Chapter 16: Jagged Assembly I
[Author’s note: Jagged Assembly, true to its name, is fairly jagged in its construction. During the writing of these three chapters, I was going through some personal troubles, and the plot itself was giving me issues. Hopefully it is entertaining enough.]
Three members of the Rhye family deemed it necessary to wash before continuing to the throne room. Chloe finished first (by a large margin), and headed down to the throne room.
“Come now, your rudeness, are you to be on Chloe’s expedition team then? Is that why you are here this morning?” Lilllith’s smile was wide, her eyes approaching feral.
I’ve killed more depraved looking people by accident. I’ll not fear her. That Alex had to remind herself of this disturbed her, but she spoke regardless.
“Yes; I believe I’m the first to join.”
“Of course you were.” Lilllith’s expression, despite her words, softened. “I am very interested in your manner. Likely you, you appear to care nothing for status. Is that not so? Is it that you believe everyone to be equal?”
“One of these dissident, ‘respect the janitor as we respect the ruler’ types, then?”
“I have a hierarchy. Even criminals rank higher than the lazy.”
“So what’s a janitor on such a scale as yours?”
“Well, obviously above a criminal, if they’re law-fearing.”
Lilllith gave Alexandre a strange look, a look of disbelief; as if she couldn’t understand how the woman had come to such a conclusion.
“You, of all people, teeth of silver, smooth skin around your eyes, the lips and—”
Her words stopped. She didn’t understand why, but she felt the need to speak no more. Alexandre stared, her grey eyes piercing Lilllith’s.
“Perhaps you are correct, and I am not law fearing. I fear he who creates the laws,” Alexandre said. She maintained the stare, blinking passively. Lilllith had the strange feeling that even this statement wasn’t entirely true.
There was the crack of iron on stone, as if someone very powerful had tried to open the door without turning the latch.
Lilllith, intimidated, jumped a little at the sudden noise, and froze. Astore (who had been nervously observing the two women) also jumped, though far more visibly. The handle turned.
“Ah!” Said a small voice.
“Who? Oh, Chloe it is you.” Lilllith composed herself. “Prince Chloe,” she corrected.
The surprised young women mumbled into the room and closed the door behind her “Ah ha, yes, it is me…”
Lilllith regarded her. Chloe had cheery, worried eyes. She noticed that when Chloe saw who was (or perhaps wasn’t) in the room, she became openly worried.
This, she who will not even hide her expression, is to be the ambassador of the Solune Royalty? Surely, she thought, this was the same nervous woman from last night. Chloe was dressed in loose clothes, though not in the same robe-like sheets as she wore during the supper. Instead, loose pants accompanied her shirt. Her hair curled softly down her back and chest, ending only past the waist save for the eye-level bangs in the front. Chloe blinked with weak eyes.
“Where is my father and mother? Or—” She finally caught herself, “Is anyone here who has authority or royal direction?”
Chloe looked to Astore, but she could tell by his expression that he too was uninformed. She began to gather her existence, but was interrupted by two more visitors.
Kent and Senica entered quietly, breaking her flow. She asked them, “Is Natasha coming? Or father?”
Kent shrugged for the two of them. Chloe was on her own. She rubbed her forehead with both hands, and then walked up the three steps, standing between the two thrones to address the room.
Lilllith stared her down, and Chloe noticed. As royalty, she wasn’t used to such looks, but she had in her life certainly encountered enough that it did not cause her to falter.
“I suppose that we must wait for everyone to arrive before—” Chloe started, and then immediately rephrased. “We shouldn’t, ah, get too specific before everyone is here, so, as we have yet perhaps half a sixth, I mean an hour, since we have some time yet, I suppose that I will explain in broad strokes what I believe will be happening?”
Alexandre nodded, and Chloe gave her audience a slight smile, continuing. “Although ultimately we are the party offering and sending aid, Lilllith is the only person from the Underside—” She thought of Ammelia and repositioned, “—the only person from the Underside who has come to help us, and therefore I believe that her wish to test the knowledge or strength or…whatever criteria she as chosen… I believe that such a notion is ultimately appropriate.”
Chloe looked around the room. She was unsure of what else there was to say.
Lilllith said, “Well, I suppose I should be glad to have garnered your approval, although, is not the arena being assembled already?”
“Ah, yes. I suppose it is nearly finished, though I am not sure of the details. Natasha would know. Where is she?”
Astore said, “She can be extremely punctual at times. I think that, as you said this was a noontime meeting and it’s still a few minutes to noon, she’s not here yet.”
“Just as the sun is not here yet.” Chloe nodded, and then looked up at the ceiling. The throne room was two stories high, unlike the rest of the first floor, and there was a hexagonal hole in its ceiling.
“How is it that you keep time in this city?” Lilllith asked.
Chloe replied, “There is the belltower, but even that is tuned to high noon using” she pointed at the hexagonal hole, “noon-poles. They only shine when light filters down the entire tube.”
Lilllith followed Chloe’s finger and saw the hole, between the thrones and the hanging lantern. It was filled with glass, a sure feat of pure craftsmanship. It made perfect sense. “So, when this illuminates, we should expect Natasha?”
“Ah, I suppose.”
Alexandre looked up. She hadn’t noticed it before, but the hole explained how there could be any sort of ambient light in the throne room when the lamps were unlit.
As high-noon hit the castle, the glass embedded in the ceiling acted as a lens, brightening the entire throne room three or four times as much as the lantern had.
Natasha arrived as the light began to dim, opening up the door and ushering in a fairly shabby looking blonde man.
“I believe with this one, we have everyone.” She led the man into the room physically, grabbing his blue-grey coat by the shoulder and gently but firmly pushing him into the room ahead of her. She entered behind him and let the door close itself behind her.
To Chloe, the man looked rather dishevelled, but she couldn’t tell if it was because of being somewhat rudely handled by her sister, or if he was like that in general. He seemed young, his hair was shaggy and lightly coloured, and he had a lazily stubbled face.
“Ah…” Chloe surveyed her audience, getting a good look at them before the noon’s light left the chamber and they were returned to less organic light. “Ah…”
Natasha noticed that Chloe was a little lost, so she stepped past the rest of the group towards the throne, stopping at the bottom of the steps, and to Chloe’s left, as not to obstruct line of sight to her.
“You have a somewhat small party. It is fitting, I suppose, that it is to be a small group of supposed elites.” Natasha spoke, echoing the words of her father many months ago. “Let us introduce ourselves while we wait for the King and his Wife.”
“That sounds good.” Chloe nodded a little frantically.
Natasha took a clipboard from her satchel, and took the clasp from the bottom out. She brandished a fountain pen.
Chloe, nervous, yawned and then blinked a little.
Made it! Sort of!
Also, the pictured in the header is Natasha Glass Rhye.