Where there's a Weewoo, there's a way Circulation: 107,223,896 Issue: 214 | 28th day of Collecting, Y7
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Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Rivalry - Part Three


by nimras23

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Just once, Jeran thought as he sat in the throne room for his and the King's morning meeting, it would be nice to have someone come to him with a solution as opposed to a problem. At least the extra security Mareian had arranged had come through. Holding back a sigh, he asked the King, "Are we absolutely certain King Hagan has officially disarmed the entire civilian population of Brightvale?"

     King Skarl scowled, "That's what he's saying in this proclamation."

     Jeran shook his head. "I don't like this…"

     As soon as he left the king's throne room Jeran sent squires to find Danner and Mareian and have them report to his office immediately. As they entered the room, Jeran motioned for them to shut the door. "You guys are going to love this."

     Danner laughed dryly. "Last time you said that was when I was taking my ordeal of knighthood; what's the bad news?"

     "King Hagan has banned civilians from owning weapons in Brightvale. Any security within Brightvale is supposed to come from the military only now."

      Danner gaped at him, while Mareian sputtered, "Is he insane? What is he planning on doing to protect the villages from raiders?"

     Jeran snorted sarcastically, "Apparently if you don't have weapons, they won't see you as a threat and will leave you alone. Unfortunately, it also means we don't have anything guarding our Brightvale border anymore, so our forces will be spread even more thinly."

     "Wonderful," Danner muttered. "Did he have to do this right before he and the crown prince came here? They might not have a country to go back to."

     "Danner," Jeran asked, "could you shuffle the knights so that border is better covered, then get me some numbers on Brightvale's military?" Danner nodded and slipped out the door.

     "Mareian," Jeran started, "I know this is…"

     Holding up her hands, Mareian interrupted, "Two steps ahead of you. I'll talk to Khalyen about more security throughout Meridell, and make sure any operations planned are placed on hold; expect a crime rate of zero percent until New Years. I'll also have him talk to the Thieves Council in Brightvale and see if they can form an underground militia to guard the sea coasts and trading routes from raiders." She smiled and cocked her head, "Anything else?"

     Jeran shook his head in amazement; he hadn't realized how much control Khalyen had over Meridell's crime world. "What would I do without you, Mareian?"

      "Much worse, I imagine," she sniffed.

     The rest of the week flew by quickly. Because of all the extra preparations he had to handle, Jeran ended up dropping everything with Baron Aafee's suspected weapons smuggling chain on Sir Mourvan. While Mourvan groused about it, it really wasn't something he couldn't handle.

     Mareian had been right, much to Jeran's amazement. Apparently Khalyen had assigned nearly every thief in Meridell to keep the peace; if before that week someone had told him he'd see even a day with zero crime, Jeran would have laughed himself sick. The lack of crime was making Danner paranoid; he was convinced they were saving up for until King Hagan arrived. Danner started spending evenings poring over the files of people he suspected and he jumped nervously whenever there was a loud noise.

     

*****

     "Tell me the truth, Mareian," Lisha asked nervously while inspecting her reflection in the mirror. "How do I look?"

     Mareian hid a smile. "You look good; the dark red really makes your eyes stand out."

     Lisha looked slightly reassured. "I'm still not sure the dress goes with my glasses."

     Mareian grinned, "You look great, Lisha." She handed Lisha a pair of red enameled bangle bracelets. "Don't forget these."

     "Remind me again, how did you get out of this?"

     Mareian grimaced, "I'm going with Sir Mourvan to close the trap on Baron Aafees and his weapon smuggling ring. Trust me, I'd rather change places with you if I could." Glancing out the window to the sun she continued, "Speaking of which, I need to get going."

     Impishly she added, "Have fun at the banquet, Lisha, and keep an eye on Jeran for me; he tends to get himself in trouble if not kept on a short leash."

     Lisha laughed. "I'll do that."

     Mareian slipped out Lisha's door, and moved briskly to her rooms. Shutting the door to her quarters tightly, she opened a tub of black powder and started applying the sooty color to her arms up to the elbows. Twenty minutes later, the steel grey Lupess peered into her mirror, and saw a shadow Lupess looking back at her. After hastily dressing in travel clothes, Mareian silently went to meet Sir Mourvan down by the drawbridge. Slipping onto the backs of their Unis, they headed out towards the inept Baron's estate just before the carriages of Brightvale's leaders pulled into sight of Meridell castle.

     Even though it was the middle of winter, Mareian and Mourvan made good time on the roads. Approaching the Aafees estate though, Mareian got an uneasy feeling. It was too quiet. "Dancin, Mourvan, slow down," she ordered quietly, slowing Ricky, her spotted Uni, down to a walk.

     Dancin, Mourvan's white Uni partner, slowed while Mourvan looked at her quizzically, "What's wrong?"

     "Look around, what do you see?"

     Mourvan surveyed the area curiously, "The road, empty fields covered in snow, and the Baron's main house."

     "Exactly." Seeing Mourvan's blank look, Mareian continued, "Where are the people? Why does no smoke rise from the Baron's house? He's expecting us, so why is there no sign of life?" Mareian's feeling of unease grew stronger. "This is wrong."

     Mourvan slid his sword's hilt to a more accessible position, "Do you want to call it off?"

     "No, but keep your eyes open." Mareian patted her Uni on the neck. "Let's go, Ricky." Ricky used to be a training Uni for pages and squires in the castle, but the spotted Uni and Mareian had made friends shortly after she started working at the castle. Now Mareian was the only one he worked with, and she relied on him on nearly every assignment.

     Riding though the estate's unguarded main gate, they carefully approached the dark manor. They rode all the way up to the front door without seeing a single person, "I don't like this," Mourvan growled, grasping the hilt of his sword.

     Mareian dismounted silently, and stroked Ricky's nose. "Stay here and keep a lookout, okay?" she whispered to her Uni friend. He bumped her comfortingly on the arm with his nose, causing her to giggle softly.

     Mourvan motioned that Mareian should go behind him, something Mareian had no problem with. The door pushed open easily, it wasn't locked. They quietly stepped into the dark and silent entry way, and then traveled down the main hallway, checking rooms as they came across their doors.

     A pink Shoyru in a fancy dress lay inside the third room. "Baroness Aafees," Mourvan said softly, recognizing her. Mareian checked for a pulse, and then shook her head at Mourvan. They found the rest of the servants, the Baron, and his family lying in the dining room. The rest of the house was empty.

     "Well," Mareian said softly, "while we are here, let's check the grounds."

     The grounds were much easier to search as they worked their way systematically from outbuilding to outbuilding, finding no sign of life. In under an hour they had checked every building but the woodshed. Entering the shed, Mareian saw the tip of a very small orange tail. Such a small tail could only belong to a child, Mareian thought sadly. Walking around to the body, she saw a small orange Shoyru boy who looked to be about 10 years old; with a sigh she knelt to feel for a pulse, and then closed her eyes in relief. There was a pulse, slow but steady.

     With a start, the small Shoyru woke and stared at her with terror filled eyes. "Easy there, lad," she crooned softly, "I'm not going to hurt you." Mareian pulled off her cloak and wrapped the boy in it tightly. "Come on my lad; let's take you to the castle."

     

*****

     As far as banquets with two kings in attendance went, this evening's dinner hadn't been all that bad, Jeran thought happily as he entered his office. Lisha had looked absolutely stunning in her new dress; everyone had complimented her on it. Between Prince Rolan, Lisha, and himself they had managed to keep the conversation to neutral topics. Hopefully Mareian and Mourvan would be returning soon with a date and time to arrest Baron Aafees, and after they reported in he could finally get some sleep.

     The door to his office opened, Mareian slipped in, her sooty expression unreadable. She held the door open for Mourvan, who was carrying something wrapped up in Mareian's cloak, then shut the door quietly. Had Aafees given them some weapons already? No, this bundle was shaped wrong to be concealed weapons.

     The bundle squirmed with a small moaning sound, and a small orange fist slipped out from the folds in the cloak. Jeran looked at Mourvan's tight face, and then at Mareian's expressionless one with a cold feeling settling into his gut. Leaning against his desk, Jeran asked, "What happened?"

     Marian spoke to Mourvan expressionlessly, opening the door, "I'll explain, get the boy to a decent bed." Mourvan nodded, and then slipped out with his small burden. Turning to Jeran, she tonelessly explained, "When we arrived at the estate, the Baron, and all his staff were dead. The boy is all that remains of his family, Mourvan and I found him hiding in the woodshed."

     Jeran rubbed his temples, this was not the news he'd hoped to hear. "Did the boy say who killed his family?"

     Mareian nodded, "I got him to talk about it while we were riding back. He said it was the big Gelert his father sold weapons to, a Gelert by the name of Jasagh." Her eyes narrowed, showing the first display of emotion since she'd come in. "I'm sure you remember that name."

     Jeran nodded, scowling; four months ago, Jasagh and a band of raiders had attempted to overthrow the government. With Khalyen's help all the raiders were arrested, with the exception of their leader, the Gelert Jasagh. Jeran had some serious suspicions that Jasagh had also been behind both of the Meridell Citadel wars as one of The Three, but couldn't prove it. Jasagh had also fairly seriously wounded Mareian with a staff to the head, something Mareian had taken rather personally.

     With a sigh Jeran ran his hand through the hair between his ears, "I don't suppose you have any idea of where our friend went?"

     "Oh yeah, Jeran," Mareian said sarcastically, her eyes snapping, "he went to the Dancing Whinny for a mulled cider, then went and played a couple rounds of poker."

     Jeran sighed in relief; that was the Mareian he knew. Her earlier lack of emotion had worried him. "If only it was that easy." He stood and filled his kettle with water from a pitcher, then placed the kettle on the fire. He was going to need the caffeine from tea tonight. "We should be glad that he seems to be using the same name. It should make tracking his movements easier." Changing the subject he queried, "Do you want some tea?"

     Mareian nodded absently, and walked up to his desk. Planting one hand firmly on the top to steady herself, she jumped up and sat comfortably on the top of his desk, swinging her feet like a child. Jeran smiled to himself as he pulled out the mugs for tea, Mareian didn't sit in a chair whenever she had the option, preferring desks or other high surfaces.

     "Lets just sit on the Jasagh problem right now," Jeran decided as they waited for the water to boil, "we're not going to find him as spread thin as we are. Let's concentrate on getting through the ball with no mishaps first."

     "That would be a miracle," Mareian commented dryly, "I'll ask Khalyen to keep his ears open for us though. If he hears anything, I'll let you know."

     "Sounds like a plan," Jeran agreed, pulling the now boiling water from the fire. Pouring it he added, "I'm pulling you from any other projects you're on right now. I want you to keep an eye on our visitors; smile at them, charm them, and if any of them do anything suspicious let me know. I also want you to, ah, acquire, anything they're carrying that may be dangerous or that they shouldn't have."

     For the first time that evening, the tired Lupess grinned mischievously, "You're giving me permission to pick pockets within the castle?" Frowning, she added with concern, "But won't that cause problems with the Brightvalians?"

     "Only things within reason," Jeran cautioned. "I've already talked it over with Rolan and he thinks it's a good idea. Since he's in charge of Brightvale's security while they are here, King Hagan can't complain."

     Handing her a mug of tea he ordered, "Now take this and go to bed," and then teased, "but first make sure you take out that black dye in your fur, it looks like it would itch." Mareian stuck out her tongue at him, then slipped off his desk and carefully walked out so she wouldn't spill her mug of tea.

     Jeran watched her leave with a wistful sigh; he looked at the paperwork he really should finish, sipping his very hot tea. Forget it, he thought to himself tiredly. It will still be here tomorrow. Finishing his tea, the tired Champion headed to his rooms and his nice soft bed.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Rivalry - Part One
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Rivalry - Part Two



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