Carpathia III: Episode 83 - Slipping Away
The Palace, Zhail City
Adell and Artemis looked at each other knowingly.
Artemis: We can help. Phobos and Deimos are very strong. They can...
Before Artemis could continue, Riven shook his head and interrupted him.
Prince Riven: I'm afraid you do not understand. First of all, Azrael is still here, and he is currently an unknown factor in any situation in which the king is involved. Second, I cannot take drastic action now. To do so could plunge Zhail into a possible civil war. Such things must be intricately planned. However, I'm afraid a full explanation would take far too much of our precious time.
Just then, the door to Riven's room swung open and Adell and Artemis braced themselves, expecting an attack of some sort. Fortunately, it was Shai and he had Azrael with him. Artemis turned his attention back to his computer. Hastily, he unplugged Phobos and quickly stuffed his computer back into his bag.
Artemis: Phobos, tell Deimos to return to me immediately.
Phobos jumped to his feet.
Phobos: Yes sir... message sent! She's on her way.
Phobos leaped onto Artemis and climbed up to his shoulder. At the same time, Riven addressed Shai and Azrael, both of whom adopting a formal, straight-back pose as though soldiers being addressed by their drill sargeant.
Prince Riven: Our mission today is to get Adell and Artemis out of the palace without the knowlege of my father, Erosia, or their guest. Azrael, you shall prepare three backpacks with necessities for their journey south. Shai, you will assist Azrael and prepare some clothing to take with them.
Shai: Three, my Prince?
Prince Riven: That is correct. There is no time to explain.
While Riven gave his orders, Adell and Artemis had a hushed conversation between themselves.
Adell: We need to get the crystal from your lab. I guess I should go, since I can move the stone in the wall. Is there anything you need from down there?
Artemis: I have my computer. I have some things in my room, but nothing important downstairs. Either wreck the lab or make sure Riven promises to do it.
Adell: Will do.
Adell turned to Riven, who had just finished addressing Shai and Azrael.
Adell: Riven, there's something I need to get for Artemis from his lab and he needs to make sure he takes certain things from his room.
Prince Riven: Understood. You will accompany me to the basement. Artemis, you can remain with Shai and Azrael while they procure necessary items from both here and in your room. Would that be satisfactory?
Adell and Artemis looked at each other for a moment and nodded.
Prince Riven: Then we are settled. When you have completed your tasks, meet at the garden entrance in the back. Shai, would you please check to see if the way is clear.
Shai immediately rushed to the door and opened it just enough to get his head through. Quickly, he looked both ways before pulling his head back into the room.
Shai: The way is clear, my Prince.
Just before Adell and Riven sprinted to the door, Artemis called out.
Artemis: Wait. Take Phobos with you. We'll take Deimos when she gets here.
Without a word. Phobos leaped from Artemis to Adell. Phobos took a seat on Adell's shoulder.
Shai poked his head out the door once more and then waved at Adell and Riven, signaling them to proceed. Both rushed through the door and trotted quickly down the hall to the elevator. Fortunately, nobody had used it since Artemis rode in it to the top floor and it was still where he left it. Riven opened the gate and they rushed inside. Once the gate was closed, Riven pulled the handle and the elevator began descending to the basement.
Prince Riven: I'm very sorry it had to end this way.
Adell: You have nothing to be sorry for. It certainly could be worse. I'm just glad we had Phobos and Deimos around to let us know what is happening.
Riven scratched his chin.
Prince Riven: Yes, the tiny mechanical people. Praytell, how is it that I have only come to know about their true nature today?
Adell looked away and clasped his fingers together nervously.
Adell: I hope you understand. Frankly, we possess some technology that could do some major damage on this world if it were to fall into the hands of someone like Erosia. We didn't want that to happen.
Riven sighed audibly.
Prince Riven: I see. It is a sensible precaution, though I would have imagined by now that at least I had the benefit of your confidence.
Adell: I'm sorry. I guess I just got into the habit of keeping them from you.
Prince Riven: What are we going to retrieve from the lab?
Adell paused, not wanting to technically lie to the prince this time, but the crystal was something he wouldn't want to give anyone in a position of power, no matter how much he trusted him.
Adell: It's a crystal. It's very precious to us and we didn't want to lose it.
Prince Riven: Very well.
The elevator arrived at the basement and Riven opened the gate. Together, they rushed to Artemis's lab. Once inside, Adell returned to the block where he had sealed away the crystal. Rather than pulverize it from a distance, Adell chose to use his power and pretend as though he were pulling on the stone, giving the illusion that he was moving it himself. He positioned his hands around the stone and dug his fingers around the grout.
Using his ability, the stone began to move and, very soon, fell to the floor. Adell reached in and grabbed the crystal, still wrapped in its cloth. As he held it in his hands, Adell could hear the distant sound of the elevator rising.
Prince Riven: Will there be anything else?
Adell: Just one more thing. Artemis wants his lab destroyed to prevent Erosia from getting her hands on anything. I don't think there's much of anything down here anyway. It's just to be safe.
Prince Riven: I will make sure of it.
Adell took one more glance around the room.
Adell: In that case, I think we're finished here.
Prince Riven: In that case, we should make haste. I'm sure that the others will be arriving at the back door soon.
Adell: That fast?
Prince Riven: It is the job of both Shai and Azrael to be ready for anything at a moment's notice. This way, if you please.
Adell followed Riven down the corridor, away from the elevator. At the end, they found a very nondescript wooden door. Riven opened it, revealing a staircase.
The staircase looked as though it was almost never used as the stones bore very little hint of wear or even dirt. Up, they wound, for four flights until they reached another door.
Prince Riven: One moment while I check to make sure the way is clear.
Riven slowly opened the creaky door and stuck his head through. After quickly looking around, he gestured for Adell to follow him.
Prince Riven: The way is clear.
Without another word, Adell followed Riven out the door. They sprinted across the lobby quickly and entered an atrium in the back. At the back of the atrium was a glass door, through which they exited the palace.
Prince Riven: And now we wait. When the others get here, you should head over the mountains and go south. Turn right and follow the road. When you get to a bridge on your left, cross it, and then follow the river where it forks south. That will take you to a way station.
Adell: Okay, we can do that. Then what?
Prince Riven: You will be safe there for a time. When you are ready to leave, there are two choices. You can go to the Unassumed Lands, to the southeast. Those lands are not part of the kingdom. Alternatively, you can go northwest to the Outlands, which is technically part of Zhail, but so remote that they are mostly left to their own devices. Both are fine options. Talk to the people at the way station to help you decide.
Adell: What about you? You heard the King. He plans to kill you.
Prince Riven: After he has created a suitable heir, he said. That will take time. That will be plenty of time for me and Shai to prepare. Worry not for my safety. Send me a missive when you decide on your destination. I will inform you when it is safe to return, if you wish to do so. Finally, do not proceed due west of here. That is the district of Volcano and, though part of Zhail, it is not under our control. It is a dangerous place.
Adell sighed. Once again, his life was changing suddenly and he was growing weary of being uprooted without any notice and he wondered where his new life would lead him this time. While Adell ruminated, Riven reached behind his neck and unclasped the necklace that held a decorative key which he had always had on his chest.
Prince Riven: With this, you can enter any area in the kingdom without question.
Riven reached around Adell's neck and fastened the necklace to him just as Artemis, Shai, and Azrael appeared behind them carrying three backpacks as ordered. Artemis was already wearing his, leaving Azrael to carry the other two.
Shai: Reporting as ordered, my Prince.
Adell took one of the backpacks. He unzipped the top and stuffed the crystal deep inside. After zipping it up again, he wriggled it onto his back.
Prince Riven: Azrael, the remaining backpack is for you. In a moment, I am going to release you from my service, but not before I give you one final command.
For the first time in Adell's memory, Azrael seemed to lose his composure for a moment, as his eyes grew wide and he took a step backward.
Azrael: My Prince? I do not understand.
Prince Riven: My apologies, Azrael. You have performed exemplary service to me, and now I must trust you with this very critical task. You will go with Adell and Artemis and ensure that no harm befalls them. They are both very precious to me.
Azrael quickly regained his composure and placed one hand on his sword hilt and the other on his chest.
Azrael: I understand, my Prince.
Prince Riven: In that case, Azrael, I hereby release you from my service. From now on, you are now in the service of Adell and Artemis. Please keep them safe.
Azrael: I will protect them with my life, my Prince.
At last, Riven turned his full attention to Adell.
Prince Riven: I shall have you know that I intend to fully implement everything you have taught me. I was skeptical of certain things, but today has convinced me that a radical new approach is necessary.
Adell sniffled. Having spend so much of his energy running around in a panic, he never had a chance to consider what he was leaving behind.
Adell: You'll be a good king.
Prince Riven: One final kiss before you depart.
Rather than wait for any acknowledgement, Riven immediately thrust himself upon Adell. After an extended period of kissing and fondling, Riven finally released him and stepped backward, gazing longinly into Adell's eyes.
Prince Riven: And this is where we must depart, if Artemis is...
Riven looked toward Artemis and immediately stopped speaking.
Prince Riven: It would appear that we are not the only ones with farewells to complete.
Adell looked over as well to see Artemis and Shai doing the same thing he and the prince had done a moment ago. As before, Adell felt a strange, unfamiliar feeling in his stomach. Finally, to Adell's relief, Shai and Artemis had enough and separated. Artemis joined Adell and Azrael.
Prince Riven: Adell, I do not know what I'm going to do without you.
Artemis rolled his eyes.
Artemis: Oh, for the love of all things sacred!
Artemis stomped forward and took Riven's hand in one of his and Shai's hand in the other. Then, he slapped their hands together. Riven and Shai looked at each other and blushed.
Artemis: I am surrounded by thick-headed idiots!
After more rushed farewells, Adell, Artemis, and Azrael turned to leave, headed for the garden and mountains beyond. Several times, Adell turned his head to see Riven and Shai still watching them. Just before they were out of earshot, Adell was sure he heard Riven say something to Shai.
Prince Riven: I shall teach you that which Adell taught me. First of all, you should know that the safety word is "Captain Carpathia."
All city pictures from SimCity 4