POM Part 30: A Trip to Erilu by RedPhantom ()
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Ann transported herself, Merton and Crito to Paosij. They were heading up to Erilu, and Emeton asked them to check on the new governor on the way.
“I hate it when you do that.” Crito frowned.
“Do what?” Ann looked confused.
“Transport. Sorry, it’s nothing personal. I’m not fond of it in general.”
“When has the princess transported you before?” Merton asked.
“Back when she was a runaway.”
“You saw her as a runaway and didn’t report it?”
“I didn’t realize it was her,” Crito explained. “Prince Tolin saw her too and didn’t recognize her. Do you remember when the keepers at the orphanage beat a boy so bad it almost killed him?”
Merton nodded. “Princess Ann snuck a note to Pt’this to give to his majesty.”
“I was one of the soldiers sent to help with that. One evening a man had a couple of his men take a family hostage in exchange for the boy that was beat.”
Ann’s eyes widened as the memory came to her. “You were one of the soldiers I took to help with that. You shot an arrow through a hole in the wall.”
“Crito is the best archer in the army,” Merton told her. “He’s as good as most elves.”
Crito shrugged. “I started hunting early like they do.
“It wasn’t until the princess came home and I heard Lord Kith call her Shimmer that I realized who she was,” Crito explained.
“How did you not know it was her? She’s as white as an albino and has eyes like a dragon.”
“I do?” Ann frowned. She never thought her eyes looked like dragon eyes.
“A little.” Merton nodded.
“She didn’t look like that.” Crito insisted. “Her skin was darker, tanned and her eyes and hair were brown. I can see her hair changing, but her eyes? She was darker than when Princess Noyet dyed her.
“Noyet did what?” Merton frowned.
“Aunt Noyet dyed my hair and skin to make me look normal,” Ann explained.
“She didn’t.” Merton insisted.
“You spent too much time as a prison guard,” Crito claimed.
“It kept me in Sen-gan while my family was growing up.”
“Do you want me to talk to Dad about a different bodyguard?” Ann offered.
Merton shook his head. “No, thank you. I’ll still be in Sen-gan mostly. And my boys are old enough I don’t need to be there constantly. I also need to get out of that prison.”
Ann nodded, frowning. “Maybe I should suggest to Dad that Remmy not keep guards in there so long.”
“Careful, he might make you general rather than your brother,” Crito warned.
Ann shook her head. “He doesn’t think that highly of me. You’ve seen that. He probably wouldn’t even listen to me.”
“Perhaps we should go visit the new governor,” Merton suggested.
“What’s his name again?” Crito asked.
“Warma.” Ann filled in. Crito should have known, but since he was night shift, he had been allowed to sleep rather than be part of the planning meeting. “You’ve been here before when Carem was governor. Half of the staff is still here.”
“What of Carem’s wife?” Crito asked.
“She’s being treated as all governors’ widows are, though with a few extra bodyguards,” Ann told him.
The visit was primarily to check on Warma and see how things were going. Ann and her guards also checked to make sure the dissidents among the servant and guards had all the dealt with. It was only a short visit, just a way to show support until Emeton could come. That probably wouldn’t be until after Piena’s wedding, and possibly Janta’s also. Barin was still nervous about marrying into the royal family. Bacna and Lillan wanted to wait a while. They’d known each other for two years and had loved each other, but Bacna hadn’t truly courted her and felt he should.
After a few days in Paosij, Ann and her guards continued up to Erilu. They transported to the border where they were met by a delegation who transported them to the capital. Outsiders weren’t typically allowed in the capital or anywhere in northern Erilu. A few exceptions were made for foreign rulers and their representatives. This was why Ann’s group was so small.
Ann and Merton spent the day at the elder house, meeting with the council of elders and King Arlin while Crito was taken into Shunati’s parents’ house to rest. There were no inns in the city. The healer’s parents were willing to have visitors and happy to offer them a room.
Merton watched the meeting and listened the best he could. He’d picked up a little Elven but was nowhere near fluent. Ann, on the other hand, spoke it like a native. He remembered hearing about that. He may have spent his career in the prison, but he had been made aware of most of the happenings in the rest of the palace. His wife was one of the biggest gossips there.
According to his wife, Ann was the brightest of all Emeton’s children, excelled at school and spoke any language they taught at the palace by the age of seven.
By his observation, his wife might have underestimated the girl. She sat alone debating and negotiating in a foreign language and in a foreign land. She might as well have been sitting at a bar having a drink with friends for all it fazed her. She looked as though she belonged there if you didn’t look too closely at their physical differences, or how they dressed. Elven clothing was simpler and more revealing.
Merton frowned. He’d have to talk to Crito. The man rarely got involved with women and hadn’t been in a relationship for some time, but he sure did like to look. It would be a bad idea for him to do that here. Nor should he let himself get distracted on duty. That thought made Merton relax a little. There was very little Crito would let distract him from duty. He’d still talk with him though.
After they were done for the day, Merton followed Ann back to the house where they would stay. The house only had two bedrooms, one for Shunati and one for his parents. Ann, Crito, and Merton would be sharing Shunati’s room. The room lacked a personal touch. The elf had never lived there. His parents had moved there after he had become an apprentice and he’d never come home except for visits.
Crito had hung a curtain to divide the room to give Ann some privacy. He assured them it was at the suggestion of the owner.
Merton talked with Crito about elf woman and their attire. The other guard frowned and reminded Merton he was both older and had been a guard longer. He might enjoy the female figure, but he would not let that keep him from doing a proper job. He also reminded Merton that there was a law forbidding relationships between elves and humans. He would be a very poor guard if he got himself executed because someone misread a look.
After a stiff dinner with Shunati’s parents, Ann and Crito settled down to play cards well Merton slept. Ann would sleep too, eventually. But she still only slept two hours a night and found it difficult to sleep somewhere new.
Ann scried her father the next morning to give a progress report.
“The elders and Arlin are happy Carem’s dealt with, and they don’t have to worry about any of their people getting involved.”
Emeton frowned. “I’m surprised they’re so concerned, considering they’ll kill their people for just getting involved with other races.”
“I brought that up. I pointed out how they were executing our citizens who hadn’t broken any of our laws, nor had they ever been to Erilu to be subject to their laws. The elders are talking about that.”
“And point out that some of those children would be our citizens too.” Emeton reminded her. If the father were Menthan, so would the children be.
“I did, not that this would help much. Who would marry someone knowing that the act would get their spouse killed?”
Emeton squirmed at the question. With her father’s death and her daughter’s upcoming marriage, he’d been thinking more about Nadal lately.
“Dad, you did not marry her to let her die. You didn’t know that would happen. No one did.” Ann reminded him.
“Forgive me for forgetting my place, Sire, but may I ask a question?” Merton requested.
Emeton nodded. “By all means.”
“When we were at the summit, one of the dragons said a treaty law prevented the rulers from making laws forbidding marriages and they had this treaty with the elves as well as the humans. How is King Arlin not violating a treaty law by all of this?”
Emeton frowned. He clearly didn’t know.
He looked past the scrying mirror. “Pt’this,” he called. He looked at them again. “He’s acting as arbitrator.”
“Problems with the council?” Ann guessed.
“No, with your mother and Piena. These wedding plans are a bigger battle than Carem’s attack.”
“According to Piena? Everything your mother says or does.”
“One more agreement made,” Pt’this reported. “I haven’t had to mediate so many arguments in six kings.”
“You’ve been here longer than that, haven’t you?” Ann asked.
Pt’this nodded. “Six kings ago, the king was quite young, and a bit spoiled.”
“Wasn’t he the one to make you an advisor?” Emeton asked.
Pt’this nodded again. “He was. About the only wisdom, he showed was to appoint several advisers. He then proceeded to argue with us over everything. His son started showing indication of similar behaviors. Mirimar and I took him in to raise. He made the mistake of thinking because Mirimar couldn’t walk well, he could get away with things.” Pt’this chuckled. Ann did too. Mirimar was the sweetest person you can meet unless you misbehaved then she wouldn’t hesitate to use her magic to get your attention. “She had him upside down before he could take two steps. He made quite the change after that.” Then he sighed. “But that won’t help here. What did you need?”
“How is King Arlin’s law against elves marrying outsiders, not a treaty violation?” Emeton asked.
Pt’this frowned. He apparently had never thought of that either. “I don’t know. I’ll talk to the council the next time I go for a report. He probably found some technicality. I can’t imagine the council wouldn’t have looked into this.
“Is everything else going well?” He asked.
“No.” Ann frowned. She missed being able to use her reputation to intimidate people. But she had to create a new reputation, not one based on fear but skill and success. If she got the elves to agree on half of what she was asking for, she would impress the other rulers.
“Is there anything I can help with?” Emeton offered.
Ann shook her head. “No, they’re just stubborn. I’ll figure something out.”
“Very well.” Emeton nodded.
That afternoon, Ann met with Deyama and another aide named Sinta. Ann vaguely remembered having seen the woman before. Ann had needed to scry Deyama for Voramini once when she’d been a runaway. Sinta had been with her. However, neither seemed to associate her with the incident.
“King Arlin and the elders have other pressing matters,” Deyama explained.
“They do send their apology. The circumstances were unforeseen and unavoidable.” Sinta assured her.
Ann nodded. “I understand. We have those too. I’ve been the cause of a few. Usually, my mom or my uncle handles things then.”
“How is your uncle doing?” Deyama asked.
“He’s improving. He’ll be walking again soon.”
“But he won’t go back to being prince-general?” Sinta asked.
Ann shook her head. “Prince Remtani’s taking over permanently. He seems to have a good head for it.”
Sinta frowned. “Then who is the heir?”
“He is. He can do both if needed, though I think he may be looking at one of our brothers to aid him as prince-general once Uncle Tolin passes. Right now, Uncle is helping him and acting as a captain.”
“You humans are so complicated.” Deyama frowned.
“Us?” Ann laughed. “Your ruler is elected. No one knows who it’s going to be beforehand. How do you train for a position you don’t know you’ll have? Remtani’s been raised to be king.”
“We get hands-on training. And our ruler isn’t raised feeling entitled,” Deyama argued. “Both have good and bad aspects. Your system works for you and ours works for us.”
“Unless your ruler holds you, hostage,” Ann pointed out. “Shunati had mentioned a woman who begged for years before she was allowed to go to the college and I know there are other students who don’t finish their schooling because they have to come home. And there are teachers who have to leave in the middle of a term to get permission to stay. Some don’t get that permission. Then the college has to scramble to find a replacement. A few weeks back, there was an accident, and several people got hurt because the teacher wasn’t allowed to return and none of the other teachers were strong enough to shield the student.”
“What happened?” Sinta asked.
“A student went through shia-Tal-ma. It started in class. He started casting lightning bolts.”
“What did they do?” Deyama asked. Vor had gone through shia-Tal-ma so she understood how dangerous it could be. It happened when an elf’s magic doubled instantly. They lost all control and would spontaneously start casting.
“They scried me to cast the shield.” She rolled up her sleeve to show them the burn scar.
“You were hit?”
“Twice. I’m just a human. My spell shield wasn’t strong enough. I had to use a special shield that I have to be inside.”
“You didn’t have those healed?” Deyama asked.
“I’m an unreadable. Shunati is the only one that can heal scars on me. He’s been busy.” And she wanted the damage visible while she was here.
“King Arlin worries the elves that go to the college pick up foreign ways,” Deyama explained.
“Most aren’t there that long. We’re asking that students be allowed to finish their studies and teachers at least finish their terms.”
“But what about the influence?” Sinta pressed.
“We could lock them in their rooms each day after class, but I know elves preferred the outdoors. What about a class on Elven customs? It would help remind them of who they are, and if others took it, it would help them understand why Elven behavior is what it is. I never understood why Shunati painted his face for parties. He explained that it tells the history of his lineage and it was a way to identify people and their families quickly. People could probably use it to tell him and his cousin apart.”
“We don’t wear it all the time.” Sinta pointed out.
“Obviously, but at parties or other things, it might help.”
“Who would teach the class?” Deyama asked.
“I would think that would be up to King Arlin and the elders. You know who knows your traditions best.”
“Would this be a required class?” Sinta asked.
“The college would need to discuss that. Maybe require it for students staying for longer terms, like potion makers. And perhaps voluntary for others and non-elves.”
Deyama nodded. “We can suggest it.”
Ann then produced a slip of parchment. “This is why we ask for passage for merchants through the pass.”
“What is it?” Sinta asked.
“It’s a list of complaints registered with the governor or the magistrate of Resdelk. Merchants send orders for merchandise to suppliers in Yarba, but they don’t receive it. Sometimes, the Yarbs claim they didn’t receive the payment. Sometimes, the merchandise doesn’t arrive, though the Yarbs claim they sent it.”
“Are you implying our people are thieves?” Deyama asked.
Ann shrugged. “I don’t know. All I know is our merchants are losing out. Whether it’s the Yarbs lying or the elves, we can’t tell. We’ve been friends with you for millennia. I don’t see why your people would betray us. Traditionally, elves are honest people. I would hate to think you were breaking with tradition now. Yarbs are less trustworthy. But if they had to deal with our merchants face-to-face, perhaps they would find deception less tempting.”
“May we show this to Arlin?” Deyama requested, indicating the parchment.
“It’s written in Menthanlan. The magistrate doesn’t speak Erulian. Would you like me to translate it?” Ann offered.
“I can do it,” Sinta assured her. She retrieved a writing set and started copying the page.
“Now, your final concern,” Deyama said. “You can’t dictate how we treat our citizens.”
“We’re not trying to, though I think it’s horrible that you would kill someone for that. We’re only interested in protecting our own citizens,” Ann told her. “We would like to request the elves who do wish to marry Menthanlans be allowed. Perhaps King Arlin might allow them to leave Erilu and become citizens in Menthanla. But we at least request that you leave our citizens alone. If one of our citizens is aiding one of yours in breaking one of your laws, let us know. We have laws against such things, and we have a judicial system to help avoid mistakes.”
“Mistakes? Our assassins don’t make mistakes.” Deyama insisted.
“Really? Go to the orphanage and tell that to the little human girl one of your assassins almost killed.” Ann frowned. “Several years ago, there was an orphan girl who was living with her uncle. He was a barkeeper at a less than nice inn, so he didn’t want to take her with. He hired a nurse to help watch her while he was at work. Because of his hours, he let the nurse live with them. The woman happened to be an elf. An assassin killed both the man and the woman and would’ve killed the child to if he hadn’t been stopped.”
“Just because a man claims a woman is just a nurse, doesn’t mean there isn’t more going on. And there are ways to hide a half-breed’s heritage.” Deyama claimed.
“A quick, simple investigation would have shown without a doubt they weren’t sleeping together. It would’ve taken moments to find out the man had no interested in women of any kind.” Ann countered. “And any healer could’ve told the child was human.”
“If she were human, the assassin wouldn’t…” Deyama started.
“The only reason the assassin didn’t kill her was that Drepal killed him first,” Ann told her.
“Drepal killed the…” Deyama frowned.
“I remember that.” Sinta nodded. “He was sent to investigate claims of an elf woman living with a man, and there was a child.”
“Apparently he didn’t do much investigating,” Ann told them. “It wasn’t hard to see the child had no elf blood.”
“You saw the child?” Deyama asked.
Ann nodded. “This happened while I was a prisoner. They had me with them. I was powerless to help. I hate Drepal, but I was glad she intervened. Could you imagine if a careless assassin went after Voramini because Shunati seemed a little too friendly with one of the maids?”
Deyama looked stricken that the thought. Voramini and Shunati were often mistaken for each other. While Shunati would never get involved with a human, he did spend a lot of time gossiping with the maids. If someone didn’t know him, it could look like more was going on.
“We’ll discuss this with King Arlin and the elders,” Sinta assured her.
“Thank you.” Ann nodded. If they could at least protect their own citizens, it would be a benefit, especially when not everyone had violated the law.