Chapter 30: Exilic Detention II
She dreamed of a man and a woman together. All seemed ordinary, or at least typical, for the first few years. Then she watched it deteriorate to end in resentful divorce. And then the dream began again, with different people. She watched them as newlyweds, and then some minor thing happened. And little things atrophied until they decided to choose happiness over each other. Another emotional amputation. Divorce. And in the beginning of a third marriage, there was another man and woman.
No, not again. Why…
This couple had children first. Five, and then, deterioration begins.
I don’t want this. No! Stop! “Unacceptable!”
Her dream obliged.
“Hey! Hello!! Hey, Chloe Rhye!” Someone whispered harshly at her from behind her head. “Hello! My Prince!”
Chloe opened her eyes with tense aggression. She looked around to see a face outside the prison window.
“What? Alexandre Dirge? What? No.” Chloe sat up from the sad mat on the floor.
“Yes, it’s me! Look, I don’t think I can siege this place, not if it’s just me. I’d need a gang or a battalion or something. Is Lilllith with you?”
“No!” Chloe looked around, confused. It seemed that Alexandre was hanging by her fingers, and had smashed a small piece out of the thick prison glass. “Have you found anyone else?”
“No, I umm…I sort of passed out. It only looks to be about midday, the sun is high. We arrived here in the early morning, so, I guess I didn’t sleep that long.”
Chloe tried to gather herself. Emotions from her night visions lingered.
She trembled. “What will we do?”
Alexandre adjusted her hands one by one. “I could try to go find someone else; anyone. I’m sure the officials—your brother and Astore—are looking for you. They must be if they aren’t in there.”
Chloe stood and looked through the window. They were one and a half stories up. This woman can climb… They were close now, face to face. She could see the flushed exertion in Alexandre’s pale face, and the spit that had escaped from between her silver-black teeth.
“Sorry I took so long,” Alexandre said in low tones. “I didn’t look up and missed the windows during my first pass.”
Chloe looked away from Alex’s face and down to the girl’s hands. They were white with strain.
She said, “It is not a problem, Alexandre. But it seems I have been deemed an enemy of the state, and so they will be here indefinitely.” Chloe was wistful, but the nature of her thoughts quickly changed. “We can speak on this later.”
Alexandre’s face took on a psychopathic expression. “If I have to personally ruin this place and all those responsible one by one, I can. They cannot keep the doors barred and locked forever. Everyone eats.” Her expression abruptly changed. “Anyway, what is this place? Is it just a prison or is it something else?”
“This is exile.” Rottts’s voice rumbled off the walls, echoing through Chloe’s cell. “There is more of you, it seems?”
Chloe called, “Yes, the prince sent Lilllith to escort us back.” It must be harder for Rottts to hear them us than the other way around. Her ears must be tuned for some sort of fine listening…. I wonder if Rottts is some sort of warrior…or perhaps a hunter?
“Lilllith? Do you know where she has herself established?”
“Where?” Alexandre shouted, starting to lose her strength.
Rottts said, “If you want to find Lilllith of the East, you just have to head down the Lussa High Street and keep an eye on the right side. It’s one of the few four storey buildings in the city, a landmark of sorts. And it is not entirely metal, unlike most of our structures.”
“Thanks? Eh, Chloe, do you know this woman?”
“Yes, do not, ah, don’t worry about it too much.” Chloe could see that Alexandre’s fingers were turning red and starting to swell. “Ah, I think she’s in a similar situation to me, but she is likely Lussa, so the problem is coming from inside her own culture. You might as well start where she said; what can go wrong on a main road?”
Alexandre nodded, “Stay safe,” and then let go.
“Ah, bye!” She called out through the fist-sized hole, “Thank you!”
Chloe sat back down. “This was not supposed to happen.” She rubbed her head. “Why am I so easy to render unconscious?”
“I doubt it had much to do with you,” Rottts said. “They probably beat you over the head with six pounds of cast iron.”
“What! Oh. That—ah! That’s so mean!”
“So is imprisoning the innocent for political gain. Here we are pawns who aren’t allowed on the board.”
“Hey!” Chloe stood up, recovered, and then walked over to the bars. “Let me see you!”
She peeked out, made sure that there were no guards, and shortly after saw the other woman’s torso tilt out of her cage. She was rough, but her complexion and face shone beautifully beneath the prison dirt.
Rottts had a golden-brown tan that somehow shone silvery like other Lussa. Her hair was a darker shade of the same tone and fell in tatters a little past her shoulder. Chloe could tell that it had originally been cut shorter—that it wasn’t this long by choice, but by an inability to cut it. And something was wrong. Rottts looked thuggish, but not at all like a typical criminal. The way she speaks; the way she carries herself; this woman has an air of aristocracy, I am certain. Is she a cousin of some noble family? A lord or lady perhaps? Chloe judged that the woman had likely been held here for months. She wore baggy prison pants and a grey sleeveless shirt that showed more shoulder than Chloe was comfortable with. It was clear that the woman was strong, and despite her middle stature, her muscles were large beyond what passive training could develop. This woman is more than battle borne, she must have lived in it; swam in it. Perhaps she was some sort of knight who took fighting service over and over? Rottts’ exposed skin was covered in sheets of light cuts and scars. Either she was a careless fighter, or she had served an absurd amount frontline hours.
The woman said, “I am who I am, and I am part of the wrong royal family.”
Chloe breathed, then opened her eyes. “I am here now.”
“Yes?” Rottts looked curious more than anything else.
“I am Chloe Rhye, Fifth Prince of the Solune Kingdom, and I am here to disrupt what is unjust in this city.” The words didn’t feel like her own. She had never come with such intention. Yet, the sudden spontaneous purpose was not unlike her own ideals. She decided that perhaps that would be her goal for the Lussa City…until she could find something better. Chloe’s mind raced in reflection. No, this is what I came her for, is it not? I came here to help my family. “I am here,” she continued, “because I have a duty to my nation as a Solune Prince, and I am honouring a distant, perhaps tenuous, but very real blood line that I and the Lussa royalty share. I, by proxy, am Lussa nobility, and by that same proxy, this city is in a sense also part of my responsibility.”
Rottts looked astounded. She stayed silent for a time, apparently finding no particular issue with Chloe’s rhetorical chain of logic. Then she recalled something and her expression turned to worry. “Did you say you were Prince of…the Sollussa?”
“Ah! No, the Solune.”
“And I, of Lussa.”
“Oh! Oh! Yes!” Chloe awkwardly jumped with excitement, even though her head was still peeking out of her cell. She banged her chin, and then caught herself and said; “I am the other half!”
Rottts pulled her head back in.
“…The other tribe? Interesting. Was that not over a millenia ago? I wonder if the City truly would still recognise your blood as part of Lussa aristocracy even after so many years.”
“Of course, we were invited here as ‘ancient kin’ by prince Ryann. I believe yes!”
Chloe gave up hoping that Rottts would show herself again, and she pulled her torso back in as well.
Calmer now, she said, “You know him?”
“Yes. I am afraid he’s no wartime leader. In fact, he is quite a good prince in nearly all aspects…except battle. Yet, here we are, likely nearing the brink of…well of something.”
“Oh…” Chloe contemplated for a few minutes. “Where is everyone? Are there not guards?”
“Usually this place has higher security. Usually, we would see one every few minutes or less.”
“Usually. But all of them are on the streets asserting presence. This prison is likely at minimum guard capacity, perhaps less. They will check in on us once or twice a day. Interestingly, your friend’s claim, her abrupt and outlandish idea that she could raid the Lussa Exile with a small group of fighting men, isn’t that far from the truth. Depending on what sort of tactician she is, it could be possible. Let us hope such violence is not required. Lilllith will be able to free you, especially if Ryann testifies on your behalf. He is the current ruler, after all.”
“That is…good I suppose.”
“Yes. You know the police likely still fear that woman, even after all that’s happened.”
“It was she who trained them.”
P.S. This one was edited more than the usually once. I actually ended up editing in over a hundred words, but I think it turned out better for it.