Passage Chapter 5
Close to an hour later, Richard and Lymsleia were still in the audience chamber, awaiting news most fortunate--or unfortunate. Shortly afterward, Luserina slipped back into the room as well.
Oh, Luserina. The young queen leaned forward attentively. Any sign of them yet?
The noble shook her head. No, Your Majesty. The knights are still out patrolling.
Somewhat disappointed, Lymsleia sat back with an extended exhalation. I see. Thank you.
Your Majesty...? Luserina asked, eyeing her in concern. Is something the matter...?
Uh... Lymsleia shook her head. No, not really...I just...cant seem to shake this troubling feeling. By the way, Luserina...did you...notice anything strange while the delegates were in session?
No. Lady Haswar was present, but...
She was? How...how was she?
Hmm. Luserina reflected back to the meeting. Actually, she seemed a bit exhausted. I asked how she was doing, and she mentioned she hadnt been getting much sleep lately because something was bothering her.
Oh. The queen could show nothing but sympathy. I cant blame her. With all the activity going on, she probably worries about the clerics as well...
Luserina shook her head slowly, her face reflecting the intensity of her thoughts. No...I dont think its that. She doesnt really feel that she or her people are in danger, but she mentioned a sense of foreboding...too near to be ignored, but not easily in sight...
The Nether Gate? Lymsleia suggested.
Before Luserina could respond, the doors to the chamber opened.
Your Majesty! Galleon called, hurrying forward.
Miakis and Kyle were right behind him. Your Majesty!
Y-yes, Lymsleia stammered, then arose. Galleon, Miakis, Kyle...Im glad youre safe. What did you find out?
Nether Gate! Miakis shouted. I was right! Theyre still lurking around!
Have they entered the town? Luserina asked, alarmed by this news.
Galleon shook his head. No. We caught two of them at one gated entrance, and another one at another gate, but when we tried to extract any information, they took their own lives.
Yeah, and thats the weirdest part of all! Kyle declared, his face a mix of anger and confusion. Why in the hell would they be trying to sneak in at the gate? These guys are professional assassins. Theyre more likely to sneak in somewhere, unnoticed. But the guards didnt see them or detect trouble anywhere else, and considering no boats have come in lately, no ones stowed away. So whats their deal? Why appear in broad daylight, where everyone in all of Sol-Falena can clearly see them?
Huh? Kyle turned to his temporary commander, who looked as though he were in deep thought.
Maybe...they wanted everyone to see them, Richard finished. There were only three of them at the gates, right? The reputation of these assassins precedes them, so just seeing that much would be enough to shake the confidence of the people...wouldnt it?
Hmm... Kyle brought his gaze down. You might be on to something. Without the citizens confidence, thered be little to no cooperation. And not even we could calm a screaming mob of citizens and protect Lym at the same time.
And whos to say how many assassins there are? Miakis threw in. There were three here today, and killing themselves off like that makes them appear expendable. For all we know, there could be a bunch waiting in the shadows. After all, more than one murder took place. M-maybe its just a matter of time. The rest of them could be here tomorrow. They could be here in a week. They could...they could be here--
--Tonight! finished the person from behind them.
Everyone turned around in shock to see Shigure hurrying toward them.
Welcome back, Shigure, Lymsleia greeted him. Wh-what do you mean by tonight?
We...we followed a group of Nether Gate and intercepted one of their conversations, Shigure explained, taking a moment to catch his breath. They said...they said...they were planning to slaughter the queen this evening! The appearance at the gates today was to shake the morale of the citizens and soldiers, and also to throw off the knights as to what their true intentions are.
Well, Ive got news for them! Kyle exclaimed. He was fuming now. We saw through their crappy plan a mile away! You can be damn sure well be ready for them!
Hmm. The investigator looked at him, then at the rest of the knights. Well, I hope you are. The group we saw numbered about twenty-five.
Twenty-five?! Lymsleia exclaimed shrilly. Oh, it makes me sick to think there are still that many around, even after the war...
Miakis gazed at the girl sympathetically. Your Majesty...
Dont worry, Your Majesty! Richard reassured her. Well take care of them.
Meanwhile, Shigure continued, Raven is busy investigating the location of their hideout...as well as the location of the ones behind their deployment.
For a moment, the queens expression seemed to brighten. So you have a lead?
Shigure nodded. Most definitely. Weve noticed a number of them near Lunas. In fact, they left that area sometime last night in order to come here.
Lunas?! Miakis, Lymsleia, and Luserina cried in unison.
Damn! Kyle cursed. That means...Lady Haswar...and all her clerics...
Clerics...? Lymsleia repeated softly as she grew pensive. She recalled conversations she had with her brother the night of the purification ceremony, as well as just before he and Lyon headed back to the holy land in order to pursue Lord Godwin.
You werent around to hear this, but there are clerics bitter about you and Mother...since our older cousin Haswars mother originally had the right to the throne, these clerics believe that Haswar should be queen now, even though shes told them hundreds of times she has no desire to rule Falena.
Aunt Sialeeds made sense of why we were located so quickly after our escape from the palace. Remember those clerics I told you about? The ones who didnt like us? They were gone by the time we discovered that Godwins men were coming for us.
Weve got to warn them and send over some men, or something! Kyle was saying as Lymsleia drifted back into the discussion.
Wait, Kyle. The young girl stood up and faced him, completely composed. I dont believe theyll harm Haswar.
How can you be so sure, Your Majesty? he questioned.
Luserina mentioned that Haswar was feeling restless about something...something that she wasnt even sure of. A sense of foreboding, to put it in her words. Thats got to be the activities of the Nether Gate, considering theyre so close to where she is!
Yeah, exactly! the knight told her. Which is reason enough to believe shes in danger.
...if the reason was that she was one of my biggest supporters, Lymsleia continued. Which she is. But there have been no reports of any killings in Lunas, of all places. Dont you find that a little odd?
What are you getting at, Your Majesty? Galleon asked, looking intrigued.
I think...the people ordering the deaths of my biggest supporters as well as me...may be supporters of Lady Haswar.
But who would...?
Oh! Luserina exclaimed, turning to the Queen. Didnt your brother and Lady Sialeeds mention that some of the clerics in Lunas were wishing that Lady Haswar was on the throne, and not your mother? And that those very same clerics sold them out to the Godwins?
Lymsleia nodded. Exactly.
Ah... Galleon shifted his weight back and folded his arms, a mix of clarity and disappointment on his aged face. It all becomes clear. Ex-clerics too scared to fully act during the Godwins rule now emerge to take advantage of the supposed weakness and naïveté of a young queen in order to fulfill their objective--to ensure Lady Haswars rule.
Weakness? Naïveté? Bah! Kyles expression became as hard as Galleons. These fools dont know our Lymsleia, and they sure as hell dont know the strength of her knights! When I find the guy behind all of this, Ill kick his ass so hard, hell be begging for the divine intervention of the Sun Rune! He quickly looked at the queen with a mortified expression. Er...th-thats just a figure of speech, by the way...
Its okay, Kyle, Lymsleia assured him, her face bearing no resentment. Weve all seen how a person completely loses control when bearing the Sun Rune, so I know you didnt mean anything by it. But anyway, these clerics...weve definitely got to find them and bring them to justice.
Uh, hello? Shigure finally cut in. Whos doing the investigating here?
Sorry. But...youll look into that, wont you?
The investigator hung his head for a moment, annoyed. Youre the boss. Oh, by the way, those three you saw today? They were part of the twenty-five; they went on ahead before the group. So I guess that means youve got a little less to worry about. But theyre still plenty dangerous, and Im not just saying that. Remember, Sagiri and I know better than anyone else. Be careful and all that. He turned around and started to exit the room. So thats it for now, he continued, though he was talking more to himself than anyone else in the room. It never ends. Ive got to report back to Fuyo, check on Sagiri, then get the results from Raven. Ugh...its such a damn pain...
After Shigure left, Lymsleia turned to those still present. Anyway, what are we going to do about all these assassins? Can we really handle twenty-something all at once? And what of the townspeople...?
Itd be nice if we could intercept a few of them along the way, Kyle suggested. Of course, wed have to figure out where theyre coming from.
From the direction of Lunas, that young man said, Galleon said, and then sank back. But...by the time we assemble a force of men and march out, theyll likely be too close to the palace, anyway.
Richard thought for a moment. If...only there was a way to let the queen flee...or to evacuate the townspeople so that we could concentrate on protecting Her Majesty...
Well, evacuating thems out of the question, Kyle said. We dont have enough boats to get them to Stormfist or Raftfleet, and theres only one way for them to go on foot and be safe...and thats assuming we have the time to gather them together while protecting the Queen. Hate to say it, but were all stuck here.
And Im certainly not abandoning Sol-Falena, Lymsleia stated. If Im nowhere to be found, the assassins might start killing citizens. Thank you for the suggestion, but I dont want to give Nether Gate a reason to hurt any more of my people.
Uh... The commanders look hardened, growing even more contemplative. Then...is it possible to put the towns citizens all in one place overnight...?
Dont worry about that, Richard, said a voice, its owner entering the room shortly afterward.
Oh! Richard exclaimed, surprised by the entrance. Mueller?!
The Lindwurm Mercenary Brigades first officer appeared, the commander half a step behind him.
Hey! called Wilhelm. We were talking to that detective brat out there, and he filled us in. Leave the townspeople to us. You concentrate on the queen.
Then, what are you...? Richard started to ask.
Are you hard of hearing, fool? Mueller berated him. We shall protect the townspeople. Theyll remain in their houses locked up tight, and well keep up the security like before. We arent evacuating or relocating because, based on what that detective said, we believe the queen is the only one presently in danger. Now, if you do your job while we do our job, then there should be little problem!
Hey, we get it, man, Kyle said sarcastically. Cut the guy some slack.
I will do no such thing! Mueller retorted hotly, pointing his rod at Kyle. He has his responsibilities, and he will fulfill them. Otherwise, he will bring shame not only to the Queens Knights, but to the Lindwurm Mercenary Brigade! Now, cease arguing with me. We are wasting time.
Kyle turned around to the non-commanding knights, rolling his eyes. Gee, hes never one for tact, now is he? he remarked softly as he walked toward them, reclaiming his place beside them.
Richard, however, seemed unaffected by Muellers harsh words, as usual. I dont let you down, Mueller! he declared, then looked at the others with the smile that never broke on the surface. I wont let any of you down. I swear it!
Deep down, however, the young commander had begun to harbor feelings that only wished to be addressed.
A short time later, Richard stood outside on the bridge between the palace and the town. His arms were at his sides, his face turned toward the setting sun. With this extremely rare moment to himself, he was sorting out the growing conflicts in his mind.
At least, he was in the process of doing so when the other blond knight approached him.
Hey, man, Kyle greeted him. I know you said you needed a minute alone, but we wanted to make sure youre all right. Something on your mind?
Huh? Emerging from his last thought, Richard turned around. Oh...hello, Kyle, he said before turning back to the sunset. Thanks, but...uh, i-its nothing. I was just...thinking about tonight.
Ah. Kyle stepped up beside the teenager, resting his hands on his hips. Yeah. We all are. Crazy stuff. I hate to say it, but Im used to it.
Yeah...I suppose you would be if something like this has happened before.
Noticing the lack of confidence, Kyle looked more in the commanders direction, concerned. No, really...is something wrong?
Err... Richard lowered his head for a moment before turning to the man. Well, I know you guys will do fine tonight, but...this position...is still fairly new to me. Maybe...maybe I didnt think my decision thoroughly in taking it. From far away, it seems like a simple enough task, being the protector of the queen and the commander of the knights. But now that Im actually here, I...do you...do you think Im capable of fulfilling my duty?
Are you kidding me? Kyle asked, baffled by the question. Youll probably kick more Nether Gate ass than any one of us. I cant believe youd lack confidence in your ability now.
Oh, its not the act of defeating enemies that worries me. Ive been doing that as far back as I can remember. But...having the duty to protect someone...thats another story. Being a mercenary, I knew only how to fight. The only life I had to worry about preserving was my own. But...now...with the queen, I... He trailed off.
You think you wont be able to protect her? the man finished.
Its not that I dont want to. Im...just not used to having that duty. Richard let out a nervous laugh. Honestly, Ive never had to protect anyone before. Come to think of it, Im the one who had to be... He stopped, realizing for the second time that day that he had treaded on a dangerous subject. Er...n-never mind. Its just...what if she gets injured while Im fighting one of the Nether Gate? Or worse, what I take my eyes off of her for one second and she pays for it with her life? I...I dont think I could handle knowing that I was responsible for allowing an innocent life to be lost, especially someone as important as Her Majesty.
Hey. Kyle put a hand on the shoulder of the troubled teen. Try not to worry about that. Remember, were all Queens Knights. That means that if you arent able to protect the queen, then one of us is willing to step in to be her shield. Hell, Miakis should be proof of that. Well all help as best we can.
Th-thank you, Richard responded softly, though in genuine relief. I...want to do my best. Nobody that young should ever have to worry about their life, or wonder if theyll even make it to tomorrows sunrise. Thats something I wouldnt wish on my worst enemy, never in a million years.
Neither would I, said Kyle, but he was eyeing the young commander with suspicion. But whats with the sentiment all of a sudden? Did...something like that happen to you when you were younger?
What? Er...um...of course not! Nothing like that at all! Hahaha. Just...just forget it, okay?
Anyway... Richards uncomfortable look reverted back to his usual gentle one. If we dont get back in there soon, Mueller will probably come out here with that rod of his. What do you say we head back? I...I just may have a plan.
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