Drake gazed around as he entered the park. Two families with what looked like five or six kids between them occupied most of the small playground over to the right. The laughter and shouts of the children floated across the grassy expanse. A few swans floated in lazy patterns on the large pond in the middle. In the far corner, on the other side of the pond, he spotted the man he’d come to meet. Elijah Hightower was stretched out on a bench under one of the large trees that bordered the little park. Drake strolled over.
“Hightower,” he said by way of greeting.
“St. George,” Hightower responded, sitting up and moving to one end of the bench. The two men shook hands and Drake sat down at the other end of the green bench, wincing at the peeling paint. The park was beginning to look seedy without the regular attention of its guardians.
Drake glanced around, noting that aside from the families occupied with their own activities, he and Hightower were the only others in the park. The sun was setting on what had been a very nice spring day. Drake sighed, thinking of the scorching hot days to come. He turned to face Hightower.
“Please tell me you called me here to give me some good news for a change,” he said with a weary sigh.
“I believe it is good news,” Hightower told him, a tight grin flitting across his face.
Drake leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He cocked his head sideways to look at Hightower.
“Seriously? I could really use even the smallest bit of good news these days,” he said.
Hightower leaned back, tilting his head over the back of the bench, and stared into the trees. “The Fae Court has agreed to aid us in our fight against the Necromancers.”
“They did?!” Drake exclaimed. “I honestly didn’t expect that.”
At Drake’s response, Hightower brought his head up and looked over at him. “But don’t get your hopes up too high. They also said that for now, they would monitor the situation and decide when to involve themselves.” He paused. “Given our current situation, I think that means they will move sooner, rather than later. If we fall to the Necromancers, the fight will come directly to the Fae Court. Despite their protests to the contrary, they do have a rather large stake in the outcome of this war. If the Necromancers control our territory, they will have a direct route to the Fae.”
Drake nodded slowly. “If I’m honest, that’s even more than I’d hoped for. I’m very grateful for your efforts and for their offer. Whatever they choose to do will be helpful. And perhaps those that do come work with us will be able to send word back regarding our true situation. I’m concerned that our Queen’s diplomats have been downplaying the situation in the mistaken belief that asking for aid will make Avenor look weak relative to the Fae Court.”
Hightower nodded. “I agree with you. And, since you mentioned our Queen’s diplomats, you should know that Milathen, the Fae King, asked me privately why we hadn’t requested their aid earlier. He hinted that it had been foolish to wait so long and that we were likely closer to absolute defeat than we realize. That is another reason why I believe the fae will involve themselves sooner rather than later. Based on the activity I saw around the Court, King Milathen and Queen Doniria have been quietly preparing for a while. We need to make a formal, diplomatic request as soon as possible.”
Drake stared at gangly man draped next to him on the aging park bench. “It’s that bad? I hadn’t realized,” he muttered, more to himself than in answer to Hightower. How could the Queen have let things get so bad? Why hadn’t she asked for help earlier? Avenor and the Fae Court had entered into alliances in the past. He shook his head. There was no time to worry about the past. He had to get to the palace and speak with the queen. A formal emissary from Avenor needed to be dispatched to the Fae court as soon as possible.
“Would you be willing to return to the Fae Court with another message?” he asked his childhood friend.
“I assume I would not be a part of any official delegation.” Hightower quirked an eyebrow.
“No, you would not. I’d like you to ask Milathen to continue his preparations and let him know that the formal request is on its way. If the Fae Court is already preparing for war to move into their territories, the situation is more dire than we thought. We have to stop the Necromancers before they get to the queen. Can you imagine what would happen to the human realms if an undead queen ruled?” He shuddered and stood up.
“Are you leaving now?” Hightower asked in surprise.
“Yes. I have a couple of other people to talk to before I go in search of Her Majesty.” He gazed around the small park, noting that they were now the only people there. The trees ringing the park gave off a soft glow.
“Oh, and could you turn out the trees before you leave? Thanks,” Drake nodded to Hightower and strode across the grass toward the exit.
“I’m always the one turning out the trees,” Hightower muttered. He stood up and waved a hand around the park. Immediately the soft glow, that had remained after sunset, winked out and darkness descended on the park. “Dammit. Shoulda done that after I was at the gate.”
He only tripped once navigating in the dark on his way out.
I’m a couple weeks late with this response; things have been messy around here. I’m slowly regaining control. My challenge came from Leigh Kimmel: Will the last person to leave the park please turn off the trees. Head over to More Odds Than Ends for more prompt responses. They will change your world!