“Are we in trouble?” Grace asked.
“Not exactly,” Riffen laughed. “It’s a little bit more complicated than that. Please sit so we can discuss what has happened. I’m sure you have plenty of questions.”
Sigthyme, Tak, Grace, and Juniper all exchanged glances before taking seats in front of Riffen. Tak, feeling uncomfortable sitting in the chair, stood behind the other three.
It was strange to be sitting in this room after what had taken place. Only a few days ago they were fighting Krumb and his group of bandits in the caves beneath the city. They had managed to rescue Riffen, but were arrested by The Pact of Thorns and thrown in prison for several days. Now they were brought to The Soulon Emissary and they sat in a room with a partially recovered Riffen and Ambassador Pria. Two royals in a very nice, royal emissary. Riffen almost didn’t look like the Riffen they knew for several reasons. One was the leather eye patch over his right eye where he had been attacked by Krumb’s people and the second reason was that he was wearing fancy garb instead of his usual armor.
Once the group had taken their seats, Riffen turned to his cousin, Pria.
“Uh, Pria. Can you give me a minute with my friends here,” He asked.
“Prince Riffen, I do not think it’s a good idea to -” Pria began but Riffen put a hand on her arm.
“It’s alright Pria. I know you are just looking out for me, but these are my traveling companions. My friends. They will bring no harm to me,” Riffen said.
“Alright,” Pria said before looking over the group. “But I will not be far. Just shout for the guards if you need anything. Remember that we are meeting with Captain Springbloom this afternoon.”
“Of course. Of course,” Riffen said.
Pria gave the group another quick glance and exited the room. At the sound of the door opening and shutting, the dog at Riffen’s feet raised its head, looked around, and then went back to resting.
Riffen watched Pria leave and then turned back to the group.
“So, we better talk about what has been going on,” Riffen said.
“Riffen, are you alright? Is your eye alright?” Juniper said.
Riffen gave a slight smile.
“I am doing much better now thanks to all of you. If you didn’t track down Krumb in those caves, I surely would have died or been sold off to the highest bidder. You all are heroes,” He said.
“But what about your cousin? Is she mad at us? I can tell she is mad at us,” Grace said.
“You definitely left an impression on her, Grace. But in due time I’m sure she will forgive you for pulling a blade on her,” Riffen said. “Or at least I hope so.”
“So are we getting punished or charged with anything?” Sigthyme asked.
“Well that one is a bit complicated. Even though you are all heroes for finding and rescuing me, you did make a lot of people mad. Mostly my cousin Pria and The Chief of the Xylon City Guard,” Riffen said. “It was only through tough negotiation that I was able to get you guys here.”
“You’ve been fighting to get out of jail?” Grace asked.
“Of course,” Riffen said with a nod.
“Well we appreciate that,” Grace said.
“No like jail,” Tak said.
“But what has been happening with you?” Juniper asked. “When we last saw you, you were…in really bad shape.”
“Also, is that your dog?” Sigthyme asked.
“Oh yeah. Everyone meet Shadow,” Riffen said as he reached down to pet the dog at his feet. “Apparently Krumb stole the dog from someplace and we believe he meant to traffic it outside the city. No one really knew what to do with it and it seemed to like me. I guess we had our moment together surviving those caves.”
“As for me. Yes, I was not doing well when you found me. Luckily we have healers here in the Embassy that have been giving me plenty of magical healing. I’m not quite one hundred percent but I’m doing much better.”
“And your eye?” Grace asked.
“I have lost all sight in my right eye,” Riffen said. “Although I guess it is possible a powerful healer could heal my eye, I have turned down seeking out such a person.”
“Why?” Sigthyme asked.
“There is no simple answer and I’m not sure I fully understand my own reasoning. But I believe that what was done to me was partially my fault,” Riffen said.
“Riffen, that’s not true,” Juniper said.
Riffen raised his hand.
“Please. Let me give you my explanation. As you all have learned, I am not just a run-of-the-mill adventurer. I am the Prince of Soulon. And I left my kingdom to pursue my best friend after she left. I caused a major panic just leaving in the middle of the night and potentially damaged foreign relations between Soulon and its neighbors. Then I came here, still pursuing Lillian thinking I knew what was best for both of us. After failing to persuade Lillian, I got kidnapped by some criminal and almost died in a hole beneath the city. My ignorance and reckless abandon got me this and I lost my eye because of it,” Riffen said.
“That’s one way of looking at it I guess,” Juniper said.
“Pretty harsh interpretation,” Sigthyme said. “You didn’t know that Krumb was going to kidnap you.”
“No, of course not. But I knew that leaving home to go after Lillian was dangerous. It was only a matter of time before something bad happened to me,” Riffen said. “I put my interests above the needs of my country and it was wrong.”
The group fell silent. To Sigthyme it sounded like a bit of propaganda. Country over yourself type of thing. To Juniper it sounded like speeches she had heard her parents had given before. Greater good and all that.
“So now what happens?” Grace asked.
“Well things are really tense right now,” Riffen said. “Both inside the Embassy and the city. Krumb has not been found and although you killed many of his main people, it sounds like he has connections everywhere.”
“What happened to Ralph?” Sigthyme asked.
“He is the guy who held a sword to your throat,” Juniper said.
“Oh right. Ralph. Sorry, there’s been a lot going on. I don’t really know the details, but I believe the City Guard have been questioning Krumb’s people. Both Ralph and the Dwarvish Man who burned down The Pilgrim’s Rest have been questioned and I’m sure when the City Guard has squeezed out all the possible information they can, they will be executed for their crimes,” Riffen said.
“And what about us? What about you?” Sigthyme asked.
“Again, things are very tense right now. It took a lot just to get you guys here. I believe that I have persuaded The Chief and Pria that you shall not be executed, nor will you be jailed in Xylon,” Riffen said.
“Well that’s good,” Juniper said.
“Hold on. I’m sensing a but,” Grace added.
“You are smart, Grace,” Riffen said. “You’re right that it’s not all good news. Since you all did hold my cousin at knifepoint and since she is the Ambassador of Soulon, I was able to argue that your crimes were not against the people of Xylon and Mardrec, but of Soulon.”
“So wait, we are still being punished, but just not here?” Sigthyme asked.
“Kind of, yeah,” Riffen said.
“Wait, but you said that we’re heroes and what not,” Grace said.
“Yes. I see you all that way and it’s hard to argue otherwise since you all saved me. However, you did pull your blade on a high ranking government official and defy explicit orders from The Chief,” Riffen said.
“It kind of sounds like you are on their side, Riffen,” Sigthyme said.
“No. No. I’m just letting you know how others see it. They aren’t happy. Well they are but they believe that The Pact of Thorns would have rescued me and may have done it faster if it weren’t for your interference. It’s all speculative, but still. However that’s not where it ends,” Riffen said.
“There’s more?” Grace asked.
“Things aren’t finalized, but I believe it is most likely that we will all be heading with the Soulon Army toward Frost Haven. Grace, I know that is where you need to go, right?”
“Uh, yeah,” Grace nodded.
“Once there, I will obviously have quite a mess to clean up. I believe that the punishments will be dropped once you are far away from Xylon and Pria. Hopefully my Father will see you all as heroes like I do,” Riffen said.
“What are the odds of that?” Sigthyme asked.
“Well I believe he will be more mad at me than you all, so I think you have a pretty good chance. At the very least, I’ll ensure you do not get thrown in jail. Maybe you will be assigned community service for a few months and then you will be released,” Riffen said. “Again, things are still up in the air.”
“Is the Soulon Army here?” Juniper asked.
“Yes. A division of the army arrived this morning and is camping out near the northern gate. Pria and I are to meet with Captain Springbloom this afternoon to calm some nerves and discuss our plans. I’m sure the Captain will want to make sure everything is secure before making our way back toward Frost Haven,” Riffen said.
“So what do we do between now and then?” Sigthyme asked.
“We aren’t going to be locked up again, are we?” Grace asked.
“No jail,” Tak said.
“No. No. You all will stay here for now,” Riffen said.
“But we are stuck here?” Juniper asked.
“You are not imprisoned here, no. But you also do not have the freedom to move about freely. Again, things are tricky. Guards will escort you to wherever you need to go,” Riffen said.
“What about our stuff? Weapons?” Juniper asked.
“I do not think Pria will allow you all to have your weapons back,” Riffen said. “All other personal stuff I will talk to her about. Once we leave the city, I’ll make sure you get your weapons back.”
“And what about…”Juniper looked over both her shoulders. “What about Piakol?”
“Your dragon, what about him? Is he missing?” Riffen asked.
“I left him with Ms Zaffre over at The Wicked Scepter so he wouldn’t be discovered,” Juniper explained.
“Ah, I see. Well I believe Piakol should be kept secret. You’ll be free to go wherever you need in the city. Guards will accompany you there, but I’m not sure they’ll follow you inside.”
“I guess that’s where we need to go then,” Juniper said.
Just then, Shadow picked up his head and stood up, stretching his body. He then kept his eyes on the door as faint footsteps approached.
A small growl started in Shadow’s throat, but Riffen put a hand on him to calm Shadow down.
“There, there. Shadow. It’s ok,” Riffen said.
The door opened and Pria stepped into the room.
“Sorry, Prince Riffen,” Pria said. “But Captain Springbloom is here now and insists on meeting with us now. Is that alright? Are you feeling up for it?”
“Of course. Of course,” Riffen said. “Uh, friends. Are you alright? Is there anything else you needed to ask?”
“Uh, I don’t think so,” Sigthyme said.
“We are just glad you are safe and everything is alright,” Juniper said.
“Thanks again for all you did for me. I shall never forget it,” Riffen said. “We can talk more at dinner tonight.”
Riffen pushed back his chair and began to stand up. As he did so, Pria rushed to his side.
“Riffen, your cane,” She said.
“Right. Right,” Riffen said as he picked up a metal cane that the group did not see was at his feet.
He used the metal cane to help stabilize himself.
“We are still having a feast tonight, right Pria?” Riffen asked.
“Of course,” Pria said.
“Great. Well I will see all of you there later then,” Riffen said acknowledging the group. “Wish I could stay longer, but duty calls.”
The group said their goodbyes as Riffen and Pria left the room for their meeting and Shadow followed Riffen out. Then a moment later a couple members of the Soulan Army stepped into the room.
“We are to accompany you while on the grounds and in the city,” One said to the group.
“Well, I guess we better head to The Wicked Scepter,” Juniper said and the group agreed.
“The Wicked Scepter it is,” Sigthyme said.
Header Photo Credit to andreasrocha on DeviantArt