Posted by Bonnie Armstrong | 2014 Sep 26 17:20 -0400 GMT Author: EM Drosselmeyer Heckles poured the wine into two glasses, and handed one to each of the Kings. Lord British smiled to the jester while King Blackthorn gave him a nod, and the two returned to their conversation. “I must say, it is a surprise to find you have returned without Nystul's aid. Where have you been for so long? Why has your return been delayed?” Lord British took a sip and set the glass down, steepling his fingers slightly before speaking. “I have...admittedly been caught up of late with new adventures. I have traveled to the stars...leaving behind the trappings of earth for a time and feeling what it is like to truly be free of all constraints. And though she could not come with me, I have also found love...and found a bond that can never be broken. Looking back, I realize that all of my ponderings and thoughts and musings upon the natures of the Virtues have come back to me in such a profound new manner at having experienced such a wondrous thing first hand...especially after being able to bring new life into existence. Through it all, I have had the shards of the gem...but they are safely with Nystul, for now. I found that a return to Britannia was in order...and it seems that the realm has it's share of troubles. Was that Sir Dupre I spied leaving as I crossed the upper walkways?” King Blackthorn's expression was bright and he could see the way which his friends face shone with exuberance as he regaled him of his journeys. “Yes, it was...he has been pushing himself hard of late, especially with Minax's resurgence of power, but we seemed to have pushed her back...she had some new minion with her she called Shanty, and was using a shard of the gem to bring raiders through using lighthouses.” The King paused as he took another sip of his wine, continuing with a hint of pride in his voice. “She is not the only old foe to resurface, with Exodus having been loosed once more...though Dupre's knights and the realms adventurers are keeping him at bay, we cannot seem to banish him anymore as I once did. We sought the cooperation of Anon, but despite his desire to be for the realm with his Council of Mages, it seems that his time alone has driven him even further into eccentricity and madness...and if reports are to be believed, his Council has been shattered by what remained of Minax's forces, at great cost to her own. Felucca is in disarray, and mindless fighting and slaughter seem to be the order of the day.” A rueful smile tugged at one corner of the King's lips as he took another sip. “You definitely didn't come at the best time for a parade, I fear.” Lord British's expression was set and grim as he nodded along, and leaned in. “There may yet be something we can do.” * * * The goblet clanged hard against the stone wall, the messenger shrinking away from her wrath as she shouted. “DON'T BRING ME RUMORS AND LIES!” Shanty merely stood in the corner, watching as the scene unfolded between the spy and Lady Minax. “B-but, L-lady Minax, it's not rumors...I saw him myself, entering the castle a short time before Dupre left, as you asked me to watch Dupre and try and figure out where we could...” “IDIOT! You think the knight is the biggest threat? He is a nuisance, an annoyance, and while I want him crushed like a bug you should have taken the chance and killed Lord British when you saw him!” “I was on the castle grounds, and there are spells in place that...” A sharp crack echoed through the room as her hand impacted the man's face, sending him tumbling to the floor and leaving little trails of blood where her nails had dug into his face. “I don't want your excuses you whelp. Leave. Now. Before I change my mind...And send Anon to me! We don't have time to waste!” * * * “And the Ararat has resurfaced...troubling, but fascinating.” Lord British set the empty wine glass down. “It would seem that all the pieces have been...reset for a new board, and yet all is in disarray and arranged in the wrong places. Enemies surround the Kingdom, and...” Lord British paused, and gave a bit of a frown at hearing a commotion, and King Blackthorn stood and looked out to the courtyard of the castle through one of the windows. “It seems that word travels quickly... and that the people wish to see if this rumor of your return is true. I think we had best indulge them before we have a riot, Cantabrigian.” King Blackthorn turned to lead the way to the throne room.