Posted by DarthKrzysztof
Quinn shifted the weight of his lamellar armor around his shoulders as the men lashed the ship to the dock in the brightness of midday. The armor’s steel scales made him look like a fish, and he’d still drown if he fell in the water. But its protection outmatched anything he’d ever worn in the Dalelands, and he’d have to get used to wearing this if he ever wanted to try anything heavier.
Besides, he thought, Shardea wants ye tae wear the armor. And when ye’re truly a Spellknight, it’ll belong tae ye. So shoulder the weight, as ye shoulder yer duty, and quit yer bellyachin.’
He made his way toward the ship, painfully aware of every eye upon him – “the Dalesman playing dress-up, ” he heard one woman whisper to another. Who cares if they dinna think ye have what it takes? Shardea never would have chosen ye if that were true. Everyone she’s ever chosen has become a Spellknight… eventually. Besides, remember how ye helped her do this last year? Now she trusts ye tae do it on yer own.
Fine. Let’s get on with it, then.
He ran a hand over his face and stopped near the gangplank as the dock hands shoved it into place. “Candidates for initiation!” he shouted, rather louder than was necessary. “Tae me!’
As the ship’s passengers disembarked, three approached Quinn. The unmistakably Korthan woman in the lead had the stocky build of a peasant, and hair as black as a raven’s wing. The man behind her, probably Icatian, looked like a mouse to Quinn, dressed all in drab brown. A slouched, scrawny elf in a dark blue robe, with a brooding face and unruly black hair, brought up the rear.
“I welcome ye tae Mystral. My name is Quinn. Ye are Katarzyna?” When the Korthan nodded, the squire turned to the elf. “Echo Moria?”
“I am he,” the elf said, performing a strange, sad little bow that distracted Quinn a bit too much.
“And… I’m sorry, you must be…?”
“Norvel.” The mouse-man’s voice was even, but contempt crouched behind his eyes.
“Norvel! Aye. Good. If ye’ll follow me, I’ll take ye tae yer rooms.”
Norvel muttered something under his breath, and Katarzyna drew a little too close to Quinn. “You vill take me to Vym now,” she announced.
Quinn tried not to roll his eyes. This happens every year. “Regent Wym sees the candidates all at once,” he recited. “And there are four still coming on the morrow.”
She looked him right in the eye. Her breath smelled like garlic, which made Quinn oddly wistful for the food he’d enjoyed during his time in Korthos… “You do not understand,” she said. “I have come long vay. Regent is no doubt vaiting to see me.”
“That’s as may be,” Quinn said without blinking, “but suren if ye intrude on the Regent’s time afore yer time, he’ll just send ye back from hence ye came, right on the spot.”
“He vouldn’t dare,” the Korthan said, with much less conviction.
“I’ve seen him do it. Come on, then. I’ll show ye tae yer quarters.”
He turned to head up to Mathghamhna, casting a brief glance over his shoulder to make sure the candidates followed.
He squared Katarzyna away first. Though the candidates had all been too dazzled by the sights of Mystral to say a word on the trip up to the citadel, Quinn didn’t wish to give the Korthan any more chances to make trouble. Fortunately, he had “reached her,” as Shardea often put it.
Norvel came next; he asked two simple questions, got two simple answers, and locked himself away to study.
“Ye’re down here,” Quinn told Moria, leading him to the end of the hall. The elf made a dry swallow when he beheld the size of the chamber. When he noticed the squire looking at him, he said, “This room is bigger than the house I grew up in.”
“Aye, mine too. Well, joinin’ the Order’s a big deal. They want ye tae know how important ye are tae them.”
“I see. The effect it has on me is… not what they intended, then.” Moria moved into the room, glancing around at its extravagant furnishings. His vision stopped on a bottle of wine before returning to Quinn. “Forgive me, but I am not accustomed to speaking this Icatian tongue.”
“It’s nothin’. Ye speak it fairer than I do, I warrant.”
Moria waved a hand dismissively. “I am unfamiliar with humans and their ways. These past days have been an… education.”
“Did ye come from Faerie, then?”
“How about that. I grew up on the Faerie border, in Invershire.”
“I have never heard of it.” Moria quickly added: “I do not think.”
“Not much there tae hear of, no. But someone once told me, where ye’re born ain’t always where ye belong.”
Moria seemed to find some meaning in those words, but said nothing. Finally, Quinn said, “Well, I should be back about me duties.”
“The Korthan woman, Katarzyna, spent the last three days boasting about how she was going to sweep in here and become part of the Arcane Order. She is an insufferable boor.” Moria didn’t smile, but his frown almost went away. “Thank you for silencing her.”
“Aye. Sure.” Quinn had taken no pleasure in it, but it had to be done. “I’ll see ye around. Good luck tomorrow.”