No one seemed to feel the need to talk as they ate. Sarah couldn’t be sure if it was because there was such a range of ranks in the room, or if people were indeed hungry. It was Sparrow who finally broke the silence after her gaze had glanced from Lynn to Sarah and back a few times.
“I thought you only had one child, Griffon.”
Griffon looked from his bowl and looked at Lynn and Sarah who sat either side of him. “I do.” He grinned. “But which one do ye think is mi daughter?”
Sarah looked to the dark skinned Sergeant as she pondered Sarah and Lynn. “Neither of them are true Beards,” Sparrow stated.
“Nor are you,” King Demetrioso interrupted her ponderings.
Sparrow rose and Sarah suddenly realized that the Sergeant was a woman. A very well disguised woman, but female none the less.
“There was a promise,” she hissed at the King.
“And the time for that promise has passed.” Demetrioso looked sadly at her. “We face war, Sparrow, and the mistreatment of a daughter of the royal line. The truth need not be revealed beyond this circle and some of them look as though they know.”
Sarah looked about the group. Only General Hector, Mistress Laura and Jason seemed not surprised.
You knew? Sarah asked Jay.
I only knew for certain today, he responded though his eyes watched Sparrow.
The woman Sergeant had also glanced around the table. She looked to the King who raised his eyebrows. She nodded ever so slightly before sitting back down.
“You are correct,” Sparrow sighed, “as you often are.”
“I am glad you agree.” The King looked from Sparrow to the others. “Tonight, we must do away with all disguises and presumptions. For this mission there can be no secrets or what we fight for will be lost. Do you all understand?”
Murmurs of yes and nods circulated around the table. Prince Theodoso was last to agree.
“Sparrow,” King Demetrioso spoke kindly, “would you please start.”
Sparrow took a deep breath before standing. Her eyes rested upon each of them briefly before she began. “I am a woman,” she stated simply. “I come from the southern end of the Areni Plains. There women are allowed to participate in the warrior way, should they feel called to do so. I was sent here as a representative of my people, and I found that passing for male and becoming a Scout served that purpose best. Lord Demetrioso has always been aware of me and it was not by chance that my troop is the Princess’s Scout Troop. Believe me when I say,” she looked to the Vervellean Prince, “I am not here to infiltrate Vervell or perform acts of treason. The people of the Areni Plains find Lord Demetrioso to be just and fair and we support him. As such my people, the Arenians, will come to his aid should the need arise.”
“Thank you Sparrow.” King Demetrioso nodded.
Sparrow sank back into her seat and Mistress Laura rose.
“I too am from the Areni Plains, though I hail from a northern tribe.” She smiled and Sarah noted her skin tone, though not as dark as Sparrow’s was indeed darker than Phillip’s. “I was one of the best archers of my tribe when I left, but I have had little time to practice such things since beginning my training to become a Moyther. I was beginning to wonder,” she looked down and smiled at Phillip who beamed back at her, “if I would ever find my partner, but here we are.” She grinned again and sat down.
“Like my Mistress,” Sarah had to swallow a laugh at that as Phillip stood. “I am not Vervellean.” This time only Jason did not look shocked. “Many presume such, as Lady Abigail has raised me from infancy. Though I call her mother and she treats me as one of her sons, she is actually my mother’s sister.” Phillip looked down at the table and Sarah saw Mistress Laura reach for his hand. “My parents were the Knight and Madame of Pulago, a town in the north weastern mountains of Azure. I was young at the time but I remember hiding with my sister and waiting for the bad men to go away. When they had, my sister and I began a hard journey south into Vervell. My sister did everything she could to make sure I survived. So much so that shortly after we had found our Aunt the Gods claimed her soul.” Phillip looked up at the King. “I know now that the bad men were led by Wholawski.”
The King smiled sadly. “Your parents may have been the first, but they were not the last of General Wholawski’s murders.”
“They most certainly won’t be the last until HE is stopped!”
Everyone turned to face Prince Hermanus who turned a light shade of crimson. He bowed his head. “I... I.. I too have a secret,’ he stammered. He looked up at the King, his cheeks still flushed. “I am not officially the heir to the Azurean throne, but,” he hastily continued, “I’m the closest thing there is. My mother had me prior to her marriage to the King, though I am his son. She raised me on the north eastern most shores of Azure. It was as far from HIS influence as she could get, for none of the King’s sons, no matter who had borne them, had lived past the age of five. When she at last married my father she still kept me hidden, until I reached the age of ten. I thought it would be a happy reunion,” Sarah could see tears forming in his eyes as he bowed his head. “But my father barely acknowledged me and two months later my mother was dead. HE bragged to me about how he did it and how HE was going to kill me too, eventually.” Prince Hermanus’s voice cracked. “No one believed me then, but if you,” he looked up to Sarah, “hadn’t come along I would be dead by now; planted as evidence that the Vervelleans hate Azure.”
It was Phillip, who reached out to touch the shaking Prince. Sarah herself was fighting the urge to take the poor kid in a huge embrace. No wonder Hermanus had wanted to rescue the Princess.
“It was, indeed, a fortuitous capture.” King Demetrioso nodded to the Azurean Prince who sat down.