Beddigan awoke with a start when his Page knocked on the door to his room the next morning. He had slept fitfully, his brain overloaded with all of the new information that he had learned from the Lord Regent of the Empire of Lions.
“Come!” he called, and the Page entered, bringing with him a steaming bowl of washing water and towels. The young Tiger bowed stiffly and said,
“Breakfast is nearly ready, my Lord.” Beddigan nodded and waited for the boy to leave before he jumped out of bed and stripped off his night clothes to give himself a hasty, but thorough wash. The palace was chilly in the mornings and the hot water felt wonderful against his fur. He dressed quickly and made his way down the corridors to the dining room. This time he was the last to arrive, save the Lord Regent. Much smaller fires burned in the room, and the casement windows were unshuttered, letting the morning sunlight stream in. William nodded to him, looking well-rested and Ragnon lounged in his chair looking ill. Beddigan grinned at the Wolf,
“A bit too much honey-wine last night?” he said casually to the Wolf whose only response was a moan and a look of annoyance. Beddigan chuckled and took his seat as serving folk began to lay dishes of food on the table. The smell of freshly baked bread tickled his whiskers and made his stomach growl. When all the food and place settings were set out on the table, the Lord Regent entered, looking rested and resplendent in his red and gold robes. He was followed by two servants with cups and kettle for tea, which was promptly served as soon as the Lion had taken his seat.
“I trust you all rested well?” The Lord Regent began. Beddigan nodded along with his companions despite his fitful night of rest. They began to eat and drink and once the grumbling in their bellies had been calmed, Beddigan decided to take the reins of the conversation.
“We greatly appreciate you giving some thought to how you could aid us in the war that is coming to our homelands. What we need is simple: an army. We need men enough to not just hold back the Wolves, but to finally squelch this war-hungry country’s hunger for violence. To keep our own countries safe, and to free the people of Reene from under the boot of the Wolves and help them get back on their feet as their own, free people.” The Lord Regent set down his fork and listened as Beddigan continued to speak. “And as for what we can offer you in return, perhaps we can figure out a way to get crystals to you and your people. I can’t guarantee anything or even fathom the logistics of that right now, but it does seem the best option of compensation, as it is one thing that we have that you do not.” William slanted a look at him that he knew would come with some harsh words later, but he ignored it for now, keeping his eyes focused on the Lion across the table.
A slow grin spread across the Lord Regent’s face,
“You have read me well, Beddigan. I am interested in an exchange of power, of sorts. Troops for magic, and the crystals you possess are remarkable and would be of great value to my people. Tell me, I know of the crystals you have with you, for mundane things like light and heat, but do you have access to crystals that can keep a ship righted in tough waters? Or beat back beasts of intense size and muscle?” Beddigan frowned. What is he getting at? He wondered as he picked at a crescent shaped piece of flaky, buttery bread. He hesitated a moment before answering, choosing his words carefully.
“Such things may exist, but whether or not we have access to them is another story entirely. The Ranier Islands are rumoured to house crystals of immense power, but they are nearly impossible to acquire. A nearly impenetrable mist enshrouds the Islands and keeps their secrets safe.” The Lion steepled his claws beneath his chin.
“Nearly impenetrable?” he asked. Beddigan leaned back in his chair, sipping his tea.
“With the help of a crystal whose origins we do not know and a very brave, albeit quirky sailor friend of ours, we have broken through the mists twice.” The Lion considered this.
“Perhaps our Mages could assist in this and remove the mists all together.” Beddigan felt a pit yawn wide in his stomach. Is that even possible? He wondered. Ragnon broke into the conversation.
“Even if your Mages could somehow magic away that barrier, you won’t easily take crystals from the Lynx that inhabit those Islands. They have power enough to kill a dragon, and their numbers are likely much higher than yours when it comes to sorcerers.” The Lion considered this as well, taking some time to sip from his tea cup. Beddigan spoke again,
“If you don’t mind me asking, my Lord, why is it that you seek these powers?” The Lion continued to sip his tea and consider the Mouse, Bear, and Wolf that sat across from him. Finally, he spoke.
“You know of our agreement with the Dragons to not expand the Empire south, but we have attempted to seek lands to the East of us, through the Trelill Sea. Our ships have never returned from any scouting voyages. We have lost many Mages in these attempts, and have concluded that their power is not strong enough to combat whatever it is they find out there.” Beddigan felt a pang of shock and saw it reflected on his friends faces as well. His voice quaked as he spoke,
“We too call the sea to the East the Trelill sea, and we too have sent ship after ship into the void there to never return.” The Lord Regent’s eyebrows shot up,
“Perhaps our peoples haven’t always been as disconnected as they are now.” Beddigan mused on this new bit of fascinating information and filed it away for research at a later date. Pushing his plate away he leaned forward, bracing his arms on the table.
“Well, you have my offer, Lord Regent. Are you able to commit to helping us with this war?” The Lord Regent signalled for the servants to begin clearing the table.
“I wish it was as simple as that, Beddigan. We will require a few things before the Empire can make a commitment of this nature.” Beddigan felt a pang of unease but continued to meet the Lion’s eyes.
“Anything.” He said solidly, though he wasn’t sure that he could offer such a definitive statement. The Lion continued,
“We will not broach the subject of joining a foreign war with the Rams of Ehl-Indrah, but will require them to join forces with us in this endeavor, or at least agree to be of help in war efforts, as many of our men will be gone from the lands and we will require help to maintain our stewardship of the united lands. We ask that you travel to Ehl-Indrah and seek their assistance with this matter.” Beddigan felt his mouth dry up, but nodded.
“That may take time we do not have, my Lord.” William said softly. The Lord Regent met the Bear’s eyes with soft understanding.
“I understand your concern, William, but I will not endanger the peace that the Empire has brought to these lands in an effort to assist you. I am unshakeable in this requirement.” The Bear nodded curtly in response. The Lord Regent continued, “And the other concern is more logistical in nature.” The Lion stood, pacing over to the fireplace, paws clasped behind his back. “We can provide troops, ships, weapons, but we cannot leave these lands. We are bound by the oath we made to the Dragons. You will need to find a way to break the oath, or at least circumvent it.” Beddigan felt a wave of sickness role through him. And how in this Warbler’s Cursed world are we going to do that? He thought.
“We will see what we can do.” Was all he said. The Lion turned to face them and smiled.
“Well then, I will arrange for passage by ship to Ehl-Indrah for you all.” The Lord Regent said heartily. He moved around the table on his way to the doors and laid a heavy paw on Beddigan’s shoulder. “Oh, and Beddigan,” he said with a softness in his voice that was deceiving of the shrewdness in the Lord Regent’s eyes. “We will need to come to an agreement about the crystals as well.” Beddigan gulped and nodded, watching the Lord Regent of the Empire of the Lion’s walk out of the room.
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