Chronicles of the Court Rogue: Jealousy - Part Seven
I’m getting too old to be running on this few hours of sleep, Jeran decided as he settled into a chair at the table. Mareian looked disgustingly well rested. Of course, she hadn’t spent a good deal of the night before digging around an old ruin in the middle of nowhere. Seeing that Rolan didn’t look much better solaced the blue Lupe somewhat. Breakfast would help even more, he suspected. Fortunately, there was a large bowl of fruit on the table.
“So,” Jeran asked, helping himself to a Tangella, “what’s the plan for today?” Spotting a Grenelon in the wooden bowl, Jeran passed the green fruit to Mareian. Grenelons were one of the pirate Lupess’ favorite.
“King Skarl doesn’t show up until this afternoon,” Rolan said. “And I don’t think we can do very much until he gets here. Once he does, Jeran, I need you to keep him busy – preferably with Father.”
Jeran blinked. “You’re planning on Skarl helping?”
Rolan snorted. “Are you crazy? No, I just need you to keep them out of our hair. Skarl’s going to want you there anyways and we don’t want him wandering off looking for you.”
“What about me?” Mareian asked, daintily licking Grenelon juice off her fingers.
“You get to keep Jules company – and out of my hair.”
Mareian made a face at him. “Gee, thanks.”
“He actually likes you,” Rolan said in a dry voice, “and is pretty close to hating the rest of us.”
“You’re getting pretty free with loaning out my Lupess,” Jeran said, making a face at the Kougra. The fact that Mareian smiled back at the green Zafara just made him want to hackle. There are times where she’s a little too good at that acting thing for my liking, he decided.
“Aww, is widdle Jeran getting jealous?” Rolan teased. Jeran stuck his tongue out at the yellow Kougra. “That’s a bad habit you’ve picked up from Mareian, you know that?”
“I only reserve it for special occasions.”
“Gee, thanks.” Rolan’s dry tone sent Mareian into giggles.
“You two play nice,” the pirate Lupess chided, “or I’ll get Lisha and tell her you two are being bad.” Giving Jeran a teasing look, she continued, “Don’t worry, I think I’ll be able to handle our little green princeling.”
“Just be your usual, adorable self,” Rolan said. “You’ll know what to do when it happens.”
“When what happens?” Jeran asked.
Rolan shrugged. “She’ll know.”
Jeran snorted. That really didn’t explain anything.
Jules may be an arrogant brat, Mareian decided several hours later, but he wasn’t entirely stupid. She and the green Zafara prince sat in the library, looking at topographical map of the entire country. If he’d let go of that ambition of his, the pirate Lupess thought, I might end up liking him. Some of his ideas were actually very good, and he did honestly care about the people under his care.
“We’re going to have to do something about this highway,” Jules sighed. “It’s flooded over the last three winters, and the quarries need supplies. Unfortunately, Father thinks they should simply stockpile more food and supplies, but the length they were cut off these last couple years is just too impractical.” Jules slammed a green fist onto the table. “They need this new highway, and it’s just getting worse. But Father won’t pay for it.”
Mareian bit her lip, thinking. “The route you like cuts close to a couple towns. How about pointing out the advantages in transporting crops and trade?”
Jules gave her a smile. “You’re thinking like a Meridellian.” Shrugging his shoulders, he explained, “None of those towns have universities or big libraries. So they don’t rank very high in Father’s view of the world.”
“So build a library.”
“I... What?” Jules turned to look at her.
“You have books, right? Build a library in the central town.” Warming to her topic, Mareian continued, “Or even better, start a school. That’s a big mining area, start a geology school. Why should they have to go all the way to the Royal University in Brightvale proper when they could have a school just for them where the rocks actually are?”
Jules shook his head. “Do you have any idea how much that would cost? I may be a prince, but I certainly don’t have endless resources. I don’t even have an estate.”
Mareian gave him a wry grin. “Are you saying your father won’t fund a school?”
The green Zafara gaped at her. “You are utterly brilliant, do you know that?” Abruptly he stood. “Come on, there’s a book in my room I want to look at.”
He almost looks giddy, Mareian thought, following the prince with a bemused smile. He’s really at his worst around his brother.
“So Jules,” Mareian changed the subject as they walked. “Maybe you can explain something about the Festival tonight to me.”
“What do you want to know?” Jules opened the door to his room, and then stopped in shock. Curious, Mareian peeked her head around him to see what had surprised him. On his windowsill’s shelf sat the fake crown, scepter and sword. Brushing past him, Mareian picked up the crown, noticing a small note sitting beside it. Jules, nice try; but next time try to use more gold, and a little less lead. ~Rolan
It took all of Mareian’s self control not to laugh. Instead she opened her eyes in fake admiration. “Jules, I didn’t know you had your own copies of the royal treasures.” Unable to resist, she added, “These are beautiful. It’s a good thing they’re not solid gold, though, or I doubt I’d be able to lift the crown.”
Jules gave her a small, sick smile. “I think, on second thought, I left that book I was looking for back in Brightvale. It’s almost time for the party to start anyways, and we need to get ready.”
Mareian was impressed by how quickly the Zafara had recovered from his shock. She almost felt sorry for him, except he’d brought this whole thing down upon himself. Glancing out the window, she saw guests coming in the castle courtyard gates for the festival. “You’re right.” Giving her cutest smile she continued, “I should go get dressed for the party. I’ll see you later.”
Walking briskly down the hall, Mareian found Jeran right where she’d left him – sitting at the table idly playing with bowl of fruit. “Hey,” he greeted her. “Skarl and Hagan are plotting something. They kicked me out.”
Mareian shut the door to the room, and collapsed onto the floor in helpless laughter.
Jeran had to admit that the decorations for the Star Festival were impressive. The lord of Sylvan must have gone all out for the dual celebration this year.
“Jeran.” A small pirate hand caught his elbow. “The fountain is floating, Jeran. And it’s not magic.”
Following Mareian’s gaze, Jeran looked at the small yet ornate fountain in the middle of the courtyard. She was right; its base hovered above the ground about as high as the pirate Lupess’ hip. Noticing the ring under the base, Jeran grinned. “Magnets.” At her skeptical look, he nodded. “Really.”
“These people have way too much free time.”
Suppressing a chuckle, Jeran had to agree with her on that case.
“Jeran,” Rolan’s voice came up behind him, quiet and urgent. “We’ve got a problem.”
Turning, Jeran faced the yellow Kougra, whose eyes were nearly panicked, though he controlled the rest of his face much better.
“What’s the problem?” the blue Lupe asked.
“Can you and Mareian come with me?” the yellow Kougra asked. “I want to talk away from all the crowds -- I think we might have a problem.”
Jeran shrugged. “Sure.”
Mareian cocked her head curiously at Jeran’s beckon, but followed them without asking any questions of yellow or the blue princes. When the trio reached a partially concealed niche, Jeran leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms. “So what’s the problem?”
Rolan’s tail lashed back and forth in worry. “Last night after we got back, I put the real relics in the case Father brought to display them. I figured they were safest there, it’s magically reinforced. Since no one but Lisha, us, or Jules knew they had ever been missing it seemed like the logical thing to do. Only, now the case is empty -- the real relics are gone.”
“Jules?” Jeran suggested.
“I doubt it,” Mareian said. “I was watching him all day. He wouldn’t have had time after I left him to do anything. Not to mention there were too many people here in the court yard who would have seen him take them.”
Rolan made a sour face. “Then who?”
To be continued...