A mysterious woman appears in the company of a young lord - her secret is very revealing
Grand duke Faron scanned the dining hall, his eyes taking in the many nobles, lords and ladies. One or two lords came with concubines, drawing disapproving looks from the married ladies. He didn’t much care whether a lord kept a concubine or not. Though deemed unacceptable in some circles of Nadorian society, most of the gentry turned a blind eye.
The stout old lord of Dernia approached him with his young wife in tow. He bowed, “A Good evening Duke, and congratulations on your birthday.” His wife followed suit, smiling as she offered her best wishes.
The Duke bowed in return, “Many thanks, my lord, lady Bethany, enjoy the festivities,” excusing himself and continuing his perusal of the hall. Finally, he saw the one he searched for; the young lord of Molantia. Lord Michael with the equally young and mysterious woman accompanying him. As the young lord approached, duke Faron considered what he knew of the lord. Lord Mickael recently came to power after his father died. He held the respect of his people, well mannered with an excellent all-round education and a skilled diplomat for one so young. The young woman with him made him curious; little was known about her. She appeared shortly after the lord’s father died since then always at his side at any significant function.
Lord Michael bowed courteously, “Duke Faron many congratulations on your birthday.”
“My thanks to you,” the Duke returned the bow, “I was sorry to hear of your father’s passing.”
The duke turned to the woman with the young lord. She kept her eyes down only occasionally looking up. Dressed in a green gown of modest making which matched her eyes, her face plain with straw-coloured hair; she seemed average in every aspect nothing stood out about her. She bowed deeply but did not speak.
“ This is my ward Relana Deria, she occasionally assists me in some matters,” he paused. “She is a little shy and not used to being in such grand company.” Lord Michael stated.
“Ah, I understand have no fear young lady I do not bite,” the Duke smiled.
“I take it you will be staying a few days to renew the trade agreement your late father made,” the duke said.
Michael nodded, “Yes I trust we can come to an amicable settlement for both of us.”
The duke frowned in thought a moment, “Hmm, the present agreement is no longer enough," the duke paused considering. " "I have received one or two better offers.” a pregnant pause as the duke watched lord Michael’s reaction, he gave an astute smile. “You may have to improve on your offer this time If you wish to keep trading with us,"
Michael smiled pleasantly, “Ah, my apologies duke, this is not the time to talk business,” Michael bowed. “Enjoy your birthday celebrations we can talk tomorrow.” He moved on talking to other nobles as the duke looked on musing over their brief conversation.
Lord Michael regarded his ward with a warm smile, taking her by the hand as he guided her on to the dance floor. “Lana let’s dance and for once and try and relax a little.”
Relana gave a demure smile looking up at Michael. “I will try Michael if it pleases you,” a blush coming to her cheeks.
“Hush! Remember not to be so informal when speaking to me in public keep your guard up,” Michael warned as they danced. “We don’t want to give people the wrong idea.”
“I’m sorry my lord for my lapse; I promise it won't happen again,” Relana said.
As they finished dancing Michael nodded in the direction where three nobles stood in conversation. “Let's go and talk to those nobles over there.”
Relana frowned looking at Michael curiously “One of them is Lord Linnor isn’t he the ruler of Tymaron, your neighbour?”
“Yes that is why I want to talk with them there is a rumour that he might take up arms against one of his southern neighbours over a border dispute,” Michael explained.
Relana scrutinised the three men closely as they crossed the floor. “I see, who are the other two talking with him?”
Michael let out a slow breath griping Relana's hand. “Be careful of the tall, man in the middle he is a sorcerer
Relana gave the sorcerer close scrutiny. “ He’s quite handsome who does he work for?”
“I’m not sure that’s what I need to find out,” Michael whispered as they approached. “The other one is baron Kimson, another southern neighbour of lord Linnor
Lord Linnor looked up smiling as Michael and Relana came to greet him. “Ah, lord Michael good to see again and the delightful lady Deria.”
Lord Linnor's smile widened as he turned to introduce the others. “May I present Daniel Mastel, and I believe you already know baron Kimson.”
Daniel smiled as he gave a bow of the head to Michael. “Pleasure to meet you, my lord, I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Oh, not all bad I hope,” Michael said with a smile.
The sorcerer kept his smile as he gave a nod of the head. “Mostly good I can assure you.”
Michael turned to the others bowing in turn “Good evening lord Linnor, baron.” He turned back to lord Linnor. Have you resolved the matter of the border with lord Haigford yet?”
Linnor grimaced loosing his polite smile. “Ah, I’m putting the matter to the king to help find a solution.”
Half Truth. Falsehood!
The sorcerer finally regarded Relana with a blank expression only the slightest raising of the eyebrows giving away any emotion. “I believe this is your ward lord Michael,” he spoke fixing his eyes on her following her every movement as she bowed. “Lady Deria a great pleasure to meet you at last.”
Michael taken a little off guard by the sorcerer’s fixation on Relana took a moment to reply as did Lord Linnor and baron Kimson. “Ah, yes may I present Lady Deria.”
For the first, time since they arrived at the duke's manse, Relana held her head up looking straight into the sorcerer’s eyes. To Michael’s astonishment, she spoke. “ And I you sir.”
Truth! “Oh, how can it be so - but it is - Truth!”
Michael sensed something tangible and confusing happening seizing the moment spoke forthrightly. “Ah, I’m aware you are a sorcerer sir are you in the employ of anyone at present?” He paused trying to gauge the sorcerer’s reaction. “Perhaps you would care to work for me if not. Ah, I hope I’m not too rude by speaking out this way.”
Daniel smiled pleasantly. “Not at all my lord I have recently been in the employ of the king but am free at present and would be delighted to be of service to you.”
Truth and Truth!