Tales around Mirateia 21

It had been around 17 days since the two left the capital on their way to the barony of Nacaeus , and after having traversed the distance with river barge and cart. The day was sunny with only a few scattered white clouds, and as they drove through the forest surrounding the small city of Nicia, they could hear the wind rustle through the trees. As they left the forest and the city came into view, the group consisting of Ira and Azrans' cart and a handful of Imperial guards and some servants that had asked to join them made a stop and took in the view.   "You stay here; I think I will walk into town; I want to see the city as a normal being while I still can move around freely," Azran said, getting out of the cart and repeating his intention to the leader of the Guards.   "wait, what? it's your barony, and they are expecting you down there; what do you want me to say when we arrive, missing you?" Ira said, opening the door and standing in the door opening.   "You are one of the smartest persons I know, and I'm sure you will figure out something", Azran said, turning around to face her and shrugging while giving her his most apologetic smile.   "Fine", Ira answered, sitting back in the cart again and closing the door "only one of the smartest hmpf", she mumbled to herself.   Azran stepped to the side of the road so the group could pass and soon enough made it the rest of the way to the city; on the way through the city, the group began to attract the population's attention. So when the group made it to the manor of the baron, quite a group of spectators had gathered around the group to gain a glimpse of their new lord, and the elder of the city stepped out from the group to greet the new baron, the elder was wondering why this baron had an escort of Imperial Guards.   The elder was a reasonably learned man and had good contact with his daughter in the capital, so he knew about the crown princess and her white hair resulting from the Blessing of Mara. Yet, he could not believe his own eyes when the door to the cart opened, and he saw the crown princess step out and look around before she spotted him and walked towards him. The elder quickly bowed as best his old body could.   "Greetings, your highness; we are honoured to have you in our humble city," the elder said when Ira came close enough.   "Greetings, the honour is all mine; I assume you are the elder of the city", Ira answered, coming to a stop a few meters from the elder.   "That's correct, your highness. Your Highness, If I may, we were expecting the new baron to arrive today. We didn't know you would be here; otherwise, we would have made a bigger celebration," the elder stated as he stood straight up. "Do you by any chance know when he will arrive?" he continued.   "Ah yes, you see..." Ira was about to continue when something distracted her from the conversation, the noise of some children playing with a blown-up sheep stomach kicking it between them. Then she took a deep breath and pinched the top of her nose, whereafter she let out the breath she had been holding and sighed, "Your new lord? Well, that would be the dumb human over there playing with those children," Ira answered, pointing in the direction of Azran and the children.   Azran stopped after kicking the ball to another child, suddenly feeling several eyes on his back. Turning around, he saw two dozen or more people looking at him, with Ira and some older man standing to the side; Azran could see Ira looking at him reprovingly, shaking her head and nodding with her head for him to come over.   "And what did you think you were doing?" Ira said, raising her right eyebrow and looking at Azran.   "Well, your highness, I was simply entertaining the kids and to be honest, I sort of lost track of time inspecting the city before that", Azran said   "Excuse me, but you are the new lord of this city?" the elder injected.   "Oh yes, where are my manners? My name is Azran, and I have been appointed the new baron of this land by the emperor himself, and I look forward to serving the city," Azran said in a formal voice that impressed even Ira.   The elder looked surprised and confused. "what's your family name, if I may ask" the elder said.   "Oh, I don't have any. I was given the title because I know the princess here," Azran said.   "Azran!" Ira said with a stern voice.   "Sorry, what I mean is that I was given this title and land due to certain events in the last few months that I helped bring to a satisfactory conclusion," Azran said.   The elder looked surprised. "I see; I'm sure the emperor had his reason," the elder said.   After finishing the introductions, the Imperial Guards went into the manor to ensure it was safe and that no traps or spells had been placed. When it was done, Ira and Azran, along with the rest of their group, entered the manor, where the servants quickly cleaned the house and got some fires going in the fireplaces. Meanwhile, Ira and Azran went to the room the previous baron had used as his office.   "To be honest, this looks like a nice place; the baron had good taste," Ira said, looking around the room.   "yeah," Azran said, laughing.   "What's funny?" Ira asked.   "Oh, nothing; it's just that this room alone is bigger than my parent's house back in Buan", Azran answered.   "Oh right, yeah, I can see that," Ira said, walking closer to Azran and placing her arm around his waist. "You deserve this," she said.   "Yeah, you keep saying that, but I'm not convinced yet; I'm just the son of a blacksmith, and my only option for a better life was to join the legion. I only made it to the 9th because I worked my arse off to make it, and between you and me, I'm still not sure why I got promoted to join the Imperial Guard. Even that still doesn't change the fact that I'm a nobody and suddenly have power over thousands of people who depend on me to make the right judgement." Azran said before falling into the nearest chair with his head buried in his hands.   Ira stood and observed him for a moment before she walked over, sat in front of Azran, and took his hands in hers with a concerned expression. "Azran, listen here and listen well; you are a fantastic person, and yes, you are a son of a blacksmith, but that doesn't define who or what you are; only you can control that. Yes, you worked hard to make it to the 9th, and look where that brought you; you were able to lead that battle and be promoted to the ranks of the Imperial Guard, but also it brought you to Pearlhal, where you meet me." Ira gave him a shy smile before continuing, "Also, you have met my dad, and I'm sure you have heard rumours about him; I certainly have but what I'm getting at is that you know he would not be doing what he is doing without reason. I wouldn't change it for anything in the world, so believe me when I say that you deserve all the things that have been given to you lately. " Ira said, standing up again, still holding Azran's hands. "I'm going sit here," she said, smiling, pointing to his lap.   "Ira, that's...," Azran said, looking a bit confused at her.   "I know that, Azran", she answered, and before he could answer, she sat down with her legs hanging out over the armrest and her arms firmly around Azran's neck.   "Yeah, I wouldn't change anything for this. Ira said, resting her head on Azran's shoulders.   The rest of the day, the two of them spent in the office, looking over previous records of the barony and its finances and, in general, getting to know what they had to work with; they could see that while the barony was poor, it was able to sustain itself and primarily only relied on the rest of the empire for more sophisticated metal work and products they could not make themself. Their work was only interrupted twice when the head of the servants and the Guards came by to report that the sleeping quarters were clean and ready and that the rest of the house should be prepared within the next day or two. The leader of the Guard came by to report that guards had been posted around the house and garden and delivered a schedule for the different watches and their rotation.   While still going over different papers, one of the servants brought them a quick meal and something to drink, and to Azran's delight, the servant had also brought some mead. Later, when the day had turned to night, and they were beginning to yawn more than they were reading, they decided it was time for bed. After a short discussion that Azran managed to win for once, Ira was shown to the primary bedroom, and after a quick goodnight, Azran was shown to the other bedroom, where he quickly passed out after lying down.

Cover image: by Gayle Porter Hoskins


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