- 1 1st August
- 2 13th August
- 3 14th August
- 4 16th August
- 5 23rd August
Summer Evening -- Westmoor
Andross wandered through the gardens until he found whom he was looking for. He approached Brigdha Dubhaine slowly and respectfully, bowing his head to her. "Greetings, Ambassador Dubhaine, I am Andross Blint, The Duke of Blades of Greater Eponllyn. The Phoenix Queen welcomes you and has asked me to escort you to her. May I?" He said, offering the elderly woman his arm in aide.
He waited, patiently and politely for the Ambassador to take his arm and allow him to escort her to the fountain where Selenia awaited.
Andross led Brigdha through the gardens towards the fountain where Selenia awaited. At the center of the southern gardens was an old water fountain Selenia had discovered on her first visit to the capital. The fountain itself had a gazeebo built around it so the local nobility might sit in comfort and shade nearby. Upon the fountain itself, Seahorses, the famed hippocampi of old Eponllyn, were carved in frolicking poses throughout. They spouted clear water from mouths and ears, stone hooves competing with for attention with scales and fins forever frozen against time. Servants from the palace paused for a moment or too just to look at it as they went about laying down fruits, drinks, and cold dishes for the repast she'd ordered.
Leopald studied the Gardens intently from his concealed vantage-point high amongst the palace chimney stacks, a wry smile on his face as he watched the pathetic figure of the Ambassador - his grandmother - shuffling slowly on the arm of a nobleman of high status.
The captain flicked through his notebook, a folio of heraldry, maps, notes and sketches of the Eponllyn-Redhaven court, nobles and commons alike. It didn't take him long to settle on a sketch of Andross Blint, Duke of Blades and close confidante of the Phoenix Queen. Not a man to be taken lightly.
These had once been the pleasure gardens of Basilius Decimus: Duke, General, Chancellor, friend. The memory of him lingered in the High Firmament, that chivalrous refrain which set all the hearts of Fontan aflame. Even the heart of her beautiful precious niece Rhidhana. There was a time when she'd hated him for taking her niece from her, but that hadn't been fair. They were heroes and heroes know the risks they take... and here amidst the glow of happier times she could mourn his passing without regret.
But there were other memories. Darker memories. The shades of Theocrat Jor and his victims. Brigdha wondered if Anagridh could sense it too, or if those enigmatic elven eyes were too focused on the here and now to admit the defilement and desecration of her kinsfolk on Jor's bloody altars. Their plaintive screams clawed at the edge of Brigdha's senses and the Balance Walker allowed herself to stagger under the weight of them, leaning heavily on her staff as Andross sought to steady her.
"It's alright my lord," her thin voice rasped as she somehow managed to right herself, the strain visible in her features.
Summer Evening -- Bescanon
Vander sat upon his horse, looking back at his former home...
Well, I suppose I have to prove the old bastard wrong then...
He looked to the lieutenant of his small group of bowmen, Well, let's head to the capital to see what's what and try to "make something of myself" as father so plainly stated...
Andross walked with the elder ambassador through the gardens. He remained silent for most of the walk, exchanging the occasional pleasantry with Brigdha. As they approached the fountain and the spread of refreshments Selenia had laid out for her guests, Andross politely untangled himself from Brigdha before stepping to the side. He turned the corner just before Brigdha and saw the sight he'd planned. Selenia stood opposite him and Brigdha, with Skia lounging at her side. Skia, the giant direwolf that Andross had raised since she was born and who'd been his companion longer than any other living creature stood as soon as she saw him. It was a frightening sight to anyone who wasn't used to seeing a direwolf from afar, let alone one so close.
As she stood to her full height, her head was level with Selenia's rib cage. Skia walked off to the side and sat down, waiting patiently for Andross to join her.
Andross grinned, the love he shared with the direwolf was palpable. He recovered and bowed low saying "Your Grace, may I present, the Lady Brigdha of House Dubhaine, Baroness of Evora, and Ambassador of Shadowdale." He turned to the Ambassador and said. "My Lady, may I present to you, Selenia of House JeVondair, The Reborn, Xerarch of the Xavax People, Phoenix Queen of Greater Eponllyn, and Duchess of Redhaven."
Andross offered a hand to Brigdha and helped her up the small steps to be on the same footing as Selenia. Selenis glided forward more than stepped and nodded her head to Brigdha and she said "Welcome, Ambassador, please do forgive my Duke of Blades, he has a flair for the dramatic. May I offer you some refreshments?"
Summer Evening -- Bescanon
The direwolf's factum overflowed with an intoxicating primal strength completely at odds with the frail birdlike figure Brigdha presented. Without doubt those powerful jaws could snap a man's arm even in play and the young page trailing in her wake eyed it suspiciously, although the Ambassador's milky cataract smeared eyes and craggy-toothed grin showed little sign of concern.
"There's nothing wrong with a little dramatic licence Your Highness," Brigdha's voice was a dry whisper and yet neither the Duke nor the Xerarch had any difficulty making out her words.
The old woman stretched her back, first to one side and then the other, as a warrior might loosen their muscles after a long bout in the gymnasium, all the time those claw-like fingers taking it in turns to work their way up the weathered staff supporting her weight. As she did so she seemed to gain a fullness, a prominence, a dignity even. It wasn't so much that her body or clothes changed as that an impression of how they might be fell away, the appearance of senescence ravaged flesh entirely dispelled. No longer needing her prop Brigdha handed it to her companion, a brooding woman of obvious Elven ancestry in dull black brigandine.
It was a striking transformation in just how mundane it was, as if rather than the eyes of those around being freed from some deep glamour their minds had forgotten that such a glamour had ever even afflicted them. With such a power it was no wonder that Brigdha travelled freely the length and breadth of the disputed territories, or that the Lords of the South had many times sought to imprison her.
The Ambassador caught the hulking beast's eye as idly she brushed a mote of dust from the sleeve of her gown, the pile of the velvet darkening as her pale fingers agitated it, and the wolf collapsed onto its side, a soppy grin on its fearsome lips.
"Your Higness, as Ambassador of Shadowdale I bring fraternal greetings from His Majesty Shadow King Lindow, Duke of Shadow's Bluff and Margrave of Karbala," she curtsied with the perfection such an occasion demanded, "I trust you will forgive my own amateur theatrics but there are those amongst our enemies who take a deep interest in my movements."
Summer Day -- Bescanon
The Phoenix Queen waited as the Ambassador completed her 'introduction'. Selenia was attired for war: battlebraids secured her long golden tresses from her eyes and face to cascade just past her shoulders. She wore elven chainmail, a gift from the High King, and about her shoulders was a light red cloak and a black fur mantle clasped at the neck by avian and leonine figures wrought in gold. She was unarmed, but of her skin, only her neck, blade-scarred hands, and face were exposed. She appeared to be in her mid 30s with the fitness of a career warrior. Her expression at once fascinated, yet aloof.
"Dramatic license indeed," she replied. She held her hand palm out towards the older woman, indicating a cushioned seat on the stone fountain next to her. She jutted her chin out at the Duke of Blades, nodding pointedly towards the lolling direwolf with some annoyance. He got the message and, with a sharp whistle, commanded the wold back to his side. It might have been Selenia's imagination, but Skia appeared somewhat chagrined as she padded over to sit at her master's side.
As Brigdha accepted the proffered invitation and approached, Selenia considered. It had been a long time since she'd encountered anyone who new how to play The Game. Selenia had spent a long time studying the ways of intrigue and diplomacy, but her studies were largely lost on this new generation of impatient kings. Having met the Shadowking, who failed to impress her at all, Selenia realized she'd allowed herself to be outmaneuvered at the outset, having assumed the Shadow Priestesss would be of a similar, if subtler bent. She realized, however, that the two could not be more different. The corner of Selenia's mouth turned uproad in a wry fashion, their was irony that she felt relief at having to raise the mental defenses a diplomat requires, and that had fallen to rusty disuse within her.
"I am heartened that you accepted my invitation, Ambassador. Will you sit? There is much I would like to discuss and little time with which to do so." A cloud came over the Phoenix Queen's features as she broke eye contact to gaze meaningfully to the East. "The war waits for no one, and the world is about to change rather drastically."
Andross whistled and Skia padded over to him, he saw annoyance in her gait as she obeyed his command. He knew she would much rather be lounging by the fountain, or pestering Selenia for copious head rubs and scratches behind the ear. She sat next to him, and he let his hand fall to his side and rest on her head, she subtly pressed her head up into his palm, a reassurance passed between the two companions. Andross allowed himself the briefest of moments to focus on the affection he shared with his direwolf companion, before returning his mind to the present.
His eyes scanned Brigdha first, she was an ambassador and diplomat to her core, but he didn't care about her profession, he examined her form the way a blacksmith examines a piece of steel for flaws. Only Andross didn't look for flaws, he looked for weapons and threats. Finding none, his gaze swept over the courtyard. More than one eager servant was dissuaded from eavesdropping by a simple glare from the Duke of Blades. There was a power in his presence, not because of who he was, or his martial skill, but more because of the history he shared with the Phoenix Queen, nearly 2 months ago Queen and vassal had dueled one another until first blood, or so the challenge had been levied. It took many more wounds and much more blood for the Phoenix Queen to subdue one of her closest friends, and even then he'd defied her.
Many thought that after that duel the Duke of Blades would have been stripped of his ducal seat, maybe even exiled. Some feared he'd rise up against the Phoenix Queen, leading her enemies against her in revenge. All of those people had no idea who Andross Blint was. In a matter of days after his recovery he was riding at her side again. A more sullen man, a quieter man, but at her side none the less.
During the meeting of the Ambassador and the Phoenix Queen, Andross would be the silent sentinel, silent, but observant.
The Ambassador settled herself gently on the cushioned seat, crossing one leg over the other as her robe parted to reveal tailored trousers and weather-stained boots. She moved with the casual economy of a Balance Walker, though few these days would recognise the characteristic mannerisms of that Order, her body tamed through long decades of asceticism and demanding exercise, skills normally honed for the battlefield perfected instead for the war between spirit and flesh. It seemed unlikely to the Queen that she had much need for her bodyguard, if that indeed was the role her Elven companion played.
"Your Highness wishes to speak to me of developments in the South," there were rumours abroad that King Stanmore's grip on his newly declared Empire was nowhere near as firm as his propagandists would have people believe, but then again it was likely that many of these rumours had their origins in Brigdha's own handiwork so she preferred to treat them with a degree of caution. Still, the prospect of defections was always there, even in the highest ranks of the regime, and she couldn't see the radical democrats of Vix taking kindly to the growing pretensions of an Emperor in Al Arab.
What she did know was that a large raiding force was even now gathering in the south with Shadowdale and Eponllyn as its goal. It was an audacious plan to show Stanmore's authority but one ultimately doomed to failure, there being precious little love for Perleone amongst any of the border provinces. The raiders would find it easier to put their necks into the noose than to withdraw them, and that should prompt some to reconsider their allegiance.
Summer Evening -- Nascot
Unless you know him well, you could not tell, but Samuel was not in the best mood. He liked to have his actions planned, everything working seamlessly. However, he was still of young age, and if you would try to write his biography, 'mistake' would be word you will be using often. Despite being common, his own mistakes, like getting lost on his way and arriving late in the night, always made Samuel disgruntled. This time was not an exception.
Samuel was awoken from his thoughts by one his men, who he sent, just a few minutes ago, to ask one of the peasants how far from Braga he is. He twitched his head to the direction of the voice.
"They said we are already in Braga."
"Did you ask where exactly?"
"In Shadow Keep."
A light smile of pleasant surprise appeared at Samuel's face, as he heard name of estate. Maybe fate finally decided to show mercy.
After short silence, Samuel continued:
"Good, we will stay here until sunrise. This is a decent place for a camp after all."
"Should I call your scribe?"
"No, but tell her to send the letter she has prepared earlier."