Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Rivalry - Part Three
Just once, Jeran thought as he sat in the throne room for
his and the King's morning meeting, it would be nice to have someone come to him
with a solution as opposed to a problem. At least the extra security Mareian had
arranged had come through. Holding back a sigh, he asked the King, "Are we absolutely
certain King Hagan has officially disarmed the entire civilian population of Brightvale?"
King Skarl scowled, "That's what he's saying
in this proclamation."
Jeran shook his head. "I don't like this…"
As soon as he left the king's throne room Jeran
sent squires to find Danner and Mareian and have them report to his office immediately.
As they entered the room, Jeran motioned for them to shut the door. "You guys
are going to love this."
Danner laughed dryly. "Last time you said that
was when I was taking my ordeal of knighthood; what's the bad news?"
"King Hagan has banned civilians from owning
weapons in Brightvale. Any security within Brightvale is supposed to come from
the military only now."
Danner gaped at him, while Mareian sputtered,
"Is he insane? What is he planning on doing to protect the villages from raiders?"
Jeran snorted sarcastically, "Apparently if you
don't have weapons, they won't see you as a threat and will leave you alone.
Unfortunately, it also means we don't have anything guarding our Brightvale
border anymore, so our forces will be spread even more thinly."
"Wonderful," Danner muttered. "Did he have to
do this right before he and the crown prince came here? They might not have
a country to go back to."
"Danner," Jeran asked, "could you shuffle the
knights so that border is better covered, then get me some numbers on Brightvale's
military?" Danner nodded and slipped out the door.
"Mareian," Jeran started, "I know this is…"
Holding up her hands, Mareian interrupted, "Two
steps ahead of you. I'll talk to Khalyen about more security throughout Meridell,
and make sure any operations planned are placed on hold; expect a crime rate
of zero percent until New Years. I'll also have him talk to the Thieves Council
in Brightvale and see if they can form an underground militia to guard the sea
coasts and trading routes from raiders." She smiled and cocked her head, "Anything
Jeran shook his head in amazement; he hadn't
realized how much control Khalyen had over Meridell's crime world. "What would
I do without you, Mareian?"
"Much worse, I imagine," she sniffed.
The rest of the week flew by quickly. Because
of all the extra preparations he had to handle, Jeran ended up dropping everything
with Baron Aafee's suspected weapons smuggling chain on Sir Mourvan. While Mourvan
groused about it, it really wasn't something he couldn't handle.
Mareian had been right, much to Jeran's amazement.
Apparently Khalyen had assigned nearly every thief in Meridell to keep the peace;
if before that week someone had told him he'd see even a day with zero crime,
Jeran would have laughed himself sick. The lack of crime was making Danner paranoid;
he was convinced they were saving up for until King Hagan arrived. Danner started
spending evenings poring over the files of people he suspected and he jumped
nervously whenever there was a loud noise.
"Tell me the truth, Mareian," Lisha asked nervously
while inspecting her reflection in the mirror. "How do I look?"
Mareian hid a smile. "You look good; the dark
red really makes your eyes stand out."
Lisha looked slightly reassured. "I'm still not
sure the dress goes with my glasses."
Mareian grinned, "You look great, Lisha." She
handed Lisha a pair of red enameled bangle bracelets. "Don't forget these."
"Remind me again, how did you get out of this?"
Mareian grimaced, "I'm going with Sir Mourvan
to close the trap on Baron Aafees and his weapon smuggling ring. Trust me, I'd
rather change places with you if I could." Glancing out the window to the sun
she continued, "Speaking of which, I need to get going."
Impishly she added, "Have fun at the banquet,
Lisha, and keep an eye on Jeran for me; he tends to get himself in trouble if
not kept on a short leash."
Lisha laughed. "I'll do that."
Mareian slipped out Lisha's door, and moved briskly
to her rooms. Shutting the door to her quarters tightly, she opened a tub of
black powder and started applying the sooty color to her arms up to the elbows.
Twenty minutes later, the steel grey Lupess peered into her mirror, and saw
a shadow Lupess looking back at her. After hastily dressing in travel clothes,
Mareian silently went to meet Sir Mourvan down by the drawbridge. Slipping onto
the backs of their Unis, they headed out towards the inept Baron's estate just
before the carriages of Brightvale's leaders pulled into sight of Meridell castle.
Even though it was the middle of winter, Mareian
and Mourvan made good time on the roads. Approaching the Aafees estate though,
Mareian got an uneasy feeling. It was too quiet. "Dancin, Mourvan, slow down,"
she ordered quietly, slowing Ricky, her spotted Uni, down to a walk.
Dancin, Mourvan's white Uni partner, slowed while
Mourvan looked at her quizzically, "What's wrong?"
"Look around, what do you see?"
Mourvan surveyed the area curiously, "The road,
empty fields covered in snow, and the Baron's main house."
"Exactly." Seeing Mourvan's blank look, Mareian
continued, "Where are the people? Why does no smoke rise from the Baron's house?
He's expecting us, so why is there no sign of life?" Mareian's feeling of unease
grew stronger. "This is wrong."
Mourvan slid his sword's hilt to a more accessible
position, "Do you want to call it off?"
"No, but keep your eyes open." Mareian patted
her Uni on the neck. "Let's go, Ricky." Ricky used to be a training Uni for
pages and squires in the castle, but the spotted Uni and Mareian had made friends
shortly after she started working at the castle. Now Mareian was the only one
he worked with, and she relied on him on nearly every assignment.
Riding though the estate's unguarded main gate,
they carefully approached the dark manor. They rode all the way up to the front
door without seeing a single person, "I don't like this," Mourvan growled, grasping
the hilt of his sword.
Mareian dismounted silently, and stroked Ricky's
nose. "Stay here and keep a lookout, okay?" she whispered to her Uni friend.
He bumped her comfortingly on the arm with his nose, causing her to giggle softly.
Mourvan motioned that Mareian should go behind
him, something Mareian had no problem with. The door pushed open easily, it
wasn't locked. They quietly stepped into the dark and silent entry way, and
then traveled down the main hallway, checking rooms as they came across their
A pink Shoyru in a fancy dress lay inside the
third room. "Baroness Aafees," Mourvan said softly, recognizing her. Mareian
checked for a pulse, and then shook her head at Mourvan. They found the rest
of the servants, the Baron, and his family lying in the dining room. The rest
of the house was empty.
"Well," Mareian said softly, "while we are here,
let's check the grounds."
The grounds were much easier to search as they
worked their way systematically from outbuilding to outbuilding, finding no
sign of life. In under an hour they had checked every building but the woodshed.
Entering the shed, Mareian saw the tip of a very small orange tail. Such a small
tail could only belong to a child, Mareian thought sadly. Walking around to
the body, she saw a small orange Shoyru boy who looked to be about 10 years
old; with a sigh she knelt to feel for a pulse, and then closed her eyes in
relief. There was a pulse, slow but steady.
With a start, the small Shoyru woke and stared
at her with terror filled eyes. "Easy there, lad," she crooned softly, "I'm
not going to hurt you." Mareian pulled off her cloak and wrapped the boy in
it tightly. "Come on my lad; let's take you to the castle."
As far as banquets with two kings in attendance
went, this evening's dinner hadn't been all that bad, Jeran thought happily
as he entered his office. Lisha had looked absolutely stunning in her new dress;
everyone had complimented her on it. Between Prince Rolan, Lisha, and himself
they had managed to keep the conversation to neutral topics. Hopefully Mareian
and Mourvan would be returning soon with a date and time to arrest Baron Aafees,
and after they reported in he could finally get some sleep.
The door to his office opened, Mareian slipped
in, her sooty expression unreadable. She held the door open for Mourvan, who
was carrying something wrapped up in Mareian's cloak, then shut the door quietly.
Had Aafees given them some weapons already? No, this bundle was shaped wrong
to be concealed weapons.
The bundle squirmed with a small moaning sound,
and a small orange fist slipped out from the folds in the cloak. Jeran looked
at Mourvan's tight face, and then at Mareian's expressionless one with a cold
feeling settling into his gut. Leaning against his desk, Jeran asked, "What
Marian spoke to Mourvan expressionlessly, opening
the door, "I'll explain, get the boy to a decent bed." Mourvan nodded, and then
slipped out with his small burden. Turning to Jeran, she tonelessly explained,
"When we arrived at the estate, the Baron, and all his staff were dead. The
boy is all that remains of his family, Mourvan and I found him hiding in the
Jeran rubbed his temples, this was not the news
he'd hoped to hear. "Did the boy say who killed his family?"
Mareian nodded, "I got him to talk about it while
we were riding back. He said it was the big Gelert his father sold weapons to,
a Gelert by the name of Jasagh." Her eyes narrowed, showing the first display
of emotion since she'd come in. "I'm sure you remember that name."
Jeran nodded, scowling; four months ago, Jasagh
and a band of raiders had attempted to overthrow the government. With Khalyen's
help all the raiders were arrested, with the exception of their leader, the
Gelert Jasagh. Jeran had some serious suspicions that Jasagh had also been behind
both of the Meridell Citadel wars as one of The Three, but couldn't prove it.
Jasagh had also fairly seriously wounded Mareian with a staff to the head, something
Mareian had taken rather personally.
With a sigh Jeran ran his hand through the hair
between his ears, "I don't suppose you have any idea of where our friend went?"
"Oh yeah, Jeran," Mareian said sarcastically,
her eyes snapping, "he went to the Dancing Whinny for a mulled cider, then went
and played a couple rounds of poker."
Jeran sighed in relief; that was the Mareian
he knew. Her earlier lack of emotion had worried him. "If only it was that easy."
He stood and filled his kettle with water from a pitcher, then placed the kettle
on the fire. He was going to need the caffeine from tea tonight. "We should
be glad that he seems to be using the same name. It should make tracking his
movements easier." Changing the subject he queried, "Do you want some tea?"
Mareian nodded absently, and walked up to his
desk. Planting one hand firmly on the top to steady herself, she jumped up and
sat comfortably on the top of his desk, swinging her feet like a child. Jeran
smiled to himself as he pulled out the mugs for tea, Mareian didn't sit in a
chair whenever she had the option, preferring desks or other high surfaces.
"Lets just sit on the Jasagh problem right now,"
Jeran decided as they waited for the water to boil, "we're not going to find
him as spread thin as we are. Let's concentrate on getting through the ball
with no mishaps first."
"That would be a miracle," Mareian commented
dryly, "I'll ask Khalyen to keep his ears open for us though. If he hears anything,
I'll let you know."
"Sounds like a plan," Jeran agreed, pulling the
now boiling water from the fire. Pouring it he added, "I'm pulling you from
any other projects you're on right now. I want you to keep an eye on our visitors;
smile at them, charm them, and if any of them do anything suspicious let me
know. I also want you to, ah, acquire, anything they're carrying that may be
dangerous or that they shouldn't have."
For the first time that evening, the tired Lupess
grinned mischievously, "You're giving me permission to pick pockets within the
castle?" Frowning, she added with concern, "But won't that cause problems with
"Only things within reason," Jeran cautioned.
"I've already talked it over with Rolan and he thinks it's a good idea. Since
he's in charge of Brightvale's security while they are here, King Hagan can't
Handing her a mug of tea he ordered, "Now take
this and go to bed," and then teased, "but first make sure you take out that
black dye in your fur, it looks like it would itch." Mareian stuck out her tongue
at him, then slipped off his desk and carefully walked out so she wouldn't spill
her mug of tea.
Jeran watched her leave with a wistful sigh;
he looked at the paperwork he really should finish, sipping his very hot tea.
Forget it, he thought to himself tiredly. It will still be here tomorrow.
Finishing his tea, the tired Champion headed to his rooms and his nice
To be continued...