A/N: So here is part two of The Hidden King. It took a while to write, because of school and exams, but now here it is. So read it, and tell me what you think. Reviews would be very welcome.

Disclaimer: Deltora Quest belongs to Emily Rodda.

Under the Shadow

'Are you sure about this?' Endon asked Barda, pacing around the forge kitchen, his nerves frazzled. 'Is it really what you want?' He gazed intently at Barda's determined face, searching for any signs of apprehension, but all he saw was a deep, heart-wrenching loyalty to himself and Sharn, and a fierce determination to do whatever he could to help the cause. 'Anna and I would be honoured to shelter you, give you a home right here in the cottage. You do not have to do this.'

'But I do,' Barda said earnestly. 'Jarred, I need to do this. I need to restore my honour and my pride, and repent for my sins.' At Endon's questioning gaze, he bowed his head, and when he next spoke, his voice was shaky. 'It was my fault, I know it. When I left the feast that night, I left behind my friends and comrades to face the Shadow Lord's fury. If I had stayed, we might have stood a chance. I could have told them of my mother's warning, they would not have been caught unawares…' His voice trailed away.

'They would have died anyway, Barda,' Endon said. 'They would have stayed and done whatever they could to protect the royal family in their hour of need. They would not have listened to you—they would have listened to Prandine, the King's chief advisor.'

'But…'

Endon broke in before Barda could speak. 'Years ago I tried to warn Endon of the coming danger. I tried to warn him of Prandine's treachery and convince him to wear the Belt of Deltora again. But he would not listen.' He felt the bitterness cloak his words as he spoke, felt the tears come to his eyes at the memory. 'When we escaped the palace, Endon realised his mistake, and realised that he had let his people down, that the Belt would never shine for him again. It was a bitter blow for him. He never got over it.'

He saw Barda's raised eyebrows at his final words and hastily corrected himself, inwardly cursing himself for his carelessness. 'I imagine he never got over it. Endon was distraught when we parted.'

Barda nodded. 'I can understand that.'

'What I was meaning to say is that you must not blame yourself for not being there,' Endon said gently. 'Sometimes it is better to flee and live to fight another day than to stay and die. Your mother would want you to be happy.'

Tears glinted in the big man's eyes. 'I know, Jarred. But it is difficult. That is why I need to do this.'

Endon sighed, and nodded. 'Very well, Barda. I will make you a beggar's shelter in the forge yard, where you can live in and keep up the pretence. But I do wish you did not have to do this.'

Barda grinned, and clapped Endon on the back. 'Do not worry, Jarred. You will not regret this, I promise.'

Endon said nothing, but inwardly he prayed that he would be given no cause for regret.

oOo

In the darkness of the night, Endon crept from the bed he shared with Sharn and walked quietly to the forge, carrying the mangled Belt of Deltora in his arms. Once there, he heated up the fire and stared at the Belt which shone dimly under the fiery light. Even mangled, it was still beautiful.

He gazed at the empty medallions and thought of the gems that were scattered throughout Deltora. They had once blazed proudly from the Belt of Deltora, protecting the kingdom from invasion by the Shadow Lord. And they would again, Endon thought. One day, the gems would be restored, the Shadow Lord would be defeated and the Belt would shine once more for the Kings and Queens of Deltora.

With that thought clear in his mind, he placed the Belt on the forge and began to work.

oOo

As the first rays of sun lit the pre-dawn earth, a babe's healthy cry could be heard from within the forge cottage, along with its mother's contented sigh. Outside the forge, Endon halted his manic pacing, and breathing a huge sigh of relief, walked casually to the beggar's shelter he had built three months ago for Barda. 'It is over,' he muttered quietly to the darkness, trying to make it seem as if he were talking to himself. 'The babe is born.' He felt himself grin foolishly. 'My babe is born.'

He met Barda's gaze, and knew that it mirrored his own elated expression. It seemed unbelievable, that he would really become a father. At times, during the past three months, Endon had doubted that they would survive to become a family. And yet, now they were a family.

'My congratulations, Jarred,' Barda said heartily. Endon almost jumped at the sound of his old friend's name, now his name. He was still to get used to his new identity, even after three months in hiding.

He forced himself to respond to the name. 'I am just glad Anna is alright. It was a hard birth.'

'You heard her.' Barda grinned. 'She is alright. Go in there and see them!'

Endon could not help but smile as he walked towards the cottage. Over the last three months, a surprising friendship had sprung between himself and Barda—close to but not quite the same as the friendship he had shared with Jarred. That friendship had helped him survive the months until the birth of his child and heir, and Endon was grateful for it. He had never expected such a friendship to develop between himself and another person besides Jarred.

He paused at the threshold of the cottage, deep in thought, and knocked on the door. It seemed the safest course of action, he thought, as he had no idea whether he was welcome in the forge cottage. Amarantz of the Pottery had banished him from the cottage hours ago for 'getting in the way'. 'Get out and stay out until it is over,' she had barked as she shoved him out the door. 'In here you are just in the way. Wait for us to call you.' Now it was clearly over, but would it be safe to enter and face Amarantz's wrath for not waiting for her to call for him?

Sick with apprehension, he waited.

'Come in, Jarred!' Amarantz called moments later, her voice high with excitement. 'Come and see your babe!'

Endon flung himself into the cottage, barging into the bedroom he shared with his wife. He was greeted with the welcome sight of Sharn smiling up at him while resting on the bed, holding a tiny squirming babe in her arms. His eyes were riveted on the babe as it opened its pink mouth and bawled.

'What do you think?' Sharn teased him. 'Will he do?'

'He will do very well!' Endon smiled, leaning down to kiss her cheek. Then he gazed at his son. His heir. The babe gazed back at him, gurgling and waving its tiny fingers. 'He is beautiful!'

'I know,' Sharn said. 'Here, hold him.' She held out their bundle of joy to him.

Endon grimaced as he took the babe from her. It was heavier than he had expected for a newborn.

'You have a boy,' Amarantz said in the silence that followed, her face beaming. 'A healthy boy. My congratulations, Jarred!'

'I have a boy,' Endon whispered, stunned. A boy. The future King of Deltora, the heir to the Belt's power. He had a boy! 'I have a boy!'

'Yes, we do,' Sharn smiled, her eyes communicating to him her relief at the safe birth, joy at becoming a mother, and immense love for him and their new son. 'What shall we name him?'

Endon and Sharn had already considered different names for their babe, but had not decided upon one. Now, as Endon gazed down at the babe in his arms, the perfect name came into his mind.

'Lief,' he said. 'Our son shall be called Lief.'

The babe in his arms gurgled, seeming pleased at the name. Sharn's eyes flooded with tears, her face glowing with happiness. Amarantz nodded, her face a picture of approval.

'It is a good name,' she said. 'Lief means 'loved'.'

'Which he will be,' Endon said, still unable to take his eyes off of his son. 'He will be very loved indeed.' And secretly he thought to himself: Our son Lief will be the best and most loved king Deltora has ever seen.

oOo

That night, after long hours of working in the forge, Endon crept into his and Sharn's bedroom. It was complete darkness within, and as his eyes adjusted to the lack of light he saw his wife lying on the bed, her eyes closed. Resting in a crib beside the bed was their babe Lief.

Endon stayed as silent as a mouse, not wanting to wake either his newborn son or his beloved wife. He gazed at his family, his heart full. It was awe-inspiring, that they had gotten this far, that he, the King of Deltora who had failed to protect his kingdom, had managed to survive and know such overwhelming joy. He was grateful, incredibly grateful, to Jarred and Anna for giving his family a home and identity. He had realised that, after listening to travellers' stories of the state of the countryside since the Shadow Lord's invasion, if they had fled Del as they had first thought to do, they would not have survived against the vagabonds and evil that lurked there. Endon prayed that Jarred and Anna fared better than himself and Sharn.

He gazed at Lief, sleeping peacefully in the cradle Amarantz had given them. He had his mother's dark hair and pale face, but his father's eyes. He seemed fragile, but Endon sensed a hidden strength and stubbornness much like Sharn's. This son of ours will go far, Endon thought. He will make his parents proud.

And Endon vowed that he would protect his son and never give up on him. Whatever Lief did, he would find his parents proud of his accomplishments. Whether he became King or not, Endon was glad for the moment to just love him as a father loves a son.

oOo

'Papa!'

Endon smiled and looked up at the seven year old boy running up to him, proudly waving the ragdoll clutched in his hands. As his son reached him he set down the metal he had been beating into shape and turned to him. 'Lief! What is it?'

'Papa, look at the ragdoll Mama made for me!' Lief said proudly.

Endon scrutinised the doll, a replica of the Kin, a fabled race that had allegedly lived on Dread Mountain once. 'It is wonderful, Lief!' he responded warmly, knowing that that was what his son wanted to hear. 'It was very good of your mother to make it for you. I hope you thanked her.'

'Yes, papa,' Lief said seriously, but Endon saw the familiar mischievous look in his eyes.

Endon sighed. 'Go and say thank you to your mother, Lief,' he ordered, frowning at his son and making sure that he saw the censure in his eyes. 'She did you a kindness, so you must thank her.'

He waited, hands crossed around his chest, for Lief to scamper away into the cottage, and hoped that his unruly son would do as he was told. Most likely he would escape the forge and gallivant around the city with his friends. But hopefully he would listen to his parents for once.

Endon sighed again, and resumed his task. His son was a trial at times to both of his parents at times, refusing to take part in his lessons, sneaking out of the forge before he had finished his daily chores. But even so, he was the light of their lives, a precious gift of hope that had come when they had felt bereft. Lief's birth had reminded them that they were the royal family of Deltora, and that they had to reclaim their Kingdom for their son, so that he would be King in his turn.

Later, as the sun sank below the horizon, Endon returned to the cottage, feeling the muscles in his arms ache. He was met at the door by Sharn, who enveloped him in her arms. They stood there for a long moment, revelling in the wondrous gift of love and safety. Endon knew that he would be forever grateful to Jarred for giving him this blessing, even as he regretted the sacrifice he had had to make.

'Lief is sleeping now,' Sharn said softly, her voice muffled against his chest.

'Did he thank you for his ragdoll?' Endon asked wearily.

'He did,' Sharn said, smiling. 'He seemed very grateful, and I allowed him to go into the city afterwards.'

'Good,' Endon said, a tired smile gracing his face.

Sharn pulled him into the living area, and onto the chairs that surrounded the fireplace.

'Endon…' Sharn began after a long moment, her expression sombre, her eyes anxious. 'I do not want another child.'

'Why ever not?' He gaped at her. This was the last thing he had expected her to say.

'I do not want another child of ours to be born into this world,' Sharn said, gesturing towards the city outside the cottage, where Grey Guards patrolled the streets and vagabonds lay in wait, robbing anyone foolish enough to be in their path. 'This is a world of madness and danger; it is much too dangerous for any child. I do not want any child of ours to grow up and fall prey to those monsters.'

'But…' Endon could not quite explain his desire to know with all certainty that he would have an heir to his throne. He had to have more than one child. He saw now that the chief advisors' rule of only one child for each ruler had caused each King and Queen's rule to be even more precarious than the last. He had to have a large family. What was Sharn thinking? 'Sharn…'

'I know what you are thinking, Endon,' Sharn said, her eyes blazing with conviction. 'You are thinking only of yourself, of your heir to the throne. But we need to stay hidden, our son needs to stay hidden until the time is right for us to reclaim our kingdom. Lief is enough of a handful; I will not watch another child of mine go out into the city and be afraid that they will not come back.' Sharn lifted her chin. 'See reason, Endon. We will be less conspicuous with a small family, and much safer. We must stay hidden from the Shadow Lord at all costs, until it is time.' She glared at Endon.

Endon shook his head, stunned. How could he not realise that Sharn felt this way? Was he that poor a husband that he could not see when his wife was afraid for her family? He bowed his head. 'Sharn, my love,' he said hoarsely. 'I am sorry. I am just so afraid that our little one may be lost to us one day and I will have no heir to give my throne to. Call it selfishness if you will, but when we reclaim our kingdom, I would like to have an heir to give it to. More children would increase our chances of having an heir that lives to adulthood.'

'Oh, Endon,' Sharn sighed, leaning over to touch his arm, her eyes luminous. 'I, too, am afraid for our son. But we must not give up hope now. Our son will live and be a good king one day. We will make sure of that. Now we must think of our family's safety during these dark times.' Her bottom lip trembled, and Endon knew she was also thinking of Amarantz and Michel of the Pottery, who had recently been captured by the Shadow Lord for participating in a rebellion. No one knew what had happened to them, and Endon knew Sharn worried for them both. Amarantz was her oldest friend.

Endon brushed her lips with his own, feeling his heart swell with resolve and gladness. 'My darling, of course you are right,' he murmured. 'Our safety and the safety of our son should come first, always. Very well. Lief will be our only child, and we will keep him as safe as we can.'

When he drew back, he saw that Sharn's eyes were sparkling. 'I know I am right,' she said, so slyly that Endon felt compelled to kiss her again, hungrily, needing to feel the touch of her skin as if he thirsted for water. His heart leapt to see Sharn respond equally as energetically and he drew her into his arms and carried her into their bedroom, never taking his mouth from hers, and laid her out on the bed, and celebrated their safety and peace in a fashion equally satisfying for them both.

oOo

As the years passed, Endon found himself intensely glad that he had promised Sharn that they would have no more children, for although Lief was the light of their lives he was quite a handful to raise, constantly sneaking behind his parents' backs to play with his friends in the streets of the city and worrying them to bits. If one was a handful, he thought, two would be impossible! Thus, he gave way to Sharn's wisdom with grace, and never asked her for another child.

But he still worried about Lief, about the future of Deltora. What would become of Deltora if its heir was killed by Grey Guards while exploring Del after sunset? What would become of Deltora if Endon had no heir to give the Belt to? For the Belt would never shine for Endon again—but it would shine for Lief, his beloved son and heir. Lief had to survive, for all their sakes.

The only solution, Endon realised, was to 'guard' Lief secretly on the streets of Del, ensuring his safety when he was in dire danger. And the person best suited for that duty was Barda. So it was that Endon found himself travelling to the daily market one day, money jingling in a light purse tied to his trousers. Barda was commonly found in the marketplace, where he could overhear information important for their quest and relay it back to Endon and Sharn, and Endon dearly hoped that Barda would be there now, despite the storm clearly brewing in the skies. The safety of his precocious ten-year-old son was of the utmost importance, and he had to be sure Barda would protect him to the best of his ability.

He was so focused on his thoughts that he failed to notice the danger until it was too late. Thunder clapped, unnervingly close, and a flash of lightning lit the darkened sky, bathing the city in golden light. A cracking noise ensued, followed by the sound of a tree falling rapidly.

Someone screamed.

Others began to shove at each other, trampling each other in their attempt to escape the path of the falling tree. Heart hammering, Endon pushed through the crowd, but could not open a pathway between the people for himself, and soon found himself thrown onto the cobbles by another frantic person. He looked up, dazed, to see the tree looming towards him.

He heard a person scream, low and terrified, and realised that it was himself. Briefly he wondered if this was a punishment for his sins, for what he had done to Deltora.

Then the tree was upon him, and a fierce pain exploded in his body, so fierce that he cried out again. He heard townspeople gathering around him, and a voice saying, 'Why, that is Jarred the blacksmith!' He heard murmurs rise in the crowd like a wave of thunder.

And then, mercifully, darkness claimed him.

oOo

Hours later, he woke, in his own bed in the forge cottage, feeling as if every bone in his body had been broken. He heard, as if through a long tunnel, the sound of voices speaking in low, urgent tones. He recognised one of the voices as Sharn's and smiled despite the pain that wracked him. 'Sharn?' he whispered in a thread of a voice.

He heard her overjoyed exclamation, and felt her soft warm palm stroke his forehead. 'I am here,' she said, 'and so is Barda. Do not worry, my love, all is well now.' Those words conveyed to him a message which sent him into chills with the realisation that he had almost revealed their true identities. How could he have been so stupid?

He glanced at Barda, but thankfully the big man seemed as if he had not heard what Endon had uttered.

'Jarred, I am glad you are alright,' Barda said jovially. 'Or not quite alright, of course, but I am sure you will recover in time.' He flashed a grin that painfully reminded Endon of Jarred.

'I hope I will,' Endon murmured, and forced a smile. 'I will need all my strength during the quest.'

Barda and Sharn looked at each other, their faces grave. His smile faded, his heart thudded painfully. What had happened? What had given them such apprehension?

Sharn turned to face him, and the expression on her face terrified him. For a long moment, silence reigned.

'Whatever it is, just tell me,' he said hoarsely. 'Please.'

Tears pooled in Sharn's eyes as she gazed at Endon. 'The tree…' she said quietly. 'It crushed your leg. Your leg will recover, but it will always be weak and you will always have a limp.' She looked away, overcome. 'I am sorry, Jarred.'

It crushed your leg… You will always have a limp... The words rang in Endon's ears like death knells. He closed his eyes and groaned. He was finished. He was crippled. He could not go on the quest to restore the gems now; his leg would slow them down and put them all in danger. It seemed ridiculous, to think that it was a tree that felled Endon, King of Deltora and ruined their quest for the gems. It made him want to laugh and weep at the same time.

'I cannot go on the quest for the gems,' Endon said flatly, knowing that Sharn and Barda had already known this. 'I am a cripple.' He felt a laugh bubble up his throat. 'Who would have thought it?' It seemed like a strange twist of fate, as if he was being punished for his sins. Why else would such a thing happen when they were so close to beginning their quest?

'What should we do now?' Sharn said. 'Barda cannot go alone to seek the gems. It would be too dangerous.' She and Barda both glanced at Endon, as if he would know what to do.

Endon sighed. 'We will speak of this later, when I am recovered. There is also another matter I would like to speak to you about, Barda, regarding my son's safety. But that is also for a later day. Today I find I am too tired to do anything but lie here and sleep. I believe I may die of boredom over the next few days.'

oOo

Endon almost did die of boredom during his days of convalescence. There was nothing he could do but lie in bed, bored out of his mind, counting the cracks in the ceiling or taking short naps. Every once in a while either Sharn or Barda came to visit him with a bowl of broth for him to eat, and they would stay until he had drank every last drop. He found he missed his work in the forge, despite the harshness of it, for at least there he had been doing something. Now he was crippled and confined to bed, with no hope of doing anything.

His heart sang when he was pronounced well enough to leave the bed, two weeks into his convalescence. With Sharn's help he scrambled out of the bed and hobbled around the cottage, feeling his weak leg drag like a heavy weight behind him. But it was a relief to be able to walk again.

'Father?' The sound of Lief's subdued voice caused him to pause in the forge kitchen. He turned to see his son peeking through the doorway.

'Yes?' Endon said gently. 'You can come in, you know.'

'Are you alright now?' Lief walked into the kitchen to stand before Endon. 'Mother said you were hurt by a falling tree.'

'I am alright, son,' Endon assured him. 'I did not think I would ever get out of bed!'

'Mother said I was not to disturb you,' Lief said awkwardly.

'I heard,' Endon said. 'You have been good to your mother, I hope?'

'Oh, yes!' Lief's eyes brightened, and he smiled. 'I helped Mother with her chores every day so she could go to bed early because she has been so tired these past weeks. Mother said she had never had a better son,' he added proudly.

'Well done, Lief,' Endon said warmly. Pride for his son engulfed him. It relieved him to know that Sharn had not worked herself to exhaustion while he was bed-ridden. 'If you would like, you may play with your friends after you have finished your chores for today. You certainly deserve it.'

Lief's smile widened, and his eyes shone. 'Thank you, Father!' he said cheerfully.

'Now off you go,' Endon urged him. 'Go help your mother. I am sure she needs you for somewhat.'

Lief nodded, and left the room. As he watched his son scamper away, Endon thought of how responsible he had become these past few weeks, and how dear he was to both himself and Sharn. He knew with certainty that now was the time to ask Barda to become guardian to his son.

oOo

That night, Endon, Sharn and Barda gathered in the forge cottage, and discussed what to be done about the quest for the gems and about Lief.

Endon brought the topic up of a guardian for Lief as soon as they were settled in their seats in front of the fireplace. He described the fear he and Sharn felt when Lief took risks and came home after sunset, when the Grey Guards were about, and their worry that Lief would be killed one day. He outlined his proposal, that Barda could protect their son from the dangers of the city. He held his breath as Barda considered it.

'So, Jarred,' Barda drawled after a moment. 'Are you asking me to babysit your ten-year-old son while he plays with his friends in the streets?' His face was slightly derisive, and Endon prayed that he would not reject the proposal because of his pride.

'Yes, I am,' Endon said. 'Our son means everything to us, Barda. It would mean a lot to us if you would make sure he comes home safely each night.'

Barda nodded in understanding, but still hesitated in giving an answer.

'You need not do this thing if you do not want to,' Sharn said sweetly. 'We would not have come to you about this, but there is no one else we trust enough who is able to do this thing.'

Barda frowned. 'Well and so.' His expression settled to one of determination. 'Very well, I will do this thing you ask of me. But in exchange, I would like something.'

Both Sharn and Endon's eyes widened. They had not expected this. Barda was usually so stoic that he never asked for anything from them, not wanting to deprive them of much needed stores. What could he want now?

'What would you like?' Sharn said cautiously. 'You know we would give you anything you need or want.'

'I want to go on my own to seek the gems,' Barda burst out. 'I know it is not what you planned, Jarred, but you know you cannot come now, because of what happened.' His gaze drifted to Endon's stiff leg. 'Let me go alone, and I will succeed. Surely it is the only way now.'

Sharn opened her mouth to reply, but Endon spoke first. 'No,' he said gravely. He knew in his heart that Barda's plan was a bad one. What would happen if Barda was killed during the quest? No one would know what had become of him and Deltora would be under the Shadow forever. No, someone had to accompany Barda on the quest. But who?

Barda frowned. 'Jarred,' he began. Endon could sense the argument building inside of him.

'No,' Endon repeated. 'I will not have you go alone. It would be too dangerous. What if you are killed? Then the quest would be lost.'

'But…'

'You need a companion, someone to help you. I know you think anyone now would slow you down, but I believe this is necessary for the quest to succeed. Please,' Endon's voice grew gentle. 'I am sorry for speaking so harshly, but this is the truth. I know in my heart that this is needful.'

Barda let out a hard breath. His expression was frustrated. 'I know, I know! But I am capable, and I am sure I would succeed by myself. But I will bow to your decision, for now, though I will try and do all I can to persuade you otherwise.' His voice grew bitter. 'So, who will be my companion now?'

Endon hesitated, and shared a glance with Sharn. They had not thought ahead so far. Finally, Sharn spoke.

'Lief,' she said clearly.

'What?' Barda gaped at her, astonished and angry at the same time. Endon could feel his own jaw drop as well. Lief? What was Sharn thinking?

'What are you saying, Anna?' Barda spluttered furiously. 'That your ten-year-old son will be a suitable companion for me on our quest? Have you gone mad?'

Endon opened his mouth to admonish Barda for speaking to his wife like that, but could not get a word out as Sharn replied calmly, 'Yes, Barda, I am saying that Lief could come with you on the quest when he is of age, in place of his father.' She turned a gentle gaze upon Endon. 'To fulfil his father's pledge.'

Endon stared at her open-mouthed. Sharn smiled and caressed his cheek. 'It is the perfect solution, Jarred,' she said. 'Lief is our son, it is his right to take part in this quest, if he wishes to. We will prepare him as best as we can for it.'

Endon nodded, mute. Her courage and fortitude never ceased to amaze him.

Barda sighed. 'Very well. As you wish. Lief will come on the quest, when he is of age and if he wishes it. But I still think I will be better off going alone. I will still try to convince you to send me alone.'

Endon half-smiled. 'And I will try to convince you otherwise.'

Barda laughed. 'Then we have a bargain!' Then his voice sobered. 'I have just one more condition.'

'What is it?'

'Allow Lief to have more freedom to roam about the city, so that he may encounter what it is really like to be in a dangerous situation. Let him sharpen his wits and learn more of life in the city. This surely is just as important as his other duties in the forge cottage.'

Endon eyed Barda's obstinate expression, and knew that if they did not consent to this Barda would not agree to have Lief as a companion, and they would never be able to change his mind. Barda could be very stubborn when he wanted to be.

Endon sighed. They would have to agree to Barda's condition, or the quest would be lost before it had even begun. 'Very well, Barda,' he said heavily. 'We agree to your condition. But know that we fully expect you to keep our son from being killed out there in the streets.'

'Agreed!' Barda said, his voice turning jovial now that the problem was solved. 'Lief will accompany me on the quest, and I will babysit him as he gets a taste of life in the city.'

'Agreed,' Endon echoed. He tried to smile, but only managed a grimace, thinking of what his stiff leg had deprived him of. He had so wanted to go seek the gems; he was the King of Deltora, after all, and he owed it to his people to free them from the Shadow Lord's tyranny. It was because of him that Deltora had been invaded—it was only fair that he free his people from this evil. But now it was not possible.

He thought of Lief. Lief was the heir to the Belt of Deltora, the future King. It was only right now that Lief take his father's place on the quest. But it was still a bitter blow, not to be able to help his people in this way.

Endon hauled himself to his feet, signalling that the meeting was adjourned, and walked towards his and Sharn's bedroom, feeling his energy flag with each step he took. The meeting had drained more of his energy than he had expected. With a relieved sigh, he collapsed onto the bed, feeling himself sink into unconsciousness almost immediately.

Now the waiting would begin, Endon thought drowsily as his consciousness ebbed. Waiting for Lief to come of age, waiting for the quest to begin. Waiting for Lief to be ready.

He only hoped that the waiting would not be too long.