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?
In The Family
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.
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.
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.
a moment, Ma’non’go thought he could see tears in her eyes, although she
blinked them away.
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.
one of the guards said, as he and his fellows raised their halberds. “What
business have you with House Cranden?”
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.”
me see some proof of your heritage,” the guard demanded.
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.
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
was glad they did-they, at least, had no reason to try and forget who they
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
missed you too, Jerrica,” Seline said, returning Jerrica’s hug before they sat
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
she is,” Seline said, “and so are our other companions.”
one of the other Cranden nobles said from across the table. “So you’ve taken
the adventuring path, then? Likely a wise course.”
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.
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…”
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?”
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.”
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.
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.
why don’t you and your companions join us for the autumn ball that’s being held
in Zelradton this Freeday?” Jerrica asked.
ball?” Seline asked in surprise. “I don’t recall-“
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.”
we’ll be admitted?” Seline asked, her own eyes reflecting a hopeful light.
“What about our friends?”
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.”
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.”
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?”
blushed at that, shaking her head.
Ma’non’go did well not to smile.