When you look for where I am, I won’t be there. –King Julian, Madagascar 3
The halls were not silent; they could never be when you were in a palace. There were always people around, even during a war. Men and women bustling about their business and the business of the crown, trying to do what they could for the war effort or for their own lives and ambitions. Even in the dead of the night the palace wasn’t quiet as the night shift for both guard and the servants or dignitaries that were working late or through the night on this or that project.
But still there was someone missing.
People had fallen during the war, both out on the battlefront and at home from the attacks that had slipped through and reached the home planets. The loss of people to death or to the Chaos-souled (which was an arguably worse fate, depending on who you asked) did not diminish the sound. In fact, the destruction that had been left in the wake of those who had been lost to the Chaos-souled was still being repaired as well which was only adding to the noise all over the city as well as within the palace halls.
There were many people missing, but there was someone in particular that was missing right now.
Neal was missing.
And they had no idea where he had gone.
The war had been in full swing, or as full swing as any war could be said to be in, when they had noticed that Neal had gone missing. (Technically they were still at war with the Chaos-souled, but there was a very tense armistice in effect at the moment.) His rooms were orderly, or about as orderly as he ever kept them (which wasn’t much) and there was no note, no sign of a struggle or anything to indicate that he hadn’t left of his own free will.
But there was no indication that he hadn’t been blackmailed (though they’d thought that he would have come to them if he was having any kind of problems like that. He’d never seemed to have any kind of problem with others no matter what his past had been.) And so, they worried.
Because no sign of a struggle was not a sign that he had left without some kind of outside force.