Haskeer is hungover, but beaming. The four finger-length scars left by the claws of Fairchild are bone-white against his grey face. They do nothing to improve his appearance, but the wide smile and occasional happy tear that falls down his cheek more than compensate. He is clad in armor of the purest white, chased on each side with simple, clean steel. His tailor, Kelvin, had insisted.
“It’s a work of beauty, but I’m not going to make it useless by putting gold on it. It’ll protect you from a dragon’s jaws, a minotaur’s horns — but not I fear from the eyes of a pretty girl. Too bad, the mighty hero finally falls.” the sandy-haired cleric had grinned.
Corben leaned against a nearby pillar, wearing the ceremonial gray tunic of a squire. He came over, and spent a moment fussing with Haskeer’s cape. The music swelled, and the rogue grinned.
The two step into the throne room of Caleron. The right hand side is dedicated to the bride’s family – mainly nobles and good folk of the city, but also a contingent of the Knights of the Key, led by their new captain Sir Galen, and his second in command Lady Travail. She elbows the tall, young human and he snaps a crisp salute to Haskeer. Some of the rigid discipline fades, and he gives the half-orc a semi-warm nod.
The groom’s family however, is the thing of tall-tales.
The front rows are crammed with Truescale Kobolds and Brightflame Goblins – Blart and Peto wave tiny little flags with Haskeer’s face crudely scribbled on them. Neither tribe truly understands this human ritual, but they are vastly excited to be included. Pembleton stands on the far aisle, his minotaur frame far too large to fit in any of the pews. A whole pew is dedicated to the survivors of Jacradam. Between the devil onslaught and the fierce carpet-bombing of the Valerian evokers they are still a little worse for wear, but half of Tuskside seems to be in attendance, along with a few humans and dwarves — a symbol of the new water pouring through the dam.
Carbunkle sits a few pews back, dark spectacles over his eyes as he nurses a glass of tomato juice. Scarlet sits next to him, and Binky has donned his finest monkey tuxedo for the occasion. The gnome only brought his top eleven favorite grandchildren, but several more had come along, wearing foolish disguises to convince their Gloompa that they were different ones.
Agnar sits behind them, arms crossed obstinately between Martin and Thorn. Thorn is doing her best to keep Talitha in her seat, but also seems to be spending a fair amount of time reaching across the barbarian to fuss with Martin’s splint. The old ranger had met them at the Gilean border, leading the few bedraggled survivors of his Gryphon raiding party. He was nursing a broken arm, and a half-stitched gash in his side, but was no worse for wear. The Key Knights that followed him were battered and beaten, with the eyes of men who had learned more than they ever wished to know about war. Thorn had berated him mercilessly, dragging him below decks to see to his wounds. Since then the two were rarely found apart, to Martin’s unease and Thorn’s growing satisfaction. Sinoe sat, as still as a statue between Talitha and Mara, but seemed to be spending an unhealthy amount of time inspecting the revolver on the gunslinger’s hip.
Haskeer moved forward, his boots ringing on the marble floor.
Fin sat serene and alone, doing his best to ignore the aggressive boredom projected by the vastly overweight orange cat at his side. He beamed at the paladin as he passed. Haskeer also got approving nods from Stortz Tart and Tom Brighella, or Lord Brighella as he was now known. The young noble, Lucas Grahd leaned forward as well and shot the paladin a serious ‘thumbs-up’.
Echo sat in a place of honor, a pew right up front — only appropriate for royalty. Her mother, the de facto Queen of the Sea sat beside her, austere and proper. The defenders of the Dolphin Tribe and Whale tribe were able to repel the devil’s underwater siege — but the other tribes were not so lucky. Vast losses had shaken them to the core, and refugees from the shattered tribes made their way to the Queen’s feet every day. The leader of the Whale Tribe, Ziria had politely declined his invitation. Echo slouched to one side, wearing the elaborate dress she had worn months before to the ball at Dominoe Manor and whispered in the ear of Galbadia Dominoe, who then turned and passed the message to the lean rogue, Ballast. The vicious pirate blushed in shock, and covered her face — trying to hide her embarrassment at whatever Echo had said.
More and more smiling faces, turned up to greet Haskeer. Sir Barnabus, Dayjen Moore flanked by two Seafoam Marines, Jump and Silo, Kelvin Mason…more and more. But there was only one face he wanted to see.
At the end of the aisle, clad in shining gossamer white, was Princess Alastelle of Caleron. She glowed like a torch, and the rest of the world faded away. Corben had to tug his friend rather sharply into place, the half-orc’s goofy grin remaining even as he shook free of his reverie. The bride stood alone, as was custom in Caleron.
King Cai of Caleron, smiled wanly from the simple chair between the couple. The old king had been sick for weeks, bed-ridden. But he had insisted on performing the ceremony himself, and he had been carefully carried to his place on his quiet throne. The cleric Marlowe stood close by his chair, quietly sending his Bright Lady’s blessing into Cai. The king’s was weak, but sure as he spoke.
“I see a knight, and a lady.” the king began. “Do you know this knight, lady?”
“I do.” Alastelle smiled.
“And is he a true knight?”
“Has he done great deeds and bright, in the service of the land?”
“Is he good and true, strong and fair – the true hero of your heart?”
“All of this…and more.” Alastelle said.
“Will you have him, lady?”
The crowd leaned forward in anticipation. It was not unheard of for maidens to deny the groom at this point. The purpose of this ceremony was to fulfill the honor and nobility of the groom’s suit — but without forcing the bride to consent.
“I will.” Princess Alastelle said.
King Cai smiled with genuine delight, but adopted a serious expression for the crowd’s benefit. He made some show of weighing the lady’s words carefully. At last he turned to Haskeer, and asked the traditional question.
“Will you honor this lady’s choice and serve her until the end of your days and beyond? On your life, on your heart, on your sacred honor that is every knight’s charge?”
“And..” Cai added, drawing some quizzical looks from the Caleron natives on the bride’s side. “Will you protect her…her and all of her lands, until the end of your days?”
Cai smiles with relief, closing his eyes briefly. “Then if it is the lady’s wish, and the knight’s duty…what is the word of a king? May your days be long and bright, may your family grow and flourish, may you engrave this moment forever in your hearts, and may your arms never be weary of the glorious burden that you take up this day. Lord and Lady, take your place.”
Alastelle happily steps forward into Haskeer’s arms, and then Carbunkle yells something inappropriate.
Later, entering the wedding party in the elaborate gardens [pages have labored all morning to remove the piles of debris, broken furniture, shattered glass and damaged topiary from the early evening food fight that broke out.] Marlowe pulled Agnar aside.
“You’ve done well, brother. And you’ve earned a respite.” Marlowe crossed his hands, and said seriously. “But don’t wander too far. The Bright Lady still has work for you.”
The old man poked the barbarian’s chest to reinforce his message. “And we need to find you a nice wife, too.”
The tables were packed with well-wishers. Bragg Silverhammer was locked in a fierce philosophical debate/art wrestling match with the crusty old spymaster, Kirk Bitterbark. At the nearby Seafoam table, the former captain of the Riptide, Rake Bitterbark gazes at his father with long-held anger still smoldering in his eyes.
Sinoe and Rulf stand on the edge of the party, as motionless as statues — until Talitha and Crackers run over and drag them out onto the dance floor. The young scion of the Precursors makes a beeline for the noble Lucas Grahd, sitting with his back to the dance floor reading a book.
Simple paper lanterns are strung across the garden. No magic used by the Brightflames or Truescales, except for the most essential — the love and skill of friends.
Froththimble stumps importantly around the party, knocking over punch bowls with his okay-sword and cornering strangers who want to hear the story of his little brother’s adventures.
The crew of the Lodestar moved around the party, speaking to new friends, old enemies, comrades and rivals… and people who were a mixture of both…each other. They had all agreed to go their separate ways after the wedding, avoiding any long drawn out farewell. Plans had already been laid for regular meetings in Caleron to discuss long term plans for combatting Open and Shut..and to annoy the piss out of each other anew, and drink and eat. Each knew that this would be their last chance to speak for an unknown length of time.