Aton stood in the darkness, dumbfounded. Somebody had just carried off the king and queen of Grendhill, right out of their own bed! With Guard standing sentry, somebody had dared to attempt abducting a Farella with Aguneg’s Gift giving him an edge. How… Aton shook his head. Where had they gone? He had not heard very well their instruction to the Thallenrose, but he was sure their destination was no place he had ever heard of. It only worked for finite destinations though; one could not simply make one up.

A guard came running down the street from the same direction Aton had come, red-faced and breathless. “What happened, my prince? Are you well?”

“I am fine,” Aton replied. “They’ve gone, though.”

“Who’s gone?” the Guardsman asked.

“I don’t know. I never heard…and they have my parents,” Aton answered in disbelief. “Go get me Captain Bailen! I need to speak with him at once.”

“Yes, prince.”

“And Sageman Reedl!”

“Uh—yes, prince.” The guard turned to go and nearly ran into Reedl walking up behind him. “Oh—I’ll go ask for the Captain, then!”

Reedl stepped aside to let the man pass. “What is going on, Aton?” Reedl asked with a probing look in his eyes.

“My parents have been abducted! We have to go find them,” Aton said urgently.

“Yes, yes, as soon as you have a proper escort gathered,” Reedl said. “Did you hear where they went? Wait—first, tell me what is going on. We must understand the full situation.”

Aton did not like the sound in Reedl’s voice. It sounded like he wanted Aton to slow down, but Aton just wanted to rush off to stop the abductors. “Yes, uh, they wen to…” Aton was trying to piece together what he had barely heard whispered as the party departed. He spoke quickly, trying to get it all out. “Well, I don’t know what’s going on. I just woke up, and something was weird. I followed it and found myself near your house, so I decided to ask you. I’m sorry I left you standing there suddenly, but I had to come find out what it was, and—”

“Very well, but now tell me where they went.”

“Yes, they went…I could barely hear him, Reedl. And I think Aguneg’s Gift let me hear him at all. He was all the way across the Square, and he was whispering, and I don’t think anyone else—”

“Where, Aton? I need to know where.”

“Right, of course. It was…at least, I think…it was, umm, ‘Artcha?’”

Captain Bailen came running. “Prince Aton, what is going on? Why did you run off?”

“My parents are gone, Captain. Somebody climbed the palace walls, in and out like lightning.”

“What do you mean? How?” Bailen quizzed.

“I don’t know how,” Aton said, “but there were scuffs on the toeholds outside and below my parents’ balcony. I ran here and saw them vanish off-world.”

Bailen looked alert again. “Where did they go? We will get a contingent and go find them.”

Aton looked at Reedl. “Can you take us there?”

“’Artcha?’” Reedl repeated the word back to Aton. “I’ve never heard of it. I’m almost sure it doesn’t exist.”

“But we have to try, Sageman,” Bailen pressed.

“Oh, I will try it right now,” Reedl said as he strode from the edge of the Square towards the middle. “I will try it alone. If it works, I will return as soon as I arrive. Don’t hold your breath.”

Aton and Bailen watched as Reedl covered the distance, mounted the Thallenrose, and spoke, “Andi mito mito ‘Artcha’ niti nun pondere!” Reedl looked back at them from where he still stood, blinked, stepped down from the platform, and calmly walked back to the edge of the Square.

Aton sputtered. “But it has to work. You have to take us—”

“Aton, it is apparent that you did not hear them clearly,” Reedl interrupted. “There is nowhere to go that we know of. Come.” Reedl turned to Bailen. “Gather your top staff. I will have the King’s and Queen’s advisor council woken. We will discuss what must be done.”

Aton couldn’t believe Reedl’s calm next to the rage he felt inside. “But we must—”

“And we will, my young prince. I only need to wake one messenger and he will do the rest of the gathering. Then you and I will meet with your siblings while your parents’ advisors are being collected.”


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