Chapter 44: Libraria Sophia INew? Click here to go to chapter one!
Chloe rested and took in a lot of water, unaware that Elllis was in the watching room waiting for her. It was perhaps half an hour after he arrived before they encountered each other.
When they did finally meet, Elllis’s proposal to visit the Royal Lussa Law Archives was hastily accepted, and he was nearly pushed out of the door in Chloe’s excitement. Alexandre, realizing that the Prince hadn’t taken anyone with her as a guard, followed them out without fuss, telling Shalla the situation on her way so that the house would know.
“Oh, come on, faster!” Chloe was almost jumping, and she was secretly hoping that Elllis would run so that she could too without breaking social convention. “Ah!”
Alexandre watched this scene as they made their way down the woven wire that comprised Lussa pavement. She watched the Prince’s constrained leaping steps, and Elllis, doing his best to stay dignified with the giant woman eagerly bouncing behind him. He strode to stay ahead of her. Although, Alex now realized, Elllis was himself quite tall, taller that Chloe by a bit. She followed without too much effort, gazing at them with amusement. Chloe Rhye was overdeveloped due to her age, in knowledge, martial training, occupational experience, and perhaps many other elements of life. But it seemed to Alexandre that casual decorum, just being with other people for unofficial matters, was an area in which she had very little development. The result of this seemed to be that, since there was nothing in her mind for her to reference or work from, instead the inner child was brought forth and had free reign. And so this multi-centenarian Prince became the naïve early-twenty-something whom she appeared to be.
As they reached the Palace’s outer gate, Alex flicked her eyes around to the roof of one of the buildings across the street. Who was that? A scout? A spy? Or…just a citizen? She had no doubt that she had seen someone, but what could she do? Call Chloe and Elllis to scale the wall with her and give chase? Ridiculous. She turned away as if she’d seen nothing, and in her periphery saw the figure emerge again, taking the bait.
Not very careful…yet.
They entered the Palace as before, but instead of going straight south, Elllis led the women to the right, down a hall and apparently to another building.
“And this unusual architecture? You will explain, yes?” Chloe said, beaming up slightly at their guide.
Alexandre now confirmed, he was taller, perhaps by a thumb’s length or less. He was one of the few people they had met in their journey so far, nay the only so far, who was taller than Chloe.
“The old Palace was built with wooden walls from a time before the royal family retrieved trees from the south and the east and used them to plant those orchards, forests, and parks around the City. Lilllich’s land is built in front of such an artificial forest. Surely she’s told you by now that her estate is up against crown land?”
“Oh yes!” Chloe said, finally having an outlet for her excitement. “So before you had local manmade forests, wood was considered rare and valuable, yes?”
“Precisely, and so the Palace was built out of lumber. Although, wood is still quite expensive in comparison with metals. Ah, but one of the rulers of old, in her vanity and fear, installed extra chandeliers and torches. Then, one fateless day, flame and aged wood met.”
“Oh! You truly meant it when you said ‘old Palace’! And so?”
“So it was rebuilt, with codes. Any room with a chandelier must have a metal roof, or section of roof.”
“And the old Palace’s ruins?”
“We walk atop them. The Palace was reborn, from the foundation and the skeleton out. And with more of the Lussa metals we are known for. This is a Palace to be proud of.” He gestured slightly, and yet somehow still with grandeur to the copper-brass walls that surrounded them and shone in the light.
Chloe nodded, guessing that it would be something along these lines; that it was built on and even with the old ruins.
“And so one of these new codes,” Alexandre said, “divided the Palace into separate buildings, attached by stone and metal hallways, so that the whole thing could not burn at once.”
“Very perceptive,” He nodded, gazing around at the walls. “Have you perhaps studied architecture?”
“No, it’s just an observation.”
“Here we are.”
The hall opened up and there was another wall, and double doors, above which was mounted a large plaque and sign on which a short word was written in a different language, and a different script. It looked almost like an indoor storefront.
“Law,” Chloe translated, smiling.
Elllis was a little taken aback. “No one smiles at this door…except the eldest Lussa prince.”
“Ah…” Chloe turned to him and her smile turned to a grin. “Really? But isn’t law so great?”
He smiled and shook his head. “You two really are somehow related.” Then he stopped again. “Wait, that sign is in Sollussa. You could read it?”
“…Yes? I studied this language both academically and with my father.”
“That is good; I won’t have to translate the ancient law for you then!”
Alexandre watched their exchange, wondering if they would ever be let into the library. Instead, Elllis just stood and continued speaking. She admired him a little for this; for his lack of tact, making them stand outside the door for so long, when really they could be talking within.
“I was quite surprised when I saw you for the first time at Lilllich’s. Before then, you, the possibility of you, was something near fantastical. You are, more or less, a mythical legal example that has stepped from the ink of letters and into the City; and how grand you are!”
Chloe’s starry eyes stabilized on him. “Grand?”
Elllis laughed. “Yes. Well, before my elocution is too exhausted by you two fit ladies, let us move along.” He went to the door and began to check his keys to open it.
“Fit? I think it’s already run out.” Alexandre said loudly, although to herself.
“Do you think?” Chloe flexed her arm, and a mass of muscle made itself apparent through her clothes, almost giving Alexandre a heart attack.
“Don’t do that!”
“I don’t know what you ladies are doing back there, but let us enter.” The loud sound of a door unlocking a heavy metal mechanism ended their jovial exchange. “Come now!”
The first thing Chloe noticed was the height of the roof, and the second was that all of the shelves were made of metal that varied in shade, like a metallic rainbow of coppers, chromes and steels, all waxed or lacquered. Looking down a row, Chloe saw that here they all shared the same shade, and sometimes the colour crossed over to two rows, or ended halfway between.
“Yes, we used alloys to colour code by subject. Come with me to the back, a copy of the law the prince spoke of is over there.” But as he went ahead, he realized that he was moving alone. He turned around and saw that Alexandre was standing dutifully by one of the rows. Elllis walked back and turned the corner, and saw Chloe’s face was in a book. He stepped back and read the sign on the side of the shelves. “Laws regarding the…Senate? Come Chloe, we no longer have a senate! The day is short, let us go!”
“Yes!” Chloe put the book back, sliding it into the hole it had left.
To Elllis’s surprise, this sudden disappearance of the women happened two more times before they got to the back of the building.
Confirming that everyone was truly there with him, Elllis said, “This is where the pre-Confederation documents were held. Not the originals of course, which are in a vault, but copies.” He approached a shelf and pulled a small booklet out. It seemed newer than the rest. Chloe watched him with sparkly eyes.
Alexandre wasn’t too interest in the laws; Chloe could handle that. She was more curious why this was the only recent looking book in the section. She asked about it. “Isn’t there supposed to be a copy of all the documents from the archives?” She asked.
“Eh…yes…” Elllis handed the thin booklet to Chloe. “They should all be here, but the scribes set to copy it all stopped showing up one by one.”
“And no one noticed?” Alexandre found this to be unbelievable.
“In the name of Canto, Chief Leader of the Sollussa Peoples, I herby and in the presence of 71 judges including myself, proclaim the following law:” Chloe read, translating from the original Sollussa as she went.
“…Many people in positions of power did notice. Supervisors noticed. Noblemen noticed. And they all tried to tell the king, but—”
“To maintain order, a council leader may appoint a deputy from among his non-council family to vote on certain matters.”
“…But the king was always very busy. He was not like Ryann, who is flexible. The old king was—”
“The requirements an individual must meet to be on council are as follows. They must be: Over twenty-one years, Literate, Not currently engaged in warfare, —Ah!, Alex, what is it?” She had grabbed Chloe’s arm.
“Must you read aloud?”
“Yes! It increases comprehension and memory.”
“Our scholars agree on this point,” Elllis said, not helping.
“Just…” Alexandre started, staring at Chloe. The Prince had a simple youthful smile on her face. “Let us talk for a moment.”
“If you must!”
Alexandre sighed. “What about the king?”
“Ah yes. He was a man of action! In fact, that’s how he died, in mortal combat.”
Chloe, now actually listening, was curious about something that had just emerged from her mind. “Do you…suspect foul play?”
“Absolutely!” Elllis said, surprising both women. “It was certainly a nefarious killing.”
“We found and captured the perpetrator quite quickly. He is in prison.”
“I must have missed him,” Chloe mumbled.
“And you’ve interrogated him?” Alexandre asked.
“Oh yes, we know exactly how it happened.”
“And also why?” Chloe asked.
“You,” for a second time that day, she saw someone out of the corner of her eye. She watched him, this man who had stepped from the hall and was watching them in the isle. “…have a motive.” Alexandre said, although it was really more of a question.
“To be clear, I did not handle this case, nor have I asked about it. I am no longer a lawman, I serve the prince more directly. I simply heard the public announcements on the matter after everything concluded. I was more concerned with the election; but then that got frozen.”
Chloe sighed, disappointed. Alexandre was focused on other things. She decided to assert her authority as a royal mercenary. “Come forward and declare yourself,” She said to the man who had been eavesdropping.
“Oh,” he said, “my apologies. I was interested to see who it was that the good lord Elllis had brough into the archive.”
“Who indeed,” Elllis said, turning, and standing with more authority. “I am no lord, Gzellos. What brings you to the law library?”
“Oh come now, you must know I am always here. For the job, of course. We miss you in the courts.” This man, Gzellos, laughed.
Elllis knew why. This was a phantom statement; neither of them worked in law any longer. Elllis had been called forward to work for the king only a few months ago, and now he served the regent. This put him in a political office. Gzellos too had moved from law to politics, and this was what gave his statement irony.
“Perhaps one day we will return to where we started,” Elllis said.
Gzellos was a man of average features and expensive clothes. He was shorter than everyone else in the isle, but that was only because they were so tall. His black hair came down to his neck, and he had bangs, all cleanly cut and washed. He wore formal clothing, a doublet and shirt, closed at the neck with a frilled cravat. The shirt was white, and the coat, as well has his pants, were a deep indigo, almost purple.
Alexandre wondered if this was the man on the rooftops, but it seemed like he had been indoors for a long time. His silhouette is wrong too…
“I hear you’re talking about the blessed king. It seems there are actors in the background moving to…cause trouble.” There was something insincere about his speech, but Chloe could also tell he wasn’t entirely lying.
“Does it worry you?”
Gzellos smiled. It was clear by the lines around his mouth and eyes that, though sinister looking, this smile was genuine. “It does worry me. I fear some of our good men may find themselves acting alongside the bad if they are not careful.”
Again, Chloe watched the man and listened to his language. This time, the insincerity was missing. He, it seemed, was truly worried.
Elllis said, “The path of the just must be defended with a stiff neck, and at times, the edge of the sword of righteousness.”
“It’s a good sermon, but ideas of justice die in parliament.” His smile disappeared.
“Maybe for the Antemiles, but you do not speak for every member of the Assembly.”
“It’s true. There are some who cling to ideas of justice as a defence for their weakness.”
“How do you wield the sword,” Chloe said, “if you are weak?”
Gzellos had not expected the woman to speak, and had certainly not expected such an authoritative tone to issue forth from the silly looking blonde aristocrat. He said, “The…sword?”
“Did your friend not just give the axiom? ‘The path of the just must be defended with a stiff neck, and at times, the edge of the sword of righteousness.’ Perhaps that which you disparage, and that which is lacking, is some sentiment other than justice.”
Gzellos frowned, but only for a moment. It was soon covered over by a slight smile. “Perhaps you are right. I think it is accurate to label the Assembly weak more that unjust. Justice dies the moment its defenders lay down their arms.”
“Well put,” Elllis said. He did not add what he thought, which was, ‘coming from you.’
“Well, truly, I must be going. A grand assembly is being called soon. Do you know anything about this Elllis?”
There was a silence, and Gzellos waited for him to continue, but Elllis didn’t. Eventually the other Lussa sighed and left the isle, though not the building. The remaining three stood quiet.
And then, “…Be a citizen, be related by blood to the council leader (He must not be family by union. One must be able to provide a common ancestor by name), and the potential deputy must consent. (Arbitration is not permitted.)
“So your attention was diverted from the king due to the election freeze. Who does know about what happened to him? The prince?”
“He might,” Elllis answered, “but remember this is his father’s death you are inquiring about, and remember too that it was only—”
“Furthermore, any and all of the council leaders may invoke this law.”
“—a few weeks ago that the king was slain.” Elllis said.
“True, that is why the Solune sent envoy after all. Perhaps someone else—”
“Furthermore, the deputy councilman must serve for one full year and cannot be removed except by another law, lest the appointed and appointee face punishment. (This clause is intended to dissuade excessive use of the law. A potential deputy may refuse due to the responsibility, and a leader may not want an individual on council who, after a period of time, may dissent.)
“—Eh, is there anyone else who could be asked? Who led the investigation?”
“Oh, she is long gone.”
“Gone?” Alexandre shook her head. “What?”
“You might talk to the polits chief and get your hands on the report.” Elllis said, “But shortly after performing the investigation, the officer in charge resigned her post and fled to—”
“…The council. A deputy councilman does not have all the privileges of a full member of council.”
“Interesting. Regarding all this, we will have to ask Chloe,” Alexandre said loudly. “When she’s done. …How long is this document?”
“This is the last section,” Elllis said, feeling a little exhausted.
“A deputy may only vote on the following matters: Clarification of law, application of law, a tie in vote on any issue that has lasted over one full year. (Amendation: Other categories have been extrapolated and added; see Broad Issue of the Lussa Council Section 14.)
“Signed, Yesthro-Rhye of the Sollussa, Canto of the Sollussa”
“Chloe, can we…what?” Alexandre was stopped by Elllis waving his hand.
“There’s an afterword, I suspect she will read it.”
“Afterword of Yesthro:“It came to me in a dream,” is an unacceptable citation for any legal or philosophical document, and though it was not a dream, the inspiration for this law did come through a sort of meditation or projection; a thought experiment. My conclusion was not, ‘what if,’ but, ‘when’ will this be needed? The dream, of course, had a more specific nature to it. A black landscape was lain before me by an almighty force, and from it jut a bright white outline far in the distance. It said, ‘this is where the city will be, and here shall your ancestors stand, and here shall the law fulfil its purpose.’ And finally, the dark world faded and I heard that familiar phrase, ‘And never forget, do not oppress the lost exiles who live within the gate, for they are mine.’ And soon after I awoke and took my awl and tablet and recorded.”
“…why…” Chloe’s arms dropped to her side, though she held the document tightly. “What is this afterword? Rhye? And…” She pulled an arm up and looked again. “Why does he say that it was a familiar phrase? Had he heard it before?”
“Hcthh octhono forgettus, nei osthotens entta Galuth eukta wassnier gate, ottonim eir minha,” Elllis said in Sollussa. “Yes, this is found in the afterwords of many laws, especially those written by nobility. A few centuries ago, a king had such a vivid vision that he felt impelled to inscribe it into law.”
“Oh…and, Yesthro? Was he nobility, that he had such a vision?”
“No, but he was a scribe. You see how he speaks of recording at the end? In those days, words were considered mystical, and the written word concretized magic. A scribe, thus, had a certain spiritually elevated role in society.”
“Why do you know so much about a simple lawmaker, a scribe?” Alexandre said.
“Oh, we learn a little about those who write the major laws, similar to how one learns the context of a philosopher or poet one studies in academia. It seems the personal element increases some people’s memory of the relevant documents, so the method became universal to all law colleges.”
“But Rhye is my name,” Chloe said, still hung up on it.
“Oh, so it is!” Elllis, familiar with the document, had failed to make the connection. “Fancy that, this was written before the split, so your family was still among us.”
“Oh…” Chloe looked worried, but inside her head was burning hot retracing thoughts and memories, and forming new connections. It was only now dawning on her how literal, how physical and grounded this business of being family with the Lussa nobility was. “It really is real,” She said.