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Book 7, Chapter 7 - A Duel

 Cloudhawk was using Idonea, there was no question. She increased the odds of his cover remaining intact.

As they spoke, Sky Fortress was coming toward them. However, the altitude and velocity of the structure was ever changing. One thing was certain; neither the Green Alliance nor the power of the Cloud God could tear it down - even if it appeared right over Skycloud. They wouldn't even be able to tell it was there.

As far as Cloudhawk could tell, their best shot was to destroy the fortress from the inside. Sneak in, and strike at its core. With Sky Fortress out of the picture, the danger to the Green Alliance would be eliminated.

Of course if he had this thought, the Supremes must have as well. Unless he was mistaken, Cloudhawk figured they were hiding their base somehow - probably by disturbing space around it. That prevented Cloudhawk from easily teleporting inside. In addition, almost certainly there were a number of defenses engaged.

Getting in would be difficult. He had to make sure his identity was air-tight, and this girl was a good way to make that happen. She was also his ticket to the fortress. As for whether it was morally right was none of Cloudhawk's concern.

Getting to Sky Fortress was only the first step. After all, Cloudhawk's aim was to bring down all four of the Supremes. When that time came he planned to release Bruno. At least Idonea would get her wish and he would have kept his promise.

The two spoke for a little while and came to an understanding. Just the fact that their exchange hadn't come to blows yet was a shock to both families.

The Nilam family steward stroked his beard and with a grin muttered to the person by his side. "Our Young Master may have a troublesome personality, but he definitely has a way with women. It seems he likes this one. And by the looks of her she is special, even for the capitol."

His words were followed by a declaration from Idonea: "I will accept the wedding arrangement for our families. With one condition - afterwards I will join the army!"

Brows raised and mouths fell open. Lance followed suite, announcing his intention to fight as well. Where had this come from? Ultimately though it didn't matter. While strange, the representatives of both houses were simply happy the wedding would be going forward. It wasn't uncommon for the young, strong and idealistic of the realm to want to serve.

Let them fight. What was important was that the wedding concluded smoothly. A brief discussion was had and the ceremony was planned for three days later. There was no reason to drag it out and a quick deal was beneficial for all involved. News spread quickly and became a widely discussed topic over meals and tea.

"So the plan is set. We pretend to get married. Just for show, so don't even think of laying a finger on me!" She still didn't trust Lance, so Idonea made sure to reiterate her warning. "Stick to your word!"

"Relax, Miss Argyris. I may not be much but I have my pride. Anyway, I haven't even the slightest interest in you. So make sure you don't start to fall for me."


Her eyes bulged in anger. She didn't want to marry this man and she meant it, but hearing his overt dismissal was like a slap in the face. It had nothing to do with him necessarily, rather her own pride and self-confidence.

She was about to spat a few choice words when suddenly there was a sound from outside. Someone was calling her name.

"Idonea! Idonea! You can't get married! Stop- why are you trying to stop me?! Don't you know who I am?1 Release me this instant!"

"Oh no!" Idonea's face fell. "What is he doing here?"

"Who's shouting like that? That your boyfriend?"

"Nonsense! He's my friend, Jupiter Merlo "

Cloudhawk's eyes twinkled. He stared like he could see right through her. "Just a friend?"

Idonea scowled. With a huff she continued. Jupiter Merlo. His family Is famous in Fulmulta. We grew up together, he's like an older brother. I don't see him that way."

"Why not?" Cloudhawk was genuinely interested. "You're both from noble families, roughly the same age, and he's out there screaming your name. It sure looks like he sees you that way."

She sniffed dismissively. "He's too impulsive. I like men who are calm and considerate, not immature."

It sounded to him like she was a fan of older men.

"It's getting noisy out there. Let's see what's going on."

"I advise you to stay here. Jupiter has a bad temper and he has some skill. I'm afraid he might hurt you."

"It's fine. I'm not afraid."

With that Cloudhawk stepped out into the hall. Idonea followed close behind.

The front of the mansion was clogged by a small group. Leading them was a young man dressed in white, maybe eighteen or nineteen years old. Immature was indeed the way to describe him, especially with that look of petulant rage twisting his features and turning his cheeks red.

This was Jupiter Merlo, one of the city's most promising youths. Idonea described him as a childhood friend, but it was clear the nobleman was carrying a torch for her. Unfortunately for him, the Merlos and Argyris's were not allies. Over the years the animosity between their houses had only grown deeper. Because of strategic considerations, Idonea's family would never agree to a marriage between them.

"You worthless dogs! You're willing to sacrifice a lifetime of happiness for Idonea for some sham marriage! I, Jupiter Merlo, will not stand for it!" Jupiter jabbed a spear forward that he held tightly in his hand. "On my honor, if you try and stop me I'll cut you down!"

"Jupiter! Stop making such a fuss!" Several Argyris family members gathered round to try and dissuade him. Jupiter paid them no mind, he was here to save his childhood friend and little sister. He was ready for a fight if that's what they wanted, but before he could take a swing two figures appeared.

"Don't worry Idonea, I'm here to save you!" He fixed his bloodshot eyes on the young woman.

Cloudhawk looked him up and down and shook his head. What a fool. Didn't he see that Idonea wasn't at all interested in him? All of this made-up drama, what was the point of getting so riled up?

If Idonea really liked him, why didn't she ask for his help with her assassination plot? After all, he was supposed to be a lot stronger by comparison, at least according to her.

The object of Jupiter's valiant mission scowled and chastised him. "Jupiter, I know you care about me but you need to go. I've already agreed to the marriage."

"No! No! How could you agree to this? Are these old snakes forcing you?" The young man's soft features stared back incredulously. "I refuse to believe it, not for a moment! I cannot just stand by and watch you leap into the flames! I've looked into this Lance Nilam character and it is clear he is no good. If you marry him you will never be happy!"

A smile crept into Cloudhawk's face. It was like watching a bad play.

He'd seen dramas like this back at Skycloud, in between all the fighting and killing. They never ceased to amuse him. Both these kids were younger than Cloudhawk. It wasn't that he was a lot older, but the experiences he'd had were enough for several lifetimes. To him these two were infants.

At a glance Cloudhawk could see that Jupiter wasn't a pushover. He had potential, but was far to delicate. No wonder Idonea wasn't interested in him.

"Enough. You will always be my big brother but this decision is mine to make." She did not mince her words. "Go - home."

Jupiter felt like he'd been punched in the chest. He knew he couldn't drag her away by himself but he'd come anyway. Honestly he hadn't thought this far ahead. He couldn't save her so... what now? Did she really want to marry this guy?

"He must have said something to you. Some lie to trick you into this!" Jupiter tightened his grip on his spear and ground his teeth. He pointed it toward the man standing by Idonea's side. "I challenge you to a duel!" He screeched.

1. - 'black sky policy/plan/scheme'. Merlo is an Italian/Spanish surname meaning blackbird (so black + sky). Jupiter was the god of the sky and kings (sky + policy+scheming since he is supposed to share the same characteristics as Zues, a famous schemer.).

2. I love this kid.

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