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Chapter 11
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Chapter 11

The discussed what they should wear for this dinner and if they should all come to it. Alye insisted that they were all to come to dinner, and they were pleased to find that someone had supplied them with clothing. They must have been very observant, because there was a set of clothing that fit each of them. They were in a very loose fitting style, and required a lot of wrapping to get them to fit properly, but Alye had worn clothing in this style before, and she helped most of the others get ready. Taru’s clothing was a top, with flowing sleeves that she was very worried about, and a pair of pants that had so much extra fabric it almost made a skirt. She was worried about falling on her face in these very loose garments, after wearing tight fitting ones for so long, but she found that she enjoyed the freedom of movement these provided. If she didn’t focus on the clothing she almost felt like she wasn’t wearing anything at all.

The others were equal as uncomfortable at first, excluding Alye, but Taru adapted the quickest to this new style of clothing, and after just walking down the hallway she was very much enjoying these beautiful clothes. She had never worn anything this nice before; most of her clothing was a hand-me-down at the camp, or the simple, and mass-produced uniforms of the compound. When she had been very young and at home, she had not worn much of anything. These clothes were made of an expensive fabric that was soft against her skin, and she loved the feeling of it when she ran it under her hands. They all looked so much more official in these beautiful clothes, and even Calm Sea was provided with a beautifully crafted collar that she took as a sign of respect and not one of dishonor.

They were escorted to the dining room, and Taru was again amazed by the size of everything. The table in the center of the room was massive, and made of beautiful wood and inlaid with gold and silver. The chairs were all ornately carved, and cushioned in expensive padding and fabric. A single chair in this room cost more then Taru’s parents would have made in three lifetimes. The queen was seated at a larger chair at the head of the table. To her right was her daughter, Evelynn, and to her left was her husband. The small group was led to the seats, and Taru was quite happy that she was not forced to sit next to one of the royalty. Those seats went to Calm Sea and Alye.

“I am glad to see that the clothing that was made for you fits well.” Eamonie greeted them. Taru was shocked; these clothes were made for them in the time that they spoke to the queen earlier? That was an inconceivable thought to her. To have not only the skill, but also the number of people to make these baffled her. Alye managed to not look completely blow away, for which Taru was grateful.

“Thank you your majesty, they are lovely. I believe Taru in particular is taken with your style of clothing.” Suri spoke for Alye, and Taru ducked her head and blushed when her name was mentioned.

“Ah, the dark haired one. That is good to know. Our style of clothing is not for everyone, but those who like it tend to never wear anything else. We will have to have a few more outfits made up for her.” Evelynn spoke for the first time, and Taru was not sure if she was complementing her or insulting her. She simply nodded, because she couldn’t say anything else.

“We will eat first, and then talk business. It is impolite to discuss business on an empty stomach.” Eamone waved her hand and the first course was brought out. Taru was more then full after the second course, but the food just kept coming. She soon started watching the royals and noticed that they didn’t eat everything on their plates. Taru adopted this strategy and was soon really enjoying all the amazingly flavored food. There were ten courses in total, and the desert was a richly flavored sweet she had never had before.

Suri, do you know what this treat is? She asked privately. Suri just shook her head, and seemed to be in conversation with Alye. When Alye smiled at her, Taru again had to duck and head to hide her blush.

“Your majesty, we were all wondering what this sweet is. We do not have anything like it in Malaquent.” Suri said after another moment, and Taru sighed a little when her name was left out of it.

“Ah, I am glad you like it, we have been importing it from the Southern Continent. They harvest it from a strange tree, but we add sugar to it, as the natural flavor is quite bitter. It’s called chocolate.”

“Thank you your majesty, it is a wonderful end to a wonderful meal.”

“And now I’m guessing you want to get down to business. Children are always in such a rush.” She glanced over at Evelynn and got a glare from her daughter.

“If you don’t mind your majesty.” Suri replied. “We do have a long journey back home, and Alye is needed for leadership.”

“As you wish, you came here seeking permission to fight on our soil. I have discussed this to a degree with my daughter and my husband, and we have had a bit of a disagreement on this matter. While I appreciate anything you can do against that fool Demerita, they don’t agree that I should let you fight here. While I do have the final word, I have listened to their arguments, and as such have some questions.”

Alye nodded and indicated that Eamonie should continue. Taru didn’t understand why there was anything to discuss, if the queen wanted to let them, she just had to say so. Why were these other people involved in the decision? She watched Evelynn with different eyes now. She apparently had more power in things then Taru thought before, and she regarded her in that way. The girl was not much taller then she was, but she was build like a fragile doll. Taru was muscular from her training and time in the saddle where Evelynn was delicate and dainty. Taru didn’t see how she could make a good rule; she didn’t seem strong enough to lead. Perhaps she was very intelligent, but that wasn’t enough in Taru’s eyes.

“Our first concern is about how far these skirmishes will be. We know that the area you are in is very sparsely populated, but if you were to lose then Malaquent would technically have a claim on that land. How do you propose to keep this from happening?” Eamone asked. Alye and Suri had a silent conversation before Suri turned back to the queen.

“If the manage to win a battle that far into your borders it would mean the death of the rebellion. At that point they would no longer have any reason to stay, we would be out of the way, and they would go back to the border issues with Terotmal.”

Eamonie seemed to be ok with this answer, and looked towards her husband. He must have been the one that brought up that concern.

“Our other concern is what you plan to do if you do continue to beat the soldiers on our soil. Do you plan to launch a full scale war against Demerita, or would you rather let this thing you have created drag on forever?”

This time it took Alye and Suri a long time to work out an answer. Taru was a little worried; she had had some of these questions as well. There was no way they could take on the entire army of Malaquent, even if they managed to increase their numbers exponentially.

“We are currently working on that very problem your majesty. We now have over eleven in our numbers who are skilled in one or more forms of mage craft. Shet is researching every day to try and find a way to use those with talent to fight and perhaps level the playing field. We also have more then a few spies within the compound, and they are all placed where assassination could be possible. We believe that without the three leaders, Malaquent would be willing to negotiate with us. We have also been researching the history of Malquent and how rulers were chosen in the past, we hope to be able to invoke some old laws to get those who would rule properly in a position to do so.” Suri took a deep breath, and then a long drink from her water after her speech.

Eamonie looked very interested in this last bit of information, and turned to both of her companions.

“Perhaps this conversation would be best finished in more comfortable quarters, we have much to discuss. Alye and Suri will join me. The rest of you are welcome to wander the palace as you please.”

Taru looked at Alye, and received a nod, she rose from the table, feeling all of the rich food she had eaten settle to the bottom of her stomach. She left the room with the rest of the girls, and Calm Sea, but she decided to go check on Loyalty before doing any other exploration. She found her way to the ground floor easily, but finding where the stables were was a bit more of a trick. She took more then a few wrong turns, before seeing familiar landmarks. She got to the stables, and saw that there were a few lanterns hung to light the path. She moved quietly, a habit she had picked up from Nik and Hawk. They said it was always best to not announce yourself, especially in strange places. Silence came easily to her, and she now used her skills to move swiftly towards the large stone stable.

The door was slightly ajar, and she slipped in. Loyalty was right where she left him, and she didn’t know why she had such a bad feeling as she walked into his stall. She checked his food and water, and found them both to be as she had requested. Looking around the stall again, she saw another net hanging hay, and she moved to look at it. It was a strange plant, and she knew she had not given any of that type of plant to any horse before. She took a small sample, and removed the rest of it from the stall. She checked the other stalls and saw that only the rebel’s horses were given this plant. None of it was touched, but it made her nervous nonetheless. She needed to get back to one of the scouts; they would know what the plant was. She left the stables as quickly and quietly as she had come, and tried to find her way back to the room.

She couldn’t find it, and she found a guard, and using simple nods and gestures managed to get him to lead her back to the room. Only one of the scouts, Vree, was there. She told Taru that the other three had been gone since dinner on a tour of the castle. Vree had wanted to get some rest, but she was up now, going over some maps that had been provided when she asked.

Vree, I found something in the horses’ stalls that I didn’t recognize. I removed it, but I brought some to show you. She pulled the strange weed-like plant from her pocket and placed it on the desk that Vree was seated at. Vree looked up and jumped to her feet.

“You said this was in the stalls of the horses? Was it growing there?” At Taru’s headshake, she picked up the plant to look more closely.

“Taru, this is very bad. This plant is called water hemlock and is extremely poisonous!” She moved over to the door, and then turned back to the window. “If this was done on purpose then we have something very serious to worry about. Water hemlock can kill a horse, someone was trying to make it very hard for us to leave.”

Taru lowered her head, and looked around the room. She had a feeling of being watched. It was worrying her, and she shifted her boots to feel her dagger. None of the others were armed, and without Calm Sea around no one who could really fight well without weapons.

Vree, I feel someone watching us. Don’t react, I doubt that they can hear this; I’m good at speaking to only one person. Go over to the window, and quietly check outside. Vree did as she was asked, and sighed. Keep talking; I don’t want them to know we are onto them.

“I don’t know what to do,” Vree said. “We need to talk to Alye, but I don’t know when she will be back. Perhaps we should go guard the horses.”

Taru was pleased by this last comment that could trick whoever was listening into thinking they would be heading to the stables. Vree was good at this subterfuge stuff, but she should be, she was a scout. Good idea, make them think we will be going to the stables, perhaps we can see if we are truly in danger. I have some skill in earth control; can you teach me quickly how to disguise myself like you do?

Vree shook her head, but said, “Yeah, I agree, I think the horses need to be checked on again. Do you think we should both go to the stables?”

That’s fine, you head down to the stables, and see if you can spot an ambush, if you do come straight back here, I’m going to head out to see if I can find the others. If I can get close enough I might be able to warn one of the other mental speakers.

Vree nodded, and headed out the door, Taru close on her heals; she slipped away at the stairs leading down, and stretched out her senses. She pulled the air towards her, trying to find a hint of any of the other rebels. She couldn’t find any trace going down, so she headed up the steps, she reached out again each time, and found a flutter of long garments on the fourth floor. She moved from shadow to shadow, creating ones where there weren’t any by manipulating the torches. She was again pleased by the ease of movement granted by the Buenasha type dress, and stopped when she heard footsteps and voices. She listened carefully and heard the familiar strange accent of a Cheveyo.

Calm Sea! She called out knowing that Calm Sea was used to receiving mental speech because of her bond with Dayn. Try not to react, but I think we are in danger. Someone tried to poison the horses. Can you get away from where you are? She waited for any type of reply, hoping that the Cheveyo could get back to her. She was not expecting the soothing voice that entered her head.

Taru, I hope that is you. I have heard, and I will try to contact Alye. I do no think that the queen has anything to do with this, but I do not like her offspring. If she were mine I would have sent her out of the den to die as a pup. Taru was startled at the anger in the mental voice, but sent her understanding. She moved into a small alcove and crouched down to conceal herself. They passed her position, and she let Calm Sea know where she was, but didn’t try to speak to Gava. She just hoped that Calm Sea could contact Alye. Taru was very confused; she didn’t think that any Cheveyo had any type of ability. She tucked the information to the back of her mind, because the present was enough to deal with.

She stalked quietly behind the group, again manipulating the torches when she needed to. They were led down this time, and Taru had some trouble keeping track of them on the stairways, it was almost impossible to conceal herself on them, so she had to let them get quite far ahead. When they reached the first floor Taru was not surprised, but was very sad to see three guards starting to follow the group as well.

Calm Sea, there are now three guards following your group. You are outnumbered but not by much. Do you think I should try to take out the ones following you? She waited impatiently to hear the reply. Keeping herself as open as possible she jumped when it was Alye’s voice and not Calm Sea’s that answered her.

Taru, come to the room where we had dinner, and if you have any left bring the plant that was given to the horses. The queen has nothing to do with this, and we need her help now. Taru was already trying to remember the way to the dining hall, but she found the huge doors easily enough. She shoved them open and was met by a soldier with a spear. Without thinking, she pulled the spear up and away from her, yanking it from the man’s grip. She took one of his arms, and pulled him over her shoulder in one of the throws Nik had taught her.

Taru! No!

Onto Chapter 12

 Malaquent is completely fictional, any relationship to real people, places, or events is purely coincidental, and is in no way ment to offend. All pictures of the Cheveyos are Emy Rothenberger. Any use of names, places, or images from these pages is strictly prohibited. Other images may be other artists, and all rights belong to those artists. Use without permission is prohibited.