The Prophetess's Tale: Part Six
"And this, dear King, is my close colleague of nearly a decade, the prophetess Cheyenne."
Forcing herself to smile, Cheyenne curtsied to King Tristan. "It is an honor to meet you, Your Majesty."
The king eyed her skeptically up and down, as though she were part of a circus rather than a real person. "A decade, you say? Can she really foretell true prophesies?"
Flanked by two guards, the Cybunny king took a step closer, scrutinizing her down to every detail. "She sure looks the part," the one on his left contributed helpfully.
Cheyenne glanced to Audley for help, whose irritated smile then told her that was the wrong reaction, and this time she was on her own. She cleared her throat. "I don't 'foretell prophesies,' but rather, I can see the future to a certain extent."
The king let out a small breath and then a chuckle, short and humorless. "I guess I should be grateful I don't have to deal with riddles, then," he said.
"No riddles here," Audley said, throwing an arm carelessly around Cheyenne as though they really had been close for ten years. "Just the truth. Perfect for sleuth work."
"Perfect if it's real, that is," the king amended. "How do I know this works?"
Holding out a paw, Cheyenne said, "I just need a personal item, and then I can tell you the future using it."
The king shrugged in a rather un-kingly manner and nonchalantly reached for a huge ring on his left paw. He hesitated and hovered over it momentarily, then withdrew his hand and turned to the blue Draik guard to his right. "Randy, give her something."
Randy, who had projected confidence just a moment ago, swallowed and stood stiff. He reluctantly offered Cheyenne his halberd. She stared at it for a second, wondering what all the hesitation was about. There are some secrets, she supposed, that royal people have which the commoners do not.
The halberd was cool and heavy in her paws. She adjusted it to keep the sharp part as far away from her as possible, because if anyone would get accidentally cut by it, it would be her, with her current luck. Images flashed through her mind, and she closed her mouth sternly as she handed the halberd back.
Beads of sweat rolled down the blue Draik's face. Cheyenne couldn't help but ponder for a moment, fully knowing it added to the tension. A smile crept onto Audley's face as he saw how intently the king watched her. In turn, she watched the blue Draik: Randy, age 26. Three children, one wife, all living in luxury because of the Draik's paycheck. Lives on the edges of the palace, undisturbed, surrounded by friends. Has an embarrassingly small collection of rocks, but always dreamed of opening a rock museum. Will never actually open a rock museum, and his eldest child will mock him for his dreams.
Also, current treasurer of the anti-Tristan rebel group.
There was no time to ask Audley for help. She had to make a decision on her own.
"Your father's going to stop by tomorrow, unannounced. He wants to catch you being sloppy in your home, like your room were when you were little."
The Draik started to breathe again. King Tristan looked vaguely impressed. Audley appeared pleased.
The affairs of this country were none of Cheyenne or Audley's business.
"If this becomes true, I will accept your talents," King Tristan said. "If I find out you've been lying to me, I'll have you sent to the dungeons."
"Not a problem, Your Majesty," Audley said.
The king nodded his dismissal and waited for them to go. Cheyenne began to turn around and was stopped by Audley firmly grasping her arm.
"There really isn't much time, though, I think," Audley added.
A disapproving frown crossed the king's face. Courtesy had been breached. Cheyenne cringed to think of the consequences, but the embarrassment was more than enough.
"Not enough time for what, exactly?" the king asked, eyes narrowed.
"I'm not saying that anything is going to happen to your son, Your Majesty, but I can't imagine he enjoys the state of being, as we know he certainly is, kidnapped?" Audley paused to let the king react and then rushed on before he could speak. "You want your son back as soon as possible, and he wants to be back here as soon as possible. I think it's only fair that you direct us to the evidence you do have, so I can begin to make conclusions."
Weighing the proposal, the king leaned onto his staff. "I need evidence that you're the real deal first."
"With all due respect, Your Majesty, I am able to tell the future again, something we can prove in a shorter amount of time—" Cheyenne was cut off by a sharp kick in the back of her leg. She winced and glared at Audley.
"That'll not be necessary! Don't you think the threat to send us to your dungeons is enough?" Audley asked. "I've heard terrible things, truly, Your Majesty. I really wish to help, here, and you have no true reason to prevent me from doing so. A consequence is set in place for misconduct, proof of our legitimacy is in the works..."
The king's cheeks were flushed. Cheyenne figured that he did not like being bossed around or having his mind changed, but it had clearly been accomplished. "Very well," King Tristan said. "Randy, lead the way."
The king stormed down the hallway, murmuring something to himself. Apparently, he was not to go with them. "The king has more important duties than parading people through the scene of the crime," Randy said. His arrogance had resumed; odd, Cheyenne thought, that he assumed she had not seen his betrayal rather than assuming that she'd covered it up.
Audley shuffled in front of Randy, as though to prove himself more bold and arrogant. He just had to know that Randy was hiding something too, that he had faltered in his confidence for just long enough.
If he did know, he didn't show it, or he didn't care.
Randy brought them up a few flights of stairs—which, Cheyenne realized to her dismay, were rather hard to go up in her garish outfit—and down a hallway lined with photos of princes and princesses of the past. It was clearly a wing for the offspring of the king; it celebrated those who were never actually heirs, but did something for the kingdom, she thought, based on the plaques detailing their accomplishments beneath each intricate painting.
The prince's room itself was the one designated for the heir, at the end of the hall. The door was twice as tall as the doors Cheyenne was used to, and nearly as wide. Randy grunted as he pulled it open. "The places you can walk are marked in tape," he said. "Do not touch anything, or you will be penalized."
"It looks... like a normal room," Cheyenne said. And it did. Albeit, a little more extravagant than the average room, but it did. A huge canopy bed stood against the back wall, but mirrors, playthings, paintings, statues, and other trinkets lined the enormous room. It was obvious that Prince Linus was somewhat of a messy child, as he had books from his shelf splayed out on their faces in various areas, and a few toy dolls and balls were askew on their displays.
"It is a normal room," Audley said. "A prince's room. And there do not appear to be signs of trouble."
"The other investigators have come to that conclusion. Linus was a messy boy, which is why things are like this, but if he'd been struggling to get out, there would be things unnaturally knocked over, and the like."
"What if the kidnappers put the furniture back after collecting him?" Cheyenne asked. She thought it was a good question, but she realized too late it might be incriminating for Audley.
"Can't be," Audley said, bending down. "There's at least a half-inch of dust beneath most of these furnishings. They haven't been moved in over a decade, I would say."
"That is probably accurate," Randy said. "The furniture was switched around at Linus's birth. It is customary to rearrange for the next inhabitant."
"What other evidence have the investigators come up with?" Audley asked. "This isn't very helpful, standing so far from the scene."
"No, I can't imagine it would be," Randy said, exuding mistrust the way he exuded confidence. "There isn't much evidence. We know that he was sleeping here the night he was taken, and that the window was left open. It has obviously been closed since, but that's nearly all we have on him. A witness report from one of the cleaning men states that the room is in the exact condition it was during that day, which indicates no struggle. The guard who was in charge of the prince's door has mysteriously disappeared after that day.
"We have to suspect it was someone with easy access to the castle, in and out, or someone who works here. The guard is the most likely suspect for some investigators, but his family does not know where he's gone, and they've stated that it is quite out of character for him to do something like this. Most investigators propose that the guard is another casualty in the kidnapping and is also a victim in this situation, and not the perpetrator."
Audley nodded. "What else?"
Randy hesitated. Cheyenne watched his body language, and then watched Audley's. Randy was confident out of arrogance and lost his confidence based on the situation; Audley was intentionally confident and did not let that guard down. It was almost suspicious, how confident he was compared to how confident naturally confident people are.
Clearing his throat, Randy said, "There are a few drops of some sort of juice on the carpet, most likely from a fruit. Investigators have not been able to identify it."
To be continued...