“Today we begin the celebration of the gifts Ruah gave to us.” Speaker Goldenend’s voice rang across the green in front of the Palace. About eighty speakers stood in front of the wooden stage that Speaker Goldenend spoke from. I stood Between the Speakers and the stage with the other newly excepted students. Surrounding all of was fifteen hundred Glren.
“This is also a day to recognize the accomplishments we’ve made in the past, and to welcome in the next generation, those who will replace us and take the reins of the Church. I welcome the new class of perspective Speakers that joins us in this year 348 After Kings.
“Now, King Julius Roan, Anointed under Ruah, Hand of the Creator, defender of the Realm, and husband to my beloved niece.” With that Speaker Goldenend took a step back and looked to his right.
King Julius Roan was of average height with broad shoulders, though his presence radiated as if he were a man a foot taller. He had a great black mane streaked with grey at his temples. His eyes were a bright blue. His beard was trimmed tightly and had gone mostly grey. On his head was the crown of Ruah, a simple golden ring that showed brightly. His cloak was a deep purple and was embroidered with a Golden flame, the symbol of the House of Roan: The family that had ruled with unbroken succession since the formation of the Kingdom of Ruaheon. His deep purple jerkin and black trousers were both elegantly embroidered in Gold. Purple and Gold were the colors of the Roan family.
Behind the king came the queen in a dark velvet gown and a cloak matching her husbands. She held the cloak tightly around herself. She had bright green eyes and the golden hair common in her family. Then came Prince Calin, Taller than his father if just as thick in the shoulder. He had his father’s dark hair but kept it short, his eyes were his mother’s bright green. If not for his permanent stoic expression he would have been handsome. Behind him came his wife, Lady Allison, previous of House Roderick from the south. Her olive skin was beautiful from what could be seen as she was consumed in her heavy burgundy cloak. It was clear she longed for warmer days.
Behind them came Princess Gwen Roan, the eldest daughter of the king and a woman grown. She had been married to Angus Artell for three years. She looked much like her mother, but with her father’s stern expression. It was hard to call her pretty even in her flowing yellow gown and golden cloak that accented her hair. Behind her came Prince Caliph, eighteen years old and newly knighted. He was dressed similarly to his father and sported a broad smile as he fondled the hilt of his sword. He had his mother’s Golden hair, if a little darker, as well as her eyes. Of the King’s two sons he was the one the girls saved their smiles for.
Next came the King’s second daughter, Princess Bethany Roan. She looked nearly a woman at sixteen years old: long golden hair flowing even with little wind, her blue eyes were constantly smiling. She did not do much to stop her deep violet cloak from falling back till it barely even covered her shoulders, revealing her elegant sapphire grown, and a shape that was hard for my fourteen-year-old eyes to ignore.
Then the king’s youngest daughter, princess Gemaeve Roan, walked onto the stage. She was fourteen and of an age with me. She had her father’s dark hair and she had eyes that were green or a mixture of blue and yellow. I couldn’t decide. She smiled shyly at the crowd, while holding tightly to her violet cloak covering her green dress. She was only slightly shorter than her sister Bethany, however she was lanky and leaner. She was rather pretty though, and I found myself smiling when I thought she looked my way.
King Julius Roan spoke. “To the Church of Ruah,” his voiced traveled as Speaker Goldenend’s had. “It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the Palace of Ruahden! It is during this time of celebration that we should enjoy our unity, and the prosperity it has brought to this great Kingdom. To the new faces of the Church, it is always good to see the youth that will carry on after us, and take care of the messes we’ll leave them.” He paused a moment for laughter. “This year is of special importance to me and my family. My youngest daughter will join you in study at the Church in Ruahden. It may not be her aspiration to become a Speaker, but my little girl has a thirst for knowledge my libraries simply cannot sate. So I must place the burden of her education on you. I know you will accept her graciously as your peer.” He said that addressing us in the front row.
His speech continued as he addressed issues and topics that I had little interest with at the time. I slowly grew restless. It appeared I was not the only one. Prince Caliph was blatantly bored and kept shifting his weight and rolled his eyes whenever his father started on a new topic.
My attention during the speech was not for the king but rather his two youngest daughters. Eventually the King’s speech would come to an end, “… And now it would be my pleasure to welcome you, Speakers and students, into my home to join me in my New Year’s Feast.” that brought smiles and cheers from the anxious crowd. Even amongst the Glren whom most would not be attending the feast, they would however finally be able to escape the deteriorating weather and cold winter rain.
The students, Speakers and select Glren, were lead into the Great Hall of the Palace of Ruahden. It was located in the center dome between the eight towers. When we aproached the Palace my eyes did all they could do to soak up the beauty of the structure that rose up around me. We passed through the heavy wooden doors into the palace and into a wide hallway with a high vaulted wooden ceiling. It seemed to me that the entire room was painted in gold, it showed brightly from the light cast by the chandeliers. Their candles burned exceptionally bright like the ones around the church. I had begun to suspect it was done with the Quatane.
I looked around at my fellow students astonished by how nonchalant most of them looked. Most were smiling and happy, but they acted like they’d seen something like this place often in their lifetimes. I looked behind me to see the familiar face of Speaker Larissa Saving watching me. She was smiling as if amused. I saw Hari too, but he looked to be in serious conversation with Speaker Samuel Tenun. Larissa Saving made a gesture at me and I spun around. We were entering the great hall.
I almost stumbled over myself when I entered the room. I’m about to repeat myself as I was again lost in wonder. It was the single largest room I’d ever seen. It was larger than I believed could be built. Great arches spanned the ceiling. It had to be a hundred yards long and half again as wide at its widest point. It grew narrower towards the opposite side of the room.
Three great tables stretched lengthwise down the hallway. On the far end of the hall was a raised dais upon which another equally sized table sat perpendicular to the center most tables. The King and his family could already be seen seated there. I was surprised when we were led up to the dais to be seated at the same table as the King and his family. It easily sat the roughly eighty of us from the church.
Reaching the table I looked around for Kevin. I would have walked right by him if he hadn’t tugged on my cloak. He was already seated with room on the bench around him. We didn’t get chairs like the higher ranking speakers and the King’s family.
“This place is amazing!” I said sitting down. More people were filling in from the hallway, they were taking the seats on the lower tables.
“I came here last year when my dad took me to court with him. It was for a couple of days, they’ll sometimes allow you to visit the tops of the towers. You can see the whole city and half the country side.” Kevin said smiling.
My eyes had gone wide “Really!” I began looking around the place more thoroughly.
“We won’t be able to do it now!” Kevin said. “Maybe after the first term you could ask if one of the speakers if they’d be willing to take you,” Kevin shrugged.
“Maybe, Hari’s going Blood Hunting after this week, don’t know when he’ll be back.”
“Really? I’d almost forgotten that he still hunted. Most Blood Hunters stop getting sent out when they get raised to the higher ranks and he’s on the Chair in Ruahden. He’s also a little old.”
“Hari’s not that old.”
“Old for Blood Hunting, plus he could potentially be brought onto the High Chair of the High Church of Ruah. He’d be one step below High Speaker then. No point to risk all dueling with Hemomancers.” he scowled at the name Hemomancer. “Dangerous sons of bitches those, my uncle died fighting one the during the Jahzn conflict.”
“That was eight years ago, many of the wounded veterans became beggars in Coastown. I don’t really remember much about it. No one ever told me much”
“The Church retaliated after a large band of Hemomancers had begun raiding on the Ruaheon side of the Orlo Mountains after through crossing Aeox Pass.”
“I knew about that, I read the papers and stuff that I found,” I said. “The Church was seiging the mountain fortress of Krone when the treaty was signed.”
“My uncle died during the retreat out of Jahzn. Caplentaria was kind enough to give us time to retreat after making their alliance with Jahzn. but the Jahzny were all too happy to ambush forces leaving their lands.” Kevin took a breath. “You know what I’ve heard? There’s been an increase of Jahzn Hemomancers coming across the border as well as an increase in attacks and raids. That might be why they’re calling Speaker Hari back. He may be old but he’s one hell of a Blood Hunter…” Kevin’s eyes widened, I narrowed my eyes at him when I heard a voice over my right shoulder.
“Where are you from?” I turned around and froze. I was looking into Gemaeve Roan’s beautiful color changing eyes. She wore a smile as she sat down on the bench next to me.
“Princess,” I heard Kevin saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, my name is Kevin Larkin.” he donned a polite smile and gave her a seated bow.
“Pleased to meet you, Kevin Larkin, I am Princess Gemaeve Roan.” She gave a curtsy. “Well, I guess they didn’t teach manners wherever you’re from,” She said addressing me frowning.
“Ugh… Demetrius Skagora… Princes, it’s a pleasure.” I reached my hand out to shake hers, but then realized I probably should have bowed like Kevin had. That thought was too late. She took my hand questioningly then laughed slightly as she shook it.
Kevin heaved in the effort of not braking out in ridiculous laughter. “Forgive him, he’s a Coastowner,”
“A Coastowner?” her eyes grew curious, “Really? I’ve never meet someone from Coastown before.”
“I’ve never met someone who lived in the Palace before either,” I somehow managed to say.
She laughed. “My father and mother told me that I should get to know my future peers,” She said. “What’s it like in Coastown? I’m not allowed down there, not even with guards. What I hear doesn’t sound very good.”
“I’m not surprised, it’s a dangerous slum. I’ve been mugged more times than I want to think about.”
Her eyes narrowed, “My father has guards patrol the entire city.”
“Yes, but a lot less Coastown.” I felt Kevin’s elbow but I couldn’t help it. “And they aren’t your best either.”
“That’s not true, the Captain of the Guard-”
“Probably doesn’t want to risk his best guards.”
“What do you know?!” I hadn’t expected her to get se upset.
“I grew up Coastown. I’ve seen your High town and Low town, even Dockside, and the Market District. They enjoy easily three times the security presence of Coastown.” She looked like she was about to say something but I spoke again, “Twice guards watched me get my last meal kick out of me and didn’t do anything but check if I was alive afterwards. I’ve been robbed of for everything I own, I‘ve been tempted to return the favor… I’m sorry princess-.”
“I don’t believe they even have books Coastown, you don’t know anything about how a city is run.”
“I read better than most. And no, I may not have read much on how cities run, but I do understand that the Crown puts a lot less effort in Coastown than the other districts, we still have fallen and falling buildings from seastorms fifteen years past.”
“There are contractors in the city that can be paid to clear them!”
“With what money? You lose your house Coastown it’s usually the streets. Unless you have family, or miraculously extra money. You definitely aren’t wasting what little you have on clearing the remains of your old house. And that’s only an issue, if you have the luxury of owning your own place to begin with. I haven’t had a home in four years.”
“You were homeless? They have shelters Coastown I know that for a fact! My father has had them instituted to combat homelessness; you could have gone to one of those.”
“And risk abuse? To have some weird man feel me up? To disappear and find myself on a slave ship on its way east? I’m here because I didn’t do that.”
“Those are responsible institutions emplaced by my father!”
I couldn’t stop it, I had to laugh. “You really do know nothing.”
She gave a humph, “Well, forgive me!” she said non to politely. She then stood up and left.
Kevin cuffed me in the back of the head. “Way to go! A chance for you to make a good impression on a princess of Ruaheon and you do that!”
“She irritated me.”
“Of course she irritated you,” Kevin lectured me. “By a rule princesses are irritating, and she actually wasn’t terrible.”
I shrugged. “Maybe she learned something.”
“Yeah, that Demetrius Skagora is a giant ass!” Kevin said cuffing me again.
Tyler W. Golec