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Journals (pp13-15)

15 Mardal, late. pp 13-15

I have seen the enemy, whoever it might be. I have also seen a lady whom I hope to make more than just a friend. And I have met a man the likes of whom I hope to become some day.

I walked out of the Crown and Anchor as the tower bell was tolling six. Andrew had given me good directions to the family House. My obvious breeding and the cut of my clothes got me past the guards at the gates to the upper city and I strolled up the short distance to the Marat enclosure. There I presented my invitation to the guard, who called a page to escort me to the main house. By the time I reached the front door enough time had elapsed that I felt comfortable.

The door warden took my cape and showed me into the sitting room, which was filled. Andrew had not prepared me for just how many people would be in attendance. To his credit, he immediately came to me, embraced me and introduced me to his father and mother. Phillip is a picture of robust good health combined with age. His hair is mixed grey and brown, cut short in the style of his generation. Serena Marat, Andrew’s mother, has silver hair and a gentle grace about her. The two are clearly still very much in love. Andrew introduced me as “my new best friend” and extolled my virtues in the arts and wit. I hope that I did not do anything to disabuse them of his assessment.

I say this because I was distracted at the time. There was a woman present who outshone all of the others, and not just because of her flaming red hair. She was poised, well dressed in an outfit which was designed to be modest while inflaming the imagination of any male in the room. There were several young lords paying court to her, and Andrew was lingering in the vicinity of his parents, damn him.

He then introduced me to his brother Raymond, an obnoxious and sarcastic person, who immediately attempted to insult me in a way he seemed to think was clever. Rosanne and Pierre were more pleasantly spoken, but still seemed to be somewhat hesitant to be seen with Andrews “new best friend.” Andrew introduced me to several other people whose names I don’t remember, friends of his siblings. Then he introduced me to the redhead.

Emille is her name. She is his sister, the one I had written earlier as Emily. She smiled at me as I kissed her hand, and professed herself glad to meet me, as apparently Andrew had mentioned me. I was able, barely, to keep up a conversation while trying not to lose myself in her eyes. Luckily dinner was served shortly so that I did not have to keep up my conversation for long.

The dinner was excellent, at least as far as the food was concerned. I used the opportunity to test my ability to use the poison detection amulet unobtrusively. I certainly succeeded as far as the others seated at my table were concerned, but the elder Marat spotted me and let me know via an inquiry as to my health that he had done so. I informed him that my health was excellent, and likely to remain so, then turned to conversation. After dinner, when we were gathered once more in the sitting room for drinks, I thanked him for his courtesy and let him know that I was mostly concerned for his son’s health, not my own. He told me that he was glad that his son had such friends and shook my hand. Should I survive another thirty years, I hope I may be able to be as insightful and as courteous as he is.

Chance and the flow of the gathering then allowed me some time to talk with Emille. She professes the greatest love and respect for Andrew and a total lack of desire for power. And when I acknowledged that I found her most agreeable, she said that, being a redhead, she had a fondness for the same. That caused me to blush nearly to the color of my beard, the which she found amusing enough to kiss me on the cheek.

Damn Fate and all the gods. She is one of the four people most likely to be conspiring to cause Andrew’s death. I cannot believe it of her, but that could be either because she is not, or that she is a consummate player. I will dream of her tonight, I know.

Journal (pp 11, 12)

15 Mardal (pp 11, 12)

In the morning I did some walking and buying of drinks down near the docks. Needless to say, I did not bother to shave before this excursion, nor did I wear my best. Wore the tunic I was about to throw away, and my old boots. There was no work to be found near the docks, at least none that “I” was willing to take, but there was a lot of talk about the Grand Ball and about the ruling noble families. Everyone seems to know that Phillip is planning to leave his fortune to Andrew and there is much speculation, and not a little betting, on whether or not he will survive, and if not, who will inherit. There was much speculation about the children of the Landause family as well, as the current Lord is ailing.

There are only a few major social events each year. The Grand Ball is one of them. All of them seem to have a relatively high mortality rate.

A few “innocent” questions gave me some additional information. Andrew is right to fear poison. To directly attack someone is a crime. To have an enemy drop dead from a surfeit of eels or a previously unremarked “allergy to almonds” may be seen as “convenient,” but if it can’t be proved to be an attack, the person who it benefits will walk free. On the other hand, self-defense is not only legal, but encouraged, since it saves the expense of trials and lawyers. It is suddenly less amazing that the poison detection amulet works.

It appears that the Lords (or Ladies) who rule the Great Houses tend to live for quite a while, since they can openly hire guards, employ mages and safeguard their health. (The killing of a young child is investigated and prosecuted vigorously.) The children, once they reach the age of majority, are expected to compete, since in that way they can show their fitness to rule. They are expected to cultivate friends rather than hiring assistance, though all admit that some friends are better than others, and those often have purses which are conveniently fuller than those of their companions.

I returned to the Crown and Anchor a little after lunchtime, and found Andrew “holding court” in the main room of the bar. A troubadour was singing some of his compositions and the entire crowd was enjoying itself enough that I was able to sneak up to my rooms without being noticed. A quick bath, shave and change of clothes and I was able to saunter down, to jeers about my “sleeping in,” which I took in good nature. Andrew reminded me that I am to attend upon him at dinner. He will be at home, so he gave me an invitation which I am to present to the gate guards when I arrive. He emphasized that I am to arrive no earlier than six of the clock and no later than half an hour later.

The weather has been wonderful these last few days, clear and warm but not overly hot. That will come in good time, I am told. More after this evening’s meetings.
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Journal (pp 8-10)

14 Mardal, late.

Picked up the blue outfit from the tailor. That’s the one I’m going to be wearing under the costume, so I put it on before heading out to Rogue Street. The tailor is well worth the money; the singlet fits perfectly. Normally I wouldn’t wear the lace, but it is all the fashion this season. Or so Andrew assures me.

The Costume of Death is red, of course, and will be about seven feet high when finished. Death has wings in this culture, and the support for those is why we need multiple fittings. I will be able to move the wings by moving my shoulders. I’m not sure I like all the mechanics; they might get in the way if I have to move suddenly. I persuaded Michel to make a buckle rather than just a band across the chest. And I do have my arms free; a lot of the height is in the neck and wings and I see through a scrim at the base of the neck.

The first two fittings involved taking my measurements and then, after an hour or so, fitting the harness for the wings and head. Michel is a very talented costumer, and much in demand, but seems to feel that doing this particular Costume for a friend of the Marats will make his business. It might do that, actually, if Andrew survives this next week.

After two hours Michel declared himself satisfied with the fitting so far, and told me to come back in two days. At that point I need to be wearing everything I would be wearing at the Ball so that we can be sure that none of it will interfere with the Costume. I am particularly worried about the amulet and my sword. Michel says the amulet can hang from the neck of the Costume (which could put it near my eyes so that I don’t have to be seen to look at it). Belting the sword on the outside would spoil the line of the Costume, but he thinks that robes are full enough that I should be able to wear it underneath. The front of the robes will be open so I will be able to draw if needed.

Had dinner at the Crown and Anchor with Andrew and his crowd, in the private room. Most of them are younger than we are. Andrew is my senior by a year and a half at 32, and Phillip and Marcel are about my age, but most of the group are in their early twenties. All are from the noble houses and most are younger sons and daughters. The evening was pleasant enough, but Andrew left early, with Roxanne.

Tomorrow I have to pick up the other two outfits from the tailor and present myself for dinner with the elder Marat and his children. Roxanne is invited, of course, and Andrew wants me to meet his siblings and to introduce his new “best friend.” Sleep now.

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Journal (pp 5-7)

12th Mardal late. Might even be 13thn Mardal by now. Spent most of the evenng drinking with Andrew and his associates. Mostly drunk out. It’s a good deal I only have to walk up. Advantge of this job free drinks. Disadvntage only somtimes.

13th Mardal – – morning.
It turns out that Andrew needs me to not be obviously a bodyguard. If his father found out he’d hired a professional it would mean trouble. It was a measure of his fear that he hired me at all. I will have to think of a way to find out if he really does have enemies.
No hangover this morning, which is nice. I wonder if there is any way to send a bottle of that fruit wine to Joan.
I’m sure there is. There have to be people who know how to control the gates between the worlds. Mayhap when I am free of entanglements I will talk with some of the mages in the capitol. There? not going to be anyone in this town who can answer my questions.

13th Mardal
Spent most of the day at the tailor?. The Grand Ball is to be a Costume Ball of some magnificence. If I am to properly represent Andrew I must not only dress well, but present a Costume as well. Andrew has decided that I will be Death, since his costume will be The Shepherd and his current light of love, Roxanne, will be the Shepherdess. This will give me a good reason (within the framework of the Ball) to shadow them, since Death must always haunt True Love. Such proximity is necessary since he fears that his food will be poisoned by one of his younger brothers who seeks to inherit.

A most strange system. Amongst the upper classes, which include most definitely the Marats, inheritance is total, and vigorously contested. In addition when the elder of the family passes his 60th birthday he must pass on the family fortune and control. Most, of course, do not live that long. Phillip Marat, Andrew’s father, is approaching that age. In fact, he intends to announce his stepping down as of 20 Mardal.

He has had 7 children. Andrew is the third. He was happily resigned to a pension when accident took his eldest brother, and his next eldest died under unusual circumstances. (Andrew was not forthcoming with details as to how unusual it was, but he was convinced that Raymond, his father’s 5th child, was responsible. For some reason he seems to have no fear of his sisters, Emily, number 4 or Rosanne, number 6.)

I guess that if that were the way we had done it back at home I would have trusted Joan. She always did have the welfare of the lands in mind more than herself. I am glad that King Robert allowed her to stay on as castellan. At least with her there our people will be somewhat protected.

At any rate I suppose all brothers trust their sisters in some ways.

The costume for Death is going to take four fittings. Two tomorrow and one each on the 16th and the 17th. The wings will be the hardest part.

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Journal (pp 1-4)

(pp 1-4)

7th of Mardal, 28 Sammath Rex, 982 since the Founding. —

I find myself in Krallow, a town with pretensions to class and with true ties to trade. Used the last of my silver pieces to rent a small room and bath in a better, but not good, part of town. I will use the balance to attempt to find employ. I really would rather not convert one of my remaining gems at this time.

9th Mardal —

At least food is cheap. The duel ring afforded a few silver until the promoters realized I could beat the local thugs with ease. If no one will challenge, there is no money to be made. Still, 15 silver will last me for a while and buy some clothing which will gain me entry to the upper class here. I am sure there is *someone* who feels threatened and who wants a bodyguard.

11th Mardal —

There is someone. I have moved my lodgings to the Crown and Anchor, a tavern frequented by the younger set when they are pretending to be “common”. Andrew Marat is one of the “leaders” of these groups. After some drink he confided in me that he is in fear of his life due to the matter of the succession of his father, Count Marat. I suggested that he could hire me at a reasonable rate, in return for introduction to “society” as a younger son and (of course) payment of my expenses. He agreed.

12th Mardal.
Purchased from Alexander Crofts, Esq. one poison detection amulet. Tested it myself with blind samples from my bag. Amazingly enough, it actually works. The Grand Ball is to be held on 17 Mardal. Andrew is very concerned by it. He “must” attend. I will attend with him.

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