The Traveler By Lady Faelyn Rose Of Chesapeake Chapter Four Twas the early hour of the evening just after dark. A fire burning in the hearth painted the sandstone dining room walls with a warm golden glow. Two female servants brought in a large roast pig from the kitchen and placed it on the sideboard for carving. The platter of meat was complimented with bowls of potatoes, peas and corn. Another sideboard offered fresh baked breads, cookies, and even doughnuts to the hungry dinner guests. Seamus was seated at his customary place at the head of the table. The setting on his right was reserved for Amanda Rose, the Lady of the House and to his left the guest of honor, Bronson. Already seated at the opposite end of the table were his brother Jack and Amanda’s cousin, Jeanne Rose. In the middle were seated Amanda’s younger sister Katie Rose and her husband, Patrick. Opposite them were cousin Kayla and Amanda’s youngest sister, Shana Rose. As she led Bronson to the far end of the table Amanda introduced the woman who seemed to have already captured his attention. “Bronson, I would like you to meet my cousin, Jeanne Rose.” “A pleasure to meet you at last,” The young woman said as she extended her hand. Bronson curved her delicate fingers over his and brushed his lips against them. “The pleasure is mine, my lady,” He said, smiling into her eyes. She blushed. “Haven’t we met before?” “I think not, sir,” Jeanne answered pleasantly, “for I would surely recall the occasion if we had.” Bronson’s mind was reeling. Here was the lady he had been thinking of so often since their chance encounter yesterday but she didn’t remember him at all! He could see it in her eyes. She thought no more of him than a total stranger. “And what of me?” Jack laughed as he leaned closer to Amanda’s pretty cousin. “Is it not pleasing to see your older brother again?” Jack extended his hand in greeting forcing Bronson to release his hold on Jeanne. Yet another shock to his senses! Here was his murderous brother Jack dining with these innocent ladies as if he were an honorable knight of the realm. Bronson stifled the urge to scowl at his serpent of a brother. How could Jack be so devious? Bronson shook his brother’s hand and said. “Aye, it is a pleasure but don’t expect me to fawn over you. You are simply not as attractive as other members of this family.” He winked at Jeanne, bringing another dimpled smile to her face. Everyone laughed. Everyone except Bronson. This whole situation was not what he expected for dinner at the end of a very long day. He took his seat between Seamus and Kayla at the other end of the table. “Now that we are all here,” Amanda said returning to her seat at the head of the table next to her husband “I wish to welcome our guest of honor, Bronson.” Seamus raised his glass of wine. “A toast! To my youngest brother. May the road rise up to meet him and may the wind be always at his back.” “To Bronson!” the guests chimed in unison as they raised their glasses. “I thank you Seamus,” Bronson replied, raising his glass “and many thanks also to your lovely bride for preparing this fine feast for us tonight.” he nodded his head to Amanda and then sipped his wine. “Aye,” Seamus said “you have quite out done yourself, my dear. So let us not waste another minute. Let the feast begin!” The servants quickly rushed forward and began serving large portions of each delicacy to every dinner guest. “Bronson,” Katie Rose asked from across the table “have you met my husband, Patrick?” “No I haven’t but I’ve heard many a tale from Seamus about their dangerous exploits in the dungeon Doom.” Bronson answered. “It is nice to meet you, Patrick.” “Hail and well met.” Patrick smiled. “I understand you were among the challengers of the Champion in the Fire Dungeon today. It is little wonder that you were late arriving to this fine dinner in your honor.” “Aye, it is true. And I do apologize to Amanda for persuading Seamus to accompany me in the fight. But as it turned out he saved my life more than once. I hope you will forgive me My Lady.” Amanda rolled her eyes. “I’m sure you needed wild horses to drag Seamus to Felucca.” Everyone at the table, including Seamus, hooted with laughter. “So what are your plans for tomorrow?” Patrick asked. “Seamus is my guide,” Bronson replied as he passed a bowl of potatoes to Kayla. Seamus looked up from his plate. “I was thinking that we might battle our way through the Gauntlet of Doom,” He helped himself to another slice of meat. “If that suits you, lad.” “Doom!” Bronson exclaimed. “That is one dungeon I have yet to master.” “No single warrior masters Doom my boy. It will take all the friends we have and some we will meet in the Gauntlet to be victorious. If the Doom Gods are smiling we might get lucky and coax an artifact from one of the Doom Bosses. Does that interest you, boy? “Indeed it does brother. When do we depart?” “Right after breakfast,” Seamus said, smiling at his brother’s enthusiasm. “It sounds perfect. I will meet you at the stables,” Bronson grinned. “Nox will be up for the challenge.” He vigorously finished his first platter of food then reached for a second helping of pork. “May I come along?” Amanda asked. “I have not been to Doom in ages.” “Of course, my dear,” Seamus answered, “In fact, you are all invited to join us. A large group is most welcome in challenging the Doom Bosses of the Gauntlet.” “I wish that we could join you, Seamus,” Patrick said “but Katie and I are going into Britain to sell some of the weapons we harvested on our last hunt.” He smiled and took his wife’s hand. “My lady wants to do a bit of shopping, as well.” “I am sorry to hear you won’t be joining us,” Seamus said, “We will miss your finely honed skill as an elder archer in our quest to defeat the Dark Fathers. But when a woman has set her mind on shopping there is little a man can do to change it.” At this remark the men laughed. “It would be wise for a husband to remember that.” Kayla added, giving the ladies cause to smile and nod. “I have never been to the Doom Gauntlet,” Jeanne Rose said. “Shall I meet you all at the Luna stables tomorrow morning? What resources should I bring?” Seamus laughed. “As many bolts, arrows and bandages as you can carry,” he looked directly at Bronson “and plenty of greater cure potions.” “Jack? What about you?” Amanda smiled at her brother-in-law “Will you be joining us?” Bronson listened intently for Jack’s answer. Would his murdering brother join in on a dungeon crawl where the warriors could not be assassinated and dry looted? “Sorry Amanda but I must beg to be excused,” Jack said. “I made plans to hunt another dungeon tomorrow. Perhaps next time.” Jack returned his attention to Jeanne, amusing her with more stories of Ilshenar adventures, keeping accounts of his Felucca crimes to himself for obvious reasons. Bronson kept a wary eye on his brother Jack who flirted with the young woman for the rest of the night. “Shall I play my harp for our guests?” Amanda’s youngest sister, Shana Rose offered. “I could use some practice. I am studying to be a bard and must play music several hours everyday.” “That would be wonderful!” Amanda replied. So the guests were serenaded with songs from the cities of Vesper, Ocllo and Trinsic. Shana Rose concluded her impromptu concert with the very popular theme from the City of Minoc. The Minoc melody brought back happy memories of Bronson’s youth. He had been raised among the indomitable miners and lumberjacks who carved their livings from the forests and mountains surrounding the busy little hamlet. He noticed Seamus smiling too, and knew he was reminiscing about their childhood home as well. Everyone applauded the youngster when she finished and Shana responded with a curtsy before rejoining them at the table for dessert. Jack continued to monopolize Jeanne. Although Bronson could not help himself from glancing at her more times than he would care to admit, only once did she look his way. When their eyes met Jeanne smiled. He thought she was about to say something but Jack launched into another story about some recent hunting adventure which recaptured her full attention. Bronson noticed that Jack neglected to mention his favorite prey. Humans! As the evening ended and the guests began to depart, Jack offered to escort Shana, Kayla and Jeanne Rose home. The offer was accepted with much giggling from young Shana and many thanks from big sister Amanda. Bronson could not help but feel that perhaps the fox was being sent to guard the chickens; but he kept his thoughts to himself. He mustered a smile and bid a fond farewell to the ladies as they made their way to the front door. Bronson lingered over Jeanne's hand as he bid her good night. Jack was suddenly there behind her putting her cloak around her shoulders in a very possessive manner. “Until we meet again,” Jack said to Bronson as they shook hands. But the evil gleam in Jack’s eyes told Bronson that there would be no mercy the next time they confronted each other in a Felucca dungeon. Bronson returned Jack’s evil grin with a glare. He would be ready as well. Seamus and Bronson took their brandy to the rooftop garden. The sky was clear and full of stars. The brothers sat across from each other at a small table to enjoy the night air. Bronson’s somber question broke the silence of the night. “Why haven’t you told Amanda about Jack’s occupation?” “What would be the point?” Seamus asked, leaning back in his chair. “Do you think this family is in danger from our brother?” Bronson said nothing. Perhaps Seamus was right. Jack did not murder him when he had the chance. Yet he was still troubled by Seamus’ passive acceptance of the situation. “Lad, you must understand,” Seamus said “our brother is not out murdering children in their beds. He is taking his chances against the seasoned warriors who inhabit the wilds of Felucca.” He took another sip of brandy. “I am not saying that I approve of his behavior, but he has made his choice and I have accepted it...for better or worse.” Bronson took a deep breath and let it out, “I think I know what you are trying to say, Seamus. Yet there is something about the way he looks at me…looks at all of us in fact, that leaves me feeling like his prey…ill at ease in his presence.” he sloshed his brandy around in the glass. “The ladies should not be exposed to him.” Seamus chuckled, “The ladies…or one lady in particular?” he grinned at Bronson. “Did I detect a bit of rivalry at the table tonight?” he leaned forward with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes “Have both of you set your sights on Jeanne Rose?” “I hardly know the woman,” Bronson scoffed. “You are out of line, brother.” “Well, perhaps I am,” Seamus got up and stretched. “But I will tell you that I decided Amanda would be my wife on the day that we met.” He patted Bronson on the shoulder as he started towards the stairs. “When something is right, you just know it.” “Good night, Seamus,” Bronson said quietly “And thank you.” “Good night, lad,” Seamus yawned “Get some rest; you will need it tomorrow.” Nox was bursting with energy as the stable boy tried to lead her out of the stall. She roared and reared up, pulling the poor lad off the ground. Then Nox lunged forward dragging the boy right to where Bronson stood in the doorway of the Luna stable. “Patience, Mistress Nox.” Bronson cajoled her as he caught the bridle in a firm hold. “I promise you many kills this day.” He waited until Nox quieted down and then swung himself up onto her back. As soon as he was seated the mare charged out of the stable and into the courtyard. Bronson bridled Nox to a spinning halt. He laughed at her antics for a moment before he realized that someone was watching him. Several feet away Jeanne Rose sat upon her ethereal steed. She was staring at him with a look of surprise on her face. Bronson saluted her and Jeanne urged her mount forward until she was beside him. She still looked startled. “It’s you!!” she exclaimed. “Aye it is me.” Bronson laughed. “Are you ready for the Doom Gauntlet, my lady?” He took Jeanne’s hand and kissed it but she clung to him when he would have released her. She continued to look slightly bewildered. “My lady?” “You are the warrior who rescued me from the wild nightmare,” she exclaimed. “I recognize the Balron’s mark upon your mare.” Jeanne pointed to the faded scars across Nox’s shoulder. “And you were wearing that green hooded cloak.” “Aye,” Bronson grinned. “So you do remember meeting me?” “Of course I do!” Jeanne told him “You saved my life! But you were wearing that hooded robe so I could not see your face.” She smiled and shyly let go of his hand. “Thank you, Bronson, for your help.” “It was nothing, Jeanne. Really.” He spoke the truth. Nox had attacked the wild nightmare of her own accord. Jeanne’s rescue was not his pet’s goal. Nox simply wanted to fight the other nightmare. “I am only glad that you were unharmed.” Bronson gave her his most charming smile. “Your skill with the crossbow is remarkable.” He nodded towards the weapon in her hand. “Indeed, in the end you may have been the one who rescued me.” Jeanne beamed at the compliment. “You are most welcome, sir.” She gazed at him with a new found respect in her eyes. Bronson smiled back at her noticing the way her lovely face…. “ALL FOLLOW ME!” Seamus’ thunderous command broke the spell of Jeanne’s smile. Bronson looked up to see Seamus and Amanda Rose entering a blue moongate which had been cast in the middle of the courtyard. Their White Wyrms trundled behind them. “After you, Jeanne.” Bronson bowed his head. He followed the Illustrious Lady Jeanne into the magic portal.