Talon yawned leaning heavily on his spear. Between the three of them they were rotating shifts watching Aiden. Each man was on for sixteen hours straight. Eight hours with each partner, and the eight hours off they got was dedicated solely to sleep. Much to the dismay of the three of them; especially Talon, his wife was not taking it well at all.
Aiden liked to occupy his time wondering the castle via the servant corridors, or building his body back up. Something the guards were grateful for since all the nobles were still around. Frankly it was hard to tell who the nobles hated more, them or Aiden. Not that the feeling wasn't mutual anyway. The only people Aiden didn't seem to offend where the servants and the soldiers. Not that it was a bad thing. Sometimes Talon, Biggers, and The Captain could sneak in a nap here or there if Aiden was engaged with someone else. Particularly when he was engaged with the soldier's practice field; were he'd usually burn away most of the day. When they didn't wake up on their own Aiden would 'gracefully' wake them up, much to his amusement more than their own.
"What's on your mind?" The Captain's question jarred Talon's focus back to reality.
"Just wondering when all these nobles are going to leave the castle. There must be at least one member from every noble house and then some here."
"Well at least the prominent males are still here… regardless of age it seems."
"Yes but… I don't think the princess is that old anyway… is she?" Talon wondered. He was fairly young himself, and had only been working in the castle the past couple of years.
"Aye. I've been here since before she was born seventeen years ago." He cleared his throat before getting back on track. "Most of the less prominent houses have left. However until its official the dogs are still going to bark at the door."
"S-o what do you make with what happened with Esodo a week ago?" Talon let out a yawn looking around the near deserted garden.
"Well," The Captain smoothed the horse hair on his spear. "I know they're still around, but…" He looked over at Aiden. The man in question was currently inspecting a series of plants in the garden. He looked like a healthy human again, although he was still a bit on the skinny side, and his hair was shorter than a new recruit's on his first day of training. Not that his ever present companion Rosslyn minded. She sat perched on his shoulders, arms crossed atop his head. "I don't think we'll see them around much if at all. The way I hear it Aiden did quite a number on his face…. Not that anyone is complaining mind you. Esodo and his clan while powerful are less then liked by many of the nobles."
"Just how powerful can a family be that is in such poor standings with the others?" Talon wondered. Politics was never really his forte. He enjoyed the simple pleasures of a soldier. You get told something and you do it, nothing more nothing less.
"Many of the smaller noble houses get bullied by them, but his clan is in control of the Tenók region. Many of the kingdoms most valuable resources can be mined, harvested, or dug up there. Of course you see where the problem lies."
"Since Esodo's people are more clan based they don't use the resources, but they're not going to give them up freely either." Talon frowned grunting a bit. One could usually trace most of a country's problems to political bull shit. He may not have been the smartest person when it came to politics but he wasn't dumb either.
"Right and no group can really take over, since many armies have no idea how to, nor are equipped to fight in terrain that changes from swamps to rock land to forest and then some almost instantaneously. The Tenók region is comprised of many tribes. Most tribes don't side with us because the lead clan is given a member from each, and thus the tribes get power. However it also means that the lead tribe change hands if something happens to the lead clan's head. Such as a death, if a marriage happens, a disaster, etcetera. Point being is power there is earned by any means necessary. Ergo this whole marriage thing with the king's daughter is nothing more than a bid for power."
"So why not cut a deal with one of the other nobles outside the area? That seems like it would make more sense. They'd get protection from the outside and still trade resources." Talon rocked on his feet, only maintaining the conversation as a means to stay awake and focused.
The Captain cleared his throat getting back on track. "Well were another noble to try and move in they would be left with nothing. No help from the locals, no way to navigate or hold on to the territory, and more importantly no way to get shipments in and out safely. So it's in everyone's interest to work together… well as far as the tribes are concerned. They are able to defend all areas of the land due to the individual tribes' specialized knowledge. Then all's they need to do is extort what they need from neighboring nobles. That mostly being better weapons and armor… ironic really. The nobles give them all the means they need to make sure they are not controlled by anyone outside the territory."
"So what about Aiden, how does he fit in to this?" Talon asked motioning his head in the direction of the man in question.
The Captain frowned a bit thinking it over in his head. Due to the amount of time Aiden spent with him and his guards, they'd learned quite a bit about him. Most of the information was learned through menial conversation here and there, or just by observation. "He's a wild card that's for sure. Esodo knows he can't be manipulated like the others. Hell he's lucky he's got a noble title to begin with…"
"Well actually being a Ranger and all grants him the use of the Old Laws." Talon corrected. While Aiden still had to abide by the laws of the kingdoms, the Old Laws superseded those of the kingdoms. The Old Laws had not protected him from the consequences of destroying a village. Even if he didn't do it with no one else with to blame he was left with the brunt of it, and even Rangers and Druids had to be accountable for their actions.
The Captain grunted lightly turning from Talon to Aiden. "As I said right bit of luck that is." The Captain sighed running his hand down the front of his jaw. "But still…"
"But still what?"
"There's King Isaac to take into account. There's no way he's going to miraculously get better. I got a feeling if our Princess doesn't choose he will."
"But the King knows about Esodo and Aiden right?"
"Well so far as I know. I mean he has to know about Esodo, as you well know it's hard for a woman to hide pregnancy. As for Aiden; if memory serves Princess Keira talked to her father several days ago, so he knows about our resident 'Rags to Riches' attempt."
"Speaking of, how'd she get away with having a kid and no one knowing about it?"
"I wouldn't say that per-say. Our conversation is proof of that." The Captain's frown deepened as he quickly changed the subject. "It's not looking good for our kingdom that's for sure. We either get a psychopath for a king, or a guy who has; not only no drive to be a king beyond keeping his head attached to his shoulders, but doesn't know how to run a village let alone a kingdom. Not to mention he also hasn't a clue how to function in noble society to boot."
"You're a real inspiration Captain, you know that?" Talon more stated than questioned. His brow arched slightly as he watched his captains reaction.
"Yeah…" He made a snorting grunt as he looked at his companion. "We're fucked."
Chapter 8: Children
"Mr. Aiden, how long are you going to stay?" Rosslyn asked from atop his shoulders.
"I don't know." Aiden stated as he adjusted his shoulders. His skin had regained its color, and he'd gained a fair amount of his original weight back as well. The servants had provided him with several sets of extra clothes. Something he was grateful for as he didn't have to wear the same clothes over and over again. Though Rosslyn didn't seem to mind him whatever the case happened to be.
"Why not?" She asked swinging her feet lightly.
"Well I'll be around until your mother and grandfather can figure out what to do with me."
"What does that mean?" Rosslyn frowned a bit, as she rested her head on Aiden's.
"It means I doubt I'll stay long if your mother chooses not to marry me… or if her father doesn't let her. That being said if the answer is no then I'll most likely have my head removed." Aiden clarified lightly rubbing his neck. He leaned against one of the marble statues inspecting it as he thought over the situation. "However if she marries me, I suppose I'll stay indefinitely."
"It means until she tells me otherwise." His chuckle was cut short as he heard footsteps behind him. It wasn't the telltale of clunk of guard boots; no, it was the click of heels. Before he could even turn completely around to say anything, he was cut off. The voice that cut him off was the very voice that he hadn't heard for several days.
"Are you ready?" As he turned around she looked him over, a fine brow arched delicately. "Apparently not…"
"For what exactly?" He responded with equal confusion, and a mirrored expression.
"To meet my father." Keira said with a mixed tone of worry and complete lack of confidence.
"Uhhh has it already been a full week since I was out?"
"Aideeen…" Keira nearly growled at him crossing her arms over her chest.
"Tell you what, you spend two years in a cell underground and then you tell me if you keep track of time as well as you use to." Aiden said with a grunt frowning. "Besides it's not like someone wasn't going to get me when he called anyway."
"That's not even close to the point, and what if someone didn't get you?!"
"If it wasn't the point why ask what if?" Aiden just smirked and shrugged. "Besides he's the king, if he didn't tell me a time to see him he'd have to send someone because no one's going barge in on him."
Keira gave him an exasperated look. She grumbled into her palm as she rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Have you even thought about what you're going to say to my father?"
"Uhhh the truth? Not a lot to practice there."
"You're impossible. Word of advice, don't be blunt. Try and have a little tact when talking to my father. The less you make it sound like your just trying to stay alive the more he'll be on your side." Keira coached, running her fingers though her hair.
"I may not do politics, but I'm not completely stupid either." Aiden growled back.
"You two aren't always going to fight are you?" Rosslyn wondered, pressing her face to Aiden's skull.
"Hardly," Keira reached up to pick up Rosslyn from Aiden's shoulders. Even standing as far on her toes as she could in heels, Aiden still had to bend down for her to even come close to picking up the girl. "Just think of it as me educating him on forward thinking."
"But don't you always think forward?" Rosslyn asked while Aiden snickered. "If you thought backwards wouldn't you just think about doing something you already did?"
"That's not exactly what it means." Keira sighed lightly bouncing Rosslyn just enough to get her in a comfortable position. Aiden held up his hands as he leaned against the statue. He had no intention of helping out, rather enjoying the show.
"So what does it mean?"
"It means Mr. Aiden here likes to make things up as he goes… as far as planning out what he's going to do." Keira clarified before Rosslyn could question her on the phrase. She threw him a look as he very obviously tried to hide his laughter.
Both Aiden and Keira flinched as Captain hit them both upside the head. "Ahm." He cleared his throat looking at the trio. "I believe you came here to take him to King Isaac?" His frown was evident in his voice as his eyes went from one person to the next.
"Sir." Talon handed him back his spear. He wasn't about to question or correct the fact that a guard had just hit the princess. No he was sure The Captain knew what he was doing and even if he didn't, well Talon wasn't going to put his neck where it didn't belong. The last thing he needed or wanted was to make his wife a widow before the baby was born.
"Right…" Keira gave The Captain a disgruntled look, before turning her attention back to Aiden. "There's a nicer set of clothes for you on your bed. So you're going to have to change and then I'll take you to see my father."
"But…" Aiden leaned back on his heels as she raised her finger at him.
"No buts! Now let's go, the sooner we get this over with the better." With that she had no problem leading them to where they needed to go.
Aiden only half listened as she attempted to talk off his ear on the walk back to his room. He managed to pick up a few key words consisting of 'you need to maintain courtesies', and 'don't be so smug'.
"Alright already." Aiden rolled his eyes lightly as he opened his door. "I got it sheesh, you act like I've never dealt with nobles before."
"Not like this you haven't." Keira frowned at him watching him step through the door way. As he closed the door she leaned against the wall waiting for him.
"Oh you've got to be kidding me!" He yelled loud enough for Keira to hear on the other side of the door.
"Just shut up and put it on before I do it myself!" She hollered back.
"Well…" Aiden tapped his fingers against his chin, glad Keira couldn't see the devilish smile on his lips.
"Don't even!" Keira threatened.
"You look funny Mr. Aiden." Rosslyn laughed as Aiden came out of his room. A not so happy look on his face, as he fussed with the slightly puffy silver colored sleeves.
"I look like a fool." Aiden grumbled, tucking the shirt into his black pants, before doing up the blue vest.
"Would you rather I give you one of those ridiculous feather hats?" Keira suggested, adjusting the shoulders of the vest.
"By the gods if you do that I think I might go to the chopping block myself."
"Children!" the captain barked. "Shall we continue to bicker, or shall we be on our way?"
"After you," Aiden gestured for Keira to lead the way.
The awkwardly short trip was made long by Keira running Aiden through his paces in an all too tedious question and answer session. Like before Aiden only half listened, but this time Keira would tug at the short hair on his jaw line to bring him out of his day dreams.
"Kaptain!" The group turned their head to see and hear Biggers running after them. "Sorry, ah coudn' fin' ye guys."
"Yeah Princess here is taking Aiden to talk to King Isaac." The Captain gave Biggers a solid pat on the shoulder. "Good luck with babysitting."
"…Is thaur something ah should know?" He asked as they continued on towards King Isaac's chambers.
"Mom and dad are fighting." Talon said flatly which earned him a look from both parties. "Point proven."
"Just stay outside the door you two." Keira looked over to Aiden. "Ready?"
"Oh as I'll every be." With that he opened the door, and let her and Rosslyn walk in first.