Subject: [FFML] [FFML][Original - Shonen]Knight's Dawn: 1 The World According to Bert
From: "Jennifer Poulos" <writermage@hotmail.com>
Date: 2/12/2007, 12:31 PM
To: ffml@anifics.com

This is my attempt at writing an original shonen (note - NOT shonen ai!), 
like Naruto or Bleach.  It's based on Celtic mythology, which is why the 
characters do not have Japanese names or honorifics (such as -kun, -chan, 
etc).  I would really prefer to see this become a manga or an anime but my 
medium is limited to prose, so anyone who can help toward those ends would 
rawk, but I would especially like to know if I'm covering the genre well.  
Hope you enjoy!



Episode One � The World According to Bert

Noise, the smell of meats and sweetcakes, and music were all too much of a 
lure for a young, curious boy to sit still.  Even if that boy was charged by 
his tutor to copy letters, temptation eventually must overcome and entice 
him to the scene of the action.

Brian spared one more glance around for Miss Brigit before slipping into the 
kitchens, where the cooks were flitting between stove and counter so the 
pages could serve the next course.  He took a moment to inhale the aroma of 
the cooked ham, spiced with clove and pineapple and glazed with maple syrup, 
the buttery potatoes as they simmered in their pans, the earthy smell of the 
greens as they stewed.  His stomach growled with anticipation, and he could 
feel beads of saliva forming in his mouth, but when Miss Brigit found him 
gone, she was going to go ballistic.  So he could only wait� and blend.

He ran his hand through his unruly dark hair, and looked around at all the 
fairer people around him, snorting.  His dark, curly hair was an oddity 
here, and something which was extremely noticeable.  It just wasn�t going to 
do.

Glancing around, he spotted an open bag of flour, and slinked over to it.  
Reaching in, he rubbed a generous handful into his hair, wiping the rest off 
on his clothes.  Looking over at the pages, all his age, he nodded with 
satisfaction and joined the chaos of serving the next meal.

A poke in the back made him freeze, but it was only Rory, a tall, skinny boy 
with blond hair, a year or two older than Brian.  The two boys exchanged a 
grin as they each grabbed a tray and headed out to the main hall.

The vast feast hall was a contrast to the severe grey stone of the rest of 
the castle.  White marble adorned its walls, lit overhead by huge electric 
lamps that hung from the ceiling far overhead.  The center of the hall was 
cleared to make way for a stage, and the tables lined the edges in rows, the 
family crests of the great families of Ammuntir hanging proudly from poles 
in the center of each table.  The members of these great families laughed 
and feasted, as several bards performed music on the stage.  It was hard to 
tell where the bards stopped and the roar of the feasters began, or even 
what song the bards were playing.

Brian risked only a glance toward the far end of the hall, where hung the 
Sun and Moon, the crest of Tera Daly, Duchess of the city-state of Ammuntir 
and ruler of the land.  The great lady herself sat at the center of the 
great table, overseeing her court as she conversed with her man-at-arms.  
She smiled at everyone she made eye contact with, her blue eyes brightening, 
discernable even from Brian�s vantage point.  Her slender figure was dwarfed 
by the great throne she occupied, but even without the circlet of her rank 
upon her brow, she was the Duchess, and sat tall.

Brian looked away as the piercing hawk-eyes of the man-at-arms slid over 
him.  Sir Cenni mac Coilan was shrewd, his handsome face set with the 
resignation of a man who never lets down his guard.  Just seeing him made 
Brian�s stomach queasy: if the Duchess were exposed to his game, she would 
smile and tell him a story at bed time, and that would be the end of it.  
Disappointing Cenni was a consequence Brian had not considered when planning 
this foray with Rory and his cousin Megan.  He gulped, and hid behind Rory.

At first, serving feast was fun, but eventually he grew tired and began to 
seriously regret his decision.  He began to think Cenni was watching his 
every move, and almost every female in the place was Miss Brigit.

�Rory,� he whispered to his friend between removed, his eyes on the 
man-at-arms.  �Do you think Sir Cenni knows it�s me?�

�Pfft,� Rory scoffed.  �There�s, like, a thousand people here.  He can�t 
pick you out of the crowd.�

Brian wasn�t so sure.  He tried to keep an eye on the man, but it grew 
difficult.  Even the delicious and aromatic food could do little to dissuade 
his anxiety.  Again, he tried to keep a low profile, but fatigue and 
nervousness were beginning to weigh on him, and eventually he dropped a 
tray, and suddenly felt like the entire weight of the room was upon him.

This was nothing new � the pages dropped trays all the time.  Usually the 
other pages just jeered and went back to serving. It was a duty the pages 
reveled in to serve the feast, because it enabled them to be in the center 
of the action and have all the food they wanted between courses.  During 
this time, they gathered in a small room between the kitchens and the feast 
hall, and Brian could overhear a small knot of them talking.

�Bertram the Bard is almost on!� he heard one exclaim.  Since this was the 
precise reason he had risked Miss Brigit�s ire, he listened more closely.

�I wonder if he�s going to do �Legend of the Two Towers,�� someone else 
said.

�Or �Fire in the Sky!�� Rory added, emboldened by a sense of group 
excitement.

�I hope he does �A History,�� Brian added quietly.  He was heard.

�Good song,� they all agreed.

�Say, Brian Daly!  What are you doing here?� growled one of the pages, 
pushing through the group to confront him.  Brian took an involuntary step 
back, but his eyes narrowed, and he took a defensive stance.  He was almost 
immediately flanked by both Rory and Megan.  The latter�s blonde curls were 
a sharp contrast to the fighting stance she adopted; Megan was a girl who 
had climbed a lot of trees, and for that matter, beaten up a lot of boys.

�Leave him alone, Jim Finn!� she growled back, a snarl marring her pretty 
face.  Jim Finn stopped and glared back at her.

�I�m not afraid of you, Megan,� he spat.  �Just �cuz you beat up Mike 
Haggerty doesn�t mean � �

�Looks like I got here just in time,� a voice boomed from the doorway, and 
everyone turned to look.  Brian�s stomach fell to his knees when he saw 
Cenni leaning in the door frame, looking sternly over the pages. Glaring 
hard at Megan and Jim Finn, he added, �I�m sure, since you�re both pages and 
all, that there won�t be any fighting here, because that would be against 
the Pages� Code.�  He punctuated this with a smile and a wink.  Every eye 
was upon him, mouths open, complete silence.  Only Brian was afraid, though; 
the rest were completely awestruck.

Cenni turned his eyes to Brian.  He didn�t say anything, but turned and 
walked out of the room.  Not hearing anything from the other pages, although 
there were mutterings from all over the room, he ran out and chased Sir 
Cenni.

�I� I�m sorry!� he blurted out.

Sir Cenni was surprised.  �For what?� he asked.

Brian was now equally surprised.  �Um� You�re not mad?�

�That you snuck out of letters to see Bertram the Bard?�  Cenni laughed, and 
knelt down next to the boy.  �I put aside the rosters to see him.  We shall 
both be punished enough in the morning, when we have to do that on top of 
our other daily responsibilities.�

This was a consequence Brian hadn�t considered.  Equally surprising: �You 
like Bertram the Bard?�

�I don�t know.  I�ll find out after dessert, I suppose.�  He paused, looking 
the boy over for a moment.  �Very clever, by the way, disguising yourself by 
making your hair lighter.  It took quite some time to spot you.�

With that, he rose and returned to the high table.  He and the Duchess 
exchanged words, finishing with Tera�s face lighting up as she joined Cenni 
for a laugh.  Brian wondered what he had told her, wondered if he had amused 
them both.  However, in the back of his mind was still the nagging feeling 
he had disappointed Cenni somehow.  It stayed with him when he returned to 
the kitchen staging area, despite the sudden admiration from the pages upon 
realizing who he was.  It stayed with him all through dessert, but 
afterward, the anticipation in the room became electric, and all else was 
forgotten.

As the pages cleared the last of the dishes, a rather large youth, who 
looked a few years older than Brian and his comrades, lurched up the steps 
of the cleared stage, his large frame laden down with drums on slings.  
Unceremoniously, the drums were all dropped to the floor at once, and then 
painstakingly arranged in some semblance of order, from the huge booming 
drum traditional to the war march to the dumbek, the light party drum used 
for dancing.  The last thing he put out was a black box, which sat in the 
middle of the stage, away from his setup.

The youth himself didn�t look like a Bard, though; Brian thought he looked 
more like a squire, with his bulky muscles and short-cropped hair.  His 
clothing was too plain, too; a plain brown tunic and breeches, leather 
shoes.  Even when he finished and sat down on a stool that had been 
ingeniously packed around one of the drums, he never spared the audience a 
glance, just leaned his elbows on his knees and kneaded his hands.

At long last, even the tables were removed and the room was focused on the 
youth on the stage, all hushed anticipation.  The pages now took up the end 
of the room opposite the High Table, and even they only spoke to one another 
in reverent whispers as they waited for the spectacle to begin.

The lights went out, and a collective gasp circulated the crowd like a wave.

Then, suddenly, lightning seemed to hit the stage, and there was a great 
cloud of smoke.  Everyone gasped again, and some people even rose from their 
seats, but a bright, golden light appeared beneath the smoke, illuminating a 
figure within it, as the keening wail of a guitar echoed around the great 
chamber.  Soon, other lights of other colors joined the madness, and the 
slow, steady rhythm of the war-drum set the pace for the guitar�s keening 
melody.  Then, another lightning strike, and the smoke was gone, the stage 
illuminated slowly by the floating, glowing lights, which danced around the 
impressive figure that was unmistakably Bertram the Bard.

He was clothed entirely in black leather � a thick jacket, tight breeches, 
huge black boots � but all of it was etched with symbols of different 
colors, which seemed to glow with the balls of light.  Purple spirals laced 
up with red and blue knots, which then segued into yellow sunbursts and 
silver crescents, all lit with the same faerie-fire that lit the stage.  His 
hair was a deliberately-wild shock of black that surrounded his head like a 
halo before tapering down his back to a point which ended around his waist.  
What could be seen of his face as his head fiercely bobbed up and down, hair 
flying, was a black stripe across his eyes, set into a pale landscape of 
white.

The pages, and most of the younger crowd in the audience, were on their 
feet, head-banging and jumping to the music along with the legendary figure. 
  The guitar wailed for a few more bars, and then suddenly, silence, 
punctuated by a few more beats from the war drum.  The Bard just stood, 
surveying the audience, allowing the silence to saturate it, before picking 
an intricate and quiet series of notes to introduce his lyrics:

�When the infantile man took his first steps
Upon the virgin land
Even gods made way and stepped aside
Laid their weapons down
Great was the power of man
Hopeful was his future
Thus began his History!

For he was the Gods now
Steward of the land
He founded mighty empires,
Which rose and which fell,
Great wonders he gave birth to
Great magics at his beck and call
Thus a mighty History!�


Brian leaned back, swept away in the story of mankind�s endeavors � of the 
Pharoh people of the south, who lived in the desert, and the mighty Romas, 
who killed the last of the gods to walk the planet.  The exotic Hellens, 
from which the system of city-states was derived, and the glorious Mid-Evil 
age, with its knights and churches and romanticism.  Of the wizards of the 
Far East with their slanted eyes and boom-powder, which ruled the world for 
centuries to come.

�Still divided, ever warring, magic made for killing
Hatred raged for centuries as mightier man grew
Magic ever-stronger, mighty beasts created
Spitting fire and stone
And slaying all in their path
Potential wasted in death
Thus a desperate History�.�


The story became more dismal as the Elder Druids created more and more 
magics � great beasts that lumbered over land, dragons of the air, fireballs 
that could traverse seas.  The Land of Freemen dropped a sun on the Land of 
the Sun, and the Elder Druids stopped trying to develop magic to kill each 
other when they harnessed a star, too.

�Then great towers touched the sky
And the Golden Age began!
Healing magics then were born
And man flew to the heavens
Glorious man!
Glorious History!�


This was Brian�s favorite part � the wonders of the Golden Age, when the 
Elder Druids created fabulous creatures � steeds which carried people over 
land, air and sea; minds in boxes that thought about things and created even 
more creatures.  Metal men walked among men of flesh and people were born 
from nothing in the great Druid temples, where they mixed their potions.  
The Druids were far more knowledgeable then; a lot of that magic was 
forgotten now, but the Druids still dwelled in the great temples, guarding 
these lost arts.

�Even faerie did man�s bidding
Fixing everything man broke
Glorious man ruled all he touched
But all things die, all things must end
Even the Golden Age of Magic
Even glorious History�.�


The Bard�s guitar took on a more mournful tone now, and his voice once again 
grew quieter as he related the next part of the story.  The lights grew 
faint so that only the bard himself could be seen, and the smoke began to 
rise again.

�The Earth itself rumbled and split
A sun grew from the land
The very world was rent open
The fruit of man�s magic
A hole in the land
Sad, sad history!

A hole in the land, gaping and burning,
A hole in other lands,
Other lands we could not see
But had been there all the time
Other people from afar
No longer just man�s history!

Two races rose upon man�s fall
One blinding with brilliance
The other dark as death
Scattering men upon the Earth
They fought each other
While we observed
Passed over by history!�


The legendary war between the Tuath and Fomor had happened thousands of 
years ago, supposedly bringing destruction upon the land and scorching the 
whole planet a second time, making most of it unlivable for all three races. 
  How the benevolent Tuath held back the fearsome Fomor, almost to the last 
man.

Decimated, the two races from the other world went back to where they came 
from, the land of myth and legend.  Meanwhile, man once again struggled from 
the ashes, finding more and more places that were healing in the difficult 
terrain created by the previous disasters, banding together into large 
metropolises, with outlying villages dedicated to farming.  The city-state 
was the center of life today, and its nobility the center of society.

�And so we now remember
These legends from afar
For those who do not learn
Will make the same mistakes
This is the law
The law of History!�


A final wavering note finished the epic lyric, and for a moment, no one 
stirred.  Brian looked around at the sea of faces, all entranced and woven 
into the long tale of their people.  He looked up at the Bard, who gamely 
threw one arm in the air and bowed gallantly.

This punctuation caused the whole room to explode in thunderous applause, 
with people standing up, whistling, and screaming.  Brian joined the excited 
fray, jumping up and down with the other pages and crying himself hoarse.  
The entire High Table was on its feet, Duchess Tera clapping her arms over 
her head, her mouth moving, her words indiscernible.

The Bard�s lightning struck again, and he vanished as suddenly as he 
appeared, but this time, he reappeared before the High Table.  He bowed at 
the room, who renewed their wild applause, then bowed to the Duchess, who 
smiled� and bowed back.  She leaned in and spoke to him, but the roar of the 
appreciative crowd was far louder than this private exchange, and Brian was 
too busy whooping with the other pages to really notice it anyway.

He was pulled out of the crowd a few minutes later, though, by Sir Cenni, 
who took him back to the chamber where the pages waited between courses.  
Brian wondered what was going on; again, Sir Cenni didn�t seem mad, but 
there was something going on that was unusual.  He waited to see what was on 
his elder�s mind.

�Brian, the Duchess has requested an audience with Bertram the Bard,� the 
great knight explained almost immediately.  �So, apparently, you were in the 
right place at the right time.  Can you and your friends be quiet and not 
share anything you hear while serving a late-night libation for a thirsty 
Bard?�

�Wow � he�s a really big star, isn�t he, Cenni?�

�He�s more than just a performer, Brian,� Cenni replied.  �He�s an emissary 
between the city-states.  He brings us news and tales of the lands beyond 
the waves.  Bards are more than just the musicians you�re used to here in 
the court.  This is the first time in many years a Bard has come to 
Ammuntir.�

�But� we�re just pages�� Brian began to stammer as his mind froze at the 
prospect.  He took a deep breath and was about to continue, but instead took 
another deep breath.  He repeated, �We�re pages.�  Looking up at Cenni, 
meeting the knight�s gray eyes, he said, very solemnly, �I will talk to Rory 
and Megan.  You can count on us.�

Sir Cenni nodded, and clasped the boy�s shoulder.  �I trust you, and I trust 
your choice in friends.  That�s why I came to you first.�

His cloak swirling, he turned and strode back toward the High Table.  Brian 
hastened to his friends to explain this exciting news, which resulted in a 
mad dash to the kitchens to assemble the necessary victuals.  It wasn�t very 
long into this task before the weight of what was really going on hit them 
fully, and they all stopped and looked at one another.

Brian voiced it, but they were all thinking: �We�re going to be serving 
Bertram the Bard and spending a lot of time with him this evening.�

�I�m going to spill wine all over him, I just know it,� Rory frowned.  
�Maybe I should serve supper�. No, that could be even worse.�

�Then carry the goblets in,� Megan instructed, but even her voice was 
wavering.

�I�ll break them, I�m sure,� Rory responded pessimistically, but he did 
assemble several goblets on a tray, thinking even to put them bottom-up to 
lessen their chance of falling.

Brian and Megan exchanged a glance over the counter-space.

�This is exciting!� she breathed.

�This is scary,� Brian replied.  �Bertram the Bard is a bigger star than we 
realized.  Sir Cenni said so.  He�s like a � uh, emissary.�

�So he�s almost like a really important noble.�  Megan frowned.  �You�re 
right.  I wouldn�t want to make him mad.�

With this mindset, the three nervously made their way to the Duchess�s 
parlor.  This modest affair was lit entirely by kerosene lanterns mounted on 
the walls and the occasional decorative candle strategically placed on a 
table or shelf.  The entire room was paneled in wood, carpeted in plush 
crimson, and its three couches and some dozen chairs were upholstered to 
match.  These chairs were as well-placed as the candles, clustering in 
threes and fours around tables set with coasters.  A large low table 
dominated the room, and a fireplace crowned one end.

Bertram the Bard sat next to the fire, facing the rest of the room as though 
about to give another concert.  He was using a rag to wipe the black and 
white stage make-up from his face, revealing a perfectly normal, boyishly 
handsome visage.  His clothing was plain black; the faerie fire designs 
seemed never to have existed.  He issued a welcoming smile to the three as 
they entered the room.  His drum-boy sat behind him, but away from the fire, 
perched on the same little stool he�d used on the stage.  He looked them 
over, then looked down to the floor, rubbing his hands.

Megan hastened to the low table with the plates, as they were heavy with 
hamhocks, sweet breads, buttered vegetables and jellied fruits.  She served 
both the bard and his retainer one at a time, not daring to meet either of 
them in the eye.  Once they�d both been served, she helped Rory disperse the 
rest of the goblets between the tables.

Brian stood and looked at the bard, hardly aware of the weight of the large 
carafes of wine and water.  Bertram�s ambiance had not been diminished by 
the subtraction of his make-up and faerie-lights.  The easy posture with 
which he sat, the casual way he reached out and picked pieces of food to pop 
into his mouth, looking at the other two pages with his amused expression � 
all of it was as fluid as his performance of the history of Man had been.

�Say, are either of those barley-pop?� he asked casually, and Brian realized 
the bard was addressing him.  For a moment, he had to think of the answer, 
glancing helplessly between the two carafes.

�N-no,� he finally managed.

�Do you have any?�  Bertram�s eyes were big and brown and focused on Brian.  
It disconcerted the boy more that the expression they wore was perfectly 
friendly and welcoming, rather than aloof, like a noble�s would be.  The 
look of amusement also never faded from his face, as if everything 
everywhere were amusing.

Again, Brian had to think.  �Yea, we do.�  He set the two carafes on the 
table and dashed out the door and back to the kitchen.  By the time he 
returned with a third carafe of the bubbly ale, Megan and Rory had finished 
and were quietly sitting on the couch next to the door.

Perhaps emboldened by Bertram�s lack of airs, Brian walked right up to him 
and held out the jug.  �Here you are!� he exclaimed, not knowing what else 
to say.

Bertram the Bard�s eyes brightened as he poured himself a full goblet, and 
his retainer a half.  The retainer frowned when he saw the amount in the 
glass but sipped at it with pure satisfaction.

�I�m just a person, you know, like you.�  Bertram�s gaze now alternated 
between Brian and the pages on the couch.  �Please don�t be so afraid of 
me.�  A bite of ham and a sip of ale later and he added, �Did you enjoy the 
show?�

Now all three of them couldn�t wait to speak their accolades.  The bard 
listened with the practiced air of one who hears this many times, and waited 
patiently for them to finish.

�What did you like about it?� he asked when they were done.

The three exchanged a glance, returning to their shyness.  Brian still stood 
before the bard, and again the friendly eyes enticed him to speak first.

�The Golden Age of Magic,� he said after a long pause.

�Why?�  Bertram was genuinely surprised.

Brian thought for a moment.  �I don�t know,� he admitted.  �There are lots 
of things I like about it.  It was-� He groped for a word, and finally 
finished lamely, �-magical?�

�Pfft!  That magic blew up the world!�

Bertram�s eyes now widened in shock as he turned to his retainer.  �Andrew!� 
he cried.  �We are guests here � manners!�

Andrew shrugged.  �Sorry.�  Then, �It�s true, though.�

�It is true,� Brian agreed.  �Because they used it wrong.�  The two boys� 
eyes locked for a moment and something passed between them unspoken, a kind 
of playground kinship that arises between young people thrown together by 
adults for lengths of time.

�Well, what do you think they did wrong?� Bertram wondered.

�They wasted all that time throwing fireballs and suns at each other,� Brian 
replied.  Bertram the Bard�s face lit up with a smile.

The door opened, and at the head of the noble entourage that entered was 
Duchess Tera, slender, angelic, and taller in presence than her short frame, 
wearing a radiant smile.  She was followed by Sir Cenni and a group of the 
nobles of Ammuntir, men and women from the city-state�s great families, nine 
of them in number.  Cenni and these nine dispersed to the couches and 
chairs, but the Duchess approached Bertram warmly.

�I hope your supper was quite satisfactory,� she said.

The bard wiped his hands with a napkin from the table, and then took both of 
hers and gazed into her eyes.

�Duchess Tera, I liked it very much.  Let�s both relax, now, and enjoy the 
rest of the evening, okay?�

She laughed musically in response.  �Forgive me.  I was younger than these 
pages the last time a Schooled Bard came to Ammuntir.�

The three pages had scurried to their feet to pour goblets, but they all 
looked up when the Duchess mentioned them.  The moment had passed, however, 
and Duchess Tera took a seat next to Bertram�s table.  Their tasks finished, 
the three pages retreated back to their couch and awaited further 
instruction.

Duchess Tera cleared her throat.  �I�m sure you know we have a lot of 
questions about � �

�Is it true there�s a war going on?� one of the other nobles interrupted, 
leaning his portly body forward and stroking his bushy beard.  The Duchess 
smiled apologetically, but waited patiently for the answer.

Deadpan, Bertram replied, �Yes.�

�Is it really the Fomor?� the same noble pressed.  The anticipation in the 
room was electric.

A pause, and then, �Yes.�

The nobles exchanged glances, some of them exclaiming in either horror or 
disbelief.  Sir Cenni and the Duchess took a long look at one another.

�Where is the fighting concentrated?� Sir Cenni wondered aloud.

�Why does everyone want to know the bad news?� the bard exclaimed, his face 
turned upward.

�The bad news is usually of more interest,� the Duchess returned in a stage 
whisper.  Everyone heard, however, and a nervous chuckle traveled the room.  
Bertram, too, chuckled, and ran a hand through his wild halo of hair.

�The Fomor landed in great iron ships on the southeast coast,� he finally 
replied.  �Near Glaston.  They�ve taken the Fords.�

�Iron ships?� asked one of the nobles incredulously, her eyes widening.

To this Bertram only nodded.

�The Fomor,� another scoffed, stroking his beard.  �They�re a fairy tale.�

�Well it�s obvious that whoever the attackers are, they are a huge threat,� 
Duchess Tera responded.

�Exactly the point,� the portly noble agreed, taking a moment to glare at 
the others.

�Are the city�s defenses up to defending against iron ships?� one of the 
older nobles put in, squinting through thick glasses at Sir Cenni.

�I honestly don�t know.�  The knight was looking at the bard.

Bertram pulled his feet up on the chair and sat cross-legged as he glanced 
around the room, then down to the floor.

�In my lifetime, I have never seen ships like these,� he admitted.  �Huge 
iron ships, like out of the tales of old.  Spitting fire with a mighty crack 
of thunder.  We thought it was thunder until the fireballs landed, and the 
inn we�d just left was destroyed.�

�Splinters everywhere,� Andrew added, his voice gruff and deep.

�How do we fight against such magic?� a noble wondered.

�With steadfastness and hope,� Sir Cenni replied, and inside, Brian smiled 
as the nobles all unconsciously responded to this by sitting a little 
taller.  �We have advantages of our own, and we�re going to need to use them 
all.  We�ll have to consult the Druids on this.  And maybe ask the other 
city-states for help.�

Bertram chuckled.  �Most of them are in a panic, most of the ones we�ve been 
to since.�

�Where have you been?� the Duchess asked.

�Well, first to Kilney, then along the southern coast.  Then we made our way 
north and found our way to your welcoming halls.�  He smiled at the Duchess, 
then extended the expression to the whole room, including the pages.  �This 
is only the beginning, though.  Here, there are only rumors, but within a 
year�s time, there will be devastation.�

�How do you know?�  One of the nobles angrily rose, his eyes blazing under 
his circlet.  �What are the problems of the Ford to us?�

�Invaders in any city-state will come after us all,� Sir Cenni said.

�But why?�

No one could answer this, so all eyes fell to the bard, and even he 
shrugged.

�I didn�t stick around to ask them.�

Another nervous chuckle scattered the room.

�So how can we be certain it�s the Fomor?� Duchess Tera wondered.  �I mean, 
what do we really know about the Fomor?�

�Just the things you said in your song,� the portly noble said to the bard.  
�And legends.�

�What do we know of those?� Sir Cenni pondered.

�Bedtime stories,� scoffed the noble with the blazing eyes.

�If it really is the Fomor, bedtimes stories may be our only hope,� Duchess 
Tera said, her eyes piercing the room, ever the Duchess.

The three pages fought to remain silent.  Stories of the Tuath and Fomor 
were told to them as children, and told amongst them as well.  However, this 
was an important meeting amongst the adults, and it was not their place to 
interfere.

�Some of them are monsters and some of them are not,� Bertram supplied 
helpfully.

�They ravaged the land by burning it with light from the stars,� another 
noble said uncertainly.

Again, the pages squirmed, afraid to interrupt.  The bard, however, noticed.

�Maybe we should ask our younger peers,� he said, gesturing to them.  For 
all three, this was all the invitation they needed.

�Their armor was ten times the size of a man�s!� Megan cried out.

�They could fly!� Rory added.

�They could shoot star-beams at you from their bows!� Bertram�s retainer 
jumped up and added from behind the bard.

�The used the magic that is now forbidden,� Brian added quietly.

�What is this accomplishing?� the angry noble asked.  �These are children�s 
tales!�

�I bet that�s what the people of the Land of the Sun thought before the 
Freemen dropped one on them,� Brian argued.

�Enough!� Sir Cenni exclaimed, glaring at the three pages for a moment.  
Then he turned to the nobles.  �But these children are right.  We�re going 
to need to find out as much as we can about these invaders, whoever they 
are.  And if what the children say turns out to be true, then we�re going to 
have to figure out how to survive.�

None of the nobles could argue with this.

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