The News

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Pen’reail was riding through the Plains of Eriadan in Southern Corlan.  Very recently there was a small Ork incursion.  His roadmen had dispatched them swiftly, but Pen’reail still wished to view the scene for himself.  With the Elarin forest so close at hand, another incursion was possible, however the Kreton were still maintaining a vigil on the area.

There are also some words of ghost from the ancient ruins nearby.  Whether these ghosts are real or superstition made no matter to him.  They would be brought to heel or destroyed.  His thoughts wandered to his trip into the ruins.  He and his men had spent two nights in the bowels of the earth.  His men had thought him crazy, but he knew there was something worth looking for.  It was as if Talten Steele himself were guiding his steps to his goal.  When they finally reached the main chamber, the altar itself seemed to answer Pen’reail’s prayers.  A shame about the men lost on this trip, but their lives bought a treasure truly worth having.

Snapping out of his reflections, his hand moved to his chest where the amulet hung.  The feel of the item reassured him.  He felt the contours of the gem encrusted necklace.  He felt it’s shape, that of a festive mask, such as a fox would wear.  But this was no fox relic.  He smiled to himself for a moment.

***

It was afternoon when he rode up to the castle, content with the safety of his domain.  The drawbridge was down and the portcullis up.  Only at night was the keep shut from the outside world.  It was a sombre fortification.  It seemed to hold function above beauty.  On the gatehouse the evening guard was relieving their companions.

Oddly enough Aleria was waiting for him in the courtyard.  Usually his wife would be in her room, reading at this hour.  Her awaiting him meant she had something to discuss with him.  That was a prospect that frustrated him already.  No doubt some more talk of children and heirs.  Honestly does this whole family not have anything better to discuss that breeding and offspring.  Not to mention the twins born to her sister.  Pen’reail steeled himself and rode to meet her, spurring his horse enough to give the impression of making haste to meet his lady wife.

“Good evening, my lady.” he intoned curtly

“Good evening, my lord.”

“It is strange to see you out at this hour.  Do you wish to speak to me about some matter.”

“I only wished to inform you that some news came while you were out.  It is regarding the Summer Althua.”  She seemed strangely cautious and she rarely cared for such events.  “The invitation from Senator Adrente came just as you predicted.  The party is to be hosted at his palace in Davfanna Aldrena the eve before the sitting.”

“Fascinating date to be sure.  It holds promise.” Pen’reail dismounted and handed his horse to the groom.

“Also…” she trailed off.

“Yes…” Pen’reail probed impatiently.

She continued softly: “It is also said that Avirexa Dara Steele may also be in attendance.”

“…”

All colour drained from Pen’reail’s face as he stood there in awed silence.

“My lord?” his wife asked.

“Excuse me.”  Pen’reail said abruptly and stormed off.

***

Aleria’s bedchamber was near the study.  Usually it was quiet, even when her husband was working all night.  Tonight however he seemed to be having an argument at length and she even inquired to make sure there had been no visitors.  They had confirmed that Pen’reail was alone in his study and had made it clear that no interruptions would be tolerated.  No one tested him.

Though most of the words were muffled and unintelligible, she could still pick up a particularly loud phrase through the wall from time to time.  Some things were things you did not say of your mother, let alone the Duke of your house.  Yet here he was screaming them to the walls in hopes that someone would hear it.

It seemed she would have no rest tonight either with the steam his rage had built up by now.  She got up and summoned her maid.  “Find Tony.  If he has any duties the master has given him, leave him to it.  If he is not busy, send him to me.”

“Yes, m’lady.”

Alone again Aleria lit a few candles.  She then went to her dresser and picked a dressing gown.  She then took her perfume and spent a few drops on herself.  She took a brush through her hair.  She got up and returned to her bed and propped herself on the pillows.

A little while later a knock came on the door.  “You sent for me, m’lady?” Tony inquired.

Through the wall Aleria could hear another bout our enraged names.  Her husband would not leave his study tonight.

“Come in, Tony.  Close the door behind you.”

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