Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Jealousy - Part Five
“Wellford Castle,” Elyjah said, pointing to the map. “It has to be Wellford Castle.”
“How did Jules phrase it again?” Jeran asked Mareian.
The pirate Lupess closed her eyes, remembering back to her conversation with Jules. “It's a pity, that the crown jewel in my possession can't be here on display... 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.”
“It makes sense,” Elyjah insisted. “It's a ruin now, but it was the castle of the first king. It's also only about an hour’s walk from Sylvan Castle, where his majesty is holding his birthday party and where the Star Festival is always held. That way, Jules could always switch them out with the fakes if he needed to.”
“We leave for Sylvan tomorrow; it shouldn't be that hard to sneak away and check it out once we get there,” Mareian pointed out. “Rolan will be busy, but no one's going to be paying attention to where I go.”
“Now all we have to do is pry him away from my sister for long enough to tell him what we found out,” Jeran said, rolling his eyes. “We'll see him at dinner tonight at the very least anyways. King Hagan wants us all to dine with him tonight before we set off in the morning.”
Mareian was surprised with how Jeran was handling Lisha's surprise visit. He hadn't seen his yellow Aisha sister since her arrival this morning, as far as Mareian knew. Of course, she'd been gone for a good part of the day in the museum. Normally he was Lisha's quiet yet very intimidating shadow, keeping an eye on her – and anyone who was with her. Rolan seemed to be a special case. Whether that was because Jeran didn't want to start a war by being too overprotective of his sister, or because he trusted Rolan, Mareian wasn't sure.
Luckily, they didn't need to try to catch Rolan's attention during or after dinner, because the yellow Kougra walked into the room, closely followed by Lisha. “I don't suppose you guys managed to find anything today? I'm afraid I wasn't all that productive.”
Jeran's mouth twitched, and Mareian elbowed the blue Lupe before he could quip a comment, giving Jeran a significant look as she pointed at the map. “We think we may have found out where Jules hid them.”
“That's great!” Lisha smiled. “Rolan told me what happened. We really need to find the relics as soon as possible; the longer they're gone, the harder they will be to find.”
“Unfortunately,” Elyjah said, “we can't do anything to check it out until after we arrive in Sylvan.”
“Better that than being stuck in Sylvan unable to do anything until after Hagan's birthday,” Mareian pointed out.
“Not to mention that with the Star Festival going on that evening, there will be lots of time where someone could slip away in the crowd and be back from Wellford long before anyone noticed,” Jeran said.
“We're going to need to think of a way to keep Jules from doing it too.” Mareian chewed on her lip in thought. “Otherwise he might beat us to it; he knows exactly where it is.”
“Any ideas?” Rolan asked.
Jeran, Elyjah and Rolan simultaneously turned to look at Mareian. The pirate Lupess eyed them back. “What?
“You just seem to have always the answer for everything,” Rolan explained.
“Well, I'm drawing a blank on this one. I certainly can't keep him busy while I'm out looking for the relics. Rolan's going to be too busy to go look and Jeran could be just as easily stuck in Sylvan.”
“And I'm not going,” Elyjah added.
“Well, I can help too,” Lisha said. “I'm sure between the four of us, we'll think of something in time.”
Jeran was starting to feel the first tingles of panic. Despite thinking as hard as he could, he hadn't thought of a single reliable way to keep Jules out of Wellford. Neither had Rolan or Lisha. Mareian he wasn't sure about, but he was certain she would have said something to him on the long road from Brightvale castle to Sylvan if she had. Now they were just sitting down to dinner with King Hagan in Sylvan Castle after a very long day of traveling. Once dinner was over, there wasn't anything keeping Jules from slipping out of the castle and getting to Wellford first if he suspected they knew.
The fact that the green Zafara prince was nearly doting on Mareian wasn't helping Jeran's mood either. Especially since the pirate Lupess seemed to enjoy Jules’ company. She’s just trying to find out what he’s up to, the blue Lupe reminded himself for the umpteenth time.
The blue Lupe was starting to consider more drastic measures to keep Jules in the castle, when for no reason Jeran could see, Jules slipped to the side of his chair, and fell asleep. King Hagan, Rolan, Lisha, and Jeran stared at the green prince in surprise.
“What happened?” Hagan asked blankly, blinking his large eyes in confusion.
Jeran got up and gave Jules a good look over. “He's asleep.”
“Well,” Mareian said, “he did have an unusually long day today. He'll probably sleep in late tomorrow.” Jeran gave his pirate Lupess a hard look, she was masking it well, but he knew that smug look in her eyes. Fortunately, no one else seemed to notice it.
Hagan looked abashed. “I should have thought of that. I'll carry him to bed.”
“Do you need any help, Father?” Despite his offer, Rolan didn't sound too eager to carry though with his offer.
Hagan gave an airy wave of his hand. “He's nothing I can't handle. Go ahead and finish your meal, I'm finished anyways.”
Silence reigned until Hagan was out of sight, and then three people heaved huge sighs of relief. “That,” Lisha said, “was really lucky for us. I wonder how long he'll sleep?”
“About 15 hours, I'd imagine.”
Mareian's mild tone set warning bells blazing in Jeran's head. “Mareian.” The pirate Lupess only flicked an ear at his warning tone. “What did you do?”
Mareian looked at him with large hazel eyes, as innocent as the sky. “Some extra seasoning might have found its way to the prince's meal.”
“You poisoned Jules?” Lisha laughed. “How delightfully creative. Any chance it might be fatal?”
Rolan looked from Mareian to Lisha, his jaw dropping. Jeran settled for running his hand through the fur between his ears. “Why me?” he muttered under his breath. “Two of them...”
“I didn't poison him,” Mareian said, crossing her arms. “Well, not exactly. It's two different things, one in his cup, and the other on his spoon. By themselves, they just make you drowsy, but together they knock you out for at least half a day.”
Rolan gave the remainder of his meal a nervous look, pushing his plate away. “I didn't put any in yours,” Mareian protested.
“I'm not hungry anymore, after that.”
Lisha gave the yellow Kougra a grin. Pointing to his dessert, she asked, “Are you going to eat that?” At his disturbed looked she grinned. “Look on the bright side, now we can go to Wellford Castle and not have to worry about being interrupted.”
“We're not all going,” Jeran said. “Hagan's sure to notice that we're gone unless someone distracts him.”
Mareian must have seen where he was going, because she pinned her ears and opened her mouth to object, he raised a hand to cut her off before she could argue. “Mare, I want you and Lisha to stay here and keep Hagan company. Make sure he's busy getting ready for the festival and his birthday tomorrow – and that he doesn't notice that Rolan and I are gone.”
He gave the pouting Lupess a stern look. “I mean it, Mare. Out in the streets is one thing, but out in the woods is completely different. Rolan can identify all three of the relics, and I can sense magic just as well as you can. I don't want to have to fret about you all night.”
She was still pouting thirty minutes later, as Jeran and Rolan left though a back door of the castle, now armed and dressed in chain mail armor. Jeran pulled the pirate Lupess aside and Rolan finished getting ready. “Don't be mad,” he said to her, tipping up her chin so she'd look at him. “I need your skills at charming people to keep Hagan from asking any questions. I'm not exactly the best person for charming grumpy kings. And Rolan's even worse.”
She gave him a small smile at his comment. “Be careful, okay?” Concern shone in her hazel eyes. “I've got a bad feeling that something’s going to come smack us in the face.”
“I promise.” Turning, the blue Lupe raised his voice. “Ready, Rolan?” At the yellow Kougra's nod, Jeran and Rolan headed out towards the forest, where deep in the woods was a ruined castle, hopefully with three relics of its glory days hidden inside.
To be continued...