Ephemeral Knights: Chapter 2

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About twenty minutes passed after Astaria and her fellow invitees had been instructed on the tournament rules and shown their rooms. She gazed warmly at her trio of bears, Uggra, Buggra, and Buuggra, as they not so quietly devoured their platters of meat that the castle servant had brought only moments before. Aside from the marks on their tongues, they seemed unfazed by the day’s events so far, or by the strange curse that they had all been put under by that strange witch.

“I will be back shortly,” She began as she looked over her bears. “Try not to eat anyone.” She added with a stern look at Buggra. The beast breathed a heavy huff around his slab of steak, but offered no objection. “Come along, Leara.” She called, and her raven took flight briefly before landing softly on Astaria’s shoulder.

It took her only moments to locate a servant who could give her directions to Steve’s room, and when she arrived she noted that only two of the others had arrived so far. Steve was studying a musty looking tome as he glanced back and forth between it and the coin he gingerly rolled over the tops of his fingers. Sitting on a narrow stool near the window, stood the average looking human, Shade she thought his name was, he seemed to be studying some religious text.

After a few awkward moments of uncomfortable silence, Steve noticed her and gestured for her to sit on the large bed. She chose the floor in the far corner instead. Human beds were much too soft for her, and she could hardly understand how they could stand such things. Another minute passed, and the human mage from their ship arrived as well, and took a place awkwardly by the room’s fireplace.

“We’re all here now?” Steve asked.

“So it seems.” Shade replied with a shrug.

“I still don’t understand what’s with these coins…” The mage by the fire said as he tossed his uselessly into the fireplace only to once again pull it from his pocket.

“Or more importantly, why we seem to be the only ones who possess these coins.” Steve added. “I’ve studied mine for a while now, and all I can get off of it is that it’s magical aura is related to time in some way.”

“What does that mean?” The human mage asked.

“I haven’t the faintest clue.” Steve said with a shrug. “Probably why we can’t get rid of them, is my best guess. Beyond that, I’ve got nothin’.”

Astaria sighed as she fingered her own coin in her pocket, and recalled the marks on her bears’ tongues. “So what next then?” She asked softly.

“Well, we’re in the tournament tomorrow, and there’s tonight’s feast which we were invited to, so let’s start with that and see where things go.” Steve said simply. “Logically, whatever the woman has planned for us with these coins, she wants us to figure it out on our own.”

“Then we should probably begin our preparations for the tournament.” Shade said. “But I’m pretty much ready to go as is, so I’ll take a look around town to see if I can dig anything up about these coins, or the woman who gave them to us.”

“Then I’ll take a look around the castle, and see if there’s anyone here who may know something.” The mage added.

“Well I guess I’ll start asking around town as well, and get the lay of the land. I’ve got a bad feeling that something bad is going to happen.” Steve said.

They all paused for a moment, then glanced at Astaria, and she felt as if the room around her were growing and her shrinking under their eyes.

“I’m going to feed my bears, and make sure they don’t eat anyone…” She said softly, not sure what else she could do.

The others seemed to consider for a moment, then Steve nodded as if that was good enough. After a few more minutes of discussing the precise course of action each of them were taking, as well as proper introductions to one another, the mage was named Sarayma, they each parted ways and began working on their chosen tasks.

Astaria decided she would check on her bears, but would then ask around about the festival and upcoming wedding as well. She was, after all, personally invited by the royal family due to her own family’s tenuous association, so by all customs, she should at least attempt to show an interest. Even if she did not in fact give a flying squirrel dropping about some kingdom she had never heard of before her parents had forced her from their forest home to attend the wedding. Some sacrifices were necessary to survive in the wild and maintain peace, and so she supposed that dealing with humans and their human customs once in a while was one of them.

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