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Chapter 4: Search and Seize Her A Princess Lost is Everyone's Gain


— Sorcerers Almanac, Section Five:

On Things to Watch Out For

For a second, Erwyn considered just leaving it at that. Princess Fenoria was probably just off sulking or something, anyway. Unfortunately, he was incurably honest and terminally moral. He couldn’t leave her to wander around on her own.

Erwyn wasn’t certain he could survive, even with magic and an armed escort to protect him. How could he expect her to manage, alone and unarmed? Okay, she could talk the enemy to death, for starters. But the way the rest of his merry band stood staring at him, he felt certain they weren’t going to let him abandon her.

“But how am I supposed to go track down a missing princess when my horse has run away?” He tried to look innocent.

Chesric raised both eyebrows and pointed to the horses. Bandal stood next to the old man’s mount, waiting patiently for Erwyn to claim him. Apparently, Chesric had rescued the gelding on the way to rescue Erwyn.

The boy sighed. “Okay, okay. Let’s go find her.” He headed for his horse.

“Not meanin’ to usurp yer authority, or anythin’, but...”

Uh-huh, sure. “But what?”

“Well, don’t ya think ya ought to see what kind of information we have about her disappearance?”

“What kind of ...? Will you stop trying to lead me into figuring this out for myself and just tell me what you’re trying to say?”

Chesric’s mustache twitched. “For one thing, is her horse still here? Did she take anything with her when she left? Did she say anything to anyone before she left? And when was the last time anyone saw her?”

Erwyn’s jaw dropped. “You’re right. She couldn’t get far on foot, could she?” He turned to the remainder of the group. “Well? Is her horse still here?”

“Nope.” Devydd’s reply was short and sour.

“So much for that. Who saw her last?”

“Devydd did.”

“No, Chesric saw her last.”

“Actually, it was Kerissa. She was the last one.”

The most interesting thing Erwyn noticed was that every reply had a single source.

He glared at the damselfly. “All right, Viona, give. Where’d she go?”

“What makes you think I know anything, Erwyn, dear?” Viona looked at the ground and stubbed her toe in the imaginary dirt. Imaginary, that is, because the real thing lay three feet below her.

“Let’s just call it a hunch. Now, where did she go?”

“Well, um...” Viona twisted the ends of her hair in her fingers.

“Quit stalling, or I’ll do something nasty to you. Like-like turn you into a dragonfly or conjure up that rainstorm over your head.” Worked every time.

“A rainstorm?” As usual, the prospect of getting her dress wet appeared to bother her more than the idea of being turned into a dragonfly. “Okay, okay. She-she said something about a ‘stupid wolf’ and then she jumped onto her horse and left.”

“You mean she just—wait a minute! Did you say wolf?”

“No, Fenoria did.”

“So, she went after Fenoria?”

“No, she went after a wolf.”

“Yeah, but the wolf’s name is ... oh, never mind. When did this happen?”

“While you were burying those bad guys.”

“While I was—that was nearly an hour ago!”

“Yeah, I know.” She stubbed her toe in the imaginary dirt again before fluttering toward Erwyn’s face. “I thought you’d be glad for her to go, so I decided not to mention it.”

She gave a helpless shrug, but Erwyn wasn’t fooled. “You mean you thought it would eliminate the competition. Of all the thoughtless, inconsiderate, callous, mean-spirited ...” Erwyn ran out of adjectives. “Okay, which way did she go?”

“That way.” She pointed vaguely in the direction of the late afternoon sun.

“Great. On top of everything else, it’ll be dark soon.” Not to mention the fact that they’d have to trek through a field of four-foot tall grass. And the temperature tended to drop rapidly once the sun went down. He eyed Bandal for a moment before approaching and starting to mount.


— Sorcerers Almanac, Section Four:

On How to Have a Safe Trip

“Ahem. Excuse me a minute, but ...”

Erwyn paused in the stirrup long enough to lose his balance. He landed on the ground with a loud thump! When he finally forced his lungs to work, he peered at Chesric from the vicinity of Bandal’s legs. “What now?”

“Yer not plannin’ to just set off all together in a lump, are ye?”

Erwyn stared at Chesric from beneath his unruly forelock. “Just what do you expect me to do?”

Chesric just favored him with a pair of raised eyebrows.

He got up and dusted himself off. “Okay, fine.” He thought for a moment, trying to come up with something approximating a search plan, then nodded to himself. “We’ll fan out and head approximately west,” he glared at Viona for being less than specific. “I’m going to take the north end. You people can sort yourselves out and cover the rest of it. Stay in sight of whoever’s next to you and we’ll meet up again as soon as it’s too dark to see her, or each other, anymore.” He mounted his horse. “Will that satisfy you, Chesric?”

“Yer the boss, lad.”

“I doubt that very much.” He turned Bandal and headed for his chosen position.

Well, that ought to keep the rest of them busy, Erwyn thought. Maybe he could get a few minutes to himself while they searched. The hard part would be to remember to look for Fenoria once in a while.


— Sorcerers Almanac, Section Four:

On How to Have a Safe Trip

Or maybe the hard part would be to actually get the chance to forget to look for her. Hoof beats sounded on the turf behind him. Erwyn turned to find Chesric trotting up to join him. He shut his eyes, silently praying for strength. Then he decided not to bother. The gods didn’t seem to be listening to him lately, anyway.

He waited for the old man to get within earshot. “What gives? I thought you were the one who didn’t want to get all lumped together.”

“Well, now, I got to thinkin’ about things.” Chesric pulled his horse alongside Erwyn’s.

“What? Again?”

Chesric ignored the remark and continued. “The last time I went and left you alone, you went gal-a-vanting off after some unknown, and possibly un-visible, whatchamacallit.”

“It wasn’t ...”

“Then ye dang near got yerself perforated by a bunch of nasty-nasties and ended up having to bury all of ‘em beneath a couple tons of sand.”

“Don’t remind me.” Erwyn stared down at his saddle and played with a loose piece of leather on the pommel.

“Then, while we’re all tryin’ to do somethin’ about the mess ye made ...”

“The mess I made?”

“... ye went and lost poor Fenoria.”

Erwyn brought his horse up short and glared at his friend. “Just hold on right there, Chesric. Let’s get this straight. I made the so-called mess you mentioned while trying to save myself from those ‘nasty-nasties.’ And, if you recall, I cleaned the mess up afterward. No one helped. And I didn’t lose Fenoria. She did it all by herself. Speaking of which, don’t you think we ought to get back to the business of finding her?”

“There, that’s better.” Chesric clicked his tongue and his mount moved away from Erwyn’s.

The old man got a full twenty feet away before Erwyn remembered to close his mouth and get his own horse moving. “What do you mean, that’s better?”

“Just wanted to make sure ye wasn’t going to spend yer time wallowing in self-pity just because ye had to do what ye had to do.”

“I haven’t had a chance to do any wallowing, in self-pity or anything else. And, as a matter of fact, if I could find the time for such activities, I’d certainly put it to better use than that!” He nudged his horse with his heels, causing Bandal to edge his way past Chesric.

Once in the lead, Erwyn scanned the grass around him, looking for signs that Fenoria had come this way. “Chesric, I don’t...” Turning to look over his shoulder, he discovered that he no longer had an audience. Chesric had faded into the foliage.

The grass rustled nearby, announcing someone’s arrival. Or maybe exit. “Chesric, how did you manage to get in front of me?” He turned around to look. He couldn’t see anyone. Anywhere.

Moments later, the vegetation before him bent under the weight of something. But, whatever it was, it wasn’t visible.

Erwyn watched, astonished as the scene in front of him rippled, then tore with a sound like distant, rolling thunder. The scent of oranges and vanilla filled the air, and someone stepped through the opening.

But the newcomer wasn’t Chesric. And it very, very definitely wasn’t Fenoria.

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