Chronicles of the Court Rouge: The Bargain - Part Two
Opening the door to his office the next morning, Jeran wasn't
surprised to see the tiny Lupess sitting on his desk. He was starting to think
he wouldn't bat an eye even if she walked right through a solid stone wall. She
was looking through one of his books; not very intently apparently, because the
book was upside-down. What did surprise him was that she wasn't alone; there was
a tall Lupe with her, and she didn't look too happy about it. Maybe the new Lupe
was why she was distracted enough to try to read a book from bottom to top.
Seeing he was dressed in nondescript leather
armor with a plain broadsword, she nodded her approval and snapped the book
shut. Her lanky companion wore armor of a similar type. She gestured to the
unfamiliar Lupe, "This is my brother, Khalyen." She then introduced Jeran as
"The knight who's accompanying us." He noted she had made a point of not introducing
him by name; knowing her she probably a reason for this, though it escaped him.
"Exactly how do you plan on finding these people?"
Khalyen asked her, and Jeran breathed an inwards sigh of relief. He'd been wondering
the same, but had been hesitant to ask.
Mareian looked up at her brother, "We won't have
too, they'll find us." She then craned her head up at the even taller Jeran.
"I feel like a midget."
Smirking, Khalyen asked, "Would you feel better
if I put you up on my shoulders?"
"So you could run me into tree branches? No thanks."
"Would you prefer stilts?" Jeran quipped, grinning.
"How about I just take you out at the knees?"
"I'd still be taller than you."
"Oh, thank you, Sir Knight. Perhaps I'll take
you out at the waist instead."
"Can you reach that high?"
"I could after I took out your knees."
With such a ludicrous discussion going, it was
hard to remain formal. The various methods of either raising or lowering one's
height got more and more bizarre as they approached their destination. Jeran
was surprised to discover he was actually having fun; Mareian and Khalyen made
for good company.
They were about halfway down the road the conspirators
favored when a self-important voice cried out, "Halt!" A green Kacheek armed
with a crossbow stepped out from between two bushes.
"It's about time." Mareian muttered, "I was starting
to wonder if we'd be trekking back and forth all day." She curtsied to the Kacheek
and continued in a louder voice, "Sir, are you the speaker for the bandits of
Seeing the Kacheek was confused, she announced,
"I am Mareian, I represent the Meridell Thieves Council. They have sent me as
an envoy to discuss business with your leader, please take me and my companions
to him." The Kacheek's jaw dropped and he seemed to be at a loss for words.
Finally he nodded and gestured that they were to follow him.
He led them along a small deer trail, to a hidden
village composed of small squat buildings, roofed in thatch. Reaching the villages'
boundary, Khalyen grabbed Jeran's arm to stop him. "We go no further," he hissed
in Jeran's ear. "Only the envoy can approach the leader, we're only allowed
to stay within sight of her." Jeran stiffened, while he could understand why
armed strangers were kept away from the leader, their distance meant that if
something went wrong, Mareian would be in danger.
A tall Gelert armed with a walking stick emerged
from a hut in the middle of the village; he looked exactly as Mareian reported,
from the goatee to the dark heavy cloak. Jeran discovered a second disadvantage
to their distance, he and Khalyen couldn't hear what the Gelert and Mareian
were discussing. Looking at the Gelert who called himself Jasagh, Jeran felt
alarms going off in his head. He may not remember where he'd heard about this
Gelert, but he knew that Jasagh's presence didn't bode well.
Jasagh made a sudden move to strike Mareian;
Jeran and Khalyens hands moved to their swords, but Mareian didn't even twitch
an ear. The Gelerts hand stopped an inch from striking her, and he looked impressed.
Relaxing the grip on their broadswords hilts, the lupes continued to watch Jasagh
Jasagh was now talking animatedly, pacing back
and forth and moving his arms in large gestures; while Mareian remained standing
still, with her head kept forward looking calm and composed. The Gelert circled
behind Mareian and clubbed her in the back of the head with his staff. "She's
a royal spy!" he roared as she dropped face first to the ground. Jeran and Khalyen
drew their swords, but in the middle of the enemy's camp they were vastly outnumbered.
A crossbow bolt shot straight at Khalyens head;
Jeran caught it out of the air right before it stuck him. At Khalyens incredulous
look, Jeran explained. "The bolt had a loose fletching, it makes a buzzing sound."
Another crossbow bolt buzzed past, but from the
other direction. "It's about time," Khalyen growled. The border of the rude
village was suddenly full of armed men and women. The surprised and outnumbered
bandits quickly surrendered. Now it was Jeran's turn to gape. "My people," Khalyen
explained. "It's always good to have backup."
Jeran ran to Mareian, and examined the back of
her skull. Satisfied that it was in one piece and still attached to her backbone,
he rolled her over. Blood trickled out her nose, but that could have been caused
by her face hitting the ground. He picked her up gently, surprised by her light
weight. "You need to eat more," he told her, not that she could hear him. He
nodded reassurances to Khalyen, who was directing the surrender. Jeran doubted
that these people would listen to him, so he concentrated on the Lupess.
"Sir Knight," Khalyen called, "what should we
do with the captives?"
Securing his grip on the Lupess, Jeran replied,
"We take them to the Castle." He nodded his head to the unconscious Mareian,
"We need to be heading there anyways."
A baritone voice floated from far away, "While
I don't envy the headache you'll have when you wake up, you're going to have
to wake sometime."
"No I don't," she tried to respond, but that
would take too much effort. Her head hurt already, and she had the bad feeling
that the more awake she got, the more it would hurt. Pillows are supposed to
be soft, she thought crossly. This one feels like a large rock. No, it felt
like a large granite rock. A large granite rock covered in many hard bumps.
Slowly opening her eyes, she suppressed a moan.
There ought to be a law against the sun being so bright. Blinking rapidly, she
tried to get her eyes to work while she waited for the rest of her body to report
Head? She didn't want to think about her head.
The room slowly came into focus. Well, that was
an improvement, too bad she didn't recognize the room. She looked around slowly;
she had the bad feeling that if she moved her head too fast, she'd lose any
food she might have in her system.
She wasn't alone. A giant blue Lupe dozed in
an overstuffed chair by the foot of her bed. She furrowed her forehead, then
winced and decided that moving things on her face hurt too much. She was pretty
sure she knew his name. It started with a J, right? It was a start anyways.
At least trying to remember his name gave her something else to think about
than what may have happened to her head. Maybe a house or something fell on
her, that would explain a lot.
Jer.., Jer.. she almost had his name. For that
matter, she suddenly thought, what's my name? That came to her much more quickly
. . . My name is Mareian, I have a brother named Khalyen, and that blue Lupe
"Jeran," she said suddenly, feeling insanely
proud of herself for remembering. The sleeping Lupe jerked out of sleep.
"You're awake!" The relief in his voice was scary;
she hadn't been that hurt had she? Sitting up, she moved to touch the back of
her aching head. "No," he caught her hand, "leave it alone." She obediently
dropped her hands into her lap. Jeran grinned at her, "I had to give you 14
stitches to put you back together again. We're lucky you have such a hard head."
"It runs in the family, along with insanity."
He'd put in the stitches? Didn't the castle have professional? "Where did you
learn so much about healing?"
Offering her a glass of water, he explained,
"I was raised by the court physician, I can do just about as much as she can,
except surgery. It's pretty handy considering how often people get injured on
the training grounds."
A second voice came from the doorway, "Welcome
back to the land of the living." Khalyen entered the room and scooted a chair
to the side of her bed. "Leave it to you," he teased, "to take a nap in the
middle of a job, leaving all the hard work for everyone else do to whilst you
catch up on your beauty sleep."
"You managed to catch all the bandits than?"
She was pretty sure that's what they'd been trying to do before she blacked
Jeran scowled, "All except the leader. After
he bashed you in the head, he vanished like a puff of smoke. I've talked to
some friends about him, it's not the first time he and his friends have caused
trouble in Meridell; and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last."
After stitching up Mareian's head, Jeran had
paid a visit to both Illusen and Darigan; both had agreed with Jeran's suspicion
that the cloaked Gelert was one of The Three. His skin still crawled from his
visit with Darigan; did he have to live way up there in that floating citadel?
Brightening he added, "You should have seen Danner's
face, when half of the known thieves in Meridell walked into the dungeons like
they owned the place, leading the conspirers. He looked like it was the Day
of Giving." He paused and then amended, "Until I made him release the thieves
who'd helped us."
"Speaking of helping us," Jeran picked up two
scrolls sitting on the table. "These are for you." He passed them to her.
Mareian looked at them blankly. "What are they?"
She could have opened them up and read them for herself, so why was she asking?
Suddenly Jeran remembered that day in his office, her holding an upside-down
book. She can't read, Jeran realized with surprise.
Jeran chuckled. "The one with the red ribbon
is your writ of pardon, for all crimes committed before the date we released
you from prison. Danner was pretty sure his file on you wasn't complete, so
we just made it a blanket statement."
She grinned, "It wasn't." Holding up the one
with the blue ribbon she asked, "And this one?"
"That's a job." Mareian shot him an exasperated
look, while Khalyen laughed. "No really," Jeran protested. "A permanent one."
"Simply collecting information for Danner and
me, no fighting required." He gestured at the room, "You'd keep these quarters
and get regular pay." Mareian's stomach flipped and she looked at a very smug
looking Khalyen, who nodded confirmation. Apparently they'd talked about this
beforehand. She grinned; negotiations for her services between them must have
been fun, considering how smug Khalyen looked.
She set the blue ribbon scroll beside the red
one. "I'll take it." Khalyen whooped and bolted out the door. "What's he so
Jeran grinned, "Unless I am mistaken, Danner
owes him some money from a bet now." Mareian laughed, leave it to Khalyen. Turning
his attention back to her, he continued, "Because of your head, you're going
to need to stay quiet for the next couple days." Mareian stuck her tongue out
at him; she hated inactivity. "Don't get mad at me!" he protested, "I'm not
the one who tried to punch a hole in your skull."
"I hate having nothing to do," she muttered.
"How about learning?"
"How to read."
Mareian stared at him, "How did you…" she trailed
Jeran pointed to her scrolls, "You could have
read those yourself. And the day you introduced me to Khalyen, you were holding
my book upside-down." She made a face at him and muttered something about over
observant lupes under her breath.
Jeran laughed. "It's not that difficult," he
picked up a pad of paper, a quill, and ink from the table. Sitting down in the
chair next to her bed he began, "This is the letter A…."