Maedhros wrote:“Good. I shall see you later, Toratsugu.”
“Uhm… I really think you should wait, Your Excellency.”
The guard fidgeted nervously and eyed his comrade who kept his gaze up at the ceiling.
“But I think not. Get out of the way”, Lucius snapped as he pushed the speech-less guard aside and smashed open the door to the Queen’s room.
A roaring fireplace illuminated the hall dimly. The Queen Mother sat sleeping in an armchair in front of the fire while the Queen herself and a man that Lucius didn’t recognise sat close together on a divan in the other side of the room. The man jumped about a yard into the air and drew his dagger as Lucius stopped in the middle of the room. For a moment the silence was heavy enough to crush the three of them, but then the Queen Mother Diana looked up from her seat and caught Lucius’ gaze.
“Ah, Lucius, that was far too long ago.” She smiled and nodded her head curtly. Lucius offered her a slight bow but then turned in the direction of Queen Accalia again.
“H-how dare you!” the unknown man spat. “Breaking in like…”
“I tried to stop him, I did”, one of the guards squeaked behind Lucius. Accalia just shrugged.
“It’s… it’s fine.”
“Thank you, milady”, Lucius said. He was even surprised himself by the softness in his voice. Then he shifted his attention to the man beside Accalia and frowned slightly.
“And who are you anyway?”
“P-p… preposterous”, the man stuttered. “I am Duke Aetius Honorius Florianus!”
“Oh…” Lucius turned away and closed the door behind him. He started feeling stupid now. Why had he rushed in like this? Are you losing your grip?
Accalia was still contemplating him in silence while Duke Aetius looked like he was smelling something really disgusting.
“Wait a minute”, Lucius said quietly as he eyed Aetius, “I recognise you… didn’t you apply for the Order?”
“So what if I did?!” Angry red spots were appearing on his cheeks and Lucius found it hard to suppress a smile.
“Oh, never you mind… It seems you have found another quest anyway”, Lucius replied calmly with a hint of bitterness in his voice as he shot a glance at Accalia.
“So, what do YOU do here then?” Accalia broke in before Aetius could retort.
“I… Are you going to offer me a seat or shall I sit down anyway?”
“Oh, please make yourself at home”, Accalia snorted, her face was nearly as deep a shade of scarlet as Aetius’ now. Only Diana was smiling serenely in her seat by the fire as she contemplated Lucius. Lucius sat down in an armchair opposite Diana and caught Accalia’s gaze.
“What has happened while I was away?”
“Nothing”, Accalia repeated. “Except the fact that I was attacked by the undead on my voyage home from Falconia!”
“Yes, I heard that” Lucius sighed. “But… what about Florentia? What about our country? What about Dardanilium?”
“Nothing I tell you.”
“The masses were desperate out there”, Lucius shouted. Diana had stopped smiling and was now eyeing Lucius with an inquisitive look. Accalia shot a quick glance at Aetius and answered:
“There have been some raids… small scale attacks… but nothing…”
“Maybe the nothing is the problem here”, Lucius snarled. “What have you been doing? Have you talked to the Senate? Have you done anything
“Now really…” Aetius started but Accalia silence him with a wave of her hand. There was an unmistakeable chill in her calm voice as she replied:
“I have been to Falconia. To get aid.”
“Oh, to our great kinsmen of course! As you said you would, even though I advised you to go to the Ninjans! They are alien to us you say… speak an unrelated language… they look different… their culture is different… but where then are all the glorious Falconian soldiers?”
Lucius stood up at his last words and had by then gotten a blush to compete with Aetius’.
“They… didn’t come”, Accalia sighed. “And… what about the Ninjans?”
“They sent a whole small fleet, and about four thousand seasoned warriors! And those were volunteers, mind you. I don’t know what the Empress could have done for us if a peer of hers had come…”
Once again there was total silence in the room. Diana still hadn’t taken her eyes off Lucius, and Accalia was fidgeting slightly as she looked from Aetius, to Lucius, to Diana.
“I… I didn’t expect that”, she said in a low voice after a long while.
“Time to put aside our differences, perchance?” Lucius said. He shot a glance at Diana who was smiling slightly again. “And now… what did the Falconians say?”
"Hinc satis elucet maiorem habere uim ad discenda ista liberam curiositatem quam meticulosam necessitatem.”
- Augustinus Hipponensis