“What oath? What is she talking about?” launched Chrisoncor. Doranand was expecting this kind of reaction from him. Although he was hoping that he would have passed the message along with a bit more tact. But Lania had studied well Aliana’s flair for dramatics. The more he spent around this woman, the more she amazed him.
“Princess Aliana is indeed dead.” he answered. “She died a few weeks ago, just before Milos went to Evan. One of his barons, Matthias of Dunwall and his daughter had her abducted and drowned with the hope that Sonetta would become his next bride. The king however discovered the truth and had Sonetta hanged.”
“You keep saying that Aliana is dead and yet she is standing beside you.” said Riverdale.
“I am...” he took her hand and she stopped, but he could see how much effort it was for her to keep quiet.
“She isn’t Aliana, but her handmaid Lania. Moriah gave her a potion which made her into the likeness of the princess. It also binds her to the witch, which is the oath of which she spoke. In this form she cannot act against Moriah. Even standing here and letting me tell you this is causing her great discomfort.”
“And you brought her here among us!” said Lurion. “Are you also an agent of the witch Whitby? The last time we saw you, you both were in perfect accord.”
“That was to allow me to get passage to Garion to try and rescue the princess. I was at that time under the impression that she was being held against her will and was forced into marriage.”
“And did you find it to be so?” asked Baston seemingly intrigued.
“As it turned out, she didn’t defect nor was she forced into anything. She loved him. They loved each other. She was the Red to his Green, it couldn’t have been any other way.”
“The river wraiths told us as much.” said Conway to Baston.
“It could have been many other ways.” spoke the only earl who had kept quiet the whole time. He was the eldest of the lot with thick greying hair capping a dark-skinned face leathered by years underneath the desert sun. “Ways that didn’t get them both killed.” he said firmly. “From what we hear from the Garians, you, imposter, are responsible for sabotaging them in secret while you stayed in the palace and that you are the prince’s murderer.”
“I didn’t kill Milos. He took care of that himself.” said Lania in her own defence.
“Explain yourself child.” said the old man.
Explaining would mean speaking against Moriah, which she couldn’t do so Doranand explained. “She means that Milos was captured by the witch queen after the quake in Evan. She twisted his mind, making him believe that she was his saviour and everyone else his enemy. After we made him realise what Moriah had done to him, he knew that he couldn’t disobey her no matter how hard he tried, so he did the only thing that could sever her hold on him. He killed himself.”
“And the sabotage?” he pressed glaring through age wizened eyes.
“That is true. It was what I was made for.” answered Lania softly.
The room fell quiet for a few seconds and then Baston spoke once more. “You explain very well the girl’s role in Garion, but what was yours?”
“I was being held prisoner.” Prisoner by the very loosest definition, considering that his door was unlocked for most of his stay. “After the dykes fell, Milos found me. He could have killed me but chose instead to keep me alive for the happiness of his wife.”
“Pity that too.” said Baston. “For now it adds to our already long list of problems gentlemen.” he said facing the other earls. “Now we have to decide what to do with these two.”
“Killing them isn’t an option, as it would be said that we did it to usurp the Crown.” said Lurion. “And Whitby is the returned earl, destroyer of the Dykelands, a wartime hero.” Doranand could hear the mockery in his tone.
“Perhaps we could use him as a mascot. The morale of the men could use some boosting, especially since the grim eaters now fight with the Garians.”
He ignored the mascot reference. “The Garians did what? Why would they do something so stupid?”
“According to you Prince Milos, in his spelled state or whatever, had convinced his father of Moriah’s benevolence. Since we won’t have her or her creatures anymore, she has sided with them. Grief can cloud ones judgement. King Theo lost two heirs in a matter of months and he thinks us to be at fault.”
“Grief or not, he must realise that we shouldn’t be fighting against each other but together as Moriah is the real enemy.” said Doranand.
“I agree with you Whitby, but that still doesn’t change what is. And what is, is that we are at war and that we cannot trust either of you right now.” said Riverdale.
“If everyone here is in agreement,” said Baston, “I think that it is best we keep these two under guard until a more definitive solution is found.”
Agree. Agree. Agree. Seconded the earls in the room.
“But we can help, every man counts.”
“That maybe so, but we do not trust you so we will not risk it.” replied Chrisoncor. “You can cooperate Whitby or we can take you by force.”
He was tired of moving from one cage to the other. He felt his anger boiling over at the stupidity and cowardice of these men. They thought that he would betray Arnay. He would never. He was about to tell them as much, when he felt Lania squeeze his hand.
“It is better than death.” she said. “And we have escaped much worse.” she said calming him with a small smile which though made my Aliana shaped lips, but was fully Lania.
“We will go willingly.” And escape later. He added quietly. “But whether our help is wanted or not, I am not letting any of you get in the way of doing what is best for Arnay.” The first of which was finding that Garian bastard Matthias. He was going to fulfil his promise to Milos and end that wretch’s miserable life.