The Aftermath Of Mount Woe Chapter 31
The Courtship Of Princess Schala
Schala awoke slowly. Her head was aching, but she remembered everything that happened with surprising clarity. Unfortunately, what had actually happened was not clear. Why had Serges given her so many cryptic messages? Had that really been Serges? What about the other voice? Was it really just another aspect of herself? She felt a sharp pain in her head as a messenger read a proclamation not far from her room. "Attention, loyal subjects of Zeal! Our most gracious highness has decreed a celebration to commemorate the activation of the Mammon Machine! The festivities will begin in three hours!"
Schala was amazed. Zeal was actually trying to do something fun? Maybe public support had been down lately. That was about the only thing she could think of. Or else, maybe Zeal had not quite succumbed to Lavos yet after all. Schala shook her head, then winced at the pain. She used a small amount of magic to try to soothe it. 'Hey!' She scolded herself. 'I know someone who's a lot more soothing. Greven!' She shouted, trying to reach his mind.
'What?' He responded, a trifle cranky. He must have been in the middle of something.
'Mom is actually trying to do something for the public. The festivities start in three hours, by which I think she means dinner and dancing, and booze.'
'No booze for me thanks. I've sworn off ever since Selisha got me to chug a velvet hammer.'
'Anyway, you want to come?' She asked hopefully.
'Come to the Zeal Palace?' He sighed mentally and physically.
'There's sure to be a lot of people. If you don't dress in black, you'll probably blend into the background.'
'Meet me at Kajar in a half hour. I'll think about it.'
'I'll be there.'
Greven was already there when she arrived, looking nervous and impatient at the same time. His black armor fit better with the silver walls of Kajar than with the gold of Enhasa. She told him as much. "Thanks." He said absently. "I want to talk to you about some of the risks you've been taking."
"What risks?" She asked sweetly.
"Don't act all innocent! Do you recall the old Masa fable?"
"You've been talking to Masa?" She was surprised.
"No! I think "Masa" is short for something else, I don't remember. Anyway the jist of it was that this boy goes back in time to help his save his mother from a great evil, or something along those lines. He acts all tough about it, but in the end, the mother ends up defending her wounded son, and the power she uses up considerably shortens her life span."
"And what does that have to do with me?"
"Think about it for a second."
"Since when did you get all intellectual? Anway, time travel is impossible."
"You're avoiding the issue. My point was this: In nearly every epic story in our culture, all these tough warrior types go after some great evil. And also in nearly every story, its the woman who dies to defeat the evil."
"You think I'm going to die to get rid of Lavos?"
"Its quite possible. I'm the tough warrior type, you're the courageous woman. Look at all the risks you've taken already. You'd be in a ton of trouble if everything you've done was exposed to the public."
"Dalton is the only one who knows."
"So you'll end up dying to get rid of Dalton."
"Quit being so morbid!" She scolded him. "You've been having bad dreams lately, or something, but I'll be all right." Greven said nothing in return. He just stood for a minute, brooding.
"I'm sorry." He said at length. "I'm just worried about you, and us."
"Hey, if there's anyone who can handle all the troubles in the kingdom, its us, right?"
"True. I'm just worried that we can't handle it."
"We will. And you need to lighten up. Speaking of that, are you coming up to the palace or not?"
"You still want me to after what I said huh?" She nodded. "All right, but I need to go incognito. Call Ertai. He'll know what to do." Schala called Ertai mentally, and instantly, Greven's armor disappeared. It was replaced by dark blue pants, and a gold shirt with blue sleeves. Some unseen force slicked back the locks of hair hanging down in his eyes.
'You're gonna have to bring him back, Schala. I'm going down to Algetty!' Ertai's voice said excitedly.
'Good luck Ertai. Try to have fun.'
'You can count on that. Especially if Selisha has any younger sisters!' Then, he broke contact.
Schala looked up at Greven. He looked pretty different, but was still recognizable. "There's something missing..." She said. She reached up, and put a finger on the corners of his mouth, forcing him to smile. Now he seemed to be a completely different person. She looked up at him proudly, then embraced him. "Thank you."
"Its nothing. Besides, you went out of your way for me not too long ago." They stood that way for a minute, and she rested her head on his shoulder, sighing contentedly. For a moment, he wished he could hear that sigh with her resting beside him in bed. But then she looked up at him, and the innocence he saw in her eyes banished all thoughts of that type from his head.
"What? That smile is gone already!" Schala scolded him. "Remember to keep a cheerful face on, its your best defense. Shall we go?"
"Let's shall, Schala." He smiled, but didn't feel that happy.
Dalton wore an angry expression as he patrolled the halls. He had never understood the purpose of social gatherings. It just made people forget their duties, and he could see no good side to that. Maybe he ought to go threaten Schala again. Yes, that would cheer him up. He was very lucky that there was such animosity between Schala and the Queen right now, otherwise Schala could have him imprisoned in an Algetty dungeon in a second. But until something changed, the Queen would accept his word over hers, and she knew it. Schala had not even brought up the previous incident. When he arrived at her room, he was surprised to find no one there. Surely the girl hadn't actually gone to the dance!
He passed by the large ballroom, just to check. To his amazement, Schala was in there, dancing, WITH someone. His jaw dropped. Then he carefully eyed Schala's dancing partner. He had a typical Zealian appearance. He was smiling with a wry grin, talking quietly to Schala. Other dancers obscured his view. Well, some lucky Zeal resident had gotten to dance with the princess. Dalton had thought that she wouldn't even think of doing something without Greven. Suddenly, the other dancers moved out of the way, and he got a crystal clear look at them. The guy was frowning now, and Schala was saying something urgently. Something clicked in Dalton's head. It couldn't be him, could it? On the other hand, no one would expect that he would actually come to the Zeal Palace, in plain sight, no less! Soon, the band paused to take a break, and he saw Greven head toward the food line. Dalton walked over to the bar, within talking distance.
"You're lucky I don't kill you where you stand." He said, grabbing a bottle of brandy.
"You wouldn't dare kill me here." Greven returned, continuing to smile, whille cutting a choice portion of meat.
"You sound pretty sure."
"Too many people watching. Kill me right here, and nearly every resident of Zeal turns against you. They might even get a mob mentality going, and I know you couldn't kill them all before they killed you. Even if Zeal was here, their tolerance of you would drop to zero. You wouldn't be able to enforce any of your orders, and you'd have to spend months on a PR campaign."
"Its nice to see you're learning the rules of the game."
"I still say its not a game. But we're going to give you quite a challenge, all the same."
"Glad to hear it. Until then..." Dalton dismissed him with a wave of his hand, and walked off, taking the brandy with him. Immediately, Schala came over and poured herself a glass of wine.
"Going on the sauce?" He asked, smiling.
"Shut up." She said in a strained voice, then swallowed a fair portion of the liquid. "You scared the hell out of me! What were you doing talking to Dalton?"
"I didn't have much choice in the matter. He couldn't kill me here though. You shouldn't have worried."
"I suppose it would have considerably tarnished his public image, huh?" She leaned on the counter, then swallowed the last of the wine. She shivered a little as the alcohol passed throughout her body. "Don't let me have any more, okay?" She looked up at Greven with an odd expression.
"Sure." He quietly stepped between her and the bar. Her eyes seemed troubled, and out of place on that beautiful face. "God, but you're beautiful." He said out loud.
"What?" She turned to look at him, as if she hadn't been paying attention before.
"You're very beautiful. I don't tell you that enough. I guess we spend so much time being involved in all the issues around here, I don't have enough time to appreciate you." Schala's face turned red.
"Please, don't talk like that here. Mother's spies could be anywhere."
"But you do want me to talk like that later, right?"
"Of course." She whispered. "Just wait a few hours. Then we can go someplace where we can be alone."
"First you really wanted me to come here. Now you can't wait till we leave?"
"Fickle, aren't I?"
"Just one of the things I like about you." He said, kissing her on the cheek.
Her face turned red again. "Greven, stop..." But it was obvious to him, and to anyone close enough to hear them, that she did not want him to stop. He turned her around and kissed her on the lips. The music started again, and they slowly drifted back toward the center of the room. Nearly everyone wondered who Schala's mystery man was, but no one dared to actually butt in and ask.
From different parts of the room, many sets of eyes were watching. They all converged on one man, who initiated telepathic contact. 'Sir Dalton, Greven is here with Schala!'
'I know that you fool!' The mental backlash was defeaning.
'What do you want us to do sir?' The man rubbed his temple.
'Leave them alone!'
'Do you have a hearing problem? Let them get more attached to each other. It will just be that much more fun ripping them apart!'
'I see sir.'
'Good. Keep monitoring them, all the same.'
'You can count on us sir.' Then, he broke the contact.
"I'll make your life shine!" - Delita Hyral
Go To Chapter 32
Return To CT Fanfic