spoiler: he gets caught anyway.
Green moss and long strands of ivy covered the old stone walls at the northern part of the castle where it ran into the mountain and encircled a waterfall. The waterfall ran under the castle and the town of Delwood, but nearer the mountain, inside the north wall, elvish forefathers had cultivated a water garden, with arching bridges, of the same make as the type in the capital. And while Delwood was the farthest north city and now a war city, it hadn’t always been that way. There never used to be a wall separating the forest and the castle, but war reaches everyone, even those who used to stand for peace.
Natearon slid his hand over the smooth white bridge as he crossed it, feeling the mist against his face. The waterfall cascaded in colors of silver and white. The air was thick with mist and the smell of earth and water mixed. In the canals of water below his feet, lily pads with pink and white flowers bobbed in the water. He kept walking until he reached one of the floating pavilions and took a seat on a dry bench.
The garden was enormous, with at least five floating pavilions; the one he sat at was the largest, and grandest, reserved for royalty in the old days. It was slightly raised up and had stairs leading up to it, but when there, from his vantage point, he could not only see the rest of the garden, but he could make out the complex curves that formed the insignia of Delwood royalty.
Once, he’d read, when the Emperor and Empress still sat on the throne of Everstar, this had been teeming with life and laughter. At night the stone that made up the canals would light up in the moonlight. Children would be delighted, and the old queen of the north, his mother’s mother, would sit at the pavilion and read the stars to her, stars that reflected in the water and there was much music, and laughter, and joy. Those from the town would gather and all would tell stories and chat, and then their mother would be shooed to bed when the wine was brought out.
Natearon rested his chin on his arm and gazed over the side, down into the murky water. That was before the walls were built and the caretakers had been summoned to war. And though there were still caretakers, there weren’t many who had the time to enjoy the garden anymore, save special occasions. He could just make out the tops of trees over the top of the wall. He could also make out a sentry walking along the wall, doing his rounds.
He missed the days when his mother would hold gatherings here, just like her mother had done. Even in times of war and trouble, his mother always brought light and laughter to everything. Even when battles were hard, she knew the true nature of an elf was to love all things gentle, and so she had brought such gentleness with her. But now, his mother was broken, and beaten by some unknown and horrible force that kept light from her eyes and crushed her soul.
And though there were not many who could come out and seek comfort from the garden anymore, it was the ideal place to research. Where in the library there were eyes, everywhere, those of that snake, his mother’s advisor, who had turned his friend against them and cast out his brother. Natearon had once made the mistake of trusting him, but that had ended in his brother being outcasted and he would never forsake family for anything else.
He unraveled one of the scrolls he had brought with him, dusty and ancient, and started to read. There were many scrolls and books of law in the library, and there were even more of all the loopholes and bypasses. And there were even more case studies, and articles. They had been his first introduction with magic, besides fairy tale. It was a concept that was known in legend, but not thought of now. And he was trying to find out why such a powerful ally could be so neglected. There were many scrolls in the back of the library, the deepest and darkest corner, and that was where he found tales of magic, and detailed instructions of it, all in the oldest language of elves—a language that Natearon had to teach himself to read as it came from the mainland, back when elves had lived on the mainland—back before man.
Natearon cast one more look up at the sentries at both sides, but none paid him any mind, the mists were thick enough to hide him from view. Thinking of Moravynn, branded, humiliated, and naked in the square of the town, he pursed his lips against his anger and bent his head to read the forbidden knowledge that others had forgotten, long ago.
natearon with books!! what a nerd. jk jk.