Chapter 48: Ryann, Prince of the Lussa INew? Click here to go to chapter one!
Chloe’s hand and arm healed with little issue, but the process took from her rest. Because she was already difficult to wake, her body’s need to heal meant that this morning Annissette gave up completely and let her sleep a little longer. It was an hour later that Lilllich roused her.
“We still haven’t found Ammelia.”
“Huh?” Chloe sat up and looked around. “Ammelia? Again? And, is Alexandre okay?”
“She hasn’t wakened.”
A few minutes later, Chloe was dressed, though her hair was oily from the fight, and strew down from her head in great messy heaps, She looked in Alexandre’s room and, tried to wake her up, but soon gave up remembering how much she had exerted last night. She moved to check the woman’s bandages, lifting the covers and seeing—
“Oh, what’s this? Another one?”
“Wahm…” Ammelia opened her eyes and saw Chloe’s face, which looked to her kind and shining. She curled deeper into Alexandre and fell asleep again.
She examined both of them, briefly, confirmed that Alexandre’s bandages were alright for now, and then left. She was reminded of her youth, long ago, when she would sleep with her sisters.
In the dining room, Siren and Col were talking, and Shalla was drinking tea. Ashter sat on the other side and stood for Chloe when she entered.
“I am leaving after we meet the Lussa prince,” He said.
“Ah, yes? Why is that? And where to?”
“Oh, you are returning?”
“To report that we successfully arrived, then I will return. Were you not told of my role?”
“Oh? Oh yes…” Chloe’s eyes glazed over as pages fluttered through her mind. “Courier…Yes, that is part of your mission…I forgot.”
“And hmm…meeting the prince, that is today…where is everyone?”
Ashter said that we wasn’t certain, but that Lilllich apparently felt duty-bound to make sure they were awake and well-fed before they were picked up by the prince’s messenger.
Ammelia awoke and found that she couldn’t sit up for some reason. She soon came to realize that she was stuck inside someone else’s arms.
“Anselm…” Alexandre’s face was red, but her eyes remained closed.
“No! No! Ammelia!” The younger woman raised her voice.
“No? What do you mean no…you’re lying.” Alex opened her eyes. “You’re…oh.” She let go and turned onto her back, looking at the ceiling and blinking herself away. “Sorry. A little awkward.”
“Yeah.” Ammelia said.
“I don’t think I’ve slept with anyone else since I was very young and lived with my mother. I used to hold on to her…”
“That makes sense, but…you said Anselm? Isn’t he the blonde guy who came with you?”
“I said Anselm…? Oh…strange.”
“Do you like him? You know, I have someone I like too, it’s normal,” Ammelia said. “Ah, I hope I can see him again. That’s how you feel too, isn’t it? Isn’t it?”
“I don’t know, maybe. I guess a part of me does if I—enough of this.” Alexandre sat up, getting out of bed.
“Embarrassed? You know, you can talk to me about it later if you want to…” Ammelia expected Alexandre to decline, since she seemed so private.
“I might, later. I’m not sure right now.”
A few hours passed and everyone either readied themselves, or was readied by Lilllich. They all sat in the waiting room; the drawing room, all except for Col, who stood by the door waiting. Eventually, the expected knock came, and he opened the door.
Instead of Elllis, whom Col was expecting, Col was confronted by a rather talk young woman with brown hair cut right above the shoulder.
Col stared, bewildered. This woman, clearly only just so, wore black clothes that went to her wrists and ankles, with well-made but weather-dulled armour over top her chest and legs. Another woman approached from outside. It seemed this brown-haired girl had such a level of enthusiasm that she had run ahead to get to the door first. The other woman was more stout, with long black hair and darker skin. Col recognized her—this was the prince’s personal guard.
“…Uh,” Col said, looking at the younger, who seemed perhaps too close, “hi.”
“We’re here for Chloe Rhye and her people,” she said, cheery. She was nudged by the royal guard behind her, and so she added, “Ah, I mean…her royal highness prince Chloe Rhye.”
Still a little taken aback, Col nodded and stared at the woman for some time. Then, someone else inside his body said, “How old are you?”
Col, who was fourteen, contemplated this revelation, and then realized his mistake. “I…what…I meant to say, who are you.”
“Well, that’s Jacelynn, and I am the glorious Fenna! We are royal guards, and today we are an official royal escort. Of modest proportions, of course.” She laughed a little, mostly through breath. She had apparently been told more than a few times not to laugh or at least, Col supposed, not while on active duty.
“…Oh. Well, I’ll get you the princess—I mean the Prince!”
“Please do, Mr…”
“Nice to meet you, Col!” She held out her hand.
Col took it, and suddenly felt a strange appropriate and also inappropriate heat come over him. He said, “Yes, nice to meet you Fenna!” And then he ran away.
It was a large group who strode down the street, escorted by Fenna, tailed by Jacelynn. Present wer Chloe, with Alexandre on one side and Lilllich on the other. Ammelia, for some reason, had come along and was behind with Kent, Senica, and Anselm. Ashter walked at the back near Jacelynn, apparently taking a similar strategic role in the formation.
They took a sort of scenic route. They detoured into the main street, Fenna said, in order to draw some attention to their somewhat small procession of ten. Only Ashter noticed the posters and heard the exact words of the town criers in the adjacent streets. Some sort of event was also happening today, he gathered, but he didn’t have time to figure out what exactly.
They soon made it to the palace and were brought in again to the prince’s chamber of meeting. Inside, where Jacelynn had stood last time, was a large, naturally tanned male guard. Everyone gathered in the large copper-gold room. Ammelia periodically stepped back and then forward again, enjoying the sinking sensation that the thick, ornate black and gold rug gave her and everyone else. After a few words of welcome from prince Ryann, Lilllich began introductions.
“Her serenity, Chloe Rhye, fifth Prince of the Solune,” Lilllich said, her voice reverberating across the space. It seemed she had practiced her vocals for announcements.
Chloe stepped ahead and leaned forward slightly.
“The Prince’s…” Lilllich had never introduced someone to the king who lacked a title. The extent of her experience as royal guard was with titled people; lords, foreign nobles, and aristocracy. She improvised gracefully. “dutiful guardswoman, Alexandre Dirge of the Solune Kingdom.”
Lilllich had spoken of this ceremony with Chloe before they had left, as Col was busy getting enamoured at the door. After the leader and her primary entourage were introduced, it was customary in this region of the world for the group’s leader to complete the remaining introductions. She had guessed that it might be because the leader would best know the names and roles of his or her party.
Faltering a little, Chloe stepped forward again and took Lilllich’s place.
“My brother, the esteemed Kent Rhye, third Prince of the Solune. Espoused to him is Senica Rhye, the young Prince of the Solune.” Chloe said, motioning carefully.
The Lussa prince, she saw, shifted slightly upon hearing this. His face openly asked, there are three Solune royals in her diplomatic group? And perhaps in addition, one of the Princesses is a Djeb?
Despite seeing this, Chloe continued. “Ashter Reginal, an agent of the King.”
“Moving to the civilian core of the group. Anslem Siren, the artist, though he has yet to grace us with his talent. The bard, surely an asset to any group, this we both know.”
“Of course. And the maiden? Another Riley perhaps?” He had picked up on what seemed to be their key traits, short stature and dark hair. “And yet…she might also be one of my City.”
Chloe saw Ammelia’s reticence stepped in quickly to push her information out into the conversation. “Ammelia AnLussa.” Chloe said. “She will tell key statements, which we will elaborate on at another time. It is about those who might side against you in the coming weeks”
“Speak at once!” The sudden commanding voice which reverberated from the usually lighthearted prince surprised the room. Even his female guard jumped a little and, Chloe saw, even blushed slightly, and then moved to his left. She flanked the prince on the other side of the pale male guard like a spear-bearing guard. Ryann stopped her as she attempted to touch him once again on the back to calm him, or whatever that movement accomplished. He breathed in, as if readying some words to soften his statement, but whatever those words might have been no one knew. He remained silent and let his command hold the room tense.
Ammelia was dizzy and nervous. Of all people Senica took her shoulder, smiling.
“You’ll be alright little miss,” Senica whimpered.
Ammelia nodded. She steeled herself and spoke. Because she hadn’t, and wouldn’t, stepped forward, she had to speak loudly through Senica and the rest who were in front of her. This she did well, her vocal projection evidentially well practiced.
“AnLussa is compromised. Perhaps a minority, though even that is unclear. They act in secrecy, and even meet in a shrouded room with identities concealed. Rezan is either taking this as an opportunity to appropriate AnLussa land, or is simply working with this roguish AnLussa conspiracy.”
Chloe watched the prince. He listened intently, but his attention was broken by a subtle whisper from his companion.
“And what evidence do you have?” prince Ryann asked.
“My father’s house was appropriated by Rezan men yesterday. It was through violence that I was driven out when I returned, wounded, from my travels.” She related the loss of her house, stolen by either Rezan, likely with the consent of fellow AnLussa. The prince examined her severely as she spoke, reading her for truth. To Chloe’s fascination, Ammelia endured the scrutiny well, though not with ease.
“Where in the AnLussa territory is your father’s house?”
“Near the palace. It was one sold by those who did not appreciate the proximity to the new middle-class district in the south.”
“Not the northern median near the market?”
“Then this must not have been a recent retreat of the aristocracy. That would be…perhaps two and twenty years ago. Who among them had a daughter your age after buying the land…hmm.” He seemed to rifle through information in his head. “You are the son of Bastios.”
“Huh?” Ammelia’s youth suddenly showed. “Son?”
The prince squinted. “My apologies, son in the gender-neutral sense. Clearly a daughter. How is your mother?”
“The desert woman. She went north a few years ago, yes? How did her travels fare her?”
“North? Is she not deceased?”
“Who told you that?” The prince asked.
“I-I don’t know.” She had only assumed, though with time that assumption turned to fact in her memory.
The prince, seeing her reaction, stepped back to his pedestal, his guards moving with him, though not following him up the step.
“Rezan,” he mused. Chloe noticed that the pale guard seemed to become even paler.
“We are not surprised,” Jacelynn, the female guard, said.
“Of course not,” Ryann recovered.
We? To put herself as an equal with the prince, how audacious. And that he does not even react; how suspicious! Chloe, having completed her task, now returned to the head of her group’s lineup.
“We will speak of this matter soon. AnLussa, you must meet with me tomorrow at noon so that I might speak to you on the present troubles and enemies of the City. Bring whoever you will. In addition, Prince Rhye—Chloe—you certainly must accompany her. This information is important for the both of us; for our entire endeavour.”
“Treason creeps beneath our feet,” the woman guard added.
Again, and this time accenting his speech. Quite a suspect position she places herself in. Chloe almost laughed at this obvious subsurface ardour, but remained steady. “As you say, prince.”
Ammelia had taken four steps back and her thoughts had sunken deep within her head. Could her mother truly be alive? Was she the heiress, or was it still given to the offspring? How did she even come to think that her mother had passed away? And how did the prince know her father, Bastios?
Her musing was interrupted by the prince. “Is that all you need to tell of until next time?”
This time, she stepped forward and addressed him properly. “The Rhye caravan was attacked on the way here,” Ammelia said. “It was AnLussa. I know because before the attack, I was sent as an assassin.”
“It was a fools errand. They wanted something from me, and figured it would be easier to take if I were dead, or simply out of the Kingdom.”
“And they successfully took it.”
The pale guardsman turned, and Ryann gave him permission to speak. He said, “Bastios’s home was rather near the palace wasn’t it? Does that mean that these mutinous nobles now have more advantageous proximity to the royal family?”
Ammelia nodded once. “You should also know, among your conspirators is the eldest living member of the royal family.”
Ryann stiffened. “You are surely mistaken.”
“Is she truly so common to look upon that what you say is possible? No, very few women even among the aristocracy live with the level of ease needed to grow their hair down to their ankles. I doubt I am mistaken.”
“Quite audacious. But, she is in the palace now. I will speak to her of this.”
Ammelia, apparently at the edge of her stamina, faltered. “Uh…”
“Is that wise prince? Are you so close to the princess that she would tell you the truth if what this young woman said is true?”
Ryann looked down.
“Well, I will resolve it somehow. For now, it appears none of you are dressed for the ceremony. Jacelynn, do they have time to return and change?”
“I doubt it.”
“And why did you not see to it that they were dressed?”
Jacelynn frowned. “I will see to it. Come with me to the pageantry chambers…”