Sorry for the very long delay, I wanted to focus on my exams since I was a bit lazy and had to re-take other exams too.
As you have maybe noticed some names/information and parts of worldbuilding (like magic systems, what are Mârdens/etc) are missing. I didnt forget these things but rather planned them for the upcoming chapters afer the events that happen at the moment are over. Worldbuilding is a crucial part of a book and I wanted to get a grip of the story first, then polish the world. I hope you can bear some more chapters without exact details.
Back in the market, I go around the stall of the merchant I just left behind. The man behind just stares at me with a flabbergasted expression, he probably has an idea what usually happens behind the door.
“I suggest you look for another employer, your current one won't be able to resume his business.”
I don't wait for an answer and go along with the flow of the people in the market, seconds later I'm far from his view.
I now know what happened after my fall but the story from merchant gave me new insight into my and fathers appearance on the battlefield.
“I doubt that anyone outside the palace has more information on this, that means I've to get inside the palace and find Laruth, as my personal captain, he should be around the body double of me and know more about what happened in the palace.”
But to enter the palace one would need to be employed there or be a noble. To get hired was out of question, the usual checks on newly hired servants are much more strict and I couldn't leave how I pleased.
That only left being a noble but the only identity I have is myself as the princess and I didn't know if it was the best idea to burst through the front entrance as myself.
I could go back through the escape route and take the other way into the current palace but I couldn't check the exit, maybe Fiven had his troops on guard there. Sneaking inside like a thief was impossible also, the risk of getting detected was too high.
The minutes I was thinking about other ways to get inside the palace, fate decided to take mercy on me. I left the market to have find a less crowded place, unknowingly my feet brought me in front of tavern I knew.
The tavern is often talked about by the palace guards and frequently visited by them. Before I could leave the place I saw a familiar head under the soldiers, it was Laruth.
My heart made small jump from joy and I started to fight my way through the crowd. Before I could reach him my hand halted, the joy over seeing him nearly commit a grave mistake.
After taking some paper and writing a small note, I ‘bump’ into him and slip the note into his pockets.
He turns around and I just hurriedly excuse myself “Sorry, my mistake”, and rush out of the tavern.
Outside I take a look back, Laruth noticed the paper and wildly looks around the tavern, looking for the person that placed it inside this pockets.
I put up my hood again and leave the area.
I sit next to an old building, when I was young this was a training facility for soldiers but after my father re-structured the military they moved elsewhere. Nowadays it's empty, perfect for meeting without being seen.
A cloaked person comes from the opposite alley, heading straight for me. I stand up and point to the side, into the alley for the back entrance. The person follows me and I open the backdoor, he enters first and I close the door after I entered.
The person removes his hood and Laruth stands in front of me.
His black short trimmed hair and beard, the scars of fights and his bulky stature, a man slightly past the prime of his life but still a man of strength. The soft and warm brown eyes, hiding the sharp mind of the warrior and commander. She often saw it through the time he took care of her but right now it feels like she sees it for the first time.
Before he can speak I run to him and embrace him, I really missed having his attitude and aura around. After I free him from my hug he smiles.
“The nobles would be shocked if they see the princess hugging a soldier”, he laughs.
“You know I don't care about them, I care about the people that are close to me and after this whole mess happened I thought you were killed because you have served as my close companion for many years.”
He looks troubled after I finished, something happened.
“The man who stops me from working under you has yet to be born, I won't die so easily. It was you back in the tavern, am I right? I could never forget these eyes no matter how much you try to hide them.”
“Yes I was there, I wanted to contact you and find a way inside the palace but then I found you in the tavern. I guess fate was shining on me.”
“Indeed, inside the palace you would have never found me. I'm excused from service, on probation if you want to say so.”
“When ‘you’ went to battle against the troops in the city, Fiven guards restrained me when I wanted to join the assault. After you were injured they even denied me the right to see you or stand guard in front of your room. I made a scene and got excused from your service until ‘you’ had recovered. I tried to fight the decision but no-one besides yourself ever held me in high regards because of my birth as commoner. The other soldiers could only watch, I don't blame them though.”
“Do you think there are any trustworthy soldiers you could contact?”, I ask. “I would love to get in contact with some people inside but I can't use my normal contacts because they could be monitored and even if I could get my maids to spy it would raise suspicion as to why they suddenly are interested in soldiers movements or Fiven’s politics.”
“I could think of one or two but why? Did you already have a plan or something?.”
“As you can see I'm healthy and alive and Fiven is planning something, it would be easier if I could know some details about the ‘princess’ in my stead that's currently confined there. I plan to sneak inside the palace but I’d prefer to have some information beforehand. Up until now Fiven has been keeping up the farce but I know that for his ambitions the fake copies of me and my father are not necessary.
The Council of the Lords is soon and with the royal bloodline gone by then, they will need the pick a next emperor, even if someone doesn't have the ancient bloodline. Fiven is the most powerful Lord and he has enough backing to reach for the crown. If he succeeds, the coronation is the least of our problems, I fear for every commoner in this empire.
But if I can get some background information on this whole thing, I can make a grand appearance in the Council and stop his plans, more or less I hope.”
“A small schedule for such a plan. Infiltration, gathering information, apprehending an usurper and not getting killed on the way.
But I think I know just the man for the information gathering, he has a similar story like the two of us. I’m more a father figure to him than a commander, he'll gladly help and won't raise any suspicion.
I guess you have an idea how you want to infiltrate the palace but I would suggest you slip in during the preparation of the Council, the busiest time and the palace guards will be under full load. Mistakes happen more often than you think.”
He smiles a devilish grin after his last sentence.
“But what should I do during this whole plot? I can't enter the palace or disappear for a long amount of time, they are monitoring me. I doubt they have any idea that I'm meeting you right now but I can't keep this up much longer.”
“Do you still live by yourself in that small mansion? I would need a hiding place and if I remember correctly the basement hold some interesting features? Features that can be used to enter and leave how you please.”
“Sure but how would it help you? I can hide some people there but I think there are better places to hide for you.”
“It's not for me, I have to companions that are currently in a less fortunate position and I would like to have them in a spot where I know they are safe.”
“Hooo”, he raises his eyebrows , “I can think of one person but the other? Mind filling me in?”
“You will see, but I hope he solved the little problem we had with our foundling.”
They talked for a while before separating again, Roxanne heading towards the shadows of the streets while Laruth went to prepare for his new guests.