The jumble of broken tools in the back left corner looked like it had been rummaged through already, but she pushed things aside for another look.
And found a pot with some bad chips around the rim.
Old, she thought as she shifted it to get a better look. And smaller than the others because it was divided into two sections, but still big enough.
As she picked it up, she felt something give way at the bottom of the pot.
Damn. If it was broken at the bottom, it wouldn’t be of any use.
She set it on the potting bench to get a better look at it. Then she just stared.
The small piece that broke off revealed a compartment under the pot—and the corner of a yellowed piece of paper that had been placed inside.
Time was running out. She had to get this pot to Gray before the pear decayed. But even though she was certain she would feel foolish about wasting time when she saw what it was, she took those moments needed to pinch the corner of the paper and use Craft to pass the paper through the pot.
The paper had been folded to fit the compartment and bore the Grayhaven seal. And on the front, in faded ink, was written, “For the Queen.”
Cassidy looked at that corner of the shed and struggled to breathe.
Spells releasing. Realigning. A jumble of old tools that never seemed to get straightened out. Had this been there all along, waiting?
For the Queen.
“Mother Night,” Cassidy whispered.
Then she heard voices shouting. She vanished the paper, grabbed the pot, and ran back to where the others waited.
No time, she thought. Or just enough.
“Found this,” she said, dropping to her knees next to Gray. As he started filling one-half of the pot with soil, she cradled the last honey pear before it sank into the mush of the ones that hadn’t survived.
This is the one that will stay at Grayhaven, she thought as she held it gently while Gray added soil. Maybe the others will be planted in an orchard here on the estate, but this one will grow near the house.
When the last honey pear was safely planted, she sat back, tired and aching, and certain she looked like she’d been rolling in the dirt. Of course,Theran and Gray looked just as dirty.
“Well,” she said,“should we put these pots on the terrace and then get on with our day?”
“They all need water,” Gray said. “We’ll put them on the terrace, and then give them a good soaking.” He grinned at all the people around him. “Looks like we found the treasure after all.”
“Where did you get that?” Theran said. He turned pale as he pointed to the bottom of the pot, where the broken piece revealed the compartment.
“It was in that jumble of old stuff,” Cassidy replied.
He shook his head. “I looked there. I didn’t find anything.”
You weren’t supposed to find it.
“It’s a wishing pot,” Theran said. “I remember that from the stories. The pots came from Jared’s family. The compartment held written messages, wishes.”
“Did you find a message?” Gray asked her, his eyes gleaming with excitement.
A message preserved for centuries. Hidden for centuries. A message for the Queen.
She shook her head. After she read the message, she would decide whether to share it with the others.
Gray helped her to her feet, and the twinges in various muscles changed her mind from taking a fast shower to taking a long, hot bath. The court could wait. The paperwork could wait.
As she reached for the old pot, Theran said, “I’ll take that one.”
Several people gave him wary looks, since his voice sounded sharp, but she looked at his eyes and ignored the voice.
That old pot matters to him. Its history. Its connection. Until the first two leaves break the soil, the pears won’t be valued. But the pot matters to him.
She stepped back and smiled. “Of course.”
Theran took the old pot and walked back to the house. One by one the other men picked up a pot and followed him.
“Do you think there’s anything left in there?” Shira asked as she looked into the chest and made a face.
“Not likely,” Cassidy replied. “The men can turn it over later just to be sure, but I think we found what we were meant to find.”
Shira gave her a long, odd look. “Theran’s part of the family wasn’t the only part that had stories handed down.”
This wasn’t idle conversation, but she had the feeling Shira wasn’t willing to share her thoughts right now.
“I’d better get cleaned up, and get this cleaned up before Gray starts fretting.” She held up her hand.
Still giving Cassidy an odd look, Shira nodded. “And you’ll come by the healing room so I can take a look at that slice in your finger. Since you must have used Craft to keep it bleeding while you planted those pears, I imagine the wound is clean, but we shouldn’t get careless about such things. Not now.”
“What’s different about now?” Cassidy asked.
Shira smiled gently. “I think you’re right. Maybe we have found what we were meant to find.”
Because you found this message, you have set the spells in motion that eventually will reveal a treasure that will help the people of Dena Nehele restore their land. There are no clues, as such. There is no map to lead you to a specific spot as there is in stories. But there are rules. Break the rules, and you break the spells, and what we have hidden remains hidden.
The First Rule:Tell no one you found this message. Tell no one you hold the key to finding the treasure.
The Second Rule: Don’t search for the treasure. Rule the people. Live your life. If you’re meant to find the next piece of the puzzle, you will find it as easily as you found the pot—when the time is right, and not before.
Thera is a gifted Black Widow and wove her spells extremely well. She cannot tell me for certain that the treasure will be found, only that there will be a time when it might be found—a time when Dena Nehele will need it the most. Since you are reading this, that time is now.
I wish you luck, Sister.
Arabella Ardelia, Queen of Dena Nehele
P.S. Most people call me Lia.
Cassidy folded the message carefully and vanished it before picking up the small gold key that had been inside the paper when she’d first opened it yesterday.
Thank the Darkness she hadn’t told anyone about finding the message in the compartment. The possibility of finding the treasure would have ended before it began.
“I have a message that has to remain a secret, and a gold key that fits an unknown lock,” Cassidy said. “Lia, could you have made it any harder?”