A song of grod: chapter nineteen

Still rough, obviously and there were some major changes. Branadoc is going to be left behind in the Royal Chambers in the new version. His story arc would take about 25 to 30 thousand words to do properly and I need to keep this book under 100,000 words.

HONOR

///Descriptive paragraph

            Honor stalked through the front gate of the Glass House Penal Barracks as if she owned the place.  Which technically she did. It fell under the entailment of one her titles. She couldn’t remember which one it was, she just had to sign some paperwork once every two years granting full authority to whatever Band-Colonel the orc regiments had put in charge of it for the duration of his posting there. 

            The orcs liked to keep any capital posting in heavy rotation.  Power goes with permanence, and they didn’t like their senior officers in any one posting too long. Especially in the capital where they were going to make connections at court.

            So, while she theoretically owned the place, the squatters had some very powerful squatter’s rights.  

            Fortunately, the orcs did not like to get involved in palace politics beyond the expected duties of “stuff this nobleman in a cell!” Or, “cut that nobleman’s head off.  NO! Not this one, that one.  Oh well, if he was here, he must have done something wrong.”

            She walked up the clerk at the front desk.  Grod was in tow behind her with the still unconscious Bryan draped over one shoulder.  Fannita and Saluriman were again playing the part of servants following their mistress to jail or possibly their master into jail. It didn’t matter as servants didn’t count either way.

            The clerk rose to attention and saluted, “Your highness…”

            “Shut up. I’m not here,” Honor cut him off, “this is political.”

            He shut up instantly.  

            “Conduct me, immediately, to the Special Purpose Area,” Honor commanded in her most regal tone.

            “Ma’am I’m supposed to notify the watch officer when you…” The Corporal began respectfully.

            Honor knew they didn’t have time for this, “No Corporal, you have to get me to the VIP cells or be executed.”

            The orc paled, or at least she thought he paled, it was always a little hard to tell with the green ones and jerked his head in a nod.  He bellowed to a Grunt (the lowest orc rank) to man his post for minute.  

            “Corporal,” the skinny young orc seemed to object, “if the Watch Officer finds out…”

            The Corporal backhanded him into silence, “I know! Which is why I ain’t wasting time talking to you, dickhead!”  He turned back to Honor with a curt bow, “this way your Highness.” And led the way.

            The ball of tension in Honor’s stomach unwound just a bit as they were rung inside. Breakfast had worked out fine, but the rest of the day had gone to hell after that. Was something finally going to work out today? She wondered.

            “You ain’t seen nothing!” The Corporal bellowed importantly to the orcs in Receiving.  Honor gave them a cool, emotionless glance through half closed eyelids.  They immediately found anything else to do. Honor could read it in their faces. At least the transition to a new administration was going much more smoothly than the last time.  No civil war and hardly anyone getting killed.  And what few there are, are apparently getting handled discreetly.  Something of a letdown, though.  It was all a little dull for orc tastes.

            They proceeded down the corridor at a quick pace. The ball of tension in Honor’s stomach was returning tenfold as she heard their footsteps echo off the cold stone walls of the prison.  No one in the royal family would admit it but they all had nightmares about this place.  All dynasties were built on feet of clay, and if the clay crumbled this was where you would be dragged off to in the middle of the night. 

            The smell of the place penetrated everything.  Open sewage of the slop buckets, vomit on the cell floors, stale urine, and years of compounded body odor, all combining into a morass that weighed down all hope.  There wasn’t much in the way or screaming.  Orcs didn’t tolerate that kind of nonsense.  But there was the occasional distant sob of hopelessness that in its way was so much worse.

            It wasn’t just humans.  Glass House could hold a member of any species. Or at least any that were allowed to serve in the ///Hebrsilian military. Except for dwarves.  In theory they were religiously restricted from being held in captivity by orcs, so the kingdom was obliged to accommodate that, by letting them handle penal matters themselves. In practice it was prohibitively expensive to build a prison that a dwarf couldn’t tunnel out of.

            An inky blackness began to hang over the corridor as they proceeded further into building where no daylight was permitted entry.

            Since she had nothing to do besides walk, she finally had the time to worry about Bryan.  The only reason he was alive at all was because the minotaur had wanted to capture him.  But he had taken a bad hit to the side of the head and those beasts had trouble gauging their strength at the best of times. His breathing was a little ragged for her taste. She had wanted to use the healing potion on Bryan but Saluriman had advised against it.  A healing potion only speeds up natural healing, if Bryan had taken an injury that would kill him if unattended, then the potion would just speed up a process of finishing him off.

            If Bryan didn’t wake up soon, they would need to get someplace where there was enough time and privacy for Saluriman to activate a healing spell.

            “Halt!” She heard an angry voice from behind them.  The Corporal froze then turned around.

            “Proceed at once!” She ordered the Corporal.  But he just stood there with his body locked. While the owner of the angry voice approached.  Honor swallowed hard as she felt her throat tighten.  She made her face a mask of Royal Authority before turning haughtily on her heel.  “Who-o-o-o may ask are you?”  She drawled on that first “o,” dragging it out to accentuate the unimportance of whatever personage had just dared to interrupt her.

            A young and, as sure as a dragon hoards gold, good-looking dark elf snapped to attention and cut her a sharp salute. “Captain Cillian ///DE from the first chapter///. I am tonight’s watch officer.”  He cut the salute without waiting for any kind of acknowledgement and brushed past her.  “That is the former Regent I assume?”

            He grabbed Bryan’s unconscious head by the hair and pulled it up to look at his face, a cruel smile on his own.

            Honor’s fear was replaced with fury.  How dare he lay a hand on Bryan like that?

            “Ah good,” the Captain dropped Bryan’s head and turned to face Honor.  “Your party was expected.  I’ll be conducting you to the Special Purpose Area myself.”

            Fury decided that fear needed to be the driver’s seat after all and handed over the reins of Princess Honor.  Her mind raced through several possibilities.  If they had just been caught there would be more of them than just this one officer.  Since it was just one officer…

            Honor glanced at the good Banner Sergeant, who appeared to be using Bryan’s torso to conceal his face from the Dark Elf.  Maybe murdering him isn’t on the table, I certainly don’t have time to ask Grod what the problem is. 

            “Excuse me a moment,” he brushed past her without waiting for her acknowledgement.

            The Captain addressed the Corporal.  “You abandoned your post. Do you choose to defend or justify your disobedience to lawful orders?”  The orc UCMJ wasn’t big on rights of the accused.  Their view was you wouldn’t have been accused of something if you hadn’t done something.  Therefore, an official accusation was not much different than a conviction. 

            “No sir,” the Corporal was resigned to his fate.

            “Do you accept Non-Judicial Punishment?”

            “Yes sir.”  In theory the Corporal could refuse NJP in favor of a court martial.  In practice those had a 95% conviction rate, and the sentence was always death because Orcs do NOT like barracks lawyers.

            The Captain nodded in satisfaction.  Find the Queen’s… The King’s secretary and inform Muhira that the package has been delivered.” He glanced meaningfully at Honor, “but with a different deliveryman than was expected. Then report to the punishment block.  Twenty lashes and one month confinement when not on duty. Bread and water. Do you understand… Grunt?”  Captain Cillian tore the Corporal’s rank insignia off his epaulets.

            “Yes sir! Thank you, sir,” The orc now liberated from the crushing burden of his rank took to his heels, he knew he had gotten off pretty lightly. The dark elf turned back to Princess Honor. 

            Think, you Royal idiot, Honor railed at herself.  If El Ruyniad had stuck to the plan Perseverance gave him instead of improvising, Bryan and Bran would have been arriving here anyway and Persey would naturally have had a reception committee on hand. Right, I’m on Persey’s side here, so act like your gorgon of a sister.

            “You are my escort?” Honor lifted an eyebrow and tapped her foot like Perseverance did, although that worked much better with Persey’s wooden shoes.

            “Yes, Ma’am,” Captain Cillian’s voice was smooth as glass.

            “Then why the hell didn’t you meet me at the front desk?” She snapped at him imperiously.

            “I…uh…” The Dark Elf’s confidence was taking a short vacation, “I was called away.”

            “There was something more import than this?”  She tried to tap her foot louder. It wasn’t working. Did Persey have taps screwed into her shoes? 

            “T-trouble in the North Wing,” the Captain stammered.

            “There is always trouble in the North Wing Captain, that is what it is there for.”

            “I thought that…”

            “Under no circumstances are you permitted to use the term, ‘thought’ in my presence again.  Say, ‘yes, your Highness, I understand.’”

            “Of course, Ma’am.”

            Honor’s eyebrows went up as she glared at him.

            “Yes, your Highness, I understand.”

            Facial gymnastics concluded; she nodded her head sharply. “Proceed, Captain.”

            The rest of the journey downward into the bowels of Glass House was made in silence.  The Captain’s pace was a rapid staccato beat of shiny boots striking on the stone steps, until they arrived at the Special Purpose Area.  Also known as the VIP cells.  Typically, these cells were unguarded since the dark elves didn’t trust orcs on a monthly salary that was well below the poverty line to guard prisoners who could offer a solid gold oliphaunt as a bribe.

            The Captain produced a set of keys and started to unlock one of the cells.

            “The Royal Quarters,” Honor stated while examining her fingernails. 

            “Quee… King Perseverance had instructed me to reserve those for Prince Branadoc.”

“Bran was regrettably unrealistic about his change in status.”  Honor glanced at Bryan and had to fight off a wave of relief as he was starting to stir. “Our brother may have made a bad mistake in politics, but he is still our brother.”

The dark elf paused for a second before replying, “naturally, your Highness.”  Captain Cillian continued down the hall for a few more cells until reaching the one at the very end.

It had to be said, the cell was designed to mock its inhabitant with its grandeur.  The bars while made of heavy wrought iron were intricately inlaid with silver that was delicately molded to appear as grape vines creeping up the bars. The walls were covered in murals, painted to resemble the tapestries in the White Room.  Although significantly altered with an emphasis on famous and bloody executions from the kingdom’s colorful history; although most of the color was red.  The bed was a four poster job with the posts beautifully carved from ///Xandelian Mahogany, at first glance the carvings mimicked the grapevines on the bars but upon closer inspection the grapes themselves were tiny nooses. The bedding was made from Wèizào-Han silk, it took 5,000 silkworms to make a single pound of fabric, the worms themselves were specially bred, carefully dieted and frequently flogged into producing the perfect fabric. The Wèizào-Han rarely sold it outside their borders, due to the fact that it could stop an arrow from penetrating (too deeply) into flesh. The weave pattern when viewed from above appeared to be a wicker basket, the kind used to catch heads under the business end of a guillotine.

Captain Cillian held open the door and bowed to Princess Honor who swept into the staggeringly plush jail, gesturing for her retinue to follow.

The dark elf looked at Sal and Fanny then pointed at a discreet door at the back of the cell, “servants’ quarters are there.”

Fanny wept into her hands and Sal put a hand her shoulder, both hung their heads in perfect dejection, the very picture of the service class condemned to the same fate as their master.

“Just put him on the bed, orc,” Honor gave an airy wave to Grod.

The Banner-Sergeant silently dipped his head in compliance and gently laid Bryan on the expensive as all hell sheets.

“It’s my wife’s birthday.  I really need to buy her some flowers,” Captain Cillian the dark elf said from outside the cell.

Honor saw Grod’s eyes snap open, as his body went tense, he sought Honor’s gaze and made a small shake of his head.  She couldn’t figure out what the suddenly urgent problem was, so she went with staying in character, “why on the Wide Earth is that remotely my problem Captain?”

The cell door slammed shut with an enormous clang.  Captain Cillian spun the key in the lock before answering. “Because that wasn’t the right passphrase, to the challenge question, your Highness.”

Princess Honor felt all the energy drain out her.  Sometimes defeat can be quite relaxing.  Those times when you know you’ve been cornered, and this is an absolutely a no way out of it situation. Nothing you can try will work, so you don’t need to try anything. It’s very peaceful.

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