“O-oh! Yes, sir!” The girl named Kimber bowed. She snuck a glance at Zane and Alastair, blushed, and then darted off in the opposite direction. The boys watched as she wove through flustered customers, mothers with children, and merchants.
“There’s no way they’ll be a secret now even if we wanted them to be,” Tipper said. For the first time since the children met him, they saw fondness etched into his usually grumpy face. The kindness made his golden eyes, already captivating, even more enlightening. “We should follow the path she cut for us.”
Thanks to Kimber’s eagerness to deliver Perceval’s message, getting through the crowd of fox creatures was more simple than Alastair had initially thought. Despite the creature’s large tails, they were also surprisingly quick on their foxy feet. Quicker than him, that was for sure.
All too soon, the party had stopped before the most elegantly crafted and largest hollowed out tree trunk of them all. This tree was big enough to house an entire palace, and that was exactly what the fox creatures had done. Polished wooden steps led up to the grand double door entryway. Lining the steps were lanterns filled with purple flames that were a little brighter than Tipper’s black fire. Beautiful, hand crafted balconies with grand glass windows decorated the outside of the tree palace. Lila caught a flash of movement in the window closest to them and assumed that was Kimber coming back for them.
Lila was spot on with her assumption. Kimber had indeed come back for them. She delicately walked out from the double doors with an expression of importance. She clearly was enjoying the task Perceval had put upon her shoulders.
“The Elder is waiting for you in the Parlor room,” Kimber announced imperiously. “Please, let me escort you.”
“We are going into a palace,” Gabbie whispered into Alastair’s ear. “Is this really happening right now?”
“You’re asking that, now?” Alastair replied.
“Who knew that fox people could make a tree palace? I sure didn’t. That’s why. Or maybe everything is catching up with me. I don’t really know. I haven’t been transported to an unknown planet to understand how I really feel on the matter.”
“I feel fascinated. I want to write everything down. I don’t think my sketchbook has enough room, though,” Zane said.
“I just wanted to play my game. I’ll never get those diamonds, now.” Ginger shook her head.
“I want Mom and Dad,” Lila said.
“And I would like to get you children safe inside to meet the Elder, yet instead we’re all chatting about our feelings.” Tipper spread his arms and got behind the kids. “Come on now. Scoot, scoot.” He corralled the children up the palace stairs.
“Great tact as usual, Tipper,” Perceval sighed. “Don’t force them up, you fool. They are children. Kids. Children, prophecy or not, must be protected.”
“That’s precisely what I’m trying to do. I am taking them inside to a safe, comfortable place where they can eat cakes and pastries while the Elder tries to find out who they are and where they come from. After that, we can make a plan suited to their wants and needs. But I can’t do that with them gaping at everything here like they’ve never seen it before!”