I went ahead of the group to alert the Queen Mother. My heart was pounding. I couldn't believe it had worked! Bryan had demanded to stay with the creature. I couldn't blame him. If my sister was threatened, I would do the same.
I took the stairs two at a time and knocked frantically on her door. She opened it just a crack, though.
"Wren? Why do you pant so?"
"We caught one," I said and her jaw dropped. "We caught a creature and-"
"You caught one?" a voice demanded and the door flew open all the way.
A man I didn't recognize stood in front of me. Behind him was Rosebud. I clenched my fists. This man could only be one person. He had pure black eyes and brown hair. I glared at the Queen Mother but she didn't offer an explanation.
"Where is Corstelis?" Rosebud cried. "Where is Bryan? Are they safe?"
"Bryan is with the creature," I said through clenched teeth, not wanting to talk to this traitor. "Cori- I mean, Corstelis is- I don't know where she is but she will be sitting at my table for dinner."
"Take me," the man demanded.
"Go," the Queen Mother ordered when I hesitated.
Resentfully, I turned on my heel and led the man down the stairs. We didn't speak as we ran back across the bridge. I knew he would be able to keep up. Werewolves were faster than elves.
"William?" Bryan asked when we got there. "What are you doing here? When did you arrive?"
"Is this it?" the man asked, ignoring him.
"Yes. And it said some things." He hesitated. "William, the forest means to take Cori and...."
"Dissect her," I finished. William stared at me in horror. "It wants to make more of her."
"I'm taking her home," William said immediately. "Right now."
"You can't," Bryan argued. "She'll hate you forever! She still has eight days here."
William clenched his jaw. His nails were growing.
"We came, Bryan, because things are changing at the castle."
"What's going on, William? Tell me right now!"
"Everyone's safe," William said and I relaxed some. "It's the forest. Everyone in the castle is on edge. We've had to lock the king and queen in separate rooms. They were lashing out at each other. You know how violent they can get when in high tempers."
"How do you know it's the forest?" I asked.
"Two days ago, a strange glow lifted from the treetops and descended over the castle."
"It's the creatures," Wren said. "They're searching for something."
"Can they really extend themselves like that?" I asked and we all turned to the creature at our feet. I knelt beside it. "You have a lot of answers to give us."
"Only to you," the creature said and I frowned.
"Why only me?"
"Our words are for Bryan, Jr. alone. The son of the murdered man."
I stared at him, my heart pounding. "My father was not murdered," I said. "He died in war."
"The one who calls herself Corstelis knows the story. Our words are for you alone."
It fell into silence once more. I clenched my fists.
"You stay here with the creature," I said to the elves and William. "I must speak with my cousin."
No one stopped me as I ran back to the realm. I found Cori playing her flute by the waterfalls. She seemed to have taken a liking to them.
"Oh, hello Bryan," she said when she saw me approaching. "Were you successful?"
"You and I need to talk," I said, trying to keep my voice even and get straight to the point.
"Of course," she said. "Where would you-?"
"Right here is just fine," I snapped and she leaned back with a frown. "Why didn't you tell me what happened to my father? And I mean what really happened to him."
Cori's eyes flickered between mine and she stood silently for five minutes.
"Sit down, Bryan," she sighed. "I know you're angry and you may hit me like you want to. Just hear me out first." I didn't move. "It's a long story, sit down." I threw myself onto the ground. "My mother told me the story before we left. She wanted me to be the one to tell you at the right time. I guess I have found the right time."
The creature was taken through a secret passage. We threw a large tarp over it when we had to drag it over the Bridge, though. We didn't want anyone panicking. Cori and I had been sitting and talking about my father for at least an hour.
The story made me dizzy and sick to my stomach. So that's why David and Angel took us in. David felt responsible.
"Tiberius, you let me out of this room right now!" I yelled through the door.
Down the hall, I could hear Angel screaming in rage as she kicked at the door of the room she was locked in.
"I'm sorry, David," Tiberius said sadly. "You are too dangerous to be out right now."
"Let me out!" I roared. "I'll kill you, Tiberius!"
I heard him sigh. "That is not going to make me want to open the door."
"Just shut up and open it!"
"I am ordering you as your king!"
He didn't respond and I limped to the windows. Our court wizard had magically sealed them, though, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get them to open. I threw an arm chair at the door but it just left a scratch.
"Tiberius!" I roared, pounding with my fists. "Let me out of this damn room right now! I'll kill you! You've betrayed your king!"
In other parts of the castle, similar things were happening. It started with Sally. She had launched herself at a guard, something completely out of character. I walked in on them locked in an embrace, trying to unclothe each other. I tossed the guard in the dungeons and locked Sally in her room.
Then Christina started screaming about her deceased husband still being alive. She tried to run out but Tiberius held her back. She slapped him several times. She was locked in her room, too.
Angel and I were at dinner and she was chewing loudly. A little too loudly. I asked her to stop. She snapped back. The next thing we knew, we were locked in separate rooms and they had taken my cane away. The only one who didn't seem affected was Tiberius.
"What have you done to my castle!?" I shouted.
"Nothing, King David," he responded. "I was trained to control my emotions. Trust me, I'm being tortured just as much as you are."
"I'm not being tortured!" I argued. "I'm locked in a room by someone who is supposed to be my best friend!"
"Shut up, David!" Angel screamed from the hall. "You're not the only one suffering!"
"You shut up, Angel!" I retorted.
"Or what? You'll beat me with your cane?" She let out a high pitched laugh. "Oh! That's right! They took it from you!"
She laughed some more.
"Just as long as they don't give you a dagger!" I yelled back.
"You bastard!" she screeched and I heard her resume trying to get her door open.
"You'll regret saying that to each other," Tiberius said loudly enough for both of us to hear. "Until this stops, I'm afraid you have to stay here."
Angel and I screamed in rage.
At dinner, I was sitting with my friends. I played the flute for them, what little I had managed, and Onvyr applauded.
"Wonderful," he smiled. "I told you that all you needed was practice."
I beamed. "How goes interrogating the creature?" I asked Wren in an undertone.
"Bryan won't let us in there," he muttered back. We both moved closer to each other for some reason. "Is he still mad at you?"
I shook my head, frowning. He touched my hand briefly.
"He isn't happy, though. I wish I hadn't been the one... to... tell...."
My jaw dropped. My mother was running to me, tears streaming down her face. I stood just in time for her to tackle me, sobbing in my shoulder and saying something about being safe.
"Mother?" I asked and stared beyond her. "Father? What are you doing here?"
"We're taking you home," my mother said, pulling on my arm. "Right now. Come Corstelis."
"No. I'm staying," I said. "I still have a week left!"
"Something's wrong at the palace," Father said. "David and Angel are... insane with anger but we can't figure out why. Christina is trying to get out and dig up her husband, convinced he's still alive. There are other things. It's the forest, Cori. It's doing something."
"Why haven't you been affected?"
"I can only assume it's because we are supernatural beings," my father said.
"I'm not leaving without Bryan."
"He can't come with us. He will be affected, too."
I looked to my friends sadly. Wren had gotten up and left the table. I watched him walk to his house, biting my lip.
"May I speak?" Ryllae said and we all looked at her. "Perhaps...." She glanced at her brother. "There are a couple people she needs to say goodbye to," she said finally. "Are the two of you hungry while we wait?"