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More from Margery’s point of view. Like her much? ;-P Recognize her family? 😛

Bound to the Flame

Chapter II

Part II

                Excited children dashed through the courtyard of Arethwyne Castle. Margery dodged between the children of two rival nobles, who were busily playing tag, paying no attention to anything but their own game. The whole castle was a-bustle with excitement at the prospect of the promised novelty at the kingdoms’ gathering. Servants gossiped like hens in a henhouse as they busied themselves about, far more industrious than normal, and far more eager at their work than they had been in many days. Margery hurried past them and made her way up into the castle, to her own chambers.

Once there, Margery helped her maid pick and choose which dresses to pack, then changed into an old, mistreated, thread-bare tunic that fell to her knees and a pair of slightly less worn leggings in preparation to run down to the stables, to see the great wains prepared. The armorers, too, were busy at their forges, plying their craft; Margery could hear them through her window. She knew the fletchers were, at that moment, preparing quiver upon quiver of precious new arrows; she loved to watch them at work. Margery paused as she walked through the solar, glancing up at the new tapestry which she and Marena had been working on together since the previous winter. Decorated with the Arethwyne arms around the edges, at the center it displayed a humorous vignette of Margery and her father, both laughing, with crossed swords, and Marena and the three boys watching. Margery giggled. They had begun designing it after she, Seamus, and the boys had practically destroyed Seamus’ new throne in a very involved, wild sword fight that had somehow mutated into a pitched battle.

After looking at the tapestry for several long minutes, Margery ran out into the bright sunlight outside. She dodged between the tag players again; avoided young pages, who were engaged in banging each other on both heads and shields with wooden swords; inept young archers shooting at invisible, debatably nonexistent popinjays; four young squires playing tourney, with one of the boys in each team sitting on the other’s shoulders and jousting with wooden shields and blunt poles and the carriers running hard at each other. The game summarily ended when both “steeds” simultaneously decided that they had had enough and charged straight at each other, colliding and throwing both the “knights” off in a violent crash. The “horses,” who were relatively unhurt, promptly dumped their tormentors on the ground and cantered off, chuckling with glee. Margery paused for a moment to laugh at the ditched and discomfited “riders,” then went on.

The whole kingdom was treating it as a festival, of sorts. Doubtless, they were motivated at least partly by curiosity, but a gathering of any sort holds a certain charm and excitement of its own. Many of the common folk and all of the great nobles were preparing to attend, and there was a certain excitement in the air, which thrilled all the youngsters in the castle.

Margery stepped out of the crowd and into the stables. Celad greeted her with a soft nuzzling, and she took his curry-comb and began to rub him down with it. She paused for a moment, wondering why she hadn’t asked Marena if she could ride Celad on the way to the accord before. She sighed, finished currying Celad’s glossy coat, pulled down new straw for him, and refilled his water trough. She sighed again and prepared to brave the crowd once more. Might as well ask Marena now…

A hand placed sharply on her shoulder made Margery jump. She spun around, defensively, then heaved a sigh of relief. It was only her mother.

“Would you find your brothers and bring them here for me, Margaret?” Marena asked, her voice deadly serious. “I have something to tell all four of you that is for your ears alone.” Margery nodded, catching on to the evident gravity of the situation immediately. She slipped out of the stables and back into the throng.

Dashing in between two sword-fighting squires and weaving in and out of small knots of men-at-arms. Margery rushed through the crowd. She found Gareth and Aaron in the armory and sent them on ahead; a deeper search revealed Hamish in the library, doing further research on the Ertraian people. Noting the title of the tome he had been engaged in, she hurried him out of the library and back down to the stables. They all met up with Marena in Celad’s stall. Under the pretense of currying the horse and feeding him carrots (Celad looked very pampered and blissfully happy,) the young princes and princess listened as their mother outlined her concerns and delivered her warning.

“While I think that most people are merely curious about the Ertraians,” Marena began, “there will, more than likely, be some who will wish to do them harm. You must be careful, Margery, Gareth, Aaron, and Hamish. If there is an outbreak of violence, that could very well mean a declaration of war. I don’t want you to seek out trouble, but if you overhear someone planning something, it is no less than your duty to warn them. If you have a mere suspicion or bad feeling, ask me first, but if there is no time your first concern should be saving lives. You must not risk an outbreak of fighting. We want this to run smoothly, and the Ertraians are reputed to be very civil—there is no belligerent, cheerful animosity between clans as there is with us. They do not maintain a friendly rivalry; they do not have ‘fun’ little skirmishes between the clans as we do. If the other kingdoms and clans have their little rivalries, that’s fine, but the Ertraians must be left out of it. They may very well be edgy and nervous, so be discreet.” Margery noded.

“I understand, Mum,” Gareth said with unusual solemnity.

“As do I,” said Aaron. For proof of his sincerity, Hamish merely held up his tome of records and annals. Marena wrapped her arms around all four of them gratefully.

“Thank you. I’m glad to hear that.”