Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Jealousy - Part Four
Mareian couldn't sleep. She knew Chessy was going to come and wake her early in the morning for breakfast, but the excitement of getting out into the streets had her too wound up. Mareian had to admit to herself that there were times when she missed being free to visit the pubs and take the day off to play a game of poker whenever she liked.
You’re being silly, she scolded herself. Life now was better than it had been since... since Father died. She had a good job that she loved, probably the best boss in the world, a good home, and a steady paycheck. And it wasn’t as if her movements were usually restricted as much as they were right now. Jeran wanted her to go out and gather the local gossip for him; it wasn’t that she was locked up in the castle all day.
You’re just grumpy because you’ve had to wear a corset the last couple of days, her practical side said. Well, sometimes she didn’t want to be practical. Sometimes she wanted to do something wild and crazy, just to prove that she could.
And what would that prove, really?
Oh, shut up.
Of course, her practical side never listened to her. Mareian sighed, kicking off her suddenly oppressive blankets. Maybe a walk though the gardens would help settle her mind. Putting on one of her few Meridellian style dresses she'd packed for the trip to Brightvale, Mareian sighed in relief. Whoever in Brightvale that decided a corset and hoops should be the current castle fashion should be defenestrated, she decided. Out of the very tallest tower's window.
It was much better out here, she decided. The wind blew softly, blowing the scent of the flowers around and mixing them into a perfume all its own. She'd never been in this part of the garden before; tall rose-covered marble pillars framed the statue of a beautiful Kougra lady. Mareian paused; every detail on the life sized statue was perfect, down to the folds in the fabric of her dress train.
“You're up late.”
Mareian jumped, almost feeling guilty for being caught in what was obviously a very special spot. “I could say the same to you.”
Rolan smiled. “I was on my way to bed, just stopping to say goodnight.” He nodded at the statue. “I always say goodnight.”
Mareian looked up at him, and then back at the statue. Rolan looked just like a boy version of it. “Your mother?”
Rolan nodded. “Don't get me wrong, Illen's been a wonderful mother to me since she married Father, treating me no differently than her own two cubs.” He shrugged. “It doesn't mean I can’t miss my own at the same time.”
Mareian sat on one of the marble benches. “I don't remember my mother,” she admitted. “Mama died when I was a baby. All I have of her is stories my brother told me. I miss my father, though; I was six when he died.”
“I was the same age when my mother died,” Rolan said. He gave her a sad smile. “And I think my father died a little that day too. He used to laugh, and tell jokes. After that, all he cared about was being king, not father, or even brother. He never got along with Uncle Skarl afterwards.” He fell silent, lost in thought.
Mareian put her hand comfortingly on his arm, pulling Rolan out of his reverie. “Tomorrow's going to be a long day,” he said. “I'm heading to bed. See you in the morning.”
The pirate Lupess watched him walk away, managing to look both carefree and as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders at the same time. First thing in the morning, she decided, she was going to visit Lisha at the University and have her take the day off. Rolan needed to be reminded that there were better things in his life than the trouble his brother had caused. But first she was going to bed; she was suddenly exhausted.
“Lisha!” Jeran said in surprise. “I thought you were going to be busy at the university until the Star Festival.”
“I decided to come and visit you all for the day.” The yellow Aisha laughed. “Unless you don't want to see your little sister.”
“Lisha?” Jeran hid a grin at Rolan's disbelieving tone as the yellow Kougra walked into the hall they were in.
Jeran felt a nudge behind him; turning he saw a very smug looking Mareian. “I think you and I are suddenly urgently needed somewhere else,” she said to him, with a pointed look at the yellow-furred pair.
“You're probably right,” he agreed, following her though the door. “Judging from your smug look, I'd say you had something to do with Lisha's visit.”
“Maybe.” The satisfied tone of his Lupess’s voice left no doubt in his mind that she had had more than just 'something' to do with Lisha coming. “Rolan needed something else to think about than brooding about either becoming king or his brother,” she explained.
“You know we're not going to get him to be able to concentrate on anything for the rest of the day.”
“I've got that covered too. Elyjah's taking me to the museum today. There's a new exhibit opening, and since he's a curator there, he can get in even though the tickets are sold out. Jules is supposed to be there, and I can keep an eye on him, see who he's talking to and stuff like that. Not to mention, everyone who works there will be busy out in the main part of the museum, leaving us free to poke around in the storage rooms.”
“You think he might have hidden them in the museum somewhere?” For some reason, it seemed a little too obvious for Jeran's liking.
“Why not? It's close, he knows his way around, and who'd notice one more box?” She did have a point, he conceded.
“Wait a minute, if you and Elyjah are there, and Lisha and Rolan are who knows where, what am I supposed to do?”
“I'm sure you'll think of something.” The pirate Lupess grinned up at him. “You're clever that way.” Jeran shook his head, watching her head out the door with the ecstatic looking Elyjah. Mareian might only be going to the museum to help Rolan find the relics, but the blue Lupe was pretty sure that wasn't why the brown geologist was going. Jeran sighed, resisting the urge to hackle at the Yurble's retreating back. It was going to be a very long day.
Mareian admired the opal in the display in front of her. While white opal wasn't her favorite of the opal varieties, one the size of her fist definitely demanded her attention. Elyjah had neglected to mention that the new exhibit was about gems. Whether it was because he'd wanted to surprise her, or if he hadn't wanted to brag about it being from his department Mareian didn't know. Either way, it was a very pleasant surprise.
“Lady Mareian.” A familiar voice spoke behind her. “I didn't know you were interested in gems.”
“Certain ones, your Highness,” she replied, turning to face the green Zafara. “Opals are a favorite of mine.”
“Ah yes.” He nodded. “I can see why. The most temperamental of the gemstones, managing to have water, yet burn with inner fire.” He looked pointedly at the black opal necklace she was wearing. “Such a stone suits you.”
“And what stone is your favorite?” she asked, cocking her head cutely to the side. “Since you know mine.”
Jules smiled; she'd obviously asked the right question. “The diamond. They are such a paradoxical stone. They have no color, yet they are every color. Drop a perfect one in water and it will completely disappear, but put that same stone in a beam of light and it causes the whole world to brighten.”
Now that she was firmly in the prince’s good graces, Jules was more than happy to talk the pirate Lupess's ears off. He loved nothing better than to talk about himself, a subject Mareian found absolutely fascinating – at least until she could discover where he'd hidden the crown, scepter, and sword he'd stolen. He especially loved to talk of his collection of antique weapons, which was actually on loan to the museum and on display in another wing.
“It's a pity,” he said as he showed her his pre-steel age daggers, “that the crown jewel in my possession can't be here on display.” The way he phrased it caught Mareian's attention. Was it not on display because it was quite literally a crown jewel? The missing sword?
“Too valuable to risk in the display?” she marveled at him. “It must truly be a treasure.” She didn't mind boosting his already engorged ego if it meant finding out where he'd hidden the relics.
Jules gave a dry laugh. “I could never put that beauty out here; I keep it safe, far from the capitol and its politics. Besides, I think it's probably happier now where it belongs, than in some dusty vault.”
“Prince Jules.” A guard from the palace saluted as he entered the room. “Forgive my intrusion, your Highness, but your father requests your presence immediately.”
“Ah, and duty must come and ruin my pleasure.” Jules looked regretfully at Mareian. “I'm sorry, Lady, but I must go.”
Mareian curtsied deeply to the green Zafara and he briskly walked out, closely followed by the guard. Giving him a good chance to get ahead of her, Mareian walked more slowly, keeping her eyes demurely down to hide her elation until she re-entered the new gem exhibit. “Lady Mareian.” Elyjah caught her elbow. “I saw you walk off with Jules; did you learn anything?”
“I think so,” she said. “Tell me, how well do you know Brightvale's ancient history?”
To be continued...