Author: Ravenclaw-Girl28 PM
Broken and near death 15-year-old Harry James Potter stumbles upon the land of Deltora during the time of the Shadow Lord's rule. Taken in by a familiar peddler, Harry creates a new identity and becomes what Deltora needs the most...a Protector.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Friendship - Harry P. - Chapters: 17 - Words: 101,379 - Reviews: 182 - Favs: 263 - Follows: 327 - Updated: 11-02-12 - Published: 08-29-10 - id: 6280503
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Chapter 16 – The World Beneath
Previously on Deltora's Protector:
Harry Potter was tortured for months in a prison known as the Island. During his stay he lost his voice and as such can no longer speak. A rescue attempt was made and while Harry managed to get out, it wasn't in England he returned to. He was washed ashore the western shore of Deltora and taken care of by Verity, the spirit girl of Bone Point Lighthouse. Shortly afterwards he met Steven, Nevets and Queen Bee. He was renamed Aiden and spent a few months recovering at Queen Bee's orchard. One day he snuck away to the City of the Rats and became the owner of a fine bracelet. Aiden joined Steven on his rounds and during his adventures became friends with the Ralads, a Dread Gnome, the Resistance and became an enemy of the Shadow Lord.
The seven Great Gems of Deltora have been returned to the Belt of Deltora. Lief of Del has been identified as Heir, and the Shadow Lord has been driven from Deltora back to the Shadowlands. But now there are innocent Deltorans stuck in the Shadowlands and there is a cry for Lief to rescue them. But there is still much to be done before a rescue attempt could be considered.
The adventure continues...
"Why'd it have to be me?"
"Because there is no one else I would rather serve and protect," Aiden told him seriously. "There is not one single person out there at this very minute who could wear the Belt of Deltora and watch over this land the way that you will. You are not like the Kings and Queens of old, you can empathize with your subjects. That is another reason why I wanted the children in the palace tomorrow. This is your first birthday as King, what better way could you celebrate than by doing it with the future of this country? These children will always remember that instead of locking yourself away, you welcomed them into your home to make your birthday a good day. They already know me from when I hide in the city, but as you said earlier, you haven't been beyond these walls. Hiding in the blacksmith forge doesn't count as no one knows you're there. You are their hero, you saved them, and meeting you will give them hope."
"You really think that?" Lief asked.
"I do," Aiden replied. "Don't doubt yourself, my King. Just be yourself and everything will work out in the end. You will find a living Heir, you will find a way to save everyone from the Shadowlands, and you will be happy. Now, I'm off to get you a present, I will see you tomorrow."
"Wait!" Lief cried. "Before you go, take me to the forge? I want to be somewhere I feel safe, just for tonight."
Aiden nodded and flashed both of them to the forge. Lief retreated to his room, and Aiden renewed the protection on him for the hour or so that he would be gone. When he got back he would sleep in the forge, and bring them back to the palace before the sun rose. Lief's spirit needed to remain unbroken, for otherwise Deltora would fall. Aiden wouldn't let that happen.
Too much depended on him.
Aiden spent the night in the forge in his phoenix form, resting on Lief's headboard so that when the young King woke he would spot him instantly, and know that he was still safe. It was also in the early hours of the morning that Aiden handed over the small opal that was a perfect match to the one in the Belt. Lief had been ecstatic once the opal fell into his hand.
"Where'd you find this?" he asked. "Doom and I have been searching the treasury for days now."
"I went to the orchard," Aiden admitted as he helped to clean up the small mess they'd made. "It's where Bee got my one, and I know she keeps finding them when she tends to the orchard trees. So I asked her for one. She didn't ask questions so wipe that frown from your face. She trusts me."
"I know that," Lief said slowly. "But the more people who know that I'm looking for small gems that resemble the ones in the Belt…"
"Who says I asked for one for you?" Aiden interrupted grinning. "I get that secrecy is important at the moment. I may have led Bee to believe that I have found myself a girl, one I wanted to impress with an opal."
Lief laughed, and the tension was broken. Aiden flashed them both back to the palace, but to be on the safe side he had them land in the chapel where the palace dead were mourned. The two of them went from there to the kitchens, where they learnt that Lief's disappearance had been noticed…again. Lief groaned and most likely would have dropped his head onto the table if Aiden hadn't dropped a hand on his shoulder in warning. The kitchen staff didn't need to see him acting like a normal teenager.
While Lief ate his breakfast, Aiden spoke with the cook about the preparations for the children, and informed her that he wanted to eat in the courtyard as it was a nice day. The cook agreed with him and promised that lunch would be ready when he was ready for it. Aiden grinned at her happily, and she shooed him away with Lief after wishing him a happy birthday.
As they left the kitchens they were spotted by one of the advisors. Lief softly groaned before turning so that he could deal with him, but Aiden promised that he would be back as he needed to grab the children. With reluctance, Lief nodded and Aiden ran off before anyone could stop him as well.
Minutes later he was back at the fountain where already a dozen or so children were waiting with their parents. A few of them cheered when they spotted him, and Aiden grinned.
"Good morning children," he greeted. "And have you been good for your parents?"
"Yes!" they all cheered. Aiden eyes darted up to confirm with the adults, and they all nodded to his unasked question. His grin widened and he sat down so that he could wait for the other children he knew were coming. He couldn't see Molly, and he knew that the little girl wouldn't miss out on an adventure into the palace.
"Alright," he began. "We're just going to wait for the others. And then when we get inside we'll explore a bit, have some lunch that the cook has agreed to prepare for us, and then I'll bring you back home to your parents. Does that sound good?"
"Yes Protector!" the children replied. One of the parents nervously cleared her throat, and Aiden looked at her with his head tilted to the side.
"Pardon me, Lord Protector, but why are you taking the children into the palace?"
"That is a very good question madam," Aiden told her, not hinting to his distaste at the title 'Lord'. He turned to the other adults and let his voice carry so that all may hear him. "Today is our King's birthday, and he wanted to celebrate with the people of Del. Seeing the children happy, and welcoming them into the palace, would bring him great joy. That is why I am bringing them with me."
"His birthday?" one of the children echoed. "Today's the King's birthday?"
"Do we need to get him a present?" another asked.
"You are his present," Aiden promised. "And if you enjoy yourselves today then I promise it will be the best ever birthday for him. Understand?"
"Protector! Protector! Don't leave without me!"
Aiden turned at the call just in time to catch little Molly as she launched herself at him. He laughed and held her still on his lap, nodding to Molly's mother. His gaze swept over the children, quickly counting off thirty-two. With a decisive nod he stood, setting Molly onto the ground as he did so, and pulled out his flute. He gestured for the children to follow him and then began a merry tune that they could dance along to as they got closer to the palace. He felt like the Pied Piper, leading his loyal followers on a merry game. The thought made him smile.
The guards at the gate didn't stop them from passing, though they did give Aiden a few strange looks. Aiden merely glanced at them, music still flowing from his flute. The children looked around in amazement, not one of them so much as considering running off for a closer look at something. Aiden directed them to stand around the Entrance Hall.
The Entrance Hall was used for the monthly meetings, and was also where most assassination attempts had been made, but as it was the first place in the palace most people saw, Aiden knew that they would need to start there. He changed the tune he was playing, turning to look up the stairs, and all the children followed his gaze. They seemed to be nervous all of a sudden. Aiden put his flute down.
"Remember," he whispered to them. "The King used to live in the city, and he'll be really happy if you act friendly with him. And don't forget to wish him a happy birthday."
"Yes Protector," the children chanted at him. Aiden sighed with a fond shake of his head. No matter what he had tried, not one of the children even considered calling him by his name. He hoped that Lief wouldn't mind being called King, Your Majesty, or some other name the children came up with.
From the top of the stairs appeared Lief, and if Aiden hadn't known better he would have said that Lief looked perfectly in control of himself. However, since he did know Lief better he could tell that Lief had run to be at the stairs in time, and that he was annoyed about something. The children all gasped in awe, and even warning them that Lief liked to treated normally, they all bowed respectfully. Aiden and Lief shared a grin, though Aiden's also had a question in it. Lief shook his head slightly, signalling that he would discuss it later.
Lief spread out his arms in welcome, and was perfectly friendly in his greeting to the children. They all wished him a happy birthday, just like Aiden asked them to, but from there it was like they didn't know what to do. Lief led the children up the stairs and down a few corridors before opening a large door and directing the children inside. Aiden following in behind, and let out a low whistle. He hadn't been in this room before.
"This is where the palace guards train and improve their skills," Lief explained to the awed children. "I figured we could play around a bit, see if we can tire out Barda."
"Thank you, Lief," Barda stated, catching the grin Lief sent his way. "Are these my new recruits then? Aiden, finally decided to enter the training room?"
"It's a very nice room," Aiden told him. "I can see why your muscles are as big as they are. What do you think children, do you think that we can make him cry defeat?"
The children all grinned in anticipation, and Barda's grin slipped a little before returning. He did always like to be challenged, and his recruits could do with a little babysitting for the afternoon.
The training room was massive, and that was an understatement. There was a large open area in the middle of the room for duels with and without weapon, weight machines along the walls to build up muscle, a running track to build up stamina, and Barda was the trainer who built up endurance. Aiden was impressed, and he could see that Barda had put in some effort to giving the children something entertaining to do.
"Well," Barda began, running his hands together. "Have any of you played tug of war before?"
Hands rose slowly, but seeing that others were moving, more hands went up with more enthusiasm. Barda grinned.
"Excellent! I have this rope on the floor, you see it? My new recruits don't see the point in playing this game, so I've put them on one side, and you're going to be on the other. I want you to bring the white flag onto your side of the line. Sound easy? Let's get to it!"
Aiden went with the children, grabbing Lief's shirt on the way so that he would be working with them. The rope was fairly thick, but still slim enough for the children to wrap their hands around it easily enough. There were two lines drawn on the floor, one closer to the children's side, and one closer to the trainees' side. In the middle was a white flag tied around the rope, and the first line that it crossed would win.
"Alright," Lief said, taking charge with a wink to Aiden. "There are more than thirty of us, and there are only ten of them. We should be able to do this if we work together. So everyone grab onto the rope and we'll show these guards that they're not that tough."
The children giggled and ran for the rope. They lifted it easily enough, and where Lief joined them near the front, Aiden went to the back. The two of them grinned at the trainee guards, and Aiden felt particularly cheerful when a few of them gulped, suddenly nervous. He was aware that these new trainees had only joined because their families encouraged them to do so. Others didn't believe that Lief was old enough to rule them, and the rest bore some illusion that Aiden had cheated in becoming Deltora's Protector. Those men believed that they would make a better Protector and had joined to prove it. It was also those men who grinned back at Aiden in clear challenge.
Barda was the referee, and on his mark both sides started to pull. At first, the trainee guards proved their strength by moving the flag their way, but Aiden, Lief and the children pulled back with equal if not greater strength and slowly but surely the flag came their way. Faces were red, hands went white, and teeth were clenched, but as soon as the flag passed over the children's line and were declared victors they let go to dance around in excitement. Little Molly, like Aiden knew she would, launched herself at Lief's legs in excitement.
"And the children win!" Barda bellowed with a laugh. "That was greatly entertaining. Aiden, you should join us more often!"
Aiden shook his head and helped Lief herd the children to another part of the castle. Over his shoulder he ordered Barda to be on time for lunch, before waving to the trainees. He briefly wondered what Lief was planning on doing next, as he hadn't been able to talk to him, Jasmine or Barda about it before collecting the children…but tug of war had been great.
Briefly Lief led them through the dining room and the throne room, going as far to let the children sit on the throne. Each of them agreed that the throne was really uncomfortable and asked Lief how he could stand it.
"Well, that's easy," Lief replied. "I don't sit on it. If someone wants to talk to me I meet them in the entrance hall, unless it's my advisors and then I use my pillow from my room so that I can sit comfortably. Speaking of, let's go somewhere else before they find me."
The children laughed at the playful tone Lief had used, but Aiden knew that he was completely serious. He wondered if they had cornered Lief during the time it had taken for Aiden to collect the children, and if they had been vocal in their displeasure of disrupting palace life to accommodate the children. Aiden added it to his "to talk about" list and followed the children to the aviary.
He wasn't aware that they'd had an aviary, but Jasmine had requested it when Aiden was away and was in the middle of training birds to carry messages. It must have been a joy for her to discover that Hedwig often carried messages from place to place, as her dedication to her project had increased. Jasmine was going to let the children help feed the birds, and even allow them to hold the birds. The children were really excited about that because they had only been able to pet Hedwig for a short time, but as there were many more birds than children, they were all able to hold them.
They all had a great laugh when the birds pooped on Lief's shoulder, and Lief laughed along as well as Aiden pulled the stain from his clothing. They left Jasmine with happy smiles and Aiden ordered her to join them for lunch. Jasmine waved at him with an acknowledgment but otherwise said nothing.
By now the children were naturally hungry, so Lief and Aiden led them towards the courtyard where the cook had already set up was appeared to be a giant picnic. There were blankets on the ground with food in the centre of each blanket and cups ready to be filled with water sitting beside the food. The children excitedly headed for the food, and Lief and Aiden looked at each other happily.
"Thanks for this," Lief whispered.
"You're welcome," Aiden whispered back. "Who were you running from earlier?"
"My advisors," Lief muttered, good mood temporarily disturbed. "They wanted to talk about cancelling the monthly meetings on account of it being too dangerous. Something along the lines of once I have an Heir I could do whatever I wanted to my health."
"Set Barda on them, he could use a workout especially since his recruits were defeated by children."
"I wish, I'll just have to talk to mother. Sometimes it's like she's the only person they'll listen to, and even then it's only sometimes."
"Go and eat, Your Majesty," Aiden said with a bow. "Your subjects appear to be saving us seats, we wouldn't want to disappoint them, would we?"
Lief shook his head but nonetheless made himself comfortable on the ground and accepted the sandwich Molly was holding out for him. Once he was eating Molly went over to Aiden and gave him a sandwich as well. Laughter echoed out from the courtyard, and eventually Barda, Jasmine, and the defeated trainee guards joined them. The children all wanted to touch the Belt of Deltora, so Lief allowed them to do so under careful watch. He didn't want anyone touching the Opal, but he didn't see any harm in letting them touch the other Gems.
"It's warm," Aaron said shyly.
"It's happy that you're here," Lief told him.
"How do you know?" Molly asked, crumbs all over her face.
"When the people of Deltora are happy, then so is the Belt," Lief explained. "Just like when the land is happy, Aiden knows because he represents our land."
The children laughed a little, though they felt a lot better about themselves after eating and touching the Belt. Only once was the afternoon mood muffled, and that was when one of the little boys asked about the slaves in the Shadowlands. His father had been captured during the Shadow Lord's rein, and he wanted to know if he would ever come back.
"If we find anything that can help us," Lief told them all. "Then we will get our people back. I promise you I will do everything I can to see to it."
Aiden drew in a slow breath at his declaration. How on Earth was Lief going to fulfil that promise? He couldn't pass Deltora's boarder. Not unless he had…an Heir. Aiden's eyes went wide as he understood why Lief was looking so hard for an Heir in Tora, it wasn't just to safeguard the land, it was so that he could personally go to the Shadowlands.
You're going to need more than a decoy to get across the border, he told Lief through their mental link. How do you plan to rescue more than a hundred slaves?
I'm still working on the details, Lief replied without taking his eyes off the boy who had spoken. More thought will go into this plan once I have located an Heir.
Aiden shook his head slightly before gathering all the children together so that they could be returned to their parents. As they were walking the children out to where the adults were waiting at the gates, Molly broke free from the group and ran back to Lief. She had apparently written a birthday card for the King, and had almost forgotten to give it to him. Lief accepted it with a bright smile, before she skipped off to her mother, happy now that she had given her King his birthday present. Aiden laughed softly when he returned to Lief's side.
"So, now that you've had your birthday fun, let's go and find you an Heir," he said quietly so that no one would overhear him. Lief nodded and they turned to walk to the library.
Weeks passed, assassination attempts became more frequent, Lief stopped sleeping from the hours of work he was putting in, and Aiden juggled his freedom with the children with nights in the library. Everyone was exhausted. Doom was helping Lief in the forging of a new Belt, and they were almost done. All that was left was to set the fake gems into it, and keep it hidden until it would be needed. But that wasn't the cause of joy, it was what Aiden had discovered one night in the library.
In his excitement Aiden flashed into the forge holding the paper and proudly displayed them to Lief and Doom, a wide grin over his face. He had found a living descendent of Adin's second child. Lief was excited, and in his excitement it was like his weariness of the hours of secret work had never happened. Doom was also excited, and he pulled Aiden into a hug to convey his relief that their research had finally borne fruit.
"I'll head over to Tora once the sun is up," Aiden explained. "I'm going to talk with Zeean and maybe we could hand this research over to the Torans. After all, the Torans are the ones who have Adin's Heirs living among them."
"Great," Lief said reclining back on his chair and staring at the documents in his hands. "Stay with them for a while and then Doom and I will join you so that we can bring…Marilen…back with us if she is willing."
"Alright, how far off from completion are you?"
"Another two nights and I should be done," Lief said with relief. "Doom can look after me while you're gone. And Barda will be back in a few days so it should be fine."
"I still want you to call me if something happens," Aiden cautioned him, pulled away from Doom's hold. "You're still in a lot of danger, and the enemy is desperate."
"I'll watch his back," Doom promised. "Go sleep for an hour or two. When you wake up, eat something, and then go. I know you haven't been eating again. I'm going to be on Queen Bee's bad side permanently if you don't put some weight on."
Aiden stuck out his tongue at him before taking the papers back from Lief. He flashed back to the library and packed up the documents he would be taking with him, noticing that some of the papers had been moved. He wondered if when he had transformed and flashed away the brief wind had disturbed them, but put it out of his mind. He was beyond exhausted, and not in the least but hungry.
Not wanting to waste time sleeping, he put the papers into a bag and transformed back into his phoenix form. He would sleep on the outskirts of Tora, the magic keeping him safe, and once the sun was at a decent height he would fly the rest of the way into the city.
Moments later he was gone.
"Aiden, how good to see you again," Zeean greeted when Aiden casually walked through the protected passageway. "I wish I could say that you look well, but you look exhausted. When was the last time you had a decent meal or slept?"
"Too much to do, too little time to do it in," Aiden replied. "I need to talk to you about something really important. Are you busy at the moment?"
"I am at your service Protector, what can I help you with?"
The two of them walked to one of the many marble buildings and sat down. Zeean poured them both some tea to drink, and Aiden drank his with a sigh of contentment, he loved Toran Tea. As they drank Aiden pulled out the documents he had collected the night before and explained how they were looking for an Heir in case something fatal happened to Lief. They didn't want to leave Deltora open to attack. Zeean listened as he explained, her facial expression not changing. Once he was done she asked who he had identified.
"A girl named Marilen. She is the descendent of Adin's second child. Our time has been short, but as you probably know, Adin had five children, all of whom married Torans. There are many more Heirs in the city, and Lief and I were wondering if you would like to help?"
"I would be more than happy to help," Zeean said. "I will summon Marilen and her father. Her mother died a long time ago, so I'm not sure how willing her father will be to let her go."
"I would like to speak with them, and if she is willing I could have Lief here in two days if he doesn't get himself killed while I'm gone."
Zeean smiled at him, though she recognised the truth in his statement. Aiden remained where he was sitting, too comfortable to move. In hindsight, he recognised that he'd pushed himself too hard again, and promised to rest as much as he could while he was in Tora. His opal was warning him of another adventure in his future, and he knew Lief had his heart set on rescuing the slaves in the Shadowlands. But his visions only showed him, Lief, Barda and Jasmine…no one else. If they were rescuing the slaves, why were they doing it alone and not with an army? He hoped it wouldn't be a suicide mission.
Aiden startled as a soft voice broke into his thoughts. He turned in his seat and smiled sheepishly at the young Toran girl who had entered the room curiously. Behind her was a man, presumably her father, and Zeean.
"You look tired Protector," the girl told him. "Have you been sleeping at all?"
"Not recently," Aiden admitted. "You are Marilen?"
"I am, Zeean said that you had something important to discuss with me?"
"Please, sit, this may take a while."
Zeean, Marilen and her father sat down across from Aiden, and Aiden began his story again. He stressed the importance of Lief having an Heir in case something happened, and spoke of the long hours in the library combing through documents on Toran families. Marilen took the news that she was an Heir of Adin fairly well, and that was she went pale and probably would have collapsed if Aiden hadn't moved around the table to catch her. She was clearly terrified.
"I couldn't be the Heir of Deltora," she told Aiden. "If anything happened to the King, I don't think I could handle the responsibility. And leave Tora? Aside from the time we spent in the Valley, this has been my home for forever."
"Please understand Marilen," Aiden told her, his hands holding hers on her lap. "You would be a safeguard, nothing more. I have no intention of letting Lief get himself killed. The enemy does not know of our research into Toran families, its attention is more focused on ensuring that Lief tries to rescue the Deltorans in the Shadowlands."
"It has always been a silly tradition for the Kings and Queens to only have one child," Zeean spoke up. "I have these documents with me, and I will begin to track down other Heirs in Tora. The people won't have to fear a King or Queen dying childless now, for Adin's blood still flows through us."
"But to leave Tora?" Marilen's father protested. "Would she be safe in Del?"
"I assure you, no harm will befall Marilen in Del," Aiden promised. "If we can get her there under the cover of dark, no one need know that she even there. And, she will be able to return here as soon as Lief finishes this latest adventure."
"What adventure?" Marilen asked.
"My opal has been showing me visions of Lief travelling through darkness. I know he is trying to free the slaves in the Shadowlands, but I'm hoping between now and the time this vision comes to pass he will have more of a plan then 'let's go to the Shadowlands and see what happens'."
"Will you go with him?" Zeean asked in concern.
"As far as the border," Aiden said, looking up at her. "As much as I would like to follow him, I am Deltora's Protector, not the Shadowlands' Protector. I am unable to leave Deltora's borders while I wear this bracelet, and taking it off, I feel, will only bring another Dark Lord to these shores to finish me off. No, Lief will have to fight on his own."
"There's nothing that you can do to help him?" Marilen asked in horror. "But, if he dies…"
"Then I will return to Del to protect you," Aiden told her, his green eyes returning to her blue ones. "Nothing will happen to you, I promise. And as for not helping him…I think there's something I can do. But I will need to know when he plans to go so that I may arrange it. I know someone who would love to storm the Shadowlands."
"When will you go and ask them?" Marilen's father asked, his hands on Marilen's shoulders. "How long will King Lief be gone?"
"A month or so, I think," Aiden said, closing his eyes and concentrating. "The path I see us taking is, long and dark."
"What if something happened in Del while you were gone?" the man asked further.
"Before I go I will teach Marilen how to contact me," Aiden promised. "As soon as she summons me I will be by her side in seconds. I assure you, she will be safe."
"Are you willing to do this Marilen?" Zeean asked.
"I…may I think about this?" Marilen asked nervously.
"Of course," Aiden told her, shock in his voice. "I would never expect you to give me a decision now. I would like you to think this through. You have to want to be Adin's Heir, for only then will we be safe."
"And if I say no?"
"There are more Heirs in this city," Aiden smiled. "I hope that you all would help in finding more of them. I know there are no secrets amongst the Torans."
"I will give you my answer tomorrow," Marilen assured him. She and her father stood and left the room, bowing at the door. Aiden sunk back further onto the ground.
"Will the Belt accept someone who in not the next in line?" Zeean asked quietly.
"As long as they have my blessing," Aiden told her.
"You are tired, go and sleep. I will have some food brought up during the lunch hour."
"I may sleep through it to be honest, and if anything happens to Lief I will be gone instantly."
"He is fairly trouble prone isn't he?"
Aiden smiled, not answering that question either way. Zeean nodded at him before leaving the room. Over her shoulder she reminded him to get some sleep. Aiden waited until she was gone before dragging his body over to one of the couches. His body sank into it with a tired sigh, and moments later he was unconscious. He didn't so much as stir for the rest of the day, not even when Zeean brought food for him. He was out for the count.
Two days later Aiden felt like a whole new person. He had actually slept for around twenty hours after his arrival in Tora, and Zeean had only stared at him sternly when he had finally woken and enquired about how long he had slept for. She gave him a lecture about not looking after himself properly, and Aiden allowed her to do so, not giving away that it was more than his poor health habits causing his exhaustion. Deltora was dying, and Aiden considered that maybe two to three years had been a little optimistic of him. Two years might have been stretching it.
Marilen had stopped by to talk to him at length about what her expected duties would be while she was in Del, and seemed to be relieved when Aiden promised her that she wouldn't be expected to do anything but remain hidden. They briefly touched on what would happen if Lief died, but Aiden promised her that if another Heir could be found in Tora, then Marilen need not go to Del at all. The blood of Adin and the Protector's blessing were all that were needed to keep the land safe from the Shadow Lord.
"The first Protector was paranoid," Aiden explained when Marilen asked about why his blessing was needed. "So he cast certain spells on the bracelet that linked it to the Belt, so that if it ever broke or the King or Queen was deemed unfit, the Protector of that age would be able to choose another of Adin's bloodline to take over. Unfortunately, some centuries ago the Protector abandoned this land because the Kings and Queens were too weak and the Protector's power was being slowly stifled. Every generation was that little bit weaker, and I suppose that the last Protector knew that they would need to lie low until they were needed again to give back hope to Deltora."
After that Marilen was intrigued about where he had come from, so Aiden explained his past for her. He didn't go into too much detail about the horrors he had seen, but they did discuss the sea creature that had saved his life before he had even seen Deltora. Marilen was positive that the creature had been acting on behalf of the land's wishes, but she was curious as to why Aiden had been picked.
"You say that it's because you had the right qualities," Marilen said. "But could it be more than that? Who's to say that it was an accident? Your ancestor could very well have been the first Protector, and through his bloodline you are able to control the bracelet as Lief is able to wear the Belt."
"But that would mean that the last Protector not only abandoned this land, but completely forsook it," Aiden protested. "I couldn't imagine leaving Deltora and never speaking of it again. No, I know I could never leave this place."
"But somewhere in your family tree, there must be some Deltoran blood."
"Say you're right," Aiden conceded to her. "How would we find out? Most documents in the Del Library were burned by the Kings and Queens of Old. And I don't have access to my family's history."
"The first Protector was not Deltoran born," Marilen informed him. "He came from beyond our shores. Maybe that's why you were destined to stand beside Lief. Both you and the first Protector were strangers to this land, so you see if better than we do."
"I suppose," Aiden muttered. "I will have to think on this. What you say makes a great deal of sense, I will have to go back to the Del Library for more research."
"As long as you're not in there all the time," Marilen laughed. "You have been working way too hard to sleep for twenty hours without stirring."
Aiden shrugged, a little embarrassed at how exhausted he had actually been. Marilen left him shortly after, making sure that he was eating before she left, and went to talk with her father. Lief would be arriving in the morning so she would need to have made her decision by then.
In the early hours of the next morning Aiden was awake and flashing to Del before even realising what he was doing. Still in phoenix form, Aiden hovered in the middle of Lief's room and watched as the boy attacked his pillow with his sword over and over again. He transformed as Doom and Jasmine burst into the room and dropped to the ground lightly, aware that he was only wearing sleep pants.
"Morning all," he greeted with a yawn. "I was hoping to spend a few more hours sleeping before coming back."
"You certainly look better than the last time I saw you," Doom told him, sheathing his sword and turning to look at Lief. Aiden grinned and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
"Yeah, was a bit more tired than I thought."
"You slept for twenty hours," Lief told him, sinking on his own bed tiredly. "I admit that I was envious."
"Twenty hours? Aiden…" Doom began.
"Relax dad, we're all doing our part to protect this land," Aiden stated before Doom could continue. "Besides, I didn't have any scorpions in my bed this morning."
"Yeah, that could have ended badly," Lief agreed.
"How can you two be so calm?" Jasmine demanded of them. "If you had put your head on that pillow Lief…"
"Fortunately, I did not," Lief told her. He looked at his soiled sheets with dismay and was about to strip them but Aiden waved his hand and got rid of the stains. Lief thanked him with his eyes and lay back on the bed with a sigh of relief. Jasmine ignored them and walked over to the window. She tugged at the bars and they came away in her hands.
"The bars have been sawn through, and then replaced," she said. "So that is how the assassin entered."
Jasmine's eyes narrowed as she took in the rising sun and the fact that Lief was only just now getting into bed. Aiden spotted the look and decided to get rid of the awkward questions by jumping onto Lief's bed and lying down next to him.
"Shove over," he ordered. "Wake me before we need to be in Tora."
"Tora?!" Jasmine spluttered. "Lief, you cannot leave Del now! People are clamouring to see you. You cannot run away."
"I do only what I must," Lief murmured, already half asleep. "You kick me in your sleep Aiden, and I'm going to push you onto the floor."
"You can try," Aiden told him. "Now shut up."
Jasmine continued to splutter even as Doom led her from the room. Aiden cracked his eyes open as they left before sitting up and looking at Lief. Lief sighed, though he didn't open his eyes, but Aiden knew he was still awake.
"I'm done," Lief told him. "We'll leave in a few hours. What did Marilen say?"
"She'll have a decision made by the time you get there," Aiden whispered back, conscious that there may have been others outside listening in. "I am confident she will come, though. I like her."
"Of course you do."
"Go to sleep Aiden."
"Go to sleep yourself."
"And don't let mother see you without a shirt on, we can count your ribs."
"I haven't been hungry."
"You're never hungry."
"It takes too much energy to eat."
Lief opened his eyes and stared at Aiden seriously. Aiden was still sitting up, but with the direction the conversation had taken he had pulled his knees up to his chest to hide his body. Aiden looked at him once before turning his head so that he wouldn't have to look at him.
"You told me that you were able to recover the energy that the land takes from you easily."
"I could," Aiden whispered. "But I don't think you quite understand what is happening to Deltora. Something is poisoning this land, and the more energy I give it, the faster the poison spreads."
"Were you going to tell me?"
"I was going to after the slaves were freed from the Shadowlands. It's what we should be focusing on. Once you have silenced the enemy's voice in the streets, you can focus on the internal problems."
"How serious are the internal problems?"
"Not as serious as freeing the slaves," Aiden told him. "I'm going to head back to Tora. Something about the city prevents the land from leeching off me, and I have been able to regain some of my energy."
Lief nodded, though Aiden could tell that he hadn't relieved any worries that Lief had had, only added to them. Still, it was good to tell him. As King, Lief needed to know that his land was dying in order to do something about it, and Aiden knew that he couldn't do it by himself. In the past he may have thought he could, but he knew that the solution would only be discovered by working as a group.
Aiden returned to Tora and curled up under his blankets again. He would sleep for another few hours, and then he would inform Zeean that Lief and Doom were on their way. As he drifted off, an almost unbearably sweet tune echoed in his mind, but he was unconscious before he could think on it.
Lief and Doom arrived in Tora shortly before the sun reached the highest point in the sky, and Aiden thanked the powers of Toran magic for getting them from Del to Tora in only a few hours. Lief was spending a few minutes talking to Marilen, making sure that she knew what she was getting herself into.
"You are willing, Marilen?" he asked her, taking her hand in his. If Aiden hadn't known better, he would have thought that Lief was proposing. A grin spread across his features and he had to physically restrain himself from laughing. He could only image the rumours that would be spreading like wildfire across Del. He wondered if he should start up a betting pool on who would be the most vocal that Lief was looking for a Toran wife.
"Toran magic will not protect Marilen so far away in Del," Marilen's father said, still unsure about letting Marilen leave. "She is my only child, and very precious to me."
"Marilen is precious to the whole of Deltora now," Doom said kindly. "She will be well guarded."
"Whatever I have will be hers," Lief promised. "And my mother will treat her as her own. I know that she's always wanted a daughter to spoil."
"Her own mother would have been very proud this day," Marilen's father murmured.
"I am willing," Marilen said, her eyes flickering to Aiden as a blush stole over her pale features. "It is a great honor. I will try to be worthy."
"You will not have to try, Marilen," both Zeean and Aiden said at the same time. They looked at each other in slight surprise before they grinned. Zeean turned back to Marilen so that she could continue.
"This day will do much to undo the evils of the past," Zeean gestured to the documents that Aiden had brought over days earlier. "It is not the way of Torans to keep old writings. We left that to the librarians on Del. A mistake, perhaps, but we will study these carefully now."
"Indeed," Marilen's father agreed fervently.
"Thank you," Lief said. "And there is something more that-"
"Perhaps we should leave Marilen to prepare for her journey?" Doom interrupted smoothly. Aiden wondered why, as he had discussed the journey that he knew Lief would be undertaking soon and what she would be expected to do when they were gone. He wondered if this was just some way of protecting Marilen from the horrors that were still plaguing Deltora.
Marilen left the room with her father, but Zeean stayed and poured some drinks for the visitors. She glared sternly at Aiden before he stepped forward from the shadows he had been comfortably standing in and accepted the drink.
"And so, Lief," Zeean said, her eyes still observing Aiden to make sure that he actually drank his tea. "What did you want to ask me, that even Marilen must not know?"
"The prisoners in the Shadowlands," Lief said, leaning forward slightly. "Is there a chance – any at all – that Toran magic could help us set them free?"
Zeean's brow creased as she shook her head. "I am sorry. Our power within Tora is great, but outside our boundaries it is very limited. It could not aid you in your quest to the Shadowlands. Aiden's power has a greater chance than our own, though I don't believe his could extend too far beyond Deltora."
"Anything that I attempt to do from this side of the mountains that will affect the Shadowlands will drain what little energy I have that I'm not already giving to the land. There would need to be something on the other side I could link to, draw upon its power to conserve my own."
"I fear you must accept that there is nothing that would do so, Lief," Zeean continued after Aiden finished his explanation. "According to legend, the only thing that the Shadow Lord ever feared in his own domain was the music of the Pirran Pipe."
Aiden and Lief gasped at the same time, though Aiden was pretty sure that it was for different reasons. While Lief was no doubt listening to the music of the Pipe, Aiden was seeing it. There was a young boy with pale skin, wisps of blonde hair, and large ears who was playing the most amazing song Aiden had ever heard…and he was in the Shadowlands. Aiden had no doubt that they would find this Pipe, and they would make it to the Shadowlands.
"I am alright," Lief said, pushing away Doom's hands. "Aiden? What do you see?"
"Lots of different things," Aiden replied, shaking his head and rubbing his eyes. He laughed a little. "This is going to be a lot of fun."
"Zeean, this Pirran Pipe," Lief said, drawing his eyes from Aiden. "Tell me…"
"The Pipe's magic was a thing of legend, not truth I think, and I know little of it," Zeean told him. "Aiden, if you don't drink all of that I'm going to instruct Marilen to assign you meals and watch you eat them."
Aiden wrinkled his nose and quickly sculled his tea. Marilen was quiet demanding when it came to food, and Aiden had no intention of becoming one of her projects that needed to be fattened up. Lief begged for the story anyway, and Zeean sighed before explaining what little she knew.
"The Pirran Pipe is – or was – a flute, or pipe, of great magic and power. It is said to have existed in the lands beyond the mountains long, long ago…before they became the Shadowlands."
"So – this Pipe existed before the rise of the Shadow Lord?" Doom asked curiously.
"Indeed. I heard of it as a child. From a Jalis traveller I met by the river. It was part of a tale he told me as he caught fish for his dinner. But what the tale was…" Zeean thought back, trying to remember the tale but drew up blank. "I am sorry. It was so long ago. I remember only what I have told you, and the strange, rough looks and speech of the man. Also, that he said…he said the tale was first told to a girl child of my own years, by a black bird."
"Then it was one of the Tenna Birdsong Tales!" exclaimed Doom. "Ancient Jalis folk stories, I have heard Glock speak of them."
"I would not have thought Glock a very reliable source of information," Zeean said dryly.
"His memory is perfect when he is recalling stories of his people," Aiden told her. "He used to tell me about them all the time when I couldn't speak and interrupt him."
"If you say so," Zeean told him. "But if these Birdsong stories are of the Jalis, you can soon find out about the Pirran Pipe. The folk tales of all the seven tribes are in the first volume of The Deltora Annals. Adin insisted that-"
Lief groaned with frustration, breaking into her explanation. Zeean asked him what was wrong and Lief explained.
"All the volumes of The Deltora Annals were burned in the time of King Alton, my grandfather."
"Burned?" Zeean asked, her face one of horror. "But the Annals contained Deltora's oldest history! It was the only record…"
"Indeed," Lief said. "But it was burned, nonetheless, on the orders of King Alton's chief advisor, Prandine. The palace librarian who was forced to carry out the order was a man called Josef. He threw himself on the flames, rather than live with the knowledge of what he had done."
"Terrible," Zeean breathed, and Aiden nodded in agreement. "Why burn the Annals?"
"Because a land which does not remember its history can never learn the lessons of its past," Doom said sombrely. "I fancy those old books contained things the Shadow Lord wanted forgotten. Among them, perhaps, the Tenna Birdsong Tales. One in particular…"
"The tale of the Pirran Pipe?" Lief asked.
"Why not?" Doom asked him. "There are those who claim that many of the old folk tales are based on the truth."
"Steven told me about the Tale of the Sorcerer," Aiden explained. "That story was about how the Shadow Lord came to Deltora, and why he wanted to destroy it so much. It's quite sad actually."
"You cannot surely have it in your minds to try and find the Pirran Pipe?" Zeean asked them, her eyes flickering between the three of them. "Why, that is madness! If the Pipe ever existed at all, it surely exists no longer. Its country has become the Shadowlands! And, whatever the Shadow Lord feared, it did not defeat him."
"We do not yet know the whole story," Lief told her. "There may have been a reason…"
"Indeed," Doom said. "We must return to Del with all speed, as soon as Marilen can be ready. We must speak to Glock. He may not be the most reliable storyteller we could find, but he is the only Jalis left alive in Deltora. The only one who might be able to tell us what we need to know."
Aiden nodded, but already a plan of his own was forming in his mind. He would journey with Lief for as long as the Toran magic could carry them, but then he needed to visit the forests between Raladin and the orchard. There was something that he needed to ask Sion.
By the time Aiden returned to Del, satisfied with how his meeting with Sion had gone, it was to discover that Lief had already run off after Jasmine and Glock with only Barda and Jinx with him, and hadn't told him that he was going. Aiden narrowed his eyes slightly as Doom told him what Lief had done, and the fact that no one knew Lief had even returned.
However, Doom had introduced Aiden to a librarian who had returned from the dead to give them the knowledge they needed. Josef the librarian, who had been assumed dead after throwing himself on the fires of the books, had faked his death and hidden in the city of Del with the entire collection of The Deltora Annals. He allowed Aiden to look at the pages Lief had stared at, and after reading through the story of The Pirran Pipe and The Girl with the Golden Hair, Aiden went to visit Marilen.
"Are you going after him?" Marilen asked once he was in her room. "Is he going to be alright?"
"Once I've finished scolding him he will be," Aiden told her. "Now, before I go I need to walk you through how to contact me if you need me. I will probably contact you every so often so that I can find out what's happening this side of Deltora, and I'll let you know how the quest is going."
"Hands on the Belt, think of me, of wanting to talk to me, and think what you want to say."
Marilen placed her hands on the Belt hidden under her shirt. She was wearing a long skirt, and the way that the shirt fell made it seem that it was all one garment. However, she was able to accurately make a connection with Aiden's mind.
Aiden grinned and placed his own hand on his bracelet.
Hello yourself. Do you think you could do this without me here? All you need to do is keep your hands on the Belt.
I can do this, will you be safe?
"I will be safe," Aiden said aloud. "Lief will be safe, you will be safe, and if anything happens here, and I mean anything, I want you to contact me and I will be here as soon as I can."
"Be careful Aiden."
"Don't worry Marilen," Aiden said with a cheeky smile. "We'll be fine, and if what I expect will happen, happens, then the next time we see each other we will have freed the people trapped in the Shadowlands."
"Good luck Aiden, and don't wear yourself out too much. We need you here too."
Aiden nodded before transforming and flashing away. He appeared high above Del and flew north. He knew where he was going, his opal had already shown him the way. Next stop:
The world beneath…
Next up in Deltora's Protector:
Chapter 17 – Gratitude of the Plumes
On a side note, would you like me to upload the stories of the Pirran Pipe and the Girl with the Golden Hair? If I get enough positive responses that will be the next chapter of this before I go into the next part of this story, otherwise I won't. Sorry it took me so long to upload this. My only excuse was that I read a really cool Digimon/Harry Potter fanfiction (Keepers of the Worlds by thegenuineimitation)and I just had to write a Digimon/Harry Potter story of my own.
So many ideas, so little time to write them all down.