The Solune Prince (Act I, Scene i)

There was a conference going on in the next room. Chloe could hear the voice of the King, her father, booming through the wall. Apparently they were visitors here, foreigners from the other side of the planet. They were called the Lussa.

Chloe had never heard of Lussa. She had read thousands of books, (and I do mean thousands. She might hit you if you doubted her hard-earned achievement) And despite all the information, the Lussa people still managed to fall outside her ocean of knowledge.

They were strange, the two of them. They had the darkest skin then she had ever seen, darker even than that of an N’Tariel or an Elken. And they were so different from each other, too. One of them was small, the other huge and burly. One had a two-handed sword, the other had some sort of unusual dart launcher.

The King had stopped speaking, and Chloe assumed it was because one of the Lussa had begun. The King, it seemed, was the only person with a voice deep enough to penetrate stone masonry. Chloe sighed and sat up from the clinic bed. She had been trying to eavesdrop, but unlike her mother, she wasn’t used to it. She hadn’t figured out how to translate the deep buzz of her father’s words into sentences.

“Well, I guess I could just walk into the throne room and listen like a normal person. I’m a Prince, I’m allowed to these things, I think.”

Chloe’s voice was sticky sweet, like some sort of exotic myrrh. It issued from her wide mouth and was accepted generously by the air around her. Chloe had a feeling that this was a vocal quality inherited from her father. Her voice carried and almost always demanded attention, but she never knew what to do with that attention. That was why she avoided talking to people. They always seemed to expect her to say something important or order them around, and she rarely did either of those things.

Chloe decided it was time to go, before she missed anything important. She was her mother’s clinic. It was a long thin room with two beds and a large hardwood desk. After her Gwenhime had retired and the hospital had been built, this little castle medical centre was rarely used.

Chloe hopped off the bed and walked to the door. She crossed the room in four long strides. Chloe’s immense height was mostly due to her long legs. She used to run in order to keep them strong and shapely, but her brother had given her one of the southern inventions. It was called a bicycle, and using it allowed her to cover long distances and develop large thighs. Cycling was also safer, as running is a high-impact sport, your entire body weight falling to the ground and hitting a single foot, crushing a single ankle hundreds of times a day.

She could still run, and did occasionally to maintain calf strength. Unlike some girls her adjusted age, Chloe was unconcerned about how much muscle mass she had. Her arms were toned, but this was mostly from moving stacks of books, so they weren’t particularly strong. She had what could be called a balance. Most of her time was spent in the library or at the University. Then, for an hour or two a day, she would exercise her legs. Chloe was the kind of person who frequently skipped arm day.

Despite the daily workout, Chloe had a thick layer of joule fat on her belly and around her thighs. She didn’t mind though, in her culture this extra bit of plumpness was seen as healthy. Above her stomach, Chloe was particularly well endowed. She had large breasts like her sister and mother. She liked them, but only when she was reading. The instant she tried to do anything dexterous with her arms, they were eager to get in the way. They had shrunk since she had started exercising, so maybe if she worked on her chest muscles… No, no time.

Above her chest, and atop the neck was her face, the face of a young woman who had just exited childhood. She still had a round chin and innocent eyes. Her head was covered in knee-length blonde hair that was noticeably yellow. Chloe was convinced that she had gotten it to its maximum length because it had nearly stopped growing. This made her feel excited, did head hair have a specific length it grew to like body hair? Chloe eyed the door with deep brown eyes, and then opened it.

After passing through another doorway and a foyer filled with people, She approached the large double doors of the throne room, and swung it open, entering boisterously. Chloe smiled at the King, and then sat down in the throne next to his. It was usually her mothers, and was less ornate.

The two men stared at her as she walked past. One of them watched her face while the other gawked at her legs, watching the deliberate rhythm of muscle as they did their work to push the rest of Chloe’s body forward. She tended to wear white button-up shirts and light-coloured shorts. She glanced at the shorter man, and he looked away. His expression was that of surprise, as if he had never seen something so immodest. Chloe raised an eyebrow but the man was looking away.

When she arrived at the second throne, Chloe crossed her legs and sat. It was clear, with the two sitting side by side, that she was related to the King. They both had an unquestionable regal air about them. Even without the metal bands around their necks, it was clear that they were both royalty, both related.

The tall man continued, “That is correct, Majesty.”

“And why does it have to be a member of the royal family?” The King asked.

“This is a conflict between the Lussa royalty and it’s government. Another member of royalty would look good.” He shrugged, “The Queen is desperate. Our heir is missing.”

The King shifted, clearly urging the Lussa man to continue.

“The Lussa Queen, Riley, has asked specifically for a member of the royal family, that’s all that’s official. I am bound to his word.”

“Do you have proof of his statement?” The King boomed.

The smaller one spoke now, and Chloe realize he wasn’t as short as she thought. Just short in comparison to everyone else in the room. He was probably almost average.

He said, “We have a letter, he signed it and put the royal seal on it. We should be good, right?”

Chloe, still not entirely sure if she should be there, decided to push her luck. She said, “Alright, fine. I believe you even, but what about other heirs?”

The taller man shook his head, “That’s not how it works on the Underside any more. There is only one heir, and she’s missing. Out in the desert somewhere. We sent,” the man paused, “Well, I am not at liberty to discuss it, but she is missing. Neither of the older children, Riley or Jasssssssssssssssssssper are allowed to rule. They have taken the title of Queen, which I’ve heard even here implies that one is not allowed to take the throne.”

“Riley and who?” Chloe asked.

“It’s as unusual to spell as it is to say.” The man put a hand in his hair. It was matted into dreadlocks, “Jasper but with nineteen S’s.”

Chloe’s face scrunched up, “Why?”

“If there is one thing about the Lussa language that is distinct,” The smaller man said in scholarly tones, “It’s the presence of extra and unnecessary extra letters, specifically consonants. In fact, seeing as you can clearly understand me, that may be the only major difference between our languages.”

Chloe thought to herself, letting her father take over again. She had actually heard of the Underside of the planet before. Her father had said that four thousand years ago the Solune came from the Underside, aliens to this side of the planet. That’s why he struggled for so long to claim land and build a kingdom.

The King nodded to the visitors, then said, “You may stay on the second floor. It is specifically for guests.”

They had added a third floor in around half a decade ago and moved all the royal quarters up. The floor was very thick and insulated against sound. Gwenhime, Chloe’s mother, had been complaining that she could hear the citizens through the floor in her room. The castle doubled as a public town square, and so it remained loud most of the time. And so, the castle guard had been called in to build a third floor with more soundproofing. Chloe had realized that soundproofing meant brick-tiled slats of softwood over a cubit thick. And it worked.

The King beckoned to Chloe, and she obliged.

“Follow me.”

Daniel Triumph.