Alright, I changed this chapter to be the final draft version. No more comments about the queen not being ablt to speak, she can.
The discovery of Princess Diana outside the dungeon safe raised a clamor. The letter that was found on her raised an uproar that shook the city. Due to her involvement with most sections in the army, the princess was immensely popular with the men in the various factions. Mary was barely able to keep a lid on tensions at the base camp and was forced to send a request for help alongside the report on the princess.
Naturally, the news spread quickly in the city and caused quite the scandal within the nobility. The letter had been signed by the royal seal, a magical artifact that only worked in the hands of an individual with royal blood. There were ways to overcome the magic, but they were rare and expensive to find. Rumors began circulating that at least one member of the royal family was making a power play for the throne. Of a more minor note, the rumors of the mysterious rescuer "Doc" became a hot topic among the ladies of both common and noble birth. As nothing was known about him, various tales of his dashing nature became popular in the taverns and social gatherings.
In response to the growing tension, King Duran ordered a full investigation into the letter and assigned his best men to track down the culprits responsible. The princess had been conscious long enough to name her attackers before settling back down to rest. The royal physician assured the king that she was merely resting and would awaken eventually.
At the current moment, King Duran and his family were all present in the throne room as the investigators gave their report. Besides King Duran and his wife Queen Nia, also present were the first prince James, second prince Marcus, third prince Kenneth, first princess Hilda, and third princess Shiva. King Duran had recalled Prince James and Prince Marcus from the royal institute in response to the allegations. The two princes were learning the various skills necessary to run a kingdom, with the understanding that one of them would marry into a different family. The youngest, Princess Shiva, was a young child of 15 years and more interested in boys than anything else. She was a well-known beauty with a flock of admirers that obeyed her every command.
The last investigator finished his report on the letter's destination, explaining how Sir Koran had seen the letter being delivered to his man Hank at night, but had been ignorant of its contents. As the princess hadn't named him as part of the attack, suspicion was lowered around the adventurer, though thing king privately made a note to investigate the man further.
"You are dismissed." He said, waving the man away. The knight bowed and left the room to the family. King Duran turned to his family and sighed.
"If any of you have anything to add to this, I will forgive your actions as long as you admit it in the next few minutes."
Hilda, who had been bawling through the entire ordeal, managed to croak out, "She, she asked me for help getting her to the camp. I handed a letter to a guard to deliver to the ranger captain, but the captain told me he never got it."
The queen hugged her daughter closely, cooing sweet words to calm her down. The king sighed wearily as he leaned his face into his hand. Indeed, when asked the ranger captain revealed he had never heard of the letter in question. His story was verified when the letter was discovered in the garden buried under some freshly moved dirt. Tracking mages had easily found it, but could not locate the guard who should have delivered the letter.
That meant a skilled mage was involved; one with at least the same level of skill as the royal trackers. King Duran groaned as he considered the game being played. "At least it's obvious this wasn't a power play by our family."
Little Shiva turned curiously toward her father. "Why do you say that with such certainty father?"
The king smiled softly at his youngest daughter, "Well, because Diana was very far from inheriting any political power from the throne. James and Marcus are competing against each other for the throne after I retire, and I know she wasn’t an important part of eithers’ plans."
The brothers nodded, eyeing each other. They shared the most interesting relationship within the family, actively competing against each other in silent battles of influence, wealth, and competitions of strength. Ironically enough, the two liked each other well enough that when the principal heir was announced, the loser would still be happy. He would also still hold sizable influence in the city.
"Kenneth has never wanted power in the city, preferring his ranger duties." King Duran continued. Ken nodded, his desires well known everywhere and by everyone. He had no interest in matter beyond his military duties, much to the regret of his mother who desired grandchildren.
"Since Diana has never held the interest of courting men or holding political power, I doubt you, Shiva or Hilda, had any interest in seeing her gone. I expect, with her popularity in the army, she would be an important ally to both of you." King Duran sighed again, leaning back, "Which makes it a mystery of why anyone would want her gone. If other members of the family were also attacked, I'd of thought it to be an effort to destroy the bloodline. As it stands, nothing else has suffered except our reputation. To make things worse for the culprit, the men within our forces are surging with bloodlust after hearing about Diana’s plight."
"Father." Prince James spoke up, "Would it not be wise to investigate what happened in the dungeon itself?"
The king turned to regard his son, "How so Prince?"
The prince cleared his throat, "The reports state she was found at the entrance days after she entered it. The men who attacked were never found, but according to her they died the same day they entered. The newest dungeon report states that it has gained the power to create multiple realities within itself, which collaborates with the story. I doubt the existence of this so called rescuer, yet someone or something was responsible for her safety. The midwives have confirmed her chastity intact, yet our sister is severely weakened. There is no doubt the letter was used to some effect on her."
"If the dungeon can hold copies of itself, it is unlikely we would ever find the original tunnel of which she entered." Prince Marcus spoke up, "That being said, I find myself at the rare opportunity to agree with my fellow prince. The dungeon holds some clue, even if we have to dig it up from the bowels of the earth to find it."
King Duran considered for a moment, "Send trusted men into the adventurer groups that will be raiding the dungeon. Have them check for anything unusual while they are down there. Also, keep an eye on Sir Koran. He may seem innocent, but those were his friends who attacked Diana. If anything, a man's company reflects the man himself. I am going to check on my daughter."
Dismissed, the siblings bowed and left the room, Hilda being led by Ken and Shiva. Queen Nia walked over to her husband and took his arm. He smiled up at her, "My dear, the gods know how you are a light upon my life."
She twinkled at him, pulling him up. An accident many years ago had robbed the queen of her voice, but she managed to find ways to talk to her family by using magic to change her eye and hair color. More recently, a techno-mage had created a device that recreated her voice when hung around her neck. The twinkle in her eye expressed amusement. It was followed by a sad deep blue as she hugged her husband.
"I know my dear; I'm worried for her too." With that, the two left the throne room and headed to the royal infirmary. As it was, the princess was currently the only patient within its walls.
The couple took her hand and bowed their heads, praying to the gods of light for healing and guidance. One of the healers came over to them and bowed to them.
"Greetings your royal majesties, I am the healer in charge of the princess.” As they obviously were nervous, the healer quickly continued, "As you can see, she is sleeping soundly and in the process of healing. We have treated her as best we could and limited magical healing to a minimum in order to allow her to recovery naturally.”
“Naturally, but isn’t that terribly slow? Why can you not heal my daughter now?” The queen asked frantically.”
The healer shook his head, “We dare not heal her body too fast, as her mind is what we worry most for. The letter she was found with most certainly caused her a great deal of grief, so it is important both her mind and body heal together so she does not suffer further injury.”
"We understand,” The king said gravely, taking his sobbing wife into his embrace, "How severe were her injuries?"
The healer turned to the princess and began pointing out the various bandages and wraps, "There were injuries consistent with running and falling from a height, resulting in multiple bruises and a broken arm. From what my assistant has found, the assailants were unable to lay their hands on her directly and we have verified through magic she remains pure. When she revived, she was barely coherent enough to name her attackers and their claims so her mind seems to be working. Our biggest concern remains that she may have come in to contact with a rare poison or her minds retreats indefinitely into her body. Thankfully from what I have found, she has not been poisoned and her body should recover in time. Her mind on the other hand, that is something we will have to wait and see."
As the Queen sobbed and hugged her child, her body began to glow red as her battle aura came into being. Knowing his wife’s temperament when angered, the king quickly hugged her. "Have no fear my love, those responsible will be punished, I assure you." He quickly led her out of the room as he hurriedly thanked the healer.
“King husband,” The queen growled in anger, “I will personally burn all who dared to lay their hands on my daughter.”
The king nodded as he walked her swiftly to the training hall where she could take her anger out on the magical dummies. After all, his wife was one of the strongest mages in the kingdom and rarely ever lost her temper. When she did, however, it assuredly spelt disaster for the castle and his coffers.
As the two walked away, a dark-hooded figure stepped out of the shadows and observed them. As the two disappeared around the corner, the figure spoke into a softly glowing stone. “The king remains ignorant of the plan. Shall I execute the princess as a precaution?”
The figure paused for a moment, listening to the response. It bowed its head, “As you command, she shall remain as she is. I will take me leave.”
It pocketed the stone and eyed the door to the infirmary for a moment. It growled as it thought of the princess within. "Curse you child for throwing my plans off. Curse to those fools who failed to carry out their instructions properly. And to this mysterious ‘Doc’,” it growled one more time, “You will regret interfering in this affair, this I assure you.”
The figure moved back into the shadow, and was gone.