Chapter Seventy-Eight

November 17, 2012


9th of Vintagemonth


Suddenly, we hear a commotion coming from the center of town.  Silas has brought his friends home, and the bumps and bruises of their bodies tell the tale of the battle before they can.  They were fighting a massive red dragon and rescuing the captured Iulien.  Silas was able to send the beast to some other plane, though he is not sure quite where.  After a moment, Sir Stefan returns to the castle along with Brannick, Iulien, Ulric and Briggette.  Quinn and Silas go to the lovely lady for a drink, and Finn, Korvinean, and I join them.

At the castle, the elder Zurwald takes a meal and invites his friends and family to join.  They discuss the details of the battle, and of how Iulien was captured in the first place.  Ulric details his plan to raise an army—the Army of the Second Sons—and take back the fallen duchy to the south.  He will appeal to all second and third sons who don’t stand to inherit, but have been raised in the tradition and love of the land and want to defend it.  His father seems to be on board with this plan. 

Silas goes alone to a table in the back, as usual, and silently drinks tea.  It shocks me to realize that there are many times that even I, with my particular set of skills, tend to forget he’s there.  Quinn is carousing and drinking and telling the story of their battle, keeping the attention of most of the bar on himself.  Even the bard is riveted by the story, which Quinn skillfully weaves to highlight Sir Stefan and Sir Brannick, leaving himself out as only a supporting character.  I flirt with him rather insistently, and at one point, he stops and looks at me, “If you’re really interested, I can take care of you tomorrow.”  He pauses and looks at Silas, “when he can make one of us appropriately sized.”

I grin at him, “Yeah, in your case, that might actually be a problem.”  He laughs and takes a drink.  “But I do have a potion for that,” I wink.

“Really?” he seems amused.  We continue to drink, flirt, and make merry, and around 1 in the morning, Quinn is in mid-sentence and just passes out on the table.  Briggette approaches him and casts on him.  He wakes up, but is still groggy. 


The next morning, Briggette finds Quinn and gives him some more healing.  We are planning to head home today, so we have breakfast at the castle together.  I tease Quinn about passing out, and he promises to make it up to me the next time we see one another—four or five times!  I tell him I fully intend to hold him to that, and we head home.


That Autumnharvestmonth, we have three bushels of apples and one of peaches from our orchard.  On the 15th of Wintermonth, Gustav wakes Briggette and Ulric to let them know that there are some Fiannans outside.  It is 6:30 in the morning.  Gustav tells them that these are old Fiannans, like the clansmen from before the Conquest.

Anna wakes me and tells me the same thing.  I get dressed and head down to the great hall.  When I arrive, I see seven men, each in fur, with one standing in front of the group of the others.  The leader has a large scar going across his left eye and a long grey beard.  He wears the skin of a dire wolf as a cloak with the head atop his own, giving him a feral and vicious countenance.  All of them are in chainmail and are heavily armed.

Ulric makes his way to the throne and sits down as Gustav announces him, “His Excellency, Count Heltragen and the Countess Heltragen, Protector of the West, Knight Paladin of Cuthbert.”  Briggette sits in the chair next to her husband.

Gentlemen, you’re certainly a long way from home

I am your . . . . Excellency,” the leader says, before mumbling to himself, “Strange customs you Southerners have.”  He once again addresses Ulric, “I am the Fitzgerald.  I come because my cousin wrote me.”  He tells us that Sir Fitzgerald died in battle, and he is here to confirm that the Protector of the Forest has a child.  He turns to Briggette, “You also serve the law-giver?”  She answers that she does.

One of his companions in a bear skin leans over to whisper in his ear.  He speaks a very old form of Cuthbertine and tells him, “The demon who chooses is here.”  He looks around, but cannot seem to find me.

“There should be others.  Where is the dwarf with no beard and the childless mother?” the leader asks.  Ulric indicates that Korvinean is around somewhere, and that Brianna has gone to do some work on the mainland.  “May we see your child?” he asks.  Briggette nods, and Gustav scurries off to bring Little Stefan.  He explains that Sir Fitzgerald has left all of his lands and rights to the son of Ulric, including his title, Castle Fitzgerald and County Fitzgerald.  He pulls out scrolls which validate his claims.  “I also come as the Fitzgerald to see if my cousin’s words were true or mistaken.”

About that time, the nurse enters with the babe and hands him to Briggette.  The Fitzgerald takes a step forward, “May I approach, Mother?”  She nods, and he comes forward to inspect the child, then steps back.  “The Fitzgeralds, one and all, acknowledge the O’Neil.”  With that, all of his men drop to their knees before the three.  The man in the bear skin stands, and is introduced as Taran.  It is said that it is his birthright to protect the O’Neil, and he says he will bring his clan south to live here and protect little Lord Heltragen to the death.

The men join us for breakfast, and explain to us the prophesy that seems to directly apply to us.  We enjoy a good meal and exchange lots of information.  He tells us that Sir Fitzgerald was killed in a campaign to destroy a rising evil further south which was trying to claim the fallen duchy.  After a time, we get notice from this new “duke” who has claimed to take the area.  He sends us a letter a bit later letting us know that there is a red dragon in the south who is looking for us.  We formulate a plan to face this challenge. 

We send notice to our neighbors and send as many of our people as possible to Brasov for their own protection.  We decide to have Arany bait the dragon and lead it back here to the castle.  Arany hits the beast and draws it back toward us.  It is chasing Arany into the courtyard, but suddenly sees Briggette.  He stops yelling curses at Arany in draconic, and says in common, “White Hair!” He lands in front of Briggette, shaking the ground and releasing an enormous roar.

Despite his bravado, the dragon lasts no more than thirty seconds against us, and a cheer goes up when he falls.  Korvinean skins and dresses that carcass, and, as they will not burn, we carry the remains well out of town.