The World of Novi

THE MALLORN COMPANY CHRONICLES

Copyright Lowell R. Matthews Copyright © 1996–1998

Chapter 2: Some Light After-Dinner Entertainment

Section A: Finlaure and Lyridia

Alvaron—Monday, Lifesong 21, 3869 A.R.

With his presentation obviously a rousing success, Finlaure told the members of the Mallorn Company to enjoy themselves—but not too much, of course—then he and Lyridia left the Company to its revels.

Once outside, on their way to Aunt Idril's magnificent coach, Lyridia spoke in warm, rich Savi pitched for Finlaure's Eldani ears alone. "A masterful oration, Star of my Heart. Stirring, indeed. Why, one might think you had a Bardic gift."

Finlaure laughed softly and squeezed Lyridia's hand as they neared the coach, where Idril's footmen and driver gave small bows and made ready to depart. "It always helps to start a new venture on a high note, my Song of Joy. It may make the rigors of training easier to bear."

"Of course. So tell me, O mysterious one, since you took us away from the Captain's perfectly good banquet, where shall we dine?"

"Why, on a portentous night like this, I will give my lady only the best to satisfy her ... appetites."

"Oh, is that so?" Lyridia purred dangerously. Swiftly, she reached over to seize Finlaure's chin with surprising strength, and kissed him fiercely. "Well, then, my lord, let us go quickly, before I decide to take a bite out of you," she said in much warmer tones, and settled her head into Finlaure's shoulder.

Soon thereafter, too soon in some ways, the coach came to a smooth halt. A footman knocked discreetly and announced, "Sir Finlaure, we have arrived at the Chrysanthemum House per your order."

"Very good, thank you. Well, my lady, you said you wanted to visit this little corner of Mintakyo in Alvaron, and this is your chance."

"Thank you, my lord. Come, let us make the most of it."

And so the couple entered the gateway of the Chrysanthemum House, Kiku Ie in Mintakan. The illusion of its decor was so strong both could almost believe they had stepped through an enchanted portal leading nearly 3,800 miles to the east to the heart of Mintakyo, the Imperial City.

The House offered a superb sampling of all the richness and variety of the far-flung Mintakan Empire, its dishes mostly seafood and rice in flavors ranging from bread-and-water bland to white heat strong enough to ward off a Yakazan winter. On its stage skilled actors, trained in the finest traditional Noh schools, performed their tales of Light versus Darkness in fanciful, archetypal masks of exquisite workmanship.

Between courses and entertainments, Lyridia turned to Finlaure, her hair and eyes gleaming in the light of the hanging paper lanterns. Taking his hands between hers, she again spoke in Savi for him alone. "Belovéd, I do not wish to wait any longer. Your family and what is left of mine might want us to stand on ceremony, but let us instead marry privately, soon, before we enter this war. No matter how careful we might be, we do not know what Fate holds for us. I pledged my heart to yours so long ago, it seems now. Let us end the waiting."

Finlaure took a deep breath as his heart raced. "Well, let me think about it," he said with a twinkle in his eye. After about five seconds of deliberation, he grinned and said, "Okay."

Lyridia laughed out loud and threw her arms around her neck. "Wonderful! I am glad you did not make me wait much longer, or I would have had to hit you with something painfully shocking."

"Oh, no, not that!" Finlaure laughed. "But I thought a Firebolt was more your style."

Lyridia sniffed. "Silly! I would not really want to hurt you, only get your attention." She joined his laughter.

"What kind of wedding are you wanting? Perhaps we should have a private wedding at Aunt Idril's estate because of all the invitations a formal one would require. After the war, we could go for a big state wedding in Allon at the site of our new tower currently under construction. There we could invite your friends from the Black Rose Academy, as well as my family and friends."

"I am so glad, Star of my Heart, that we think alike. In fact, I talked to Lady Idril about something of the sort this morning."

Finlaure sighed. "Just like two women to go plotting behind my back. Have you any other surprises for me tonight?"

"Well, now that you mention it, I was thinking of something. Two things, actually. First, Lady Idril gave me a letter this morning. My ward, Curaen, is well enough to travel, and should arrive in the next few days. I will ask Lady Idril to send him to me, at her estate, I suppose. And second..."

"Wait a minute, please," Finlaure interrupted gently. "Curaen, you said? Who is he, and why is he your ward? And why have you not mentioned him before?"

"The sad truth is that I did not mention him to you because I have not thought about him much since I was captured. I shall have to make up to him that stain on my honor—apparently he was severely injured trying to find me and has had a difficult convalescence at the Academy, and is only now well enough to travel.

"Why is he my ward? Well, several years ago I went home to Lonnorburg to visit some of my cousins (some generations removed now) and a young street-thief decided to try to cut my purse. A little magic put a stop to that, and I turned him over to the authorities. But I could not help but notice that we had something in common..." Lyridia brushed her fingertips along the delicately blended features of her face. "I hired an investigator to find out a few things about him before his trial, and learned that his childhood was basically one long nightmare. When I heard the magistrates pronounce a sentence of ten years' hard labor, I had to intervene. In short, Curaen became my ward and servant for the period of the original sentence. When he arrives, you and I can decide whether he should continue in my direct service or join the Company."

"Amazing. I see new facets of you every day."

"But of course. I have to stay mysterious, you know. Now, before we go back to Aunt Idril's for the night, I want to fly with you to watch the stars. We cannot waste such a beautiful night. But this time, I shall provide the means."

"Your wish is my command, my lady."

And so the couple, basking in the glow of the paper lamps and happiness, finished their meal in relative silence, then took the coach back to the Blood Rose Armory on Firefall Lane. After dismissing the coach and servants, giving them a little extra for their troubles, they walked hand in hand to a deserted side street. There, Lyridia called upon her magics to summon two majestic Air Wings III, the giant eagles' cloud-like forms belying their speed. And then, after an invigorating flight through the cool night air, it was time to say good night and part. But soon there would be no more parting!