POM Part 26: Distractions by RedPhantom ()
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Ann led a small patrol. Their primary goal was to be a diversion. Their secondary goal would be to try to take the north wing. Theoretically, they might be able to do it. The doors to all the wings on the upper floors were sealed. It was a security measure built into the palace. It was all that allowed them to hold the two wings they had. Because of this, Carem only needed to guard the ground floor. The north wing was primarily residential, so Carem saw it as less important strategically. In truth, it was, though Emeton and Tolin both kept weapons there, which would help. As a result, Carem had few soldiers guarding it.
The problem was, many of the soldiers were just following orders. It appeared that some even thought they were defending Emeton. Emeton wanted casualties at a minimum. Deadly force was only a last resort.
They were to act as a diversion to allow Sapphire to place as many scrying charms as possible in the east wing. But because of Ann’s time in Lerjao, not succeeding in their secondary objective seemed like a failure. In Lerjao, failures were rewarded with death. She had to be careful. Don’t let her desires for success override her orders.
She used the properties in her cloak to hide their approach. It wasn’t perfect. She couldn’t cloak them all, but if they walked single file, with her in the front, the guards would likely overlook anyone behind her until it was too late.
It worked, mostly. They were spotted just before they reached the door with the guards.
Ann walked up to them. She recognized them as palace guards and released the spell.
“Princess?” One of them asked.
“I need to speak with Carem. I want to help.” She told him.
The guard raised an eyebrow. Everyone knew they didn’t get along.
“He’s the lesser of two evils. Carem and I don’t like each other, but he would’ve treated me better than Emeton. An orphanage would have been preferable to the abuse I suffered here. Carem would’ve let me go back to Thager. He would’ve executed Remtani, not sent him away. And he wouldn’t be using him now.”
“Using him?” The guard asked.
“The prince is acting as prince-general,” she told them. It didn’t matter if they knew. They wouldn’t be able to tell anyone. “It’s why they’re here. They refuse to serve under him.” She gestured to the guards behind her.
One looked at the others. “What do you think?”
“I think we should talk with Carem,” another said.
Another nodded. “I’ll get him.” He turned to leave. That was when Ann struck. She sent a blast of magic that took him down. Each of her escorts went after a soldier, and she went after the last. She stuck with using blasts of magical energy. It was usually nonlethal, and she knew the spell well. There was also a sleep spell she could use, but she wasn’t sure if she remembered it. Miscast spells were dangerous.
Soon, all the opposing soldiers were subdued. She sent telepathically to Pt’this that the doors were open. He and Emeton brought a larger contingent of men to take the unconscious soldiers into custody and distribute their armor and weapons.
“This group seemed to know they were fighting against Emeton and for Carem,” Ann told them.
Pt’this nodded as they took the soldiers away. Ann and her men continued into the north wing. They ran into a lone soldier.
“Princess, you’re okay. We can’t find most of the family. We fear they were taken in the attack. We haven’t even found his majesty.”
“I was just with him. He’s in the west wing, near the classrooms.”
“We lost that wing.” The soldier frowned.
“Dad’s retaken it. He was raised to be prince-general.” She reminded him. “Sir Pt’this is between the wings, he can take you to Father.”
The man frowned. “Sir Pt’this? We were told dragons led the attack.”
“I haven’t seen any attackers, so I can’t tell you who they are. But Sir Pt’this was with us in the healers’ rooms when it happened.”
“The healers are also in the west wing.”
“How do you think we recovered it? Go talk with Dad. I need to get to Governor Carem so the two can coordinate.”
The soldier nodded. “Governor Carem is in the south wing.”
“Thanks, I’ll find them.” She hurried off before he could question her further.
It was time to make some noise.
Sapphire went up to the fourth floor so she would be less likely to be seen. Then she slipped out the balcony door went over the rail and down into a tree. She crept from branch to branch until she reached the balcony for the east wing. She had to go down a floor. The branches weren’t sturdy enough, but that was okay. She needed to go down anyhow to place the charms.
She picked the lock and slipped in. She made her way to the first floor where Carem had set up his command center. As she went, she placed charms as instructed. One charm she carried was for her and Kith was guiding her through it.
What she heard confirmed what the others had said. Most of the soldiers thought they were fighting for King Emeton rather than against him. This was going to be a mess to sort out once they were done, assuming they won. She made her way to Carem’s command center, in the throne room. Of course, the pompous, arrogant cur.
She waited until there was a commotion before entering. Several soldiers left the room, and she slipped in.
Most of her friends spent their time trying to convince Sapphire to find honest work. Vor was different. Yes, he did encourage her to give up theft, but he recognized she wasn’t going to do that anytime soon. So the times she spent with him while Kith was out of town, he taught her skills to help. The top of that list was stealth. Vor was the best tracker and hunter in Erilu, and he taught her everything he could to improve her abilities.
She entered unnoticed. Carem had his back to her, looking at a map on the table. He was planning his attack to take the rest of the palace.
Piena and Irkali sat under guard off to one side. Neither looked happy, but Piena looked ready to spit fire. Sapphire was sure if the princess had been a dragon, she would’ve gone mad-dragon and destroyed everything in sight, including her grandfather.
Sapphire managed to place most of the charms before being spotted.
“What’s going on? Who are you? How did you get in here?” A soldier demanded. His armor indicated he was a city guard from Paosij.
Carem turned. He frowned at the sight of her. Before he could say anything, Sapphire went into her act.
“Oh, Governor Carem, thank goodness I found you. I’ve been so terrified. Please protect me. Keep him away. Don’t let him get me. Please, I’ll help however you need.” She clutched his arm, slipping a charm into his pocket.
Both Piena and Irkali stared at her outburst.
“Who?” Carem asked. “What are you talking about?”
“Remtani. Please don’t let him near me.” She begged.
“My dear child, what are you going on about?”
Piena came to her rescue. “Grandpa, this is the girl Remmy attacked. If he’s back, she’d be terrified.” She looked at Sapphire. “Is he back?”
Sapphire nodded, doing her best to look terrified. It wasn’t hard. “He’s leading the opposition.”
Carem frowned at the news. He must’ve assumed Emeton was leading the defense. Apparently, while the real reason Emeton was named heir rather than his older brother had never been revealed, and both brothers pointed to a myriad of reasons, the main supposition was that Emeton lacked the ability to lead a campaign. Carem had thought those defending the palace had no true leader.
“Come, sit by us.” Piena put an arm around her and let her to where they’d been sitting. “Grandpa won’t let anyone hurt you.”
“Is Remmy really leading?” Irkali whispered.
“What happened to Uncle Tolin?” Irkali asked.
“He had a stroke. He’s okay, but he needs a chance to recover,” Sapphire explained.
“Are you okay?” Piena asked.
She nodded again. In truth, it didn’t matter where she was. She was scared.
“That commotion, are they trying to take the north wing?” Irkali asked.
Sapphire nodded. “That was Ann. She’s creating a diversion.”
“She can do that all right.” Irkali nodded.
“A diversion for what?” Piena asked, frowning at her sister.
“Me.” Sapphire grinned. She showed them the last two charms.
“These two are for you. They only work one way. You can’t hear anything, but they can hear and see everything.” She explained.
They each took one.
“How did you get in here?” Irkali asked.
“She walked. Didn’t you see her?” Piena asked. Sapphire was surprised. She hadn’t realized Piena had seen her.
“I went out a window into a tree, to another balcony and came down that way.”
Both girls looked impressed.
“Now what?” Piena asked.
“We wait,” Sapphire told them. If the rescue attempt failed, she could always escape, but she didn’t know if she could bring the princesses with her.
Emeton and Pt’this waited near the door connecting the wings. Periodically, Ann sent a soldier or two out. Most were shocked to find Carem was trying to take over and agreed to help. Emeton had a feeling they’d find the bodies for those who knew they were fighting against him.
It wasn’t long before a commotion started toward the other end of the hall.
“Is she going after the east wing too?” Emeton asked.
“That would make a great distraction.” Pt’this nodded. “Shall we go help?”
“Talk with Remtani,” Emeton suggested.
Pt’this his eyes glazed over. Moments later, he nodded. “It will show the soldiers who truly fights against you.”
Emeton agreed. They led their contingent of soldiers down the hall.
“Not too ambitious are we?” Emeton asked his daughter.
She grinned. “Master Elos, Master Nim, and Lyra all encouraged me to push myself. You did want a distraction.”
“This will do it.” He agreed.
“Though I seriously doubt we’ll even get this door.” She admitted.
“How do you cast and talk at the same time?” Pt’this asked.
She merely grinned.
They had taken swords from the soldiers Ann sent to them, and Emeton had a shield. Pt’this’s other hand was a dragon claw, and he used that if his opponent got under his sword.
One soldier evaded Ann’s magic and her knife. He lunged at Pt’this who dodged. The man found himself face-to-face with Emeton.
“Your majesty?” He almost dropped his sword in surprise. At his words, the whole group froze.
Emeton pulled back from his attack. “Sergeant.”
“Sire, we were told you’d been captured. Governor Carem said the dragons and some renegade soldiers had taken over.”
Emeton nodded. “So I’ve heard. Carem is the one who’s taken over.”
“Your majesty, we’re so sorry.” The sergeant said.
“Help me retake my palace, and I will forgive the mistake,” Emeton told him.
“Perhaps someone should head back and let the others know. You’ll have a great deal more help if they know the truth.” Another soldier suggested.
“Agreed.” Ann nodded before Emeton could. “He goes.” She pointed to a soldier.
“You made me princess-general.” She reminded him. Emeton wondered if she saw something untrustworthy in the one who offered. Perhaps she believed he’d warn Carem.
“Perhaps…” Pt’this started. Then his eyes glazed over. Whatever he was being told made him pale. It was severe enough it caused him to need to take silver root for his heart.