Chapter Fifty

May 5, 2012


18th of Saltmonth


            One morning, Ulric's father assembles most of the prominent fighters and his sons to go and speak to the man in charge of the Hoffmann camp.
            The count says that he has decided to send the prisoner to the Duke because the Duke needs to hear what the man has to say.  He tells the Hoffmann captain that he may accompany the prisoner, and the man opens his mouth to protest.  Iulien punches the man in his mouth, "You will not interrupt the count while he's speaking!"
            Everyone sits in stunned silence for a moment before Count Zurwald continues.  He will be sending an envoy with the man "to ensure there's no outside interference."  He agrees, however, that we can settle the matter immediately through trial by combat, and indicates his retinue.  "I'm sure I have several people will be willing to step up and champion the cause for our side."
            Almost simultaneously, Ulric and Briggette step forward, both of them radiating an aura of barely restrained danger.  The Hoffmann man steps back and defers to the judgment pronounced by the count.

            The next morning, when we get up for breakfast, Finn has prepared a full spread of pork chops, bacon, fried potatoes, eggs, ham, roast fowl, oatmeal, and some sort of bubbling fruit compote.  It is expertly prepared and quite delicious.  He is drinking regular beer with his breakfast and is eating quite a bit.  I ask if he's okay, and he finally admits he has not yet been to sleep.  We both continue eating, and eventually go on about our days.
Heading out into the town square, Ulric sees Boian leaning up against a wall.  He points out one of the soldiers in the Hoffmann camp, and tells Ulric that he feels a compulsion to stick a sword through the man's face, but recognizes that would cause problems.  He recognizes the man from three years in Nevers, where he was known as a sadist. 

            Later that day, we all gather to head to the castle.  Briggette dresses in her blue city gown, and takes most of the morning getting herself ready for a special presentation.  We all are in our courtly finery, and we enter the great hall where Count Zurwald sits on a raised dais.  After a wait for some farmers who are petitioning the counts intervention in a property dispute, we are announced and step forward.  When we enter, Boian is already in the hall, dressed in fine clothing.  He is wearing a large cloak bearing a symbol of a serpent whose head is being crushed by a giant hammer. 

Brannick steps forward.  "Sir Briggette Bellyn presents herself for marriage to your son, Sir Ulric von Zurwald.  She presents this dowry as my foster daughter.  She has no lands--base cash will have to do."  Finn steps forward and presents a burgeoning chest to the count.  He sets it on the dais at the count's feet, and Gustav comes to pick it up.  He struggles with the weight as he places it at Ulric's feet.

"Yes, I accept," Ulric says.  "This is a most gracious dowry.  I am humbled by both your generosity and your beauty."

"I give it in memory of my deceased parents," she replies, a sad smile crossing her face.

Brannick takes Briggette's hand and leads her to Ulric.  He places her hand in Ulric's hand and kisses her on the forehead.  Ulric kisses Briggette's hand then turns to Brannick.  He donates the dowry to the church and orphanage in town, "Cuthbert has been very good to me.  It is only right that I repay what I can."
We stay at court through the remainder of the day's business until court is dismissed.  As Boian turns to bow, I notice a quoatl on his surcoat.  Yet another odd layer is added to the strange onion that is Boian.  We stay for dinner with the count that evening, and have a wonderful night, complete with jesters and halfling jugglers.

The next several days pass in peace and preparations.  The snow is melting, but it is still quite cold out.

            On the third of Plowmonth, the day before St. Cuthbert's day and two days before the wedding, Silas teleports Briggette back to the capital to retrieve her items she had commissioned.  I go with her on this trip.  When we get to the church, they give her a package they say was left for Brannick in addition to her items.

About four o'clock that evening, the celebration begins somewhat surreptitiously, but soon swells into a full-blown party. 

At dawn, everyone gathers outside the city gates, then parades through town and sing.  At the church, all the children line up at the door and strike the adults with switches when they enter.  This is known as the cleansing.  At 11:30, the billet brings out the "Mace of St. Cuthbert" and says a sermon about smiting your enemies.  Brannick approaches the altar and the billet steps aside.  "Today, we have an unusual event.  One of our order has ascended to the highest rank within the order of St. Cuthbert.  Step forward Knight Protector Briggette Bellyn, and leave Knight Paladin."  She steps forward, and another Protector who we've never seen before steps forward.  His name is Ethelred.  Behind him stand five sergeants at arm. 

Ethelred steps up and nods, "Knight Paladin."

"Protector," she replies.  These men are now under her command.

Ethelred introduces each of the sergeants, and Briggette briefs them on the Hoffmann situation.  Once they are properly informed, we all head to the feast of St. Cuthbert.  The feast begins at noon and must last until after dusk.  We all get completely plastered and a good time is had by all.

            When the next morning arrives, the party continues as the wedding day of Ulric and Briggette has finally arrived!

For the first part of the ceremony, the betrothal, Ulric and Briggette exchange their bride and groom gifts.  They stand on a raised stage in the center of the town square.  The count stands behind Ulric and Brannick is behind Briggette.  The billet is there, but this is not a formal ceremony that he will conduct. 
The two exchange rings.  Ulric receives an ornate gold ring with scrollwork that matches that on his armor and is inset with two rubies and two emeralds.  The ring is enchanted with a locator spell, as is Briggette's new holy symbol, so that they will always be able to find one another (as long as they wear these items).  Briggette's ring is mithril with Cuthbert's symbol set into it.  Briggette also gives Ulric her old holy symbol, the one she received when she entered the order.
The procession begins to the church and the official wedding ceremony begins.  The billet is wearing a Cuthbertine cudgel on his hip.  He begins with a lesson on the role of marriage and the responsibilities of the husband to the wife and the responsibilities of the wife to the husband.  He lists the rules of marriage and asks each to speak whatever words they wish.  Both give rousing speeches on the depth of their emotion and their dedication to one another.

"Then in the name of Cuthbert, we join you from now until death--may it be noble and with purpose."  The billet brings their hands together and a deafening roar erupts from the crowd.

They leave the church and suddenly, Briggette is being lifted by the crowd and carried away.  The traditional kidnapping has occurred!  Finn and Korvinean lead the charge to take her to the tavern where she will await ransom from her new husband.

Ulric begins his search for his lovely bride at the Lovely Lodge, and not finding her there, he fights the crowd to get to the Goodly Dancer.  When he walks in, he finds all of us there, "Hey!  Which one of you stole my bride?"

"I don't know," Korvinean says.  "I haven't seen her."

"You know," Ulric replies.  "Just because there hasn't been a brawl in these inns, doesn't mean there can't be.  I'm not above fighting on my wedding day."
Finn laughs, "You know, a beautiful woman like that--it might be a hefty ransom to get her back."

"And what might I have to do?"

"Well, for starters, we think you might want to buy drinks for everyone in the bar.... And then, well, we thought you should dance with someone . . . not quite as lovely as her."

Turning to Korvinean, Ulric says, "Is it you?" and lifts him up and begins to dance.     Korvinean goes along for a moment, then steps back and says, "No, no, no, not me!"

"Oh!  Then it must be you!"  Ulric grabs Finn and begins to spin him around before Finn jerks Ulric up off the floor.

"No!  You're doing it all wrong, you should let me lead," he says and spins Ulric around and around.  After a moment, Finn says, "Oh, actually, here's your real, uh, partner..."

With that, Korvinean's wolf is presented to him, dressed in a lady's gown.  Without missing a beat, Ulric begins to dance with the confused beast, leaps up onto the bar and makes a spectacle of himself.  Satisfied with his self-abasement, Finn and Korvinean pull Briggette from the back room and present her to Ulric.  He plants a baudy unceremonious kiss on her and lifts her up to carry her out of the bar.

Brianna is waiting there with Alabaster, as it is traditional for the bride to ride on a white horse into the reception.  They are there for four or five hours, celebrating their union with friends and townsfolk.  Ulric presents Briggette with a lance, but just as he's about to hand it to her, it lights on fire.  Brannick gives her a gold heart-shaped brooch that has a slight glow to it.  He says he will explain in the morning.

When they leave, Ulric turns the opposite direction of our group house, and heads to a new house he has rented.  When they go up to their room, they find an extremely ornate four poster bed carved in a motif of bears and ropes with an extremely comfortable mattress.  There is a note on the bed:

Briggette & Ulric,
Enjoy it and use it with pleasure.  May it give you rest and joy and -- eventually -- lots of little knights.... after lots of big ones!


They enjoy the night as they should, and the next morning comes way too quickly.  Around 11am, Finn knocks on their door.

"I drew the short straw," he says.  "Brannick is going to be leaving, and he'd like to see you first."

The two hastily get dressed--in their wedding clothes since no one thought to bring their others to the new house--and head out to meet Brannick.

Brannick asks Briggette to walk with him and reminds her that what happens in the capital cannot be avenged until after the war.  He also explains the brooch.  If you push the back side of the brooch through the front, it changes from gold to silver.  He turns it over and does it again, and it changes back.  "As long as you wear it with the gold side out through the day, you will not become pregnant.  When you are ready, change it to the silver and wear it through the day, and you will."  He tells her a bit about the men now in her charge, and gives her a long hug before he departs for the capital.

The next morning, Briggette wakes early and puts her new squad through the paces before going to wake Ulric.  While Ulric dresses, there is a knock at the door.  Gustav is there to tell Ulric that his father would like to see him at Ulric's convenience. 

Ulric finishes dressing, and they head directly to the castle.  There, the count tells him that several men who have fought with us have come to ask to leave the count's service.  Ulric looks confused, trying to remember what he's done to make these men want to leave.  "They wish to enter your service."  Of course Ulric replies that he wouldn't dare take away resources his father needs, but comments that these are able and good men who he would not otherwise hesistate to take under his wing.  His father gives him leave to accept these men, and they discuss the issues at hand with Nevers and other threats.

When they leave the count's company, they go to see Boian.  He swears his fealty to her, and promises to protect her as she is the scion of the House of the Beautiful Serpent.  He cuts his palm and kneels before her, smearing the blood into her boot as he makes his oath.  He says that her family was killed in Nevers when his compatriots failed in their duty to the family, but he refuses to tell her more.  He says that when the gods want her to know, she will know.


Briggette is extremely riled by this, and comes to find Gizli at the house.  She rants about the admission for a while, then grabs her new troops and takes them out into the yard for an impromptu practice, wherein she really beats them soundly.