• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Mr. Capiatlist

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I finally finished everything so far and loved it. Keep up the good work! Also, I hope you had a good Easter!
Thanks and I did. That is why I wasn't able to update over the long weekend.
 

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This AAR is simply glorious. I'm glad I got the chance to catch up on it.
Ah, the Prussians flexing their muscle...
Another excellent update Mr C.
Thanks guys and I promise: update this weekend for sure. Been... distracted. Blame the Elder Kings mod for sucking me back into Skyrim.
 

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Bastions
Chapter Fifty One: Toil and Woe
Part 5


Prelude
1393, among other things, marked the beginning of the great Mordvin drive east. The Mordvin nations saw their western boarders (with Prussia) as locked. Few Mordvins lived on the other side and Prussia would not give up anything without a long and devastating fight. So the Mords looked south and east, toward the lands of the Turks. To the south lived the Khazars: Turkic Jews. Directly to the east were the Cumans: Turks from the Black Sea forced back onto the steppe by the Prussians. Beyond the Cumans were the Tatars, Kazaks, Turkmen and the Mongols. These nomadic peoples proved to be easy to control and unlikely to unite into any sense of a state. The Mordvin states often extorted protection money from the Turks while raiding them in order to provide incentives to pay their tribute on time. Religiously the Turks were strongly divided. Many were still Tengriist pagans; the Khazars were strongly Jewish (having originally been pagans ruled by a Jewish elite); on the steppe Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Tengriism mixed freely. That is not to say the steppe was a happy and united place. Conflicts over religion did arise, but it was not a guaranteed thing. As Mordvia's grip over the region became more and more colonial in the XVIII and XIX Centuries they forced the Turks to settle the land

August 14th, 1389

“I am nervous, Kenny,” Godiwa said quietly. Kenric shrugged his shoulders and peered out at the girls who were finishing their set for the King. “What if the King does not like my dance? What if he has me thrown into prison? What if he tries to take me to his room and the Queen has me killed?”

The Harrower turned around and looked at her, yellow and pink flowers adorning all the curls of her black hair. She tried to give him a weak smile, “I don’t think any of that will be a problem. You’ll be out there with six other girls.”

“So I am not pretty?” she said angrily. Kenric tried to judge whether she was being serious. But before he could say anything she stormed off, pretty pedals leaving a trail as she went. Maybe he could try not being such an inconsiderate ass next time, he thought. The King sat front and center, his cheeks reddened by a heavy dose of mead. His wife, next to him, clapped and laughed as the first troop, led by Astiya, finished their set with a gracious bow. All day other nobles celebrated her pregnancy and it became a sort of running theme for the show: dances and skits about new life and growth. The King seemed to take it all in stride; he always looked calm and collected, nodding and thanking the others as they offered their congratulations and prayers for a son. He didn’t look like the portrait that once hung in Krakow. Now his hair was cut short in a military style and his beard completely shaved clean. He clapped politely as the next set started. Godiwa was in the back but Kenric knew the set well from hours of watching and he knew that each dancer would cycle through the positions.

“How does the crowd look?” Werna asked surprising Kenric as he often did.

“They all seem to at least be enjoying it. I feel the Queen is definitely the most excited to be here and no one wants to disagree with her out of respect for either her unborn child or the King,” Kenric responded.

“I agree, though I think you under-estimate their excitement. But it takes time to figure that out. This isn’t just some people we corralled off the street. These are nobles; they cannot just spit wine out at the jokes or slap the person next to them on the back. They have to act all dignified like. Act too much like a buffoon and the King might not invite you back, be too sour and end up in the same trap. I find it very amusing.”

“You watch them often, then?”

“Always, it is part of what I do.”

“What do you do?” Kenric asked.

“What don’t I do?” Werna asked rhetorically with a quick grin. But the smile faded as he saw how intently Kenric was concentrating on the King. “What is wrong?”

“Do you think he will notice?” Kenric asked.

“I… I am not sure I understand.”

“Look at Godiwa… now look at the King,” the Harrower instructed, he turned to see if Werna had any reaction.

“I-I…” Words failed Werna for the first time in many, many years. He put a hand over his gapping mouth and tried not to make any sound.

“Do you think he will notice?” Kenric asked again.

“He’d be blind not to.”

“What about the Queen? How will she react? I mean, Godiwa looks only a few years younger than her!”

Werna put a hand over Kenric’s mouth as his voice had been rising, but in front of them things were already going to hell. It was Godiwa’s turn at the front and already people were murmuring. Astiya ran up from behind them and seemed to be headed toward the stage but Werna caught her with a hand on her belly. “I need to g…” she started but her husband shook his head. The King stood up to try to settle everyone down. However it was too late, the dancers had come to a stop to try to figure out what was going on. Kenric could see tears welling up in Godiwa’s eyes. Her make-up already left streaking lines down her cheeks. When the King asked for them to stop, the black-haired girl slumped to the floor, her face torn by fear and dismay.

The King turned to her and seemed to ask something, but Kenric was having no more of it. He ran out, barely avoiding Werna’s out-stretched hand, and kept himself between Godiwa and the King. There were no words in his throat, he only closed his eyes and expected to soon feel the cold sting of a blade. “Y-yes sir,” he could hear Godiwa sputtering.

“Who are you?” the King asked quietly.

Kenric carefully opened a single eye. Looking around he saw the Queen trying not to cry, comforted by a woman with a silver face. The King’s face was strict, but not angry. Behind him the nobles seemed to be enjoying the scandal. “Kenric… sir.”

“Kenric? Okay, Kenric can you please get out of the way, I am trying to talk to this young woman.”

“Are you going to hurt her?” Kenric asked defiantly.

“No, Kenric. Now please.” The King reached over and pushed the Harrower to the side. Kenric looked down on the floor where Godiwa tried not to look up at either of them. "Godiwa, what did your father do?"

"H-he... hic... was a-a merchant. In the c-capital, m-my lord," she sobbed a bit and then hiccupped again, covering her face in shame.

"And your mother?"

"S-she had been a minor noble, sir."

"What was her name, Godiwa?" The King swallowed and the Harrower saw sweat beading on his brow. Perhaps he already knew. Perhaps it was all a test. The crowd hushed down and the Queen's silver-faced handmaiden looked at the dancer intently.

"Matilda, your grace," Godiwa asked after a long pause for sobbing. She looked up, first at Kenric in a quick glance, but then focused her attention on the King, who seemed mixed about everything.

"Where is your mother now?" the King asked.

"She died..." Godiwa started, her face full of years and years of pain, "During a bout of plague in the city. W-when she d-d-die..." The tears and pain and anger couldn't be held back anymore, Godiwa's face melted and her eyes filled with a flood of water. She bawled loudly, bringing Astiya up to her side.

"Your grace, she is just a young girl... you cannot possibly expe..." Astiya had originally seemed angry under her kind façade, but she now saw what Kenric had already noticed: a melancholy veil had been pulled over the King. He tried to hide it behind the face of a ruler and a military commander but he was starting to fail. "Your grace..." Astiya started again, "When she joined us... it was not long after that plague... she had been covered in welts and bruises... her clothes were tattered and ruined... she hadn't eaten in weeks except for maybe a few pieces of bread donated by kind souls..."

A retelling perhaps intended to sway the King to sympathy but instead brought him to a red-faced rage. He didn't say anything, though; he just stood there stoically with his hands balled into fists. After a brief moment he walked out of the room, a few people trailing in his shadow. When he was out, Godiwa began sobbing harder. She mumbled and slurred to Astiya who just quietly tried to comfort her. Kenric was immobilized by confusion but then instinctively ran after the King only to be caught by the silver-faced handmaiden. "I would not follow him, little master."

"Yeah? I..." The Harrower took a deep breath and then looked into the cold emotionless metallic face. There were only four small openings: one for each nostril and one in the middle of the lips so she could speak and be heard. The last was for a single eye, which focused on him intently. "No... no I understand... You are right."

"I have known the King for a long time, little master, and I have rarely seen him this angry." As she spoke the Queen was led away from the room by a few maids, but the silver-faced woman remained.

"Do you know what is going on?" Kenric asked.

"I think it is obvious... the name... Matilda... rings a bell. Faintly."

"Should we leave?" Kenric asked.

"No. You will stay here. When the King calms down... and he will, it doesn't take long... he will want to see Godiwa again and speak with Werna. I don't believe the King is angry with the troupe, if that is what you fear." Suddenly, as if on cue, the King roared back in.

"If you say so," Kenric told the silver-faced woman. The King stormed back up to the front when the Queen caught back up with him and grabbed him. She pleaded with him in another language and he seemed to calm down slightly. Kenric saw them kiss each other lovingly and the Queen held onto him dearly.

"I do," the woman said, her voice rang with a said-so tone and a knowing smile.

By the point the room was empty save for three wanderers and three nobles. The King returned to his seat and slouched down, resting his head on his right hand. He closed his eyes and rubbed the worry from his temples. The silver-faced woman took her spot to his right and the queen to his left. Kenric, feeling a sense of duty, paced to take up Godiwa's flank and stood at attention like he had seen the soldiers do in Krakow.

"Kenric, was it?" the King askek.

"Aye, my lord."

"What do you know of this girl?"

"I... I... I am only a friend... I recently joined the troupe myself."

The King smiled knowingly and even laughed a little. "Takes a brave lad to cut in front of a King."

"Thank you, my lord."

"Godiwa, lass, can you speak clearly?" the King asked, peering down at the young woman.

The black-haired girl nodded, sniffling loudly to try to keep snot from running down her face. Her whole face was a mess of runny make-up, her eyes blood-shot and tired. "Yes, your grace."

"Godiwa, I want to know: what happened when your mother died."

"M-my father he... he called me terrible things. He b-blamed me for everything. Said I wasn't his daughter. Said he just pretended to love me for the sake of looking good with his company and so that one day my mother would love him like she had loved some other man. He cursed me and tried to rip my clothes from my back... I tried to escape and then he shoved me around, pushed me toward the door. He almost literally threw me away... like garbage. I scrambled back to the door and clawed at it... but he had locked it from within. I screamed and cried and pleaded for mercy and said I was sorry. I didn't know what I had done. I was only a little girl. After a night I wandered off. I-I needed food... and it had been raining..." The King held up his hand to stop the story. He obviously didn't seem to want to hear anymore.

"What are you going to do?" the silver-faced woman asked.

"I don't know Sarah," the King responded. He sighed and looked down at the mess of a girl that sat before him. "I just don't know. It doesn't matter what I say... she's my spit and image, the nobles will no doubt already be spreading the rumor... though I guess rumors cannot all be false."

Meanwhile the Queen seemed caught between jealousy and pity. She seemed the most shaken of the three, despite earlier being the voice of reason. While they stood idle, a quiet laughing started to come from Godiwa. Kenric turned and leaned down with a puzzled look, "I always wanted to be a princess..." she said.
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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SirkTheMonkey

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Thanks for the link Mr Capiatlist. I had forgotten the specifics of the Matilda situation although the name rung a tiny bell in my head. I don't suppose the Prussian royal family will be treating bastards any better than other real life nobles of the time.
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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Thanks for the link Mr Capiatlist. I had forgotten the specifics of the Matilda situation although the name rung a tiny bell in my head. I don't suppose the Prussian royal family will be treating bastards any better than other real life nobles of the time.
You're welcome.

Though complete recognition was not really the point; I just like to have little references like that. It makes me feel like a legitimate writer. ;)
 

enf91

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So is he annoyed more at Matilda not telling him she had his child, or that his child was treated so abysmally?
 

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So is he annoyed more at Matilda not telling him she had his child, or that his child was treated so abysmally?
Not 100% sure myself, to be completely honest.
 

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You know a universe is good when even the creator has no idea what's going on.
 

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You know a universe is good when even the creator has no idea what's going on.
It is not that I have no idea what's going on... it is just I like to keep an open mind. :p ;)
 

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Ha
At least you think you know what is going on
Is that to say you are confused? Or that the writers of Lost just smoked weed and made it up as they went? ;)
 
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Killerflood

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Is that to say you are confused? Or that the writers of Lost just smoked weed and made it up as they went? ;)
I don't know man, what if, say, all writers just smoked weed and we never know? Man, like, that would be wooooah.

 

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Mr. Capiatlist

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Well this one doesn't. :|

Guess I am just boring...
 

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Mr. Capiatlist

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Bastions
Chapter Fifty Two: Empire of Sand
Part 1


Prelude
1394 saw England's attempts to "civilize" her neighbors turn into all-out war. Decades of raids and low-intensity wars gave way to the English plan to conquer and subjugate the Celtic peoples. They knew that the hardest nut to crack would be Ireland, with its centralized monarchy and highly motivated warriors. Scotland, in the meantime, was far to disjointed to provide much difficulty. The people there were torn between the Gaelic Highlanders and the Scots Lowlanders. With a powerful fifth column, the English strategy was to send a small force to Scotland and cause a shift in power while simultaneously landing troops on Mann and Mide to try to hit Ireland at the core. But within months, despite the successes in Scotland, the Isle of Man proved to be a tough nut to crack, withstanding siege from land and sea. The landings in central Ireland were eventually pushed northward, to Ulster, where reinforcements from Scotland could more easily be brought over. Back in Prussia, England's ally waited patiently for the call to arms, one which did not come despite the hardships. King Doyvát knew that his father-in-law was looking for a victory without help to put minds at ease. But Prussia remained vigilant anyway just in case the call did come. Across the channel, the Caliph in Barcelona watched with concern. It was the fear of many, especially in Gaul, that the English were building their forces to eventually storm across and try to capture formerly Christian territories. With the peerage system causing more division than unity, the Caliph was increasingly worried that his nation, though massive, would be unable to fight off a concentrated attack.

August 16th, 1389

Astiya worked diligently on Godiwa's hair while Kenric and Werna looked on silently. The last two days had been tough on all of them, but for Godiwa it had been something lifted literally from her nightmares. Her eyes were bloodshot and dry from hours of crying and now her face was drooped with stress and self-loathing. She looked as if she had aged decades in mere days. The King, though sympathetic to her suffering had officially disowned her, something that surprised no one. The young woman never for a second imagined that she'd be able to run off to a huge castle and have a sister and soon another sibling with a loving mother and father, though Kenric guessed that she still felt cheated from days of luxury and plenty. He watched as she nibbled silently on a piece of bread, the only thing she was able to stomach with all the pressure. The four had been put under house arrest, given a small servants' house to use while the King and his silver-faced aide went about damage control. The rest of the tribe had moved on to the sacred standing stones in the west near Vilnius.

"Fuck it." Kenric said. Werna turned slowly to look at the boy as he walked over to the women and sat down in front of Godiwa, facing away. Reaching behind he let his hair down and then stated simply, "Braid it."

"What?" she asked.

"You heard me, not like anyone is going to see." He closed his eyes and drifted off while Godiwa played around with his hair. Just as she was finishing the first braid there was a light knock at the door. Werna turned his head and as he opened his mouth to speak the door knob turned and the door was opened slowly.

From the hall entered the silver-faced aide, as well as her assistants. She wore her Sunday best, long flowing robes of red and green, her hair neatly contained by a thin veil. She stopped beside Godiwa, looking down at the girl. "Please, King David would like a word with you..." she started and then following a quick glance around the room at the others, "In private." Godiwa rose from her spot in front of Astiya, her hair only half-finished with her trademark flowers.

"W-what does his majesty want?"

"I am not his majesty. As such I believe that is a question better suited for him."

"Give the girl a break," Werna said, obviously unhappy with her treatment. "She isn't even a woman yet and still you parade her around and try to scare her with bullshit like that. It is a simple question."

Sarah snapped her head over to the Lith. Werna jumped a little, unable to read anything from the placid metal mask. The words coming from within did not sound angry, though. "I am sorry, I really am. But I have a job to do." She walked over and sized-up the black-haired girl. She started by brushing the flowers off and to the ground. "You are a Christian, not some pagan fertility goddess... look like one," she muttered.

Godiwa looked mortified as the aide forced her along, nearly pushing her out of the door. Astiya looked at the flowers and began to gather them up for later. Her face sadden as it came to a particularly beautiful one, now ruined by the feet of a pompous automaton. "I don't like her," Werna said. "But she is the King's face to all us lowly sorts. I guess we are lucky we get as much as that."

Down the hall, being sped along by the silver-faced woman, Godiwa trying to ask again what the King's purpose was but this time there was no reaction from the aide. She just walked silently with her two assistants following like small ducklings follow their mother. Eventually they came to a room with four guards standing on either side of the door. They recognized Sarah immediately and stood aside to let the four pass. Godiwa looked around in amazement as she found herself in the castle's library. "Your grace... Lord David, I have brought your daughter as you asked."

The King appeared from behind a bookshelf, stack of books in hand; he looked confused. He was going to protest but he saw the girl standing among the older women, her face mixed with a nervous pale and an embarrassed red. Doyvát sighed and walked to a table to unload his books. "Thank you," he said quietly. "You may go." The others filed out of the room and the door clicked behind them. The King looked the girl over and rubbed his temples before sitting down. He scooted his chair over and invited Godiwa to bring her own over and sit beside him. She walked over with a heavy wooden chair and climbed up to look at the books he had collected.

"Which book is in this?" she asked, indicating a heavy sack.

"Actually it is something I wanted to show you," he said swallowing back his pride. He opened the sack and pulled out a book that could easily be called ancient. The binds had been done over and over again and the cover was blank except for intricate lines that once would have been colored with gold leaf. The King opened the first page and Godiwa looked down at the neat hand written words.

"The Bible?" she asked.

"Well... yes... but this is a special copy. It was brought here by one of our ancestors," Doyvát explained.

"Who?"

"A man named Morcar sailed across the sea and landed not too far from here where the city of Mariengrad stands. He came here and started our family, which despite all the complaints and denials... you will always share a part in. And so too will your children. And their children... and all of them."

"Dad?" Godiwa asked quietly.

The King almost flinched at the word but asked, "What?"

"Can I sit on your lap?"

"Aren't you a little o..." He looked at the girl who only made eye contact for fleeting moments before looking away. He smiled and pushed his chair away from the table and let her sit down. She hung her legs over the side so he could still see the table and looked over all the books. One of them had a large crest: a black eagle on white, supported by two white dragons. Doyvát saw her focusing on it and pulled it up, pushing everything out of the way and then cracking it open.

"What does it say?"

"It says: 'Histories and Peoples of the House of Hwicce - Long may they reign over the lands of Prussia.' It is the lineage of our family." He turned to the next page where a small sketch of a man was next to a crest with a white dragon on red. The colors had faded slightly, but it was a newer copy and one that had been updated shortly before his father's death. "This is Ædulf, who was a man who lived in England almost five hundred years ago."

"What did he do?"

"We are not sure... to be honest... but his son, Leofwine, who ruled a small Kingdom called Hwicce. And it is from his son, Leofric, where we get our family name: the Leofricsons of Hwicce. His son was Duke of Mercia, a powerful region in England and it brought the gamily great pride and wealth. He was also married to Lady Godiva."

Godiwa smiled at the mention of her name, "Mother used to tell me stories about Lady Godiva... how she stood up to Leofric and helped the people of England."

"Did she now?" Doyvát tried not to look sad.

"You loved her, didn't you?" Godiwa asked.

"I did," the King said.

"That is good... at least someone other than me did."

"Was her husband cruel?"

"No... he thought a lot about work. And when he wasn't working he was... out... He tried to pretend, play along for the prestige. He took me to the docks and said I was his. But I am sure he knew all along.”

“Did she love him?” Doyvát asked quietly.

“I thought she did, but I don’t know what to think about it anymore. A few days ago had someone told me I was the daughter of the King I would have thought they were crazy… yet here I am.” She looked at the older man who still seemed a little aloof.

“I…” Doyvát started. He glanced up at Godiwa who listened intently, but he didn’t know what to say.

“Your grace?” Godiwa asked. The King tried to look strong and ruffled her hair silently. She looked displeased, first her favorite flowers had been taken out, now her curls and braids were a mess. The King seemed to understand this and gave her a sympathetic smile.

“I hope you don’t grow to hate me,” he said. “I,” he paused again and looked at the beautiful girl who did nothing but remind him of his long-lost love. “You are all that remains of her…” the words were bitter-sweet and tears welled up in his eyes.

“Your majesty,” a voice called. It was the cold metallic sound of the aide, who now stood at the door with the Queen who held a small toddler in her arms. Her face seemed hardened, but still motherly. She must have only been two or three years older than she was. In another time they might have been friends. Godiwa turned red and jumped off Doyvát’s lap as the Queen walked over.

She looked at all the books that lay across the table and then avoiding Godiwa’s gaze spoke directly to the King as if the guest was not there, “Is it not time for the Liths to be going?”

“Isn’t that a little… rude?” Doyvát asked.

“I am not sure, but they are commoners. Can we please try to move forward from this whole mess?”

“It is okay, your grace” Godiwa said, “Liths are used to being chased away.” Her face sank as she walked off toward the silver-masked woman. She had sort of expected the King to at least stop her, but instead he sat there quietly and complacently. Back in the hallway the silver-faced aide followed behind Godiwa, resting a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“The Queen,” she said silently, “can be rough on the edges when she feels her place in the King’s heart is threatened.”

“We are used to it,” Godiwa said quietly.

As they reached the room where the other three stayed, the aide suddenly cut in front of her and stood between her and the door, “Can I ask what you expected from the King?”

Godiwa looked down at her feet, “Nothing really… it was nice of him even to just talk to me. I mean… I am just some Lith wanderer.”

“Your mother meant a lot to Doyvát… you’ll never be just a Lith wanderer. If anything, you are his Lith wanderer. When your troupe returns to this city I will try to have you back, even if for just a brief visit.” She then turned and opened the door. Sitting in the middle of the floor, Werna and Kenric played a game of cards while Astiya finished work on his hair. She had undone the braids and now worked on trying to get it to straighten out. She looked at Godiwa with inviting eyes. “I’ll see that the Queen doesn’t chase you off with a pitch fork, but I do believe that it is time for you to go.”

Werna stood up and stretched his arms over his head, “That is okay… we’ve sat in one place long enough.”

“It is not like Liths to be so sedentary,” the aide admitted. “I must admit that there are days when I wish I could join you as well. I am sure that I would never miss the waltz of politics.”

“You can always join,” Astiya said with a smile.

Werna helped her up and nodded in agreement, “I’m sure that one more mouth with not make the difference.”

The woman shook her head, “Nay… my place is here, by the King’s side. He and the Queen count on me to ensure everything runs smoothly.”

“Perhaps they are a little dependent?” Werna asked.

“Perhaps, but it is not my place to make things hard for them.”

“Well, you seem to understand your place very well, Lady Grey,” Astiya said kindly. “It is too bad; I would have enjoyed your company.”

“I will work on getting you back in next year,” Lady Grey said with a wink. “I’m sure the King will want to see his eldest daughter again at some point and the Queen cannot be angry at man for loves that burned out before she could even walk. Hopefully next time she will be a bit more graceful about it.” She bowed slightly and walked away, leaving the door open for the guests.

"So, what did the King want to talk about?" Werna asked.

"Nothing really," Godiwa said after a brief hesitation. "He talked about his family, but I know I already have a better one." Astiya grinned and caught the girl up in a hug. Meanwhile Werna and Kenric gathered their things up and headed for the door.

"The standing stones aren't too far away," Werna said to Kenric, "So hopefully we can be there sometime tomorrow. The troupe will not wait forever."

"I guess not. If we miss them will we head straight to Æstlinn?"

"No," Werna said with a longing look at Astiya, "No. It is important we stop there."
 
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