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The Solune Prince
Novella 2

Chapter 44: The City; The Prince IV

The sun was setting; shadows cutting black lines through the bending metal street. Chloe couldn’t tell that, once the sun was low enough, it would likely reflect straight into their eyes. The Palace stood before them, not quite as tall as Lilllith’s mansion, but far far grander. It covered perhaps ten percent of the city. Or maybe only five? How big is the city? Did they keep the original drawings?

Alexandre passively scanned the area as they entered. Ammelia had cone to rule over her estate. She had told Alex, “They have taken my name, but not my home.” They were led through the guard posts by the woman Schelllla, who got them through with ease. Another bodyguard. She could tell. The woman had dark skin, so Alexandre guessed that her heritage held some sort of mix. After a while of staring at her strong, exposed back, Alexandre gave up and asked.

“How do you hail?”

“Hmm?” They had stopped in the grand hallway. “Oh, hail. I have an Elken great grand…parent, as far as I know. Otherwise,” she smiled, “I am simply Lussa. And you? You look like some sort of moonstruck woman.”

“I am Riley.” Moonstruck?

“Hmm. I have heard of this, but only as part of my training…years ago. You are not from around here. Most will mistake you as a moonstruck Lussa, but I can tell you are not. Most who look closely, who are clever, will know, however…it is good that you look like one of us. You can use that in aiding the prince, I am sure.”

“Yes…” Alexandre took this all in, “and to see which of those among our future acquaintances is clever.”

“Oh?” Schelllla opened the door and led them down what Alexandre now saw must be a fortified hallway into the throne room. This time, there were a couple of stiff male guards inside. Another layer.

The throne room had three women this time. There are more now. Or, wait; this must be… Two were the same as last night. Shelllla and the unfamiliar woman nodded to the two guardswomen, and then exited together. He is guarded by full alert women at all times. I wonder if this has hampered his masculine development at all. Jocelllynn and Michellise must be the night watch.

The Lussa prince nodded, and Jocelllynn began to speak in an usually authoritative tone. “We must soon endow you with royal titles, and let the Kingdom know that you are all honoured guests and even members—” She stopped and studied Senica openly. Releasing a shaky breath, she continued. “That will be tomorrow, as night has come on this day. This night, we must tell you of our—” Again she broke off, but that was because Ryann had pinched her bare side. “—that is, you must help us choose our coming course of action.” She bowed and stepped back.

“What options have we?” Chloe said.

“We have, I assume, two threats. One is obviously the Polits, though I do not know how deep it goes. It is clear they wish to offer a kind and firm hand to the people…”

                                                                                                            “Which will inevitably turn to the closed fist of a tyrant, should they succeed in taking power,” Michelllise said, in a higher, more feminine tone.

“It is the way of a military, and with the military half of the Polits missing, it seems the civil half is all but ready to take on their threatening traits.”

                                                                        “Traits that should only be expressed against external enemies, enemies of the Kingdom,” Michelllise finished.

Jocelllynn said, “But there is also a threat, we believe, from one of the Noble families. Perhaps, even, they are aiding the Polits.” Alexandre found this rhythmic, almost musical alternation between monarch and servant enthralling, even inspiring. The guard wiped her cheek, removing a layer of some cosmetic that was covering a bruise which seemed to paint half her face. “I was, this afternoon, attacked during my rituals. This is what caused my delay. Investigation.”

Alex was going to ask what they had found, but she saw that the other woman was already reaching for something behind her back. She brought out a strip of fabric.

“I managed to take this, but they drew a…a sword.”

                                                                                    “It was not a duelling sword, the sort that most Nobles wear to defend their honour and poke at each other,” Michelllise continued, “the individual had an arena sword,”

                                    “Which is almost as deadly as a military weapon,” The prince finished.

                                                                                                            “I had to let them run, but I kept this…”

“How will a piece of clothing help?” Chloe asked, not mocking, but rather truly expecting an answer. Alexandre and Astore both already had their own answers bubbling up in their minds.

Jocelllynn continued. “Each house has its own weavers, they have preferred colours. For others, the fabric may feel different,

                                    “or have a different thread count or weaving style,” Michalllise said.

“So we must speak to their tailors,” Astore said.

“Yes,” Jocelllynn said, her voice fluttering with energy. She took a pair of golden scissors from somewhere on her person and cut the item in three. “Tomorrow, once you are knighted; Chloe and Kent will be elevated to Lussa—”

                                                “Not elevated,” The prince snapped.

                                                                        “—Of course. They will be recognised as Lussa royalty, as ancient long-lost kin. After all this, we will start the investigation, some time in the afternoon. Once you have status, any weaver will have to aid you.”

“And if they, say, don’t help out?” Kent asked.

“Well, that makes them a lead, does it not?” Michelllise said, blushing for some reason.

“Oh!” Kent said. It was starting to dawn on the older Prince that he was the only one who hadn’t put the pieces together. Reputation was to be part of the game, an intimidation tactic to weed out, or even force the hand of dissenters. “It’s a social trap.” Senica, proud, took his arm in both of hers. “We will have to read their faces carefully.”

“Not just the workers,” Alexandre said, “every single person on the streets. Anyone who recognises the newly elevated outsiders will have some sort of reaction.”

“Which is why we will move in groups,” Jocelllynn said, handing one strip to Chloe, and another to Alexandre.

“Miche and I will help in the afternoon, before our duty to the prince begins,” She said, hiding the third piece somewhere behind her.

                                                                                                                        “You can divide yourselves as you all see fit,” Michalllise said.

“So who do you think it is?” Chloe asked. She suspected it might be the rebellious element of Ammelia’s house, the AnLussa, since they had already aggressively taken advantage of the situation to cease power.

“We have a few suspicions,” The prince said.

                                                “But we will keep that to ourselves for now,” Jocelllynn continued, “so as not to make you look too suspicious in your work tomorrow.”

(To Be Continued)

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