Dear Diary….revels

We are celebrating Needfest – Lydia, Heiron, and I. The palace has lots of spare bread, and a bunch of the palace people have been taking it out to the poor sections of town every day. Ezekiel’s father is also visiting (waiting for the wedding), so he’s come with us a few times, each of us carrying a basket.

It reminds me of when Mama would take us out – just Wolfgang, Tomlin, Clarence, and me (and sometimes Dexter) – to pass out bread and share Ehlonna’s blessings. Clarence used to eat his bread…meaning he did it at least once… Anyway, I wasn’t always paying close attention at the time, but I guess the principles latched on to me without me realizing. I think Mama would be glad of that. I suppose it’s even possible some of the other boys matured as they got older…

Tomorrow, Heiron and I babysit the dragons so Raven can take his disciples out. He says helping others less fortunate is an important part of developing character.

Mikael is having fun with his new arm.

****

7 Needfest

Noble weddings much different from Heiron and Lydia’s. Much bustling around, with Dree and Lydia heading off extra early. Ezekiel’s helmet-hair finally calmed down, though – and he did not pass out, though he swore he was going to.

We were kinda waiting at the entrance of the Temple of Rao when who should come up but Sir Holmer, Earl of Wallworth, Knight-Commander of the Knights of Holy Shielding (not like I know him by sight or anything, but Aliana introduced him to all of us).

Aliana herself was dressed all in white satin, from her chin to the floor, with just a diamond pin in her hair. You’d think a little slip of a thing like her couldn’t cut such a figure, but somehow the perfectness of it all made her almost seem to glow.

Ezekiel wouldn’t stop gawking, so we hustled him into his place, and Aliana entered the temple on the arm of the Commander. Dree and Lydia were waiting at the front with a couple paladins in full armor (and I gotta say, that dress they bought for Dree was just right).

Of course – nothing involving Ezekiel could ever be simple, could it? Aliana didn’t even get all the way down the aisle before the windows darkened and a chill spread through the sanctuary. I was just regretting that Ezekiel didn’t bring his anti-undead mace when a raven swooped in the door, circled Aliana, and transformed into an elf. (I thought it was an elf thing – but I realize now he’s probably a druid.)

The elf seemed very angry – he called himself an emissary from the Fae Court, so I guess he wasn’t an old boyfriend – and fussed about how Aliana, a princess of elf-kind, could marry this short-lived little nobody (if he only knew).

Then the High Priest Hazen said, “Peace,” and now I know what Rao is all about.

Aliana told the emissary that she and Ezekiel both served the same God, and His Excellency pointed out that it seemed appropriate two former servants of Heironeous be married on Heironeous’ holy day…besides the fact it was the Feast of Fools, so why not crown Ezekiel as Aliana’s king?

The emissary didn’t seem to have an answer for His Excellency, and especially when it seemed plain Ez and Aliana were treating the thing with all the solemnity and sacredness they could, he seemed mollified and got out of the way.

The service wasn’t quite like what Canon Turjon did in Homlette, but I declare I could listen to His Excellency Hazen talk for hours, and it wouldn’t even matter what he was talking about.

After that came the party! I don’t think the cooks let Raven interfere too much – but he did approve of the food, so that shows they did their best work.

My favorite part, though, was when the two paladins came out to mingle and took off their helmets. Who should it be but Alpheus?! Incredible, but true! He seems so much shorter than what I remember – but I suppose for me to only reach his belt he’d have to be like ten feet tall. He ruffled my hair and couldn’t get over how many scars I have – though the worst ones are under my shirt, and besides a paladin should have seen much worse scars. He’s been fighting on the lines, and has an actual squire, too. (His squire turns out to be Ezekiel’s older brother Peter – I saw Ezekiel tackle-hugging him.)

Tressarian’s new sheath isn’t finished yet, so Alpheus got a bit nervous when I first introduced them. But then he was suitably impressed, and had to pat my head again – but somehow I didn’t mind.

Ever since we convinced Tressarian he’s a Ranger sword, he acts nonchalant about Paladins – like they aren’t just coolest people ever – and that led to a discussion of the differences between rangers and paladins, and I realized I’d never heard Alpheus laugh at something I said before. Actually, I’m not sure how much we spoke before…he was always doing important things with Father, and I took a while to crack my shell. Kinda amazing he even recognized me after all these years, but perhaps the older we get the more we all look like each other and Father. Mama always said, “You look just like your Father!” to whoever she was talking to at the time.

I kinda wanted to hear all about how many armies he vanquished and how many undead fled before his virtuous presence, but what with introducing everybody, and eating cake, and all the nobles coming through to congratulate Aliana and Ezekiel, it wasn’t a good place for a long talk.

Oh! His Majesty King Belvor of Furiundy came through once and accepted our bows and smiled at everyone. I see where Prince Thromel gets his shoulders, and posture. He was quite gracious to all of us, and I can hardly believe I am one of his knights, and might go to war with him one day if things get bad (which naturally I hope they don’t, but at least we would have great men leading us).

Alpheus acted suitably impressed, and I think he was proud of me, though he didn’t say it out-right. We took him and Ezekiel’s family down to visit the dragons (Ezekiel and Raven insisted on it), and Keom gave them full introductions, giving way too many details about diet and habits. (He explained which one is Fang and which one is Belch, but I don’t think I can tell the difference.) Ezekiel’s father especially seemed suspicious that we were hanging out with the wrong crowd…but as I told Alpheus, there’s not much reason to doubt the existence of the High God by now, and even though Ezekiel has some sketchy ideas from time to time, I trust his God is on the side of Good, and so I’ll keep following along…and keeping my eyes open.

Finally, Alpheus and Peter had to return to their station, and Ezekiel’s father went with them so Lydia could send them all home (Alpheus agreed her mirror is supremely useful). About that time, Aliana’s paladin attendants came and escorted Ezekiel off (they were a bit theatrical about it, but I suppose that’s an elf thing. Also, if he was really being kidnapped, I couldn’t take them all by myself, and Raven didn’t look likely to interfere).

Raven, Mikael, and I hung out with the dragons so Keom and Ronhass could go enjoy the festival a bit. Bornthene and Miffly went out, too, and I think I heard them say something about “dancing” as they left.

Keom is right; there’s one dragon who really likes belly-rubs, and he’s kinda cute the way he snorts – it’s almost like a giggle, almost like a purr, but not quite. Also – don’t stand in his breath if you don’t want to choke.

****

Had the weirdest dream last night. I don’t usually pay attention to my dreams, but this one was so off the wall… I might have thought it was Ehlonna’s Grove, but they were not wearing anything I would imagine Ehlonna wearing. There were lots of dancers, all flitting in and out of the moonlight. I’ve already forgotten most of it.

Tressarian says he didn’t notice anything last night. I had him check me for Evil just on principle.

**

Unbelievable! Ronhass got a black eye in some tavern fight last night, and Raven dragged me down to the same tavern to find out what happened. Has he still not learned I do “subtle probing” the way Belch does carrot sticks? (That’s not a sight I’ll soon forget.) To top it off, he brought Agnar along, which is like carrying a tavern brawl in a bottle.

Well, all told, it could have been worse. Apparently every chair and table in the place got smashed, but at least Keom and Ronhass paid for the furniture. The bartender also said it was “one guy” running circles around the rest of the fighters, while the second guy just ran around the room so fast no one could hit him. So Raven is satisfied that at least they didn’t start the fight, and he said something about he needs to let his disciples have the day off more often. Agnar said they should bring him next time, and grumbled a little that we didn’t start anything…but we bought him a good ale, so he quieted down mostly. Tressarian says I should have let him do the talking.

****

I asked Lord Erasmus how long we were expected to stay in the palace (since we were technically guests for the skull thing, but that’s over now) and he said as far as he knew there was no shortage of rooms, and not to worry about it. I do keep forgetting we are technically knights and elders of the land, and Princess Aliana is a long-standing personage of importance. Anyway – just another expense of governing, I suppose. So many details a lord has to consider!

**

Picked up the new sheath this morning. It looks flimsier than it really is, and the smith explained all the features, how it still protects Tressarian’s edges and point. Tressarian says it feels a bit breezy, but secure enough…and he likes talking so people can hear him. Now I don’t have to panic all the bystanders if I need to ask him a question. He says being point-down messes with his senses, though – or maybe it’s the metal interfering – and he isn’t sure he would know Evil if he looked at it through the sheath. Time enough for experimentation later.

When I got back to the palace, Ezekiel and Aliana had also been shopping (apparently it’s what married people do; Heiron got Lydia a flower clip to put in her hair). Ezekiel is all full up of this idea of going to the Astral Plain, and they’re going to comb the temple libraries this afternoon for info on how to get there safely – and back! (Mikael says he wants to go to, since travel sounds interesting, and I think he’s excited to put his new arm to good use.)

Frankly, I feel like we have bigger fish to fry right now. Ezekiel and Raven have been planning this temple/monastery/druid grove/fortress, and they promised Usin the job of gate-keeper. What’s he supposed to do while they dance around the Astral Plain? What about Agnar? Is he supposed to help babysit the dragons and comb his beard while we chase a sword we just heard about?

Anyway. I know a warrior’s path is always duty. In some ways, Father was lucky – raising his family in a time of peace, and in a secure place like the Grand Duchy – so he was able to spend as much time with us as he did. (The slices of pie got smaller and smaller farther down the line.) Peter and Alpheus have to divide their time with their kids and their fighting. All that said…I would like to visit home again. That’s why we’re out here fighting…killing Evil, freeing slaves, holding back the monsters and humanoids that want to wreck civilization. So other people can have a “normal” life…because family and work and children and quiet should be normal.


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