~:Chapter Four: Complications:~

~:Chapter Four: Complications:~

A Chapter by Greystone

“We must intercept that messenger,” declared Saluc, “The creatures may yet be mistaken.”

“Those ‘creatures’  have ears, human king,” stated Silvestra coldly, and Saluc flushed; “No, we are not wrong. If we were, as you seem to be thinking, lying, it would be just as harmful to us as to you.” And her husband effortlessly continued her thought:

“We ate the foreigner either way—which is more of a detail, if you ask me—No, what I think we need to be talking about is how you mortals plan on re-taking Lamina.”

“Lamina cannot be retaken,” said Thodred in a voice similar to a verbal snub, “Believe me, your majesties.”

“Castles can always be retaken,” began Daradan, but Silvestra shook her head and nodded at Thodred to continue.

“Soul fire,” said the Prince, wondering how Silvestra seemed to know exactly what he was about to say, “Despite our greatest efforts to the contrary, it cannot be extinguished. Prince Wayna has yet to fully recover from this very choice, your highnesses.”

“So…where does one flee with a half-nation of people and expect a comfortable living?” asked Silvestra, raising an eyebrow at the royals and their very-frightened guards. Daradan burst into that strange, alluring laughter, and the human women involuntarily took a step toward him.

“Stormhaven!” laughed the king, “The Azarian’s own fortress! Marvelous! Spectacular! Entertaining! How unpredictable! For all your shortcomings, you have those wonderful ideas every half millennia or so.” Zarobi frowned at her husband.

“Stormhaven? But Stormhaven is an Azarian fortress—surely Zahmir will have better knowledge of it than we do?”

“Perhaps,” said Ceminara with a smile, “But will he make it through the guard towers we, ourselves, have long held on each side of the border? Nesparians will be against them, at the very least, for the atrocity done onto Lamina, but the Dîarians’ towers will oppose them merely because they’ve sat idle for too long… if not for good will. We will have adequate time to prepare for any curve balls Zahmir believes he can throw. Remember: My husband was the one who ripped Stormhaven from his grasp the first time. Do you honestly think he would have allowed any documents of the sort to survive?”

“Yes,” said Silvestra lazily, “You humans rarely fail to forget something. You spend more time twiddling your thumbs than holding things together or observing how things actually are—why, look at you, Ceminara. You could not even manage a grip on your husband.”

Ceminara took a step forward, summoning the magic to her fingertips, but Daradan opened his mouth and let forth a feral snarl that revealed his sharp fangs. The humans took a step back, except for Ceminara. A moment passed in which Daradan and the Dîarian Queen stared at each other with pure ferocity, and Shahira stepped forward. 

“Forgive me, King Daradan,” the Nesparian Princess said, with a pointed glare at Ceminara, “You intercepted the original messenger, as I recall you saying?”

“Yes,” said Daradan, and he stepped back to give Ceminara a look of pure hatred, “We did.”

“What did you do with the scroll he was carrying?” Shahira inquired. In reply, Daradan’s eyebrows rose in surprise.

“He was carrying no scroll,” said the King, “That is an interesting point.”

“Perhaps it was a verbal messenger?” Suggested Corbin, “Overcautious captains are what Zahmir prided himself on. His information dies with him.”

“Not in our case,” Silvestra proclaimed, “You see, Zahmir would not have risked a verbal messenger being…ah…verbal, if you follow me.”

Ceminara glanced at her in surprise. “You suggest a messenger of Zahmir to be too forward with his information? Surely he’d have expected a lashing at least.”

“Very well then, Queen Ceminara. I bow to your superior logic, but, if I May—then what happened to the scroll?”

“We have no proof he was carrying a scroll,” reminded Zarobi.

“No. Shahira is right; he wears the uniform of a postman, definitely not a message-runner. A message runner would have covered this distance in half the time.” Supplied Daradan, “At least, the message runners in my day would have.”

“I certainly trust your judgment, King Daradan,” said Saluc with a wary smile, “If this is the case, where is the scroll? Surely it did not grow legs and walk out of here?”

“It very well might have,” said Wayna, emerging from the trees slowly. The attempt to extinguish the soul fire had worn his face, and his eyes were tired. “Dîyar is not the only kingdom in which magic holds a prominent role. However, it would have run towards the nearest lake, stream, fire, or Azarian officer. Of the four, our camp would have provided three. It would have been intercepted, surely?”

“Wayna, how do you pop out at exactly the right moment?” asked Shahira, in a rather envious tone. The wizard grinned.

“Magic,” he replied.

“The boy is right,” agreed Daradan, “It would have been intercepted: So who has it?”

“Someone had to have found it,” mumbled Saluc, and then, in a louder voice, “LIMERICK!”  The servant walked out from the front of the human group.

“Yes, my lord?” He asked in a bored, sleepy monotone.

“The stream and the fire were overlooked by your watch post. Who all has been there this evening?”

“Everyone cold or thirsty, I should suppose, sire,” answered Limerick, and the Nesparians hid their smiles. “If you mean individual names, anyone of importance is a scant list—their servants mostly attend to that sort of thing, you know—I’d say King Saluc and his queen, Zarobi; Queen Ceminara and Prince Thodred, Lord Melandar, his wife, Prince Wayna, Princess Shahira, and Prince Nadir. The others were mostly limited to lesser clearings so the nobility had its privacy.”

“One of you, then,” Silvestra said, looking about at the group with renewed interest now that drama was imminent, “One of you has the scroll.” Suspicious glances traveled around like air, and the king finished her sentimate, “Which one?”

At this, Nadir began to laugh. “Let’s make it obvious,” he said, and leapt at Princess Shahira.

Shahira screamed and leapt back, her eyes shining fearfully bright in the dark. Nadir guided his sword down, towards her mortal flesh, and the vampires licked their lips in antipiation of the meal to come. The vampires hissed in dissapointment as the the humans recovered. Prince Thodred stepped forward with a shocked Wayna, and the two of them blocked the advance of the seer.

"That could have been done with words," reminded Wayna, as Zarobi grew pale despite her black skin.
"It isn't true!" Insisted Zarobi. Saluc closed his eyes, then rubbed his temples with his fingertips; murmuring unintelligable words of anger and shock. Ceminara's face remained blank.

"Shahira?" As Thodred turned towards the woman he had saved a moment ago with this one-word inquiry, Shahira swore. Daradan and Silvestra exchanged glances, sharing unspoken thoughts.

"We have had this diccussion before," said Corbin, stepping out of the pack of frightened Dîarians, "Twice. Shahira has not, in either case, been anything but forward with information and honest. The caller has confirmed her innocence, Ceminara." Nespare's folk looked at one another in confusion, trying to figure out what a caller was. Ceminara silenced her captain with a glare.

"The caller has no proof besides circumstantual," she replied, "And that is not to mention we all know how loyal his friends are, Captain."

"What the hell is a caller?" Shouted a nesparian from the back. The barbarian queen shrugged in response.

"Some things are better left unsaid," replied Ceminara, "am I not allowed to keep the secrets of my people, Nesparian? " To this, the the soldier did not have a  response.

"If I may," said Saluc, "perhaps our princess may speak in her own defense?"

 "It should not be nessessary," said Zarobi quietly from left of her king; her hand on his shoulder, "accusations grow wild in the face of peril; in whcih we are presently encased in a horrible sort of that very thing, and you know as well as I do that Nadi's visions vary as the choices of people alter--or are altered." She cast a pointed glance at Ceminara with her violet eyes. "The future flexes, lord of lords..." Saluc raised his right index finger and put it to her lips thoughtfully.

 "My darling," he murmured quietly, "If Nadir's visions have changed in regards to Shahira's future, it is Shahira's choice, not Nadir's for which Ceminara shows concern. If it is only her suspision are the ghosts of shadows yet to come, then Shahira's defense will lighten this trouble's severity. My Queen, we cannot allow this to resume--we must forbear it if we are able, for the sake of our remaining peasants. You know this better than I."

Zarobi considered this, then; in a voice loud enough so that all might hear, she responded:
 "Very well, my King of kings, our daughter shall right this wrong." As Shahira rose from the ground shakily, a breeze rippled through teh forest clearing in which the entire ensamble was standing. Little waves appeared on the silvery shores of the river behind them, the very river that Theodred and Shahira had slain the tiger with the vampires an hour before.


"Mother," said Shahira, "you must translate this for the Dîarians."  The green-haired woman gave a fervant nod, but Ceminara stepped forward.

"No," said Ceminara, "I will handle this." Surprise flickered across the princess for a moment, but she nodded. So armed, the Princess began to address the cries against her. Her voice rose and fell--not so much unlike the shores of the river--driven by emotion that shook her every phrase.
 

It was a strange contrast indeed to Ceminara's regal translation:
 " 'The love I feel for my people goes deeper than the depths of the sea' ", the two began, on oppasite ends of the scale, " 'Luexa frowns upon me truly if you, all of you, for whose ken I have thus wept, have forsaken me as we flee our homeland--the homeland we have always known. I have fought for you, Nesparians! I have bled for you, and now, here, upon my hour of anguish and broken-hearted determination, now you would take the words of a shriveling Dîarian and place them in a position where they supplant my own?
 If this is so, Nesparians, my people--my people--then take my heart from me. Take my soul and heart and eyes, take everything, anything I have-
-"

"--You cannot hide behind pretty words," snapped Nadir, "They are no armour against my blade!" A pause, and then Shahira [Followed closely by Ceminara], continued:

 " 'No, Nadir, I have no armour left. The sorrow and distrust of my people have stripped it from me, thorough the suspision we all knew would happen with a bond to Dîyar--Wayna above all others--and it breaks my heart even more to see hungry Nesparian children, fed only by the scantest of feeble hospitiality, which Dîyar spares from her never-ending wealth. What else does a broken heart to say to its destroyers? I am trapped within a cage filled with the over-ambitious dreams of fools--fools who have dared call themselves my ken.
So, armed with nothing to protect me, now it the hour I ask: Am I the one..
.' " Ceminara paused, and looked at Shahira with glistening eyes filled with shame.

"Who will what?" Called a Dîarian. Realizing she had trailed off, she leared her throat and she finished the princesses' words:

"  '...Am I the one who will betray the ones I love?' "  The Nesparians immediately offered screams of protest, and Ceminara stepped back next to Theodred.

"A fine show," she murmured, so quiet it was barely audible over the cachophonous screeches of the crowd, "Even so, I am not convinced."

"Why?" Asked Theodred, in an equally quiet voice, "You heard as well as I did how much emotion she put behind her words, mother. Surely that cannot be faked? I did not hear anything about Shahira being an actress."

"Indeed," replied Ceminara, "It is no sleeping farce of drama, the emotions of Princess Shahira. The question is, my son:  Which emotion is it? Anger--or fear?"


"I do not know," intoned the prince, "but I have a feeling we will all know--
Very, very soon."

***

The royal throne room was nothing short of specatacular. Tall pillars of polished desert stone created a decorated walkway to the Azarian throne.

Leopard-men servants clad in a bright blue cloth bustled like busy bees, bringing leviation and rich food to whomever it was called for. Statues of past kings were placed between the larger-than-life pillars, remarkably; only four of them were leopards. The rest of them were pale-skinned humans. These things, taken alongside the rather superfluous show of wealth displayed int the Azarian palace--which was called Tryphon--gave Shahira's messenger pause.

 "Cease your gawking, rat!" shouted the purple-clad panther man, "Keep up!" The messenger struggled to keep up with the heavy stride of the leopard man.

As they entered the pillar-chamber, the very throne room itself; the captain stopped, his tail twitching, and gave a warning to the human messenger--the very messenger sent from the forest a short time ago. It had been less than a fortnight since Lamina had been taken, and at least a week since the second accusation of Shahira's treason.

In short, the royal's messenger had made excellant time.

"Hail, King Zahmir, owner and monarch of the jewel of Azarian cities. May his reign be long and prosperous!"

At the loud greeting from the oddly unamed captain, the king rose with a delicate grace from his solid obsidian throne. The messenger had the very strength of will that most humans lack to conceal his amazement at King Zahmir's appearence. The leopard was clad in silken red robs, which were decorated with thick black stripes. A crown was perched upon his furrowed brow, with holes slit into the delicate metal for his ears.

"Lovely greeting," remarked the king with a rather sardonic sneer, "Who have you brought me today, Tiearus?" Captain Tiearus scratched his black ear with--a human could not help but notice--extremely sharp claws.

 "A messenger from Lamina, sire."

"Marvelous! I have not yet heard back from them. Deliever, then, condemned one." The messenger gulped, and the king gave a throaty, cat-like laugh.

 "Such a shaky little thing! Fear not, human, I've already devoured one of your ken today." He grinned again, and the messenger, remembering he was expected to work to gain favour for his group by Azarian customs, laughed also. Gatherning his courage with a quick prayer to Enydemon, the fire god of the Dîarians, he began:

 "My Lord, your captain, under the clever guidence of a flawless diamond of a King, has taken Lamina without re-inforcements. They will not be nessessary." A cheer errupted from the leopard sevants and the panther captain Teiarus (the cheer of full grown man-cats is not for the faint of heart;) and the King smiled again, revealing his long, wicked fangs.

 "Continue," he said.

"Before we do, great and powerful king my captain asks how you are faring." Somehow these wrods were heavier than the earlier news. Lightly, Zahmir replied:

"The song of the bird flies far, Messenger. Herald!"  Yet another leopard emerged from the shadows beside the throne, bowed, and waited for the king's instructions.

"Spread news of our victory throughout the kingdom. We will feast tonight!"

 As the human hired by Shahira and Theodred was led away by the leopard servants, Captain Tiearus remained.

 "O conscientious and wise king," said Tiearous, "Have your eyes yet beheld the pleasure of our garrisons' new system?"

"No, I have not. Civil duties have enjoyed stuffing themselves down my throat, I'm afraid, Captain! However, I haven no regrets having bequethed this task to you. Your eyes see things in the dark mine would miss in broad daylight." Tiearus bowed again.

"I am overjoyed to hear that I have the honour of lightening your burden, o finest of Kalifahs," replied the captain obediantly, "However, my master...." Here he hesitated for a moment, then went on. "Something troubles me, Majesty of majesties. May I confide-?" King Zahmir had his full attention on the captin now--Teiarus' warnings were not to be taken lightly.

"Of course, Captain," indulged the King, "speak freely."

"I must beg leave from the service, sire," said Tiearus, his tail twitching again, "There is a personal buiness which requiers my immediate attention. A short itme only--please." 

Zahmir was struck by this. Tiearus, in nearly sixteen years, had never asked for a single day of leave. He contemplated inquiring after his favourite captain to this effect, then decided against it. 'I am a King,' he thought, 'all things will be revealed to me in time.'Then, aloud:

"Go, Captain Tiearus. May the adventures of the road battle vanquish your heart's great unrest."  The Captain bowed a third time, and turned to leave. Then, as the Captain reached the door, "Oh, and Tiearus?"

The panther man turned back.

"Yes, your Majesty?"

"Keep your claws sharp--these are dangerous times."

***

The princess' room at Stormhaven was lavishly decorated, in the style of king Zahmir. Floors of a strange black stone supported pillars of the same colour.

The fourposter bed on which she lay had smooth blue sheets and covering; soft pillows held up her head. The sandalwood bedroom set was well-polished by the few remaining Nesparian servants, as well as the extensive help of those who were, even now, arriving from Diyar. This splendor did not help her sleep, however. The flames of Lamina, the screams from those beyond the veil, kept her eyelids open....

A knock at the door work Princess Shahira form her nightmares. Rising from her bed with a few grumbles of protest, she moved toward the entryway, and pulled back the handle.

"Good evening, Shahira," said Thodred, "Do you have any plans this evening?" Exhaustion forgotten, the Princess grinned.

"None at all," she replied with a wink.

"Good," he said, with a smile, "Be ready in ten minutes."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world."

"I'll wait out here," said the Prince. Slamming the door, Shahira ran back to her wardrobe, ran a bone-tooth comb through her hair, and threw on a dress of grey spidersilk. She ran outside to find the prince waiting, and the two set off down the hall.

"Where are we going?" the princess intoned breathlessly, trying to keep up with Thodred's heavy stride.

"To forget our troubles for awhile," he answered, "I had a few of my soldiers bring some things from my private stores for a minor celebration." Here he paused. "They need something, Shahira. My people need something that only laughter can give them."

"And what is that?" she inquired. There was a brief pause.

"Hope." 

***

 Ceminara's room was almost identical to the splendor of Shahira's, with four small differences: One, the floors were white instead of black, two, a grand fireplace with two chairs covered one entire wall, three, she was fortunate enough to have found a room with a balcony, and four; her sheets were red. "Queen Ceminara, my apologies for disturbing you--"

"Enough, Nadir. You and I know I' am just as tired as you are--what do you want?"

"I offer a warning, majesty."

"A warning?"

"Yes."

She sighed. "And I was so hoping to make good use of my bed this evening. Fine, Nadir. Deliever."

"Lock your door tonight. Do not leave your room, and lock your door. I have forseen this--great danger awaits an open door. "

"I have guards posted at the door, Prince Nadir." She said firmly, "I am no damsel in distress." Her eyes flashed from their light golden colour to a dark, angry crimson.

They returned to normal so suddenly, Nadir wondered if, perhaps, he had only imagined it. Yet such trifle paled in comparision to what he held in his light brown hands. For a moment, his own blood-red eyes swept the room, and his sight gave him a different outlook upon the tranquil scene: Ceminara, sprawled dead on the white floor, the furniture dissarrayed; the remaints of tears running down her cheek... 

"Then I will handle it for you," he said, to her amazement, "Soldats! Aider moi - arrêter la femme!"

Tall, strong Nesparian survivors took Ceminara by the arms, and was thrown back onto her bed. Before she could recover, the door was shut with a loud 'slam!' and locked securely. She swore and tugged pointlessly at the heavy locked door. To her dismay, it did not move a muscle. Swearing again, she went over to the fireplace, threw in some firewood from the Nesparian side of the border, and sank onto a chair with her head in her hands.

"Taken prisoner by a little prince!" growled a voice, and a panther leapt in through the opened window. He was a handsome panther, to be sure, and after he had landed he stood on two feet--like a human. The panther man was clad in the uniform of an Azarian captain: A purple robe with silver patterns overlapped the undergarments of some silken thread. "This is not the Queen I left." Ceminara had shrunk back into her chair, staring at the panther-man with an uncharacteristic look of downright fear.

"Get out." Her voice shook, her face was horrified, but the words were clear.

"My dear, you do not understand--"

"No, you don't understand! Get. Out. Now!" Tears now sparkled in the eyes of the Dîarian queen, but still, her words were clear--with one small difference--a slight tremor dominated the end of the sentence.

"No, please, Ceminara--"

"Leave or I will--I will--I will call the guards!" The panther raised his right front paw, and, clamping it over her mouth, whispered--

"In ancient night,
My rights I call,
to here, to here!
Rise from my fall.

Fur to flesh
and claw to bone,
come back now,
Come back! I'm home
!"

A great swurl of red lights envloped the panther, and he changed to a tall, handsome man. He had skin that was darker than night, and bright orange eyes that matched those of his wife. King Korari still wore the robes that he had worn in his panther form, but now they were red with golden patterns instead, with a black toga-like garment beneath. A golden circlet--another matching detail to his beautiful queen--still adorned his curly black hair.

"Do not scream," ordered the king, removing his scarred hand-- and then he leaned in to kiss the sweetest lips he'd ever seen. As quickly as it had happened, it was over; and Ceminara managed a rough whisper:

"Where did you go to, Korari? When I came woke, your things were gone, and I--it appeared...." She paused. "So many years of pain. Why?"

"Ceminara-"

"Why?"

"It is, undoubtedly, too late to ask forgiveness. Too late to repair a failed life. But I am not here to beg impudence, your highness." He glanced up at her from where he kneeled upon the cold, white floor.

"Before you do, Majesty, there is something you must know." An amazed expression briefly crossed his face.

"Of course, Ceminara." The way he said her name was filled with a tenderness beyond anything anyone has ever heard.

 

"You have a son."
 

 



© 2008 Greystone


Author's Note

Greystone
Fun note: The Native language of the Nesparians is French.

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Added on December 15, 2008
Last Updated on December 16, 2008


Author

Greystone
Greystone

Fort Atkinson, WI



About
I've been writing for about five years. Mostly, I focus on fantasy, although to be honest I've dabbled horribly in Romance, Science Fiction, and modern-day roleplays. I enjoy drawing, painting, wood c.. more..

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