Vankara book 1, p.13

Vankara (Book 1), page 13

 

Vankara (Book 1)
 


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  “How gallant of you,” I couldn’t help but sound sarcastic.

  “Yes, well,” Bellas looked uncomfortable and shifted in his seat before continuing, “I promise you it’s the truth whether you want to believe me or not.”

  “Let’s get on with this, Mr. Bellas. I would like to see my daughter as soon as possible. Say what it is you have to say so we can be done with this matter.”

  Bellas took in a deep, steadying breath before beginning. “As you know, my group has been trying to get you to investigate the Royal College for causing the plagues.”

  “And I’ve been reassured the College has played no part in them.”

  “I understand that but I have it on good authority the plagues are magical in nature. Only the Academy has the power to wield that much magic at any one time.”

  “And who would this ‘good authority’ be exactly?” I asked, skeptical there really was someone feeding Bellas’ fantasy.

  “A mage of the fae told me,” he answered.

  “The fae?” I admit I was brought up short by the mention of the other dwellers on Vankara. As far as I knew, there was no contact between our two people. “And just how do they know what happens on this side of the wall?”

  “Don’t you know what’s going on over there?” Bellas asked. He seemed a bit confounded that I wouldn’t know the happenings on the fae side of the wall. I honestly had no idea if the Queen was supposed to know the inner workings of fae society or not.

  “Why don’t you tell me what you believe is happening.” It was the best retort I could come up with.

  Bellas edged further towards me on his seat. “They’ve lost people just as the rest of the world has from these plagues. During the second plague, a group of their mages found traces of magic in the snow fall which occurs right before people become sick. Hasn’t the College done the same?”

  “Not that I’m aware of,” I said, wondering why the College wouldn’t have told the Queen such an important piece of information. If what Bellas was saying was true, then the College was trying to keep the involvement of magic in the plagues a secret. Had a spell of theirs gone awry in some way and caused the plagues just as Bellas was suggesting?

  “How is it that you have a contact within the fae?” I asked.

  Bellas grinned as he looked at me, almost like he wanted to share a secret but couldn’t because the timing wasn’t quite right. “I’m sorry your majesty but I’m not at liberty to say much about my informant.”

  I sighed in irritation which just seemed to make Bellas’ grin grow wider.

  “Do you have anything else you want to discuss with me or will you allow me to see my daughter now?”

  “Will you at least look into the possibility of the College’s involvement with the plagues? That’s all my group wants: the reassurance that our sovereign is doing everything within her power to stop the deaths of so many of her people.”

  “I will do what I can to find the cause of these plagues, Mr. Bellas. We have all lost loved ones because of them. I promise you if the College is responsible in some way they will be brought to justice.”

  Bellas nodded his head and seemed satisfied with my answer.

  “Please,” Bellas stood up along with Thomas, “follow me. Your daughter and her nanny are in the kitchen baking cookies.”

  We walked to the back of the brownstone where most kitchens were built. When we walked through the swinging door, I heard Dena’s infectious laughter and Emily begging her to please not throw any more flour at her.

  Dena’s purple dress was now covered with so much flour it almost looked white. Her miniature crown was dangling loosely at the side of her head only staying attached by a few strands of hair and a certain miracle. She was elbow deep in a bag of flour when she looked up and saw me.

  “Mummy!” She yelled flinging her arms out of the flour bag, showering herself and Emily in a new powdery layer of white. She climbed down the steps she was on and ran straight at me. I knelt down and held my arms out wide to her. When she entered the circle of my embrace I felt the ragged edges of my heart begin to heal as it was made whole. I held her tightly to me, never wanting to let her out of my sight again. Her little arms tighten, holding me close, loving me as her mother. I felt her small hands pat my back in a reassuring manner before wiggling out of my embrace and taking one of my hands into her own.

  “Come, Mummy,” she ordered, pulling at my hand with all her strength towards Emily. “Emi making cookies!”

  I looked up at a haggard Emily. Her hair was in as much disarray as Dena’s.

  “Mr. Bellas thought it would be a good way to keep her mind off of things,” Emily explained setting aside a bowl filled with ingredients to make more shortbread cookies. I could see pans of them already scattered about the kitchen cooling off.

  “Kids always like sweets,” Bellas said striding toward a plate full of cookies on the kitchen counter and picking one up.

  I quickly lifted Dena up into my arms as Emily came to stand beside us. I put a hand into the pocket of my dress and found the silver coin Isabelle had given me. Bellas wasn’t as dastardly as I had initially thought but he was still a kidnapper and needed to be brought to justice. I held the coin in the palm of my hand and whispered, “Invado amicus.”

  I held Dena close to me incase Isabelle’s proximity spell didn’t work and we were shoved around by the sudden appearance of the palace guards. I had expected them to come as soon as I said the words but no one came.

  Bellas turned to face me when he heard me speak and leaned his back against the kitchen counter taking a bite out of his cookie, watching me with a hint of amusement.

  “I’m guessing that was some sort of teleportation spell?” Bellas asked. “ ‘Enter friends’ if I am not mistaken?”

  I felt my heart drop into my stomach with his questions. Something was wrong. Bellas was far too at ease considering my plan was meant to lead him straight to Gromstrand prison.

  “What have you done?” I asked.

  Bellas shrugged nonchalantly. “I sort of assumed you might try something like that so I made sure we were in a place no one could find us.”

  The hair on the back of my neck bristled.

  “What do you mean?”

  Bellas popped the rest of the cookie in his mouth and finished eating it before answering.

  “It’s probably going to be hard for you to believe but we’re in a slightly different Iron City than you’re used to.”

  “Different,” I didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. “In what way?”

  “I suppose the easiest way to think of it is a parallel world: much like our own but slightly different in some ways.”

  “Are you insane or do you simply like confusing people with things which make no sense?”

  Bellas chuckled. “No, I’m not insane, your majesty, at least not yet. Nevertheless, if your spell was meant to bring a rescue party to our location, it won’t work here. You’re not in the same dimension as they are.”

  I had no idea what Bellas was talking about but the proof was irrefutable. There would be no rescue party and I wouldn’t be able to use the coin to get us back home.

  “And just how did we end up in this parallel world of yours?” I asked, still trying to wrap my mind around the strange concept Bellas had introduced to me.

  “I’m sure you noticed the noise the coach made on the way here. That was when you passed over into this world.”

  “Did you use magic to bring us here?”

  Bellas shrugged. “A little magic, a little science.”

  “Can you take us back to where we belong?”

  “Of course,” Bellas pushed away from the counter with his hands. “I don’t want to stay here either. It’s a nice place to visit every once in a while but it’s not home. Come, we’ll get you back into the coach and on your way back to your world.”

  Thomas opened the swinging door of the kitchen for us as we all walked to the front of the house. Waiting for
us by the iron coach was Bellas’ automaton. He had the door to the iron box open, ready for us to enter.

  Emily stepped in first and lifted Dena from my arms into the coach. I turned back around to Bellas and Thomas.

  “I suppose you’ll be staying here,” I said to Thomas. There wasn’t anyway I could force Thomas to come back with me now. If what Bellas said was true, and I had no idea if I truly believed such a tall tale, this parallel world would be a better alternative for Thomas than what was waiting for him back in our own Iron City.

  “I’ll take care of Thomas,” Bellas answered. “It’s the least I can do for him for his help.”

  I turned to step into the coach when I felt a hand grasp mine. I looked to see Thomas at my side to help me one last time.

  “I hope you can forgive me one day,” he said to me. “I truly meant no harm.”

  The earlier anger I felt over Thomas’ betrayal slowly slipped a notch. I felt more pity for him than anything now. His life and the life of his family as he knew it was over. They would have to rebuild their lives in this new world.

  “Have a good life,” was the closest I could come to forgiving Thomas. True forgiveness was something I could never bestow upon him. He had put Dena’s life in unknown peril. It was an unforgivable act in my eyes.

  “Come along, young lady,” a familiar condescending female voice said up the street from where I stood. “Don’t dawdle like you usually do. The Evans are expecting us.”

  It had been thirteen years since I last heard that voice but it held the same scathing tone I remembered from my childhood causing my heart to flutter involuntarily. I looked down the street and saw Mr. and Mrs. Pew stepping down the stairs from their front door.

  “I’m coming, Mother,” a young petite blonde woman said, hastily closing the door behind her.

  I watched, stunned into silence, as the two made their way down the street away from us. Never bothering to notice things around them, the Pews didn’t even glance in my direction. Only the young woman looked our way as she stepped onto the sidewalk. She apparently recognized me as the Queen because she smiled and made a hasty curtsey.

  She was pretty with a genuine, friendly smile. Her long blonde hair curled around her small round face underneath the hood of her dark cloak. The soft blue of her eyes said so much to me in those few short seconds. This was April Pew. She was who I would have become if Gabriel hadn’t entered my life and altered my destiny forever.

  “April! Hurry up!” The strident voice of Mrs. Pew said, not taking the time to see why her daughter was falling behind. April Pew quickly turned from me, running to catch up to her parents. I knew she would never tell Mrs. Pew she had fallen behind because the Queen was on their street. She would have been beaten for not telling Mrs. Pew sooner so she could make her own introductions to the Queen.

  “Poor girl,” Bellas said behind me. “If only someone had changed the path of her life.”

  The knowing way he said these words made me whirl around and stare at him. His eyes penetrated through me making my secret feel naked to him.

  “You should get back to the palace, your majesty,” he addressed me like he knew the title was false.

  I turned back around and climbed into the coach with Thomas’ assistance. Dena crawled up into my lap and hugged me tight around the neck as Bellas latched the door closed from the outside.

  I held Dena close and put my hands over her little ears to help muffle the noise of returning to our own world. My ears were still ringing by the time we made it back to the palace. Before we even came to a stop, the door was unlatched and the opening filled with the body of John Fallon.

  “Are you all right?” He asked, breathing hard like he had just run a great distance, his eyes searching our faces to answer his own question.

  “Yes, we’re fine,” I told him. “Bellas just wanted to talk.

  The coach came to a stop in the exact same spot we had departed from earlier in front of the palace.

  Fallon took Dena out of the coach first and helped Emily and I make our way out of the iron box. Everyone had an expectant expression on their faces, waiting for me to explain exactly what had happened.

  I didn’t want to discuss what we had just been through in front of the palace guards. I felt confident the truth about where I had been would be known to every curious citizen of Iron City before the sun crested over the horizon if I made that mistake.

  “I know you all have questions,” I said to the crowd. “But I’m simply too tired to answer them right now. I hope you can all understand Dena and I need some time alone.” It helped tug at the hearts of the trio of bureaucrats to have Dena hugging my neck tightly like any frightened toddler, unwilling to let her mother go in front of so many strangers.

  “Of course, your majesty,” Gabriel said with a bow, to which everyone else had no other choice but to follow suit.

  “I’ll see the Queen and princess safely to their quarters,” Fallon said before he turned to a group of Queen’s guards. “I want the watches doubled in force tonight. I don’t want to hear about anymore unexpected incidences this evening. I think the Queen and princess have been through enough.”

  The guards clicked their heels together in unison and yelled, “Yes, sir!”

  Fallon walked beside me back into the palace. I faintly heard Gabriel ask Aleksander a question. I assumed the king of Chromis had intended to follow us back to our rooms but thankfully Gabriel derailed him of his intentions. I definitely wasn’t in the mood or frame of mind to deal with Aleksander.

  Once we were back in the Queen’s chambers, I handed Dena over to Emily without any protest from the little princess.

  “She could use another bath before going to bed,” I said to Emily.

  Emily curtseyed and took Dena to her private bathroom.

  I took off Fallon’s coat and handed it back to him.

  “I’m afraid it will need to be cleaned.”

  Fallon took the jacket and folded it flour side inward.

  “I have a lot of questions for you,” he said, draping the jacket across one of his arms, “but they can wait until morning.”

  “Thank you.”

  Fallon and I stared at each other for a moment. He seemed to want to say something to me but didn’t seem certain if he should or not. I waited for him to make up his mind.

  “I’m sorry for the way I treated you last night,” he finally said. “I guess Emma knew what she was doing when she made her plans. To be honest, I don’t think she would have suspected Thomas of ever betraying her. He’s been in service to her family since she was a child. She trusted him with her life.”

  “I suppose since I didn’t have a prior relationship with him I had an outsiders view of what was going on.”

  “Still, you handled things as well as any good Queen. Probably better than Emma would have. You’ve given me hope you’ll turn out to be the leader Vankara needs right now.”

  Even with everything I had been through that night, Fallon’s words made me feel like I could conqueror the world or at least ensure it stayed upright and balanced for a short space of time.

  “I hope I can live up to your expectations, Marshall. I will do my best.”

  “You’re off to a good start,” he grinned. “And I’ll try not to be a complete ass to you anymore.”

  “Well now, miracles do exist,” I teased.

  “I guess I deserve that,” he admitted. “I’m just glad to see you aren’t one to hold a grudge.”

  “Grudges are only for unforgivable acts,” I said, thinking of Thomas. “You only wounded my pride.”

  “Well, I just wanted you to know you can count on me from now on. I’ll try to be the advisor Emma wanted me to be for you. I’m not infallible, of course, so don’t expect me to be right all the time.”

  “Thank you, Marshall. I appreciate that.”

  “I better go and let you get some rest,” Fallon said turning towards the door. “You’ll need it for tomorrow,” he called over
his shoulder as he stepped out of the room.

  Chapter 11

  Fallon’s statement proved to be quite prophetic.

  For the better part of the morning after my encounter with Adam Bellas, I was practically interrogated like a criminal by the three leaders of parliament on every minuet detail I could remember. Gabriel and Fallon tried their best to steer the politicians’ questions in another direction once I had answered them all at least three times over but they seemed fixated on finding a way to track down Bellas and make him pay for his treasonous actions. When I told them where Bellas said we were, a parallel world, I could see the disbelief in their eyes. I felt sure they all assumed my mind had been tampered with in some way.

  Isabelle Granger was the only one not as concerned about finding Bellas as she was voicing her protestations against his claims concerning her college’s involvement in the plagues.

  “His accusations are completely unfounded,” Isabelle assured me sitting stiffly on her seat in the semicircle of chairs we had placed around my desk for everyone. “I can promise your majesty that we at the College are not responsible for the plagues that have befallen so many in our world. Just the thought of someone believing we could be responsible for such atrocities makes me sick to my stomach.” She placed a fisted hand against her corseted midsection as if to prove the point.

  “And what about his claim the plagues are magical in nature?” I asked.

  “I promise your majesty we will look into it.”

  “You never considered the possibility before now?” It seemed odd to me a woman of such intelligence and verve had never even considered the involvement of magic in the plagues.

  “No, your majesty,” Isabelle’s eyes dropped away from mine for a fraction of a second, but that was all I needed.

  She was lying.

  “But I can assure you,” she continued to defend, “we are not the ones responsible for causing the plagues.”

  I knew without a shadow of a doubt the Royal Sage was withholding vital information from me, but I couldn’t very well call her out on her lie without any proof to the contrary. I needed to know more and knew of only one place I might be able to find the answers.

 
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