Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Into Castle Lancaster

Castles of the Lion Country do not have moats.  This is because there are precious few rivers in Lion Country and diverting a river to make a moat would lead to a prince's people turning on him and, in all likelihood, stringing him up for the gnaths.

Instead, the castles of the Lion Country are built on hills whose sides have been made steep and carved with the castle's patron gods.  For this reason, when a prince decides to make war on his neighbor, he will raze the castle to the ground but leave the hill on which it stood untouched.  You may think to yourself that the Heaven King is overrated, but you will leave no mark on the hill that claims him as protector.

You can never take chances with the gods.

-

Gunter whistled when he saw the Castle Lancaster's hill.  "Moriben's wings, what an architecture!  This is the style of the late high mittling ages - I would guess the carvers were from the Ander lands, look at those angles..."

"So, you like hill-carvings, do you?" Thaddeus clapped Gunter on the shoulder as he caught up to him, and he too turned his face towards the castle and its hill.  "Massive, isn't it?  See, Amy -" he looked over at Amy, who was walking up with her boots covered in dust and her straw hat tilted to shade her eyes " -trying to break in would have been stupid.  What did I tell you?"

Amy shook her head and pulled off her hat.  "You have a point," she said grudgingly, "though I still do not think the most direct approach is necessarily the best.  Too audacious."

"Yes, we are not being the most subtle, are we?"  Gunter did not seem to be really paying attention to his words; his eyes were too busy drinking in the edifice of the Hill Lancaster.  "But I doubt sneaking in would be any better - likely, much worse.  They can accuse us of dishonor not, the blame is all for their taking."

"Gunter agrees with me," said Thaddeus with a victorious lift of his eyebrows.  Then he pointed at the largest carving, of a woman with very long hair.  "The Fire Wife is my patron god, too.  She'll take care of us."

Amy snorted in disgust and said, "Well, if you're so confident, then let's climb up to the gate and see if they let us in."

Thaddeus grinned.  "Will do."

-

"State your business."

The command should have been terse, strict.  But when issued from the mouth of a boy no older than they, with a face that made even the Rosefire of the Lancaster house look like a private school insignia, it was hard to take seriously.

"We're here to see about the release of Melusine Kramer, vassal of the Lady Demon Orsolya Markov," said Gunter.  He at least attempted to sound businesslike.

"What about you, what're you doing here?" asked Thaddeus. He'd hooked his thumbs into the pockets of his over-baggy trousers and was slouching as if to mock the guard's toy-soldier stance. "Want to buy a necklace for your girl and need some extra money? This job doesn't look exactly interesting, if you ask me. Come on, what are we, the first visitors in a week?"

Amy shot him a look.  The guard looked similarly irritated; to his credit, he did not rise to Thaddeus' provocation. He would have gotten top points in an etiquette class.

"You may present your case to the Prince Lancaster when he returns.  The waiting chamber is to the right of the entryway."

As they walked into the sudden shade of the castle's main door, Thaddeus said, "Not very good security, is it?  He wouldn't even notice if we didn't go to the right. Probably doesn't think he's allowed to turn his head while he's on guard."

"Oh, and they would let us go where we wanted?" said Amy.  She indicated two more guards posted at the door leading from the entryway into the main hall.  Then she looked more closely and did a double take.

Gunter noticed and, as they entered the right chamber, asked, "What was it?"

"That was Demyan," she said.  "Demyan Holston.  Remember him, Thaddeus?"

"Yeah," said Thaddeus, sitting on an elaborately carved chair.  "He was courting that foul girl Renee for a while, wasn't he?  But then he sort of disappeared."

Amy nodded.  "I wonder why he's here, of all places."

"If he's an old friend, can't you ask him?" said Gunter. He half-glanced out the door to the stony-faced interior guards.

Amy grinned darkly and shook her head.  "Not an old friend at all, Gunter. In fact" she too looked out, and fixed upon the taller guard a look of deepest loathing "once, a long time ago, he tried to kill me."

--

If it's difficult to keep track of the characters, tell me straightaway.

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