Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner
The former servant girl, turned Gwindaelin, stood before the barrel-chested brute, the power of her song holding him in her sway. She sang before them both, unbeatable warrior and noble lord, but Endhorg noticed that her eyes were for him alone. With a smile she captivated him and the great man, who had spent his life in martial pursuits, found the flames of desire lit within him. Behind him stood Lord Almavar, one hand on the soldier’s shoulder, watching with approval at the effect Gwen’s song was having on Vasper Morianart’s adopted son. Finally Gwindaelin ended her song, the world came back into focus, and Endhorg came out of his deep thoughts.
“That was excellent my dear Gwindaelin,” Lord Almavar finally spoke. “What say you, Endhorg?”
Endhorg’s look fell upon the girl and she blushed beneath his gaze though her eyes still sparkled coyly at him. “I think Lord Almavar that I spoke rashly before. A treasure you have in your household and no mere jewel.” Gwindaelin curtseyed with a bright smile and nodded her approval at the compliment.
“I quite agree Sir,” Lord Almavar said with a grin. “But now this treasure must go to bed for tomorrow will be a busy one for her.”
Gwindaelin laughed soft and gaily and curtseyed a final time before the two men. Endhorg watched her leave and noticed as she turned that her eyelashes fluttered playfully, as she stole a final glance at him, before she disappeared into the connecting corridor.
Lord Almavar watched Gwindaelin go as well and inwardly marveled at the skill she showed in playing her part. Almost he hesitated to open the next moves in the game, moves that must be delicately played if they were to succeed. But there was no turning back now and with a deep breath he turned his attention back to the dangerous man before him and motioned towards the table.
“Shall we continue our celebration Sir?” he spoke.
“I am afraid not,” Endhorg responded. “It is late and I must get back to the High Lord and make my report.”
“Of course, of course,” Almavar nodded cordially. “But before you go, might I lay a problem before you that has vexed me since my daughter’s return?”
Endhorg looked to the corridor where Gwindaelin had exited, the fires that she had stoked still simmering in his heart. “If it does not take too long, I suppose I can wait to hear.”
“Well,” Lord Almavar began. “My daughter is a grown woman now and it is high time that she find herself a husband. But most of the sons in the other merchant families are either already spoken for or have sons that I consider unsuitable for my daughter’s hand. I could send inquiries to Dale, but I am rather fond of Gwindaelin and would hate to match her to someone who lives so far off.”
“I do not see how I can help you there,” Endhorg responded. “I am only a soldier; the dealings of noble families are unknown to me.”
“Ahhhh, but you can help me,” Lord Almavar said with a knowing look. “The eyes of a father are not blind and I saw the sparks that flew between the two of you. Gwindaelin has never blushed so much and so fervently; I am sure that she was quite taken with you.” Endhorg’s eyes widened and Almavar knew that his words were striking the mark. “It is high time that you found yourself a wife as well, and I believe that the union would be beneficial for us both.”
Endhorg was dumbstruck and the man who had faced down countless heroes without a trace of fear, felt a catch in his throat as the implications of Lord Almavar’s request hit him. The flames of desire in him were relit at the thought that the woman, who had so suddenly ensnared his heart, might become his. Finally, with slow tongue, he managed to regain his voice.
“I am flattered by the generosity of your proposal and happily agree,” Endhorg managed, fumbling with the words.
“Splendid!” Lord Almavar beamed slapping the back of the giant man. “Give me a week to make some arrangements and then we will see to the wedding. I am a glad father this night for the problem of my daughter’s marriage was beginning to trouble me greatly. I thank you, Sir.”
“No, I thank you Lord Almavar,” Endhorg responded with a bow. “And now I must take my leave. Good night to you.” With that Almavar escorted the warrior to the door and watched as he mounted his horse and headed off towards the High Lord’s estate. Lord Almavar took a deep breath, the first part of his plan complete. After a time he summoned one of his faithful servants to his side and spoke to him in a whisper.
“I want you to go to the High Lord’s estate tomorrow and pass the rumor amongst his servants that a treasure has been found in Lord Almavar’s house. One that might be of interest to High Lord Morianart.” The servant nodded in understanding and with a final look towards Vasper’s palace, Lord Almavar went to bed.
Meanwhile, the gate guards at the palace of the High Lord parted as the massive Endhorg approached the gates. Inside he found Vasper, lounging on a luxuriously decorated divan, and lazily drinking from a goblet of the finest wine. One of his many servant girls was feeding him grapes from a bronze plate and doing her best to discreetly avoid Vasper’s lewd looks and comments towards her. Upon seeing his son, he lifted his portly form from its repose and shooed his servant girls away.
Endhorg made his report and High Lord Morianart listened gleefully as his son told him of his routing of the rebellious nobles and assured him that he would have no trouble from that quarter for some time. Vasper asked him about his lateness but Endhorg only replied that Lord Almavar had gotten word of his arrival first and held a banquet in his honor. Endhorg did not know why he left out mention of Gwindaelin and his promised marriage but he felt that for now, the image of that beautiful girl was his alone, and his father was a greedy and possessive man.
But thoughts of Gwindaelin would have to wait, for Morianart had another task for his son. The High Lord had heard troubling news that threatened his position in Riverwatch and he wanted Endhorg to ride out to investigate. A band of mercenaries for hire, lead by one Merigal Quickblade, had heard rumor of Riverwatch’s troubles and spies had spotted them making inquiries in some of the townships to the north. Their leader had become somewhat famous over the past couple years as a swordsman of great skill and valor, winning every contest of swordsmanship that he entered. What he lacked in years, he made up for with a determination of spirit that was unsurpassed and tales of his band’s exploits had been heard far and wide.
Endhorg scoffed and assured the High Lord that the ‘pup’ was no threat and that he had heard word of this Merigal Quickblade and was not impressed. But to assuage his father’s concerns he would go and investigate and if he found Merigal there, that he would strike him down with ease. Vasper laughed wickedly at his son and was satisfied. They went down into the deepest room of the palace and Vasper Morianart performed dark magic of protection over his son, shielding him from blade and arrow. Black smoke could be seen, lifting from the rooftop of the palace and the observant knew that trouble would come of it.
The next day after Endhorg rode out, Almavar’s servant performed the part he had been given well and word reached the High Lord of Almavar’s great treasure. Lord Almavar was summoned and with Gwindaelin by his side, he entered the palace grounds. Before reaching the doors to the Great Hall, Almavar told Gwindaelin to wait off to the side while he spoke with the High Lord of Riverwatch.
“Ahhhhh, Lord Almavar!” Morianart opened his arms wide and beckoned his advisor too him. “So good to see you. Come in my good man, come in.” Almavar gave a formal bow and approached Riverwatch’s tyrant. Vasper asked his advisor about various mundane matters of state and Lord Almavar performed his official duties before the High Lord got to the real point of the summoning.
“I have heard word that you have recently come into possession of a treasure of incredible value and worth,” Vasper asked with a gleam in his eyes. “Are the rumors true?”
“They are High Lord Morianart, though perhaps not the kind of treasure you are thinking of,” Almavar said. “In fact, if you wish, I can show you that treasure now?”
“By all means,” Vasper responded with a greedy look and Lord Almavar clapped his hands and told one of the High Lord’s servants to bring the ‘treasure’ that had come with him.
Soon Gwindaelin entered the room, dressed more radiantly than before. A necklace of great worth, an heirloom of Almavar’s family, graced her neck and many other pieces of his family’s jewelry enhanced her natural beauty. As she walked towards the two men, she sparkled and shone and her smile lit the room far more than either jewel or firelight could.
High Lord Morianart gripped the armrests of his throne tightly, almost unable to control the greedy thoughts that took hold of him. Almavar presented his daughter to the High Lord and Gwindaelin bowed gracefully and greeted Vasper in her musical voice.