38 - High Hopes

* * *
Recorded from an excerpt of Jhe 'hAkribastes's Travel Log
* * *

There is, on the floor in front of me, a bound Emperor.  My long-lost son is recovering from enduring servitude to that Emperor, and the complete list of acts he has had to endure or participate in has yet to be made apparent to me.  I worry more about Lyric's mental well-being than his guilt.  Gerald seems fine, but has his share of stories to tell me.  Cade has been bound similarly to the Peacock King, by Jhe Camden.  Who, incidentally, has a lot of talking to do.  There are freed slaves all around and I've no idea what to do with them.  There is a wronged, angry animism stalking about as if he were a housecat whose tail had just met the wrong end of a rocking chair.

Finally there's my bloody idiotic nephew Jax and his unfortunate choice in partners.  The Peacock King's younger daughter, whose name has been given to me as Rocsui.  I can tell as much as any trained Poet that's a false name, forced upon her.  She's no longer spellbound and frozen still, but is in quite a daze, and right now no one has any better idea of what to do with her than let Jax comfort her, which I can't say is that bad of an idea.  At least he's found a way to make himself useful that doesn't involve replacing paid maintenance crews.  His Father will be so proud.

There's dead guards strewn about, and every few minutes an Armed gets in a tussle with a few servants trying to run to the aid of their captured King.  Can I blame the servants?  No.  Is this arrangement going to work for thirty more minutes?  No.  But there's the problem of leaving a mess here just as much as there's the problem of staying here safely.

The Peacock King flails against his bonds, only to be slammed down against the floor by the forces that make up his cuffs and collar.  He writhes for a short while.  I can't knock him out.  The binding will hold, yes, but try as I might I can't knock him out here, in his own domain, and if I tried any harder I'd crush his skull like a watermelon.  The idea has its appeal but it would make his daughters sad, and cause some very unwanted complications in global politics.

That's the worst part of this - he could very well have earned himself a death sentence, but Radia needs him alive.  It is not possible for us to go on without a treaty with Audiva Rocale.  Without its monarch, Audiva Rocale will crumble into anarchy.

...I need help.

The measures are quick and I will not go into them in detail.  Best not to let it be known exactly how we accomplish it, lest others see through the tricks if we ever have to do it again.  In an emergency such as this, and with discovery by the King no longer an issue, transport over the border can now be rather swift.  They are teleported in.  The crew looks over the wards first.  Over the King.  Over the entire lay of the Palace.

I will go so far as saying we will find a way to make the King's absence less evident, and begin sneaking the freed slaves to Radia. Most of the freed spirits can find their own way, if they have a place they would rather go.  The ones that are injured or broken...

I turn to Faun.  He glares up at me, wearing his proper furs now.  The servant robes he was wearing before are in shreds at the base of the Peacock King's throne.  He tore them off and flung the furs onto himself right on that spot, for all to see.  Just as one should expect from one of the wild ones.  I raise an eyebrow at him. He only glares further.

"Jhe Faun.  Please tell me what I can do for your kind here."  I ignore his bristling hair and bared teeth.  He has been greatly wronged for quite some amount of time.  I fully understand why he is acting as he is.

I only hope I can forestall him from striking at anyone in here.

"Much needs to be done, but I do not know if your kind are sufficient to get it done, something I say out of honesty and not spite.  I can say who is required here to bring about the needed healing, but I have another suggestion instead."  I nod, and gesture for him to go on.  "Talk to the Dragon of this land.  You should know him well, I imagine.  I smell the blood on you."

I can't help but snort.  Animisms are so well known for seeing past what is obscured purposefully, sniffing out the true natures of things.  "Fine, then.  You are correct.  I do know him.  Thank you, I shall speak with him.  Do you suggest anything for the short term?"

He nods, expression clouding with worry.  "Don't let anyone come in and tamper with them.  Don't let anyone interact with them who is uneducated as to their natures.  I...would help, but I must accompany you to Radia for the King's Trial."

I raise an eyebrow.  How preemptive of him.  "So you shall.  Would you prefer I escort you directly, or will you travel alone?"

"Neither, unless you are escorting your son home."

My eyebrows shoot up.  He goes on.

"I am traveling with him, now.  I will claim him as my Poet if the Jhe 'hLogos grants me such."

I'm pretty confused by this, but don't want to spurn the animism his choice.  "...Has Gerald done a good job of it here, then?  That's...gratifying."

His eyes widen, and then he crooks a foxish grin.  "Nay, sire.  Your son by the haerphitl, your son who managed to ensnare even the Peacock King in his Poetry.  His skills are unsure, but he shall grow in time, blossom just as flowers do.  Lotus was a silly stage-name, but an appropriate one at that."  He laughs.  I can't school my expression right now, damnit.  "Oh, so you didn't know?  My, my.  You should have him trained as soon as he reaches Radia.  He'll be even more trouble if he's left to his own ends for any longer."  He turns, walking towards my son.  The tails hanging on the bottom of his fur robes sway, taunting me.

I can't help but growl.  I walk to my son as well, faster than the animism.  I'm much taller, after all.  And he may have his claim on the woods, but that is my son, damnit, and I haven't seen him in far, far too long.

Lyric is still small, even though he's obviously grown a bit older.  Strange, so much shorter than his twin brother Lute.  He's also tired, dazed, and hurt.  How long has he been here before his Uncle told me he found him here?  How long did I let him--

--No, I can't blame myself right now, even though I will anyway.  I take a knee and lean him back from Gerald, who still blanches at the possibility of me speaking with Lyric.  Lyric doesn't fight me, which is a relief, especially since I expect it.  He just looks at me, clear blue eyes wet with tears that trail through his makeup.

"Are you willing to come back with me to Radia, son?"  His eyes widen, and something in his shoulders untenses.  He was expecting me to scold him.  I look a little deeper than he knows, and I see the binds still hanging around his soul, the wounds that have been dealt to his mind and will, and the pain he's endured.

He swallows, makes a tiny nod, and then buries himself into my chest.  I'd like to hear very soon just what it is that he's so afraid of.  For now, I hold him until he stops shaking.  "I have to leave with the Peacock King, Lyric.  I'll be back for you after he's been arranged for.  ...So stay here while I'm away, please."

"I won't run off."  He sniffles.  "Are Ger and 'Rude staying?"

"They'll be with you.  It'll be alright."  I lean him away, and Gerude hunkers down beside him.  Lyric doesn't look too upset, all things taken into account.

I have no choice but to leave, then, to attend to my duty.  Faun watches as I walk away, then approaches my son.  I pin him with a glare.

The animism startles, then blinks.  "You'd dare impede me?"

"You of all creatures would know to permit a dragon his territory."  At that he draws back, instead walking off to one of the confused dryads that is wandering around.

I walk up to the Peacock King.  He stares up at me, his eyes half-fogged with the binds of collar and cuffs.  That even his gaze has to be bound speaks volumes for how much he's fighting the binding.  I twirl my Trident midair, then strike it down.  When it impacts with the floor, we simply cease to be in that room, and reappear where I will it, in Radia.

* * *

...I'm afraid to go.  I hear Gerude tsk.

"Hey, man, I can see it on your face, but we're not letting you run away again."  I nod.  He pats my shoulder.  "Here, it's gonna get boring if you just sit there in stone-stiff-terror.  Let's say we all play cards."  He fishes a beaten up deck from his pocket, then starts dealing to the three of us.

Gerald snorts.  "Like hell I'd play with you.  You always cheat."  He picks up his hand regardless, squinting as he considers what he's been dealt.

Gerude gives Gerald the death-eye for thirty solid seconds.  "You.  The notorious sneak-peeking Poet.  Accuse me of cheating."

"Damn right I am.  Lyric, look at your damn cards."  I jump, then pick through my hand.

"...What game are we playing?"  I hear a sigh from behind me, and then Jenny flops down to sit beside me.  She tosses a spare shirt into Gerald's lap, for which my brother looks absolutely grateful.  His current one has had enough with life, and it's time to put it down.

Jenny looks over her shoulder.  "Oy, Rachella!  Come on, we're playin' poker!  No, none of you horseasses are joinin' in, go back to work!  Hurry, Rachella!  I wanna place bets on who catches Gerald at cheating first!"


I chuckle, which is really odd to do, because so much of me just wants to break down and cry right now.  It could really be alright, couldn't it?  Going back home, to Radia, after ten years away?  Facing all those old friends and relatives, explaining myself?  Accounting for everything I've done while I was away, and everything I've done and seen in this place?

The first game ends early when Jenny kicks Gerald in the eye for "cheating in a way so obvious that it ruined the betting odds."  Rachella deals the next hand with a sigh.  Time goes by, and somehow I enjoy just sitting here laughing.  I honestly can't remember when the last time was that I'd done anything like this.

Maybe it's what home is supposed to be.

* * *
Recorded from an excerpt of Gerald Akribastes's Resumed Mission Log
* * *

We go through ten games before my Father returns, looking much more tired than when he left us.  Lyric, bless him, goes white as a sheet and sits up rail-straight.  I laugh and slap him on the back.  "Here," I say, hauling myself to my feet, then lending him a hand, "get up.  Time for you to go home."

I feel my Father's hand on my shoulder, that weight just as ominous as it always has been, and my mind does that automatic thing where it runs through every possible misdeed I might have committed since I was three.  "You're not staying here, Gerald.  Come on.  You're dead on your feet."

I almost laugh, then realize the room's tilting a little not because of some freak decision by an avant-garde-obsessed architect, but because I'm leaning sideways from fatigue.  He puts his other hand on Lyric's shoulder, guiding him forward gingerly.

Faun steps behind Lyric, looking up at my Father.  The Judge looks back down at the animism.  "Yes, you are permitted to join us."  The animism simply shakes his head.

"I will come find him when I need him.  You have staked your claim.  I trust I shall be summoned for the Trial."  Then he turns and...just bloody disappears. Somewhere around a corner is the odd sound of fur and wings rustling together, and then a wind rushes out through the doors.  My Father just sighs heavily.

"Let's get you boys home before you get into any more trouble here."  And with that, my mission in Audiva Rocale ends.

I think I'd call it a success.

* * *

[insert full-page ad for Novel 2 here]

Posting of Novel 2 in The Peacock King Trilogy, The Peacock King in Court, will start on the 11th of April (the second Saturday in April).  Keep watching the blog because I'll be posting teaser chapters of it, as well as some bonus shorts that didn't fit within the actual novels, and other fun materials.  Thanks for reading the first novel!  You guys are the best.  I've been floored by some of the comments on the story thus far.

Keep an eye on the news blog for further updates and information!

* * *


  1. That was so awesome I can't think of anything else to say about it. And can't wait for April, either :) Congratulations on posting all of Novel One, you guys are brilliant!!

  2. Right now I'm complaining to my best friend that I actually have to wait until April to start reading again. :D Lol, I think I've gotten addicted to this story.

    I've been driving my bff and sister crazy with constant updates on what happened last in Peacock King. I know that now at least one of them is going to try to find the time to read it, if only to escape my ravings, lol. I doubt it'll stop me, though. Book One was great. :D Good luck with Book Two!

    What do you think about fanart? Would you like some? If I can find time, maybe I'd venture an attempt or two... Be forewarned, I am nowhere close to your skill level, heh.

  3. I'm so excited for you that it's completed, and sad that there's no more to read (though I'm looking forward to the extra bits you'll post, and novel 2 in April).

    It's been a fantastic ride, thank you so much for writing such an awesome story. I can't wait to see where you go with this next.

  4. Bravo. And more acclaim for your new skycraper ad that I spotted on MeiLin's site, the golden eyes and the "novel about X, X, X, X, X" one. Is that Faun?

  5. Auriferous - Thanks for bothering people about my story lol! We'd very much love some fanart! The new site will actually have a gallery especially for fanart and such, and we'll be accepting fanfiction/guest stories in the forums.

    V - That is Faun all right. I should have a gallery up on the new site when it goes live that'll have the full image. That was actually the first ad I made for PK but I tend to run the banner at the top when I get space on MeiLin's page because it's right up there and generally cheaper, but this weekend's bids worked out different.