Aerema: Founding of A Kingdom
Author: Artesian Different

Chapter 26
The Last Target

Bronze could hear the argument through the wall of his room. “Yes Alexandra, you have to be have a bath immediately before the Coronation,” The sheep said impatiently.

“If I have a bath now then my fur won’t be dry in time. I am clean enough, and I’m not getting any cleaner,” Alexandra snapped back, her voice muffled by the wooden wall.

“You are not clean enough!” The sheep baaed.

He crept out of his room and knocked on their door. Their discussion was growing increasingly louder. He’d have to intervene or she would never be ready in time. “Alexandra, I can do a drying spell on your fur when you’re done.”

“And be burnt to a crisp because of it? No thanks.”

“I have plenty of control for a job like that,” Bronze replied testily.

Alexandra sighed. “Oh, all right.” Bronze could hear bathwater running in her room as he trotted back to his own. He had already taken a bath and dried himself with his magic. He glanced at himself in the mirror. He looked pretty good.

His bright red velvet cape draped around his body neatly, and his dagger was strapped to his hip with a red leather belt he had created yesterday for his scabbard. Just in case of… He didn’t complete the thought. There were so many things that could go wrong with this ceremony. He missed Ryath’s input. He hadn’t seen her since the announcing.

Well, Bane and I are prepared. Bane was keeping an eye on Septimus for him. During the ceremony though, he was stationed far away from the podium, at Alexandra’s insistence. Alexandra was still suspicious of Bane despite her spy’s reports. Bane had discovered the mice’s spying on him about a week ago. He was faintly amused by them, and enjoyed pretending that he didn’t notice them.

His thoughts wandered onto a new path. Regent of Aerema. He stared into the mirror at his brilliant blue eyes. He could see the magic buzzing just beneath the surface. He wondered for a moment if anyone else had the ability to see it, but he doubted it. I wonder what my duties will be now… What does a regent do, anyway? I suppose he’s like an assistant king… but I wonder how much Alexandra can actually do.

He sat down on his bed, carefully swishing his cloak away from him. It wouldn’t do for him to be forced to magically repair a rip; he was conserving his magic, just in case. He cut the thought short, and opened his Book of Greater Works.

Good Luck Regent Bronze! A Regent performs one of the most important jobs in the kingdom. The creation of a stable kingdom cannot be done by one being. Keep on your guard, for the panther’s might and reach is great. Don’t be afraid, and don’t give up, nothing is inevitable.

More cryptic advice, as usual. It was easy enough to tell what the panther’s might and reach was (or was it), but the rest was beyond him. Inevitable? I wonder… He shook his head and clapped the book closed, the lock snapping shut with a firm click.

The two palomino mares stared at the future Queen and Regent, as Alexandra and Bronze entered the carriage. They listened as the carriage door snapped shut before making their way down the path from the Captain’s quarters.

Alexandra fiddled with the silver and turquoise jewelry on her arm. She was not a noble lady; she was a hunter and a warrior. She hated diplomacy, hated fancy clothes, and especially hated being guarded. How did I get into this mess? Why did I ever leave my homeland? She knew the answer; she had wanted to make something of herself where females were allowed to become great if they worked at it. Well, I have worked hard, and I have made something of myself, see where it’s got me. They’ll find me out eventually. I hope they don’t mind. She sighed.

Bronze stared out the window of the carriage. The horses were taking them right by the marketplace fire. He could feel the heat on his face, and the magic in his whiskers. Mom is so proud of me… His mother and father were both elderly now; the journey from Plainsland to Nrael during the unpredictable spring wasn’t safe enough for them, but he had received a letter from them in his father’s slightly shaky hand.

The carriage slowed as the road grew steeper. They were climbing the incline up to Aerema Castle. The roar of the waterfall mixed with the murmur of countless animals. Bronze waved out the window, and nudged Alexandra to do the same. She smiled thinly and waved. Cheers rolled about the crowd as the animals followed them through the massive castle gates and down the main road through.

Somehow, Ryath had banished the fog and mist that nearly always ringed the castle. The brilliant sunshine glittered on the roofs of the castle buildings. Bronze saw the main tower sweep by through the crowds of animals that thronged the pathways. He glanced at Alexandra. Her paws were shaking with excitement. He glanced down at his own - they too were trembling slightly.

The carriage rolled to a stop in front of the great hall. Bronze could see through the wide doorway to the cleared pathway that he had spent several hours designing last week. Thick blue velvet ribbons stretched between the metal posts that lined the walkway. The best warriors in Aerema lined the walkway, watching out for danger and keeping the crowds back.

“This is it. Ready?” Bronze asked Alexandra. She gave a non-committal shrug, but after a moment, nodded reluctantly. She stepped out of wooden carriage first, followed by Bronze. As they stepped through the doorway, the cheering crowd outside was muffled to a dim roar like the distant waterfall. More of Ryath’s magic, I suppose. Bronze thought.

The lords and ladies inside were silent and tense with expectation as the Queen and her Regent walked down the silent, carpeted pathway. Bronze could see the guard’s faces out of the corner of his eye. He passed Bane, resplendent in his iron chain-mail armor. The leopard stood at attention, his medallion glittering beneath a golden star of Aerema. As Bronze swept by him, Bane tensed in readiness. His Regent was counting on him.

Alexandra mounted the steps one at a time. Her beautiful blue satin cape, the same shade as Ryath’s delighted eyes, swept the ground behind her as she sat down in the Queen’s throne, an ornate silver painted chair of elegant lines and smooth form. Bronze saw the red in his velvet cape reflect in the silvery chairs as he scaled the stairs and sat down in the Regent’s throne. His warm blue eyes scanned the crowd, watching for Septimus.

He isn’t here… I can’t see him! Another notch was added to Bronze’s anxiety, but he bit it down. It was difficult to concentrate when you are under a threat of imminent death.

Ryath swept between the chairs, resplendent in a long sleeved deep blue gown. Jewels sparkled in a scattering of fairy dust around the hems and sleeves. Beautiful navy blue ribbons tied up her hair in an elaborate topknot, and two lone sapphires glittered on her ears.

“People of Aerema.” Ryath said, her voice brimming with excitement. “Finally, you have your leader, the first Queen of Aerema and her Regent.” She reached behind her and pulled out a mahogany box. She touched her index finger to the six-pointed star on the lid, and the chest clicked open. Carefully, she drew out two gleaming gold crowns, studded with diamonds and glittering with amber. They felt of time, smelled of sunshine and tasted of moonlight. Alexandra closed her eyes against the glare and breathed the feeling in.

“Alexandra! Look out!” Bane yelled and her eyes flashed open.

Bane had merely squinted his eyes against the glow, keeping a careful watch around him for the snake. A wave of sensations washed over his mind. He nearly turned his head, but a sudden streak of green behind Alexandra’s chair caught his eyes. It’s Septimus! I was right! He yelled out a warning and leapt towards the stage. The well-trained warriors rushed behind him in a clot of metal and animal fur, all too slow. Ryath leapt back, half forming a sign with her hands, while clumsily clutching the two golden crowns.

Septimus swayed for an instant, distracted by Bane’s yell, but he swiftly recovered. His body whipped out at Alexandra, an instant too late. Alexandra threw herself backwards, her silver chair toppling to its side with a mighty crash. Septimus tried to balance and continued his strike, his eyes glaring into Alexandra’s shocked face as she recognized him. Take that, see where your rejection of me gets you now!

His teeth found her neck as her paw swatted him away in a lightning fast slash. He felt his side rip open as her claws dug into his flesh. He crumpled to the ground in a heap with a final flick of his tongue. Bronze felt him die in the back of his mind as he leapt from his throne.

The assembly of nobles roared with shock as Alexandra collapsed to the ground, one paw clasped to the neck where Septimus had found his last target.


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