Tales around Mirateia 3

The day had finally come, Azran had woken up with excitement in his stomach he had not felt since he enlisted in the legions, after laying a minute or so just thinking about what the day could bring, he then got up and after stretching out for a bit walked over to the armour stand holding his armour, it was made of segmented armour plates giving a decent amount of flexibility, it also had a helmet that covered the entire face of the guard, giving him a sense of anonymity while preventing any emotions showing which helped to make the wearer look more threatening together with the way it was constructed helped make the user look bigger. Other than the flexibility the thing Azran liked most about the armour was the colours, the plates of armour were painted in a deep red with gold on the edges with the symbol of the royal family painted on the left shoulder.   Having equipped the armour and found something to eat, Azran then reported for duty to his new commander, an older woman in probably her late 40s. He then met his partner that he would patrol the palace with, a half-elf named Haec she was probably a few years older than Azran. After a short introduction, he also got assigned his new name “Buon” after the town he was born in. It was a tradition that the 9th legion had dating back to their founding, according to the story the idea was that if the legion was in a location they could draw on the locals in the legion to show them shortcuts, hideouts and such.   Azran and Haec went on with their patrol around the palace wall.   The first few days where not much happened, since the royal family was out of town, visiting some of the other cities in the empire. At some point, Azran and Haec got a message that they were to join the group of imperial guards flanking the royal carts when they rolled through the palace gate and up to the door, not that there was a long-distance and a chance for anything to happen but it was a tradition that the Guard flanked the Emperor or his family, it went back to the emperor that had been saved by the 9th legion.   The royal carts rolled up to the stairs leading up to the door of the palace, Azran and Haec stepped up to flank the door of the cart, soon after the royals began to walk out first, the emperor, then the empress, then the two young princes and prince, a few seconds after they had stepped out, the crown princes stepped out but deep in her thought she missed the step-down and was about to fall.   Azran caught in the corner of his eye that something was wrong and that someone was about to fall out, he quickly reacted by sprinting forward, catching the princess mid-fall and gently setting her down on the ground. When he looked at the princess he froze for a second because before him was not just the crown princess but it was Ria, the streetfighter he had met a few times around the city sure the hair and eyes were a different colour but he would recognise that face anywhere, a second later he snapped back to reality and quickly gave her a salute.   “Your highness” and standing to attention, Thinking to himself “thank the gods for the helmet”   Ira also rather shocked about what had just happened, also took a look at the guard standing to attention in front of her, thanks to the helmet she could not see the guard's face but there was still something about the guard that piqued her interest, and that voice...   Later that day, Ira was sitting in her room, she had not been able to get the event from earlier today out of her mind, so she decided to check a theory she had.   “He did say that he had a secret assignment in the city, it could not possibly be him could it?” Ira then called for one of the guards   “Bring me the guard from earlier, you know who” the guard quickly gave a salute and walked back out of the door.   Azran had just gotten back to his room and began to take his armour off, his mind still thinking about what happened at the cart, that Ria was Ira the crown princess, heir to the Empire of Dercia, and he had dared talk to her as if she was just another commoner.   Because of some incident with some palace guards, he had missed dinner in the mess hall so he had found some of the snacks he had brought from one of the markets that he and Ira had visited some time ago when it knocked on his door   “come on in” Azran said not paying attention being more concentrated on getting something to eat. The door opened and the Guard Ira had to send stepped in   “Cadet Buon, the Crown princess request your presence”   With the mention of the Crown princess, Azran froze for a second, before resuming acting as if nothing   “The Crown princess request your presence” the guard repeated.   Azran shook his head and turned to face the guard.   “why? Did the princess mention a reason for why she wanted to see me?” Azran said with mistrust in his voice, after all, he was a new member of the guard and it was not uncommon for the old guys to play tricks with the newcomers, he had seen it a lot of times when he served in the legions yet at the same time he was not sure that it was trick, would the other members be daring enough to make a prank that involved the crown princess of all people?   “No, she only said that I should bring the guard from earlier and that I would know who,” the guard said   “Okay, I guess I have no other choice than to see what she wants.” Azran took his helmet and placed it back on, then he took a look at some of the snacks he had unpacked and took a deep sigh.   “guess I will have to wait for breakfast,” he thought for himself, on their way to the princess neither Azran nor the guard spoke, and to be fair Azran was also not in the mood for small talk, his mind was running over all possible reasons why Ira or as he also knew her Ria wanted to see him at this time of the day, the best possible reason he could come up with was that it had something to do with the incident with the cart and him catching her so she would not fall, other than that he was lost.   After some time they arrived at the door to Ira's room, the guard knocked on the door   “Your highness, I have brought Cadet Buon as you commanded,” the guard said.   Soon after it came from the door “thank you, send him in”   The guard then looked at Azran “well good luck I guess”   “Thanks, I guess,” Azran said, again thankful that he had the helmet on that covered his face, he was nervous.   Azran then pushed the door to open it and stepped in, after he had closed the door again he turned so he had the back towards the door, the room was enormous, or rather rooms since from where Azran stood he could see doors leading into other rooms.   “So you are Cadet Buon,” Ira said while walking in from one of the other rooms, she was wearing comfortable clothing, some loose-hanging clothing, Azan had to admit that she looked amazing.   “Yes your highness, you called for me?” Azran said, trying to sound as professional he could. He could see a small smile was forming on the side of Ira's mouth.   “Would you please take your helmet off Cadet”   “Your highness?” Azran said acting rather confused.   “I order you to take your helmet off Cadet Buan”   Left with no real choice, Azran took his helmet off and held it under the arm.   “Your highness” came from Azran with his most professional voice.   Ira's face broke out in a giant smile when she recognized the face. “AZRAN!!! I knew it, it's you, it's you! Ira said with joy in her voice.   Ira pointed at a set of sofas “do you… do you maybe want to sit down and talk?” Ira almost sounded nervous all of a sudden. Azran not knowing what to either do or say   “Your highness, I'm sorry I didn't know that you were the princess back then, I'm sorry”   “First and foremost please stop calling me your highness. I don't want you to call me that, you are my friend and friends don't call each other by their titles, secondly, how could you know? We had never met, I have always hated official events so I only participate in an absolute minimum that my father forces me to do, so there were no change that you would have seen me at events, now… would you please set down, you are making me nervous just standing there”   Azran made a big sigh and began walking over to the sofa opposite of Ira, once he had sat down, he looked over at Ira who still had the huge smile that she had had since she found out about Azran.   “so what am I going to call you if I'm not allowed to say, your highness? And more important what are we going to say to the others who very likely by now know that you asked a guard to come to your room late in the evening?”   Ira looked like she was about to say something but didn't and sat there for a moment before saying   “first of all, as you know my real name is Ira so call me that, I use Ria as a cover, and secondly, that's going to be easy enough to explain, I'm going to tell whoever asks that I didn't feel safe because I thought I saw something/someone and that I then called for a guard that had proven to have quick reflexes to stand guard in my room,” Azran thought about it for a moment, he was not sure if it would work but she was the crown princess after all so she could probably act more trustworthy than he ever could in a situation as this.   “Alright Ira, I have so many questions like why sneaking out when you live like this? Also, I have heard stories from the other guards that you normally are very cold and professional over everyone else, I mean I have seen it at that underground tournament, but with me, you act differently, why?”   Ira let out a small chuckle “I sneak out for several reasons, one is that if you live like this all your life it quickly loses its excitement and stops being fantastic also I hardly get outside of these walls unless it some festival or event that a member of the royal family has to present and why do I treat you different? It's the main reason I go out in the city dressed as a commoner, I wanted to see how it was to be treated as a person, not as the heir to the throne, so I began to sneak out, and then one day I ran into you in that inn and yeah you know the rest, but you had hardly met me and yet you were willing to just hang out and talk about things, and you just treated me as a normal person, and you were fun to be around”   Azran just sat there taking it all in and nodding   “Had you told me half a year ago that today I would have drunk beer, explored the capital, fought in an underground tournament, and all that with someone who turned out to be the crown princess I would probably have laughed my ass off and then hit you in the face for talking like that about the crown princess”   Ira began to laugh and then stood up walked over to a cupboard, looked back over her shoulder   “do you want something to drink?”   Shaking his head “no but thank you, but if you have some water that would be fine” Azran said   “sure thing, let me find you a cup,” Ira said while closing the cupboard, she then walked over to a glass flask, grabbed it together with two cups then walked back to the sofa and sat down.   Both Azran and Ira ended up talking and laughing for a few hours, Azran still not quite comfortable to be sitting there with the crown princess, but as the time went on he got more and more comfortable as he realized that Ira was still was the Ria he had met, after a few hours Ira announced that she would go to bed, but if her explanation should work Azran would have to stay, not that Azran was comfortable with it but he had to agree   “Alright I will just stay guard here close to the door where I can see both the balcony and the door, in case anyone should come in and ask why I'm here,” Azran said while getting up and grabbing his helmet to put it on, then walked over to where he thought would be a good guard post. Ira had placed the cups back where she took them and began walking towards her sleeping chamber but before she walked through the curtain.   Azran said in a joking way “Goodnight, your highness”   Ira looked over her shoulder taking a deep sigh “goodnight dumb human”

Cover image: by Gayle Porter Hoskins


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