Tales around Mirateia 4

The morning finally came and Azran was fighting a losing battle against sleep, He had stayed awake the whole night in case someone came to investigate why he never left Ira's room the evening before but luckily no one ever came, so he had just spent the night when not standing in his spot where he could cover most of Ira's room, walking around as quiet as he could in the armour, the armour was fairly quiet but still, it was not made for being stealthy, he had also at some point just when the sun was about to raise walked out on the balcony to watch the sunrise.   Ira's room was facing so as soon as the sun cleared the horizon and trees, it would fill the room with light, Azran had to admit that the sunrise looked amazing from this angle, the way it illuminated the leaves and the way it shined on the walls, after having enjoyed the view for a few moments, he went back to his spot and probably an hour or so after the sun had gotten up, Azran heard something coming from the sleeping chamber, and a still very sleepy Ira came out wearing some loose baggy clothing.   Ira looked over at him smiled and said “good morning Azran, still awake I see”   Azran was just about to answer when Ira continued with.   “oh and by the way take that helmet off, no one is going to come in unless I say so” Azran then took off the helmet and suppressed a yawn   “you look tired, here let me call for some tea to give you some energy,” Ira said just before calling for a servant to bring some refreshing tea and some breakfast, both of them enjoyed the breakfast and some small talk, while Azran was still tired the tea did help to give him some new energy.   Sometime after Ira told Azran that she had some meetings that she had to attend, but that he should accompany her as she had an idea so before the meetings they had to swing by someone that Ira didn't want to say who was, but Azran got a bad feeling about it, he may only have known Ira for a few days combined but he knew that the smile she had meant trouble for him.   Having walked for some time to another more central part of the palace with Ira and another handful of guards Azran now stood in front of the door leading to the office of the Emperor.   Azran looked at Ira through the helmet, and she just looked at him smiling and punched his shoulder before knocking on the door   “It's me, Ira, do you have a moment?”   A voice came from the other side of the door “of course, dear”   Ira then opened the door, ordered the guards to stand outside, and told Azran to follow her inside. Inside is a well-lit room, behind a huge desk full of paper sat the emperor of Dercia.   Emperor Malthin II looked up from a report, looked up and took a long good look at Azran who stood at attention just in front of the door, he had not dared to step further into the room, the emperor then looked at Ira   “So what can I do for you, Ira?”   Ira walked up to the desk and sat on the edge of it “Dad, this is Cadet Buan,” she said pointing at Azran   “you know the guard that prevented me from falling out of the cart?”   The emperor looked back at Azran “I see, and now you want me to give him a reward is that right?”   “No dad, I have not told you the best thing yet, Buans real name is Azran, the guy I have told you about”   When Azran heard that his otherwise professional neutral face got replaced with chock, Ira had told her dad the emperor of all people about him, and the longer he thought about it the weirder it got, as the emperor knew about Ira's trips around the capitol and seemed to approve it. Ira was still looking at him but she had a sneaky smile on her face as if she knew how Azran must feel about the news.   “you always say that I should take a bodyguard with me when I go outside, I don't think I need one also the guards are so boring, but if it will make you feel easier I would like to make Azran here my bodyguard, he is more than qualified for the job, and he is a good conversationalist”   “I see, cadet please come closer,” the emperor said, waving his hand for Azran to come closer.   Azran gave a nod before walking slowly but steadily towards the desk stopping roughly 3 meters from it.   “So my daughter tells me that your name is Azran, would you like to tell me what makes you qualified as my daughter's bodyguard and how you ended up as a member of the Imperial Guard”   “As you wish your majesty, I enlisted in your legions a bit over 4 years ago and after a successful raid on a warlord's outpost I got transferred to your legion, the 9th where I served until I got selected to join the Imperial Guard, and… if I may add your majesty, I don't know if I have what it takes to be the princess's bodyguard, but I will promise to do what it takes to keep her safe and if needed give my life to ensure that”   “I see, you are not good at selling yourself, you know that?" the emperor said with a slight smile "but I think I know what warlord and raid you mention, that was some nasty battles, you did well” looking over at Ira “fine, you can have him”   Jumping down from the desk and walking down Ira stood next to Azran “Thanks, Dad, now if you would excuse me I have some boring meetings I need to tend to”   “It's not going to be easier Ira, one day you will lead the empire, see you at dinnertime”   Walking out of the chamber, having closed the door after them Ira looked at Azran   “Well, that went better than expected” Azran was in no position to talk to her since the guards were not supposed to talk unless talked directly, so they began to walk towards Ira´s office where her meetings were going to take place, and while Azran had no idea how the meetings normally were, he had to give it to Ira these meetings turned out to be even more boring than the weekly briefings back in the legions.   Several hours later the meetings were finally done and Azran followed Ira to the Dining room, he was just about to stand guard outside the door when Ira popped her head through the door.   “what do you think you are doing?”   “I'm going to stand guard, your highness”   “Get inside and stand there”   “As you wish for your highness” Azran could see how Ira was making a pouting face when he said the last sentence, and to be honest he enjoyed it a bit after all that she had pulled him through the last 24 hours. The Dinner itself was nothing spectacular, the royal family talked among themselves about how their day had been and Princess Eza was told not to mess with the palace guards.   After the dinner, Ira announced that if anyone wanted anything from her, she would be in her chamber. After a short walk back to Ira's chamber Azran was about to do the same thing again before she told him to come inside. Inside he suddenly felt the tiredness coming down on him, looking around to see where Ira had gone, he saw her heading towards the sleeping chamber   “Hey, Ira is it okay if I sit down?”   “Sure, I will be back in a second with something to drink, by the way, you are off duty for tonight”   After what could not have been more than a few minutes Ira came out from the sleeping chamber in some more comfortable clots instead of the more formal ones she had been wearing during the meetings, coming out she quickly spotted Azran sitting in one of the chairs, sleeping and not wanting to wake him up Ira quickly and quietly got a cup with some water and placed it on the table in front of him in case he woke up during the night, she then went to bed herself.   Waking up just before sunrise Azran woke up and it took him a few seconds before he realized that he was not in his room back at the guard quarters, he looked around the room before getting up feeling sore and stiff after having slept in the chair plus armour, walking out on the balcony to enjoy another beautiful sunrise.   “It's beautiful,” he mumbled said to himself.   “Never took you to be a romantic type,” Ira said in a joking but still slightly tired voice when she came to stand next to him   “I'm not really, but it does remind me of my village, I would climb up on top of the roof to look at the sunrise” Azran looked back at Ira. “Sorry I'm rambling about silly things, so what's today's program? Anything I would need to know?”   Beginning to walk back inside Ira signalled to Azran to follow her inside, she sat down in one of the chairs,   “sit down please, no there are no plans for today, dad is having a meeting with some foreign visitors from the Grand Duchy of Ved I think, but I don't have to be there so I was thinking we could either stay here just talking or we could sneak out and explore the city”   Thinking about it for a minute “if you don't mind I wouldn't mind if we stayed in the palace for today, but before we settle in for today, would it be alright with you if I got back to the guard quarters for a few hours? I could use some fresh cloaths and a bath” Azran said and as to show, took a sniff of under his armour and wrinkled his nose.   “Sure, I will be here,” Ira said while pouring some water into a cup.   “Thanks,” Azran said while getting up, walking to the door and out, he quickly walked over to the section of the palace housing the guards, and just before entering his room, he saw Haec whom he had not seen since the cart incident, calling after her and signalling for her to come to his room, Azran walked in and shortly after Haec came in and closed the door.   “Hey Haec”   “Hey, where have you been?” Haec said in a curious voice   “You are never going to believe this” Azran told Haec about how Ira had called for him and made him her bodyguard and that he had stood before the emperor, and spoken to him, he did not tell Haec about Ira sneaking out dressed as a commoner or that the emperor knew about it and seemed to approve it. While talking Azran did a wash-up of all the important areas, got Haecs to help with a quick shave, and switched to some clean clothes where after they both talked for a few hours before Azran got up and took on the armour again, saying goodbye to Haec before walking towards Ira's room.   From the distance, he could hear someone yelling and he could see the group of palace guards outside looking nervous around, sensing something could be wrong Azran sprinted the last few meters, the palace guards shortly raising their weapons before lowering them again when seeing it was an imperial guard coming towards them.   Looking between them and the door Azran asked the guard that seemed to be in charge “what is going on? Who is inside?” he continued   the guard turned to face him “the emperor and the crown princess, to what is going on? No idea”   Nodding, Azran turned towards the door and knocked two times before he could hear Ira yelling   “STAY OUT!”   hesitating for a second he knocked again.   “It's Buan princess” there was quiet for a moment before a quiet   “Come in” could be heard.   Walking in he saw Ira walking back and forth while the emperor was sitting in one of the chairs, Azran saluted the emperor who just waved his hand at him and told Azran to be at ease, trying to do that, Azran looked over at Ira who was furious about something.   “Azran finally” Ira almost shouted.   Looking between the two, Azran took off his helmet and ran a hand through his hair, he then took a deep sigh   “I understand if it's above my paygrade but what's going on here Ira?”   Ira looked at him and Azran could swear he saw flames in her eyes “you remember when I told you that my father was having a meeting with someone from another country? Well, it turns out that it was about a marriage between some prince of the Grand Duchy and me!” she said angrily   Azran looked shocked and at the same time not quite sure how he should react or say, but inside he thought that this was clearly above his paygrade. After a moment of silence, the emperor got up from his chair and stood for a moment to look at Ira, but she just looked away, he then walked past Azran stopped next to him, and with a low voice said.   “Tomorrow morning come to my office as early as possible”   Azran confused about the situation just managed to say “yes Sir”   The emperor smiled and clapped his shoulder before walking out of the door leaving a confused Azran with an angry Ira.   After the emperor had left the room, Azran looked over at Ira who was walking over to the cupboard   “If you are thinking about a drink, make that two” having brought two glasses and something that looked like whiskey they both sat down and just sat there, not saying a word or anything.   After what felt like an eternity Ira finally said   “what do you think I should do?”   Azran looked at his glass “ I don't know, have you met this prince? What about your mother, what would she say?”   “Knowing her, she would say I should do it as my duty for the empire, to secure the line and all that crap, and yes I have met this prince before, his name is Moncla he is a nice guy but… just not someone I could see spending my entire life with”   “I see, I think you should at least think about it for a day or two before deciding finally, even if you are secure on your answer now, at least make it look like you are thinking about it”   “Yeah you are right,” Ira said while looking like she was thinking about something, then she suddenly got up, “ I think I will retire to my chamber”   “Sleep well,” Azran said while standing up shortly before sitting down again.   The night and morning went quietly, after Ira got up, Azran informed her that he had to sort out something with his commander. Shortly after he knocked on the door to the emperor's office, but he didn't hear anything, but shortly after he heard footsteps coming from behind him, it was the emperor followed by a group of his guards.   “I know I said early but didn't expect you to be here this early” the emperor said.   Azran just snapped to attention and waited until the emperor had opened up the door and told him to follow, inside the office, the emperor snapped his fingers a few times and the lights around the office came to life, sitting down in his chair the emperor signalled for Azran to come closer, and to take the helmet off.   “to begin with, can I just say that I'm glad that you came in last night, it seemed like Ira calmed down a bit, but what I asked you to come here for is this, whatever my daughter decides to do with this proposal I want you to stand by her side, as her bodyguard, trusted friend and advisor”   Looking a bit surprised about what he had just heard the only thing Azran could manage to say was “y..yes your majesty” but after having let it sink in for a moment he continued a bit more confident “your majesty if I may ask, why me?”   The emperor explained why and for the next half hour or so they talked back and forth about things like how the emperor could see the political advantages of the marriage but on the personal level he hoped that Ira would find her husband on her own, and not someone that had been arranged for her.

Cover image: by Gayle Porter Hoskins


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