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    Yeoldebard
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The Troll Hunter - 1. The Envoy

Cassiel, Baron of Ellesmera

 

The festivities were in full swing, Lady Jamandi Aldori seeming to spare no expense for the party honouring the heroes of the day. Cassiel let out a deep breath as he drank from a goblet, the wine from Galt filling his belly with a pleasant heat after nearly a month and a half of travel and fighting. The hard part was over supposedly; everyone assured him ruling a barony would come naturally to him.

Yet somehow the half elf doubted that. He’d gotten a full day’s crash course on politics in the River Kingdoms the day before, Lady Jamandi finally coming clean about his role in her plans.

He was not exactly a figurehead; she said he was free to run the Stolen Lands- Ellesmera- the way he desired, with the understanding that he would be an improvement over the Stag Lord of course. But he was also expected to protect Rostland when they eventually broke away from Brevoy, the two original kingdoms of Rostland and Issia reforming once more. From what Cassiel could tell, it would cause a lot of infighting, the seven… six? noble houses of Brevoy would not take separation lightly, and Lady Jamandi mentioned her hope that Cassiel would be an extra chip on the table, someone to at least help maintain peace so Rostland could stand apart from Brevoy without bloodshed.

In other words, Cassiel was being used. Not that he didn’t expect that. By all rights, he would still be under Brevoy rule, a baron, not a king. Yet he would be free from Restov’s control, if not their influence. Lady Jamandi was quick to add that these were all hopes, not demands. He was free to do what he wished, but she pointed out that as his lands neared Pitax to the south, he would need an alliance with the Aldori Swordlords to not instantly be crushed by King Irovetti.

Not that he didn’t have his own designs on the new barony. Cassiel was from Kyonin, land of elves. If he could find a way to exert a subtle elven influence upon the land, he would gladly do so, if only to make the barony feel more like home.

This new land would be a melting pot, hopefully instead of being a bottle of alchemical fire. But Cassiel would have to tread carefully. He was a hero, the hero of the Shrike Hills, but no one really knew him beyond that. What kind of baron would he be? He was a mystery, and until he established himself one way or another, Cassiel knew this new barony could easily be yanked out from under him, his head rolling under a headsman’s blade. At least it would be a sword for him, not a common ax, though that thought was little comfort.

By the end of his first day back in Restov, the half elf’s head was splitting from all the intrigue.

The festivities didn’t start until the third day back. Linzi, Valerie, Amiri, Tristian, Octavia, Regongar, Theofrid, all seemed happy to be here, celebrating their victories. More than that though, there were other new nobles reveling within the Grand Hall, namely Maegar Varn and Hannis Drelev. He had been told to meet with the other guests, to form connections, and Cassiel decided to do just that. He had advisors he needed to appoint, an envoy to select, and the half elf decided to see if the other nobles, perhaps those with some sort of training, could guide his thoughts a bit.

Cassiel checked his outfit, a simple green tunic free of mud and frivolities. He knew it was nowhere near a noble outfit, but the half elf figured he wasn’t becoming Baron for himself. Why should he decorate himself like a peacock when his barony was barely started, the people now under his control suffering from the remnants of the Stag Lord’s bandits, monsters roaming the lands…

Drawing himself out of his thoughts, the half elf approached the newly appointed Lord Drevel, a man dressed in enough gold and jewels to sink the largest ship in the Inner Sea.

“Baron Hannis Drevel,” the lord said in a drawling tone, staring past Cassiel in disinterest. “You must be the Stag Lord’s butcher… I’m sorry, I forgot your name.”

“Cassiel… Lord Cassiel, I suppose, now,” Cassiel frowned.

Drevel waved the name off like an annoying fly.

“Well congratulations anyway. I suppose we’re neighbours now. My lands are west of yours.”

Cassiel cringed inwardly, schooling his face to something more bland, though he could feel his eye twitching. He prayed to Shelyn that not all the nobles present would be this intolerable.

“It was a pleasure to meet you,” he said, trying not to grit his teeth too much.

Drevel turned away without an answer, turning to one of his retainers for a drink, and Cassiel sighed quietly.

He started off across the room, aiming toward Maegar Varn with the hope of greeting the other new baron, when his path was cut off by a tiefling… Kaessi, if he remembered correctly from his last time in Lady Jamandi’s mansion.

The tiefling offered him a goblet, the half elf taking it warily.

“A drink to your success?” she offered.

“Not even a baron for a week and already someone offers poison?” Cassiel chuckled lightly, trying to joke.

“You would insult me with such suspicions! Only a moronic poisoner poisons with her own hand,” Kaessi said, feigning hurt. “If I were to poison you, surely it would be done secretly, not in front of all the guests here. And you can be assured there would be much more grace to the presentation.”

She smiled coyly, Cassiel’s laugh growing.

“But jokes aside, I came to apologise. I meant to follow you to the Stolen Lands, to aid you in your quest, but upon news of a traitor, my suspicions fell upon you and Tartuccio in equal measure.”

“You are not the only to have suspicions,” Cassiel noted, motioning toward Theofrid, who was busy manipulating the wine in his cup for the amusement of a few nobles. “I do not hold it against him, or Lady Jamandi for that matter. It is hard to trust a stranger with your livelihood. It stands to reason I would not hold your suspicions against you yourself. Should you wish it, you will always have a place in Ellesmera, though naturally I cannot promise it will be a high ranking position in government.”

“This is still more than I hoped for, and yet I have a favour. More of an opportunity, but I cannot deny that it would help me greatly. My friends from Qadira have discovered the location of an ancient shrine, in the lands that rightfully become yours today. They are too cowardly to explore the shrine with me, but surely you are not? You who have looked death in the eye and ended him with an arrow to the face,” Kaessi said.

Cassiel held up a hand to stop her, the half elf shaking his head slowly.

“You do not have to butter me up Kaessi. And technically, I was not the one to land the killing blow on the Stag Lord. That honour goes to Theofrid. I cannot agree to another expedition out of hand, not if I’m to learn how to build a barony from the ground up. However, I can promise to think about it, and if I find time, I will put together an expedition to help you.”

“Your caution is understandable. I will take up your offer of a place in your lands gladly however. Perhaps rent a house in your new capital… what was it called again?”

“Ismenia, a nod to my homeland Kyonin,” Cassiel replied.

“If you do decide to aid me, I will be waiting for you,” Kaessi bowed with a small smile.

Cassiel returned the bow, before turning back to the rest of the hall. This was… surprisingly exhausting. He already had people asking for favours, and he wasn’t even officially Baron yet. The Surtovas could still decided to crash everything as the ruling house of Brevoy and decide to kill him and take the lands for their own.

Though the way Jamandi Aldori told it, that was not quite their style. The noble houses of Brevoy were more prone to stabbing people in the back, not the front. The half elf wondered if he should start walking backwards, maybe confuse them as to which end was his back.

Sighing, Cassiel decided to skip Maegar Varn for a moment. Perhaps it wasn’t the most decorous thing to do, but he could see a representative wearing the colours of House Surtova and he figured if he didn’t want to end up dead, he should at least pay some sort of homage to his new ruler. From a citizen of Kyonin to a noble of Brevoy in only a couple short months… no wonder he felt like he’d been enchanted by a dazing spell.

He approached the representative, blood running cold as he realised it was none other than Natala Surtova herself. Bowing low, Cassiel took a deep breath, steeling himself for what he had no doubt would be yet another difficult discussion.

“Lord… Cassiel, correct? My apologies, we are not used to those without a surname,” Natala said.

“Yes…”

Fuck fuck… what was her title? How was he supposed to refer to her? Sister to the king-regent himself… it should be…

“Yes, Your Highness,” he said quickly, praying he was right.

When she didn’t immediately cut off his head, the half elf let himself breathe a little easier.

“I am surprised an outsider would know the correct form of address,” Natala said with a curt smile. “And your way with the Stag Lord, you were not only tough, but fast. I pray you enjoy your victory… while it lasts.”

Cassiel gulped quietly, not meeting Natala’s eyes.

“Is… Is there a reason my victory will not last?” he asked cautiously.

“Perhaps I misspoke. You understand that your lands will not know peace, correct? I am not sure if the Aldori informed you, but they plan to break Brevoy in half. It will not be a peaceful separation, I can assure you,” Natala said. “You see, the Aldori are setting you up to take the fall. Your lands would be struck first by our forces in a civil war. Perhaps they will erect a memorial stone to you in Restov, but I wouldn’t count on it. You are much more likely to fade into obscurity, another casualty of a foolish feud.”

“What would you suggest I do then, Your Highness? I am new to the world of high politics, and I’m afraid my skills are lacking.”

“Why, you should publicly align yourself to the right and lawful rulers of Brevoy, the noble Houses. The Aldori would not be able to strike you for fear of reprisal, and you would be supporting the just in a civil war, while enjoying your own well deserved peace. Of course, this is assuming the Aldori are foolish enough to continue their little insurrection once they are entrapped on all sides by enemies. It would be poetic justice for the dogs of war to be disrupted by the very puppet they created, don’t you agree?”

“Yes, Your Highness,” Cassiel said, his head splitting just trying to picture everything.

So many nuances, and he was caught between two sides. One wrong move, and everything would crash down on him. There was no pressure at all...

“If I understand correctly, the only reason I am permitted my lands-”

“Is because you earned them,” Natala replied. “We must think of our kingdom. Not only do we face an insurrection, but we also face pressure from Pitax. Having a new barony join us under lawful rule both steals a potential ally from Pitax, and offers Brevoy some defense against any incursion of theirs. Surely you can see what benefit you would gain from siding with Brevoy. You have our blessing to take the Stolen Lands and build them up under our protection.”

She smiled at the half elf, a smile that never neared her eyes.

“I hope you are not so naïve as to believe everything you are told. House Surtova is not some blood thirsty conqueror. We are merely keepers of the peace, taking over after House Rogarvia vanished. We support our allies, and we protect our own. Now, I understand that you are new to this world of politics. You are likely feeling lost, confused.”

She motioned toward a robed woman, a dark hood doing little to hide her aged face.

“Please meet Shandra Mervey, one of the most experienced diplomats in Brevoy. I offer her as an envoy, an ambassador to help you learn the ropes.”

“A pleasure, my lord,” Shandra said with a bow.

“Likewise,” Cassiel replied. “Lady Jamandi already assigned her charge to me-”

“Kassil Aldori, correct? I understand you would feel a kinship to him, being a halfblood yourself,” Natala said. “But surely you understand that having your enemy’s man within your inner circle would be devastating for any nation. Not only is Kassil lowborn, the adopted son of Lady Aldori, he has been raised by the sword. It is up to you, of course, but I would suggest picking Shandra, as someone more suitable to Brevoy’s politics than any brawler could be.”

“I will… think on your proposal, Your Highness,” Cassiel said, hiding his frown under a mask of politeness.

“Good, do not make any hasty decisions,” Natala smiled. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Cassiel bowed again as Natala turned away. He turned himself, letting out an exhausted breath. His head was aching, and the half elf wondered if Tristian could offer him some mercy from the pounding in his skull.

“Excuse me, my lord, did I hear you were looking for an envoy?”

Cassiel turned his head, finding an elegantly dressed man of about seventeen years old looking up at him with a polite smile. His body instantly heated, the half elf wondering if he could get this man in bed. It would have been a blessing to share a night of passion with one so blessed by Shelyn.

“My name is Lander. Forgive me if I do not stand; the clerics are still working on my leg.”

Cassiel’s eyes travelled down the man’s body, trying not to stare at the nice bulge in his pants. The leg in question was covered by fine silks, nothing obviously wrong with it, but the half elf figured something had to be there. There was no reason for Lander to lie about something like that.

“Are you a noble? You’re dressed as one.”

“Yes, though not from here. I’m visiting, you could say. I just wanted to meet the heroes of the hinterlands, and the lord mayor was kind enough to extend an invitation to this wonderful party to me. Truth be told, I’m the heir to one of Brevoy’s noble houses. I figure a newly appointed noble with no connections would do well to have a friend like me.”

He spoke smoothly, his eyes gleaming with a hidden excitement, a sense of danger, and Cassiel’s heart thudded loudly in his chest.

“I travel Brevoy in secret, no retainers, no admirers. My family would never approve, of course, but then, I never asked,” Lander smirked, and the heat of the room increased tenfold. “I know Jamandi is trying to foist her stepson on you. Refuse. Take me instead of that half orc trained for battle. I was trained in the ways of nobility, and I can most certainly be of more use to you.”

“Are you sure of that? There are things I might require that are… not exactly noble,” Cassiel said cautiously, testing the waters.

Lander laughed loudly, his eyes filled with mirth.

“Oh, Lord Cassiel, I know fully well of what you mean. And while I cannot aid you directly, I can certainly find you those who can assist your more carnal desires. I cannot imagine someone of orcish descent having luck with that.”

Cassiel’s eyes wandered to where Kassil Aldori was standing by his mother’s side. The half orc met his eyes, a small smile on his toothy face, and Cassiel let out a small breath.

“I… I cannot make any rash decisions. But I assure you, my choice will be made before nightfall,” he said, turning back to Lander. “I apologise if I made you uncomfortable.”

“Not at all,” Lander smirked. “It’s flattering to know I command the attention of any I might desire.”

He bowed his head slightly, Cassiel turning back toward Kassil. The half elf had wanted to speak to Theofrid, to offer him the position of treasurer in his kingdom. The gnome had done well in the party, and it may have been unwise to put him up as an advisor, but in the last couple of weeks, Cassiel had found a trustworthy companion in Theofrid. That should be rewarded.

And yet, the infighting between Surtova and Aldori was forcing his hand already. He needed to speak to Kassil, to determine what would be best for the barony as a whole.

Approaching the half orc, Cassiel found eyes on him, burning him, but he had already told everyone he couldn’t make a decision right away. Everyone seemed to hate on Kassil, because of his race, or his upbringing, but Lady Jamandi had to have a reason to choose him as an envoy. Beyond wanting to keep an eye on Cassiel. After all, Natala Surtova was trying to send Shandra for the same reason. She just tried to make her envoy look more enticing. But truth be told, Cassiel was much more inclined to pick Lander. He wondered if talking to Kassil was just a formality, but the half elf shook that thought from his head.

No. No formalities, he needed to be certain about this. Shandra was a Surtovan lapdog for sure. Lander seemed rather chaotic but fun. What did Kassil have to offer?

“My lord,” the half orc bowed as Cassiel approached. “Is there something I can do for you?”

Kassil’s dark eyes barely rose to Cassiel’s mouth, despite nearly being a foot taller than the half elf. Green grey skin was given a light layer of chalk to appear lighter in colour, his small tusks coloured to blend into the rest of his mouth. Red satin garments gave a cultured appearance, Kassil looking for all purposes the very picture of grace. Despite all the effort, there was no mistaking Kassil’s heritage as anything other than orcish.

And yet he spoke as smoothly as a human, grace and ease flowing over his entire demeanor, despite the slight impediment his tusks gave to his speech.

“I wish to know you better. Natala Surtova has offered me a diplomat, and I have been approached by another envoy. It seems to be in poor taste for me to accept Surtova, you, and another, so I will have to choose one, and I do not know any of you truly well enough to decide,” Cassiel said.

“That is fair. What is it you wish to know? Would you like a demonstration of my skills? Admittedly, I am more experienced as the leader of men, but I can still negotiate a ballroom, should the need arise,” Kassil said. “I would like to note that your advisors should come from those you know and trust. I am merely someone who can bridge the gap between Ellesmera and Brevoy.”

“While also telling Lady Jamandi of my activities?”

“That is a difficult question. Lady Aldori made me who I am today. But if you take me with you, it is expected that I give up my allegiance to her and swear it to you instead. A dishonest envoy would do so duplicitously, and continue reporting back to their original liege lord. You must decide who you trust the most. I can assure you that I will do what I can to help the people of Ellesmera and yourself.”

“That does little to make my decision easier. But I think I understand,” Cassiel said.

“Then I have done my job well,” Kassil smiled slightly. “If there is anything else?”

“No, but thank you.”

With an inclined head, Cassiel took his leave, holding in a sigh until he was out of earshot. So much for an easy choice. But he still needed to decide.

 

Theofrid

 

Iced wine was one of many treats in the world, and Theofrid had to admit it was one he never had enough of. At least, not the good kind of chilled wine, the kind he didn’t have to make himself.

Not that he had much experience making it. He’d only discovered his ice abilities a month ago. Before then it had been all fire all the time. The gnome wasn’t exactly sure why the change had come about, but he had to admit it made for much better versatility in combat. Instead of just blasting people, he could now lay down a layer of ice and make them slip. Much more pleasant of an action.

Or he could freeze the top layer of his drink with but a word, causing human nobles to stare in wonder and shock. As he did now.

“Ice and fire, it is a wonder you don’t melt yourself,” someone said.

Theofrid looked up from his wine, the barbarian smirking as she sat across from him with what looked like a mammoth’s leg.

“Good day Amiri,” he said with a nod, taking in the barbarian’s near bare chested appearance.

Even for an event filled with people from the highest society, she never seemed to care what she looked like. Part of Theofrid was jealous; he spent hours before this party grooming his unruly blue hair, trying to cover up burn spots or that area where a lock of hair had frozen off when he tried to cast a grease spell to hold his hair back. That admittedly had not been a good idea.

He had heard derision about her, a lot of the highborn smirking about a barbarian such as her taking part in today’s festivities. A few of those involved had met with some unfortunately slippery floors, their fancy outfits ruined by a mysterious grease stain.

“I am surprised to see you alone. I thought you were with Regongar and Octavia,” the gnome noted.

“Pfft, why would I hang around with those two? Regongar is no fun Challenge him to a contest of arms and he uses magic to win. And Octavia is too pretty, she would never last in a real fight,” the barbarian said derisively.

“I don’t know, Octavia did much to keep Oleg’s post safe while we were gone. I think she stands to be a large player in Ellesmera,” Theofrid shrugged. “Not that I care. I’m taking a carriage out to New Stetven in the morning.”

“You and the half orc aren’t staying together?” Amiri smirked. “Hah, I told you he was too big for you.”

Theofrid rolled uncomfortably in his seat, the burn from the night before still present. It wasn’t that Regongar was too big… well, that was part of it… but more than that, his insistence that Octavia take part, and his roughness… it had made for a rather unpleasant night. The gnome was glad for the experience, but he never wanted to go through that again.

Though Octavia seemed rather understanding, And it was adorable how she had read a story to Regongar until he was asleep after. There were times when Theofrid couldn’t understand why she stayed with him, but then moments like that made him realise that without Octavia, Regongar would be one lonely half orc.

Not that it made their relationship any happier.

“If you are hurting, perhaps I can assist you.”

The gnome’s face burned at Tristian’s voice, clearing his throat loudly.

“No, it’s okay really. It doesn’t hurt that bad.”

It did, but he’d seen Tristian heal before. The cleric needed to put his hands on the injury, and there was no way in hell he was letting Tristian finger him.

“Theofrid, please, I would not offer if I was not prepared to get dirty. You are not the first who has come to me with this problem, though I confess it is not my favourite trouble to heal,” Tristian said.

“If it was bad enough to need healing, I would have used a potion,” Theofrid frowned.

The cleric gave him a stern look.

“You and I both know that’s not true. You wouldn’t take from the group, and you would certainly not ask Cassiel for a potion. What if he asked what you needed it for?”

“Look, it will be gone by tomorrow. I don’t need you sticking your finger up there,” Theofrid scowled.

“Who’s sticking a finger up where?”

Cassiel dropped into a chair beside them, an exhausted look on his face. He cleared his throat, straightening up with a frown as his eyes met with someone across the hall.

“It’s nothing,” Theofrid grunted, icing his wine over again.

“Theofrid would like to borrow a potion of health,” Tristian said.

“Really? Why don’t you just take one? We have, what, nearly twenty of them?” Cassiel pointed out. “You don’t need to ask unless we’re running low.”

“It’s not my place to take from you, my lord. Not after everything you’ve done,” Theofrid said quietly.

“Then I will give it to you. And something else. You have helped me over the last few weeks, and I am grateful for your aid. Without you, we would have never defeated the Stag Lord. And with your help, we made a huge profit from the expedition. You could do so much more for me and Ellesmera.”

“What do you mean, my lord?”

“I would like you to become the official treasurer of my barony,” Cassiel said.

The next spell missed, Theofrid’s goblet freezing over entirely. He stared at the half elf in shock, trying to figure out just what Cassiel was saying. Treasurer? Him? But he couldn’t be trusted, he had gone with Tartuccio…

“You need to get over your mistakes. They are in the past,” Cassiel sighed quietly. “I know you have a lot of misgivings, but I trust you Theofrid. And I would like to have you help me.”

“I… but I’m not qualified for anything like this…”

Cassiel laughed, his head shaking as he reached for a goblet of his own.

“Theofrid… do any of us seem qualified? Octavia is my regent, my second. Three weeks ago, she was a slave. None of us know what we are doing. It’s a different kind of adventure, one that I’m hoping you will join us on.”

The gnome poked at the icy goblet, trying to determine if there was any liquid left within.

“Valerie is a noble born. Why not her?” he asked.

Cassiel sighed quietly, his eyes seeking out the fighter.

“In all honesty, Valerie does not seem a good fit for high society. It is the same reason I would not make Amiri the general of any army we might build. No offence Amiri.”

“Generals do not fight. A true warrior needs to be on the front lines, not hiding behind an army,” Amiri sneered.

Cassiel shrugged, looking back at Theofrid. The gnome wouldn’t meet his gaze, couldn’t meet his gaze.

“You are more qualified for this position than anyone else here. I have faith in you,” Tristian spoke up. “Cassiel would not offer if he didn’t trust you. Would you deny our lord’s wishes? More, would you invalidate his confidence in you?”

Theofrid shook his head slowly, looking up at the half elf.

“I am honoured, my lord. I promise to do my utmost to prove your faith in me is well founded.”

“That is all that I ask,” Cassiel smiled, before standing. “I need to speak to Lady Jamandi about the proceedings, but I want you to know I am glad to have you all on my side.”

He walked away gracefully, head held high as Theofrid stared after him.

“Shall I go get your potion now?” Tristian asked, interrupting the gnome’s staring.

“I said I was fine,” Theofrid sighed. “Let’s just get through the coronation.”

He stood up as a horn blew, the room hushing as people turned their attention to the head of the room. A group of people stood on the raised dais, Lady Aldori chief among them, though Theofrid could see the self styled queen standing nearby.

Jamandi Aldori’s words carried clear through the hall, the gnome shivering as she spoke of heroes and villains, congratulating Cassiel as the tamer of the Shrike Hills, Maegar Varn, hero of the Wasted Lands, and Hannis Drevel as the lord of Glenebon. Presenting them each with a blade, the Swordlord bowed to each respectfully, before ending the ceremony.

Theofrid almost felt cheated. Six weeks of wandering a hinterland for that? If he had blinked, he would have missed it. He wondered how Cassiel felt. Clearly Lord Drevel was disappointed, even Theofrid could see that. But the deed was done, and the night was approaching. Things were only going to wind down from here, and Theofrid pushed his frozen goblet away, standing up with a quiet groan. He’d take his leave now. There was so much that he had to figure out now.

Copyright © 2021 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.

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Well done, enjoying the tale very much, nice to see it continuing! Loved the following bits!

 

Though the way Jamandi Aldori told it, that was not quite their style. The noble houses of Brevoy were more prone to stabbing people in the back, not the front. The half elf wondered if he should start walking backwards, maybe confuse them as to which end was his back.

                                                                                 ~~~~

 

“Theofrid, please, I would not offer if I was not prepared to get dirty. You are not the first who has come to me with this problem, though I confess it is not my favourite trouble to heal,” Tristian said.

“If it was bad enough to need healing, I would have used a potion,” Theofrid frowned.

The cleric gave him a stern look.

“You and I both know that’s not true. You wouldn’t take from the group, and you would certainly not ask Cassiel for a potion. What if he asked what you needed it for?”

“Look, it will be gone by tomorrow. I don’t need you sticking your finger up there,” Theofrid scowled.

“Who’s sticking a finger up where?”

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