by Jeanette O’Hagan c 2014
Anna stood as still as a statue, a crimson cushion in her hands. Surely the Kupanna’s precious lapis luzuli necklace couldn’t have be stolen. There were guards at almost every door.
The Kupanna shook her head. ‘The necklace must be mislaid.’
‘Maybe a maid took it, Mama, like Anna or Rianda.’
Young prince’s Naetok’s piping voice jarred Anna. A shiver ran down her spine. What would happen to her if she was blamed? Dismissal, a whipping or worse. How like Natok to shift blame.
Prince Rokkan stared at his younger brother. ‘Really? Anna doesn’t have a reputation for sneaking off with things or getting up to mischief.’
Naetok squirmed and scowled. ‘I didn’t take it. Maybe you did, Rokku.’
‘Come let’s not squabble. Surely no one in this room would take my necklace.’ Kupanna Suraya tucked her distraught daughter on her shoulder and patted her between the shoulder blades to soothe her. Another gust of wind blustered its way into the room, swaying the tapestries against the lime-washed wall and rustling the leaves of the pot plants. ‘Please, could someone please close the doors to the balcony?’
Rokkan’s golden eyes narrowed. ‘You know, mother, my blue stone ring went missing the other day.’
Anna put down the cushion she had picked up looking for the necklace and closed the balcony doors. Now that the Prince mentioned it, it wasn’t the only thing that had gone missing. She turned around. ‘Yes, your Highness, and Princess Lakwi’s rattle went missing on the day of the picnic.’
Rianda brought her fingertips to her mouth. ‘And my wool.’
The Kupanna shook her head. ‘Why would anyone be interested in stealing wool? And what thief could get past the guards to sneak into our chambers.’
Prince Rokkan’s eyes brightened. ‘I think I know where to find the thief and your necklace, Mother.’
He dashed out the door. Naetok hurried after him.
The Kupanna reached out her arm. ‘Wait Natu.’ She shook her head. ‘Now we will be late for the feast. Come with me.’ She rushed out the door with Lakwi in her arms.
Anna met Rianda’s gaze and together they followed after the Kupanna and the princes.
Rokkan rushed out the eastern door into the palace gardens and headed towards the grotto . He came to a standstill in front of a small copse of trees. The others had followed to him and, one by one, they halted behind him, their faces confused.
A whooshing sound and a black and while bird swooped down past his head. Yes, this was the place. He put up his arm to shield his head and continued to examine the branches of the tree. He had seen the birds building the nest in this area a few weeks ago. It had to be here. A flash of blue as an object caught the dying light of the setting sun.
‘There.’ A triumphant grin curved up his lean face.
Jumping up, he grabbed hold of a branch, and began to scale the tree.
The Kupanna stepped forward. ‘Rokkan, this is madness. You should be getting dressed for the feast, not climbing trees.’ A narrow line creased between her arched brows
‘Just a minute, mother.’
When he was halfway up, Rokkan stretched out his arm to an untidy nest of sticks resting at the juncture between the sturdy branch and main trunk. The bird swooped him again, and another joined in, their strong beaks skimming a few ninas from his thick curls. With a grunt, Rokkan grabbed the treasure. Letting go of the branch, he dropped lightly to the ground and moved away from the swooping birds.
He bowed. ‘Here it is, your Majesty.’
He stretched out his arm. A shiny lapis lazuli necklace was draped over his open palm. ‘I think a closer inspection of the nest will reveal other treasures – like my ring.’
‘Or Lakwi’s rattle, maybe even Rianda’s blue wool. How did you guess Rokku?’
His eyes lit up. ‘I remembered that tarrawongs like to brighten their nests with blue objects. The balcony doors were open. And there was a pair of tarrawongs strutting about while I was grooming Eclipse and lost my bluestone ring.’
‘That’s the bird that trying to steal the blueberries,’ Naetok said, then covered his mouth with his hands.
‘You are right. All the missing objects were blue. You are clever, Rokkan.’ His step-mother touched his shoulder and smiled. He stood straighter, pleased to have earned the approbation of his step-mother at least.
Naetok sniffed. ‘Not too clever if you are late for Papa.’
Rokkan tilted his head. ‘True enough. We can look for the other things later. Let’s go inside and celebrate the feast.’
Back to the Start
Read more Tamrin Tales:
And The Herbalist’s Daughter (in Tied in Pink romance anthology)
My Sister by Dinnis son of Gaia In Twelfth Year of Rokkan Kapok (Hypertext Story)