Location: The Iadoraz Freeport, the Valenti household.
Formendacil wrote:"Cover him up," said Sir Dractor. "I'll get Merina back downstairs. We should probably keep a watch on her. I don't think she's in immediate danger, since she didn't take the medicine, which seems to have encouraged the coughing to the point of death. But we should still keep an eye on her."
Merina was resting in the sitting room, having been given some privacy by her self-invited guests. Estella had been left, somewhat bored, just outside the sitting room, in case anything happened, while the men discussed what to do.
"Obviously, we can't stay in Iadoraz forever," said Sir Dractor. "But I am worried about Merina."
"As am I," said William. "From all that we have heard, someone's been trying very hard to kill off an entire bloodline. And this illness seems like a very subtle way to do it. Determined, too, once you work in that poisoned medicine."
"So what do we do?" asked Sir Yves. "The girl is in danger, especially on her own, but is she well enough to travel?"
"Her main problems seems to be that cough and a lack of stamina," said Sir Dractor. "If we could get a carriage, perhaps..."
"So you want to take her with us, then?" said Sir Yves.
"I'm thinking it is wisest," said Sir Dractor. William nodded.
"Healthy or not, a pretty young lady with no protectors, and wealthy to boot, wouldn't be safe in Iadoraz, no matter that someone was trying to kill her."
"A carriage will be pretty expensive," said Thomas.
"No more than we can handle," said Sir Dractor. "However, I'm thinking that maybe we shouldn't make for Orion."
"Why?" asked Sir Yves.
"This illness of Merina's," said Sir Dractor. "To deliberately infect an entire family with a dangerous disease like this is very difficult to do without magic. And I'm minded of that sickness I had back in the summer, after the Ball, as Thomas will remember. I'd like to take Merina to Drullen Bell, for the druids to look at."
"What's wrong with Orion?" asked Sir Yves. "The healers there are equally proficient."
"Yeah," said Thomas. "They saved your life at the Ball."
"I know they did," said Sir Dractor, "but I know the druids a bit better, and I'd rather not take Merina to Orion. She said herself that she had several Classic cousins who died off. For all that she is a Black Falcon, 'Valenti' is a Classic name, and the root of this matter could well come from Legoland. It's best not to take her there, I think. Don't worry, I'll make sure to get Estella there, probably after Yuletide."
"Sounds good enough to me," said William. "But which of you fancies telling Estella she'll have to wait an extra month to get to see her future groom?"
They all grimaced. Sir Yves ignored the comment, and brought up another problem.
"We're going to have troubles with the carriage, then," he said. "The Forestdweller lands, especially the Forestman realm, are notoriously bad for not being usable for carriages."
"We'll have to go the long way around," said Sir Dractor. "We'll cut down through Royal Knight territory and northern LEGOland, into the Crusader realm, and cross into Forestman lands by way of Farburg."
"That'll take a while," said Sir Yves.
"I'm in no hurry," said Sir Dractor.
Eventually, nightfall came, and the companions prepared for bed. Sir Dractor divided the night up into four shifts.
"I want each of us to take a shift keeping watch over Merina tonight," he said. "Estella has done the most today, so she gets the night off. Sir Yves gets the first shift, before he goes to bed, and I'm taking the last, the dawn shift. Thomas, you and William can flip for the last two."
"I'll take the earlier one," said William.
"Fine," said Thomas. "Wake me when you're done."
Several hours later, Thomas was shaken from his sleep by William's calloused hand.
"Wah..." he said, shaking sleep from his eyes, and remembering his wathc.
"Your turn, lad," he said. "Frankly, I think this watch of Sir Dractor's is unnecessary. She didn't do more than cough a few times on my watch, and Sir Yves says that she slept well through his. Anyway, good luck."
As William ambled off to bed, Thomas made his way to the hallway that ran past several rooms, included Merina's bedroom, and settled himself into an armchair across from her door, and did his best to not fall asleep again.
A couple of times, he got up and paced a bit. However, as his two and a half hour shift was drawing to an end, no more had happened than a few coughs from Merina's room.
Not too long before he was going to go and wake Sir Dractor (a rather fearsome task, since the big knight tended to jerk and growl when his sleep was interrupted), the door of the bedroom opened, and Merina peered out.
"Master Valt?" she said, "was that you I heard walking?"
"Probably," he said. "And it's Thomas, not Master Valt."
"Thomas," she said, and leaned on the doorframe. "What are you doing out here?"
"Well... uh..." said Thomas, a bit flustered. "Sir Dractor wanted us to, uh, kind of keep watch."
Merina nodded slowly.
"He thinks I'm in danger?"
"Well, we all think the nearly-simultaneous deaths in your family are suspicious, as well as all of you getting sick at once. He thinks that someone's out to kill you."
"Well, I appreciate the effort," said Merina, and she remained leaning on the doorframe.
"Would you prefer to sit down?" said Thomas, rising. "You don't look all that strong."
"I'm not," she said, "but I don't want to kick you out of your seat."
"I insist," said Thomas. "I'm not going to have you keel over on my watch!" Merina gave in, and took the chair, seeming to slump somewhat once she was in it.
"Thank you," she said. "Tell me, is Sir Dractor such a harsh man that he would punish you if something happened to me. He didn't seem like that during the day, although he certainly frightened the ruffians well enough. And Elga."
"Sir Dractor harsh?" said Thomas. "Tyco, no!"
Thomas then realised what words he had used, and blushed.
"Sorry, milady," he said.
"It's all right," she said. "And it's Merina, not milady."
"Merina," said Thomas. "No, Sir Dractor's not at all harsh- unless you're his enemy. What I meant, I guess, is that I really wouldn't want to see you collapse, period."
"That's sweet," said Merina, with a thin smile.
"It's nothing," said Thomas.
"Have you known Sir Dractor long?" asked Merina.
"No, only for about seven months or so," said Thomas. "He came to my grandfather looking for a new suit of armour, and, to make a long story short, my grandfather ended up dying soon after, and I became his squire."
"So you lived with your grandfather then?" said Merina. "What of your parents."
"Dead when I was young," said Thomas. "Grandfather was all the family I had."
"I guess we have one thing in common, then," said Merina, sadly. "We have no family." Thomas nodded silently.
"How long are you on watch?" asked Merina.
"Till morning," said Thomas, deciding not to wake up Sir Dractor after all.
"Would you mind telling me the long version of how you met Sir Dractor?" asked Merina. "I'm afraid I can't sleep. I miss my family too much."
"Sure, I'd be happy to," said Thomas.
When Sir Dractor's mental alarm woke him a couple hours before breakfast, he soon realised that Thomas had never come to wake him. Fearing the worst, he grabbed his sword, and padded silently down the halls towards Merina's room. Before rounding the last corner, the sounds of quiet conversation reached his ears.
"Gonderin and I took passage on a ship called the Faerie Queen
," Thomas' voice was saying. A slight cough indicated the presence of Merina.
Sir Dractor smiled to himself, and just as silently as he had come, he went back to his bedroom to do some pre-breakfast exercises.