Journal of a Paladin
Episode VIII: Royalty and Loyalty
By Matthew R. Fleming
A.K.A. the Cheddar Paladin
Entry #9 – The Fifteenth of November in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Ninety-seven
The first room in Winguard Palatiále is an enormous foyer with an intricate twisting staircase that lead up to the top floor of the visitors’ area. I could at see at least three upper levels that the staircase climbed up to. The staircase spiraled around a centrally located fountain that was constantly erupting with a towering shaft of water. The geyser met the ceiling at a small hole in such a way that it seemed the water was actually being poured into the fountain from the top, however, upon close inspection, the water was indeed rising.
On the ground level, there were two grand archways. The guests went through the one to our right coming in. In this room was a grand dining hall with a massive table about as long as a small playing field with dining chairs lining the sides. Seated at the end of it was his majesty, King Conanius Winguard III himself in his royal throne. To his right sat his wife, Adnila, former princess of the Kingdom of Tecks, far south of Winguard. You see, Winguard royalty habitually marries other kingdoms into its bloodline. Not only does it offer peace and alliance, but it also makes for less horrifyingly gruesome looking offspring. Princess Darcia, the King and Queen’s biological daughter, was not as repellant as her cousins for this reason.
Darcia and her cat sat on the other side of her father, the King, and all of the guests moved down the length of the table on either side. They stopped behind their seats and waited. Jordan and I stopped at our seats and I placed a hand on the back of the chair, instinctively reaching to pull it away from the table to sit. When I noticed I was the only one doing so, I immediately released my grip on the seat and stood up straight. I received a condescending look from Jordan, Kay, and Tarcamas (especially Tarcamas) and all I could do was shrug my shoulders in ignorance and dismissal. There was a loud sound from a gong and all of the guests seated themselves. Afterward, there was an annoyingly long period of time without any noise at all.
Then, the King spoke. For his distance, he was surprisingly quite audible. He didn’t even seem to be trying to raise his voice; he was just easy to hear. He named everyone present and why they were all attending. There were members from both sides of the royal family in attendance including his niece, Princess Jaimoa and her brother Prince P’Trik. Also in attendance were several figures from recent events like myself. The winner of the Royal Invitational Jousting Tournament, the Winguard Warrior Wolverine Troupe, was present. The “Green Wolverines” as they were called consisted of Count De Beau, a young jouster who owned the land in the lighthouse district of the city. Another was Bishop Nikolas, a holy man who enjoyed the sport as much as the Gospel. He was also betrothed to wed Princess Jaimoa before he joined the church, thus negating the arrangement (though some think it was Jaimoa’s homely, inbred appearance that scared Nikolas into a priest’s robes). The next member of the Troupe was Sir Pelk the Quiet, a knight who doesn’t speak much (due to his annoying speech impediment). The final member, and leader of the Troupe, was Prince P’Trik. The Wolverines, donned in their matching green and white uniforms, were the pride of the kingdom, the boast of the city. And they knew it all too well, making sure no one forgot.
Another recent event was the annual Royal Lady Winguard pageant. The show was for girls of all classes, if they could afford to enter, to show off their beauty, talent, and wisdom. The winner is pronounced to be an extension of the Royal Family for one whole year until she must crown the winner next year. This year’s winner was Lady McLaff, an Upper-Middle class girl whose father was a wealthy banker. Compared to the real royalty close to her, she was nothing but a poser. Her gown was far less extravagant, clinging to her tightly for its lack of material. Her jewelry was lackluster and not nearly as flamboyant as the true royal accessories. As a side note, she also made certain that no one forgot that she was the winner of the pageant.
Kay was present due to her frequent trips back and forth from the city to the Faelean Forrest near Tenguard. Coincidentally, she was due back at the palace for a period of time and the court needed someone to pick me up. I doubt she was pleased with the arrangement and I wondered if she thought less of me because of it. Tarcamas just kept looking at me with sentry like vigilance, always making sure that I knew my place and stayed there. Jordan was anxious for something interesting to happen, trying to conceal an impatient look upon his face. Everyone else present was simply there for everyone else that was there, all of them retainers, servants, or bodyguards for the others.
The King introduced each one of his welcome guests in the highest regards, giving them each the pomp he thought they were worthy of. Then he introduced Kay. Quickly as possible, he stated her name and title and where she had traveled from. It irritated me that he would lavish the phony royalty closer to him with great words meant for great people, yet not Princess Kay. He showed even less emotion in introducing me. I don’t think he even got my name right.
Then he introduced Jordan. “And finally,” Conanius started, “I present to you this year’s runner up in the aforementioned dueling competition, Master Jordanello Hoffberg. A truly gifted duelist, Master Hoffberg managed to hold his own in combat with only a battle staff and no armor for protection. What is more noteworthy is that during his final round with… the victor… Master Hoffburg deflected an incoming object thrown by a crowd member that was headed directly for… said victor’s head, costing him a win, yet sealing his own honor. How noble!”
Some of the guests remarked at the story with awe and respect, the others just looked at me with much less of both. Rather, they looked at me with the opposite of both. Yet before we could present our own take on things, the King moved along. “Today’s fest is for a very splendid reason,” he began, “for today we feast for the sake of my daughter Princess Darcia’s return to our fair city! For the last two weeks she has been visiting the dank mountain county of Medguard on a diplomatic visit of goodwill.” That was the King’s way of saying that she’d been slumming. “Now she has returned to us from that dangerous place, safe and sound.”
“Saints, Dad” said the Princess, “it sucked, but you make it sound like Draconia.” They both laughed, which prompted everyone else to laugh. I rolled my eyes and chuckled a bit.
Medguard, while not the most interesting place to vacation, is actually a very productive county. It has two industries, paper and iron. Paper is the more productive of the two, the county being settled in a heavily forested area, yet a great portion of the kingdom’s iron comes from Medguard’s mountain ranges. The inhabitants of the county are very low in caste and education for the most part, yet there are no harder workers in the kingdom. These facts gave the royalty who were then in my presence the highest right to belittle them at will. It would seem that if you work hard to earn the living you receive, you are automatically at a lower status in society.
From there we ate a complete, four-course meal consisting of appetizers, soup, an entrée, and dessert. There were many different appetizers and soups available; I had a cheesy chicken soup and some garlic bread. There were two entrées, suckling pig and roasted turkey; I had the turkey. For dessert, chocolate mousse.
During the meal, everyone commented on current events including politics and anything that they could brag about. Most often they put down members of other counties that were not present. Often I would catch someone whisper something, look at myself or Kay, and then laugh. Aside from the food, it was a very uncomfortable meal experience.
Upset, curious, and worried, I finally managed to share my concerns with Kay. “Why would they have any reason to dislike you so?” I asked the princess.
“A few reasons,” she vaguely stated.
“But you’ve done nothing wrong,” I said, “have you?”
“I-” she started but was interrupted by he bodyguard.
“You are asking too many questions,” said Tarcamas, “I suggest you keep t yourself for the remainder of the evening.”
After dinner, the party was moved back out to the courtyard where drinks were spread out on tables and a bonfire was lit a safe distance away. The more respected guests congregated around the tables, drinking their cares away and laughing their fool heads off. The more they drank, the less respectful their behavior became.
I stood near the fire, thinking to myself. Jordanello was getting along well with the upper class, enjoying a few drinks himself and even chatting with Princess Darcia. I wonder if he happened to mention about the outcome of our duel. It really didn’t matter anymore. I decided that there were people that I had no real care to impress, save for one, and I couldn’t even get near her.
So there was myself and my fire. I learned that night that I enjoyed solitude, and I hiked my scarf up over my nose to further emphasize that feeling. I wished to leave as soon as possible, but no one leaves royal company without an escort so I remained by the bon fire, lost in thought.
“Why’re you so damned quiet?” asked a tipsy voice, breaking my concentration.
“Why do you ask?” I said as politely as I could muster, identifying the voice as belonging to the Bishop.
“Why aren’t you drinking anything?” he asked another pointless question.
“Should I be?”
“Well, everyone else is,” he ended the volley of questions with a less than convincing argument.
“I choose not to.”
“Your buddy is.”
“He chooses to.”
“Whatever. Hey listen. We want you to join us. We think that you think that we think that we don’t like you. So come have something to drink.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I am fine by myself.”
“Yeah, well, fine. You’re missin’ out.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be a priest?”
He didn’t reply after that and he went back to his social circle. He was sputtering something to the others, presumably some gossip about me. No matter. I went back to looking at my fire. It was truly my fire. I doubt that anyone else would give a damn about it if I weren’t there. They’d probably throw glasses full of alcohol at it to see if it would explode.
Mysteriously absent was the king. He must have retreated after the guests were ushered to the courtyard. I also didn’t see Kay or Tarcamas anywhere. I was somehow glad to see that Kay didn’t associate herself with those types.
After awhile, Lady McLaff attempted conversation with me. I couldn’t tell exactly what she was saying through her drunken slur but I imagine it was similar to what the Bishop was offering, except with some added sex appeal for better measure. I dismissed her and walked to the other side of the fire, assuming it would hide me better to put it between them and me.
It wasn’t long before they sent Jordan over to me. Frustrated with the constant pestering, I told him exactly what I was thinking, “They’re all snakes, Jordan.”
“Nah, they aren’t bad people.”
“Yes they are. They’re lousy, back biting, phony upper-class snobs. They think they’re better than us and everyone else.”
“Yeah but they’re aren’t all bad. They’re kinda fun.”
“I don’t want to associate myself with them.”
“So don’t. Just have a drink and hang out with me, we can make fun of them tomorrow at lunch or something.”
“I don’t want to do that. I just want to ignore them. If you and I talk about them for fun, what makes us better than they are? Sure, they deserve it but it’s not right. I just want to go back to my home and forget about this. Forget talking to them about the duel, the duel is over and done for.”
“I forgot about that.”
“Good, you should have. You’re the rightful victor, everyone knows. I know. They know. It’s fine. I’d rather not impress them. I’d rather think about the future I can make on my own.”
“Okay, man. Alright. You got something on your mind?”
“Yeah, quite a bit.”
“You wanna talk?”
“No. Not tonight. I just want to think. You can go back with them. Have some fun. I’m sure you’ll remember what a great time you had in the morning.”
They left me alone for the rest of the evening. Jordan and I shared an escort cab out of the palace. I was dropped off first as Jordan’s home was a short ways down the road.
I decided that I couldn’t sleep. Something about that night’s events kept me up. It wasn’t really about the snobs. It was about Kay. I heard her voice no more than twice that evening, yet what she said to me made me curious. She was obviously ostracized by her fellow royalty for some reason. She was not like them, and I wanted to know why. The thought that I would never see her again came to my mind, yet a desire to seek her out and help her became my goal.