Genoran quaffed his beer and asked a waiting attendant for another. The fireside chats, as his father called them, were important meetings between leaders of distant lands and the ruler of Cellinor and the great Realm. The King felt, and now his son agreed, that the informality of the talk was the key. Ale, fire and privacy. All three were sacred. To this end, servants knew to stay near the door, ready to attend to the fire, or bring ale and most importantly, unless called for, they were to remain out of ear shot. Now Borindin was gone, but the time honored tradition continued. Good King Genoran found himself sitting by the fire along with two most dignified dignitaries.
While drinking his beer, Haryk noticed that golden suds of frothy foam stuck in the King’s new beard. Courtesans and diplomats from both far and near made sure to compliment the new King’s facial hair, and also made sure not to point out that it was now flecked with grey. Although Genoran had once more looked like he’d be wed, the moment was short lived, and so it wouldn’t do to bring up age. This was not an easy subject to avoid entirely though as the bard Iricah and her deeds out West were now legend. Haryk, not because it had become the fashion, but simply out of lack of desire to maintain it, had grown his out a bit too, and he loved the idea of moistening it with delicious Celn ale. Maybe I’ll keep it, he thought. More human than elven fashion. The thought made him smile, a little.
Suddenly finding something hilarious, the King unexpectedly nearly spat out his mouthful. He looked at Haryk. “Did you really, shrink, grow, shrink, grow facing Hasai? Just like that?”
Haryk smiled, “Oh yeah. It was great fun.” He slapped Andril on the shoulder.
The mage’s stubble free face registered annoyance and he rubbed the spot gingerly. “Next time, gunslinger, just follow my lead would you?”
The dignified look on Andril’s face was just too much . Both Genoran and Haryk erupted into fits, and howled with laughter, spilling some of their beer. That made them laugh even harder. Settling down, the King set his brew on the table before the fire but then with a thought lifted it again. “To the goodly men and women we lost! To the death of the wyrm that killed my father, Good King Borindin.May she dread the day we meet again!”
Haryk and Andril raised their glasses as well, and each took a hearty gulp. There was an awkward silence that followed. But the moment passed and they talked again about adventure and battles that felt like they had just happened. Around the great chamber, the very place where King Borindin slew the dragon Gulgol, there were all manner of displays, shining armor and majestic weapons on racks–paintings and tapestries depicting legends and lore. Haryk noted that not all of them felt like legends anymore. More like real fucking life he mused.
Haryk watched Andril study the King’s face, and he knew from having seen it before, that Andril was about to ask a question. A question being far different from a question, Andril cleared his throat and asked, “My Lord, during the battle, as you know, Hojo the king’s jester was among those we saved.” He was walking carefully among the eggshells.
“Aye,” said Genoran. His face was a still sea.
Andril continued, calm as the sea himself, “I haven’t seen him since we’ve returned.”
“No, he has been…indisposed.” The King stared into the crackling fire. Haryk knew that during the battle something had passed between the mage and him regarding Hojo. What’s more, Haryk had a feeling he knew what it was too. Maybe that’s the idea. He knows we know. What he needs to know is that we’re to be trusted with it. That we understand why.
“Of course,” said Andril in a strange tone. Haryk was reminded of a pirate speaking in code to someone he was making a delivery to. “I imagine the good jester has been through a lot. Perhaps, it is best that he retire from duties. I’m sure there’s another fool waiting.”
Genoran nodded appreciatively ignoring Andril’s slight taunting.
“Change happens whether we want it to or not,” thought Haryk aloud. Genoran and Andril both stared at him, probably wondering what brought on the dramatic. “I learned that from a dragon recently.”
They all laughed.
There was another pause in the conversation and Haryk felt the air grow serious again. Haryk noticed that Genoran’s eyes fell on a picture held on an easel next to him. The picture was of a woman that Haryk had never met but once, but whom he had heard much about. He knew her as the woman who had begun his journey with. The one who had nearly had him executed, or so he had thought at the time. He watched Genoran’s mind float away as he had already done several times before that evening. To where, Haryk didn’t know, but he thought he might guess.
“My Lord?” A servant had come in and was standing by the chamber doors.
Genoran waved forward and turned in his chair. He lifted himself off the sofa, just as an old man entered. The man was wearing a Cillandrial robe, but it was immediately clear this was not his usual attire. His hair was as white as snow, his skin like dark leather. He was barefoot, and he held a staff, a staff made of wood that Haryk knew was found only on the dread isles. Haryk gasped. It wasn’t possible!
The man came and stood before them by the fire. Genoran motioned for the man to sit, and the man used the sofa arms for leverage and sat on the chamber floor. He groaned and Haryk thought he could hear his old bones creak under the strain. “My name is Sanjaya, King of the Celns. And I…I am told I am now the last of the Ata.”