A/N - Please read. I know that many of you have enjoyed this story, and I am immensely grateful for all of the alerts, reviews, and favourites it has gotten, However, I am not happy with it. I look at it and cringe. Which is what makes editing/re-vamping it quite hard. What I'd like is someone to help be beta/edit it. Really rip it apart, give advice, give critics, etc. I know it's somewhat of a major project, so I'm more than happy to offer as 'payment' of sorts a oneshot of their choosing.
If you're interested, please PM me.
A/N - and this is it. The last chapter of the first edition of SE. If you have the story on alert, leave it on alert, as the story will be going under a major re-write/editing. There will be a sequel, which I'll start posting fairly soon, although one of my other stories may be posted first. See the poll in my profile if you want a say in which one gets published first.
I also have a new website to post my stories on - divanora. webs. com
I am pretty excited to have finished my first multi-chapter story, although I still do think it could be better, at least I finally motivated myself and saw a story through. Thank you to everyone who's read so far. Thank you to Klalista, tmelange1, Raiya-shi, Dawn of Glory, Domina Noctis, and popculturejesus for your reviews.
Thank you to Klalista, Dawn of Glory, Endoh Kumiko, Istioh, D., Mettoy, Popculturejesus, Shpadoinkle, Team-Edcob, Yohji, cantcount, deek and please for fav'ing the story, and thank you to Angelia-jr, Ariana Mist, Dawn of Glory, Domina Noctis, Endoh Kumiko, FadedPurpleStardust, Klalista, please, scorpiodiva, the lobster mobster, tmelange1, and winyseasons for putting the story on alert.
The story ended up being 82 pages and 51,181 words (ignoring authors notes) so had I finished this five months ago I would have passed Nanowrimo. Ah well.
Please enjoy the last chapter, and remember, there will be a sequel (yes, I am aware that certain plot points have not been resolved!)
The next few weeks as they travelled to the capital were tense. All three were thinking about what was coming next, and conversations were short and terse, and sometimes even led to lost tempers.
D'rian could tell that Asahi was still annoyed with Alaex about the plan for the Knight to be the next King. While he could understand where he was coming from, as that was a huge life change to take in, it's not like it was the blond's fault, and the Fae thought it was slightly unfair of him to take it out on Alaex. When the subject was brought up, however, the Knight just shook his head and said that Alaex should have said something sooner to him.
"He could have said something sooner; he could have mentioned it on the way to the capital, or before we had even left."
D'rian sat back in shock at the sharp tone of voice. The normally laid back man was clearly still very upset over this, but still the phrase 'shooting the messenger' came to mind.
"We had only been there a few weeks before you left; you can't expect them to trust something like that to people they've only just met."
Asahi's hands clenched around his reins, and D'rian had the feeling that if they hadn't been riding, the Knight would have liked to punch something. "Yea, well, if they don't trust us, then why are we even doing this? Why make someone you don't trust the bloody king?"
Before D'rian could say anything further, he had kicked his horse ahead, clearly signalling the end of the conversation. Sighing, he fell back to speak to Alaex about the different routes into the castle.
That had been the last time he could get Asahi to talk about it. While he stopped treating Alaex quite so coldly, their conversations remained barely civil. The lord had stopped attempting to flirt with Asahi after the first day, and spent most of his time talking to D'rian about living in the capital.
D'rian felt like he should know the lord from somewhere, as he had dropped enough hints to show that he had to be from the true noble class, rather than the lord he claimed to be. But he couldn't figure out who it could be. While he had never been one to socialize, self-preservation had taught him to pay attention to his surroundings, and the nobles had been part of it. He didn't let it bother him too much though, as once they got to the capital, the blond would need to remove whatever charm cast his 'Lord' illusion so that D'rian could set his own.
When they reached the capital, Alaex and Asahi picked up the Lord/bodyguard roles they had used the previous time they were there. Rian simply tagged along as a friend of Alaex's, not that he really thought anyone would ask, but his robes and hoods kept anyone from recognizing him as the royal wizard.
They went to the Duke's manor first. It wasn't the most secure place to put the illusions on, but it was best they had right now.
The Duke himself was the open to open the door, He ushered them all in with warm embraces, which left the Knight and Fae a bit baffled.
"Well, Asahi, you're going to be my son-in-law soon enough, and from what I've been told, Rian's like a brother to you, so that sort of makes him a son to me as well. And Rian, I expect you to come and visit more often now. You've been missed around here."
Rian blushed, but nodded his agreement. "I did enjoy living here. I was sad to leave."
He nodded, having been filled in on the fact that he was Fae. "You had to do what you had to in order to protect yourself. But now there's no reason that you can't come for dinner every once in a while, and bring Asahi and Saela with you."
The Fae nodded, grinning. "I'll do that. But I think we should get moving. The sooner this is over the better."
"Sure thing son. I'm going to speak to Asahi for a minute until you need him."
Rian and Alaex were left alone in the room, and Alaex fidgeted. The blond knew the illusion was going to be up sooner or later, but it was still nerve-wracking.
The wizard frowned. "I'm sorry, I know for whatever reason you don't want us to know who you really are, but..."
"No...I know. I'm sorry." The disguised Lord sighed and removed the pendant that kept the illusion in place.
Wide silver eyes stared in shock. He opened his mouth a few times before anything came out. "I knew you looked familiar! Does...Asahi know?"
Alaex grimaced. "Not yet. I think that's what they're talking about now."
Rian glanced at the door, morbidly curious about what was going on in the other parlour.
Asahi fidgeted nervously. He knew what the Duke wanted to talk about, and he really wasn't looking forward to it. Even knowing and expecting to get married to his daughter hadn't really prepared him. Normally they would have met in a few months, gotten to know each other for a few years (if, as in Asahi and Saela's case they hadn't met previously) and then get married. Very rarely, this allowed marriages to be called off if there was a case of severe dislike or incompatibility. Now, they would probably be married within a month.
The Duke seemed to understand his trepidation, because he gave him a soft smile.
"I know you're probably very nervous and overwhelmed by everything. And I'm sure that you think everything's going too fast. Unfortunately I feel the same way, but my brother is becoming too irrational and dangerous for us to overlook any more. I had wanted to bring you into this earlier, but your Captain wanted you protected in case this went badly, and I conceded."
Asahi sighed, but nodded. "I really should have expected it anyway, once we all realized how bad the King was getting. Even if you took the throne now, Saela would stand to inherit after you."
"And I will help you as much as I can; but now on to what I needed to tell you. Obviously I wanted to apologize for forcing all of this on you so suddenly; more importantly though, I wanted to let you know that you have in fact, met my daughter. It's publicly known she's in the country, what's not known is that she's not with her relatives. She was actually helping with Kelian's group. I wasn't happy about it at first, but she convinced me it was for the best. She was able to see what was going on in the rest of the country as well as help out where she could."
The Knight gaped at Jalen. He had a feeling he knew who Saela had been posing as. "Saela...is Alaex, isn't she?"
Jalen actually laughed. "Yes, she is. I thought you'd figure it out. She actually thought you'd figure it out sooner, but she wanted the chance to get to know you a bit before you knew who she was."
Asahi grinned; he wasn't particularly happy about being duped the entire time, but he was very happy that his future wife wasn't one of the vapid, fashion obsessed women that hung around court, or weak-minded and timid.
D'rian glanced over at Saela while they waited for Asahi to come back into the room. He still couldn't believe the blond 'Lord' was the girl who whom had known years ago. She had thankfully matured, and grew out of her crush on him.
Saela was back to her original gender, with slightly longer and darker hair, and a long scar running down the side of her face. D'rian hadn't wanted to add anything that distinctive, but she had pointed out that looking at her scar would keep anyone from paying attention to the other two, and it wasn't like they had to get back out of the castle under these disguises, just in. With that logic, he conceded the point. He had lightened his hair, and gone with a dark blue outfit, and Asahi would lose a few inches of his height and lose the reddish tint to his hair. He had always found, when he had to cast illusions on others in the past, that changing small things was often more effective than making the person look completely different. Even 'Alaex' had been short for a male, and facially didn't look to different. The pendant had basically just flattened her chest and hardened her feminine curves.
The door to the other room opened, and both of them looked up expectantly. Asahi glanced at the two, and then his eyes met Saela's.
"We have a LOT to talk about. But let's get this over with first." Saela just smirked and nodded. The Fae had to hold back laughter. It seemed they would have a very interesting relationship.
Duke Jalen had followed her out, and it seemed he shared D'rian's amusement. "Alright, the three of you should get going, no reason to drag this out. I'll wait for a while and then head up to 'visit' my brother. "
The three nodded, and D'rian felt the first twists of anxiety knotting his gut. He didn't particularly like his part in this, but there was no help for it. They said a brief goodbye to the Duke and headed out the servant's entrance. The journey to the castle was uneventful, as was their brief trip through the main hallways. All of them were disturbed by the state the castle was in; Saela and Asahi had been there just a few months previous, but D'rian had been gone over a year, and the drastic change was shocking. There were next to know nobles, the few servants they did see dashed around clearly nervous, and the halls were overflowing with the sort of fighters that only the worst and cheapest mercenary companies employed.
With a sigh of relief, they disappeared into one of the hidden passageways. D'rian dropped the illusions, but cast a spell to silence any noise they might make. It wasn't likely that anyone would pay attention to footsteps in the walls, but they were too close to take any chances.
Even though the tunnels would around the castle rather haphazardly, it was still quicker to travel since they weren't avoiding rowdy and often drunk mercenaries. They had decided previously to wait in the walls until they were sure the King was in his rooms, and more importantly alone, and unfortunately for them, it appeared they would have to wait. Asahi had been prepared for that, and took out a stack of cards to pass the time.
It was hard to say just how much time had passed, since they were stuck with only the dim artificial light that the wizard had called up, but it had to have been several hours before they finally heard voices. The three slowly and quietly got to their feet, and Saela put her ear to the wall to hear who was in the room. She held up three fingers, and the other two waited impatiently for the guards to leave.
After the already long wait it seemed like ages before they heard the sound of a door opening and closing. They waited a little longer, as there was still voices, but D'rian and Saela both recognized it as being the Duke, so they carefully slid the door open and stepped into the room. The King looked up as they entered.
"What are you doing in here? You're not allowed in here!" Before he could say anything further, his brother had come up and covered his mouth. D'rian took a deep breath and started forward. He had used his innate magic to cure people before, but he wasn't happy about using it to cause sickness, and could only hope it worked. All he was going to do was weaken the King's body, hopefully without causing any pain. If it worked correctly, Kalen would only feel consistently tired. He frowned, and concentrated on the man before him.
He pulled on the energy he found, taking enough that the King slumped in his brother's arms, before he was gently lowered onto his bed. The Fae was about to pull back, when the darkness that marred his energy from the head injury decades ago caught his attention. As he had thought when he had first met the King, it was ingrained deeply into the man's energy; removing the stain would kill him. But, since he had the time now, perhaps he would be able to at least help. Carefully unweaving it, he pulled, and watched as the dark stain lightened, leaving only a small, dense mass of it. It was all he could do for now, but there was always the chance he could work on it more later, if what he did now seemed to help at all.
Blinking his eyes, D'rian realized that very little time had actually passed. He was leaning back on Asahi, and as soon as his eyes opened fully, Saela came forward with a glass of water, which he gratefully took. Kalen was sleeping peacefully, his brother sitting next to him, holding his hand.
"Did it work?" Jalen smiled bitterly, and nodded.
"He got really sleepy, then started convulsing, and shortly after passed out. I thought this was supposed to be painless?"
D'rian grimaced. "I may have...attempted to help heal his mind. I don't think it worked though."
Jalen sighed, and the Fae felt worse about not succeeding. But at the least, they would be able to proceed with their plan. "Alright, you three ready?"
They nodded, and Asahi and Saela slipped through the hidden door, the Duke's daughter giving her father and D'rian both a quick kiss on the cheek. They would go through, and hopefully slip undetected through the city and then 'return' when the Duke called them. D'rian had the dubious pleasure of making the guards think he had been the one to poison the King. All he had to do however was lead the guards around in the tunnels for a while before he retreated to his old tower. With most of the servants missing, it wouldn't surprise anyone to find out the reclusive Royal Wizard had been hiding out in his tower the entire time.
Eluding the guards ended up being a lot easier than he thought, although thinking about it, he probably shouldn't have been surprised. After all, the best fighters – the Knights - had been sent to their city barracks, decent fighters were mostly employed in the army, and they were all out of the city at this point, which only left the dregs to be stationed in the castle.
D'rian's tower was cold and dusty when he slipped inside. Frowning, he set about cleaning up; he may end up being stuck in the tower for a few days, and he could never deal with mess and dirt. To take up more time, he decided to clean the entire room by hand, rather than using his abilities. If they came to get him, he'd worry about it then.
It ended up taking two days before there was a tentative knock on his door. A nervous looking servant was standing outside, and told him that the King had summoned him. D'rian nodded, and dressed once again in the robes he thought would be gone forever, made his way to the throne room. The fears he had were relieved however, when he saw the lack of mercenaries and the return of the regular Guards. The hordes of servants running around put his mind at ease as well.
The fact that everyone he ran across was busy kept the normally gossipy servants quiet, which was a pleasant change. When he reached the throne room, he found the doors wide open, and to his relief, Asahi standing inside. The poor man looked rather uncomfortable talking to the nobles, but apparently it was only obvious to someone who knew him, because the man was nodding emphatically and agreeing to everything the redhead was saying.
"Rian! What on earth are you doing wearing that horrible thing?" D'rian paused, but obligingly took it off. It's not like he liked wearing it anymore.
"So, you'll be one of my advisors, right? I want both a nonhuman and wizard on my council, but you wouldn't mind filling in for both for the time being, right?"
D'rian couldn't speak for a minute, just stared wide-eyed at his friend and the other men in the room. A few looked nervous, but one of the older men burst out laughing.
"I can't believe Kalen missed a nonhuman right under his nose. Don't worry boy, none of us are going to do anything, and that law's the first one being taken off the books anyway."
The others looked a bit calmer after the man, who D'rian had recognized as the head of the council, next to the King, of course, had spoken. The Fae smiled slightly, and sent Asahi a grateful look.
"So what do you say?"
D'rian smiled and nodded. "I'll help any way I can."
Asahi grabbed his friend around the shoulders, practically dragging him into the group of men that made up the council. "Great! We'll get started right away. And before you ask, I've already sent word to Kel; with any luck Val, Naia and Paisha will be here in a couple months."
The Fae found himself smiling again, and relaxed fully. While he had never expected to find himself back in the capital, he couldn't find himself unhappy with how things had turned out. He had his best friend, would be working to make things better for nonhumans, his lover would be here soon, and most importantly, he was finally free to be himself.