Writings: The Lost Last Princess of Ravelin (Part 4)

Previously posted on my Patreon.


"Princess Merinn, I am Wyrus. We--myself, and these men and women with me--are here to see you restored to your rightful place on the Ravelin throne."


The tiny private room on the second floor of the inn had been barely big enough to hold the three of them when they rented it; the small size had driven them to drink downstairs at the bar despite no-one being in a mood to socialize with the locals. Now the room was claustrophobic as Ereth paced, Kyne meditated, Meirin rested her leg, and the newcomer Wyrus stood patiently by the door, still in his full armor as he waited for one of them to speak.

Meirin had been the one to demand the four of them discuss plans upstairs, away from eavesdropping ears--and, she thought but didn't add, the company of soldiers ready to declare loyalty to her. She eyed Wyrus where he stood waiting and was disconcerted when he returned her gaze with direct, unflinching eyes. He didn't look like the sort of fanatical fool who would march in full armor over a disputed border seeking the heir to a long-lost monarchy. If she'd thought to anticipate this, she would have imagined a younger man with wild eyes and a lust for adventure. Not this old soldier who seemed better suited for retirement and the hanging up of his armor in exchange for a warm spot by the fire and a mug of spiced ale.

Only dangerous zealots have that kind of devotion, Meirin decided. Stalling, she took a deep breath and rubbed at her leg. It hurt more than usual tonight, which made running away an unattractive option. Ereth could carry her over long distances--and had done so before when the trio had fled thorny situations--but if a legion of soldiers were going to be on their heels, she wanted his hands free. If running wasn't feasible, that left talking. What would a real lost princess do in this situation?

"I am... grateful, truly, for your offer of assistance," she began. The words felt stilted and awkward in her mouth, but maybe that was a good thing; princesses were supposed to sound stilted and awkward. "But I have never even been to my home country. Though it pains me to say so, Ravelin is lost. Adarax has sprung up in her place and I must accept that with grace and a heavy heart." Meirin wondered if a tear would be over-doing the role but decided, on balance, to lean into stoicism.

"Your majesty, the country may be renamed by the foul usurper," Wyrus urged, "but Ravelin lives on in the people's hearts. They need only the sight of you to be reminded of their true loyalties."

The words weren't wrong--she was fairly certain she'd heard Kyne say something similar in one of their pitches to a rich client a few jobs back--but Meirin frowned at the delivery. There was the tiniest false note in Wyrus' voice, a parched droll wit which veered disconcertingly close to sarcasm. She watched his eyes and wondered if she only imagined the mockery which danced there. Beside her on the bed, Kyne hadn't stirred and this troubled her; they could sniff out insincerity like a bloodhound. Was it only her own doubt which made her imagine this man saw right through her? And yet... Trust your instincts, Meirin.

Her voice dropped the cultured lilt she'd spent so much time practicing with Kyne. The resulting rumble in her throat sounded weary in her own ears in addition to damningly poor. With a vocal scratch like that, she'd not be hired as a scullery maid let alone as an adventuring wizard. "Fine. You want the truth? It's a lot less interesting: I'm not a princess. I'm an orphan trying to get by. The Ravelin thing fell in my lap and I needed a hook--it didn't seem like it was hurting anyone. But I'm not a revolutionary figurehead. Sorry you came all this way for nothing, but maybe we can buy you a beer for your trouble. Least we can do."

She could hear Kyne holding their breath and was amused to have surprised them; a rare gift, even under the grim circumstances. Ereth, never concerned with subtlety, simply placed a meaty hand on the axe shaft strapped to his back. Fighting their way out wouldn't be fun, but if the alternative was to allow Meirin to be harmed, there was no question what his decision would be.

Yet the armed and armored soldier didn't reach for his weapon. He didn't move from his position leaning beside the door where the angle of his stance left him utterly unsuited for fighting, Meirin now realized. Instead, he laughed. She wasn't sure she liked Wyrus' laugh--it wasn't cruel or unkind, but there was a sardonic ring to the sound which set her teeth on edge--but it wasn't an attack.

"Do you know, I really didn't think you'd come clean that easily?" His eyes danced as he looked over Meirin. "Eventually, yes, but I expected at least a few token denials from you before I gave myself away. Don't tell me you're tired of the game already. But I suppose it isn't easy being a princess, even a fake one."

Kyne answered before she could, their voice deceptively gentle. They had not opened their eyes from their meditation. "If she is tired of the role, so what? Didn't you hear? She didn't choose this. It was thrust onto her and she's done what seemed best for herself and her loved ones to survive. Her life isn't a game."

The old soldier shook his head, some of the mirth disappearing from his eyes. "No. You're right: her life isn't a game. In fact, I'm sorry--both for what has come before and what will come to be."

Ereth's eyes narrowed and Meirin could see the his knuckles whiten where he gripped his weapon. "What, specifically, are you sorry for?" he asked, his deep voice thick with suspicion.

The barbarian's stance failed to rattle Wyrus, which was itself impressive to Meirin. "Because, like it or not, you are a revolutionary figurehead now. You are the last lost princess of Ravelin and Ravelin needs you."

"I just told you I'm not a princess," Meirin pointed out. "A revelation which didn't seem to surprise you. Yet now you tell me I am? You're acting like I don't have a choice in any of this. I assure you I do." Her heart beat fast in her chest but she strove to keep her voice steady. Don't think about the soldiers downstairs.*

Wyrus shook his head once more, sympathy springing into his voice. "You don't, your majesty. Not realistic ones, anyway. No, this isn't a threat from me," he added as Ereth took a menacing step forward. "I'm not the one you need to worry about. Talatas is coming for you, one way or another. When he finds out I betrayed him, he'll send someone else. Then another, and another, and another. Eventually one of them will manage to kill you. Meirin, if you want to survive, Ravelin is your only hope--as you are hers."


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