Dondelios was at this time near the height of his powers. At seven octaves old, he had lived through the reigns of two heirs to Talé, the first of which involved severe bloodlettings within the Court. He had watched Santulím from afar, and sensed like the others that the unpredictable King might hurt anyone in Court on behalf of this new favorite.
–The good thing about favorites—he said in conference with the scribes and alchemists.—is that the passion invested in them acts like a two edged sword. Having one’s judgment proven incorrect wounds the possessor of this passion, and he then uses its energy to destroy the object of affection.—
So a plan was set to turn the King against Santulím.
The passages of Celem were growing longer, and in the exuberant energy that burst out at this time the Heirs of Talé traditionally went on a trip to capture Eagles.
Eagle capturing usually required an octave of passages, including a long hike high into the craggy wilds outside of Jotheim.
It was in preparation for this that clever Dondelios made his move.
–Your Lordship—he said in his customary ingratiating tone.—would it not be best to invite your young Alchemist friend along? He may be able to benefit from the experience.—
The King responded with great enthusiasm.
–Yes, certainly! Invite him. Santulím may be able to discover something in the Upper Wilds.–
So Santulím found himself amongst the long baggage train making its slow and cumbersome way along the Fadouil trails outside of Jotheim, the warning of his Jorian Wiseman, who remained behind, ringing in his ears.
–Careful in the Upper Wilds.—he had said.—many a court favourite have failed to return from there.—
The journey took three full passages of Celem to reach the spot ideal for Eagle Capturing. Along th way, Santulím stayed in the tents with the lower court officials, spending his free time while camp was being packed up or dismantled to explore the surrounding wild land.
He was busy inspecting the properties of a mysteriously colored lichen when he heard the soft voice of a fellow youth, an attendant scribe by the name of Lypsum.
–This must be your first trip to the Upper Wilds,–he said kindly.—You must be very careful to mind your step.—
–I will do so, I thank you.—replied Santulím.—it is a treacherous going up here.—
–Indeed it is.—replied Lypsum.
They spent the rest of the day walking the thin track, speaking of their experiences and the lifestyle of the Court. By the end of the passage they reached the hunting grounds.
–I can’t wait to explore the area,–Santulím said.—it is rumoured plants grow here that do not grow further down…–
–Why don’t we go together before Celem begins his journey?—replied Lypsum.—I would greatly love to learn your methods of enquiry.—
And so the young scribe and the young alchemist departed before Celem’s light had filled the thin air around them.
They were well out of sight of the Royal Camp, clambering over boulders and across meadows of mountain grass and the odd scraggly tree brave enough to grow in the harsh air.
–this flower is not in the Alchemist’s Almanac.— Santulím said excitedly, bending over a white flower with six short petals and two long ones. Santulím plucked it and smelled the aroma, removing his long nose that was covered in a fine yellow powder.
–I declare,–began his companion, but then he went silent, for a string of dark shapes was rapidly making their way across the barren meadowland.
–Who dares to trespass upon the Eagle Grounds!—shouted the furious King, followed by his entourage who clung desperately to their inner wind.—Oh, Santulím… I did not expect you to have departed before me!—
The King’s good humour returned to him, though his tone was quiet.
–You must not be here during the hunt, my inquisitive friend. Blundering and noise scares away our prey.—The King pointed to his grey cloak.—we wear these and move slowly to appear like boulders, so as not to frighten them. Well, you could not have known. Best be off back to the Camp. There is plenty to be seen and studied over that way.—
–What is the matter? You look like you just suffered a bloodlet.—Lypsum peered closely at Santulím back in the Royal camp.
–I am fine.—he replied.—I shudder to think what it is like to fall on the King’s wrong side.—
–Oh that.—Lypsum patted his friend on the back.—you should see him properly angry! Think nothing of it. Let us away for a bite.—
Santulím spent the next passages with Lypsum closer by the Royal camp while the King and his entourage prepared the Eagle Grounds, scouting for the elusive princes of the air.