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The kingdom through the.., p.20
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       The Kingdom through the Swamp: The Courts Divided - Book 1, p.20

           Kell Inkston
 
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: TICKING

  It now being around lunch time, Love is served a plate of herb-roasted fairy bread and criminal tea. The bread is perfectly fine, but considering criminal tea is supposed to be used to make criminals confess their wrong doings out of disgust, has been steeped way, way too long. Love thinks it smells like urine and, should being stabbed in the back by one’s inferiors have a taste, would likely be this. She enjoys the bread, takes only one sip of the tea, and waits until there is a knock on the door at the entry to the dungeon. Yeinwyll sighs, puts aside the latest issue of “O.E.L. Archivist” magazine, and goes over to open the door.

  At the other side is a tall, snooty-looking spirit, and Order, who quickly presents a writ of permission to speak to Love so long as the conversation is recorded by a scribe. Yeinwyll snorts out a breath of treeish air and steps aside.

  Order is pulled up a chair by the lady ghost, and she readies her quill and paper to record their words. At first, Order simply stares into Love’s eyes, waiting for some sort of sign. All Love gazes back is honesty; Order knew she was innocent, but this only proves it more so to her.

  “Meeo,” Order begins, starting off the ghost’s purplish ink, shining on its luminescent parchment.

  “Well hello, Ranalie.”

  “They’re very serious, Meeo. You know we were going to use that living necromancer as proof that they’re out for the fairies, and now that it’s gone, there’s no way they can explain it to the public in a way that would make them happy; they’re furious, Meeo, they want someone dead for this- justice served.”

  “Yes, yes, I’m well aware.”

  “And now the talk upstairs is that they’re going to blame us for this. If we don’t fix this problem, they’re going to execute you, or else they’ll declare war,” Order says with a sharp, white-eyed gaze. Love pauses a moment in thought, and returns with an even wider smile than before.

  “Is that so?”

  “Yes, Meeo. If you can’t ... very carefully tell me what happened, they’re going to execute you by soil tomorrow during Pitch’s address. You need to tell me everything you know, do you understand me?” Order says, referring to the legendary Fairy-punishment of planting a live Crying Crillion seed in a person’s chest, causing a very slow, very painful death as the seed germinates, spreads roots, and kills the host over several days.

  What the scribe does not take down is the very sudden twitch on Knight Love’s features when she imagines being given the same treatment she had read about in all of those infamous legends.

  “Ahh ... oh my ... alright then, I’ll do my best to clear things up. Well, I interrogated the necromancer and, as I said, it communicated that it had agents that stole Lain and Aoline. It offered an exchange of, you know, prisoners, so I thought I might as well because ... well ... well you know me, Ranalie; I don’t want anyone to die if they don’t have to,” Love says, quickly receiving a sigh in return from Order.

  “Is this really the truth?”

  “Yes. Is something the matter?”

  “Well, first of all, necromancers don’t know how to write. I’ve never heard of any of them communicating in the common language other than Oa, so there’s no way they would belie-”

  “Well maybe they know how to write but just don’t,” Love says, connecting her gaze to Order’s as clearly as she can. Order presses a finger against her forehead.

  “Yes, Meeo, I get that, but they don’t know you like I do. That, and also Gallin’s right. No one has ever heard of necromancers trading for human specimens ... they don’t care if one of their own dies. It just doesn’t make sense.”

  “Ahh, well this is an exception.”

  “... Is it?”

  “Yes, you see, I me- ... hmm,” Love stops herself again, realizing that, because this conversation is not truly private, were she to reveal that she is in fact collaborating with Oa to save the lives of Aoline and Lain, that would only solidify her label as a traitor and a double agent. Love turns her gaze to the cell for a moment, ponders simply dying to save Lain and Aoline, but then thinks of the fairies, and all that will die should Oa succeed in its goal. It must be kept a secret. She can fix this. Not a soul needs to die- the question is, how will she do it?

  Meeo turns back to Order.

  “Order, I can’t tell you that. If I told you what happened, things will go badly,” she says, giving Order a look of woe, a rare expression for her. Order inhales sharply.

  “That’s not fair, Meeo. You can’t keep me in the dark like this.”

  “It’s a life or death situation, Ranalie. There are many lives at stake, and perhaps ... perhaps were you to simply let me die, and you and the Knights were to ... hmm,” Love says, strained for the right words.

  “No, this is a life or death situation, for you! Meeo, you’re my oldest friend, next to Redemption. Please, please tell me what happened! I don’t want ... Damn, I’ve really messed up this time, I should be in that cell, not you. It was my duty to ... Oh Meeo I’m so sorry.”

  “Oh, you. Ranalie, You were just doing what your post requires of you. I was the one that acted out and got myself in trouble. I suppose I can tell you that the two were definitely, honestly captured by the necromancers and that I did trade the prisoner for them; but it’s a little more complex than that, and if I tell you everything, all of you will be in danger. The fairies won’t understand.”

  “... That so?” Meeo smiles and her eyes squint bleakly.

  “That is so.”

  “... Okay, Meeo ... So, I guess this will be goodbye?” Order asks, reaching through the bars just a moment to reach Meeo’s hand. The two make contact for just a moment as Love rests against the tree-like bars.

  “Hmm, possibly.”

  “I won’t be there tomorrow. I couldn’t stand to see you ... you know.”

  “I know. Simply ... should I somehow get the chance to speak to you privately before then, perhaps I can fill you in on everything. For now, however, I suppose there’s not much else to say.”

  “... Alright. I’ll ... I’ll live for the two of us.”

  “I would ask nothing less, Ranalie, now you enjoy your time with the fairies.”

  “You know by this point that’s impossible ... All this in just a couple damn hours.”

  “Oh, do your best. I hear the Liefland public spa is free for political ambassadors!”

  “Meeo, please.”

  “Hmm, alright. Goodbye, Ranalie.” Order sighs.

  “I must say, I’m shocked. You seem so calm, even now... You’ve been a great friend ... Goodbye, Meeo,” Order says as the two hold hands a moment more, and then release. Eyes blue with sorrow, Order sits up from her chair, and leaves with the ghost, pad filled with dialogue for the table to look over the moment she can deliver it to them.

  Meeo watches as Yeinwyll retakes his spot, gives her a slow look to make sure she understands she’s being watched and then he returns to his magazine. Meeo retakes a seat on the bed in her cell, and begins pondering how she could fix all of this.

  When it comes down to it, she is really okay with dying, but she can’t give up here, not now. Should the necromancers invade, even if it is for Oa’s perfectly sensible-sounding goal, hundreds of fairies will be slaughtered. She needs to find some way to combat Oa, while being able to somehow educate the knights about the death seals placed on Aoline and Lain ... perhaps if Order cast a spell of concealment over them all; they could stay in the castle, Oa would enter, and seeing that there were no knights, release the spell so they could attack it.

  ...

  Wait, no- she doesn’t think that would work. Oa would not release the spell unless it needed all of its mana to battle Pitch and Tylvania ... and while they are far stronger than most, they still pale in comparison to Death’s Owner. The only way out of this that Love can see is if somehow she can both tell Order of the explosion-causing seals on the two lower knights and also find some way to defeat Oa, who will likely have all of the necromancers at its disposal for this a
ttack.

  Love ponders her escape attempt and then realizes she has everything she needs thanks to Everlock. As she begins to devise her plan, she also realizes that she can get the fighting force she needs. She knows where Chaos’ dimensional door is, just right up in the clouds. She can get to him, and somehow persuade him to help ... perhaps if she were to tell him about the High Tea, and that he can take it for himself, he would go down and defeat Oa, saving everyone. Perhaps he would take the seat to the High Tea, but Love feels it would be worth it to save everyone. She’ll need to find some way to persuade him that she’s truly friendly, however; he’s infamous for not only having terrible memory-loss, but also for being pretty much completely insane. For all she knows he might bash her skull in the second she walks through the door. After a bit of thinking, she devises her plan, and enters action. She snaps her fingers and makes a covert, magical gesture.

 
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