Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Jealousy - Part Eight
Mareian was biting her lip, with a wry expression on her face. Jeran braced himself -- he knew his Lupess. Rolan was too busy fretting about what to do about the re-disappeared relics to notice. Either that or he just hadn’t figured out that Mareian with that expression meant a bombshell was going to be dropped at any moment. Either theory was as likely as the other.
“Rolan,” Mareian said slowly, “maybe they weren’t stolen.”
Mareian was furthest outside of their little niche, and had the best view out into the rest of the courtyard. Jeran had the creeping suspicion that she could see something that explained exactly where the missing relics had gone. Though Jeran had no idea why she wasn’t telling Rolan right away where they were. Maybe she just liked seeing Rolan completely freaked out. The pirate Lupess could be like that sometimes, though usually she limited herself to Danner, Meridell’s Lord Sheriff.
“If they weren’t stolen,” Rolan snapped, “then why aren’t they in the case?”
“Because they were taken out?” Mareian said, her eyes opened wide innocently.
Sarcasm really wasn’t what Rolan needed right now, Jeran decided. Stepping away from the wall he peeked out across the courtyard. The milling crowed opened for a second, giving the blue Lupe a straight line of sight to the pavilion where Skarl and Hagan were sitting. On the table between them sat the crown, scepter, and sword whose disappearance was causing the yellow Kougra prince so much stress.
Stifling a groan, Jeran realized why Mareian hadn’t told Rolan where the relics were. Hagan would have only taken them out for one reason -- and that reason would stress Rolan out far more. On the other hand, he was going to find out the hard way soon enough. “Rolan?” Jeran said. “Mare’s right, don’t worry about the relics right now.” Catching the Kougra’s arm, Jeran pulled him away from the niche and towards a table of small cakes. “Besides, I really want to try this Borovan cake.”
“But...” the Kougra protested.
“Trust me,” Jeran said. Rolan deserved a couple more minutes of peace at least. If the Kougra prince could get even that few -- Hagan was speaking to the Seneschal with a big goofy grin plastered on the green King’s face. The purple Zafara nodded to the king, and straightened from his politely bowed position to turn and give a searching gaze across the crowd of people. Shrewd Zafara eyes narrowed down on the yellow prince. Jeran stifled a sigh. Busted.
Mareian must have seen his face. “Don’t suppose we could just make a break for it?” she said in a voice soft enough to only reach his ears.
“Not in a million years,” Jeran muttered back.
“Drat,” she sighed. “Nice knowing you, Rolan.”
“What?” the confused Kougra asked, only catching her last sentence.
“Prince Rolan?” the purple Seneschal asked, having caught up with the trio. “His Majesty wants you to come to his pavilion.” Rolan’s expression reminded Jeran of a Miamouse who just realized a Meowclops was stalking it. It really was horrible, knowing what was going to happen, and not being able to do a single thing about it.
Jeran dropped behind Rolan as they walked up to the pavilion. He liked Rolan as a friend very much, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be anywhere near this.
“Not going up there for moral support?” Mareian teased, grinning up at him.
“Better him than me,” Jeran quipped. “Besides, it might give Skarl ideas.”
The pirate Lupess laughed, recognizing where his wry quip came from. She didn’t get a chance to answer, however, because Hagan stood and raised his hands to quiet the crowd.
“Tonight,” he boomed, “is a most auspicious night. Not only is it my birthday, but it’s the Star Festival as well. The sky is as clear as it’s ever been, and my astronomers assure me that tonight will be one of the most spectacular festivals we’ve had in several decades. With all these good omens, it’s only logical that now would be the best time to assure Brightvale’s good future.”
Rolan, Jeran noticed, looked about ready to bolt. Not that the blue Lupe blamed him.
Hagan clapped his had firmly on Rolan’s shoulder. “This is my son!” he roared. “Rolan, son of Queen Liliane; now King of Brightvale. May he rule in wisdom and in peace!”
The courtyard erupted in cheers, although Jeran got the feeling that few there were really surprised by this announcement. The actual coronation would take place later, but for all practicalities and purposes Brightvale had a new king. Rolan would be stuck on the pavilion for the rest of the night, better to escape now while the going was good. As people formed up to congratulate the new ruler, Jeran melted back away from the crowd.
Mareian caught up to him instead of joining the crowed. “Running away?” she teased, cocking her face up towards his with a wry grin.
“No,” he said with a haughty sniff. “It’s called a strategic advance to the rear.”
“At least Rolan seems to have recovered,” she said, turning back to look at the yellow king. “I was afraid for a moment he’d bolt.”
“He’ll get over it; it’s not like he didn’t know it was coming.”
Mareian gave him an amused grin. “Right, like you’ll be so blasé when it’s your turn.”
“Nope,” Jeran admitted. “You’ll have to drag me kicking and screaming into kingship.”
“I’d find a way,” Mareian said, tossing her head confidently.
“I doubt it.”
The pirate Lupess turned and smiled and fluttered her eyelashes. “Care to make a bet on that?”
Jeran’s knees suddenly weren’t quite as steady as they had been only minutes before. Swallowing with his suddenly dry throat he rasped, “That’s cheating.”
Taking mercy on him, she changed the subject. “So tell me -- now that the chances of us not getting interrupted are better now, what’s the deal with the Festival of Stars? No one’s given me a straight answer.”
Jeran glanced up at the darkening sky, and noticed an open air balcony. He grinned; it was the balcony next to the library, right next to the courtyard and a lot less crowded than down here. As an added bonus, it had high, thick stone walls at the edge, unlike most of the balconies back at Brightvale Castle. Apparently, the builder of this castle had sympathy for those who didn’t like heights very much. “It’s a lot easier to show than to explain,” he said, grabbing her hand and pulling her back into the castle. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
“This really isn’t explaining much,” Mareian pointed out, as they passed though the empty library. Jeran just grinned; the view would be better from up here anyways, and the odds of getting stepped on were smaller. The balcony was completely empty; it didn’t look like anyone else had thought of the same thing and beaten the Lupes to the better vantage point.
“Ohh, you can see the whole festival from here.” Mareian sighed, looking over the balcony’s edge. “There’s Rolan; Lisha’s with him and he’s smiling. That’s good.” Jeran hung a little further back from the edge, but even he could see Lisha and Rolan on the center pavilion. The blue Lupe strongly suspected his Aisha sister had more to do with Rolan’s improved mood than the party.
“That’s not the festival,” Jeran explained, tilting Mareian’s head up from the crowed. “The festival’s up there.” He pointed up at the sky. Mareian gave him a confused look. “Just watch,” he assured her. “You’ll see.”
Giving him a suspicious look, the pirate Lupess looked up at the stars. “The stars are throwing a party?”
Jeran chuckled at her skeptical tone. “Kind of.”
“And what exactly am I looking --” She broke off as a brilliant shooting star blazed across the sky. “Ohh... pretty.” She turned and looked at Jeran then back up at the sky with new fascination. “What was that?”
Jeran grinned at her reaction. “They’re called ‘shooting stars’, though you’ll hear them called falling stars or meteor bursts sometimes.”
Mareian gave him a wry look. “The sky is falling?”
The blue Lupe started; he’d never thought of it that way before. “No,” he chuckled, “they’re not really stars. But they look like them.”
Mareian squealed in delight as a huge blaze of red and blue burned across the sky. The streaks were coming faster now, as the sun set and the meteor shower became more visible in the darker sky.
Jeran leaned back against the wall, tilting his head so he could see both the show and Mareian’s reaction. She looked almost cub-like, with the awe on her face. It wasn’t often he got to see the mask she always showed the world drop like this, although Jeran knew that he was one of the few she ever relaxed her guard around.
Stepping back from the balcony Mareian leaned against the wall next to him, her hazel eyes still fixed on the sky, but her head resting against his arm. Hagan had been right about one thing, Jeran decided; this was the best Star Festival ever.