Summer Growing, Shader’s Day 15, Year of the Lion number 427; August 3, 1738 Agathon
I can honestly say that when it comes to human tradition, I’m clueless. Especially when it concerns royalty and government.
This morning we arrived in Wailee. Compared to Blushik, it’s about half the size. The main differences are this city is surrounded by great stone walls and it sits on the edge of the ocean. It seems a vast portion of it is devoted to the great wooden ships that come into and out of the port. As we approached, we noticed large numbers of people walking or riding into the city. Lena asked a stranger what was going on. “The king is dead.”
Lena seemed to understand, so I asked her about it. She told me that King Zephian has been a fair and just ruler for many years. He’s allowed trade to flourish, kept taxes low, and has never had to fight a war with any of Juivestea’s neighbors. She attributes this to his keeping a strong and ready militia, while at the same time, being willing to compromise both with foreign leaders and the lords and dukes within his own nation.
When we entered the city, it took us a while to find an inn. Most were booked. Several in our group had to find rooms in different establishments, and Lena, Alani, and I ended up sharing a room.
During the afternoon, Lena went to try to book a performance, but found out quickly that while the city is in mourning, no such activities were permitted. She then went to inquire if we could perform during the funeral services. Surprisingly, they were interested and accomodating. A Tabaxi dancer accompanied by a halfling bard would be something interesting to see. They insisted they review our playlist to make sure there was nothing inappropriate. The pay was modest, but better than nothing.
Later, Alani and I carefully rehearsed our set, then picked out our outfits. When we arrived at the castle, guards searched us carefully. A servant met us and escorted us to a room adjacent to the main hall. As we went, I caught a glimpse inside. The coffin was at the head of the room on a raised platform, in front of the elaborate, but empty throne. A long table ran from there to the doors some forty or fifty feet away. Every chair at the main table was occupied, and it seemed that each person at the table was trying to prove that he or she was better than the others by their clothing, their jewelry, their manners, and their conversation. These, according to Lena, were the lords and ladies, the dukes and duchesses of Juivestea.
Smartly dressed servants dashed to and fro making sure every wine glass or ale mug was full. What caught my attention more than anything else were the two sitting at the head of the table, on opposite sides. The woman, on the left, was regal, exact, and embodied the image of nobility. However, the man across from her seemed like a pauper dressed as a prince. His clothes didn’t fit well, he was rough-looking and seemed dirty. Those around them were deferential and showed respect, though it seemed the woman was disdainful while the man was accommodating.
Our guide quickly ushered us into the side room. It was well appointed with a couple cushioned, upholstered couches, a table with a mirror affixed to one side, and another table with bits of food on a silver tray. “We’re a bit behind schedule. I think you guys are up in about an hour. There are some benches in the hall. You can either wait here or out there, but if you wait out there, you’ll need to be quiet. Also, if there’s any way you can shorten your act a little, it would be great.” The servant stepped out and left us alone.
Lena sampled the food and had a sip of wine. “I think we can condense Thomas the Rhymer a bit,” Alani said,” but that’s all I’m willing to do.” Alani and I went through the changes, but we felt we were as ready as we were going to be. We left the side room and found seats on the bench as the servant had indicated.
Shortly thereafter, a man stood at the head of the table, between it and the bier. He clapped his hands a couple times and the room quieted down. “For those of you who don’t know me, I am Ezseric Gaereth. I am the Chief Steward of this castle, and it is my honor to address you during this solemn occasion. Let me start by saying that King Zephian wasn’t only my master and my king, but my friend. I would be even more honored if his successor allows me to continue my service to this wonderful nation. We are here tonight to honor his life and his legacy. It was his wish that this would be a celebration. It is an opportunity for this country to move forward into a new age. Out with the old, in with the new, he often said. In keeping with that, we have arranged for several acts for your entertainment. To my knowledge, none of those who will perform tonight have ever performed in Wailee before. It is my hope that this will symbolize the bright future that lies ahead. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce…”
We were the third act to perform. The first were jugglers who tossed weighted wooden knives and other objects back and forth in a dynamic display of coordination. The second was a jester who told humorous stories about kings, queens, and other world leaders. After we performed, we left the castle and returned to the inn.
I learned more about the two at the head of the table. The man was King Zephian’s son, Prince Ikenare, and the woman his daughter, Princess Kilesilda. By tradition, the lords and dukes had to select which of Zephian’s heirs would follow him as the new ruler. Ikenare was older, and it seemed to me that despite his outward appearance, was the better choice. Kilesilda was focused and determined. It seemed she wanted power for its own sake or for her own advantage, not because she wanted what was best for the country. However, every time her brother spoke, he seemed to stumble over his words.
And as we left at the end of our performance, I noticed something. In his hands was a small object that looked very familiar to me: a dragon card.
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