Ch. 123. Where to Begin?

From Chapter 119…

The Grand Navigators, the Citadel of Grippio…

Strolling through the gardens of the Villa Grippio, Ruili listened casually to Y’lanna at first, but his brow began to knit as the first question developed, the quizzical frown turned into an even more quizzical tilt of the head with the second question, and by the time the third was out of her mouth, he had stopped on the path to stare at her in surprise.

“Lyr’s blood, lady, you do like to packet your thoughts together rather than trickle them out piecemeal, don’t you?”

The selkie lord in his crisp naval colors resumed walking along the rows of roses with violets beneath and oranges and lemons in the boughs above.  Birds twittered from within dark green hedges, and the bees working over the flowers seemed to be getting lazy with the afternoon heat.  Both chattering birds and wandering bees reflected Ruili’s own mood as, in truth, his mind had once again wandered from the problem of Y’lanna Sparti to the problem of his play and just how like unto this very summer’s day here — though it was technically a spring day — a man’s love could be.

“Right, where to begin?  I suppose with the first question,” he said, mentally scrambling, “which was, erm… oh, yes, the name.  Indeed, Ereonis is our name, milady, and the, um…” he struggled a moment to sort out exactly what she had been asking before he suddenly brightened with a laugh.  “Oh, I see.  No, no, ‘ducal’ is an adjective.  It describes something that belongs or pertains to the Dukedom.  The ducal residence is where the Duke and Duchess live.  I suppose they don’t have Dukedoms in your homeland?  Ah, well.  You’ll learn the ropes in time.  But yes, the Villa is the ducal residence in which many generations of Ereoni have lived.  Our name, Ereonis, denotes our descent from the Sea King, Ereon the Great, a quite brilliant navigator who mapped much of the modern world and was rewarded for his efforts by the god Lyr of the Seas who granted him dominion over these islands.  We, the House of Ereon, have ruled here ever since, a good few millennia now.”

“That tale, I suppose, brings us to your next question,” which Ruili realized was even more surprising than her first.  “Why yes, milady, the gods do exist and keep themselves quite busy.  Don’t they where you come from?  Although, now that I think on it,” he continued, thinking on it, “I once journeyed to a world where the gods seemed rather distinctly absent from their posts.  So much so that the people were in open dispute as to how many there might be and what their duties were.  And another where every jack-rabbit upstart fancied himself a god.”

As he thought on those thoughts, Ruili’s expression took a serious cast, and he unconsciously flexed his left shoulder a little, as if easing an old wound.

“Ah, well,” he said, bringing back his accustomed smile.  “That will be another thing you’ll get used to.  I don’t think you’ll find our gods too much of a bother.  They mind their business for the most part and leave us to ours, so long as we don’t offend them, and one must go out of one’s way to do that.  This matter of yours will be cleared up in good order, I have no doubt.  Next,” he added, “you must tell me about your home — a place with neither dukes nor gods, where lavender ladies fly among the stars.  I should love to hear its tales.  But first, your final question — the Daemon Arcana.”

Ruili looked ahead down the path, and that faint, grim shadow darkened his face once more.

“Like you, the Arcana are from another world, but unlike you, dear lady, they are not welcome here.  They are a baneful magic, unfit for any life-loving world.  We brought them here, my brothers and I, among the treasures collected on a voyage through the funnel-tunnels.  They were taken from those who sought to waylay us, but though he had used them to good effect in their own world, my brother Jeneyeru knew they would be a poison in ours.  He deposited them in the most protected and contained magical environment in all of Aeldreth – the Great Vault of the Guild of Wizards and Magi.”  He shook his head.  “I cannot imagine that any wizard skilled enough to remove something from the Great Vault would be foolish enough to do so.  Nor can I believe that, if something untoward had happened, the Guild would not have informed Jeneyeru.  Perhaps I am too innocent of the ways of wizards, thinking them more organized and open than other professions.”

That last remark came with a wink at Y’lanna, as Ruili tried to set his concerns aside again.  They had arrived at the gate into the gardens of the Villa and, thus, back to the official sections of the Citadel and the fountained courtyards of the government offices.

“Come, lady,” he said, leading her down the shaded walkway of a galleried building.  “We shall stop in at the Office of the Land Lords and see what’s available in the way of an apartment or cottage or something.  At least we may begin with that.”

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