Trees were not very comfortable.
Alek tried to sleep, but perching precariously on a branch about fifteen feet in the ari was not the best idea he'd had. No one ame into hte park that night, and they weould have been find sleeping on the ground. But Deryn was snoring away on his lap, and he didn;t dare disturb her.
After a few failed attempts, Alek gave up on counting sheep, and counted the stars instead. He hadn't been in Austria in so long, and now that he was back, he felt a strange kind of peace. He was home.
The sky was outrageously beautiful, the stars glittering against their black backdrop. There was a faint glow on the horizion from the city, but it didn't disrupt the gorgeous view. He played with Deryn's hair, watching her sleep. She looked so peaceful. His heart leapt when he touched her skin, her face completely blocking out any pretty night sky. She was beautiful, her features strong and sharp. He chuckled. Her name fit her so well.
He eventually was able to rest, his eyes still on Deryn when dreams took over.
The sun woke him a few hours later, warming his chilly face. Deryn was still asleep on his leg, but it was numb. he lifted her gently and repositioned, but he wasn't gentle enough. Deryn opened her eyes and smiled at him.
"Good morning, love. I'm sorry I woke you."
She yawned and sat up, stretching. "No, its fine. Thank you for letting me use your lap."
Alek's watch told them it was barely past six in the morning. That would mean the streets would be busy already, making it easy for them to blend in. Alek secured his bags and checked the scroll in his pocket. It was there.
"Alright, let's get on the move." his heart was pounding. Today might very well be the day when he would have to confront Volger.
Deryn followed him down the tree and they made their way back into the city. Alek spotted some German and Austrian soldiers stationed around the streets, forcing them to take extra long ways around. Alek finally began to recognize things better, adn was able to steer them closer. Signs told him they were on the right track.
Vienna was huge, but thankfully the train had deposided them as close to his old home as possible. It took them about three hours on foot to finally reach where they wanted to be.
Alek's heart was hammering at hte sight of his home. The huge estate was still beautifully kept, and he felt a twinge in his chest. He never knew he missed it this much.
But there was one problem. The fences surrounding the palace were crawling with soldiers. There was an extremely heavy guard on the entire perimeter. Alek swore in German at the sight of it.
"Great. They've got the whole place on lockdown."
Deryn stared at the guarded gates. "Well, what now?"
Alek just stood there. They were hiding behind a tree, about five hundred feet from the entrance. "I have no idea. I suppose we wait for nightfall, or something, then try to sneak in."
Then he saw their chance. A bunch of walkers were rumbling down the road to Alek's castle.. Looked like quite the procession. Then he noticed the royal carriage. Volger...
"Theres Volger. He must be just getting back from somewhere."
"If we can hitch onto the back of one of those wagons, we would get inside. Look the last one's got supplies, its got an open hatch in the back. We just have to sneak up behind hte procession, and hop inside."
Deryn snorted. "Yes, because sneaking up on a royal procession in the middle of the day out in the open is simple? Blisters, Alek, your daft."
Alek sighed. She was right. Definatly not the smartest plan he'd ever had. And they didn't have weapons, so they couldn't just take Volger and his army on right now. Time to devise another plan.
"Well, whats your brilliant idea, then?" he retorted.
Deryn laughed. "Isn't it obvious? We go home!"
Alek felt his face get hot. They were this close, Volger was right at his fingertips. There had to be some way to get inside.
The procession came and went, adn the guard remained the same. Alek and Deryn hid behind their tree all day, waiting for an opportunity. But none came.
Once night fell, some of the guards dispersed, leaving a fair amount still stationed around the palace. Lanterns were lit in increments around the perimeter, but darkness still covered most of the property. Alek and Deryn moved stealthily around towards the back of the fence.
"This place is something, Alek. You grew up here?" Deryn whispered.
Alek nodded. Deryn muttered something unintelligable under her breath and he smiled. The place was impressive, he had to admit. He had always loved his home, it was all he had ever known before a year ago.
Alek spotted a weak spot in the security. One lone guard stood along the huge fence, his gun holstered.
"Okay," he whispered, they were crouched in the darkness. "Your faster than me, you run up there and catch his eye, and I'm going ot get behind him and knock him out."
Deryn nodded. She scurried across the darkened field. The guard turned his head, pulling out his pistol.
"Who's there?" he called out, taking a few steps away from the fence. He saw Deryn quickly dart in and out of the shadows, the guard moving slowly after her. Alek snuck across the small space between them, pulling out the Knife Nene had given him. He grabbed the man, one hadn over his mouth, the other holding the blade to his throat.
Before Alek had the chance, Deryn came up behind him and slammed a stone into the mans head. Alek felt his body crumple. They left him there and Alek hoisted Deryn over the fence. She straddled the top of the fence, reaching to give Alek a hand. Together they slid down the other side and stole into the shadows.
There was no guard inside. Guess they don't figure anyone will get in, Alek thought. Never in his life could he recall anyone sucessfully sneaking into the palace. They drew closer to the huge stone building. Its size was intimidating, he barely remebered jsut how large it was. He caught a glimpse of the portrait hall as they snuck along the edge and his heart gave a flutter. How he missed it.
The gigantic front entrance loomed before them. No, to typical. Alek remembered the side entrance his old bedroom. Volger and Klopp had used ot to sneak him out to the Stormwalker all those monmths ago. he stopped Deryn, gesturing to go back and around the backside.
They ran in silence, their feet hardly making a sound on the trimmed grass. Alek noticed the small doorway and crept up to it. He pressed his ear to it. Nothing. He slowly pushed it open, revealing a dark hallyway. They glided up the marble floor without a sound.
Footsteps echoed in the hallway ahead of them, forcing them to slink into a darkened doorway. It was jsut one of the servants, most likely headed to his quarters. He recognized the man instantly. He had been one of Alek's personal attendants for years. He wanted to greet the man, but knew he couldn't. They waited until the man passed, the ncontinued up the hallway. Alek secretly stole glances at the portraits. He spied one of his father, and he winced. His father, killed because of the life he was born into...
He shook the images out of his mind and kept going. Volger would be occupying Alek's fathers quarters, without a doubt. But a sudden idea had come to Alek. He steered them up a flight of stairs, remembereing hte way perfectly.
The door to his bedroom was right were he remembered, the door ajar. Alek peered inside, and seeing no one, pushed open the door. Deryn rushed inside and flipped the lock shut behind them.
Alek gasped when he saw it. Everything was the same as when he had left, save for the clothes that Volger had littered across the floor that night. The littel battlefield he had set up, all of his trinkets and toys up on the shelves.
"Is this your old room, Alek?" Deryn asked, taking his hand. He nodded, walking over to the faux battle he had created, gently touching the little figures. He ran his hand over the mahogony desk, the books he had used as hills and valleys. He went ot hte dresser and pulled open the drawers. All of his clothes were folded neatly, and he pulled out a shirt, holding it before him. he had grown considerable since he had been here, the shoulders not even close ot fitting. The Hapsburgh crest was sewn into the sleeves and breast, reminding him of his heritage.
Deryn rubbed his arm. "You alright?"
"Yes," he replied quietly. "Just have a lot of things coming back to me." he returned the shirt and went over to hsi well made bed. he sat on it, Deryn joining him. Her eyes were searching the room hungrily, feasting on all the wonderful things.
Alek took her hand. "So, how's this for a good nights rest? Sound fine?"
Deryn looked at him incredulously. "Here? But what about Volger?" she looked genuinely petrified.
"He chuckled quietly. "I can't take on the wildcount with less than five hours rest. THe door is locked, and I doubt anyone comes in here anymore. Let's get some sleep, and before the sun comes up we can go hunt Volger down. Until then, I need to rest." he pulled the covers back and crawled inside of them, Deryn following. It seemed as soon as his head hit hte pilow, he was asleep, home again at last.