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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Diamond Elf - Chapter 4
I realized that not much of interest happened in chapter 3, so I am posting chapter 4 at the same time. The story starts to pick up from here. :-)
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Gabriel had borrowed one of Chelindra’s more roomy black uniforms, and now followed her into the King’s audience chamber. She was clad in a lovely lavender dress, and her hair looked more brown than he remembered it. She curtsied beautifully, and he bowed, taking care to remain one step behind and to the right of her.
“Chelindra, others have told me about this young man’s deeds, but I would like for you to introduce him to me, and recount his actions,” King Collin ordered.
“You’re Majesty, may I present my temporary Chief Coordination Officer, Gabriel. It was Gabriel who helped me keep the people of QueensHeart Castle calm and orderly after the reclamation, and it was he who ensured that everything ran smoothly during our return to the Palace. He was General Grey’s most valuable slave, but now, if he so chooses, he will be a valuable addition to the Armintan Citizenry,” Chelindra informed the King.
Gabriel was still holding his bow, and trying hard not to blush.
“What say you, Gabriel, do you wish to be a citizen of Arminta?” King Collin asked.
“Yes sire,” Gabriel answered.
“Wonderful, then I shall arrange for you to be employed here in the Palace, for I have need for someone such as you.”
“No, thank you, Sire,” Gabriel stammered.
“What?” Demanded the King.
“I beg your pardon, Sire, but you promised each slave a choice. Well, I choose to keep my position as Chief Coordination Officer to Commander Chelindra, for I feel that is where my talents will best be used,” Gabriel said, still holding his bow.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake man! Stop your obeisance. I am not a tyrant, and you are no longer a slave,” King Collin sighed. “If that is what you choose, and if Chelindra doesn’t object, then you may do so.”
Chelindra gave Gabriel a half exasperated look. “You’re not still operating under the delusion that I am your new owner, are you?”
“No.” Gabriel forced himself to look Chelindra in the eyes. “I truly wish to continue on as Chief Coordinating Officer for the time being.”
“I see.” Chelindra really could see how serious he was, and had no heart to deny him the first real choice he had made for himself. “Then, our army is lucky to have you.”
“Well, my dear,” King Collin recalled Chelindra's attention to him. “Do you plan to stay in the palace, now that you have reclaimed the last of Arminta, and evicted all of the enemy?”
“No, Sire. It is vitally important that I take some time to patrol the border between the Empire and us. If I do not, what else will discourage the Emperor from trying to re-invade our kingdom?” Chelindra rhetorized.
King Collin sighed. “Sometimes I swear that you work harder than I do. Can’t you at least linger a few days to rest?”
“No, Sire, I can’t. I promise I will rest after Arminta is safe once and for all,” Chelindra vowed seriously.
“Very well then.” King Collin turned his attention to Gabriel. “I expect you to look after Chelindra. Don’t let her work herself to death, and don’t let her take foolish risks with her life.”
“I will try my best, You’re Majesty,” Gabriel promised.
Chelindra shook her head in amused disbelief.
King Collin returned his attention to Chelindra. “I know you’ve had the Mistress of the Palace Supplies restocking your supply wagon all morning. So, just when do you plan to leave again?”
“First thing in the morning,” Chelindra stated. The news visibly saddened the King.
“In that case, I suggest you play a few rounds of chess with me after dinner,” King Collin ordered, despite his words that implied otherwise.
“Of course, Sire. It would be my pleasure.” Chelindra smiled. She turned to Gabriel. “Come Gabriel, let me show you to the barracks and the soldiers dining hall. Most of your fellow freed slaves should be there getting ready to eat.”
Gabriel nodded, and followed Chelindra out of the throne room. He did not hear King Collin quietly converse with his wife, but Chelindra’s sensitive ears did, and she was amazed to feel herself blush!
“I was beginning to wonder if Chelindra would ever find a man that interested her,” the King told his wife.
“I agree. There’s something about that young man that seems to intrigue Chelindra. They would make a lovely couple,” Queen Haylee remarked.
Thankfully, Chelindra was able to mentally close her ears to the rest of the conversation.
Gabriel noticed the young woman that had been standing near the King as he first greeted the slaves. He had not been specifically informed of her identity, but he had heard enough about the residents of the palace to guess that this must be Princess Amara. Gabriel absently noted that she was fairly pretty, and would likely grow into a renowned beauty.
He didn’t really give her a second thought, but she was staring at him as if he represented some sort of enigma, and he responded as any slave would. He gave her a reassuring smile.
Slaves were taught to give two looks to everyone; the main look was respectful interest in what was being said, mixed with eager obedience, and the second was the reassuring smile. As in, “Don’t worry, I’ll see to it that your orders are carried out.”
Princess Amara, whose mother had been a witch before she died in childbirth, could see a unique and completely unexpected aura around the former slave. She bit her lip ever so slightly in puzzled concentration, and ignored the odd tugging in her loins that happened when she looked at him.
Soon, Chelindra and Gabriel were touring the nearly empty barracks, and following the stragglers into the soldier’s dining hall. It was Chelindra’s habit to eat with her soldiers most of the time, as she felt doing so helped prove she was a General worthy of loyalty. As a result, her soldiers were used to seeing her dressed as if she had just come from the King’s court.
They were also used to seeing her in uniform, and all felt as if they would be able to recognize her anywhere, whether in the middle of a crowded battlefield or a crowded ballroom. This was a good thing, since they all looked to her to keep their morale high. They knew that if she was on the field, they would win no matter what.
Chelindra felt the eyes of her soldiers on her, and gave them a smile of general goodwill. Gabriel observed the very brief expression on her face when she turned away from her men. It was a grimace of burden, and he realized that in the ten years that she had been King Collin’s Main General, she must have led many of her soldiers to their deaths. Yet, she had to continually pretend that everything was going to work in their favor.
Gabriel quietly pondered all of the information he had ever heard about Chelindra. The thing that Master Grey had repeated most often was that even though Chelindra herself often won the battle, she always lost a good portion of her troops. General Grey agreed that the Emperor’s strategy would eventually work. The Emperor would win in the end because there wouldn’t be anyone left in Arminta to resist joining the Empire.
Gabriel now fully realized just why King Collin was so willing to grant the slaves citizenship; he needed to gain as many new citizens as he could if their kingdom was going to survive.
Chelindra and Gabriel sat at the table with the senior officers, and Gabriel listened as they conducted an informal staff meeting. After dinner, Chelindra sent Gabriel off to get some sleep, and went to play chess with King Collin.
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