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Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Two


by nimras23

--------

Jeran leaned back in his chair, stretching out his stiff back muscles. As if he hadn't had enough paperwork when he was only King's Champion, it had somehow managed to double itself overnight. Though in all honesty, he admitted to himself, most of this was coming from the after-the-ball cleanup.

      He'd far rather read his new book of sword and dagger styles from around the world that Mareian had gotten him for Day of Giving. She'd somehow, and he wasn't going to ask how, managed to unlock his office and leave it on his desk for him to find; with the tax stamp tucked under the cover to prove she hadn't stolen it for a literary version of her sticking her tongue out at him.

      Mareian never passed up a chance to tease him about what she could do, versus what she would do. She may be capable of stealing a book, but she certainly wouldn't give him a stolen one for the Day of Giving. Before he could settle down to read the new book though, he had to finish the evil paper stack of bureaucracy. And think about getting a new lock; this was the third one his Lupess been able to pick.

      Mareian had always suggested that a good bonfire would fix his perpetual paperwork problem; right now he was seriously considering the idea. Jeran glowered down at the pile of paperwork. He was going to have to find a way to 'thank' Skarl sometime, maybe with something extremely slimy placed under the sheets.

      "You know," an alto voice said, "a good bonfire would help with those."

      "Mareian," Jeran laughed as he looked up to the pirate Lupess standing in the door frame, "I was just thinking that."

      "I'm psychic," she intoned in mock seriousness, her eyes dancing as she settled herself on the chair by the window. "Or was that psycho? I can never remember which."

      "Probably both," he teased with a grin, causing the Lupess to stick her tongue out at him. "Thanks, Mareian."

      "For what?" she asked in surprise.

      "For making me laugh. It's been a bad day; and you haven't called me 'Highness' yet."

      Mareian looked confused. "Are you thanking me for not calling you Highness; or are you saying I should?"

      "Don't you dare," he threatened. "If you do I'll... I'll..."

      A polite rap on the door frame saved Jeran from having to think of a good threat. Sir Bercan, a bouncy green Meerca, was at the door looking like he was going to fly apart in excitement at any moment.

      "Your Highness," he bubbled in greeting.

      "Bercan," Jeran said as firmly as he could, "remember that talk we had when I was promoted to Major?"

      "Yes, Highness," the Meerca responded.

      "And then again when I was promoted to Colonel, and to General, and then again when I was promoted to Champion?"

      "Of course," Bercan replied, grinning mischievously.

      "Don't make me say it again."

      "But Captain," the Meerca gushed, "you give it so well!"

      Groaning, Jeran buried his face in his hands. "See what I have to put up with?" he demanded Mareian. Somehow, he doubted he would be getting much sympathy from the snickering Lupess.

      "Actually," Bercan said apologetically, "I do have a real reason for talking with you. King Skarl wants you to come to the talks with King Hagan and Prince Rolan this afternoon."

      "Great," Jeran responded dryly. "Now I get dragged into long discussions about trade and border disputes. Just what I always wanted.

      "I'd probably better start getting ready," he continued while making a sour face. "Something tells me that King Hagan's going to want a full explanation for Jasagh's escape; even though I don't have one." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mareian wince slightly, while Bercan simply nodded and bounded out the door.

      "We need to talk," Mareian said seriously, all humor gone from her face.

      Jeran really didn't want to hear her apologize for something that wasn't her fault in the first place. She'd found more stuff on Jasagh than any knight would have, and he didn't want her blaming herself for his escape. Unfortunately, he didn't have time to explain that all to her now. "Can it wait until later tonight?" he asked.

      Mareian nodded in assent as she rose from the chair. "Have fun at your meeting, Your Highness," she teased. She laughed and ducked out the door as Jeran threw a badly-aimed paper wad towards her.

      Mareian wouldn't find it nearly so funny if she was the one who had to sit in on all those boring meetings. Either that or she'd find a way to liven them up. Maybe he should have her sit in on some of the more pointless ones. Gathering up the paperwork covering his desk, Jeran shoved them into his 'to do later' drawer; he had to hurry if he wanted to be on time.

      Four hours later, Jeran was giving serious thought to having Mareian finding the slimiest things she could in the rubbish dump and re-stuffing King Skarl's pillow with them. Though, he was willing to concede that this meeting might be punishment enough for the blue Skeith king. Hagan believed that eating and negotiations didn't go together, and out of respect for his brother Skarl had canceled the usual feast. The last time Skarl had gone four hours without even a snack was during the last battle of the second Citadel War. Jeran was privately surprised that Skarl had managed to go this long without finding some excuse to eat.

      Disturbingly, Hagan didn't seem too worried about the disappearance of his former adviser. He was far more concerned about trade taxes, and was holding out for an exotic tax by bulk instead of the traditional taxing by weight. After listening to Hagan drone on about the benefits of the new system for nearly two hours, Jeran shot Prince Rolan an exasperated look, causing the yellow Kougra to roll his eyes back to show he was just as frustrated with his father's tenacity.

      The more he thought about it - and he'd had plenty of time to think about it today - the more he liked the idea of drawing Mareian into the King's Council for such meetings. Aside from being calculating and ruthless, Mareian could be sweet, charming, and winsome. He was positive she could sweetly suggest ideas, bat her eyes, and have them accepted much faster than he could with his tactic of beating the other council members over the head with pure logic.

      The more you tell someone they're wrong, Mareian had once told him, the more they're going to cling to the idea that they are right. Go along with them, and then innocently mention how it can backfire.

      Thinking of Mareian gave Jeran a sudden idea. "Excuse me King Hagan, but is your tax measuring the size of the product, or the size of the packaging?"

      "The packaging," the green Skeith rumbled.

      "And this tax would be for both kingdoms?" Jeran pressed.

      "Of course."

      "So your exports of chalk and charcoal sticks would fall under the same taxes?"

      King Hagan's eyes widened in horror as he thought about the amount of padding the delicate art supplies needed for shipment. Jeran suppressed a grin as Hagan hastily changed the subject to the next thing on the agenda; Mareian, Jeran decided, was due for a raise.

*****

      "Coffee or tea?"

      Mareian jumped. "I'm sorry?" she stammered.

      Lisha giggled. "And Jeran says I get buried in my books. Mare, you've been here for over four hours, and I know you skipped lunch before you came. You must be starving."

      Pointing to a stern sign secured on one of the roof's supporting pillars, Mareian countered, "No food or drink in the library."

      "I have it on the best authority that the Librarian is giving you an exception," Lisha said firmly. "Now do you want coffee or tea?"

      Mareian gave Lisha a grateful look. "Tea would be wonderful." Grabbing her papers, the pirate Lupess followed her yellow Aisha friend into the Head Librarian office behind the book check-out desk.

      "So what are you reading?" Lisha asked curiously as she poured hot water into her coffee strainer.

      Mareian made a sour face. "Duty rosters from last night, not exactly the most captivating of subjects."

      "Not something I'd want to read more than once," Lisha agreed. "I take it there's a reason you're reading that?"

      "I'm trying to figure out who're the best people to ask if they noticed anything odd last night."

      "That narrows it down to about 80 people," Lisha said dryly.

      "120 would be closer."

      Lisha winced. "Mareian, isn't something like that supposed to be Danner's job?"

      "He's asking people outside the castle who might have been able to pull this off; and for some reason I can't comprehend, he doesn't want me helping with that very much."

      Lisha laughed. "Other than the fact that all those people are you friends?" she teased.

      "That might have something to do with it, yes."

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part One
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Three



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