Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Seven
Finishing her report with Athless' alibi, Mareian smiled
happily at the small neat letters. Looking at her handwriting now, it was hard
to tell she'd been writing for less than six months. It was easier this way, she
decided. Now she didn't have to wait until Danner had time to hear her; she could
just drop it all off on his desk and he could read it later. All she had to do
before giving the thick stack of papers to Danner was talk to someone in charge
of the Hospital that night to make sure Athless had really been there.
Humming happily, Mareian headed across the castle
to the hospital entrance. She always enjoyed talking to the people in the hospital;
Anna, besides being Jeran's legally adopted mother, had become the unofficial
mother of all the pages and squires, and the Bori head nurse Edric the universally
As always, there was a handful of people milling
around the entry, from pages who'd clumsily tripped down the stairs to squires
who'd managed to discover they weren't really as good as they thought they were.
Most of them knew Mareian on sight and waved cheerfully when they noticed her.
A green Blumaroo hobbled by on crutches, his
tail and left leg in a cast. The poor page nearly fell over trying to wave.
Jeran, Mareian remembered, had said the poor Blumaroo was the most accident
prone person he'd ever heard of; managing to slip on a patch of ice, fall though
an open ground level window in the kitchen and pull a shelf full of cast iron
pans onto himself. Mareian wished she could have seen that.
This was two days after the same page had gotten
off the cast on his arm from falling off the loft of the stable. Several of
the castle teachers had a bet going that the page would manage to accidentally
destroy the students' wing of the castle before he became a squire. While Mourvan
said he didn't approve of his staff making bets on the students, Mareian knew
for a fact he'd bet 20 coppers after the page had managed to break a whole rack
A sleepy looking green Kacheek manned the front
desk. "Can I help you Miss?" she asked.
"I hope so." Mareian grinned. "Do you know if
Anna or Edric was here on Day of Giving night?"
"Oh." The Kacheek smiled, glad for a chance for
gossip. "It was supposed to be Edric, but Anna subbed for him."
Leaning forward, the secretary confided, "Anna
said she was getting to old for all that socializing, but most of the staff
here thinks it's because she doesn't want to be locked in a room having to listen
to all those 'you've aged so well, My Lady' comments. I guess a lot of the Brightvalian
nobles don't really believe she's willing to leave her duchy to Sir Jeran and
Lady Lisha; they think they have a chance of earning her affection and getting
Murron for themselves." Rolling her eyes, the Kacheek added, "Where they get
such ideas nobody knows."
"Greed," Mareian said in disgust. "Even if, Fyora
forbid, something did happen to Lady Anna, both Jeran and Lisha are more than
capable of taking care of Murron." Looking back into the hospital, Mareian asked,
"Is Anna here today, or is she off?"
"She's here, like always." Rolling her eyes,
the Kacheek continued, "Sir Jeran keeps saying that Lady Anna works herself
too hard and that she should take some time off. Then my Lady points out that
he works more than she does; and she'll take some time off when he will. There's
not much he can say to that, short of going on a vacation."
"That'll be the day." Jeran was not the kind
of person who could sit still and do nothing.
"Exactly." The Kacheek giggled. "My sister says
it's because he's afraid if he isn't actively doing something, he's going to
get mobbed by fan girls."
"Your sister might be right." Mareian laughed,
ducking through the double doors into the clinic section of the hospital. If
she remembered right, Lady Anna's office was at the very far end of the hall.
Nurses in crisp white uniforms worked busily, crossing though the hall with
charts and small bottles on some errand or other; Mareian wove her way though
until she found a heavy oak door at the end of the hall labeled, 'Dr. A. Borodere'.
After knocking on the door, Mareian was greeted
by the motherly red Zafara almost instantly. "Mareian dear," Lady Anna greeted
her, "this is a pleasant surprise."
"I hope I'm not interrupting you, but I need
to ask you some questions."
"Well," the Lady smiled, "if you'll give me thirty
seconds to run these files down to Dr. Gwenup, you can ask me all the questions
you want over tea and crepes."
Mareian grinned. "I think I can wait that long."
"Excellent, you can just take a seat in my office,
and I'll be right back," Anna promised.
While the doctor was out, Mareian took the chance
to look around the Lady's office a bit, though she was careful not to touch
anything. A portrait on one of the offices many book lined shelves caught her
attention; a red Zafara, obviously a younger Lady Anna, a white Kougra knight
and a young blue Lupe. Looking closer, she realized the Lupe was a nine or ten
year old Jeran. Comparing how tall the lanky Lupe was next to Anna, he had been
taller than Mareian was now. Mareian found that slightly depressing.
"My cousin sketched that while we were visiting
him in Brightvale," Anna said behind her, pushing a small wheeled cart with
a steaming tea pot, cups and a basket of crepes. Mareian started; she'd been
so engrossed in the picture she hadn't heard the door open.
"Normally he draws for anatomy textbooks, but
he wanted to get more practice with portraits. Togran thought the whole idea
was a little silly, but he got on well with Picard so he agreed to sit for one.
Jeran," she reminisced, while motioning for Mareian to sit, "was a little harder
to talk into it."
"You managed to talk Jeran into something?" Mareian
"Not really," Lady Anna admitted. "Picard's cook
bribed him with berry pies. At the time, Jeran was going through a growth spurt,
so he'd agree to just about anything if you'd give him food." Mareian giggled,
too bad berry pies probably wouldn't be quite so persuasive to Jeran now.
"Now my dear," Lady Anna asked while handing
her a cup of tea, "what brings you here?"
"I need to ask you about the night of the ball,"
Mareian said, taking a crepe. "Who was helping you and how long they were here."
"Let's see." Anna leaned back, sipping her tea.
"It was a slow night; other than me, there was Folan, serving detention, and
Branis. And Squire Athless, but he was only in for an hour or so, he said his
master had an errand for him."
"Athless was only here for a little while? About
what time did he leave?" Mareian asked, munching on her crepe.
"A little before seven, because he wasn't here
"And what time Folan and Branis leave?" Mareian
asked, forming a mental time table.
"Folan left at nine, and Branis stayed all night.
The poor dear is very fond of his brother, and Sir Jamed can't seem to shake
off his case of Neomonia." Anna shook her head. "They're the only family each
other has, and the Day of Giving is a day for families to spend time together,
or so Branis pointedly told me when I asked if he wanted to go."
"Unless you work in the castle," Mareian pointed
out, "because then you need to work."
"Sometimes it's better that way," the Zafara
agreed. "Better to be busy than alone on a day for families." Giving Mareian
a sharp look, she continued, "But you don't have any family, do you?"
"I have an older brother," Mareian said, "and
I got to see him that morning; which is actually more than I usually see him
most holidays, even before I worked here."
"Oh? What does he do?"
When in doubt, Mareian thought, use
evasion. "A little bit of this and that."
"Of course dear," the noblewoman said, humoring
her. Mareian was certain Jeran had filled Anna in on her unusual background,
but there was no need to be too specific on what her brother did. Lady Anna
did talk to Danner sometimes after all, and an unintentional slip could get
her brother arrested.
Mareian chatted with Lady Anna for awhile longer
on palace gossip, drinking more tea and nibbling on more crepes than Ricky would
have approved of, before she reluctantly excused herself. She knew she needed
to talk to Jeran about Athless as soon as possible, but Jeran wasn't going to
take the red Draik's lack of an alibi well.
To be continued...