“In here, quick!”
Raielyn crouched down and crawled into the little space that she and Kerr had discovered in the middle of a large rose bush outside their rooms. Kerr was tucked in the middle, sitting cross legged.
“Why are you in here anyway?” she asked, settling down beside him.
“I’m hiding from Xiri.”
“Didn’t you go on a tirade yesterday about how you’re not a child anymore and yet here you are today hiding from your tutor in a rosebush?”
“Semantics,” said Kerr airily, “besides, I wanted to show you something.” He opened his hands, revealing a horrified looking lake bird. It cooed at Raielyn, begging for salvation from its tormentor. She reached over and liberated it from Kerr, reaching into her pocket for a few crumbs from the cookie she’d smuggled out of her morning meal to give it for its trouble. Deciding that anyone who provided cookie crumbs was acceptable, it settled down in her lap, spreading its magnificent tail plumes over her legs, the iridescent bluish green complimenting the blue silk of her pants.
Kerr tugged at one of the silk ribbons in her hair. “How come you’re allowed to wear pretty hair things but I still have to wear flowers?” he pouted.
“I suspect it’s because you’re more apt to go diving under bushes to catch bugs and animals than I am and Vaara doesn’t want priceless crowns dumped in the lake by accident” Raie said dryly, stroking the bird’s head. She reached over and plucked off a flower petal that had gotten caught on one of the branches and handed it to Kerr and gave him a pointed look.
They both jumped as the branches above them were pushed aside and Xiri’s stern face appeared above them. The bird shrieked and flapped away over the garden wall next to them, going to join the rest of its flock in lazily floating on the mirror-still lake nearby.
“I see you not only insist in skipping your own lessons, but in also corrupting the future Queen of this planet, Prince. Princess, I expected better things from you,” Xiri informed them, no amusement to be found on his face.
“Forgive me if I don’t look forward to your lessons” Kerr snapped, crawling out of the bush, branches further destroying the purple-black roses twined in his hair. Xiri’s sole purpose was to deliberately provoke them so they could learn to control their emotions. Raie and Kerr had taken to comparing him, with his black robes and gray streaked black hair, to one of the huge hunting eagles that terrorized the deep jungle and could grow large enough to bring down hellcats. They had tried on multiple occasions to provoke a sense of humor out of Xiri. So far they hadn’t discovered one.
“I’ll thank you to remember that I teach you perhaps one of the most important skills you will learn,” Xiri said sharply as they sullenly trailed after him.
“Why is it called ‘debating lessons’ anyway? We’re certainly not doing anything like that” Kerr muttered under his breath as Xiri swept through the door to the room where they conducted lessons. They both received pokes on the back for slouching as they passed him. The view from the large windows could have been lovely, but had been completely ruined for the both of them through association of the activities that took place in the room. There was also a barrier over one of the windowpanes from where Raie had hurled a heavy jeweled comb through the glass in a rage the week before, restricting the decorations Raie was now allowed to have in her hair. There was no furniture but for a chair for Xiri for the same reason.
Xiri sat down in the chair and folded his hands in lap, black robes pooling around him. He regarded them both with an expression that could almost be described as delighted anticipation. “Shall we begin?”
Two hours later Raie slouched down, sitting on the floor. Though she and Xiri and quickly escalated to shouting, she’d managed to keep the rest of her temper in check. Now she watched Kerr scream and rage, close to tears with frustration. He’d torn the rest of the flowers out of his hair in anger, the floor now covered in petals. When pushed enough, Xiri had discovered that Kerr could reach a deadly calm and out-argue anyone on any topic, but today was perhaps not one of those days. Xiri had long ago stopped talking and sat, hands still calmly folded in his lap, watching Kerr scream himself silly to wind down from his tantrum. At last he stopped, red-faced and panting, glaring murderously at Xiri. Xiri held up a hand. “We are finished for today, but we are not finished with this discussion.” With that, he got up and left, clicking the door quietly shut behind him.
Kerr flopped down beside Raie. She regarded him. “Are you finished putting on airs?”
“’putting on airs?’ what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Making a scene. I read it in a human book somewhere.”
Kerr scoffed. “I do not make a scene. So far I have a record of exactly zero windows broken. And don’t use human phrases, they’re stupid.”
“You can’t tell me what to do, I’m a Princess” said Raie haughtily, drawing herself up and looking down her nose at him. “Maybe when I’m Queen I’ll make you read Jane Austen as a punishment for anything you do that displeases me.”
“I’ll be sure to hate every second of it.”
Raie leaned back into the cushions and sighed, pushing her bowl away. She offered a piece of melon to the golden furred Cyq who had been waiting remarkably politely on the cushion beside her. It snatched it delightedly and gave her a look of pure adoration. Kerr was lounging on another couch, possibly being held hostage by a Cyq who sat on his chest and made threatening chatters every time he stopped feeding it bits of seeds.
“Do you know what I’ll do if I’m ever high Prince?” said Kerr dreamily, unfazed by the Cyq sitting on him.
“I’ll have Xiri sent to some other planet, far, far away.”
“Really Kerr, you must stop making such obtuse statements!” scolded Vaara.
Kerr grinned lazily. “Oops, sorry Vaara,” he said, looking decidedly not sorry.
Raie surrendered her entire bowl of fruit to the Cyq and curled up against the pillows, feeling very sleepy. A breeze swept in off the lake through the open windows and Raie thought she could fall asleep right there…
The doors burst open and a red haired male in a guard’s uniform staggered in clutching his side. It took Raie a moment to realize there was blood welling under his fingers. He collapsed to his knees and gasped, “Queen Lana is dead. We bow to you, Queen Raielyn.”