Meanwhile the Young Prince sat outside his black pavilion, drinking from his silver goblet and rising from time to time to mount his horse and vanquish yet another undistinguished foe.
He had won nine victories, but it seemed to Dunk that every one was hollow.
He is beating old men and upjumped squires, and α few lords of high birth and low skill.
The truly dangerous men are riding past his shield as if they do not see it. R.A.
SALVATORE, “DEMONWARS” Jilseponie could hear Pettibwa’s boisterous laughter again, truly the most joyous sound she had ever known. After a few moments, and now with a wide smile on her face, Jilseponie moved around the side of the Giant’s Bones and down a narrow alley, coming to a very climbable gutter pipe. Up she went, moving with the grace of a warrior, of one who had perfected bi’ nelle dasada, the elven sword dance.
She came to the roof and shifted along, then leaned back against the warm bricks of the chimney and stared out to the east, to the tall masts standing above the foggy shroud like great skeletal trees on the distant Masur Delaval.
Even those masts evoked memories in her, for she had spent her first dozen years in the Timberlands, the source of the great trees used for constructing the ship’s masts.
How many times had she watched a caravan roll out of Dundalis down the south road, the ox team straining with every step, dragging a huge log behind? How many times had she and Elbryan sneaked out of the brush along the side of the road and climbed atop one of those timber sleds, after betting on how many yards they could get before the driver noticed them and shooed them away? “Elbryan,” she said with a wistful smile, and she felt the moistness creeping into her eyes.
He had given her the nickname, Pony, when they were young, a name that had stuck through almost all of her years.
Hardly anyone called her that now – no one but Roger Lockless, actually, and he only sparingly.
She preferred it that way, she supposed.
Somehow, with Elbryan gone, the name Pony just didn’t seem to fit her anymore. Barely two decades had passed since those innocent and wonderful days, and yet Jilseponie could hardly believe that she had ever known such a carefree existence.
All her adult life – even before her adult life – had been filled with tumult and momentous events! She sat on that flat rooftop now, smelling the smoke from the fire below and the salt from the Masur Delaval and the Gulf of Corona beyond it.
She let the memories of her life, and the lessons, play out of their own accord, no doubt coloring, albeit unconsciously, her feelings about present surroundings.
Minutes drifted by, becoming an hour, and a chill breeze came in off the water.
The Baroness hardly cared, hardly even noticed, just sat and reflected, falling within herself to a place of calm and quiet, a place untouched by evil memories or thoughts of the bustle of her present-day, seemingly endless duties. She didn’t notice the glow of a lantern moving along the alleyway below her nor the creak of the gutter pipe under the weight of a climbing man. “There you are,” came a familiar voice, startling Jilseponie and drawing her from her reverie.
She turned to see the smiling face, sharp dimples, and ever-present beard shadow of Abbot Braumin Herde as the monk pulled himself onto the roof.
He reached back and took the lantern from someone below, then set it on the roof.
Braumin was into his mid-forties now, nearly ten years Jilseponie’s senior, his hair was as much silver as its former dark brown, and he had many lines running out from the sides of his gray eyes.
Smiling creases, he called them.
He had always been a large man, a gentle giant, barrel-chested and barrel-waisted; but of late, the waist had been outdoing the chest! Behind him came his reliable second, a dear old friend who had been with Braumin for more than two decades.
Master Marlboro Viscenti was a nervous little man with far too many twitches but his competent mind seemed to see many things just slightly differently from others, often offering a helpful viewpoint. Though she always preferred to be alone in this, her special place, and though she felt as if the lantern was a bit of an intrusion, Jilseponie could not help but be happy at the sight of her two dear friends.
Both these monks had stood behind Jilseponie and Elbryan in the dark last days of Father Abbot Dalebert Markwart, though their lives would have been forfeit, and horribly so, had Markwart won, as it had seemed he would.
In the years since, Jilseponie’s relationship with the pair had gone through many stages, including when Jilseponie was angry with them, and with all the Abellican monks who had hidden in their abbeys, afraid to try and help heal the plague victims.
All her bad feelings about that time had been long washed away, though, for in the last few years, Braumin and Viscenti had proven of immeasurable help to Jilseponie as she had settled into ruling the great city.
As baroness, the secular concerns of Palmaris were her domain; and as abbot of St.
Precious, the spiritual concerns of Palmaris lay in the domain of Braumin Herde.
Never before had Palmaris known such harmony between Church and State, not even when good Baron Bildeborough sat on the secular throne at Chasewind Manor and kindhearted Abbot Dobrinion presided over St.
Precious. “Did it ever occur to you that my reason for leaving Chasewind Manor without an escort was so I could find some time alone?” Jilseponie asked, but her accusatory question was delivered with a smile. “And so we are!” Abbot Braumin replied, huffing and puffing and sliding up next to her. “Just us three.” Jilseponie only sighed and closed her eyes. “Now, you will never see the sail from that position,” Braumin teased her good-naturedly. She opened one eye, staring hard at the monk. “The sail?” “Why, yes, that is the spring moon, is it not, Master Viscenti?” Braumin asked dramatically. Viscenti looked up and scratched his chin. “I do believe that it is, yes, father,” he answered. Jilseponie knew that she was being teased, and, given that, she understood then to what sail Braumin was referring.
She wouldn’t make it easy for him though. “I see many sails – or at least, masts,” she answered. “Though with Captain Al’u’met’s Saudi Jacintha sailing along the Mantis Arm, none of these are of any interest to me.” “Indeed,” said Braumin. “It would not interest the Baroness of Palmaris if her King sailed to her city?” “Alas for the kingdom, with such disrespect!” Viscenti chimed in, dramatically slapping his skinny forearm across his brow.
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