It was a marvelous affair. The New Moon Masks that the Inyu Baynock Inyu of Baynock held were always an event. Each guest arrived by carriage already garbed and masked so that you never knew who was in attendance. Not all guests were of noble blood, probably not even half of these hundred. Those not able to sport their own carriage, costume or mask, were taxied by the Earl’s own platoon of halfling driven carriages and provided all that they needed for the evening. Regardless of station, every guest was provided a room so that they might not need risk returing home on so dark a moonless night.

At the entrance, the senses were overwhelmed by the music of the bards, the scent of fine food and drink, and the bright costuming of the dancers and entertainers. There were jugglers and fire eaters, illusionists conjuring fantastic lights and animals, and dancers waving silks and fans. Each mask was extravagant as well. Some boasting jewels and paints, others made in the likeness of beasts, devils, or angels. The servants all wore plain white kerchiefs.

The host was the only personage lacking annonymity. Baynock was the only halfling of noble status in Rudo, and he looked out for his kin, and they looked after him. He was a jovial fellow, dressed in colorful jerkins and tunics, but never gaudy. His salt and pepper beard always covering a smirk unless attending to state business. He sat at his dias in an ornate chair, no throne, just a comfortable couch before a long table. At times he might invite guests to sit with him a while. Other times, he would circulate and see that each guest was enjoying themselves. This must truly be his favorite part of courtly life. He knew each man or woman in attendance and what favor they did him. He smiled freely and played the host well.

On this particular night, the halfling host is not the object of attention. Rather it is a certain few guests enjoying the night’s revelry. A tall young man in fine garments and a saphire mask sits between some ladies. He knows one on his right to be a courtier, he can nearly smell it on her. Perhaps it is the same cloying scent that has assaulted him on previous occasions. Perhaps she knew who he was and that was why she was giving him her full attention. He had known women like her all his life. He was after all, the crown prince Brahmlet, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Rudo.

The mistress on his left practically ignored him. She must have him mistaken for some miller’s son, and thought him beneath her notice. Though he was drinking like a fish and somewhat in his cups, she should take him for a more noble personage just from his bearing. She was trim and fit, with auburn tresses and creamy skin under her white and green lace dress. Her mask sported windswept flames and her eyes were shadowed beneath it but she was a beautiful young thing. She was conversing with the gentleman on her left. He was darkly tanned but dressed well in forgeign garb and his face was hidden by something resembling a fish man. He probably was a fishmonger, or some serf who toils in the feilds to be so muscled and tanned.

The prince’s attempts to turn her attention were met kindly enough but she would quickly go back to conversing with the strange man. The flame-girl and fish man laughed and ate while the festivities wore on and the prince would brood and drink more of the heady sweet wine. The thoroughly uninteresting courtier tried to talk to him but Brahmlet ignored her where he could and finally told her that he was more interested in the performers. Halflings were perched on each other’s shoulders and juggling knives in the center of the hall, so his excuse was valid. When it came time for another dance, Brahmlet, turned the young lady to face him and asked if he might dance with her.

“I am sorry sirrah, I have already promised this good gentle the next song.” She hastily stammered. The prince’s eye caught that of his opposition and held it a moment. The other man spoke gently.

“Remember Lady, I do not know this dance. but you are kind to teach it to me.” With that remark the prince knew that he was outdone by some farmhand and it set fire to his temper. He let it blaze while he watched dead man fumble through the dance. He moved well enough, but uncertain of the steps. But the prince is not unkind, he gave her another chance. At the conclusion of the song he stood as they approached their seats. p. “Would you indulge me now with this next dance, m’lady?”

“I thank you kindly sir, but I am tired now and wish to rest.” She graciously replied. The courtier, hearing this, invaritably jumped from her seat and said, “I would dance with you my Lord, as it please you.” Her heart throbbed to have a moment of him to herself.

“It does not please me miss.” He dismissed her scornfully and turned back to the damsel who continued to slight him.

“Do you realize who I am?” He asked loudly with blood rising to his face.

The young lady looked closely at the saphire masked figure then back to her fishy friend and shrugged.

“We do not know you sir, and with such a crude temper, I dare say that we do not care to.” The fishmonger answered. With that the prince threw his chair clattering to the ground behind him, knocking over one of the diminutive servers and startling those around him. The minstrels ceased playing and all eyes turned to the trio on the side of the hall.

“What is the meaning of this?” The lord of the manor shouted in a ruling voice. For a meager meter tall figure, on his dias, shouting, he was quite imposing.

“This man has slighted me and I would challenge him in trial by combat for the favor of this maiden!” The Saphire mask screamed into the hall, spittle flying in the face of the accused. p.After a moment of awkward hesitation the lord spoke up. “Does the lady agree to this bloody show?” Baynock asked the maiden. For a moment she seemed lost, then re-gathered her wits.

“I would see the gentleman in the fish mask put this drunk in his place!” She said in a vindictive voice. Baynock considered this and looked to the two men squared toward each other.

“If each of you agree then move to the center, remove your mask and announce your intent. But a word, I’ll have no killing in my house, the first to yeild forfeits his right to the lady.”

The man of the Saphires hurried to the center, sure of himself. He removed his bejewelled trapping and announced, “Know that you face your crown prince. I am Brahmlet of the royal house Turlain, and I am your future King. You may withdraw unmasked and forfeit if that is your choice.” His smiled oozed malice and confidence that he had already won. His smirk faded as the fish masked man walked slowly to the far side and drew off the sea creature. His cheekbones were high and the forgeign clothes were no costume but it was his piercing green eyes that gave the prince a shudder.

“I am Jerard Windover, emissary of the far sea kingdom of Nagissa, cousin to House Calisan, and I swear no fealty to you. We are here as two men, let our houses take no part of this.” He starred coldly as he spoke and removed his cloak and tunic, his white undershirt revealing a well muscled man of the sea.

“Do you each have a blade? if not, one will be provided.” the lord of the house spoke and the onlookers stepped back a bit. Brahmlet drew a fine rapier. Windover took a skinning knife from his belt and double wrapped a gold chain around his left fist. As each drew blades, Sir Billiam the knight protectorate, stepped up and removed his grim mask, drew his two handed sword, and rested his hands on the pommel. Another figure moved forward from the crowd, and removed a simple silver bandana. The younger prince Jurai Turlain, modestly clad, looked to his brother and his opposition then left his hand on the hilt of his short sword. The Lord of the manor, seeing that all to be said had been said, flung his hat through the center of the combatants signaling that the duel had begun.


Blades of Rudo Cjugglerleo