Tag Archives: deception

King, Chapter 15

King Chapters 1-14 are here:

http://jm-harrison.com/8-king-chronicle-8-sample-chapter/

~Chapter 15~

Alexia glanced at Alvuen as she entered the parlor, but then resumed pacing in front of the hearth before a crackling fire. The chill of the place had all but seeped into her bones. A cold draft slid across the floor, despite the thick carpet. The taste of salt coated her mouth and throat. The constant boom of the waves hitting the cliff set her nerves on edge.

“Your Majesty,” Alvuen said as she watched. “Is something wrong?”

“What was Liselle Telaerin doing at Juleta Gurrell’s this morning?” Alexia demanded.

“Apparently the two are acquainted, Your Majesty, and Liselle obviously needed a place to go after—”

“What do you know of what happened between Dynan and Liselle?”

“Only what you’ve heard,” Alvuen said, “that Dynan was with her last night. Liselle’s maid, Adel has been talking about it, and—”

“Adel is mute. She couldn’t have talked about it to anyone, except through comboard, where there would be a record of her actions. And now I come to find out that the Palace messenger you used to instruct Juleta is dead. Juleta herself is closeted with the Lord Chancellor, who is quite capable of discovering her connection to me.”

“The Lord Chancellor is capable of forcing Juleta to say anything he wants, something everyone is aware of. She wouldn’t willingly tell him anything of her activities for the sake of her family and herself. They’d be ruined. If it were to come out, that she was spying for you, it wouldn’t take much to discredit the Lord Chancellor’s motivation in forcing such a confession.”

“And if she’s found to have some other connection to what Liselle did?” Alexia asked, hardly able to believe that it had happened, or that there was a possibility that the duplicity of it could lead to her.

“In what way, other than opening her home to Liselle? She had nothing to do with Dynan staying the night with Liselle. That was Liselle’s attempt to seek revenge for what happened before.”

“I’m aware of her motivation. I need to know what Marc Talryn learns from Juleta, and what can be done to counter what he discovers. None of this can lead back to me, Alvuen. It would give Dynan exactly what he needs to break our agreement.”

“None of it will,” Alvuen said. “I’m certain of it.”

“Whatever needs to be done to ensure it…”

“Of course. I’ll let you know what I find out.”

 ***

“Yes Marc,” Dain said as he adjusted the ship’s speed, trying to make up time. The controls flashed. The hum of engines came up through the deck. It felt great. He looked over at Dynan. “He wants to come out here.”

“Why?”

“He doesn’t say exactly.”

Dynan sat up a little. “Fine.”

Marc appeared in the doorway, looked out the view screen, then at Dain. “I need to talk to your brother. Alone. I’ll explain in a minute.”

Dain hesitated, looking again to Dynan. He nodded almost absently. Despite Dain’s best efforts to cheer him up, nothing worked for more than a moment or two. He stood, relinquishing his chair to Marc. “I’ll be back in the hold.”

Trevan and Kenon were the only ones awake. The guard’s eyes widened slightly, and Dain guessed he was wondering who was flying the ship. Trevan only glanced at him before returning his attention to the console that took up most of the back wall. Dain sat with him, and noticed his hand resting close to the engine controls.

“Think I forgot how?” he asked.

“No. Just giving some back up. A good thing too, since you’re here instead of minding the controls.”

“Ship looks good, Trevan. I’m glad you were able to save her. I need some flight time though, with all these new controls.”

“Well that’s comforting to know.”

Dain laughed and Trevan shook his head. “What have you been working on lately?”

“Nothing. Been too busy fixing all the broken stuff.”

“Oh come on. I can’t believe you aren’t inventing anything new.”

“Really. Mostly I’ve been upgrading and modifying what we’ve already got. Not nearly as interesting, but it has to be done. How’s Dynan?”

“He’ll be all right. Sure is a mess though.”

“When is it not?” Trevan said. “Sorry I missed all that business with Maralt. I had no idea.”

“That’s the way it needed to be. Besides, looks like you’re getting a chance this go around.”

“Do you think Marc is going to make it? I mean, do what he’s supposed to? Pretty rotten spot for him to be in.”

Dain shook his head. “I don’t know, and it’s beyond rotten. It’s not right. Personally I think if he pulls this off, they ought to reward him for it, not kill him.”

“But wouldn’t that leave open a way for Maralt to come back through him?” Kenon asked.

Dain turned to him. “No more than that possibility exists in me or Dynan. The way this is supposed to work is Marc takes all of Maralt, if we can ever catch him, and then all the ancestors. He then delivers the package unto the Gods, giving them back their collective power. Once that’s done, they don’t need Marc’s help anymore. His reward for performing this task is to be wiped out in the process. Some justice there.”

“But the reason for taking him too is to stop any part of Maralt from remaining. It seems unavoidable to me, since the Lord Chancellor is holding Maralt, and has been all this time, that he could do so without being influenced by him.”

“You don’t know Marc very well, do you?”

“No, Your Highness, but I know men well enough to know that the constant lure of such power would be difficult if not impossible to completely resist. It seems to me that the Gods should know better than either of us what’s best. They’ve chosen to take Marc for a reason.”

“If your Gods were so wise, it seems to me that they wouldn’t have let this happen in the first place.”

“They’re your Gods too, Your Highness.”

Dain looked at him, wondering a little at the guard’s presumption. “No, they aren’t.”

“You would turn your back on your faith, the thing that has kept you alive, for the fate of one man?”

“I turn my back on anything that’s unjust, and anyone or any entity that chooses to ignore what’s right.”

“You would damn your soul? Do you even understand what that means?” Kenon said.

“I’ve been to the Demon’s Gate, Lieutenant. I think I have a better idea of what it means than you do.” Dain leaned back in his chair. “So fear of being returned to that place, damning my soul as you put it, because I don’t believe in the Gods’ choice should be enough to change my mind, right?”

“Yes.”

“That’s the problem I have with the Gods. I don’t believe in their plans. I don’t submit to them, therefore I get the Gates. They rule by fear, which makes them not so different from the thing they’re trying to stop. The Gods I believe in are a little kinder than that.” He shook his head. “I guess they don’t exist.”

Kenon seemed to want to object, but Marc came back then, and the guard’s eyes widened again. “Hi, Trevan,” Marc said. “Dain, your turn.”

Marc pointed back to the hall between sleeping quarters, since at the moment, those were all occupied, and started explaining his plan. The thought of Dynan having to face Liselle and tolerate her presence turned Dain’s stomach, but he saw the need for it. “Dynan agreed to this?”

“He did.”

“I hope you don’t expect me to be nice to her.”

Marc smiled at that. “That would make everyone suspicious. You get to act like you always do, just not like you want to kill her.”

“Have you talked to him about ordering her execution?”

“No, Dain, and I’m not going to. Neither are you.”

“What about Alexia?”

“She knows that I’ve got Juleta. She’ll cooperate as far as tempering the reaction to this. Play along like everyone else.”

“What are you doing with Juleta?”

“She’s staying with me for the time being. Dynan doesn’t know about her, or Alexia’s possible involvement yet. There are a few complications I need to sort through before I drop that one on him. I want to get him through this dinner and a decent night’s sleep. I’ll talk to him about the rest of it in the morning. I’m sending Dain Ardin out with him tomorrow.”

“Why?”

“I want you at the Palace. I didn’t tell Dynan this either, but Maralt killed Juleta’s go between. The man was a Palace Messenger.”

“He’s on the move.”

“Yes, he is. Everyone who has to be shielded has been. I’m not so sure how many more I can manage. He has a Palace Messenger badge now that allows him access to everywhere. Right now, I’m restricting access to the Royal wing to staff officers only. Senior guards have been alerted to the situation.”

“Why not all the guards?”

“Questions about security have a tendency to cause a lot of panic. I have to get back.  Make sure he’s ready. As soon you land, we’re heading in for dinner.”

Dain nodded, frowning slightly. “How are you getting around anyway? I mean, who are you using to get back?”

“Ralion. See you in a few.”

“Marc—” Dain growled under his breath because he was gone already. “I didn’t think he was supposed to do it that way.”

“Do what?” Dynan asked from the door. “Where’s Marc?”

“Gone. Poof.”

Dynan nodded, not really paying attention anymore. “I have to change,” he said, and disappeared into his room. The door hissed closed behind him. A few minutes later, the XR-30 set down in front of the Palace.

 ***

Dynan waited for the ramp, not so eager to face the thing that he had so willingly unleashed. Mostly he was afraid that it would all fly out of control. Some of it already had. He hadn’t expected Alvuen to do such a good job getting the news out. He’d thought to be able to contain it better than it had been. Now the Governors knew. That was something he hadn’t considered and should have. He couldn’t let any of it show, but more importantly couldn’t even think of it. Marc knew some of what had happened, but not all. At least, he wasn’t acting like he knew.

Dain clapped him on the back, nodding him on. “It’ll be all right.”

Marc was waiting at the ramp, explaining again what he needed to do while they climbed the stairs. The XR-30 lifted off, spun around and maneuvered to the far side of the Palace. As they reached the doors, its engines powered down. Dynan wondered how he was going to get through this dinner. He still felt awful and hadn’t expected that either, not for this long at any rate.

Marc took him upstairs to the Royal dining hall and as they entered the Royal wing, met Dain Ardin at the door. He nodded to something and Dynan guessed he was talking to Dain. “We’ll be there in a minute,” he said, nodding him on to the hall.

Dynan saw Loren standing in the arched entrance, her face a mask. Her eyes showed some of the terror he felt. Dynan didn’t dare look at her long. Marella was with her. “Your Majesty,” Dynan said, trying to smile and mean it.

“Welcome home, Your Highness,” she said, and he noticed the chill in her tone.

He looked to Loren again, but she ignored him. If he hadn’t known better, he would have been convinced that she hated him. “Thank you,” he said, and had to clear his throat. “It’s good to be home.”

“How was the Approachment?” Drake asked as he joined them. He held out his hand, and raised an eyebrow at him.

“It was long, Drake.”

“That’s all? No words of wisdom from Cobalt’s citizens?”

“A few.”

Drake seemed to think that was funny. Dynan didn’t feel like discussing it. Standing so close to Loren, acutely aware of her fear, was more than he thought he could stand when there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He excused himself to his other guests. He went to Danetha first and kissed her hand. He saw Liselle across the room, standing not very far from Ralion, who was there to watch her, though that too wasn’t readily apparent. She looked the same as always, collected and in command of herself. Not even a hint of the night’s activities could be discerned from her expression. She smiled at him, dipping into a curtsy. He smiled back, amazed at her composure. He tried keeping in mind what he would feel like if everything that was being said of him had really happened, and a shiver ran up his spine.

“The worst is over,” Marc said silently. “You’re doing fine. We’ll get you out of here as soon as possible. Neithia is calling for dinner now. You’re sitting with Ildin Taldic and his wife Rene, Alexia, Danetha, and Guildmaster Dunn of the Ag Guild. Ildin is going to ask you about what happened. You know what to say.”

Dain and Dain Ardin arrived then, causing a distraction with their behavior that Dynan knew was planned. A moment later, and they were all seated and served. He smiled and talked and forced food down. That was the worst of it, having to eat. When the subject was broached, not by Ildin, but Alexia, Dynan shrugged. He admitted to a lapse of good sense in talking the night away with Liselle, but that was all.

“I thought as much when I heard the rumors this morning,” Alexia said. Dynan was a little surprised that she was going along with it all. She was afraid though, and for a change didn’t have much choice. “But really, Your Highness, I thought you would have learned your lesson by now. This kind of scandal is hardly appropriate behavior for a future King.”

“What scandal?” he asked. “I needed to talk to Liselle uninterrupted. My schedule isn’t exactly conducive to more reasonable hours. I knew it was my only chance. Someone else decided to turn it into something it wasn’t ever. It’s a little incredible, after all, that the person attributed to spreading all these rumors can’t speak. I’m too busy right now to have much concern about it. At any rate, all that talk has been disproved. Adel never said anything, not even by the comboard she always carries. Liselle is here, not at the Beach Manor. If any of these rumors were true, do you think I’d have her here?”

“No, I don’t suppose you would,” Ildin said, “considering that last time these rumors surfaced, she was promptly married off to Gauvin.”

“You know as well as I do who was responsible for that,” Dynan said evenly. “My father handled that situation far differently than I would have, and you witnessed the results.”

Ildin nodded. “You were denied the throne.”

“You can apply the same logic to this instance. There are many, it would seem, who’ll do whatever they can to keep me from the throne, Ildin. They haven’t managed to kill me, so they resort to this. Not much has changed.”

“We’ve only the next five days to get through until you’ll be crowned,” Ildin said with a slight smile. “I’m sorry, Dynan. I should have expected that there was more to this than first appeared. I’ll see to it that my colleagues are informed.”

Dynan thanked him for the sentiment, hoping the Governors would listen. Dinner and the usual gathering afterward finally ended. Marc got him out early under the pretext of a meeting and took Dynan to his rooms. His brothers were waiting for him with Geneal. Dynan hardly made it to the washroom before his stomach finally rebelled. They held him while he was sick when he preferred to be left alone. Geneal gave him something to calm his nerves, though it didn’t seem to do any good. He was too tired to keep up the subterfuge, especially with Marc. Dynan wanted them all to go away, and no one would leave him. He had to wonder what his Lord Chancellor was doing to keep it all contained.

They helped him into bed, being overly solicitous. He wondered how angry they would be when they found out the truth. Really, he just wanted to feel better, and then he’d be able to think again.

When they all finally left him and he thought he should be tired enough to sleep, he couldn’t close his eyes. About an hour later, he gave up trying. He got up, got dressed and quietly slipped out.

He was a little surprised he made it out of the building without being stopped by using the service entrances and back hallways. There were guards on the door he took to get outside, but he ordered them to stay where they were and not tell anyone that they saw him.

“Wait, I mean, Your Highness, don’t…”

Dynan stopped on the walk to the barn and turned back around. “What is it?”

The guard who spoke swallowed and faced him. “You’re not leaving, are you?”

Maybe the man thought he was about to run off. With only five days to the coronation, it was a tempting notion, but Dynan shook his head. He cocked a thumb over his shoulder. “I’m just going to the barn.”

“Right. Of course. I’m sorry. I wasn’t suggesting—”

Dynan shook his head to cut him off. “I don’t want company.”

“Understood,” the guard said while the other one with him remained stone-faced and staring ahead as if Dynan wasn’t there. They both knew he wasn’t supposed to be out without a guard. “Just to the barn?”

“Just to the barn,” he repeated and doubted the solitude he sought would last.

The T-shaped building stood some distance from the Palace. It was cold enough that once inside the building, the warmth was a welcome relief. The stable was deserted too, though a couple of low ambient lights popped on when he moved down the main aisle. They went off behind him again as he turned left at the intersection. The riding ring was this way. He meant to get a horse and spend the next few hours not thinking.

The familiar smells of hay, leather and horses mingled together to take him back to a time when he was a boy who spent hours out here as often as he was allowed. There were only good memories lurking in the shadows. He looked up. The rope Dain used to swing on from the loft was still attached, draped over a hook so it was reachable. The rope was long enough that they could swing all the way over to the outside wall, land on the ledge, then turn around and swing back.

Dynan thought for a moment to go up and try it out again, but guessed his hands wouldn’t tolerate the abuse too well. Probably for the better, since there was no one around to notice if he fell. It was a long way down from there.

A soft nicker pulled his attention from the roof back to the aisle and he saw when he looked that Gilraen had been brought down from the XR-9. Dynan smiled at that, as she started bobbing her head, tossing the glossy black mane. She pushed her head into his hand, allowing him to scratch her.

“Nice to be on solid ground, isn’t it,” he said to her and laughed when she bobbed her head again.

He thought he’d pull her out and ride her, but another nicker from across the aisle punctuated by a hoof hitting the wall made him turn. For a moment, he couldn’t believe it, but there was no mistaking the animal for any other. There was no other like him, from the black sheen to the white diamond splash on his forehead that looked like the Telaerin seal. The horse bowed his head down the way he always used to.

“Galarin.”

~*~

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Filed under Epic Fantasy, Guardians of the Word

King, Chapter 13

Chapters 1-12 are here:

http://jm-harrison.com/8-king-chronicle-8-sample-chapter/

~Chapter 13~

Ambrose turned from the window in the King’s office and the view of Rianamar. “What was he doing in her rooms to begin with?”

Marc didn’t have an answer to that. “The guard said Liselle invited him in for a drink. He accepted. She gave him the fenoridan in the drink. You’ve heard the rest. Lt. Tor is trying to locate Liselle right now. I haven’t heard back from him, but I should soon. Alvuen was seen earlier than usual this morning, as were a few of her maids. She was careful enough that no one can directly attribute her with saying anything. A case of conversations overheard. Regardless, it’s all over the Palace and spreading. I spoke to Ildin Taldic a few moments ago.”

“I can’t believe he’s allowed this to happen, again, and with the same woman!” Ambrose turned back to the window, shaking his head. “What are you doing about it?”

“Trying to lessen the impact. Difficult at best when you couple it with past history, but doable, I think. First, Adel couldn’t have said what’s being attributed to her, and I’m making sure that’s known. Officially Dynan did spend the evening with Liselle, but Adel will attest in writing that they were only talking and lost track of the time.”

“But with Liselle gone, sent away, that story isn’t likely to be believed.”

“I intend to have her back here.”

“How, Marc, when you’re not sure if she went with Juleta.”

“I’ll get her back here.”

“Maralt?”

“It’s all connected now. The boundary weakens.”

“A chain reaction starts and we all play our parts,” Ambrose said, and looked down at his old desk, the black surface gleaming in the light. “He could lose the crown over this.”

“And we have you to take his place.”

Marc frowned then. The strong premonition that Alexia was responsible, or at least a participant in these events couldn’t be denied, but she would have known the possible consequences too. She didn’t want Ambrose returned to the Throne, but her daughter married to its King. It didn’t make sense that she should be involved, considering the possibility that Cobalt’s Governors could take the Throne from Dynan. Marc didn’t think she would risk that, but he was certain that she had. Her fury had been genuine though, and he questioned her involvement again. Of course, if none of the Telaerins were allowed to take the crown, Yomir stood to gain in that case as well. That thought led him to wonder if the Queen had given up expecting that Dynan would honor his agreement. It seemed she had. He frowned again, feeling like he was missing something.

Marc remained with Ambrose another hour, waiting for word from Avry Tor. Ralion came back as Ambrose finished his report of the daily business he was handling. “I just heard from Avry. He’s at the Gurrell’s home. Liselle is there. The family is gathered in the back parlor.”

“Tell him to proceed as planned. I want them back here by transport. Liselle should be sent to her rooms, and quietly put under guard. Bring Juleta to me. I’ll be in my quarters.”

Ambrose didn’t need him for anything else just then, so Marc made his way up to his rooms. Out in the hall and all the way up the main stairs, a brooding sense of disaster followed him, but he kept an easy smile and an unconcerned look the whole way. He managed the same for his family too. His mother greeted him at the door, and he smiled at the new gown she wore, a kind of metallic brown and tan with bits of blue sewn in. He didn’t feel the same sense of danger at being around her, maybe because of all the other problems he faced. “I’m sorry I missed breakfast.”

“Have you eaten at all?”

“A little.”

She looked at him doubtfully, then took him by the arm. “How is your day?”

“Crazy, but that’s nothing new.”

“You look tired,” she said, walking with him.

“And you look beautiful,” he said, surprising her. “Do you like it?”

“It’s different, but yes, except for the weight of it. I don’t like that. Your father and Trey are back here somewhere. This is quite a place you have.”

“I know. Too big for just one, but you all fit well enough.” The thought flashed through his mind that he wished they could stay. “I’m sorry you haven’t been able to see more of the Palace.”

“Compared to that ship we were on, this is huge. There’s so much to look at and books to read. Trey has been spending time on the balcony for the fresh air, and we’ve all been drinking a lot of water, but we’re fine, Marc. Don’t worry about us.”

He stopped short as they entered the less formal private parlor. Shalis was sitting with Trey. “Princess. No one told me you were here.” When she looked at him with a slightly guilty expression, Marc shook his head. “You just couldn’t wait, could you?”

“I think it was my father who couldn’t wait, my Lord Chancellor. He told on us.”

Marc glanced at his mother, and she nodded, smiling at his sudden discomfort. “I’ll have to thank him for that,” he said, but laughed.

“I’ve just been listening to Trey and a few stories about you and Matt when you were growing up,” Shalis said.

“Oh really? What stories?”

“The one when you and Matt snuck out of the house in the middle of the night to go out to Kegler’s Cove,” Trey supplied.

“And how much trouble you got into when you got caught,” Shalis said.

“You’re one to talk, little brother. As I remember it, there were a few instances where you—”

“All right. Never mind,” Trey said. “Really, I just made that whole thing up.”

“I bet you didn’t.” Shalis laughed at both of them as she stood. “I was just going to get ready for luncheon with the Queens.”

“Both of them?” Marc asked.

“Yes. Alexia will be joining us.”

“I didn’t know that. Is Loren going to be there?”

Shalis hesitated. “I doubt it, Marc.”

“Was she expected to be there before this morning?”

“Yes.”

“Then she needs to be there. I know it won’t be easy for her, Shalis. I want her at dinner, too. We can’t afford to put on any other kind of face. We smile in the midst of chaos. Everyone sees that and hopefully believes that it couldn’t be as bad as they’re being told. We keep up the pretense, false as it is. We keep some semblance of control. Tell Loren to stop feeling sorry for herself, and get on with it.”

“I am not telling her that.” She leaned up and kissed him. “You can if you want, but I won’t. I’ll see you later.”

“Isn’t that a little harsh?” Farina asked after Shalis had gone.

Marc nodded. “Goes with the job. I need to go talk to Loren. I’ll be back when I can.”

He could tell that his mother wanted to object, but he left before she could. His first thought was to walk over to the guest wing, but he didn’t want to be seen. He wasn’t really sure about traveling through the mind of a non-telepath, but knew he had to in order to see Loren without anyone knowing about it. He concentrated and found her in her rooms resting.

“I need to talk to you,” he said in the way of forewarning before he appeared beside her. Loren straightened, but turned from him, not so much startled as unwilling to see him. The windows overlooked the courtyard and she moved to look out them. “You have to go to this luncheon.” He explained his reasons for the request while she remained with her back turned, not sure she listened or not. “He could lose the Throne over this, Loren. I know you’re angry. I know you’re upset. I wish I didn’t have to ask this of you. He made a stupid mistake, but I don’t think he deserves to have the crown taken away over it.”

“How could it?”

“All the Governors know about it. They all remember what happened with Liselle before. Their decision to give Kamien the Regency was influenced by that mess. Ildin Taldic is worried that it will happen again. I’m just trying to keep ahead of it.”

She nodded stiffly, and again he felt that fear for Dynan dominated her mind, as though she hadn’t considered that possibility. She seemed on the verge of panic. She turned from him, shaking visibly under the scrutiny. Without a word, she moved to her dressing room to change. Marc watched her a moment, suddenly doubtful that her appearance would do anything to lessen the talk going around. He wanted to ignore the voice in his head that insisted that she be there.

He grumbled under his breath, while he concentrated himself back to his rooms using Trey to do it. His brother glanced up from the book he held as Marc materialized right in front of him.

“That must be a handy trick,” he said, and went back to his reading.

Marc sat beside him. “Mostly.”

“Is it always this nuts around here?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re in charge of the place. That explains why at any rate.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“Just calling it like I see it. You were only a Captain after all, on a boat. What makes anyone think you know what you’re doing?”

“Just lucky, I guess. I do know what I’m doing.”

“That’ll be a first.”

Marc pushed him and Trey pushed back. “Do me a favor and don’t tell anyone.”

Meril came in. “Marc, I thought you’d already gone.”

“I did.”

“He just popped back in.”

Marc laughed because their father didn’t know what Trey meant. “Just for a minute.”

“Can you stay for lunch?”

“I doubt it.”

“Well you’re mother is fixing it right now. Stay if you can. It’ll make her happy.”

He thought about it for a minute and realized he didn’t have anything else to do except wait for Avry to get back. “All right. I will.”

“Really? Well good.” Meril smiled, gesturing for them to follow.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been around.”

“No, we understand.” It didn’t sound to Marc like he did, but he nodded, unwilling to go into the other reasons why he kept away. His father put his arm around him. “We want to see you as much as we can, but we know why it’s difficult, especially with this morning to deal with. I’m very proud of you.”

“Thanks.” Marc smiled, but heard Trey laughing quietly behind them, confusing their father again.

“All right. You boys go get cleaned up. I’ll tell Farina.”

Marc spent the next several moments enjoying the company of his family, shutting out thoughts of the future, and it seemed for a while that time stood still.

When at last the call came that Liselle and Juleta were back, he felt better able to manage them. “The Queens are still at lunch, right?” he asked Ralion. “Good. Have them sent along. No escort. They aren’t going to try anything. Have a messenger sent to Shalis. Tell her that Lady Juleta has returned. She came back with Liselle and will await the Princess in her rooms. Shalis,” he said to her in thought, “I’m sending a messenger to you.”

***

“All right. Yes, I understand what you want me to say. Anything else?”

“Yes. Watch everyone’s reaction. That’s all. Thanks. I love you.”

Shalis bit back a smile. “I love you too, and you’re welcome.”

Marc was gone again, and she wondered why he wanted the people in this room to know about Juleta, especially connected to Liselle. It didn’t make sense to her, but then he knew what he was doing. On most days, she amended quickly, and sipped her tea.

They were in the Guest Wing again, in a room that was a small solarium, the roof opening to glass panels that let in sunlight in ample supply. The air was full of the pungent odor of green and growing foliage, the scent of mingled flowers moving with the draft. A fountain played a soothing rhythm of flowing water, along with a trio of musicians who sat off in a far corner, sending the lilting notes along corners and edges in a futile attempt to soften them. It would have been a pleasant gathering, but there wasn’t one person in this group who didn’t know what had happened. Tension prevailed. The music was there to cover the pauses and gaps in stilted conversation.

Shalis glanced at Loren, worried for her. Her face was pale, but otherwise composed. She smiled and conversed easily enough, but there was no mirth in her eyes. The happiness that usually shone so readily was replaced by a nearly vacant, emotionless stare. The turmoil she must be facing didn’t show. Shalis found that admirable, but chilling too.

The messenger appeared, searching for her, and Shalis hardly looked at him. She wasn’t supposed to expect him, after all. “Excuse me, Your Highness. Please forgive the interruption. I have a message from Lady Juleta.”

“Yes, what is it?” she asked, smiling pleasantly. In the periphery of vision, she saw Alvuen lean forward in her chair, and reach for her teacup. Shalis knew it was more so that she could hear what the messenger said.

“Lady Juleta sends word that she has returned to the Palace. She came back with Lady Liselle and will await you in your rooms.”

“Thank you.”

The man bowed to her and left. Alvuen stood in the wake of his departure and Shalis thought she seemed pale. Alexia smiled as she spoke with Marella, but a moment later, she looked to Alvuen, a nearly imperceptible question mirrored in her eyes.

“Shalis,” Marc said hardly a moment later.

“Yes, Marc,” she said, smiling at his impatience. She explained what she’d seen and he seemed satisfied.

“I’ll explain later. Juleta is here now. I need to talk to her.”

~*~

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Filed under Epic Fantasy, Guardians of the Word

King, Chapter 12

Chapter 1-11 are here:

http://jm-harrison.com/8-king-chronicle-8-sample-chapter/

~Chapter 12~

“He doesn’t want to see you, Dain,” Geneal said, while he paced in the tiny windowless room set up as the command center during Dynan’s visit to the Guild Hall. There were a few tables and chairs, a comterm and nothing else. The first Approachment was in the city, Keevin. The Guild Hall was situated at the end of a long promenade. The XR-30 was parked in the big plaza in front of the building. Dain had seen it on his way over to land at the port.

“He only thinks he doesn’t want to see me. He went through this alone the last time, Geneal. I’m not going to let that happen again. I know what he thinks I’m going to say. I’m not going to do that. I’m not even thinking it. Marc told me to come out here. I’m going to see my brother.”

“Maybe just this once, you should think about doing as you’re told.”

“Did he make it an order? Did he say you are under orders to stop me from seeing him? Did he?”

Her mouth drew into a line and she rolled her eyes. “No, he did not.”

“Then he didn’t mean it.”

“He said he didn’t want to see anyone from the Palace. Not anyone. He said it twice. We all knew that you’d come here. So did Dynan. He wants to deal with this when he gets back home. Right now, he just wants to get through this day. He’s out there right now, acting like this thing hasn’t happened. He’s being asked questions on everything else that has happened though. This wasn’t ever going to be easy to begin with. He’s injured, he only just got his hearing back and it isn’t all that good, and he’s sick from this drug on top of all of that. We take a break every hour for a few minutes. He comes in here and gets sick in the washroom. If I can’t get it under control, I’m sending him home. That’s why I want you to do what he says.”

Dain smiled after the long speech, surprising Geneal. “All right,” he said, noting the ensuing doubt in her eyes. “If that’s what he wants, that’s what I’ll do. I don’t think that’s what he really wants. I’ll be out on the XR-30. Yell if you need me.”

He stepped back into the hall, fully intending to do as he said when Gaden came through the opposite door. It led into the small parlor-sized room now used for the Approachment. It was a far more relaxed setting than any Dain remembered hearing about. Small groups were ushered in, served a small tea or water, and offered seats while they waited for the people in front to move along.

Dynan stood by a high-backed chair in such a way that he could use it to steady himself without looking like it. In his left hand, he held a comboard that he occasionally made notes to. At the moment, he was speaking to an older man, or rather listening to him deliver a long tirade about how nothing was better since his return, Dynan didn’t know what he was doing, and that he should let Ambrose have the crown.

The man looked out the door and saw Dain. “And that one is the worst of the lot of you. Your good father, the King, was the only one who could control him, or you for that matter.”

Dain cringed, expecting Dynan to turn around. His brother already knew that he was there. Had known it, so he didn’t look. Dain couldn’t entirely ignore the old man though, so he went in. “I just have one question for you, sir,” he said. “Do you think it’s possible for a man to change over the years?”

The old man hadn’t expected that question and didn’t know what to say. “I suppose, yes. I haven’t noticed that you’ve changed any.”

“I think if you look closer, you’ll see that a lot has changed since we’ve been gone, and us, too. My brother is doing what’s right, so that you have a chance for a better life. It hasn’t been easy and it isn’t going to be. We didn’t know that our father would be returned to us. We didn’t think that was possible, did you?”

“Well, no, I—”

“Of course you didn’t. He was gone all this time. Entombed in the Hall of Kings. Who would expect any man to return from death? We don’t know if he’ll be allowed to stay. We could be faced with going through all this again a year from now, or a month, or a week. I’m afraid we won’t be able to keep him here. We couldn’t be that lucky.”

The man frowned, but grudgingly agreed. “That would be too lucky. But my point stays the same. Your brother hasn’t done enough to change things here.”

“But he will. We haven’t been back that long, and not everything is as bad as it was. For instance, you wouldn’t likely get away with saying these sort of things about Kamien, now, would you?”

“No. No, you’re right about that.”

“The difference is we want to know what your problems are. We want to know where things aren’t going the way they should, so we can start to fix the problems. Start to. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but it will happen.”

“All right then,” the man said, and turned back to Dynan. “See that it does.”

Dynan smiled and nodded, assured the man that he would do his best, and turned to the next in line. These were a large family of farmers who only wanted to see him and make sure he was really all right. They told him that they thought he was doing just fine. Then they were gone, and all the doors closed for the break.

The moment he could, Dynan sank down into the chair, putting his he head down on his knees. Dain saw that he was shaking. He wondered if he might be able to make him feel better.

He set his hand on his shoulder, and Dain became aware of a crippling nausea that he fought to control. He concentrated, thinking the process backward, and felt himself weakening while Dynan received all that added strength.

Dynan jerked in surprise, realized what he was doing and stared at him. Dain smiled. “Did it work?”

He nodded, but turned from him, eyes lowering to the floor quickly. It was one of the few times Dain didn’t know what to say. It seemed like they were stumbling into dangerously fragile territory, and one misstep would cause irreparable damage. Silence grew.

“Is that old man’s attitude the kind of thing you’ve been dealing with all morning?” Dain asked finally.

“Mostly,” Dynan said softly as he leaned back in the chair. “The explanation takes too long, and they aren’t interested in hearing it. I quit trying about an hour ago.”

“Maybe if I stay by the door, they’ll do all their complaining to me instead.”

Dynan glanced at him, hesitated a moment before he nodded, a half smile appearing. “All right. Thanks.” Geneal came in, saw Dain and glared at him, but Dynan stopped her from complaining. “You know he never listens anyway.”

“I do, too.”

Dynan shook his head at him while Geneal went about her examination. “I feel better.”

“I see that. Think you can eat something?”

“No.”

“Not yet then. All right. I’m still seeing a trace in your system. Drink more water.”

“I have been.”

“How’s your hearing?”

“Not too good.”

“Trevan says he can run your receiver on a separate channel, boost what you’re hearing.”

“Tell him to go ahead. Not that I really want to hear what these people are saying, but it’ll help catch the compliments.”

Dynan looked to Kenon and nodded that he was ready. The doors were opened. The next group entered, followed by a steady stream of people. Dain greeted them all as they entered and encouraged them to tell him their problems. In general, they were in a better frame of mind when they reached Dynan.

As the day progressed, Dain began to wonder what was happening back at the Palace, a little surprised that he hadn’t heard. Dynan was thinking more and more about what he would be faced with as the time of their departure neared. The half-smile he’d kept all day for the public grew strained and finally disappeared. Dain edged over to stand next to him. They stayed an hour longer than originally planned to see all the rest of the people. Finally, the last group was ushered out the door.

The Guildmasters from the surrounding Regions wanted to see Dynan, though he was tired enough to find standing difficult. Dain didn’t think it was necessary or wise, but this too was a planned event and unavoidable. Dynan wasn’t exactly in any great hurry to get back home anyway.

Finally though, they were able to leave the Guild Hall and board the XR-30. Dain thought for a moment to go back to the ship he’d flown over, but changed his mind. He didn’t want to leave Dynan yet.

His brother turned immediately for his room as soon as they got onboard, but Dain took him by the arm and pulled him forward into the flight deck, protesting the entire time. Trevan Golyin was piloting. Dain had known him for most of his life, reading everything he’d ever written about engines and transference and any other topic the engineer had ever thought to publish. He knew every component of the XR-30. He knew how Dain intended to fly her, too.

Trevan hesitated, but hid a smile as he vacated the pilot’s seat. Kenon seemed less inclined to cooperate, but he too moved out of the way. Dain deposited Dynan into the co-pilot’s chair, turning to the guard.

“Go tell everyone to get secured, and get someone to fly that X38 back home for me.” Kenon acknowledged that request with a barely disguised frown, but he went to do as he was told. “I don’t think he likes me too much.”

“I wonder why.”

Dain shrugged and frowned down at the new control systems he’d only seen once before. Dynan watched him. “What?”

“I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

“I’ll figure it out. Besides, we’ve got some time to make up if we’re going to get you back for dinner.”

“I don’t…No, Dain. Please. I just want to get some sleep.”

“Not enough time, and it’ll only make you more tired than you already are if you try.” The nose of the XR-30 lifted up and they rose above the Guild Hall quickly. Dain turned the ship sharper than was necessary, arcing around just before taking the engines to full power. “This thing has a bad shimmy it didn’t used to have,” he called through the shuddering ascent. “Have to get Trevan to fix that.”

“It’s not the ship,” Dynan said as they pulled away from the planet and the ride smoothed considerably. He leaned back in his seat. His smile vanished quickly though.

For a moment, Dain hesitated to say what he’d come out here to say, hoping to give his brother the one thing he hadn’t managed all those years ago. Unconditional support.  “When Loren finds out what really happened, Dynan, she’ll—”

“No, she won’t,” he said so quietly that Dain almost couldn’t hear him. “I never should have…”

A long silence filled the deck, broken only by the hum and chirp of controls as Dain set the coordinates for Cobalt. “You trust people. You always have. Somehow, you’ve managed to keep that ability through all this. I can’t. I don’t trust anyone any more.”

“You never trusted Liselle.”

He shook his head. “I was wrong. Okay, just don’t say anything until I’m finished, all right? Yes, I was wrong. I hated Liselle because I didn’t want her to take you away from me. That was wrong. I went to Pop. That was wrong. I helped make you believe she never cared about you, and Liselle found out about it. That was the worst one. All those wrong things piled up and what we get for it is what happened last night. My lack of trust for her comes from all those wrongs that drove her to do what she did then, and made her want to get even now.”

“You think Loren will ever understand?”

“I know she will. She’s a trusting sort of person too, and she trusts that you would never willingly do anything to hurt her.”

Dynan shook his head. “I never should have gone into her room.”

Dain didn’t say anything to that since that was one of his first thoughts. Dynan glanced at him. “Well, you got me on that one.” He bit back a smile as he powered the engines to full. “You ready to go home?”

Dynan smirked at him darkly, but he nodded. He didn’t look like he was ready. Dain wondered if he’d make it through the evening.

~*~

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