Chapter 27 – The Wedding

Sixteenth of Learning 1142

Before Striker left Stalker alone in the guild building, she tried hard to make sure her pet understood what was happening. She had no intention of finding a dead adventurer on her return, or almost as bad, a dead kreve, which in this place was just as likely. She made sure Stalker had been supplied with both water and fresh meat, and warned the beast to hurt no one in her absence, that the people in the guild building were all her friends, and she believed the kreve understood, if not the context of what she was saying, at least how she was expected to behave. 

Stalker didn’t seem stressed when Striker left her, which was a relief. It was one thing to leave her out in the wild, 


Eric and Chari

but to leave her locked in a large room by herself? That just felt cruel. Still there was nothing she could do about it, so she put the thought from her mind and focused on what happened next, which turned out to be a short walk to the Temple of Sheba.

Much to her surprise, Striker found the street filled with people, and the entrance to the temple blocked by a dozen priests of Sheba in full battle robes. The guild master looked just as perplexed as she did.

“What’s going on?” shouted Andeon over the noise of the crowd as he pushed his way through the throng to the priests before the temple. They all knew him, so he was allowed to approach.

Like the guild master, the priest had to raise his voice to be heard over the din. “A royal wedding. Prince Eric is getting married to Princess Chari of Melar.”

“Right now? So Prince Dahr is inside as well?”

“He is. What is this about?” asked the priest.

Andeon leaned closer to the priest, so he wouldn’t have to talk quite as loud. “I had originally come here to request a meeting between a team of adventurers and Prince Dahr. I was hoping that High Priest Veloran could make the introduction. But if the prince is in there, and Veloran is present as well…it seems like fate to me. Perhaps your goddess had a hand in arranging this situation.”

“I do not know, but you’re welcome to wait. I don’t know how long they’ll be.”

Striker had managed to make her way through the crowd behind him and had overheard the entire conversation. Considering how loud they were speaking, she wouldn’t have been the only one. She looked around to see if anyone suspicious might be in ear shot, but it would have been like trying to find a specific needle in a stack of needles.

“Everything seems to be pushing us toward this meeting,” said Striker.

“Agreed,” said Andeon. “The timing is too suspect to be coincidence.”

To their right, Striker noticed two creatures she originally thought were animals standing off to the side of the crowd, watching the entrance with rapt attention.

“Andeon, are those what I think they are?”

The guild leader turned his gaze to follow hers and nodded. “They are manamals, yes. Very rare, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

“Any idea what they’re doing here?”

“Not a clue. Do you think it’s important?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “Maybe Merck would know.”

Andeon went to retrieve the rest of the Misfits, who he escorted through the crowd to the front. He wasn’t as well known a figure in Rish as the royals were, but enough people knew who he was that he managed to get them through with minimal conflict. Now they all stood waiting for the wedding to be over. Striker noticed Borin watching the manamals.

One looked much like a bipedal raccoon that stood straight backed and almost as tall as a short human. The other had probably been a squirrel, and still sported the bushy tail, despite having what was essentially a furry human-shaped body. Their heads were animal heads. She walked over to Borin.

“First time seeing them?”

Borin nodded. “They’re like me, if you know what I mean.”

“I do.”

“Do you think it would be okay if I went and talked to them?”

Striker looked thoughtful. “I’m not sure. From what I understand, manamals don’t think highly of salads. I’m sorry, Borin.”

“But why not? We’re the same. We’re both animated by magic.”

“I know but prejudice isn’t logical. I think it might be better if you just watched.”

Borin yielded to Striker’s experience, but he still looked longingly at the manamals, who, like him, had once been something less. She could almost read the urgency of his thoughts and knew she could do nothing about it. So she tried to distract him.

“What do you think about the thing with the dungeons?”

“What? Oh…”

She could see his mind switching tracks, his enthusiasm for the topic temporarily drowning out his desire to meet another species.

“It’s interesting. What are the odds of two dungeons being discovered at the same time, in two different countries? I mean we know not every dungeon ever made has been discovered, so many are well hidden, which just means that any dungeons close to cities would have been discovered first. I wonder if other dungeons have been discovered by other cities and what that might mean.”

“It’s an interesting question. I think you should talk to Ressssen about this.”

“Do you? She might be busy.”

“Borin, you’re a member of the team. She’ll want to talk to you.”

“But I’m just a plant.”

“No, Borin, you’re not just a plant. You’re a member of our team, and you’re my friend.”



“I’ve never had a friend before. Thank you, Striker.”

“Don’t thank me yet. I’ve had a lot of friends, but I can’t seem to keep them.”

She didn’t explain the comment, and Borin was sensitive enough not to ask what she meant, but it didn’t matter. Borin was happier now, his attention successfully shifted away from what Striker thought would have most likely been a painful conversation.


The inside of the temple wasn’t particularly crowded, since the room was big enough for a sizable congregation. Only the first seven rows of seats were taken, which still left quite a lot of empty rows behind.

The large chamber was lit by small ever-burning torches and contained statues in alcoves every twelve feet or so depicting famous warriors throughout history, and in one case, Arimen himself, the father of the gods. Sheba’s father, whatever that meant in the context of gods. When he’d first come here, Dahr had been surprised that Arimen didn’t have a place of honor, that he was just another statue in an alcove, undifferentiated from the others. Eric had explained to him that Sheba did not play favorites, and that all warriors were equal in her eyes, that those that lived by the way of the warrior should be respected as honorable men, no individual higher than any other. Dahr thought this didn’t seem very realistic, but he didn’t say anything to Eric, because he wanted to avoid the inevitable lecture that would follow.

The seats, sturdy white stone benches propped up on myriad solid stone blocks, weren’t built for comfort. Instead they were designed to hold the weight of some very large warriors in some very heavy armor. When a group of soldiers came in together, sitting side by side in their chain mail or scale mail or even plate armor, their cumulative weight was a threat even to stone. Dahr had seen the temple that busy and suspected that the priests had to pray to Sheba on some days to reinforce the benches, just in case.

There were three white marble altars at the front of the room, a larger central altar and two smaller ones to either side. In the days of Lethe, these altars often were used for ritual sacrifice, a practice never employed in Andara. Today these altars contained various weapons and helms worn by Sheba’s worshipers. To have a piece displayed was a sought after honor, but none of those gathered even glanced at the side altars today. Instead the focus was on the central altar behind which Veloran stood as if he were about to give a sermon, which Dahr hoped would not happen. He didn’t mind Sheba as a goddess, but sermons were just boring. And if he fell asleep at Eric’s wedding, he’d be in a world of trouble. If Eric didn’t kill him, Chari would.

Eric and Chari stood before the altar, looking tense. Though they occasionally glanced at each other, their main focus was on Veloran, who waited, either allowing the tension to build or perhaps just gathering his thoughts. Dahr looked around to see if people were still coming in, but everyone had settled into their seats. Dahr was in the first row, sitting between the two queens. He had no idea how he’d ended up there. Kalutu opted not to sit at all, but to stand at the end of the first bench. Dahr almost ordered him to sit, but thought better of it. If Dahr was uncomfortable on a seat with all this royalty, he couldn’t imagine how Kalutu would feel. He must feel out of place so often.

Then Veloran started talking, and Dahr shifted his attention to the front of the room.

“Your Majesties, honored guests, today is a special day. It is not often I am called upon to officiate at a royal wedding, and to marry two such worthy individuals honors me in ways I can not begin to express with mere words. For these aren’t any two royals. These are warriors of Sheba who have dedicated themselves to her service, and who will soon be called upon to serve her more directly. Sheba has touched their lives and blessed them. Sheba has found them worthy to express her will.”

There was a murmur from the crowd, but not as loud as it might have been. Everyone knew that the goddess had visited the throne room. To them, this wedding and these blessings were a given, something that had to happen. Still, the two of them, standing there, what they must have looked like to those who didn’t know them well.

Dahr tried to picture them as a stranger might. Eric with his sandy hair, too light to be brown but too dark to be blonde, cut short, though it had grown just a little longer since their training began. Blue eyes radiating intensity and intelligence. His serious demeanor was that of a man who would stand up to those who offended his sense of justice. Still young, he was a hero waiting to come into his own, and no one could doubt it.

Yet he didn’t dress in finery. He dressed in what most would call his normal day to day clothing. A fine white linen shirt, a brown leather vest and matching leather pants. Leather boots. Anywhere else, he might have seemed under-dressed for a wedding, but for a warrior’s wedding? He looked like a swashbuckler from stories Dahr had been told when he was younger.

And Chari, blonde haired, blue eyed, not just beautiful, but sharp like a sword and there was beauty in that too. She was so sure of herself, so powerful. That energy fed into her appearance somehow, making her almost glow, like she was part goddess herself. Like Eric, she dressed in leather breeches and a white shirt – the two of them matched, Dahr realized. He hadn’t noticed till now. He wondered if they’d done it intentionally. He took all this in, in the moment Veloran had paused to let the audience react.

“There isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been said about these two. Eric is the stable rock upon which the Kingdom of Twyl can safely rest when he finally dons his father’s crown. And Chari is a warrior who will protect that peace and freedom through strength of arms and innate wisdom.

Wisdom? Had Veloran met her? Dahr almost laughed but managed to catch himself.

“Today, the two will become one. Stronger together than the sum of their individual strengths, wiser together than the sum of their individual wisdom. Today, Prince Eric of Twyl and Princess Chari of Melar will be united under the watchful eye of my lady Sheba, Goddess of honor, combat and the hunt. Princess Chari, do you have anything you wish to say to Eric?”

Dahr felt Queen Rhea stiffen, as if she feared what Chari would say. This made him smile. He’d probably feel the same way if he were her.

“Prince Eric, I have only known you for a short time. And during that time, we have already found ourselves in situations that no young people should ever have to face. Yet, if I must face these challenges, I thank the goddess that I face them with you by my side, for surely no one else will fight to protect me as you will, even if I don’t actually need that protection all the time. I am a Warrior you know.”

Everyone laughed, including Dahr.

“I didn’t expect to want to marry you the day we met in the throne room, the perfect picture of a king in waiting. But then I grew to know you and found that I like you. I mean really like you. I came to Twyl thinking of ways to get out of this marriage, but it wasn’t long before I decided this was what I wanted. And it was you who changed my mind. Your honor, your faith in the goddess, your support and your steady hand. Thank you for being you.”

She turned to Veloran and nodded.

“And Prince Eric, do you have something you wish to say to Princess Chari?”

“You expect me to follow that!”

More laughter. Dahr thought he had a fair point.

Veloran patted Eric’s shoulder. “As servants of Sheba, we can only do our best, even if that is sometimes hopelessly inadequate.”

Eric gave him a flat look and a few people laughed. Then he returned his attention to his wife to be and took her hands.

“Chari, when I saw you standing there, that first day in the throne room, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Now, only a short time later, I still have no idea. Trying to figure you out is like trying to catch the wind, or grasp moonlight in my bare hands. Yet as elusive as the reasons for your actions might be, I have never questioned your heart, your courage, your honor, your capability, your honesty, your strength of character. I didn’t know you were missing from my life until you were in it. And now, we take this step so that I might never have to be without you again. I can not imagine my life without you. Of course, I’m not at all sure I can imagine it with you either.”

There were a few chuckles from the crowd. Dahr glanced up at Queen Treya and saw there were tears in her eyes. He was glad he wasn’t alone.

“I know that Sheba has reason for this union, but I would like to think that even without her influence, we would have married anyway, and we would be happy together, live our lives together, and grow old together. This has been my wish for us since the first day I met you.”

He turned back to Veloran.

“You expect me to follow that?” said the High Priest. “Well I guess I must. I will not waste time with a long speech, because Prince Dahr would probably fall asleep like he usually does.”

Everyone laughed, but Dahr was mortified. He blushed and put his head in his hands. Queen Treya put a comforting hand around his shoulder. He buried his face against her. She smiled down at him. He couldn’t see it but he knew.

“So instead, I’ll simply pronounce the two of you married and leave you with only this word of advice. No matter what happens to you in the days and weeks and even years to come, your relationship will bring you strength. Support each other. Depend on each other. Lean on each other, for that is what marriage is about. Prince Eric, Princess Chari, you are now married in the eyes of Sheba, the Goddess of Honor, Combat…”

Before he finished, Chari grabbed Eric and pulled him in for a kiss that seemed to go on for quite a while. The people applauded and cheered for the duration and when she pulled away, she had a far away look in her eye, and Dahr thought, maybe, just maybe, she already loved him in spite of her words.

“and the Hunt,” continued Veloran. “You may now kiss…oh never mind. We’ve done that already.”

He held up his hands in a cheer, and everyone joined him, rushing off the seats to be the first to congratulate the new couple.

Dahr was among them, happy and melancholy at the same time, for things would change now, and it wouldn’t be just him and Eric. Ah well, he liked Chari anyway. And now he had a team to lead. He doubted in the days ahead, he’d have much time to miss Eric, considering what was coming…whatever that would be. He wished he had more information.

There was a brief period where everyone spoke with the young couple, but each well-wisher moved on so others could get to them. And when it was done, the king nodded to several guards, who made their way to the doors and pushed them open.

The crowd outside had swelled to a sea of humanity, and the guards had their work cut out for them trying to push through to form a path for the group to make their way back to the palace. The kings and queens followed directly behind the guards, followed by nobles. The crowd pressed in as far as the guards would let them and cheered wildly.

And as Dahr passed through the door, he turned to the left and noticed a man that he never really expected to see. Merck Vanderoth stood to the side, watching the royal procession, scanning the group that was leaving the temple. His eyes met Dahr’s, and he stiffened.

“Wait!” shouted Dahr, more loudly than he intended. Even over the roar of the crowd, the king and queen heard him and turned. Dahr pointed to Merck excitedly, and both Eric and Chari had come over to him.

“It’s him. It’s Merck Vanderoth.”

“Really? Where?” asked Eric.

Dahr was already moving, and the guards hurried to get in front of him. The king was shouting orders, but Dahr wasn’t paying attention. He only had eyes for the former Swindler.

And when he finally got close, Merck knelt on the ground and bowed his head. “Your Majesty.”

Dahr didn’t have time for the formality. He pulled Merck to his feet and then looked around. He saw the guild master of the Adventurer’s Guild, who he’d only met briefly. Embarrassingly, he couldn’t remember his name.

“Hi,” said Dahr to him.

“Your Majesty,” said the guild master, bowing.

“What in the blazes is going on?” asked King Terrence, finally catching up with his sons.

Dahr looked up at him. “We need this man. Are you alone?”

Merck Vanderoth shook his head. He was trying to kneel to the king as well, but Dahr was holding him up. Merck looked at the king apologetically.

“I have my adventuring team with me.”

“Very well,” said King Terrence, “bring them. You too, Andeon. I have no idea what’s going on, but Dahr does, and that’s good enough for me.”

Queen Treya was the next to reach them, along with Maynor.

The queen didn’t say anything, but Maynor made up for it. “Who is this? Who are these people? How do you know them, Dahr?”

The king held up a hand, and Maynor stopped talking.

“Not here,” he said.

Dahr had stopped paying attention to everyone else. He was staring at Merck Vanderoth. He was real. He was here. It was happening, just as George had said it would.

Just then a flaming parrot dropped out of the sky to land on Dahr’s shoulder.

“My job here is done.”


“I’m afraid so. I was here to make sure this meeting happened, and that’s done now.”

“But where will you go?”

The parrot shrugged, which is quite a sight if you’ve never seen it. “Who knows? But if you need me, I suspect I’ll find a way to you.”

“I don’t even know your name,” said Dahr.

The parrot again shrugged. “What makes you think I have one? I wasn’t born. You created me that day in the Adventurer’s Guild. So if anyone gets to name me, it’s you.”

“Oh damn.”


“I’m terrible at naming. I think I’ll call you Flamewing.”

The parrot gave him a pained look. “Flamewing? Really?”

“For now. I’ll think of something better, I promise.”

“I hope so, because if that’s the best you can do, I might not find my way back to you. Flamewing, indeed.”

With that, the parrot took off and flew straight up into the air, until it was barely a speck in the sky, and then it wasn’t even that. They all watched until it disappeared.

Dahr looked at the puzzled crowd and said, “We need to get back to the palace. We can talk more freely there.”

The king nodded agreement, perplexed and nonplussed at the situation, but he gave orders to the guards, and the procession started up again, this time with the Misfits of Karmenon and Andeon Walsh walking amidst the nobles.

What no one noticed in the confusion was that Kalutu was not with them, involved as he was in his own meeting.


Forward to Chapter 28 – A Familiar Problem

Return to Chapter 26 – Confluence of Circumstance


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