Vol.2, Ch.1, P.4
Silver sunlight blessed fair Redelberne, city of splendour and capital of Londosius. Its impearled walls and promenades glinted with the seeming glow of royal authority itself.
The marquisate of Norden, home of the 5th Chivalric Order’s headquarters, neighboured this bastion of Man. And so it was not at all strange that Redelberne found a rather regular visitor in the vaunted Lady Emilie Mernesse, Dame Mareschal to the knights of the 5th.
Only, such trips were not partaken for pleasure. No, no, not at all. Business called her, and it was a busy caller indeed.
Many a Londosian would love to lavish themselves with a visit to the marvelled and marbled city. But the Lady was different. Where she wished to go, where she yearned to be, were all found elsewhere.
Certainly, any soul aspiring to greatness would jump for joy, to so receive a summons from Central. Not an opportunity to be left unsavoured, this. Yet what Emilie aspired to was not fame and fortune, but her own humble share of happiness. The girl that once smiled so brightly upon the bell-lily hill was now a lady, listless in her stroll through the unsought streets.
Indeed, she was tired. Tired of the meetings with the ministers and magisters of Central. Tired of fraternising with the cloistered courtiers of the royal palace. Tired of the feints, the facades, the faux smiles.
But Emilie was a young woman set upon tackling the challenges of her office head-on. Hers was a soul of sincerity, a magnet of much trust from all those around her.
A meteoric mareschal.
A hero for the new age.
Who wouldn’t want to forge a fellowship with the fair Lady? Only a scant few, if any, to be sure.
In the enthralled droves were to be found not just adults, but children as well, such as the ones encircling her at this moment. Their eyes sparkled with fascination as they beheld before them a dame of much distinction. For her part, Emilie had grown accustomed to such baby-faced phenomena.
This particular occasion—one of many—was begot at the behest of the little ones themselves. They had enough pull for it, children and grandchildren of high officials as they were. A longing to witness the wondrous dexterity of the dame was their excuse. An innocent one, if not frequent.
Strangely enough, the children were already afforded the luxury of their own instructors, each distinguished and outstanding in his tutelage. Suffice it to say, the little ones were hardly in want of instruction in the ways of the sword.
Emilie was wise to this, of course, but also to her own shortcomings as a teacher. Indeed, that same humility had driven her to turn down the very opportunity to meet the children. But the storm of insistence was unceasing. In the end, the young mareschal could only relent. And though she saw the redundancy of the situation, she did not, at first, discern the true desires of the children themselves.
The blade of the Aureola was surely show-worthy, but the little ones were hardly here for a fencing lesson. Why, they simply wished to meet her, for she was, in the springtide skies of their hearts, a star of much awe and admiration.
But in indulging them so, Emilie at last saw the idolatry in their eyes. Their enthusiasm being born from a wish to behold her blade-dance was, in fact, merely a misunderstanding on her part. The summertide skies of her own heart blushed upon the realisation.
Yet their excuse was aired anyway. ‘A swing of your sword please, madame.’ And so Emilie obliged, a humouring to hide her embarrassment, perhaps.
Pillars of lightning pealed and flashed, painting in pure white the wide breadth of the training grounds. A moment, and amazement buzzed through the young crowd.
Before long, a pair of adolescents approached the mareschal, eyes upturned and hearts curious.
“P-pardon us, madame,” enquired the boy of the two. “Might you have a moment to spare?”
“The Roun of Orisons,” began the girl. “Is it true what they say? That you’ve been blessed with the Aureola from the rites?”
A slight pause. A slight smile. “…As true as can be, I suppose.”
The conversation continued, during which the pair revealed themselves to be but fourteen years of age. The Roun of Orisons was to receive them in the following year, an upcoming occasion that surely inspired expectation and anxiety alike in their hearts.
“What was it all like?” the boy asked. “I can scarce imagine the spectacle, let alone the nerves!”
“Hmm, I wonder myself,” Emilie looked off in the distance. “‘Tis been a long while—too long, really.”
“The both of us, we mean to give it our all and more, that Yoná might be generous in Her grace,” the girl gushed. “Enough that we might fight for our families, our fellows—for all the good people of this good kingdom!”
“Knighthood’s my aim,” the boy chimed in. “Big and strong is what I’ll become, and I’ll do all it takes to be knighted!”
To that came Emilie’s mirth, gentle, fragile. “…You most certainly will, love.”
“‘Cause if I can’t, well, worrywart here’ll get her tighties all in a tangle.”
“W-who’s a worrywart, now!”
How warm they were to one another. Emilie couldn’t help but beam broadly. Yet the tinge of sorrow therein all but escaped the youthful pair’s knowing.
A brief lesson on the basics of bladework was given thereafter. To be sure, Emilie was, by then, fully aware that this truly was not what the children wanted, but to end the meet-and-greet then and there with just a demonstration of her levinblade would’ve been poor form.
Fortunately, she wasn’t alone. The Owlcranes accompanied her on that day, and they certainly proved helpful—Gerd and Raakel in particular. Numerous were the practice sessions they hosted back at the 5th, and so to instruct wide-eyed children was, to them, not too towering a task.
Soon enough, the sun went to slumber. In the evanescing evenlight, the mareschal and her Owlcranes parted from the training grounds, their ears yet tingling from the lively gratitude of the children.
Through the starlit streets of Redelberne they then strolled, until the warm conviviality of a tavern beckoned their patronage. There, they reflected on the day’s happenings over glasses of golden ale.
“I’m truly sorry for dragging you all to the capital today,” broached Emilie. “A big bother, I know, but just the thought of having to handle it all alone was enough to fray my nerves.”
“No need to fret over it,” Gerd assured. “We saw much and did even more. It was time well-spent.”
“Yea, Gerd’s got the right o’ it,” Raakel added. “Teachin’ ‘em bright-eyed bairns a thing or two’s quite the honour, if I’m honest.”
“My, Lady Raakel. How unlike you to be so honourably honest. What has softened that sauciness of yours, I wonder?”
“Eh, shut it, Sheila.”
Yet it was certain, just as Emilie’s self-reproach had revealed: this kind of outing hardly required the attendance of the entire Owlcrane Brigade. The day’s function was founded more in politics and high society sweet-talking than aught else. The Owlcranes were soldiers, after all, souls who earned their living laying their lives on the line. And Emilie was very much the sort to blush with shame in dragging them so far from their place of employ.
But between the commander and her combatants, there was camaraderie, one fostered for years now—bosom buddies, they were. Thus did the Owlcranes quickly answer Emilie’s call in her time of need, confident in knowing she would have done the same for them.
“And I owe you a special apology, Sheila,” Emilie continued. “They insisted that I might as well bring the entire brigade if I was to bring anyone at all, you see.”
“There is naught to be sorry for,” the surgien softly giggled. “But if another such occasion comes along, I should certainly like to savour a chance to teach more magick-minded youths.”
Smiles, all around the table, brightened further by the booze brimming in their cups. To them a waiter came, bearing samples of exquisite cuisine.
“Now here’s the stuff! Roasted venison, tender an’ juicy!” Raakel salivated. “Can’t come home from the capital without me tummy full o’ this grub!”
“Good grace, Raakel,” Gerd shook his head. “Came along just to stuff your cheeks with those deer chunks, did you?”
“Hah! What ye been takin’ me fer, Gerd? I ain’t a saint, y’know!”
Loose lips japed and chuckled in concert. An atmosphere drunk with jolly and joy. As their merrymaking went on, so, too, did the late hour wax on, all within the benighted bosom of fair Redelberne.