Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Two
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
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
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
"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
"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...