Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Jealousy - Part Two
“Good morning, Lady Mareian!” Someone, most likely the owner of the impossibly cheerful voice, flung open the curtains, flooding the room with light. Mareian groaned; morning was the last thing she wanted right now.
“I have your breakfast here for you, and the prince says that if you don’t want to eat it, he’ll come in here and change your mind.”
The prince? Mareian braved the sunlight to stare at the speaker in surprise. “Even Rolan is in on that now?”
The striped Xweetok gave Mareian an amused look as she set down a covered platter on the table beside the bed. “I was referring to Prince Jeran.”
The pirate Lupess chose to not dignify that with an answer. There were too many princes about for her sanity, she decided. Instead, she sat up and uncovered her breakfast. At least it wasn’t a huge meal; breakfast definitely wasn’t her favorite meal of the day. For that matter, morning wasn’t her favorite time of the day either; she might actually enjoy breakfast if it ever happened in the afternoon. As of yet, however, the fates continued to delight in their torment of her by leaving morning firmly planted before noon.
The Xweetok maid Chessy, Mareian learned, was very serious with Jeran’s threat to make her finish her breakfast. The sweet looking Xweetok apparently was in complete agreement with Jeran on breakfast’s importance, as she crossed her arms and pointedly refused to let Mareian escape until she’d cleared the whole plate.
“It’s a conspiracy,” the pirate Lupess muttered to herself as she escaped out into the main part of Brightvale’s castle. Rolan had, probably rather foolishly, given Mareian permission to roam freely about the castle. The Lupess planned on taking full advantage of that to explore and find all the escape routes. Old habits die hard, and it certainly couldn’t hurt to know a couple quick ways out.
He would probably never understand, Jeran decided as he settled into one of the library’s cushioned chairs, how someone as sensible and nice as Rolan could have a brother like Jules. The green Zafara somehow managed to seem to be everything his yellow Kougra brother was not. He was vain, arrogant, haughty, and apparently believed himself to be the better of everyone in his presence. After just a short time of knowing him, Jeran was ready to throttle his little green neck.
“I can’t believe Father is insisting on celebrating his birthday in that back-woods country estate,” Jules whined. “It’s over a full day away, and the castle is so much better suited for such things.”
“It’s his choice,” Rolan growled at his younger brother. “Believe me, I’m not looking forward to the trip either.”
Jeran suppressed a laugh. It wasn’t the trip that Rolan wasn’t looking forward to; it was the idea of being stuck with Jules and his perpetual complaining the whole time. From what the blue Lupe had been able to gather, Jules didn’t go outside the castle if he could help it. He will probably be convinced he’s going to die before the end of that day, Jeran thought in amusement. Especially if Hagan didn’t let his youngest son ride in the carriage with him, and Jules was forced to either convince an Uni to give him a lift or – fortunes forbid – walk on his own two legs.
Jeran really wanted to see Jules walk that far; he just didn’t want to have to listen to Jules whine the whole time. Jeran could be like that sometimes. The blue Lupe was busy trying to think of a way to convince his sister to magic a pair of earplugs that would only shut out the sound of Jules' voice when the double doors to the room opened.
“And this is the library,” a voice Jeran didn't know was explaining as it came though the door. Turning, the blue Lupe was surprised to see Mareian listening attentively to the speaker, a well-dressed brown Yurble. Rolan looked delighted at the interruption, whether because he glad to see the Yurble or just at a chance to shut Jules up, Jeran couldn't decide.
“Elye,” Rolan greeted, “I see you've met Lady Mareian.” Looking around at everyone, the yellow Kougra continued, “I suppose I should do introductions. Elye, this is Prince Jeran Borodere; Jeran meet our royal geologist Elyjah Corriher. Jules, meet the Countess Mareian Mahkra; Mareian, this is my brother, Prince Jules.” The Kougra looked around. “Did I miss anyone?”
“I think you managed to cover everyone suitably,” Jules said. Bowing deeply to Mareian, he continued smoothly, “Please Lady, call me Jules. And if you need anything, just let me know; I'll personally attend to it.” Jeran hackled; though he was relieved to see the pirate Lupess give the green Zafara a suspicious look. The blue Lupe knew Mareian was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, but still...
Rolan apparently noticed his reaction, because the yellow Kougra hastily interrupted, “Jules, doesn't Father want you to go with him to help choose the decorations for the Star Festival this afternoon?”
The green Zafara must have forgotten, because his eyes widened in surprise and he hastily excused himself.
“That was... disturbing,” Mareian said, after the green Prince had left.
“You're telling me,” Jeran muttered. Rolan snorted at Jeran's comment.
“Jules seems to like you, my Lady,” Elyjah said.
“I hope you'll all forgive me.” Her comment made the group laugh, releasing the tension Jeran hadn't even realized was there.
“Now that Jules is gone,” Rolan said, “I'd better do what I actually came here to do and pack up the Royal Relics for Father's birthday.” Wincing, he added, “Normally they stay here, which isn't helping my suspicion that he's planning on making me King soon. They're used in the coronation ceremony, though with Father's birthday falling on the same day as this year's Star Festival, he may be simply bringing them out to display during the celebrations.”
“Is Royal Relics the technical term there, or something you made up yourself?” Mareian asked with a grin.
“Actually, one of my great-grandfathers coined the term. Each of the relics has their own name, of course, but the term for all of them in a bunch stuck.” Pulling out a set of keys from his jacket pocket, Rolan crossed the library to an ornately decorated door and unlocked it. Pulling the heavy door open, Rolan gave Mareian a pointed look. “No stealing.”
“Rolan!” Elyjah objected. “To say such a thing to a Lady!”
Jeran laughed. “You obviously don't know her very well.” The blue Lupe grinned as the pirate Lupess stuck her tongue at him. “Don't worry, Rolan, Mareian knows to leave stuff in castle vaults alone; we had a long talk about that before. Besides, you have to trust her at least a little bit; you made her a countess.”
“That doesn't mean I trust her with shiny magical gold things.” The yellow Kougra locked the door behind them after all four had filed into the vault.
“You two are taking all the fun out of this,” Mareian complained, putting her hands on her hips. Jeran hid a grin as the brown Yurble gave her an odd look.
“It's more challenging this way, Mareian,” Rolan explained. “I don't want life to get boring for you after all.”
To cover his amusement, Jeran looked around the vault curiously. It was apparently used to protect a number of different things; there were old books carefully sorted onto shelves, and several glass cases holding large jewels. Several of them Jeran recognized as part of the Brightvalian crown jewels; others were simply valuable gems. Enchanted glowing glass globes were spaced around the room, filling it with light. Jeran suspected it was because the soot from torches would ruin the delicate paper of the ancient books. Such a fortified, windowless room would be handy-- and very expensive, his more practical side pointed out.
Rolan walked towards a glass-domed, circular table at the end of the vault. “These,” he explained to Mareian, “are the Royal Relics; the crown of the first Brightvalian king, his sword, and the magic scepter of his sorceress wife. Every King or Queen who takes Brightvale’s throne is crowned using this crown, and is handed both the sword and the scepter.”
Pulling a wooden box out from under the table, Rolan unlocked both it and the glass case over the artifacts with a small key.
“Rolan,” Mareian said in confusion after he removed the glass cover, “I thought you said these were magical.”
The yellow Kougra paused, looking at her in confusion. “They are.”
Mareian narrowed her hazel eyes. “These aren't.”
“I didn't know you were a sensitive.” Jeran looked at her in surprise, though it only made sense, now that he thought about it. Magic ran heavily in her family, though he'd never seen Mareian use any.
“Why do you think I made such a good thief? I can walk into any room and find all the unshielded magical things in under two minutes.”
“Let me take a look,” Jeran said, coming up behind her. She was right; normally around a magical object you could feel the slight hum of power. He shook his head. “I can't feel anything.” Picking up the crown, Jeran handed it to Elyjah. “Here, what do you think of this?”
The brown Yurble looked at it carefully, holding the jeweled crown up to one of the glowing orbs. “It's too light for its size,” he commented, obviously deep in thought. “Gold's really heavy. If this were gold, it should be nearly twice as heavy as what this weighs. It must be lead plated with gold.” Narrowing his eyes, he examined a large green jewel on the crown, “This isn't an emerald either; it's colored glass. See the wavy discoloration in the center there? It's good, but not quite good enough if you know what you're looking for.”
Elyjah looked at Rolan, his brown Yurble ears dropping in shock. “This is fake; the real crown, and probably the rest of the relics as well, have been stolen.”
To be continued...