The Plot Thickens

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          Atamar tried to ignore her worries about her family and focus on other things.  One of her big concerns was how to free the centaurs. 

Despite many suggestions, no one had come up with a workable plan that wouldn't involve great danger.  Another big topic was, of course, Uncle Ulap.  No one had come across any more incriminating evidence to suggest that he was a traitor. 

This was good; however all of them knew that lack of evidence proved nothing.  Sadly, none of them had found evidence to prove that Uncle Ulap wasn't a traitor, and that was what they needed. 

    Of course another big concern was Prince Relos.  Atamar was very glad that Prince Crenip didn't try to spend much time with her.  The more time she spent with him, the more she liked him. 

If he had been constantly around, Prince Relos might have figured out that Prince Crenip was a threat to his plans.  She was glad that instead Prince Relos regarded Crenip in much the same way as he did the "servants" which was what he liked to call her friends. 

Although Atamar didn't get to spend much time with Prince Crenip, she never stopped hearing about him, because the teens were almost always talking about him. 

If they had been trying to interest her in Prince Crenip the constant talking would have been annoying.  However, the truth was the others liked Crenip so much they just couldn't stop talking about him.  And Atamar learned a great deal more about him from their talk than she did from his.  For around her, the prince was usually silent. 

As Atamar entered the maze in the evenings, she frequently heard one teen say to another things like, "Did you hear about the time Prince Crenip buried his father's crown because he wanted to pretend he was a pirate?"

or "Prince Crenip taught us a new game that they play in his kingdom", or "You should have been at archery practice with us.  Prince Crenip hit the bull's eye three times in a row while shooting from a flying dragon." 

Atamar enjoyed hearing these little tidbits about him. 

Despite having so many things on her mind, Atamar never stopped thinking about her family's failure to write.  Atamar hoped to hear from her parents sooner than a month, but she did not pester Uncle Ulap about it. 

She could see that he already had enough worries.  He rarely laughed and smiled these days.  When he did, the laughter and smiles didn't reach his eyes.  They still looked sad and worried. 

Atamar also began to realize that Uncle Ulap looked old. 

She had never noticed that he was old before.  She wondered if he was worried about the new attacks.  She had heard little bits of news from the other youth. 

None of them knew much. 

The adults usually stopped talking, or changed the subject, as soon as they entered the room.  Atamar guessed that it was because they were afraid their children would tell her.  She was pretty sure she was right, but she kept the thought to herself.

One month after Uncle Ulap gave her the message from her parents, Atamar could wait no longer.  She went to find her uncle.  She found him talking to a messenger. 

As soon as they saw her, they stopped talking.  After an awkward moment, Uncle Ulap asked, "Did you need something Atamar?"

      "It's been a month Uncle."  He gave her a blank look.  "Have my parents' letters arrived?"  The messenger gave a start of surprise.  Uncle Ulap winced. 

"I'm sorry Atamar.  Nothing today."  The messenger was giving Uncle Ulap a funny look now.  Atamar wished she knew what it all meant, but she was too sad to try to figure it out. 

As she trudged away she heard a quiet intense conversation begin behind her. 

The next day, Uncle Ulap found her to tell her that her parents' letter had arrived and once again they'd given him a message for her. 

"They said that they love you and miss you and that they hope you are keeping up with your studies.  They also said they are sorry that they couldn't write more, but they said that you are not to worry.  They are well." 

Atamar was stunned.  This was so unlike her parents.  Not only had they not written to her in over a month, but the message didn't even sound like them.  In all their previous letters they had talked about the princes and how they hoped she was building friendships. 

They had warned her not to lose her heart.  They had never once mentioned her studies, which made sense.  After all, if no one was allowed to do better than you, how could you fall behind? 

Also, her parents still had not said a word about her letter to them.  If there was one thing Atamar knew it was that that letter would have caused a reaction of some sort. 

Instead of causing her to worry less, Uncle Ulap's message only made her worry more. 

Something was very very wrong...

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