The Tamoran Delegation
The main town square in Gasporan in the country of Tamora was generally quiet until the first cock crows accompanying the dawn summoned forth the early merchants and workers. Today however was very different. The sun hadn’t really even started to appear, and the square was a mass of humans and animals, seething about and barking at each other or shouting commands. The Tamoran delegation was preparing to depart.
Everso Lovely walked from her house and could hear the tumultuous goings-on from a mile away. She struggled with her carpet bag and was already cursing herself for over-packing for the trip. She had her lute, extra-clothing, many quills and ink and probably the heaviest items, hundreds of sheets of paper on which to record the great adventure. Come to think of it, she had actually been fairly thrifty. The only other thing she had was a small parcel of biscuits and cheese and a couple of handfuls of grain for Roofus. Roofus hadn’t been around lately but she was certain he would show up before the party left.
She didn’t really know what to expect of the delegation. She had met two of them, briefly, at the castle upon receiving an invitation to do so from the Queen. The two had seemed, at first reckoning, to be fairly dull civil servants. The one, Jules, was supposedly an expert in antiquities and worked at the Tamoran national museum where he oversaw the acquisition of historical tomes and ledgers from the various banking institutes and found objects and such. He looked as though he was about sixty years of age and wore a pair of thick lensed glasses that teetered on the end of his nose and often fell off when he looked up. The other gentleman, August, was an expert in weather and climate. Well, he forecast for the castle, truth be told. He was more a shrewd tactician than a scientist and his climate predictions often happily coincided with the specific wishes of the court. Having a big picnic for the court children on Mid Summer’s Day? Well, August would send his ‘weather bird’ up into the clouds and upon its return would all but guarantee a sunny day with mild breezes. That his predictable predictions often proved accurate was the only reason he hadn’t lost his job years ago. But he did know a thing or two.
Everso neared the entrance gate to the town but before she could enter, there was a rustling of feathers and Roofus appeared, landing on her shoulder.
“Guten Morgen meine Liebe,’ he squawked into Everso’ s ear.
“Well, I didn’t think you were going to show up, Roofus,’ Everso said. ’Thought you might have ‘chickened’ out.”
“Don’t be so rude,’ Roofus complained, his natural tongue being readily translated by the author. ’I don’t think you really know the implications behind that epithet. Besides, who could blame me if I did have second thoughts? I was almost knocked out of the sky a few minutes ago by two gigantic eagles.”
“Sure, you were, Roofus,’ said Everso, recognizing his word for huge bird of prey.
Roofus was going to add a couple more comments but he was struck to silence by what he saw as they entered the town square. It was full. Packed to the edges with beasts, humans and provisions. And what a group it was.
Near the well and slavering huge gulps of water out of several buckets, were four gigantic black dogs. Jules had mentioned the War Hounds that would be accompanying them, but nothing could prepare her for the actual vision of one. And there were four! Two of them were fighting over a large hunk of meat and a third was being fed something on a stick by a large hairy man. Their sound was horrifying.
The delegation themselves, including Jules and August were standing nervously to one side holding the bridles of their mounts and watching the mayhem unfold before them. Everso walked over to them and was about to greet them when there was a deafening screech and two of the largest birds that she had ever seen lit upon a tree that grew in the center of the square.
“See, I told you. Eagles,’ Roofus said and hid himself under the folds of Everso’s sleeve.
The birds settled down and one would have thought that they would collapse the poor tree that was serving as their perch. They eyed the crowd curiously and the larger of the two, that had what looked like blades attached to the anchors of its claws let out a terrifying screech. The other eagle had the remnants of a lamb in its claw and was ripping at it and devouring large, bloody segments of it.
“Good morning,’ Everso said to Jules.
Jules tore his gaze away from the tree and recognized Everso. “Ah, good morning, Miss Lovely. I believe you remember August? These others are Silos Redmond, the royal engineer of the castle wall structure, and Bethany Pardingle, a more than splendid mathematician. The three exchanged nods and glances.
“I don’t really understand the need for this menagerie,’ said Bethany. ’We’re only going to be traveling for a few days and there have been no reports of outlaws or bandits lately on the road.”
“I suppose,’ replied August, that somebody has decided that extra security has become a necessity. “At any rate, you haven’t seen anything yet. The Demi-Gorgon hasn’t arrived. When you…”
August didn’t finish his sentence because at that very moment the Gorgon did arrive. The entire square went silent, even the War Hounds stood still, fur bristling as the thing entered the square.
A Demi-Gorgon can best be described as a cross between a lizard and a lion. It stands twelve feet high and has a scaled skin that seems to glow with a light blue hue towards the bottom and undersides and changes to a ruby red towards the hind quarters. It has what could be described as a mane, but is actually a series of rows of large brown quills, stretching from its pointed ears to the middle of its back. It is a four-legged animal and its face sports two sets of two eyes, each with a set of four protective lids. It has three rows of teeth and a tongue that is forked like a serpent.
Atop this ferocious animal sat a very beautiful woman, clad only in a white cloth that was wound around her like a bandage from her shoulders to her waist. From there down it was a set of furred leggings. At least, one hoped they were leggings. She was bare-foot and she sat on a star patterned blanket that was cinched about the beast by a chain of silver. She carried a bronze spear in her one hand and grasped the last of the Gorgon’s quills with her other. Apparently, she could control the beast that way.
The Demi-Gorgon made its way slowly to the center of the square and Trish of the Lizard Clan, spoke.
“Delegates of Tamora! I, Trish of the Lizard Clan Broth, greet you. Do not be intimidated by my friends, ’she said indicating the various beasts with a wave of her arm. ’They will not harm you. It is best to stay away from the hounds however as when they get hungry they can… forget themselves. But other than that, as I say, there is nothing to worry about.
“We are going to leave now, so please mount up and follow me. We will not go far today as I know you probably aren’t accustomed to this sort of travel and will tire quickly. Please stay together in a group while traveling and tell your servants and cooks to follow with the wagon some twenty yards behind the main party.”
Having put her belongings into the wagon and realizing that it was too full to permit her traveling in it, Everso Lovely timidly approached the massive lizard-thing and its powerful rider.
“Um, excuse me,’ Everso said, in what seemed to her like a tiny voice.
“Yes, what is it?’ said Trish, looking down on her. The Demi-Gorgan pawed at the ground and brought its nose down to about an arm’s length from Everso. She could feel its sour breath on her face.
“Well, I didn’t realize there would be no transportation for me, do I have to walk? I mean, I can, but I don’t want to slow things down.”
“What is your position here?’ Trish asked.
“I am a poet,’ Everso replied.
“In Tamora?’ Trish laughed. “A strange place to find a poet. I thought that sort of thing was frowned on around these parts.”
“Well, it is but they do indulge a few of us. If we write nice things about them. I shall be keeping a record of the journey for the Queen.”
“Ah, I see,’ said Trish. “Well, we can’t have you getting tired out. You will probably be more important in the end than anyone else. Besides, I bore easily on these types of simple excursions. Perhaps you could entertain me while we travel?’
“Entertain you?’ Everso said.
Trish of the Lizard Clan twisted one of the quills on the beasts back and it knelt on one of its front legs. Trish swung a leg over its side and reaching down, she placed a hand under Everso’s arm and with no apparent effort at all, lifted Everso up and onto the blanked beside her.
“You’ll ride with me,’ Trish said, ’but if any trouble arises, "you’ll have to go back on foot for a bit.”
Resuming her seat on the Demi-Gorgon’s back, Trish wheeled it around and with one hand raised above her head, shouted, “Forward!’
And with that, the Demi-Gorgon and the delegation started towards the gates. The great Eagles sprung to the air and in seconds were lost to sight in the brilliant blue sky. The wagon followed the delegation and behind that, the four massive War Hounds strained at the chained leash controlled by the Handler on horseback.
They were off.