Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ancient Dread: Sulanok Pt III

Pt II here.

Sulanok Pt III
The dinner  is held in the temple in a private dining room. A roaring fire lights the room accentuated by numerous candles. The carpet is a deep red, and the walls are adorned with images of the True Dragonwright faith.The overall effect is both humbling and majestic.  Strongbow for the first time since he left feels relaxed and at home. 

Alta is shown into the room. For a period, it is just the two of them alone, the sisters having informed the acolyte that they would be along shortly, something about gossip.  Alta’s outfit is new, conservative, but she found a tailor of some skill from its quality.  She had also taken the time to add some lilacs into her hair for adornment.  Her bearing and grace show that of an adventurer, as one that would be from a romanticized or stylized storybook.  Strongbow is even more enchanted. He steals a quick kiss from her and compliments her on her choice of outfit. 

"Flattery will get you everywhere" she says, looking into his eyes.

The door opens, and a squeal of delight greats them as Idril, Strongbow’s youngest sister and the most beautiful and intelligent of the siblings, rushes up and embraces him.

"My big brother! What a delightful surprise!"

Her face has all the happiness and earnestness of a younger sibling happy to see her older brother.  He hugs her back enthusiastically.

"You've been away far too long, and the courts stories have begun to bore me. Tonight you will have to tell me all about the adventures you've been on. After you introduce me to your new friend that is."

“Idril, this is my lady-friend and companion Alta. Alta, this is my youngest sister Idril.”

Alta curtsies in a practiced fashion, Idril responds in kind. The two spend a few moments sizing each other up until Nessa invites everyone to take their seats.  Fine wine, fruits, and cheeses are already on the table as appetizers.

Strongbow raises his cup. "A toast... to family and friends."
Everyone seated at the table echoes, "To family and friends!"
Idril without hesitation, after a drink, begins to pester Strongbow for stories.  He starts out with the most obvious one, the story behind his sigil, red claw marks on a white field.  He tells of the Wayward Lady and her child, born with the help of a Wolfen general (The clawmarks and the white field), the abomination of Ceratus Dominus and his minions, the Burning.  He tells of the battle that defeated the monster and the many friends, companions, and foes alike that fell. 
They all listen. Alta is a little rapt, never having heard it before.Idril looks entranced. Nesa has a wry smile on her face. They're all enjoying the tales.After sufficient time has passed the door opens and in walks Mug and an acolyte bearing platters of food.Salmon, fruits, nuts, candied almonds, and dates are set at the table, more wine is brought out to refresh anyone's glass, and the servants excuse themselves.
"You have an Orc acolyte Nessa?" Idril asks
"Indeed. A fresh convert even."
"I'm amazed at how well he conducted himself. Very composed. Where did you find him."
"Another tale from our dear brother." Nesa teases Strongbow with her eyes over the rim of her glass. Alta tries very hard to stifle a chuckle and not spew her wine across the table.
"In Timiro. I was looking for a trained fletcher since I ran out of arrows on several occasions."
Idril, displaying her keen insight, probes: "Timiro has well behaved orc fletchers that are also capable of handling the manners necessary to serve food at an intimate dinner?"
"It seems I picked the best there is. He's worth 100 times or more what I paid."
"You have chosen very well then. His initiation went off very favorably. Truly the Dragons were watching as he made his vows." Nessa says.
"Excellent. Did he swear to any one in particular?
"Oddly enough he seemed about to, but then thought better of it. Kym-Nark-Mar seemed to have his interest the most, but he seemed to want to wait before taking a vow."
"Interesting. I think he'll do very well in our faith.”
"I will say that he is very eager to please."
"He is. He apparently had a very rough life before..."
"Things are different now, and I'm sure his life will be better here on in."
"Agreed. And how have things been here in the Marq since I've been gone?” Strongbow asks.
Nessa responds first, "On the whole things have been pretty quiet. Oh there's been trade agreements, negotiations, and squabbling aplenty, but on the whole things are more or less dull."
Idril adds on, "It can be worrisome though. Like the calm before the storm.Ereinion is starting to come more into his own at least. He still doesn't command the heart of the populace as you do, brother, but anyone attempting to subvert him would be hard pressed to make any progress."
"Good. We made a good decision w/ me leaving for a time then. I think much of what I bring back will be a great benefit.” He says, squeezing Alta’s hand.
She looks at him and smiles brightly.
"Speaking of bringing important things home, mother and I have been wondering when you will finally return to us for good?" Nessa asks.
"I'm really not sure yet. There are still lots of places I've yet to see and adventures to partake in. I'm still young and it's only been a few years.Are you all wanting me back so badly?”
Idril responds, "We all miss you, and worry about you of course. Your adventures are grand stories, and we love to hear them. But what about your duty to the Marq?"
Nessa’s face changes.  Before her expression looked like she was ready to debate Strongbow coming home. Now it's mildly uncertain with a dash of paranoia, and he notices that she's not looking him in the eye so much as looking over his shoulder.
“Me being away IS part of my duty.” Strongbow says,” To let Erin assert full authority and so I can get the experience needed for military command. I'm good but I'm not ready to run the house regiment yet nearly as well as Ganzer is.”
Noting Nessa’s expression, he mentally sends a question to Idril “Nessa’ upset.  Why
Idril glances at her sister , looks behind Strongbow, then gives him an, "I don't know," look.
Nessa, almost detached, says "Perhaps I just miss my brother and want to see him more. I suppose it's good for you to get your wanderlust out of your system, and bring back more stories for Idril."  She looks a bit shocked as she continues supper, as if she had seen a ghost.
Nessa shakes her head to clear it before continuing, "Not just Idril," she flashes you a winning smile, "I hear that Ganzer has talked about compiling your adventures into a singular text."
Reaching out to her mind, Strongbow senses that she doesn't have running thoughts, but a sense of pure awe.  Her mind is fumbling to come up with coherent sentences and thoughts, a mixture of, "he has a destiny," and, "I have to know more about where he's going,"
"So Alta," Nessa turns her attentions to Alta, "My brother has told me much of where he has been, but not where his adventures have taken him recently, or how he came to meet you."
Alta looks at him for a moment, trying to figure out how much she should say.  Strongbow smiles.
"Strongbow helped us out as we journeyed to the Floenry isles transporting goods and passengers. That's where we first met, and he distinguished himself amongst the crew."
"Ships that pass in the night?" Idril teases them.
"Distinguished? I just got lucky is all….And no. Same ship.”
Alta jabs his leg when he say, "I just got lucky".  He chuckles in response.
“What she means is that we got into a fight that turned out to be much nastier than we expected.”
Idril looks very interested, as does Nessa though she has heard the story earlier.
"Please tell us!"
"Yes Strongbow, tell us O great storyteller," Alta teases.
He tells the story of the battle aboard the Virtuous Maiden and the slaver ship.
"How exciting!”Idril exclaims,” Demons summoned right on the deck? It's a wonder you got out with your life!What kind of slaver consorts with a witch amongst their crew with that kind of power? Did you find anything about them?"
“Nothing much yet. That's where we're going next.”
Nessa asks you very intently, "Where *ARE* you going next?"
“Past the Floenry's. That's all we know right now.”
Idril looks taken aback, "Past theFloenry's? Towards the Eastern Territory?" Her look is that of the bookworm she is.
“South East” Strongbow corrects.
"I've not heard of anything past those isles. What mysteries have you uncovered?" Idril probes.
“That's the question. We haven't 'uncovered' anything as of yet.I thought those ruins we discovered would have kept you busy for years, nevermind looking for more to occupy your mind.”
Alta's interest is piqued, "Ruins?", another story she hasn’t heard.
"Yes, ruins."Idril says, "Apparently my brother just tripped over the remains of a lost race that died out centuries ago.I'm heading back there on the morrow to continue going over it. Very fascinating."
Strongbow looks at Nessa. "And you wonder why I enjoy travelling."
. "It was shortly before we hired Captain Mac to take us to the Islands." He tells Alta.
Alta speaks to Idril, "What have you discovered in the ruins?"
"Murals, frescos, artifacts. If our estimations are correct then this race would have been active during ancient times. Back to when the Old Ones were awake."
Strongbow mentally questions Melina, his Runic longsword if she has any memories of the Eldren. She replies positively but has few details. 
He tells the ladies “There's a pretty good chance they are one of the archaic races exterminated during the war."
"It would make sense," Idril continues, "although we've found no reference to the end of their race."
“It might be worthwhile to send some people to Bletherad to research them, “ Strongbow opines.
"Oh? An adventure of my own! Pretty soon Nessa, and Mama, and maybe even Ereinion will all wander off to explore the world," Idril giggles at the thought.
“If you set foot in that library, it would take the entire House Guard to drag you out.” Strongbow laughs.
Idril rubs her hands enthusiastically without realizing it
"You tempt me with the thought of such a place! It may be time to follow in your footsteps."
“Minus the demon fighting though.” He winks at Idril.
"Of course! You've already done that, so now I have to one up you."
“And how will you do that little sister?”
"I'll have to uncover a kingdom of a forgotten race that's still living in isolation."
“Anything could happen. Although w/ that spark in your eye, I think it might be time to start looking for a husband for you to keep you from getting into more trouble than Earendur.”
"When you can find one who can keep up with me I'll be happy to look the matter over. An intellectual with a scathing wit. Someone who will bolster our house in more ways than just being a husband."
“Nessa, “Strongbow says to her, “make sure mother and Erin know those are the requirements.”
"I'll include it in my letter tonight." Nessa responds, giggling.
Idril playfully pouts, "Worried about the competition brother?"
Alta watches the sibling interplay with much amusement.
“Not at all. I'm more worried about releasing Idril onto Palladium. May the dragons help us all.”
"I'm sure we'd need there help with Idril," Nessa agrees.
Idril is looking smug and pleased with herself. The doors open and the servants usher in, collect the plates, and leave everyone with a fine bottle of elven brandy and a platter of dates, candied almonds, and sweet meats.
“I will say, I haven't eaten like this since I left. dried meat, fruits and bread grows stale after awhile.”, Strongbow says, enjoying the foods.
"You do set a fantastic table," Alta says. She a little extra than she normally does. Unsurprising considering she lives at sea most of the time, and she is feeling slightly more comfortable with the sisters of the one she has grown attached to.
“Back to salt pork and hard tack in a few days though. Best enjoy this while we can.” Strongbow says as he offers a plate of sweetmeats to Alta. She takes several eagerly.
"The pleasure is mine when I get to entertain such an honored guest" Nessa nods her head.
"How have Mother and Erin been since I left? I know you've said he's been doing well but any other details? I know they're going to be upset missing tonight."
"Mother will be sad to have missed you, and would greatly appreciate a letter before you dash off on another adventure.” Nessa says,” Otherwise she keeps herself busy assisting Ereinion with administration. Ereinion is doing well as a negotiator, and while not fully trusted, people have begun to notice the stability that his influence has brought."
Idril pipes in, "What people don't see about Ereinion is that he is playing the long game. By the time it becomes apparent what he's been up to, he'll be too far entrenched to be removed easily. When you return that will only help to cement our foothold on this area."
“I think he's going to be the best Marquis we've seen in generations.” Strongbow says,”No offense to father of course.”
"I think father would be proud of the legacy he's left. Of you and your adventures," Nessa says,  looking at him, "and you with your knowledge and wit," looking at Idril, "and all of us." She pauses for a moment and looks a bit downcast, "I only wish that Earendur would do more to honor his name."
“We'll come up w/ something.” He says, comforting her.
"I'm certain we will."
Alta squeezes his hand and he responds back, looking at her. She seems to be enjoying her meal and the conversation.  He gets the feeling that she'd be quiet and observant in a more courtly setting. The kind of person who hears the whispers.It's plainly obvious that she's far more comfortable at sea than a formal setting.
“Now that supper is finished, I think we would all be more comfortable in the lounge.” Strongbow suggests.
"I agree. You can regale us with more of your stories"Idril says.
“If I do too much of that, we'll have nothing to talk about when I come home “ he responds, laughing.  The others join in in the laughter as they retire to another room filled with comfortable couches, pillows and a warming fire.  They spend the night telling stories of adventures, family, friends, and home.  The wine flows and the food and companionship fill them. Alta, her legs curled up beneath her, leans against Strongbow as he relaxes, his arm around her.  Her eyes half closed as she dreamily listens. 
Come the morning, the time for farewells has come.  Nessa and Idril shower Strongbow with hugs and kisses, wishing him safe passage and demanding he keep in touch more.  A promise he means to keep.  Nessa gives him a new Dragonwright medallion, his previous now being worn by Mug, as she blesses him and his servant.  The sisters hug Alta warmly and tell her honestly they hope to see her back soon. 
The trio, Strongbow, Alta, and Mug head away from the Temple towards the docks and an uncertain future.

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