“When are you going back to the castle for the sword?” Tanith asked, sitting beside me in the library.
For once, the castle was quiet since Gina had gone to spend the evening with the harpies and had dragged Euclid along with her. I assumed Flavian was raiding the kitchen again for more cinnamon and Ferguson was with him, munching on some turnips Eva had allowed him to have. Eva herself was doing the dishes and doing her best to keep Flavian from finding the cinnamon. Drago was presumable out in the forest taking a walk with Bede as he usually did every night. Manny was quietly rearranging the books in the library according to size and I had a pile of them sitting on my lap, patiently waiting for them to be removed. Virgil was probably once more locked in his room, writing yet another volume of poetry that would be printed and bound by Bede and put onto one of the shelves in the library and never opened at all. Gray was pacing around the castle, not quite sure of what to do with himself without Gina. Though the two argued whenever they were within yelling distance of each other, Tanith assured me they really did care about each other and wouldn’t know what to do without the other.
“Are you crazy?” I answered her, turning to look at her in disbelief. “I can’t go back!”
“Why not?” she asked stubbornly.
“I-I just can’t!”
She looked at me crossly and I knew then that I was going back to the Bottlecreek Castle. But of course I couldn’t give up without a fight.
“Why not?” she demanded.
“Your father will have my head if I return without you,” I replied, trying desperately to make it sound reasonable and logical and, from her expression, knowing I had failed to convince her.
“Shane, I need you to return to the castle and retrieve the White Sword. My father is not going to kill you. All you have to do is tell him you found me alive and well, but the only way I’ll be released is with the White Sword.”
I had nothing to say to that. Tanith’s logic is just so much more sound than my own.
“I’ll go when I feel like going,” I said, turning away from her, hoping it was a compromise.
“You’ve got a lot to learn, kid,” Manny said, walking over to us and sitting before us.
“What do you mean, Manny?” Tanith asked.
“Not you, my dear. Sir Shane has much to learn. You don’t go when you want to go; you go when Tanith wants you to go.”
“And since when has she become queen of the castle?”
“Since always,” Tanith said, looking at me, puzzlement glowing in her dark eyes.
“Didn’t you know?” Manny asked.
“This castle is the original Bottlecreek Castle. Eva and I were the first ones to arrive here a long time ago and, unfortunately, the humans were terrified of us and left the castle to us. They then built the other castle and the ruling family continued to reign there. One old lady, though, did remain with us for a time. She was the king’s mother, who had abdicated her throne to her son when she became too old to want to do her royal duties. She was also a bit of a fortune teller and said our rightful queen would arrive when running away from the second Bottlecreek Castle and would be named Tanith. And here she is, our queen. When she arrived, we knew the old lady had been right and she became our lady of shining merit and our queen. She rules this castle.”
“Though I only enforce it when I have to,” Tanith put in. “Like now. All other times, I’m equal with my new family. I really do need you to get the White Sword, Shane.”
“And I really don’t want to.”
“You must,” she insisted. “What if I told you it is necessary not only for the survival of these misunderstood creatures, but also for the survival of myself?”
I glared at her. “Fine. When do you want me do go?”
“Now would be wonderful,” she replied sweetly.