Jueneva woke, covered in thick orange and red animal furs, a glowing fire warming her new room. She could not even remember coming to the chamber, or climbing inside the bed, but here she was. Sighing loudly, she let the last few days events roll across her mind, weighing her down. It was so hard to let go.
In a sense she was relieved to finally understand why she was different, why her family always ran, why the world always seemed to teeter on a finite edge. Her true family were murdered when she was but an infant. Now her adopted family were also murdered. Those responsible she only knew by a broad name: the Kreszecs. Other than that she had no real information on who they were or what reasons they had for wanting her and for destroying her family’s rule here in Akkei Maliss.
A soft rap at the door cut into her thoughts. “It is Executor Buore, miss. May I enter?” His muffled voice came through the door.
She rose and stretched, pretending to not be emotional and tussling with her feelings. Her body ached and the desire for more sleep made it even harder to pull out from under the furs, yet she had other more pressing concerns.
The specter floated in and crossed the barely lit chamber. Only a small, mirrored vanity occupied one corner of her new quarters opposite the fireplace. In the other corner stood a tall dress cabinet. There were no real decorations like thick rugs or elaborate tapestries on the walls. Yet she was alright with the modest accommodations and often lived like this with few personal possessions.
“Good morn, Boure.” Today she found she could look him in the face and not feel the reflexive fear of the dead. He was good-natured and surely had been a great asset to her late family. He would be needed further in the future of Coueryere Castle.
“It is sure to be, your majesty.”
She jumped. The word majesty jolted her as if he splashed cold water suddenly in her face. Majesty? Hmmm. I guess he is right. And I suppose it would be better to start acting in that fashion.
“Executor, I have a few requests of you today.”
“I would be honored to fulfill those for you.”
“First, can you find me a weapon? I will be leaving the castle for a short spell. A bow would be my choice if you can make that happen.”
He frowned but nodded and bowed.
“I sense your disapproval. You often show your emotions openly.”
“It is only that I do not see the need to risk your safety. The ruins are dangerous inside and outside, but in here I can give you some protection.”
She found comfort in his overprotective sense of responsibility for her. He was like a long-lost uncle trying to step up and make up for lost time.
“The meat in the pantry I am afraid is too far gone for me. I want to hunt and restock the meat pantry. My father showed me how to track and hunt at an early age. Even said I had a unique talent for it. Perhaps that is another aspect of my Dirithi heritage?” She chuckled to herself and tried to not dwell on her pang of grief for him.
“You had other requests, miss?”
“Yes.” She sighed aloud and was unsure how to proceed. “When I came her two nights ago, I… I encountered… Well, you were not the first spirit I found here in the ruins. What or who is that Flaming Skeleton?”
Again, his face crinkled as he disapproved of the content of the conversation. “That Flaming Skeleton is not to be taken lightly, miss. He is not one of ours and not from this realm. He was one of the Krezsec Generals that invaded. Few of their invading army were stopped, he was among those few. Now, General Loas Toc haunts these hallways at certain nights and always he relieves his final hours. You saw the hanging men?”
She nodded, her face paled at the memory of the bloodied uniforms, spotted with flaming hand prints from the general’s touch.
“This is my family’s seat of power. He will not be tolerated much longer. I am going to have to find a way to expell his presence.”
The Executor only lowered his head to stare at the floor. He had no answers for her.
“Tonight, when I return I want you to take me to the Throne Room.”
Boure straightened and a smile cracked his face, he beamed with pride. “Indeed, your majesty. I will see to its preparations for your audience myself.”
That statement brought a strange thought to her mind. “There are others? Other court members or staff?”
He nodded. “Not as many as before – remember only the restless spirits remain here. Some have made peace and moved on.”
Before she could ask more, he bowed again and backed out of the room through the closed door.
Jueneva dressed and prepped herself as best as she could. There were several dresses hanging inside the cabinet but were not warm enough or proper for the cold elements outside. She found only one riding pantsuit. It would have to do. She could not be weighed down or wear anything restrictive if she was to hunt and chase prey. At the back on a hook, she did discover a thick deer skin coat with buttons and laces down the front. It was exactly what she needed for the wintery elements outside.
Another soft rap announced Boure’s return. He entered with no invitation this time. In his hands he carried a silver and ivory bone longbow and a matching white quiver filled with over a dozen arrows. Symbols were etched all along the exquisitely crafted weapon. She took it in awe and hefted it in her hands.
“This is wondrous. It feels like I am barely lifting anything!”
“Indeed. This came from within the Vault. I believed it was forged with guiding magics, but I cannot remember for sure. Either way, I am certain it will be of great use and affect in your hunting.”
As she lifted the quiver’s strap over her head and down onto her shoulder, he said, “I really do not like this idea. I feel I may be inadequate as your Court Advisor, but, your majesty, as there are no other formal Courtesans left, you will have to settle for me. You see, as I stated before, in the castle domain I can protect you, but I cannot leave the compound to help you outside. You will be all on your own. This is not a wise excursion. We will find another way to find you proper meals.”
Jueneva shook her head. “No. I will not be stuck inside nor will I hide here. The Restoration cannot happen to my family’s rule if I do not take risks or fight back. What happened here must be avenged. I appreciate your words, I do. And I do not step out lightly and without caution.”
Boure dropped his gaze again to the floor.
“Executor, please escort me now to the best entrance to begin my Hunt.”