Session One Hundred Fifty-One - April 13, 2019

Wherein the ongoing story of the FtF campaign may be found ...

Session One Hundred Fifty-One - April 13, 2019

Postby Matt » Mon Apr 29, 2019 5:53 pm

Nolus 1, 733

The barge pulls up at the first dock, where a crowd of commoners throng the riverbank to witness the spectacle of the largest flotilla of vessels they have ever seen in their lifetimes arriving at Kiban. Town and country folk alike line the green sward, craning their necks and shading their eyes against the bright sunshine to catch a glimpse of Lord Balim, accompanied by an honor guard of five aldermen of the town, all robed in rich blue trimmed in white. Each of these men wears a silver chain around his neck, while one holds a similar robe and chain draped over his arm. All wear stylized caps adorned with a single feather.

The sailors do their duty, tying up the barge, and Lord Ewen steps off the talbar first, Dorrall of Dalgla not far behind. Lord Balim claps the Baron of Ternua on either shoulder, grinning broadly.

“Looks like a success to me!”

“Lord Balim, I give you the Silver Caravan, safe and sound.” Qorsad chooses that moment to fly from the masthead and alight upon Lord Ewen’s shoulder.

“You seem to have picked up a souvenir.”

“That is a tale to be told at a more fitting time.”

Balim nods equably and addresses the merchant one step to Ewen’s rear. “Dorrall.”

The man bows. “My lord.”

“Dorrall, take your place.”

The man goes to join the five aldermen and is given the extra robe and chain.

“Lord Ternua, allow me to present the aldermen of Kiban,” Balim gestures with a flourish of a hand heavy with rings.

Lord Ewen recognizes Sir Cyrel Ruskart, Balim’s steward, among the six. Balim anticipates this.

“Sir Cyrel you know.”

“A pleasure to see you again, Lord Ternua.”

Ewen nods.

“Master Evida of Noss, mason. Josith of Asaka, jeweler. And I presume you have met Master Dorrall of Dagla, merchant. Master Illion of Bydarf, innkeeper. And Master Orkan of Olod, shipwright.”

As the Earl completes the introductions, all bow, turn, and form a line two by two. They begin to process away from the dock, merchants and Khuzan representatives falling in behind Balim and Ternua. They parade up Astlin Road to large building where a reviewing stand has been erected. The aldermen fill in the back row.

Balim turns to Lord Ewen. “With apologies, Lord Ternua, you should wait down here.”

Khuzan Clan Garibath take their place, and the others follow suit. Lord Balim delivers a speech, more bombastic and wordy than necessary, thanking the two new clans for their arrival at Kiban, enjoining them to enjoy their stay as well as their profits.

Lord Ewen is singled out toward the tedious tail end of the speech.

“... and many thanks to the Baron of Ternua and his valiant retinue for their successful embassy to Azadmere. Now then, near the well there are some refreshments ...”

As the leaders of the Khuzan clans decamp for libations, the Earl of Balim detains Dorrall.

“Dorrall.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Where is your colleague?”

“Perhaps you should ask Lord Ternua, my lord,” and the insouciant merchant saunters off.

Ewen has been studying with interest where the goods already offloaded are being efficiently inventoried at the large warehouse, no doubt for the application of the appropriate form of taxation. Garibath has historically been granted favorable bonding and hawking tax rates, for goods transshipped and sold in Kiban respectively, and Ewen assumes that the other two clans will be given similar favor.

“Lord Ewen, have you done something with one of my mercantylers?”

The Baron turns on his heel to regard Balim mildly. “You refer to Unniso of Azam? Yes. I placed him under arrest.”

“Did you now?” Lord Balim takes this is stride. No doubt it will take much more than this to spoil the Earl’s splendid day.

“I did. Not only did he almost incite an actual mutiny amongst the Khuzan merchants, whom he was ordering about in a most crass and demeaning fashion to load their barges, he also saw fit to derogate my rank before the assemblage, even after being apprised of my status.”

Cekiya pops out from behind the Baron, as if on cue, hissing. “Breach of rank! Punish him!”

Balim pretends not to notice the odd girl with the discomfiting gaze. Lord Ewen continues.

“I prevailed upon Master Dorrall to take charge of the loading —”

“Excellent, he’s a good man.”

“— and had the wretch clapped in irons, as it were.”

Lord Balim shakes his head. “Well, the jurisdiction is mine, and you tell me there were witnesses. Pray bring the merchant forth, Lord Ewen.”

The Baron nods. “Sir Baris?”

Moments later the burly knight drags the obstreperous merchant forward. Unniso emerges blinking into the sunlight and complaining loudly.

Balim cuts him off with a slight gesture of his hand.

“Unniso, I have told you before that your mouth gets you into trouble. This time it will cost you. A steep fine, given the severity of the consequences. Two pounds,” the Earl pronounces, “one payable to me, and one payable to Lord Ternua. Now then, apologize to the Baron. And Unniso, make it a proper apology.”

The merchant sketches an exaggerated bow. Through gritted teeth turns to Lord Ewen and says, “Apologizing, my lord, for disrespecting you.”

Balim studies the clear blue sky overhead. “Louder.”

The merchant repeats his apology, enunciating it distinctly.

“Better.” Balim dismisses Unniso with an injunction to mind his tongue in the future.

As the merchant retreats from the humiliation with his exaggerated, swayback gait, the Earl remarks sotto voce to the Baron, “One of these days I’m going to find a way to hang him. He’s an excellent merchant, though. Believe it or not, he is one of the wealthiest men in Kiban. I believe he stretches pennies into wire.”

“I have no doubt. I appreciate your dealing with the situation.” Lord Ewen is trying not to be distracted by a commotion on board the talbar, where Arva can be seen clutching the gunnel and refusing to disembark, evidently still green with seasickness.


Sauntering over to the two peers is a man Lord Ewen has not seen in some time, at least not in the flesh. The Baron of Tonot, Uthris Pierstel, had last been seen at the Royal Chelebin tournament in Olokand, where he had somehow unhorsed himself, betrayed by an improperly cinched saddle.

Balim’s tone is neutral as he makes introductions. “Ah, I don’t know if you are acquainted with my brother-in-law and vassal. Uthris, this is Ewen Ravinargh, Baron of Ternua.

Tonot salutes by touching two fingers to his temple. “We’ve met, but not the Baron and I. I met Sir Ewen on the field of honor.”

Cekiya, loitering at a discreet distance, divines that something is up between Balim and Tonot.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance again, well met.”

“Well me indeed. Where is that other fellow I might have crossed lances with?”

“You may be referring to Sir Baris Tyrestal, Lord of Selepan,” Ewen suggests as that very knight ambles up to the group.

“Yes, I remember you! You got into some additional scrapes, I believe.”

Sir Baris shrugs and grins, unclear as to which particular scrapes the man might be referring to, but game enough. “Well, ale was flowing,” he says, envisioning a generic scenario. “It’s natural, healthy!”

“I couldn’t agree more! I think you and I,” he drapes an arm around Sir Baris’s shoulder, “should talk about ale and manly, extracurricular activities ...” The Baron of Tonot and the knight go off in search of an ale house.

Balim invites Ewen to stay at the castle and excuses himself. This appears to be the signal for others who have been waiting in the wings to approach Lord Ewen.

Mellori is first. She bows. “My lord, it has been a very interesting journey. I thank you for the opportunity to experience many new and different things. My service to you is now concluded, and I shall be returning to Tashal.”

“And I thank you for your accompanying us on our embassy. May I send an escort to accompany you on your return to the city?”

“I thank you, my lord, but that won’t be necessary.”

“I hope we will have the opportunity to meet and speak again.”

“As do I, my lord.”

She bows again and departs.

Sir Ritzar Martaryne takes her place. “Well, that must be my cue. My service is concluded. Same time next year?”

Lord Ewen considers him. “Quite, barring any events of earth-shattering martial duty to which we all must respond.”

“Of course,” Sir Ritzar responds, and steps aside.

Sir Reklan Pulgarty is next. “My term of service is also up, my lord, but I feel it is inappropriate to leave you attended solely by Sir Baris. Sir Ritzar and I have discussed it, and I am certainly willing to remain on watch as it were until we return to Tashal.”

Lord Ewen considers this with suppressed amusement. “I thank you for your service and forethought, Sir Reklan, but I don’t foresee any difficulties between now and my return to Tashal. And it would be churlish of me to deprive you of the company of Sir Ritzar on your way back to the city. You both may return to Tashal with my thanks.”

Sir Reklan pauses, his face an impassive mask. His voice is a bit clipped when he responds. “Very good, my lord.”

Sir Ritzar, still within earshot, calls agreeably, “Well, that’s one more blast on the town for you and me, Reklan!”

Next, Pesera of Hendel approaches.

“Pesera of Hendel, fancy finding you so far from the precincts of Tashal.”

“My lord, I hope you are in health.”

“I am in perfect trim,” the Baron asserts, still casting an occasional glance at the talbar, where the situation with Arva has escalated. “I hope you are as well.”

“I am, and I am gratified, my Lord. I have been speaking with my colleague Dorrall of Dalgla. He tells me that he is now your factor.” Pesera manages to evince an expression both pained and puzzled at the same time. “I had hoped to clarify the matter.”

The Baron is thoughtful for a moment. “He may have taken some words of mine beyond their intended meaning,” he allows. “But I suppose it behooves any man of affairs to acquaint himself with how different factors conduct their business. Or so my steward at Caer Ternua, Gatanis Nildar, tells me. While I certainly feel loyalty to you, Pesera, for all that you have done, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for me to have a word with this factor, Master Dorrall.”

“Oh, my lord, I wouldn’t want you to go to any trouble. I just wanted to clarify the different, um, um, spheres, so to speak. Er, if you will excuse me, my lord, a lot of business is being transacted that I shouldn’t miss.”

“Very good. Perhaps you and I should plan to sit down in Tashal and take stock of things at a future date.”

“I would be delighted, my lord.”

Ewen nods.

As Lord Ewen moves off in the direction of the castle, Zyro, the Earl of Balim’s fool, pops out in front of Cekiya, stands with arms akimbo – aping Ewen’s stance of a moment before – and offers a wager in his piping voice.

“Bet you remember me.”

Cekiya narrows her eyes. “For a while I did.”

“For a while? Then remember me you do not! But that’s alright, I don’t remember you either. Indeed, we have never met!”

“Well,” Cekiya pronounces, as if this manner of locution were second nature to her, “if we are not met, then be off!”

“If so, will you be on?”

“Yes, on my own two feet.”

“Then I should be off mine.” Zyro executes a backflip and stands on his hands. Teetering momentarily, he topples, the then springs back to his feet. “I think you need to be off your feet then, I don’t seem to have the knack.” He produces a key from his pocket, feigning surprise at its presence. “I got it in advance this time!”

“A key to?

“Tower.”

“Then we should be off to the tower then.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea!”

Zyro starts dancing around Cekiya, stops, and places a hand on the side of his head. “I don’t have an idea?”

“What don’t you have an idea about?” Cekiya is fully in her stride now.

“Spies!”

“You don’t know about spies?”

“Why would I know about spies? No one knows about spies because they are spies. Do you know that spies backwards is seips?”

“No?”

“Why don’t we see what the key can do?” He begins by sticking it in his ear. “That’s not it.” He tries his backside. “That’s not it either.”

He goes up to Cekiya and then pauses. “No, I remember, touching good! Perhaps we should dance this way?” He sidles off in an oblique, hopping, sideways dance. “Join me!” Cekiya registers a number of spectators idly watching the tomfoolery, appearing to think Cekiya is part of the antics. So she dances along with the fool right around the side of the bonding house opposite from where all of the business is being transacted.

“All gone! He points, “A door there. I seip a hole!”

“Lets see if something can go into that hole.”

He hands a different key to Cekiya while looking away, as if not seeing himself in the act of handing it over.

Cekiya turns the key, which opens the door to bonding house.

“What is fen forwards?”

Cekiya guesses it. “Neph?”

“Ah!”

“Here, is he here?”

The fool looks around. Cekiya feigns looking as well.

“Nope.”

“That was close. His seips is in there. That’s all folks.”

The fool scampers off.


The first time Sir Baris attempts to “m’lord” Uthris Pierstel, the Baron waves him off. He leans in close.

“We’re just two guys going in to get a drink. If we’re so lucky some poor sod’s face collides with our fists, then so be it. If we are really lucky, a lot of poor sods faces will collide with our fists. They’re not going to be in there just now, they’re working. We’ll not only have a table right in middle, we’ll be so blotto that we won’t have the presence of mind to think about the consequences of our actions, much less about my brother in law giving me a lecture.”

Sir Baris is getting enthused. “As for any downstream consequences, I’ll be out of town before any of that happens!”

Uthris and Baris head over to The Riverman, a tavern with a floor plan similar to the Coin and Broom in Tashal, with two entrances and no visible staircase to the upper floor in the wide open common room with its central fireplace. Tables with benches, and a doorway to the left where the ale comes from. No food is served, evidently. The proprietor, Unnertar, has a couple of serving maids and one bouncer. Uthris tells Baris that he has never seen the bouncer lift a finger. The serving maids, he adds with a broad wink, have been known to go out back.

When they step inside, Unnertar who evidently knows Pierstel, asks, “Which is it today?”

The Baron grins, “Just plain old Uthris, and him plain old Baris.” Pierstel takes a pouch laden with coin and tosses it to the tavern keeper. To Baris, he adds, “This is my party. That’s for as much ale as we drink, and whatever damages we incur.” Sir Baris wants to ask about the sword they each have, but thinks the better of it, guessing that this badge of rank might be part of the game.

“I’ve always heard that Balim is not much of a pugilist; he’s more intellectual,” the knight says.

“Oh he's a brain alright, but when he was younger he was in tournaments. Now he leaves that to my nephew, Scina. Now he’s a fighter! The tournament of the Silver Stag which Balim throws is mostly for his vassals, only sixty-four, and he doesn’t even allow Scina in it. That sure chafes his ass.”

“Sir Scina tilted against my lord’s retainer, Sir Aeomund Legith.”

“Ah, he hates that guy!”

“Such rivalry is the lifeblood of the kingdom,” Baris enthuses. “Such passions make them feel alive!”

“The winner of the Silver Stag represents the Earl as champion at the Olokand tournament. Runner up goes as well.”

Baris takes a moment to scan the place as a tavern girl sets some tankards down before them. He peers into the watery foam. “So, Uthris, how is the ale here?”

“Weasel piss.”

“Well, that gets you as drunk as well as any other piss. Then, after a while, it doesn’t matter what kind of piss you’re drinking! So you are married to Balim’s sister?”

Pierstel looks aghast. “No! Have you seen his sister? He married my sister!”

Baris wonders how quickly they can drink the ale down, but then awkward in the silence, asks, “Uthris, how long you been in Kiban?”

“Only just got here a couple of days ago. Brought the little woman along. Frankly getting tired of her. Real tired. After I leave, she won’t be coming with me.”

Appalled at the cavalier suggestion of wife abandonment without so much as a bowl of furmity in sight, Baris offers a bland observation about the difficulties of marriage.

“Married?” The strange Baron glances at Baris with a look of bewilderment. “No, she’s my girlfriend!” Pierstel leans in, scrutinizing the knight. “Wait, are you married?”

Baris looks uncomfortable. Why does everyone ask him this? “Um, no.”

“Well that’s it, then! She can go with you! She’s cute, she’s landed, it’s perfect!”

“Um, where’s she from?”

“Ah, what’s the place called? Rovinath.”

“Where, in the north?”

“Olokand.”

“I’ve been to Olokand.”

“Of course you have, at the tournament. Excellent, you’ve already had too much to drink!” Pierstel strokes his chin, sizing up Baris as if for the first time. “I need to introduce you two. She could go back to Tashal, she has a place in Tashal ...”

Baris enquires about the name of the lass.

“Lady Erane Ostaurney, but she wasn’t born in Ostaurney, she was born a Nacarn. Husband’s dead, so she’s a widow. And she’s got tracts of land, and a good arse too. Sir Maild Ostrany, now dead.” Pierstel slaps the table. “Tell you what, change of plan! Unnertar, keep the purse, we’ll be back tomorrow, if there’s any justice! We’re going to dine elsewhere!”

Uthris Pierstel takes Sir Baris to Tonot House. Uthris tells Lady Erane that Sir Baris is going to be returning to Tashal any day now, and opines that it would be splendid if he escorted her thence. The lady does a credible job of masking her crestfallen reaction to this news, clearly grasping the fact that her relationship with the Baron is at an end.

Sir Baris does his best to play the role of the gallant. “It’s a dangerous road. My lord of Ternua has a fine retinue and we will protect you.”

The lady offers a wan smile.


In Caer Kiban, the Earl holds a huge banquet for the mercantylers and dwarves. At one point Lord Ewen orders Cekiya to produce the key she received from the fool and surrender it to Lord Balim. Ewen suggests that the Earl might wish to interrogate his jester regarding a Neph spy in the bonding house.

“Thank you.” Balim turns the key over in his hand. “Perhaps this should be looked into.”


Nolus 2, 733

Arva uses the daylong journey from Kiban to Tashal to quiz Lady Erane regarding her late husband, who evidently had been prone to wanderlust and departed for points unknown about three years ago, returning on a litter mortally wounded by barbarians. The lady holds the manor in wardship for her young son, who has just achieved squiring age and is in need of a position. When Arva makes an oblique reference to her relationship with the Baron, the lady appears appalled at the very notion that she had shared Uthris Pierstel’s bed.

It begins to rain as they reach Tashal, arriving just before the gates close. Erane’s house is in Medrik, and Sir Baris escorts her there himself. Pausing on the threshold, she sighs. “I probably shouldn’t, but perhaps you would like to come up for a libation?”

“I enjoy libations.”

Following an interminable interlude during which Sir Baris attempts small talk in the lady’s receiving room, he is actually relieved when she offers, “Well, it’s been lovely, perhaps you might call on me again.”


Meanwhile, the Baron’s party have returned unheralded to Raven Hall, taking the servants completely unprepared. As Lord Ewen and his retainers mill idly in the hall, some sort of minor pandemonium takes place in the next room, muffled sounds of crockery being broken, rushing, and shouting clearly overheard. A meal of sorts is prepared, but courses arrive in the wrong order and Walin appears exceedingly harried.


Later that evening, and in a more composed state of mind, the steward of Raven Hall reports that nothing out of the ordinary occurred in the Baron’s absence. Due to the unexpectedly low household expenses in recent months, Walin diverted some of the surplus into long overdue repairs, fixing the hole in the attic and a weak spot in the roof, and took the liberty of replacing sconces flanking the front door which were no longer capable of supporting torches. The Baron of Ternua commends him on his enterprise.

The steward clears his throat. “My Lord, I don’t mean to my overstep bounds. I wonder if you have been apprised of certain appointments at court.”

“I have been out of the country for several months. I may not be current.”

“By way of beginning, it will not surprise you that Baroness is not staying here in Raven Hall.”

“My lady wife visited Raven Hall in my absence?”

“She did, my lord.”

“What was the length of her stay?”

“It might have been as much as ten minutes.”

“And what, pray tell, does this have to do with appointments at court?”

“She asked for access to your study, my lord.”

“I imagine that placed you in a very difficult position.”

“That is one way of putting it, my lord. I regretfully informed her ladyship that you had taken the only key to Azadmere. She asked if perhaps the door could be broken down, and I told her you had also taken all of the Thardan lads with you as well.”

Lord Ewen eyes the steward with mild approval. “That not being the strict truth, Walin.”

He nods in agreement, appearing to shudder slightly at the recollection. “If one of them had come down the stairs at that very moment, I would have been quite undone. After that, I suppose she decided to ask me no more questions, so I could tell her no more lies.”

“How long ago was this?”

“Oh, the middle of last month. As she was leaving, she mentioned she would be staying at her house in Medrik. She said to tell you, my lord, that if you did not find her there on your return from the icy peaks, then you would find her at the castle attending the Queen as her chief lady-in-waiting.”

Lord Ewen absorbs this intelligence without batting an eye. “Well, Walin. You have done quite well on my behalf. The Baroness is a formidable lady.”

“Yes my Lord. I confess I spent some time in the privy afterwards.”


Later that night, Lord Ewen approaches the alley by Hag Hall, where he encounters the beggar.

“Alms ...”

The Baron drops a penny in the bowl.

“It’s been a while, your worship ...”

“It has indeed,” Lord Ewen chuckles softly. He tosses about a half dozen more pennies into the bowl.

“Thank you kindly, my lord.” And Ewen hears the familiar tapping on stone as he enters the alley.


Ensconced in her study, a goblet of wine cradled by slender fingers, Rahel is disappointed at the amphitere’s absence.

The Baron shrugs. “Goreg forbade me.”

Rachel sniffs. “I shall have to chastise him.”

Ewen drapes himself into a comfortable chair, drink in hand, feigning incredulity. “Well, sister, I understand that a shocking number of the women in my life have taken up positions in the castle in my absence.” His gaze turns more serious. “How fares it for you?”

“I find it vastly amusing. She doesn’t like me, you know – Thilisa.”

“How, then?”

“I put myself forward.”

“And the interview?”

“Very brief. There is also a royal alchemist, but he’s a quack. I am sure she knows of my nature by now. If she didn’t know before, she knew yesterday when that Mellori came back.”

“Mellori was under the impression the Queen knew only of her Shek P’var talents, and thought the Queen was unaware of her nature.”

Rahel waves a noncommittal hand languidly in the air. “When the poor creature reached the castle she was as bedraggled and road-stained as they come. The Queen herself has little use for a Master of Esoterica, which is unsurprising. But I think she felt the role needed to be filled if only for appearances sake, and it gives me an opportunity to be present during audiences on the off chance that an esoteric opinion is required.”

“Indeed, placing yourself thus was a perfect coup on your part, although you are right to be concerned that she be aware of your nature.”

“Acceptable risk. I was getting bored.” Her fingers played over the large cabuchon on the end of the gold chain around her neck.

“As I believe you are aware, Balim at least is aware of mine.”

“Yes, he would keep such information to himself unless it was worth something. I seem to be the new Bresyn Risai, an object of great curiosity.”

“Whom do you plan to marry?”

“I plan to keep all suitors at arms length.” She smiled urbanely. “You, on the other hand, need to take a mistress.”

“I have some dim recollection of already having one.”

“Well, let us just say apparently rumors have been swirling at court that you have one, and it cannot be me. Not someone all the time, just often enough. If you cannot find one yourself, I shall select one for you.”

“She would need to be someone of some station.”

“Young, married, old. Of course if this someone were a source of information it would make the process more efficient.”

“Speaking of Lady Bresyn Risai, has the Baron of Stimos’s replacement arrived yet?”

“Indeed, and I am afraid you are not going to like it.”

“I have long since given up on liking such things. Who is it?”

“Sir Wesel Maytum. The name, of course, will not mean anything to you. Remember Sir Arren Lydel?”

Ewen manages to make the grimace ironic. “Vaguely.”

“This is his half brother.” She sips her wine waiting for Ewen’s reaction.

“On the mother’s side?”

“Sadly, no. He is widely considered to be number two. Father would have been about sixteen.”

“Did he also fail to inherit our father’s charisma?”

“He failed to inherit his looks. Otherwise he inherited many of his traits. Also, he is Deryni on both sides. His mother was from a minor Melderyni noble family.”

“And prior to arriving in this land, what capacity did he serve in Tharda?”

“The legions. Second in command of one of them, most likely due to an opening not coming available., His reputation as a soldier is quite high. And before you ask, the King knows who he is.”

“I am to presume then that Sir Wesel has been briefed on me?”

“I don’t know.”

“And you?”

“I am not aware if he knows who I am.”

“And we are still not clear on what the King knows ...”

“Sir Wesel arrived with a company of Thardan soldiers sent by Lord Graver, Sir Karnis Baral in command. Sir Karnis comes from a far-flung Thardan clan. He’s their captain, and there are twenty men at arms with them.”

“I’ll be sure to take them in hand.”

“I believe you asked for them. Sir Harth took Sir Karnis in hand and put them through their paces. He believes him to be adequate.”

“Rather faint praise, that.”

“Oh no, indeed few rate as well with Sir Harth. I believe you only rate as promising.”

“And regarding my lady wife and her new role. What might you tell me of that?”

“Our charming Baroness of Ternua. You will find her to be a different person in this context. She is actually pleasant to be around. I think she has been genuinely angry at her first husband’s carelessness, he put her in a terrible position, and then you killed her brother, which put her in an even more terrible position, which she then compounded by marrying you.”

“It sounds like she thrives, then.”

“I find it amusing she is not staying in Raven Hall. To the extent she is paying me any attention at all, it is to look down her nose at me.”

“Any news of the Earl of Neph?”

“He hasn’t been seen outside of Gardiren. Nor has he rendered homage. Neither has Vemion, by the way.

“The king?”

“He lives. Mad King Haldan lives. That is what he is called now. He is confined to the former queen’s chambers under heavy guard, but he still manages to escape every now then and rave upon battlements. It’s most embarrassing.”

“No word of the whereabouts of the prince?”

“No. Most think he's dead.”

“Well, let’s find out.”

“What do you have in mind?”

Ewen proposes clairvoying the missing Prince Brandis, assuming that if he lives, he will warble.

Rahel considers this. “Let me show you something else first.”

They rapport together, but unlike previous times the thoughts and perceptions of both participants are present in the link. Ewen spends several moments experiencing this new phenomenon. When the reach out together to clairvoy the prince, they are met with distinct warbling.

Ewen settles back into his chair and swirls the spirits in his goblet. “Well that appears to settle it for now. Brandis lives.”

Rahel nods in agreement. “Your friend Sir Prehil. His father made him Baron of Kobing, he now being the Earl of Osel. Prehil appointed some cousin constable. He can’t abide his wife, not because she is anything other than a charming person, but she confronts him with the prospect of being a father, which sends him scurrying for the nearest barrel of ale or house of courtesans.”

Rahel studies her half brother by the light of the guttering candles.

“You have come a long way since Golotha. Now come to bed. It’s a much shorter way.”


Nolus 3, 733

Squire Goreg calls upon his mother, Lady Ralgan, at Thilisa Ravinargh’s townhome. The hulking retainer named Muga opens the door.

“Muga, sir, it is I, Goreg, Lord Ewen’s squire.”

The giant grunts. “You not Lord Ewen.”

“No, I am his squire. I am looking for Lady Ralgan.”

“Oh.”

An awkward pause ensues. “Can I come in? It’s damp, and rainy ...”

Muga reluctantly steps aside. “No funny business.”

“Muga, who maht that be? Ah, it’s you, Goh-reg.” Sir Rollard d’Audrieu is breaking his fast at the table.

“Sir Rollard, I understand Lady Thilisa is in residence.”

“Is this an official enquiry, suh?”

“I am looking for my mother, Lady Ralgan.”

“Chahming lady, chahming. She is heah.”

“I would like to see her.”

“Ah am afraid Ah cannot allow that. Ma lady Baroness has been very clee-uh on this mattah. No visituhs. I shall convey yoah request to huh.”

Goreg is perturbed. “I understand.”

“If she approves, Ah will come and get you puhsonally.”

“I wouldn’t dream of imposing on the lady’s privacy. Please convey to my mother that I am at Raven Hall.”

“Ah can convey that to huh, but as a squattah, she is undah house arrest. When mah lady Baroness arrived at huh domicile, she found a squattah.”

“She was here at the Baron’s instance!”

Sir Rollard smiles unpleasantly. “The Baron of Ternua has no actual authority within these walls, squiah.”


Sir Baris has received a complete report on the Elf and Dwarf, and five month’s profits cash in his pocket. Sir Baris struggles to focus while waxing on about how fantastic the dwarven ale was, having smuggled a skin of the genuine stuff all of the way south from Azadmere. They all try it, and all make terrible faces, cough and spit, suggesting to Sir Baris that his ale has spoiled on the journey. The only exception is the kitchen girl, Amelia, who tastes a little of it and shrugs.

“It’s not that bad.”

“I knew there was a reason I liked you, Amelia,” Sir Baris enthuses.

“I might be able to duplicate this ... it needs some special ingredients. If I could talk to some dwarves, I could try to make this.”

Based on this assertion alone, Sir Baris surrenders 320d from his 600d profit to seed the new dwarven ale venture. He arrives at Raven Hall, strutting, just in time for breakfast. Goreg is unusually reserved, brooding over his food, until the pressure becomes too great for the squire.

“Lord, may we speak.”

“If you please,” Lord Ewen frowns slightly at his squire. “Do we need to step upstairs to my study?”

“Yes, my lord.”

The squire is silent until they have taken their respective seats.

“Goreg, I perceive that your heart is troubled.”

His words come out in a rush. “My Lord, this morning I visited Baroness House to visit my mother, and I was informed that my mother was under house arrest as a squatter, since my lady the Countess took up residence there. I don’t understand this. I kept my temper. I would not want to do anything to make your life difficult, but apparently my mother has been confined to the building. Sir Rollard told me outright that you have no authority in Baroness House. That didn’t seem right to me, but then I didn’t think force of arms would solve anything at that moment.”

Lord Ewen takes this in stride. “Well, I’m must say it doesn’t seem right to me as well, I being the lady’s lawful husband. Still, I placed your lady mother in that household to ensure that your lady mother had a place to stay, and I understand that she has not been turned out. Were you led to believe that she has been mistreated in any fashion?”

“I don’t know my lord, but it’s a precarious situation. In any event, we need to get information, and I was not allowed to see her. She is a prisoner.”

“That does seem irregular. I shall take it up with my lady wife, but I shouldn’t be alarmed. I warrant your mother has not been harmed or discommoded in any way.”

“Yes, my lord.” The squire bows stiffly and withdraws.


Down below, Walin has opened the door to be confronted with a herald in royal tabard, flanked by royal guards.

“The Queen’s Grace demands the attendance of the Baron of Ternua.”

“I am the Baron of Ternua,” Lord Ewen says, descending the stairs. “I am prepared to wait upon the Queen.”

“I am prepared to escort you, my lord.”

“Lead the way herald.”

The five royal men at arms come smartly to attention and begin to pound their spears upon their shields in the time honored manner of soldiers saluting some signal accomplishment. Conscious of their approbation, and of his station, Lord Ewen nods gravely and raises his fist to his heart in response.

Two of the guards precede the herald, and three bring up rear. Common citizens of Tashal, going about their business on the streets of the city, are scattered by cries of, “Make way, make way,”. Squire Goreg catches up breathlessly and follows with the King of Azadmere’s gift cradled to his bosom.

They are admitted to the castle and, contrary to previous experiences, allowed to keep their swords this day. They are led up the grand staircase and into the throne room. The seneschal pounds his staff. “The Baron of Ternua!”

Queen Chelebin IV is seated upon her throne in the middle of the dais, the grand tapestry depicting the Elendsa arms behind her. Guardsmen with halberds line the walls. Nearest to throne, flanking it on one side, six women are aligned, and Lord Ewen recognizes Farlla Martaryne, the wife of Sir Harant, as well as one Thilisa Ravinargh, the Baroness of Ternua, first in line. Rahel of Aerth is present as well, albeit farther off to one side. Lady Lenere Firith, Lord High Chamberlain, stands upon the dais next to the queen. Tarkin Hirnen, Lord Chancellor, is present as well. Baron Prehil Firith of Kobing appears to be mustering every ounce of self-control to restrain an unseemly expostulation. One Ewen presumes to be Sir Wesel stands where the Baron of Stimos formerly stood.

Lord Ewen takes the requisite number steps forward and executes a proper bow of obeisance.

The Queen greets him. “My gracious lord.”

“Your Grace, it pleases me to return to your court.”

“You have been too long absent on such necessary business. You will forgive us, my lord, but we have absconded with your lady wife.”

Only now does Lord Ewen allow his eyes to stray from the Queen in the direction of his spouse. Lady Thilisa performs a flawless courtesy, which Lord Ewen returns with a bow before returning his gaze to the Queen.

“It is indeed a signal honor that my lady wife should attend your Grace.”

“It is gracious of you to say so. I am sure, my lord, that you have a great deal to report, although we are already apprised of your great success in diverting two more dwarven clans to Kiban, and safely from the rampaging vikings.”

“I was relieved to see them arrived safe and sound. I bring tidings of comity and warmest friendship to your Grace from the King of Azadmere.” The Baron turns ever so slightly in signal for Squire Goreg to step forward. “King Hazmadul bade me to deliver these tokens of his royal esteem to your Grace’s person.”

Queen Chelebin leans forward and smiles in a brief expression of girlish delight. “My first gifts from a fellow monarch!” Her eye alights upon the squire. “And who are you, fellow?”

“Goreg Ocazer, squire to Lord Ewen.”

“Ocazer ...” She contemplates the name. “Of Colu manor?”

“Yes, your Grace.” The squire, his face pink under the light of her regard, bows and backs his way out.

The Queen hands the casket off to Lady Thilisa without a word. She indicates that a summary of a Lord Ewen’s embassy would be welcome, and the Baron obliges with a concise précis. Not only the Queen, but most listen with great interest. Even the guardsmen seem to be paying attention.

When Ewen has finished, Queen Chelebin nods in approval. “My thanks to you, my lord, for that report. Your embassy to Azadmere was truly a success.”

The Baron of Ternua bows.

“You have proven yourself a devoted and loyal servant of this crown of Kaldor. My lord, it is unfortunate the times we live in, the difficulties and threats we know exist for this kingdom. We are in a state of all but war. In this past year, we have seen viking incursions into our blessed realm, our beloved king struck down in battle, difficulties in deciding should we — ” she pauses, stopping herself from completing the thought, “ — and yet we did. It has been incumbent upon me to take up the mantle of sovereignty. Most of you in this room have assisted me in that, and I thank you for it.

“Before I go on, I would like to welcome again, for the benefit of my loyal vassal of Ternua, the new ambassador from the Kingdom of Tharda. Lord Ternua, this is Sir Wesel Maytum, ambassador from the King of Tharda, our fellow monarch.

Sir Wesel bows. “My Lord of Ternua.”

Lord Ewen returns the bow. “Sir Wesel, I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“I thank you. I would be grateful for the opportunity to exchange views.”

Lord Ewen’s response is carefully measured. “Should it please her Grace that I do so, Sir Wesel, I would enjoy that opportunity as well.”

The Queen nods. “It is very pleasing to me. And now, before I discuss other matters, there is one pressing matter.”

The herald at the door bangs his staff. “Bring in the knights of the Paladins.” Two knights, Sir Houla Artona and Sir Aeomund Legith, enter.

“Sir Houla has a request to make of you, Lord Ternua,” the Queen says, “and know that he has my blessing in doing so.”

Sir Aeomund, standing stiffly silent, inclines his head.

Sir Houla steps forward and, bucking protocol, holds out his hand to the Baron. Lord Ewen, his grey eyes meeting the knight’s steady gaze, extends his own, accepting the clasp. “It is a pleasure to see you, Sir Houla.”

“Indeed, my lord. We all owe you. In that context, I would like to ask you a favor. I would like Sir Aeomund to take a position, but he has told me he cannot take it up without your approval. I would ask you to release him from his oath of obedience to you. In exchange, I’ll owe you one.”

This is a less formal Sir Houla than he has known. Lord Ewen looks at Sir Aeomund, but the knight’s face is a stoic mask.

The Baron of Ternua pitches his voice so that all in the chamber might hear. “Sir Aeomund Legith is a most worthy knight, and he has served me well in every particular. A man of his talents must serve his order and his Queen in whatever way that fate and destiny best decree. In that spirit, Sir Aeomund, I hereby release you of your oath of obedience to me, and bid you to serve your order and your Queen to the utmost of your talents.”

The knight bows, and something within him seems to unbend. His voice rings clear and strong. “I thank you, my lord. Know that my service to you was fulfilling in every particular, and remains a highlight of my life, and my loyalty to that time remains to it.”

“Your Grace,” Sir Houla says, “if I may.”

The Queen puts a hand forward in assent.

“Sir Aeomund Legith, knight of Lady of Paladins, I, Sir Houla Artona, Grandmaster of the newly separated Order of the Lady of Dolithor, appoint Sir Aeomund Legith, Reblena of the Shield Chapter of the Temple of Larani here in Tashal.”

The Queen says, “Congratulations, Sir Aeomund, and thank your for your service at the Soylana assembly.”

Sir Houla and Sir Aeomund retire to one side.

“There is one more order of business, if you will indulge us,” the Queen says. “The threat of invasion of this kingdom is very great. We have reluctantly cancelled the Royal Chelebin Tournament of Chivalry at Olokand this year.” She smiles shyly for a moment, again betraying the carefree expression of a little girl for the briefest moment, and leans forward. “I guess this makes you the reigning First Knight of Kaldor for another year.”

Lord Ewen bows solemnly. The Queen regains her tone of gravitas.

“Instead, it behooves us, having been entrusted with the governing of this realm, its heavy burden upon our slender shoulders, it is thus incumbent upon us to appoint noble and valiant captains.” She breathes deeply. “My Lord of Ternua, I do not command, I request. That you take up the mantle of Sheriff of Meselyneshire, that you proceed with haste to Olokand, to take command of that shire, and if vikings appear you repel them with life and limb until you should be relieved, or die in the attempt.”

“I thank your Grace for this honor, and burden, and responsibility, and I accept. I will strive to serve your Grace with all of my will and talents.”

The Queen smiles in satisfaction and turns. “Aunt?”

The Lord Chamberlain retrieves a scroll and hands it to Lord Ewen.

“And here, my lord, is your commission,” the Queen pronounces. “You are now Sheriff of Meselyneshire. Proceed with all speed to Olokand, and prepare this realm for the invasion of vikings.”

Lord Ewen bows deeply. “As your Grace so orders. I shall gather my retinue and leave forthwith.”

“We thank you, and wish you all good fortune.”
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Matt
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