Tales of the Kirgeur

Part 23

By: Bluedragon

"We have learned much, though little seems important to our quest." I could not remain silent. It seemed as if the answers we sought were painted in shadow hues. We could only sense them.

"Perhaps we should have threatened him." Tominent suggested. "We may return next evening and have speech with him again."

"I doubt not." The bells of alarm froze Salenia's comment in her throat. "Dagthen."

"Come. We are called to duty." Resigned to another evening without adequate rest, I stood. "What bells are these, Tominent?"

"There has been death in the palace. It is one of the cordermers." His answer was given in haste. We departed from the chambers, knowing only we would find one of rank dead.

"Where?" A guard was positioned near to the stairway. I inquired of him the direction of the trouble.

"One floor down and to the west." His answer was short. It mattered little. We would view the commotion before we reached the correct chamber.

"Dagthen." Sal slowed our approach. "It is Crumelent's chambers."

"You are correct, shehala." It was truth. I painted the palace in my mind. It was his chambers. "Siveruian, what is amiss?"

"Crumelent was discovered in his bed. The servant sent to fetch him believed him dreaming. When he did not wake, the servant raised an alarm." The chamberlain seemed weary.

"Know we how he died?" It seemed strange. We had departed but at the least an hour earlier.

"I am to discover the cause, Torienne." The mediacio who had attended my wounds announced as he approached. "Wish you accompany me?"

"I wish it so." I answered.

"As do I." Salenia gave voice to her desire. It would have been another aspect of her duty, had she received the red shirt.

We examined the bedchamber. It seemed none had entered since we departed. Sitting near to the bed on the small table was a draft of poison. Crumelent's attire was damp still. He had not changed clothing before seeking his dreams. It seemed strange. It also seemed strange the curtains surrounding the bed had not been closed. They remained open on all sides.

The mediacio confirmed his death mere moments after his examination. It appeared Crumelent had courage to take only one life. He seemed to have taken his own. The mediacio informed Siveruian who bid a servant fetch Soliumant. The chamberlain would inform the Jilhsaed with his own voice.

"Siveruian?" Johianei captured the chamberlain's attention as he entered. "What is amiss?"

"It seems Crumelent has taken his life." Salenia answered. Her voice seemed harsh to my ears.

"It is true, Johianei. A servant was bid wake him for duty, though the servant has disappeared." Siveruian answered. "Know you who wished speech with Crumelent?"

"I wished speech with him. The servant returned to my chambers to inform me of an ill occurrence. He said only Crumelent appeared dead." The viniare merchant replied. "I had wished speech with him concerning the supply of viniare for Soliumant's betrothal ceremony. I was unable to dream and wished to attend my duties."

"Crumelent attended duties for you?" I asked. We had not been informed the cordermer Crumelent had been assigned to assist.

"He did when he wished. He seemed loath to attend any duty save seeking his own pleasure." Johianei answered.

"It is not wise to speak ill of the dead, Johianei." Soliumant admonished. We had not heard his entrance. "We have lost one of the royal line."

"I beg your pardon, rohirm. I meant no disrespect." The merchant bowed.

"It is forgiven. These are complicated times." Soliumant looked to us. "Have you any knowledge of this occurrence?"

"Nothen, rohirm." Salenia answered. I was gladdened she chose to speak for us. "We heard only the bells and ran to assist."

"In truth, rohirm, we wished capture the villains. It appears Crumelent was the instrument of his own demise." Tominent informed his brother.

"Is there any we can do to assist, rohirm?" I asked. I wished not give my thoughts speech. I doubted Crumelent's death. He seemed not the kind who takes his own life. It is a rare coward who does so.

"No, Torienne. You may depart and seek your rest. I had not thought to witness your return to duty. You seem unharmed, though I was informed your wounds were great."

"They were, rohirm. The mediacio was greatly skilled and I was fortunate."

"It is well you are so fortunate. We have need of your skills and your companionship as well." He smiled. "Seek your rest, all of you. I shall attend to my departed brother."

"Our gratitude, rohirm." We bowed before him. Though I was given leave to use his name, I refused to do so in company of others. It would not have been proper.

We departed in haste and silence. The others would see to Crumelent's remains. We had viewed all we had need to witness. I believe we all had similar thoughts chase themselves through our heads. We would not seek our dreams that night.

"Have you thoughts concerning this?" I asked as we reclaimed our chairs near to the table.

"I would not believe Crumelent capable of ending his own life." Tominent answered.

"He did not." Salenia replied. "He was bid consume the poison. I believe it was a struggle to have him ingest it."

"I saw only the damp attire and the cloth surrounding the bed. What of that causes you to believe he was forced?" I wished to hear her thoughts. I had doubted the outcome, though I knew not why.

"Though it could have been part of the poison, he was laying in an unnatural position. Also there were marks upon his wrists that were not present when we interrogated him. I allowed not the mediacio view them." She shrugged her shoulders. "We know not who ended his life. I believed it better we maintain the untruth."

"I think perhaps you were correct, keytheda. However, I believe we now know one of the conspirators, if not the one behind the coup."

"Johianei?" Tominent asked. "We have not proof of his misdeeds."

"Know you why he journeyed to Creasinda? It is said he leaves not the palace."

"Shehala, perhaps we can inquire of Julaniant. He should have some knowledge regarding Johianei's journey."

"I believe you are correct, keytheda. Perhaps it would be wise to journey to him. I know not the trouble it would cause to bid him come to us." I stood. "Think you we could journey there with ease?" I directed my question to Tominent.

"I believe our rank sufficient to quell any questions the guards may possess." He stood as well.

"It is well. We have perhaps two hours before the sun begins its rise. We have not time to waste. I have no patience this night."

"Shehala, you are not a patient warrior." Salenia laughed. "Let us depart. I have no patience this night either." In truth, we all had lost our patience. It seemed a virtue we no longer possessed.

The journey through the palace and into the city was quiet. For a moment, I believed we were the only ones not walking in dreams. There were but few lights shining through windows in the palace and in the small houses surrounding it. The guards paid us little heed as we departed. We were asked no questions. Our rank possessed certain privileges. It was well. I had not thought on a tale to cover our departure. I knew it seemed strange for three warriors and a servant to journey from the palace at such an hour. I cared little for how it seemed to others. I knew if we found our answers, none would hold our actions against us. It seemed easier to act and tender our explanations when all was completed. If nothing else, it contained much of expediency.

Those we had liberated were walking their dream paths when we entered the chambers for hiding. Iolaine quietly woke Julaniant as the rest of us waited near to the entrance. We wished not disturb those resting within the chambers. They seemed peaceful. For a moment, I envied them.

"You wished speech with me?" Julaniant seemed partially awake. He rubbed his eyes as if they would not focus properly.

"We require information. Know you why Johianei journeyed to Creasinda?" I asked.

"I know not. I know only we journeyed there to have speech with a man regarding viniare."

"Is it usual for him to journey so far?" Salenia inquired.

"It is not. Crumelent or another attended those duties."

"Was Crumelent able to perform his duties well?" Tominent joined the inquiry.

"He performed the little he was given with ease. I know not why Johianei trusted not in him. I know only the shadow of violence surrounding him. I witnessed no such shadow." Julaniant seemed confused. "He seemed able to perform all that was required of him. He seemed unable to harm any. I know not why he was in disgrace."

"How long did you serve Johianei?" Our change of questioners did not seem to confuse the man.

"I served him eight years, jesisenia."

"In that time, did he make many journeys?" The others seemed content to allow me my questions.

"He made but two. One to the East and the other to Creasinda."

"Is there nothing that seemed strange regarding the journeys? Did you witness the meetings he held?"

"We were forbid attend the meetings. It was said those of the East did not trust in servants. I know not whom he spoke with in Creasinda. I know only we returned with the viniare we had departed with." He shrugged his shoulders. "Johianei trusted little in his servants. We were not confided in, nor were we given important duties."

"It was unwise to treat his servants in such manners." Tominent broke his silence. "Think him able to conspire against the Jilhsaed?"

"I know not."

"Know you of any strange occurrences? We have reason to suspect him capable of plotting against the Jilhsaed." I asked.

"I know only he guards his position well. There are few assigned or owned by him he trusts in enough to confide in his thoughts. I was not one he trusted in. I had assisted his bodyguard escape with a servant girl. Johianei had not proof, though he knew of it."

"Have you other knowledge which would assist us?" It seemed we had learned little more than we had surmised.

"I have not. I wish I could assist more. Perhaps you should inquire of those nearer to him than I."

"Has Johianei the ability to wield a sword?" Salenia asked.

"He has, though he does not. He depends on others to guard his life though he is capable of doing so. I have witnessed his practice. He is skilled with steel." It was not good news.

"One more question. Has Johianei the ability to speak with the gods? We have heard of one in the palace capable of damning one's soul. Know you if Johianei possesses such an ability?" Crumelent's fear of his eternal damnation echoed through my mind.

"It is said those in the East possess magic of a sort we have not witnessed. The mediacios are said to have once inhabited a region near to the Eastern waters." Tominent answered.

"Julaniant, think you Johianei learned of such practices?" It seemed reasonable. Though we had not witnessed such acts, we had heard tales of the powers possessed by those in the East. I had believed not in them. Such tales were spoken of those to our north and those to the west. Those who inhabited the region South of the realm of the Jilhsaed were also said to possess such magics. We knew not the accuracy of such tales. We would learn of it seasons later.

"I know not. He has entertained representatives from the East, though I was not present at their discussions." Again he shrugged his slim shoulders. "I wish I could assist you more, but I have no knowledge of his actions. I know only the making of viniare."

"You have greatly assisted us." Sal assured him. "We shall allow you to return to your dreams. I would advise against leaving these chambers. We know not what shall occur this day or the next."

"It is so serious?" He asked.

"It is. We have placed much trust in you. Do not give us reason to doubt in you." I warned. Though I trusted in him, I was weary. It affected my temper.

"I shall not give you reason to doubt me." He pledged. "Need you more assistance?"

"We require you only to remain near to here and keep guard over the others." Sal answered. "We need depart. It is near to time for the morning meal. How stand you with supplies?"

"We have much. Iolaine has greatly assisted us with food and drink."

"It is well. We shall depart. Keep you safe." I advised. "Come, let us return to the palace. We need have speech on all we have learned this night."

"You are correct, Torienne. Julaniant, you have our gratitude." Tominent smiled at the former servant.

"I shall return as able with more supplies." Iolaine pledged.

"May your gods guard your lives." Julaniant tendered his blessings.

"And yours." I returned it.

I lost myself in my thoughts as we returned to the palace. More were awake and attending duties. Most were servants sent to fetch the morning meal for their faelidas. We were favored with strange looks, though none questioned our entrance. I knew not if we should have been gladdened by it. I knew though we were known to the guards. At the least they knew of Tominent. As a guard and one of royal blood, his movements were not questioned. His father trusted in him. It was fortunate Tominent was worthy of such trust.

"You have not rested?" Lyliane admonished as we entered the chambers. She was sitting near to the table. The morning meal was placed upon it.

"We have had duty." I informed her. "We have learned much, though we have questions still."

"Perhaps, sister, you can answer a few for us." Salenia claimed a chair near to her sister.

"What need you ask? What occurred last evening? I awoke to the bells."

"Crumelent was found in his chambers. His spirit had departed his body." I answered. "We know not if he rendered himself dead or if another did so for him."

"Are you conversing on last night's events?" Tominent's query illustrated my distraction. I had not noticed we were speaking in our native tongue.

"I apologize, Tominent. Lyliane asked what had occurred. I informed her of our discovery of Crumelent's demise."

"Know you how his spirit departed?" Lyliane asked.

"He ingested poison." Salenia answered. "We doubt he took his own life."

"I dealt little with him. I know not if he was capable of such acts."

"Regardless, this palace contains much intrigue and mystery." I gave voice to my frustration. "We believe Johianei may be involved. It seems strange. Had he known of our true duty, think you he would have employed us?"

"I know not." Sal shrugged her shoulders. "Perhaps he believed we would facilitate the coup. He would know of the prophecy."

"In truth, I believe perhaps he has more knowledge than he admits. Perhaps we should inquire of him."

"We would need do so this evening." Tominent suggested. "Perhaps our illusion of demons would instill fear in him."

"We should attempt, though I doubt its success. Those so involved in the search for power rarely fear much." Kayla had once warned against it.

"You are correct, keytheda." Sal agreed. "Regardless, it would do us well to inquire."

"Then we shall do so this evening." It seemed an easy decision. "We shall do so when the moon has reached its peak." It is unfortunate we were unable to do so. "I must attend the Jilhsaed."

"I have duty to Soliumant." Salenia stood. "We shall meet here for the midday meal."

"Agreed. Lyliane, we require a favor. Bid Tre assist you. We have need of information regarding the magics of the East. We need also learn of Johianei's journeys to the East and to Creasinda. Search the scrolls for such information." It seemed inspired. "If perhaps you can discover the information and impart the knowledge garnered at the midday meal."

"I shall do as bid, Torienne." She smiled. "I am pleased you trust in me to do so."

"I trust in you with my life, sister." I answered. She reddened at the term. "I shall return for the meal." I departed with Tominent. He seemed thoughtful as we journeyed to the great chamber for court.

"I shall examine the alcoves. I shall await the Jilhsaed here."

"I shall see to him. Guard yourself well." I advised before completing my journey to the Jilhsaed's chambers.

The Jilhsaed seemed weary. The guards near to him seemed filled with unease. The advisors seemed anxious. I watched them closely. Johianei was present, though he spoke not. He merely relaxed in his chair near to the Jilhsaed and appeared concerned. Even Siveruian seemed weary. I doubted not he had been attending duty throughout the night hours.

"It is imminent, is it not?" He asked as the cordermers departed.

"I believe it so." I answered.

"Have you a thought of who is leading the coup?"

"I have, though I have not proof of his deeds." I had no wish to speak his name where others might hear of it. "If perhaps you will join us for the midday meal, we shall inform you of our discoveries."

"I think I shall. I must attend to duties. Guard you the Jilhsaed well. I shall meet you in your chambers." He nodded as he turned.

"Jilhsaed, I need have speech with you." Duty prompted me speak to my faelida.

"It is important?" The Jilhsaed halted his dressing.

"It is important and has need of secrecy."

"Leave us." He dismissed his servants. We waited their departure. "Speak." He commanded when the only guard remaining was the natural mute.

"I know this is against protocol. I have a wish to warn you. I know of the prophecy regarding the kirgeurs and the insurrection."

"What do you know?"

"I have read of the prophecy and have had speech of the seer. I know as well Crumelent took not his own life."

"How know you such?" He seemed surprised. "I had not thought my son capable of removing himself from this world, though he seemed capable of removing others."

"He did not harm the girl. I had speech with him mere hours before his death. He was frightened by the tirgeaur as well. He wished no harm befall Soliumant."

"This is true?"

"It is as he said. He spoke the truth. We instilled fear of the gods in him." I released a long breath. "I know these because it is my duty. I am responsible for more than your continued health. I have a duty to my homeland."

"What region do you hail from?" He seemed to fear the answer. "You are a kirgeur are you not?"

"I am, Jilhsaed. I wish not my death, nor do I wish for yours. I learned of the prophecy after remaining in this land for a moon if not more. I have pledged my loyalty to Soliumant and yourself. Have you doubts in me; he shall inform you I wish no harm befall either of you. I pledge I shall do all I am able to halt this impending coup."

"I had suspected your true nature. Johianei seemed to believe you a kirgeur. It explains much of your skill." He claimed a chair near to the chamber. "I have loved but two women. One was a kirgeur, the other my true bride. I learned much of the ways of the kirgeur from her. What suggest you?" It was the most words he had spoken when not in court.

"The coup spoken of in the prophecy is imminent. It is my belief one of the cordermers has knowledge of our true nature and has planned an attempt to take the seat of power. It is a convenient occurrence. However, I believe such plans shall not triumph. I believe we have the skills to overcome the coup." It seemed important to impress my belief in our ability to cause the coup to fail. I knew it could save my head from being removed.

"Have you planned for such?"

"I have, Jilhsaed. We believe we know who is leading the coup. All were not vanquished when we rescued Kierian and my partner. We know that to be truth."

"I believe in you and your training. Kirgeurs are mighty warriors. I wish to ensure my heir's safety. I am unconcerned with my own. Soliumant is a worthy heir, a good man, and shall be a Jilhsaed worthy of legend. Pledge to me you shall guard my son."

"I shall guard Soliumant and you, Jilhsaed." I pledged. "I believe not in prophecies. We shall triumph."

"Guard my son. It is all I ask." He seemed weary. "Have you knowledge of when the coup shall occur?"

"Nothen. We know not the time."

"It is well. I have no wish to know of the time of my death. We need to attend court. Torienne, you have my gratitude for speaking of such to me. Many would fear they would lose their heads for revealing such." He stood. "Call again my servants. We shall not begin court at the usual hour. We are behind schedule."

"Yes, Jilhsaed." I bowed. The servants were in the corridor. They hastened to complete the Jilhsaed's dressing. We were soon journeying to the great chamber.

Soliumant, Salenia, the mute and Tominent had preceded us. As I took my place behind the Jilhsaed, I noticed the court was filled with the queriane. I knew without looking to the balcony, the ones known to the cordermers were hidden. I had wondered who had bid them attend the court. I looked to Salenia. She winked her eye. She had bid them attend. It was well. It provided us a measure of confidence.

Fortune remained with us during morning court. There were no occurrences. None seemed to seek guidance, mediation, or favors. The business of the realm lasted not long. The Jilhsaed released us within an hour. I believe he wished not to tarry in the court chamber. I escorted him to the meal chamber; secure in the knowledge he would be safe there. It would not assist the leader's plans to assassinate the Jilhsaed in privacy.

"I have bid Siveruian join us for the meal." I informed my companions as I entered the chambers. "I have informed the Jilhsaed as well."

"What had he to speak on?" Sal asked. She seemed anxious.

"He tendered his gratitude. He is concerned for Soliumant's safety. He bid me pledge guard his son and heir."

"You informed him of your true calling?" Tominent inquired.

"I did so."

"He was content with the knowledge?" He seemed surprised.

"He claimed he trusted in us." I shrugged my shoulders. "My head still rests upon my shoulders. Honor bid me inform him. In truth, he suspected. Johianei knows as well."

"It is ill he has knowledge of us." Salenia's voice was grim. "Perhaps he knew of us and gave us employment due to our true calling. It would seem convenient."

"If so, he would use our presence as a reason for the coup." I agreed. "I have thought much on it. I believe he knew in Creasinda. I believe as well he has hastened his plans in time with our arrival."

"Perhaps he wished blame the occurrences on us?"

"Nothen, Salenia. Had he wished it so; he would not have wished us assassinated. I believe he wishes to utilize the prophecy. Perhaps he shall attempt to make it seem as if it validates his rise to the seat of power."

"It would seem wise." Tominent agreed.

"Regardless, we know only he shall begin soon. Lyliane, what learn you?"

"We searched several scrolls, though we learned not much. We learned only there are no scrolls detailing the ways of the East. It seems they know not the customs and deeds of that land."

"That is bad tidings. We know not of magic." Salenia replied.

"We know but little. I know not if Johianei is capable of damning one's soul. I know not if any save the gods can do such." Tominent seemed thoughtful. "I have thought much on my brother's words. I can make no sense of them."

"Neither can I. Kayla mentioned the East little. We know it not." I answered. "Perhaps it was but a tale to instill fear in Crumelent."

"I hope it is so, shehala. I like this not." Sal leaned back in her chair. "Lyliane, is there any queriane remaining in the inner chambers?"

"Nothen, sister."

"Iolaine, escort Lyliane to the library. Lyliane, remain in the inner chamber. Open the door only for one of us. Do not allow even the queriane to enter." I trusted in none save those near to me.

"Aight, Torienne. I pledge I shall do as you bid." She was serious in her response. "Come, Iolaine. I desire to return. I am full of unease."

"As are we all, sister. Take care and guard yourself well." Salenia embraced her sister. "We will send for you when this duty is complete."

"We shall await your return."

"Shall I meet you in the chamber for court?" Iolaine asked.

"Aight. You shall remain near to the queriane. We may require your sword." I answered. "Go you and see to their safety."

"I shall, Torienne." He bowed before escorting Lyliane from the chambers. Siveruian entered as they departed.

"You wished impart your knowledge?" The chamberlain asked.

"We did, Siveruian. Claim a chair. We shall impart our knowledge and our suspicions." I waved him to a chair and provided him with a mug of viniare.

It took much time to relate all we had learned and all we suspected to be truth. He was astounded by our tale. We wasted no words as we attempted to instill our sense of urgency into him. At the end of the tale, he remained silent. He leaned back in the chair as if considering our words.

"I know not how to respond. Johianei has long been an advisor to the Jilhsaed. He is held in great esteem. Why would he wish to begin the coup?"

"We know not. Perhaps we are mistaken, though I doubt it. I have only guesses and a vague feeling." I replied. "I know not more."

"In truth, I share Torienne's unease concerning Johianei. It is more than a reflection of our bond, for my unease stems not from her." Salenia supported my words. "As true shehalas, we sometimes feel what the other is experiencing. This feeling is shared, though it began in both of us. It is not transferred one to the other."

"Johianei? You suspect him of leading the coup?"

"I share their beliefs, Siveruian." Tominent spoke his thoughts. "I have seen much during the past moon not to believe their tale. Had I not been present last evening to hear my disgraced brother's tale, I would believe them regardless."

"It seems reasonable for one of the cordermers to plot against the realm, though I would not have suspected Johianei of wrong doing. Have you informed the Jilhsaed of your suspect's identity?"

"We have yet to prove who is behind this. We spoke only of our suspicions to you. We have no wish for others to learn of them." I placed a warning tone in my voice.

"If you are not proven correct, you shall buy me a flask of the man's best viniare. If you are proven correct, I shall do likewise. I shall not speak on this to any. You have my pledge on it." The chamberlain offered his arm. I grasped it to seal the wager. "If you are correct, this realm shall suffer greatly from his treason. One so trusted, even if he fails, can only cause harm in his plotting."

"Perhaps it is a lesson this realm should learn. Trust should not be so easily granted." Sal commented. "Regardless, we each have duty. Perhaps we should attend to it."

"You are correct, shehala. It is near to evening court. I must escort the Jilhsaed to the great chamber."

"Guard yourself well, keytheda. We know not the hour they shall strike."

"I shall if you do likewise." We could feel the unease grow around us. We knew, though we knew not how, that it was imminent. In truth, the quickness of it still found us ill prepared.

"We shall both return or neither." Sal pledged.

"Agreed."

"I add my pledge to yours." Tominent stood. Siveruian was forgotten. "We shall triumph and meet here again or we shall meet, the three of us, in the palace of the gods." He seemed to feel the anxiety surrounding us as well.

"The least harmed shall purchase the first round of ale." I grinned. "Come let us attend duty and wish for one day more before it begins." Would the gods had granted that wish.

Upon reflection, there was much we could have spoken of to one another. There was much we did not say that should have been spoken of. We knew not what we were journeying towards. We knew death awaited us and those around us, though we had no idea of the hour it would seek us. Had we known it was closing in around us that day, I believe we would have cherished our moments with greater gladness. As it was, we knew of the precipice we were facing. We knew of the dangers we would soon encounter. We knew as well they would forever change us. We knew not the time nor did we know of the consequences. In truth, we were ill prepared for it in our minds and hearts. However, it was our training on which we relied.

I departed our chambers with unease surrounding my heart. I had not felt such before. A warrior feels anxiety before a battle, in truth. It was the murky waters of politics we were immersed in. I was not skilled at swimming.

The Jilhsaed was in his chambers. A servant instructed me meet him there. I was granted entrance with ease. Those assigned to the Jilhsaed knew of me and trusted in me. It was an honor to be held in such esteem. There were but few guards with higher rank. I had not the motivation to achieve greater position.

It seemed the Jilhsaed felt the unease flowing through the palace. In truth, it all seemed sensitive to it. The Jilhsaed bid me guard as he knelt before an altar hidden in a small chamber near to his bedchamber. He prayed in a tongue I had no knowledge of. His words seemed heartfelt. It was though he sensed his life was near to its end.

"Torienne, I bid you pledge once more guard my son well." He wiped the tears from his eyes and stood.

"I shall, Jilhsaed." As I had seen others, I placed my fist above my heart and bowed.

"There is a custom little known now in this realm. Come, I wish your pledge be bound by the gods." He waved me to the altar. "Draw your dagger."

"As you wish, Jilhsaed." I unsheathed the dagger I kept opposite my sword. I knew not the reasoning behind the request, though I questioned it not.

"Many do not wish to perform this pledge. It is a mark of courage and devotion. Both are lacking in this realm. It was not always so." He motioned for the dagger. "I wish you pierce your sword hand in the center of your palm. Allow three drops of blood to fall upon this statue and pledge to guard Soliumant."

"If you desire it so, Jilhsaed." I did as asked. It seemed strange to harm myself upon request, though it was near to a custom of my homeland. "I offer this as my pledge to guard the life of Soliumant. I shall do all I am able to ensure his continued health." The blood that fell from my hand gave the pale statue a dark hue. It seemed to be absorbed into the stone. It glistened for a moment before disappearing. "Pardon my questioning, Jilhsaed, though I must know the statue of this god."

"It is the goddess of your people, Torienne. I believed such a pledge before Solisiric would bind you tighter than a god native to my people." He grinned slightly.

"You are wise, Jilhsaed." I smiled in relief. I had not wished to pledge on a god not native to my homeland.

"Once I possessed a name. I was not meant to inherit my father's role as Jilhsaed. I have attempted to rear Soliumant in preparation for the seat of power. It is not a duty taken with ease. I believe he shall perform it well."

"He is a wise man, Jilhsaed. He would instill pride in any near to him. He possesses all the qualities this realm can wish for in a Jilhsaed. He truly is your son."

"You flatter me, Torienne. Come, we have duty and destiny to face." He pulled his tunic closed. "Recall you the pledge. If a choice is required, chose to follow the pledge."

"As you wish, Jilhsaed." Again I placed my fist above my heart and bowed. "I hope such a decision is not required, though I shall recall my pledge."

"For that, you have my gratitude." Those were his last words as we departed from the chamber and journeyed to court.



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