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    The Silver Wolf-For Crown Or Country: All In The Family
    Posted on Mon, June 03, 2019 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "Sixteen years old now, and as wealthy as he is wise,” Jerrica said, smiling admiringly at the thought of the handsome young prince. “He’s the pride and hope of House Darmen-artist, philosopher, romantic…and the most eligible bachelor in the whole of the Great Kingdom,” she finished with a twinkle in her eye. “Is that why you and Luna really returned? Seeking a husband?

    Chapter Ten

    All In The Family

    Ma’non’go looked curiously at his companions as they approached the gates of the Cranden estate outside Zelradton. He’d come here several times with Luna and Seline before they’d been forced to flee South Province, and he didn’t expect anything changed in the years since they’d left. The Cranden estate held no surprises for him, but he was interested to see how his friends would react.

    Weimar glanced admiringly at the beautiful woods in the estate’s grounds, which showed above the imposing stone walls guarding the place. Airk paid little attention to the scenery, his attention focused on the modest but tasteful manor that sat at the centre of the estate. Amyalla didn’t seem to have anything on her mind, her expression calm and serene. Revafour was outwardly calm, but Ma’non’go could tell that he was in an aggravated mood and trying to keep his frustrations under control. Ma’non’go could guess why Revafour was so upset, but he also realized that now probably wasn’t a good time to ask about it.

    Luna’s and Seline’s reactions interested Ma’non’go the most, though. Luna seemed to be almost as on edge as Revafour, as her eyes flickered from side to side in nervous anticipation. Seline had a pensive look on her face, appearing deep in thought, before she looked up towards the Cranden estate and then back towards the west at the city of Zelradton.

    For a moment, Ma’non’go thought he could see tears in her eyes, although she blinked them away.

    He was more than a little surprised at that, and wished he could ask Seline about it. As with Revafour, he got the feeling that it would be a bad idea to ask her anything at that moment. He wouldn’t get the chance anyway, since the companions had reached the front gate of the estate. A troop of six guards, all wielding halberds, stood in front of a portcullis with thick bars. The portcullis was flanked on either side by a large guard tower. Two archers looked warningly down on the companions from each tower, their bows pulled back and ready to shoot.

    “Halt!” one of the guards said, as he and his fellows raised their halberds. “What business have you with House Cranden?”

    “I am Luna Roas Del Cranden, and this is my sister Seline,” Luna said as she and Seline came to the head of the group. “We seek entrance as is our right as maidens of House Cranden, with our companions accompanying us.”

    “Let me see some proof of your heritage,” the guard demanded.

    Luna and Seline nodded in unison. Reaching into their pockets, the sisters each pulled out a silver medallion inscribed with a pattern of two crescent moons, each on one side of a crowned sun.

    Ma’non’go smiled at the sight of those medallions. They were the pendants the Celestial Houses often issued to their young women, each inscribed with the House’s personal heraldry. Luna and Seline rarely wore them, since they didn’t usually care to reveal their Aerdi heritage, but they always kept the pendants with them.

    Ma’non’go was glad they did-they, at least, had no reason to try and forget who they were.

    The guards readily admitted the companions once they saw the proof Luna and Seline offered. When the companions reached the manor, they were readily welcomed and given rooms they could stay in while conducting their business in Zelradton. The companions were also invited to a midday meal with some of the other members of House Cranden and their entourages who were staying at the manor.

    Memories came flooding back to Ma’non’go as the companions entered the manor’s dining hall. A long buffet was set up against one wall, set with sumptuous wines and a bewildering variety of foods. Groups of Cranden nobles and their guests sat at large tables, and the air was filled with the din of their conversations. While other Celestial Houses would never consider allowing the nobles’ entourages and bodyguards to eat with them, House Cranden was an exception. Valets drank with counts, footmen ate alongside baronesses, and maids conversed with dukes. It would have been scandalous at the gatherings of any other Celestial House, but for House Cranden it was quite normal.

    Ma’non’go always enjoyed these kinds of meals among Aerdi high society. Given his Olman roots, most Aerdi nobles and their servants, even the generally more benign Crandens, tended to think of him as an ignorant savage. They often spoke more freely in front of him that would have in front of someone like Lord Roas. In fact, it was Ma’non’go who learned of House Garasteth’s plot against Lord Roas, giving Roas time to send Ma’non’go and his daughters to safety.

     It’s always so funny how they consider us savages, Ma’non’go thought, referring to the views many Aerdi had of the Olman who lived in the Amedio Jungle and Hepmonland. Never mind that they can be just as brutal, he continued, as he got in line behind Seline.

    After getting some food, Ma’non’go and Seline sat down at a table where several other Cranden nobles and members of their entourages were already eating. As the Crandens and their servants looked up at the new arrivals, one of them brightened with pleasure as her gaze met Seline’s. Seline returned the gesture, beaming happily as she recognized the other woman.

    “Praise Pelor, it’s really you!” Jerrica Wolwhyn Del Cranden said in surprise, getting up to hug Seline. “Oh Seline, we missed you so much!” Jerrica had been like an older sister to Seline growing up. She was just as Seline remembered, her curly red hair shining in the sunlight coming into the dining hall and her deep gray eyes reflecting both kindness and support. While Jerrica never had any interest in weapons or magic, Seline found her an impeccable tutor in court etiquette and a rock of support and encouragement.

    “We missed you too, Jerrica,” Seline said, returning Jerrica’s hug before they sat down again.

    “We?” Jerrica said in surprise. “You…ah, Ma’non’go!” she said with a smile, looking past Seline to greet the large Olman, who returned her smile. “So Luna’s with you too?”

    “Yes she is,” Seline said, “and so are our other companions.”

    “Companions?” one of the other Cranden nobles said from across the table. “So you’ve taken the adventuring path, then? Likely a wise course.”

    A brief silence hung in the air at that, and Ma’non’go resisted an urge to scowl at the other Cranden noble. Everyone at the table knew about the debt House Garasteth claimed it was owed by House Cranden, and how Luna and Seline were supposed to be the payment of that debt.

    “We’ve only been together a few months,” Seline said, “but we wanted to show our friends the splendor of Aerdy. We also wanted to come home to see you all. We’ve been away from our House for so long, after all…”

    “And we’re glad to have you back,” Jerrica said. “What kind of heroic tales do you have for us? Are you here to battle raiders from Nyrond or Sunndi?”

    “We’re looking to meet with any nobles who have any interest in older artifacts and curios,” Seline said. “There’s an interested collector in Greyhawk who’s willing to pay good money for such things. We’re Aerdi, so we were hired to act on his behalf.”

    Ma’non’go did well not to smile his approval at how well Seline lied about the companions’ purpose in South Province. The claim about an interested buyer in Greyhawk was a cover story to keep anyone from wondering why the companions would be interested in buying the Crown of Arumdina when they managed to find it. A group of adventurers coming in on their own seeking a specific item, and knowing exactly what it was, would make more than a few powerful people wonder what was so special about the trinket they sought. It would have brought the companions all kinds of attention they didn’t need.

    By pretending to act on behalf of a wealthy buyer, the companions intended to disguise their intentions and ‘conveniently’ choose the Crown from among the other items they would look at. Once they’d bought the Crown, the companions could leave for Flinthold without anyone in Aerdy being any the wiser.

    “Then why don’t you and your companions join us for the autumn ball that’s being held in Zelradton this Freeday?” Jerrica asked.

    “Autumn ball?” Seline asked in surprise. “I don’t recall-“

    “It’s being hosted by Prince Xavener Norreck Del Darmen,” Jerrica said, “heir to the head of House Darmen itself. This is only the second one-it started after you and Luna left. It’s become the place to be in South Province for the fall season!” she continued, an eager light coming into her eyes. “With all the nobles that’ll attend, you’ll easily find what you’re looking for, I’m sure.”

    “And we’ll be admitted?” Seline asked, her own eyes reflecting a hopeful light. “What about our friends?”

    “Of course you’ll be admitted,” Jerrica said, her expression showing that the answer should be obvious. “You and Luna are both daughters of House Cranden, aren’t you? And since I haven’t heard anything about you or her being disgraced, I don’t see why you’d even need to ask. As for your friends, they can be your guests and escorts. Don’t worry about the Garasteths,” she continued, before Seline could ask her next question. “Prince Xavener wouldn’t tolerate such a blatant confrontation at any gathering he hosts.”

    “Good,” Seline said, the relief palpable in her expression. “I’d love to participate,” she continued, and Ma’non’go could see she wasn’t lying when she said that. “And what’s become of Prince Xavener since Luna and I left? He was just a little boy at the time.”

    “Sixteen years old now, and as wealthy as he is wise,” Jerrica said, smiling admiringly at the thought of the handsome young prince. “He’s the pride and hope of House Darmen-artist, philosopher, romantic…and the most eligible bachelor in the whole of the Great Kingdom,” she finished with a twinkle in her eye. “Is that why you and Luna really returned? Seeking a husband?”

    Seline blushed at that, shaking her head.

    Again, Ma’non’go did well not to smile.


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