Tales around Mirateia 24

It had been about a week since the confrontation with Duke Kaeso Ciusestia Siusiso. Azran wasn't sure about the time as even on this morning, the city of Nacaeus was being hit by a storm, and the rain was soaking anyone that was crazy enough to go out in this weather but even with this terrible weather hitting the city, the city was still busy, its paved streets full of merchant wagons coming into the city to deliver their wares as the city was preparing for the upcoming Celebration of the Ancestors that were only a few days away by now.   Meanwhile, inside the Manor of the baron, Azran was having a meeting between him, Ira, some of the advisors to Azran and the elder of the city.   "Cassius, how are the preparations for the celebration coming along?" Azran asked, looking at one of the advisors sitting across him at the table.   "The preparations are coming along nicely, most warehouses are close to being full, and the carpenters have the planks ready for the tables and platforms, although I want to say that the current weather we are experiencing is not helping. With that said, we are lucky that the streets in the city are paved, my lord," advisor Cassius answered.   "I agree, and if I may add to this, my lord?" Appius, the other advisor at the meeting, said, looking towards Azran.   "Of course, Appius, go ahead", Azran answered.   "Thank you, my lord; what I want to add is that while the food side of the preparations is coming along nicely, I just wanted to make sure that the baron was prepared to hold the speech in front of the temple as part of the celebration?" advisor Appius said.   "Ah yes, the speech. I hope you can forgive me, Appius, but as you remember, I'm mainly a soldier, so I'm not that good at holding speeches. So I was planning on giving that task to the princess for several reasons, the first one I have already stated, and the second reason is that I believe. that she has a better connection to the divine than anyone here, so to me, it only makes sense that she takes care of that part of the celebration." Azran answered.   "And I'm happy to do so," Ira said.   "Oh, while I remember it, please tell me, elder, how are the population handling the confrontation we had with the duke? can you tell us something about what they are thinking about it?" Azran said, looking towards the elder who had been quiet during the meeting.   "My lord, From what I have gathered by talking with people, the city's people are taking it surprisingly well, and I have so far not heard any that witnessed the event speak any bad about how it was handled. There has been a slight increase in young people wanting to enlist in the city watch or even the auxiliary forces. If I added my personal opinion to this, I would say that it can only have helped your case that you arrived as fast as possible even after your crash on the horse, so I can only conclude that the way you handled the situation has been very well received by the population my lords" The elder said shifting his view between Azran and Ira.   Shortly after, the meeting came to an end.   Walking down the main corridor of the manor, and walking towards the library for some relaxin. Arriving at the library and sitting down on each of their large pillows.   "I almost forgot to tell you this, but last evening, a message from Pearlhal arrived by Carrier Falcon from Eza" Ira said before taking a bite of the sandwich she had brought from the meeting.   "Oh, what does the little commander have to say?" Azran said before taking a bite of his own sandwich.   "I still can't believe you guys are calling her that," Ira said, shaking her head and smiling. "But she wanted to wish us a great celebration of the ancestors and that she is sending us a surprise, saying that it should arrive within a day or two after we receive this message," Ira said, handing Azran the piece of paper with the message on so he could read it himself.   "Are you going to participate in the tournaments during the celebration? I think it could be a good way for the people to see their lord and show off your skills," Ira said.   "hmm, I hadn't considered joining; I think that if they knew they were fighting against me, my opponents would hold back and not fight with the same determination as they would have it just been a random person," Azran said   "You know, I might have an idea; we have some of those helmets that shield most of your face; you could wear one of those, use a fake name to sign up with and then compete," Ira said.   "Actually, that's not a bad idea," Azran said thoughtfully.   A few days later, on the day of the celebration of the ancestors, Azran was sitting on the tribune that had been built for the spectators of the tournament; once the tournament was over, the ball game was to take place, but right now, Azran was sitting with Ira next to him and watched the first match of the tournament begin. The two fighters were members of the city guard, as were almost half of the people who had signed up. The rest were either members of the auxiliaries or hopeful young men and women hoping to gain experience before becoming adventures or joining the military. The two fighters were going at each other. It didn't take long for one of them to exploit that the other seemed to have a weak right arm carrying the shield, so the first fighter fainted an overhead attack making the fighter lift his shield to protect against it. In the last second, the other fighter changed direction and swung the sword into the unprotected side of the other, probably causing some sore ribs the following day, as the fights were carried out using dull blades.   "He is not that bad, that guy", Ira said, nodding towards the guy who had just won and was celebrating before going back and waiting for the next round.   "Nah, he was alright, he could have ended it earlier, but it's easy to see from an outside perspective", Azran answered.   "True enough, so when is it your turn?" Ira asked.   "The fight after the one coming up now, which means I better go down and change", Azran said before standing up.   "Good luck," Ira said.   "Thanks", Azran said before disappearing behind some cover.   The right in the arena took some time as both opponents were about equal, but after some time, it was over, and Azrans' fight could begin.   Stepping out into the arena, people were cheering or yelling at him depending on who they had bet money on, luckily they didn't know who he was as he had made one of the Imperial Guards sign up for him in front of him, an orc was standing waiting for him, Azran was a bit surprised, he hadn't expected to meet an orc this far into the empire as they mostly could be found around the coast where they typically were raiding as part of the pirate crews roaming the sea to the north. Azran thought that the orc might be a hired bodyguard for some travelling merchant or noble that had arrived to spectate the games.   Meanwhile, the city's elder had arrived at the tribune where Ira was seated.   "Your highness," The elder said, bowing as much as he could with his old body.   "Elder, it's good to see you," Ira said, giving a respectful nod.   "Thank you, your highness. Do you by any chance know where the lord is?" the elder asked, nodding towards Azrans' empty seat.   "Come take a seat, elder, and I shall tell you where he can be found", Ira answered.   Taking a seat, the elder looked out over the arena where the two fighters were going at each other.   "I promised to tell you where the lord could be found. He is currently down there," Ira said, pointing towards the arena.   "Wait, the lord is fighting; it cant be safe," The elder said, surprised and choked.   "Well, you are right; it is a bit unfair for the orc down there; tell me, elder, do you know what the lord or Azran were doing before we arrived here?" Ira said, still looking down at the fight, where Azran had just been tossed several meters back. "Oh, come on, Azran, stop playing with him".   "No, your highness, I suspected that he was just another noble that had been granted this land, although that would still not explain your presence, your highness; I get the feeling that I'm wrong here," The elder said.   "Well, I'm not going to go through his entire service record, but he was the youngest person to become an Imperial Guard, and I'm sure you know the requirements to become one of those, and I have seen him fight in situations worse than this so to make a long story short elder, It's perfectly safe for him to be down there," Ira said looking at the elder with a smile before looking back at the fight were Azran had just knocked the orc out using the pommel of the sword as a club. Not giving much time to celebrate, Azran quickly walked out of the arena and, with the help of some of the Imperial Guards, changed back to his civilian clothes before he made his way back to the tribune.   "Speaking of the devil, how was the fight?" Ira said when she heard someone coming up to their tribune and turned to see Azran coming up the stairs.   "It was a good one, talented guy", Azran answered, turning to notice the elder. "Greetings, elder", he continued.   "Greetings, my lord; I see you joined the tournament; although I didn't hear about the lord signing up, you would think it would be the talk of the streets," The elder said.   "Yeah, you would, and you would also expect that the opponents that I would face would possibly be too afraid to fight me properly, so that's why I signed up undercover", Azran answered.   "I see, and what do you plan to do once you win, if you win? You will have to take the helmet off then," the elder asked.   "I was thinking of letting one of the Imperials take my place if that were to happen, or what do you think, elder? Is that the right thing to do?" Azran said after taking his seat, looking out over the arena where two new fighters were taking their places.   "If I may be honest, my lord, the previous baron, while a good man, I don't think many here would feel safe having him leading the people should time of trouble find itself on our doorstep, so I think the people would find it encouraging that their lord, not only is willing to defend them using words as you showed against the duke but also that their lord have the ability to defend them should the need arise, and if I may add, you have just shown that you have what it takes to defeat even the strongest foes," the elder said after having thought about Azrans question for a moment.   "I see; well, in that case. I better give the people what they want; I want them to feel safe and, at some point, maybe even like me," Azran said.   For the next half an hour, they watched the tournament until it was about to be Azran's turn in the arena again, so he went to get his armour on and walked into the arena where his opponent was already waiting; this one was an elf clad in some light armour and without a helmet, noticing that Azran could not help mumbling for himself "What an idiot" moving down Azran noticed that the elf was wielding two elven swords. "What is it with elves and dual wielding? It's only cool in stories for kids", Azran thought to himself before getting ready.   The elf was the first to engage; the elf made use of his race's superior agility and, from a running start, made a high jump to knock Azran down to the ground, with some help from gravity. Azran lifted his shield to block the incoming attack and prepared his attack from below; once the swords made contact with the shield, the elf used the shield to set off and land behind Azran, who only narrowly managed to dodge the second attack. However, he could feel the flow of air when the swords cut through the air behind him. Gaining some distance Azran turned around just in time to block another attack before he noticed that every time the elf was about to attack, he would roll his shoulder, so when the elf was about to attack again, Azran used this delay in the attack, the rolling shoulder provided to go on the offensive and getting in close were the dual wielding wasn't as useful.   "This is why you should wear a helmet," Azran said before head-butting the elf and knocking him out of the fight, with this Azran, just like in his first match, quickly went back out of the arena to a hidden room and changed back to his normal cloths afterwards he returned to the tribune were Ira congratulated him for his victory and noted that it was the second fight he had won by going for the head of his opponent to which Azran just laughed and said that he hadn't even noticed, it was just that when he entered the arena, he saw that the elf didn't have a helmet on and that he did so he would have an advantage should the fight get to a close one like it eventually did.   About half an hour later, it was again Azran's time in the arena. This time it was the big fight, the finale and having equipped the armour, he stepped out into the arena and found himself facing another human, or at least he assumed it to be a human due to size and statue and such, but what made Azran chuckle a bit underneath the helmet was that it was another member of the Imperial Guard that had reached the finale, so Azran knew this was to be a good fight.   The fight began with the two circling each other with the random lunch forward by one of them. After having made at least three rotations around each other, the Guard attacked and Azran only just managed to avoid it, having the sword leaving a mark on the breastplate as it ran across it. Azran countered with a shield bash to the Guards face managing to hit but didn't hit with enough force to have a lasting impact; after this short burst of activity, the two began walking around a circle again until Azran attacked, fainting an attack on the head forcing the Guard to defend the incoming blade. Still, before fully committing to the sword's swing, Azran ducked down and swept one of the legs from under the Guard using his shield, resulting in the Guard losing balance and hitting the ground with a loud bump. Azran quickly placed a foot on the Guard's chest and pointed his sword towards him, making the Guard surrender after a few seconds of seemingly weighing his options. Azran stepped off the Guard and gave the Guard a helping hand to stand up again.   Having done so, the Guard asked if he could see the face of the one that had bested him, thinking for a moment over the advice the elder had given him earlier and nodded to the Guard.   "I guess you have deserved that", Azran said before removing his helmet and holding it under his left arm.   Seeing Azran's face, the Guards' jaws dropped. Likewise, all the spectators cheering beforehand were now dead silent as they watched the fighter they had cheered on for most of the tournament removing his helmet. Due to the work of Ira and Azran, since they had arrived, many in the city knew their faces and those that didn't were quickly told by those who knew.   "My lord, it was an honour to fight against you," The Guard said before grabbing Azran's hand and lifting it in the air, to which the spectators once again broke out in cheers. Azran and the Guard were chatting a bit about their time in the Imperial Guard before an even louder cheer could be heard, which made the two look towards the sound and saw Ira carrying something in her hands and being escorted by two other Guards and the elder. The Guard bowed towards Ira with one hand on his back, and after considering if he could be bothered to do it as well, Azran decided it probably was best to play along, so he entered the same position as the Guard next to him.   "Congrats to both of you for reaching this far in the tournament," Ira said with a formal tone in her voice "Terrowin for reaching the finale and securing second place, you hereby receive this bag containing 50 Silver penny, congratulations" Ira continued.   Walking over so she stood in front of Azran. "Congrationaltions on winning this year's tournament Lord Azran," Ira said in her formal voice. "You have won this bag containing 20 Crown, Congrationaltion," Ira said   Standing up and taking the bag of coins, Azran held them in his hands for a bit.   "You know, this is probably the most money I have been holding my whole life so far, but I think some use this more than me," Azran said before looking toward the elder. "Here, take this and give it to the orphanage in town", Azran continued.   Afterwards, many smaller games were played while the food was prepared, and after a couple of hours, the food was ready, and the air was full of smells from all sorts of food sources. Ira and Azran were sitting in one tent and enjoying some of the food. Azran was enjoying some of the Roasted rabbit , with Ira having some of the roasted boar.   "I think the people loved that you were part of the tournament," Ira said, looking over at Azran and shaking her head when she saw him with his face almost buried into a rabbit leg.   "huh? oh yeah, that turned out much better than I expected. I don't think I will be able to get away with it next year, though," Azran said, looking up from the leg.    "Hahaha, you should see yourself; you have meat sauce all over your face," Ira said, trying to suppress a laugh. "Who knows, all it would require is that you use some other armour; that might help, but we have a year to find out a way if you still insist on competing incognito", Ira continued.   The rest of the evening continued peacefully, and Ira even managed to persuade a stuffed Azran to dance later in the evening, much to the people's enjoyment.

Cover image: by Gayle Porter Hoskins


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