Chapter 153 – Princess and Prince

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The woman had just called herself my mother’s sister, but I refused to show any negative reaction to a relative calling me ‘monster’. I simply kept the genteel, diplomatic smile I had been giving her from the beginning. I was good at it; the palace ladies who tutored Tiana in protocol in her youth had been merciless. I won’t repeat some of the things they said to my face, so I could practice maintaining that smile no matter what.

Ignoring the fact that she was still inspecting me like a soldier, I answered calmly, “Marcorhe ninàncadd dil-vesir ro, Dín-nedo. (Humble niece is also a half-fairy, Esteemed Aunt).”

With that, I stepped back slightly, so that the distance wouldn’t be awkward, and dipped in another curtsey, which I held as I stated, “Marcorhe ninàná Dín-nedoydd söanmiloëo. Dínen ceralinëodda raro mo rindéro? (Humble niece greets Esteemed Aunt. May she be permitted to know Aunt’s name?)”

She didn’t look entirely happy with my words, but she answered, “Tenre ci ceralinéo mazi, cili Tenre ninánven raseninro asdozincâ losdé. (Although I am named Tenre, this Tenre has not yet decided whether she accepts you as her niece.)”

Switching to Dorian, she added in lower tones. “Please rise, child. These children have no sense for Orestanian customs.”

I smiled a bit more warmly as I rose, and answered, “Nevertheless, I naturally see my mother’s elder sister as no other, and as such, must show her proper respect. If not ‘Dín’ (Aunt), shall I address you as ‘Rôn’ (Your Highness)’?”

Tenre’s expression remained somewhere closer to neutral than anything else. She turned away and walked back to her previous position.

But on the way, she replied, “Do as you like.”

“Your Highness,” the green-haired fairy knight who escorted me to this place said, “This monster was flying directly toward the Royal Grove when we intercepted her!”

She was also speaking Dorian, but my ears perked up with what she said. My clan name, Semöan Ceno, translates as High Forest. If that forest beyond was the ‘Royal Grove’, it was probably the ‘High Forest’ of my clan name, the personal lands of my grandfather. In other words, Tiana’s birthplace.

Cilzemo? (Is that so)?” my aunt asked as she about-faced, looking for me for confirmation.

I nodded, “That is indeed my intended destination, Your Highness.”

“She brazenly admits it!” the green-haired fairy knight cried out. “Your Highness, we don’t need to hear more! She has openly confessed that her target is the king!”

The other fairies looked at my aunt, seemingly expecting something. Instant condemnation? But the woman did not strike me as hot-headed, and true to my expectation, Tenre ignored the outburst. 

Instead, she stated, addressing me, “A monster heading for the most sacred ground of the royal clan is quite a serious situation, young miss. Why did you suppose you would be allowed to go there?”

It didn’t sound like derision, the way she said it. It was more like she was handing the mike so I could state my position. It gave me a little more confidence that I might be dealing with a fair-minded person at last.

“It is my birthplace and my grandfather’s home, Your Highness.”

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The green-haired knight retorted, “You were banished from there, and from this country! It would be impossible to think you would be allowed back in!”

I ignored the woman as well. Sort of. I addressed my response to my aunt. “Your Highness, does someone here perhaps believe they have the right to turn me away without my grandfather’s approval?”

Again it was the knight who answered, sternly. “Do you know who we are, monster?!”

I finally chose to reply. I glared at her and declared, “Since you lack the courtesy to reciprocate my introduction with your own, rather obviously, I have utterly no knowledge of who you might be! Is the name of such a rude individual even worth learning?!”

“You dare…!”

“Mára!” Tenre snapped, as a gust of wind blew the fireball out of the angry fairy’s hand before even I realized she had formed it.

In the silence that followed, I wondered if ‘Mára’ had intended to shoot it at me, or just threaten me with it. Then I noticed that Durandal had already projected a shield of Earth mana in the same instant. 

I don’t know who sent the wind, but since it coordinated with her verbal reaction, I suspected Tenre had done it.

Quietly, I touched Durandal’s scabbard and muttered, “Drop the shield.”

Yes, My Lady.

As it dissipated, I could see a touch of curiosity in Tenre’s eyes. Her eyes flicked down to Durandal, but she returned her focus to me immediately.

“I’m curious what leads you to believe such a thing.” she stated.

I  actually had to rewind the tape in my mind and sort out what she was talking about. 

“I have already been assaulted once by a group of fairies who believed that they had such a right,” I replied.

The fairy on Tenre’s left snapped, “You were summoned to a noble hearing!”

Seeing me again pointedly ignoring the knight, Tenre’s mouth twisted. She tipped her head. “As My Lady has stated, you were summoned by a duly-constituted jury and fled.”

“Your Highness, a group of nobles declared themselves to have the right to put a princess on trial. I was taught that only the King or the Crown Prince have that right.”

“How interesting,” a male voice stated, incredibly close and directly behind me, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin. “I recall learning the very same law.”

It was an oddly familiar voice, although I couldn’t identify it. I looked all around me, trying to spot the location of the speaker. He had sounded like he was practically breathing down my neck, yet I could not find him. The other fairies were also looking around, equally confused.

But Tenre simply asked, while looking at me, “Is that you, Royal Brother?”

His voice chuckled, again uncomfortably close. Finally I picked up on the source. I could feel it. On the nape of my neck, there was a tiny magic formation, just the right size to have been drawn by a certain tiny, dragonfly-winged mage.

“A certain friend of mine left something on Tiana-innan‘s person for me,” the voice explained. “A convenient magic, although I suppose now that Her Highness knows it’s there, she’ll want it removed.”

It was obvious who that certain friend was. Kiki had secretly placed a ‘bug’ on me while she was catching a ride. Only, this bug included the ability to project a voice as well, a feature which I had never encountered before.

The voice went ahead and confirmed that theory by quietly adding, “Please don’t be angry at Kiki, Your Highness. I requested it of her.”

I had not yet identified the speaker. I was simply certain I had heard him before. 

“You’re my uncle?” I asked quietly. This native Dorian speaker was certainly none of the men I had grown up calling Uncle.

“Your mother’s father’s son,” he confirmed.

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Was this the crown prince? But I had never met him…

“And Kiki happens to know you? That’s quite a coincidence,” I noted.

“Not really,” he disagreed airily. “A mutual acquaintance sent word to me that you were coming, so I was watching for you.”

“Your Highness?” asked the fairy on her left asked Tenre, uncertainly.

“My Ladies, the voice you are hearing belongs to His Highness Prince Manlon,” Tenre declared. “Your Highness, I take it you are siding with this monster?”

The Crown Prince of Faerie, Prince Gelon, is the only true fairy male offspring. So this would have to be a fairling son. I had not heard that such a son existed.

“I take no sides in boring politics, Elder Sister,” Prince Manlon replied. My hope of having an ally began evaporating. Then why did you speak up?! I wanted to scream.

But he continued, after a slight pause, “I’m representing an interested party, who is interested in this child. That party requested that I speak for her.”

“Your Highness,” Mára stated. She was looking at me, but I knew it was because the voice was coming from my direction. The ‘Highness’ she was addressing was Prince Manlon. “The Fairy Court moved to deny royal status to this monster and exile her, some fifteen years ago. We have never rescinded that vote. We forbad her for life from Tëan Tír and the High Forest. And yet, in her own words, she has declared her intention to invade it!”

“I cannot disagree with any of those statements,” the prince answered. “They are all factual. But, I must also note that the King declared the lords to have no right to decide royal status.”

“The King was overruling the right of the lords to make law!”

“Family is defined by familial relationship, not law,” he countered. “If my sister bears a daughter, am I not that child’s uncle? Is she not my father’s grandchild? What value is some noble’s vote declaring it otherwise?”

I was beginning to feel pretty weird, stuck in the middle of this debate, with one side of it staring at me as they argued.

Tenre interrupted the argument. “Your Highness, we are not here to repeat the debate of fifteen years ago. The report is that she escaped the law in Atianus after attacking several mortals, assaulted and badly injured a fairy knight serving an Orestanian duke, then attacked a duly convened noble hearing in Royses, before fleeing here.”

I heard a dark chuckle from the unseen voice. “That’s an interesting thing you say there, Your Highness. And delightfully well-timed.”

“Well-timed?” Tenre asked, sounding a little perplexed.

The voice of Prince Manlon laughed. “Wonderfully so, considering the remarkably appropriate witness who has just arrived at the Valley Gate. Despite all the efforts of certain parties to prevent her arrival, I might add.”

I saw the faces of several fairies go blank. Tenre simply pursed her lips, her brows rising.

I had a decent guess who he was talking about.

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