Evening of the 5th of Trademeet, year 2009
By the time Meg was finished stuffing herself full of the finest delicacies Merrin has to offer, the four noble families were present in the High Lord’s throne room. As the Delvers returned, they entered on a heated conversation.
“You command us here so late AND in a storm no less?!” So perturbed was Numira Braganza, that her manners slipped and she made such a demand. In return, the High Lord George Banaard stared at her coldly until she remembered her place as the fifth and lowest house of the city.
“She does have a point, old friend,” chimed Malcom Duade, Lord of the third house. He, more than anyone in the room, seemed not quite at ease, but familiar with High Lord Banaard.
“I have commanded your presence this night on matters of utmost importance,” began George, “Some adventurers from Shap came to me with dire news.”
“Oh! Really? I want to be an adventurer when I grow big!” said Alfonse Braganza, Lord of his house.
“Quiet my son, you will be Lord one day, not a filthy adventurer,” chided Numira, smoothing her son’s hair and then placing a hand on each of his shoulders to hold him still.
“Oh, don’t be so earnest, Lady Numira,” giggled Isabella Algarve, “adventurers are so exciting!” She clapped her hands and smiled radiantly.
“Shall I go adventuring for you dearest, and be your knight in shining armor?” asked Edward Algarve, as he wrapped his arm around his wife’s dainty waist, and leaning in for a kiss. After a quick glance at her father, almost a glare, Isabella made a show of the kiss dragging it on for all to see.
“Ahem, don’t be so crass, son-in-law, I gave my daughter’s hand to you so you could do that in private, not in the presence of the High Lord,” said Malcom crossing his arms in the process. Noticing the entrance of the Delvers he continued, “and strangers…These must be the adventurers you spoke of.”
“Dick’s Daring Delvers, at yer service!” said Richard Longbottom, striding toward the group of nobles, arm stretched for a shake. At this, Isabella let out a giggle, and leaned against her husband to whisper in his ear.
“Surely not, dearest, he must be absolutely filthy!” said Edward, a look of disgust on his face.
“These…are the adventurers who come with dire news,” said Numira, eying the newcomers critically.
Gripping the armrests of his chair with both hands, George Banaard said, “Yes, they came to report that one of you is plotting to end the rule of my house.” At this, all the nobles, except Lord Josef Castorin, made various sounds of disquiet, and turned to stare at the High Lord. Lord Banaard continued, “They say my long lost daughter has become a councilwoman of Shap, to the south, and that one of you conspired to assassinate her, as she is the last of my line.”
“Oh, tell him this is nonsense, honey,” cooed Isabella into her husband’s ear, “there is is nothing for us to gain from it after all…”
“This is nonsense!” stated Edward, holding Isabella close, “How would my house gain from the end of house Banaard? Mine is fourth in line!”
Lord Castorin opened is mouth, about to speak, but Malcom spoke first, “True, you would not rise to be High Lord, but your house would be one step closer.” Stroking his mustache and glancing over at Josef, Malcom continued, “However, Lord Castorin would benefit greatly from the death of the Banaards.”
“My house is innocent of wrong doing,” assured Josef Castorin, “it is more likely meant to dishonor my house, and to kill two birds with one stone, as it were.”
“More likely in who’s opinion, Josef?” demanded Numira, in her usual forceful way. Gesturing with her hand she added, “I think only yours! Haven’t you heard? The simplest solution is the most likely one!”
“And house Duade has been friends of Banaard for years,” agreed Malcom, then as if addressing an old friend, “All my life I have been close friends with you George.”
“That is true Malcom,” answered the High Lord, sadness deep in his voice, “but there are questions these adventurers asked that vexed me. I no longer know what to think. It could be any of you.”
“Then let them ask us their questions, my Lord,” said Lord Castorin, “perhaps the truth of it will become clear.” At which point, the nobles shuffled aside to allow the Delvers into the middle of the group.
Clearing his throat, Richard began to explain, “Well, ye’see…There we were, Dick’s Daring Delvers! workin as watchmen fer the town. Then, BAM! The fair Lady Radalia’s nearly gutted, in her own home too! Nearly gutted by an evil dobolopolus!”
“Probably means a doppelganger,” interjected Malcom Duade, “monsters that can shift their form.”
“Aye! That’s what I said,” said Dick, “real shifty bastard he was too! Made himself up te look like me friend here.” Hooking a thumb over his shoulder, Dick gestured at Unulith Amalitain who simply nodded. Dick continued, "but Lady Luck was smilin on us that day, ‘cause we uncovered the nasty beastie and slew it! After, we found some clues on the corpse, an emblem of the “Black Blades” and a dagger made by Merrin’s premier smith!"
“Yes, yes,” interrupted Numira, “get to the point where you somehow implicate us in the matter.”
“Well, m’lady, I was just about te, until you interrupted me,” returned Mr. Longbottom. Dick then straightened his vest, and cleared his throat, making a deal out of starting again. “As I was sayin, Dick’s Daring Delvers, came te Merrin looking after the interests of Lady Radalia and of the township as a whole. So, after some truly talented investigatin, me an me friends here, heard from the lips of one of the Black Blades that house Castorin hired ’em te kill off Lady Radalia.”
“Then there you have it,” interjected Isabella, glancing at her father then resting her eyes on Josef Castorin, “a confession of guilt and conspiracy!”
“Aye, at first we thought so too!” said Dick, continuing, “So, we went an’ paid Lord Castorin a visit. We confronted him, an’ accused him of the crime. But the whole thing didn’t quite add up. Ye see, we was wonderin why someone would want Lady Radalia dead, a motive as it was.”
“I cannot believe we are listening to these uneducated fools!” said Lady Numira, her frustration boiling over, “even my eight year old son would know the motive!” Alfonse stood quietly, shuffling at his feet.
“But at the time, we didn’t know Lady Radalia was even related te th’ High Lord,” replied Dick, nodding at George, slumped back in his throne, listening. Dick continued, “After puttin the pieces tegether on the fly, we remembered Lady Radalia said she’d grown up in Merrin, that’s how we connected the doplopopulus’s dagger to Maxwell Jarlian, and knew te come te Merrin.”
“This connection seems quite thin, in my honest opinion,” commented Malcom Duade. Shrugging, he added, “we really cannot be certain this woman is actually the High Lord’s daughter.”
“This makes it certain,” said Unulith as he took an ornate ring out of his pocket. Nodding toward the High Lord he said, “This ring was given to me by the fair Lady herself, and it is just like the one he wears.”
“I hardly believe my eyes,” said George Banaard as he stood from his chair to take the ring from Unulith. After looking the ring over, George continued, “This is not just any signet, this is my royal family ring. I gave this to Marishalla the day I bade her leave the castle, and my service. Lady Radalia is my daughter for certain!”
“Well, I have never heard any of this before in my life,” stated Numira, “I never knew you fathered a bastard child. And with a peasant…”
“Nor did I,” added Josef, “which is what I told these young travelers.”
“Aye, that he did,” said Dick, picking up where he left off, “So, we started te think, who did know about Lady Radalia’s connection te th’ High Lord?” Dicks eyes started on Edward Algarve, but then settled on Malcom Duade.
“A likely story,” said Malcom casually, “Numira, you are the biggest gossip monger in Merrin. And anyway, all this about knowing this daughter connection or not could easily be lies.”
“But…old friend…there is one person here who I am certain of who knew I had a bastard daughter,” said George sadly, “You…old friend…cared for Marishalla when she gave birth. The finest doctor in all of Merrin, I thought”
“This is madness George!” said Malcom defensively, “all these lies and intrigue are driving you insane! I am your oldest friend, George, I cared for your family, even the one you did not acknowledge! And so soon after the death of your son, you must be crushed under despair! Forget this nonsense, and allow me to look after you…”
“No, Malcom, I am seeing clearly now, as if an enchantment has been lifted,” replied George Banaard. “I remember now, the circumstances of Marishalla’s death; I must have buried the thought to hide my grief and shame. It was one of your house retainers who killed her in a supposed drunken state. How could you Malcom? Why?”
“Oh, you fools…all of you,” whispered Malcom in a barely audible voice. “I said I took care of your family, didn’t I? I even took care of your true-born son! It was my man Donen, who delt with your son’s injuries after he fell from his horse that day!” Laughing, Malcom continued, “It is the will of Almighty God, that I become High Lord of Merrin, and bring all of its people into Maylor’s servitude!”
With that the Lord of Duade drew a wand from his coat, and traced a circle in the air. With a crack, a portal opened out of thin air, and through it stepped Malcom Duade.
“I want that man DEAD!” shouted the High Lord as he hastily tried to stand from his throne, only to slip and fall to the floor. All the other nobles of Merrin fled to get away quickly. The Delvers, however, ready to face any danger, leaped with wanton disregard through the portal, after the evil villain. May Rayn’s luck keep our Delvers safe in places of darkness and danger…