Apart from the guard near the door—who Chloe recognized as not a guard but rather an Agent of the Solune—there was the Monarch, his Wife, and Natasha Glass Rhye; Chloe Rhye’s eldest sister. Lilllich was slightly taken aback by the size of the King, and it seemed to Chloe, maybe also the height of Natasha. The newcomer also stared at Gwenhime more than twice, mildly striking Chloe’s curiosity.
The King sat on his throne. Natasha took the role of orator and began the discussion, saying shortly, “Speak.”
“I am Lilllich of the City, once known as Lilllich of the east. I am here on a vital quest from my regent.” Lilllich was a moderately tall woman, though in this room that didn’t mean much, as she was the shortest adult besides Janna. Her hair was a dark brown reminiscent of varnished hardwood, and she had loose bangs. Her clothing was similar to the rest of her party; what appeared to be a robe or tunic that was cut at the knee with a thick fabric belt around the waist. Below this, were loose trousers, though not for the young woman beside Lilllich, who wore a layered dress past the end of her tunic. She wore two side arms on her left hip, which appeared to have curved blades. The man also had a sword, but it was smaller. Together they seemed not quite warlike, but certainly battle-wisened.
Natasha continued to be the King’s orator, saying, “And with you?”
“My children…” —It was clearly not the case, as the boy had a dark complexion in contrast with her much lighter skin. The girl, pale, shared none of her facial features except for sharpness of face, and even that was muted by its still-youthful plumpness. “…And my accompanying guardsman, Sir Goldenbaum, and an educated aristocrat.”
The man, whose complexion appeared to be somewhere in between the rest, only blinked a little longer than normal in acknowledgement. He was tall, the tallest among them, though not the tallest in the room. His eyes were wrinkled at the edges, and his face weathered with more than just age. With his seemingly dark tanned skin and light wrinkles, he looked more like an outdoor craftsman or artisan than an aristocrat.
Natasha asked Lilllich to continue.
The woman complied. “The regent, prince Ryann Lussa, has sent me with a message regarding the fate of our City. The Kingdom is in trouble, but…” For the first time, this apparent warrior woman slowed, and almost faltered even. It seemed as if the exhaustion of their long trip had finally fallen upon her, all at once. “Due to the amount of context, culture, statesmanship, and law required to understand this request, it will be difficult to explain…all at once.”
—Lussa? Chloe thought, Lussa…that feels familiar…
The King spoke for the first time, though he did not stand. “Explain to me what you are able.”
The woman exhaled deeply, and looked down, relieved, Chloe guessed. She could see a little perspiration settling on the diplomat’s cheeks. Now that they had stopped their journey, it lightly covered her light skin in a sheen.
Lilllich inhaled, straightened up, smiled a little, and continued. This was an almost mischievous smile, the playful sort. “Perhaps you noticed?” she assayed.
The King also granted a small smile. His eyes narrowed and he looked at her carefully.
Seconds passed. Chloe looked from her father, to Lilllich, and back. And then to Janna, who was staring directly and exclusively at Lillich. Chloe agreed with this behaviour, and did the same, though eventually she stopped staring, and returned to glancing around. She thought, I would not want to be stared at by every person in a room…
Her eyes wandered back to the King, and then to the man in the diplomat party, and rested there for a little.
“I will assent. Prince Ryann Lussa, you said?” Now they shared a smile, almost simultaneously. “Ah, so it isn’t the case that your state is typically ruled by a prince, then.”
“And what of the king? This is why you are here, I suspect.” The Solune King’s voice, partly due to his age, and partly due to his size, was low. But what had been there since his younger days and remained until now, was the tone of earnestness, and the decisive noble clarity that rang as he communicated.
Lilllich began a slow nod, but stopped, keeping her head low. “Yes. What I am about to share is not known internationally, so receive it with discretion. The Lussa king has been found dead.”
The word was still spinning in the back of Chloe’s mind. Lussa. Lussa…
Lilllich eventually moved her eyes only, looking up towards the monarch. The King acknowledged her gaze and addressed her.
“And your quest?”
Lilllich continued to look, apparently shaken by her own words, though she almost managed to suppress it.
Before she could reply, the King continued. “How does your quest tie the death of your ruler, to coming here to speak to the Solune’s leader?”
Now, Lilllich finally straightened.
Before, Chloe could see that Lilllich was tired from her trip, but now it was beyond apparent that this chestnut-haired woman was exhausted and fatigued. Even Janna noticed it. Chloe wanted to whisper to her, and say that the woman looked like she was about to fall over, but the decorum forbade it.
“Again, this would require a wealth of time to explain.” She blinked slowly, as if she could somehow draw rest from the action. “If it is your desire, I can do so now. I have no secrets in this matter.”
“In this matter?” Natasha interjected, her voice both sharp and heavy.
King Rhye barely had to move his wrist to quiet her, and she stiffened slightly more than usual. “Of course, in this kingdom you are entitled to your privacy.”
This seemed to Chloe to be words spoken mercifully. The air in the room lightened a little. Lilllich was not an old woman, but she was also not young. It seemed to Chloe that the diplomat woman was a little younger than her mother. Perhaps thirty-eight, around that range. So it surprised her when she laughed like a woman much younger.
Lilllich’s laugh was like her voice: low and clean, with just a hint of fine gravel. “Yes of course, thank you,” she said, and then sighed and straightened again, though calmer this time. “It is actually best that I share that point now, as you may not have the written pact at hand. In fact, it has been so many years that you may not have it at all.”
The King blinked. He clearly did not know what she was referring to. Lilllich took an apparently light metal tube from the satchel at her hip—the hip without the swords. She uncapped it, and poured out a scroll. Once again, the King did little more than move a wrist, and Natasha stood to action. Chloe watched the extremely tall woman stride across the room and receive the document from Lilllich. She was not tempted to even glance at the lettering as she delivered it to King Rhye.
The Solune King looked over the vellum scroll.
In Chloe Rhye’s mind, unrelated to the scene in front of her, the spinning thought finally caught purchase, like a loose gear encountering the rest of its machine for the first time and setting off the conception of an idea. Sollunsa. Lussa. Sollunsa. She pondered, her face held high, chin level, but eyes far far away; away in a document that rested upstairs on her desk.
Seconds passed. Then a minute. Then two.
The King was not looking over the scroll, he was reading it, apparently in its entirety.
It had been a long time since Chloe had attended a throne room event like this, but she remembered that he used to do this, and quite often. More often than she thought necessary for sure.
He rolled the document up and passed it back to Natasha. He said, “Why do you have this?”
Lilllich raised an eyebrow. “Why do you think I have this?”
“You are Condor, there are many reasons you might have such a document.”
Lilllich clenched her teeth. For the first time, Chloe actually looked at them. They seemed unusual, perhaps a little long, and perhaps a little…fresh? Or new? Not as they ought to look in the mouth of a woman nearing forty.
“I am here as an emissary of the prince,” Lilllich bowed again, though lower this time. “Not on behalf of my own people.”
The King looked from Lilllich to her companions, and then back. “Stand.” Lilllich, to Chloe’s surprise, obliged immediately. The King continued, slowly. “I will…accept that.” And again, Lilllich exhaled, and loud enough for the room to hear. “You are Condor, then, aren’t you.”
Lilllich gave an awkward, stressed, crooked smile. “Partly…” Her eyes darted to the King’s wife, and then to Chloe.
Chloe stiffened in concealed panic. Why was she looking at her?
“…Will that be a problem? I…assure you, there are no problems…in the City from which I hail.”
The King stood, towering over the room.
“I believe you. Give these people rooms inside the castle.”
…to be continued
A scene from The Solune Prince; most recent draft
This is a scene from the drafting process for The Solune Prince draft or “version” 0.4. It takes place early in the novel, marking the first scene where we hear the Lussa diplomats speak. They are mysterious outsiders from an unknown nation.
The Solune Prince (TSP) has gone through quite a few revisions since its inception, a process I’ve detailed in a few previous posts, and may do again, though not here.
This is the first of a handful of scenes from this newer, almost final draft of The Solune Prince. Expect a new scene like this every now and then. Maybe next time I’ll explain the context a little better. For now, I think this scene stands okay on its own. If you’re interested in more, there is a lot of TSP content from earlier drafts on the site already, including The Solune Prince v0.3’s table of contents, though I warn you, that draft is sort of not-good, especially the first few chapters. (It picks up a bit in ch. 6.)
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To see more, check out the main page, www.danieltriumph.ca