Aton looked at his brothers and sister, who stared back at him expectantly. Aton took a deep breath, then let it out through his nose.
“Did you have something to tell us?” Tido asked.
“Yes,” Aton said, but then stopped. Looking down to his side, with his left hand he wordlessly took hold of the single scabbard that hung there, grabbed the protruding hilt with his right hand, and drew the sword named Justice for all to see.
Domire and Misolfa inhaled sharply at the sight of the weapon. Tido made a clicking sound inside his cheek. “I see. Why are you carrying Father’s sword?” Aton responded with silence.
Domire spoke next. “I think a better question is, why isn’t Father carrying his sword right now? He never parts with it, as I don’t think I will, either, once I have mine in my possession.” His next question came out uncomfortably into the silence of the room. “Aton, where is our father?”
Again, Aton noted how the three of them stared at him expectantly. He took another deep breath, then finally spoke again. “Nobody knows. Mother and Father have both been abducted by an unknown party.”
Misolfa looked at him, wide-eyed. “What? When?”
“Not an hour ago,” Aton replied. Having arrived inevitably at the point of disclosure, he started speaking more quickly to get it all out. “I awoke in bed—something was odd. I arose to investigate and went to find Reedl to ask if anything seemed amiss to him. When I got to his home, I heard a shout of alarm from the palace. I ran back and when I got there, Mother and Father were gone. Father had left his sword on its rack next to their bed. I looked down from the balcony and saw scuff marks on the wall below. I ran back to Thallenrose Square and saw some people vanish from the Thallenrose. They’re gone.”
Aton finished and waited for his siblings’ reaction. They seemed to want more from him. He continued.
“Reedl tried to follow, using what I thought I heard their Sageman say. No effect. I evidently misheard them, but it was definitely no world we are familiar with. They were wearing a uniform that I have never seen before. It is nothing we know, not simply nothing we have seen personally. I learn all I can about diplomatic relations, and no nation that Grendhill is acquainted with uses these uniforms. Our Royal Guard did their job as best as could be hoped. There was posted, as usual, a double sentry outside our parents’ chambers, and they investigated when they heard a scuffle inside. The attackers departed too quickly, and the sentry found nobody inside. They were already gone. Reedl had a page awoken, and our parents’ council is being gathered right now. We came here to inform you and discuss. Also, we need to decide on a framework for a plan of action.”
As Aton finished, Reedl stepped forward to address the unasked questions in the incredulous eyes of the others. “It is true. Your parents’ disappearance is unexpected, of course. With Grendhill’s security and your own father’s constant readiness to face any foe, nobody could have imagined such an abduction possible, let alone so quickly accomplished. Nevertheless, it has occurred. I am here to guide you, though as you are of age, each of you on the cusp of Retrieval of your own Arms, I will try to act as a guide and resource only. Your parents’ Council is gathering, and you will need a plan before you meet with them if you expect to be heard properly, Council’s loyalty or no.”
Tido spoke. “How can this happen? How can they just break in and vanish? What are we supposed to do about it?”
Misolfa answered with anger in her voice and a scowl on her face. “We can’t let them get away with this! There is nowhere they can hide from us! We will hunt them down!”
Domire followed. “The cowards will—they’ll—”
Reedl cut in. “Young princes, princess, remember who you are. I do. I still remember the Impression I felt of each of you when you were born. True, an Impression is but a glimpse of the personality you are likely to grow into, but I expect you to fulfil every expectation. True, you are not yet your full selves, but you soon will be. You will feel and know yourselves as you are and as you ought to be.”
Reedl turned to each of Aton’s three present siblings. “Tido, look within yourself and find your confidence. It is in there, and if you do as you know you must, it will manifest itself for all to see. Misolfa, you have a kind heart. It is likely your kind heart towards your parents that generates this anger towards your enemies. Let your heart drive you, but do not swing as a pendulum. Domire, take a moment and find the answers within yourself. Your behavior will be above reproach and your wisdom will be uncontested. Do not allow this morning’s events to cloud your thoughts.”
Reedl turned to Aton. “You know I felt no Impression from you, and obviously you have no Arm to train with. Yet I have observed you for the past fifteen Turns. Your focus is unparalleled when you set your mind to a task. Your pragmatism has helped you overcome every obstacle you have found in your path. The current challenge is a new one, and daunting, but you know how to come ahead. Do as you have done for every other challenge before. Analyze it, find a way around it, and follow through. Let your inner light guide you.”
Finally, Reedl addressed the group. “Now, my young lords and lady, your parents have been carried away by some unknown enemy. How can I help you plan your path ahead of you?”