The Midnight Maiden Ch. 05byLordBrionGrenwall©
The Ahlissan Chronicles
~ Book 1 ~
The Midnight Maiden
Chapter 5: Seeking Permission
The next morning found Lord Brion up earlier than usual. This time it was he who was eating when his father entered to common room. Looking at this father, Brion could tell that the drinking and storytelling had lasted long into the night. Such is the way of things when men of action gather together over good drink and a warm hearth. Brion felt that some good-natured teasing was due.
"Good morning Father, you look as if you have lost a fight with an ogre. Did the drink and song get the better of you last night? Perhaps at your age you should slow down a bit?" He laughed.
"I won the fight but that doesn't stop the damn ogres from marching through my skull!" Barnard grinned. He looked at the food and felt his stomach turn at the sight of the greasy bacon, he picked up a biscuit. "William and I drank and talked about you son, he was curious."
"Curious about what?" he asked but knowing full well, he felt himself flush.
"Oh, about what sort of man you are and of course, your intentions with his granddaughter, Lady Eryca."
"And what did you say?" Brion asked.
"Well I guessed at your intentions but as to what kind of man you are I said that Astinos and I were still working on that!" He laughed loudly and dodged a bit of bread that had been aimed at his head, the sudden movement making him slightly dizzy.
"Behold my Father the jester!" Lord Brion replied laughing heartily. When he had calmed he spoke again. "So what do you think of her Father, you saw and heard her last night."
"My son," said Barnard as he sipped some water "it isn't what I think that's important. It is what you think and feel. However, she is very beautiful and intelligent from what I heard her say last night. I think she is a fine catch indeed!" The King winked at his son. "If you can hold on to her that is."
"I think I can do that" said Brion grinning. "I learned last night that she is a mage Father and a powerful one by my estimation."
"Well then she is indeed very intelligent son. Training in the arcane arts is not for the foolhardy or the dim-witted. If she is in fact a mage son, then she is everything you think her to be and more."
"Thank you Father, I think she is definitely more, as you said. I am going to approach the Earl today and ask permission to court her. Would you mind if I didn't accompany you this morning?" Brion asked sincerely.
"Would I mind? Of course not, anything to see the potential for grandchildren in my future" he laughed and threw up his hands in mock exasperation "Finally!" Looking at the ceiling Barnard did not manage to duck the next piece of bread that hit him square in the nose.
* * *
After breakfast Brion asked a page to escort him to where the Earl went about his daily routines. The boy took him to a well-appointed suite of rooms that were furnished with comfort in mind. There was a fire in the hearth to ward off the morning chill; the seasons were slowly beginning to change. Brion being from a much warmer climate had noticed it a week prior. Across from the fireplace was a large wooden table covered in maps and other parchments containing reports of a military nature. He knew that the Shield Lands were in constant skirmishes with the Bandit Kingdoms to the northeast and the newly formed Horned Society had taken up residence in a valley to the northwest.
Lord Brion wondered how the Earl could host the summit and manage the security of his nation. Eryca, he thought, she must be doing a large part of managing the treaty talks. He took a seat on a low backed wooden chair, one of two, in front of the large desk that was central to the room. Behind the desk was a tapestry depicting the Earl's coat of arms and family tree. Lord Brion had only been sitting a few minutes when William Moffitt the Earl of Walworth entered the room. As he entered Brion came to his feet and bowed slightly at the waist. Brion looked the Earl over; he was an older man with features not unlike an eagle's with clear piercing blue eyes. William was dressed in a rich tunic with a checkered pattern that matched the tapestry behind him, part of his family crest.
"Knight Commander, I hope this morning finds you well?"
"Rather good I think" he said stepping forward to shake the younger mans' hand. "I think your father has acquired a taste for the honeyed ale of our lands" he said smiling broadly.
Brion smiled "Yes, sir, I do believe he was fighting off a group of ogres smashing away inside his skull when I left him."
William walked around his desk and took a seat in the ornately carved chair that sat behind his desk.
"So what is it that brings you to me so early on a Waterday?" William said trying hard not smile. He had talked with Barnard and Astinos long into the night about the young man because he could see Eryca's obvious interest in him. That Brion was interested in Eryca was no surprise, many men were interested in her. However it was her interest in the young man before him that intrigued William.
"Well sir, I had met your daughter prior to last night and I can only assume that it was her doing that found my father and I at your table last night" William nodded "and we talked at length last night. So I am asking your permission, sir to court Lady Eryca properly as befits her station."
His Honorable Grace William Moffitt leaned back in his chair, rested his chin on his steepled fingers and eyed the young man. He knew of Brion's upbringing and about the loss of his mother. William had learned that he was a fine warrior that his invitation into the Order of the Argent Griffon had been earned and not gifted to him from his father. Entry into the Order required glory and valor on the battlefield, adherence to the tents of Heironeous the Archpaladin and several tests of skill and faith, as well as, a quest.
"You are not the first young man to find my granddaughter beautiful and to sit in that chair and ask me for that permission." William's intense gaze did not waver as he spoke. "But tell me what is it about her that attracts you to her beyond her beauty?"
Brion sat under William's gaze as he considered his next words carefully. When he spoke again he looked directly into William's eyes.
"Her beauty is beyond compare your Honorable Grace but I can say that I do enjoy her spirit. When I first saw her she affected me like no one ever has and I don't mean her beauty. It was more, something in her eyes perhaps, I can't explain it. The way that she carries herself daring and yet demure is wonderful, when I am around her time has no meaning for me. I feel as if I have awakened in a strange place and yet I am right where I was meant to be." At this Brion stopped feeling that he was beginning to ramble and that his emotions had gotten the better of him.
"Lord Brion my granddaughter has had many potential suitors and she has rebuffed them all. However, she has taken an interest in you which leads me to believe that she sees in you what I see in you. That being said I grant you permission to court my granddaughter." Brion smiled broadly, relieved. "However, I will give you this one fatherly warning, should you break her heart there won't be anywhere in the known planes of existence that you could hide that I would not find you."
Brion rose from his seat and extended his hand to shake the Earl's again.
"I assure you Knight Commander; her heart is most precious to me."
* * *
After meeting with the Earl and receiving the permission he had asked for Lord Brion returned to the rooms that he shared with his father. Lord Barnard was still out attending the various conferences that were scheduled for the day so Brion summoned the page assigned to them and had the boy bring him a small mid-day meal. He soon finished the plate of cold meats and cheese and decided to spend the afternoon reading and taking a nap. The late night encounters, he found, had left him feeling a little tired because of the interrupted sleep. Before he knew how much time had passed the door to the common room opened and his father entered followed by Astinos.
"Behold my lazy son! What did I tell you, Paragon? All of his late night escapades seem to have laid the mighty warrior low!" Lord Barnard said in his usual boisterous way.
"It would seem so you're Majesty." said Astinos laughing at Brion alongside his old friend the king.
"Alright you two old roosters, stop your crowing I'm up and moving." Lord Brian said as he sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Did anything get accomplished today or did all of you old windbags merely fill yet another large room with hot air?"
Lord Barnard rolled his eyes in exaggerated annoyance "My son ever the silver-tongued diplomat. Tell me did you accomplish your mission this morning or have you met your match?"
"I have yet to meet my match Father and in this quest I emerged victorious! The Knight Commander has granted me permission to court Lady Eryca." Both Barnard and Astinos smiled broadly at the news and Astinos clapped the king on the back.
"It would appear your son may yet provide an heir my Lord!" The two older men laughed as Brion put his face in his hands and rubbed his temples as they goaded him. Then the older men stopped laughing and took seats across from Brion and asked him about his conversation with the Earl. Brion recounted their talk and they congratulated the young knight for winning William's confidence.
"Thank you both, your confidence in me means more than I can say." Brion's mood darkened a little. "Father, would you mind terribly if I spoke to the Paragon alone? I have some troubling things that I wish to discuss with him."
"Not at all, my son" Barnard replied as he rose from his seat. He gave Brion a good natured pat on the shoulder before walking into his room and the private study that accompanied it.
When the doors had shut and Brion was alone with his old mentor, the older slightly portly man turned to regard his former student. Brion had always been an apt student even if he did question authority on occasion. Astinos and Barnard had followed his admission into the Order closely, watching his victories and occasional setbacks. His quest though had been a long and solitary one moreso than many others.
Brion had returned changed and while that was not unusual for the quest was meant to make one more insightful and thoughtful, Brion had returned with armor and a sword crafted from the finest ebonsteel. Brion's armor was not standard to Ahlissa's forces, according to the young man he had helped a dwarf to craft it and it was meant for him alone. Also his blade was unique and oft times both seemed to be imbued with special properties. No one had ever asked why Brion had returned with them, they were simply accepted and now Astinos thought that he was about to be granted some insight into the mystery. Brion took a deep breath before he began.
"Paragon, you know that my quest was long and took me quite far." Astinos nodded as he leaned in closer to listen. "I had asked the Archpaladin for a quest, a true test of my skills, something that would define my life and he answered me. In a dream I was shown a snowy peak and voice told me to travel there."
Astinos again nodded as he listened and gestured for Brion to continue.
"When I left I had no idea where I was going, only a feeling in my heart that I was headed in the proper direction. Eventually I did find the peak deep in the Crystalmist Mountains and on the summit of that solitary peak the Archpaladin appeared to me. I know that he spoke to me at length but his words have been taken from my mind. When he was finished I fell into a deep and restful sleep and when I awoke I was driven to seek out the dwarven blacksmith."
Brion paused to look at Astinos who seemed to be completely taken with the young man's tale, so he continued.
"Together we forged my armor and my sword for a purpose that Heironeous had said would be revealed to me when the time was right. I feel that now is that time and that somehow Lady Eryca is involved. She stirs things deep within me Paragon." Astinos seemed about to speak but Brion stopped him with a look. "I do not mean feelings of love but something deeper. I do have those feelings for her but this is a connection that shakes the very foundations of my being."
Brion stopped and looked at the older priest watching Astinos' face for a hint as to what he was thinking. After a few minutes the balding priest chose his words carefully.
"Brion what the higher powers do and how they guide us is often a mystery. Sometimes they dabble in the affairs of mortal beings and at others times seem to ignore us completely." Astinos watched as Brion rolled his eyes and exhaled loudly. It was exactly this sort of theoretical talk that had exasperated him as a student. As usual the teacher motioned for the student to let him finish.
"I assume that whatever the Archpaladin wanted to prepare you for is imminent but decided to reveal your role in it over time. Perhaps having the knowledge to soon would be detrimental to the quest or maybe you need to grow and learn more before you are ready. Whatever the case you need to be patient and trust that the Archpaladin will reveal the knowledge when the time is right. In the meantime exercise patience and let things progress at their natural pace."
Stroking the graying goatee on his chin Brion considered the priests' words.
"Now concerning Lady Eryca," Brion looked up into Astinos' cool grey eyes. "I say take the same approach, patience. Let whatever unfolds between the two of you take its natural course. If she is somehow tied to this quest and through it to you, than allow it to unfold of its own accord."
"Thank you old friend, once again your wisdom has proven true and greater than mine." Astinos smiled at his young friend's comment.
"Have faith Lord Brion, the Archpaladin has chosen his champion well, now leave the rest to him."