Miss Aralin nodded to my words of assurance, then stated, shakily, “Certainly, Your Ladyship. His Lordship should meet you here shortly. I’ll go prepare tea.”
She all but ran from the room.
Dilorè had an amused tone as she noted, “I assume she wouldn’t react that way to an ordinary baron’s daughter. It seems they know your alias, here.”
I nodded. “I didn’t expect it, but it seems so.”
“Wasn’t that still a bit over the top?” Chiara asked, her eyes large. “I know Pendor was once a kingdom, but in the end, you’re just the ducal daughter here.”
I shook my head. “The kingdom included the counties of East Pendor and Lower Pendor, and also Teriedor for a while. That isn’t what she’s afraid of.”
Ryuu stated, “She was scared of your father, right?”
It would have been surprising if he had worked that out on his own, but I had told my party compatriots the reason I had never gone ‘home’ to Pendor.
With a nod, I agreed, “Duke Egon’s memory is still haunting this place, and the people of Pendor know I’m a vampire also. When ‘Lady Sasara’ accepted me as fosterling, her vassals filed a grievance with the king over it. Once they received support in the privy council, she had to assure them that I would never inherit the duchy.”
“If they hadn’t accepted it, what would have happened?”
I shrugged. “Uncle Owen would have made my fostering in the Palace official, I suppose. I ended up as an unofficial fosterling in the end, anyway, since the whole episode made Mother change her mind about sending me to Pendor.”
Rather than any of the images of nobility one might have– greedy autocrat, sophisticated blue-blood or medieval lord– Baron Anto turned out to be a harried-looking, bespectacled man of about thirty who looked like he should have been an accountant. He entered through a different door than Miss Aralin had departed through, and the sight I caught through the open door suggested a personal office. He could have entered at any time. My guess was, he had been mentally preparing himself.
As he came in, I and the others rose, but he frantically gestured and begged, “Please stay seated, My Lady!”
“My Lord, I’m just a noble daughter,” I told him as I resumed my seat. “Please relax.”
He gave me a perplexed look, then shook his head. “My Lady, we are aware of your real identity. It is not possible in this duchy to think of the duke’s daughter as ‘just a noble daughter’.”
I sighed and narrowly avoided rolling my eyes. “I’m confident that my traveling alias shouldn’t be common knowledge. Why did your office manager know?”
Said office manager had chosen that moment to return with the tea. I felt her freeze behind me.
With another sigh, I added, “I should like to drink that tea which you took care to prepare for us. Please don’t spill it.”
“Y.. yes, My Lady,” she stammered, and proceeded to serve.
Lucy occasionally pops out of her stone to look around, especially when we arrive at new places. The palace staff had managed in one night to whip up a setting and a pendant chain for her stone, so it now graced my décolletage in a manner that looked perfectly in place with my visiting dress. She appeared now and went to investigate the pouring tea, nearly spooking Miss Aralin into spilling it.
“P… pixie?” she stammered. Lucy’s illusory form is nowhere near big enough to be a pixie, but the average city dweller wouldn’t know that.
“She’s a very clever Light spirit,” I answered with a smile. “I apologize if she startled you.”
“N… no, it’s quite alright, My Lady,” she answered with a quick shake of the head. Losing interest in the matter, Lucy went off to inspect other places in the room.
After he recovered from his own bemusement, the baron returned to the subject. “When the Duchess informed the barons of Duke Parna’s rebellion, she also told us about his attempt to arrest you, My Lady. She told us to ignore any warrant to arrest you. And she told us your traveling alias, in case he published it.”
Thanks, Mother. I need a new alias, now.
I accepted a teacup and saucer from Miss Aralin. The custom is to wait for the host to take a sip– to prove there’s no poison, maybe? I don’t know– but I really wanted take a drink to wet my suddenly dry mouth. I know that it had been perfectly possible that Parna knew my alias, but I had been using it freely while hoping it wasn’t the case. It probably was, if Mother spread that information around.
“The baronial council issued an order to arrest any foreigners attempting to inquire about or apprehend you under either name, so local constables should know that name as well, My Lady. I apologize, but we felt it was important to take the precaution.”
He took a sip of his tea, and I gratefully sipped mine. At first, I wondered about why the Fate magic hadn’t interfered with the decision to protect me, but then realized it had probably occurred after Diurhimath broke the spell.
“I see,” I mused as I set the cup back onto the saucer. “Thank you for your forethought.”
He nodded, then wondered. “May I ask when you arrived? I should have been informed if you were on any passenger manifest.”
You should have what? I wanted retort. To communicate that, I had to restrict myself to an inquiring tip of the head. Noble girl manners and all that.
With an apologetic smile, he explained, “Obviously, if we were to protect you, we had to be aware of your presence. I’ve had my clerks reviewing all incoming and outgoing passenger manifests.”
I nodded. “We just arrived. I also doubt that they requested a passenger manifest from a boat belonging to a fairy prince.”
“A boat belonging to…” Aralin yelped, then shut up, mid-retort. “Sorry.”
I gave her a tight nod and smile, then told the baron, “That brings me to my reason for coming today. Mother has matters she must attend to, and has asked me to go see to some trouble in the Oserian Highlands in her place. I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t know the transportation routes of Pendor well, and I don’t know what obstructions the war may have created. May I ask you to provide guidance in this matter?”
He had begun looking uncomfortable as soon as I said where I was going. He cleared his throat and then asked, “My Lady is only about sixteen or so?”
“I’ll turn sixteen in the Month of First Harvest.”
“You’re still fifteen, then,” he said, then shook his head. “My Lady, it’s awfully dangerous in Oseri right now. Perhaps they have failed to clearly explain the situation to Her Grace. For her to send a noble daughter as young as you into such a place…”
He cut off as I held up my hand. I was touched that he was thinking of me as a young girl instead of a monster, but I had to stop that thinking. “Baron Anto, I feel confident that there are girls my age currently on the front lines, facing rebel soldiers. Why should Mother exempt me from service? Especially considering that I am already a Royal Knight?”
While he sat, visibly searching his mind for an appropriate response, I took another sip. Mhm. Miss Aralin’s tea received a passing grade. A bit on the weak side, though. She probably rushed the brewing time.
I set the cup down again and stated, “In addition, my companions are quite dependable, My Lord. I feel quite safe with them at my back. So, may I depend upon your people to arrange a rapid trip to Oseri for me?”
His worried frown didn’t go away, but he nodded. “…yes, of course, My Lady. But I think you can do just as well by simply proceeding to the railing travel station.”
I puzzled at that term. “To the what?”
“Ah… I’ve heard you’ve spent your years mostly in Atianus. Our railing travel technology hasn’t reached beyond Doria’s borders yet.”
I was hearing two Dorian words, ‘Railing’ or ‘bar’ and ‘travel’ or maybe ‘journey’.
“Rail way?” I heard Ryuu mutter, translating into Ostish as he stared at me. It finally clicked in my mind.
Dilorè was also looking at me, confused. I told her. “I think it’s like the aerial tram they have in Tëan Tír for the mortals.”
I looked back at the baron. “This is the first time I’ve heard of it, but going according to the words, is it a carriage that runs on rails?”
He smiled with a confirming nod. “Exactly, My Lady. A Reladorian fellow brought the idea to our land about ten years ago. Her Grace was very enthusiastic and invested considerable money in the project. We in Anto finally received our own station only last year.”
“And I can get to Oseri using it?”
“I’ll have to confirm whether or not they are allowing the public coaches to run all the way to Oseri, but you can definitely travel as far as Narses. You should be able to catch a ride with Her Grace’s militia from there. I’ll have Miss Aralin accompany you to the station and help you arrange your tickets.”
He didn’t have to sound so relieved to be quickly done with us, I sulked to myself, but kept the thought off my face.
A couple hours later, at the station, which looked like a railway depot in Nineteenth Century America, while we watched a bonafide ‘iron horse’ locomotive chugging toward the platform from straight out of the Old West, I heard Ryuu muttering to himself, “Hontōni densha da.“
I didn’t understand his words, but I could easily guess what he was saying. It was either ‘they weren’t kidding’, or ‘it’s an actual train!’
I smiled at him and said, “This is nothing. When we visit Tëan Tír again, I’ll have to show you the aerial tram.”
It was certainly no bullet train. We had to travel only two hundred miles to reach the capital city, Narses, but it would be an overnight trip.
“They have to turn the engine around and reconnect all the cars,” Miss Aralin told us, raising her voice to be heard over the sound of squealing brakes as the beast came to a stop. “It will be some time before they are ready to let you get on. Your first time on a rail coach can be confusing, so I’ll stay with you until they call for boarding.”
The term ‘train’ didn’t seem to have a Dorian cognate. I kept hearing that term ‘rail coach’ instead.
I was honestly grateful to her. For all my Earthly sophistication, I had no idea what the process was for getting on this beast.