Chapter Ninety-Four

June 1, 2013

 

3rd of Plowmonth

 

            As we get settled in the city, we visit the cathedral, and the acting high priest asks Briggette to look at the high priest.  He says that the elder priest has been in poor health for at least a week, taking neither food or drink and not having soiled himself, but still living.  He doesn’t seem to be in pain or distress, but rather a sort of stasis where he just lies there.

She has no clue to the ailment, and they decide to consult the stars first, then if necessary, to speak to some trusted magicians, though they are not happy about going outside of the church.  The affliction must be one of a magical nature.

            The streets in town are immensely crowded, more so than I’ve seen them except during the siege.  I keep a careful watch on everyone after reminding them to keep an eye on their purses or move them inside their clothes.  The mixture of people includes all races and species, people from all parts of the Duchy as well as foreigners. 

            As we are walking, I notice a Halfling following me.  I let Boian know quietly, and turn off at the next street.  The man continues to follow me.  I take steps to disappear from his sight, and he seems to lose me in the crowd.  I wait for him to pass me, but he doesn’t.  Instead, he stops in the middle of the road and slowly backs up against a wall.  I shadow jump about ten feet further away, then use my mask to appear as an average Groznian male.  I walk out of the doorway I’m in as if I’ve exited the building, and I walk back down the street toward where I left my friends.

 

            Meanwhile, Ulric, Briggette and the rest continue on to the Queen’s Food where they will make reservations to celebrate with a nice meal in honor of their anniversary.  On the way, they run into Sir Ettard, the Tomasinian ambassador.  They discuss the upcoming tournament and trade some friendly barbs.  Ettard shares that he has overheard that someone is planning to “embarrass” Sir Rotheschilde, and that the man may wish to double and triple check his saddle during the joust.  Ulric resolves to pass the information along to Rotheschilde as soon as possible.  Ettard also intimates to Briggette that there is a Knight of the White Rose she may wish to talk to prior to the joust. 

 

            As I come back out into the main street, I locate my friends, and walk right up to Briggette who now bears a yellow canary—that must be Arany—on her shoulder.  I say in Cuthbertine, “It’s me, Gizli.  Someone was following me, so I got out of his sight.”

            “Well, that’s an interesting development,” Ulric says.  Otherwise, everyone seems to accept me at my word.  As we make our way back through the tent city, we run into Sir Stefan, who is overjoyed to find his family here.  He is accompanied by Lucien and Laurana.  Sir Stefan is introduced to his grandchildren as well as their protectors.  We make our way back to the tent, talking and enjoying one another as we catch up.

            After we’ve been there for a bit, a dwarf shows up to see Briggette.  She goes out to meet him.  He looks up at her, “Tall for a woman.”

            “Large for a dwarf,” she replies.

            “In every way,” he smiles.  “Are you coming to the conclave?”

            “What conclave?”

            “No one’s told you?  Well, I’m certainly not authorized to tell you.  That little twit with a rose on his chest might get all uppity.  Then I might have to chop his legs off, and that might be trouble.”

            They banter some, and she learns there is to be a conclave of paladins after the tournament.  He is apparently a paladin of Moridin.  As I come out of the tent, the dwarf asks Briggette to look at me, closely.  She is able to detect a presence of evil over my shoulder.  She casts protection from evil on me, and it moves about three feet away from me.  Briggette draws Helga and steps up to it.  A strange exchange takes place next, where Briggette appears to be talking with an invisible presence.  She makes claims of me being her family and that she will kill the presence she speaks with.  It appears to escalate, and she asks it repeatedly to leave.  She makes no further move to attack, though the rest of us stand ready to join the fray.  We send for a Star to have the being banished, but the nearest one is three days away.

            We decide we have no choice but to go about our business, so we head to the Rotheschildes’ tent to see who is representing them here.  The Count is present and greets us warmly before Ulric asks to speak with him privately.  He turns his head over his shoulder and issues a forceful “Get out!” to his servants.  Once they have exited, Ulric tells him of the warning from Ettard.  The men talk for a while about tactics and the state of their lands, and they share a drink or three.

           

            The next day is St. Cuthbert’s Day, and all the westerners in the capital are silly with celebration. Ulric has copious amounts of alcohol delivered to our tent.  The entire day is spent in celebration and revelry.

 

            The following day is both Briggette’s birthday and Ulric and Briggette’s anniversary.  They go to attend their dinner at the Queen’s Food, where they are served a strange new dessert the waiter calls “chocolate mousse.”  Briggette wears the red dress from Nevers, very provocative and revealing.  Everything goes very well, and they have a wonderful evening celebrating their coupledom.

 

            The next day goes by uneventfully except for the arrival of hundreds of merchants, and the day after that, the 7th, is the opening day of the tournament.  After the opening parade, a knight rides up to Ulric and Briggette wearing an exceptionally long surcoat emblazoned with a white lion.  He introduces himself as Sir Hrodger.  His accent is that of a man from Toliary.  He makes pleasant conversation, but laces it with innuendo and smack talk of his impending victory.  The couple take it well, and give just as good as they get, trading good-natured jibes.

            During their conversation, a small gold canary flies directly toward Ulric and Briggette, and begins to change into a dragon in the process.  Arany grabs her off of Chancellor and swoops back up into the sky, yelling, “Get on!” as he goes.

            Briggette climbs into the saddle as he tells her, “We’re probably going to die, just so you know.”

            “We are?” Briggette is incredulous.

            “Yep, there are dragons,” Arany says, “and yes, I put an s on that.”

            Briggette looks up to see five dragons headed for the town.  Everyone on the ground is in shock, and it isn’t long before the screaming begins as the other dragons come into view.  An enormous green dragon flies over, but doesn’t attack anyone or anything in town.  He is followed by four smaller green ones.  Many of the citizens simply faint on the spot.  Arany points out that the dragons are not attacking, but notes that he and Briggette could attack them.  She reasons with him, and convinces him to wait to see what they want.  If they wanted to attack, they could have done so by now.

            The duke comes down from his dais looking quite nonplussed.  He asks one of his knights for a horse, and then invites Ulric and Sir Stefan to ride with him to where the large green dragon has landed among the tents.  Several of the other knights fall in as they proceed.

            From her vantage point on high, Briggette sees a small black dot floating above the city toward the same spot.  Arany says it looks like Nicodemus, and they got to meet him.

            The dragon has landed on someone’s tent and destroyed it in the process.  Briggette orders Arany to set down directly between the green and the entourage coming to meet him.  She notices now that the dragon has a rider. 

            “Knight Paladin,” the dragon says toward Briggette.  He turns toward Sir Stefan, “Zurwald.”  Finally, he bows his head in the direction of the duke, “Grozney.”  He tells us not to be afraid, and that he could have destroyed the town by now if that were his intent.  He introduces himself as the Count of the Emerald Depth.  He offers a gift to the “heir to the duchy of Grozney from the Duke of Malness.”  He unfolds a beautiful blanket of cloth of gold and cloth of silver which encases a magnificently wrought longsword.  From my perspective, the blade appears to be mithril, the pommel is a huge emerald, and each quillion is set with a large emerald at the end.  The dragon turns toward Arany, who has assumed a stance which would allow for a quick take off if necessary.  “My duke offers a hand of friendship to the duchy of Grozney.  We will not harm you.  We merely wish to bring order to the south.”

            The dragon goes on to ask, in Draconic, where the rest of the chosen are.  As Briggette remains clueless, I step forward to reply in his tongue, “I am here.”  Arany explains to Briggette what was asked and she tells him that most of the chosen are here.

            “Your Grace,” the dragon says and turns toward the man, “I will not continue to interrupt your tournament.”  He turns back to Briggette, “But to all of the chosen, my liege says this,” he switches to Cuthbertine as he continues, “‘one day my tooth and claw will meet your steel, and we shall see which is better, but not today’.” He returns to the common tongue, “I have no idea what that means, but he made me learn it.”  He crouches and his muscles ripple beneath his hide as he rockets up into the sky to take his leave.  Slowly, things return to normal and the tournament is ready to begin.