Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Rivalry - Part One
Jeran owed her big time for this, Mareian decided. Khalyen
too; this whole scheme was his idea. Taking a deep breath in through her nose,
Mareian forced herself to relax as she blew the air back out though her mouth.
It's like riding an Uni, she told herself mentally. Once you have it
down you never forget. Though it would have been nice, she thought with an
inward scowl, if she'd had a bit more warning, it had been years since she'd danced
The normally pirate colored Lupess stretched
her arms over her head to warm up stiff muscles. It's three weeks until the
Day of Giving, she thought. Jeran and Khalyen have better get me something
nice to make up for this. Picking up a set of castanets from a near by table,
the diminutive Lupess smoothed her brightly colored dancing skirt, and then
stepped through the door into the main floor of the pub.
"It's show time," she murmured softly.
It was good to be home, Lisha of Meridell decided
as she hugged her sleepy Warf, Chubby. While she had enjoyed her half year stay
in Brightvale, she had missed her brother and Meridell. Brightvale was full
of books and scholarly people whom she enjoyed talking with, but it never really
felt like home the way Meridell did. The time in Brightvale had been rewarding
though, Lisha thought with a warm glow; she had brought a full wagonload of
new books to be added to the Meridell Royal Library.
Meridell's Royal Library was Lisha's pride and
joy. When she had originally been appointed Head Librarian by His Majesty, the
library had been in shambles, with no filing system or even a list of the books
it owned. She felt maternal pride in how the library had grown and developed
under her care; the new books she brought today would go a long way towards
making her library one of the preeminent in the world. But before she started
to work, she wanted to see her brother.
Sir Jeran Borodere sipped his grog slowly. The
last thing he wanted to do tonight was to have his senses dulled; hopefully
before the end of the evening he would have some hard evidence of Baron Aafees'
weapon smuggling operation.
"So, when's your sister getting back?" a tall,
pirate colored Lupe asked him curiously.
Jeran grinned at his rogue friend Khalyen. "Sometime
later this week; of course she might bury herself in her books as soon as she
gets back, and we won't know until 2 weeks later."
Khalyen laughed easily, "It will be interesting
to see how she and Mareian get along." At Jeran's quizzical look, Khalyen continued,
"I've heard about how smart your sister is, and Mareian's one to the most intelligent
people I've ever met. Two people with that much raw intelligence should never
hook up; it will put the rest of us out of business."
Jeran snorted, "Except both of them hate being
the center of attention, so they'd at least keep us around as figureheads."
Jeran wasn't in his rooms or his office. Where
was he? In exasperation, Lisha finally flagged down Danner and asked him. Apparently
the message from Brightvale they had received said she wasn't returning until
later in the week, so no one was expecting her back yet. Once Danner managed
to get over his surprise, he told her that Jeran was at the Dancing Whinny,
a pub near Illusen's Glade. He was also thoughtful enough to send her an escort
to the pub, a red Draik squire named Athless.
Entering the pub, Lisha didn't have a hard time
spotting her brother. Jeran towered above nearly everyone, with the exception
of his companion; a lean pirate Lupe Lisha didn't recognize. Both Lupes were
attentively watching a tiny shadow Lupess dancer. Looking around, Lisha noticed
that the diminutive Lupess had the attention of the vast majority of the patrons.
Vast majority meaning all the males, several of the women in the pub didn't
look too pleased about all the attention the dancer was receiving.
Lisha's eyes narrowed as she watched the dancer
smile charmingly at a gaudily dressed orange Skeith who Lisha recognized as
Baron Aafees. "Well," Lisha muttered under her breath, "at least we've determined
that she has no taste in men."
Lisha slipped up behind her brother quietly;
it was easy enough to do, he was busy watching the dancer make herself comfortable
with the Baron. The pirate colored Lupe sharing the table with Jeran saw her
approach and winked in her direction, then directed Jeran's attention so she
could sneak up unnoticed. Lisha's lips quirked, she might like Jeran's new friend.
Walking quietly right up behind Jeran, Lisha
placed her hands on her hips and pinned back her four ears in a mock anger.
"Jeran Thomas Borodere, six months I'm away; only to return and find you wallowing
in grog and watching dancer girls?" she drawled accusingly. Jeran jumped, nearly
knocking over his drink, while his lanky companion unsuccessfully tried to muffle
"Lisha!" Jeran cried happily as he scooped her
up into a tight hug. Lisha grinned as she returned his hug, how she had missed
him! Jeran looked questioningly at his Lupe companion, who nodded in answer
to his unspoken question.
"Athless, stay here and keep Khalyen company
for me while my sister and I return to the castle," Jeran ordered as he took
Lisha's hand and rose. The Draik sat himself at the table while the lanky pirate
Lupe flagged down the bartender. Jeran sent one last look back to the dancer,
who was chatting amiably with the inept Baron, then turned his attention to
his sister on the walk back to the castle. "How was Brightvale?"
Wanting to get his mind off the pub dancer, Lisha
launched into a detailed account to Jeran about her trip and all the new things
she had seen. She was busy telling him about a new ink recipe she'd learned
when they arrived at the castle. To her surprise, Jeran led her to his office
instead of either of their quarters.
"Sounds like you had a great time," Jeran commented
as he put a kettle of water to heat over the fire. "While you were there, did
you get to know any of the people coming over for the ball?" Every year the
rulers of Meridell, Brightvale, and the Darigan Citadel got together for a Day
of Giving Ball. The kingdoms took turns hosting it; this year was Meridell's
Lisha smiled sympathetically, the ball was probably
a security nightmare for him and Danner. "Some, I made friends with most of
the nobles who will be coming." Blushing she finished, "Rolan has asked me to
go as his partner."
Jeran's eyebrows raised, "Prince Rolan?" At Lisha's
nod as he continued, "That makes sense. Having a Meridellian as his partner
would go a long way to defusing some of the tension between King Hagan and Skarl."
Lisha sighed inwardly; leave it to Jeran to find a political motivation for
The kettle of water started boiling, distracting
Jeran. Lisha watched him closely as he deftly grabbed mugs from a cabinet, and
pulled the kettle from the fire. He'd changed while she was gone; he was more
relaxed, and the tension lines that had haunted his eyes ever since the last
battle of the second war were gone. She didn't know what had caused the change,
but Lisha liked it.
Setting a mug of steaming hot chocolate in front
of her, Jeran apologized, "I don't have any coffee, I know you prefer it." Settling
down across from her he added honey to his tea.
Smiling Lisha blew gently across her hot chocolate;
Jeran hated coffee, and she couldn't stand tea. "Yes, well as long as you don't
try to serve me any of your nasty boiled leaves, I'll forgive you."
The door to the office swung open silently, and
Jeran's eyes lit up when he saw the visitor. Turning in surprise, Lisha saw
the shadow dancer from the pub saunter in like she owned the place. If that
little minx thinks she can just waltz in here after snuggling up to that inept
Baron, she's going to have a new thought coming to her, Lisha thought with
Smiling impishly, the tiny Lupess shut the door
and pulled off her dancers' blouse; revealing a black sleeveless tunic and steel
grey fur underneath. Blinking in surprise, Lisha realized the shadow color on
the Lupess' arms only extended up to her elbows.
Jeran stood and poured more water from the kettle
into a large bowl, then handed the multi-colored Lupess the hot water, a small
towel, and some soap. As the Lupess scrubbed her face with the hot soapy water,
the water turned to an inky black while her fur lightened to the same color
as her upper arms.
Settling back into his chair, Jeran asked the
dancer, "Did he take the bait?"
Toweling off her now pirate colored face, the
Lupess replied in a low alto with a peasant accent, "Smooth as silk, and by
the end of the evening I probably could have gotten him to sell me the family
jewels." The Lupess glanced at Lisha, "But details can wait until tomorrow,"
she continued while making a face. "This stuff itches and I want a real bath;
and tomorrow I can go over it with you and Danner at the same time, instead
of having to say everything twice." Curtsying politely to Lisha, the tiny Lupess
slipped out the door.
Sheepishly Lisha realized that the Lupess must
work for Jeran. No wonder he was watching the dancer so closely, she
thought. I must have interrupted them while they were working. She was
very glad she hadn't said anything to Jeran about the dancer earlier.
A loud banging sound woke Mareian. Someone was
knocking on her door. Stretching, Mareian suppressed a yelp. All that dancing
at the pub yesterday was definitely taking its toll today, despite the hot bath
and all the stretching she'd done last night. Her banging door rudely demanded
her attention again. Five more minutes, she silently pleaded; all
I ask for is five more minutes.
A baritone voice called from the other side of
the door, "Mareian, I know it's early, but I need to talk to you." Mareian scowled,
didn't Jeran ever sleep? She knew he had stayed up later than she had last night,
with the return of his sister. Biting back a groan, she slipped out of bed with
an agility that beguiled the stiffness in her legs.
She opened the door to glare at her giant employer.
"Jeran, you do realize that there is a limit to how long a person can function
without sleep, don't you?" She was slightly mollified when she saw that he looked
about how she felt. Opening the door wider, she gestured the blue Lupe inside.
Jeran shot her a grateful glace as he dropped
into her overstuffed chair. "Ready for the bad news of the day?" he asked as
he ran his hand through the fur between his pointed ears. That was never a good
sign, Mareian thought with an inward wince; Jeran only made that gesture when
he was extremely frustrated.
"What is it?" she asked, sitting down on the
foot of her bed.
"Brightvale's entourage moved up the date of
their arrival by two weeks."
Mareian stared at him, "What? That's in less
than a week! Why would they do that?"
Jeran sighed, "Probably so King Hagan can trip
up Skarl. You know he never lets an opportunity to fluster His Majesty pass
Mareians eyes narrowed, "It also means the extra
security people from High Reaches won't get here in time; lovely."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Could
you arrange for some of your brother's people to come fill in our guard holes?
People good in a fight, and you know won't rob us when they think we're not
looking. We'll pay them standard commission."
Mareian looked at Jeran in surprise. "You could
ask him yourself, you know."
"I can't without officially admitting I know
who he is; and I'd hate to have to arrest a friend like Khalyen."
Nodding, Mareian agreed. The Champion's friendship
with the King of Thieves could get awkward sometimes because of their respective
ranks. "Consider it done. How many do you think you'll need?"
"Forty or so should be good, that would be a
huge load off my shoulders." Jeran coughed, suddenly looking awkward. "I, um,
also have another request." Mareian cocked her head, encouraging him to continue.
"Danner and I are going to need partners for the ball."
Mareian blinked in surprise, "I thought you were
going with Lisha?"
"So did I," he winced, "but apparently brothers
don't rate as high as the Crown Prince of Brightvale."
Mareian smiled, unleashing her charm upon the
hapless King's Champion, "Jeran Borodere, are you asking me to the ball?" She
carefully hid a grin as the inside of his ears blushed bright red.
"Unless you'd rather go with Danner, I need you
working the floor for me at the ball." She had to hand it to him; his voice
was much more composed than his ears were.
Mareian wrinkled her nose. "Choice, choices,"
she teased the flustered Lupe. "I'd much rather go with you," she assured him.
"I'll see who I can find for Danner. Why didn't he have a partner lined up yet?"
Jeran rolled his eyes, "You know Danner. He would
sooner die than get turned down by a girl, so he simply didn't ask one."
Mareian groaned, burying her face in her hands.
To be continued...