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Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Rivalry - Part Four


by nimras23

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Mareian hadn't had this much fun in ages. Gleefully, she inspected her latest prize, a heavily engraved silver broach she had 'acquired' from one of the Brightvale nobles. Feeling smug, she added it to the top of the box of other acquisitions she had collected in the week since Jeran had given her permission to 'borrow' any potentially dangerous toys from the visitors. They're my toys now, she thought possessively. Mareian smirked; Jeran was going to have to get a bigger toy box for her soon.

     Hearing footsteps, she turned to smile at Jeran as he entered his office; nobody walked like he did, yet it always seemed to unnerve him how she knew it was him before she saw him. Mareian found the whole thing rather amusing.

     "Your collection is growing," Jeran commented dryly. He picked up the engraved broach and gave her an odd look. "This is a weapon?"

     This is why Mareian did this job, and not a knight. Taking the broach from his hands, Mareian grabbed each end of the broach firmly and twisted. The broach came apart, revealing a small throwing knife concealed inside. Jeran started in surprise.

     "It gets better," she told him. "Look at the tip." Holding the dagger up in the sunlight, Mareian twisted the dagger, revealing a slightly yellow sheen on the lower half of the blade. "It's poisoned, but not recently, about 50 years ago I'd say. It probably wouldn't do any more damage than a normal knife its size now."

     Jeran looked slightly relieved to hear that part. "So you don't think it was poisoned for anyone here?"

     Mareian snorted in exasperation, "That's the sad part. All these wonderful toys; and most of the people I got them from have no clue what they are. They all think these are some family trinket, not knowing that it's a family heirloom designed for assassination."

     And such pretty toys they were too, she thought sadly, so under appreciated by their former owners. In a smooth movement, Mareian reassembled the knife-concealing broach. "Can I keep this?"

     "No."

     Mareian sighed; it had been worth a shot at least.

     The door rapped sharply, Jeran tossed some papers over Mareian's toy box and opened the door. To Mareian's surprise it wasn't a Meridellian on the other side, but a richly dressed yellow Kougra dressed in Brightvale's colors.

     "Rolan, come in," Jeran gestured the Kougra in. Now Mareian recognized him as the Crown Prince of Brightvale; and Lisha's partner for the ball, she thought with a mental grin. Catching Jeran's eye, Mareian made a motion to the door, asking if she should leave. Jeran shook his head slightly, and motioned for her to stay with a small flick of his fingers. Mareian settled herself more comfortably on Jeran's desk. Desks, she thought happily, are much higher than chairs. Especially Jeran's desk, which she strongly suspected had been built to order for him, most desks wouldn't be nearly tall enough.

     Rolan scowled at her, and with a start Mareian realized she was still holding the engraved broach; using the pretence of settling her skirts, Mareian slipped the broach into a hidden pocket in her dress. The she settled her hand primly on her lap and returned the prices gaze levelly.

     "Is she trustworthy?" he finally demanded Jeran.

     Depends on who you ask, Mareian thought dryly.

     Jeran answered with a level tone, "She wouldn't be in here if I didn't trust her." Mareian was glad she had dark tipped ears; she hadn't blushed so much since Mavude had complemented her wrist movements when picking locks.

     Rolan looked at Jeran, his tail twitching in agitation, "I'm willing to guess that you took the news of Father's proclamation the same way I did?"

     "If you're talking about the ban on weapons, probably yes," Jeran agreed. "What I don't understand is why he ordered it."

     Rolan snorted bitterly. "Ask his new advisor. Father relies on him heavily, more so than me anymore." Moving his arm in a sharp cutting motion, he continued, "All we ever hear anymore is Jasagh this, Jasagh that. He's the one who advised Father that taking the weapons away from the peasants would mean fewer raids."

     Mareian hissed, throwing a sharp look to a stunned Jeran. "This Jasagh," she asked intently, "what species is he?"

     Rolan looked at her in surprise, "Jasagh's a Gelert. Why?"

     Mareian looked at Jeran; he was the one who had to make the call for how much they told Rolan about their problems with the Gelert.

     Jeran sighed, "We have reason to suspect Jasagh was behind the murder of Baron Aafees and his family, with the exception of the Baron's youngest son." Rolan's eyes grew large as Jeran continued, "We also have evidence of his attempt to overthrow Meridell's government four months ago."

     Mareian cocked an eyebrow; apparently Brightvale's crown prince was going to get the whole story. Following a hunch, she theorized, "My guess is that he's going to try to take over Brightvale. An unarmed country would be much easer to take over, and I'm willing to bet a month's pay that the raiders you've been having problems with work for him." She shrugged. "At least that's what I would do.

     "What you need to do is figure out a way to get around King Hagen's order, and arm your people with things that won't be recognized as weapons," she finished thoughtfully.

     Rolan snorted, "Weapons are usually pretty easy to identify, my Lady."

     Pulling the dagger concealing broach out of her pocket, Mareian asked, "Like this one?"

     Rolan's jaw hit the floor as Mareian smoothly pulled the brooch apart and revealed the dagger. Maybe some of these wonderful toys will finally be appreciated, Mareian thought, watching the light kindle in Rolan's eyes.

          

*****

     Mareian was up to something, Lisha decided, scowling at her Lupess friend.

     "Please Lisha," Mareian begged, "just keep King Hagan's attention for an hour or so."

     "Why me?" Lisha retorted, "I don't even know why you want him away from his court. Why don't you do it?"

     "Because I'm not educated enough to keep up with him," Mareian admitted, "Hagan likes to show off how well read he is, and I've only been reading for four months. You, on the other hand, singlehandedly put the whole library together."

     Caving, Lisha asked, "And what am I supposed to talk to him about?"

     Mareian grinned cheekily as she started towards the door, "Talk to him about great philosophers, start with Anselm's ontological argument for all I care. Just work the conversation to the philosophy of rule and the people, and whose ideas he admires and respects."

     Lisha shook her head. Insanity must be spreading, she scolded herself mentally. And what in the world was behind Mareian's sudden interest in King Hagan's philosophical beliefs? With a start, Lisha realized that she had no clue what the argument Mareian had suggested as a conversation starter was. Lisha grinned, she'd just found the perfect way to get Hagan to talk to her for hours on end.

     Now if only she knew why Mareian wanted to know about all of this so badly.

          

*****

     Just two more days, Jeran told himself as he and Mareian sat at a table in the market waiting for Khalyen's messenger, he only had to make it for another two days and he could take a well earned vacation.

     "Two more days until what?" Mareian asked.

     Jeran started, he hadn't meant to speak out loud. Grinning sheepishly he explained, "Two more days until this ball is over with and our visitors start to head home. Then I can take a well earned vacation."

     "You won't, you know," she said seriously, setting her mug of mulled cider firmly on the table.

     "Excuse me?"

     "You won't take a vacation," Mareian explained, her face shining with sincerity as she went on; "sometimes, I try to envision you sitting in a grassy field by a flowing stream, with absolutely nothing to do."

     "Oh? And what happens?" he asked curiously, idly stirring his own cider.

     "For some reason, it always ends with your head imploding."

     Jeran opened his mouth to retort, but before he could say anything a graying shadow Zafara slipped into the seat next to him.

     "Mavude!" Mareian greeted the elderly Zafara delightedly.

     So this was Mavude, Jeran thought, Mareian had always spoken highly of her Zafara mentor. From what Jean had been able to piece together, Mavude had raised Mareian and Khalyen after they became orphans.

     "So what news from my overly tall brother?" Mareian asked curiously.

     Mavude grunted, "Cryptic as always; he says the Philosopher is coming, and should be here in time for the ball. I assume you understand that; and if you don't, that's just too bad. Anyways," the graying shadow Zafara finished in her rough voice, "that's all that brother of yours says he knows. Either way, I'm enjoying the break he's put us all on until New Year's, my bones are getting too old to be out all night."

     Mareian smiled gratefully, "Thank you, Mavude."

     Mavude chuckled, "Ah lass." She patted Mareian's arm maternally, "I'm proud of you, you know. You found a way to do what you're good at without getting in trouble, not to mention you managed to get a good boss." Winking cheekily, she added, "And it certainly doesn't hurt that he's cute."

     Unfortunately for Jeran, he'd been in mid sip of his drink. "Mavude!" Marian protested, obviously fighting back giggles as Jeran choked on his cider in surprise.

     Mareian's laughter faded sharply as her friend doubled over in a coughing fit. "Are you alright?" she asked in alarm.

     Mavude smiled warily, "Ah, it's old age, and there's only one cure for that. Besides," she continued, pointing a finger at her young protégé, "it's your and your brother's fault that I've made it this long. He spoils me, you know. No one in my family has ever lived to be my age, so don't you go feeling sorry for me." Mavude pulled a couple coins from a concealed pouch and handed them across the table to Mareian, "Now be a sweetie and get me some cider too?"

     "She's so like her mother was," Mavude commented thoughtfully as Mareian was getting more drinks.

     Blinking in surprise, Jeran asked "You knew her parents?"

     "Oh yes," Mavude reminisced, "Their father Glebrel was a tall, Lupe blacksmith. Both Mareian and Khalyen get their pirate color from him. Their mother was Havya, the prettiest royal Gelertess you'd ever see. Mareian doesn't remember her, but she acts and sounds almost exactly like her mother." Smiling wryly she commented, "The best traits breed true."

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
» Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Rivalry - Part Three



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