Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Eight
A small cloud of gloom seemed to hover around Lisha, Jeran
fretted, and he didn't like it. Not even Chubby, Lisha's ever curious Warf, made
her smile. His best guess was she was sad to see her Brightvalian friends leave,
especially the yellow Kougra, Rolan. Jeran tossed a small rubber ball for Chubby,
and watched Lisha stare out the window. "Copper for your thoughts?"
"Huh?" the yellow Aisha asked. "Oh, I'm just
spacing." The smile she gave Jeran was feeble at best. Retrieving the ball,
Chubby nudged Jeran's hand to get him to throw the ball again.
"Lisha, you've been staring out the window ever
since the Brightvalians left." Tossing the ball again, he added, "Look at the
bright side, you're going there this summer, and you'll see them again."
"I guess so, but that's a whole six months away,"
"I'm sure he won't forget you in that short of
Lisha's face blushed orange. "I have no idea
what you're talking about," she managed, while the insides of all four of her
ears turned a vivid crimson.
A misty red haze swirled around her face, as
the ring told Jeran she was lying; Lisha knew exactly what he was talking
about. "Of course you don't," he teased. Scooping up Chubby he continued, "Are
you planning on talking Chubby along next time? Rolan mentioned that petpets
aren't allowed in the public libraries there."
"They're allowed in most of the private libraries,
and she stays in my room when she can't come along."
"Planning on spending a lot of time in private
Lisha blushed an even darker shade of orange,
and glared at him. Leaning back in his chair, Jeran grinned crookedly back and
scratched the wiggling Chubby behind her ears. The corner of Lisha's mouth twitched,
and her glare broke down into giggles. "Big brothers are such a pain in the
neck," she said to Chubby, taking her from Jeran.
"We're supposed to be," he retorted. "It says
so right in the big brother contract."
Lisha laughed, her mood lightening. "Very funny,"
she said, ruffling the blue fur between his ears fondly. "I need to get back
to the library; my shift is coming up."
Chubby gave an enthusiastic bark as Lisha opened
the door, and bolted through, racing back and forth along the hall in excitement.
Seeing Danner further down the hall, Chubby ran down and jumped excitedly at
his legs. The Wocky and Warf got on well, with Danner often smuggling her treats.
"Don't you give her any treats," Lisha warned
the approaching sheriff. "Chubby's on a strict diet now."
"You're the one who named her Chubby," the Wocky
protested. "I'm only helping her suit her name; besides, she loves me."
"More likely, she loves your treats." Lisha grinned.
"I'll talk to you later, Danner; I'm running late." Waving goodbye, Lisha hurried
down the hall, followed by the hyper Warf.
"She's a lot more cheerful right now than I thought
she'd be," Danner commented, watching her disappear around a corner.
"Lisha's pretty easy to cheer up; all you need
to do is point out that she has something else to do. Sitting around pouting
isn't really something she does very well." Glancing around, Jeran asked in
a quieter tone, "Is Mourvan with Mareian right now?"
Danner grinned. "As close as he can get at least,
Mareian's visiting your mother right now, probably making sure Athless was really
where he said he was."
Following Jeran back into the room, Danner continued,
"I really have to hand it to her; Mareian's covered a lot of ground in a very
short amount of time. She's really very good at this."
Jeran gave Danner an amused look. "Are you going
to tell her that?"
"And ruin months of bickering?" he countered,
settling into an overstuffed chair. Sobering, Danner continued, "Although I
think Jasagh has Mareian more rattled than she'll admit to. She's too smart
to not notice that we've been keeping an eye on her, and the fact that she hasn't
called us on it kind of worries me."
Nodding, Jeran agreed. "Normally if any of us
suggested she couldn't handle something, she'd give us a lesson in linguistics."
Wincing, he added, "You should have been there when I suggested that she shouldn't
help us with Jasagh."
"I'm glad I wasn't." Danner laughed. "She's a
very complex little person, isn't she? Sometimes she won't bat an eye at something
you'd think she'd explode at; other times the tiniest thing will set her off."
Thoughtfully the Wocky added, "Though not with just anyone, I think how much
you get to see of her reaction depends on how well she knows you. She's very
reserved with most people."
"But if she wants you to know how she feels,
she'll tell you; whether you'd care to know or not," Mourvan added from the
doorway. "Better change the subject," the brown Zafara advised. "Mareian's heading
this way, and if she thinks you're talking about her behind her back, she'll
give us an earful."
At that moment, however, Mareian had a bigger
problem than the guys joking about her. She was more worried about how Jeran
was going to take her news about Athless lying. Just paint me shadow and
call me a Crokabeck, she thought, with all the bad news I've been bringing.
Jeran seemed to have found out she was bringing
bad news too, because she couldn't find him. Both his office and his quarters
were empty, as was Danner's office. After wandering the halls, she finally found
Jeran and Danner along with Mourvan in one of the sun rooms by the courtyard;
chatting about some knight she'd never met named Morris. Of course they had
to be having a happy conversation for her to crash, just her luck.
Jeran was the first to notice her standing in
the doorway, "Hey Mareian," he greeted, scooting over to make room for her on
the couch. "All done?"
"Not quite," Mareian said, settling next to the
blue Lupe. "Athless lied; he was only at the hospital until about seven that night.
He was out of there hours before Jasagh escaped."
"Are you sure?" Jeran asked, while Danner whistled
in surprise softly and Mourvan drew a sharp intake.
"Anna was, she said he left before seven because
he wasn't there for dinner. There were two others there too, Robyn's nephew
Folan and Sir Jamed's brother Branis, who stayed later and could confirm the
Heading off the obvious next question, the pirate
Lupess added, "I ran into Branis in the hall on the way here, and he agreed
with Anna on the time Athless left."
It was amazing how quickly they could get over
their shock and into action. "Mourvan," Jeran snapped, jumping to his feet,
"where should Athless be now?"
"Armory," Mourvan grunted, following the Lupe
out the door. "This week he's supposed to be helping repair crossbows."
"Let's hope he didn't skip out of that early
too," Danner growled.
"First things first," Jeran said. "We need to
get some weapons in case he gets any bad ideas. Mourvan and Danner, carry short
swords; I'll just stick with my dagger, there's no need to get dramatic about
"What about me?" Mareian asked.
Jeran gave her a slight smile, "You head down
to the dungeon and have a high security cell prepared. Not Two, we know the
key on that one's been compromised. Four maybe, make sure we can see it from
the window in Danner's office; I'm going to make sure this one doesn't
escape." Mareian nodded, and headed the other way down the hall at a quick trot.
"I've some short swords in my office weapons
locker we can use," Mourvan offered. "I don't want to go into the armory with
Athless to get a weapon."
"Good idea," Jeran agreed. Hopefully all these
preparations were going to be for nothing; maybe Athless had another alibi that
he'd just forgotten to mention. Though it wasn't very likely, he admitted to
himself. It wasn't like Athless to forget something like that. Then again, Jeran
hadn't thought it like Athless to help a prisoner escape either.
Swinging by Mourvan's office, Jeran adjusted
his dagger to a more accessible spot while the Wocky and Zafara armed themselves.
"Everybody ready?" After the Wocky and Zafara nodded, Jeran continued, "Mourvan,
head around the back to the side door, Danner and I will go through the front.
We don't want any last minute chases here."
After giving Mourvan a couple minutes' head start,
Jeran and Danner headed to the main entry to the armory.
"Hello Cadmere," Jeran greeted the knight on
duty in front armory's front room. "Is Athless still here?"
"I haven't seen him leave," the gruff yellow
Scorchio motioned to a half closed door. "He should be in the corner room with
"Thank you." Motioning for Danner to stay in
the main area, Jeran crossed the room and opened the door to the crossbows.
Keeping his voice as casual as he could, he greeted him. "Hello, Athless."
The red Draik looked up from his workbench covered
in crossbow strings and wooden pins. "Hello, Sir Jeran, this is a pleasant surprise."
There was no flicker of red from the signet ring, or trace of guile in his face,
as far as Jeran could tell Athless was truly glad to see him; which only made
Jeran feel worse about this whole thing.
"I've a question for you," Jeran continued, keeping
a close eye on the Draik squire, "Mareian's finished up with her paperwork and
found a curious thing about one of the alibis. No one seems to know where you
were after around seven. I don't suppose you could fill us in?"
Athless looked at him with eyes as innocent as
the sky, "I was in the hospital, My Lord. Helping roll bandages." The ring's
red haze around his face made the already red Draik seem to glow.
Jeran sighed; he didn't like how this was turning
out. "Athless, we've already got two witnesses saying you left before seven.
Right now you're the only person whose alibi isn't matching up. I don't care
if you were out of the castle after curfew if it gives you an alibi; but right
now you're looking at treason if you can't get someone to vouch for you."
The Draik's usually friendly face contorted into
an ugly snarl. "I already told you, I was in the hospital."
"So you've said," Jeran agreed, "but you're lying."
For a second, Athless looked like he would strike
Jeran, but at the last moment he remembered he was unarmed and Jeran was nearly
twice his size. Instead, he turned to bolt, but the door was blocked by Danner.
Reflexively, Athless stepped back and raised his wings to look bigger and hissed
at Danner as he looked wildly about for an escape.
With Athless distracted, Jeran lunged and grabbed
the Draik's arm, twisting it behind the squire's back. Mourvan slipped through
the door Danner was guarding and grabbed the Draik's other arm and wings, immobilizing
the traitorous squire.
"Danner," Jeran said, "come chain him up and
take him to the dungeon in the most discreet way possible. I don't want this
to turn into a big circus with us leading him out."
Once Danner had the squire securely in his custody,
Jeran let him and Mourvan go ahead while he followed farther behind. He needed
a little time to compose himself before facing Athless again. Deep down he had
still believed that Athless had simply forgotten he'd gone somewhere and had
lost track of time.
Mareian had done well, he saw walking through
the dungeon; she'd shuffled some of the prisoners to new cells so Athless' was
visible from not only Danner's office, but from three of the guard positions.
Jeran could almost hear her muttering about how this one wasn't going
to escape to herself as she rearranged.
Before Athless got to make himself comfortable
in his new home, though, Jeran needed to ask him some questions. Anticipating
his train of thought, Danner had taken Athless straight to a closed in room
and had Athless cuffed to the chair.
Athless' reaction to his situation was a little
less than civil. Jeran let him run his mouth until the Draik started to repeat
himself. "You know," Jeran pointed out, "you can go as long as you want and
it won't make any difference. The walls are lined with nearly a foot of cork
so no one outside can hear you."
"I don't know about you," Mareian added, settling
into a chair, "but I have all the time in the world." The tiny Lupess cocked
her head to the side in the most adorable way imaginable and grinned impishly.
"Hardly," Athless spat. "You'll have troubles
of your own soon enough."
"Probably," she agreed, "but not nearly as soon
as you." Mareian, Jeran decided was going to get a lot further goading the Draik
than he was. Athless had always seemed out of sorts around her, and now this
worked in their advantage.
"Just you wait," Athless threatened. "When the
true king returns it won't be me in this dungeon."
"You mean, when Jasagh tries to take the throne
from Skarl?" Mareian asked, her face amused.
"You knew?" the incredulous Draik sputtered
"You can't tell me you actually believed him;
Jasagh isn't going to be taking the crown for Skarl anytime soon, that's for
Athless snarled at the Lupess' scornful tone.
"How can you be so blindly loyal to that blue oaf?"
"How can you trust Jasagh?" Mareian countered.
"Other than being the same color and species as Shanna, does he have any proof?"
"I believe him."
"Of course you do, that's why you're here
in jail now. And if you think he's going to bother getting you out, you're sadly
mistaken. All Jasagh was doing was using you, despite whatever he promised you."
"Where is Jasagh?" Danner interrupted.
"I don't know," the Draik lied.
"Try again," Jeran said, starting to get irritated.
Athless sneered. "Like I'd tell you."
Mareian opened her mouth to say something, but
was interrupted by the door swinging open behind her. Expecting a knight with
a message, Jeran turned to tell them to wait, and then snapped his mouth shut.
A skeletal Draik's head peered through the open door, its empty eye sockets
apparently examining the room. "We have come for the traitor," he rasped.
To be continued...