Blackbird Flies: Epilogue

“Blast,” Wes muttered to himself as he hurried through the corridor. “I need to get some of those alchemical lanterns Senara was always on about.” She’d tried so many times to get him to abandon oil lanterns in the archives, citing the threat of fire to all of the records in his care. Tonight her fears had proved prescient as one of the palace mousers got into the archives somehow and kicked over a lantern, nearly setting the whole place ablaze. At least the crash had woken him from where he’d fallen asleep at his desk and he’d been able to put the fire out in time. Still, King Massen was not going to be pleased with what had been lost. Wes would need at least three scribes working for the next week to transcribe new copies of the destroyed documents.

“Are you certain it was Senara?”

Wes stopped short outside of the king’s study, sure he’d misheard. He’d been thinking of the princess after all, he must have just imagined the king saying her name. But the answer that came through the half open doorway proved he wasn’t imagining things at all.

“Yes, your Majesty, it was the princess. She tried to deny who she was, but I could tell she knew who I was. I recognized the man with her, too, that helped her get away. It was that guard that was assigned to her, the one that retired before the whole thing with the Astrians. Ervin or something like that.”

Eryl? Wes supplied silently, frowning in thought. She’d been planning to escape, and she said he had somewhere to go. Someone to go to. “Huh,” he huffed in surprise. He wouldn’t have expected it to be one of her guards. Then again, someone had to have been helping her with her project in the solarium, and Wes had a clear memory of the gardener lamenting Guard Trow’s departure from the palace. He smiled to himself. He’d been devastated when the royal caravan returned and declared that the princess had perished on the road to Astra, but perhaps she’d managed to pull off her escape after all. His attention returned to the conversation in the study.

“…did try to apprehend her, your Majesty. I knew you’d want to question her. I should have expected her to have an accomplice.”

“You’re right, I do want to know what my daughter has been up to all this time. She played me, and all of Sunpeak for that matter, for a fool. That cannot be allowed to stand.”

Wes winced. He didn’t like the sound of that.

“Of course not, your Majesty,” the other voice agreed.

“Have you spoken of this to anyone else?”

“Not a word. I thought it was something you’d prefer to handle yourself.”

“Good. Let’s keep it that way for now. We can’t have the Astrians getting word of my daughter’s ruse, and my wife would be devastated to learn of Senara’s deception. I’ll assign you a team of guards I trust. You will question her former guards for possible information. What in the world is she doing in Radia, of all places?”

“I don’t think she’s there anymore, your Majesty. I heard that guard of hers say their ship was leaving right away when they escaped. After I freed myself, I checked in the harbor. Only one ship left port that day, flying a banner with a dragon on it. The harbor master didn’t know its home port but said it’s from somewhere in the Dusk Isles.”

“That’s even worse than Radia,” the king opined, “but at least she can’t make trouble for me there. Very well. I’ll have to reassign you so you can focus on finding her.”

Wes didn’t stay to hear any more. What he’d heard was plenty. A ship bearing a dragon banner, sailing from the Dusk Isles? If Senara really had been up to what he suspected with the solarium, he had an idea of where she might have gone. Finding it was sure to prove difficult, but he had far more to go on than Massen’s messenger, at least.

I suppose it’s finally time to leave the palace, he thought with grim amusement as he slipped back to the archives. It took him little time to find the books the princess had poured over so often before leaving. He spent the night going over what he knew about dragons and every mention of the dragon island from the texts, as well as maps of the Dusk Isles. By dawn, he had some solid ideas of where to start and had packed his belongings. He told the chamberlain he needed to take an extended leave to visit his family–a truth as far as he was concerned–and then he was on his way. With a little luck, by the time anyone realized he’d never come back and thought to go looking for him, he’d already be in the Dusk Isles. I have always wanted to visit them. I suppose I should thank the princess for giving me the opportunity.

There was no question in Wes’ mind that King Massen would track his daughter down.

Wes meant to find her first.

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