The Rise And Fall Of Lord Void
Chapter 26: To Orion Go The Dragon Masters
Governor Drock was at his desk when Caimlin’s parcel arrived two days later by pigeon.
“What’s this?” he asked, setting aside his quill.
“A package sent from the mainland, sir.” said the Dragon Master servant, “One of the Grolling Fortress pigeons carried it, sir, but…look…”
The servant smoothed out the rumbled packaging paper and indicated a smudged spot that looked like a LEGOland symbol.
“That’s the Classic Emperor’s crest.” murmured Drock, “How odd.”
He took the package and ripped it open. There were six folded slips of paper inside. Drock took the smallest of the six and looked at it. Written over the neat instructions from the Imperial Steward Julius Hadrianica in a different ink was a short message from Caimlin.
“Send remaining invitations to whomever you want.” Drock repeated out loud, and sighed. He had enough on his hands as it was without distributing invitations to balls. How he longed to just drop this governing foolery and get back to his own secluded hut and his friends the giant sea turtles.
“Let’s get this over with…”
Drock opened a drawer in his desk and thumbed through a list of contacts. Randomly selecting four names, he wrote them of separate envelopes and stuffed the invitations inside. The last invitation he kept for himself.
“Give these to the pigeon master.” ordered Drock to the servant.
The servant exited the room and made his way to the pigeon coops, a cramped and smelly room set atop a spire.
“What’ve we got ‘ere?” asked the pigeon master.
“Personal letters from Governor Drock.”
“Right them, I’ll send ‘em out right away…”
The pigeon master took the four envelopes and thumbed through them.
“Madame Baradair, Ajaxx Dragonsbane…got quite a list of big folks…”
The pigeon master tied the four envelopes to the legs of four pigeons, sending them flying with a wave of his hand.
The four pigeons almost at once went their separate ways. One turned right around and landed at another location on Monolinious Dracis. One headed toward mainland Dragonar. And the other two flew toward Borianis Dracis. Within a few days the pair had arrived at the abandoned Camp Maurdord. Befuddled, the two carrier pigeons stood there, pecking about at worms and waiting for someone to come and removed their cumbersome messages. At last a wandering merchant came along and found the two wayward birds. With much coaxing and cooing, he was able to capture and cage the birds. When he discovered the envelopes and seeing to whom they were addressed to, he immediately took them both to the nearest town, Port Gordlan-Gordule. One of the men at the mayor’s office remembered that the Commander-General Ajaxx Dragonsbane had expressed intent to sail to Port Firetresses, and so the official affixed the two envelopes to two new pigeons and sent them flying northward. After another week of flight, these two birds arrived at Port Firetresses. The so-called mayor was completely befuddled on what to do with the letters, but by an extremely good stroke of luck one of the Dragonsbane Brigade recruits somehow came across the letters, and took them at once to his commander-and-chief, who was residing in the Royal port of Jozef. And that is how Ajaxx Dragonsbane received a very important letter from the Classic Emperor.
Ajaxx looked up from a chess board and the game he was playing himself with. A Dragonsbane Brigade soldier had peeked through the partially open door.
“Come in, soldier.”
The soldier pushed the door open all the way, stiffened in a salute
, then said, “Sir, I was in Port Firetresses when I came across these.”
The soldier held out the twin envelopes and Ajaxx took them. He looked at the seal and the names scribbled across.
“Where exactly ye be gettin’ these?” asked Ajaxx, looking back up at the recruit.
“I got them from the mayor’s shack, sir.” said the soldier, “I heard someone mention Dragonsbane and so I -- er -- listened in, sir. It be seeming two carrier pigeons from Port Gordlan-Gordule flew in with those there ‘velopes, sir. The mayor, he di’n’t know what ter do with them, so he tossed them. And then I, sir, got them.”
Ajaxx scratched his chin, eying the envelopes. They interested him greatly, especially the fact that they had not come from Port Gordlan-Gordule originally. No, the seal of filthy sorcerer Drock was stamped on, as was -- and this was the most confusing -- the seal of the Classic Emperor. Ajaxx debated whether to open them. They could be a trap. He had heard of such things before. Mysterious envelopes, sent by the unknown, claiming to come from high places. Envelopes of death, they were called, for inside them was not a letter but a fine white power, which if breathed or touched would eventually kill you.
Ajaxx fingered the envelopes, pressing the folded bits of paper between his thumb and forefingers. He didn’t feel anything unusual inside. Ajaxx glanced at the recruit, then handed the envelope bearing his name back.
“Open it.” he ordered.
Befuddled but obedient, the soldier did so. Out slipped a single sheet of paper. The recruited looked at it.
“Sir?” he said, as if asking permission to read it.
“Give it here.” Ajaxx said abruptly, “You may go. Thank you, soldier.”
“Yessir, my pleasure, sir!”
The recruit returned the letter and envelope and left the room, shutting the door firmly behind him. Ajaxx unfolded the slip of paper and read:
To whom it may concern,
The Court of Constantius VII, Emperor of Legoland and Overlord of Dametreos, is pleased to invite you to an Imperial Ball, to be held at the Yellow Castle in Orion on July 11th, 2005, C.C.
With the end of the Wolfpack Civil War, and the end of the Royal-Falcon Conflict (2004-5), Dametreos now enjoys near-total peace, with no nations possessing formal stances of aggression towards any of its neighbors, a state which has not occurred, according to Imperial staticians, since 1723 C.C.
It is therefore in honor of this most momentous occasion that His Imperial Majesty is hosting a Ball, for all the invited dignitaries of the Empire and of Dametreos.
The festivities will open with a parade for the edification of Orion's citizens, in which as many guests as desire may partake in. A formal feast will be held for the guests immediately prior to the Ball. Both will be held in the Yellow Castle.
At midnight between the 12th and the 13th of July, a fireworks display will be provided, ending the official festivities.
In the days leading up the ball, and ending the day after, Orion will be hosting an international trade fair, open to merchants from across Dametreos. All guests of the Emperor are invited to visit this, and promote the trade of their nations.
All guests will receive food and lodging free from the Imperial bounty, and will be lodged in the Yellow Castle or in the great estates of Orion.
Trusting that the guest, or his or her delegated representative will be able to attend, I remain,
Imperial Steward of the Yellow Castle,
on behalf of His Imperial Majesty,
Emperor of Legoland,
King of Orion,
Lord of the House Legonis,
Overlord of Dametreos
Ajaxx set aside the invitation. This is most interesting… he mused. At that moment there was a knock on his door.
“Yes?” Ajaxx grunted.
“Ajaxx, I be having news…”
“Japheth! Come in!”
The door opened and Japheth entered. His boots were wet, but he looked pleased.
“Sir,” he began formerly, “Lord Void be bent on rebuilding the Fire Breathing Fortress. He has hired an architect, Elsa Byrd, and her plans be grand indeed. Brigadier-General Caimlin has brought slaved, and they being workin’ on building the fortress. Caimlin be at the construction site, Lord Void and Elsa Byrd be at the Grolling Fortress.”
Ajaxx nodded approval, his eyes glinting.
“That be good, Japheth, good indeed. It be not long ‘fore we strike. But, for now…”
Ajaxx reached over and tossed Japheth the second envelope.
“Be ye wanting to go to a ball?”
Japheth tore open the envelope, read it’s contents, then looked at Ajaxx.
“This be interesting.” he said.
“Aye.” nodded Ajaxx, propping his legs up on the table.
“Ye think we should be going?” asked Japheth.
Ajaxx continued to nod.
“Aye. We be gettin’ close to the Emperor, and that be good. A good time to give him some hints…of the future to come.”
“If’n we be both going, who be managing the Brigade while we be gone?”
“Captain Dolter.” responded Ajaxx without hesitation, “And if’n we be going, then we better prepare now. It be two, three week’s walk to Orion. We be needing to leave on the morrow, and hope we can acquire some horses along the way…”
Japheth nodded, backing toward the door.
“Aye, sir. I’ll be gettin’ read now…”
Packing to leave took a lot shorter than both Ajaxx and Japheth had expected. Of course, they didn’t have much to take, just a change of clothes for the journey there and their best suit each for the Ball itself. Then there was Ajaxx’s chess set as well, wrapped carefully in smooth leather binding. All of this fit comfortably in two packs, which were slung over two newly-bought horses. Before dawn had fully broken, Ajaxx had finished giving instructions to Captain Dolter, and the two friends were off, riding away from Port Jozef deep into the Dametreosian mainland.
Many miles east, at the Grolling Fortress, Lord Void and his entourage were also making an early start. Riding atop a coal-black warhorse with reigns of gold and black leather was Lord Void himself in his ever-black robes. With his monocle newly polished and moustache and goatee precisely waxed and trimmed, he looked as powerful as he had when he had risen to the Dragon Master throne eighteen years ago. To keep off the beating heat of the sun, he had conjured a bubbled of coolness that just barely surrounded himself and the horse.
Caimlin was not so lucky, and had to deal with the full wrath of the fiery eye by more conventional -- and less effective -- means: a white turban, soaked in water, wrapped around his head. His traditional black dragon-helm was secured behind him on his saddle, but he still wore his heavy armor and sweated and sweated.
Elsa Byrd had forgone a horse completely, and instead installed herself in a bright white (at least it wasn’t pink) litter, and was hauntingly complaining at the four dark-skinned, tattooed slaves that carried it.
In front of Lord Void was an Elite Guard of twenty Dragon Masters, clad in the traditional reds, yellows and blacks. Following behind were twenty more soldiers, ten camels loaded with supplies and enough slaves to manage them. An impressive envoy to be sure. At a healthy trot it would reach Orion in a week, or three or four days before the festivities began.
Four Dragon Masters. Two leaders. Two followers. One destination. And neither pair knew the other pair would be there as well.
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