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It took a few minutes, but Annissette returned, out of breath, holding an instrument that looked strange to the Solune members of the room. “Here! Here! What do you make of this? Isn’t it similar?” She said, overflowing with energy and joy. It had a long neck and five strands, four doubled, for a total of nine, running down to a wide round echoing body. The girl looked around. “Where did he go?”

Kent and Senica whispered to each other at the back of the room, and then Senica stood and looked around. “Maybe he went to the washroom…?”

Annissette decided to prepare the instrument. She tuned the strings and set the frets in place. Then, she and the rest of the room waited patiently.

Senica started, “I don’t think he will be retur—”

“Stop!” Annissette said. “Don’t presume.”

They waited, silent, for a few more minutes, and then Annissette stood and left again. On her way out, she heard Astore say something about her giving the whole thing up, and how it was the smarter thing to do. Like he was speaking on her behalf and reassuring the room. She turned the corner and exited. She had not given up. She wasn’t done with that Siren man, not even close.

The building was starting to cool. Annissette looked out one of the hallway’s windows as she walked and, seeing that the sun was setting, concluded that Siren would not be outside. This was likely a mistake on her part, since she hadn’t considered that Anselm Siren, being an adult, didn’t have much of a problem stepping outside for a few minutes around sunset, or even after dark. Annissette searched the mansion, and eventually made it to his room.

Taking a deep, quiet breath, the Lussa girl leaned close to the door and listened. She heard nothing. Leaning on the door, she slowly pressed her ear against it. Still nothing. Grumpy, Annissette finished her search of the building and then returned to the lounge.

“He’s gone,” she huffed. “Maybe he was just a figment of my imagination.”

“Too bad,” Astore said.

“Where did you get that?” Senica asked.

“The instrument? That’s mine. I practice on it.”

“Oh! Why don’t you play then?”

Annissette contemplated this and then nodded. She took the instrument in her hands and then sat with it. It was made of wood, with metal strings and metal frets. She shifted one of the frets up a notch and then strummed. Then Annissette played a slow, sad song to suit her mood.

Outside, Siren leaned on the side of the building. He heard voices, passersby he assumed, but he was wrong. Someone called out, and then again. He listened, trying to hear what this person was calling out.

“Anselm!” sang a female voice.

He froze, and then looked up, his heart pounding. It was Alexandre Dirge and Chloe.

“What!”

“What are you doing?” Alexandre was talking, and she sang this sentence too.

“Getting some air.” Siren was yelling from the side of the building into the street in front. He wondered if all this excitement was disturbing any of the neighbours, but it seemed that everyone around them had rather large estates, and either extensive lawns in front, or thick private trees blocking sound and sight.

Alexandre gave him a mischievous grin. “You’re running from something!”

Anselm froze. Chloe had already moved out of sight behind the building, but Alex was stopped in conversation. She saw his look, and her face softened. There was something strangely comforting about her expression, and it seeped into him, and touched at one of the edges of his heart.

“Don’t stay away too long,” she said. She didn’t shout; she knew they didn’t have to at this distance. Then, she followed Chloe and Elllis out of sight.

“Thank you,” Anselm said. He wasn’t sure if she heard him, around the corner, but she had.

Chloe and Alexandre said goodbye to Elllis at the door and went inside to find all those Anselm had left behind. They finally found everyone in the lounge on one of the upper floors. It was the music that led them to the right place. Chloe stepped inside and was pleasantly surprised to see the girl, Annissette, playing an instrument that she had never seen before. It looked familiar, like a lute or an oote, or a western guitar perhaps. She sat down on a vacant chair and listened, and also sunk a lot further into the seat than she had expected.

Annissette strummed slow, sombre notes, and it wasn’t long before Chloe could see that it was a song that matched her mood. She wondered if the Lussa was simply experiencing her own music as she played or if something had happened earlier to darken her mood.

Then Kent beckoned her over, asking what had happened at the palace. He and his wife were sitting on the floor. Chloe said that the prince planned to use her as a member of his royal family for some political legal fiat, and Kent just nodded. Apparently that was enough for him, and so Chloe moved to go back to her seat, but Senica grabbed her sleeve.

“What sort of fiat? Tell me.” The woman smiled.

What was it that always bugged me about her temperament? How can she be always so quietly cheery? Chloe always thought that there was something false or shallow about the Djeb woman’s ever positive temperament, but it seemed that this above-average mood was simply part of her nature. Did a smile from her, or a kind word, mean less than one from someone who gave these out more moderately? Did frequency and easiness cheapen the sentiment? Maybe. But maybe positive action did not work like this. Chloe wasn’t sure just yet, but she obliged her sister-in-law and swept in front of Kent to sit down next to her. The carpet, unsurprisingly at this point, was comfortable and she sank into it more than she had expected.

“It seems that in this kingdom, once a law is written it is binding forever. This means that if you stumbled across a centuries-old law in an archive somewhere, you may be able to put it into use. On this, I am of course not certain, it is just what I have gathered in my time speaking to prince Ryann and Elllis. So Ryann has found such a law, a law that predates the Lussa Confederation; their constitution.” Chloe looked at Senica, who beamed at her. This sort of expression, unchanging despite the heavier topic, made her wonder of the woman was actually listening or just nodding along politely. This was frustrating, or perhaps Chloe’s residual bad first impression of her still lingered and she was simply still holding onto negative emotions from back then. Either way, her frustration turned to words. She would test the Djeb. “Tell me, what do you think of such a law? Do you think it should still be binding?”

“Well it depends on the conventions of the state, doesn’t it?” It did, and the reply surprised Chloe, though she didn’t show it. That the woman had brought in new legal terminology, conventions, was particularly noteworthy in Chloe’s judgement of her. Senica continued, and her expression finally changed, she gave a thoughtful look like she was, maybe for the first time, churning the new information she had gotten from Chloe around in her mind. “So if it has always been the case that a law, no matter how ancient, must be upheld; if that was the case when they wrote the constitution, then it would make sense that the Lussa prince’s old law would still stand. It’s quite an interesting thing for him to pull.”

“It is, and it does make sense. But I have a feeling the opposing factions in their parliament will find some way to reject it.”

“Yeah,” Senica nodded, “it might be quite easy for them to argue something like, it doesn’t apply in this case, or, you haven’t fulfilled the requirements to invoke that law. What is the law anyway?”

This is interesting. Senica, it seems, has more to her than I thought. Perhaps I should not have discounted her scholarly achievements. What was her field again? Hmm.

Chloe said,Apparently the law dates back to a time of tribal leaders, where blood relations held a lot of sway. It states—I am told, for we have not been shown the papers in question—that a group in the council may bring in a blood relation to vote on certain issues. The problem the prince is having now is in defending the current authority of his rule and sustaining it until a new King can be crowned. He thinks that this would fall under one of the valid categories for the law he has.”

“It might then. Does he seem to have a good grasp of the laws, or is he…focused elsewhere like our Prince here?” She pointed with her thumb to Kent.

“Hey! What did she say about me?” Kent asked.

Chloe said, “That you are not interested in laws and diplomacy.” Kent nodded and shrugged. It was true, and it didn’t bother him much. Chloe addressed Senica’s question. “I think he does. It seems he was raised learning the laws. I expect his father was a good King, and taught him well, although I have no direct proof of it. Although,” She remembered having to wait before meeting him. Who was in the room? Only the prince and that woman guard. “His mind may be focused on other things as well, though I cannot be sure. I would not want to start rumours.”

“Rumours?” Senica giggled. It was a likeable laugh, although what about her wasn’t? “Well, don’t tell me! I don’t need that sort of privileged information floating around my head, not about a leader of state!”

“Fair. I am sure it is nothing.”

She nodded to the couple and then moved to return to her chair, her right knee popping as she stood. It seemed Alexandre had ended up taking the seat, so Chloe just stood.

The music started to get faster and more distressed, shifting from a calm flow to a bubbling jet, until it bubbled over and abruptly stopped. Everyone clapped, much to Annissette’s surprise, but she didn’t say anything, taking the time to catch her breath.

“You have a good talent. Are you to be a musician?” Senica called out. “No, a doctor. There’s no money in art!” The girl said, spirits apparently lifting now.

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