Chapter 23: The Last of Solune Nights
“I said stop fighting—oh. Alice, go help them.”
“But my work day is over! I build half this arena.” Alice made a pouty face. Finch laughed on her behalf.
Natasha’s gaze was enough. The little Painkind woman ran to help carry the ex-criminal.
“She did it,” Senica said and then laughed, a little nervously. “The student has surpassed the master.”
“Surpassed the master?” Chloe asked.
“It’s a saying in the old Djeb language. It’s more poetic, but that’s…lost in translation.” The Western woman took a deep breath, and began to speak almost professorially. “We do a lot of unarmed training as a culture, so the saying developed organically out of that. Don’t you have a similar concept? That the master should one day hope to be overtaken by some legendary or prodigal student? Maybe the irony is lost if the culture isn’t there. It was my master’s dream to find such a student in the short time I trained.”
“We might have such a saying, I do not know. I train informally with my parents. Otherwise, I…read mostly.” Chloe murmured. Her mind raptured for a moment, and then she added, “Did your he ever such a student?”
She smiled, and brightened a little. “She was a Chthonic Priest. Is a Chthonic Priest. When I left; I left early because I didn’t think I’d ever need to fight; she still hadn’t found one. Sister Serra is young though, so perhaps in the coming years someone will reveal themselves as a hero.” No one had ever asked Senica about her city. It was nice to return and relay her memories to a foreigner.
Chloe could see Alice looking down at the abnormally tall Riley, considering how she would complete the endeavour in her head. Lilllith had already rolled Alexandre off, checked for life, and then moved on. It seemed Alice decided what to do, and so she simply knelt and hoisted Alexandre over one shoulder.
The citizens had cheered and enjoyed themselves, and were now filing away back into the city. A few solicitors tried to sell souvenirs and food, but with little success.
Alexandre was laid on the ground next to Natasha. Astore, it seemed, had come to watch over her.
Chloe joined them. “So?”
“I believe this issue to be more emotional than actual concern.” Natasha jarred the topic towards her own thoughts.
“This idea of Alexandre being a danger. Lilllith seems very happy with her. I don’t know if you were worried as well. This is your group. It is not too late to leave her here in the kingdom.”
Chloe looked at the centre of the ring. Lilllith had been sitting, cross-legged, with a thoughtful grin on her face, but now she was approaching them.
“This is a true warrior you have in your midst, lying on the grass! How is she so good in arena? And yet on top of it all, her skill is somehow still so poor?”
Natasha said, “Alexandre Dirge was arrested for gang-related activity approximately two years before the walls opened.”
“Organized crime?” Lilllith looked astonished. Chloe was certain that it was the first time she had seen such an expression on the Lussa woman.
“She was a leader of one of the groups, and waged a local war on a neighbouring gang.”
“And she’s served now?”
“Alexandre Dirge is as innocent in the eyes of the law as you or I.”
“Good.” Lilllith nodded, thinking deeper than she was used to. “Attacking another group internal to a city…, you know that experience might, heaven forbid, come in handy.”
Chloe looked between the two women nervously. “So, it is good that she was a criminal?”
“She’s been punished, so I think so, yes.” Lilllith said.
“Oh.” This made sense, but she would have to think on it, maybe overnight, maybe over the course of their travels to the Lussa City. As far as Chloe was concerned, Alexandre was coming either way. “Ah… for now, she is fine by my measure. So, what now?”
“Tonight? A cheap feast for all fighters in the castle basement.” Natasha said. “Tomorrow? It seems the younger ones, Kent and Senica, wish to be married before they go on your trip. Whether that will be grand or brief, or even arranged, we have yet to know.”
“We will see.” Natasha thought for a moment, and then, “I suppose you and Kent, and perhaps even Senica, will have to wear the crowns, since you will be outside of the capital.”
“Ah!” Chloe put her hands on her face, “I forgot about the crowns! It, ah, it’s been so long since I wore mine…”
“You know Janna wears hers all the time.”
“…Yes. Well, I suppose we must.”
“I believe father has all this ready. And he fixed all the fasteners too. The new ones are very, rather, the new ones actually function around the neck.”
“Lovely. Well, shall we go in?”
“No, mother has requested that I stay behind with her for a bit. Don’t ask why, I am unsure. I assume it would be to hold another arena soon, or perhaps institute some sort of violent annual holiday.”
“Well…it was her lifestyle for a long time.”
“For more than a century, Chloe.”
“Who is this?”
Alexandre looked down on the boy. She was quite tall, but that the boy was fairly short didn’t help her regard of him in the conversation.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m with Lilllith!”
“What is your age?”
“A man already?”
Alexandre laughed and moved away to sit down. Part of the cafeteria had been set aside for those who had fought in the arena, as well as anyone related. Others had already started eating, so Alex took some food for herself from the cook’s window and then sat down. It was some sort of meat and bread Alexandre was surprised at the degree of informality for the so called “feast.”
“Hey! You made it! Do you feel okay?”
Senica had appeared next to her. Alexandre simply nodded.
“Where did you wake up?”
Alex wanted to eat, not talk. She looked at Senica and then at her food. She stuffed a lot of something into her mouth and then looked back at Senica, chewing. Senica, possibly oblivious to the rudeness of the gesture, looked at her expectantly. Alexandre considered finishing the entire meal in this fashion, but decided that would be more effort than just answering her.
“The little castle infirmatory. I think it’s Gwenhime’s but she wasn’t there when I regained consciousness.”
“You woke up alone?”
“I always wake up alone.”
“No—I” Senica wasn’t sure what to do with this information. “I mean, like, Gwenhime brought you there, I saw but—where is she?”
Alexandre ate again before continuing. She looked around. The Cafeteria is pretty empty. There’s only, who, six fighters, some guards, that kid, and…
“Lilllith isn’t here either.”
“And neither is Natasha!” Senica added.
“Yes, but Natasha may simply have returned to her duties as Captain of the Guard.”
“Oh, right. Work. Well, whatever. I’m going back. You should come sit with us.”
Senica left Alexandre alone to eat, and moved to where she had been sitting before; with Chloe, Kent, Astore, and the kid from earlier. Alexandre finished her meal and then looked around. She decided that she would move after all, but to somewhere else.
“Hey, sitting here, by yourself, like a loser?”
Siren put his head in his hands. “Ugh.”
Alexandre watched him.
“I can’t believe I was the worst fighter, out of all of us.”
“Hey, don’t sulk on me. Look, you got a three!”
He pulled his head up, “Out of eleven! Did you not hear her explain everything? Three was the minimum possible. I basically didn’t even make it.”
Alexandre tried to smirk sympathetically. Instead, her face just smirked. “Did you not hear her? One was the average. You have, like, the strength of three men I guess.” She laughed softly.
“That’s not how it works.” He stood up and left the room.
“Well…I guess we won’t be friends after all.”
“Tell me Kent, how do you intend for the marriage to be done?” Chloe asked. “Will it be tomorrow, the day we leave?”
“Eh—” Kent mumbled. Senica fidgeted. Finally, he said, “Well, it just has to be done at this point. We could probably do like Janna I guess.”
“So have…almost nothing? You know they married—well, they did something similar anyway—in a basement. Ah, isn’t that right mother?” She looked around for her Gwenhime, who was not there. “Ah…”
“I remember,” said Astore. “She was right above me in the Agent hierarchy at the time. It was a very private event.”
“Private?” Senica said, blushing a little. “I don’t mind the sound of that…under the circumstances.”
“Just keep in mind that no matter how private it is, the union will be announced to the entire city no more than a week later. Well, this is a royal wedding, is it will be reported to all the cities; the entire kingdom will know that you are part of the royal family.”
“Really?” Senica flustered, “oh…”
Before anyone left, Chloe told the Solune Party to return the next day an hour or two before noon. Shortly after, everyone dispersed, seemingly without incident.
“Tell me about this woman of yours.”
Rhye and Kent, his son, were walking through the castle. The place had received major renovations since Kent had last been there, including an entire extra floor, so the King decided to show him around.
“Senica? Well, we met in the Sol-Metch state. Working on mechanics and individual locomotion tools. I would have brought something, but it’s really specialized for that terrain, and it’s heavy.
Kent realized the conversation he was having. “Sort of.”
They passed by a room, but the King said nothing about it.
“You can see this room has remained as one of Chloe’s libraries. She didn’t move it, we just…ended up adding another one upstairs.
“Of course I’m certain. We actually—”
“Janna’s room was actually very small, so she is upstairs now. We use the old one for storage.”
“Seriously?” Kent considered storming off, but he decided to act like an adult.
“Fine, perhaps you truly haven’t touched. It will be none of my business once you belong to her and not me.”
Kent frowned. He was so old fashioned.
“Well, you know why the bride and groom wear white at the wedding.” The King looked at his Prince, and then left the boy alone to think, walking back down the second floor hallway.
Kent stood where he was, alone, for a long time.
“I don’t remember,” he whispered.
Night was dark again.
Alexandre strolled onto the campus. She could see into the shadows—Riley had slightly better nightvision than Solune.
“You have returned.”
“I never left.”
Alexandre sighed. “You are a sad creature.”
“Return to your group of saboteurs.”
An hour later, they were both in Alexandre’s office room, reading from the Phaedrus.
Chloe was reading something else.
There was a collection of documents that the Solune had preserved since the founding of the kingdom centuries ago. The Chronicles of the Solune apparently included the Sollussa Chronicles, among other Solune histories and philosophies collected over the lifespan of the Solune Kingdom. The Sollussa Chronicles was considered more precious than the rest, because it survived through a time before the Solune were even an organized and situated people; back when they were foreign sojourners on the Overside. Back when they were still truly Sollussa. It was a cryptic history that fronted The Chronicles of the Solune.
The Sollussa language was archaic, but still readable. She knew all of the letters which had different pronunciations back then, and the words than had changed meanings since that time, so it wasn’t too difficult for her to read. Understanding, however, was another thing. Events, kings, and creatures were mentioned with sparse or completely absent description. For example, the creature known as Vuntur, literally “the Demon,” was common, and so the writer assumed that any reader would know what a Vuntur was. But Chloe didn’t.
“Some of these assumptions are so…”
Chloe figured that she would familiar herself with the early texts of her nation during her trip, so she brought a less valuable scribed copy of the Chronicles. She had also taken her book of Lussa notes and another empty volume. Chloe intended to write a full two or three hundred page academic report on the Lussa on her return, and she would need copious notes.
Chloe could hear a bustling echoing down the library’s stairs, possibly some sort of argument.
“I wonder what’s happening…?”
[Author’s note: This is one of the most edited chapters written so far (apart from, perhaps, the first chapter, which I STILL want to go back and fix). I added about four-hundred words and fixed a lot of things.
If you notice the quality drop back in the next chapter, I’m sorry. But! This is a first draft, so perhaps chapters such as this will give you a good taste for what the final edition will look like!
Finally, Col will be spelled Col after this chapter. For whatever reason, he’s Coll here. I’m not sure which spelling I prefer, so for no it’s Col. If he ends up as Coll in the final edition, well…that’s allowed right?]