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16+ Language Violence

The Forsaken Race - The Hidden Truth: Chapter 6

by RavenAkuma


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.

Chapter 6 - Queen Corelia

    

     

Kita stirred from her light sleep, shooting back up into a sitting position. 

There was a worn leather seat beneath her, and another directly across from her. The space around her was small, with a wood floor, black walls, and a black roof. There were two square windows to her left and right, but white curtains covered them. She could feel the same shaking and jerking that woke her up. Stud was curled in a ball on the opposite seat, right next to Mao. They were both practically unconscious.

After a moment to regain her senses, Kita remembered what happened.

Last night, when they left the pawnshop, Mao waited until they found an early-bird buggy driver, around five o'clock in the morning. Money was tight, but her energetic friend was unrelenting, and they got moving that same night. The target was a few hours due southeast, where the historical Royal City awaited.

Kita yanked back the curtain of one window. She saw that the sun was lazily rising, casting heavenly hues of gold and blush over the horizon. Stirring from the light, Stud got up and looked outside, his ears pricked. Meanwhile, Kita grinned cheesily.

"I actually slept," she murmured. "That's a good sign. Maybe this was the right choice."

She looked back outside, taking in the glorious view. Large meadows and rolling hills spanned for miles, hardly broken by little farms or villages in the distance. Tall green grass was shining with dew, like thousands of tiny crystals, with an array of wildflowers to add color. One of the trademarks of Sybilius and its people was this very biome. Kita craved to breathe in the fresh air, instead of staying cramped inside the stuffy space, but she didn't want to interrupt the already-long trip.

For what felt like hours, Kita sat quietly and stared thoughtfully out of the window. A seemingly endless pattern of meadowland, small towns, and bountiful crops passed them by. Sometimes a noble estate could be spotted in the distance, practically screaming for envy from the common person. All while the sun climbed higher in the sky, making the land brighter and the temperature warmer.

"Thank gods we're in a buggy," Kita murmured. "This is such an annoying trip on foot."

It was between ten and ten-thirty, by her estimate, when the driver called, "Almost there, miss!"

Hearing that was a relief for Kita, and it doubled as an alarm for Mao.

After jumping awake, Mao stretched a bit. "Good morning."

"I think it is, for once," Kita murmured. "I actually got some sleep."

"That's great!" Mao remarked. "Our method is already working, see?"

Letting her ramble, Kita checked the window again. Naturally, it wasn't very hard to spot the city.

Ignoring the trails that led to other, more distant rich towns, the road led directly to a large wooden drawbridge -and by extension, the Royal City. Sturdy stone walls bordered the edges, larger buildings poking over the tops, but nothing compared to the crown jewel at the center of the city. A massive palace; an array of towers, spires, walkways, turrets, and domes composed the elaborate roof, so much that it was hard to know where to look. Flags and banners decorated the monochrome stone, all in hues of white, silver, or violet. Details from intricate carvings in the stone, to gold and silver plating also added to the grandeur.

"It aged well," Kita murmured.

"Of course it has," Mao remarked. "Honestly, it makes you wonder what it looked like when Sybilius was established."

As soon as they crossed the drawbridge leading into the city, things changed drastically from the open meadows.

Even the lower-end buildings of the city were much nicer than anything in Lion's Bridge. The stone streets were clean, and the buildings reflected both glamor and historical value. A few manors stood here and there for the very rich citizens, and even the complexes reserved for soldiers would have seemed like castles themselves, if it weren't for the palace putting them to shame. The smells of baking bread, strong tea, fresh flowers, high-quality cotton, and more seeped in through the cracks in the buggy, threatening to overwhelm Kita's senses.

Kita bit her lip. "I still feel a little nervous."

"Don't be," Mao insisted. "Everything will be okay. Trust me."

"I hope you're right about that," Kita murmured.

As the cart slowed to a halt, Kita recentered herself, then opened the door. Mao practically sprang outside, while Kita picked up Stud and moved at a hesitant pace. The driver said nothing, and no one else seemed to acknowledge her presence. The buggy continued along its path, leaving her to marvel at the grand palace towering over her.

Trying to swallow her reservations, Kita approached the gates of the palace, formed from dark wood with silver and gold designs.

She was hardly nervous about meeting the queen. Though rarely for long intervals, she had done it many times before, and she enjoyed it every time. Kita always looked up to her as the kind and powerful woman she was. It was everyone who stood in the way that made her anxious; the tightly-wound guards and judgmental nobles. They would play nice in front of the queen, then treat her like 'peasant filth' as soon as she was gone.

At the gates, with Mao right next to her, two guards stopped them on either side of the entrance. Their basic armor was silver, covering all of their features, with a black undersuit and a violet plume on the helmet. Most of the plates that made up the suit had strange engravings along the edges, invisible until the sun hit them just right.

The guard on the left stepped in the way. "What is your business at the palace, today?"

Kita looked nervous. "I-I was-"

"Hello!" Mao chimed. "We were hoping to speak with Queen Corelia."

The same guard gained a confused tone. "Excuse me?"

The right guard sneered, "You're at the Aubade Palace, most of which is restricted from civilians. At a random time, with presumably no title or prior scheduling, and you expect to get in. Not only that, you expect to speak to the single most powerful person in Sybilius. Really?"

"So what?" Mao argued, crossing her arms. "We know her."

Kita blushed. "I'm sorry, I know it sounds ridiculous. My name is Kita Rein, and this is my friend, Mao Atusya. We've both met with her majesty many times before. I really need her help, right now."

"You can ask her yourself," Mao said confidently. "She'll know exactly who we are. Is she here, today?"

"I guarantee she has no time for you," the left guard argued. He made a 'shooing' gesture as if they were insects. "Find somewhere to stay, send a letter, and we'll get back to you then."

Stud growled, but Kita patted him to keep him calm.

"Please, I know this is strange, but it's an urgent issue," Mao insisted. "Is there any way we can be seen today?"

"No, there is not," the left guard replied.

"Dammit," Mao muttered.

Kita reluctantly stepped back. Now that the opportunity was right here, she wanted to keep going, but she knew it would be futile. She didn't blame the guards, either. Her presence was always enough to put others off, and in this situation, Mao's energy likely wasn't helping.

"Don't worry," Mao remarked, patting Kita's shoulder. "We'll figure it out. Right now, I'm thinking a message would do the trick. We'll leave a letter, and wait nearby."

Kita nodded. "Okay."

'Yip! Yip!'

Suddenly, Stud leaped out of Kita's arms, then he charged through the palace gates before the guards could react. They both seemed on edge now.

"What got into him?" Mao murmured.

"Stud!" Kita called. "Stud, get back here!"

The left guard grunted. "You ought to keep a leash on that thing."

"He's never done that before," Kita murmured. "I can't believe he'd run off!"

"Well, we can't let some random dog run around the palace," said the right guard. "Should I head in? Can you handle door duty on your own?"

"I'm fine," said the left guard. "Ma'am, what does he respond to?"

"His name is Stud," said Kita. "But, word of warning, he doesn't listen well to strangers."

The left guard groaned, "Great. Alright, go retrieve him quickly, then come right back out. Other guards should keep you out of any restricted areas. Understand?"

Kita nodded. "Yes, sir."

The guards stepped aside, allowing her through.

"That's one way to do it," Mao whispered, snickering.

"Hey, we really should listen to them," Kita argued. "Let's find Stud and leave."

Mao pouted. "Okay."

Looking around, the inside of the palace was much nicer than the outside. The walls had been painted soft gray, and the ground was smooth, creamy marble. A long violet rug stretched along the center like a path. Up a short flight of stairs toward the end, there were two dark wooden thrones with carvings including a rabbit's head, amethyst stones, and silver and gold accents. The one on the left was bigger than the right.

Kita took just one step before noticing her familiar white fluffball, charging full speed up the stairs and down a hallway to the left of the thrones. Despite already feeling exertion weigh her down, Kita took off after him, with Mao right behind her. They were getting strange looks from guards, servants, and other staff, but she tried to ignore them.

She followed Stud through the long, elaborate corridors of the palace. It was starting to look more like a maze, with the occasional ballroom, foyer, and even a courtyard at one point. Stud was only getting farther away, though. She started relying on his erratic barking to take the right path.

As Kita ran, though, the hallways started to look much darker. The walls started to bubble, her heart pounded, and she felt like she was running in water; something was trying to hold her down. She blinked hard and wiped her eyes, and thankfully, that stopped the unwanted vision before it got any worse.

I can't let my wretched mind stop me now, Kita bitterly thought.

When spotting Stud at an ascending stairway, Kita became more anxious, but followed him to the second floor. She already noticed some guards becoming suspicious, and one was now following her from a distance. Mao stuck her tongue out at him, but Kita swatted her on the arm and whispered for her to stop.

Finally, after a bit more running, Stud stopped outside one room.

"Almost..." Mao jumped for him. "Gotcha!"

Stud scurried out of the way, and Mao crashed hard against the floor with nothing. Kita quickly helped her back up, but looked in the room. She was shocked to finally realize where they were.

It was a bright parlor, with a sylph standing by the table. Despite her certainly old age, she still appeared elegant and toned, and she was quite tall. Her hair was long, chestnut brown with violet streaks. The streaks were tied into small tails, secured by a pattern of golden beads. Likewise, a golden crown with three amethysts marked her royal status. Her elaborate dress was dark bluish-purple, with lavender, seafoam-green, and gold embellishments. She was holding Stud in her arms, and the dog looked very excited to see her. A soldier was sitting at the table; a silver-haired woman wearing violet-tinted armor.

The guard that had been following Kita appeared in the doorway, saw the situation, then bowed and stood back.

Kita gulped, murmuring, "Queen Cor-"

"Your majesty!" Mao cheered, racing into the room.

As Mao tackled the regal sylph in a hug, the armored sylph looked more alert, and Kita restrained a cringe. No matter how nice, a noblewoman was unlikely to appreciate being jumped on by a random visitor. However, without much surprise at all, the queen laughed and hugged Mao back.

"Well, that's as good a greeting as any," Corelia remarked. "Hello, Mao."

"It's good to see you!" Mao chimed. "Although, your guards were being paranoid again..." She snatched Stud. "Oh, and you! You're not supposed to run away, you little fur-goblin!"

Stud growled at her.

Corelia smirked, feigning obliviousness. "And if this pup is here, I'm going to assume that someone else is nearby, and can't say hello to me?"

Kita laughed awkwardly, stepping into the room. "H-Hi. Sorry, he ran off before I could stop him -and so did Mao."

The soldier at the table stood up. "I take it we're done for now, your majesty?"

"Yes, for now," Corelia replied. "You may return to your duties."

While the unfamiliar woman left, Kita took Stud with a more secure grip.

She turned to Corelia and stammered, "I-I'm sorry to barge in, like this."

Though she was expecting to be scolded, Corelia just smiled warmly and patted her shoulder.

"It's okay, dear," she replied. "I'm very happy to see you again. Both of you. You should know, regardless of what my guards may say, you are always welcome to visit."

Mao grinned. "I tried to tell her!"

"Well..." Kita managed a fake smile. "Thank you."

Corelia led them to the table. "Come, sit with me. Did you stop by just to catch up?"

As Kita sat down, she sighed. "I wish. There's been a bit of trouble, and Mao convinced me it was urgent enough to rush down here."

"I guess I should've figured," Corelia murmured. "If you don't mind my saying, I know you're hardly an extrovert, but it does seem as though you're grayer than usual. What's the matter?"

As Kita mentally fumbled for the words to use, she searched Corelia for some form of lingering impatience. However, not even the slightest trace could be found. Her mere presence gave off a welcoming comfort.

With an encouraging nudge from her friend, Kita forced the words out.

"Your majesty, it's a very big problem, and I was told you could help. Apparently, this isn't something that just anyone can solve."

"I can certainly try," Corelia replied.

"You see, I've been unable to sleep recently, and..." Kita nervously bit her lip. "I'm sorry, this is going to sound crazy. Very, very crazy."

"Nonsense," Corelia responded. "Even if it is to others, nothing is crazy to me anymore. I have seen much from the world of madness, some of which makes more sense than the world of sanity. Now, then, you mentioned insomnia?"

"Yes, but not just the type that leaves you tired..." Kita gulped nervously, freezing up again.

In a calm tone, Mao spoke for her, "Kita's starting to see things that none of us can. She was managing to hide it from Yuna and me, until we both found something that set her off far worse than before. It's not a normal thing, though, hence our need for you."

"Good gods..." Corelia looked more nervous, shifting her gaze back to Kita. "Is this true?"

Kita kept her head down, but nodded. "It was a symbol on an old red flag, and I can't even begin to describe what happened afterward. It was like a nightmare, but I wasn't asleep. As Mao implied, I usually ignore them well enough. That time, it was too much, yet the only real clue was the symbol. It's the only thing that consistently bothers me, every time I see it."

Corelia took a moment to think. "'Flag' would imply it represents a tribe, and I know a few that commonly use red ones. Do you remember what the symbol looked like?"

"Yes, I have it h-" Kita stopped abruptly, clutching the paper tighter.

"Is there a problem?" Asked Corelia.

Kita lowered her voice. "The one who showed me the crest told me that we weren't allowed to talk about it. I've been really nervous about getting in trouble."

Corelia looked less confident, yet she was impressively calm when she replied.  "I won't lie, if it's restricted knowledge, it's likely restricted for a reason. Rest assured, I won't get you in any trouble. You're clearly not doing any of this on purpose."

"Thank gods, you understand," Mao remarked.

With that in mind, Kita unfolded the paper, sneaking one glance at the symbol. It still sent shivers down her spine. She laid the paper flat on the table, then slid it to Corelia.

The queen's immediate reaction did not make Kita any more settled.

The very moment that Corelia saw the emblem, she froze in her spot. Now she did seem well and truly afraid, and Kita didn't like that.

Corelia cleared her throat. "Kita, you saw this? Are you sure?"

Kita nodded. "Yes. I saw it on an old flag that some shopkeepers were trying to keep discreet, and since then, it's been haunting me. Every time I see it, something bad happens. I mean, not literally, but it feels and looks that way. I know it sounds crazy, but I'm sorry."

"Do not apologize," Corelia replied. "It only implies that you believe you did something wrong, and I don't want that lingering in your head. It will only put you in a worse place. You must learn to be stronger, just as I told you before."

Kita held up her scrawny arms. "It's not as easy as it looks."

"Not strong in that sense, dear," Corelia explained. "You could stand to bulk up, but more importantly, a bit of confidence will make all the difference in your troubles. That's what I was trying to say."

"She's right," Mao remarked. "You are hard on yourself, sis."

Kita looked away with a flustered expression, clutching Stud closer to her.

"Now for the symbol," Corelia continued. "You must be honest. Have you seen it, anytime before that incident?"

"No," Kita answered. "I was hoping you would have an explanation. You've known me for a long time, so maybe you can think of a reason I would recognize it."

Corelia paused to think, but then shook her head. "I'm sorry, but this subject shouldn't have been anywhere around you..." She tapped the paper. "This symbol may as well be a bad omen, which is why it makes me nervous. When it does pop up, it never leads to anything good, but it's almost completely limited to this region of Sybilius."

Kita gulped nervously. "A bad omen. Brilliant."

"How is it bad?" Asked Mao.

Corelia hesitated. "It's not easy to get into. I'm sorry, but I don't feel comfortable discussing it out in the open. Much of its topics are restricted for good reason."

With an annoyed tone, Kita intervened, "What am I supposed to do? This thing, or its link to my head, is making me sick."

Corelia sighed, "Given the situation, I do believe you should hear a bit more about subject, at least enough for you to get the gist. First, though, I'd feel much better if you two stayed in the palace, tonight."

"Heck, I won't argue over staying in a castle!" Mao remarked.

"Why?" Asked Kita.

"Courtesy, mainly," said Corelia. "I'd hate for you to travel all the way down here, only to turn right around. Besides, you'll need a place to stay while I find the time for a longer talk -right now, I'm running on a schedule. I hope you understand."

"I guess I do," Kita murmured.

"Please try to be optimistic," Corelia replied. "Who knows? Maybe you'll sleep better in the palace."

Before Kita could reply, Corelia stood up and headed into the hallway, where she called for a nearby guard. While she did that, Mao scooted a bit closer.

"I told you she'd help," Mao remarked.

"I guess you were right about that much," Kita murmured. "Still, did you see her reaction to the symbol? Even she knows it's bad news."


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Fri Feb 23, 2024 8:15 pm
keeperofgaming wrote a review...



I like how friendly Corelia was, and how open she was about the symbol. Her want to protect Kita is quite clear, and Mao is also good at that. The friendly behavior between them shows that Corelia is humble and able to help others... of course, if that's all it is.
I'm still currently holding onto my half demon theory. That would also explain Corelia freezing, as if it was just the return of the demon king, she would still freeze, but she would also get her guards to prepare.
I feel like Corelia is hiding something, and because of that, she isn't going to be entirely honest with the duo.
I also like the practical movements. It shows just how playful Mao is, and how intelligent Stud is.
I also like that the guards were harsh and took their jobs seriously, instead of just being okay with the duo.
It shows a sense of reality like many other chapters in this story.
Good job here.




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Sat Dec 30, 2023 5:01 pm
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi again! Lim here with a review.

General Impressions

I felt glad reading the first part of this, because it seems that things do get a little better for Kita once she’s away from Lion’s Bridge. The scenery around Queen Corelia’s palace also seems really beautiful.

I liked Mao and Kita’s dynamic in this chapter. I think Kita underestimates how much she is like an adult compared to Mao. I remember one of her internal reflections was that she thought her friends considered her childish, but often Mao seems more like a little sister to her while she is the mature older sister.

It was also cool to see one of the characters from the prologue appear. I wonder if the symbol has anything to do with the demon king, or perhaps to do with that big dangerous something Corelia warned him about.

Characters

I liked the characterisations in this chapter, and especially the interactions between Mao and Kita.

"That's one way to do it," Mao whispered, snickering.
"Hey, we really should listen to them," Kita argued. "Let's find Stud and leave."

This felt really in-character, and I also thought Mao’s sneaky comment was clever.
Mao stuck her tongue out at him, but Kita swatted her on the arm and whispered for her to stop.

Kita laughed awkwardly, stepping into the room. "H-Hi. Sorry, he ran off before I could stop him -and so did Mao."

I like how their dynamics were consistent throughout the chapter with moments like the above. Seeing how they behave in this particular situation lets me familiarise myself more with the characters.

It’s also nice to see how they speak to each other in a somewhat less pressured environment. I find their friendship more believable now that I’ve seen this more light-hearted side of their interactions.

Worldbuilding

This chapter has me feeling a little curious about how the power structures in the kingdom work. Are the nobles really openly “judgmental” towards Kita? Or does she mean they’re just judgmental in general?

We’ve seen that Queen Corelia clearly has a good relationship with Kita. I would think that if the nobles are subject to the Queen’s power, they would be reluctant to show open disdain towards someone the Queen likes and is mentoring. After all, Kita could just tell Corelia someone was being nasty to her and Corelia would have the power to punish them. Is there any reason Kita has to hide her connection to Corelia, even when she’s being mistreated by people in Lion’s Bridge and a word from the queen could ward those people off? I mean sure it’s a form of ‘nepotism’, but it seems reasonable given that the town truly ostracizes her otherwise. Unless queens don’t have that kind of power in this setting?

Mao seems to act like someone who doesn’t live under the same power system that Kita does. While Kita is nervous around the guards, Mao doesn’t seem to acknowledge their significance at all. It was mentioned before that Mao’s parents were wealthy, but I wonder if that wealth can really tip the balance so much that she doesn’t have any reaction to a royal guard’s authority at all?

I feel like even with the effect Kita thinks she has on others, it seems quite reasonable for guards not to let people they don’t recognize into the place they are guarding. I didn’t really agree with Mao on the guards being “paranoid”. Those were just my thoughts though – it may not be super important to the story in the long-run, but I thought I’d mention it anyway ^^’

Overall

This chapter felt like a good breather from all the conflict and increasing tension of the previous ones – and yet it also establishes further troubles to come. I wonder what kind of information Corelia will have for them later, and if Kita really will be able to sleep peacefully at the palace. I didn’t have any major technical comments for this chapter – I thought it read pretty smoothly and was immersive.

Hope this helps!
-Lim




RavenAkuma says...


It's great to hear your insight, especially on worldbuilding -it's really good to know how things sound to the reader! Thank you for taking the time to read and review! :)



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Thu Dec 28, 2023 7:21 am
dragonight9 wrote a review...



Hi again, I've been so excited to read this chapter so let's get right into it.

As I'm reading through:

I really like how you initially described Kita's surroundings. All dark insides of a carriage (buggy?). Really fits the theme of the story.
I also liked your description of the scenery outside. I found it very interesting that you called out the biome of the area. (Not something I see too often so it caught my attention)

Here's my first small criticism. This line "However, she soon grew to become bored." and the rest of the paragraph seemed to have a bit of weird English. I could still understand but you were saying but it was slightly off putting so I thought I'd mention it.

I loved your description of the castle. Your variety of great descriptors made it all sound very majestic and vibrant.

Another small comment, it feels like this line, "As soon as they crossed the drawbridge leading into the city, things changed drastically from an open, empty meadow."
Could be part of the next paragraph, and maybe this might work better: "As soon as they crossed the drawbridge leading into the city, things changed drastically. No longer were they in an open/empty meadow. (or Gone was the open/empty meadow of the lands outside)"
Of course, this is just a suggestion.

I like how you took the time to describe the guards. It really brought me into the scene. I also like how you handled their attitudes. I was not expecting them to be so sarcastic. And the way you handled them getting in was well done too. As soon as Stud ran off I had an idea about why he did and where he was going (or rather to whom).

I enjoyed meeting the Queen, and your description of her as a motherly figure was well done. You really got that feeling across well.
I also liked her reaction to the symbol it felt right for her character while also revealing how serious of an issue this is. It's really building the suspense and intrigue around what that symbol means.

Overall thoughts:

Your descriptions in this chapter were amazing! Not much happened but it was very detailed and gave me a great sense for the scenery surrounding what will be going on for this part of the story.
I also enjoyed how you described the difference between the queen and the other residence of the palace, and then proceeded to immediately show that difference in the interaction with the guards.

The queen is an amazing character and I can't wait to learn more about her and see her interactions with Kita. She already has the potential to be an amazing mentor character.

Last thoughts:

I hope you have a chance to describe the palace from the inside a bit more. You did all you needed to in this chapter, but if things slow down for a bit I'd love to read how you would describe the intricacies of it.

Have a great day/night!




RavenAkuma says...


Hello (and happy late holidays lol)! Thanks for bringing that botched line to my attention, I think I mentioned this but in case I'm wrong, there are a few of those due to several rewrites of the early chapters. I also like the idea of moving the meadow sentence ~

Thanks for reading and reviewing! :)



dragonight9 says...


Glad to help (and happy late holidays to you too lol) ;)




Who knew paper and ink could be so vicious.
— Kathryn Stockett, The Help