Chapter 1:

Arrival in Telarana

Demon Unit Ovihile

I had been walking for nearly three hours along the crowded streets of the Telarana Market, my eyes constantly assaulted by the bright, vivid colors dotting the packed merchant stalls. A few deep breaths filled my nose with a wondrous mixture of fragrances and spices. Some of them reminded me of home, and similarly, of my mother's words to me before I left.

"I've only heard a few things about Telara, obviously they're much more powerful than us, as we're required to send some of our youth as tributary servants every decade, however, it's been said that their Queen is quite kind, even to outsiders like us. Even if that is the case, I'll be praying to the White One for your safety."

Her words reminded me just how horrible of a position my people were in, and just how important it was that I enjoy the little things in life, especially in what would likely have been my last moments of freedom. It was with that in mind that I began my window shopping through the market. However, I had only wanted to spend an hour at most here, now... I was hopelessly lost.

A few checks to the surrounding area bore no fruit, the marketplace was simply far too large for someone as new as me to get my bearings. I felt trapped, the once charming flow of heavy foot traffic now felt like a stampede whose only goal was to trample me underfoot.

The feeling dissipated as quickly as it came, replaced by the feeling of fingers gripping my wrist, which was subsequently accompanied by those same fingers yanking me out of the unruly crowd. Free of the onslaught of bodies, I turned to face my savior.

Her perky, finned ears were the most immediately striking feature. They twitched with each sharp yell that emanated from the already boisterous crowd now at our backs. Her choice of clothing was slightly different from the other commoners, opting to wear a light blue dress that seemed to be made of something similar to silk.

Her eyes focused on me, and I noticed the odd coloration of both her face and eyes. Piercing green emeralds watched me as I stared back at her face. Her skin was pale, but a single glance at her soft face made the color seem... unnatural.

Her smile, however, was as natural and beautiful as could be. It looked bright enough to melt away any worries plaguing me. Even still, it was her words that fully wiped the worry from my mind.

"Hello there! My name is Lyra, I serve the man who officially requested you. He asked us to keep an eye on you, at least until you arrived at the Judica, so we've been watching you for some time. When you took a detour into the Market, we were surprised, but Master Drake had anticipated your interest in the city, and decided to allow you the opportunity to get familiar with the... aura of Telarana, as it's likely different from Et' Al." She said.

"It is... quite different." I agreed.

Her straight, shoulder length white hair shifted as she offered me her hand, I took it, shaking it with slight apprehension. She had a lithe figure, but her grip was far stronger than anyone I'd met before. Her grip tightened even further as she pulled me into the merchant area behind the market stalls.

"Now... technically coming back here without a merchant permit is against the law, but~" She began.

A few of the merchants preparing their wares turned to look to her, then turned away, seemingly unfazed. But before they had their backs to me, I noticed a very odd look in their eyes. Rather than focusing on her, they seemed to be focused on a spot on her back. Curious, I looked in the area they had all seemed so interested in.

Upon the back of her dress was a small white patch that was completely out of place on the blue silk. The circular patch sported a small outline of a diamond, surrounded at each tip by a single star.

I wracked my brain, trying to use what little knowledge I may have had on Telarri symbolism. As I had anticipated, I couldn't recall anything that seemed similar to it. After noticing something like it, and considering how the others seemed to ignore her after seeing it, I decided to be daring and ask about it.

"So... Lyra, what is that patch on your back?"

Her head whipped around to me, her face filled with lines of confusion. Her eyes followed my gaze down to her back.

"Oh... I actually forgot I had sewn that on there... I was recently wondering where it had gotten to. Well, anyway, it's called the Judai. In short, it serves as a method of quick identification, allowing citizens to recognize Judica members at a glance. It hasn't really been necessary, since there are only five of us, but I suppose it was meant as a precaution, should we gain a large influx of staff. We haven't... but I think it's a good measure, regardless." She explained.

We exited the merchant area after walking silently for a few minutes, turning out into a rather large, but empty street. As I followed, a realization broke my trance.

"So... is Master Drake an important person in the Judica?" I asked.

She laughed, pointing to a small staircase built into a high walkway, as we crossed the street and climbed the stairs, she answered.

"Master Drake is the Lord Justicor, making him the highest judge in Telara, he has the power to overrule any decision I or any of the other Justicor make. The only person with more power in this Kingdom is the Queen, and in terms of legal matters, she will often put aside her own opinion for Master Drake's. Some believe that he has too much power, and is corrupt, but I feel as though his actions in the past decade have spoken for themselves."

We reached the crest of the staircase, greeted by a rather incredible sight. The highway itself was high enough to grant visibility to most of Telarana. Lyra pointed to a large building somewhat to the north of us. It's square roofing was curved inward, yet it had what seemed to be four distinct points in each corner.

"That's the Palace, I'm sure you noticed its odd shape, it actually used to have a large, domed roof that was visible at nearly any location outside of the Market. But... when Master Drake looked at it, he said he felt that it might not be as structurally sound as a flat roof, and convinced the Queen to have it demolished and replaced."

We began walking towards the Palace along the highway, the odd person passing by every now and then. I figured that with the long walk ahead, I would try my hardest to really get an understanding of the person who essentially owned me at this point.

"So... I guess Master Drake must be quite intelligent to be so involved with the legal system, be the Lord Justicor, and understand when a building is unsafe for the Queen as well." I said.

"Oh, Master Drake is undoubtedly more intelligent than anyone I've ever personally known, but don't mistake that for the reason that he was selected as the Lord Justicor. No, indeed the reason is far less nuanced than that. He was chosen simply because he and the Queen had been friends as children... he just happened to be a good choice for the position, in the end."

She giggled as she spoke, her steps forward seemingly carried by her unnatural amount of joy.

"Also, I may have exaggerated when I said that people are afraid of Master Drake actually having too much power." She said out of the blue.

"How so?"

"Well... he CAN gain a lot of power, but the circumstances would have to be quite chaotic, and I doubt Master Drake would ever willingly let things get that bad." She explained.

"What would have to happen?" I asked.

"Well... technically the only way for him to get more powerful than he is now would be for the Queen to die... which, as I said, would be very unlikely with him around. But, most people already know that. " She said.

"So... why do some people think she might die?" I pressed.

"Well... some of the less informed believe that Master Drake might kill the Queen... but anyone who knows anything about the two would find that incredibly hard to believe."

"Because they're friends?" I asked.

"Right, here we are, just down these stairs and we'll be at the Palace doors." She said.

Following her, it dawned on me that we had reached the Palace far too quickly, when I mentioned this to Lyra, she simply turned to me and laughed.

"Perhaps... it was the magic of good company, eh? We'll be able to talk at length once you've had an audience with the Queen."

Wait... audience with the Queen!?

Before I could formulate any sort of response, we had arrived. The lone guard standing with his back against the stone wall beside the door perked his head up as Lyra approached.

"Hold, Justicor, the Queen is in audience with Lord Rikur, they should be done momentarily." He said.

We waited for about 30 seconds before being treated to the sound of heavy, stomping footsteps near the entrance. Their maker revealed himself not a moment later, throwing the door open and nearly toppling the guard onto the ground. The hooded man regarded Lyra for a moment, then scoffed and stormed toward the highway staircase.

"It would seem his business with Her Highness is complete." She said.

The guard nodded, gesturing toward the slowly closing door. Grabbing my wrist once more, she tugged me inside, then closed the door softly behind us.

The Palace entrance seemed like little more than a hallway lined with many doors. It actually seemed far more functional than I would have originally given it credit for. It had a very simple decorum to it, the walls coated in the same maroon shade as the main color of the Telarri flag. The only real sign of opulence in view was the huge set of double doors exactly opposite us.

Coated in what was likely genuine gold, the doors stood nearly 12 feet tall, and could likely fit just as many people inside its frame at once. Two opal handles rested at chest height on the golden monstrosity, seemingly daring one to touch them with their unworthy hands. It might have seemed intimidating, had Lyra not been pulling me with unstoppable vigor towards them.

"Is.. is there anything I need to know before I meet the Queen?" I asked.

"Hmm... nope... Her Highness is our age... so just behave yourself and you'll be fine. Also, you have to go in first." She said.

"Wait... what!? Why?" I asked.

"Prisoners and criminals follow us Justicors into her throne room... and you're neither of those things... so I, as your escort, am required to follow you in." She explained.

Her explanation took just long enough for us to reach the doors, where she promptly began to rush me in opening and entering. Knowing full well that I wasn't going to get out of this rather terrifying situation, I did the only thing I could.

I closed my eyes, took a breath, then opened the door.

Poynt Fury