Dirge’s Second Operation

Or, “Raze

When she had finished speaking, she stared at me.

I looked at her rather intensely.

She glared at me openly. Perhaps she lacked a sense of etiquette, or perhaps the intensity came from an underlying edge—perhaps more than an edge—of…something.

“And as a result,” I continued, “I’m now in control of our group.” DONTTELLHERTHATSPEAKONLYWHATISNECESSARY I think I spoke too loudly. Hopefully she will just think I’m nervous…

She was rather loud, but she didn’t seem nervous. There was something disconcerting about this woman. “You are telling me that you have taken control of the Caironea gang?”

“The…Alexandre gang now.” I think I spoke too loudly. THINKIMNOTTHINKINGATALLIRUINEDRUINED

I noticed something strange about her mouth.
“You said your name was Alexandre Dirge.”

RUINEDRUINED I couldn’t tell if she had asked me a question or if she had simply made a statement. RUINEDRUINEDTHEREISNONEEDTOTELLALL JUSTLETHERLOCKYOUAWAYAND

When I had received the letter, I was certain that it would lead either to some sort of attack, or perhaps a joke. Yet I am not fighting, and typically those who play tricks do not confess murder to the guard Captain beforehand.

I felt that I had heard the name before…Dirge.

“I may have a proposition for you. I should detain you; however my operation would be undermined if, through justice, you were held in prison. For this reason, I will trust you to return here again, tomorrow. At the same time.”

LOOKATWHATYOUVEDONE I looked at her rather intensely. I waited a moment. I took a few breaths, and then I opened my mouth to speak. “——”

“And no, this does not mean you will escape the law, however….” I was in no position to, on my own, make promises, however I needed to entice her return. “You may be able to make partial atonement if you aid the Kingdom.”

I closed my mouth then winced. I wondered what she had in mind. When I confessed, I had been hoping this would be it, that all this would finally be over.

I saw her wince. I also saw her mouth properly, saw her teeth. This woman had a full mouth of broken—seemingly violently, perhaps even purposefully—broken teeth.

I assumed that meeting with the Captain of the guard herself, meeting with Natasha Rhye, would guarantee my arrest, but it seems…it seems that I’ll have to return tomorrow ANDLOOKATHOWIFAILMYSELFIFAILMYSELFEVERYTIMEIFAILMYSELF I took a breath. My eyes focused on the city wall behind her and then it came back to me; what had put me in this situation in the first place. OHNOWHATHAVEIDONE IVEFORGOTTENMYOHNOOHGODOHHOWCOULDIFORGETMYOWN……
“Partial atonement if I aid the kingdom…” HOWCOULDIWHATHAVEIDONE WHATHAVEIDONEWHATHAVEIOHNOWILLIBE

I could see it in her face again, that edge of something; that edge of madness. It seemed to have heightened. I said, “I can rely on your return, then?”

ABLETOFULFILLMYORIGINALINTENTIONHOWCOULDIHAVEFORGOTTENMYOWN “Yes, I will return.” I made the mistake of giving a courtesy smile. I realized, and quickly hid my teeth.

I confirmed my observations on her mouth. I had thought that there was something disconcerting about her but perhaps it was her situation. Or perhaps both are true.

FORGOTTENMYWHATISWHATISTOCOMEGODWHATISTOCOME

Morning was coming. I could see the light.

I took the day to do research, in addition, obviously, to my job. I spoke to Vinth, Artus and Finch, and then gave up on receiving any information of use from the guard. Though; Finch Dirge Zeth informed me that his mother’s name was Dirge. I did not ask about Alexandre, though perhaps there is some relation. Vinth, too, had some information about a Hail Dirge in the underground gang, but I did not believe her to be the Dirge I sought.

I next spoke to the Solune Agent, Janna Rhye; my sister. The agents knew of the Dirges. There was a Dirge already running a gang: Diesel Dirge, she whose group frequently raided the neighbouring town. There was also another Dirge, in another gang. I assumed this was Hail. Janna said there were three gangs: Diesel, near Baracus; Caironea, in the north east wilderness; and Horith, underground in Murdock, my city.

Perhaps the young Dirge was not lying.

ASINGLECHILDISLIKEASINGLEPARENTUSELESSANDDAMAGEDANDYETMOTHER IS THIS NOT US? AND WHY? WHO IS TO BLAME? And I had forgotten…

“Are you willing to take on this task? The gua—”

“Yes.”

She must have some motive, though why she was so willing when there was, possibly, family in neighbouring groups, I was not sure.

WHOISTOBLAMEWHOISTO And now, it seems we have been gifted with providence, mother. CANYOUSEE This new deal will help us. Truly, a gift from God.

“When should we take on this…operation?”

“I could have the guard ready in two days.”

WHATNONONONONOICANTDOTHATICANTGOTHATFASTTHATSRIDICULOUSNOTEVERYONEISASEFFICIENTASYOUARERHYE “I…cannot.”

“Of course. If you only just took control of the gang, then you will need to gain at least some semblance of trust from them. Right now there is something else I need from you.”

GAINTHEIRTRUSTENOUGHTHATTHEYWOULDFOLLOWMEINTO

“I will put it very simply. First, the guard will help with the operation. You must initiate, but we will provide the motivation. Then, of course, we will aid with clean-up. That is first. Second, I need evidence. This is to be a large operation. Three parties will be involved. I need evidence of your words that Caironea is truly dead. Finally, you need to send your gang on some sort of small mission to prove to them that you are capable.”

“That’s only two,” GAINTHEIRTRUSTGA “because the way I’m going to… —The task I have in mind is the public shaming of the body. We will take it and abandon it outside the city gates.” I looked at her rather intensely, and pointed.

Perhaps it was madness indeed. I did not think too deeply on in it. If this woman could coordinate a gang of fighting men in such a task, she would certainly be capable of the rest.

We agreed to meet again in exactly one week.

We worked for six days. By the sixth, the group had enough confidence in me to perform the task.

We dragged the body to the city gates and dumped it. Propped him up against the doors. Someone wanted to attach the corpse with stakes through the shoulders, to nail him up, but we were spotted. The guard does their job, it seems. WERANAND On the seventh day we rested, and I again met with Natasha.

“I made sure the guards saw you, to heighten the experience. Should the operation succeed, your term will likely be greatly shortened.” Especially if, as I suspect, you acted in defence.

WEARESOCLOSESOCLOSESOCLOSEMOTHERSO “When is it?” CLOSESO

“Two days.”

I covered my mouth to smile.

“Before we part, you must tell me Horith’s location. I will tell you how our end of the operation will function.”

True to her word, the Captain provided motivation. ANDAPPARENTLYSOMEOFUSHAVEACONSCIENCE A member of Horith’s gang, a man named Vinth, brought news from within the city.

Perhaps there is something divine on that young woman’s side. We did not end up needing to create a scenario by force, rather, our undercover guard Vinth had something for us. Horith’s gang was intent on expanding and overthrowing first the Alexandre gang, in its perceived newfound weakness, and then later the Diesel gang. Monopoly over independents. Vinth simply played the part of a concerned neighbouring member.

“We will take them pre-emptively,” was responded to with mostly cheers. It seems my past mistakes as a tactician were either forgotten or…were not as grand as the disfigurem—as the punishment I received for them would suggest. I tried to clench my teeth, felt pain, and began to assemble a plan. It had been my task before all of this FAILURE had occurred.

Lined pockets. We broke the windows shortly after beating the door in. We moved in headfirst; me first. It seems our architecture of aggression comes into reality faster than theirs. We caught them unaware, men at the boardroom table. I commanded the assault, rocks streamed out and then swords were drawn. I commanded the rest to other parts of the building, and then I moved ahead.

The controlled chaos, organized mess, took to the background as I skulked the building, searching. The noise was finally outside of my mind. Through the roar of dissent, I heard a saccharine laugh. I drew my sword and opened the door.

We watched them fill their pockets with stones and then storm though the front of the building. I told the guard to wait until it became loud, and continue waiting for half a minute. We would fall upon them when they were weakened.

“You did this, didn’t you.” He had her by then neck. “That daughter of yours, you told her!”

Horith had made the mistake of trying to intimidate her. At the point of death, Hail Dirge had a habit of…laughter. “How wonderful I must be, how powerful, to have the ability to be in two places at once!” She giggled.

He turned in time to receive a cut across his face. His eyes widened, which I took as permission to drive my fist into his throat. I kicked him to the ground and smiled openly. “In the middle of a siege, your first instinct is to find someone to blame. Oh…” I put my foot on his chest, and then looked around, “Do you hear that? Listen. The guard is here.”

The Solune guards are trained and skilled. Our weapons, seemingly simple rods of steel, beat past the swords most criminals choose to carry, and keep us committed to blunt force instead of blood. “Everyone who survives, which should be most of them, is to be run through the courts.” We poured in, interrupted the partially-completed battles, and finished them on both sides’ behalf.

“No, mother you have to go!”

She said, “Where?”

“Out.” I pointed to the window, breaking it open with my sword and clearing it. She looked at me with deep apprehension. Reading my face, she gave a tragic smile and then…laughed.

She leaned in close to my face and whispered, “I’ll see you some other time then. And…take care of yourself, okay?”

I nodded, we said goodbye to each other, and then she climbed stupidly out the window.

Shortly after, Captain Rhye appeared at the open doorway.

There’s a lot to talk about here. First of all, you can finally see the past conflict of Alexandre Dirge alluded to in The Solune Prince. Second, the story of “Broken Teeth,” a project that I had abandoned over a year ago, has finally been told, at least in part.

Third, this piece could (perhaps even should) be followed up by “Wraith Hail,” which features Alexandre and her mother yet again in a new and exciting situation.

Actually, I think that’s it. Hope you liked it,

Daniel Triumph.

Without : Wavering, B Sides. (Epistles)

These are the “B Sides” for Without : Wavering.


Upon achieving an artificial enlightenment in the novel John Dies at the End, David Wong stats that, “The walls of the maze turned to glass.” In my experience, this is similar to the experience of achieving wisdom. Wisdom is like height, in a sense—it allows you see further in time and in space, but you remain where you stared. It is very strange; distressing even, to see who else is in the maze with you, and who they are…where they are. But, you also know where you have to go, and you know that all you need to do is develop the knowledge and skills to get there.

From, Chloe Rhye, Fifth Prince of the Solune.


You can start it like that if you want, but it’s a bit pretentious, and it sounds more like you than me.

Janna Rhye, Fourth Prince of the Solune and (Heir)


True. What then? Why not try the Latin style?

AHTHEKINGISAWAKE.

THEREWASSOMEONEELSETHERESOMEONESHEDIDNOTKNOWSOMEONESHEIMMEDIATLEYDISLIKED.

From, Chloe Rhye.


That’s interesting, I like how it all flows into itself. Reading it is very strange though; a challenge in its own right. It’s a strange memory. It may take longer to write out than we expect. I’m not sure that we should be making it arbitrarily more difficult to read than it needs to be.

Janna Rhye.


I know but; it is fun, yes? Is this story you have really what happened all those years ago? I guess it must be, we have the knife still after all. I think we should meet in and discuss further. Anyway, the piece is fairly serious, and so I think that we could try something even older—an ajbad! Look! Interpuncts!

N·?PLS·R·N·Y·TNH· ‘·D·?S·Y·CF·M·T·S

.SRMTGN·RY·GRHT·LRC·Y·NW·SNK·DN·SDH·RY


Abjad? What? And did you write that backwards? Have you been getting into Da Vinci again? I can’t use that, it’s unreadable.

Anyway, yeah, we should definitely meet and lay this all out and set the grammar rules, okay?

Next time I’m in the Kingdom, I’ll send a messenger…or an Agent or something.

Janna Rhye.


Okay! :3 Hope to see you soon!! Bye~!

From, Chloe Rhye.


Yeah. I think in a month or…perhaps more. Drake and I have a lot of work left to do out here. Hope the dust of the library is treating you well Sister.

Until next;
Janna Rhye.


Daniel Triumph.

I highly recommend you check out the work that this piece refers to: Without : Wavering.

The Solune Prince: Jagged Assembly III

The Solune Prince

Novella 1

Chapter 18: Jagged Assembly III

[Link to part 1: The Solune Prince: Jagged Assembly I]

Natasha approached the elevated thrones, moving past where she had stood before, and positioned herself where Chloe had been.

“I can now answer any questions about the expedition.”

A hand went up.

“What is it, Siren?”

“Who’s paying.”

“The state.” Natasha said. “Since he has some experience handling expeditions, Astore will maintain an account and manage wages. Perhaps he can explain for me.”

“Sure,” Astore began, “Any residence or food will be supplied. I am unsure of the exact numbers at the moment. I will maintain communications with the treasury via a messenger while we are down there, but we will be travelling with a large sum of gold. Assume that wages will be modest though, as a lot of what we will take will account for room and board.”

Natasha said, “That was actually a good question. Likely, as a royal envoy group, you will be provided something reasonable, and if more payment is needed, we can negotiate government to government through letters.”

 

The King and his wife entered quietly; politely. They joined the group and stood near the centre.

The King announced, “The arena is being assembled. There is a field we keep cleared outside the wall, in front of the castle, for arenas and other similar events. Tomorrow it will be finished. The event, we have decided, will be advertised in the city today, and proceeds used to fund a portion of your expedition.”

Siren looked up.

Lilllith said, “Truly? You believe your men can assemble this in one day?”

Chloe smiled with the pride of her city.

The King said, “Yes, it is a little modest, but it’s finished.”

“Colour me impressed; though in disbelief. Never have I encountered such an expedient group of contractors.”

The King said, “They are not contractors. We have contractors in this city, but as you suppose, they are slower workers. Contracting assumes a certain lack of trust—it’s why they have their name: they must be held to their work by contract.”

“I am aware, King.”

“The guard has developed more networked trust, and so I have sent them to build. They are trained in such things, of course. We had to do something to compete with the image the East had set forth.”

“If the guard is building your arena outside of the walls, then who is keeping the peace within?”

“Higher ranking individuals in key roles. Such people can do the work of many; it is why they have been their positions. The Captain of the castle guard is here watching to door, I am sure you have seen him.”

“Yes, I had assumed that your men were simply all so well trained.”

The King laughed, then his wife, and then certain other members of the room. “Not so much well trained, but I suppose you could call it that.” The King continued, “When citizens encounter a guard from the upper ranks knocking on their door, inviting them to the arena, if it is within their schedules, they—”

“They feel the presence of force within the city.”

“…Something of this sort. Of course we are aware that most people are very dutiful, or busy, and will therefore be unable to make it, or simply uninterested. But, as you say, the point is made; the presence is felt.

“Further, should anything go wrong, the ranks within should be able to manage. If not, it is not as if the guard has been commanded to a battlefield. They are right here, outside the wall, waiting to be alerted.”

“How interesting. You must understand that such expedience is highly abnormal where I come from. It takes a certain massive amount of energy to rile a crowd, even of workers, to get a job done. I am sceptical, but I will be interested in seeing if your empty field will have an arena in it—a modest arena as you said, on the morrow.”

The King acknowledged her and then announced, “Everyone who has arrived and volunteered your time, I hope you have a sufficient grasp on the situation. Please come to the arena tomorrow at the same time, noon.”

Chloe, feeling a certain obligation to end the discussion she had started, stood up and addressed the room. She closed the discussion and invited further questions to be directed to her father or to Natasha. She concluded with, “As I am aware that some of you are…busy in the mornings, I believe that it would be fair for you to be accommodated with a meal before the arena event begins…yes?”

She looked to her father, who nodded. “This is within our power. Any of you may come to the basement of the castle tomorrow morning. I will have someone inform the staff of your names.”

He looked to Natasha, who nodded.

 

The session ended and the non-royalty among them, along with Natasha, exited; leaving the King, his wife, and Chloe behind to discuss.

Lilllith, having inquired, moved ahead of the rest and exited the castle to watch the assembling of the arena-in-progress, and perhaps make some suggestions or modifications of her own.

Alexandre and Siren exited shortly after, but quickly went their separate ways, leaving Astore and Natasha in the noise of the foyer.

Natasha said, “Keep an eye on the Lussa woman. She…” Natasha considered her words carefully. She reminds me a little of my mother. Instead, she said, “Not too close an eye. She is a guest, and yet…”

“She is still and outsider.”

Natasha frowned, and then her face hardened. “We do not speak of our guests in this way. She is from outside the city, outside the Kingdom. Yet, she is a guest.” She sighed. “Watch yourself, especially as you exit the city and become the only uniformed ambassador of the Solune Agents.”

“Eh, right.”

Natasha looked at him with severity, and then left him to himself, standing in the foyer. The noise of the crowd, of the little Solune square, opened up around him.

Daniel Triumph.

Table of Contents

The woman in the header is Natasha Glass Rhye.

Natasha sketch
Natasha Glass Rhye, Second Prince of the Solune.

Without : Wavering

Draft 4

It flowed from the hole in her arm. not pink this time. Red—It was serious.

It was serious, but not that serious. She might die, but either way she would live. —— “funny,” she thought (and also said).

“Ah, the King is awake.”

There was someone else there, she heard him. Someone she did not know. Someone she immediately disliked. She said “Fuck.”

“Fuck.”

“What?”

The voice touched her ears, exercising her nervous system, and permeating her brain. but only the outer layer, she thought. (But did not say out loud.)

She looked around and saw the person, a blue, glowing blur. She couldn’t see properly. She was tethered to the land, not vicariously, but rather, quite directly.—The clay and sand, a place where an old tree had fallen and died and another had sprung up to take its place: A new tree—a new branch from the new tree had invaded her new arm. I am very new. I am only a youth. yet I am an adult, and the garden has shown its teeth. the branch is not truly new anyway; it’s near the bottom.

The pit she was in, where was her family? Where were they? Would they ever return for her? Or was she in God’s hands now.

“Yes?”

“yes. the Fuck is talking to me.”

“What?”

“is that all you know how to say? I know I’m assuming you are a fuck, but at least I’m being consistent. that’s why I capitalized your new and exciting title!”

The blue man seemed beyond confused, acting overtly be-wildered. Janna knew, she knew, she knew, she knew. I knew he was full of shit, even at that point. She knew that he only—seemed— bewildered for a reason. That; that little action, she knew, only proved what she knew because she knew. She said,

“I knew.”

At the exact same time that he said, “What?”

Although, she said it a little earlier. She said “I” and then a bit of “knew” before he said What. he said what with a capital, that pieca shit. But she was first. Janna Rhye is faster on the draw than Idiots.

“I knew,” she said for the third time, “I knew. look, you don’t have to be retarded about it.”

“What are you”
—she made sure to interrupt him.

“I’m being very precise here. very literal. look, I said my bit first, which means you’re slower than me. retarded means slower. don’t worry though, it’s not your fault. you probably just don’t know what’s What, which is why you capitalize the word like an Idiot.”

“How can you just treat me like that out of nowhere?”

“out of nowhere? look, I get you’re a little retarded, but don’t give me this out of nowhere nonsense. out of knoweare. do you know where we are? look.”

She blinked a few times, and then the Fuck came into clearer focus.

“Do you prefer Fuck, or Idiot?”

“Idiot. Wait”
—she made sure to interrupt him.

maybe you’re not as full of shit as you seem.

“look buddy.,” She interrupted.

He waited for her to finish, and then realized that she had.

“come on, you’re being slow again. keep up, man.”

“I am a god, not a man.”

Janna frowned. okay, maybe he is that bad. wow. “it’s pretty clear to me that you are not a god. I can tell, and my eyes aren’t even functioning properly.”

“How dare”
—she made sure to interrupt him.

how dare I. what a joker.
“tell me, you human glowstick, have you looked yet?”

“What?”

again with the capital what. “I said, only moments ago, I told you what.” She sighed. “look buddy.” no need to be so slow on the draw man. you are a man, aren’t you?

Finally he realized what she meant.

“Look at what?”

Janna laughed, and then said, “I’m laughing at you, not with you.”

“LOOK AT”
—she made sure to interrupt him.

“oh look, you can be interrupted even when you’re shouting. how noble the gods have become.”

As she spoke, he flared blue. Janna figured it was time to see her attacker. he was an attacker;  something of a con man. you’ll see.

“it’s funny how blind you are.” She wiped her eyes with her non-dominant, non-stabbed hand. She wondered if her right arm would ever be as strong as it was supposed to be, or if she would be permanently weakened.

“look,” She said again, her eyes still closed, fingers rubbing. She was without sight in front of an attacker. I don’t need to see him to understand him. She continued, “look. look. look. do you understand? you came here while I was weak. you came here when I had fallen and I was on the clock. perhaps, even, the death clock.” I have to see his face for this. She laughed internally, the laugh of feminine exuberance, luxuriance. But she laughed internally. She was in control.

She saw him, the artificially glowing man. She watched his Dumbass face turn to rage and resentment.

She said, “I’ve been telling you for, like, our entire conversation, but you just don’t see. look! I’m here, tangoing with nature, a dirge, a dance of death, and all you want to do is talk about the capital what and use my situation against me. kick a woman when she’s down. really fuckin’ classy, Dumbass.”

“HOW” —she interrupted him.

“yes, how dare you. I took the words right out of your mouth. get out of here before my family shows up and we dissect you in a court of law. who are you anyway? you know where I come from, you know what we call the gods there?” She didn’t wait. “servants. you know.  it’s what you are. you serve us, by your ignorance you serve us. if not now, certainly in your future, but likely even now by accident.”

the Dumbass Idiot approached. he moved with intent to kill, holding some sort of sharp, dumbass glowstick. I laughed at him, I lauged and grabbed his arm with my non-dominant. it worked. he was that weak.

“I’d spit in your face, but I’m sure my words have already done worse.” I grinned at him. he was the butt of his own joke. maybe I shouldn’t laugh. maybe he’s been the butt of a lot of jokes. however, he came to control me, and he attempted to murder. resentment and evil. a connection here can be found.

She broke his forearm in her vice and then pushed her thumb into his wrist, forcing it through the bundle of little bones.

“ah, you really are a man, aren’t you. leave me, or else I will bear witness. fill the cracks in with judicial granite.”

he left with haste. he left to lick his wounds and contemplate revenge. I know it, because we’re contending with it now. I’ll explain all that later, for now…

“Janna!” She watched her sister Chloe discover her, literally jump with excitement and then slip and fall, and tumble into the pit with her. it isn’t hard to tell who’s honest when you know what’s What. I made a bet that I knew, and this time, this time I was right.

“We tried to find you!” Chloe pushed her head out of the moss.

“I know.”

“We tried to find you, but we got distracted following, I think it was a blue light? It turned out to be a dagger, ah, Natasha has it.”

“oh; You were misled.”

“What?”

“I’ll tell You when You’re older. You’re lacking certain…I’ll tell you when you’re an adult. But don’t forget the dagger, and don’t forget that it led you away from me.”

Chloe looked confused, but she said, “away from you? Yes, and while you were bleeding like! Oh no, it is red, it is red, your blood is red, it is not safe! Natasha!” She called out. Chloe knew first aid and biology and she began to work. “You will be fine, I know it.” she knows it. I think we both knew it.

“Natasha!” They both called out. They called for their sister, and they called for their family. it was practical…and cathartic.

The Solune Prince: Jagged Assembly II

The Solune Prince

Novella 1

Chapter 17: Jagged Assembly II

[Link to part 1: The Solune Prince: Jagged Assembly I]

Natasha did not wait for anyone to introduce themselves, rather, she began for them. “Astore, here on the wing. Something of a reliable man. Want is your name and station?”

Astore straightened. “Astore Reginal. I am an ex-guard and current rank three Solune Agent.”

As he spoke, Natasha wrote.

“Next, you.” Natasha looked ahead to Alexandre. “Dirge.”

“Yes, um, yes.” Alexandre was tense. She breathed. “I am Alexandre Dirge. I have a degree in Kemia, and I am between semesters for my masters in Kemia.” Natasha wrote, andw hen she had finished, she looked up at Alexandre and frowned. She hoped that by doing this, she could compel Alexandre to continue.

Alexandre did continue, though nervously. “I am also an ex-gang leader, and an ex-convict, and umm…it was only for a few months.”

“Yes.” Natasha nodded. “Next, to the Lussa guest, Lilllith.”

Lilllith spoke, composed. “I am Lilllith of the Lussa City, though I am known to some as Lilllith of the East.” She paused for a moment, possibly omitting something, and then continued. “Though I retired from the Lussa guard, I am still technically satellite member, and am often called to serve the crown. Before I had the honor of serving the royal guard, I was in the police for a period of fifteen years. I was part of the force during the time of the brief military operation that occurred a few years ago.”

Natasha nodded again and wrote.

Chloe squinted at the ceiling in order to avoid eye contact with anyone in particular while she thought about what she had just heard. So Lilllith has always been a woman of combat. And; she is rather aged after all, isn’t she. How strange…

“Next, Kent Rhye.”

Kent stopped whispering to Senica when he heard his name. “What?”

Natasha sighed visibly. “State your name and station so that the rest of your travelling party knows who you are and has an idea of what you may be capable of.”

“Oh, we’re doing like a roll call. Okay.” Kent straightened, deigning for once to look like a dignified part of the royalty. “I’ve done a whole lot of work studying the Sol-Metch in the south. They have some interesting but dangerous methods for creating energy. Nuclear. In the past, I also served as a judge, although that was under a different law system, and it was a long time ago, so I’m not sure if I could do that again.”

Natasha frowned. She wrote documents like this in point form, so she had to translate his words to fit. “Fine. Next, your woman.”

Senica, not realizing that she had been so rudely addressed, said, “I am Senica Eir-Aeur…for now anyway.” She smiled and looked around, bashful. “I work as an anthropological researcher from the Djeb, although like Kent said we also work in the south. While I was in academia, I…worked part time. Due to the nature of that work, I was trained in unarmed fighting.”

“Fine.” She finished writing, then said, “And you…the man who would hide his given name.”

The blonde-haired man mumbled to himself from the corner before speaking up. He said, “Siren.”

“Sure.” Natasha wrote. Chloe peered down the steps and over Natasha’s shoulder at her papers, something she would not have been able to do if not for her elevation, as her sister was even taller than she was. She saw that Natasha had written down a different name, quite likely the young man’s real name.

“And?” Natasha continued.

“I study biology and the liberal arts. I can play certain stringed instruments.” He scratched his stubble. “That’s it I guess.”

“Very well.”

“So, ah, that is everyone?” Chloe asked.

Natasha said, “No, there is one final person.”

“Ah? Who?”

“You.”

“Ah, yes, me! Ah—”

Natasha unclipped the sheets she had been writing on, put away her clipboard and stepped forward so that the stood with the rest, facing Chloe.

Chloe looked around at her audience. She was more alarmed than nervous. She started and then stopped a few times, failing to speak. She realized that she had accidentally begun engaging in one of her greatest fears: speaking to a crowd. She gazed around, dazed and frightened. She found confidence in her sister, Natasha, likely the oldest person in the room.

“I am Chloe Rhye, fifth Prince of the Solune. I have spent most of my life studying. I dabbled in tutoring. I can play keyboard instruments like the harpsichord…sort of. I know a bit about everything, and a lot about certain things.

“My father trained me in the royal weapon, the two handed sword. I am also versed in other forms of martial and offensive fighting, thanks to my mother. And, umm, that is all. Thank you.”

Chloe then sat down in her mother’s throne, exhausted by her effort.

Daniel Triumph.

Table of Contents

The woman in the header is Natasha Glass Rhye.

Natasha sketch
Natasha Glass Rhye, Second Prince of the Solune.