Chapter 24: A Royal Escort

Theodoore watched as the three girls walked into the dinning chambers, Ahsha and Kaylee adorned with borrowed attire. Ahsha wearing a dark beige gown while Kaylee was in a pale green, each with their travel worn hair now glossy and falling around their shoulders. They looked like fellow ladies of the court as they entered the half filled room. No one even glanced up at them, his servants had down well in such short notice.

One of them brought them to the front of the table where Theodoore sat and spoke in a clear voice, "Lord Theodoore, here are the ladies. I take my leave now." He nodded to the boy then gestured to the girls to his left, making sure to leave a seat empty out of respect for the Queen's rightful place. Though he had none, and at his age didn't think he ever would. They sat quietly as to not disturb the conversations of the other nobles. The nobles randomly spoke to him and spoke of affairs in Frezha, and all seemed to ignore the girls.

After finishing his breakfast he watched the girls as they ate, servants tending to their needs. He could see Kaylee stared at the food before her with a touch of disgust. Her friend Ahsha fidget uneasily and only pick at the food given to her, while the Regis ate as much as she could as fast as she could without loosing an ounce of her dignity.

Theodoore smiled at them when the chanced a glance in his direction, making them return it weakly. He stood and spread his arms to address the room, "Nobles, Lords and Ladies. I'm afraid I must take my leave of your good company. I bid you all good day and safe wanderings." All stood as he stepped over to the three girls and motioned them to follow before striding out of the room.

He hated the formalities of dinning in the hall, which is why he did it so rarely, but he had been required to attend that morning. Actually he had made the deal to attend every meal in the dinning hall as part of his agreement with his consul. It seemed like such a small thing to him to do for what he wanted so he had agreed.

The three's light footfalls could be heard echoing in the corridor as they followed close behind him. He smiled and looked over his shoulder to them as he reached his study door. "We can speak in here in privacy." Theodoore opened the door for them and watched as they filed in before entering himself and closing the door behind him.

The snug little room was warm and friendly, with large armchairs next to a glass window upholstered in red as it looked over the gardens. Bookshelves lined the walls and were filled to the ceiling. A writing desk was placed in one of the corners, who's chair he swung towards the door and the girls and sat in and gestured the them to seat themselves.

They delicately sat down in the plush chairs and stared at him expectantly. There' no point in delaying, he thought as he sighed heavily. "Well, after much deliberation and council I have decided that it would be best to aid you in your fight, except for in one condition."

He watched them look to each other and he regretted having to say what he did. In the end he knew that his country's direct safety came first. "My country is currently in the middle of a truce with the Crison, and in a bit of a disagreement with the Isles of Pileak I'm afraid. But our common tentative alliance with the Crison is keeping us from going to war with them. If we attack the Crison, they will attack us, so I need you can convince them to join your cause as well, then we will not be split in two."

"Pileak?!" Reech nearly jumped out of her seat as she gaped in disbelief, "Those self-righteous sun worshippers? They never care about anyone but their own. It's a near impossible feat!"

"I know that Regis, but I'm afraid it's the best I can do. My army is spread thin making sure our borders are safe, if we were to be attacked by Pileak at home while most of them are away in Rayweet…" Theodoore explained before trailing off, he didn't need to elaborate, but he watched helplessly as the young Regis puffed up with frustration before sitting back down and crossing her arms defiantly.

"Thank you, sire." He heard Kaylee mumble weakly.

"For what?!" Reech busted out again, "He hasn't done anything?!"

Theodoore watched as Ahsha shrank in her seat and let the two argue. "He's done more then I expected. And being here alone could be considered impossible by some, so maybe we could get a touch of luck. At least we know they wont turn on our cause!" Kaylee fought back with more conviction in her voice.

"I still say its not enough." Reech scowled.

"Well, right now we have to take what we can get." Kaylee sighed and looked back to Theodoore. "Do forgive her she…"

Theodoore held up a hand and she stopped, "I've have known Reech for several years, I am quite aware that she is prone to outbursts." He said with a chuckle.

"And I'm sorry for not being able to help more right now, but I'm afraid you all should be leaving soon, especially with the rainy season upon us, soon it'll be nearly impossible to navigate the Doranim Mountains." Theodoore said as he tried to flash them a grim smile, though he failed horribly.

"Yes, I think that would be for the best." Kaylee mumbled.

Theodoore nodded, "The only thing I can do for you now is send an escort with you to the border to protect you and guide you to Xervin Nyrphom."

"We don't need an escort." Reech said tersely.

"I think we should except his offer." Ahsha spoke up, "Only you can really defend yourself Reech."

She opened her mouth to protest, then decided against it and slouched in her chair. "So when do we leave?"

-

Theodoore left the girls in the study and started towards the main hall. Now all he needed was to summon the guard he had planned to escort the girls. He knew the young man would not be happy, having just returned from the border and not entirely fond of the girls anyways. Something told him though that he needed the outside influence, something that would give him a push in a better, more important, direction.

"Aiston? Can I speak with you?" Theodoore said in a hushed tone as he spotted the young man striding down the corridors.

"Huh?" He turned and looked up at him with confusion, "What is it your Majesty?"

"Come, we need to talk."

"Yes, of course." Aiston said with worry in his voice, but Theodoore simply ignored it. He would find out soon enough. As they entered the main hall Theodoore strode in and turned to face the young man, one he had seen almost as a son.

"What's wrong Your Highness?"

"Aiston, you've been on many trips to the mountains to deliver dispatches haven't you?" Theodoore asked casually.

"Indeed, sire, I have. Though its been many years." Aiston replied dutifully though his expression was still befuddled.

"Good, because there is something that I need you to do for me." Theodoore clasped his hands behind his back and watched Aiston as he spoke, "I need you to escort the Regis and her companions to the country's border."

The young man looked as if he had been punched in the head, "You want me to do what?"

"I need you to guide the girls through the Doranim pass and keep them safe." Theodoore repeated patiently.

"Sire, I mean no disrespect, but isn't that the duty of new soldier recruits?" He asked as he shook his head and clenched his fists.

"It's the duty of whomever I ask to do it." Theodoore said tersely.

"But sire…" Aiston started to plead.

"That's an order, Aiston." Theodoore yelled in his booming voice.

Aiston looked up at his face speechless and shocked. Theodoore grabbed his shoulders and looked him in the eyes, "Aiston, I truly believe that this is the best thing for you, and that you in turn are the best man for the job. Something is brewing, can't you feel it? And its centered around these three girls."

"I don't care." Aiston said defiantly as he glared up at him.

"I know you don't." Theodoore said as he backed away from him, "That's why I chose you. You don't want glory, power or fame. So if for no other reason, do it because I asked."

Aiston sighed and hung his head in defeat, "I don't really have a choice do I?"

"You always have a choice, Aiston, you just may not always see it." Theodoore said as he started to lead the young guard out of the main hall.

Aiston turned and looked up to Theodoore again, "When do they leave then?"

"Tomorrow morning. So ready yourself." He said.

Aiston laughed, "Amber wont be happy about this."

Theodoore laughed along with him, "Well, maybe it'll be a good excuse to take some real time away from her." The two chuckled again as they left the room, their tense laughter still echoing off of the walls.

-

As evening fell upon Innaitia as Theodoore stepped out onto his balcony that stood high over the city. Every window was brightly lit, and he could feel the warmth of the homes coming from each. It was his job to protect that warmth. He just hoped that that's what he was doing with helping Kaylee. He had never doubted the young girl's story, for he knew that few of her people were even capable of lying, let alone be bold enough to do so before a king. Nothing made sense though, and that was his greatest doubt. Up until now he had been working solely off of intuition and what his heart told him was right, but with the idea that they would be leaving the next morning baring down upon his thoughts the doubts came pouring down in a torrent.

He leaned onto the rail and looked down into the garden below, and noticed the shadow of a solitary figure leaning against a willow. She blended in so well to the scenery, and had she not been pacing he would have thought of the girl simply as a sapling. The girl seemed not to know that anyone was watching her.

Theodoore smiled and watched her contently, remembering his summer amongst the green foliage, and the golden brown hair of the sweet little women he had fallen in love with. His thoughts wandered around in the twilight until they fell away from her and onto the two young men he had taken under his wing. Zander, who was in the mountains to the east, and Aiston, now off to the south. He sighed, Theodoore did not wish to send Aiston, for he loved the boy like a son, but somehow he knew Aiston would be the best choice for everyone's sake.

The young man was wild, bold, but good-natured. The problem was that Theodoore was afraid that he was suffocating his own abilities by being content in Innaitia as a guard. He knew all to well that boys like him needed to travel to learn anything about themselves. Although going to the Doranim Mountains was nowhere near the traveling that Theodoore thought Aiston needed, he secretly hoped that the young man would take a liking to the girls and their cause and continue on with them.

Theodoore heard a rustling below, which pulled him from his thought. The last touches of the sun disappeared, and he could not see Kaylee's form anymore, but he heard her voice calling to someone. Theodoore listened but heard no more of her, and smiled at her talents as retreated back into is room with a contented mind.

-

The next morning all gathered together in the throne room for the final send off. Aiston stood behind the girls and eyed his comrades that were present for the send off, before setting his attention towards his King as he entered the room.

"Welcome all. As you all already know this morning these four are to set off. My loyal soldiers, do well to keep everything running smoothly in Aiston's absence. Kaylee, I hope your quest goes well, whether or not we are able to aid you. Regis, I pray that you will return soon to our shores for another visit. Ahsha, keep your wisdom and knowledge for they will need it. And Aiston, I leave these girl in your care, treat them well and protect them as you guide them." King Theodoore addressed each one in turn with a kind tone that was projected out to them all. "Now go. And fair thee all well."

-

A/n Gah…..writer's block….arg….you would think with four different stories to work with that wouldn't be possible. sigh oh well, thanks to Nikki and blah, I love you guys! And I hope to try and work more on this in the future.