Chapter 26 - They Are Coming

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Kastali Dun


Saffra shifted the basket she carried, readjusting the cloth hiding its contents. Within the basket was a supply of dainties she purchased from one of her favorite bakeries, and a rare bottle of wine she obtained in the city's market. The afternoon sun was high in the sky and today was a rest day. She passed many who were sunbathing in various courtyards, enjoying the time they had away from their duties.

As she ventured through the keep, she smiled. In mere moments she would be relishing in her friends' company, enjoying the finer aspects of life. How she loved Claire and Desaree! For the first time in her life she was happier than she could remember. She had true friends—the best kind anyone could wish for.

Better still, in eight weeks she would be married to the man she loved. The king himself would marry them in the throne room. She thought of all the plans to be made, and of her gown. That was the reason for her basket of goodies. This afternoon she, Claire, and Desaree would begin her wedding preparations.

It was almost difficult to believe that somewhere out there on the fringes of Dragonwall, an evil Asarlaí lurked, intent upon destroying the kingdom. The harrowing fact was always in her mind. She had made it her job to help in whatever way possible, to prepare Claire for what she would one day face (whenever that might be). But during times like these, when her happiness freely overflowed, she struggled to believe reality.

Claire's apartments were located in the Hall of Kings, two stories above hers. The Hall of Kings occupied the top floor of the southernmost wing of the keep. These rooms were reserved for royalty, the people who served them, and the king's shields.

She knocked at Claire's door and heard a giggle from within. Desaree's face appeared flushed with excitement. "Come quickly!" Desaree whispered, glancing out into the corridor both ways before saying, "We have something to tell you."

She rushed in, depositing her basket upon a nearby table. The first thing she noticed was that both Claire and Desaree were beside themselves with excitement. "You are not going to believe this," Claire said, rushing over.

Saffra's brow furrowed. "What is it?" she asked, looking at both women.

"I think it's best if we show her," said Claire before glancing at Desaree for confirmation. Wicked grins spread across their faces.

"Show me what?"

"Come here." Claire took her arm and led her over to the wall near the fireplace. Desaree followed and pulled back the wall's covering.

For several moments she stared at the castle wall before her, eyeing the stonework with a frown. "I am afraid I do not understand the fuss, perhaps I have missed some joke?" She looked upon Claire and Desaree, waiting for an answer.

Claire's grin turned triumphant as she cried, "Hinga!" There was power in Claire's voice, and Saffra recognized such power. The next thing that happened caught Saffra off guard. She gave a surprised yelp and jumped backwards as the patch of wall in front of her groaned and began moving backwards into darkness. Her jaw dropped as she stared at the gaping square hole left behind.

Desaree giggled. "Claire showed me earlier. She found it last night after I went to bed. I still do not know why you did not come get me, Claire," Desaree added. "There could have been something dangerous lurking inside."

"And could you have protected me?" Claire asked with a teasing voice.

"Well...no."

"You have gone in then?" Saffra asked, turning to look at both Claire and Desaree. "You have seen what lies within?"

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