Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Ten
Jasagh's army had started their attack at dawn. Pages and
squires scurried about the castle wildly, dumping sand on the oily fires that
spread through the castle while Jeran lead his knights in an effort to push back
the hundreds of warriors that Jasagh had brought. Fighting his way up a stairwell,
Jeran wondered where in Neopia Jasagh had managed to get so many men. All thought
ceased though, when he heard a scream further up the stairs. Mareian.
Jeran bounded up the stairs to the landing, not
even bothering to fight, but merely shoving his enemies out of his way. At the
top of the stairs he found her, crumpled in a motionless heap, her daggers beside
her on the floor. "No," Jeran whispered. Dropping to his knees, he carefully
rolled her over, "Mare,"he begged, "wake up." Suppressing a sob, he gently cradled
her head, "Please wake up." Her sightless hazel eyes stared past him, beyond
the stone ceiling. She was gone.
"No!" Jeran screamed, bolting upright in his
bed and panting heavily. He wasn't in the stairwell landing, he was in his bedroom;
and judging from the moon he'd only been asleep for a couple hours. Taking a
deep breath, Jeran pressed his hands against his face. He hadn't had a nightmare
like that in years. Not since the last war.
Telling his body that it had only been a dream
was hard; his heart still raced, and his hands still shook. He didn't want to
go back to sleep; he was convinced he'd see Mareian's sightless eyes staring
again as soon as he closed his eyes. Despite his best efforts, however, sleep
slowly dragged the Lupe back into unconsciousness.
Across Meridell, another figure shook with exhaustion.
Influencing dreams was hard, especially with that Faeries cursed Champion. Crown
prince, Jasagh bitterly amended. The idea of that blue mutt sitting on his throne
turned the royal Gelert's stomach; it was almost as if Skarl knew his plans
and was deliberately making his decisions solely to anger the deposed prince.
He'd hoped to discover how much Jeran and the
King knew about his plans by watching the Lupe's dreams. Unfortunately, the
Lupe had an iron will, and you couldn't simply pull the information out of his
mind. The best you could do was suggest something to his subconscious and see
how it ran with it. It had been a lot easier during the war when he had the
Faerie Ambition helping. Even then it hadn't always worked; they'd never seen
a hint of the attack on the citadel.
Perhaps this evening hadn't been a total waste
in the end, though. It seemed the Lupe had a much closer relationship to that
Lupess Mareian than the usual boss - employee one he thought they shared. That
could also explain why she'd refused to work for him; she was loyal to the Lupe
himself instead of the paycheck. How stupid of him not to have seen that before.
Perhaps this new discovery could be used to his advantage.
There were times, Mareian decided, when she really
didn't understand Jeran. She had though he would have been furious after he
learned about her mother. Instead, his biggest worry was what Jasagh would do
on the off chance the Gelert found out. The blue Lupe was starting to get as
overprotective of her as he was of Lisha. Note to self, she thought,
never let Jeran in some of the pubs I go to for poker; he'd never let me
out of the castle again.
Speaking of poker, it was about time for her
to do her rounds again for gossip. Maybe someone had heard something about Jasagh
and his whereabouts. The best place to start would probably be the Carpenter's
Arms; Friar Asquith hung out a lot there and tended to know nearly all of the
local gossip. As an added bonus, it doubled as an inn; and travelers often joined
into the poker games too.
Jeran would have a Kau if she went by herself,
though. Danner was a no go; Mirtah often hung out looking for a job there, and
he tended to lose track of what he was doing when the shadow Cybunny was around.
Mareian guessed she only had herself to blame for that. Well, maybe Jeran was
free; he was a little conspicuous because of his size, but there wasn't much
they could do about that.
It was funny how rarely anyone recognized him
out in town, though; what did they expect, a golden beam of light from the heavens
following him around? Mareian could probably count on one hand how many Lupes
there were that were taller than him. But he looked and acted so much like a
'normal' person that people were always surprised when they learned who he was.
Maybe they thought he just lived in the castle and never left or something.
Of course, all most people knew about Jeran was
that he was a blue Lupe, and that was a common enough color and species. Mareian
snickered, wondering how often some other poor Lupe got mistaken for Jeran.
She found the real Jeran at his desk, reading a stack of paperwork. "Having
fun?" she asked with a mischievous grin.
Jeran shot her a dirty look, "Tons," he drawled,
"bushels and bushels of fun."
"Oh yeah, looks like your having more fun than
a barrel full of Myncies."
Jeran shuddered. "That is something I never,
ever, want to see."
"Coward," the pirate Lupess teased.
What a perfect opening. "Speaking of betting,
I need to play some poker."
"Need, eh?" The blue Lupe grinned crookedly,
"Someday we're going to have a talk about you and your needs."
"Gee, thanks." Mareian stuck out her tongue at
the Champion. "Really though, how else do you think I'm going to hear if anyone's
seen Jasagh? And I know you don't want me to go alone, so come with me."
Jeran gave the pile of papers a significant look.
"You don't have to ask me twice."
Mareian grinned, her hazel eyes mischievous.
"Would you like to go with me to play poker?"
"I thought so."
"Know what your problem is?" Jeran retorted.
"You think you're cute."
Mareian gave an airy twitch of her ear. "No I
don't, I think I'm adorable."
Jeran laughed as he opened the door out the castle
for her. "I don't think anyone who wants to keep his ears is going to argue
At least it had stopped raining, the pirate Lupess
thought in approval. The snow of last week had turned to a drizzling rain the
night before; turning most of the city's streets to an icy, slush covered cobblestone
accident just waiting to happen.
"Puddles," Mareian complained, pointing to a
large lake forming in the roadway. "I hate puddles."
Jeran grinned as he easily stepped over the water.
"Not a problem for me."
"Show off," the pirate Lupess growled; backing
up she took a running jump over the puddle. To her surprise, Jeran caught her
mid air and spun her around before setting her, giggling, on the ground. "Whee,"
she leaned on his arm, "dizzy."
Jeran grinned. "So, where are we going?"
"The Carpenter's Arms."
"Oh good, nice and close."
"No way do I want to go much further; the weather's
spotty enough that I really don't want to walk all the way across town. And
knowing the potholes over by Food n' Slop, I'd fall in a puddle and drown."
"I'd rescue you."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
Mareian laughed, turning off the road towards
the inn. "You asked for it. So are you going to play too, or just have a drink
"Just watch, the last thing I need is you cleaning
"Even if I promised you'd still have your shirt
by the end?"
Grinning down at her, the blue Lupe explained,
"I don't trust you that much; you have a rather shady reputation with other
"So you trust me with the security of the kingdom
- but not with a couple gold pieces?"
"Exactly," he retorted, opening the door to the
"Sometimes I worry about your priorities," Mareian
murmured, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the much darker room. With it so
close to New Year's, there were a lot of guests. There was a game of poker going,
and to her luck it seemed one of the players was just about ready to leave,
a perfect opening for her to join in. Even better, she could make out Friar
Asquith's bulky Bruce form at the table too.
While Jeran settled into a back table where he
could keep an eye on everyone, Mareian headed to the poker table. "Room for
"Miss Mareian!" Friar Asquith greeted her. "I
was hoping to see you today."
"Can anyone vouch for you?" a grizzled red Gelert
growled. "We've already had one player today who wasn't good for his bets."
"I can," Friar Asquith said, "I've played with
Mareian often, and her copper is always good." Grinning he added, "And I can
also vouch that she has the cutest smile when she takes all your coins too;
it makes losing almost worth it."
The rest of the table chuckled and relaxed. "Well,
pull up a seat, then," the Gelert invited.
Settling in the chair beside the Friar, Mareian
murmured, "Did you have to add that last part?"
"It's true," he retorted under his breath. "Besides,
I need to talk to you privately after we play a couple rounds; I have news of
your royal Gelert friend."
Careful to not let her excitement show on her
face, Mareian added her share to the pot. She should only play a few rounds
for appearances, then she and the Friar could talk.
Four rounds later, Mareian gave her most adorable
smile as she scooped in her winnings. She'd actually managed to make a pretty
good profit, even though she hadn't really been trying. The news the blue Bruce
was carrying was far more valuable to her.
"I hate to win and run," she apologized, "but
I really have to go."
"Join me for a drink before you go," Asquith
Mareian beamed at him; what a perfect way for
him to excuse them together. "I'm sure I can make time for one cup." Threading
her way though the tables; Mareian led Asquith back to Jeran's table, and settled
in to a worn wooden chair.
"Your Highness," the Bruce greeted the Lupe quietly
as he settled into the table's last chair. "I wasn't expecting to see you here."
Turning to Mareian, he continued, "I've seen
that Gelert of yours, traveling along the road to Cogham. He looks like he's
trying to keep a low profile, he's staying out of the town proper, but there
are a lot of abandoned estates around there from before the Citadel arrived.
No one would ever notice if someone settled into one away from the road."
"Nobody wants to live right under the Citadel,"
Jeran said wryly, "not that I blame them. Skarl had to buy their estates from
them, and sell them new land further away. Now we have a lot of very good farmland
that brings no crops."
"And a perfect place for squatters," Mareian
"Exactly," Asquith agreed. "Normally they don't
stay for very long, and don't do any harm, so no one in Cogham pays attention
to them. It's not like they're hurting anything. Your royal Gelert, however,
seems to be different. At least I'd assume so since you're so interested in
"He's caused us a moderate amount of trouble,"
Jeran agreed. Mareian suppressed a snort, that was the understatement of the
"Well," the Bruce finished, "I'm not going to
hold you here any longer, I'm sure you both have something to do now. I'm needed
back at the Abby soon anyways."
To be continued...