It would not be an easy journey back to the lake that they called home, her brothers warned her. They could not fly all the way in one trip and they would need to rest.
And so they flew far north until the sun began to set and settled down somewhere in the woods. Elisa gave her brothers their shirts and they changed back to men once more.
The brothers knew they could not walk for Elisa had no shoes or clothing suited for such a journey. In fact, she was still attired in prisoner’s clothing.
It was Varin who suggested what might be done. He had spotted a town in the distance and thought he might be able to procure something for Elisa. He disappeared for a short while, before returning with a set of clothes.
Not all the brothers were pleased to see that he brought back boy’s clothing. However, Varin warned them that their sister was well known in this kingdom and it would be only a matter of time before the people heard of her disappearance.
He was right, of course. All of them eventually had to agree something had to be done to disguise her.
Of course he would not make it so easy. Varin told his brothers to exchange certain items with him to ensure that they, too, would be harder to recognize.
“I am sorry, sister,” was what Varin said as he handed the leftover clothes to her. “ They have portraits of the royal family in these parts. You will stand out too much in new clothing and so we must make do with what we have. To fool the guards, you will have to cut your hair as well. If and when your king decides that we have kidnapped you and decides you need rescuing, it will not do to make it too easy for him to follow us. You are,” he took hold of the hair, “well known for this.”
Elisa did not argue. Without complaint, she allowed her brothers to use their knives and hack away at her long coils of hair.
They burned it on the fire as they did her rough robes — sacrificing the last pieces of her life as the beautiful, wronged queen.
* * *
The guards at the town gate were fairly lax.
Elisa said nothing as her Varin and Rhys spoke to them and declared their wish for lodging that evening.
The guards looked over the band of men. Their eyes lingered over a few of them but they asked nothing and accepted the bribe Varin offered them.
Elisa looked away at this dereliction of duty. She was queen no longer.
They made their way through the wooden gates and followed the crowd as it flowed down the main street. The town was full of travelers that took the roads between the border region and the palace. This time of year there normally would be many soldiers but the execution had drawn many to the capitol. Even so, a soldier would occasionally be spotted. In those instances, Elisa kept her gaze lowered and stayed close to her brother Flyn.
Varin led them to an inn — a place he had found earlier located slightly off the main thoroughfare. The family ate quickly as they could without arousing too much suspicion. They were merely journeyers, eating a warm meal while listening to the local news.
To the relief of the Swans, the people in town had not heard anything about the queen and her interrupted execution. For a few hours, at least, they could rest easily.
* * *
They slipped out early in the morning, before most of the town awoke. They walked an hour or more before they felt it safe enough to fly again.