We weren’t actually in the castle, per se. Technically, we were in a forest near it. I realized that this must be the same forest that Renjin had been in when he made the potion that started it all.
Neyolc was standing, as much as a dragyon can stand, a short distance away, looking at the top of the castle which was in view over the treetops.
“I’m home,” Akeelay whispered from beside me.
I thought about that for a moment. “At one point, this was my home, too. All three of us - you, me, and Maybelle - have lived in this castle at one point or another.”
“I hadn’t realized that before,” Akeelay said. “But it’s true. And since you’re a wizard now, I bet the king and queen when they’re awake will let you be a castle wizard.”
“That would be amazing,” I said. “Especially if I would get to hang out with you.”
She blushed, looking down. I could tell she didn’t know what to say to that, and she looked grateful when Maybelle called out, “Okay, everybody! We’ve got to figure out a plan!”
“But we don’t know how they’re prepared. We don’t know their positions, we don’t know their numbers, we don’t know anything!” Benjamin complained. He was the most pessimistic of the bunch of wizards, and he was just getting annoying.
Maybelle thought the same thing I did. “If you don’t want to help, leave. Just leave. It’ll do the rest of us a favor. And when we wake up the king and queen, you can come back. Or just don’t bother. I won’t mind.”
“As long as, if the sorcerers catch you, you don’t tell them anything about where we are or about our numbers,” I added quickly, before he could respond. I didn’t want Lymlock after us right after he left.
Benjamin seemed to be seriously considering Maybelle’s offer. If he was that torn about what to do, I really did wish he would leave. We needed a strong team.
“I’ll stay,” he finally decided, sighing as if he was doing us a big favor.
“No,” Akeelay said. All heads turned in her direction. “If it’s really that hard for you to decide what to do, then go.”
“But-” Benjamin started to protest.
“No! Leave. You obviously aren’t fully committed to this cause, so you should just go. We need a strong team, and you won’t be part of that.”
Could she read my mind? That was exactly what I had been thinking.
All eyes were on him now, wondering what he would say. He stared at Akeelay, silently demanding for her to back down. She stared right back, determination in her eyes, arms crossed defiantly.
“Fine,” he said finally. “I’ll go. But don’t expect me to lie to the sorcerers if I get caught. I’m not going to do that for you guys.”
“If you’re really that disloyal to the king and queen, I don’t know why you’re a castle wizard,” Akeelay said disbelievingly. I could understand her frustration. I was more loyal to the king and queen of Rhellens than he was, and I used to be a sorcerer.
“Would anyone else like to join me?” he asked, searching the frowning crowd with his eyes. “No? I’ll just go then.”
He walked off in the opposite direction from the castle, scowling. He seemed very put out that none of his friends wanted to join him.
“Really, does anybody else want to go? Because if you’re not willing to possibly get captured or killed defending the king and queen, then you can go too.” Now Akeelay’s eyes searched the crowd. Nobody moved, nobody spoke.
Akeelay sure had changed a lot since I first met her, that day back at the castle.
“So now,” Maybelle said, gaining control again, “We plan.”
And so we did. It was midafternoon when we got to the forest by the castle, and we talked and argued and strategized late into the night. I would say that it was nearly midnight when, finally, we decided on a plan.
I don’t think anybody got much sleep that night. We were too keyed up for what would be the battle of the century the following morning.
Dawn broke, and we got up. There was no point pretending to be asleep. None of us were.
We prepared to fight in silence. There wasn’t much to be done. As the sun rose, we finally started off to the castle.
Eventually, we had decided that simplicity was better than intricacy, so our plan wasn’t complex.
Neyolc was flying above us. She would attack at the signal.
One group would full on attack the same way the sorcerers, including me, had done so long ago. They would go through the third floor window. These were the strongest fighters, and they had the highest risk involved. Maybelle was in that group.
Another, smaller group, with Akeelay and I in it, would be the stealthier group, sneaking in through the secret passage. Akeelay knew where it was, so she was the leader of our group.
A few of the wizards had questioned where I should go. I did have relatively strong magyk, but it wasn’t as strong as some of the others’. I finally said that I would rather be in Group B, as we called it, so that was where I ended up.
It wasn’t because of the risk factor that I wanted to be in the stealth group. Well, it technically was, but not for me. I wanted to be there to protect Akeelay. And while she would complain and say she could take care of herself if I told her, I really was worried about her safety.
Group A levitated themselves up to the window as the rest of us, only about 10 people, watched.
“Good luck,” I called up to them, just loud enough so that they could hear. Maybelle was the only one to answer.
“You too,” she called down.
The wizard nearest to the window yelled, “Jitfarrak!” The shatter spell broke open the window, and they were in.