Mouse stood silently beside though slightly behind the Throne that Arya currently sat on. She was still shaken up from the events of the morning and was not looking forward to the morning report from the returning Knights as she knew that Sir Darien would be among them. Sure enough, when the Knights filed into the room, his was the second face that she saw, walking right behind the fleet's leader, whom Mouse recognized as Sir Gordon Montéfore. The old Knight stepped forward and knelt before the Queen, the other Knights following his suit.
"Long live the Queen!" they all spoke in unison, raising their heads to look at her. As Darien raised his head, his eyes flickered over to Mouse and he smiled. Mouse quickly looked away, her heart racing, and turned her focus back on Sir Gordon.
"Rise, brave Knights," Arya smiled. "What news have you?"
"The Iteca grow stronger and stronger each day," Sir Gordon reported sadly as he stood up. His dark, greying hair was beginning to bald, evidence of his aging years, though his toned body said otherwise. He was still in very good shape due to the vigorous lifestyle of being a Knight. His nose was misshapened from being broken multiple times in battle and a few old scars, as well as a couple of new ones, decorated his face. His pale grey eyes were heavy with the weight of the horrors he had seen throughout his life as he looked sadly upon the Queen.
"It seems like there are more and more incidents involving the name Iteca every day," he continued. "We almost succeeded in getting one of our own on the inside, but we were compromised. It appears to be that one of our own sold us out and we had no choice but to return here to regroup and plan our next move."
"How do you know it was one of your own?" Arya asked.
"One of our most recent recruits disappeared the day before our position was exposed and he has not been seen since," Sir Gordon stated. "We believe that he may have been swayed with a bribery of gold, but there is no way to be sure if this is true."
"This is disheartening news," Arya sighed. "You have my full permission to make any inquiries that you feel necessary to get to the bottom of this. As for the failure of the mission, I believe that it may be necessary to send some fresh faces out, ones that may not be as recognizable. But that can wait for now. I am sure that you are all weary from your travels and would wish to retire and see your families."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Sir Gordon bowed his head to her.
"Then you are all dismissed," Arya announced to all of them before turning her attention back on Sir Gordon. "We will discuss strategies later."
"Thank you, Your Majesty," he gave her a formal bow and then exited, each of his Knights copying his action. Sir Darien paused an extra two seconds as he bowed to the Queen, his eyes leaving Mouse's face for only a second to pay respect to Arya before they flickered back to her. She refused to look at him, though she could feel his penetrating eyes on her. After what felt like an eternity, he finally left. Each Knight paid their respects to the Queen and finally the room was empty of them. Mouse wanted to collapse on the floor, but she forced herself to remain calm as there were still other servants and guards in the room. She could not explain how or why Darien unnerved her as he did, but what she did know was that she wanted to avoid him as much as she possibly could.
Mouse took great care to keep herself busy all day, avoiding any chance encounters with him. She had one close call where she would have run right into him if she hadn't of heard his voice talking to someone else just around the corner. She quickly ducked into one of the small alcoves along the wall and hid there as he passed by.
"Why do you pursue her?" Darien's companion, a Knight that Mouse recognized as Sir Sheldor, commented as they walked by. He was a tall Knight, very built, with short brown hair and the most unique eyes that Mouse had ever seen. One was as blue as the sky, while the other one was as green as the leaves of an evergreen tree.
"She clearly does not want to be around you," he continued, half mocking him.
"Oh, but see that's half the fun!" Darien laughed, pausing uncomfortably close to where Mouse was hiding. "There's just something about how she pushes me away that just makes me want her even more!"
"What, because she's the only girl to ever reject you?" Sheldor scoffed.
"Maybe," Darien shrugged. "But maybe not... Maybe I actually have feelings for this one, crazy as that sounds... I can't get her out of my head... And I just don't understand her! She is clearly attracted to me, but yet she continues to reject me! Why?"
"Maybe she was being courted by someone already?" Sheldor suggested.
"No, she wasn't," Darien replied certain. "And she still isn't. Trust me, I've made my inquiries. Besides, I've stolen the hearts of many "taken" women."
"Really?" Sheldor smirked. "That's not what I've heard."
"Oh?" Darien inquired. "And what, my friend, have you heard?"
"I've heard rumors that a young Knight... Vyron, I believe his name is, has started courting her."
"How could you know of this when I didn't?" Darien asked sharply.
"Have you forgotten how quickly gossip spreads here?" Sheldor laughed. "One person claimed to see Vyron out picking flowers early this morning. Another said that they saw flowers outside Mouse's door. Put two and two together and you've got yourself the latest piece of court gossip."
"He may have sent her flowers, but that doesn't mean that she is interested in him," Darien commented, starting to walk again.
"True," Sheldor replied. "But it also doesn't mean that she isn't."
Mouse listened silently as their voices faded. Her heart pounded madly in her chest. He's not going to give up, she realized sadly. Enough! Enough of this! Forget about him! He's not important! Just think of Vyron. Only a little bit longer until I get to see him again. She couldn't help the goofy smile that crossed her face as she thought about him. Just a little bit longer.