An out of synk post that takes place in Orion, on the night of the great ball.
PS. Don't think of it as a clump. Think of it as a large amount of text made to spring board this story into a bunch of smaller posts, to be written in regular succession over the next few months.
Meanwhile, back at the Gaudy Goose, Worthington the carriage driver was awakened from his dozing by a nudge from Gib.
“Wha— Oh, Master Rigger. Wh-what brings you out ‘ere, this time o’ night?”
“Can you take me someplace?”
“Well yes zur. Where to? The ball?”
“No, someplace else.”
An empty horse-drawn carriage rattled along the dark, cobblestone streets of Orion, aiming for the northern gates. Ridding above in the coachman’s seat sat two people. Gib and Worthington.
“Ah!” Worthington gave a long contented sigh, obviously brought on by the deep breath he’d just taken. “You smell that breeze comin’ down from the north? Novin’ quoite loike that fresh country air.”
Gib was inclined to agree with Worthington, though he didn’t say it.
“Were you born in the country?” Gib asked as they rolled out through the open gates of the city.
“Oi sure was. Not too far from the plaice we’re ‘eaded actually. That’s ‘ow I know where to toike ya. ‘Course that was before Oi came to work for the Peregils. But that’s anover story all togever an’ one for a longer excursion then this.”
By the way, I’ve been meaning to speak with you.”
“Not now, Malder. I’m sorry, but I’m on duty.” He started off to question more guests, but turned again, shouting back: “I have a half hour break at midnight. Find me then.”
It was midnight. The fireworks display was in full swing and the loud cracklings from without could be heard clearly by the two men walking aimlessly down one of the empty corridors of the Yellow Castle.
“…So how is my son doing in his training? Staying out of trouble I trust.”
“For the most part.” Said E’terriole, smiling faintly. “He is quick tempered and ready to take offence, but he does genuinely care for the men in his command. Reminds me of you at that age and your father as well, though to a lesser extent.”
Now it was Malder’s turn to smile. Marcellinus had been under his father’s command long ago and as he rose in rank, came to be friends with the man who would one day sire Malder Perigil. If not for this friendship, Malder would likely never have met the colonel.
“And now after his promotion—” E’tteriole tried to continue.
“Yes,” said the colonel, excusing the interruption. “didn’t you hear? Your son’s been promoted to Lieutenant-Major. Quite an accomplishment for a fellow of his age.”
“Quite,” Malder agreed slowly, only half in the conversation. “Though I do wonder why he would refrain from writing us about this. You don’t think he’s being shown favoritism due to his lineage?”
“Who knows.” Said Marcellinus. “He certainly received none from me, but I am not in charge of all such actions. Is this…” The colonel paused as if trying to formulate how best to articulate his next sentence. “Is this all that you wished to speak with me on? Surely there must be something else besides this friendly blathering.”
There was something else on Malder’s mind, it was true. A subject that wasn’t anything near friendly blathering. “What do you know about the name Belphinigib?”
“Belphinigib? Let me see… Ah yes, an old family if I remember rightly, blessed with many daughters, yet not many sons. Definitely one of the smaller families in Orion’s history though always respected for their honor and loyalty to the crown. There has always been a Belphinigib in the ranks of the king’s bodyguard. At least until the war, that is. The Belphinigib’s were hit pretty hard in BloodVaine’s first attack. I’m afraid what few men there were who carried that name were wipped out. I would be surprised indeed to find that any still remained alive.”
“You know your stuff.”
“I’m almost solely in charge of rebuilding the cavaliers.” E'terriole smirked. “I have to know my stuff. Why the inquiries anyway?”
Malder frowned. “Suppose, just for the moment, that I had found a man of that name, a Belphinigib. What would his duties be?”
“I suspect that he wouldn’t have any duties beyond those of a man in any knighted family. Beside those due to King and country, he would only have matters of inheritance to deal with.”
“Yes, if he was the last in his line then he would be, by law, entitled to any wealth or lands his family had left behind. Not so much in this case, but still notable. Have you found such a man?”
“Yes, my brother, er half brother as it happens to be. He’s been gone from the kingdom for many years and has only just come back into Legoland. You see why I wanted to talk to you.”
E'terriole nodded. “You want me to enlist him in the cavaliers I suppose. Maybe tell you where to start in the acquisition of his inheritance.”
“Exactly. He’s a good man, but he’s restless and likely to wander off again. Drafting him into the cavaliers would keep him here and as you said, he’s a knight by heritage. It’s his duty to serve the Emperor. Now he’s not proficient with any weapons, but I’m sure our training system could fix that. I brought him along to Orion so he could see the city, but since he’s here, perhaps you’d like to enlist him right away. He’s staying with us at the Gaudy Goose.”
E'terriole considered this for a moment and then…“Well I’m still free for a little while. Show me to this…this?…
“Rigger,” Malder answered. “Rigger Belphinigib.”
“Woah there, Canterbry” The coachman coed, bringing the horse to a halt beside a wide, expansive field. “Well, ‘ere we are, Master Belphinigib. Gate’s Toll.”
Gib turned, looking out over the field of green, his prospect illuminated by the moon, the coachman’s lantern and the lights from Orion. And by those lights and the sight of his own eyes he could see the hundreds of white, wooden crosses in rolling rows and columns, stretching far away into the blackness of night. It was the graveyard of the battle for Orion.
“Used to be a field ‘ere.” Worthington piped up. “I ought to know fer Oi used ta live around these parts. Crops was sown an’ grown in this very plaice. Rye, mostly. An, now it’s a….” The cabby sighed and continued. “So many dead. It’s alwmost enough to make your ‘eart broik.”
“Did you lose someone in battle?” The hermit questioned.
“Oh no. Most of me own family was fortunate enough to pass on befowe this ‘append. But… there’s barely one ofver person Oi know that ‘asn’t lost someon’. You?”
“I…I did lose someone.” The hermit’s voice was quiet and he paused for a moment staring blankly across the sea of grave markers. “He’s out there somewhere. Somewhere in this mix of loyal Forestmen and traitorous Dragon Masters. They tell me…. They tell me there was a man- an ally of BloodVaine’s- who turned upon the wizard and stopped the force of dragons, bearing down on those warriors sent to end his reign. Do you know if that’s true?
“Well Oi don’t think it’s liokly ta be false. Oi’ve ‘eard that saime tale mesewf an’ from folks ‘oo aren’t in the ‘abit of loying. The Deceiver, that’s what they called ‘im. They awlso saiy that ’e died after the battow. Leastwaiys no un’s ever seen ‘im again. An’ if ‘e did die, at least ‘e redeemed ‘imsewf before ‘e went.”
“You think so?”
“I don’t know. Can one great, good deed redeem a lifetime of wrongs? And what difference is it, the way a man dies? The act of dying is, after all, such a small part of ones life. I don’t know….but this I am certain of: He had changed before the end and I will be forever grateful.”
At this point Worthington began to realize the connection between the Deceiver and the friend Gib had lost. But he was a wiser man then he seemed, Worthington, and he didn’t question the hermit further.
“Ought we to be getting’ back ‘ome to the inn then Master Belphinigib?”
“Yes, yes by all means.” And they started back for Orion.
But Gib and Worthington were not the only ones heading back to Orion. On the road leading out from the eastern gate, Walf was returning home. There was a frown on his face and no wonder, for he had failed the mission on which he was embarked.
It had been a busy day at the Gold Wallow, with all of its unruly guests and by the time the last Dragon Master had passed out from intoxication, Walf was ready to follow suit. Though his excuse would have been exhaustion, rather then too much beer.
Still, Walf resisted the urge to curl up in a corner and close his drooping eyelids. He was concerned, you see. Dale hadn’t turned up and Walf was resolved to search for him. With not but a lantern to light his steps, he had hastened out the eastern gate and up the nearby hills into the trees. He had trodden those slopes many times before, with two swords buckled around his waist. Back in the evenings when he and Dale had practiced swinging their swords together in a clearing not far from the first hills. It was in this clearing that Walf had hoped to find Dale. The boy knew that Dale was hesitant to go places in public for fear of being seen. Perhaps he was still in the clearing.
He wasn’t of course and that was the reason for the frown, carried by the weary Walf as he trudged back to the eastern gate. “Ah well,” the boy sighed in the stillness. “perhaps he’ll turn up tomorrow.”
“He isn’t here. I’m sorry E’terriole, this is, well…most unexpected. I can’t think of where they might have gone.”
“I understand.” Said the Captain-Colonel, returning his hat to its familiar perch. “but I cannot wait for their return. Perhaps another day. Will you be returning to the ball?”
“No, I feel it best if I should stay here until their return. Serieta can ride back in a coach if my chauffeur doesn’t return in time.”
“Verry well.” Said Marcellinus, ascending back into the coach and signaling the cabby to sally fourth. “Until we meet again Malder.”
“Quiet noight, eh?” said Worthington, remarking on the emptiness of the streets as he urged Canterbry on in his course back to the inn.
“Oi say it’s a quiet noight, eh?” he repeated again when Gib didn’t answer.
“What? Oh yes, quite quiet indeed. I’m sorry…I was…thinking.”
Gib had indeed been thinking. Making plans to be precise. The city was making him restless and he had decided to return to the forest that very night. He would wait until Malder and Serieta came back from the ball, say his good byes and be off.
It was time to go back. Sure, Gib missed the Neverwood, but it was more then that. The hermit had to return. He had to go back and find out what had become of his forest –his home- after the pendant’s destruction had torn through. Such an earthshaking event surely could not have gone without repercussions and Gib was anxious to see what the damage was.
Yes, he was ready to go back, but it wasn’t going to be easy, not if the scowling figure awaiting them in front of the Guady Goose was any indication of things.
“Where were you, Rigger?” Malder demanded as the coach clattered down to a silent halt in front of the inn.
“Well master Perigil!” Worthington exclaimed genially, “We wasn’t expecting you til after the fireworks were done, zur.”
“Silence, Worthington!” the baron snapped. “I was addressing my brother.”
“I was out.” Said Gib, failing to understand the tone of hostility under which he was being interrogated. “Visiting an old friend. Is that a problem?”
“A problem?!” Malder exclaimed with slightly less hostility then may have been expected. He glanced over to the chauffeur who was looking away, pretending to not notice the conversation. “Worthington.”
“Go fourth to the ball and bring back Serieta when she is ready to return. Rigger may oblige me with his presence here. I have needful things to discuss with him.”
“Alright,” said Gib, as Worthington clattered off down the street. “What was that all about?”
“You ought to have stayed put, Rigger. There was someone I wanted you to meet.”
“Oh. Someone important I gather, by that look about your face. Who on earth was it?”
“Marcellinus E'terriole, if you need know and yes, it was important.”
“The commander?” said Gib, remembering the name from an overheard conversation. “Why would you want me to meet him?”
Malder hesitated at first, but then turned his resolve to speech. “I had meant you to hear this while E'terriole was present, Rigger, but I suppose there can be little harm in telling you now. You’ve been staying with us in the region of you birth for many months now, you know, and…well, I think it’s time you came to fulfil your place as a knight of the emperor.”
The hermit’s mouth dropped open but no words issued forth. There it was again. The very thing that had prompted him to run away years earlier was once more confronting him on the very night he had planned to begin his journey to the Neverwood. He had grown a great deal since then, but he still held a sort of reluctance towards becoming a cavalier. “Knight?” Gib stammered. “But I’m not a knight.”
“Not officially, no. But it is your position by birth. With a year or two training, you’ll be fit to command the rank of cavalier beside the rest of his majesty’s chargers.”
“But…but I can’t”
Malder’s face grew grim. “Can’t? I fail to see why you couldn’t. A once broken leg is a trifle of a wound in the cavaliers. Moreover, you needn’t be the strongest soldier, only the most loyal.”
“Ah, you don’t understand.” Said Gib, thinking of his plans of leaving. “That’s not it at all. I’m needed somewhere else.” Gib sighed “Mother and the children already know. I- I was waiting for the right time to tell you and Serita, but… I’m going back to the Neverwood.”
The baron’s face seemed to become slightly pale at these words. “I don’t believe it. You’re deserting again! You can’t! Not again, Rigger! Mother always stood up for you, you know that. She said you resented knighthood because it had taken away you father, and that’s why you ran away. I’m never was so sure. Father knew that story too. He said you ran off because you were afraid of becoming a knight, afraid of a soldier’s death. Afraid of the fate that befell him and brother not one year ago. I allow that you may have been a coward then, Rigger, but I thought you had grown out of it.”
“That has nothing to do with it!” said Gib, trying to convince himself as much as his brother. “I had leaving in mind long before I knew you want to draft me. Look, I know I shouldn’t have left the first time, but I have other duties now. Other things that need to be seen to.”
“Duties! Duties to what, the Neverwood? What about your duty to your king, Rigger? What about duties to your home land?”
“The Neverwood is my home!” said Gib almost shouting. “I’ve spent more years there then I have here. I’m going back!”
“You presume you have a choice in the matter!” said Malder, angrily building the escalating argument. “We have laws against this kind of thing, Rigger. If need be, I can have you put under lock and key.”
The hermit looked startled at first, upon the proposal of an impending incarceration, but his features soon softened and he spoke. “What are you going to do Malder? Clap me in irons? You wouldn’t do that to me. Not over this. I know you better then that.”
Malder nearly began a bold defense of his threat, but as Gib’s words worked through his mind, he was forced to admit his brother was right.
“What about Mother?” The baron sighed. His best arguments had failed and all he had left was the real reason he wanted Gib to stay. “It…it gives me no great pleasure to say this Rigger, but the truth of it is undeniable. Since you returned, Mother has been well...better. She’s had more energy, more joy. And not once since you came back has she turned to her silent, sad rememberings as she did after my father and brother were killed. You hold her heart Rigger. You do. And you can’t leave again.”
Now, the hermit was truly touched by his brother’s honesty and resting a hand on Malder’s shoulder, responded with equal sincerity. “If I thought for a moment, brother, that my leaving would be such a blow to those I loved, not even the thought of it would touch my mind. But you are wrong Malder. I hold no more of her heart then you or any member of your family. Surely you must see that.”
But Malder shook his head. “I see only that which is there, Rigger. And what I see is a woman who cannot live without you. Oh, hang it all, Rigger! Is there nothing I can say to make you understand? What of you father? You are the last man in all of Dametreos holding the name of Belphinigib. Surely I’ve told you that. I doubt that the promise of an inheritance will sway you, but think of your father’s legacy. What have you done to further his name? He would want you to follow in his steps.”
For once Gib had no defense to the baron’s arguments. “It is true, what you say, Malder. I have done little to uphold my family name. But I have to trust that such an opportunity will present itself latter. I can’t explain why, but this is something I need to see through.”
The hermit stood there at a loss for words. He couldn’t explain it to Malder and the look on his brother’s face was tearing his heart out. What more could he say? Slowly the hermit turned.
Malder watched silently as Gib hung his head and walked away, down the street. Was he wrong to want Gib to stay? Was he wrong to think of his mother’s well being? Surely no one could question his motives. His brother seemed certain that everything would be alright, but Malder wasn’t so sure. He watched Gib continue down the street, only the slightest limp detectable, until he disappeared into the shadows. How Malder craved the cruelty to reach out and stop him. But he knew he could not and as the hermit disappeared, he was once again taken by an awful sense of foreboding.
Let us stop for a moment and ponder the signiture...
Ok, enough of that!