Chapter Seventy-Three

October 13, 2012


25th of Haymonth


We continue to work on the plans for leaving, and two days later, people begin to arrive for Stefan’s naming ceremony.  The child’s namesake and Uncle Lucien both arrive with great joy.  Baron Voda shows up to join in the fun as well.  We drink, party and talk well into the night.

Around midnight, Gustav announces Sir Joe Mladenov has arrived.  He pulls Ulric aside and says that the knight and his men were attacked by archers on the way here.  They are none the worse for wear, but Ulric directs his band of wardens and merry men to scout the way and take care of the bandits in the morning.

The party continues for a few more hours, until Ulric unceremoniously lifts his wife over his shoulder and carries her away upstairs.  Most of the guests have already fallen asleep or passed out by now, and the festivities have wound down significantly.  Everyone seems to have had a great time, and enjoys a good night’s sleep.

The next morning, Ulric sends Korvinean off with his men to investigate the bandit issue.  A while later, a party rides in bearing red banners.  Amongst the group, we note the duke’s banner flying, so we rush to get ready.  Ulric puts his new horse, Jasper, into full livery and mounts up to await the arrival of the incoming honored guests.

One of the house servants wakes Briggette and quickly dresses her for the occasion in the magnificent cloth of silver and emerald dress Ulric had made for her.  She pulls Briggette’s hair roughly into a tight braid and helps her get downstairs and to the gate just in time.  Meanwhile, I get into my nicest dress and follow her down when she goes.  I notice Boian fall in with us as we exit the castle.

Henrick rides up in his best armor and his white cloak of office.  The back of the cloak displays the House Heltragen coat of arms, a bear rampant with the symbol of Cuthbert in between his paws.  Incidentally, the words of the new house have begun to spread throughout the realm, “We are Chosen!”

Gustav rides back into town and announces, “His Excellency Count Rothschilde approaches, along with the Lord Marshall.”  Just at that moment, they ride in, the Lord Marshall carrying the duke’s banner. 

“Your Excellency,” the Lord Marshall greets Ulric who replies with a nod.  He is apparently here as the duke’s representative for the naming ceremony.  A few moments later, Rothschilde arrives, and greets Ulric with a strong bear hug.  Pleasantries are exchanged all around, and the Lord Marshall says, “Count Heltragen, I am here to represent the duke and welcome your son and heir into the world.  I also bear his gift.”

“Well, I can’t have you standing in the sun all day,” Ulric says, “Let’s head into the castle.”  He leads everyone into the great hall where places have been laid for him and all his guests.  There is not a place for me at the head table, but that doesn’t stop me from listening in on any important discussions.  We spend most of the day in there, eating, drinking and making general merriment. 

Later that evening, Briggette comes back into the great hall carrying little Stefan.  “Ulric von Zurwald Heltragen, I present to you your son.  I leave it to you to name him.”

Ulric takes the child and lifts him up before the assembly, “I present Stefan Bellyn von Heltragen, the first of his name.”  His father does a good job of hiding his glee.  The Lord Marshall steps up and places his hand on the babe’s head, blessing him in the name of the duke.  The chapeau steps forward to bless the baby and touches him on the forehead.  A cheer erupts from the assembly, and the party renews in full force.  I am able to dance with Boian and Boffin a few times, as well as others.

Around midnight, I am standing near Arany and I notice that he has started to slowly drag his claw across the floor.  He is staring off into the darkness.  I look, but don’t see anything, and I place my hand on his haunch to let him know I am there.  Arany turns to me and Boian, “Get everyone out, now!”  For the first time since I’ve known him, his voice resembles what one might expect from a dragon.  Boian and I hop into action, and begin to usher people out of the room.  As soon as the area is clear of family and guests, Arany takes a deep breath in and breathes out fire across the entire room.  Ulric calls his armor forth with the new enchantment he’s had placed on it, and Briggette runs upstairs to check on Stefan and grab her weapons.  I look over at Boian and see that his tattoo is glowing brightly beneath his shirt.

The chapeau chants a few words and the room is filled with a bright ball of daylight, revealing a shadowy creature floating below.  I fire, and my shot hits the wraith well, prompting it to slam me against the wall, draining some of my strength in the process.  I remember what happens when a wraith pulls too much of your strength away:  you become a wraith yourself.  Boian steps in front of my and attacks as the chapeau raises her symbol to turn the creature, but it moves in her direction and slams into her.  Ulric steps back into the fray, swings Law’s Claw, and connects with the fell beast which dissipates with the blow.  We take a moment to catch our breath, set a guard and go to sleep.

The next morning, we gather to head out on the road.  We are all in full armor and travel gear.  Gustav is left behind to run the city, and Handers, Gustav’s nephew, is sent to replace him as herald.  It takes us about a day to reach the edge of our lands.