Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Nine
Mareian stared at the Draik skeleton in fascination. While
she'd heard stories of the lower dungeon's guards, she'd never really quite believed
them; she'd always figured they were stories cooked up to scare people. How
do they walk without falling apart? she wondered curiously. Mareian turned
to look at Athless, who seemed completely taken aback. It seemed he was realizing
how much trouble he was in for the first time.
"Traitors," the skeleton hissed, "belong to us."
He walked fully into the room, followed by two more of his kind. "They are ours;
it has been the law since the first king."
Danner started to say something that sounded
like an objection, but Jeran's raised hand stopped him. "We know the laws,"
the Lupe said with a small bow, "and would never dream of withholding a traitor
from you. Let him go to the dungeon he deserves."
Athless made a strangled squeak of protest, and
struggled against his bindings as the first Draik stepped aside for the two
behind him. "You release him into our custody?" the first Draik rasped.
"Gladly," Jeran said, his baritone voice as cold
The binding cuffs on Athless dissolved at the
skeleton's touch; the red Draik struggled as the bone hands grabbed his arms
and pulled him up. Mareian was impressed. For not having any muscles, the skeletons
were pretty strong.
Athless didn't seem quite so impressed; the former
squire struggled to get free, and on some instinct broke one arm free and reached
Instantly, Jeran, Danner and Mourvan pulled their
weapons as Mareian jumped back from the Draik's grasping reach. Before the knights
could do anything though, the skeletal Draik still holding the squire threw
the Draik to the ground. "Never touch her," he seethed, his bony wings creaking
in anger. "You don't even deserve to look at her."
"I'm sorry, my lady," the skeleton Athless had
escaped from apologized with a deep bow. "He won't get away from me again."
Out of the corner of her eye, Mareian saw Jeran
gape at her and the skeletons. Drat, the last thing she needed was Jeran asking
questions about why the skeletal guards cared anything about her. According
to the stories she'd always heard, they couldn't care less about the living,
let alone worry about offending someone.
Meanwhile, the first of the Draiks grasped Athless'
other arm and wing to help pull the squire off the ground and out of the room.
Silence reigned as the two Lupes, the Wocky, and the Zafara stared at the now
"Well," Mourvan managed, "that was something
you don't see everyday."
Time to get out of here before anyone started
asking any questions, Mareian decided. "Are we done here?"
"I can't think of anything we could do now,"
"Great, I'll see you guys later." Mareian escaped
through the door and headed down the hall. She had been mistaken; someone had
believed Jasagh. She needed to get to the Royal Library and do some research.
Jeran couldn't sleep. After an hour of restlessly
tossing and turning, he conceded defeat and decided to go for a walk. Perhaps
some time on the punching bag would make him feel better. Reaching the padded
room exercise room, Jeran was surprised to see that it was already occupied.
Curious, the blue Lupe quietly peeked in to see
who was working out this late. It was Mareian, and she was dancing. Not exactly
dancing, Jeran corrected himself, it was more of a mix of fighting forms and
tumbling. Instead of her normal heavy skirt and peasant blouse, the pirate Lupess
wore a tight tank top and trousers that just reached the tip of her hock. The
different clothing accentuated just how tiny his little thief was. No wonder
she always wore bulky clothing; she was smaller than most of the first year
He decided not to bother her. Jeran knew he hated
it when people interrupted him, and Mareian was probably the same way. Maybe
he'd have better luck in the library; often some of the instructors would get
together to play board and card games in the evening.
"Sir Jeran," the librarian on duty greeted him.
"You're up late. Lady Lisha isn't here, if you're looking for her."
"That's alright, I didn't expect her to be here
anyways," Jeran assured the orange Ogrin. On a sudden impulse, he continued,
"I have a question, where did my sister move the Sommer's history section?"
The Ogrin librarian looked at him in surprise.
"You too, my lord? Miss Mareian was just looking at all those books; I hadn't
even had a chance to put them away. They're right here in the basket, just put
them back here when you're done with them."
What in the world was Mareian doing with history
books? Jeran wondered as he picked up the basket the librarian had pointed to.
It wasn't just history books, he noticed; there were legal books as well. Mareian
had never expressed any interest in history before; she'd always avoided them
when he'd taught her to read. "If I wanted to hear about people who
died before I was born," she'd said, "then I'd ask Mavude
for a story."
Perhaps she was curious about the princess Jasagh
claimed to be the son of? Jeran nodded to himself, that made a lot more sense.
The legal books could be explained by that too, he thought, remembering her
asking Athless about Jasagh's proof. Not having the legal classes Jeran had
taken, she would have had to look up what Jasagh would need to support such
a claim. Jeran was a little surprised she'd thought of it, though; he would
have expected her to just ask - not to go through the effort of looking it all
up in dry legal books.
So what had this princess Shanna looked like,
anyway, Jeran wondered. Her father, King Ethan, had been a royal Acara, he remembered.
Sorting though the books until he found a likely candidate, he flipped to the
last chapter. Sweet Fyora, Ethan had a lot of kids. He found her on the very
last page of the book, a sweet looking royal Gelert with a shy smile. She'd
been fairly young when the picture had been drawn, about five or so. The bio
on her was pretty short, too. "The youngest of His Majesty's children,
Shanna is the twin sister of Havya; and of all the royal cubs, seems to have
the most magical aptitude."
Jeran frowned, the name Havya was ringing a bell;
he'd heard it somewhere recently. Mavude's rough voice floated in his memory,
"Oh yes, their father Glebrel was a tall, Lupe blacksmith. Both Mareian
and Khalyen get their pirate color from him. Their mother was Havya, the prettiest
royal Gelertess you'd ever see..."
Jeran snapped the book shut. That wasn't possible.
Against his will, Mareian's voice overrode his mental objections, "Khalyen
sends his condolences, and says better you than him... And I'm with Khalyen,
better you than me."
Desperate for something to clear his head, Jeran
read through the titles of the other books Mareian had pulled out. Fallen
Leaves of the Royal Tree was wedged under the stack of law books. Jeran
had loathed that book in school, it covered the history of a civil war that
had happened far in the south. The ending hadn't been very happy for the losing
Taking a deep breath, Jeran tried to look at
the whole thing logically. If... if Mareian was Havya's daughter, she'd
probably had it drilled into her from childhood to never let anyone find out.
And if Havya had managed to survive the plague and have cubs, there was no compelling
reason that her twin couldn't have done the same. Which meant Jasagh could be
exactly who he said he was.
The royal Gelert wouldn't be the next in line
for the throne though, Jeran realized with a start, that would fall to Khalyen.
The idea of the Lupe King of Thieves as the King of Meridell made Jeran snort
a short laugh. Jasagh must not know about Mareian and Khalyen's heritage, then;
he was the type to remove a potential threat rather than recruit them. The Gelert
had already managed to get to Mareian once already, Jeran thought soberly. If
he could figure out his Lupess' heritage, there was no reason Jasagh couldn't
Quickly replacing all the books into the basket,
Jeran left it at the check in desk. He needed to talk to Mareian, and he was
pretty sure she wasn't going to be happy with him. She was right where he'd
left her, stretching out on the padded mats, it looked like she'd just finished.
Seeing him enter, she smiled. "You're up late.
Don't you have a meeting early tomorrow?"
"I couldn't sleep," he explained, shutting the
door securely. He didn't want anyone outside overhearing the conversation he
was going to start.
"Nothing's wrong exactly, but we need to talk."
You could have heard a pin drop in the next room
over, as Mareian registered what he'd said. Her hazel eyes widened in shock,
and she looked at Jeran with an emotion he never, ever, wanted her to
associate with him: fear.
Jeran sighed. "Don't look at me like that. I'm
not mad, just worried."
Mareian took a slight step back, "Worried?" This
obviously wasn't the way she would have expected him to react.
"If I could figure it out, so could Jasagh. He
wouldn't take kindly to someone having a more legitimate claim to the throne
Mareian's mouth opened to say something, but
her eyes flicked down to his hand and her mouth snapped shut. The ring,
he realized. She knows about the ring Illusen lent me.
"You're the princess who left the signet ring
with Illusen, aren't you?" he guessed. "You left it with her because you couldn't
give it to me directly, not without telling me where you got it."
"You're not angry?" the pirate Lupess whispered.
It should be against the law for someone's eyes to be able to get that big;
even if he had been mad at her, he couldn't have stayed that way if Mareian
looked at him like that.
"I'm a little surprised," he admitted, "and a
little confused. But I'm not mad." Stepping closer, he caught her shoulder.
"I don't suppose you could explain what happened?"
"I'm not sure about all of it," she admitted,
leaning up against him for support, "Khalyen said it was because Mama and my
Aunt were sent away from the castle to keep them from getting sick; but the
nurse who was supposed to keep an eye on them caught the plague, and different
families took them in and raised them."
"Jasagh may not know any more than you do," Jeran
mused. "If so, we might be able to use that to our advantage."
"I'm not sure yet," he admitted, "but it's something
to keep in mind."
Mareian shivered. "You're going to tell Skarl,
aren't you?" she asked in a small voice.
Ouch, that was a good question. Jeran was quiet
for a long time, thinking hard. "I suppose," he said slowly, "that would depend
on if either you or Khalyen wanted the throne."
"Khalyen doesn't want it; he meant it when he
said better you than him. And to be perfectly honest, running a kingdom sounds
like my worst nightmare." She swallowed hard, and then continued, "We had a
long talk about it during the wars, what we would do if something happened to
Skarl. Trying for the throne was our very last resort, right under dusting Crokabecks
with lime and throwing them at the citadel."
Jeran suddenly had the very odd mental picture
of white-dusted black birds being shot out of catapults. "That far down, eh?
Well, as long as you're content to be just Mareian, I think we can just keep
going the way we were, and not tell Skarl." Mareian sagged against him in relief;
she must have been terrified of Skarl's reaction if he found out. Curiosity
finally got the better of him. "So why did you give me the ring? I'm assuming
you could have used it just as easily."
"Not without raising a lot of questions," Mareian
disagreed. "It is rather distinctive looking." Grabbing his wrist, she pulled
up his hand and pressed her palm up against his; his hand dwarfed hers. "Not
to mention," she said wryly, "it never would have stayed on my finger."
To be continued...