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Challenge #8: Tis the Season

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#1 KedorLao

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 05:28 PM

The sun painted the evening sky with the ink of dying daylight. Like an artist?s steady hand, it drew bold strokes of orange against bright scarlet. It looked like the horizon was ablaze with the warm crackle of an inviting hearth.

She leaned against the railing of the small balcony, her eyes watching the gentle setting of the late autumn?s daylight. A flock of birds made their steady journey south, coming down from the frozen northern kingdoms to reach warmer homes. A cool breeze followed them, tugging at the defiant leaves as they stood in their full crimson regalia to salute the dying sun.

The small woman couldn?t help but let her thoughts wander along with the wind. Like birds in flutter, they drifted above the bustling streets below her, filled with merchant?s scattered stalls, some still open and hawking their wares. There were few hours left and much still to prepare as the large tents weren?t set up yet outside the city palisade.

For a moment, she forgot about the excitement of the city, her eyes resting on the deepening woods outside the walls. Even the forest seemed filled with activity. A few of the local wild animals gathered at the wood?s edge to peer at the puzzling city folk. There was a time when that wood had held dangers and evil that the woman had seen with her own eyes: wicked trolls, man-eating demons and humans with the blackest of hearts.

If only those creatures had been the only evils she had faced, her life could have been considered blessed. Instead, she had travelled far beyond these humble hills to lands strange and exotic. The only constant in these distant places was the universal struggle against those twisted creatures that wished not but cruelty and destruction upon the world.

?Mazzy, there you are my dear! I?ve been searching all over for you!?

She turned, the wind catching her red braided hair and fanning it out gloriously behind her. She had not been back long, her clothes were still muddy from the journey and her eyes weary from too many nights spent in bedrolls on rocky hills. But even still, she looked stunning. Jezabel didn?t have to wonder where Patrick had found that boundless love for her sister.

?Oh my, look at you dear. Lord Coprith was nearly beside himself! Please tell me that you?ve gone to see him!?

?Indeed I have, cherished sister,? Mazzy said as Jezabel joined her at the rail.

?Don?t tell me he wanted you do run off on some dangerous errand.?

?No, nothing of the sort. Though, it would have been far easier than the task that he?s set before me.?

?Oh?? Jezabel?s face screwed up in that ridiculous look of curiosity. Mazzy sighed, resting her head against her hand.

?He wants me to give a speech.?

?Then why such the long face!? Jezabel laughed.

?It?s just that? well to be honest? I have no idea what I am going to say.?

?Jezzy, my dear! Where?d you put the barrels of ale!? Gareth called up the stairs.

?Oh, you silly oaf! It?s down in the cellar! By Yondalla, that man couldn?t find his head without asking me!?

Mazzy smiled. ?You were the one to marry that oaf.?

?Jezzy! They ain?t here!?

?Aren?t! And they?re probably right in front of your nose if only you could see past it!?

She turned back to her sister. ?You know, by that look, you would think Lord Coprith had just stolen your favourite pair of shoes.?

?I had no idea that this would be so difficult,? Mazzy sighed. ?I mean, the entire festival will be there to listen to me but I have nothing profound to tell them.?

?Sweet sister, you?ve slain dragons! Dragons! And you?re all worried over a little speech??

?Aye, dragons don?t laugh when you stumble over your words.?

?And neither will Trademeet.?

Jezabel took her sister?s hands and gave them an affectionate squeeze. ?I believe you will find your lost words. You always manage to get through whatever challenge faces you. It?s the one thing that I?ve always admired about you? She brushed a loose red braid aside.

?You?ve become a knight. A true and honourable knight, dear sister! Everyone told you it was impossible and yet here you are! The stoic Mazzy Fentan! Head of the Fentan Knights and known throughout the land!? Jezabel proclaimed over the roof tops with a wide sweep of her hand.

Mazzy shook her head but smiled despite herself. Jezabel spun back to her, giggling slightly.

?Don?t worry about a thing. The words will come to you.?

?Jezzy! Jezzy! We have a problem, a very big problem! There?s a problem with the seating arrangement!?

Jezabel turned back to her sister with a pleading look in her eye.

?I swear there?s always a problem with the seating. You have no idea how difficult it is to place Trademeet at a table. Honestly, they?re worst than family.?

?You make it sound like the family is a hassle? Mazzy smiled. ?But I?m starting to get an idea of how hard things are for you.?

Nellie stomped up the stairs, pausing before the small door to the balcony. The plentiful cook from the Traveler?s Rest was best known for her killer spicy turnip stew and a cooked roast that could fill the heartiest ranger. She had several grease blotched papers in her meaty fingers and peered at Jezabel with an anxious look.

?This is a travesty? a travesty! I mean, how could this slip by? Look here! Look right, here Jezzy!? the woman stammered, thrusting the papers into Jezabel?s face. ?We have Lady Lurraxol right across Lord Alibakkar! I?ve been up to my ears with complaints from both their butlers all day!?

?My word, that is a problem,? Jezabel sighed.

?Those two aren?t still at it, are they??

?As true as Trademeet?s roads are paved with gold, I?m afraid,? Jezabel sighed. ?Can we move the gracious Luxxacol two seats down??

?And further away from Lord Coprith. My, we?d never hear the end of that!? Nellie gesticulated.

?Jezabel! We still haven?t been able to track down the minstrel!? another voice called up.

?It seems I?ve been found,? Jezabel sighed.

?Go, your battle awaits you.?

?Indeed. Good luck with the speech, I know you will think of something.? She gave her sister a quick kiss on the cheek before heading down the steps with Nellie.

And just like that, Jezabel was swept away but a crowd of concerned organizers. Mazzy stayed on the balcony hoping to find some inspiration in the setting sun. She remained until she began shivering from the cold then turned and walked down the stairs.

The Fentan residence looked like it was the field for a bloody battle of epic proportions. A river of people pressed through the back door, winding around the long dining table covered in assorted ornamentations in various states of construction, through the kitchen and seating area littered with scattered invitations and shopping lists before flooding out the front door that hadn?t been closed for hours. No single person seemed capable of staying in one spot for very long. Even if they tried, they were quickly swept away like a leaf upon the current of a tumultuous river.

Gareth had wedged himself between the basement door and the stairs, hiding behind a few barrels of mead in the hopes of catching up on some long overdue pipe smoking. Mazzy crept up behind him before rapping him gently on the head.

?You know, she?ll kill you if she finds you smoking in the house.?

?Blessed Yondalla, girl, you scared years out of me!? Gareth exclaimed, guiltily dumping the ash from his pipe.

?I suppose you found the mead then.?

?Aye, I did. And hauled most of it up them blighted stairs on my own too! I tell ya, if I don?t get a prodigious meat pasty from this whole affair, I?ll have my own choice words for the misses, mark my words.?

?You wouldn?t by chance have a few words you could spare for a speechless knight, would you??

?Hmph, so you?re the one they pawned that awful business off to then, aye?? Gareth cocked a bushy eyebrow. ?I don?t envy ya one bit. They pulled in some bard with bright red hair last year. I tell ya, it?s a good thing she had already taken her fill of the ale because they nearly chased her out of town.?

?Oddly enough, Gareth, I do not find that encouraging.?

?Eh, I was never really good with the proper measure of things,? Gareth shrugged, lighting up his pipe again. A stern look from Mazzy caused him to blow the flame out. ?Yeah, yeah, I get it. You wouldn?t be keeping this a secret from her, would ya?

?Well, if I am to say something, it?s this. Say things plain and straight. Folk here don?t need some windy yarn. We like things up front and to the point. Course, a good solid speech that strikes straight at the heart would crack even the hardest cynic.?

?So I should be brief but moving??

?Precisely. See, ya?ve got a way with words that I?m lacking.?

?That doesn?t really help me with what I?m going to say.?

?Eh? What did Coprith tell ya to say??

Mazzy frowned. ?Nothing, really. Just, to talk about what the festival means to me.?

?Hmmm, well I?ll tell ya what the festival means to me,? Gareth said. He crawled on top of one of the barrels, patting it affectionately with his roughed hands. ?Good mead and good meat! I?m planning on stuffing myself so full, the children will have to roll me home!?

?A worthy attitude, I?m just afraid the rest will be expecting a bit more from me.?

?Aye, I suppose ya?re right. Well, I?ll be rooting for ya no matter what ya say, my dear.?

?Thank you Gareth. I do appreciate the??

?What do you think you?re doing here?!? someone shouted.

Both Halflings turned to the front door. It appeared that something had staunched the flow of organizers, and a small crowd had gathered upon the door step. Suddenly, there was a loud gasp as the crowd surged back. Standing well above the crowd, two tall figures with soft blue skin gently eased their way past the door frame.

?Eh, who?s barging in uninvited into my home?? Gareth grumbled.

?It couldn?t be,? Mazzy muttered, but the yells from the crowd quickly confirmed her suspicions.

The crowd shuddered and tried to surge forward. However, brandishing a rolling pin like a hammer, Nellie cut a swathe through the crowd with Jezabel directing the larger woman in as peaceful a manner as she could manage.

?Pardon me, but who do you think you are?? Jezabel exclaimed. There was sharpness to her voice that Mazzy usually never heard.

?Forgive our intrusions. We heard about your celebration and were wondering if we could??

?Your kind ain?t welcome here!? a voice heckled.

?Yeah, we don?t ever want to see any of ya again!?

?Haven?t you already ruined enough??

Mazzy was concerned the direction this confrontation was going. She pushed her way towards her sword, still miraculously hanging on the small pegs with the coats.

?We meant no offence,? boomed the stranger. ?Allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Khan Zahraa. This is my associate, Alra Rhuneer. We only wished to come and join you in your celebration of a group of truly heroic individuals.?

?Well who invited ya??

?Yeah, what gives you the right to just come all on your own, eh??

?I told you it was a mistake to come here,? Alra Rhuneer whispered to her azure skinned friend.

?I am sorry that we have disrupted your preparations,? Khan Zahraa replied, bowing. ?We shall take our leave.?

?Wait just a moment, no one is going anywhere.? Jezabel said. The strangers paused. ?Your them genie folk aren?t you??

The two strangers exchanged a hesitant glance.

?You are correct, madam,? Khan Zahraa replied.

?There?re the same ones that embargoed our town and nearly starved us!?

?Oh quiet, all of you!? Jezabel shouted. ?You?re from that place? Calim? Calimsa??

?Calimshan, yes.?

?Well it still sounds awfully far away. And who are we to turn away folk who have travelled such a distance to enjoy our city.?

?Jezabel, you can?t be serious. They tried to kill us!? Nellie proclaimed.

?Oh, don?t be so dramatic. Besides, here they are, presenting themselves all properly and everything. How can we call ourselves hospitable when we turn away guests at our door??

?But where will they stay, the inn is completely full!?

?I assure you that accommodations are not?? Alra Rhuneer began.

?They shall stay with us, if they would allow it,? Jezabel said. ?Unless our guests find that disagreeable.?

?We would be delighted,? Khan Zahraa replied.

?But Jezzy??

?Look, there?s no time to argue. Don?t we have a festival to finish preparing? I thought all of you had some work to do.?

There were a few grumbled complaints, but nothing was outright spoken especially since Nellie loomed nearby with a rolling pin in hand. The Djinn stepped aside and things resumed their hectic pace. Jezabel took the Djinns by their arms and directed them upstairs in search of some rooms.

?That was a noble thing you did,? Mazzy said upon her sister?s return.

?They?re much bigger than the folk we are used to having and I?m afraid that guest room is going to fit them pretty snug. But I wouldn?t get all worked up on how much of a saint I am, I moved you in with Auntie Ilsa,? Jezabel muttered, wiping her hands on her apron.

?Even so, no one else would have taken them in.?

?Oh nonsense, you would have done the same,? Jezabel said.

?That?s not what I was getting at.?

?I know. But it was the right thing to do. I mean, here we are celebrating the selfless actions of a band of strangers, but we can?t even find it in ourselves to do the same? Seems a touch hypocritical. You wouldn?t turn family away on a night like this, how can you do so to a stranger?

?Besides, they seem friendly enough. But look at me going on so with still much left to do. Have you thought of something for your speech yet? Eh, Mazzy??

?Yes,? Mazzy said, ?I think I have thought of something.?

With that Mazzy turned and left her puzzled sister amongst a flurry of last minute changes.


Mazzy was summoned to the table of honour in the main square a little after midnight. An enormous tent had been raised over the endless rows of tables clogging the street. Workers scurried amongst the seats, careful not to bump the shoulders of everyone who was anyone in Trademeet and the area. To Mazzy?s consternation, a long table and stage had been set up before the rest of the crowd. Lord Coprith was seated at the head of the table, and the aging man gave her an encouraging nod as she walked by. On his right, Khan Zahraa sat in his magnificent silks and exotic clothes. She saw a few familiar faces along the table, and a wizened druid gave her a discreet smile as she passed. But it was still unsettling as she turned to see a sea of eyes watching her every move.

Gareth, as promised, had managed to wrangle a seat close to the stage, and gave her an encouraging wave as she readied herself.

Lord Coprith stood to introduce her.

?I?m sure most of you are aware of our speaker tonight. She is a familiar face here in Trademeet, having called it home for most of her glorious life. Back then, we knew her as little Mazzy, often hurrying about town running errands for the local militia. Now, we know her as Lady Fentan of the Fentan Knights. I needn?t remind you of the service this fine lady has done for us for you have but to look at the fountain to see. She is one of the Heroes of Trademeet, the noble adventurers who had come to our town to end the siege by the local animals, ease the trade relations with the Dao Djinn of Calimshan and clear our crypts of ignoble undead. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Lady Mazzy Fentan.?

She tried to look calm. She pulled lightly on the hem of her shirt, having opted against wearing the armour despite her nephew?s insistence.

?Good luck, though I?m sure you won?t need it,? Lord Coprith whispered with a quick wink as he settled back into his chair.

Mazzy nervously wiped the sweat from her hands. She could hear the fountain?s water trickling in the background and tried to use its serene pattering to easy the rapid beating of her heart.

?Honoured guests, trusted friends and noble citizens of Trademeet, welcome. I was invited this year to give a speech on what this festival means to me. For days I have struggled with this task in the hopes of coming up with an inspiring answer for you all. Surely this festival is more than just the mead??

?Aye, aye!?

??or the music. Both of which I hear have been quite enjoyable. But tonight is more than just one night to forget about our troubles in the midst of celebration. It is greater than a full cup and polished plate, and it is my wish to share with you all what this festival truly means.?

She paused to clear her voice and was astounded to find that not a single voice spoke up. She was worried that they weren?t paying attention at all, but as she gazed over the crowd, she could see them watching attentively.

?I greeted all of you today as acquaintances. Now I would like to greet you all today as family. Whether we are related by blood or borders, studies or scriptures or just through our day to day living, it does not matter. Nor did it matter to these, my brothers and sisters in arms.? She waved her arm towards the magnificent fountain.

?Though they are not here today, and some not here at all, they too are like us. They love and were loved, grieve and were grieved. They had hopes and fears just like all of us. What makes them truly special though, was to accept us and this town as their own. They put aside their differences and came to Trademeet?s needs when we needed them most without a single question to their own well-being. They braved unspeakable horrors with not a word of complaint. And if that does not make one family, I know not what does...?

The audience waited beneath the weight of her words. She gazed momentarily upon the faces of her friends, no? her family.

And she smiled.

#2 Kellen


    Earn a person's heart, and they'll die a thousand deaths

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 06:57 PM

Very nice, KedorLao. Mazzy's fear is quite believable (more people in America fear public speaking than death), and that speech of hers was certainly IC for her, as far as I know her character.

The way you painted the setting and family brought them to life. And the way that the speech was simple and yet so beautiful and touching was just fantastic.

A very good read and look forward to seeing more again soon.
"She could resist temptation. Really she could. Sometimes. At least when it wasn't tempting." - Calli Slythistle
"She was a fire, and I had no doubt that she had already done her share of burning." - Lord Firael Algathrin
"Most assume that all the followers of Lathander are great morning people. They're very wrong." - Tanek of Cloakwood

we are all adults playing a fantasy together, - cmorgan

#3 KedorLao

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 08:15 PM

I'm glad you liked it. It's funny how more people fear public speaking than death.

I was wondering, is there any canon in regards to Mazzy's family life? I wasn't able to find anything in regards to it, but wasn't sure if there had been something mentioned in the game about it.

#4 Kellen


    Earn a person's heart, and they'll die a thousand deaths

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Posted 06 December 2007 - 07:53 AM

The Halfling Family in Trademeet is Mazzy's family. Pala is her sister(You get a quest to cure her of some poison because an unsure pash tried to give her a love potion from what turns out to be a priest of Talona). The other names won't come to me yet, but you can certainly check there.
"She could resist temptation. Really she could. Sometimes. At least when it wasn't tempting." - Calli Slythistle
"She was a fire, and I had no doubt that she had already done her share of burning." - Lord Firael Algathrin
"Most assume that all the followers of Lathander are great morning people. They're very wrong." - Tanek of Cloakwood

we are all adults playing a fantasy together, - cmorgan

#5 KedorLao

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Posted 09 December 2007 - 04:19 PM

Well, I'll be damned. I did look for it before writing, but clearly not well enough. I'll have to correct that... eventually... when I get some time.