It was relatively peaceful in the palace for the next week or so. Christina's children continued their lessons and every night we would go out into the back to throw the ball. The weather was getting colder, though, which meant the outdoor games would be ending in about a month. I was trying to find more time to spend with Angel but a new development stopped that from happening.
It came in the form of a letter. I was in my bedchamber, drawing, when someone knocked on the door. I opened it and grinned at Angel until I saw the look on her face.
"We have to go to the throne room," she breathed, holding my hand and walking quicker than she ever had.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I don't know but Father is very upset."
We took the stairs two at a time and I walked in to see the king pacing in front of the thrones with a letter in his hand. It was slightly crumpled when he handed it to me. Angel read it over my shoulder and gasped.
We know the traitor has been in contact with your family. We also know that you hold the Sword. Bring it to us in one week's time or we attack. The traitor is dead.
For some reason, the handwriting looked familiar. I looked up.
"I thought he wouldn't talk," I said, my mouth dry and feeling a little sad about William's death.
"Torture can do a lot to a person," the queen sighed. "What will we do?"
I put my hand on the hilt of the sword I always carried with me. "We can't give them the sword. But can we risk being attacked by werewolves?"
No one said anything. Angel was wringing her hands, looking terrified, while the king continued to pace.
He sighed heavily. "I didn't want to have to do this," he muttered. He nodded once to a guard who looked nervous as he left. "Remember when Angel said we have people trained for infiltration?"
"Well, we have another set of... specialists."
Four men walked in, dressed in skin tight black clothing, and Angel gasped quietly. She gripped my arm and hid behind me a little. I didn't see what the big deal was. They were all very lean but muscular. One of them held a sword that looked identical to the Sword of the Thousands. The one holding it knelt on his knee before me and held it up.
Frowning, I took it. It was an exact replica aside from the blue glow.
"I don't understand," I said finally. "You plan on sending this to the clan?"
The king sighed again. "Well, that's part of the plan."
"What's the other part?"
"Do you know who the Black Hand are?" he asked, gesturing at the four men. I shook my head. "They are assassins."
My blood ran cold at the thought. "Why do we need assassins to deliver a fake sword?"
"Because we're not really delivering a fake sword," the king whispered and I finally understood.
"You're planning on killing the alpha," I said slowly and he nodded grimly. "But how? I told you: William said silver won't kill them."
"That's why we're giving the Black Hand the real sword."
He nodded at the real sword on my hip. "We believe the Sword of the Thousands is what can kill them."
I sat down on a bench and pinched the bridge of my nose.
"Let me see if I understand correctly: You're going to send a group of four men you hardly know to the northern wolf pack, which you also don't know about. Then, once they get there, they are going to pretend to give the real sword only one of them will use the real one to assassinate the alpha." The king nodded and I stared at him. "I'm not giving this sword to someone I don't know," I said bluntly. "We all agreed this is too powerful to be in the hands of someone who might misuse it. No offense," I added to the assassins.
"So what are you saying?"
"I'm saying that I'm going," I said.
"No," Angel said, sitting beside me and taking my hands. "Please don't leave again."
I smiled gently and kissed her forehead. "I won't be gone long. We have to leave soon, right?" I added to the king who nodded, looking like he wanted to argue with me. "I'm going whether you order me to stay or not."
"Very well," the king whispered and Angel covered her face with her hands and ran out. I watched her go sadly. "Give her some time," the king said when I got up to follow. "Then go talk to her."
I nodded and passed the replica to one of the assassins. I didn't like being around them. I also didn't like how they were eyeing the real one. I decided to make sure they couldn't get it ever. For some reason, I felt like an overprotective father with the sword.
An hour later, I went to find Angel. She was on the atrium, staring out around the grounds and hugging herself. I closed the door behind me loud enough so she knew I was there. She didn't move and I sighed. I put my hands on her upper arms.
"Angel," I began but she shook her head, still facing the other way.
"You promised you wouldn't leave me," she said in a thick voice.
I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her temple, just above her right ear. She relaxed a little in my arms.
"I have to go," I whispered in her ear. "It's the only way to make sure you're safe."
"Why won't you let the Black Hand to do it?"
I rested my chin on her shoulder with another sigh. "I have a... connection with the Sword. I don't know how to explain it. And they keep looking at it like it's meat. I don't trust them," I added.
Finally, she unfolded her arms and turned to me. There were tears in her eyes and I caressed her cheek, trying to give her a reassuring smile. Before I could say what I need to tell her, a guard came out.
"Sir David, it is time to get ready to leave."
I nodded at him and he left. When I turned back to Angel, she was crying quietly. I kissed her deeply, holding her head in both of my hands. She kissed me back eagerly, a small sob escaping her lips.
"Please stay safe," she said and I kissed her tears.
"I promise," I whispered. "Besides, I have something important to do when I get back."
She wiped her tears away. "What's that."
"Well," I said slowly and dug in my pocket, "marrying you if you'll have me."
I held out the ring I had made for her. In the village, it was tradition for the engagement ring to be made of a sturdy brown vine that entwined with another sturdy vine of green. It was rough and not nearly as gorgeous as a diamond ring, but it was all I grew up with.
She covered her mouth with her hand.
"I know it's not a diamond ring," I said, taking her left hand and sliding it on her finger, "but I made it and I wanted it to be-"
She cut me off by kissing me. I held her close to me, tasting her tears on my tongue as she hooked her elbows on my shoulders. I buried my hand in her hair, wishing that I never had to let go.
"You better come back," she whispered against my lips, "so that I can marry you."
I smiled and pressed her forehead to mine, closing my eyes briefly, before turning to leave.