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Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part One


by nimras23

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Mareian was irked. No, irked wasn't quite the right word. Nether was angry or puzzled. Frustrated, perhaps? Life was much simpler before she had such a large vocabulary. The side effects of reading they don't warn you about, she thought dryly. The tiny pirate Lupess glowered at the empty, unlocked cell; it hadn't been empty last night, and it shouldn't be empty this morning.

     "I am very vexed with you," she warned the lock of the delinquent door. "I worked hard to get Jasagh into that cell."

     The lock didn't say anything in its defense.

     The Lupess twitched a black tipped ear in irritation. "You're supposed to keep prisoners in, and not give them freedom just because it's a holiday," she scolded. "Especially a prisoner who tried to take over both Meridell and Brightvale."

     Now the lock's silence was offensive. Mareian was sure if the lock could talk, it would be taunting her.

     "You do realize," she informed the lock, "that I'm going to get the blame for this."

     The lock didn't really seem to care.

     "Just for that," she threatened, "I'm going to tell Illusen on you, and have you re-magicked."

     Even that threat didn't seem to impress the lock. Mareian decided to leave before either she or the lock lost their tempers.

     Entering her quarters, Mareian shut the door firmly and flopped onto her bed. It figured; yesterday had been such a good day, so of course today must be equally bad. Poor Jeran's nerves probably weren't up for many more surprises. Not after King Skarl announcing that he was appointing the blue Lupe Crown Prince last night at the ball. From the look on Jeran's face, Skarl had neglected to tell the giant Lupe about it beforehand. Despite herself, she grinned at the memory of Jeran's shocked expression.

     Sitting up, Mareian drummed her fingers on her bedspread in thought. She really needed to speak with Illusen; she'd know more about the enchantments on the high security locks than Danner. But what if the locks hadn't been magicked to unlock? Those locks were supposed to resist any magic or lock pick. What if they'd been unlocked with the key?

     Treason. Mentally, Mareian ran through the list of people who had access to the keys. They were all knights, barring the red Draik squire Athless who would take his Ordeal of Knighthood in a week and herself. Every single one of them was trustworthy as far as she knew. There was a way to tell if one was lying, but she'd have to talk to her brother Khalyen over it first.

     Climbing off her bed, Mareian crossed the room to her desk and opened its bottom drawer. In the back was a small secret compartment that held three small boxes. Two of those boxes were new additions, her opal jewelry she'd gotten as Day of Giving presents yesterday. The third was a tiny, weather-beaten wooden box. Mareian placed the worn box in one of the many pockets hidden in her skirt, and then carefully secured the secret compartment before leaving her room.

     The carpeted halls of the castle were empty; everyone was still sleeping off last night's festivities. The quietness of the halls saved her; if it had been much louder she wouldn't have heard the soft scuff on the carpet right before a shadow jumped out of a niche and grabbed her. Years of reflex took over as Mareian dodged to the side and swept her leg out to trip her attacker. A yellow form hit the carpeted stone floor, giving Mareian her first good chance to see her attacker.

     "I admit I was expecting some sort of foolishness like this," she said coolly to the Chia, "but not from you."

     Robyn Llewelyn, the Yellow Knight, scowled up at her while gasping for air. Apparently the fall had knocked the wind out of him. "You betrayed us," he rasped at her.

     "Oh? And when did I do that?" As long as he was going to talk, she might as well hear what rumors were spreading.

     Glaring, he accused, "You released the prisoner."

     "Why would I do something like that?"

     "Who knows why traitors do anything?" he countered as he tried to rise to his feet. "Maybe to kill Jeran?

     "If I'd wanted Jeran dead, he wouldn't be Crown Prince now," she snapped, "and if you'd use your brain, Sir Knight, you'd realize that I wouldn't have had time to help the prisoner escape. I was with Jeran and Danner at the ball all night."

     A slow, orange flush spread across the Chia's cheeks. He opened his mouth to say something, but Mareian cut him off.

     "The death of Jeran is the last thing I want," the pirate Lupess seethed. "Now, I'm going to forget this happened, and I suggest you to do the same." Irritably, Mareian stormed past him to the exit of the castle, she didn't have time for this nonsense. The slush filled streets outside the castle were just as deserted, and lacked any surprises on her way to Illusen's Glade.

     Turning off the well beaten path, she crossed the snow frosted woods until she reached the trees that marked one of the entrances of the Thieves Council. It was considerably more crowded in here than it had been outside, but everyone inside was busy working and paid no attention to her. She found her lanky, pirate colored brother Khalyen in his bedroom, packing a leather suitcase.

     Noticing her dark scowl, the Lupe asked in concern, "What's wrong? You and Jeran have a falling out?"

     "No," she snapped, irritably pacing around his room, "apparently I'm trying to kill him."

     "What?"

     As concisely as she could, Mareian explained the escape of Jasagh and the Yellow Knight's attack on her way here.

     "This would have to happen now," he groaned. "I'm due in Sakhmet in a week for the Council Conclave."

     "Leave it to you," she teased her older brother primly, "to go on a vacation in the Lost Desert whilst I am in mortal danger."

     "I'd stay if I could, but you know I can't. Meridell can't go unrepresented, not with the new King of Thieves in Brightvale.

     "I'm leaving Julia and Jessa in charge," he continued, "I'll make it clear to them to help you with anything you ask." The Lupe pinned his ears in annoyance. "The last thing we need is someone rocking the boat right now; tensions between Brightvale and us have been really tight since Khaage was voted the new king."

     Mareian sighed. "It's just bad timing."

     "Or very good timing," he growled suspiciously.

     "Stop going all big-brother on me, I've been looking out for myself since I was six."

     "And I've been looking out for you since long before then," Khalyen countered.

     "I think Jeran's going to need your help more than I do right now."

     "And what help do you think we've left to give him?" Khalyen asked curiously.

     Silently Mareian took the worn box from her pocket. Khalyen looked at her in surprise. "Do you think Jeran will be able to use it?"

     Mareian shrugged. "Last night Skarl appointed him Crown Prince, as far as I know that should be enough."

     Khalyen looked thoughtful. "It's worth a shot at least." Giving her a sharp look, he warned, "You'll have to figure out a way to keep him from knowing where it came from."

     Mareian looked meaningfully in the direction of Illusen's hut. "I don't think that will be too much of a problem." She grinned toothily, her mood brightening. "You should have seen his face," she giggled. "Skarl must have 'forgotten' to say anything about it to Jeran beforehand."

     Khalyen snorted. "Better Jeran than me. Managing the Thieves Guild is more than enough for me as it is; I can't imagine the headaches that come with the official government."

     Mareian gave her lanky Lupe brother a hug. "Try to have fun, and don't let Khaage bully the Conclave. I'll see you when you get back; I've got to get to Illusen's."

     Illusen was delighted to see Mareian; the earth Faerie said so as soon as she opened the door. She wasn't so delighted, however, when Mareian explained why she was there.

     "What?" the earth Faerie exploded. "I enchanted those locks myself; no one should be able to escape!"

     Mareian took a slight step backwards. Angry earth Faeries weren't something one wanted to be too close to. Especially when the Faerie was as powerful as Illusen.

     "Which lock was it?" the irate Faerie demanded.

     At least she was asking questions Mareian could answer. "High security number two."

     Illusen's eyes grew distant, and Mareian got the uncomfortable sensation that she was all by herself in the Faerie's humble hut; even though Illusen stood less than six feet away.

     Illusen laughed softy, amusement replacing anger on her delicate, freckled features. "What did you do to the lock?" she asked curiously, her eyes still distant.

     "I scolded it," Mareian admitted, embarrassed. She'd had no idea the high security locks could talk.

     "You certainly made it cooperative. Normally they're rather secretive on who's opened them last and how. Two insists that the only way he's been opened was with the key."

     "I was afraid of that," Mareian muttered.

     Illusen's eyes focused squarely on Mareian, her attention firmly back in the hut. "I must admit," she said candidly, "that your concern for the current… administration surprises me."

     Mareian gave Illusen her most innocent face. "Why should that surprise you?"

     "I knew your mother, and I'm not an idiot."

     Mareian made a wry face. "The only idiot is anyone who accuses you of being one."

     Illusen accepted the compliment with a slight nod, and then pressed, "So why do you care what happens to King Skarl?"

     Mareian decided to be honest; evasion wasn't going to fool Illusen. "I don't. Skarl has nothing to do with it."

     "What does?" Illusen asked intently.

     Mareian suppressed a scowl; Illusen could ask far too many questions. "A stable kingdom makes life much easier. People guard their possessions less when they feel safe," she replied tartly.

     Illusen gave her an amused look. "And?"

     This time Mareian really did scowl; the green and red haired Faerie was far too good at seeing through half answers. "Jeran," she admitted, looking down at Illusen's wooden floor. "He's the first non-thief to treat me like a real person, instead of vermin."

     "Well, what do you know," Illusen said in mock amazement, "the Lupess of stone actually can care about someone." Pulling up a chair, she continued, "So, what are you going to do about our mystery traitor?"

     "I can't do very much," Mareian spat, "considering I'll probably be suspect number one." Pulling the small box out of her pocket she continued, "But you can do something."

     Illusen's left eyebrow cocked in surprise as she took the box. "I can?" Opening the box, her right eyebrow joined her left up by her hairline as she admired the enameled signet ring inside.

     "It's Shanna's," Mareian explained. "Khaylen has Mother's. Now that Jeran's Crown Prince, he should be able to use it."

     "And how," Illusen asked dryly, "am I supposed to explain to Jeran where I got a royal signet ring?"

     "You're a Faerie," Mareian explained. "Everyone knows Faeries have powerful objects cluttering their homes. Jeran probably won't ask where you got it, and he's polite enough that he'll return it when this is all over." Impishly she added, "And if he doesn't, I can easily steal it back."

To be continued...

 
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