Chapter 19: Alliances
The redheaded prince stared at the man, unmoving. King Braise...dead? But he was fine when he left, albeit the sickness, but surely that hadn't-
"Assassinated, I believe. Poison was the weapon of choice, if my memory serves," he grumbled, going back to the map. Something inside the Luc cracked, but his cold golden eyes and his pursed lips should no signs of what torment he was feeling. No, he wouldn't show it in front of what he had to call his brother.
"I'm worried, my most trusted general can't remember how Braise died," Araignee said, rolling his eyes. "He fell off that one wall, you know, the one that is vertical and no one save for his brother or something fell from it? Well, he became a desert pancake. Ker-splat." The king's hand smacked the table for emphasis and Luc barely flinched at the sound.
"Oh! I'm sorry; I forgot he's your father!" gasped the man but with an amused tone. Luc kept silent still, sending a smoldering stare at his half-brother. "Regardless, we are through here gentleman, we carry out the plan come the opportune moment. I bid you both a good night."
With that, his cape furled as he twisted to strut out the door. It took all of Lucciola's strength not to tackle him to the ground and throttle him until he no longer breathed. But he was the model of self-restraint, save for the squeaking of leather from his gloved hands tightening into tight fists by his side and the narrowing of his glittering gold eyes.
One of the generals looked over at the prince with some sympathy, "So this is the last child of Queen Cygne, eh?"
"Certainly looks like her," mused the other as if Lucciola couldn't hear them.
"Aside from his Majesty, he's the only one with yellow eyes, I think...where is he going?"
Lucciola strode out of tent, away from their lashes at him. He then wandered aimlessly through the camp, unsure what do next. Actually, he was quite certain what to do next, but he doubted he could just walk out of the place and back to Nord unnoticed or not stopped. Running a hand through his messed red hair, he contemplated about his escape, trying to suppress his desire to mourn. He had plenty of time for that later, right now he needed to warn Farfalla...
Luc paused, looking what lie ahead of him towards the outskirts of the camps. It was like a paddock. The posts making up the fencing had chains with shackles at the end. At the end of the shackles, were the arms and legs of prisoners.
One of the prisoners was a scraggy woman, probably the age of his deceased father. She sat with several small children huddled around her as close as they could with the shackles. Her hair was a multitude of black, white and grey, and even a few strips of light mossy green. Her clothes fit loosely, covered with mud, muck, and who knows what else. There was some dried blood on her sleeves, which were rolled up to show off hefty forearms that were wrapped around the nearest children.
Probably sensing someone was staring at her, she lifted her head and met Luc's eyes. One of her hazel eyes was a milky white, a large scar practically bisecting her brow and crossing her eyelid to her cheek. She had a motherly beauty about her, but stared hard and cold at Luc, in his silver-embroidered black tunic and dark grey trousers with high black polished boots. The children clutched closer to her, eyes fixed on the new person standing at the gates of their enclosure.
"Come to drag us off to a bloody fate, Red?" she asked in a voice that he guessed was melodic when she spoke without the edge she had now.
"Nothing of the sort, madam," he managed to say. "I'm awaiting a similar fate myself."
She snorted and several other prisoners looked up at the fiery-haired prince with guarded looks. "Are you soldier then, destined to fall on the battlefield?"
"I doubt my destiny is as honorable as that," he murmured. "And I doubt my guardian will stand for me becoming a soldier for this side. Fiume's present king is a militant tyrant, and I'm ashamed that we share a mother."
"I thought your eyes were similar to that spider's," she said, averting her own to a little white-haired child, stroking his shoulder comfortingly as he coughed. Luc watched silently, one hand on a post of the gate. The child stopped hacking, but proceeded to cry at the sight of blood on his dirty hands. Inside, Lucciola's heart cringed and he found himself hopping the fence and rummaging through the pouches of his belt.
Almost in unison, the prisoners skittered away from him, as his boots sloshed in the filth they sat in. He finally kneeled before the woman, holding out a satchel. The woman eyed them cautiously, hugging the children tighter but showing no fear towards the stranger.
"They're herbs from Nord, from what I was told, their are almost a panacea. Please, take them," he held them out.
"Was a Fiumean such as yourself helping prisoners?" she asked flatly, eyes flitting to the satchel he held.
"Because I am no Fiumean, I was born and raised in Sabbioso. My mother was Fiumean, but I never cared of it. I have no allegiance with these people, despite the blood I share with their leader. Now please take them before the boy's sickness spreads to the others and you have no chance of silent escape."
The woman, deciding to actually trust the golden-eyed Luc, reached out to take the bag, only to have her hand stopped inches from the bag. Her chains clinked ominously and underneath the shackles her skin was rubbed raw and bleeding. He held his hand out farther and she snatched the bag. Rummaging through it with a determined squint to her good eye, she plucked out a few select herbs and fed them to the child. She pulled the strings of the bag and held it back out. Lucciola shook his head, closing her fingers around it and pushing her hand back.
"I have no need for it, madam."
She chuckled deep in her throat, shaking her head, "You are quite kind for one of the same blood as Araignee. Tell me, what is your name?"
"Prince Lucciola of Sabbioso. May I inquire yours?"
"Madre, boy. I guess Madre of Pauvre, if you need titles."
Lucciola smiled weakly before shrugging, "Titles mean little to me anymore, seeing as mine are going to change to just Luc of the hot and sandy place soon enough."
"I'm Phalène!" said the little white-haired boy in her arms before coughing. But it wasn't as horrid sounding as the ones he was emitting before.
"A pleasure to meet you, Phalène," he said with a smile to the boy.
She chuckled a bit more openly, daring to smile at him. "It is nice to see one kind heart-" Luc snorted. A kind heart was only a recent addition. "I'm afraid my neighbors and I have had little of that these past years."
"Tell me," he said quietly, fidgeting in his awkward position of kneeling as his legs started to fall asleep. "You wouldn't happen to be...moths, would you?"
There was silence before the woman chuckled again, "So you know of Nord's outcasts?"
"More than you think, I believe. Now I feel more inclined to helping you get out of here," he looked over his shoulder, seeking out soldiers that usually would keep guard. None of them were concerned with the prisoners or the redhead among them. They were either drunk, asleep, or in deep conversations about nothing at all.
"And how to you propose you do that?" asked one of the males boldly, his hair long and tousled. He didn't look much older than Luc.
Luc smiled and whispered, "You can change into insects, can you not?"
"Yes, but it would be bizarre to see a flock of moths flying about," she said, as if they already went over this amongst themselves. "And where would we go? We are hopelessly corner on all sides."
"Head for Nord," he said simply. This pulled a rich laugh from Madre.
"Head for Nord? Are you mad? It'd be the same as flying into a spider's web, what good is in Nord?"
"Plenty of it, Madre, I assure you. I just came from there. I'm personal friends with the royalty and I know for a fact the present ruler doesn't discriminate and even fights for moths' rights."
"You mean that horrid Wesp fellow? I was under the impression he plucked our wings while giggled like a schoolboy."
Luc tried not to let the color drain from his face at the thought of Lepidottero and continued.
"No, I mean King Mariposa! He's a moth sympathizer, believe me! He, Farfalla, and Vlinder-"
"Those names sound really familiar," commented a woman with wildly tawny hair. "Sounds like the royals Lepidottero took care of before he was banished! Some lot they were!"
"You know Lepidottero?" he hissed.
"Know him? He saved me from a slave's life in Arbre-Vert!" she exclaimed excitedly.
There was a chorus of voices and questions, but Madre silenced them with a raised hand.
"I believe the question is how do you know him, Prince Lucciola?" asked Madre suspiciously.
"He raised me," Luc said solemnly.
"Tell me, how does Tero fair?"
"Not well," he admitted, "I'm afraid Wesp's control over parliament is not in our favor."
"What happened to him?" demanded Madre.
"If I tell you, you probably will be less likely to go to Nord."
"Saying that does the trick, kid, just tell me plain."
Luc pursed his lips and had a staring match with the bold woman before relenting and quietly whispering, "Deptera."
There were a few gasps and prayers and Madre's lips thinned as her eyes widen. She looked away from a moment before whispering, "He is as good as dead then...he never deserved it."
"I entirely agree, since the crime he committed was pardoned by the victim entirely. But Wesp pressed the issue," he mumbled angrily. "But Lepidottero is stronger. Stronger than anyone in all three kingdoms. I have no doubt in my heart he will survive."
"He'll survive, but he will not be the same Tero I've known. And I was the one who raised him."
"You must have done something terribly right then, because if I was left to my own devices as a child, I would have ended up sitting in that tent over there," he said, nodding towards the tent in the distance he just came out of. "And plotting the invasion of Nord. Now, do you want to see Lepidottero again or condemn yourself to a cold fate such as this?" He gestured to the shackles and posts, the mud and blood, the tear-stricken faces of the children and the forlorn stares of the elder ones.
The moth-kind narrowed her eyes, before smiling, "Lead the way, Red."
Farfalla set down the small stack of parchment, worn at the edges from being read before wiping his wet eyes. So that's what happened to Lepidottero. The man deserved more than he got in life. The butterfly-kind made a solemn swear to fully support the moth-tolerance campaigns from now on. This was completely unethical and wrong!
And now he had a trial in a week for assaulting Wesp. He sighed, rubbing his temples.
There was a knock on his office door and he wiped his eyes a bit more thoroughly. Setting the papers in his drawer, he shouted gruffly, "Come in!"
A white-and-black-haired guard popped his head in before entering fully and snapping into a salute. A leaner, taller black swallowtail sauntered in, saluting less rigidly.
"Fifrildi, Zomerfeygele," he mumbled, nodding to both of them. They went into an at ease position, thought Fifrildi still looked tense. "Any developments?"
"Sir, the moth-...er, Sir Lepidottero is still recovering. But he seems to be able to stand and is aware of his surroundings," stated the zebra butterfly. Zofi yawned, covering his mouth.
"And what about Lucciola and his Majesty?" the Captain asked him.
"I spent all night lookin' for the redhead," Zofi said with a drawl, itching his chin. "And for the king too. One of the horses is missin' so I guess the Prince of Sabbi-whatsit might have gone back home to take care of the canal system thing."
"Do you think his Majesty went with Prince Lucciola?" asked Fifrildi, sneering at the prince's name. "They seem rather...fond of each other."
"Fond, yes. Lovers, no," Farfalla said in amusement, shaking his head. "Po isn't like Vlinder and myself, I'm quite certain of that."
"I didn't check the southern ruins or the lake, could he out there?"
Farfalla tapped his long finger to his lips in thought before straightening in his seat, "It's possible, but I don't think he'd go that far-" he looked at the window with a frown "-and the rain clouds are coming back in...no butterfly in their right mind would go out this morning."
"No one is in his or her right mind today, sir," Zofi mumbled, ruffling his hair violently to wake himself up.
"But Po isn't in his right mind..." Farfalla mumbled to himself, biting a knuckle and staring out the window worriedly. Where was the little blue morpho? The whole palace was in a frenzy. Save for Wesp, who took up his authority and conducted everything as if nothing happened. Thankfully, the regent left him alone along with everyone else in his or her group. He seemed occupied with something else apparently.
That made Farfalla very uneasy.
"Zofi," he said, eyes darting to the black swallowtail.
"Has there been any orders issued to the guard without my consent?"
Zofi scratched his chin again before nodding, "The patrol on the mountains has been significantly lessened. And so has the guard in Rozekleur...they were transferred to Sering...which doesn't really make any sense..."
The guard was right, Farfalla thought, it didn't make a lick of sense. The Rozekleur citadel held the living quarters of the majority of the people in the citadels. Sering...Sering was just where aesthetics were conducted. Why would Wesp want to protect a bunch of pottery and concert halls?
"And the chrysant citadel?" he asked curiously.
"The eastern citadel remains guarded. Which is funny since there isn't any parliament meeting schedules for some time..."
"Something's up," Farfalla whispered, tapping his fingers against the hard wood of his desk.
"I could have told you that sir. Hu-tieh, Lord Wesp's new assistant, was seen flying like he had the flood waters behind him towards the mountains."
Farfalla mused a bit more before turning and looking at the two guards. "Answer me honestly. Does the guard have more loyalty with me or with the regent?"
Zofi was silent but Fifrildi jumped to answer, "I would follow his Majesty and my captain to the grave, sir!"
The tiger swallowtail smiled, "Good to hear, thank you Fifrildi. But what of the others?"
"Well, I side with ya, so you're guaranteed the blacktails," Zomerfeygele shrugged, using the slang term for black swallowtails. "And the tigertails will probably side with you anyway...dunno about the others."
They both looked to Fifrildi. The young man shrugged, "I wasn't aware there was a spilt in the guard based on species."
"Some species have better abilities than others in certain fields. Swallowtails are better with stealth and small melee weapons. Blacktails, like Zofi here, are better with things like traps and such and tigertails, like myself, are better at melee combat with weapons like sai daggers or iron claws."
"And the species with no specific variation of skills, for instance, Zeebs like you, are just sprinkling liberally everywhere."
"Zeebs?" asked the white-and-black haired youth, eyebrows drawn together.
"Zebra butterflies, Fifi," he looked to Farfalla, "Is this kid not in the loop yet?"
The captain chuckled, "I didn't know about it for awhile, the splits are very subtle. Not to mention when they are spoken about, you can decipher the casual terms for different species. It's understandable, believe me."
Fifi pursed his lips before tilting his head and asking, "What are blue morphos called?"
"Birdwings are quite big, but what's their nickname, sir?"
"It's big. Your brother Vlinder should have been a birdwing, Cap'n," Zofi commented. Farfalla chuckled, shaking his head. His brother certainly had the stature and personality of a birdwing, but he was a monarch butterfly. You could never tell who is going to be what, since a couple of swallowtails could produce an agrias butterfly, or a birdwing and a morpho could have a zebra butterfly. It wasn't genetic; no one knew what it was. The fact Borboleta was like her father was a coincidence.
Despite the playful banter, Farfalla was still horribly worried about his brother and friend. Why didn't Lucciola at least leave a note? And where exactly was his younger brother?
"I'm going to assign you both temporary partners," he said, pressing his fingertips together. Fifrildri's eyes widened and he sputtered, "But c-cap'n! Zomerfeygele is- well, he's-"
"Lazy, carefree, annoying, and infuriating?" supplied the blacktail.
"Y-yes!" exclaimed the Zebra butterfly after a moment's thought. Farfalla chuckled, "All the more reason to pair him up with someone energetic, concerned, pleasant, and soothing."
A deep blush stained the guard's cheeks and Zofi threw his head back to laugh. "This will be certainly interesting, Captain!"
"I have a special job for you two," the tigertail kicked his feet up onto his desk and smiled slyly.
"Your majesty, what in the world are you doing up there?" Libel plopped his fists on his hips and craned his neck to look up at the top of the tall bookcase. The blue-haired royal lay atop of it, one hand dangling over the side, covering the section on foreign cooking. He tilted his head to look down at the purse-lipped boy only a few years older than himself before sighing and turning his gaze back to the ceiling.
"Honestly, Mariposa, what good is going to come out of moping around on bookcases?"
"It's raining and I'm tired. Can you please leave?" he tilted his head to look irritated at the other. Libellua snorted, "Your brother is worried sick! He thought you went after Lucciola."
"Luc went somewhere?"
"He went back to Sabbioso to clear up a few things. Didn't tell anybody though and left a note with the stable hands."
Po frowned. Bastard.
"If I come down I'll only bite people head's off," he reasoned.
"Better than abandoning your country! Wesp is taking over your job."
The butterfly-kind mumbled to himself, "He can have it."
"Now that's no attitude for you to adopt," Libellua said, propping an elbow in the small space of wood between Po's stomach and the edge. The blue-haired boy let out a yelp. "How'd you get up here?!"
Libellua smiled as he all but hovered next to the rather tall bookcase. "Mage-in-training, your majesty."
"Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" he hissed, clutching the front of his robes.
"If it gets you down from here and back into your rightful place as ruler of this beautiful country, yes."
"Ruler? Ha!" Po propped himself up, flipping his hair out of his amethyst eyes to glare at the other. "You expect someone who has barely hit puberty and crippled can take charge of a whole country?"
"Yes," Libellua said simply with a smile. "And I think your a little past puberty. You butterflies mature quicker than humans."
Mariposa flowered at the other before sighing again. "I'll come down if you promise me one thing."
"Promise that you'll help me. I can't stand up to Wesp," he said before quirking a smile, "Literally and figuratively."
Thought the regent still gave him the creeps, Libellua nodded. "I promise. I'll even get your brothers to help. It's unfair that they left you to your own devices while they go off and have traumatic experiences. Honestly! I also promise to be a brother-in-law than the whole lot of them, alright?"
"Alright," whispered the blue morpho. "Only temporarily though, I can't have you helping me all the way, deal?" He held out his hand, small and delicate with calluses from painting and archery. Libellua smiled, took Po's hand and shook it.
"Deal your majesty."
"Oh, and call me Po," he said, shifting so his legs were hanging off the side limply. He hastily tried to pull down his robes but Libellua saw them, grabbing the other's wrist.
"Po, what are those?" he asked sternly, staring at the cross-hatching of cuts running all around the King's pale legs.
"Cuts, what do they look like?" he replied coldly. Libellua flicked his eyes at him, narrowing them.
"That isn't the answer. Are you punishing yourself or something? Po, what's wrong?"
The butterfly sighed, yanking his wrist away, pulling down his deep purple robes to cover his lifeless, scarred limbs. "What's wrong is that normally one should feel a sting when they cut themself. I can't feel anything. And I'm just making sure that no part of my legs has any feeling."
"You could just pinch yourself! This-" he gestured to Mariposa's covered legs, "is destructive!"
"Sometimes I want to chop them off to see if I can feel that," he admitted quietly, playing with the fabric covering his thighs. Libellua put his hand over the king's, a soft smile on his face. "You must stop. People will get the entirely wrong idea and think you are trying to punish yourself, or get attention or worse-like killing yourself! I can clear up the scarring well enough, since all that scar tissue will prevent a lot of moment when you start to walk again."
"What are you talking about? I'll never walk again!" he cried. "I haven't even walked for a first time, I never took a damn step in my entire life!"
"Well, then you just have to believe in miracles," Libellua stated as-a-matter-of-factly, taking the other by his arms and pulling him off the top of the bookcase. Po scrambled to cling to the suspended mage as he slowly floated back down to the floor. He set Po in his wheelchair and sighed.
"New deal, I'll help you stand up to Wesp. Figuratively and literally. Deal?"
The crippled king's eyebrows furrowed as he stared up at his brother's signficantly younger lover. He stood there with his hands again on his hip, a cloth bag stuffed with books at his side. Most of the dye in his hair was washed away to reveal his red hair, so much like Lucciola's save for several shades darker. Libellua's sharp brown eyes stared down at him resolutely, holding his hand out to shake Po's once more.
A slow grin came to his face before he gripped the Sabbiosoan's hand in a firm handshake.
A/N: Holy moose on toast, an update! I've had trouble, mucho trouble, with this story. I want to rewrite the whole damn thing. The first chapters sicken me to no end. Not to mentions I got enough plotholes to drive a hummer through. I've prolly created an alternative dimension with all of them!
On a lighter note, the whole reason I got this down is because of a commission I ordered of Farfalla. Look at the profile to find a link for the sheer awesomeness along with some other things. JOIN THE DAMN FORUM.
I didn't beta this (sorry Snowy!) because I wanted to get it up and out. It's burning a hole here and it would have made me peeved to wait around for it to come back.
chrysant- chrysanthemum in Dutch
Prisoner-11: Totally completely evil, dear. Mucho gracias for the review.
Lucifer's Sonata: Yep, sob chapter. Woo. Uh...thanks for your reviewing patronage.
Jacey: Mmmyes, now I finally updated again! Woot!
Goldensong: Two people said warm and fuzzy in their reviews. Sorry for the wait!
Aiiro-Bara: Thunk? Hm...Yon-yon mother-henish is fun, yes. And I know, my grammar sucks.
yuranda: Yep, angst galore. And there will be a happy ending, after some roller coaster rides. Yon&Tero will be together forever. Thanks for the review!
CatseyeRose: He will be. Far&Po are fairing. It will have a happy ending. Thanks for the review!
Harka Manakiro: This has to be the most people I made cry. I dunno how I should feel about that. And yes, I saw shweet alot.
Midnights Scream: Uhhh...no one will be ready come Araignee. Oh dearie me. Thanks for the review!
Kokoro no Wasuremono: I want to rewrite the first half badly, since there is a lot of things I want to change. No flowing whatsoever in my mind. And I was planning to write Far/Luc scenes, but the Tero/Yon-yon ones were so enticing.
Witheredbutterfly: Nice name XD Sorry for not updating sooner. Thanks for the review!
lilylupin7: Sad and shweet. And I actually plan to finish this, hurrah!
Keeala: No, believe me, I need all the names I can get. Not naming anyone "fly" though. Heh. I needed some non-mainstream language names. Like Macedonian! That rocks! Thanks for the review and the names!
distortedreflection: Kochou is Japanese, isn't it? And no way in the seven levels of Hell am I putting Kochou and Po together! Ewwies, that's BAD. And yes, I'm well aware of Luc's terrible character development. And burritos do suck for having explode-y ends. Thanks for the review!