Ch. 46.6 – The dark, silent night pressed in upon Eli. Then he heard a rustle. He turned his head. The tapestry on his west wall moved. For a moment, fear pounded within him. But then a small figure, cloaked in black, crept out from behind the tapestry. Eli’s whole body relaxed, weak with relief.
The gnome rushed to him. With clumsy fingers, he pulled the gag from Eli’s mouth and untied his hands.
“Oh, Sire, I’m so sorry for all that has happened to you. But don’t give up. We have a plan.” Butterfingers opened the bag at his waist and handed the prince small pieces of bread. The scent of gingerbread filled Eli’s nostrils. His mouth watered.
“This is Connie’s gingerbread, straight from the satchel you left at the dragon’s cave.”
Eli ate hungrily. Strength coursed through him. The last nausea from Zelda’s potion vanished.
Then Butterfingers gave him a long drink of cold water from the bag at his side. “It’s safe — from the spring in the Gnome’s Cavern.”
“Thank you. This is so much better than anything I’ve eaten in the last three days. You have no idea.”
Ezra pulled his knees up and yanked at the ropes around his ankles. “Come on, help me untie my feet. We haven’t got a moment to loose. Zelda will be back here in another half hour with my next dose of poison. And we’ve got to get Zelda’s maid away from here.” Quickly he told the gnome about what he’d seen in the tunnels, and about the real Princess Mary Zelda.
Butterfingers didn’t move. “Sire, do you trust Ezra?”
“What do you mean? Everyone in the dragon’s cave is probably dead by now.”
“Take courage, my friend. I am not acting alone. Ezra sends you a message.”
Ezra? His brother was alive? Hope filled him. “What is it?”
“Stay in this room under the blankets, faking that you’re ill. When Zelda brings your next dose, you must only pretend to drink and then sleep. Wait for the signal.”
The gnome handed him a familiar shape. His fingers ran along the sheath, feeling the letters of his name carved into the leather so long ago. Even in the dark, he knew what it was – his vorpal sword.
“When the time comes to use this, you’ll know. Don’t worry, my friends and I will rescue your mother and the real princess. As soon as the battle begins outside, a second troop will enter the castle and confront the trolls inside. Then you will join in the fight.”
Eli frowned, biting his lip. Butterfingers was right. As much as he wanted to escape, he couldn’t without alerting the trolls that something was going on. He had to trust Ezra and his friends. “Be careful.” He slid the sword under his pillow and lay back down.
“I won’t fail you.” Butterfingers loosely retied the ropes around Eli’s hands and replaced the gag. “Remember, wait for the signal.”
The gnome slipped silently out the secret door behind the tapestry.
For the first time since the nightmare had begun, Eli felt hopeful.