Carpathia III: Episode 54 - The Palace

Zhail City, The Palace

In the car, Riven promised Adell and Artemis a tour of the palace. It took ages to explore the vast structure and the tour lasted well into the night. What they saw was a level of opulence that they'd only encountered in their history books. They saw a magnificent ballroom with exquisite marble floors and columns with intricate accents. A vast dining room with an enormous, polished wood table, big enough to seat more guests than either of them could imagine. Every single room was a work of art, and as impressive as they were, both Artemis and Adell weren't sure what the point of everything was. Throughout the entire tour, they hardly saw anyone else, aside from some cleaning and maintenance staff.

It was all quite dull after a few minutes. The first few rooms were interesting, but they soon discovered that extravagant room after extravagant room lost its luster quickly. They politely followed Riven around as he pointed out things neither of them cared about while Shai brought up the rear, looking just as bored as they were.

Finally, Riven turned to them and was about to point out another mundane fact when he suddenly stopped.

Prince Riven: You are not especially interested in any of this, are you?

Adell: No offense, but not really.

Prince Riven: Oh good! Neither am I! Well, in that case, our next order of business will be finding a place for Artemis to retire for the evening. I can find a place for you to set up a lab come morning. After that... oh dear.

For a moment, neither Adell nor Artemis understood why Prince Riven stopped speaking until they realized that he was not looking at them anymore, but rather past them. They turned to find another besides Shai behind them. At first, he seemed normal enough, but they soon noticed that this new person had a horn on one side of his head and a thin, pointed tail.

Prince Riven: Gentlemen, this is Azrael, my chief of security.

Azrael took a few more steps towards Adell and Artemis, eying them suspiciously and clutching the hilt of his sword tightly.

Azrael: Two more guests. I assume they haven't been properly searched as usual?

Shai: His Highness did not feel it necessary to do so.

Azrael: Well, I feel it necessary. Who's first?

Adell and Artemis weren't sure what to do. They each looked at each other and then to Prince Riven.

Prince Riven: It is better to do as he says. Azrael has the authority to override my decisions on security matters and he becomes ever so cranky when people do not comply.

Adell shrugged and stepped forward.

Adell: Okay, then I'll go first.

Azrael immediately began patting Adell down very thoroughly. Adell felt Azrael checked his crotch a little too thoroughly.

Shai: Azrael, I think you've checked that spot quite enough.

Azrael immediately ceased checking Adell and moved to Artemis, giving him the same treatment as Adell.

Azrael: And now the bags, if you please.

Shai was already putting the bags that he was carrying on the floor as Adell's first thought was of Phobos and Deimos. He'd forgotten about them and for a split second, in his mind, he panicked. Artemis clearly anticipated Adell's reaction and subtly placed his hand on Adell's shoulder. Adell looked at him, only to see Artemis quietly nodding to him. Both put their bags down too.

Azrael immediately started to rummage through all the bags. Finally, in one of them, he found Phobos and pulled him out. Phobos lay limply in Azrael's hand as he looked at it with a puzzled expression on his face.

Azrael: A doll? It seems rather heavy for a doll. To which one of you does this belong?

Artemis: It's a mechanical toy. I'll show you.

Artemis held out his hand. Azrael tilted his head slightly and his eyes narrowed. After several moments of hesitation, he finally relinquished Phobos to him. Artemis lifted up Phobos's coat and pretended to push an imaginary button on his back. Right away, Phobos sat up and very stiffly saluted, as though he were a wind-up toy. Azrael eyeballed Phobos suspiciously the entire time.

Azrael: You are very strange indeed.

Azrael stood up straight and addressed Prince Riven very formally.

Azrael: My Prince, I conclude that these persons are harboring no dangerous devices.

Prince Riven rolled his eyes.

Prince Riven: Thank you for your diligence.

Azrael bowed and, without another word, proudly marched away.

Prince Riven: With that out of the way, let us skip the rest of the tour and go upstairs.

The others followed Riven with Adell and Artemis wondering how high they were and how many more stairs they'd have to climb to reach the top. This time, however, they didn't go to the stairs but stopped at what appeared to be an old-fashioned elevator shaft. Shai raised a lever next to the gate that covered the opening and right away, cacophony of noise of gears and machinery started up. Soon, the elevator arrived in the opening. Shai opened the gate and ushered everyone inside. Once inside, Shai took the lever in the elevator and pushed it and they began to go up, watching each floor pass by through the metal gates.

Prince Riven: I used to play in this when I was a kid. Up, down, up down... Father said I should be more serious with my life. He still says that.

Shai slowly pulled the lever down and the elevator slowed to a stop on one of the floors. Shai opened the gate and everyone stepped out into a vast parlor. There was little in the room other than a few chairs and tables with lamps on them as well as a plush, red carpet that made Artemis and Adell feel like they could sink into it up to their knees.

Prince Riven: This way.

Before they could follow Riven, they heard voices from around the corner. Everyone turned just as a tall, elderly elf with a grumpy expression rounded the corner along with a human woman in a white lab coat. They were both conversing intently seemingly about a piece of paper the woman was holding.

Both of them stopped when they suddenly saw everyone standing outside the elevator. The tall, gray elf approached them first, rolling his eyes and with a sneer on his lips.

Gray Elf: I see just one boy isn't good enough for you anymore, Riven.

Artemis and Adell noticed right away that this was the first person they'd met to address Prince Riven without a title. Riven sighed before he spoke.

Prince Riven: Artemis, Adell, this is my father, King Elmlund and his chief scientist, Erosia Dahl.

Artemis and Adell suddenly realized they were given no coaching at all on what to do if they met the king. Each of them bowed awkwardly and luckily, the king seemed not to take offense.

Prince Riven: Father, Artemis is not here for pleasure. You have expressed your desire that I find more personal staff and Artemis is my new science officer.

This time, Erosia squinted her eyes and stepped forward.

Erosia: Chief scientist? I'll be the judge of that.

Erosia stepped uncomfortably close to Artemis and loomed over his tiny, 5'4" frame like a wave just before breaking.

Erosia: Explain the Bleusenthal Principle for me.

Artemis flinched not only at the question itself, but also her artillery barrage method of delivering it.

Artemis: I don't know it.

Erosia fired off another round.

Erosia: What would happen if you combined nygmacite and abstraction fluid?

Artemis: I don't know.

Erosia sneered in disgust. Artemis braced himself for another question, but instead, she turned her ire to Prince Riven.

Erosia: This is an outrage! Did you really think you drop this silly little worm on us and we'd be none the wiser?! Who is he really?! Answer me!

Artemis: Hey lady! I was educated in a far more sophisticated place than this and I'm sure I know more than you do!

Erosia's head twisted so quickly at Artemis that everyone thought it might snap off.

Erosia: What did you say to me?!

To the relief of everyone, Riven came to Artemis's defense.

Prince Riven: Erosia, I'm afraid he is at least partially correct. I did my research ahead of time. He's responsible for inventing the watches that both of you now wear. I also have it on good authority that they came through the portal not as children, but as the adults you see before you. I would theorize that he knows what you're talking about, but the names are different where he's from.

Erosia looked as though she was struggling for words. Finally, she smiled evilly in a way that would cause even the most battle-hardened soldier to cringe in terror.

Erosia: Oh, I think I have the perfect laboratory for you.

Erosia stomped past Artemis and, for just a moment, he thought she was simply going to leave. Instead, he felt a strong yank on his tail and he flopped forward on his chest. Nobody would have known it just from looking at her, but Erosia was as strong as a bull and started dragging Artemis across the floor.

Artemis: Let go of my tail, dammit! I can walk!

Erosia stopped, but still maintained her herculean grip on his tail.

Erosia: If you can walk, then you had better get up fast! Your new lab is in the basement and I would thoroughly enjoy dragging you all the way down the stairs to show it to you!

Artemis didn't think that Erosia was kidding at all and jumped to his feet. Adell turned to Riven.

Adell: She is just taking him to his new lab, right?

Prince Riven: Do not fret. She will not harm him, if that's what you're thinking. Not my science officer.

Adell smiled and waved sarcastically to Artemis.

Adell: Have fun in your new lab!

Artemis growled in frustration.

Prince Riven: Erosia, it has been a long day and we would all deign to retire at this time. Would you be so kind as to show Artemis his new lab in the morning after we have all had some rest?

Erosia: Very well. Enjoy your comfort for tonight.

Adell found this surprisingly conciliatory and watched as Erosia simply walked away and into another room.

King Elmlund: It would appear that our business is concluded for the evening. Riven, do try to ensure this one behaves. I do not need another one of your concubines underfoot all day long.

King Elmlund turned and strode regally towards a pair of grand double doors on the other side of the parlor and disappeared inside.

Prince Riven: Well, now that everyone has been introduced, shall I show you to your rooms?

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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