The Foolhardies 169 A Different View

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"How's it hanging, kiddo?" Chris Pint asked me.

We were standing on the western battlements of the Palanquin Palace's living wood walls. Right above the thousand step rise that led from the city's main thoroughfare up to the palace grounds.

From this vantage point on the eastern edge of Shärleden, one had a breathtaking view of the City of Smiles. Its wooden halls and giant canopy of redwoods and the great waterfall descending down from atop the mighty cliff on the far west end of the valley whose life-giving waters formed into numerous pools and river paths across the city.

"Hey... you didn't bring me all the way up here as an excuse to see the city's fortifications right?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

He laughed out loud as his eyes looked upon the city's breathtaking nightscape while the green-tinged lights of fairy fire and the golden tinge of light-emitting gemstones twinkled before us. 

"This place could rival my Milkyway," he said breathlessly.

"Sorry… you named your city after the Milky Way?" My tone was a little skeptical.

"I am called the Lord of Stars, you know," he chuckled. Then he turned around to look at the scene behind us while saying, "And no… I'm not here to spy on your clan… Besides, you're the one with the gift of sight, boyo."

Chris Pint's eyes slowly trailed upward. "Breathtaking… You know, we can see the Bloodsword Mountain even all the way down south."

I followed his line of sight and found myself staring up at the Palanquin Palace's wooden spires that trailed up to the sheer cliff face of Bloodsword Mountain's western slope. Above, the snowcapped peak seemed to glow under the watchful eye of Idunn's light.

"What do you think of this alliance, Dean?" Chris Pint asked.

The change of tone in his voice made me turn my head sideways at him, and I saw the way his demeanor had turned serious.

He spared me a glance that told me he was expecting an answer. 

The truth was I had been thinking about this very topic since the night Aura mentioned it to me. The timing alone was significant as it was right at the cusp of another b.l.o.o.d.y war.

"I'm not familiar with the details of the alliance," I admitted.

"Even with the princess of the Trickster Pavilion following you around?" he asked jokingly.

At least, I a.s.sumed it was a joke. Otherwise, I would have had to duel him for Aura's honor—not. The dude would wipe the floor off me if we ever tangoed.

Still, my respect for the guy didn't erase the frown that had appeared on my face.

Chris Pint laughed. "Don't go falling in love with fairies, kiddo… that's just a recipe for a broken heart."

As he said this, I could almost sense a great sadness in him, and I was certain there was a story behind it. I just didn't think it was appropriate to ask. Not at this moment, at least.

"You may not know the finer points but a smart kid like you probably has an educated guess at what kind of objectives this alliance has," Chris Pint said wryly.


I thought about it again and it felt like an awfully long time before my lips moved.

"An alliance means a ceasefire," I reasoned.

He nodded. "But what does a ceasefire mean for two clans who aren't even close enough to go to war with each other right now…"

"That's irrelevant," I countered. "Just knowing that we're safe from an attack by the southern region's clans is a load off the council's back…"

"What makes you a.s.sume that?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.

I also raised an eyebrow at him when I said, "I'm a.s.suming this alliance has a defensive component… an agreement to watch each other's back while the alliance is in effect. Otherwise, this timing wouldn't have made sense."

The Lord of Stars chuckled.

"Yeah… that's true. We help you guys with the big bad Sunspire Dominion while you help keep the other southern clan's from ganging up on me and mine," he admitted in such a nonchalant manner.

"The southern clans are gunning for you?" I asked curiously.

"They don't like that a fairy clan is under the rule of a mudborn like you and me," he laughed again. "Chokes them up to know I beat their kind."

"But the southern clans are afraid of you, right?" I pressed.

"That's true… but fear can only hold people down for so long…" he revealed. "Fairies will rise up against the oppressor… at least that's what the propaganda is saying about me."

He turned toward the view of the city again and there was an unusually warm smile on the older man's face.

"But ask anyone in my clan what they think of me and you'll know the truth… I'm the G.o.dd.a.m.n Breaker of Chains, man… I'm the Spartacus of the Fayne," he laughed to himself, but somehow, his smile never reached his eyes.

"So it's like that in the south, huh," I noted. "Well, thanks for the insight."

"Don't you think it's even worse here in the central region?" he corrected me.

"What do you mean? There's conflict everywhere in the Fayne," I reasoned.

"And yet, this is the only region in the Fayne where a fairy clan met its end," he reminded me. "Hasn't happened since the fracturing of the Moon clan, and even that wasn't complete destruction like what happened to the Magesong."

I gazed out at the scenery before me and thought about the implications of what he just said. It was true. In the five hundred year history of the warring clans era, this was the very first time a clan was destroyed.

"Do you know how it looks to the rest of the clans?" he asked.

I could guess. "It means the Trickster Pavilion is serious about unification… claiming the empty throne."

He nodded. "It means you're going to have more enemies than the Sunspire Dominion…" he patted me on the shoulder. "Well, you and the Scarlet Moon."

I felt the shock appear on my face. "B-but we weren't allies in the last war!"

"Everyone knows that," Chris Pint responded. He leaned over the railings and narrowed his gaze at his own procession that was finally at its tail end climbing up the steps. "But whether or not you were allies, together, the two clans were responsible for the death of another… that has consequences that are only now beginning to reverberate around the Fayne."

"So that's why Orryn was so eager to jump into this alliance… we need backup," I realized. "But what do you get out of this? Besides getting us to back you up too?"

"Just being in an alliance with the clan that destroyed the Magesong is enough to rea.s.sure my people that you guys aren't about to take a swing at us," he admitted. "That's enough of a morale booster for us to keep fighting in the south."

"And if you win in the south…" I hesitated to ask my next question. "You'll eventually want to come to the center… won't you?"

Chris Pint frowned right before that big fat grin appeared on his face. He glanced at me and said, "I'm liking this view a lot."

That ominous statement sent chills rising up and down my spine.

Just the thought of crossing swords with the Lord of Stars, a sense knight who was leagues ahead of me, was giving me a headache. But, a very tiny part of me, the arrogant Dean that sometimes showed up on a battlefield, well, that Dean was feeling chills for a completely different reason. It was as if my inner warrior was screaming out at the top of his lungs, "Bring it on, dude!"

Of course, I said none of this out loud, and only said, "I'll stop you."

"Heh! Bring it on, newbie," his grin got even wider. "But first you're going to have to beat the Dominion in the desert."

"We're going to do just that," I said confidently.

"And you're going to have to claim the biggest prize to get to within my shouting distance, boyo," he challenged. "You're going to have to claim the head of Lord Rah, at least, if you want to tango with me."

"Um, that's a really high hurdle, you know," I complained with a baleful eye at him. "There is such a thing as level progression…"

The Lord of Stars laughed out loud and long, long enough for a visitor to arrive and clear her throat for him to shut up.

She was dressed in a sky blue gown that ended just above her ankles. A midnight blue cape was draped over her shoulders held together by an emerald brooch shaped into a four-leaf clover. There was no jewelry on her except for the gold necklace and locket hanging from her neck. Her face was painted underneath her left eye with the flowery patterns commonly done in elven n.o.bility.

Also, I wasn't sure if it was an illusion or not but her golden hair, which was usually cut just above her shoulder, was now long enough to flow gracefully down to hair waist.

Princess Aurana inclined her head to Chris Pint in a gesture of respect.

"Greetings, Patriarch of the Starfall clan," she said in a stately voice I wasn't at all used to. "My brother, the Patriarch of the Trickster Pavilion sends you his warmest welcome, and asks that I escort you into the Patriarch's hall so we can begin tonight's revelries."

Chris Pint, being the dude he was, whistled at the sight of her. Then, as if he was trying to out me, the idiot elbowed me in the ribs and whispered in my ear, "d.a.m.n, now I get why you're in this clan, you son of a dog, you."

He chuckled at my expense then returned her greeting, stating in as loud a voice as possible that Aura was the very visage of the golden moon come down to bless us, mere mortals.

It warmed my heart to see that Aura didn't bat an eyelash at his compliment, and instead she said something she knew would annoy him, "It should please you to know that the Inquisitor of the Justiciar herself is arriving tonight."

"Wait… what?!" Chris Pint stepped back all of a sudden. "That brat is coming here? Why?"

"As you know, an alliance between fairy clans is always conducted under the watchful eye of the Justiciars to ensure the Law of Equivalent Trade is observed in the agreement," she explained. Then she shrugged. "It seems our alliance was interesting enough to warrant her appearance. After all, there are two Sense Knights among our two clans."

"s.h.i.+t…" he hissed.

"Um, sorry, princess," I interrupted. "But who is the Inquisitor?"

Aurana turned her gaze on me and I could swear she was laughing inside. You could tell from the twinkle in her eyes.

"The Inquisitor will certainly interest you as well, Commander Dapper," she said. "After all, she is the Sense Knight of Tastes."

"And the worst glutton in all the d.a.m.n Fayne," Chris Pint growled.


The Foolhardies 169 A Different View

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