There were all sorts of citizens in the Capitol Gabbie couldn’t even give a good guess at being. There were different shapes and sizes everywhere. Wings, fins, multiple eyes, and scales adorned every person in the crowd. They milled about their daily business and left the party to the Queen alone. The roads were clean and perfect. Some of the stones had the faint glint of gold as well as the surrounded structures.
An assault of different smells crowed around Gabbie. There were sweet pastries and sour body odor. There was the fresh scent of water laced with a type of herb and the cloying smell of perfume on prettily dressed ladies. Gabbie couldn’t keep her mind on the song any longer. There was too much to see with too many different people to focus on. She clutch fistfuls of the Snog’s fur and it purred as if it were trying to cheer her up. She had grown extremely attached to the Snog after a few days with the animal.
“What do you think of the song?”
“Oh!” Gabbie jolted awake from the memorizing new sights. “Yeah, the song was wonderful!”
“The bit at the end always gets me right here.” Withers thumped the middle of his chest armor. “I think I sang off key a little there.”
“You were fine.” Digitalis cleared her throat. “Not bad at all my friend.”
“We’ll have to leave the Snogs at a stable, I’m afraid,” Withers said after they traversed a few more blocks. “They won’t be allowed inside the palace and we’ll run out of available stables the closer we get inside the Capitol.”
“I’m going to miss you, my friend.” Silverskin gave his stead a hug. The Snog must have reminded him of Opale because the animal’s fur was opalescent just like the Deerne’s. The elf boy cleared away moisture from his eyes and hopped down from the Snog. The animal purred sadly.
Withers took the three Snogs by the reigns and registerd them into a nearly full stable as the three friends waited. The Valkryie came back.
“There we go. Let’s push on, shall we?”
They trudged up the road pockmarked with signs and street directions. Only a couple onlookers watched them as they attempted to avoid eye contact. Causing trouble in such a congested city wouldn’t do them any good. They at last arrived at the Palace polished silver gates. Two guards were positioned on either side of the opening. They were dressed just like Adriei and Agile. A pang of sadness struck Gabbie. Their guards friends had been so helpful and kind. What had happened to them? These guards were stony and expressionless in contrast. Gabbie imagined the famous guards in their red uniforms and fuzzy black hats stationed at the Buckingham Palace. Were these two ordered to stay exactly like that?
“Hello,” Withers said with a graceful bow. Some of his long silver hair spilled over his shoulder. “I have brought Master Grawr of the Night Mare’s guests. He sent a messenger a couple days of go, yes?”
The guards remained silent.
“Oh, um, ehem. H-here is what he gave to me.” Withers plucked at a pocket until he produced a rolled up scroll just like with Zane’s rolled up piece of paper. He offered the scroll that the guard ignored. “Um, t-this is for y-you. Or rather the Queen.”
“Withers, why are you so scared?” Silverskin asked.
“These are the Queen’s Guard,” Withers said as if that meant something more serious than what it truly was. “You know? Brutal. Ruthless. Can kill people with their teeth.”
“But Agile and Adriei wouldn’t hurt anyone. At least, the people who weren’t trying to do the teeth killing,” Gabbie protested.
“Agile? Adriei?” One of the guards said, breaking their silence. “You know of them? Are they safe? They have not reported back in a week. Very much unlike them.”
“Aha!” Gabbie snatched the scroll from Withers and walked up to the guards. Withers inched back, seemingly happy to no longer deal with the guards. “We’ve come with news about those two and Rockestel. Actually, we have more than just that. But we have to speak with Queen Inana as soon as possible.”
“I see.” The guard who spoke took the scroll and cracked the seal. They read the paper quickly and passed it to the other guard. “Fine. I shall take you to see Queen Inana.”
The nameless guard turned and touched something on the gate. Gabbie didn’t knew whether what they touched was a button or a gear or if they used magic altogether. Either way, the gate creaked open. Gabbie could feel her chest tighten and the blood within her veins rush up and around her body. They were going to at last meet the mysterious Queen who was supposed to fix everything. She had traveled far from the Network Prairie to the Kitsune Woods and Blood Clot Forest. She saw the rise and fall of Rockestel and survived the vicious Bull Fists in the Forgotten Valley. From the city of Crat all the way to the Royal Palace this was at last the moment she’d witness the famous Queen Inana.
The walk from the gate through the Royal Gardens was a blur. Gabbie was completely wound up. She wanted to jump up and down or to yell at the top of her lungs. She held back knowing that Ginger would give her an earful if she ever found out that Gabbie acted erratically in the Queen’s Palace.
The guard took them along grand hallways lined with familiar paintings and windows filled with crystal stained glass. There were rooms and areas Gabbie knew she should be impressed by, but she couldn’t possibly pay attention to any detail. All she could focus on were her steps.
A ringing began in her ears, sharp and metallic.
The guard knocked on a set of doors. Beyond those very doors, the ones inlaid with a marbled pink and blue stone, was Queen Inana.
“Your Grace. Your vistors have arrived.”
A pause. And then.