Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Rivalry - Part Four
Mareian hadn't had this much fun in ages. Gleefully, she
inspected her latest prize, a heavily engraved silver broach she had 'acquired'
from one of the Brightvale nobles. Feeling smug, she added it to the top of the
box of other acquisitions she had collected in the week since Jeran had given
her permission to 'borrow' any potentially dangerous toys from the visitors. They're
my toys now, she thought possessively. Mareian smirked; Jeran was going to
have to get a bigger toy box for her soon.
Hearing footsteps, she turned to smile at Jeran
as he entered his office; nobody walked like he did, yet it always seemed to
unnerve him how she knew it was him before she saw him. Mareian found the whole
thing rather amusing.
"Your collection is growing," Jeran commented
dryly. He picked up the engraved broach and gave her an odd look. "This is a
This is why Mareian did this job, and not a knight.
Taking the broach from his hands, Mareian grabbed each end of the broach firmly
and twisted. The broach came apart, revealing a small throwing knife concealed
inside. Jeran started in surprise.
"It gets better," she told him. "Look at the
tip." Holding the dagger up in the sunlight, Mareian twisted the dagger, revealing
a slightly yellow sheen on the lower half of the blade. "It's poisoned, but
not recently, about 50 years ago I'd say. It probably wouldn't do any more damage
than a normal knife its size now."
Jeran looked slightly relieved to hear that part.
"So you don't think it was poisoned for anyone here?"
Mareian snorted in exasperation, "That's the
sad part. All these wonderful toys; and most of the people I got them from have
no clue what they are. They all think these are some family trinket, not knowing
that it's a family heirloom designed for assassination."
And such pretty toys they were too, she
thought sadly, so under appreciated by their former owners. In a smooth
movement, Mareian reassembled the knife-concealing broach. "Can I keep this?"
Mareian sighed; it had been worth a shot at least.
The door rapped sharply, Jeran tossed some papers
over Mareian's toy box and opened the door. To Mareian's surprise it wasn't
a Meridellian on the other side, but a richly dressed yellow Kougra dressed
in Brightvale's colors.
"Rolan, come in," Jeran gestured the Kougra in.
Now Mareian recognized him as the Crown Prince of Brightvale; and Lisha's partner
for the ball, she thought with a mental grin. Catching Jeran's eye, Mareian
made a motion to the door, asking if she should leave. Jeran shook his head
slightly, and motioned for her to stay with a small flick of his fingers. Mareian
settled herself more comfortably on Jeran's desk. Desks, she thought happily,
are much higher than chairs. Especially Jeran's desk, which she strongly suspected
had been built to order for him, most desks wouldn't be nearly tall enough.
Rolan scowled at her, and with a start Mareian
realized she was still holding the engraved broach; using the pretence of settling
her skirts, Mareian slipped the broach into a hidden pocket in her dress. The
she settled her hand primly on her lap and returned the prices gaze levelly.
"Is she trustworthy?" he finally demanded Jeran.
Depends on who you ask, Mareian thought
Jeran answered with a level tone, "She wouldn't
be in here if I didn't trust her." Mareian was glad she had dark tipped ears;
she hadn't blushed so much since Mavude had complemented her wrist movements
when picking locks.
Rolan looked at Jeran, his tail twitching in
agitation, "I'm willing to guess that you took the news of Father's proclamation
the same way I did?"
"If you're talking about the ban on weapons,
probably yes," Jeran agreed. "What I don't understand is why he ordered it."
Rolan snorted bitterly. "Ask his new advisor.
Father relies on him heavily, more so than me anymore." Moving his arm in a
sharp cutting motion, he continued, "All we ever hear anymore is Jasagh this,
Jasagh that. He's the one who advised Father that taking the weapons away from
the peasants would mean fewer raids."
Mareian hissed, throwing a sharp look to a stunned
Jeran. "This Jasagh," she asked intently, "what species is he?"
Rolan looked at her in surprise, "Jasagh's a
Mareian looked at Jeran; he was the one who had
to make the call for how much they told Rolan about their problems with the
Jeran sighed, "We have reason to suspect Jasagh
was behind the murder of Baron Aafees and his family, with the exception of
the Baron's youngest son." Rolan's eyes grew large as Jeran continued, "We also
have evidence of his attempt to overthrow Meridell's government four months
Mareian cocked an eyebrow; apparently Brightvale's
crown prince was going to get the whole story. Following a hunch, she theorized,
"My guess is that he's going to try to take over Brightvale. An unarmed country
would be much easer to take over, and I'm willing to bet a month's pay that
the raiders you've been having problems with work for him." She shrugged. "At
least that's what I would do.
"What you need to do is figure out a way to get
around King Hagen's order, and arm your people with things that won't be recognized
as weapons," she finished thoughtfully.
Rolan snorted, "Weapons are usually pretty easy
to identify, my Lady."
Pulling the dagger concealing broach out of her
pocket, Mareian asked, "Like this one?"
Rolan's jaw hit the floor as Mareian smoothly
pulled the brooch apart and revealed the dagger. Maybe some of these wonderful
toys will finally be appreciated, Mareian thought, watching the light kindle
in Rolan's eyes.
Mareian was up to something, Lisha decided, scowling
at her Lupess friend.
"Please Lisha," Mareian begged, "just keep King
Hagan's attention for an hour or so."
"Why me?" Lisha retorted, "I don't even know
why you want him away from his court. Why don't you do it?"
"Because I'm not educated enough to keep up with
him," Mareian admitted, "Hagan likes to show off how well read he is, and I've
only been reading for four months. You, on the other hand, singlehandedly put
the whole library together."
Caving, Lisha asked, "And what am I supposed
to talk to him about?"
Mareian grinned cheekily as she started towards
the door, "Talk to him about great philosophers, start with Anselm's ontological
argument for all I care. Just work the conversation to the philosophy of rule
and the people, and whose ideas he admires and respects."
Lisha shook her head. Insanity must be spreading,
she scolded herself mentally. And what in the world was behind Mareian's
sudden interest in King Hagan's philosophical beliefs? With a start, Lisha realized
that she had no clue what the argument Mareian had suggested as a conversation
starter was. Lisha grinned, she'd just found the perfect way to get Hagan to
talk to her for hours on end.
Now if only she knew why Mareian wanted to know
about all of this so badly.
Just two more days, Jeran told himself as he
and Mareian sat at a table in the market waiting for Khalyen's messenger, he
only had to make it for another two days and he could take a well earned vacation.
"Two more days until what?" Mareian asked.
Jeran started, he hadn't meant to speak out loud.
Grinning sheepishly he explained, "Two more days until this ball is over with
and our visitors start to head home. Then I can take a well earned vacation."
"You won't, you know," she said seriously, setting
her mug of mulled cider firmly on the table.
"You won't take a vacation," Mareian explained,
her face shining with sincerity as she went on; "sometimes, I try to envision
you sitting in a grassy field by a flowing stream, with absolutely nothing to
"Oh? And what happens?" he asked curiously, idly
stirring his own cider.
"For some reason, it always ends with your head
Jeran opened his mouth to retort, but before
he could say anything a graying shadow Zafara slipped into the seat next to
"Mavude!" Mareian greeted the elderly Zafara
So this was Mavude, Jeran thought, Mareian had
always spoken highly of her Zafara mentor. From what Jean had been able to piece
together, Mavude had raised Mareian and Khalyen after they became orphans.
"So what news from my overly tall brother?" Mareian
Mavude grunted, "Cryptic as always; he says the
Philosopher is coming, and should be here in time for the ball. I assume you
understand that; and if you don't, that's just too bad. Anyways," the graying
shadow Zafara finished in her rough voice, "that's all that brother of yours
says he knows. Either way, I'm enjoying the break he's put us all on until New
Year's, my bones are getting too old to be out all night."
Mareian smiled gratefully, "Thank you, Mavude."
Mavude chuckled, "Ah lass." She patted Mareian's
arm maternally, "I'm proud of you, you know. You found a way to do what you're
good at without getting in trouble, not to mention you managed to get a good
boss." Winking cheekily, she added, "And it certainly doesn't hurt that he's
Unfortunately for Jeran, he'd been in mid sip
of his drink. "Mavude!" Marian protested, obviously fighting back giggles as
Jeran choked on his cider in surprise.
Mareian's laughter faded sharply as her friend
doubled over in a coughing fit. "Are you alright?" she asked in alarm.
Mavude smiled warily, "Ah, it's old age, and
there's only one cure for that. Besides," she continued, pointing a finger at
her young protégé, "it's your and your brother's fault that I've made it this
long. He spoils me, you know. No one in my family has ever lived to be my age,
so don't you go feeling sorry for me." Mavude pulled a couple coins from a concealed
pouch and handed them across the table to Mareian, "Now be a sweetie and get
me some cider too?"
"She's so like her mother was," Mavude commented
thoughtfully as Mareian was getting more drinks.
Blinking in surprise, Jeran asked "You knew her
"Oh yes," Mavude reminisced, "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.
Mareian doesn't remember her, but she acts and sounds almost exactly like her
mother." Smiling wryly she commented, "The best traits breed true."
To be continued...