[24th of December, 2740 AD; The Royal Kingdom of Thekohn – Inside Thedam Castle Queen’s Office]
Two days remained before the Winter Festival was to begin. Sorin glanced over at Gavin, who laid a large map out on the table in the queen’s office. Rain circled out a point on the map with a pencil while Ayanna and Reiss took notes. Gale and Rado were also in the room as well offering their suggestions. Rain had an idea in mind and proceeded to get everyone’s attention.
“Okay, I believe that our path is clear now,” Rain said, “In order to take on Isaac Kunigunde and Foundation properly, we must gain the advantage. Rado, if you will, please tell us all what you have ready.”
“I have been ready,” Rado replied. “It is important to have a good position. We stop them before they get here, we stay in good position.”
“So Rado is suggesting that we head to Oelaans,” Gale said. “It is the single most important gateway to the kingdom and if my suspicions are correct, they’ll try to go through that way to get here.”
“Well, we shouldn’t count out other their opportunities,” Reiss said. “Every point is laid out right on this map, including the Thekohnian Wastelands to the east of us.”
“Don’t worry,” Rain replied, “Sir Dustin and Sir Gamal are already working on mapping out those points to the soldiers.”
“They’ve proven their worth, that much I can say,” Reiss said.
“General—er, I mean, Roderick—if I may, I would like to suggest an idea to the rest of the room,” Ayanna said. “Right now, we’re playing to defend against a potential attack, but what’s to stop the enemy from wreaking havoc like they did in Glora? I know it’s probably just speculation, but I think it’s worth looking into whether or not our allies are at risk.”
“Well, if we’re talking about Iiayikohn, its greatest ally is Ameci,” Reiss said. “But right now, our ally is the current president in Maeitakohn. Your Majesty, you have been keeping in contact with Khadir, haven’t you?”
“That’s correct,” Rain answered. “I’ve made plenty of notes and continued to keep him up to speed about what has happened. So far, he’s said that it’s been quiet down in Maeitakohn, but I will be sure to contact him later today to see if anything has changed.”
“He’s still got a lot to handle, though, given his immediate ascension,” Reiss said. “That country has gone through quite a lot in the past few months and I’m not sure what Isaac and the rest of Foundation thinks of Khadir at this point. For all we know, that’s their next move.”
“So we’ve got a lot more to worry about,” Gavin said. “Damn it, this is just a pain in the ass just thinking about it.”
“I know you’re frustrated, Gavin,” Rain said.
“If we’re going to worry about Thekohn, then we should also be concerned about Maeitakohn, too,” Sorin said. “I’ve got no doubt about Khadir’s ability as a leader, but it makes sense that Foundation may go after him first.”
Gavin stood up. “Guess it’s up to me, then,” he said. “Ayanna, I’m going to need some assistance.”
“You want me to go with you?” Ayanna asked. “Or do you need more than just my help?”
“I need numbers,” Gavin replied. “Even five people would be good enough for me. Lead me to the best men and women that Iiayikohn has to offer and I’ll be sure to do the rest.”
“You sound sure of yourself,” Ayanna said. “Fortunately, Reiss and I were able to round up a few soldiers that were willing to help us.”
“They didn’t take too kindly to Dezine’s new executive orders, so they just decided to join us once I told them everything,” Reiss added. “They were none too pleased about the connection Dezine has to Foundation, either, so we’ve got quite a squad ready to go.”
Gavin smiled. “Looks like I really will get the best,” he said. “So you were able to coax over plenty of soldiers to the cause, then?”
“That I was,” Reiss replied. “Two-hundred and fifty, to be exact.”
“Two-hundred and fifty?” Gale asked. “When you said a few, I didn’t think it would be that many. I thought it would be only thirty soldiers…”
Reiss chuckled as he laid his palm on the table. “Oh, believe me, Gale, as far as numbers are concerned, Dezine’s still got the upper hand,” he said. “But when you count the queen’s royal military as well as Maeitakohn’s, it becomes a little bit more even when we’re going up against Foundation.”
“Numbers are nice, but not enough,” Rado said. “You and I know that. It is why we are here, are we not?”
“Yes, I know that, Mr. Liffe,” Reiss replied. “I’ll tell you this, Gavin: go out to the courtyard. Arthur should be out there assisting the other soldiers as we speak, so finding enough people for your mission should be easy enough.”
“If I may add, you’re free to recruit anybody from the royal military if you so choose,” Rain said.
“Thank you,” Gavin said. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
As Gavin proceeded to leave, Eva stormed into the room. The sudden push of the doors caught Gavin off guard as he leapt backwards and placed a hand on his sunglasses. Sorin glanced over at Eva, who got the attention of everybody in the queen’s office as she stood still catching her breath. Rain put on a smile as she made eye contact with Eva.
“Are you looking for something, Eva?” Rain asked.
Eva breathed a heavy sigh. “It seems Kirk didn’t go through here, either,” she said. “That damn idiot… where the hell is he?”
“Didn’t see him earlier,” Rado said.
“Of course you didn’t,” Eva said. “As big as you are, you miss a lot!”
“Eva, it’s okay,” Gale said. “I’m sure Kirk is around. I don’t think he’d leave suddenly while we’re still on the defensive.”
“Besides, this is a pretty big castle,” Gavin added. “I’m sure he’s just off in a different room thinking about what to do in regards to our current situation. In fact, that’s what we’re all doing right now.”
“True, we are all thinking of ways we can move forward,” Ayanna said. “If I had to guess, Kirk is probably out in the courtyard.”
“So none of you saw him earlier?” Eva asked. “Not even you, Sorin?”
“I’m afraid that I didn’t see him this morning,” Sorin said, as he leaned his head against the palm of his left hand and sighed. “If you want, I can help you look for him.”
“Neither of you need to do that,” Rain said. “I’ll just ask my advisers if they saw him walking around. I think Sir Dustin should still be over in the armory, if I recall.”
Rain walked over to the phone on the cabinet near the wall and picked up the receiver. After a few rings, the other side appeared to pick up as Rain began to talk. One brief conversation later, Rain said goodbye and hung up. Sorin and the others waited as Rain looked back over to them with a hint of disappointment in her eyes.
“Well?” Eva asked.
“I spoke with Sir Dustin and it appears that neither he nor Sir Gamal have seen Kirk,” Rain answered. “Not in the morning, and definitely not now.”
“That doesn’t mean he left,” Sorin said. “He’s still probably around here somewhere… Maybe.”
“Way to sound reassuring to Eva,” Gavin said. “Good grief, Sorin, at least try to sound a little more positive.”
“Either way, I’m sure that there’s no reason for him to leave anyway,” Rain said. “We already have a plan in mind and I’m sure he doesn’t want to put that plan into jeopardy.”
“You don’t get it,” Eva replied. “There is a reason… Damn it, it’s all my fault that he just decided to leave!”
“Eva, please don’t start jumping to conclusions,” Rain said. “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
Eva turned towards the door and walked away. “With all due respect, Rain, I don’t jump to conclusions,” she said. “I’m sorry, but I just need to know what the hell he’s doing before it’s too late.”
Without another word, Eva left the room. Now Sorin was concerned as he decided to follow after Eva. He hurried after her until both reached the outside of the castle and into the eastern courtyard. Sorin continued to follow Eva until she turned around and glared at him.
“Why are you following me?” Eva asked.
“Because this is as important to me as it is to you,” Sorin said. “If my father did leave here, then I want to know where he went.”
“I’ve no idea why it matters to you so much,” Eva said. “You barely knew him before a few months ago… He’s almost like a stranger to you.”
Sorin was shocked. “Eva…”
“I’m… I’m sorry,” Eva replied. “I’m so sorry. It’s just that I worry about him so much. You forgive me, right?”
“Of course I forgive you,” Sorin said. “I’m worried about him too. All of us are, honestly.”
Eva looked down at the ground and shook her head. “That idiot couldn’t at least give us a message or something?”
“Oh, you guys are here too?” Storm asked.
Sorin and Eva turned their heads to the front gate and saw Storm entering with a guard at her side. As he watched Storm thank the guard and walk away, Sorin greeted her as did Eva. There was an air of peace that Storm brought as both Sorin and Eva settled down. They then proceeded to tell her about Kirk and how he had left, which made Storm think.
“Do you remember seeing him?” Sorin asked.
“Yes, I did,” Storm replied. “It was just earlier this morning. I was outside in the other courtyard helping the guards clear snow from the pathway when I saw him leave the castle.”
“Okay,” Eva said. “Did he say anything to you? What did he say?”
“I waved to him, but I don’t think he saw me,” Storm said. “If it helps, I saw him head over towards the plaza where they hold the annual parade. I have no clue where he went after that.”
“Thank you,” Eva said. “Come on, Sorin.”
“We’re going now?” Sorin asked.
“There’s a chance that he may still be there,” Eva said. “Please don’t start asking any needless questions now that we have a lead.”
Sorin realized that there was no time to waste and agreed. He and Eva said goodbye to Storm and headed off to the plaza in hopes of finding Kirk. There was only a slight chance, but Sorin knew that it was better than nothing. Sorin wanted to find out what his father was up to, which was why he followed after Eva in the first place. What also got his interest was why Eva was so bent on finding him. He knew that he wanted that answer as well and so decided to ask her as they took a walk down the sidewalk.
“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to know what’s going on,” Sorin said. “What is my father doing, or what do you think he’s doing?”
“Sorin, it doesn’t have anything to do with you,” Eva replied. “Your father is just chasing some case that already ended years ago.”
“A case?” Sorin asked. “Like an investigation?”
“Something like that,” Eva said.
“Well, maybe it’s important,” Sorin said. “Perhaps I can help if I knew more about it.”
“Forget it,” she said. “Like I said, it has nothing to do with you. It happened years ago.”
“A lot happened years ago,” Sorin said. “If it involves my father, then it has to involve me somehow.”
“You don’t want to get involved in whatever he’s doing,” Eva said. “Besides, there’s more important things to worry about right now.”
“Then at least tell me what it is,” Sorin replied, “That way, I can tell whether it’s important to me or not.”
“It’s a very long story,” Eva said. “I’m even sure if I’d have enough time to tell you all about it. I wasn’t even involved with what happened.”
“When we get to the plaza and find my father, I’ll ask him,” Sorin said. “One way or another, I’m going to find out what the hell is going on.”
The plaza was busier than Sorin and Eva expected. People filled the area as the odds of finding Kirk were low, but Sorin knew that he could not back down now. He had the feeling that Eva also thought the same as they looked around the plaza. They looked around the shops close by when they saw Henry leaving one of the buildings next to them. He noticed them instantly and waved at them, which followed with him walking up to the two.
“Sorin, Eva, did you two come to check out the shops?” Henry asked.
“No, not really,” Sorin said.
“Henry, just tell us if you saw Kirk or not,” Eva said. “It’s important.”
“Well, I did see him near the inn earlier,” Henry said. “I was going to invite him for breakfast, but he declined my offer. Is he not at the castle?”
“That’s why we’re here,” Sorin replied. “We were told he went this way and maybe you could help us. Did he say anything to you?”
“We did talk for a few moments,” Henry said, scratching his nose. “But we weren’t talking about anything interesting. All he asked me was about my family and how they were doing and little things like that.”
“You’re not telling us the whole truth, are you,” Eva said.
“I’m not lying,” Henry replied.
“I didn’t say that, did I?” Eva asked. “You’re being vague. It’s not like you at all to leave out concise details.”
“He told you something,” Sorin said to Henry. “Something about a plan, perhaps?”
Henry sighed. “I’m sorry, Kirk,” he said. “I promised him I wouldn’t tell a soul, but I can’t keep you in the dark, Sorin.”
“You’ll tell us, then,” Eva said.
“That I will,” Henry said, pulling what looked to be an envelope from out of his pocket. “Kirk gave me this before he left. He said that he had to head back to Iiayikohn to meet with Gamil.”
Eva took the envelope from Henry and opened it. “I see.”
“Did he really write that letter?” Sorin asked.
“I don’t have any reason to lie about it,” Henry said.
Eva finished reading the letter and folded it up. “It’s his handwriting,” she said. “I believe you, Henry.”
“Thank you,” Henry replied. “It was nice meeting you, but I gotta meet back with Tori; we’re taking the boys to see the park and I don’t want to hold her up at the plaza.”
“Go, then,” Eva said. “I’m sorry if I snapped at you.”
“No, it’s fine,” Henry said. “Anyway, see you around!”
Henry rushed off, leaving Sorin and Eva to themselves. It was as Eva said: Kirk wrote the letter. Sorin, though, had no idea why his father would suddenly leave the kingdom without telling anyone, especially Sorin himself. It was yet another mystery that had to be solved and Sorin was not sure what he and Eva needed to do next.
To be continued…