Tuesday, April 26th
The Third Challenge: Gifts of Gratitude
As the evening begins, Queen Comet takes her seat on her throne, chatting to her ladies. The Bard Gage begins to serenade the ladies with his lute, but is quickly challenged to an impromptu musical challenge by King Bump, who turns out to be quite a musician on the bag pipes.
The Queen’s guard Pelinor, calls the room to order “Your Majesty! Lords, ladies and courtesans! Welcome to the third challenge for the Queen’s Suitors! Tonight we shall see our worthys present their gifts of affection to Her Majesty for her perusal and the scrutiny of the Court. In doing so the Suitors will be given several minutes to expound upon the virtues of their gift and embellish it with poem or song should they so choose… The Court will comment as they see fit and present Favors accordingly. Are there any questions before we begin?”
King Bump Wumpole was the first to approach with gift. ” I’ll speak to you and to you alone, my Queen. To me, you are the radiant light that chases the night from my dark life. In honor of our meeting and our hopeful future relations as political allies, I present you with this… the Smile, a ruby of great pedigree being a Sister Stone of our Great Core Stone in the Caverns of Eternity deep beneath my kingdom. I hope you will enjoy wearing it upon your finger, regardless of the dispensation of our affairs here, my Queen…” Stepping forward to present the Queen with a ring set with ruby that was larger than the Queen’s hand.
Prince Vindonus Lianelis was the next to present his gift, starting with a poem, then claps his hands. Suddenly they see a small elven child, a girl dressed in a gossamer dress. White with blond hair and blue eyes. The girl is leading two snow white peacocks on mithril leashes. She walks into the room, curtsies to the Queen and smiles. Behind her are two male elves dressed in white and silver livery, carrying a tray covered in purple silk. As they move to the Queen, one pulls the cover off and underneath it is a pile of shining diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Prince Vindonus bows deeply to the Queen “Tari, these peacocks are descendants of the royal peacocks of Verdantis that roam my palace. They are unmatched only by your beauty. These gems are for you and your ladies to have the finest items made, to enhance the loveliness which graces us all.”
The Ladies quite approving of this gift, several of them offering him a favor, perhaps hoping that if the Queen does not choose him, he might choose them.
The Bard Gage is next to present, and he also begins with a poem. He lays a simple wooden box at the feet of the Queen, kneeling quietly to do so, tenderly… with reverence both for the object and for what it represents. At first glance it is rather plain, without gilded embellishment or jeweled encrustation of any kind… but upon closer inspection it is subtly carved by careful hand. Lovingly worked into the polished wooden surface is an ivy and rose motif, intertwined. “My gift to you, My Queen… Brightest Star, Sweetest Rose, Love of my Heart’s longing.” Upon opening the box, a filigree ring is revealed, in Mithril Silver, of Ivy Vines surmounted by a single, rose-cut diamond. The cushion upon which the ring is perched is simple madder-dyed linen belying the humble and hard-working folk of the Far Reaches, but embroidered with thread-of-gold in a trellis pattern. The ring is polished to a buttery sheen from years of wear, worry, hope and fond remembrance, as if it were touched often as it sat upon the finger. It is cunningly wrought, but not perfect in its execution… pretty but not the work of a Master smith. The stone is the opposite, without doubt one of the finest examples of gem craft the Dwarven Kingdoms have ever produced. He then reveals that he is not a lowly common bard, but rather the elder son of the Far Reaches, a Baron.
The bard finishes with a final speech. “Ever since that day, this ring has been passed down in my family, to be worn by each Lady of the Far Reaches. My Grandmother wore it, and my mother after her. And so it is given to me, and with it – by the tradition of our people – comes the full support of our bailiwick, the lives and swords, the lands and their produce of every Man, Woman, and Child now living and yet to live therein. For The Lord of the Far Reaches is but a caretaker, and it is the Lady to whom all swear their oaths. Such is the importance of this token. For I say to you bluntly Comet, Queen of the Sylvans: I have made my choice and there can be no other. Once offered, it cannot be withdrawn. I give to you now the Far Reaches, to have as your own, and my heart and devotion as well; it is everything that I have to give. Should you choose another, still it shall be yours, and my House will end with me.”
The court is stunned by this, and the Queen is uncomfortable with this gift and attempts to refuse it, but the bard insists. The Ladies begin to wonder if perhaps the Queen might be allowed to choose more than one. Even King Bump Wumpole turned to the bard and whispered… “I heard these elvish Queens were only swayed by real estate, permanent and mobile. I may have heard incorrectly. You nearly had her with your rhymes, Sir. Well done, I say. ”
Prince Miliandrovic was the last to present, having won the right by his victory at last night. Prince Miliandrovic brought forth an elegantly crafted lavender necklace, “This is what we call in my lands a Manawa necklace. Manawa is a term that means heart from the lands from which this necklace originated. It’s crafted from the finest Amethyst by master craftsmen and…” He reaches into his tunic and produces a similar necklace which he already wore around his neck, “… when put together with my own, creates an elegantly designed heart. It’s symbolic of the love kept between by carrying a part of each other’s heart with us always.” He then made the ominous statement, I’m afraid my other and greatest gift will have to wait until after the wedding, when I may properly see to the Dark Prince no longer being a problem for you.”
This reminded all of the looming threat of the Dark Prince, and the evening broke up on that gloomy note.