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Monday, September 19, 2016


As the initial shock began to wear off, Neko headed for the door of the house. “I think I need to go check on her, she looked a bit upset. I’ll be back in a few” he spoke as he turned to towards the men. Turning back around, his swishing tail was the last thing they saw as he disappeared.

Bo gave Az a look to tell him to follow him, and they started back out to the street. “Whoa! Where do you think you’re going? We want to know what’s up with this guy calling Miss CeCe, Your Highness. He has some explaining to do.” Dom growled as he blocked the two men from leaving the veranda.

Bo took Dom by the arm and turned him away from the entrance. “Let me get the story and then I’ll let you know. It may be something best not spoken around too many ears. Especially after seeing how CeCe reacted to being called such a title. I promise, I’ll fill you in when I get back.”

Dom appeared to want to argue Bo’s decision, but then he looked toward the door that CeCe had so recently ran through. “Ok, but remember you promised to tell us everything. We want the whole story, your Lordship.” This last was said as sarcastically as Bo had ever heard Dom speak.

“I promise, brother.” Bo then turned and he and Azereus soon were swallowed by the crowd.
Upstairs, Neko was doing something he hadn’t done since he was a kit. Not sure of his acceptance into her presence, he was down on his hands and knees crawling towards where she sat on the window seat. When he was close enough to reach out and touch her, he first bowed his head showing her his neck. He then rolled over and presented his stomach to her. The sign of true subservience in their society. In this way he was showing CeCe that she had his trust and loyalty.

CeCe had been staring out the window until the door had opened and she had watched her brother who stood over six foot four, crawl towards her. She couldn’t help the small smile from forming on her lips as he did as he had when he was little and had done something wrong.  Her heart felt a bit lighter knowing that that at least he didn’t think differently about her.

“Oh, stop. You, silly boy.” She reached down to draw him up beside her on the bench. “You haven’t done that in years and you don’t have to do it now. I’m fine, just a bit shaken. I thought that if I stayed away from the palace no one would have a chance to recognize me. I never imagined that a royal guard would escort you back.” She reached up and rubbed the back of her hand against Neko’s cheek, causing him to tilt his head towards her hand. 

Neko enjoyed his sister’s ministrations for a moment or two before lifting his head. “Why did he call you highness? Or would you rather not say? I am curious but I don’t want to upset you.” He looked down at his sister, just now noticing how small and dainty she really was. He never thought of her that way because she had such an air of command about her and now he knew there might be a reason for that.

CeCe return her stare out to the marketplace, watching as Bo and Azereus disappeared. She knew soon they would all know anyway, if the two men were at present discussing her and her identity. “I thought I could leave it all behind. I never wanted to be born who I was. When fate caused an escape I took it and never looked back. I swore never to come to the royal city but with all that has happened I knew I had to chance it.” Neko watched as she seemed to struggle for what to say.

“Hey, it’s just me remember. Just start at the beginning, the rest will follow. I’m not going anywhere.” To show her what he meant he leaned back against the window jam and settled in like he did as a kit ready for a good story.

CeCe smiled at the goofy Felis she had adopted as her brother. She knew one day she would have to tell him his story but for now it was time for hers. “I was born the Princess of Mithral. My mother was Queen Viari. I never wanted to be the next Queen, and when my betrothal was arranged I balked. I planned on running away, but I didn’t have to worry. My home was destroyed and all that was left to rule was rubble. Our people betrayed by inner forces.”  She took a breath as she slipped into the past and the days leading up to the end.

Not far away Bo and Azereus had found a spot far away from gossiping ears. Along the way they had grabbed a couple jugs of ale and now they sat in a copse of trees, by a sluggishly moving stream. Bo tossed one of the jugs to Az before dropping to lean against a tall bahaj tree. He sneezed as some of the pollen from the large blue flowers dropped upon him.  Stupid trees.

His head snapped up as he heard a chuckle, giving his old friend a universal hand sign, he popped the cork on his jug and took a drink. He watched as Azereus found his own perch before asking the question looming in his mind. “Who is she?” He watched as Az took his time taking a drink from his own jug before answering him.

“She’s the missing Princess of Mithral. Everyone thought her dead with the rest of her family but the body was never recovered. I know why now. Which makes me wonder if she was part of the plot to destroy that ancient kingdom.” He picked up a rocked and tossed it into the stream. The kerplop of the rock hitting the water somehow echoing in the glade.

Bo sat racking his brain trying to remember all he could about Mithral. It was indeed one of the oldest cities, some said maybe the oldest city in Cameria. The royal line went all the way back to the first Queens. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that he had been in the presence of royalty these last years and not recognized her.

“Why didn’t I know her? I don’t ever remember the Mithralian Princess ever being presented to the court. Why was she kept away?” he questioned his old mentor.

Az looked over at Bo with a quizzical look on his face before he finally answered. “I don’t know. The Mithralian’s have always been a secretive people. I only know if she is journeying with you, I think I may join your party on this quest. The queen will be in good hands with my second in command. I think before all is said and done your party may need another fighter.”

Bo had a feeling his friend just might be right. The two men sat in silence each lost in their own thoughts while they finished their ale.

As promised when Bo returned to the boarding house, he gathered Dom and Donny into his room, and in hushed tones told them all that Azereus had told him. He also informed them of the addition to their party. After meeting with Neko, and making arrangements to leave for Cat’s Eye the next day, he went and knocked on CeCe’s door.

He heard her call for him to come in and he stopped just inside the portal, not sure on how to proceed. CeCe looked at him and with an exasperated sigh, said “will you just get in here and sit down. I’m still the same person I was yesterday, and the day before. If it helps, please feel free to forget you ever heard those dreadful words.”

Bo couldn’t help it, he chuckled as he came into the room and took a seat beside her. He heard her laughed as well and was glad to hear it. “Consider it forgotten, I just wanted to stop in, and let you know what we discovered at court. It seems we will be returning to Cat’s Eye for the first part of our quest, and the monastery. Well, actually the catacombs beneath it. We found a map that may lead us to that for which we seek. All copies of the prophesy that were within the palace archives have been destroyed. Someone doesn’t want anyone to know what is coming.”

CeCe listened to what Bo told her and had vague recollections of hearing of a similar prophecy as a child. “Do you think other kingdoms might have copies of the prophecy? Surely Mandu isn’t the only one? I have no idea what is left of my home, but if there were any way to find out we could journey to Mithral and explore it also.” Bo noticed the slight tremble in her voice when she mentioned her birthplace.

“We’ll keep it in consideration. For now, get some rest we leave at first light for Cat’s Eye.” He stood and patted her on the knee. “We will find out why the secrecy, and hopefully find out how to fix whatever may happen.” CeCe nodded her head as he turned to walk out the door.

The next morning found everyone leading their horses toward the road back to Cat’ Eye. Just as they were mounting up, they heard the sound of advancing hoof beats. Almost as one they turned to watch Azereus ride towards them. “Didn’t think you were going to get away that easy did you? He asked as he joined the group.

CeCe cocked her head at Bo. Who had the good sense to look sheepishly away. “Why ever would you want to join us Azereus? Shouldn’t you be here protecting your Queen?” she asked in a not too polite way. “We have no need for a royal guard, so you can go back now.” This was said as she kicked her horse forward.

Bo looked at CeCe’s retreating back and then at Azereus. “Dude, have you two met? Because she definitely doesn’t seem to care for you. How could you have met, since she was never presented at court? What’s going on? And why were you so insistent on joining us? Bo bombarded these questions at Az, who sat grinning at the back of the irate female.

When Bo stopped for a moment to take a breath, Az held up his hand. “Enough, shut up long enough for me to answer. First, I have no idea why she is so pissed at me. Second, no she was never presented to the court, but you aren’t the only young lord sent to train in the royal guards. I am myself of noble birth, and the woman we should all be really trying to catch up to is in fact, my cousin.”

With that statement left hanging in the wind, Azereus kicked his own mount to try and catch up with the beautiful woman leaving them all behind.

The group had stopped to camp not far from Cat’s Eye, when Dom and Neko came back into camp toting wood for a fire. They had all decided to keep their return quiet, so none would know of their visit to the monastery. This early in their quest they preferred to keep few knowing what they were doing.

CeCe was sitting off to the side, mending a tear on one of Neko’s shirts, the others were all settling down to go to sleep. She felt a shadow block her light from the campfire and looked up to see Azereus looking down at her. She stopped what she was doing and looked at him waiting to hear what he had to say.

“Can we talk? It has been a really long time, and I missed you. I thought you were dead. What happened? Why did you never let anyone know you survived?” He asked these questions all in a lowered voice as not to awaken or disturb the others. CeCe finally gestured for him to sit beside her. Once he was out of her light, she went back to her mending.

“I didn’t trust anyone, when the dust cleared and I saw the destruction, the death. I didn’t know who to trust, so I trusted no one. I couldn’t let you know, you had already sworn your loyalty to the new Queen, and she was one of the ones I didn’t trust. I mean, who knew maybe she was trying to eliminate any who could claim title to Queen of Cameria. The throne of Mithral has right of claim also to the title. I felt you had forsaken me. So I chose to be thought dead and disappear.” She stopped and took a shuddering breath as she remembered the feelings she had felt seeing her family lying slain all around her.

Az reached over and took the mending from her hand, he then took both her hands within his own. “Silly girl, my loyalty has been and will always be to the true Queen. And she sits here beside me. I was sent to spy on Queen Kaetha and in turn LiLith. My loyalty as ever is to Mithral. When I heard of the destruction, my heart broke at the thought of your loss. I had just met the man to whom your mother had betrothed you to and was looking forward to introducing the two of you.”  Azereus kept his voice down for only CeCe’s ears. He did not wish to explain himself to any of the others in their group.

“I swear now my fealty to you. And will be ever your servant. Please can you forgive me cousin?” He waited to see what CeCe would say. He didn’t realize he was squeezing her hands so tightly, until she grimaced and tried to remove her hands. “Forgive me.”

As she tried to work the feeling back into her fingers, CeCe studied the face that had been so dear to her as a child. It had broken her heart when he had been sent away to the Queen’s court in Mandu. He had been one of the few in the palace who had understood her wish to spread her wings and fly free from the restraints placed upon her as a royal princess. She knew she couldn’t stay mad at him.

“I forgive you, cousin. And I have missed you terribly. I really do wish I could have joined you when I left Mithral. Even now I feel I am not safe, so that is why I wish to remain unknown to the Queen. I also was able to rescue another of royal blood, though he knows it not. I think it best we leave it at that for now.” CeCe’s eyes had wandered to the dark sleeping form of her brother as she spoke. Azereus’s gaze had followed hers. He made to ask who, but she placed a finger to his lips for silence. “Now is not the time.”

Az nodded he understood and then he thought to ask, “Did you save the jewel? Is it safe?” CeCe gave him a look and just said “of course. It is after all my birthright. I have it hidden in a safe place. It along with other crown jewels are all safe.” Az grabbed her in a quick hug, before asking her leave and finding his own rest.

CeCe finished her mending and sat staring into the fire for a bit before getting up and disappearing from camp. She had an errand to run that she needed to do alone. The men slept on totally unaware of her departure.

The next morning found the men all a bit surly with each other when they had noticed CeCe was nowhere to be found. Neko was trying to hold his quick temper in but it wasn’t easy. “Where could she have gone; I think we might have noticed someone coming in to take her. Besides all her stuff is still here. The only thing missing is her.” He bent to pick up his mended shirt from the top of his pack. “Perhaps she woke up early to search for herbs or something?”

Donny was studying the ground close to where she had been sitting the night before. “I see no signs of a struggle, and we all know she is a scrapper. There would have been some sounds, I’m in agreement with Neko, I think she left on her own.” He stood and stretched before walking over to rekindle the fire from the night before. “I, for one could use some coffee, anyone else?”

Just as Bo was about to reiterate. CeCe came walking into camp. She looked at each of the men before saying “What?” and walking over to the fire with Don.

Instead of saying anything the others went about breaking camp. They figured she was safe. It was better not to ask her a bunch of questions. Especially since she seemed in a good mood.

Later the same day they all found themselves at the entrance of the catacombs. They had decided to see how far they could get from this entrance which had been unknown to both Dominic and Neko before they had found the map. They all figured if those two hadn’t found it, no one else had either.

Dom stood in the entrance of the tunnel as they each lit a torch from the one Bo had started with. “So are we ready to begin this quest? Let’s find us a prophecy!” He said excitedly before heading into the darkness ahead.

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