Aerema: Founding of A Kingdom
Author: Artesian Different

Chapter 18
Purple Eyes and Plotting Panthers

“Oh, no,” Ryath said, her eyes flashing to reddish-orange. “I didn’t think he had gone that bad.” She slapped one of her hands to her face and leaned down over her desk.

Alexandra’s pretty golden eyes widened, puzzled. “What makes you think that?”

“Put it together, Alexandra!” Ryath’s head shot up, her eyes ringed with yellow. She tossed her quill to the desk. “Ténebrous attempting to recruit the elves, even though I ordered him specifically not to.” Ryath threw up her hands. “Thieves mentioning him, and knowing he’s in the North when very, very few people are even aware where he’s gone.” Her quill shot sparks and vanished into a puddle of ash.

Alexandra pulled back her ears, her eyes widened. “He might be lying.”

“Grasping at straws, Zenith, not possible. It’s much harder to lie under pressure than you might think. If he were attempting to scare Darius into letting him go, he would have insisted that he was a mage, or that he was part of an underground association, or something, not threatening me with death. He meant it,” Ryath rushed on, her eyes a brilliant purple. Alexandra hadn’t even seen that color in her eyes before. Ryath reached out and reconstructed her quill with a tap of her finger.

She stowed the feather in her desk. “A Swampmurdian soldier traveling back to Swampmurd, his destination completely unknown. To reach where Darius is, he’d have to been up in North when Ténebrous was, and just barely making it out before the snows came, a risky time for an idle journey,” Ryath continued. Her eyes snapped to ice-blue.

“Not good, not good.” She stood and began to pace, then suddenly stopped. “Do you have any clue where Ténebrous is from, any family or relatives?” she asked.

“Er, I think so, he has a cousin in the camp,” Alexandra replied. “Bane is related to him somehow...”

“Oh, Ankh. How could I have been so blind! Do you know what sort of family Bane has?” Ryath forged on, her eyes a reddish-purple like bruised plums.

“Uh, not good, if I remember properly,” Alexandra said quickly.

“Worse than that, not just bad, hell. That’s what their last name means, for Bekannt’s sake!” Ryath replied.

She leaned down over her desk, her arms rigid. Her eyes were purple again, tinged with gray. “They are the top advisors for the Psycadian reign, namely because they have a gift that allows them to resist drilling. Even I couldn’t read Ténebrous’s thoughts.”

“I assumed it was because he was so quiet, reserved, and businesslike, not to mention honest. I assumed he didn’t have any real vices,” Ryath said, her eyes shifting to lilac again. She ran one hand over her hair, leaving an arc of brilliant white sparks.

“Oh,” Alexandra replied. I didn’t know you had any limits…

“Yes, I do. Contrary to popular opinion. I can’t heal anything more than a minor scratch, that’s the Spirit Wind’s realm. And… I can’t read the minds of those that have been gifted by Agnost or Ankh… ” She plopped into her chair. She put her head down in her hands and thought.

If Ténebrous had that gift, what about Bane? Alexandra thought in a panic. What if I’ve got a spy right here in the camp?

“I don’t know. I doubt if I can read his, either,” Ryath replied.

Alexandra stood. “I’ll go and talk to him…”

“No. Don’t,” Ryath ordered. “There are some Ténebrous loyalists here in the camp; if it gets out that we are mistrusting of him, there will be some terrible trouble,” she replied.

“Oh,” Alexandra mumbled, blushing. I can’t believe Bane would be a spy!

“Nor I Ténebrous,” Ryath replied.

“Can’t you just snap Ténebrous out of existence?” Alexandra asked hesitantly.

“No, I can’t.” Ryath said, raising her tortured brown eyes to Alexandra’s. “If I had never met him, maybe. If I’d only heard about him, possibly. Anything more would rip apart my memories and my soul. I can’t destroy anything I created that took on a life of its own and affected my life. It would smear my soul and let Ankh in.

“I’d be less than worthless; I’d regress and go reverse like Bekannt’s conversion to the light, but backwards. And, I’d drag everything else I’d created with me. I can’t do it.”

“I see,” Alexandra replied, her eyes showing a hint of fright. Ryath, falling to the dark? I thought that was impossible. “You couldn’t do Throb either?”

“Mmm, possibly. But I have read letters from him, and heard about him. It would be terribly risky. Besides, what good what it do! It would merely open the door for Tartarus’s reign,” Ryath replied.

“I’m moving the Coronation date up. Once Aerema has a true ruler, much of this trouble will subside,” Ryath stated, her eyes flashing to turquoise, and stood. “The Coronation will take place on March twenty-second.”

“March twenty-second? But that’s two moons early! How is the castle going to be done in time?” Alexandra yelped.

“That, I know how to fix. Trust me, it will be ready,” Ryath replied.

“Good. Thanks, Ryath… Any idea whom you will pick?”

“Ah, that’s my secret, Lady Zenith.” Ryath smiled.

“Yes, mi’lady,” Alexandra replied, bowing her head.

Bronze trotted out of the eyrie. The letters were all on their way, carried by swift snowy owls. Ténebrous’s treachery wasn’t quite as shocking to him as it was to Alexandra and Ryath. He’d been suspicious of the old piece of crow-meat all along. He hadn’t thought he was quite so evil, though. He ran through the letters in his mind, and paused on the note he’d written on the back of Sola’s envelope.

He stopped dead in his tracks. Oh, Ardour, on the note! I wrote ‘yours’! I wrote ‘Yours, Bronze’! How could I! he scolded himself. What if she noticed? Why didn’t I just write ‘Sincerely’? Auigh, how could I! His paws felt wet, unusually so. He lifted one paw, and realized he’d melted the snow in little rings around his feet with his magic.

He chuckled. Well, on the bright side, at least I didn’t write ‘Love, Bronze’. Now that would probably kill me. He padded down the road. Suddenly, he noticed people were watching him… the soldiers and the civilians.

“Um, sir?” A stocky mountain goat approached him. “Thank you, sir,” the goat said.

“You’re welcome. Uh, for what?” Bronze replied, confused.

“The fire, sir. It’s amazing, how it lights up the marketplace. Everyone appreciates it. We use it to light our candles at night, and it doesn’t burn the wax… It’s wonderful, sir,” the goat answered.

“Oh, that! You’re welcome, I appreciate your thanks,” Bronze replied. Of course it was the fire, what else would it have been?

The goat nodded and left for his post again. Bronze watched him go, puzzled. Nice of him to say so, but I just did what Alexandra asked me to… He shrugged and proceeded down the road, noting the many smiles he was receiving from the city-folk. Even an enormous draft horse from Plainsland nodded to him as he passed by. Naturally, he nodded back. A couple of baby possums pointed at him excitedly when he passed, and dragged their mother, who was selling pottery, over to see him.

Huh. Who would have thought that such a small thing as a fire would make the people so happy? He was glad Alexandra had asked him.


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