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Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Three


by nimras23

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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 of them.

     "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 a favor."

     "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 important.

     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 you."

     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 a problem."

     "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 Jasagh escaped."

     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?" Jeran asked.

     "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 so supportive."

     "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 king."

     "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...

 
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Other Episodes


» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part One
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Two
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Treachery - Part Four



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