Chapter Forty-Nine

April 28, 2012


17th of Saltmonth


            After listening in to the conversation, I happily skip out of the castle and all the way back to Briggette's room in our house.  I hop up on the edge of her table and grin as I kick my legs back and forth like a child on a swing.  She gives me the "What are you up to?" look, but clearly knows better than to ask.  She suggests we gather Brianna, then go have dinner with Uncle Silas and Uncle Quinn.
            When we arrive at the Lovely Lodge, Quinn jumps up and grabs Briggette, swinging her around in a giant bear hug.  She is thoroughly embarrassed, her fair skin flushing a bright red.  Silas tells us he is going to the capital tomorrow.  We chit-chat pleasantly, and about thirty minutes later, Brannick walks in.  The conversation continues well into the evening, with the rest of group straggling in and joining us one by one.
            The following morning, I meet Silas at dawn to accompany him to the capital.  We arrive safely, and I head to the Church of St. Cuthbert to have a few items magically enhanced.
            Meanwhile, Ulric and Briggette ready themselves for an elaborate presentation of our tax to the count.  As they finish up, the city watch bells start to go off.  Briggette calls Chancellor and vaults into the saddle to head toward the gate.  As she arrives, she sees Brannick riding back toward town with several men bearing the standard of the Hoffmann house.  As she approaches, she sees another man on a horse in the center of the Hoffmann men, but he is not armored and is very dirty.
            "Hail, Brannick!" she greets him.
            "Hail, Sir Briggette!  Can you fall in?"  She seems confused, but drops into formation at his right.  They ride back toward the gates, and meet Ulric and his father riding out.
            "Hail, Sir Brannick!" the count greets the group.
            "Hail, your excellency!"  Brannick replies.  "I have in my custody this man who was being accosted by these soldiers on your land.  We have come for court."
            The man who is obviously a knight amongst the Hoffmann men rides up, "Your excellency, I have a warrant for the arrest of this man."  He hands the paper to the count.
            "Well, I see that Count Hoffmann signed this warrant, but you are not in Hoffmann lands.  This man will be held in our custody.  You may place a guard on him if you like, to work in concert with my own men."
            "Very well--it is your land," the knight replies and turns his back on the count to return to the rear of the group.
            Quinn says, just loudly enough to be heard by the retreating knight, "You know, those Hoffmann girls go down real easy."  The group reassembles, then begins to ride toward the gates.  "Oh, look, Hoffmann ladies!" Quinn says, gesturing toward the soldiers.
            "No, I don't think so," Ulric replies, "they're too pretty to be Hoffmann ladies."
            Ulric and Briggette ride up to the prisoner and question him about what has transpired to land him in these circumstances.  As near as they can tell, he does not appear to be the evil man the Hoffmanns have made him out to be.  Ulric assures him that justice will be done fairly here in Brasov.
            Having taken care of our business in the capital, Silas and I return to Brasov.  When we arrive in the town square, we see multiple troops flying standards we don't immediately recognize.  I draw Frostfang, and hear a tremendous clap of thunder.  I look around and see that Silas has laid out one of the Hoffmann soldiers.
            "Gizli!  What's going on here?"  I hear Briggette yelling.  I look around and see our friends riding in behind the strangers.  "Stand down!"  I immediately put Frostfang away.             Silas is still in combat mode, his eyes and his staff glowing.  He sweeps a pointing finger around at the men, "Let this be a lesson: don't ever draw on a wizard!"
            The rest of the evening passes uneventfully.  In the morning, I wake to find Ulric knocking at my door.  He asks for my help in a plot to request Briggette's hand.  While he takes her off to a romantic lunch where he asks her to do him the honor, I get everyone in town ready for a party.  When the two return, a triumphant roar erupts from the townspeople and assorted guests--some halflings and gnomes have come in to put on a sideshow act.  The party continues until well into the next morning.
            Around 7:30 the next morning, Finn wakes Ulric and leads him to the house where we've been holding the prisoner.  Two of our guards and one of the Hoffmann men have been subdued and restrained, and the prisoner is missing.  On the back wall of the room, there is a burned in drawing of an eye with a lightning bolt for the iris.  On questioning, we find that, as bizarre as it sounds, a giant red ferret man subdued the guards and took the prisoner.
            We investigate this strange incident, and while trying to open a false bottom in the wagon of the now departing gnomes and halflings, Briggette is sapped from behind.  I turn to attack, but her assailant leaps from the wagon and runs off.  I give chase, and as we round a corner into an alley, he turns into a large ferret man in a red cape before jumping and running up the wall of a nearby house.  Korvinean soon joins the investigation, but finds no new information.  The ferret man is gone!

            Later that evening, Ulric asks Briggette to dinner.  They ride down to the river, where he has arranged an enormous spread of the finest foods available.  After some light conversation, he gets down to business and in a very matter-of-fact practical way, he proposes marriage.  Though this is the moment she's been waiting for, she asks several times, "Are you sure?"  Because of their obligations and duties, she wants to be sure that this is a path they are both willing to walk.  He assures her that he knows the dangers, but that he wouldn't have it any other way, and that he's already spoken with both his father and Brannick to get their blessings.  With that, she gladly accepts and he pulls her into his arms, kissing her deeply and yet again sweeping her off her feet.

They ride back into town, where we have a massive party planned, and we celebrate the happy couple as they enter the gates.  The party lasts until the wee small hours of the morning.