Trials of the Prey – Chapter 4

Posted by Akira | Posted in Serial Fiction, Trials | Posted on 23-09-2016

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Aurora's crown of birchwood

Go to Chapter 3

Sloane stood and bowed to his queen as she made a grand entrance to her office. Several ladies-in-waiting followed her, carrying armfuls of parchments, books and jeweled boxes that Sloane knew to contain Padraig’s traveling crystal literature and music collection.

When they had all entered, the queen sat on her makeshift throne, made of dark wood, with bits of crushed velvet and fine silk covering the heavy padding. Her ladies hurried to far off, hidden parts of the office, conducting the queen’s business at her behest.

Only when Sloane heard the last delicate footsteps leave the large room did he dare speak to Queen Aurora. He straightened his body from his low bow, his head still bowed, as if waiting for her approval to speak.

“Speak swiftly, dear prince, for I have many plans to tend.”

Sloane raised his head and spoke on command, “My queen, I come to you on behalf of House Lupuna and the nobility at large. You know our will, so I will not recount the official vote. However, we do not know our queen’s will in this matter. The noble houses have requested that I come to you on the eve of Prince Padraig’s latest ritual, to hear your final thoughts on the matter.”

The international gazettes had made a mockery of the events that shook the throne of Taladae. Both sons betrothed to different noble houses. Treaties riding on their impending nuptials. The heir broke the treaty with the sidhe so he can take the prettier lady from his brother, costing the fair Miss Tallis Emberiz and House Emberiz their noble charter. Centuries of political support, both in Taladae and abroad, drained away before the papers hit the newsstands. It was rumored that Prince Gannon left in shame, returned to his mother’s family in the Northern Territories. The more salacious rumors had the king on a mission to soothe these new political wounds, by traveling Gaea and visiting with his allies.

They don’t trust me to act as Kirwin would. “They believe I plan to hold festivities while my husband is away? While we bar the back door against the sidhe? Am I not trusted among the nobility?”

He knew he needed to tread lightly, “Not as such, my queen. Your political will is less familiar to the nobility than the king’s. The nobility simply wish to know – “

She cut him off, “-they want to know if I plan to welcome the sidhe regent with open arms at a party in his honor, in the king’s absence.”

Sloane bowed his head. “My queen, respectfully, the nobility wish to impress upon their – your – subjects your will. They simply wish to know if they should prepare the people for winter festivals, or if they should prepare them for a proper mourning.”

She turned her head slightly to the row of crystals that hung by the fireplace, and a young wolfen lady, whom Sloane did not notice before, began writing on a piece of parchment.

“Tell the elders… the loss of a noble house is an occasion for national mourning. The proclamation has already been released by my husband’s office. Taladae is mourning the loss of one of its most ancient noble charters. The Empire will observe an appropriate period of mourning. We shall uphold our somber veil until our king returns to his throne and declares our empire fully healed.”

Sloane cleared his throat gently.

“And?” she asked curtly.

“The prince, my queen. If this delay is to appear to be authentic to our sidhe counterparts, the prince and Miss Tallis -”

She cut him off with a glare, “- I will see to it they play their parts in this. You are dismissed.”

Sloane walked out of the room, head still bowed. The guard opened the door for him, and closed it behind him after he stepped out. He stood in the hall, leaning against the opposite wall. Lady Kunai walked up to him.

“Well?” She said smiling. “Are we feteing the young prince when he emerges from ritual this time?” Her stark white eyebrows furrowed in anticipation of his response. The display of concern was in stark contrast to the smile on her face.

**********************

The door closed gently behind Prince Sloane and after a short time, his footsteps could be heard traveling down the hall among many others. Only when she could hear no more steps outside the door did the queen motion to her companions. She barked orders and issued commands and the ladies moved about the room in a flurry of activity, rushing to and fro to please a now angry queen. She had sent them all away to attend to one thing or another, and the room was silent.

“Perry,” she whispered.

From behind one of the darkened, floor-length tapestries emerged a cloaked figure. Perry took a quick look around the room, and finding it empty save the queen, removed the large hood that obscured her face.

She had large, bulbous eyes with only the dark iris visible and gray blue-streaked feathers covered her face down to her black razor tipped beak. She wore a long cloak that dragged the floor, concealing her large talons, but one could hear the massive claws tap the floor as she walked over to the queen’s side. She reached the left side of the queen’s throne and knelt on one knee, bowing her head, just out of the vision of the queen.

Aurora removed a sliver of blackened tourmaline from her sleeve and handed it to Perry as she knelt beside her.

Perry raised her head, took the crystal from the queen’s hand and placed it in a small pouch hidden inside her cloak.

“For our friends of The Five, my queen?”

“Yes. Careful this time. There are eyes watching our every move.”

“As my queen commands.”

Aurora turned her head to dismiss her loyal avian servant and found that she had already gone.

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