Enchanted Stories: Adventure in Brightvale - Part Two
'Three hundred years ago Brightvale entered its most prosperous time. Under the reign of Hagan the First the kingdom blossomed in wealth and prosperity. The King had four sons and a daughter. The daughter was his youngest child and the apple of his eye. Her name was Emily, but she was called Emma by her family and friends. Just days after her fifteenth birthday, she vanished. The king used every available resource he had to find her, but they were unsuccessful. No one could say for certain if her disappearance was of her own will or kidnapping. Weeks passed and Hagan was at his wits end. Then, a brave group of adventurers offered their help in the search for his daughter. With no other options left to him, Hagan accepted their aid.'
I stared up at the palace. The books were so amazing. A moment ago I had closed my eyes on early morning spring sunlight in my living room, and now here we were, under the harsh midday sun of summer in Brightvale, three hundred years in the past. We were all dressed in traveling garb appropriate for that time, although I noticed that I was wearing the Meridellian crest around my neck. The guards were waving us to go through and we did. On the palace grounds were met by a nervous looking green Kacheek.
"Follow me, and be lively about it. You'd better be worth your salt, our poor king doesn't need any more disappointments," he told us, trotting off as fast as he could.
We followed and he led us to an unpretentious office where the king was working. I was rather taken aback by what I saw, I had been expecting a carbon copy of the Hagan of my time, this Hagan was a Silver Draik. He looked up at us and I stepped forward and bowed.
"Oh, you are the adventures from Meridell who said that they could bring my daughter back?" he guessed tiredly.
"We are at your service, your highness. We will do our utmost to help you," I replied.
"What do you want for your services?" Hagan asked suspiciously.
"Nothing, my lord. We just enjoy challenges, this one intrigues us. We want to be the ones to solve it. Surely the fame of finding the princess will be its own reward," I said.
"Hmph, I cannot say I understand you there. Still, I can tell that you are sincere. Who knows, maybe you will be able to find Emma. I'm certainly not going to turn away anyone who wants to help. Well, what can I do to help you?"
"I would like to ask you some questions about your daughter. Did your daughter exhibit any changes in her normal behavior before her disappearance?"
"Not that I noticed," Hagan replied.
"What is her normal temperament like? Is she rebellious and willful? Has she ever attempted to run away in the past?" I asked.
"No, never, Emma is a very loving and obedient child. There is no logical reason for her to have run away. She has everything she could ever want or need here. If she had ever wanted to go anywhere all she would have needed to do was ask."
"All right, well, thank you. We would also like permission to search the princess' room for clues."
"My own knights have all ready done that. We did not find anything," Hagan told.
"A second search never hurts. Who knows, maybe a fresh perspective will help. Also, your own knights, while I am sure they did their best, would be extra respectful of their princess' personal property. They may not have thoroughly searched some of her belongings and missed clues due to that," I explained.
Hagan rubbed his chin. "That does make sense." Then he turned to the Kacheek. "Take them to Emma's room."
The Kacheek scurried out with a panicked expression and we followed him. I decided that when this thing was over this guy needed to take a long vacation. We were admitted to the room and Elise took charge. After turning the Kacheek out, she gave us our orders.
"Yanli, watch the baby. Princess, you fly outside and check the area around the window. Look for out of place fibers, damaged ivy or moss, or even scratches that seem out of place. Anita and Chloe, check in all the drawers and dressers, make sure to knock on everything to check for hidden compartments. Blue, help me check on top of furniture. Kristy, check out that bed. I've never seen so many mattresses on one bed before, there might be something hidden in there."
We all set to our tasks. As I was about to strip the sheets off the bed Celine jumped up on it and started sniffing vigorously.
"Anita, what's she doing?" I asked.
"I trained her to track scents; she must be trying to pick up one. Give her half a minute; she could be helpful with our search if she could find a scent." Anita's explanation was slightly muffled due to being half inside a wardrobe.
I waited until Celine jumped down; she began sniffing around the room. I pulled the sheets off, then took each mattress off, examining them thoroughly. After finding nothing, I checked the bed frame and again came up empty. I put the mattresses back on and wondered where I should search next when Celine's path led her under the bed.
I crawled under after her. Why would the princess have been under her bed? At fifteen it was hardly ladylike for her to be crawling under there often enough to leave a scent. It could be an important clue.
"Show me, Cellie," I said as she sniffed around.
Celine crouched down and pressed her nose on a spot of carpet. I crawled over and examined the spot. A square of carpet had been cut out and then put back. I pulled the square up and found a small door in the floor, no bigger than eight inches length and width. There was a lock on it, but I found that it wasn't locked and the little door opened easily. Inside was a compartment with a journal in it. I pulled it out and we crawled back out.
"I found a diary," I called out, smoothing my hair back into place.
"Read it," Elise said.
"That's not right, Elise!" Bluejay protested. "You wouldn't want someone reading your private thoughts."
"Bluejay, this girl has gone missing. This diary is the only way to figure out if it was intentional. If it wasn't intentional we need to know so that we can plan how best to rescue her. Besides, we're only going to read from about a month before her disappearance, not the whole thing," Elise explained. "Skim it, Kristy, and share what entries might apply."
I started one month before her last entry. Right away there was something.
'I am tired of living life in this palace. I want to get out and see the world. Papa would never allow that, of that I am certain.
Three days later: 'My fifteenth birthday is in two weeks. Fifteen is quite grown up; I should be able to do what I want.'
Several sentences of the same theme pervaded the next few entries and were of no note. Then: 'I have always wanted to see Greenwich. My brothers have been there and they say it lovely. It is in Meridell, though. They never take me to Meridell with them. I should go to Greenwich.'
Then it was her birthday, and all the entries for a week or so were normal. Then very suddenly: 'I have made up my mind, I am going to Greenwich tonight! All on my own. How wonderful this trip shall be. I know ways of getting out; no one shall find me or stop me. I shall return when I am ready."
"Well," Anita said. "I guess we know."
"Yeah, to Greenwich in Meridell. I've never heard of a Greenwich in Meridell and I've taken Meridellian geography. I wonder if it got renamed," Elise mused.
"She left, but she didn't run away, and I highly doubt she ever left Brightvale," I replied.
They all turned to look at me like I was crazy.
"I'm a reporter, guys; I'm used to reading journalist entries and such. I can see the difference between real and forged entries. The 'running away' parts don't match the tone of her writing in the entries they are in; they were added purposefully for effect. The person writing is truly a loving, devoted daughter and sister. Her last entry is much too callous; it doesn't speak of the same person, it's too false. Someone must have been after her; she wanted this found to throw this person off the sent. I mean, come on, it was in a hidden compartment with a lock and the diary has a lock, but neither were locked. I doubt that she was careless enough to leave both unlocked unless she wanted someone to find and read them," I explained.
"Kristy, Inna found something," Yanli said, walking up to us holding the baby who was holding a shred of paper.
Inna held it out and I took it. Upon examination I found it to be the corner of a page. What was left on it was 'aps, 106.'
"a-p-s, what could that be from?" I pondered aloud.
"It must be maps, Kristy," Anita reasoned. "If the girl was going somewhere, she might have needed a map. She might have torn it right out of a book. If she grabbed the corner of the page to pull it out she might have ripped only the corner, and then just dropped it before pulling out the entire page. We need to find the book that this came from."
I grinned; we had a lead and a good one at that. The next order of business was finding that book.
To be continued...