Calling in the Cavalry

Previously, Neamhan had flown to the Seat of Friendship for help and upon her return had found that Quentin had written a letter which he wanted delivered to the delegation which was travelling from Beauclair to Kingsport. Neamhan volunteered to deliver it, though that took some persuading.

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

After having taken off from the balcony of the church room at the Careless Wanderer, Neamhan flew west, along the Beauclair boulevard, in search of the delegation. She had taken the shape of a peregrine falcon. In her talons she carried Quentin’s message, bound in a ring of steel, which she knew to hold a special significance to the Beauclairois.

It did not take Neamhan long to distinguish between the different type of light along the road; the torchlight of night-time riders, the lanterns outside of farm houses, the braziers of small settlements and eventually the bonfires of the delegation. Neamhan could not believe how many tents, fires, and banners she saw stretched out across a field to the south of the road. She circled above the camp and saw tents in reds, blues, and golds, with many of them flying flags and banners carrying different heralds.

Having been shown what the banner of House Morvrayne looked like, Neamhan found a cluster of burgundy tents, edged in blue, which flew the banners she was looking for. The became clear to Neamhan that every house, every order, every group had their own section of the camp, which could be identified by the colours and banners that they erected.

After Neamhan had found a copse of trees away from the camp where she could discretely transform back to her elven form, she walked through the camp towards the largest tent of the Morvrayne cluster. Neamhan estimated that House Morvrayne had twenty people in their retinue, if the size and number of tents was anything to go by. There were carts stacked with provisions, horses and beasts of burden, knights, armsmen, squires and servants, all in service of House Morvrayne.

In front of the main tent’s canopy stood two guards, a moustachioed man and a young woman. The man turned out to speak little to no Lyrian, and the woman was hard to convince that Neamhan brought news from Quentin. Eventually Neamhan managed to convince the guard, Dame Pauline, that she was to be taken seriously by showing the letter, bound by the steel ring. Actually, it was after Neamhan angrily tossed the letter at Dame Pauline, but it had the desired effect.

The young knight left her shield, took up a banner and instructed Neamhan to follow her. Dame Pauline marched through the camp, passing armsmen who saluted her. She brought Neamhan to the very centre of camp where the largest tent was erected. It flew the lily banner of House Lys. Dame Pauline handed Neamhan back the steel-bound letter after planting the banner into the ground in front of the tent, besides a row of other banners belonging to other houses.

The interior of the enormous tent was lavishly decorated with furniture, carpets, and banners. The centre piece was a heavy table that could set a dozen people. At the head of the table stood a wooden throne with elaborately carved back and arm-rests. The table was littered with papers, maps, plates of food and cups of wine. Servants were walking off and on delivering food, pouring wine, while soldiers delivered missives and reports.

A middle-aged man with square shoulders and thick limbs sat on the throne. His hair was blonde, and he wore a colourful, silk doublet of blue and gold over a white, ruffled shirt. A short, blue cape was asymmetrically draped across his shoulders, revealing a white, silk interior. Had the clothing not been immaculately tailored for his otherwise loutish frame, it might have looked misplaced, but as it stood, the man wore it very well. Neamhan would soon learn that the man at the head of the table was Highlord Gaulthier Lys.

At the table to the Highlord’s right sat a young, golden-haired woman, wearing a light blue skirt of many layers of sheer material. She wore a headscarf of white and blue which covered her head and neck, made from the same material as her skirt. A billowing white shirt, adorned with lace flowed from a tight corset, and a comforter made of fox fur lay around her shoulders. This was Highlord Gauthier’s daughter, Lady Gwenaëlle.

Next to Lady Gwenaëlle sat a soberly dressed man with dark brown hair, wearing black tunic over simple breeches and a grey cloak around his shoulders. He had a neatly trimmed moustache and beard, and wore a simple, square black hat. His name was Monsieur Beauregard, and he seemed to be one of the highlord’s advisors.

On the highlord’s left, opposite to Lady Gwenaëlle sat an older knight with pale blonde hair, wearing an exquisitely decorated suit of armour. A beautiful filigree design was carved into his breastplate, and it was adorned with silver. While decorated, his armour was more than ceremonial, indicated by a strong gorget which reached to the man’s chin, and asymmetrically sized pauldrons. He wore a scarlet cloak, fastened to smaller of the two pauldrons by a silver brooch. This was Ser Uthred Locke, knight captain to the Order of the Lance.

Besides the knight, opposite to Monsieur Beauregard, sat Lord Dorian Morvrayne, a handsome, middle-aged man with dark brown hair and a beautifully groomed, full moustache and beard. He wore an embroidered doublet of blue and red, with simple breeches and a warm, fur-lined cloak.

Next to Lord Dorian sat Ser Croy du Menezioù, the master-at-arms of House Morvrayne. He was probably the eldest person to sit the table, with thinning white hair and icy-blue eyes, but radiated endurance. He was wearing half-plate armour and a black cloak, and was stiffly leaning towards Lord Dorian to whisper council into his ear.

The rest of the people in the tent were a mixture of Lys guards, advisors and servants.

At the foot of the table, nearest to the entrance, and with their backs to Neamhan and Dame Pauline, two guards flanked a common man with a big belly, a balding head and a thick moustache. Patiently waiting for a moment to present themselves, Dame Pauline, moved Neamhan to stand away from the entrance and away from the foot of the table. Neamhan noticed that Dame Pauline was a strong and beautiful woman, with a thick auburn braid, striking green eyes, and a kind face.

The highlord scolded the man at the foot of the table, a quartermaster and Lyrian in the highlord’s service, for having given out wine to people outside of camp, against the direct orders of the highlord. The man stammered a response about there being a wine shortage and he being able to sell at a premium price, but the highlord ignored him, claiming that the shortage was the exact reason for the order. Highlord Gauthier consulted with Monsieur Beauregard on a fitting punishment, and the soberly dressed man suggested cutting off the man’s thumbs to set an example to other quartermasters who might disobey. The highlord thought it fitting and the dismemberment, and demoted him to the kitchens to see whether the man could peel potatoes without his thumbs.

When Highlord Gauthier sensed that Ser Uthred did not approve of the decision to take the man’s thumbs, he addressed the knight. Ser Uthred said that he could not pretend to understand why such a harsh punishment was necessary, but also did not seem inclined to argue the matter. Highlord Gauthier firmly reiterated his prohibition again.

Neamhan suddenly realised that there was something bigger going on, and that this somehow had something to do with Céleste’s visits to the Careless Wanderer, but before she knew it, Dame Pauline moved her to the foot of the table, front and centre of all attention. After an inelegant introduction, where Neamhan may or may not have tripped, cursed and failed to execute a proper bow, she held out the letter to Lord Dorian.

Silence fell across the tent as everyone looked at the steel ring binding the letter. The only exception seemed to be Ser Uthred, who may not have understood the significance of the ring. Lord Dorian read the letter and then suggested to the highlord that some privacy would be advisable, and the highlord dismissed almost everyone from the tent. Only the people at the table, the odd guard and advisor, and Dame Pauline and Neamhan remained.

The letter was passed down the table and everyone read it carefully. When it returned to Lord Dorian, who said that the situation was quite unusual. Highlord Gauthier concurred, but explained that Lord Dorian was an unusual son, having succeeded in what was considered impossible; recovering the Fleur de Lys. At that point the highlord shot his daughter an disapproving look. Highlord Gauthier suggested to take the letter seriously, and asked how many men Lord Dorian could send in aid. Lord Dorian believed he could send a dozen riders, and the highlord concurred.

Ser Uthred asked whether he would be permitted to know what the letter said. Lord Dorian read the letter aloud. The Lyrian knight was troubled and became pensive. When Lord Dorian asked the highlord if he would be willing to commit knights to the cause, the highlord declined, saying that it would be inappropriate. The highlord’s daughter concurred that it would be inappropriate before the marriage had taken place. It was clear to Neamhan that Lady Gwenaëlle had nothing but disdain for House Morvrayne.

Ser Uthred could not contain his derision, stood up, and proclaimed that he and the eight companies of knights he had under his command would ride for Kingsport to protect his queen. Any conversations about finance could be conducted later, a comment that Neamhan did not immediately understand. The Lyrian knight then left the tent in order to make preparations for the Lyrian knights to depart camp.

The meeting was concluded and Neamhan was excused. Lord Dorian, Ser Croy and Dame Pauline lead Neamhan back to the Morvrayne part of the camp. Neamhan joined Lord Dorian in his tent while Ser Croy and Dame Pauline readied the Morvrayne riders for departure.

The conversation between Neamhan and Lord Dorian mostly concerned Quentin and his well-being as well as the Fleur de Lys and its wonders. Lord Dorian admitted that he long thought his son lost to him because of the foolish quest Lady Gwenaëlle sent him on. Lord Dorian had food served for Neamhan as they spoke, allowing Neamhan to recover some of the strength she would need for the return journey.

Ser Croy joined them once he was done readying the riders. House Morvrayne would send ten riders under the command of Dame Pauline. Ser Croy and one guard would stay behind as Lord Dorian’s personal guard. Ser Croy was obviously proud of Quentin and said that he was happy to hear that Quentin succeeded in retrieving the sword. Lord Dorian shot a laugh at Ser Croy and said that the predictions of the Ladies of the Woods was nothing but superstition!

Neamhan almost choked on her food and immediately questioned what Lord Dorian had just said. He dismissed her questions but she persisted, to the point where she crossed a line and Lord Dorian ran out of patience. This time Lord Dorian dismissed Neamhan from his presence and she left the tent. She spoke to Ser Croy outside and he begged her forgiveness for his Lord’s behaviour.

Ser Croy explained that Lord Dorian was a modern man who did not believe in the superstitions of the woodland and mountain folk of Monts d’Arée. Three wise women who lived in the woods outside of Albancourt had counselled House Morvrayne for generations. Lord Armand, Quentin’s grandfather, had only once disregarded the advice from the ladies, and tragedy struck, leading to the death of his oldest son, Quentin’s uncle, for which he was named.

When Lord Dorian had made the match with the second daughter of House Lys, the ladies protested, saying that the Blood of Alban needed to be protected, but Lord Dorian’s ambition would not allow him to listen. Lord Dorian never cared for the old ways, Ser Croy said, believing that clinging to those traditions had impoverished the house. The Blood of Alban, he continued, was the ability to trace an unbroken ancestral line all the way back to the progenitor of House Morvrayne; Prince Alban.

Eventually, Neamhan said her goodbyes to Ser Croy and walked out of the camp to find a secluded spot where she could transform back into the peregrine falcon. She flew east along the coast, quickly catching up with the companies of Lyrian knights, their lances gleaming silver in the moonlight, quickly followed by a company of riders from House Morvrayne. She would beat them to Kingsport by several hours.

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