| Amrel was
holding a private meeting with King Gerhart, Queen Marghrete, Geoffroy
d’Arcourt, Birghit and Alfred. The latter She had been introduced to by
the other members of that very small circle of confidants at the beginning
of the gathering. The monarchs had decided long ago that the Blue Dragon
had become the de-facto head of state and were quite happy to let her bear
the burden of making decisions for the affairs of the nation since they
were all taking an active part. All the members of their assembly knew
that each of them would be asked his or her opinion and counsel before
any resolution would be adopted and enacted.
The order of the day was the new code of laws
for criminals and the formation of a Council.
For once Geoffroy d’Arcourt, since he was directly
concerned, dared to make his opinion known before the conversation became
-“Gerhart,” he informally addressed his King,
as had become the habit during their private talks, “before we discuss
any new law, why don’t we decide how we are going to choose our government
since they will be the ones who will officially devise a charter for our
The King was only too happy to answer,
-“Actually, my dear wife here and I had an interesting
discussion about that particular point last night, or I should say Marghrete
battered my ears with her ideas… ouch!”
The Queen had just punched her husband in the
arm, and forgetting his company, Gerhart reacted to the surprising pain
-“I’ve heard of husbands beating their wives,
but this is ridiculous!”
-“Shall we say this is a gesture of affection?”
replied a straight-faced Queen.
-“You had better refrain from showing that kind
of tenderness in public!” remarked Geoffroy. “I doubt it would be appreciated
by some of your kin!”
-“Talking of kin,” stated Gerhart, “has anybody
heard from Simon de Montjoie yet?”
-“Sire, I’ve asked the Superintendent that very
question, but by way of answer I was curtly told not to worry!”
-“Well, you know what to investigate next, Alf,
don’t you?” Amrel cut in. “Gerhart, I think it is time we check your intelligence
service chief as well. I wonder if this man is really on your side and
totally devoted to the good of the nation.”
-“Come to think of it, I have to admit the reports
and help I ask of him are becoming increasingly sub-standard and. I haven’t
met him in person in ages. While I’m not complaining, I’m afraid your existence
has opened a wide schism between the two of us!”
-“Well, I’m afraid we don’t need him anyway!”
started Birghit. “When it comes to maintaining order, we are definitely
more efficient and diplomatic than that slime!
-“Alright, we shall delve into that problem in
good time.” replied Gerhart, “Now if you’ll allow me, may I introduce Marghrete’s
idea of choosing a government body?”
Seeing that nobody was ready to interrupt this
time, he continued,
-“ To keep all classes of our society happy,
we must give them equal opportunity in running the affairs of state. To
strike a good balance, we should have an equal number of representatives
for the nobility, the merchants and traders’ class and the farmers and
landowners. Seven for each group looks to me as a good enough number and
will allow the introduction of a single majority system for decision-makings.
-“Fine, but how are you going to choose them?”
-“How about if we decree that the King wishes
the people of Beaulieu to elect an assembly or council to help him govern
the country and create a Code of Laws and Conduct for all to respect and
obey? It shall take some time before we can make the decree known to all
corners of our nation and then determine each of the seven areas or districts
in which each representative will be elected. To instill some political
sense in our citizens’ minds, we also ought to limit the term to four years.
To avoid any vote manipulation, tenure should be limited to a single term.
This would pare down the number of candidates to only the truly committed
-“That sounds to me as good a start as we can
devise. But why don’t you decree a new law on criminals’ punishments right
now. That can always be amended or condoned by the Council later. The point
is that we need this labour force right now!”
-“You are right, but I shall personally confer
with the Doyen of our Tribunal first. If we can get him to agree with our
way of thinking, the more easily this particular law shall be implemented
for good by our future government!”
-“Not a bad idea.” approved Amrel, “Why don’t
we begin writing down the decree at once to have it duplicated in enough
copies by our scribes and have the Royal messengers carry and deliver them
all over the country as soon as possible?”
It was in the middle
of the afternoon. Ekan was lounging outside in the back garden in the company
of his daughter Mareeva and Wolf while Glamrun was enjoying a conversation
with the gardener, when Nicola, one of Shahzad’s granddaughters, who helped
the venerable spice merchant at his shop, barged in through the kitchen.
Her hair was disheveled, tears were leaving tracks in the dust on her cheeks,
and sobs were racking her body. Shahzad’s shop stood at the very end of
their street. The girl must have run all the way to arrive in such a sorry
state. Ekan was immediately on his feet and took her in his arms before
she collapsed with exhaustion and agitation.
-“ Grandfather… they are hurting grandfather!
They are hurting grandfather!”
The Black Dragon instantly understood what was
afoot. Turning to the kitchen door, he shouted:
Unaccustomed to such a harsh voice from the gentle
giant, the head of an anxious Naeem came through the door.
-“Call the Constabulary immediately and tell
them to at once to Shahzad’s shop!”
-“Just shut up and run! And tell them I’m on
my way, too!”
Ekan handed the girl to the comforting arms of
Grazel who had also come out of the kitchen to find out what the fuss was
The Black Dragon was about to launch himself
when Wolf’s voice stopped him in his tracks.
-“Wise One, stay away from me, will you?” screamed
Ekan in mindspeech.
Wolf’s voice brutally struck inside the black
giant’s brain. The pain made him raise his hands to his temples.
-“Ekan, son of Zamrel! Listen to me! You are
a human here. Think and act like one!”
Glamrun’s voice joined the Wolf’s inside Ekan’s
-“Wise One is right. You were about to forget
yourself! Keep control on yourself or you will put us all at risk!”
Ekan belatedly calmed down. Answers were not
needed. Taking a grip on himself he left at a steady pace.
The Wolf looked at the Old Wyrm:
-“Ancient One, we are leaving for Beaucastel
tonight! That conversation is sure to attract attention from unwanted quarters!”
-“Do you realize that by going to Beaulieu Realm,
we are actually getting nearer to danger!”
-“Where there is little chance of anybody checking
on us for a long while, since the first reaction would be to fly away from
peril! They will just look over our heads!”
-“You are right as usual.” admitted a disappointed
Glamrun. “We’ll have to tell our children on the way, but we had better
say our farewells to Mareeva, the gardener and Master Turgas!”
-“I’ll take care of the little girl. Look after
the big humans!”
While the Old Wyrm explained they had to leave
immediately to a visibly sad gardener, the Wolf nuzzled Mareeva’s hand.
The little girl’s hand moved to stroke the head of the animal, but the
later trotted away in the direction of the oliva trees. The Wolf stopped
and looked back at the child as if to signal her to follow. A nonplussed
Mareeva went after her friend. The Wolf halted and lay down in the shade
of the trees looking at the child to invite her to join her there.
The little girl sat by the animal and put her
arms around its neck. The Wolf licked Mareeva’s cheek.
-“Mareeva, can you hear me?”
The child looked around to find who had talked
to her but she could not see anybody.
-“Mareeva, can you hear me?”
-“Who’s talking to me?” the child answered in
The Wolf gave a light nip on her shoulder.
-“I am talking to you, Mareeva!”
Mareeva’s eyes went round.
-“But you cannot talk! You are not even speaking!”
Wise One’s eyes stared at the girl’s face.
-“Close your eyes. You still can hear me, can’t
The child nodded, her eyes shut. A smile came
on her lips.
-“You speak in my head! How can you do that?”
-“Simple. Try and do the same. Just think your
Mareeva concentrated and soon found she could
effortlessly communicate with her mind. What she did not know was that
such a capacity had been offered to her by the Wolf.
-“Now that you can hear me, listen carefully.
Mentor and I have to leave immediately for an important reason that I cannot
explain. You just have to trust us. One day, when you are a big girl, you
will understand and approve. But for the moment we have to separate.”
Looking at the child’s sad eyes, the animal went
-“Do not be so sad because the two of us will
talk to each other in this way wherever we are, even on the other side
of the world! But you must not tell anyone, even your father! Can you promise
me to keep our secret safe?”
Wise One observed Mareeva’s face. Tears were
about to flow any time but the little girl finally nodded her assent. The
Wolf made to depart, but Mareeva clung to her mane for a last embrace.
The animal patiently waited, licking her protégé’s cheek.
The girl slowly released her friend and stood unmoving under the trees
while the Wolf loped away.
-“When are you going to be reasonable, you damn
stupid old stubborn man!” screamed Gardan at Shahzad, the owner of the
The thug’s two henchmen were holding the shopkeeper
by the arms pinning him on a low stool over which the villain towered.
-“Talk away, Gardan! You won’t get anything from
me! I’m too old to be impressed by your menaces!”
But Shahzad’s battered body did not show the
same resolution as his voice did. Both his eyes were half shut black and
his nose was broken, oozing a trail of blood down to his chin. He probably
had a couple of cracked ribs, as each breath was becoming excruciating.
He nonetheless courageously went on in spite of his rapidly failing health,
-“Your kind forgets that things have changed.
Your pathetic strong-arm tactics will not force anybody into your obedience.
Do you think that the other members of the Guild will submit or let you
continue your criminal activities with impunity?”
This could prove wishful thinking on my part,
somberly reflected Shahzad. If nobody came quickly, he would be done for.
Gardan emitted a cruel laugh.
-“Ah! The Guild! Who hasn’t heard of that silly
association of gutless merchants and taverners! And where are they now?
Tell me! The only Guild that you will hear of is our protection! So if
you don’t comply with our advice, not only you will have to answer to us,
but we certainly won’t be here to guarantee your safety when less tender-hearted
ones come to you!”
Shahzad spat at him:” You slime! You haven’t
started anything yet! I just happened to be the first one in line! How
far do you believe the three of you will go?”
Gardan’s face came close to the stalwart shopkeeper’s,
-“You sorry excuse for a man, if you do not bend
to our commands, I shall have all your bones broken as an example for your
associates to witness at leisure! What do you say to that?”
A cold voice came out behind his back,
-“Gardan, the Guild has come to you, and you
are the one to be used as an example for the scum of your kind!”
Gardan turned to face the newcomer and to assault
him in a rage over this untimely interruption, but he brutally stopped
instead when he saw the large figure waiting for him inside the frame of
the shop entrance door.
-“Gardan, do you remember the day at the Green
Anchor when I told you that I had marked you and never to come back in
our street? Well, the day of reckoning has come to you!”
-“You stupid mountain! I’m not Dravan! Do you
think I’m afraid of you?”
-“You should be, even if you have managed to
convince yourself that everyone else is more stupid than you are!”
But Ekan grew tired of talking and before anyone
could react, in one single bound, swatted Gardan aside, landed in front
of Shahzad’s stool, grabbed his shocked tormentors by their necks and slammed
their heads together. Dropping the unconscious bandits, he slowly turned
to their leader sprawled on the floor,
-“Gardan, your two comrades are lucky as they
will survive that knock. But I cannot say the same for you!”
His left hand grabbed the man’s neck and slowly
lifted the whole body until the thug’s toes lost contact with the ground
and cocked his right hand back. The villain’s bloated face grew wild when
he saw his death coming.
-“Jonas, don’t!” shouted someone behind Ekan’s
back. The Black Dragon momentarily stopped his fist but did not look behind
Constable Petren repeated,
-“Jonas, don’t kill him! Don’t go as low as that
filth! At least, relent for the good of the Guild!”
The black giant stared at his victim for a long
time. For one terrible moment events seemed to stand in precarious balance,
about to sway to any finality.
Petren and his guards held their breath.
Gardan’s face had grown purple, his tongue jutting
out of his drooling mouth.
Ekan’s fingers relaxed. With a last look at the
thug, he dropped him aside in profound lassitude. Ignoring the guards behind
him, he came to Shahzad,
-“Are you alright?”
-“Well, it could be better,” bravely replied
the stout old man, “but the bastards broke my nose and I can’t breathe
properly. Well, I’m still alive, aren’t I?”
-“Let me have a look at your nose.”
Ekan knew he had to reset it at once or it would
stay crooked for the rest of Shahzad’s life. He gently took it between
his thumb and flexed index.
-“Shahzad, close your eyes and relax.”
Not waiting for his friend to comply, he reset
the nose in a quick snap. The old man passed out.
-“My dear friend, this is probably for the best.
I shall be able to look after you more easily in this state!”
He gently took the falling body into his massive
arms and proceeded to carry him to a more comfortable spot.
Petren’s voice was heard from behind him,
-“Jonas, thank you. You did more than save Shahzad
today! A lot of people will be grateful to you for that!”
The Constable added in a more somber tone,
-“You know you will have to report to the Judge
once again. I’m sorry, but this is the law. Will you come when I return
to fetch you?
-“I will, Constable Petren, I will. But pray
do me a favour. Send a physician for Shahzad there. I shall take care of
Petren saluted Jonas and signaled to his guards
to carry away a babbling Gardan and his two unconscious henchmen.
Arnaud de Betancourt,
Doyen of the Tribunal of Beaucastel, and effectively the highest ranked
magistrate in the whole of Beaulieu, waited in the Antechamber of the Palace,
a name given to a kind of parlour located inside the Palace of Beaulieu
reserved for high dignitaries on official visits. Gerhart had sent him
an escort to accompany him from his estates, a rare honour accorded only
to individuals of the greatest importance. Those particular attentions
made the Doyen ever so slightly apprehensive. The present King was showing
more mettle than his predecessors. The magistrate had seen too many sloths
and whimpering fools during his tenure that he did not know yet on which
foot to dance with a King who not so long ago was following the steps of
his ancestors. Actually, he welcomed a strong ruler, only so as to lighten
his burden. In fact, Arnaud knew about the affairs of state as well as
anybody else. He did not need a king or agents. In his business he just
needed to keep his ears and eyes wide open since all miscreants were bound
to face him someday.
He was deep in rumination when Gerhart made his
entrance alone dressed in simple apparel with no visible mark of his rank.
Arnaud stood up.
Gerhart raised his hand and invited him to resume
his seat Only then did the monarch sit down himself in an unadorned chair
in front of the only authority really truly recognized in his Realm yet.
-“Good morning to you, Doyen! May I presume to
call you Arnaud, as I would prefer to be called Gerhart. I was born with
that name and the title it carries. But let us be frank about it, I still
do not deserve this damn title. I need your help to achieve any kind of
recognition for my position if we are going to govern this nation as we
should in these difficult times!”
The Doyen kept silent. He certainly expected
more than rhetoric and great words before taking any kind of decision at
whose advice to follow or orders to obey.
Gerhart understood the magistrate’s reticence.
-“Arnaud, I shall not bore you any longer. Let
me explain the situation as plainly as possible: as you have probably heard,
we are planning to clean this pigsty we call our capital. To that effect
our good new friends, the Dwarves, have agreed to devise a whole new system
of sewers and water pipes as well as dig new wells, and do nothing less
than equip every house with facilities both of us know we cannot do without,
but consciously avoid to mention. But what you do not know is that we have
suddenly found ourselves in the need to shore up our southern borders,
namely at the place called the Pass. Although the Fire Mountains have protected
us from invasions or attacks from the south for as long as our history
can recall, dark tidings have reached us from that unknown land. Please
do not ask me how we came to that information. The least I can tell you
is that it was not provided by our dear secret service. Danger will eventually
come from two directions: from the sea and from the Pass. For the moment,
the sea is not too much of our concern, but more that of Dunlago’s, although
we shall have to join forces and the sooner, the better. But the Pass will
have to be blocked and fortified in the shortest time as possible. We shall
have the help of the Dwarves again and expect a few more of them to come
and join their kin. But even with their aid, we are still sorely short
-“Sire,… Gerhart, all this I easily understand.
But I do not see where you need me, less a judge for that matter.”
-“I’m sorry, but I had to go through those details,
unrelated as they may seem, because to obtain enough labour, we shall have
to change, or let us be frank about it if I may repeat myself, we shall
have to create laws.”
-“Do you wish me to write down a code of laws?”
-“Meaning no disrespect, no. This would be tantamount
to autarchy or despotism. We propose to decree the election of an Assembly
or Council to survey the need, to create and implement laws, which means
that the Tribunal, the King and everybody else will answer to the same
laws. But the reason I’m calling on you is that we need to modify the punishments
for committed crimes to supply us with labour.”
-“You have me lost here, Gerhart.”
-“Arnaud, how many people do we have in our prisons
-“More than I care to count, unfortunately!”
sincerely replied the Doyen.
-“Right, and what are they doing at this very
-“Nothing, of course,… Oh, I see!”
-“Yes?” answered a smiling Gerhart.
-“You want me to change the sentences and commute
them into forced labour, am I right?”
His interlocutor nodded his agreement.
-“But” continued the magistrate, “I shall have
to devise different lengths of service to the state, as you probably want
to call them, according to the crime. Am I still right?”
-“Arnaud, believe me, this is not flattery, but
you have raised to your position for some very good reasons!”
-“Humph!” retorted a deprecating judge. “I have
nonetheless two questions for you.”
-“First, what shall our dear prisoners do when
they are not working?”
-“We were thinking of having them serve as labour
for one third of the day, clean their prisons and cells for one more third
of the day where they shall learn about hygiene firsthand, and sleep the
rest of the day. We shall provide them with proper food. Nobody will be
allowed to accuse us of creating a new form of slavery!”
-“Fine, I suppose it should work. Now, my second
question: what about those sentenced for the gibbet?”
-“Life sentence!” Curtly answered a grim monarch.
The Doyen looked at his King, thinking hard.
A small grin came on his face.
-“This is a fairly novel idea but worth a try.
At least, we shall make those otherwise useless creatures serve our country
and at the same time reduce crime to a great extent with such a deterrent!
I shall order the Tribunal at once to write a new sentence-grading system.”
The Doyen rose. Gerhart did the same.
Arnaud held his hand forward.
-“Gerhart, may I have your promise, as a King,
and I hope as a friend, that you shall not take advantage of the new laws
for your personal aggrandizement?”
Gerhart took the Doyen’s hand in his own in a
-“You have my promise. May I count on you to
advise me and keep me on the right path in the future?”
-“This is a great honour you are making to your
humble servant, my King!”
It was late at night.
No more dinners were to be ordered. The kitchen was being cleaned, although
Naeem was conducting a last check on the stores and the sauce stocks for
the next day. The fisherman’s son had taken to cooking in no time at all,
and his diligence and curiosity had endeared him to the female staff and
other servants. As predicted, more people of all ages and abilities were
applying for jobs at the Blue Mermaid and neighboring businesses. At long
last, the innkeeper could take a few breathers and enjoy the company and
chat of friends in the lounge, or at the counter where his older patrons
enjoyed their beer standing in close proximity with the owner of the place.
Ekan decided to join Master Turgas at his bar.
As he entered the lounge he noticed Petren at
a table on his own with a tankard of beer.
The Constable signaled to Jonas to join him at
The Black Dragon filled two tankards with home-brewed
dark ale and sat next to he City Guard.
-“Good evening, Petren! This one’s on me. Cheers
to your health!”
-“That is much appreciated. Cheers to your health,
too, although I’m not really worried about it. I just can’t imagine you
sick or harmed!”
Ekan had the grace to smile.
-“We don’t we see you here very often, Petren.
Is it a social visit or an unofficial business of yours?”
-“Quite direct, aren’t we? I suppose I deserve
it. I came for both. Your ale is by far the best in town. You should make
more of it and sell it. The other reason is that the Judge is probably
going to sentence Gardan and his thugs and you will be called as a witness
-“Well, I hope the case is clear-cut this time.
In fact, I’m glad you came here. I do have to ask you for a favour.”
-“Please do. I hope I can grant it.”
-“I need to talk to the Judge on a personal matter.
Do you think you could arrange a private interview between the two of us
before the court takes place?”
-“That is very irregular, indeed. But it just
happens that the Judge is very interested in you. He knows you are behind
this idea of a Guild and he approves. He has a few questions for you on
matters that could help with life in Dunlago.”
-“How’s that? Between you and me, I also wanted
to propose a few suggestions. Some of them might actually please you, I
-“Would you care to share your confidence?”
-“Sorry, I don’t know what the Judge will say.
But I promise you will be the first to be informed. Let’s hope he will
-Mysteries, mysteries! Oh well! I ought to be
grateful in any case. How about late tomorrow afternoon?”
-“Should be fine with me.”
-“Alright. I’ll come myself to accompany you.
Let’s make it official. We do not want tongues wagging, do we?”
-“No, surely we don’t!” laughed Ekan. “My sincere
-“You are most welcome!”
Both men struck their tankards in agreement.
The weather along the
shore south of Dunlago was gradually turning milder. The land had changed
from sparsely grown expanses to rolling green hills where large herds of
goats and sheep were busy grazing. Wolf had problems keeping her preying
eyes from all that juicy food.
-“Wise One, I’m afraid times of hunting in the
northern reaches and free food at Dunlago are finished. But do not worry,
I shall take good care of both of us! I have plenty of money to buy all
the meat you want!”
-“Ancient one, I will never understand this notion
of buying your food!”
-“Wise One, away in nature, you can hunt and
eat your fill. Here, people are growing food and you must earn it!”
-“Why do we have to go through that land, then?”
-“Wise One, may I remind you that you were the
one who wanted to leave Dunlago and travel to Beaucastel. This is the fastest
way. Unless you want us spend months in the Steppes, where I’m afraid you’ll
grow hungry all the time!”
-“Why do I have to rely on somebody else for
my food, please tell me!”
-This is what you call companionship. I provide
you with the food. You grace me with your presence and good counsel!”
-Then why do I have the impression I am depending
more and more on your good services?”
-“Well, this is life, as humans would say!”
Ekan waited in a Dunlago
Court room reserved for the Judge’s guests. Very few people were aware
of the existence of that particular place. Petren had told him that only
Anthony and Gladys knew of it, as far as he was aware. Of course the Constable’s
predecessors must have used it but none were presently alive which suited
the Black Dragon to perfection.
Ekan did not have to wait very long before the
most feared man in the capital made his appearance.
-“Ah, Jonas! Good to meet you again! It seems
that this time both of us want to talk to each other. I cannot say that
happens often enough, and I hope this time it shall be for our mutual pleasure!”
he genially began.
He sat down at a low table next to Ekan where
servants had brought coffee and cakes. The coffee was of the best quality
and the cakes were a new experience entirely.
The Black Dragon waited until the man had drunk
some of his own coffee before addressing the matter of his visit.
-“Judge, I also sincerely hope, as you say, that
we will enjoy this talk, although I would not dare to presume!”
The Judge lifted his eyes from his cup.
-“You have come to mention the problem with those
three thugs, haven’t you? I’m ready to make an example of their sentences
if that is what you wish. I’m getting sick of this kind of criminal racketing,
-“You have put your finger on the right point
as usual, but we might slightly differ on the example.”
-“Make yourself clear, Jonas.”
-“Sorry, I stand corrected. But before that,
although your time is precious, I wish to speak on my own presence here
-“I see no problem with that since this was exactly
what I wished to discuss. Tell me, Jonas, how can a man be so strong? However
big you might be, I’m not ready to accept that one lone man can rip the
head off another man like you did on that slavers’ ship! I’ve also heard
about that tale of your crushing oliva tree fruit into oil. I have read
reports of your treatment of thugs twice now. A man you call Mentor comes
out of nowhere to meet you at the inn you work in. Totally alien Dwarves
seem to know you and went directly to the Blue Mermaid. Shall I go any
The Black Dragon looked at the Judge. He did
not know whether to smile or frown at the man’s intelligence gathering
He opted to laugh.
-“I’ve come to the right place, Judge. I see
that Dunlago does not possess one but at least two secret agencies! But
I’m inclined to say that yours is far more effective that the Vanenklaars’!”
The Judge’s eyebrows started to crease at this
Ekan continued on a more serious tone.
-“I think I had better be honest with you Judge,
and this is certainly no jest from me! The time is ripe for a few changes
and both of us will have to work in close association if we want Dunlago,
the Land of the Races of the Desert and the Sea and its people to thrive
and prosper. We have a Monarchy in Dunlago, but as far as Kings and Queens
are concerned, they come and go. You are the true power in this land and
you have always made good use of it. You have always struck me as somebody
out of the ordinary, if I may be so bold as to say!”
The judge stolidly listened, and only his deepening
frown showed his deepening concern and edginess.
-“Jonas, I’m afraid you are presuming a
lot. I daresay you are coming very close to high treason, too! What allows
you to suggest that we should ally with each other to rule this country?”
Ekan did not bother to apologize this time.
-“Judge, as you have rightly guessed, I’m nothing
of the ordinary. I could think of many ways to prove it and cow you into
immediate obedience, but I hold your friendship and understanding too dear
to me to pretend to bully you into my service!”
The Judge was about to make an angry reply, when
Ekan suddenly laid the palms of both hands flat on the marble surface of
the low table. That gesture seemed so strangely out of place that the venerable
man checked his ire to look at them.
The hands were slowly changing. They were growing,
not only the fingers but the nails, too. Black scales appeared on the skin.
Long sharp talons materialized in place of the nails. Their pointed ends
penetrated the marble with a teeth-shattering screech. The Judge recoiled
from the table in growing horror.
-“What magic is that? Are you trying to trick
me or what?”
Where more common people would have fallen onto
their knees or fled screaming, the Judge showed remarkable restraint and
a stout heart in face of the unknown and perilous.
Jonas answered in a low rumbling voice:
-“Since seeing is not believing, touch me!”
The Judge did not move.
-“Touch me! Or shall I have to take you in my
The Judge, belatedly realizing that for the first
time in his long adult life he was not master of the situation, approached
the talon of the extended scaled paws. His trembling right hand reached
for the obsidian nails, crept up along them to touch the scales under which
he discovered the terrible heat of a dragon’s blood.
Snatching his hand back, he stuttered in disbelief:
-“You… You are a dragon?”
-“Yes, I am. At you and your people’s service.”
The most feared single person in Dunlago passed
his hands over his face drenched in cold sweat. The man possessed enormous
strength and control in spite of his precarious position. Finally taking
hold of himself the Judge ventured:
-“Jonas, and of course this is not your true
name, do you realize that today you are asking me to renounce the beliefs
and convictions of a whole lifetime? How am I going to assume responsibilities,
knowing a creature of unimaginable might will be constantly hovering above
Ekan resumed his usual warm voice and replied
with a smile:
-“Judge, that is where you make a mistake. First,
I certainly cannot afford to constantly reveal myself, lest I bring unwanted
powers on our heads. Secondly, I definitely do not want to interfere with
the affairs of my adopted nation! You will have to continue your work with
the only difference that you will have a better grasp of the whole situation!”
-“Jonas, since you have not answered to my hint
about your real name, I shall desist on that particular point.” answered
the Judge who was fast coming back to his senses. “But I’m not young. Actually,
I only have a few years left. What are you going to do about my successors?”
Jonas raised his open hand, back to normal, to
stop the magistrate.
-“This is where you are making your second mistake,
if I can call it so! You are going to live many years, more than you can
imagine! For the simple reason that you are the only person qualified for
your job, and that I know it will take many more years before you can nurture
anybody to your level and standards! And this will be your first task!
I still have two more tasks for you to take care of at once, and then I
shall leave you in peace for a long while. At least, I hope so!”
The Judge, slowly reconciling himself with the
enormity of the responsibility enforced on his person, replied with an
increasingly tiring voice:
-“Tell me, then. I have no choice, do I?”
-“No, and I’m truly sorry. But somebody has to
do it, so here we are! First, you must convince our King and whoever else
is in charge, to build a large enough navy for the sole purpose of fighting
and destroying the slavers’ ships and trade once for all. But the true
reason behind that, and you don’t have to divulge this, is that we shall
need a real navy in the very near future to be able to fend off an attack
or invasion from the south!”
-“What! Nobody has heard of anything like an
invading force coming out of the south continent! We don’t even know if
it ever exists!”
-“Where do you think the slavers come from?”
The Judge looked at the mien of a very serious
Ekan for a very long few seconds.
Faced with that terrible truth, he asked in a
-“What is the last task?”
-“About these thugs’ sentences…”
-“ Bring the accused
forth!” a stern judge commanded the Guards behind Gardan and his two henchmen.
The Constabulary roughly pushed their charges
Petren and Ekan were standing on the side. No
jury was needed this time as the culprits could do nothing but accept the
charges leveled against them.
-“Gardan, you and your two comrades have been
found guilty of racketing, assault, and causing serious injuries to a senior
citizen and his business. Had I not been in a good mood, I would have made
an example of your sentence to criminals of your sort and sent you to the
gallows! Instead, and your punishment will be made public on this very
day, the three of you are condemned to twenty years of forced labour to
a community of my choice outside this city.”
-“What? That’s rubbish! There has never been
such a sentence of forced labour…”
A Guard cuffed him on the back of the head to
keep him silent.
The Judge pitilessly went on:
-“The law has changed, if you want to know! And
I can tell you that you shall not be alone! All sentences are going to
be amended to become forced labour of varying lengths! The country has
had enough of feeding your kind in jails for free! It is about time that
you made yourselves useful! Dismissed!”
The Guards took the villains out of the Court
Room, but Petren and Ekan stayed in.
The Judge turned to Petren:
-“Petren, from tomorrow, I shall give you a daily
list of prisoners whose sentences are going to be amended at once. I shall
have a ship prepared that will take them all under your guard to Villefranche
in Beaulieu. There, Royal Guards will take them to Beaucastel where they
shall serve their sentences helping our neighbours rebuild the sanitation
systems of their cities and later shore up the southern defenses at the
Pass. The latter is for your ears only, but make their punishments known
to whoever wants to hear it! It will also make everybody realize we care
about our diplomacy!”
An uncertain Petren had some difficulty hiding
-“Judge, not meaning any disrespect to your person
or any slur to Jonas, but why are you telling me all this in front of our
The magistrate crossed his fingers under his
-“Petren, from today Jonas is part of a very
restricted circle comprising of you, me and him. Constable, I do not have
to explain why the two of us have chosen to closely work together to the
ignorance of the King and his agents until now. I have decided to include
Jonas because of his obvious qualities and hidden talents. It is my belief
that the two of you will complement and form the perfect team. Devise a
way to communicate between the two of you. Nobody should discover the reasons
behind your relations, except for the evident ones. Jonas, inform me through
Petren only. We do not want people to see you too often in this building.
Twice is enough. Thank you, gentlemen!”
Once they were out, Petren asked:
-“Jonas, what did the Judge mean by “hidden talents?”
Ekan emitted a deprecating laugh:
-“I suppose he meant the fact that I can write
and read and that I have good ears and good eyes in the right places. During
that interview I asked you to arrange, he asked me if I would be willing
to work for him after I suggested that new kind of sentence. Mentor had
told me about the innovation down in Beaucastel, and I thought we could
smartly get rid of that scum once and for all without having to harm or
kill anybody, and at the same time provide our neighbours with some needed
The Constable walked for a while in silence.
-“I must admit that was a great idea, but why
do I have the gnawing feeling it is only part of something far bigger?”
-“Petren, sometimes you will have to forget your
investigative reflexes. You see something sneaky everywhere!” replied a
-“State your name and
your purpose!” shouted a voice from behind the trees.
-“I am Flint Ironfoot and these are the Dwarves
from the Kingdom Under The Mountain! We have been sent to you by our King
as a delegation of all the Dwarves Clans living in the Iron Crags! We are
seeking a meeting with your Queen Ellana! Have the grace to show yourselves
as we have come in peace!”
-“How can that be? You are calling yourselves
Dwarves, but we have never seen anyone of your Race! The lives of the Elves
should be long enough to have remembered such of your kind! Nobody has
told us of a Kingdom Under The Mountain or Iron crags for that matter!”
They were getting nowhere. The Dwarves had waited
all day to be granted the entrance to the Elf Forest to no avail. The Elves
had not shown themselves either, shouting from behind the trees. Numnir
knew where they were, and the sentinels were sorely undermanned. That could
explain why they did not want to reveal themselves. He supposed such a
precaution should be accepted. After all, the Elf Kingdom would be in the
thick of things if an open conflict occurred with whatever lurked south
of the Fire Mountains.
The big Dwarf changed tack in spite of hid reluctance
to give away the smallest hint of his knowledge of the denizens of the
-“Will you call Wilfred, Captain of the Army
of the Elves, then? I’m sure he will vouch for me!”
The mention of the name of the mysterious Elf,
who had arrived in their midst from nowhere a few months ago, certainly
gained the attention of the Elves in charge of guarding their Forest. They
had recently received orders from their Queen to tighten the security of
their borders, although they felt quite confident that Ellana’s spells
would suffice to repulse any unwelcome intrusion.
There were only three of them in that area and
they could ill afford to send anyone of them to their Queen until relief
would come. They had to stall those strange creatures for a while still.
Their leader called the Dwarves:
-“How did you happen by the name of Her Majesty’s
Captain? If you know so much about us, why do you need our Queen’s permission
The Elf felt a light touch on his shoulder before
he could finish his sentence. He turned to face the individual who had
dared interrupt him so rudely. He froze when he recognized Wilfred towering
a head above his own. Dargelblad was smiling.
-“Thank you, soldier! I will take care of that!”
The guard found himself speechless. How could
the silver-haired Elf have come behind him without being detected by any
of them? Moreover, no sooner than this morning, he had been told Wilfred
was patrolling the Eastern shore hundred of miles away.
The Silver Dragon remonstrated with the stricken
-“Straighten up, soldier! What will our guests
think of our vaunted army? Show some mettle! Now, if the three of you would
Dargelblad resolutely went out of the trees followed
the three apprehensive Elf guards.
He went directly to Numnir, and throwing all
protocols to the winds, they heartily shook hands in the humans’ manner.
They chose to speak aloud in the common language
of Alymndes, although the other Elves still had some trouble managing the
tongue. The Dwarves, on the other hand, already had a good smattering of
it, thanks to their sojourns in Dunlago and Beaulieu and Numnir’s constant
lectures during their voyages and travels.
Dargelblad thought to ask Ellana to instruct
her subjects to master the language as soon as possible, however uncouth
it might sound to her haughty followers. Which also meant he would have
to waste more time with that lot.
Looking at the bulky luggage the Dwarves were
shouldering, he asked:
-“Shall I send for help to carry all that baggage?
I can’t start to imagine how much those packs weigh!”
-“If you want to humiliate our people, there
would not be any better way! No, believe me, they’ll manage as long as
they can enjoy the shade of your trees!”
-“Well, so be it! No point waiting any longer.
Just follow me.”
Turning to the guards:
-“Soldiers, go back to your post and continue
your vigil! I shall have the pleasure to recommend you for your steadfastness
to our Queen.”
-“That was smooth!” commented Numnir in mindspeech.
-“My people are a susceptible lot. A well-placed
compliment does work wonders!” replied his brother in the same manner.
Numnir and his Dwarves followed Dargelblad in
single file into the mysterious Elf Forest.
The Elf Forest was in
Wilfred had arrived the previous day with a group
of the eleven of the strangest creatures Elves had ever met in their Realm,
or so to speak outside. Creatures of legend they were. The tall people
of the woods had a lot of prejudices against the other races, but the Dwarves
evidently provoked extreme reactions with their short stocky bodies, their
beards and their enormous feet that could be heard trample the soft forest
soil from miles away.
Queen Ellana had sternly warned her subjects
to behave in the most respectful and welcoming manner, but some individuals
were sorely tried in their personal feelings. On the other hand, their
Queen had proved the perfect host.
Her grace, gentility and deference had left the
Dwarves dazzled and speechless. Fortunately, Numnir had smoothly assumed
the role of the guests on their behalf, or the Elves had would have thought
his companions mute or dumb. The Court had a fair knowledge of the common
language, so communication had not become much of a problem when tongues
started to loose later.
The Dwarves had retired early as they certainly
needed rest after having crossed half the Forest before reaching Queen
Tents had been prepared for them, but it would
take a long time for the inhabitants of the mountains to get comfortable
under such flimsy protection in spite of the very clement climate.
The following day witnessed unusual activity.
Queen Ellana had ordered a large tent to be erected to house all the guests
at the banquet offered in the honour of their special visitors. The occasion
in itself was not of great import as Elves were fond of revelry and never
missed an opportunity to celebrate. What started to rouse the interest
of the denizens of the Forest was that everybody had been firmly asked
out of the tent just before the festivities were supposed to begin. Ellana’s
subjects’ curiosity was further exacerbated when the Dwarves appeared,
carrying boxes of all kinds and sizes out of their own abodes into the
Questions flew but no answers came. Everybody
understood they would have to wait until the feast began and the usually
staid Elves were openly fidgeting.
Their plight was mercifully ended just as the
sun started sinking behind the trees when a herald announced the banquet
was ready. Even so, proper decorum forced everyone to enter the cloth hall
in a single file and in the order of his status. The Queen, Dargelblad
and Numnir, as well the Prince Consort and the Dwarves were already seated,
clearly demonstrating the importance accorded to the guests to the detriment
and chagrin of the Elf nobility. The latter, to the last man and woman,
had to walk to the Royal Seat to salute their sovereign before proceeding
to his and her predetermined place along the banquet table. But once seated,
every Elf could not help but observe and become further intrigued by a
white silk cloth covering their dinner set, whereas Ellana, Aerdhel, the
Dragons and the Dwarves were facing an uncovered set of elven-made plate,
fork, knife, chopsticks, spoon and glasses. The Dwarves did not show any
curiosity at their outlandish dining set as they had had plenty of time
to examine and train with such unusual utensils before coming to the Elf
When at last all the guests had been seated,
Queen Ellana rose up and addressed the assembly:
-“Honoured guests, faithful servants of the Forest!
As I may presume you all know, we are here assembled today to welcome the
vanguard and illustrious ambassadors of a great Race whose very existence
we had all forgotten in our ignorance and self-centered pride! When I say
vanguard, it is my sincere belief we are witnessing the advent of a very
long and fruitful relation between our two people. By illustrious, this
is how you shall call our guests once you have seen what they had brought
us, in spite of what some of you might have thought or said, for which
I wish to offer my heartfelt apologies!”
The Queen was not known to apologize or reckon
her faults if she ever had any, and her words put a few of her courtiers
to shame on that day. Some could feel her displeasure and discovered they
would be accounted for.
-“But I am quite certain that all who had doubted
our guests’ intentions and abilities will be the first to offer their thanks
The sarcasm was not lost. What was supposed to
be a source of festivities was quickly turning into a masterly remonstrance
of her subjects.
-“I know Dwarves are people of few words but
of great deeds. Why do you not lift the napkin in front of you to discover
what presents they have brought all the way from the Iron Crags for your
Every courtier, with as much grace and restraint
they could muster, obeyed their Queen to unveil what was under their napkins.
Few people in Alymndes could boast they had ever seen a truly astonished
Elf in their life. But what the Dwarves were witnessing was the whole of
the Forest nobility and authority gaping in mute surprise and wonder.
The knife, the fork and spoon were lying in their
normal place, but each plate was of enameled pottery with patterns, motifs
and colours of their own. The Dwarves had chosen subjects drawn and submitted
to their skills by Numnir, as the Dwarves knew so little about the outside
world before they began to heat their kilns. Some nobles were lovingly
tracing their fingers along the leaves, fruit and plants so dear to them.
Next, as their eyes went beyond their plates, they discovered a pair of
chopsticks made of a substance they had never seen. Pottery they knew,
although enamel was a discovery, but glass intrigued them endlessly. Each
set of chopsticks was made of that substance in many colours interlacing
each other as if they were flowing through and away. Next as each napkin
was completely lifted, a drinking glass appeared to further heighten the
astonishment of his recipient. Each drinking vessel had been manufactured
with flash glass of two different tinted layers over a transparent one.
Motifs had been cut and carved out the glass at varying depths to make
them appear in rich lights and shades. Every Elf was holding his glass
in front of his eyes, unendingly twirling it in the light of the fire globes
hung to the roof of the tent which soon resonated with the amazed exclamations
of joy of the happy Elves.
Those, who just a short while ago had come to
sneer at their visitors or worse mock them, were presently unashamedly
vying for their attentions, full of praise and questions, although Court
rules prevented them to leave their seats and join the beaming Dwarves.
Ellana raised her hands to command silence.
-“Gentlemen, Ladies! Are you forgetting your
station and manners?”
She continued in a thinly veiled mocking tone:
-“Behold! Long have I waited to witness the flower
of the servants of the Forest throw their reserve and pride to the winds
and at last show some true admiration and modesty for something not of
their own making! I shall cherish this precious moment for the rest of
my life! I hereby pray the Kingdom Under The Mountain to accept my humble
thanks and proclaim all Dwarves Elf-friends!”
Turning to Numnir:
-“But words are only words. Dear Flint Ironfoot,
Ambassador of Drumbeat Hammerblow, King of all Dwarven Races, would you
be as kind to repeat for the benefit of our audience what you so eloquently
advocated to us last night?”
Numnir stood up and bowed to the Queen.
-“Your Majesty is too kind when she praises the
Dwarves for something they have done all their lives. We have come to your
Forest, not only to offer you our crafts, but also to discover your arts
and culture and propose an exchange of skills as well as combine our efforts
into the creation of new artworks.”
The assembly went silent for real. Numnir had
the satisfaction to discover he had struck a chord in the Elves’ hearts.
He had their attention riveted to his words of art and crafts. However,
there were other aspects he wished to discuss.
-“I sense that my speech is of some appeal to
you, so if you would allow me to continue in spite of all the great food
and drink waiting for us, I shall make an outline of what we would like
to submit to your judgement. The material used to manufacture the chopsticks
and wine cups is called glass. The technique, as for enamel, the material
covering your plates, is not too hard to replicate. The problem resides
in the forges, ovens and intense heat needed for long periods to achieve
perfection. As far as I know, only Dwarves can endure long exposure to
such extremes in temperature. Natural crystals holds few secrets for you,
but they are brittle and hard to fashion, whereas glass, although breakable,
can be molded into any shape and tinted in any colour. It is easy to polish,
cut or carve. We dwarves are proficient with knives, chisels and hammers,
but when it comes to minute details or treating silver or other soft metals,
our big hands are too clumsy. Now for a start, if we could for example
fashion chopsticks, wine glasses and mirrors with silver or copper holds
and frames, we would create an unequalled product to sell or barter. We
have already seen how quickly our crafts have become popular and in demand
in Dunlago and Beaucastel, and our kin there have standing orders for at
least a year. I know your love of the wines of Beaulieu, the spices of
Dunlago and the soft skins of the Steppes. Shall I continue? As a last
word, I have to confess trade is the main reason why we Dwarves have decided
to come out of our mountains!”
The Elves were gaping at the Flint Dragon’s words.
Rarely had anybody brought them to think and reevaluate so suddenly that
they had great difficulties to organize their thoughts and to formulate
the questions that crowded their heads. Their Queen saved them from more
-“Flint Ironfoot, Ambassador of the Kingdom Under
The Mountain, many of us, if not all, will remember this day when somebody
had to come among us from so far to provide our Forest with some greatly
needed challenge and mettle! Why do we not start celebrating our good fortune?
Gentle servants, bring us drink and food! Musicians, to your instruments!”
As the guests and Elves got down to the serious
business of eating, drinking and reveling, Ellanna, pointedly ignoring
Aerdhel, turned to Numnir.
-“Pray tell me, good Ironfoot, how long have
you known our dear Captain Wilfred?”
Taking his time to savour the fine wine in his
glass, Numnir chose to answer indirectly, looking at his brother instead
-“For quite a while, have I not, Wilfred?”
Dargelblad kept smiling in silence.
Queen Ellanna flippantly retorted:
-“If you have known Wilfred that long, am I right
to assume you are of the same kind, or maybe that you are kin?”
Numnir faced the beautiful Elf.
-“Ellana, how careless of you! Even in the sanctity
of your Realm, would you think it absolutely safe to proffer such questions?
If you believe we are kin indeed, why do you have to ask? I have immense
respect for you and you are very dear to, shall I say, us, but time is
not right for revelation.”
The Queen was about to answer in anger when Dargelblad
-“Ellana, you asked for that! Ironfoot, in his
single sentence, has told you more than I have told you myself! He is a
very direct sort and cares little for refinement or manners, but that is
all you will extract from him!”
Numnir bowed to the Queen.
-“Ellana, accept my profound apologies, but Wilfred
is right. Would you allow me to address another subject of more immediate
Ellana stared at the Flint Dwarf, but try as
she might, her magic could not pierce the barrier erected in his mind.
There was little point in wasting her energy as Ironfoot was evidently
of the same brand as her intractable Captain.
Her inborn political acumen took over. She raised
her glass in acceptance as a warm smile lit her face.
-“Well, at least, I hope you will prove more
cooperative than our good friend Wilfred! I’m all ears, Ironfoot!”
Numnir returned her smile.
-“Ellana, I’m talking to the Queen right now.
I’m not teaching you anything new when I’m telling you that Alymndes consists
of five distinct nations. Some have long been established while others
are still in the making. You probably have already deducted that five entities
are influencing and trying to steer each nation onto a common path for
our mutual benefit, and sometime in the future to coordinate our overall
defense against an unknown but real peril. To accelerate this process,
we thought to create an Embassy in Beaucastel, which is both a convenient
focal point and in efficient proximity to coming danger. The people in
Beaulieu are already rebuilding their cities to standards acceptable by
all other Races. So you had better think of whom to send as envoys of the
Forest of the Elves. This is not an order, but since you find yourselves
directly in the fire line, I’m confident you will understand the need to
join our forces and resources. Incidently, Wilfred and the Free Tribes
of the Steppes have effectively begun to do so along the Western Seas shores.”
The glass stayed poised at the Queen’s lips as
she intently listened to Numnir’s explanations. Her eyes wondered to Dargelblad
who discerned elation that Ellana did not bother to conceal from him. The
Silver Dragon vainly attempted to discourage her by slightly shaking his
head. The Elf woman spared him a mocking look of triumph.
-“I’ll pay you for that, Brother!” Dargelblad
said to the Grey Dwarf in mindspeech.
-“Well, as long as you can provide me with as
great and beautiful a companion as Queen Ellana, I shall not mind a bit!”
laughed back Numnir in similar fashion.
Totally unaware of what was being said around
her, Ellana spoke to Numnir.
-“Ironfoot, I must concede that you possess a
better understanding of the outside world and I’m convinced you are the
voice of reason when you suggest such an Embassy. You have explained a
short while ago the advantages of exchanging skills as well as the possibilities
of greater trade. But constant and tangible diplomatic ties are the key
to the prosperity of our people and to the safety of our lands!”
Turning to Aerdhel:
-“And who is better suited to represent our interests
than our highest-ranked subject, Prince Consort Aerdhel?”
With that single sentence, two individuals had
felt themselves cornered and their fate sealed, although for entirely different
reasons. The Prince Consort knew he was being sent away from the Queen
and her Court under the guise of the official envoy of the Elves, a position
he could not afford to refuse in public, lest he wanted to fall into sudden
He bowed to Ellana:
-“Majesty, I feel honoured!”
-“Aerdhel, you are honouring me by accepting
this heavy burden! You ought to think at once of whom you shall need by
your side as it will certainly not do to send you alone! Work and responsibilities
should be equally distributed among your most trusted servants and friends!”
At these words a few heads nearest to the Royal
seats turned to their monarch’s in evident interest. Suddenly a lot of
Elves felt the urge to explore the outer world. A position in the first
Embassy in Alymndes was not to be scorned at, especially in regards to
some very profitable opportunities it would entail.
Evidently someone’s misfortunes worked to the
advantage of others, reflected Dargelblad when looking at the Prince Consort’s
face. Now he will have to deal with an amourous Queen bent on the prey
of her love. Oh well, he mused, that might as well make things easier in
the long run, but how the hell was he going to manage to keep their coming
relation discreet in the middle of that rumour-hungry coterie of idle courtiers?
Unless he could find some work for them…
Dargelblad and Ellana
lay naked inside the Silver Dragon’s abode carved out the bole of an enormous
ash tree, a place rarely occupied recently, but that the Queen had chosen
for him the very first day he came to the glade of the Elf Forest Court.
It consisted of a single room, as Dargelblad, or any other elf indeed,
did not need that much space to sleep. Elves were more content to sleep
outdoors as long as the weather permitted. Moreover, their revelries kept
them awake far later in the night than humans or Dwarves. Even so, they
usually spent the rest of their nights under tents or inside lodges built
inside tree boughs in inclement weather. Dargelblad’s quarters were an
exception to the rule, and he suspected a deliberate choice from Ellana.
The Elf Queen had come late after the end of
the banquet when everybody was supposedly asleep, which he very much doubted.
He had expected her and had been standing waiting for her when she parted
the curtain of the entrance to enter his chamber.
They had embraced without a word. Ellana had
furiously made love to him as if she had to release some long pent-up frustration
of her desires. He had gladly submitted to her, as his very scant experience
of the other sex did not allow him much to venture in the mysterious world
that human or Elven relations were still to him.
Ellana broke into his reverie:
-“Wilfred, tell me, is Ironfoot really a Dwarf?”
The Silver Dragon smiled.
-“Ellana, you are certainly choosing the wrong
moment to interrogate me! I know little of females of your kind, but even
so I have learnt you are a persistent lot and you tend to fully use the
instants your males seemed to be at their weakest and most forgetful! In
any case, you probably have guessed much, but I shan’t tell you anything
so close to danger!”
Ellana was about to retort when he put a finger
on her lips.
-“Ellana, as much as I am fond of you and your
people, there are things I shall never be able to or wish to concede, and
one of them is submission to your whims!”
-“You do not love me, then?”
-“My Queen, the word love bears little meaning
to me. But if it signifies possession and duty, it most certainly disagrees
with me. I accept as you are, so the least you could do is to reciprocate.
Moreover, eternal betrothal as is your custom, is simply impossible for
me to contemplate. Coming to it, aren’t you betrothed to Aerdhel?”
-“Not at all! It is only a political arrangement.
Everybody knows I have never shared his bed! I can be rid of him and nominate
another Prince Consort any time if I wish!”
-“Which would be bad politics, indeed! Talking
of politics, who is going to assume Aerdhel’s role in the Forest?”
-“No one is. From now on, the Prince Consort
shall be the official Ambassador of the Elven nations in Beaucastel. Our
women’s magic shall take care of the Forest’s security. The male Elves
will obey my orders as they always have done, with the difference being
that I shall directly issue such orders instead of having them relayed
by a Prince Consort. Except for the safeguards of the Forest, I need little
to interfere with everyday affairs. Our subjects will be too busy with
the Dwarves to waste time on court intrigues, as they have been wont to
do until now! It is about time I enjoy my freedom myself!”
-“Freedom to follow me?”
-“Since you are not coming to me, what else can
-“Take care, Ellana! Do not let your feelings
blind your eyes into neglecting your duty to your people! This is no time
to irresponsibly flit around!”
Ellana langorously stretched her body along Dargelblad’s.
As her hand lightly stroked the Silver Dragon’s chest she murmured in his
-“Wilfred, do me a favour: let’s be as irresponsible
as possible until dawn before we recover our serious selves?”
(Chapter 15: Joining Forces)