Hello! We’re back to the Audaxi Chronicles today! Hope you’re all enjoying this content, and please share with your friends! In this chapter, we learn some more about our world here in Hireath and finally some answers on the Audaxi! (Also the picture kind of has nothing to do with this chapter; it’s just pretty, and I couldn’t find anything relating to what happens lol.)
The Audaxi Chronicles: Chapter 7
An hour later, Althea sits in a huge, airy room in an uncomfortable chair. A small wooden thing, she tries to shift her weight on the chair, hoping to find a comfortable position.
Somewhere deep in the heart of the castle, she sits at the end of a long, eye-shaped table. Inset on the table beneath a thin glass layer is a map of the Lands, deeply intricate and painted on what looks like some sort of cloth. And surrounding her and the table in similarly uncomfortable chairs are unfamiliar men.
Sitting around the table are, presumably, some of the King’s Chieftains. Nearest to her on her right sits a portly man, short and with a rounded stomach, with a thick black beard and a bright green doublet. Next to him is possibly the most average looking man Althea has seen, average height, build, clothes, hair. But he gives her a wry smile, from the corner of his mouth, one that ties a knot in her stomach.
On the other side of the table, three other men sit in various bright, colorful, and decorated clothes. One was Enlil, the Chieftain she had met earlier that day walking up to the prince’s chambers. And then, the king himself stands behind his chair directly opposite her. The chair has a high back filled with deep red plush, the only comfortable chair in the room. To her right, standing around the fireplace, are six younger men dressed haphazardly, armed to the teeth and lounging in a relaxed manner. All of them have deep, almost navy blue cloaks strewn over their shoulders.
Around them, the stone hall seems to trap a thin layer of cold around them. Big archways extend up every ten or so feet down the hall, each arcing up to a point in the middle of the ceiling. Fireplaces and torches line the two sides up to the table, and the big wooden doors Althea entered a few minutes ago on the opposite side of the hall behind where she sits stand tightly closed. Beyond the king, on opposite sides are two other, smaller, wooden doors.
“I’m sorry,” the average-looking man says, breaking the silence, “why exactly does she think this was an attack? All who witnessed claim it was an accident from the stag.”
“She,” Althea says, leaning in a little to bring the attention to her, “knows it was an attack. And she was the one who treated the patient, so likely she’s got a pretty good reason to believe so.”
The men around the table look ruffled, in varying degrees. To her right, the blue-cloaks, as she’s dubbed them, don’t seem to react at all.
The man right next to her coughs slightly into a handkerchief and then says, “I do not mean to insinuate anything, but you understand this is hard for us to consider. I do not know anything about your person, but many Vaga would not hesitate at the opportunity to attempt and wound the Highlanders, by any means possible.”
He gives her a pained smile, as though to say that he was not attempting to accuse her of anything. Althea responds with a small nod.
“I understand your misgivings, truly.” She says. “However, to disregard the fact that you have an assassin in your midst because I was the one to notice is folly. I…”
“I believe her.” The king interrupts her, with a finality in his voice. The men exchange glances with each other, obvious doubt and concern flickering between them, but none raise another argument. “And as my most trusted council, I hope you would trust in that belief.”
“Any idea who could have caused this?” One of the blue cloaks step up, a tall young man with firmly chiseled features. Sweeping brown hair and tanned skin, he looks like perhaps a year or so older than her, with a jeweled longsword on his hip. There is an intensity about him, and when she looks closer, Althea can see his jaw clenching and unclenching, his fist tight on his sword. Anger and passion seem to bleed from him.
The king sighs. “Brennan, I cannot be sure. We shall have to search the Villa, each noble home, and then the city.”
“Well.” Althea interrupts, and all eyes turn toward her. “Actually, I know who did it.”
She meets Brennan’s eyes, and she was surprised to find the deep brown often of the Lowland Ritona, the southernmost known Land. The Rinnreal court is a far way to come for a Ritonan; Althea can’t help but wonder what his story could possibly be.
Then, she realizes that everyone in the room was waiting for her to explain. “When we were walking up to his room, with Chief Enlil, we saw one of your nobles, right before we climbed the…second staircase. Tall, thin, a lean-looking face. Pale, old, Highland in birth. It was him.”
Blank faces look back at her from every man in the room.
“How…how do you know?” The man Brennan says, his anger a little lost and his voice a little softer.
Glancing at their faces, she sees that each man stares intently, brow furrowed and lips pursed. Althea presses down the urge to laugh at the similarities in their expressions. Moments like this happen to her often, especially as the Vaga ventured further from the mountains. Moments when people look at her, study her, trying to see the magic behind her. They narrow their eyes, looking past Althea to the Enchantress within her. Moments like this are when she remembers her reputation that spreads forward in front of her. And she smiles.
“That noble was dressed in black.” She says simply. “All in black. Already in mourning for a prince he hasn’t lost yet.”
Then, rabble bursts forth, as all the men attempt to voice their opinion on the subject to the king, who seems to be the only other in the room besides Althea who’s quiet. Eventually, Brennan’s voice breaks out over the rest.
“Sire, you cannot honestly believe that. I mean, what a man wears has nothing to do with his intentions.” He steps forward, next to the table. The other blue-cloaks walk up to the table, following his lead. Althea stands, slowly, and the blue-cloaks all seem to tense as she does.
“Actually, I’d beg to differ.” She says. “What one chooses to wear reflects not only what one is thinking but also one’s intentions. And he intended to try and avoid suspicion, so likely after hearing of the prince’s, if short, demise, he hoped to fade into the monochrome folds of the mourning.”
Her mouth gets away from her, and she can’t stop it from continuing. “Anyway, who are you to say otherwise?”
The young man looks her up and down, not degrading but judging harshly, and he steps directly up to her. He is about a foot from her face, and he gazes down at her with hard eyes.
“I am Sir Brennan Trask, son and represent of Chieftan Gile Trask of Ritona, head of the Audaxi brotherhood, the ancient protectorate of the Highland prince, and second and protector to the Highland prince,” he says, “that’s who.”
Ice drips from his voice, a cold hard challenge. Althea meets his eyes and his challenge, unwilling to be scorned. She opens her mouth to respond, when another voice interrupts.
“Brennan.” The king says, firmly laying down a line between the two of them. Once they look back to him, he continues. “Go into the noble’s Villas, lock them down, and find anyone who is attempting to leave. Since it has been about two hours since Nolyn was saved, the man has probably heard, and he is probably not looking to stick around.”
He seems to consider for a second before adding, “Check Bas Nexus’s Villa first. From Althea’s description, that is, at least, who I thought first. He would stand to gain most if Nolyn…passed.”
Brennan gives her one last glare before sweeping out of the room with the rest of the blue cloaks, presumably the Audaxi. Only at this moment does her surprise really sink in about the Audaxi. She has heard the stories, as every child in the Lands does, about the mythical seven knights, a mysterious brotherhood who were always the heroes in both Highland and Vaga children’s stories. Supposedly, they had rode with the Highland prince in the days before the Conqueror Rinn through the Lands since the times of the Ancient Men, protecting all the Lands. They drove out monsters, saved damsels, led armies, and protected the Lands in all sorts of innocent and exciting stories. She had no idea the Audaxi still existed.
“Althea.” The king’s voice jerks her out of her thoughts. “I promised you a warm bed and a meal, so Enlil here will take you to one of our spare bedrooms in the castle, if you would. Get some rest, and hopefully, if all goes well, I would like to see you in court tomorrow morning.”
Enlil stands, nodding slightly to his king, and gestures to Althea. Before she’s taken four steps, a hand rests on her arm, turning her back around. The king smiles down at her, that world-weary smile, and suddenly, the king is gone and Ri the father is back.
“Thank you, again.” He says softly, lightly, but loud enough to make his Chieftains exchange more suspicious glances.
Althea returns his smile, and then she follows Enlil out of the hall, her exhaustion catching up with her and her mind filled with soft beds and warm blankets.
Hope you enjoyed this! Please leave a like or comment, and tune in next week for our last point-of-view change to our very own Prince Nolyn!