The Solune Prince: Posters Part2; or Alice’s Wondrous Cooking

The Solune Prince

Novella 1

Chapter 7: Posters Part2; or Alice’s Wondrous Cooking

Not since her final year in study had Chloe done so much in a single day. Talking with Finch, meeting the Djeb woman, Senica, encountering Alexandre, making posters, and then the assassination. Assassination attempt. She was so drained that she barely made it home. She reached the city gates, exited, and then re-entered the castle.

“Chloe!” It was her mother.

“I cannot…”

Gwenhime could tell by face that, even though she had good news, it would be best received in the morning.

 

Chloe fell face down on the bed. She craned her neck to face the window above her, and then her eyes pacified.

Alexandre… Alexandre and who? I wonder if that Djeb woman would come. What does she study? I should not have brushed her off. She is from the south, she said. How strange. What is in the south? I wonder if anyone will look at the posters. I should… add a time and place to them… so people know, so I know when to meet.

Vision returned and she took a few notes, and then slept.

 

In the morning Chloe, forgetting that her mother had a message for her, left the castle early and headed to Alice and Finch’s house. Finch was still asleep when she arrived.

Alice was cooking with fire. Chloe had witnessed this before; the younger woman would take the cover off of her stove, light the wood within it, and cook over the open hole.

“We mostly have eggs, because they’re cheap. And moose too!” Alice said.

She had already cracked seven of them into her little pan, so Chloe wasn’t sure why it was being brought up, especially in a manner that implied she had any other options.

“Can you hold?”

Chloe took the pan. “You know that I burn things, so, ah, whatever you’re doing, do it fast.”

Alice laughed, stated that eggs could not be burned, and then returned from the indoor cellar with vegetables and a block of white cheese. She cut them into small bits and, even though the pan was well past maximum capacity, added it all in.

She took over again and said, “Crush me some salt and pepper, yes?”

Chloe found their salt stones and peppercorn, and threw them into the mortar and pestle on the kitchen counter and mashed.

“Ah, I want to add a location and time to all the posters we made.”

“Yes! When do you leave then?”

“The third. So, the day after tomorrow. That’s a guess, but it rides on the assumption that Lilllith would like to rest at least one night before leaving again.

Alice nodded, and then yelled as a piece of something went into the fire.

“You should have used a bigger pan.”

“This is the bigger pan!”

 

Finch woke up around the time that food was ready.

“Usually I cook, you know.” He made sure to inform them.

“I know, and you cook like a normal person too, with the stove elements in the stove, and coals for heat.”

They finished—it was very well made—and updated the posters. Chloe decided that the date they used would be the day of Lilllith’s arrival, at noon.

They hit the university right as it opened, and had enough materials for each building. The cafeteria was their last stop, as it generally was not in use until lunch time. It was not empty when they got there. Senica was present, as well as a dark-haired person sleeping in the far corner. They put up a poster, and then a second after a few excited urgings from Alice, since it seemed they had extras. When Alice and Chloe finished putting up both ads, they turned back and saw Finch talking with the Djeb woman.

“Yeah,” he said, “my morning class doesn’t start for another hour or so. I definitely have time. Why don’t we sit?”

“Sure,” Senica replied.

“Me too!” Alice jumped in.

Chloe sat with them for a while. Senica, it seemed, was an anthropologist, which explained why she had lived in the south: for study.

“So, I am conducting a few surveys. I have talked to the university, and I’ve set up this booth here.” She handed them clipboards. “Do you all have pens?”

“No!” Alice said with glee.

“Okay, you can use mine.” Senica turned to Chloe, “Hello again, what was your name?”

“The name is Chloe.” She paused, then added, “Chloe Rhye.”

“Wonderful, would you add your data?”

“No thank you.”

During the short survey, Finch managed to fish out some information from Senica; she was born and educated in the Djeb, that anthropology seemed far more developed there than in the Solune kingdom—he even got her to admit that she was engaged.

“No ring?” Finch flashed his own.

“Oh, that is not customary in the Djeb, so no. Maybe after the marriage.”

“Ah.”

Chloe asked, “How long are you staying in the kingdom?”

“Not very long. Conducting studies doesn’t actually pay very well, so I just go wherever he does. For now, we are here.”

“What does he do, to have enough to support both of you?”

“Ah!” Alice jumped up, “Work!”

“Well—” Senica stopped to watch Alice. The Plainkind woman tripped out of the room, waking up the sleeping individual on her way out.

Chloe looked to see, and they locked eyes. She recognized her from last night—the dark haired girl in the corner was the failed assassin! She gave Chloe a cheery smile, watched Alice leave, and then went back to sleep. The girl, Ammelia was her name, seemed to fit in with the university very well, looking like a typical sleep-deprived student, asleep in the cafeteria.

“When does she work?” Senica asked.

“Still has an hour probably,” Finch replied, “she just likes to be early. She’s likely to be Captain soon you know, what with Natasha Rhye ascending to Captain Commander.”

“Really? Well, thanks for participating. We’ll compile this for the university before we go. You should grab a copy of the journal!”

“Did you talk to her?” Chloe motioned to the person in the corner.

“No. She’s actually not a student here. She looks quite sickly too.”

“Yes.”

“And did you see her leg? I saw when I got here. It’s bandaged and pink.”

“Pink?”

“Blood pink.” Senica had the uncanny look of maternity, “Although I don’t think it’s still bleeding, it must have been pretty bad when it was, to go through all that expensive cloth.”

“And you said she was here when you arrived?”

“Yes—and I got here quite early! Likely she came some time last night. This building is always open, you know? For the students.”

I believe I have an idea of when she arrived…

“Well, if your husband is interested,” She gave Senica one of the extra posters, “Feel free to join the Lussa expedition. In fact, if you do, I will answer your list of questions.”

Senica read it over. “You’re working for royalty?”

“I am the royalty.”

Senica’s eyes widened.

They spoke for a while longer, and then Finch left for class. Senica folded the poster and followed him out to meet her fiancé. Chloe was left behind, but not alone. She stood and moved to sit across from her Lussa visitor. She intended to wait, but eventually she lost focus and her mind wavered.

Senica the anthropologist, Alexandre the Kemist, and who… me the historian? That might make a decent team, but if feels like we are missing a leg from this table. I wonder…

She wondered herself to sleep.

Daniel Triumph.

Table of Contents

Link to Alice and Finch; my first novel.

 

The Solune Prince: The Assassin’s Secret; or The Lussa Part1

The Solune Prince

Novella 1

Chapter 6: The Assassin’s Secret; or The Lussa Part1

Before she left Alice and Finch’s home, Chloe said, “When do you think I should—”

“We!’ Said Alice.

“When should we put them up? Tonight?”

“Probably in the morning,” Finch said.

“Before work!” Alice shouted.

“So, come by the same time you did today.”

Chloe nodded, and exited, leaving the advertisements with them.

 

The clouds above, as well as what Chloe believed was a lack of moon beyond them made for an exceptionally dark night. Chloe had mapped out the city in her mind long ago, so she had nothing to worry about. At least, I hope so. As she walked, Chloe hummed the old Solune Royal Lullaby.

 

     “—is what they say,

Shed no tears is what they say,

But my little baby, shedding tears you may

      Shedding tears you may.

Your father’s died the people say,

Not coming back, so cry you may

Your fathers died—”

 

As she crossed between residential districts, rather unceremoniously, Chloe was grabbed from behind. Unable to see, she struggled and shouted.

“Guard!”

But she knew that there were none around. She had memorized the patrols as well as the streets; no one would be here for more than half an hour.

Chloe steadied herself. She felt metal on her neck. What do I do? And this to a prince! Why—

“Are you the royal going to help the Lussa?”

What is this about?

Where did she come from?

Why me?

You ARE going to help the Lussa.

That makes her a stated enemy to, ah, to my current tasks, right?

Fight back.

Ah…

Chloe pushed her toes into the ground, steadying herself, and then pulled her hands in, grabbing the attacker’s arm and digging her thumbs into the wrist. She heard metal hit the cobble and quickly took her assaulter’s arms, pulled them forward and craned her own head straight and back. She heard the other person’s face smack the back of her head; and pain ran through her own. Ah, I hate that feeling.

She turned around and, underwhelmingly, saw only a shadow of a person standing in the dark. It took a few steps back, rubbing its head.

It spoke, “If you leave the city, if you go north with Lilllith, we will kill you.”

Chloe searched her waist. Unarmed as usual…

“Is that clear! Don’t help the Lussa, we don’t want it! We don’t want you in the City.”

It was clear to Chloe that this person was a woman, and she seems to be young.

Chloe stepped forward. Her foot hit something. The dagger.

“If Lillith makes here, then I will be returning with her.” She said.

The shadow shifted, doing something with its arms.

With a single blunt word, it said, “No!” and dashed forward, cutting across with some sort of weapon. Chloe dropped to a kneel and pawed the ground for the knife. She kept her eyes up. She felt a slight wind pass above her head. She felt a sharp edge with her and took up the dagger with an overhand grip. She saw the woman’s weapon glint as she recovered, a dull, thin sword.

“Damn it! Why is it so dark here?”

Chloe closed her eyes and opened her ears.

“Where are you! I… I can see you!” The assassin stammered, trying to seem in control, “I don’t have to kill you, you know, just give you an injury severe enough that you don’t take the trip. You know, send a message that—augh.”

Chloe let go of the knife. It lodged firmly in what she assumed was the woman’s thigh.

“Now, ah, now you have my message—you would do better to fight me in the bright of day.”

The woman grunted through her teeth. Chloe took her by the shoulders, and kicked her legs out from under her. She fell, and Chloe followed her, dropping and pinning her to the stone path underneath her knee.

“So, who are you? What brings, ah, what brings you to my kingdom?”

Instead of answering, the woman, whose arms were still free, swung at Chloe. It was a slow and clumsy attack.

Make sure she does not cross us again.

Chloe let the blow hit her in the abdomen. The attacker, now detained, took this a sign of victory, and swung with her other hand, cutting across with the sword. Chloe pulled the dagger out of the woman’s leg, blocked the attack with it, and then pushed it back into the wound.

“Ah,” her voice writhed, “what did you—!”

“You have to keep it in to slow the bleeding.”

She stood up and held the woman’s chest underfoot, then stomped on the weapon with the other leg. To her surprise, the sword shattered into three pieces.

“What, ah, what kind of weapon is this?”

Chloe waited for a response, but got nothing. She said, “The guard will be here any second now. We will learn what we need from you—even if you do not speak. Your clothes, your skin, your blood, Natasha can read it all and learn what we want to know.”

“No!”

The intonation was filled with terror, so much that Chloe began to question which of them was the assaulter. “What do you mean no? Why not?”

“I can’t—you surviving is one problem, but then to be captured—no, they will abandon me! And then—”

“Then?”

Chloe knew the words weren’t meant for her, but she figured she could pull something useful out of the hysteria. Instead, there was a long silence. Chloe couldn’t tell the time that passed.

“L—just let me go.”

Chloe looked down with condescension. For a moment, the clouds parted to reveal that there was in fact a moon in the night. They saw each other clearly in the silver light.

The attacker, assassin, the woman; she was very young, a girl almost. She couldn’t have been any older than nineteen. Her hair was long and black as ash. Her skin, in contrast, was a slickly pale in colour, and her expression matched her tones, a face of desperation. There was something wrong with her eyes as well, but Chloe wasn’t sure if it was just the dark of night. Her look sought Chloe’s eyes for mercy. Never, in all her life, had Chloe been subject to such a request. Before she could make a silent reply, the clouds took over once more and they returned to the black.

“Tell me about yourself and, ah, I’ll let you go after.” Chloe addressed the darkness beneath her foot. “Why did you attack me?”

“Secret.”

“What?”

“That’s a secret!”

“Okay, what is your name then?”

“Secret!”

“Well then Secret, my is Chloe Rhye, Fifth Prince of the Solune.”

“The Solune Prince!”

“Why are you here? To kill me?”

“Secret!”

Chloe put her other foot back down, and the girl finally spoke.

“There are those who oppose the Lussa crown.”

“What is your name!”

“Secret!”

“Chloe pressed her right foot down into the girl’s chest. A threat.

“…Can you keep a secret?” She spoke in a tiny voice.

Chloe nodded, but then remembered how dark it was. “Yes.”

“I am Ammalia. Don’t tell anyone, especially not Ryann! I am Ammelia, a Lord of the Northern Quadrant.”

“I will say I was attacked by a Lussa.”

“Telling others that would… be in my best interest,” said Ammelia.

Chloe frowned in the dark. She began to doubt whether she really should tell someone.

“…Now let me go?”

Chloe looked at the Lussa girl’s face. Her vision was only now beginning to adjust. Whatever had been wrong with the girl’s eyes before was currently gone.

“One more.”

“—”

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen!”

She sounds like it. She even acts like it.

“Do not remove the knife until—” How long do I have? Probably at least ten minutes before the guards come, I think.

 

Five minutes later, Chloe finished dressing Ammelia’s wound. She had removed the sleeves from her silk overcoat and created a makeshift badge from them. It seemed to her that she hadn’t hit anything important or cut particularly deep, so it wasn’t too difficult a procedure.

The last thing Ammelia said before leaving was, “Thanks” and “I’ll see you the next time we attack you.”

Chloe sighed, hoping that whoever Ammelia was referring to was as incompetent as she was. Though I doubt it.

The girl disappeared into the night, and shortly afterward, two guards showed up with torches. Chloe told them what happened, keeping the secret, but pointing to the shattered sword on the ground as evidence. A report was made, and then Chloe was offered an escort home, which she accepted.

Daniel Triumph.

Table of Contents

Link to Alice and Finch; my first novel.

 

The Solune Prince: Alice and Finch; or Posters Part1

The Solune Prince

Novella 1

Chapter 5: Alice and Finch; or Posters Part1

Why did I let her go?

Because I did not have an answer for her.

What do I do now?

Find a reason, and give it to her. Figure out what will entice her to join
Certainly she has not given the offer a fair chance.

Certainly!

When Chloe finally came back to reality, she was extremely disoriented. She opened her eyes and looked around, getting a feel for her situation. It was still afternoon. She was still in the market. The sounds returned to her, the bustle of trade. She had unconsciously moved to a bench. There was a child on the bench with her, and he was poking her face. She was so tall, however, that the child had to stand on the bench to reach.

Chloe didn’t like this, so she told him to stop. He sort of yelped and then ran away. As usual, she recounted that which was useful from her bout of deep thought.

Alexandre did not say “no!” she said, and rather arbitrarily, that she was not going to work for the castle. I said that it was an expedition, and all she had said was, “So?”

Chloe held onto the fragment of hope.

 

The sun was setting by the time she reached the western-central residential district. To her surprise, Chloe ran into Alice. Or, more appropriately, Alice almost ran into her, tripped in the act of avoidance, and gallantly turned to apologise.

“Sorry madam—oh hi!”

“Alice, what brings you here?”

“Going home, evening shift’s starting almost soon now.”

“Hmm, well, I am going to visit Finch again.”

“Why?”

“Alexandre Dirge was… difficult.”

“Oh, let’s go then!”

Then, unceremoniously, Alice grabbed Chloe by the hand, and she was forced into running. Chloe didn’t have much trouble up through, due to the difference in leg length. She is so much shorter than me, while Alexandre…

Very soon they did reach Alice and Finch’s home, and Chloe was able to have her discussion.

 

“She must have been in a bad mood”

“Is she always in a bad mood?” Chloe retorted.

“Ah, well, truly; she’s been conditioned to see the bad in the world. But do you think there was anything specific?”

“She was trying to buy a sword.”

Finch frowned. “I guess you interrupted the exchange with your offer.”

“And?”

“Well, maybe she took it as a bribe? You, as the Fifth Prince, could easily get the sword for her.”

“What!” Chloe stood up. “Why would she take that as a bribe! I was not even going to do that, and even if I was it would be fair payment for a job! An…”

“An advance!” Alice finished.

Finch’s eyes tightened. “Didn’t I just tell you that she sees the world—”

“Hang on!” Chloe shut her eyes. She didn’t hear them anymore.

Alexandre “Jutt” Dirge. What has Finch told me about her?
Negative perspective.
I mean in the past.
She’s half Solune. Very tall. Taking a Masters in Kemia.
She was a gang member for a while, right?
She started the Murdock-Baracus gang wars.

“Why did she start the Murdock-Baracus gang war?”

“What?”

Alice became starry-eyed. “To save her mother!”

Chloe frowned. “I would have her on my expedition.”

“Umm, okay…” Finch was lost, but this was not the fist time he’d missed a few steps in conversation with Chloe Rhye.

“Yes!” Alice jumped, shaking the house.

“But, if she is to be this volatile all the time, it will make problems with the rest of the team. Talent is nothing if one is anti-social and unable to apply it.”

“Well, she’s not anti-social, not technically.”

“She’s nice!”

“Not technically? Is that a fact?” Chloe eyed him calmly.

“I mean, no but…” There was a minutes long silence, “maybe…”

“She’s just having problems with teacher!” Alice cut in.

“Professors,” corrected Finch.

“And writing her Masters final paper essay!”

“Masters Thesis.”

“You just have to learn how she is and she’s fine.”

“What a strange family you have Finch,” Chloe said, “I do not know if I should take Alexandre after all though. Do you think there is, ah, that there’s something wrong with her?”

Alice kept a neutral expression, but Finch spoke, “I know there’s something wrong with her, but look at what she’s done anyway!”

Chloe sat back down. She closed her eyes to think, but nothing happened. She would have to move with intuition; Limbic Thinking.

“How do I get Alexandre on my expedition, and how do I control her once she is on it.”

“Get to know her!” Alice said.

Finch said, “Set it up as a challenge. Give her a threshold, something that could stop her from actually being able to go.”

Chloe took a breath. “I, ah, I really do no know…”

“Posters!” Alice shouted, excited.

“What?”

“Yes!” Finch said, “Advertise, you’re so smart Alice! You need a whole expedition team! Send out a general advertisement—”

“One with high standards, something that might compel Alexandre,” Chloe finished.

“That’s actually a good idea,” said Finch, “put up some notices around the academy, namely the cafeteria and the Philosophy of Kemia building.”

“Although, probably you want everywhere,” Alice added, “so she doesn’t think it’s targeting her. Oh! She’ll think that since she said no, that you gave up on her and are doing this for that reason instead, wow!”

Chloe laughed, then said, “We will, ah, we’ll make her come to us instead of the other way around. Ah, now, how do we actually do all this?”

“Well, since we don’t have a printing press, so I would say by hand,” said Finch.

Alice jumped again, knocking over her chair and shaking the house. “Wonderful! I’ll help!” She bared her teeth, and they left the little house to get craft supplies.

 

The walk was fairly short, and over it they discussed what criteria they would list as requirements.

“So, Kemia, Anthropology, History, or Biology, right?” Finch asked.

“Maybe open it up to the Liberal Arts kids too,” said Chloe.

“Hmm…”

By the time they had returned, they had a good idea what they were looking for in an expedition member. When Finch brought up that the standards might be to broad, Chloe decided to add even more qualifications. At the end, they made about fifteen posters that each read:

Help Wanted – Work for the Castle

Summer position working for the Royal Family regarding international relations and cultural research.

Paid position. Travel required.

Academic Qualifications, One of: Biology, Kemia, Anthro, Solune History, Liberal Arts.

Other Qualifications Needed: Preferably a completed undergraduate.

Also Required: Some combat/self defense experience.

This is to be a dangerous exploratory excursion to the Lussa Kingdom. There is currently a political conflict, potential for a civil war. We would remain if any conflict breaks out, and potentially provide aid through knowledge or forces.

Finch asked, “Why does it say, ‘work for the castle’?”

“To see how Alexandre takes it.”

“And fighting experience, and all that about maybe a war? You won’t get a lot of people with that; not at a university!” Alice said.

“I know that, but you said that she was in conflicts before, so she must have something. Also, it’s better that they don’t make the expedition guards’ job harder. I’m sure we will find some people.”

Alice clapped with glee.

Daniel Triumph.

Table of Contents

Link to Alice and Finch; my first novel.

 

The Solune Prince: Mental/Physical Resisance

The Solune Prince

 Novella 1

Chapter 4
Mental/Physical Resistance

“Why did I say anything? Nerves?”

 

Chloe exited the castle. The city had been built around the stone building’s backside, which meant that in order to get into the city, she had to exit from the front, walk half a kilocubit, and re-enter through the impenetrable main gate. In concept, it was an effective way to keep the citizens safe from bandits and raids, but in everyday life, it was nothing more than a detour.

To assemble a research team, the university would have been a good first stop. It was not where Chloe went. Her default response to meeting new people was simple—don’t. She was aware that such an approach was flawed and impossible given her task, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t procrastinate. Chloe, instead, headed for the home of someone she did know.

The door opened after a few tolls on the bell. A pale man with dark hair and bright eyes opened the door. He was more than an entire head shorter than Chloe, so eye contact was a chore for both of them.

“Good morning, Chloe.”

“Did you just wake?”

“Yes, but not because of you. I live with the earliest bird in the tree. As a result, I enjoy waking up an hour before even the sun on a daily basis. Even off days.”

“Right. Where is she?”

Finch, Chloe remembered, had married somewhere between three and seven years ago. (Her memory for such things was limited.)

He said, “Well, while it is a weekend, she should be leaving…” he looked to the sun, “A little while ago. Alice!”

Finch called out behind him, and an athletic-bodied, bare-chested woman skipped to the door, her upper half jamming itself into a top that seemed too small.

When she had dressed, she said, “Hi Chloe, I have to go! Visit me some time?” And then sprinted away.

They watched for a few moments as she ran towards the heart of the city. Alice was undoubtedly one of the friendliest, most competent, and certainly the physically strongest of the Solune city guards. The strength came from her heritage; Alice was of the Plainkind, a people who were particularly biologically deviant. Mhm… larger teeth, wider torsos, and musculature that is simply and unfairly more naturally powerful. What an unfair race to be put in our midst.

Chloe had come to know a certain Plainkind very well almost a year ago during the Legendary War; the war which had opened the walls to outsiders for the first time.

Chloe caught herself daydreaming. She turned back to Finch and said, “Ah, can we sit maybe?”

“Sure, I happen to own a kitchen table.”

They sat and caught up, as they had not spoken for so extended a period in nearly a year. Finch explained that he had recently left the guard to study kemia and physics. Chloe told him about her trip, and the Lussa, and then finally her current mission.

“Oh nice. Isn’t that the whole thing you’ve been complaining about this past month?”

“Yes. I’m wondering if you know of anyone I could bring, anyone academic.”

“You could check out the university.”

“Yes, but who for?”

Finch considered. He really didn’t know anyone. “Oh, well, you could always try my cousin Alexandre.”

“Yeah? What field?”

“Kemia, but more recently the hormonal differences between the kingdom’s various ethnicities. We are all quite unique, it seems. Especially the N’Tarial, and Riley like myself.”

“Oh. Is he married? Okay with leaving town for a few months?”

“She should be fine.”

“Hmm.”

They ended up having tea, and then eventually lunch before Chloe finally stood to leave. Before she went out the door, Finch added, “She’s just out of prison a couple years ago though, so she can be a little rough around the edges.”

“Ah…” Chloe lost what little momentum she had at this. I guess it would be right to assume that she is going to be something of a hassle.

 

As usual, the university’s flora was entirely overgrown. The grass was knee-high, and vines draped over trees and buildings. There had been a set of large stone letters that read ‘THE SOLUNE ACADEMY’ but the rock was new entirely covered in lichen and leafed plants. At least it is still readable. I can understand everything else, but why not clean off the lettering?

The paths that lead from building to building were where the health and safety concerns really began. The cobble had a thick layer of moss, and it would detach and slide if you stepped on it incorrectly. The liberal and academic solution was simply to put up a sign, ‘slipping hazard.’ Luckily for the faculty and the students, there was someone more conservative and practical who had added ‘shovel walkways’ to the list of janitorial tasks.

The only thing that kept the path up to municipal code was the footpath of stone that ran through the moss, wide enough only for one person, and cleared weekly.

Chloe sighed. I love it here.

She headed first to the administration building. Then, because it was locked and unlit, she went to the biokem building to see if anyone was there. Also locked. The lounge building maybe?

There was only two people in the lounge. What is going on? Chloe surveyed the building. Lunch tables, some longer seats, a café area, and a woman who looked like she was from the Djeb. Chloe looked around and saw a calendar.

Oh no, it’s Secast, ah, it is the weekend. Of course everything is closed!

“Hey!”

Chloe spun around so fast that she lost her balance and fell forward. She was caught by the Djeb woman.

“Oh, ah, thank you.”

“Sure! Are you a student her?”

Chloe looked at her. The Djeb had sand coloured hair and down-turned eyes. Her skin seemed a touch darker and thicker than even an a moderately outdoorsy Solune. She was, all in all, not that much different than other Djeb people Chloe had seen—not even that much different than the Solune when, she thought about it. The woman also had the universal Djeb neutral expression, one of both constant joy and concern.

“I am Alumni.”

“Oh! Even better! Would you like to do an interview with me?

Chloe squinted at her. “Not right now. I am, ah, I’m looking for Alexandre Dirge, but I do not think she is here today.”

“Oh, probably not.”

“Yes… You would not happen to know where she is, or how I might contact her?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Ah, is there anyone I might leave a message with?”

“I’m not sure.”

Chloe wasn’t quite sure if the woman was being evasive on purpose. She said, “You, you’re a little frustrating to engage.”

“Why’s that?” The Djeb smiled.

Chloe frowned, “Do you need something from me?”

“Yes—but wait, aren’t you busy?”

“Ah,” she paused, lining up her contractions before speaking, “not if Alex isn’t here. If she is not, I won’t be busy until next day.”

“Wonderful! My name is Senica, I’m an anthropologist from the south.”

“You mean the west, where the Djeb is?”

“Nope,” Senica grinned, “the south.”

That does not make sense, there’s only a mountain to the south. Chloe decided, despite the contradiction, not to get into it. Senica was already irritating her enough on her own, she would rather not keep her talking.

“I came here to do some research and ask people some questions.”

“I, ah, Senica, I am not in a good mood.”

“Oh, well… okay.” She looked a little dejected, but recovered quickly; a good skill for someone conducting surveys to have.

They parted ways. Chloe went homeward.

 

On the way back, passing through the market, she saw someone with short black hair and pale skin. Finch? No, far too tall… and feminine. Who…

The woman was arguing with a stall keeper. Chloe got close enough to hear.

“Look, I’ve even used these before. I’ve worked with the guard too.”

Chloe saw that she was at a smith, a swords booth.

“It doesn’t matter, you need a permit.” Then he added under his breath, “This is why I hate coming to market.”

Chloe, feeling bored, failed and frustrated, decided to step in and see if could help one of them; she just wasn’t sure which one. I just need… an outlet, a distraction. Maybe I can solve this, or at least try.

“What is, ah, what’s happening here?” She slipped up in her first sentence, and the Riley noticed. She also noticed Chloe’s nervous tone of voice.

“This Riley wants to get a hard edge sword, but lacks the permit. She’s not allowed to purchase a weapon, no one can without a permit!”

Chloe thought for a moment, and then said, “No one?”

His eyes widened with recognition, but he quickly returned to his unhappy expression. “Well, there are exceptions.”

“Not exceptions. They are clear and in the law. There are no exceptions in Solune governing. And,” she turned to the Riley. Her speech was beginning to speed up; she was reaching her limit. “What of you? Who are you?”

The Riley spat on the dirt. “I am Jutt. Soon, you would call me Dr. Dirge.”

“Are you Alexandre Dirge?”

Chloe’s system released a hit of adrenaline, and her senses sped up. She took a good look at Alexandre. She really did look like a feminine Finch, but her hair was a little longer, and oddly kept. It was as if she patted it down in the morning, but as the day went on, the split ends tangled together, making it all look rugged and pointy. Her face was more pale than was usual for a Riley, and her expression seemed to be stuck in one of scorn. The biggest difference, however, was that she could look Alexandre squarely in the face. She was almost as tall as Chloe, which was quite strange for a Riley. It was also quite an advantage, as Alexandre used her height to throw aggression laden looks at her as they spoke.

“Don’t worry about it, Prince.” Alexandre turned to leave.

Wait! No, I need to say something more forceful than wait. “No.”

Alexandre glanced back apathetically and stepped away. Chloe, who was both taller and broader, grabbed the Riley’s wrist.

“I have been looking for you. You are a student of Kemia, right?”

Alexandre tried unsuccessfully to wrench away.

Chloe sort of lost herself in thought. I am stronger than someone who wishes to wield a sword. I wonder why? Perhaps that is why she wants one, because she’s weak? Wait… Chloe remembered what Finch had told her. Why was she imprisoned?

“I’m not working for the castle.”

She wrenched again.

“No, not the castle, I am going on an expedition to study the Lussa, I, ah, I’m assembling a research team.”

“So?”

Chloe let go. Alexandre skulked away, rubbing her wrist only when she thought she was out of sight. Chloe still saw. She turned back to the blacksmith and said goodbye, and scanned the market.

“Hmm.”

She stood in the middle of the bustling market, and entered a state of deep thought.

Daniel Triumph.

Table of Contents

Next week will be an unrelated story.

The Solune Prince: Decision, InConcision

The Solune Prince

Novella 1

Chapter 3: Decision, InConcision

Morning came, but far too slowly. Chloe woke up mired, she felt as if she had slept a fraction of the hours that she’d spent in bed. When she woke up, time seemed to be moving faster than normal. She was used to mornings like this, days with less-than-ideal sleep always seemed to mess with her perception. Nothing had come from her tainted rest, in fact, she couldn’t even remember what she had dreamed. So much for deliberation.

With a sigh and an empty mind, Chloe went down the three flights to the basement. The trip did nothing to rouse her mind. She ordered food from what was effectively a ‘castle residents only’ canteen or diner.

It was a full breakfast, meats and eggs and a potato, fried in a slew of animal fats. It is good that we finally have cooks. For all of her adolescence, Chloe had simply burned whatever she wanted to eat, and then eaten it. A morning-lunch chef is far better.

When she had finished, Chloe decided to take a bath rather than meet with her parents, but the idea of drawing water for herself changed her mind. Perhaps a trip to the library? But all that walking… and more stairs too. It was extremely difficult to procrastinate when each of her alternatives required more effort than what she was avoiding.

Resigned, Chloe walked back up to the base floor and entered the throne room. It was located directly across from the foyer, the grand double-doored entrance to the castle. Usually, the entrance room was empty around this time, but since the walls had opened there had always been a few people lined up to see the King—even though he would not be in the throne room for some time. They were of all backgrounds; light, dark, darker; from the north, east, and west; all looking for a better life.

Chloe skipped the line and entered the stone-walled throne room. Having no windows, the room was dark, so she dropped the iron chandelier and lit it. She raised the metal lights using the rope and pulley system, and then finally felt the presence in the room. Someone else was there. Chloe looked around, and then the door opened behind her. An extremely tall woman entered wearing guard uniform. Her hair was neck length, the patches on her left shoulder kept unobstructed, identifying as Guards’ Captain. It was Chloe’s oldest sister, Natasha Glass Rhye.

“Astore, you have returned,” she said.

“Yes,” a voice came from the edge of Chloe’s vision, the edge of the light.

Chloe turned and finally saw him on the leftside wall. “You were in her? Why did not you say anything!”

Astore shrugged, “Why didn’t you?”

“The King is coming presently,” said Natasha.

She strode to the secondary throne and stood. Chloe and Astore waited near the door. They stood silently and waited. Natasha, the reluctantly early riser, was used to this. For Chloe it was very awkward; especially with everyone else there.

“Ah!” Chloe said. Astore! I should have made up my mind by now! Oh no, I wish that I had come up with something when I… and the dreaming… nothing helped. Astore turned to her, and she pretended that she had been yawning. Natasha, as a result, caught the fake yawn. She fidgeted, not knowing what to do. Her mind wasn’t yet active, and wouldn’t be until noon at least. I need more time. I will ask for more time. It will be fine.

The King entered. He spoke with Natasha about the allocation of guards. The plain-faced Captain was almost taller than her colossal father. The issue of recruiting immigrants was postponed for a different hour, and she left.

“Astore,” said the King.

“Lilllith is treating the trip as some form of expedition, mapping the lands as she goes. She will arrive in three or more days at her current pace. Also, I noticed a group tailing her. At their pace, they could be here comfortably by the end of the day. But, of course, they weren’t following me, so I doubt they’ll be coming here.”

“Who were they?”

Astore shrugged, “No clue, but they were all Lussa, and they looked like the sort that would rather kill than speak to you. And, I made sure they never saw me, even when I was speaking to Lilllith.”

Did you tell her about them? Chloe wanted to ask, but she didn’t yet have the energy to open her mouth.

“Did you tell her?” Natasha asked. Chloe felt muted delight.

“Yeah, she told me she knew about them and figured that they were part of the other side. Whatever problems the Lussa have might end up bleeding into our Kingdom. I don’t think that we should keep Lilllith here for too long.”

“Very well, I agree. We should send her and ourselves over as soon as we can. Chloe?”

“If I could have another day to—” The door hit her in the back.

“Fool, don’t stand so close.” It was her mother. “Oh, and Astore is here. So?”

“Three days.”

“Very well.” Gwenhime walked across the room and stood to the King’s right.

Rhye said, “Hmm. Chloe?”

Entirely distracted with the pain in her back and the door, she said, “Ah, I am fine.”

“Excellent. Be ready to leave the kingdom in three days.”

“The third of the month,” added Astore.

What. Chloe wanted to scream. She had accidentally consented to going before she was ready. She wanted to revoke it, take it back! Quick! But, like with her unspoken question to Astore, her mouth said nothing. She felt like a soft, violently oppressive wind had caught in her mouth and pushed down her voice.

In the throne room, decisions were binding, and she was not interested in going through the legal process required to undo it, so she let it go. It would be far less effort to just go. Terrific.

The look on Gwenhime’s face was one of doubt, and discontent.

She said, “Send with her an army.”

Everyone’s face turned to her.

“That will not be necessary,” the King said.

Gwenhime broke in the instant his sentence ended, “The political climate is unstable. A war is inevitable. We might as well be on the winning side.”

“No, a war is only inevitable if you bring an army. You are not even to go with her—I know you were intending to place yourself at the head of the force.”

While Gwenhime knew her husband better than he knew himself, the reverse was also true. To save her image, she pressed on regardless.

“No, it is to be a small force of elites.” She echoed words the King himself had coined years before during the Legendary Event. “A body of guards. You wouldn’t send her alone in the power of some Underside woman would you?”

The King frowned, “Who then?”

Gwenhime smiled, baring the teeth of a carnivore. Genetics had ensured that most of them were canines.

“Just cull from the guard and the standing army—oh dear. I suppose not.” This is how they spoke, and often it would grind on Chloe’s nerves; this manner of predicting the other spouse’s response and then replying to it mid-sentence.

“Exactly,” said Rhye, “Everyone who could go is tied up with immigration and settlement. The walls have just opened and they are congested. The army stands at the border, the guard in the cities.”

“Who would have known so many would want to come here?” Said Astore.

“But, you are right. She should not be sent alone. Astore, you are to assemble a small team for this post before Lilllith arrives. Maybe four or five. Find anyone who is willing and suitable.”

Chloe laughed. “A research team!”

“Yes!” The King’s ancient eyes lit up. He joyously mistook her joke as a sign of her enthusiasm. “Yes Chloe, you are to assemble a research team to compliment the trip. You are going on this expedition to study, are you not? Perhaps a historian, and a biologist would be suitable.”

“Ah, of course!” Oh no.

Daniel Triumph.

Table of Contents

P.S. The next chapter will be a little longer… See you on the 19th!

P.P.S. This has been edited 3 times! Wow! That’s a lot more than usual.