The teens had listened in amazement to Nehat's story, but once he finished speaking there were many questions. No one asked if Nelia was old enough, because they all knew about the rapidity with which ogres matured.
In ogre years, Nelia was already older than any of them. Instead their questions were about her trustworthiness and her skill. There were also questions about why Nehat had kept his friend a secret from them.
After a lengthy discussion, they decided that anyone who had doubts about the ogre could visit her. Nehat and Noj Vidad agreed to take a couple people each day so that they could talk to her and see a sample of her abilities.
The only one who couldn't meet Nelia was Atamar, because then the guards would see her too. Nelia's greatest asset was that no one knew she existed so by joining the party, it would be much easier to hide their identity.
Choosing a questing party had taken so long that they were out of time, but Atamar did ask everyone to return the next night so that they could do some more planning.
Most of the teachers were very surprised in the weeks that followed because the students who had been learning so easily, suddenly started struggling with their schoolwork.
Atamar no longer used all the maze meeting for study sessions. Instead she used them for planning sessions. However, she continued to work on things like Geography and diplomacy since they would be useful on her journey.
After a month of trying to come up with a plan to get the princess out of the palace, the teens were very discouraged. It seemed impossible to get Atamar out without being immediately pursued and brought back.
During this time, Atamar began asking the princes many questions during her daily time with them. She told them that she wanted to get to know their country in case she was ever its queen.
She asked them about the topography, the customs, the style of dress, occupations, entertainment, transportation, etc...
The princes were flattered by her interest and eagerly answered her questions as best they could. The other questers also spent extra time learning things that would be helpful on their journey.
Those who weren't going on the quest spent their time helping where they could. The boys spent extra time sparring with Noj Vidad, Nehat, & even Mitym.
They created elaborate trails for Nehat to use to practice his tracking skills. The girls worked on sewing new clothes for Atamar since she would need a completely different wardrobe for the trip.
Everyone kept their ears open for any tidbits of news they could discover. Because there was such a need for secrecy, they also had to be subtle. They didn't want the adults to notice that anything had changed.
In amongst everything else, the teens tried to come up with a workable plan to free the princess. It was Mitym who finally put them on the right track to a workable plan.
"I know you want to leave as soon as possible, but what if you waited and left during the scarf race which you get to plan. Maybe this year it could be a race to find the scarves and you."
The others stared at Mitym in shocked amazement. They knew immediately that it was a brilliant idea. Things quickly began to fall into place after that. Nehat told them about his and Noj Vidad's discovery that Nelia's waterfall cave was an old back entrance to the amethyst caves.
There had been a cave-in that blocked off that part of the path, but with Nelia's help they thought they could clear an opening big enough for Atamar to crawl through.
He suggested the scarf race take place in the caves so that Atamar could escape out the back while everyone watched the front.
Enielda pointed out that if they all left at the same time everyone would know to be on the lookout for their group. She suggested that in order to keep it a secret that they were all together by leaving at different times and from different places.
Noj Vidad realized that Atamar would have extra time to escape because in order for her to "win" they needed to take forever to find her.
He recommended that the teens tell their parents of their plans to lollygag and play around so that everyone would expect them to stay in the caves for quite a while.
Eticia suggested that Nehat begin carrying a few supplies at a time to Nelia's cave to store for their journey because in that way their preparations could go unnoticed.
Isoje suggested that each of the teens could carry in some food on race day on the pretense that they might get hungry while searching. However, once inside they could give that food to Atamar to take with her.
There were many other contributions to the plan, and they did make minor adjustments as they went along, but all of them knew that with skill and care this plan would work...
YOU ARE READING
Princess Atamar has always grown up being the best. Of course, it wasn't of her choosing. Every teen in the kingdom, including her closest friends were forced to make sure Atamar always won their games, had higher grades, and was better at everythin...