Chapter 4 – The Queen’s Breakfast

Chapter 4 is a re-wickered version of the original “Queen’s Breakfast” chapter in Emergence now told from Princess Darian’s point of view. Lot’s of important supporting characters for final act plot lines are introduced here, and Darian manages the first “sex change” in the re-write. The voice which used to speak in Loric’s mind now shows up in her mind instead, convincing her she is crazy.

* * *

Chapter 4 – The Queen’s Breakfast

Most of the attendees of the royal morning briefing were already seated and conversing quietly as Darian entered the upper conference room. Her mother the Queen sat at the head of the gleaming marble table dressed in informal morning wear; a simple, multi-layered pink robe with a white shawl over her shoulders. Her frosty hair was pulled back into a single thick braid down her back. Darian’s father, the King Regent, sat at the Queen’s right hand wearing a white silken shirt under a deep blue robe with the sigil of Touran – six tiny white stars in a circle – emblazoned on the breast. His dark islander skin showed hints of red and bronze in the bright yellow marsh-oil lamplight.

Darian absorbed the stares of her mother’s closest advisors with practiced stoicism. She had attended these sessions at her mother’s insistence in far worse condition in the past; once with her sword arm freshly bound in a cast, several times with notable limps from leg injuries suffered while climbing. So the large forehead bandage she wore was not really out of place. At least that is what she told herself as crossed the room to sit next to her father.

Next to her was the powerful form of Sir Jason Bertram, the Royal First Knight and Darian’s long-time trainer, in dark metallic chain mail and light gauntlets over a royal blue caynspun shirt. Then came Sir Yoral Aspinon, the queen’s Second and Sir Jason’s Chief of Staff. At the table’s end opposite the queen sat Losina MonDevlon, the queen’s Voice in the Conclave, her deep brown hair up in a business-like knot. She wore a snug-fitting black silk blouse with an array of tasteful jewelry. Losina was also a Blue Islander, though she had not known Darian’s father until she met him here in Coradis. Of course, she was less than half Xanad’s age, being the youngest member of Touran’s legislative body in recorded history.

Across the table from Sir Yoral was the empty spot reserved for Master Oriander, the retired Chief Steward of Coradine Castle. The queen’s chief of security, Jaymes Baron, sat attentively in the next chair. Jaymes was a thin, simple-looking man who tended to speak only when spoken to. His short black hair was always perfectly neat, his eyes always alert. He wore the most non-descript clothing possible, all grays and browns, which impressed Darian. She was not one to be deceived by appearances, and so many of those working for her mother seemed to think that frivolous dress and face paint could secure the trust of the throne.

The final seat was for Chief Steward Morton ParSureth, who came bustling in after Darian.

“My queen, please accept my sincerest apologies! I am horribly late, and I have no excuse,” Morton panted, lowering his eyes as he faced the smiling queen.

“Oh, Morton… you are perhaps five minutes off of your usual unalterable master plan? Really, you are going to give yourself an ulcer. Relax!” Queen Lorrelai said, patting him on the hand.

“To the contrary, my queen,” Morton replied, shame evident in his voice. The moon-faced Chief Steward wore a suit and coat as always, and never ceased either straightening his vest or checking his pocket timepiece or fidgeting with his stack of official reports in a nervous haze. “I was eleven minutes late for your morning briefing. An egregious error that I promise will not be repeated.”

Lorrelai sighed deeply. “As you wish, Morton. But I do hope you soon learn not to push yourself so hard.” She turned to address the whole table then. “Please, everyone eat. We will begin with the reports of the day in a few moments.”

Servants approached bearing stone pitchers of Falon coffee and warm, Heartlands bread. And, to Darian’s delight, they replaced the cold trays of cooked eggs with fresh. There were large bowls of BlueIslands’ fruit, steamed rices, and slivered ice peppers from the far Cronian coast. Darian didn’t hesitate, helping herself to large helpings of each. Her active, sleepless night had left her with an enormous appetite.

“Let us begin, friends,” the queen said several minutes later. “I am sure you all have important matters to attend to, and I wouldn’t want to make anyone late,” here she winked at Morton. The round man blushed and looked down at his plate.

“But first, let us address one of the more obvious issues in the room,” the queen continued in a kind but pointed voice, turning to Darian. “Dear?”

Darian cleared her throat and put down her fork, allowing a small grin to light the corners of her mouth.

“It was a sleepwalking accident, nothing more,” she said, scanning the faces of her mother’s advisors. “I woke up having apparently fallen flat on my face.” That part, at least, was true. Sort of.

Darian avoided Sir Jason’s eyes. The Royal First Knight had a talent for spotting deception, especially from Darian. But she could feel the knight’s suspicious gaze boring into the side of her head as she spoke.

“Before you say anything, Chief Jaymes,” King Regent Xanad said suddenly, getting the security chief’s attention, “I already spoke with Darian this morning about revisiting your suggestion about changing her sleeping arrangements.”

“And as before,” said Darian in a business-like tone, “I said I would consider it. But I really do love my privacy. A few random accidents really don’t pose a grave threat.”

“I must disagree,” Sir Jason said, his deep voice reverberating from the stone walls. “Princess, your safety is, as always, a matter of national security. An heir who is prone to sleepwalking is an heir in need of extra protection.”

Darian looked down at her food, pretending to consider the situation. In truth, she really didn’t care what changes were made to her sleeping arrangements since her remaining days in Coradis were so few.

“Very well, father… Chief Jaymes. Let’s discuss the matter further. Soon.”

Darian saw Sir Jason quirk a curious eyebrow at her response. It is impossible to fool that man, she thought to herself. But no matter. This will be over in a few days.

The queen smiled broadly. “Excellent, Darian! I think we will all sleep better knowing that your sleep is much less eventful. Now then, let us begin. Sir Jason, what do you have for today?”

Sir Jason clasped his gauntlets on the table in front of him as he pulled probing eyes away from Darian to face the queen. He was still a young man, not yet forty-five Summers, but he carried himself with the bearing of an elder dignitary. He expected to be heard and obeyed when he spoke, and as a result, he almost always was. Jason wore his brown hair long and displayed a thin circlet of steel around his head. His dark eyes were keen, his rectangular face earnest looking. He was quick to smile, but per his position as First Knight of Queen Lorrelai, just as quick to act in defense of the Protectorates.

“Nothing new of substance to report from the Grey Shields or the Pathwatch, my Queen,” he said formally. “Recruiting is up substantially, continuing the trend that began several Summers ago, in the duchy local patrols, for the Shields, and to a lesser degree the Pathwatch. We may need to expand the south barracks if this keeps up, which would demand an increase in infrastructure, supplies and trainers. All of which I think are a good idea, by the way. As you will see by the rest of my report.

“There are continuing reports of Dramini raider activity,” the knight continued, “hitting Brandon Duchy traders, lumbermen, and other frontiersman down near the East Onofel. At least ten more Touran citizens dead this past week, my Queen. Duke Kelley is outraged, and is about to repeat his demands for extended support from the Grey Shields to stop the attacks.”

Lorrelai’s eyebrows drew down, her eyes narrowing. “Has Duke Kelley begun to strongly engage his own troops as I requested? He has the numbers to overwhelm a typical Dramini raid if his troops are positioned in advance.”

“That is the other news, my queen. Apparently the recent attacks have been somewhat coordinated. A single tribe is usually never more than forty or fifty Dramini. These latest attacks appear to have been as many as two or three hundred.”

The queen blinked hard at that. “Hundreds? Working together to strike common traders and lumbermen?”

“It appears so, my queen. As unlikely and disturbing as they are, these last reports appear to be reliable.” Here Sir Jason turned to face Jaymes Baron across the table.

“I concur, Queen Lorrelai,” Jaymes said in his quiet, unassuming voice. “These reports were from reliable sources. Large groups of Dramini have indeed been crossing into the Protectorates, then retreating on their own accord. Their victims have very little of value, as you know, so the point of the escalation is unclear.”

The Queen nodded solemnly. “Very well. Carry on, Jason.”

“To the north, all signs appear good on the Falon border. Apparently they are pleased with the import tax reductions you put into place over Winter season. There have been no formal communications as far as I know, but the Pathwatch patrols that have passed near the border bring back positive comments from their Falon counterparts. Mark Losina?” Jason looked down the table at the petite brunette.

The pretty young politician finished sipping a glass of icewine, then straightened to address the table. “The First Knight is correct. There have been no formal communications from the Falon government for some time,” she said crisply. “However, unofficial reports via the Falon embassy tell me to expect a very positive response from the tax changes, particularly as we approach harvest season. But…,” she trailed off, eyebrows raised.

“But Duke Arias is displeased, right?” finished the queen.

“To say the least,” Losina finished. “But even his outrage pales in comparison to that of the Jall Duchy farmers. There are a number of delegations en route to the Conclave as we speak, ready to level formal complaints against the change in trade policy. As you predicted, my queen.”

“Yes,” Lorrelai replied after sipping her water. “And they have reason to be upset. But this was the correct course of action for now. We need to keep the Falons firmly on our side, Losina.”

“Oh, I agree with you, Queen Lorrelai, I do,” Losina said. “But this is going to cause quite the stir in the Conclave. Several of the larger farming guilds hold a great deal of sway with their Marks. Things could become… difficult.”

“Your political skills are un-paralleled my dear Losina,” the queen replied. “Do your best to keep things under control. Just try to convince them that this is in their best interest as well as ours. They would be the first to suffer if a Mindonite army came flooding down through the CronianPass next season. We need to keep Empress Inverion pacified. For now.”

“I will do my best, my queen,” Losina replied. Her tone was unreadable. Darian had heard stories of the political acumen of this beautiful young woman. She had a hard time imagining her being as cut-throat and dynamic as those stories claimed – she was always so pleasant to be around. But she had been Voice for three Summers now, and her many accomplishments spoke for themselves. The gap between Losina’s reputation and easy-going demeanor worried Darian. She always found herself wondering which was the real Losina.

“That brings me to the most surprising news of the day, my queen–” Jason said, then he paused as a tall, balding old man shuffled into the room with the aid of a bright-white cane and a serving girl. He wore a brown linen robe of many layers over black linen pants. His face was creased and folded with age, and was as pale as the white stone under his feet. He stood straight, however, and his eyes were merry and bright as he made his way over to the table.

“Ah, Oriander! How wonderful of you to come, old friend!” the queen said, rising and walking over to embrace the retired Steward. “I trust you are well? How is the leg?”

“Oh, I’m fine, it’s fine, Lorrelai my dear,” he replied breathily as he returned the hug. “That’s what I get for playing games like that with the young ‘uns, you know. Sure looked fun at the time! But I’ve learned my lesson.”

“Not you, old friend,” quipped Xanad, also rising. “I’d wager my weight in hannon that you’ll be back out on the pitch with the kids in a few weeks!”

“Come sit, I’ll have some fresh breakfast brought out to you,” the queen said as she escorted Oriander to his seat. Darian was pleased to see the retired steward again. He had been in the Royal Cuperative for some weeks now, nursing an injured hip and knee that he damaged during – of all things – a game of catch-ball with the children of several of the cook staff. His wise presence had been missed by Darian’s mother, who had considered him something of a father figure ever since the horrible events of the Six Month War.

Once everyone was back in their seats, Sir Jason continued. “Yoral and I have received updated information, confirmed by Jaymes here, that the rumors we heard of a quarter-legion of Mindonite Regulars moving through the Granite Hills were true. It’s General Karag, one of King Balon’s brightest and best field commanders, and they are marching towards the Highlands as we speak… under a flag of peace.”

The queen’s jaw dropped. The King Regent looked as if he were expecting a punch-line.

“A flag of what?” Lorrelai demanded.

“I repeat, my queen, they fly the green flag of peace at the head of their column. And that’s just the beginning. Yoral?”

The slick-haired, pony-tailed Second Knight of the Touran Protectorates leaned forward, his face taking on a somewhat deeper scowl than usual. Sir Yoral was known as a trustworthy man, an incredible leader, but in Darian’s opinion he lacked a certain… tact… that Sir Jason had in abundance. Darian could not remember even a single pleasant conversation with the accomplished second knight. He always seemed to be on edge.

“Jaymes, do confirm or counter this report as needed, but here are the facts,” Sir Yoral said in his perpetually raspy voice. “My queen, General Karag’s light army, some two-hundred fifty well-armed cavalry, crossed through the Ice Dagger at first thaw at great risk to their lives. They proceeded into the Granite Hills under flag of peace, avoiding all settlements until they neared the valleys near the Kirill springs. The Kirill local patrol had been fighting intermittent skirmishes against roving bands of Mindonite barbarians for some time… as have many towns throughout Jesserin and Palladon. Well, one such skirmish broke out around the same time as Karag’s arrival. No less than seventy-five Mindonite berserkers, my queen, and it was looking bad for the local patrol.

“Then Karag’s men advanced… and destroyed their Mindonite countrymen. They forced the remaining Mindonite barbarians to disarm and surrender… to the Kirill local patrol!”

Jaymes nodded quietly in agreement. Darian was stunned, and she could tell by the expressions on the faces of Oriander, Losina, and her father that she was not alone.

“When questioned by the local Constable, Karag himself said, and I quote, ‘we honor the Treaty of Falanx’. Then turned his horse and marched his troops on towards the east.”

Lorrelai took a drink, shaking her head. Xanad, frowning deeply, engaged the knights. “Jason, Yoral… what does this mean? Do you suspect some ploy?”

“I did at first, my King Regent,” Sir Jason said. “Until they repeated this act. Multiple times.”

“Yes,” Yoral agreed. “This was not isolated. Karag’s men went on to stop and disarm no less than five such groups of Mindonite attackers, killing many who would not back down. All under flag of peace towards Touran.”

“I’m sorry,” interrupted Oriander, stirring his cup of coffee briskly. “But am I missing something? Lorrelai, my dear… is this not good news?”

All eyes turned to the elderly retired steward. He had just the tiniest rise to the corners of his mouth as he spoke, and his eyes were cheerful.

“Balon, foul as he is, has decided to support the Treaty? He is working to stop the barbarians that have harassed Jesserin Duchy? I see you suspect some trick. And with Balon, you should. But in the meantime, has he not just saved the Pathwatch and the local patrols in the area many lives? Surely we monitor, surely we track his troops, but for now this sounds like the best news of the day.”

Lorrelai shared a glance with her husband, then turned to the old steward. “My, have I missed you, old friend. It is good to have you back. Your wisdom humbles me.” She turned to Sir Yoral and Sir Jason. “I assume that Oriander is right? You are having Karag watched, yes?”

“Of course, my queen,” both men replied in unison.

“Jaymes, your thoughts on this development?” asked the queen.

“Queen Lorrelai, I am not a man given to easily trusting his enemies, but in this case I must agree,” here he nodded towards Oriander. “For now, we can support Karag’s troops in their efforts. But we will also use our resources to track all of their movements and associations.”

Darian knew what that meant coming from Jaymes Baron. While his official title was Chief of Security for the Queen, Darian was one of a very few who knew what his real role was in the Protectorates. Baron served as the leader of the secretive Royal Guard Intelligence Service, the covert team of expert fighters who not only saw to the protection of the royal family, but also to the wide-spread network of spies that fed information from all parts of Touran back to the Queen and her Regent. No one ever spoke openly of the RGI; their existence was a secret of the monarchy. So Darian knew that for every knight or Grey Shieldman Sir Jason or Sir Yoral could place to watch the Mindonite ‘peacekeepers’, Chief Jaymes Baron probably had three men in secret doing the same job.

“Very well,” the queen acknowledged. “But I want them watched closely, gentlemen. If one of Karag’s men so much as sneezes in a suspicious way, I want two blades of Shieldmen there to wipe his nose.”

Darian considered this strange move by foul King Balon. Naturally, everyone in the room was very sensitive to developments with the Mindonites, and about Balon in particular, but for Darian and her parents it was worst of all. More than forty Summers had passed since the assassination of Darian’s grandfather King Dellien and grandmother Queen Carra Arion at the beginning of the Six Month war. In some ways her mother the queen had never recovered from the losses of that year.

Despite Balon’s endless denials that he had sent the assassins as part of his invasion force, Darian had spent most of her life secretly yearning for news of the twisted old monarch’s death. Only then, she felt, could she think of MasMindon as anything but a blight on the entire Land of Pasaron.

“Moving on, my friends,” the queen said, waving off a young blonde server who was about to spoon more eggs onto her plate, “I heard that there was a significant break last night on this ‘Trax’ issue.”

Her face stayed perfectly expressionless as she spoke, but Jaymes’ eyes widened noticeably before he could catch himself. At least once a week the queen surprised him with a revelation that she clearly shouldn’t know yet.

“What’s this?” asked Sir Jason. “I have heard nothing.”

“Our queen is very well informed indeed,” Jaymes said, then sipped his apple juice. “Last night, the Southside local patrol under Constable Runyon closed a months-old sting operation. About a dozen thugs were caught in the act of smuggling stolen hannon. Three of the younger captives confessed under questioning to being members of the Trax.”

“So it really is true,” Lorrelai said. “We have some sort of thieves’ guild in Coradis?”

“Yes, my queen. While we have had plenty of rumor and hint until now, this is the first time we have had a detailed confession. The youths agreed to provide us with information and leads in exchange for reduced sentences. That is being worked within the Docket Court as we speak,” finished Jaymes, his quiet voice not betraying what he thought of the news.

“We need to move on this quickly, and aggressively, Lorrelai,” said Xanad. “These things tend to grow quickly, like fads, unless eliminated early.”

“Agreed,” the queen said. “Jason, Yoral, coordinate with Jaymes. Give him every tool he needs to break up this guild before they can grow any more popular.”

“Yes, my queen,” they responded.

“Queen Lorrelai,” Jaymes said, “there is more. Our newest intelligence suggests that the Trax may already have a presence in other cities.”

Lorrelai’s left eyebrow rose. “Really? That suggests that they are rather more developed than you had assumed.” It was not a question.

“Yes. There may be branches in Jalsmin, JesserinCity, and maybe even BrandonCity.”

“’May be’ is not good enough, Jaymes,” she replied, voice growing firm. “A multi-city crime ring? And it’s growing? We need facts, Jaymes. And quickly.”

“Yes, my queen. I will do my best.”

Lorrelai sighed. “Very well. Morton, please proceed with the daily’s?”

That meant it was Morton’s turn to deliver his reports, or “daily’s” as the queen called them even though they weren’t given every day. He presented the general activity list for the day that involved those at the table, any scheduled official arrivals and departures from CoradineCastle, and took requests from the group for changes or additions to any of the above. He then reported on any substantive events or trends in each of the city’s district if they were items that needed the queen’s attention.

He closed with the latest crime reports from across the city, the surrounding Proxim, and across the Touran Protectorates in general. The numbers were horrible, and had been growing increasingly worse for quite some time. Within the city, crime was at an all-time high everywhere except the Banking District. Murders, rapes, arson, burglary, muggings, kidnapping, all were growing in frequency. The prisons were overflowing, the courts swamped.

“With utmost respect to Sirs Jason and Yoral, whose efforts with the Pathwatch are simply supreme,” Morton said, inclining his head respectfully to the two knights, “the Pathwatch and the local patrols are just stretched too thin. We are recruiting at a record rate, but not nearly as rapidly as the criminals.”

A hush fell over the table as the truth of those words sank in. Oriander gazed blankly across the room, Losina stared down into her drink. The knights kept their attention on Morton. Even though these facts were common knowledge with this group of leaders, hearing the truth spoken out loud still brought a chill to the room.

“Well, these things tend to be cyclical,” Oriander said, turning from Morton to address the entire table. “As with diseases, they come and go. Things are certainly bad now, but they will improve in time. They always do.”

Lorrelai just nodded her head, her eyes sad. Darian could feel the emotions that her mother’s expression conveyed. She is wondering, Darian said to herself, if there will be anything left of Touran for me to rule one day. If only she knew that it will not be me who succeeds her…

“I do hope that you are right, dear,” the queen said.

Sadly, Oriander is wrong this time,” said a deep voice in Darian’s mind.

Her eyes rounded as she gasped and jerked upright in her chair. Everyone turned Darian’s direction at the sudden movement as she felt the blood draining from her face.

“Are you well, Darian?” her father asked.

“I’m fine,” she blurted out instantly, sitting back. “It’s just my head. A little pang. I’ll be okay.” But she fought down the urge to jump from her chair and run. That voice had been far too clear and strong to be her imagination. She knew for certain that no one else heard those words.

“If you need to leave, I understand,” the queen said warmly. “Do you have anything you’d like to add before you go?”

Relax, Darian,” the voice said. “You are not going crazy. Tell them about Jerine, then excuse yourself. So we can talk.”

Darian took a deep breath and resisted the urge to panic. Stay in rhythm, she told herself sternly.

“I do, mother,” Darian said formally, her voice cracking. She sipped her water with a shaking hand. “As you all know, I leave for Palladon Duchy in three days for my Grey Shields training. Mother, I would like to invite Jerine to accompany me.”

“I was surprised that this wasn’t the plan all along, dear,” the queen replied. “As long as her father approves, I think she is the perfect traveling companion for you.” Her bright blue eyes narrowed as a small grin lit her face. Darian returned the grin briefly and nodded.

“Thank you, everyone,” the queen said, standing and smoothing her robe. The gathering followed her lead and rose to their feet, Oriander taking a few extra seconds to hoist himself up with his cane. “We will convene here again in two days’ time. Be well.”

Darian was the first one out of the chamber. She knew that her mother would soon be seeking details about last night’s incident and her health, but Darian did not think she could handle that conversation in her current state. Her face was a mask of placidity as she nodded to the servants and staff that she passed along the bright corridor, but her mind was sprinting into darkness.

She was truly snapping; instead of months or years of slow degradation as reported for other Emergents, Darian was already completely losing her mind. That voice had seemed so clear and undeniably separate from her own thoughts; there were few more common signs of madness.

Hunlon and Giris stood at attention outside of Darian’s apartment. The burly members of the royal guard saluted smartly with fists to chest as she approached.

“Fellows, I need to get more rest after my incident last night. Please see that I am not disturbed,” Darian said as she passed.

“Yes, your highness,” they replied together.

Morning sunshine streamed through the open windows. The sweet smells of early spring swirled on the bay breezes to mingle with the scent of fresh flowers the cleaning staff had placed all around the anteroom. But Darian noticed neither as panicked worry rose within her. She avoided – she did not even look at – the spot on the gray stone wall through which she knew she must have passed late last night in order to plummet to the courtyard far below.

I wonder how much time I have left? She thought sadly as she collapsed onto her bed. Can I even make it to the Granite Hills?

You are fine, Darian,” the voice said quietly within her mind. She sprang up from the bed – far too fast given the ache of her bruised forehead. The voice continued. “You are not going mad. And you are not Emergent. Well, at least not in the sense that you are thinking.”

She spun around the room as if expecting the owner of the voice to suddenly appear from his hiding place, but she knew she was alone. This is crazy! she thought. I have to ignore it, right? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you hear voices?

I understand that this is not easy for you,” the voice said reassuringly. “So I will stay as quiet as possible for now. But things will soon happen that will demand your attention. Try to, as you so often put it, ‘stay in rhythm’. Continue you’re your plan. Trust me, Darian. You are fine.”

Darian sank slowly back down onto her bed, shaking her head in dismay. She had spent so much of her life playing the role of the rebel, rejecting the cloistered life of a crown princess that her parents had tried so hard to foist upon her. But now there could be no doubt; the carefree days of challenging her parents’ authority were over. Indeed, all of her days would soon be over as she rapidly spiraled into insanity.

 

#

 

Jaymes Baron practically jogged down the hallways of Coradine Castle, his two captains close on his heels. He had a busy day ahead of him, and as cordial and relaxed as the queen’s briefings were, they took him away from his ever-pressing duties. First, back to headquarters to read the latest reports from Brandon and Palladon – if they were in on time for a change – then to Southside Prison to monitor the interrogation of these new Trax prisoners.

“Chief Baron! Chief Baron!” called a voice from behind him as he entered the broad, red-paved inner courtyard of the castle. Jaymes turned to see a young, unfamiliar page running his way, frantically trying to get his attention.

“Chief Baron, I was sent with an urgent call from Sir Jason! He seeks an audience with you, at once, sir!”

“Are you certain? I was just in a briefing with Sir Jason.”

“Please, Chief,” the teen said, wiping sweat from his face. “I was told to retrieve you immediately or face having my hide flogged before the entire city. Please!”

Jaymes grinned with one side of his mouth. That did sound like Jason, though he would have delivered the threat with a chuckle. The young never knew how to take the big knight’s sense of humor.

“Where is he?” Jaymes asked.

“He said to meet him near the door to the main dungeons, sir. And he said it was urgent!”

“Relax, my friend. I will endeavor to save your young hide.” Jaymes tousled the boys hair as he passed.

“Urs, Kole, go on ahead. I’ll meet you.” The two captains saluted briskly, then headed for the gate.

A few minutes later, Jaymes entered the long basement corridor that led to the dungeons. He was growing excited; if the Royal First Knight had some information to share that required this level of secrecy, it must be good indeed. Jaymes was feeling the need for some good news.

He turned the last corner before the heavy iron gates – and froze. Someone was standing in the shadows ahead of him, just next to the door. He wasn’t hiding, his boots and the outline of his body were clearly visible by the marsh oil light. But his face was hidden in shadow.

“I have information for you, Point Jaymes,” the man said quietly.

Jaymes blinked hard. “Who are you?” he asked, not revealing his shock that this stranger knew his secret title.

“I am a friend, and an informer. I am someone to whom you must listen. I know that you are not a man given over to trusting strangers, Point. The code word is ‘jack-knife’. The current drop point is warehouse eleven, Rishdan Section, Riverside Docks.”

Jaymes could not hide his shock now. Someone that he did not know at all who knew the current code and drop point? He would have thought it impossible. It was SUPPOSED to be impossible. How did this man even get into the castle? And how did he get that page to report that Sir Jason had sent for him? Mysteries were Jaymes bread and butter, the thing that really drove him. He could tell that this one was going to be extraordinary.

“Very well. I am Point Jaymes Baron, of her Majesty’s Royal Guard Intelligence Service. The return phrase is ‘hannon leaves on the Caroc’s peak’. Who are you? And what is your information?”

“You may call me the Panther. Point Jaymes, there is a very real threat approaching. A threat to the Queen and her family. A threat to all of the Touran Protectorates. You must help to prevent it.”

Jaymes nodded. “You have my full attention.”

As ‘The Panther’ spoke, Jaymes’ eyes grew gradually wider and wider. But he listened intently. Much of it was hard to believe. But if this info was accurate…

“I will need proof. More to go on than just your words, Panther,” Jaymes said after the shadowy man finished speaking. “These claims are… outrageous. To say the least.”

“You will have your proof, Point Jaymes,” the Panther said quietly. “And I will tell you how to get it.”

The Panther stepped forward from the shadows as he gave further instructions, and Jaymes took special notice of the only identifying feature on the man’s black-clad body. The glowing silver gauntlets he wore on each forearm.

* * *

Thanks for reading!

~Kevin

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 4 – The Queen’s Breakfast

  1. Deidre Jackson Hicks

    I am really intrigued! I really like the point of view from Darian. She is an impressive character – reminds me a lot of the female lead in Hunger Games (I haven’t read it but what I see in the movies)

    The suspense at the end of the chapter was very well done. I will be following along whenever I get a moment t read this.

    Reply

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