Sam awoke the next morning to find himself alone. So, he fashioned a crutch so that he could go see Hazgorn. It took him some time to hobble all the way out to the ‘Dragon Field’ as it was now called. There, the remaining group of dragons made way for him to get to the center of the flight, where Hazgorn lay. He and his dragon had been having conversations in Ringspeak a number of times since Sam had awakened from the mist, but he felt the need to place his hands on his friend’s face. The dragon’s eyes opened, and he lifted his head as Sam approached. Neither of them was feeling well yet, but they were optimistic and feeling better as time went by.
Sam let his crutch fall to the ground and reached out to gently place his hand on Hazgorn’s cheek. “Thank you, my friend,” he said out loud. “It is good to see you. Does anyone know how this happened?”
“No, only that it did. We are not meant to know all things, Son of Sky Hold.” There was a dragon tear forming in Hazgorn’s eye.
“What is important is that you are both going to be okay,” added Vyrna, who walked over with Genie astride her. Genie slid down and landed lightly on the turf.
“What are you doing out here?” she asked Sam in a motherly tone.
“I needed some dragon time too,” he answered like a smarty-pants. As he spoke, his other hand, which wore the ring caught the tear as it began to trace the dragon’s face. The ring got really hot and a sudden flash of light caused the on-lookers to flinch.
“What was that?” Genie asked sharply.
“I don’t know. It looked a like a little version of the Immolation, if you know what I mean, and my ring got really hot.” Sam observed. He looked at Hazgorn. “Do dragon tears have some sort of power?”
“All tears have power.”
Sam choked up a little at the profoundness of the dragon’s simple explanation, and Genie intervened.
“Come on, back to the Hold with you; you need your rest.”
She took him by the hand, and they bowed before their friends. They turned and began walking away. Sam had taken a good dozen paces when he realized that he had neglected to pick up his crutch. Although his leg did not feel well, it seemed fine to walk on. Puzzled, he stopped and turned to see Hazgorn getting up slowly and Vyrna nuzzling him as if to help. After he was up, he stretched like a dog would stretch after a long nap, and then he stood up strong, outstretching his wings. He looked at Sam.
The Ringspeak let them express their feelings about what they suspected about what they had just experienced, but Hazgorn had already said that they were not meant to know all things. So, they just felt blessed.
“What’s wrong?” Genie asked to see Sam puzzling.
“Wrong? Nothing’s wrong. I think all is right with the world.”
They strolled easily along back in the Hold walls, taking the long way around and stopping in several of the artisan’s huts to talk to the people and see how things were coming along in this new ‘era’. The people seemed happy, and made little complaint about the status of things. Still, Sam and Genie could see that there was a certain level of poverty prevalent in the Holdfolk, and none of them looked like they had ever had enough to eat. There were children, but not very many. The harsh reign of Styric did not inspire the simple folk to have thoughts of the future. Hopefully, that would all change now.
Gensonn found them chatting with a milliner. He needed to tell Sam about several things he had found in the old documents that he had been deciphering, but he also needed to get out of the dark stone rooms and move around in the open air for a while.
It was about that time that Vyrna called for Genie through Ringspeak, summoning her back to the Dragon Field. She didn’t indicate why she was calling, but Genie would go, leaving Sam and Gensonn to talk.
“So, what’s up?” Sam asked him. Gensonn looked up. “It’s just an expression.”
“Ah, Sky Hold. Up. Right.”
“It means, ‘what did you want to talk about?’”
“Indeed. You have tasked me to learn of Rent from the old texts. Perhaps I have found some things of value,” he said with portend.
“Is this something I should hear while consuming a beverage?”
“That could be warranted.”
They were still standing in the milliner’s open hut, and Sam could not help but notice the scrutiny that he and Gensonn were under.
“I’m sorry, but what was your name again?” he asked the milliner.
“Moriah, my lord,” she said meekly.
“Is there something you wish to say?”
“It was your lady, my lord. Could I offer her a hat?”
Gensonn was anxious to tell his news, and was trying to maneuver Sam away.
“Hold up, Gensonn. This nice lady is being kind.” He turned back to her. “I’m sure the Lady Genevieve would love a hat. What did you have in mind?”
Her face lit up, and she smiled with fat rosy cheeks. Turning to her work table, she then produced a floral, lacy hat that did not look at all like something Genie would ever wear.
Sam hesitated, trying to think of something polite to say. “That’s lovely hand work, Moriah.”
Gensonn scoffed at her. “Lord Samuel, let us leave this place. The woman is touched. That hat is only worn for marriage ceremonies.”
Sam looked back at Moriah, holding the hat up in the light and herself beaming. There was a look in her eyes that bore deeply into Sam’s mind’s eye. This woman seems to know something. Whether she was psychic or a witch or perhaps a really good salesperson, Sam did not know, but something about this encounter affected him. He turned to Gensonn.
“How are marriages performed here on Hordann?” he asked plainly?
“Certainly, there are more critical things to focus on. What need of you of marriage?” the impatient Xeltic priest asked. Sam said nothing, but just looked into his eyes. Gensonn’s face changed as the realization struck him. “You and the Lady Genevieve are not wedded.”
“We left Sky Hold before that could be arranged,” Sam said, stretching the truth. “Would a priest like you perform such a ceremony?”
“I am just an apprentice, Lord Samuel. It should be performed by a High Priest.”
Moriah spoke up. “We don’t have any High Priests around here, and we get married all the time, my lord.”
Sam laughed. “Gensonn, can you do it? Yes or no?”
He looked at the little milliner and sighed. “Yes.”
Sam laughed again. “Moriah, would you like to do me a huge favor?”
“Of course, my lord.”
“Come to the Great Hall after the evening meal. Bring a dressmaker, a cobbler, and this hat,” he said.
She was beside herself with excitement. “Yes, my lord!”
Now Sam really needed a cup of wine, so he bade Moriah well, and he and Gensonn made their way back to chambers to talk about ancient knowledge, mysteries of the universe, and how to pop the question to his lady. All in a day’s work?
Genie had gone back out per Vyrna’s request. When she arrived, the group of dragons bugled and opened up the formation to reveal Diedra holding a bandaged Terry. Genie’s eyes filled with tears of joy to see her little friend again, for not knowing if she would live after taking an arrow in the battle, Diedra did not wish to get Genie’s hopes up. But with Deidra’s loving care, Terry had made it. He couldn’t fly yet, but she was certain to do so soon. At the moment, he could see Genie and was quivering with excitement. They came together, and Diedra passed off the little flying lizard to Genie.
“Easy now,” she said, “she’s still a little fragile. I just changed her bandage.”
Terry began making the cutest little noises of happiness, and Genie kissed her and cried. Terry rubbed her head on Genie’s cheek, and wiped away the tears. Suddenly, there was a little flash of light, a searing pain, and Genie’s ring got hot. She was a little disoriented for a moment or two. She and Terry looked into each other’s’ eyes, but did not understand what they had each just felt.
“I thought as much,” Vyrna said.
“What? What was that?” Genie asked.
“Truly only Ingebriggt knows, but we had our suspicions after Hazgorn and Samuel had the first experience with it.”
“Ancient magic,” Diedra said, “some would say. I call it ‘love’.”
Whatever it was, Genie had felt a sharp pain in her ribs when the flash of light happened. That was where the arrow had struck Terry, the ribs. Genie pulled the bandage down enough to look at the wound on the little dragon, and saw that it was almost healed.
Diedra looked closely and gasped. “I just changed that bandage, and now the wound seems almost entirely healed,” she said in amazement. The emotion—the love-- seemed to well up in her, and she looked to the west with longing eyes.
“She misses her mate,” Vryna said in Ringspeak.
“Hannegelt?” Genie blurted out loud.
“What about Hannegelt? Has there been word?” Diedra asked earnestly.
“No. No word yet. It’s just that you miss him, I’m sure.”
“Yes,” she said sadly, wondering if there had been in a battle for Gilden Hold or not. Was he still alive? It was just too much, and somehow Terry and Genie coming together as they had just done was bringing her emotions to the surface. She began to cry quietly.
Genie asked Vryna privately if there could be a flight to Gilden Hold to find out what was happening. The answer was that it would have to be discussed. Out loud, Genie said, “We can ask and see what we can do to get news.”
“We are going to the bay for shark. Would you like to accompany us?” Vyrna asked, but Hazgorn was shaking his head. Fortunately, the ladies begged off the flight and parted for the Hold.
Hazgorn waited until they were out of hearing and explained, “Samuel is going to ask her to wed this night. They have to be here. We, on the other wing, can go to the bay.” They smiled as dragons do and took to the air.
Back at the Hold, Sam was meeting with Gensonn, Eric, and Derrick. First, Sam laid out the rough plan on proposing to Genie. When all agreed that it sounded reasonable (although none but Eric understood what all the fuss was about), the discussion moved to more serious topics.
Gensonn had been pouring over the old leather-bound journals that had been found amongst Styric’s things. He had been anxious to tell Sam what he had learned about Rent and the times of Ingebriggt. He had learned more than any Xeltic priest had ever known about the subject, and Sam was certain that this would certainly be the key to his advancement to full priest. Even so, the journals were obviously only a part of a larger set, meaning that there was more to the story. What he did know was that Ingebriggt had absorbed the powers of Jaeder by killing him. It was explained that it was something of a mercy killing on Ingebriggt’s part, and that he had not been warned that there would be consequences of such an act. It was how he lost three fingers, and came to Hordann with powers that he called the blood of the Jaederon. At the beginning, he raged with the magic, as with a madness. He had been a mere man, and such power was never meant for such a lowly being. He survived by releasing much of the magic into the atmosphere, and it fell on many inhabitants.
There were also the theories about Rent, apparently written by Ingebriggt himself. Those entries had come at the end of the one journal, and were left incomplete. So, although Sam may have access to the phenomenon, he still could not use it with any certainty.
It was there that the topic was dropped, but it gnawed away at the back of Sam’s thoughts.
Derrick, now the official Steward of New Sky Hold, had been in discussion with Eric about the governance of the Hold. Eric was a product of the Nineteen-sixties of earth, and he had some radical opinions on how things should go. Gensonn listened mostly, as did Sam. Sam established early on when this topic came up that it would not be decided at this meeting. Gensonn agreed that such viewpoints should be aired and heard, but that only after much consideration should the group be ready to announce any kind of decree.
Sam’s opinion obviously mattered a great deal. He was of the opinion that this faux feudal system had worked, and certainly the people were accustomed to it, but he wanted them to have more freedom. Hordann was still full of dangers from any number of unfriendly inhabitants, and the existing system afforded the people a good deal of safety. Still, Sam had judged these people as honest and hard-working folk and wanted to trust them with more personal freedoms. Eric was all in favor of this, but the native Hordannians favored a more conservative approach. Was it really necessary for Hordann to get inoculated with earth politics?
After a good hour of debate and explanations of terms, they all had a good understanding of the possibilities that lay before them. Still, the call to not decide yet seemed wise, and Sam brought up the next item of business—Gilden Hold. Hazgorn had informed him of the events at the Dragon Field, so he was aware that it was time to find out what was happening with Hannegelt and Kemann.
Eric, ever the optimist, said simply, “Maybe you should go invite them to your wedding.”
There was a good deal of laughter to end the first meeting of the New Sky Hold Council.
And so, it was that after the evening meal, Sam signaled the beginning of the fun. The dressmaker came up behind Genie and began to measure her. Genie was taken aback, and when she began to question her, the cobbler was on her feet, also measuring. Genie had no idea what was going on and turned to Sam for explanation. Moriah approached with the hat, and everyone present (except Genie) knew what the game was.
Sam took the hat from Moriah and said, “I think you should have the rest of the outfit to go with this hat.”
Genie looked at the lacy hat with a wrinkled nose. Diedra leaned in and whispered, “It’s a bride’s hat.”
Then Genie realized the truth of things and began to tear up. “Are you asking?” she asked Sam.
Sam got up and went to one knee. “I am.”
“Then, yes,” was the answer given, and a cheer went up in the hall.
“Eric has suggested that we fly to Gilden Hold and deliver the wedding invitation in person,” Sam said further, “Perhaps Princess Diedra would care to come along?”
Then both women started crying, the men felt awkward, and more wine was passed around. Spontaneous singing broke out in the Great Hall, and the people, who had been repressed by the despot for so long also began to cry tears of joy at the hearing of it. Even Terry swooped in and joined the new Lord and Lady of New Sky Hold in an amazing rendition of ‘Greensleeves’ that solidified the Holdfolk’s love of their new leaders.
In the morning, Sam went to talk to Hazgorn and ask about the flight to Gilden Hold. At the same time, he asked about an additional sortie. After talking with Gensonn about the journals, he had begun to think. Gensonn said that the journals were incomplete, and they had been written by Ingebriggt. Sam looked down at his ring. He remembered the map recovered from the Were-women in the Sanguin Mountains. There had been the rescue mission to save Hannegelt and Kemann, which led to nearly being killed by giant ant-lizards. But they also recovered the Rings of Ingebriggt there, and were forced to leave some unknown bundles behind to flee for their lives. He was now thinking that those bundles may have been the missing journals.
After the dragons debated the plan, they came back with a proposal. Three would carry the Skadivers and Princess Diedra to Gilden Hold, and two would carry the thief and the priest to the Sanguin Mountains first, and then to Olden. Those two would then fly to the Unknown Isle to report back to their home to tell the news to the rest of the Flight. Then all would meet back in Olden, where the Xelts will decipher the journals. It was decided that the service of the dragons would be undetermined at that point; each dragon may decide his own course.
Sam had no choice but to agree entirely to their proposal, and so, it would be as they had said. The flight would begin two hours hence, and he returned to the Hold to inform everyone what was happening. Dextmann and Gensonn were glad to hear their part of the new adventure, and Diedra was overjoyed at the prospect of seeing Hannegelt again. Packing was rushed, provisions were pulled, and in two hours, the group took to the sky, parting ways immediately toward their respective destinations.