The Solune Prince (Act I, Scene viii)

First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefor subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain. Please be tolerant.

The Riley Pack

Chloe had never travelled for more than three days at a time.

“How many days did you say this would take?”

“It took us ten, and then one more on the other side.” Elliott said.

Dool shook his head, “She’s slow. It will take us more.”

“Oh… ah, I apologize for what it is worth.” Chloe said.

They had exited the kingdom in two days, not even bothering to stop in the city Hannibal as they passed through. The Elken jungle also gave them no issues. The King had made a deal with the pair of rangers that patrolled that area long ago. They guarded travellers from the fiercely territorial tribes of Elken, and other than those two guides, they encountered no one in the short trip. Outside and to the north of the kingdom the wilderness turned to grassy plains. They passed the plateau on which the N’Tariel lived, but did not turn to visit. They did not need to resupply, and Dool had stated that too much time had already gone by in the kingdom.

Now they were entering the territory of the wild 100% Riley. Chloe became very nervous as the plains became littered with dark trees.

“Ah, did you happen to encounter any of the Riley here?”

Dool shook his head, not bothering to look back. Elliott shrugged, “nope.”

“Well… We might.”

“Why?” Elliott, who had slowed his pace to match Chloe’s, was right next to her.

Chloe looked down on him. Had he always been so short? Elliott looked back up at her. She had always been this tall. He wasn’t sure how to feel about their height difference. Chloe noticed his dark skin turn a little bit redder.

“Oh, ah, well… The 100% Riley are savages.” Elliott gave her a grave and suspicious look. “Ah! I don’t mean that in any sort of derogatory way! I mean they are uncivilized and… they eat us.”

At this, all of Elliott’s suspected racism changed to shock, “they what?”

Chloe looked away, but spoke, “The Solune are supposedly very delicious. First the Condors ate us, so we fled the Underside. Then here, the Riley hunted us.”

“That was four thousand years ago though.”

Chloe nodded, “so, while you became less appealing to the Condor and the Riley, we remained as sought after as before. For a long time the King tried to combat this by adding alkaline foods to our diet.”

“And?” Elliott asked.

“Ah, well, it sort of worked, but we’re still… a delicacy.” Chloe looked down at Elliott, “So if they come after us, it’s my fault.”

Elliott frowned.

“There’s a group watching us from the eastern ridge.” Dool said.

“Ah…” Chloe also frowned, and then timidly drew the King’s Sword.

Daniel Triumph.

The Solune Prince (Act I, Scene vii)

First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefor subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain. Please be tolerant.

Honeymoon

alice-2017-001.jpg

Alice and Finch were both high ranking members of the guard. Finch was a Vice-Captain, and have been in that position for nearly seven years. Alice had joined two years after him, but was far better suited for the role, and had, in the span of two years, surpassed him and become his Captain.

Right now, the two were sitting in front of the Captain-Commander, Natasha Glass Rhye. Natasha now only worked part-time, overseeing the five groups of captains.

They were sitting in her red-plushed office, in large armchairs. Natasha, a giant of a woman, was too large for her chair. She had been intending on getting a custom seat for years, but never cared enough to get around to it. Natasha was a tall blonde with the tanned skin of a woman on duty. She wore a white lace top and black dress pants, an overall attractive and classic look.

On the table in front of her were her two top hats, a white and a black. Nearer to her body were the forms.

“So you two wish to take a vacation? How long?”

“Three months.” Finch said. Alice had wanted one, but he knew that they would want more when the first month came to an end.

Natasha nodded, “You are aware that this will leave the day watch with no Captain or Vice-Captain.”

Finch nodded, and Alice said, “I am prepared to make suggestions on the topic of deputies.”

Natasha said, “Artus as captain and Vhirghinnia as Vice-Captain?”

“No, Artus as Vice-Captain and Jutt, that is, Alexandre Dirge as Captain.”

Natasha leaned back. Her seat did not lean with her. She would have to make sure the new chair reclined with her.

“Alexandre? She is and has never been in the guard.”

“No, but she is bound to Artur. They would work well together. And did you yourself not work with her?”

Natasha nodded, “that is precisely why I have yet to turn you down.”

Alice gave her a stern look. She was one of those women who could give such a look to a superior with great effect.

Natasha felt her stare, knew that it was out of place, and yet still felt uncomfortable.

“Very well, dear. I mean, Alice, I will allow it. However, if Alexandre is not fit for the task then I will have it my way.”

Natasha, like most people older than Alice, felt strong urge to address her using diminutive terms. Due to her position as Alice’s commanding officer, however, such addresses were inappropriate, no matter how many times Alice told her it was okay.

“You can call me dear,” Alice giggled, “A lot of people do! Or little miss.”

Alice blushed and smiled a childish, girlish smile.

Finch waved his hand, “either way, we’re approved. Let’s go Alice.”

“Right. I really should be off myself, to go Chloe off. She’s taking a trip herself, although it is official business.

Finch knew Chloe, she was his teacher for many years, “Oh, she must be excited.

They stood, and Alice said, “Oh, and don’t worry Mistress Rhye, I’ve already talked to Jutt on your behalf about the deputy position. It’s smooth sailing for you!”

“Hmm.” Natasha stood and took the black top hat from her desk. Placing it on her head, she asked, “Where are you planning to go?”

“Somewhere exciting, for her sake,” Finch stated, “the Dead City.”

Years Prior

Alice and Finch had known each other since childhood, and after five years had become bound to each other. She was his bondswoman, and he her bondsman. Now, finally, they had come to a point in their relationship where they figured they should go away together and get to know each other a little better.

Because the two had been together since so young an age, neither had learned the ways of relationships. Their first two years together were dry, and they had nearly fallen out of love because neither of them knew about the common glue of all good relationships. That sticky, wonderful glue that keeps partners bound together. That sticky act called sex.

They knew all about it now though. Alice and Finch went home in a side embrace, talking romantically about what they planned to do with each other when they got home.

It was lucky that Crystal Jealousy had come when she did, those. She was a mother figure to Alice, but had abandoned the poor girl at the age of thirteen for reasons I don’t quite have time to explain here. But, feeling ashamed, she returned six years later, upon the completion of one of her many cross-world circuits.

And just in time too.

She did what any religious or otherwise worldly parent would do. She figured out what the problem was, and then solved it.

It was only a few hours ago, but Finch remembered it clearly. He kept looking at the sun, willing it to fall into the hills. Meanwhile his mind was trapped in Jealousy’s office. She had both a room and an office in the castle. Apparently, she was not only an heir, but also an illegitimate child of the King’s, his first child, the daughter of a long deceased Riley.

She sat on a giant lounging chair, the kind you would expect to find in a counsellor’s office, except it was for her, not her patients. Her patients, Alice and Finch, sat on a very small loveseat. All of her furniture and trim was red and fuzzy.

Jealousy was not lounging, such would be a great act of disrespect for her daughter and her mate.

“So you two are bound?”

Binding one life to another was something akin to marriage, but, as Natasha had put it, “Without the history of patriarchal slavery. You can become a bondsman or bondswoman and maintain your pride. As stated in nearly every book of national law, a wife is a slave to her husband, it states as much in our own law! Disgusting.”

Alice nodded, “We heard that bonding was more noble an act than marriage.”

Jealousy nodded. “And you intend to remain bound for the duration of his life.”

It was a statement, and both of the young adults before her nodded. Finch knew that Riley lived shorter than average lives by about a decade, so her last few words did not confuse him

She said, “Go to bed one hour earlier that usual. Shut up all the windows and doors, close the blinds and get under the covers and figure it out. That after their two years, neither of you seem to have encountered each other’s bodies is a tragic end waiting to happen.”

Jealousy then turned her noble chin and addressed Alice specifically, “And make sure he sees your figure.”

“What?”

 

And so, here he was. He watched the sun set. They often went to bed an hour after sunset, speaking of their day in the dark. Both had excellent nightvision, and so their few candles remained nearly untouched.

“I think,” Alice said.

“It’s time to try what she suggested.” Finch nodded.

Finch lay next to Alice for about ten minutes before saying, “Umm… Do you know what we’re supposed to figure out?”

“I think so.”

A moment of silence between them.

“Me too, but I can’t really see anything.”

Alice lifted the covers, turned to the bedside table and lit the candle. It burned dim and atmospheric. Their room was the perfect size, not much floorspace due to that fact that neither cleaned much, and very sturdy. The walls were a tame brown-orange, and the sheets a soft yellow. The bedspreads were soft fur. Finch figured that Alice would prefer to be sleeping under something that had once roamed the earth, and he had been right. Plainkind usually slept under rough leather, and he figured she would appreciate leather with something soft attached.

Alice was a mixed Plainkind, but she had been raised in the Solune Kingdom since she was very young. Despite losing her blood mother to a starvation incident and being an orphan for many years, Alice maintained a cheerful and endearing temperament. That’s why she rose to the rank of Captain so quickly. Alice knew the names of every single one of the thousands of citizens in the city, and each of them in turn knew hers. She was renown as the best guard in the ranks now, at the age of twenty-one.

Alice also built muscle easily and quickly. She had worked in construction during her teenage years, under her adoptive father, Jithin. According to Chloe, who was a reliable authority on everything Alice, who was only 3.2 cubits tall [4’10”], weighed an astounding 316 pounds. Most of it was structural, she had said. The Plainkind did not store energy as fat, but instead as an alternate and weaker form of muscle. Alice was zero percent body fat and sixty percent muscle. Another ten percent of her weight was due to what Chloe called “vestigial limbs” in her back. No one really knew what that meant. Alice was a tiny figure, but very strong. Plainkind muscle is extremely dense, so she simply looked like a woman who lifted heavy things (such as livestock and boulders) for a living, instead of like a hulking monster.

In contrast to all that was his partner, Finch was only 110 pounds, and the same height as Alice. He was also two and a half years younger, at eighteen, but was also a little more mature. Finch was generally an introverted, shy person but Alice was so awkward and oblivious that he often had to make the first move in anything important. It was he who suggested that they should share a house and then a bed. It was even he who asked Jealousy to for help.

Finch rolled over to Alice and sat on her midsection, leaning over her. They stared at each other, and enjoyed the feeling of their mutual breaths. Alice took off her nightshirt, and then Finch felt an odd sensation, like blood exiting his brain. Usually, this heat in his midsection was an annoyance, but as he looked down at Alice’s anatomy, he decided that tonight would be anything but annoying.

Finch closed his eyelids and his parched brain was immediately flooded with even drier biology textbooks. He harvested from the loose pages the information he needed, and then quickly filled his mind with images of Alice instead. Then he took her imaginary clothes off. He had done this a lot before they lived together, but now he realized he didn’t have to. His eyes opened and peered at her gorgeous red cat irises, then he pushed gently into her.

Alice let out a noise she had never made before in her life, and Finch was suddenly eager to hear it again. They made sultry expressions at each other, positioned on the bed in awkward stillness.

“I figured out what to!” Finch said excitedly.

“I-ahh, know that Finch. Can you please do it some more?”

Those were the last comprehendible words that either of them spoke that night. Within the hour Alice broken their wooden bedframe, Finch flung the candle across the room, where it was promptly extinguished, and both of them, until the sun warned them of their impending day.

Finch thrust into Alice and released what his body was willing to give and then stopped, staring at the small line of light that dared to show itself along the edges of his blackout curtains. They were his, as Alice did not believe in curtains, at least not until this night had come.

Finch was breathing heavily. Alice was too, but not nearly as badly. She could have gone on, but her emotions were strained as much as his body was.

“Finch we don’t work, we’re on vacation.” She said.

Finch looked down at her breasts and then her face, and said, “oh yes.”

He exited her body, stood, took a roll of thick tape from inside a trunk, and taped the black curtains to the wall. He would have none of this light ever again. Then he leapt over Alice and lay in the bed next to her. She put the fur covers over him. They looked at each other, noticing in their dark faces that glow that is universal to all good relationships.

Their mattress was now sitting directly on the floor, each and every one of the slats had busted. There was a dent in the wall where the bed had been repeatedly thrust into it, revealing the mercifully sound-proof masonry.

Alice shrunk into the blanket and said, “we should sleep naked, just in case?”

“In case?” Finch asked.

“In case of… an emergency.”

Finch was completely unsure what she meant by this, but, placing trust in her, he nodded and closed his eyes.

Alice listened to his breathing and stared at the ceiling.

“Oh no,” she said to his sleeping form, “oh no, oh no! What is this?”

And, fretful, hot, and filled with energy anew, Alice turned over and forced herself into a fitful sleep.

The New, Less Pressing Problem.

When Alice woke up, she knew at once what the problem was. When Finch woke up, they again had sex until lunch time, whereupon they dressed, ate, and exited on Alice’s request.

Daniel Triumph.

The Solune Prince (Act I, Scene vi)

First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefor subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain.

Study, Solitude, Sleep.

“We need to leave this evening.”

“Why evening?” Gwenhime stared at the tall, dark man.

“It is customary to leave in the evening. The first day gets the body used to the long journey. It’s a form of preparation.”

Dool nodded to the King’s wife.

“Hmm,” she mused, “okay.”

“So where is she?”

“Who? Oh, Chloe? I am unsure.”

Dool scowled, but Gwenhime pacified him stating that she would go look for the missing daughter.

 

The King had already noticed her absence. He had stopped by the girl’s room in order to see if she needed anything carried, and had found one bag packed, and one small girl curled up in the corner of her bed. He entered curtained the room, walled with stone and tapestry. It was mid-day, but Chloe’s room made one think it was nightfall.

He sat down on the bed, and she noticed him for the first time. Chloe stared at her father, her face shrouded in blonde locks. He looked back.

“Have you changed your mind?”

Chloe said nothing and the King, who had been a father for thousands of years, knew that it was still his turn to talk. He did what most parents should do, but none ever have the insight to try. He stopped asking questions until she was ready to give answers.

Before the silence became awkward he started.

“Do you remember the first time I sat on your bed? We had just gotten it for you when-”

“When I turned seven and finally moved out of your bed…”

“Right. We got you this room, but you decided that you weren’t ready yet, used it only for study and solitude, but not for sleep. And then, for years you remained in that position, not ready yet.”

Chloe nodded, and her father continued.

“Jealousy was the same way… Now that I think of it, all of you except the twins were…” he leaned back on the wall, dislodging a large brick. “Oops. Now, wait, did I not contract those workers to put in walls that I could lean on without worrying!”

Chloe exhaled, the most vague suspicion of a laugh. Chloe, out of all of his children, laughed the most.

“So, you were seven, and you declared, demanded that to your own parents get you a bed for your room!”

Again he heard an exhalation.

Fervently, the King went on, “We got it for you, of course. This mild daughter, how could we not spoil you? Maybe, if we could spoil you you would grow up more cultured. That was your mother’s thinking. Although, we both knew that someone of your nature and with out lifespan would quickly be beyond such things. It is difficult to find someone aged over one-hundred years who is so easily flawed.

“And what? The bed broke when I sat on it! Splintered! It cut your face did it not? But scars fade all too quickly when you live for many centuries. Now the bed is sturdy, but your walls I have broken.”

“I do not want to leave, King” Chloe said.

“You do not have to, Mistress.”

They were using titles, talking business.

“Or was it Prince?” The King smiled.

Chloe shook her head, she was not in the mood to be playful. The King continued, “Chloe, this is your choice. If you do not go, it is likely that I will instead.”

“What?”

“Throw off my responsibilities for your sake.”

“No…” and then, “King, Mars, Elham, Isaac, father, all that you have come to be called. I will go in your name, as an ambassador of war.”

Chloe stood, and Isaac followed. He said, “War?”

The king was not aware that much had happened to place his daughter in this position. That she had been deep in thought, and that she had already wept. Although, upon seeing her face, all of this and more had been communicated to him silently. Like all social creatures who had lived more than three hundred years, Isaac could read someone’s entire day’s story by gazing upon their faces.

It took only ten or twenty seconds, but he stared at Chloe Rhye’s face. He saw lines of joy, fading past her eyes and corners, her lips lined with fervor and passion, her puffed cheeks and red eyes. He saw her recent past and nodded.

“And so it will be a war, but you suppose not a large one.”

“I suppose three battles. The first to antagonize and draw out the enemy’s true nature. The second a display of power, and the final, a victory.”

“By drawing the enemy into your barracks during a time of their weakness. A clever plan.” The king nodded.

“But not a trap. They know all, and make the decision themselves out of wounded pride.”

“I’ve performed a similar tactic in the past. It is nearly flawless. As always, I am in awe of your omniscient genius.”

Chloe blushed, put on her single bag, and tied the King’s Sword around her hip.

“Thank you.”

Hours Earlier

“Yes, yes! Marginalized! I love your vocabulary!” Chloe exclaimed.

Elliott flushed, but his skin was dark enough and it light enough that he knew it was hidden.

“Thanks. Anyway, yeah, there are a couple of cultural issues in the Lussa city. The first is that the Royalty, the people who actually speak to us and hear our issues, are falling. There’s a silent powers struggle between them and the police.”

“A cold civil war?”

“Yeah!” Elliott’s eyes became wide, “Wow, that’s amazing, how you can find so few words that mean so much. Damn! I’m jealous!”

Chloe flushed, but unlike Elliott, it was shameless and open.

“Thanks…”

“So? What can we do? Even if you come, nothing will change. In fact, you’ll probably be in danger.”

“Oh yes?”

“Yeah! Look, if you’re a member of the royal family, which you are, then the police will be after you, which they probably are!”

Chloe considered this.

“We will have to fight back then. To prove that we are not only worthy of the people, but also worthy of our power. We need to show the true evils of our enemies.”

“Expose them? How?”

“If the police have power over all press, as you say, than it is because they want to hide the fact that they are not in complete public favour.”

Elliott shook his head up and down, and his hair went insane, as if he was some sort of hair-metal headbanger.

“So, what is the public favour? We will find out! That will be our first mission!”

“And then what?” But Elliott already knew, “Oh! We’ll publicize it! I know exactly what to do! A press conference! It’s perfect!”

Chloe smiled, and then became very worried. It was all well and good to plan such things, but would she, at the adjusted age of seventeen, be able to actually act on her words? No, she decided, someone else can do it.

Chloe began to cry. Unlike her flushing, this she was ashamed of, and shuffled Elliott out of her room so that she might find peace. Instead, she found only sorrow. Hours later, her father found her.

Daniel Triumph.

The Solune Prince (Act I, Scene v)

 

First draft disclaimer:

This narrative is a first draft, and is therefor subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain. Please be tolerant.

On Growing Things

“I know I seemed all resolute back in the throne room but…” Chloe’s mind was racing with anxiety, “I’ve only ever left the kingdom once, I don’t know…”

It was noon, and the basement of the castle was half filled with vagrants, children and lazy people. The castle sub floor was a soup kitchen of sorts, where anyone, regardless of financial status. It was filled four rows of long stone cafeteria tables. The King generally ate here to be among the more needing of his people.

He and Chloe were sitting near the center of the room. There was a quiet buzz of voices, and his words softly faded into them. Chloe had to focus to understand.

“Chloe, you are very young in mind. I know that you have been studying since the day you achieved literacy, but all you have learned is the theory. It is now time for you to leave the womb of this city and stretch your wings. The Lussa City and the Underside are both alien to our civilization.”

Chloe remembered her pile of books. She hadn’t bothered looking through them. There was no mention of the Lussa anywhere in her collection and she knew it.

“Ah,” She exhaled.

“I think it’s time you stopped being just a reader and began to mark your own observations. Put a bit of your mind on paper and share it with the rest of us. Even if you don’t, even if you just experience and allow your presence to bolster our foreign allies, it will help you in the future. You are so young, you are a growing thing, and I think it’s time you went out and got some sunshine on your leaves.”

The King smiled at his daughter.

“The rest of the world deserves to be blessed with your presence.”

Chloe flushed and pulled her head into her chest.

“Oh…”

The biggest shame Chloe had was that her handwriting was illegible. Not even she could read her old writings. That’s why she hadn’t ever written any textbooks or journals. But she couldn’t admit that to her father.

Chloe looked up and said, “I’ll try.”

*

Chloe took the initiative to talk to her visitors. She knew that they were in the armory with her mother, preparing for the journey back, so after she had luncheoned with her father, Chloe headed there.

The armory was behind one of the few locked doors in the castle. The door itself was on the east side of the busy foyer. Chloe could hear the same man auctioning off one of his shoes. She ignored him and strode to the locked door and knocked. Chloe wasn’t allowed to have keys because she had a habit of losing them, and was thus considered a security risk.

Elliott opened the door.

“They’re talking about armour man. I’m so lost, you have no idea.”

She could hear Dool talking to Gwenhime among the rows of hanging cuirasses, coats of plates, longshields, worker blades, and longswords.

Chloe, who knew almost everything about everything said, “I know a bit about armour.”

They could hear Gwenhime in neighbouring row arguing with Dool.

“No, leather armour is not practical at all! Especially on the underside. There simply aren’t enough animals from which to acquire it.” Dool said.

“What? Nonsense.” Chloe could hear the joy in her mother’s voice. Gwenhime loved to argue.

“No, it’s true. We have an abundance of iron ores, so everything is metal. And not metal plates stitched to a leather coat like this. It’s all plates that are tied on to the body.”

“Yes, we used to have plate armour, but it’s too heavy. What if someone comes at you with a tuck or an estoc? Hmm? You cannot dodge because you are encumbered!”

“What?!”

Chloe said to Elliott, “Do you not have armor slaying weapons where you come from?”

Elliott shrugged, “Look, I’m just a volunteer. The only thing I know of that can crack police armor is a war pick, or maybe an axe or hammer, also for war. Obviously tools are not made to be effective on a battlefield.”

Chloe knew of weapons like this, a pole with something on the end that you swing into people, like you swing a sword to cut.

“We use spears, or spear-like swords. That’s what an estoc is, it’s a long sword with no edge. You just stab. They tend to be unusually long.”

Elliott shrugged, “Honestly, I don’t really fight a lot. No need for weapons in my daily life, not at all.”

Chloe swayed her hips, which both aroused and confused Elliott. She said, “I carry no weapons on my hip either, but that is only because I have no need of weapons to defend myself.”

Elliott nodded, “Flamethrowing eyes?”

“What?” Chloe was entirely shocked. She had never heard this term, and she had heard of everything.

“Flamethrowing eyes. You can push joules or fat energy into they eyes and fire beams of plasma. You burn people!”

“Oh! Sort of, I am adept with laszor eyes. It’s similar, I think.”

Elliott nodded, “Yeah, I heard of that. Apparently it’s the natural, unmodified form. We Lussa have mixed blood, and so things are different.”

Chloe had always been interested in mixed races. She herself had recently discovered she was half Condor. She said, “Mixed with what?”

“Well, it was a few thousand years ago, so we’re not sure what they’re called. But they have black skin like me, and a single horn, and they have a lot of joule based abilities. I think they went extinct. Oh, and they had an albinism problem”

Chloe looked at him, taken aback. She was beginning to realize that maybe she was more ignorant of the world than she had once believed. “What is albinism?”

“It’s a reverse of pigment. Like, if I were albino, I would be all pale, like you.”

Chloe blushed. She wasn’t proud of being a pale woman, but she spent so much time indoors in libraries that it couldn’t be helped.

“And,” Elliott continued, “If you were albino, you would be dark like me!”

“Wait, so your skin colour isn’t really an identifier of your race? Here, the N’Tariel are all dark, the East Metch and Plainkind are all brown, we are white, and the Riley are very pale, like moonlight.”

Elliott considered this.

“Sort of. About twenty-percent of people are albino, so you can tell for the most part.”

“Oh.”

“Alright!” Gwenhime thundered, “Don’t take anything!”

Chloe and Elliott watched as the extremely tall Condor shoved Dool across the shelves and into vision.

“It’s not that, miss!” Dool was on the defense.

Gwenhime shove a finger into his broad chest and pushed him, only using a single finger, into a shelf of full armour suits.

“I guess you didn’t notice these! Full metal plates! We do it too, but it’s situational!”

Elliott whispered, “is she going to kill him?”

Chloe whispered back, “maybe,” and then giggled.

Gwenhime saw that there were other people here, and made a concious decision not to compose herself.

She shouted even louder, “Never show an ungrateful face around me.” She stuck the one finger deep into his skin. A bruise would appear in that spot tomorrow.

Dool, mortified, ran away and confronted the much shorter Elliott.

“You gotta help me man! She’s mad!”

Elliott shrugged, “You shouldn’t be so ungrateful, according to her.”

Chloe went from hushed giggling to outbursts of laughter.

“Oh my!” She laughed.

Gwenhime put her hands on her hip, “Oh, Chloe. You father wants me to give you his side sword.”

“His what?”

“It’s a fencing sword with a full blade. It is far more durable and weighty than a regular sabre or rapier.”

Chloe turned red again, and tried to hide it with her hands.

“Oh, am I getting gifts now?”

“Yes!” Gwenhime often shouted, “The King’s Sword! Be grateful!”

“Yeah, Chloe, be grateful or your mum will shove you into a shelf of armour.” Elliott shrugged.

Chloe was lost once again in laughter.

Daniel Triumph.

6: Crown of Worms

It’s strange what they do to their leaders. What I mean is what they do to their ex-leaders. The fall of a leader outside of death in battle, or a duel for power, is considered to be a shameful thing. Extremely shameful.

And the gangs make a show of it, this shame.

The aftermath of my first glorious tapping into the true power of adrenaline was this. Natasha arrested all of those who survived the combat and actually fought. They assaulted an officer, that’s what she charged them with. Oh, and she’s not a guard any more, she’s the temporary leader of the Solune Agents.

Well, my mother and about sixty percent of the gang got off. There was nothing that could be done. The funny thing is that, as second in command, my mother, Hail, is set to take over from the other leader, the one she captured during the fight.

She’s beaten me to my goal, and she did it while being entirely insane. Natasha offered to get her checked out, but she already has been. There isn’t much we can do. She’s schizophrenic, they think I might develop it too. Whatever. If I do, I wouldn’t mind, mom seems to think it’s a lot of fun. She laughs a lot, right?

That’s not important though.

I watched my mother perform the shaming ceremony, pulling the old leader from the top, from north status to the bottom, west. They’re presented a symbolic crown of worms. I heard originally it was real worms, but right now they mostly use dirt. The leader was sitting on that throne, the same one she was on when I hit her. I watched as my mother, suppressing frantic giggles, strode up to the woman. Hail is a short woman, although average for a Riley.

She put the dirty wooden crown on the old leader’s head. Then, finally, she laughed her lovely laugh, and went on with the speech.

“You know, I didn’t even want to be the leader, but one thing’s for sure,” Hail giggled, “I won’t be as cowardly as you!”

There was some soft cheers from the few people that Hail had managed to befriend.

“Look at that, I’ve become a gang leader just like my older sister! Oh my, the fun we’ll have!”

Hail laughed again, for an absurd amount of time. After a while she ran out of breath, and the laugh became a mixture of inhales, coughs, and more laughter.

I was watching from the back of the room with Natasha, who had stayed to try and catch someone off guard, and to check the legality of this “crown of worms ceremony.” So far my mother hadn’t done anything specifically illegal. Just really rude.

“Does she laugh like she’s mentally ill all the time?” Natasha asked.

“No, but more often than not,” I told her. “At least her laugh is kind on the ears.”

Natasha nodded, “It is quite beautiful. I can understand how she got together with your father.”

“My father…”

Natasha’s gaze snapped to mine. “Who killed your father?”

I stopped. How did she know? I asked her, “How do you know about my father?”

“I’m a studying poet. That’s why I left the guard, to change laws. Your father’s case is still open, he was-”

“I know what happened to him! I know who did it too,” I snarled, “But I won’t be telling you any time soon!”

Natasha, her expressions every glassy, looked only slightly taken aback.

She gazed at my face, studying. She probably figured everything out from my expression using some cop trick or something. Whatever.

“You want to protect whoever killed your father. It must be someone close to you. Perhaps Diesel? Or maybe it was the monster, Alice.”

I felt a ping of rage. Alice was my friend, Natasha was fishing for an answer from me. I gave her nothing. In front of us the crowd roared with laughter. It seemed that Hail had stuck the old leader’s fingers up his own nose. I couldn’t tell you why.

“Listen Alexandre Dirge, I can’t promise anything right now, but once I’m a poet the law will be fair. At least, as fair as I can make it. When that day comes, will you please tell me? Knowing that you have nothing to fear?”

I shook my head, but said, “I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Can you tell me who’s torture room that was downstairs?” Natasha mercifully changed the subject.

At that moment, someone else rushed in. It was a really posh looking guy, shoulder-length blonde hair that curled with high-class pride. He wore the same black uniform that Natasha and Mariça did.

He said, “Mariça has detained all of the prisoners.”

“Horith?” Natasha seemed surprised to see him.

“Yes?”

“Are you an Agent?”

“I am now,” He said, “I’m actually your second. I’m training to become the next leader, in three or four years.”

“Wow,” Natasha’s face held genuine shock, “Who’s running the night watch?”

“My old Vice-Captain. His name was… Vines? Vormes? I don’t know, something with a V. Good chap, really committed to the task. I likely could have never showed up to work and he would have kept things running smoothly.” Horith said.

Natasha nodded, “I know him. I’m actually the one that made him your Vice-Captain. Seems very reliable.”

“Yeah, well.” Horith shrugged. “So, about this lot?”

He motioned to the crowd. Everyone was laughing along with Hail, but I couldn’t tell why.

“They haven’t done anything.” Natasha said.

“Okay, so we’re okay here?” Horith said.

“No, I want to talk to Alexandre and her mother.”

“Her mother?”

Natasha pointed to my mother.

“Hail Dirge. I’m curious as to what she’s intending to do with her new power. And maybe I can get information on Diesel Dirge.”

Daniel Triumph.

This is the final entry for Broken Teeth. For those who weren’t interest, which according to my stats was most of you, rejoice! I’ll be working on something else in its place. Those who did like it, fear not! I will be redoing this narrative. From the plans I have right now, it seems like a lot will be different, but many of the characters will remain the same.

Capture