Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Three
Mareian gave her cards a cursory glance, two aces and three
eights. Dead man's hand,, she thought, grinning slightly to herself. There
were some things Danner couldn't do in the quest to find Jasagh. Poker was one
"Have a good hand?" Friar Asquith the Bruce asked.
"An ironic one," she replied cryptically. Looking
around the table, she casually judged the other poker players. They'd played
several hands already, and the other players were starting to relax into the
rhythm of the game. Time to start prodding the conversation towards the information
she was here for. "Friar, you know all the gossip for the kingdom," she started.
The blue Bruce flushed purple with pleasure,
"Well," he said modestly, "one does like to know what's going on in the world."
Mareian smiled her cutest smile. "There's a Gelert
who owes me something, a royal one who goes by the name of Jasagh; I don't suppose
you've heard anything of him?"
The green Techo sitting to her right chuckled.
"Begging your pardon, Miss, but after watching the way you play, you don't strike
me as the kind who lends gold."
Mareian grinned. "It's not gold he owe me, it's
"Trying to skip out on a nice lil' Miss like
you? Now that's heartless," the Techo sympathized as he sorted his cards.
"Jasagh," the Friar mused, "The name's ringing
a bell from somewhere, but I can't recall where. If I remember I'll be sure
to pass it on to you though."
A pink Aisha at the other end of the of the table
added a handful of copper coins to the pot, commenting, "I don't know his name,
but there's a Royal Gelert jeweler in Bendolyn Glade; even if he isn't the one
you're looking for, he might know where your Jasagh can be found."
Mareian smiled brightly; this evening's poker
game had been more profitable than she had hoped. "Thank you, I'll make sure
to look him up the next time I'm out there."
Happily she added her share of copper to the
game's pot. Another two rounds of poker should do it, she judged, and then she
could slip out and talk to Jeran. At least she could if the negotiations with
Brightvale were over, they'd still been going strong when she'd left.
There should be an international law, Jeran decided
as he collapsed on to his bed, that regulated how long meetings between two
country's leaders could last. Eleven hours in one sitting was far too long,
even if they had broken twice for food during that time. While Jeran was glad
the talks were over, he had the nagging feeling that he was forgetting something
Mareian. Jeran moaned and rolled over to punch
his pillow. He'd promised Mareian that he'd talk to her after that Jhudora cursed,
never-ending meeting. Given the apparently random hours Mareian kept, there
was a good chance she was still awake. Maybe he could grab a bite to eat too.
Dinner had been awhile ago.
Shutting the door to his bedroom, Jeran entered
the living area of his suite. As far as he was concerned, the main advantage
of his rank as Champion was a full apartment set like visiting nobility; instead
of the standard two room set up. When you were as big as he was, two rooms were
hard to fit your stuff into and still be able to move around.
A soft knock on his door startled him, pulling
the door open he looked down to see Mareian, holding a covered platter. "Mare,
I was just going to head out to find you," he greeted her.
"It's that psychic thing again," she teased.
"Mind if I come in? I bring food."
The smell of warm, buttered muffins tickled Jeran's
nose as he opened the door further, "You must be psychic," he agreed. "I was
just thinking about how I could use a bite of food, and I was about to go find
Mareian grinned as she set the tray on the wooden
table in front of Jeran's couch. "So how did the meeting go?"
"Don't ask," Jeran groaned. "I think Hagan's
starting to slip a bit. He was behaving rather oddly, droning on for nearly
two hours about a tax that would have cost him more money than the return tax
from us would have made up. And he didn't mention anything about Jasagh, even
though Rolan swore Hagan had been furious when he found out about his escape."
Mareian frowned, settling herself down onto the
couch., "Well, Jasagh was his most trusted adviser; maybe he doesn't want a
drawn out scandal?" She set the tray's cover aside, picked up a muffin and nibbled
its edge daintily.
"Maybe," Jeran agreed dubiously, selecting his
own buttered muffin.
"Speaking of Jasagh," Mareian started, "we have
"Probably more than one," Jeran said dryly, biting
into the warm pastry. Swallowing, he continued, "But his escape wasn't your
fault Mare, and I don't want you blaming yourself for it. You did better than
any knight could have."
For a few seconds Mareian's face softened, startling
Jeran with how different she looked. Jeran got the strange feeling he was seeing
the real Mareian for the first time, and not the mask she showed the rest of
the world. He hadn't realized there was a difference until seeing her guard
drop just now. Forcing himself to pay attention to the matter at hand, he asked,
"So what's the problem?"
"I had a talk with Illusen this morning, and
she had a word with the lock. She says the lock was opened with the key when
It was amazing how one spoken sentence could
hit you harder than a kick to the stomach, the back of Jeran's mind noted as
the rest of his mind froze in shock. "Is she sure?" Jeran managed to ask, sitting
onto the sofa next to Mareian.
Mareian nodded. "She was pretty sure when I talked
to her." Furrowing her brow she continued, "maybe you should to talk to Illusen
tomorrow; you know more about the locks than I do."
"I'll see her the first chance I get," Jeran
promised. "I don't suppose your brother's heard anything?"
"Khalyen's not in the kingdom right now," Mareian
admitted, "and he'll be gone for several weeks."
"Can I ask where he is?" Jeran really didn't
understand how the underground governments worked, and he made a point of stepping
carefully around what few questions he did ask.
"No, but I can tell you what he's doing." Mareian
grinned at his confused look, "He's at the Council Conclave with the other Council's
Kings; there's a new King of Thieves in Brightvale so they're busy agreeing
on borders, terms, and how much they're going to cooperate for the next two
years. The new Brightvalian king is pretty stubborn, so it could take awhile."
"Borders?" Jeran asked in surprise. "Don't you
just use the same borders that are on the map?"
Mareian shook her head. "They were the same when,"
she paused and then amended, "back before Skarl became king. When Skarl became
king, Hagan annexed some towns that were sitting close to the border, arguing
that he should have been king of both kingdoms and that Skarl shouldn't complain
over what was left for him."
She made a sour face. "The Council's have always
honored the old borders, but Brightvale's king is pushing to use the new ones;
it will gain him several profitable towns if he can pull it off."
"Do you think Jasagh could be involved with that?
It seems like something he'd do."
Mareian looked startled. "I hadn't thought of
that." She leaned back, obviously thinking hard. "I don't think so," she decided,
"but I'll keep an eye on it. He's unpredictable and tenacious enough to take
advantage of it, even if it wasn't something he'd come up with."
"Speaking of Jasagh, any headway on his escape?"
"I've got a couple leads. I need to visit Bendolyn
Glade to check something out, and I've got a list of people to talk to in the
castle." She pinned her ears. "The thing that bothers me the most is the people
who could get to the keys. It's only supposed to be about 20 people, but add
a hundred more who might have seen something..." She winced. "I'm thinking Danner
chose to work outside the castle just so he wouldn't have a mile long list of
people to talk to."
"Poor baby," Jeran teased with a grin.
"Khalyen sends his condolences," she teased back,
"and says better you than him, Your Highness."
"You had to remind me," Jeran groaned. "I'm sure
I'll find a way to convince Skarl that this whole thing is a big mistake; I
don't want to be King."
"I think by now you're stuck." She grinned. "And
I'm with Khalyen, better you than me."
"Oh, thank you Mare; it's nice to know you're
"No problem, I'll be right there to tell you
when you're being an idiot."
Jeran ran a hand through the fur between his
ears. "I'm sure you're going to get lots of opportunities for that," he admitted.
He'd never tell anyone, but the idea of being king terrified him.
"I doubt it," Mareian said, her hazel eyes serious.
"They're right when they say those who don't want power make the best kings.
Sure, you'll make mistakes; but everyone does. The trick is to not make the
same one twice, and I've never seen you do that." Placing a comforting hand
on Jeran's arm, she continued, "I can't think of anyone else who'd make a better
"Thanks," Jeran whispered huskily, Mareian's
confidence made him feel better than he would have believed.
Outside a bell tower rang the time, making Mareian
jump. "I hate it when it does that," she seethed, her dark tipped ears
pinned back flat against her head. Jeran stifled a laugh, his mood lightening;
Mareian liked sudden loud noises about as much as he liked heights. She didn't
laugh at his discomfort in high places so he shouldn't laugh when she jumped
at sudden sounds. Not to her face at least.
To be continued...