard whispered. “We must leave in the morning. She would have told the enemy that we are here.”
“But?” Zoey said, knowing there was more.
“I know that she wouldn’t have told the enemy willingly. It seems that Zarha has placed some kind of spell on her. I was hoping the spell broke when Zarha died, but we can’t be sure how much information she gave the enemy,” Richard said, looking grave.
“I see,” Zoey said.
“We think that Zarha had given Astroth some of his magic. It wouldn’t be surprising if Brianna wasn’t freed from that spell when Zarha died,” the queen said.
“How can he give someone some of his magic?” Ridley asked.
“I can hazard a guess that he became close to Astroth and was actually willing to give Astroth a part of himself,” Zoey said. “But we don’t know for sure.”
“They would know that we are here,” Richard said.
“Yes,” Katie said. “We need to leave. I don’t want any danger brought here to you.”
“Don’t trouble yourself, child,” the Queen said. “Even if you leave, they will come here.”
“Then what should we do?” Richard asked.
“I still think you should leave, but for your good and not for ours. You two are great friends with Brianna. I would assume that you want to save her from this spell?” Zoey said, smiling.
“Yes,” Richard said as Katie whispered “of course”.
“Then perhaps Ridley would like your company,” Zoey said, looking over at Ridley.
“My Queen?” Riley said.
“Yes, Sir Ridley?” the Queen said, also smiling.
“I would like permission to leave and visit the elves,” Ridley said, his eyes shining with hope.
“You are most welcome to, Sir Ridley. Please give my best to the High Priestess there,” the Queen answered.
“Of course,” Ridley said, bowing his head slightly.
Katie looked over at Ridley. He smiled.
“Would you like to come with me?” he asked her.
“I would love to,” Katie said, grinning back.
“Is there anything important you can tell us?” Richard asked.
“Not to bother the black fairies,” Zoey said, smiling.
“I’ll remember that,” Richard said, rolling his eyes.
She turned to Katie and whispered, “And beware of the woman in the red dress.” Katie’s eyes went wide. Richard had turned towards Ridley, and had not heard her.
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