Tales of the Kirgeur

Part 22

By: Bluedragon

Lyliane roused us as she entered with the meal. We had walked our dream paths with heavy tread. It was a sign of our weariness. We had trained for such occurrences, though in truth, our summer was cooler than the winter season in the realm of the Jilhsaed. We had become accustomed to the heat, though it drained our strength if we did not guard against it. Adequate rest was required to survive. Regardless, we continued our duties with care.

"Torienne, I am required to attend my duties. I shall return here upon their completion." Tominent was in haste. He had reason. Duty to the Jilhsaed was not relinquished lightly. Approval from the Jilhsaed was required.

"We shall await your return, though we will query the stable servant in your absence."

"You shall wait before inquiring of Crumelent?" He seemed concerned we would proceed without his assistance.

"We shall wait." Salenia pledged. "Go you and see to your duties. We shall see to ours."

"I shall return here for the evening meal." He departed in haste.

"Perhaps it would be wise to seek out the servant at the stables after we partake of the meal."

"Perhaps it would be, shehala. Iolaine, know you the man?"

"I do, Salenia." He answered as he added food to his plate.

"As do I sister. I wish to accompany you for this." Lyliane seemed to bear the fear she had felt as Sevianth fell from the enclosure close in her mind.

"Perhaps we should send for him. Think you it would raise suspicion if we did so?" I had no wish to cause drama within the palace stables.

"If we built the proper illusion, it would not seem suspicious." Lyliane replied after much thought on the matter.

"In truth, if we appear as if there is a problem with one of the horses, or if perhaps we wished speech with a servant on selling the extra mounts, it would seem plausible." Salenia suggested.

"I think, perhaps, we should have speech with the servant regarding selling horses. Iolaine, can you fetch the man?" I was not interested in the meal before me. I remember not what we consumed. I know we ate, though only at Lyliane's insistence.

"I shall fetch the servant. Shall we inform Siveruian?"

"Nothen. We shall spare the chamberlain the details. If perhaps the man is guilty, then we shall inform Siveruian." It seemed wise. I had no wish to alarm the chamberlain without cause.

"Then I shall return with the man." Iolaine departed in haste.

"Shall we plan the inquisition?" Salenia asked.

"Perhaps not. I believe he shall not expect an inquisition when he enters. It should provide our edge. If it does not, we shall improvise." In truth, I was not concerned. I knew our skills would be adequate.

"It shall not be a great challenge. Many servants are weak of will." Lyliane observed.

"In truth, it seems so. It seems punishments are more severe in this realm than they are in our homeland." Salenia seemed thoughtful. "As I understand it, there are but two punishments, death and imprisonment for life."

"I believe there are more for cordermers. It seems they are ostracized or exiled as well." It seemed true. Crumelent was near to being ostracized and we had heard tales of many exiled from the realm.

"You wished speech with me regarding the selling of horses, jesisenia?" The servant bowed low as he entered. Iolaine seemed apprehensive. He reclaimed his seat in haste and watched as the man walked near to us.

"In truth, we wish to discuss a different matter." I leaned back in my chair. I wished to present an unconcerned appearance as if I were waiting to pounce if needed. "We wish to discuss an incident concerning the boy I have charge of."

"I know of no incident." He did not deny knowledge of Sevianth's existence. We knew he did not speak the full truth.

"We wish to discuss an incident you were witness to." Salenia spoke in calm tones. "The boy was climbing the enclosure around the paddock. He fell then when he was distracted."

"Know you of such an incident?" The man appeared to pale. Though his skin was dark, it took on a sickly pallor. "I think perhaps you remember it well. Tell us of it."

"I recall only the boy falling. I recall no more." He seemed ill at ease.

"One of our companions informed us you distracted the boy as he was climbing. Why did you do so?" With slow movements, I moved my hand near to the hilt of my sword.

"I did not cause Sevianth to fall."

"How knew you his name was Sevianth?" Salenia grinned. It was not a pleasant expression. "We mentioned not his name."

"I had knowledge of it before." Again he spoke an untruth.

"In truth, you called him by his name as he climbed. I believe it is what distracted him. He has no knowledge of you." Lyliane spoke in harsh tones. She seemed greatly angered.

"I heard it before. I know not where."

"I believe you not." I rose and walked to the man. "Perhaps you wish to speak the truth regarding this matter?"

"I have. I cannot speak of it more." He seemed as if he wished to flee.

"I believe you can. I know you shall." I forced him into a chair. "I take harms done to those I have charge of as if they were harms to me. I suffer harms in a bad manner. Wish you to know how bad?"

"I wish nothing."

"A man who wishes for nothing lives for nothing." Salenia stood before the man. "Wish you to live?"

"I wish only to live." For a large man, he frightened easily. Sal's dagger was not cleared of its sheath before he began shaking.

"If you wish to live, you will speak of the knowledge you possess. If you wish to depart from this life, my shehala shall grant that wish." I informed him. The reversal of our roles seemed strange, though I questioned it not.

"Perhaps this man shall make good bait?" Sal's comment brought to mind the other man we had submitted to an inquisition.

"Perhaps he shall. If he agrees not, we shall discover his other uses." I reclaimed my seat, content to allow Salenia to intimidate the man.

"If you continue to refuse to impart your knowledge, I shall remove you from this life one piece at a time." Iolaine rose and held the man to the chair as Salenia moved behind him. She placed her dagger near to his left hand. "I believe I shall begin with your fingers."

"I cannot." The man was near to tears. As Salenia placed her dagger to his thumb, he flinched and closed his eyes.

"Wish you to speak?" He shook his head. I watched as Salenia took a deep breath. I knew it was not easy for her to contemplate the action she was required to perform. The dagger had merely drawn blood when he began yelling. "Wish you now to speak?"

"I was employed to harm the boy. It was hoped you would depart from the realm if he departed from life." I watched as relief crossed Salenia's face. She remained in her position, though it was in a more relaxed manner.

"Continue. I wish to hear a good tale. This one is true to life. It makes it all the more exciting." I affected an unconcerned state.

"My life is forfeit if I speak of it."

"My friend, your life is forfeit if you speak not. We have you near to hand. Perhaps it would be wise to impart that which you have knowledge of." Salenia reclaimed her seat. Iolaine remained to keep the man in the chair.

"If I speak of what I know, will you release me?"

"We promise only to allow you to continue breathing." I replied. I wished him imprisoned. I had no pity for those employed to harm innocents.

"It is more than I shall receive from others." He released a long breath.

"Lyliane, fetch you the chamberlain. Perhaps he should hear this confession." Salenia thought it important.

"I shall, Salenia." With a look of disdain favored on the servant, Lyliane departed.

We waited mere moments before her return. As we waited, Iolaine bound the man to the chair and reclaimed his seat at the table. The servant spoke not. We spoke only of small matters. We knew the danger of speaking of important matters in the servant's company.

"Torienne, you seem well." Siveruian commented as he entered the chambers ahead of Lyliane. "What is amiss?" He asked as he noticed the servant.

"This is the servant who distracted Sevianth as the boy climbed the enclosure." Salenia poured the chamberlain a mug of viniare. "It seems the incident was but part of the conspiracy."

"This is true?" The chamberlain lowered the wire rings around his eyes and looked at the man.

"I am loath to speak, faelida. I do so threatened." The man's resolve had fallen.

"They threatened your life?"

"They did, faelida."

"It was wise they did so. If you speak not, you shall not have need to fear their retribution. The Jilhsaed's guards shall discover methods to loosen your tongue." Siveruian added threats to ours.

"Faelida, please. I have no wish to lose my life. If I speak of my knowledge, I shall die."

"You shall die regardless. However, if you speak, the mercy of the Jilhsaed shall be made known to you." Siveruian kept his calm. He seemed to have interrogated many.

"I shall speak of it, if you pledge to illustrate the mercy of the Jilhsaed." The man seemed reluctantly willing.

"I pledge on the name of my father." Siveruian placed his hand above his heart and made a fist.

"I was employed to harm the boy had I chance. I watched as he climbed the enclosure and distracted him as he neared the top. When the servants of the jesisenias joined the lone nurse, I claimed duties to attend. I am gladdened the boy survived. I wished only my reward, not his life."

"What was the promised reward?" I asked. The man's tale sat ill with me. I liked him not and pitied him less.

"I was to be given coinage and freedom. It is all I wished. I wished to journey to Creasinda and seek employment. The man who bid me harm the boy pledged to assist my endeavor. He has many contacts in Creasinda."

"Know you his name or have you knowledge of his appearance or trade?" Salenia inquired.

"I know not his name nor his employment. I know only he is one of the cordermers. He remained hidden in shadows or bid another to have speech with us."

"Who was the other and who else was employed to harm us?" It had the distinct odor of the conspiracy. Our demise would benefit the coup.

"There were several servants and guards employed to assist. I know not how many or whom. I know but few. Those were among the taken slain in the battle during Kierian's rescue."

"And the other who bid you assist them?" I asked again.

"I know of him, though I fear to name him." The man's resolve weakened.

"Need I bring to mind the methods employed by the palace guards?" Siveruian seemed to lose his patience. I knew the tale concerned him greatly. He would be seasons ascertaining loyalties of the remaining servants and cordermers.

"I."

"Is it truth the palace guards can lengthen one's body?" I asked.

"I have heard as well they greatly enjoy applying fired steel to eyes, tongues, and other parts of a prisoner." Sal related tales we had heard during our schooling.

"I have heard the same, shehala. I believe they enjoy using prisoners as instruments as well." We knew not if the methods were true, we knew only they sounded horrific. We learned later the true methods employed to garner information. We were not wrong in our estimations, though we were told of worse.

"Crumelent. He was the one who bid me harm the boy." Water ran from the man's eyes, forehead and lips.

"He was employed by another?" Siveruian asked.

"He was, though I know not by whom." The servant looked at him closely. "I have spoken of my knowledge. I cannot relate more as I know no more."

"It is as we surmised, Siveruian." I informed the chamberlain. "I believe his tale. He knows no more."

"It is well. Iolaine, fetch you the guards at the end of the corridor. They await my command." He knew enough to trust in those proven in their loyalty.

"Yes, faelida." Iolaine bowed low before departing the chambers.

"As for you, you shall be imprisoned. We shall have speech again when we capture the others involved in this." The chamberlain stood. "It is well you spoke of your knowledge. Perhaps it shall save your life."

"You pledged the mercy of the Jilhsaed." The man protested.

"I pledged the mercy of the Jilhsaed, it is true. I did not pledge to spare your life. I shall have speech with the Jilhsaed on your behalf, though I know not his punishment." Siveruian clarified his pledge. "I know not if he shall spare your life. If he does not, it shall be swift."

"I care not for swift. I spoke only to spare my life." The servant lost his resolve. The guards arrived and pulled him from the chair. He departed, crying and shaking between them.

"I shall have speech with the Jilhsaed regarding this man. Have we more to discuss? What of the others the servant spoke of?"

"We shall attend to them, Siveruian. It is best you do not have knowledge of our plans." I stood and escorted him to the door of the chambers. "We shall send for you if we have need."

"I trust in you both. It is well you came to this land. This conspiracy has been too long given root. Perhaps it shall not bloom." His smile was the first real smile I had seen him bear.

"We shall ensure it does not. You have our gratitude for your assistance with the servant. It was well you were present to hear his tale." Salenia seemed to have regained her calm. Throughout his tale, she had been pale and seemingly ill at ease.

"It is I who owe you gratitude. If not for your persistence, we would not know of this servant. I shall see to him now. May your evening be pleasant. If there is news, I shall inform you of it." With those words, he departed from the chambers.

"Iolaine, escort Lyliane to the library if you will. You may escort the others here if you desire." I wished to have speech with Salenia alone. "Return in an hour. We shall have need of you then."

"Wish you to visit the others?" Iolaine asked.

"We shall have need of Tre's knowledge."

"Perhaps, shehala, it would be wise to meet them in the library." Sal advised.

"You are correct, keytheda. Iolaine, we shall meet you in the library. We have need of legends contained in the scrolls." I had an idea for instilling fear into Crumelent. He seemed a coward, and I planned to exploit it.

"We shall wait for your arrival." Iolaine offered his hand to Lyliane. She accepted and stood.

"Sevianth shall be pleased by your company. In truth, Tre and Rul will as well. We shall await your presence in the library."

"We shall meet you there, sister. Guard your steps." Sal advised as they departed.

"Are you well, shehala?"

"I am. It was not with ease that I threatened him. I know not if I could have removed his thumb." She reclaimed her seat and poured a mug of viniare.

"I know not if I could have." I attempted to ease her concern.

"Nothen, Torienne. You, I think, could have done so. You would not have performed the required action with pleasure, though you would have performed it. Why did you not threaten the man?"

"I was once informed you need not my assistance in certain matters. I wished not to damage your resolve or cause the servant to doubt in you. If I had taken your position, I would have usurped your authority and believability. It seemed wise to allow you to continue." I spoke truth. Had I intervened, it would have seemed I doubted in her and caused the servant to doubt in her. It would not have seemed wise.

"I am grateful you have faith in me. I have not grown accustomed to such responsibilities inherent in our duty. It is well I was not required to remove his thumb. I have no wish to discover if I have the resolve to do so." She grinned. "Regardless, it makes a good threat."

"It does, shehala. You did well. Kayla and Chelstea would be proud."

"I care not. This journey has proven us worthy of our marks. If we can return to our homeland whole, we shall be near to equal with our instructors."

"If any believe our tales." I laughed. "I have a plan for instilling fear in Crumelent."

"What have you planned?"

"There are tales of demons of the night in our homeland. I doubt not there shall be equal tales in this realm. If we discover the correct tale, we shall make it seem as if we are demons sent to render him to his torment." The plan amused me.

"I like this plan. It has much humor in it." Sal laughed. "Had you other plans or did you merely wish our companions to depart for an hour?"

"I wished only to ensure your health. I had no wish to discuss it within hearing of your sister. I knew as well she would require assurance from Iolaine."

"It was wise. Lyliane is no longer naïve, though I have no wish to assist any further loss of her native innocence. It is well she remains hidden in the inner chamber. I have no wish for her to know of our whole duty."

"In truth, I agree. I wish the same for Sevianth and Tre. There is much of our responsibility we cannot have speech of with others." I poured a mug of viniare. "Wish you to visit our companions?"

"I wish it so, though I wish only for moments of tranquility. Such moments are rare." She stood and crossed the chamber floor. She opened the door to the balcony. "This is a strange realm. It is full of intrigue, danger and beauty."

"It is a wondrous realm. I shall be gladdened to depart." I joined her at the railing of our small balcony. "If you wish rest, I shall stand watch. We have little time before we are to meet the others."

"My gratitude, shehala. I believe I shall rest."

"I shall wake you if you fall to dreaming." I pledged. I remained at the balcony as she returned to bed.

I spent my hour well. I thought on tales I had heard in my youth. I thought on costumes we could use, and speeches to give Crumelent. In truth, I thought little on those matters. My mind was concerned with thoughts of my homeland. We had been over two moons on our quest. It seemed a life of seasons. I thought on the changes in me and the changes that perhaps had occurred in my village. I thought on much, little was of use. Though I found peace and contentment in the realm of the Jilhsaed and in my duty to him, when not beset by conspiracies, I had grown weary of sand. I wished to return home.

"Sal. Wake. It is time to meet the others." I had been long in my thoughts. I had allowed her to dream more than I had pledged.

"I am wakeful, though I am weary still." She stretched before removing herself from the bed.

"As am I, shehala. I believe our companions are as well. Come. Let us see to them. Perhaps they shall revive our spirits."

"Perhaps they shall. Lead on, keytheda. I shall follow."

The journey to the library was uneventful, save for the strange looks the other guards favored on us. In truth, it was me they favored with the strange looks. Tominent had informed us of the untruths circulating the palace. It surprised the guards we passed to see me breathing. I believe it enhanced my reputation.

"Tor. Come see. The virithen has grown." Sevianth broke custom, grabbed my hand and attempted to pull me to a table. "Come."

"In a moment, Sevianth. Patience." Salenia was of no assistance. She was enjoying her mirth.

"We need speech with our companions, young one. Bring the virithen to the table. I shall view it there."

"I shall, Torienne." He ran with youthful exuberance to fetch the creature.

"Tre, we have need of your skills. Perhaps you have studied the tales and legends of this realm?" I asked as we approached the table where my sister was reading softly to my cousin. Rul seemed intent on her hearing. She knew not the tongue, though it seemed Tre was translating the text as she read.

"I have, sister. What need have you of tales?" Tre seemed curious. I knew she would view it as a challenge. It was in the blood of my father. It ran in our veins along with determination.

"We have need of tales of demons or the like. We wish to instill fear into a man. I knew you would be well suited to this part of our endeavor." She seemed to glow from within at the praise.

"I know of no tales containing such creatures. I have a thought of where they would be found. Have you time? It requires little research."

"We have time." Sal answered. "I believe the plan would be more effective as the moon begins its descent."

"I believe you correct, shehala. We need have speech with Kespearen as well." I reminded her.

"Aight. Shall we see to him after we meet with Tominent?"

"We shall. It would be wise to bid Tominent accompany us." I watched as Sevianth returned with the virithen. "Gods of my tribe, it has grown." When we had pulled the creature from Salenia's tunic, it had fit in the palm of my hand. It had grown to the length of my forearm in days.

"We believe it was ill fed, cousin." Rul broke her silence. "It has done no more than eat and dream."

"It plays as well." Sevianth protested. "It enjoys walking the length of the table."

"Have you named it yet?" Sal asked as she examined the creature.

"I have. I have named it Morgreane. It is from a tale Tre discovered in a scroll about virithens." He seemed to desire our approval.

"I believe it is a good name. It suits the creature." I told him. I knew not the tale, though I had faith in his judgment.

"It seems to fit." Sal agreed.

"Sevianth, come. Let us resume your schooling." Lyliane called him to her. "Rul, wish you to join us?"

"I wish it so. Lyliane is instructing us in reading the scrolls." My cousin confided. "It is a harsh tongue and one not learned with ease."

"It is difficult." I agreed. In truth, I learned it with ease. I knew though that Rul was not as learned as my siblings and myself. It was not a sign of her intelligence. She was merely unaccustomed to being a scholar.

"Regardless, I shall instruct you in it." Lyliane pledged. "Come. We shall position ourselves near to the entrance. It will allow us space to learn."

"Our gratitude, sister." Sal smiled. We knew Lyliane had formed a great distraction. It would allow two duties to be performed with much ease.

"Have you specific details for a tale in mind, Torienne?" Tre asked as the others claimed a table across the vast chamber.

"We have need of tales of demons. Such tales as we were told in our youth." It seemed the inhabitants of the realm of the Jilhsaed feared not their gods. They did not seem, under casual observation, to fear eternal retribution for grievous wrongs. Though they seemed to believe, as did we, in physical life beyond death, they did not believe their souls were granted rest before their return. In truth, not all returned to this life. Some were forbid life beyond their death. It was fair. They earned such punishment by their deeds.

"I have not read such tales in this land. Perhaps we shall discover the proper scrolls." Filled with determination, my sister rose to her feet. "I shall not work alone. Come. You both shall assist. Look you for legends here." She indicated a shelving with her hand. "I shall read through these."

We chose scrolls arbitrarily. Such legends and tales as we had need of were often scribed with others like to them. We read through several as the hours passed slowly. As I looked through countless scrolls, I began to wonder if I was correct, if the inhabitants of the realm believed not in demons. Regardless, I continued the search. I was content to give Tre lead of it. It suited her well.

"Gods of my tribe, this is futile." Sal dropped the scroll she had been reading onto the table. Her frustration was evident. "I see not how such a tale shall assist us."

"What is the tale?" I wished a distraction from the scroll in my hands. It contained deeds pious believers could perform and be rewarded by their gods. The people of the Jilhsaed believed in different gods. There was not one religion. There were several in the land. The scroll gave light to the creation of zealots. It seemed insanity.

"It is a tale describing a young mans events near to the anniversary of his birth. He was given a test to prove his worth as a man. The Jilhsaed bid him seek a flower that is animal in nature. It consumes living creatures. The tale claims he returned years after he had begun his quest. He returned with the flower but the quest had not been without cost. He lost his hand and in his absence, his betrothed joined with another. He walked also with a limp until the end of his days."

"I have not read the tale. Says it how it ends?" It seemed to have captured Tre's interest. In truth, it had mine as well. Such a quest seemed foolish, though it was a test of one's worth. It seemed in part like ours, seemingly impossible but of untold importance.

"It does. The Jilhsaed had no heir. He sent the man on the errand as a jest, though it proved the court incorrect. The man was made heir to the Jilhsaed. He became a great leader of the realm. In truth, according to the scroll, he began the current line of the Jilhsaed. He is forefather to Soliumant."

"In truth?" It seemed reasonable. The Jilhsaed and Soliumant showed the strength of their ancestors.

"It is written. I know not the truth of the tale. I know not if such flower exists. I have not heard of such." She shrugged her shoulders. "It is a tale of interest, though it helps us not."

"I have discovered nothing of importance. I have merely read of religious texts. I know now how zealots are created. It is written here for certain sects rewards shall be given to pious believers if they perform the deeds described here." I held the scroll for inspection. "It is madness. I know not how people can believe such."

"It is a frailty of the mind, shehala. Such people are not content with life and wish to seek another. They know not what makes them content."

"It seems an adequate description." Tre joined the conversation. "I have found but one tale concerning demons. I know not if it can assist you."

"What says it?" It seemed our only hope for inspiration.

"It is gruesome. I believe I shall have night terrors for a moon after reading such." She paused for a large breath. I knew then she was correct. There was not much Tre feared. "It seems the evil are escorted in death by a demon. The demon is like a man in all things but one. It has no eyes. It has steel knives small in stature though sharp in place of eyes. To prepare the evil for the journey, the demon takes the eyes of those it guides. It consumes them, condemning the departed to an eternity in darkness. It is believed those afflicted with loss of sight in the realm of the living were visited by the demon in a previous life."

"It is gruesome." Sal agreed. "I know not how it shall assist us. We have eyes."

"Perhaps we shall be required to utilize a tale from our homeland. If these people have no major demons, we shall create ones to instill fear in Crumelent." It seemed a reasonable idea.

"Perhaps the tale of the night demons shall suffice." Tre suggested. "I feared them for many years. It is an untrue tale, though effective in instilling fear."

"Perhaps it shall. It is a good idea, sister." I laughed. In truth, it seemed a brilliant suggestion.

"It is a good suggestion. It has much amusement in it as well." Sal agreed. "I believe our companions shall enjoy it as well."

"I believe so. It requires little costumes." In truth, we required only black attire and paint such as performers and shaman used. We possessed the black attire. We required only the paint. "Where is Iolaine?"

"He is in the inner chamber. One of the queriane pledged show him a sword dance." Tre answered. "It seems they have a chamber for sword work."

"All warriors should have access to such a chamber." I voiced my approval. "What is the hour?"

"It is near to the evening meal." Sal answered. "Were we to meet Tominent in for the meal?"

"We are. He is to return to our chambers for the meal. We should bid Iolaine to accompany us. Perhaps the paint we require is to be found in the market."

"We are to remain here still?" Tre asked.

"I wish it so." I answered. "Have you thought to depart from the library?"

"Nothen. I merely asked from curiosity. I enjoy greatly the opportunity to read these at my leisure."

"See that you consume food and dream adequately." I reminded her.

"Lyliane and Rul ensure I rest and partake of the meals. I am well protected and guarded." She laughed. "It is as though I have many mothers."

"My sister shall be a good mother, I think." Sal smiled at the thought. "I await the day she bears babes."

"It shall be a great event." I agreed. "It seems Iolaine has decided to join us." I could view his entrance to the chambers.

"How goes the day, my friends?" He seemed weary but gladdened. "I have learned much of sword work from the queriane. They seem well skilled though unpracticed."

"I believe they shall receive practice enough if we fail in our latest endeavor." I believed it, though I wished to avoid it. "We have need of items at market. Perhaps you and Lyliane can fetch them for us."

"I am able to do so. What have we need of?"

"We have need of paint we can apply to our faces and hands." Salenia told him. "Such paint as performers use. It should be found at the market in preparation for the festivities." She checked the position of the sun through the window. "You have perhaps an hour before the setting of the sun. Fetch what we need in haste. We need not you caught or found missing."

"I shall go in haste. Lyliane knows of what we need?"

"I believe she does." Sal seemed confident in her sister's knowledge.

"Here." I handed him coinage. "Hasten your return. We shall await you in the chambers."

"Perhaps we should return and allow Tre to continue Sevianth's lessoning?"

"We should. We must await Tominent as well." I agreed. "Sevianth, Rul. We must depart. Stay you close to the inner chamber. Leave not the library regardless of need. Send one of the queriane to fetch the meals and such."

"Aight, Tor." Rul claimed a seat near to Tre.

"Must you depart again?" Sevianth seemed saddened.

"We need attend our duties, young one. We shall return as able." I pledged. "You have duty as well, or do you not remember?"

"I remember, Torienne." He grudgingly gave his answer. "I wish this over."

"As do I, Sevianth. As do I." I held him close for a moment. "Go you and tender Salenia your greetings, then return to your lessoning with Tre."

"Aight." He pulled away and embraced Sal. She tousled his hair as she released him.

"Take care, Sevianth. We depend upon you to keep watch over Rul, Tre and Lyliane. See to it they dream and consume their meals."

"I shall, Salenia." His chest puffed with youthful pride.

"Come, shehala. Let us depart." I rose and looked to our companions. "Guard yourselves well. We shall see you on the morrow."

"Peace be your dreaming, sister." Tre tendered the evening greeting.

"And to your own, all of you." Salenia returned it.

We returned to our chambers to find them empty. Tominent attended duty until the evening meal. I knew not if Lyliane would join us for the meal. Regardless, we agreed to wait the meal for their return. We trusted not in the other palace servants. All food was prepared together. We had no fear of poisoning from the palace cooks, though a servant could poison the meal with ease before it was brought to our chambers. Fortune was with us. Iolaine and Lyliane returned with the paint and the meal.

"We found the paint with ease." Lyliane's voice showed her pride.

"It is well you did so. You purchased the appropriate color?" I asked. It mattered little, though I had a wish for correctness.

"There is little call for darker hues in this realm, Torienne. We purchased a brighter hue, it is almost white." Iolaine informed us. "Lyliane believed it would suffice."

"It shall, I believe." Sal agreed with her sister's assumption. "It shall seem more demonic to him I think."

"Perhaps you are correct." I painted the image in my mind. "It seems appropriate for this realm."

"Have we a plan?" Sal asked.

"We shall enter the chambers through the balcony. Has Crumelent servants?"

"I know not." Lyliane answered. "Shall we inquire of Siveruian?"

"Nothen. We do not need him aware of this plan. Crumelent could potentially know it if we do so. He needs not be warned of our intentions." I advised. "We shall inquire of Tominent when he arrives."

"Tominent has arrived." He announced as he entered. "Have we a plan?"

"We have. Has Crumelent servants?" I asked.

"He has but two. They serve the palace not him." He answered. "Have we need of their cooperation?"

"Nothen. We have need of their absence." I wished not to injure innocents. "We know not if he has earned their trust in him."

"Perhaps the queriane who shadow him have the knowledge we seek." Sal suggested. "We should inquire of them."

"We shall." I answered. "I have thought on it. We shall depart from these chambers, though we shall not do so until the moon begins its descent."

"What is the plan?" Tominent asked.

"We shall enact a performance worthy of players." Salenia answered. "We shall pretend we are demons of our homeland, souls of the departed, seeking justice for his transgressions."

"It is a good plan." Tominent laughed. "I shall enjoy this performance."

"We have need of seeking Kespearen as well." Iolaine reminded us. "Perhaps we shall require the shirts of metal as well."

"It truth, they shall add a striking element to the costumes. It is a brilliant idea, Iolaine." I commended his suggestion. We had begun weaving elements of both cultures into our planned performance. Our journey had far reaching elements we had not considered as we lived it. "Let us see to him after we consume the meal. We shall then journey to the library and inquire of the queriane."

"We need consume the meal?" Tominent's statement seemed a query.

"Aight. We require nourishment for strength." Salenia answered.

There is something of anticipation that saps the will to consume food. Despite Salenia's words, none of us finished the meal. We ate as we could, leaving much behind. We decided to leave the nonperishable food for later consumption. We would require it when we returned to the chambers.

We journeyed to the lowest chambers of the palace. Kespearen was attending his duties to the Jilhsaed. He seemed to be crafting an enormous sword. We watched as he shaped the metal in the heat. It fascinated us as we did so. It illustrated his skill. Had we doubt in his abilities, despite his ingenious design for our shirts of metal, the skill in which he shaped the sword would have quelled them.

"You have come in search of your shirts of metal?" Finished with his work on the sword, the metal shaper turned to us.

"We have, misayla." I answered. The term of respect was heartfelt. I admired his skill.

"They are completed. Each should fit. I expanded the design." He wiped his brow before handing Salenia a shirt of metal. "My wife is skilled in the making of clothing. She assisted in adding this." He indicated a layer of cloth woven into the chains of metal. "This shall keep it from making noise and it has been designed to tighten the fit such as shirts of cloth."

"Your wife is greatly skilled." I commended the skill. Salenia seemed to lose the skill to shape words. She gazed at her design in awe.

"It is greater than I had envisioned. In truth, you are a master as is your wife." She regained her voice. "You have earned our respect, gratitude and more."

"I have enjoyed the challenge. I believe I shall be rewarded when the Jilhsaed views these. I have made one for Soliumant also. Perhaps his brother shall carry it to him?"

"I shall be honored to do so. I tender his gratitude and my own." Tominent bowed as he received both shirts. "It shall fit him?"

"My wife has made shirts for Soliumant. She cut the cloth to fit him from remembered shirts." He answered. "It shall suit him well."

"In truth, you are gifted. Prepare yourself for several of these shirts. I believe you correct. I believe the Jilhsaed shall request many." I advised him. "Regardless of your duty, you have performed a great service. You have our gratitude and we shall remember it always."

"I am grateful for the challenge, Torienne. May these shirts guard you well. I must complete the sword. Johianei has requested this in haste."

"What need has Johianei of a sword?" Salenia inquired.

"He requested one near to Soliumant's. It is to be presented to the heir upon his betrothal ceremony." The sword shaper replied.

"It is to be gifted him then?" I asked. It seemed reasonable. I liked it not. It seemed convenient, though it seemed innocent as well.

"It is what Johianei claimed. You suspect him?" Kespearen seemed surprised. "He is a prominent advisor to the Jilhsaed. He seldom departs from Marlkina."

"We suspect him not. It seemed strange. Our customs are not similar to yours." I explained. I had no wish for news of our plans or suspicions to reach unfriendly ears. "I was merely curious."

"Torienne, we must depart if we are to have speech with our companions." Sal subtly reminded me.

"Aight. May the gods grant you long life and prosperity, misayla." I offered my arm to Kespearen.

"I wish the same for you four as well. If you have need of my skills again, please inquire. I enjoy challenges." With that, he returned to the shaping of the sword before him.

"Come. Let us not distract a master at his craft." Tominent guided us to the door.

"You are correct, though his work is amazing. I have not seen the like." Sal commented.

"Iolaine, have you the ability to return the tanornela to the chambers?" I asked. "We shall meet you there." I had no desire for the tanornela to be known to others before it was required. We had need of surprise. It was part of its design.

"I shall do so." He wrapped the shirts in his tunic to conceal them.

"We shall return in haste." I promised.

Sevianth was seeking his dreams when we returned to the library. Rul was as well. Tre and Lyliane remained in the great chamber, reading from various scrolls. They seemed surprised at our entrance. Sal and I joined them as Tominent entered the inner chamber to fetch a queriane.

"Is something amiss?" Lyliane inquired as we neared their table.

"Nothen. We merely require speech of the queriane." I shrugged my shoulders before claiming a seat near to my sister. "You have consumed your meal?"

"I have, Torienne." Tre's voice held her exasperation. "You wish not to mother me as well?"

"I wish not. I wish only to ensure your health. I have doubt of my safety were I to return you to Dalin harmed." I jested. In truth, it was not a jest. Dalin was a skilled warrior and a good man. Killing him in defense would not have entertained me.

"I wish often for his presence. He would be entertained by this realm, I think." She seemed thoughtful. "Perhaps we shall return one day and he can view the wonders I have seen."

"Perhaps you may return. I wish to remain near to our homeland." Salenia and Lyliane were immersed in their own conversation. "Sal has much planned. I wish to assist in making her dreams reality. I know Dalin feels the same of you and your dreams. If you wish to return, I doubt not he shall escort you."

"Torienne, you are not the sister I recall." Tre smiled softly. "This journey, your schooling and more have changed you. You are better with shaping words, and you seem to regard your companions as family. In your youth you were close only to Lu. I like the changes greatly."

"It seems we are maturing. You are not the girl I recall either. Dalin shall be greatly pleased when we return. I shall be proud to stand and watch as you are joining."

"Would you stand for me?" It was a soft-spoken request.

"If you wish, I shall be honored to do so." The request touched me deeply. It was not her decision to make, though I knew our father would wish it as well. He was proud of his daughters.

"Torienne, here is one of the queriane who has shadowed Crumelent." Tominent's return halted our conversation. "He has knowledge of Crumelent's household."

"Has he servants?" I asked. The warrior replaced the sister.

"He has but two servants. They take their rest in the quarters of the palace servants." The queriane answered. "He spends the night hours without protection."

"In truth?" It seemed too convenient.

"In truth. He is in disgrace. He is not allowed servants who would be loyal to him." The man explained. "It is a mark of the little esteem he is granted."

"The design of his chambers?" Sal joined the conversation.

"I know not." The man answered. "I know only he has a small balcony, a bathing chamber and the chamber for his dreams. I have entered but once. I had not time to discover all parts."

"It shall suffice." I answered. "Let us return to our chambers. We have need of much preparation."

"Aight. I believe this shall be enjoyable." Sal laughed.

"It shall be entertaining, I believe. Let us depart." Tominent seemed anxious.

"Aight. Lead on, my friend. We shall follow." I allowed him his delusions. He seemed trapped in the chase. It was amusing, as if we were watching a babe of a hound sniff for a rabbit.

Iolaine awaited us in the chambers. It was but an hour past the meal. The remains of our attempt at consuming food were still on the table. We had five hours to fill with activity. We chose then to eat. We had little duty to attend.

We discussed our plans for interrogating Crumelent as we ate. We planned for surprises, battles, and the ease of our quest. We planned our speeches as well. Iolaine and Tominent seemed intrigued and amused by our plan. They knew not of such demons. In truth, we invented more than what had inspired us. The demons we would portray held little of those we had learned of in our youth. Regardless, they would frighten Crumelent. Such demons had not been seen in the realm of the Jilhsaed either.

It is strangely amusing the conversations warriors engage in while awaiting duty. We spoke of our thoughts on the future, humorous incidents of our youth, and tales of great deeds performed by our ancestors. Sal and I answered many queries from Tominent regarding kirgeurs. At the least, we answered what we were able. There is still much mystery involved in our schooling that those wishing the mark may learn of. It is not shared with others.

The moon was not in its largest state. It was dim and we were hard pressed to adequately judge the hour by it. Regardless, we prepared for our performance. We donned our black attire. Tominent was fortunate to possess his own. We had none that would properly fit his frame. It was the paint that caused trouble. It did not spread with ease. We were required to paint one another. It was amusing.

For one in disgrace, Crumelent's chambers were opulently decorated. The ease of our entrance amazed me. With only two servants, Crumelent had not the ability to guard his quarters. We entered through the small balcony and crossed the chamber in stealth. Though decorated for one in position of influence, his chambers were not as large as mine. It was a mark of his disgrace, and the esteem placed in us.

As planned, the four of us gathered near to his bed. He was walking his dream paths; careless of the danger he was in. It was a mark of his over confidence. He had not thought to be suspected of treason. He had not planned for his capture. It suited our plan well.

The four of us were required to lift him from his bed. It was not easy to do so. He was a large man. Regardless, we took care not to wake him. Fortune was with us, as he did not stir. Crossing the chambers, we carried his dreaming form to the bathing chamber. It contained only one pool. We cared not. Any water would suit our purposes. He woke when his massive form entered the pool.

"You have many transgressions in which you are held accountable, Crumelent." Since Iolaine was not known to Crumelent, he was chosen to speak first.

"I have committed no transgressions. I am answerable to none save my father. Who are you to stand in judgment of me?" He woke in haste. We stepped as one from the shadows. "What manner of man are you?"

"We are not of men, nor do we matter to men unless we have been sent for you." Iolaine repeated Salenia's words with little change. She had planned all the words we were to speak.

"What manner of creature are you then?" It seemed our plan was successful. Crumelent held himself tightly in the pool and did not move. It seemed he wished us gone from his presence. In truth, I doubt it not. Many would have been frightened by our appearance. We were attired all in black and had painted all skin showing a white hue.

"We are spirits sent to stand in judgment for your transgressions." Tominent answered. He spoke in a harsh tone, disguising his voice by lowering it near to a growl. It echoed through the chamber. In truth, it seemed otherworldly.

"I have performed no transgressions." He protested.

"It seems the gods believe otherwise." I replied. Even my voice seemed to echo from the depths of Necimius's realm. "You have planned the downfall of your brother and your father. You have desired that which is not for you. You wish to disrupt the will of the gods. They are not content with your desires."

"I have plotted nothing." Perhaps we would have believed his denial had he not stuttered. "I wish no harm to my brother."

"Perhaps you do. Perhaps it is why you did nothing to halt the tirgeaur." Tominent accused. "We have knowledge of your life and all your deeds."

"I could not halt the tirgeaur. I." He cried as a child. "I dream of it still. I had not the courage to assist. I was frightened." The words were spoken in such soft tones; we almost did not hear them. "It was not. I could not."

"What of the girl from the harem?" Salenia broke her silence. Though we wished question him of Sevianth's accident, we wished not reveal our identities. We had discussed it at length, deciding it was best to avoid the topic.

"I knew of her. I had the pleasure of her. I did not end her life." He protested. "I did nothing I am accused of. You are here to punish me for my cowardice. I have done no other wrongs."

"If you harmed not the female, who did?" I asked.

"I cannot speak of it." His words were not heard with ease. His sobs were.

"The one planning the coup has bought your silence." It was not difficult to surmise the truth. I had been correct. Crumelent was but a petty player. "What price was your soul?"

"The girl. He killed the girl and made my father believe I had done so. I had refused him." The words stumbled from his lips.

"Wish you to cleanse your soul?" Iolaine asked.

"I wish it so. I desire no more than that. I wish to make amends, though I know not how."

"Tell us of the man. We need hear from your lips the truth of your mind." Salenia spoke again.

"I cannot. He has much knowledge. He has pledged to damn my soul if I speak of my knowledge. The gods themselves cannot assist me."

"We can assist you. We shall assist you if you speak of it." I pitied him.

"I cannot." He refused to speak of it again.

We remained for fully an hour. We threatened and cajoled, though we did not lay hands on him. He refused to answer our questions. He remained silent when asked of the one who had bought his soul. We departed when we could learn no more. We had learned only his innocence in the killing of the girl from the harem.

Disheartened, we returned to our chambers. We took it in turn to cleanse our faces and hands of the paint. We attired ourselves in our normal clothing. Through it all, we remained silent. Each was too full of thought to speak of any we had seen or learned. After we were each attired as we had been before our failed duty, we gathered near to the table. An open flask of viniare was chosen to loosen our tongues.



Continue to part 23

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