AR 1218-12-03 Recall for Birthday Family Party
December 3, 1218
Bjorn looked expectedly at his court mage, who was concentrating on casting a spell. Using the twenty-five words allowed for in the Sending spell, Bjorn had attempted to compose a message for his oldest son Gunnar: “Both of you come home. Next two days special for you to be here. Bring Father Jarl too. Go to Thor teleport circle thirty minutes.” He wondered if Gunnar would tell the others why they were being called back.
Truthfully, it was more than just their birthdays that made Bjorn want to see his sons again in person. With the help of his mage, Misha, Bjorn had been able to keep an eye on them as they adventured in the world, and it was precisely that scrying that caused the real reason for the summons home. As Misha had pointed out, if they could spy on the boys, others could as well. The implications of that weighed heavily on the king.
It had taken some time, but Bjorn had just received two special items of power, commissioned from the queen of the elves: amulets that would block all attempts to scry on the wearers, unless the scryer knew a special pass phrase – a phrase known only to Misha and himself. Even with the discount given on King Kendric’s account, they had cost Bjorn a pretty copper. Nevertheless, they would help keep his sons, and by extension the group they traveled with, safe from malicious eyes, and so the cost was worth it.
The boys’ mentor, Father Jarl, had been asked back so Bjorn could discuss their progress. He felt it was time for them to be more involved in the battles the group faced – unless of course it was against an ancient dragon! Keeping them protected from all combat was hindering their ability to learn, the king felt. He had seen Father Jarl come into direct conflict with most of the group over the priest’s attempts to include his sons more; Bjorn wanted to thank Jarl for his efforts, and encourage him to stay strong in the face others’ obstinance. The boys were more than old enough to face enemies on the field of battle!
Bjorn was contemplating writing individual letters to members of the group, informing them that they were overstepping themselves by presuming to know better than he about how to raise and train his children, and to allow Father Jarl to continue his work unhindered, when Misha interrupted his thoughts. “They are coming,” the mage said.
Misha was not one for many words, when a few would do. Bjorn smiled to himself, remembering when he had asked Trent for a court mage recommendation. Trent’s description of Misha had been spot on: accomplished, quiet, old. The latter meant that Bjorn visited Misha in the castle tower, not the other way around, which was fine. Climbing the many stairs was a great workout.
Bjorn thanked Misha and headed down to where Father Olaf was staying in the castle. The king had come a long way. Not only did he have a court mage, but now also a court cleric. He was a good fellow, even though he followed Thor not Odin. Many of the clerics in Melinir had died, either fighting to free the city or fighting to keep it owned by the Master; Bjorn had to send for a cleric from his home region to have a court priest.
“They are coming. Are you ready?” Bjorn asked.
“You betcha!” Father Olaf said, jumping up from where he was studying some old tombs – a thing he did on a regular basis. He grabbed his backpack, put his hammer in his belt and motioned for the King to lead the way. “After you, sire!”
Pulling out Father Jarl meant he had to replace him just in case the group needed a healer, so the king was sending Father Olaf.
“I believe the group and you should get along just fine. They are a fine bunch of youngsters. Hopefully they don’t need any of your tender loving care, but just in case, I am glad to loan you out for a bit.”
Olaf did his big belly laugh, “We will be just fine your majesty. I’m not planning on marrying them, just helping to fight without dying.”
They climbed the long staircase up the mage’s tower and went to where Misha was preparing a Teleport Circle spell. The castle did not have a permanent circle, and likely never would; it was not safe to have one inside it. Besides, there was already one in the city’s temple of Odin, so why bother with another one?
When it was the correct time, Misha cast the spell, and out walked his two sons and Father Jarl; just as quick, Father Olaf stepped through, giving Father Jarl a quick wink. The portal closed, and Bjorn could contain himself no longer. He grabbed his sons in a huge embrace. It had been nine months since he had seen them in person, the longest they had ever been apart.
Stepping back, Bjorn shook Jarl’s hand and then caught the priest off guard by pulling him into a great bear hug, eliciting a muffled grunt of surprise. For being one so young, Father Jarl stood firmly on the importance of ritual and procedure; it was not proper for a vassal to embrace his liege, and the priest’s shoulders went tense immediately. Bjorn smiled, and said quietly, “Thank you for keeping my sons safe.”
“Of course, your majesty,” Jarl answered, finally accepting his new reality, and acquiescing his king as best he could by awkwardly returning the hug.
Grinning from ear to ear, the King said “It is so great to see you all. Come down to the private quarters and we will talk.”
The boys knew this to be their father’s way of indicating they shouldn’t talk about important matters yet, so they began chatting about the weather and other trivial things. Jarl remained quiet, walking behind the king and his sons, taking everything in through solemn, narrowed eyes. As the priest passed by Misha, they nodded their heads to each other in mutual respect. The two had worked closely together helping to rebuild Melinir over a year ago.
Once behind closed and guarded doors, Bjorn indicated chairs to sit on and walked over to where he kept some good wine. “So, Father Jarl, did the boys indicate anything or have they kept you in the dark?”
“They didn’t have to, your majesty,” Jarl said, standing near the door with his hands clasped underneath the shield on his back.
“So you know, then, do you?” Bjorn asked, raising an eyebrow.
“How did you know it was our birthdays!” Tomas exclaimed. “We didn’t tell anyone!”
“He probably didn’t until just now, idiot,” Gunnar chastised harshly.
“I’m not an idiot, dumbface!”
Before the two could digress any further, Father Jarl breathed in loudly from behind them, drawing the boys’ attention. A raised eyebrow of disapproval was then all it took to shame the brothers into silence. Bjorn was impressed.
“Neither one of them are big about birthdays,” Bjorn said, glancing amusedly at the princes. “Tomas turns seventeen tomorrow, and Gunnar turns twenty-one the day after. I would not normally call them back for their birthdays, but I have presents for them that cannot wait and needed privacy.” Bjorn walked over to a closet and pulled out two small packages. He handed one to each of his sons.
“Hurry now. Open them!” he beamed. They did with gusto, and amazed at the craftsmanship of the amulets before them. Bjorn had to admit, the elves did good work.
“Those amulets will allow me to scry on you, but will block all others from doing the same. They are special items I had commissioned by the Elven Queen. If you ever meet her, be sure to thank her for me.”
“Ah,” Father Jarl said. “I was wondering if you had received my letter already. I only had a chance to send it the other day.” Bjorn’s quizzical expression cause Jarl’s brow to furrow, and he said, “No. Guess not. Well, expect a letter from me soon concerning just this issue.”
“Alright then,” Bjorn chuckled. “Great minds think alike, right?”
“Yes, your majesty.”
The king sighed to himself. He didn’t think a man so young should always act to severe and formal. By all the accounts of others, Jarl was a smiling, jovial prankster, but Bjorn had only ever glimpsed that side of the man once, the morning after Jarl’s brother graduated from Golden Eagle. He supposed that side – the side that went by Yari – was only shown to his closest friends and family; Bjorn would likely always just be shown the side called Father Jarl. That was fine, he supposed; Father Jarl was good at what he did.
Both boys put on their amulets and thanked their father. Bjorn continued, “Now, tomorrow we will celebrate your birthdays with a family party, where I will give you different birthday gifts, so don’t mention these to anyone else. The less people who know about them, the better.
“Oh, and Lena says she is up to coming with the twins,” he added. “Though, I understand you got a chance to see them before I did.”
This got the boys talking about which baby looked like whom. Their father just nodded remembering back to holding his children soon after they were born and trying to figure out if they looked like his wife or him.
Tomas brought up the subject first, being the more sensitive of the two, “Is Helga going to be able to make it to the birthday party?” He remembered back to almost a ten months ago when Helga’s fiancé, Craig, died in a tragic accident trying to help rebuild. She had gone into a deep depression afterwards.
Bjorn smile surprising the boys, “Well good news on that front: Helga is now working in Willowdale, helping out at the inn that Father Jarl’s brother is a chef at. I sent Helga there sensing she needed to get different scenery so to speak to get her mind off losing Craig. And it worked. She is now dating Father Jarl’s younger brother, Matt. You remember meeting him at the graduation over a year ago. He is helping with protection of the village.”
“So will she be able to come tomorrow?” Gunnar asked, also concerned about his youngest sister.
“Yes, Helga will go to the Golden Eagle keep, and Misha will open a portal to here for her to come through.”
Tomas smiled as he said “Father, it will be great to have the family together for our birthday party.”
King Bjorn turned to his sons, “You boys will be staying the rooms you had briefly, when we first moved into the castle. Why don’t you boys go on up and put your stuff away while I speak to Father Jarl for a bit. Go check out how well the city is doing since you were here last. I will see you at supper.”
Hearing a dismissal in his voice, the boys stood, but did not immediately leave. This surprised Bjorn, but before he had enough time to react, Jarl nodded his head and stepped aside from the door. That, apparently, was their real dismissal, and they left, closing the doors behind them.
Bjorn cocked an eyebrow at Father Jarl, but the man offered no explanation. The king shrugged it off and moved on. “So, Father Olaf offered his room for you to stay in while he is covering in your absence,” he told Jarl. “It is on the third floor, with a view over the wall of the forest. He says he finds it a great room to meditate when looking at the trees. If that does not work for you, there is an inner castle guest room you can stay in as well.”
“That’s very kind of Father Olaf, your majesty. I’m sure the rooms of the court priest will serve me fine.”
Jarl’s response got another raised eyebrow from Bjorn, but he chose not to go any further with it.
Bjorn poured a glass of wine for himself, looked at Father Jarl and asked, “Elven wine? I just got a case in with the same shipment as the amulets.”
“I find I don’t have a taste for most things elven,” Jarl answered flatly. Again, the priest’s choice of words caused the king to regard him curiously; and, again there was no further clarification offered.
The king shrugged and motioned toward the chairs in the room near the fire place that was roaring. Taking a drink himself, he said grandly, “Please sit! I asked you here because, one I thought you would like to be at their party, and two, because I wished to speak with you about my sons. How they are progressing? Are they ready for battle?”
“Aye, and they have been for some time.”
“I will have you know I have been watching off and on and I have seen them only get into the fight with the animals, and in that fight they did not actually do anything but run away, and get protected by someone, not sure as they were not seeable via the scrying. Is it time to stop codling them.”
“If that is what you saw, your majesty, you require new eyes. I believe my father still has a spare one he no longer uses; perhaps I could speak with him about loaning it to you.”
Jarl’s tone was sincere and polite, but his words bordered on insolence. The incongruity jarred Bjorn and caused him to choke on his wine. More curious than mad, the king cleared his throat and said, “Excuse me?”
“Forgive me, your majesty; allow me to explain: My father used to require the use of a magical eye, before Odin restored his original to him. I believe he still keeps it in a box next to his bedside.”
“That is not what I meant, Father Jarl.”
“Ah, yes.” Was that the barest hint of a smile at the corners of Jarl’s lips? Was Bjorn seeing a hint of Yari poke through the formal exterior of Father Jarl? If the king didn’t know any better, he’d have thought a joke was being held at his expense. “I have not been overly protecting my squires, your majesty. Others in my group have raised objections to their presence, and fought me about their participation in combat. I have attempted to ensure they see challenges equal to their skill level; however, I have yet to find an equitable balance between following my king’s orders, and keeping the peace amongst my family.”
“Of course. I did not mean to imply you were not doing your job, Father Jarl.” Jarl grunted at that, and Bjorn continued. “Know that, though I am concerned about losing them, I know the only way to sharpen a sword is to put it into the fire.
“No one should be concern about my not having an heir since the crown choses, not I. And neither of the boys, have shown any indication that the crown would ever choose them. Helga did not either, which is another reason I sent her away. She needs to find her own place in the world. Lena on the other hand might be chosen someday. So I have kept her closer, but she too deserves a private life away from this silly castle, and so far she has found it with Sardi in Silverbriar.
“By the way, that is a lovely place. I got away one weekend with no one noticing and got to see it.” To that, Bjorn was certain he detected a smile on Father Jarl’s face. It was clear the priest was quite proud of what had been accomplished in Silverbriar.
“Before you and my boys go back to the Ancient Lands, I will see that you get letters for your comrades in arms to make sure they understand my thoughts about my sons,” Bjorn went on. “I would ask that you deliver these to them for me.”
“Happily, your majesty.”
That evening, Bjorn had dinner with his sons after releasing Yari to visit Father Ralph, the old Odin priest that trained him. They discussed the many improvements in the city since they were last there about 9 months ago.
After which they talked about the places they boys had visited and the one fight they had been in with the awaken animals. They discussed the strategy of the group nullifying the animals and killing few of them. They boys seemed to be understanding well the lessons they were learning. He told them he felt they were ready for more and expected them to help the group in battles they encounter. Picking those opponents that seemed weaker, while letting the more seasoned of the group take on the challenging opponents.
The boys seemed excited about actually fighting real opponents not just practice dummies. Bjorn brought them back to reality by discussing the first person he had to kill and the grief he felt in taking a life. He covered how it did not get easier on any of the subsequent ones. Each time, even when the person was someone who would have gladly killed him or his family, Bjorn explained how it still saddened him to take a life, thinking this was someone’s son, father, or uncle. This sobered the boys up. He told them, if it bothered them enough, it was perfectly acceptable to pull the last hit and just subdue their opponent. Then let the group decide what to do with them after everything was settled.
He then asked them about the time with the animals where he saw them run away and get protected by someone. He told them how he had watched after the fight was over how the boys had looked so conflicted and worried. It took a bit, but he finally got the boys to tell him how the group had argued about their not supposed to be there. It made them feel like they should leave, stop studying under Father Jarl.
Bjorn asked them to pray together and see if they still felt the call from their gods to studying with Father Jarl. After a bit of time went by, Bjorn felt the need to stop and watched his boys. Both were praying still. But slowly they came out of it, smiled at their father, and both acknowledged they still felt they should stay. Bjorn agreed and said he would address the issue with the group.
The King said good night to his boys and went up to his room to start working on the letters to the group.
The next day, Gunnar and Tomas sisters, Lena and Helga, joined them along with Sardi, Matt, and Elsie. The day is spent with family and friends and enjoyed by all.
Around 10 am, Yari learns his friends are fine and just waiting for “The White Horse” to come into dock in Adrak Tor in the next week.
Boys stay with the King waiting for Yari to say time to go back
Yari and Elsie go back to Silverbriar until the group says ready to leave since Sardi and Lena are staying longer.
The others stay until the boys are called back to join the group. Matt gets permission for extended leave from the Patrol so he can also stay.
King Bjorn gives Gunner a satchel and ask him to give it to Father Jarl. After Misha messages Olaf to go to the Temple of Thor, Misha opens a portal to there, and the boys teleport to Adrak Tor and Father Olaf comes back to Melinir. The boys proceed to the inn where they were told they would find the group.
Franziska opens a portal to Silverbriar and Yari joins the group in Adrak Tor, and Aldhis goes back to Silverbriar.
Gunner gives Yari the satchel and after opening it and finding the letters, gives the group their personal letter from the King.