Tales around Mirateia 20 part 2

The rest of the evening, Ira mostly asked Azran questions about what he was up to during those months they were separated. Azran told her about how he had woken up on the riverside and taken to the farm, where he recovered until he was strong enough to begin the long journey home; he also told her everything he could about the meeting with Mara. However, when he looked back at it, as he said, Ira, it could have been a meeting with anyone, there wasn't anything godly over it besides the bench, and he still wasn't sure if it had been there when he arrived. Ira joked that he was one of the few that have met a goddess and come back, yet he focused on whether a bench had appeared after he arrived.   Azran wasn't quite sure when it happened, but at some point, he had repeatedly fallen asleep on the couch. Ira had provided him with a pillow and blanket at some time after falling asleep, but as he stood up, he could feel it in his back, and he thought this had to be the last time he would sleep on any couch. He then stood up and began walking around the room to stretch his legs and get some stiffness out of them from sleeping on the couch. Azran wasn't sure when she appeared, but on one of his rounds around the room, he got startled when he turned around and saw Ira leaning on the door into her sleeping quarters.   "Morning Azran, how are you?" Ira said while walking towards the table to sit down.   "Morning Ira, doing alright, just a bit sore in the old bones from two nights on the couch", Azran said while walking over to the table where he sat next to her.   "Old bones? Oh, come on, Azran, you are only two years older than me, and I know that you have slept on worse without complaining," Ira said, lightly tapping Azran on the shoulder.   "Precisely, respect your elder," Azran said, trying to maintain a straight face, but it was impossible, and soon enough, both he and Ira sat there laughing for a good few minutes or two.   "You got any plans today?" Ira asked once the two of them had calmed down a bit.   "Well, I have the meeting with the emperor, your father, that I'm not sure what about, but I'm pretty sure it's something about us, it would surprise me if it wasn't, but besides that, I don't have any plans, it's my last day off before returning to active duty again," Azran said rubbing his eyes, he was not looking forward to the meeting. In contrast, previous encounters with the emperor had been pleasant; all things considered, he just felt it would be different this time.   Ira sat silent for a moment before she looked over at Azran.   "Want me to come with you? I don't have plans for today" Ira leaned in to rest her head on his shoulder.   "Not going to say no to that offer", Azran said.   After Ira had called for one of the servants to bring them breakfast, they sat down to eat a breakfast consisting of Boiled Eggs and Hazelnut Bread alongside some fruit. While eating, the two of them discussed what the emperor could want to talk about with Azran; the only topic they could imagine it could be, having discarded all other issues, was that the emperor wanted to discuss whatever he thought he believed was going on between Azran and Ira. When they had finished their breakfast, Ira called for another servant, who she tasked with finding the emperor and asked where the meeting was to take place and what time, as no place or time had been given. They didn't have to wait that long for the servant to return with the message that the two of them were to follow the servant to The small chamber where the emperor was ready to meet them right away, following the servant at a reasonable distance, Ira and Azran were discussing what the emperor wanted with them in the small chamber of all places, had it been in his private office it would be something somewhat minor, something that could be kept hidden. Still, with it being in the small chamber, it had to be something important, something big, because the emperor was never alone there, it was the chamber from where almost all the critical decisions relating to the empire were taken, so it made the two of them slightly nervous.   Coming to a stop in front of the door to the chamber, the servant knocked on the door and shortly after, Ira and Azran were allowed in, once inside they saw the emperor sitting in the chair at the centre of a half circle where five members of the council were seated, Ira, recognized these as the master of coin, arms, ships, knowledge and the master of law.   "Please take a seat, daughter," Malthin said formally.   Looking around the people in the room, Ira took the nearest chair, close enough to the others that she could be included in conversation but still removed enough that she, in practice, made Ira and Azran a third party of the meeting, with Ira taking the seat, Azran moved to stand behind her as he would do had he been wearing his armour, he did feel slightly naked without it and his sword given the circumstances.   "Seems like we are all here. Will the Master of Knowledge please repeat what you told us earlier? Malthin said.   "Of course, your majesty", The Master of Knowledge, a frail old man, rose from his chair and cleared his throat. "Your majesty, the family ruling the small barony Nacaeus have recently become extinct in both the male and female line, having the barony to fall to the duke of Valeius but this duke" the master ruffled through some papers before finding the one he needed "ah here it is, this duke Kaeso C. Siusiso already have enough titles and to keep the balance of power in the area, it's my recommendation that the barony is to be given to someone else as a mean to keep the balance" the master finished was after he gave a respectful nod towards the emperor and sat down again.   Following the master's speech, the chamber was quiet for a moment, with the only sound made being the master that had just spoken, making order in his papers again. Ira was looking at the notes she had taken during the speech; there was something that didn't line up, sure having to deal with a barony and the power balance in that area, but she could not see why such a topic required both the emperor, the crown princess and the entire council. Then there was the thing with her father, who had called a meeting with Azran a few days ago, and when it was time for that meeting, he was called to this one.   Staring at her notes, she was dragged out of her thinking when Azran moved slightly and, in the process, hit the leg of her chair and whispered a sorry. It was then the events of the last few days all lined up in her head. Her father must have noticed that she had stepped closer to Azran once he had stood back up after kneeling; he must have known that she had been interested in Azran since she asked him to be her guard. Combined with that, he had personally requested Azran to look after her the day before they left for their journey. Now he had asked for another meeting which turned out to be about a barony; she looked over her shoulder towards Azran smiling, and thought, "Mara is with you, my love" looking back and forward, she noticed Mathin was looking at her too she gave a confirming and reassuring nod to which Malthin smiled ever so slightly.   "Cadet Buan," Malthin said.   "Your majesty", Azran said, straightening up a bit.   "Do you remember the oath you swore when you became a legionnaire and again once you joined the Imperial Guard?" Malthing continued.   "Yes, your majesty, of course," Azran answered.   "Good, because those are about to become even more important than before, Ira. Will you please come up here and bring this paper to the cadet" Malthin said.   "Of course, father," Ira said and stood up and made her way up to the emperor's table, where her suspicion was confirmed once she saw the paper and sign on it; as much as she wanted, she could not hold back a smile.   Holding the paper firmly in her hand, Ira returned to her and Azran's position.   "Here, you deserve it," Ira whispered, giving Azran the paper.   "Open it and read out what it says," Malthin said.   As commanded, Azran broke the seal, unfolded the piece of paper, and began reading; he didn't get far before his eyes went wide; it took all his strength and a hand on his shoulder from Ira before he could do as Malthin had asked.   "In the name of Emperor Malthin the second, protector of the empire, by the grace of Mara, king of Pearlhal, defender of the realm, victor at the gate with this grant the barony of Nacaeus and all rights and privileges attached to Azran for faithful service to the empire and our goddess Mara," Azran said not believing what was happening.   "Master of Knowledge and Master of Law, make sure this is brought to protocol and the right papers are delivered to the local duke and the cadet here?" Malthing said.   "Of course, your majesty," the two masters said.   "With that out of the way, the meeting is with this over, Ira, Cadet stay", Malthing continued.   Slowly but surely, the masters emptied the room, leaving Malthin, Ira and a very confused Azran alone.   Malthing was the first of the three to break the silence. "Remember your oaths, Azran; while they were important before, now they are of even greater importance as you hold imperial land", he said with an undertone of seriousness.   "While I have an idea as to why you did this, besides the official story you gave the masters, I would like to know the real reason that you giving this title to Azran because it's not like titles are given to common people just like that, no offence Azran," Ira said leaning back in her chair crossing her arms, looking at her father with a severe expression.   "None took, your highness", Azran almost automatically said, with Ira shaking her head in defeat.   Letting out a sigh, " I guess I could offer up an explanation, well part of the reason is that the duke would get too powerful in the area, but the duke's son is married to a daughter from the House of Eltai and therefore could give their alliance to much power making them to hard to control, but another reason is that if you and Azran take your relationship further, he will need to be a noble, and a barony is the only one I can hand down without anyone asking too many questions" Malthin said looking between Ira and Azran.   Shaking her head, Ira looked over at Azran, who had been mostly quiet since the meeting.   "When will I have to leave for this place," Azran said.   "Given the time it will take to get there, I would suggest you got ready as soon as possible", Malthing answered.   Excusing themself, Ira and Azran walked out of the chamber and began walking down the hallways of the palace towards Azran's room in the barracks, and Azran kept telling Ira that she didn't have to follow him to his room. Still, she kept saying that she wanted to see it and that she could help with the packing of his stuff; once they made it to the room, Ira sat down on the bed, looking around the small room with her eyes falling on the empty stand were Azran usually would have displayed his armour had he not lost it in Emitlestar. "Remind me that we have to bring you some of that new armour for the guard before we leave," Ira said.   "Would I still be able to get such armour, given the new situation?" Azran said, opening the drawer and beginning to empty the content into a bag, completely missing the last part of what Ira said.   "Of course, just because you have a title does not mean you just stop being an Imperial Guard; just look at it this way you will now be representing the crown in your new place," Ira said, getting up from the bed and moving over to grab some of Azran stuff and put it into bags.   While it usually would not have taken Azran that long to pack his stuff, he didn't have that much, to begin with, it did end up taking an extra long time since the two of them kept talking about all kinds of things and Azran did have a lot of questions about his new situation. About an hour passed before the two of them left the room with two bags and began walking back towards Ira's room; sure, her father had said that Azran best leaves as soon as possible but as Ira said, the barony wasn't going to vanish just because he didn't leave within the hour. Walking down the hallway, just up ahead, Azran saw Haec, his former partner for patrols back when Azran's world was still ordinary; Azran could see that Haec was walking alongside another Guard, probably Azran's replacement that he had heard about from the Guards that had escorted Eza a few days ago.   "Greetings, Azran; finally got to meet you after your return", Haec said.   "Greetings, Haec; yeah, the last few days have been pretty hectic; it almost made me miss the old days in the legion", Azran said, laughing at the last bit.   "I can imagine, oh, where are my manners? This is Nalas; she's the newbie around here; she had not yet had the honour of meeting any of the royals yet," Haec said, pointing towards Nalas, who gave the nod with her head; both Nalas and Haec wore the Guards armour.   Something didn't feel suitable for Azran; Haec said Nalas had not met any of the royals yet, but what about, Azran turned to look at Ira at his side and at first, he was surprised and didn't recognize her, the woman to his side had red hair and from what he could see of her eyes they looked brown or at least a dark colour at this angle.   "Nalas, I might be able to pull some strings as the crown princess owes me a favour, I know this is a bit unorthodox, but nothing has been normal for me the last few months, but would you like to meet the crown princess personally?" Azran said   Haec and Nalas were slightly surprised by what Azran said, but Nalas was the first to speak.   "That would be an honour; I grew up in an orphanage sponsored by the crown princess, so I would like to thank her," Nalas said   Azran nodded and looked at Ira, they didn't say anything, but Azran knew she was in on it.   "Follow us; let's see if she is home", Azran said and began walking towards Ira's room with the three others in tow.   "By the way, Azran, who is this?" Haec said, pointing towards Ira.   "oh her, well she.. she is the princess's new servant, and I'm showing her around the places the princess usually visits to make her familiar with the routes and locations," Azran said, feeling Ira's gaze on his neck.   The four of them made it to the door into Ira's room, and as for the act, Azran knocked before opening the door leading the rest of the group in and closing the door again.   "So, how long would you hold up that disguise?" Azran said, turning around.   "What do you mean?" Both Haec and Nalas said almost in unison.   "Not talking to you", Azran answered, nodding to someone behind them.   "Long enough to beat your arse for calling me a servant," Ira said with a smile.   Haec and Nalas turned around, and Azran could imagine that behind the helmet, their mouths were wide open, and they were probably a bit pale, just like he had been when he found out about Ira the first time.   "But... but, how what, Azran?" Haec stuttered before composing herself and assuming the proper position of a Guard in front of a Royal; a moment later, Nalas did the same.   "At ease, both of you; I apologize for the chock Azran must have given you, but Cadet Nalas, right? I hope your childhood wasn't too bad. I'm sorry to hear you growing up as an orphan, but look at where you are now an Imperial Guard; where ever they are, I'm sure your parents must be proud of you," Ira said in a voice Azran recognized as her formal speaking voice. Still, in this case, she had made it a bit more caring and warm.   "Thank you, your highness, it's an honour being here with you," Nalas said   "The honour is all mine", Ira answered.   After some pleasantries between Azran and Haec, the two Imperial Guards left the room, leaving Ira and Azran alone.   "You just made her day," Azran said, walking over to the table and pouring himself a cup of water.   "I guess; I'm just glad she grew up in one of the Royal orphanages; there are some terrible ones out here," Ira said.   The two of them sat down on the couch for a moment and talked before Ira went into her chambers and packed some items she thought she would need.   "There is one thing I wonder about, Ira", Azran said.   "And that is?" Ira said from her chambers, head deep in her closet.   "Do the emperor know you have decided to come with me?" Azran answered.   "You know how I can use magic to communicate over distances? I used a sending spell after you read the letter at the meeting to have a private conversation with my father. I told him that I was coming with you, and there wasnt really nothing he could do to stop me," Ira said   "And he accepted just like that? I mean, last time you just left, he didn't have a chance to stop you, really," Azran said   "Well, I told him to view it as important training in running an empire in the future, and I guess it won him over," Ira said, coming out of her chamber with two bags over her shoulders and having changed to some travel clothes.   "We better get going before the emperor starts yelling at us," Azran said, rubbing the back of his head.   The two entered the cart, and the cart set off towards the barony.   "Do you think letting her leave with him was a good idea?" Amelessa said, coming to a stop next to Malthin, who was looking out of a window overlooking the stable area.   "In Honesty, I don't know, but knowing her, she would have found a way to link up with him anyway. I just made it less of a headache for us both.

Cover image: by Gayle Porter Hoskins


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