Chapter Seventy-Six

November 3, 2012


26th of Harvestmonth


We head back toward home, stopping to spend about five days in the town with the blue flags.  Briggette spends as much time as possible learning how to ride Arany in his dragon form.  For her safety, Ulric has a belt of Feather Fall made and presents it to her as a gift. 

As we enter the Lepescue lands, we come across a patrol.  They greet us and offer an escort through their lands if we would like it.  We let them know that it is not required, but they do accompany us as far as their own path is congruent.

When we approach our land, we see the flag of the Star flying from the castle walls.  Gustav greets us at the gate.  He tells us that someone is here to see Briggette, but Ulric insists that she take a moment to see their son and freshen up before meeting them. 

Little Stefan is thriving and very happy to see his mom and dad.  His nurse gives Briggette a full report of what has happened in her absence, and mother and son play together for some time.  After about an hour, Gustav comes to the door and tells Ulric there is some business to attend to, but that it can wait until tomorrow if he chooses.  However, Ulric decides to go deal with it now and leave Briggette with the babe.  He hears the disputes that arose in our absence and affirms Gustav’s settlements in them.

Shortly thereafter, Briggette re-dons her armor and heads down to meet her guests.  Everyone stands as she enters the great hall.  Ulric greets her on the main floor, takes her hand and leads her to her seat.  The Star is shown in to see the couple and he says he has been sent to “examine” Briggette. 

She accompanies the Star to an adjacent room.  Not liking the sound of this “examination,” I follow them to the side room.  The old man begins by simply sitting and talking with her.  His accent is foreign, as if he is from the mainland, but he does speak to her in Cuthbertine.  It seems much more like a pleasant conversation than an interrogation.  In the end, he says, “Well, you seem quite qualified.  Shall we get on with the ordination?”

“Ordination?” Briggette asks.

“You’ve been acting as Protector of the West for almost two years now; we should have the ceremony to make it official.”

“Oh,” Briggette replies, “I wasn’t aware there was a ceremony.”

They make their plans for the ceremony which will be held in about two hours.

The Star makes a speech that moves men to tears, and then anoints Briggette with an oil.  As he pours the oil over her, a rusty red streak appears slightly off-center on the back of her cloak.  He places his hands on her head and prays over her.  He spends the evening in merriment with us, and the next day he utters the word “home” in Cuthbertine and disappears.


We stay home for about a week, then, on the 4th of Woodmonth, we head out to go to Fianna and find out about Briggette’s history.  The group that goes consists of Ulric, Briggette, Boian, Handers, Wren, Anna and myself.  We board a ship, and about a week into our journey, we see sails on the horizon behind us.  The captain unfurls all of our sails and we pick up speed, gaining ground on the other ship.  The next morning, they are nowhere in sight, and the captain explains that we are going to keep a constant sail and a bit farther out.

Another week passes without incident, and the captain welcomes us to Fianna as we pull into port.  We land safely, and once the captain and crew tie the boat, we notice someone riding toward the pier leading horses for us to use in town.  As the rider approaches, we realize that she is a woman, a very beautiful one.  She has long, flowing hair that appears to be made of spun gold.  She asks for permission to board the ship and walks directly up to Ulric.  Briggette tenses.

“You would be Count Ulric?”


“You’re very blonde for a Grozneyan.”

“Yes, some say my people are descended from,” he glances at her hair, “your people.”

She turns toward Briggette, “Lord Protector.”  She bows.  Then she turns toward me and looks directly at me.  She turns and rifles through a bag, then turns back and places a hat on my head which covers my horns.  I am not happy, but Briggette whispers that it is not meant as an insult but rather, to keep from drawing attention.  Ulric asks her to take us to the Golden Dragon Inn, and she leads us to one of the two in town—the one closer to the court and the regent.

The walls of this city are at least fifty feet high, and we go through several guarded gates on our way there.  We pass through the market square as well as the low market, and we see a massive castle in the distance.  The Inn is quite accommodating, and installs us in four double suites.  We sit down and have a wonderful lunch.  After that, we refresh ourselves and head to the castle.  The outer-most wall here is fifty feet tall and appears to be made of one solid piece of stone; it has no seams.  The next wall has an angled footing that appears to be designed to have things bounce off at odd or unexpected angles.  The gate is guarded by four grey elves.  They question us, particularly since our house is not known to them.  Ulric explains that we are a new house and introduces Briggette with all her requisite titles. The elf bows and repeats the name as if he’d known it all his life.  We enter the second ward where there are beautiful gardens.  As we approach the final gate, we see four grey elves with mithral breastplates surrounding the gates.  In the center of this group is a large grey elven man in mithral full plate emblazoned with a rainbow on the breast.

“Halt and announce yourself!” the elf demands.

“I am Count Heltragen, come with my entourage to present myself to the regent,” Ulric replies.

“Do you intend violence within these walls?”


“Do you intend harm to anyone within these walls?”


“Then enter in peace, Your Excellency,” the elf invites.

“Thank you, Knight Paladin.”

With that, the gate is opened, and we enter into the main courtyard.  Arany begins looking around uncomfortably and says we will have to go on without him.  Another grey elf greets us and invites us into a sitting room as the regent completes preparations to meet us.  He gives us wine and makes pleasant conversation with us for a bit.  When the time comes, he leads us in to see the regent, who is flanked by both a human in plate and a grey elf in full plate.

Ulric bows.

“Count Heltragen,” the regent greets him.

“Your Highness,” Ulric replies.

“I do not know this name; I am told you are a new house?”

“Yes.  For over two hundred years, the Ichovitch lands lay dormant.  I have conquered them.”

“Ah, yes.  What can I do for you?”  Ulric explains that we are here for family business for his wife, but that we would be remiss in not presenting ourselves to him.  He sends everyone out who is not in his council, and he offers us seats.  He knows that Briggette is the scion of House Bellyn, and apologizes for his lack of involvement.  He also asks me how many times my family has tried to tempt me and warns me that they will kill me if they cannot turn me to their side.  After a bit more conversation, he excuses himself and we return to the Inn.

After about five hours, we are approached by one of the staff who tells us that there is a man waiting to see us.  When we speak with him, he is wearing a doublet made of cloth of silver with a cuoatl on it.  He bows deeply and asks Ulric’s permission to speak to Briggette.  He says that he understands she is here to see the elder and asks us to follow.  He leads us through the city and a few buildings, ending at one with a secret door which he opens and leads us downstairs.

The passage is brightly lit with torches that make no smoke.  Before us sits an elf who looks very old, so he must be ancient.  Off to the side, an unassuming grey elf in a breastplate stands in a corner watching.  The old man invites us to sit.  “So, what brings you to see me, children?”

Briggette responds, “Respected edler, I come seeking knowledge of my family

“You don’t know who your family is?”

“I know my family is the house of the beautiful serpent, but I know nothing else.  I know one of my family is to crush the serpent mother, but I don’t know much else.”

He asks us what we know about the defeat of the old gods.  He says that we all remember the nine gods, but that originally there were ten.  “The one no one remembers was not like his brothers and sister.  He became disgusted with his bloodthirsty brothers and sisters.  He showed compassion which his siblings thought week.  When the empire invaded the east, he warned them, but they didn’t listen.  He created a new race to help, the cuoatl.”  The nine, he says, slew their brother in their rage, but didn’t destroy his creation.  He tells us, “during that war, a cuoatl fell in love with a human woman, and they gave birth—the last of the spirit of the fallen god—and that line has come all the way down to you.”

“And my brother and sister, too,” Briggette says.

“If you say so,” the old man replies.  He says there must be more to Briggette’s story since Boian is there standing over her shoulder.  Still, however, Boian remains mum.  “The ancient prophesy said the blood of the cuoatl would defeat the serpent mother.  But, that should the blood of the cuoatl fall, man will fall.”  He pauses, “of course, I’m an elf.”  He smiles.  “I was there when your St. Cuthbert beat the serpent mother with the tree.  I will die soon, and it will be forgotten.”  We assure him it will not, and he allows us to ask some questions.

“Why would my family be hunted out of Nevers?” Briggette asks.

He tells her that many there serve the old gods, especially the serpent mother, and who would not fight like a demon for their mother?