Chapter 42a: Regimen I (1/2)New? Click here to go to chapter one
“What’s it called when you cry on someone’s shoulder, and then they never speak to you again?” She sat on the bed, looking sad.
“What are you going to tell them when you return?”
“There is no ‘them’ anymore.”
Alexandre and Ammelia lay in the bed.
Ammelia had been set up in the lounge, but had apparently awoken from a nightmare of some sort and wandered the halls in a dreamy daze looking for, she said, her father. Upon leaving the lounge however, she had awakened fully and realized where she was. She had remembered her father’s recent passing and that only made her more distraught, and so she decided to continue wandering and find someone. Ammelia first crept to what turned out to be Lilllich’s room, but upon opening the door and seeing the woman, she closed it again silently and left, feeling quite awkward. She wandered until she found Alexandre. Apparently, the Riley would be her mark. She closed the door behind her, creeping to the bed.
Alex had woken when the door first opened, her sleeping mind still apparently paranoid to such things. Half asleep, she turned and held her arm up, opening the covers for the younger girl, who took the invitation. Then Ammelia fell asleep, apparently feeling safe enough. How she ended up on the other side when Annissette had finally woken them up a few minutes ago, no one could figure out.
Alexandre looked over at the Lussa girl beside her on the bed. “There is no ‘them?’ There was though, weren’t you lord over some people or something?”
“Yes…I suppose there was a ‘them’ at some point. Now, I alone am ‘them.’ ” She the took on a more mature expression and added, “It must be that…I messed up.”
Alexandre sat up and dropped her legs off the side of the bed. It seems like messing up is a pattern with her. What to make of it… “What happened?”
“Well…it started when my father died. It was…oh how much time has passed?” Ammelia also sat up and dangled her legs next to Alexandre. “Two months I think? I don’t want to think about it right now.”
“Oh…alright.” Alexandre didn’t know how to take the sudden news, so she left her expression neutral, unchanged.
“And well, he chose me and not my brother as the successor. I am older, but I am also a woman.” Ammelia meandered, unsure. “My house is part of the AnLussa house, so I thought that I could impress those who followed my father by taking on an important task for the AnLussa.”
Alexandre shook her head. “AnLussa house…? Your house? How are they different?”
“Huh?” Ammelia realized that Alexandre was a foreigner, and likely didn’t understand the housed of the Lussa state. “I don’t want to get derailed, but there are a handful of houses in the Lussa City. Mine, AnLussa, as you can tell by the name, is a little different. All houses are like groups with certain political and societal standings and reputations. Usually they were founded by a large family some centuries ago. AnLussa is like that, but rather than stemming from a family, it is sort of an honorary house. So, there are lots of families or groups within AnLussa who are a part, but also hold their own sort of identity. My father was one, he was honoured by the previous King, and attained the AnLussa name.”
Alexandre nodded. “So AnLussa is further divided, and one of those divisions is your fathers.”
“Yeah, and so after…he passed and left it to me, I though I could do a mission for the AnLussa, and that would strengthen my reputation among the followers of my father, but…instead I was away for too long at the crucial time when I had just attained my new role. When I returned, a failure, most of them had already moved on to other AnLussa subgroups.”
Alexandre guessed that Ammelia’s failed mission had something to do with her being sent to stop Chloe and her party, but she didn’t feel comfortable asking.
Ammelia sighed and said, “All I have is my father’s—no, my home. Maybe I can take back my reputation and build back. That house is the key, I think. The centre and testimony of my status.”
“You’re something of a good speaker, Ammelia,” Alexandre said, “I think a failure can be important.” Especially if it means that we could make it here alive.
“Thanks.” Ammelia smiled and looked down at her swinging feet, hitting the bed one by one. Then, “—ah! Let go!”
“What is this?” Alexandre was poking something in Ammelia’s hair.
“It’s—” the pale girl paused, flushing down to her toes. “You’re not supposed to see that!” She jumped up and backed away, embarrassed.
Alexandre stared, mouth agape. “I thought it was some sort of hair clip, but I can see apparently it’s something else.”
“Yes! It’s,” Ammelia leaned in a little and whispered, “That’s one of my horns.”
“Horns…? What are you?”
Exasperated, Ammelia sat back down. “We…I don’t know Alex, but my father was the same. My brother too. Apparently my grandparents travelled here from far away, and then my father was honourable and was promoted to the AnLussa status, but he never told us about where my grandparents came from before he…” She started to cry, and then whispered, “and and…he and my brother, they didn’t cut off their horns in cowardice as I do.”
Alexandre smiled. “They’re poking through your hair a little.”
“I know. I haven’t cut them since we first met…I was going to after returning but…”
“You have become a little braver?”
Ammelia, comforted, gave a small smile.
“Shalla, you’re cooking for one more today.”
“I am? Oh yes, for that young lady from last night.” Shalla looked around, but only saw Alexandre’s back as the other woman left.
“Alex. You look well. You look very well. I would very much like to—” Siren stopped. Alexandre saw that perhaps he was about the utter something forbidden. “—like to… to… to sleep.”
“Umm.” Alexandre was a little disappointed.
“What are you doing here anyway, looking so bright and energetic, and young? You must have slept well; better than me anyway.”
She had, perhaps it was because she had company. Ammelia had wandered in—apparently she nearly went into Lilllich’s room first—some time in the early morning, and Alexandre let her huddle in. There were only a few years difference, and together they felt like family. Or, close enough, as Alexandre didn’t know what it was like to have a sister.
“I slept alright.” She smiled, and Siren sort of shuddered for some reason. “Siren, everyone else is awake, yes? I haven’t seen them.”
“Lilllich is in her room, but she isn’t sleeping. I saw her return from the kitchen, where she was talking to Marshalla. The rest I think are outside; out back.”
Alexandre took a deep breath. “Siren—”
“Eh?? You don’t have to use my family name.”
“And you mine!”
“Oh. Well then, fine, Anselm. You know you really are awkward.”
His mind locked up. He was apparently flustered hearing his name come from her mouth. “Alex, I am extremely tired. I can’t even tell if I slept or not.”
“Well—” Alexandre started.
“Who is that at this hour? Oh!” Col was there in the hallway, apparently a late sleeper like Chloe. “An encounter in the doorway. Well? Don’t be shy, go in!” The boy laughed and then, to Alexandre’s surprise—Anselm was too many steps in thought behind to be surprised just yet—he pushed Alex through the doorway, into Anslem, who, being too sleep deprived to register it, fell over rather than staggering back. Then he watched a beautiful woman with a mouthful of dark teeth fall on top of him. From somewhere down the hall, they heard Col say, “Oops!” and then footsteps going downstairs.
Face to face, the two stared at each other for a few seconds. And then for a minute. And then one minute became two.
And then three.
Alexandre poked around with her foot, and eventually managed to close the door, in case anything important happens.
And then Anslem fell asleep.
Alexandre watched him sleep for another minute, and then pushed herself off of his body, immediately missing his warmth. He was broader than her, and for some reason knowing this satisfied her. Did he feel anything? He must have. —Oh! Is that why he was staring at me? He thought I realized, and would move out of embarrassment, but I didn’t and he…and…what exactly am I thinking about? Alexandre looked down at the Solune man. She felt very strange leaving him there on the floor, so she hauled him up and put him on his bed. Not very heavy, and muscle weighs more than fat. He really isn’t too strong after all, huh. This disappointed her. She would have investigated his body’s strength further, but it seemed inappropriate at this time. What is that? Is that….my pulse in the back of my neck? Alexandre stopped thinking and just left, closing the door behind her, and moving to find everyone else.
“I could, but I am really not sure what she knows already.”
Alexandre shrugged. “Almost nothing. She said it last night.”
Lilllich nodded, recalling how the night ended.
Ammelia had told them of a council, a conspiracy. They met in secret, secret even from each other due to disguises. Ammelia knew that many of them were AnLussa, but she could not tell them if there were any other houses in the meeting. Everyone sat in the dark, along the walls and as far from one another as possible. Ammelia never bothered to hide her identity, she told them, and neither had one other woman. “The eldest Lussa, the bastard.”
“Cuinnnnn,” Lilllich had said. “The prince will have to know of this the day after tomorrow.”
Lilllich informed Ammelia that she must come with them when they meet with the prince and tell what she knows. The young woman nodded. “I will be there.” Though, something about her reply seemed off; uncertain.
The orange of the sun and the blue of the early morning shone through the grand trees that surrounded the clearing behind the mansion. There were five of them now
Kent was napping on a bench out back in the giant forest Lilllich called an estate. Senica was trading punches with Astore. Slow, and deliberate, but with no force behind them.
“Senica, I think you’re better at this than me. You should have gotten a better rating when you fought Lilllich.”
Senica blushed and stumbled, hitting Astore in the face as she fell. She caught herself, and Astore rubbed his cheek.
“Oh umm. My apologies. I don’t really use weapons. I know a little spear or polearm, but that’s it.”
“So you know how to hit people with a stick?” Alexandre called out from the back door. She approached them, leaving the door of the building open behind her.
“Yes.” Senica nodded, and then looked up thoughtfully. “You could say that I guess.” And then added, “It is an ancient art of my people.”
Astore glared at the door, as if he could see through it. Ammelia poked her head out, and they locked eyes. “Yip!” She hid again.
“Is she there? Alexandre I think you’re being hunted.”
Alexandre shrugged and sat down next to Kent. She glanced back at the door, “She’s following me around now.”
Chloe Rhye was woken up by Annissette. It took around six tries.
“Are all you Solune so lazy? Hmph!” The small girl crossed her arms. She was wearing an old fashioned large, grey, flowy dress. Old fashioned in the sense that it went to her ankles and wrists, covering most of her neck. The result was that she looked very stately, and her face was held to prominence, with little other skin to distract from it. This worked in the girl’s favour, since her face was young, cheery, and still had a little extra fat on it that children seem to all have. She looked cute.
Chloe mumbled something again, and then sat up, her legs dangling over the edge of the bed. “It was late…let me—”
“Nope! Lilllich said you need to get on her routine. You will be learning to fence every day from now on.”
“Every day!” She suddenly had energy, and looked at the girl. Chloe was so tall that, even though she was sitting, she was eye to eye with Annissette.
“Well, you’ll get one or two days off to heal.”
Chloe looked like she was about to cry. Like she was a child again. In fact, she had given Annissette childish vibes all morning.
“Come, grow up. It’s the same thing the rest of us went through.”
Chloe jumped up off the bed. She was wearing a blue nightdress with short sleeves. “Really? So you can fight then?”
“Of course. A maiden must keep herself safe.”
Chloe grabbed her. It was supposed to be a hug, but the Solune, being over six feet tall and unusually broad, couldn’t properly hug her spontaneously, so it ended up as a grab. Annissette blushed. She could feel Chloe’s soft skin, and strong arms. The touch, through her dress, was strange, like getting a hug from an old farm mother who had gotten strong lifting sheep out of ditches and hauling straw and doing laundry.
When Chloe was done, she leaned back and looked down at the girl. “You’re over a head shorter than me.”
Annissette sputtered, and then just left.
“Lilllich is expecting you for breakfast in half an hour. Get dressed!” She called back through the room.
Chloe, alone now, felt a little embarrassed about grabbing the girl, and acting so foolishly. She was always in a mood like this first thing in the morning, but she usually spent that time alone, musing around in her room, reading, or journaling. Slowing down now, Chloe felt uncomfortable that someone who was not her mother had seen her in that state. But the worry faded, and she changed her clothes and exited the room, ready.
I’m splitting this chapter in two for the blog version, since the original is over 4000 words!