By Allanasha Ke Kiri

Chapter 7 –

The plans were a mess.

Orion could see why Dion had left it to him. The king didn't want to deal with the reluctant servants. None of them wanted anything to do with the Puppeteer, and that included preparations for the ball.

Two days in, and he was still no closer than he'd begun. In fact, he was probably farther away. Every time he made a suggestion, Tydell, the organizer, would 'tsk' at him, always with some reason why it wouldn't work. After the sixth time, Orion was about ready to become right.

"This is much to extravagant for a peasant, sire," the man said, lips near to sneering.

"That peasant," Orion replied, tightly. "Is also a puppeteer."

"I know, sire. You must understand, the other nobles won't stand for such extravagance to welcome back the … boy."

Orion's eyes narrowed. "Am I prince, or aren't I?"

"Of course you are, sire," the man replied, breezily, bowing his head.

"Then opinions of the other nobles should not be your concern. You are a servant in my castle, and are insulting a highly valued guest."

The man blinked at him rapidly, as if not understanding. After a moment, Orion had the distinct pleasure of watching him pale.

"Of course, Sire," he replied, quickly. "I only worry of their opinion of you."

"You need only concern yourself with my opinion."

"Yes, sire." The man bowed low.

Maybe now they could get some work done.

"Sire … If I may?"

Suppressing a sigh, Orion nodded.

"Have you taken their … worry into account?"

Fear, Orion mentally translated.

"Of course. None of them were frightened of Nico before he left. When he returns, I'm sure they'll remember why."

Tydel hesitated a fraction of a second before nodding. "Of course, sire."

The man sounded as unconvinced of it as Orion was. One could always hope though. Sometimes, it was all you could do.

Orion jerked upon finding Kera starting at him … again. This time, though, he managed not to fall off the bed.

"Are you going to make a habit of this?" he asked, sitting up.

Kera just tilted her head, amused.

"What is it this time?" he asked, tiredly. "Do I need to tell someone else something?"

The old woman shook her head.

"You know, most people are punished for entering my rooms unannounced."

She shrugged, obviously unconcerned. It was then that Orion noticed that Kera held something. A folder?"

What's that?" he asked, nodding to it.

She glanced down, smiled, and held it out. Orion blinked, but reached out to take it nonetheless. When she released it, he drew it back into his lap and glanced up at her once more before opening it.

"Who wrote this?" he asked, not recognizing the writing.

She pointed to herself.

"You can write?"

The look she gave him told him that, yes, she obviously could.

"Right, sorry. What is this?"

She just nodded to the folder. Before he could say anything else, she turned and crossed to a chair, sitting. As she watched him, Orion couldn't help but think of a noblewoman. Kera raised an expectant eyebrow at him and he glanced back down at the folder in his lap.

"Do you mind if I dress first?" Glancing back up, he watched her shrug, amusement once more in her eyes. Closing the folder, Orion set it aside and slid from the bed.

"I don't see why this couldn't have waited until I'd woken up. It isn't something urgent, is it?"

She shrugged.

"Can all puppets write?"

Kera shook her head.

"Can Nico?"

Another shake.

"So, you could write before your … change?"

She nodded.

"Oh … not many peasants can write," he said, not seeing her reaction as he dug through his wardrobe. "How'd you find a teacher?"

Glancing back, Orion saw her raise an eyebrow. "Right … yes or no questions … But you can write. Think you can write me some answers?"

Her head tilted in thought. After a moment, she nodded, smiling softly.


It would take a while to get the answers he wanted, but it was better than not getting them at all. Infinitely happier, Orion slid behind his dressing screen.

It was odd, not being able to hear Kera out there. Most people shifted or made some kind of noise while waiting. She didn't.

Then again, she's not a person anymore, is she?

She was a lot more lifelike than any of the others though. Why was that? He added it to his mental list of questions. Orion fell silent as he pulled on his pants and buttoned his shirt.

"Alright," he said, stepping out, "let's see what this is."

Maybe he should ask her not to come into his room anymore. He grabbed the folder off his bed and crossed to Kera.

"Why'd you come in here?" he asked.

She nodded to the folder.

"Why now? Why didn't you wait until I was up and already dressed?"

She just raised an eyebrow. He sighed, pointing to the table off to the side.

There's in and parchment over there."

Nodding, Kera stood. Orion just shook his head as he opened the folder once more.

Name: Darin

Title: Lord

Worried, suspicious of Nico. He says nothing while others discuss 'The Puppeteer'. Worries Nico plans to overthrow the king, turn him into a puppet, but hopes the king truly has control over Nico.

Possible Ally. Approach with Caution. Separate from wife.

Orion blinked, his lips pulling downward into a frown. Glacning up, he saw Kera standing before him.

"What is this?" he asked.

Kera tilted her head at him; glanced down at the parchment she held and scribbled something down. Then, she handed it to him.

You are too busy after you get up. Always surrounded by others. To get you alone, I must get you up earlier.

He had to blink a moment before realizing that it was the answer to his previous question. Right below it was the other.

Each Noble has specific views on Nico. If you wish to protect him, you must know this. It will help keep control of things.

"Oh … Do you need it back?"

She shook her head, gracefully sinking to the ground. He'd never seen an old woman do that.

"Are you okay?" he asked. "Are you sure you don't want the other seat?"

Her eyes sparkled with amusement, her hand reaching across the parchment. Obediently, he gave it to her, watching as she dipped the quill into the inkpot.

I'm a puppet. I feel no pain, and no discomfort.

"Oh … right. Sorry, it's just … you're so human that I … forget."

Thank Nico for that.

Orion blinked, frowning once again. "What do you mean?"

Nico spent a lot of time with me before he could cope, and still does. The more time he spends with us, talking to us, the more human we become. A chosen's life is very lonely, so those he confides in become human-like to offer comfort. Until you, I was his only confidant.

"Me? I'm not a puppet."

No, but he has chosen you anyway.

"That doesn't bother you?"

No. A chosen needs more than one.

"What do you mean, Chosen?"

The puppeteer is chosen.

"For what?"

She shrugged.

"You don't know?"

She didn't reply right away, choosing to watch him instead … intently. I know.

"Why won't you tell me?"

You're not ready.

"Why not?"

She shrugged. Orion watched a moment longer, but her gaze remained stubborn.

"Okay, fine." He glanced down at the parchment, scanning it once again. He was silent for several minutes before something caught his eye. "What do you mean 'before he could cope'?"

Kera blinked, reaching for the parchment. He gave it to her, watching as she read what she'd written. He was greatly amused when she winced. Apparently, she hadn't meant to put that in.

Heaving a soundless sigh, she dipped the quill and began to write again.

Not all chosen were like Amelia. Only one other went insane, as you call them. And it's debatable whether she was already so or not. She enjoyed changing too much, and even her own children were wary of her.

For most of the chosen, they must slide into it. It is the only way for them to cope with the fact that, yes, they killed us, and we now look to them as master; or mistress, as gender demands.

It is a slow process that we must ease them into. Nico was exceptionally difficult. He is still adjusting, to an extent, and it is not healthy for his mind.

"So, they're supposed to be insane."

She shrugged. If that is what you must call it.

Orion frowned. "What else is there?" he asked, incredulous.

Becoming what they must.

"They must be insane? I thought it was a coping device."

Kera heaved another silent sigh. That is only part of it. The chosen cannot be like others. They must be innocent, unknowing of the evil around them. They must have no concept of it, or they are useless.

Orion's frown deepened. "Useless for what?"

She just gave him a look. He wasn't going to get an answer.

"So, you're changing him?"

No, mother is changing him. I am just there to support him.

"Who's mother?"

Mother is Mother.

"Can't you be more specific?"

Kera shrugged. Maybe she could, but she wasn't going to say anything. He sighed, running a hand through his hair. He glanced down at the folder in his lap. There were several more parchments lying under the first. He could only assume tey held the other nobles' information.

"What am I supposed to do with this?"

She gave Orion another look. Use it. You will need help at the reception you're planning for Nico. And make his clothing purple. He loves the color.

Orion blinked. "I suppose … purple?"

Once again, she shrugged, but this time, it was a 'what can you do?' kind of shrug.

Here's another chapter for you guys. Hope you like. Should have the next one out by next week. Not sure about after that though ...