A Petition, an Audience, an Embassy
Xenograg sits with the ambassadors rather than the royal councilors. He is to address the Crown of New Mountainside today rather than give his advice to it. Queen Luthien had granted his petition; the Rellugai would have an audience. Xenograg leans forward in his chair, leaning heavily on his new Rouwanwood staff. He is still recovering from the psychic wound received during Hiekroth, called Samhuin by some here in Rhydin. Luthien had noticed the new grey in his hair and beard but had not asked about it.
Lord Benjamin raps his staff upon the floor, calling the Royal Court to order.
"All rise and make respects to Their Royal Majesties, King Roland and Queen Luthien!" The rustle of robes and dresses is quickly drowned out by the flourishes of trumpets. The monarchs step through a great blue curtain and, as one, sits upon their thrones. Roland gestures for the Court to sit, then addresses it.
"Our friend and cousin, Lord Darelir, petitioned us to grant this audience to an embassy from the steppe. General Xenograg, please continue." Xenograg stands, steps into the center of the room, and bows his head to Roland and Luthien.
"Thank you, Majesties. I would first like to provide some background information before the delegation arrives," begins Xenograg. "The political structure of the northern steppe nations is heavily based upon personalities. Alliances and dynasties can change due to the death of a single chief."
"This has happened. The Rellugai, which means ‘Eight Clans,’ were the dominant nation on the steppe for the last century. Due to several recent disasters, including the death of Teogi Khan, the Rellugai have been defeated and displaced by other tribes. With most of their warriors dead, the Eight Clans need a haven. This is the basic purpose of their embassy." The room is quiet while the implications sank in. All eyes shift to the throne to find a hint of the Crown’s opinion on events. As Luthien begins to form a response, Lord Benjamin chimes in with what she was sure was the beginning of a rambling list of objections, cautions, and other deterring comments. Luthien silences Benjamin with a faint lift of her left brow. Her gaze then returns to Xenograg.
"Are we to understand that the Rellugai, in their entirety, seek to find harborage within Our realm for an indefinite length of time?" is Queen Luthien’s question.
"I am not privy to what the Chiefs will ask," replies Xenograg, "but that seems an accurate assessment, Your Majesty. With your permission, I will now summon their embassy." Luthien nods, and Xenograg walks to and out through the great double doors.
The first individuals to return are two royal guardsmen carrying felt-wrapped packages. Behind them come five men and two women, all dressed head-to-toe in brown leather. Two men bear a litter piled high with leathers, wools, and furs. The women carry numerous rings of knotted rope. Lastly, Xenograg walks beside the remaining three men. Two are grey-haired and wrinkled, the other barely a man. Halfway into the throne room the menial tribesmen set down their burdens and prostrate themselves fully before Luthien and Roland. The taller old man raises his hands above his head before bowing deeply at the waist. The short elder and the man-boy merely nod to the monarchs. All motion in the room ceases. Resisting the urge to give Xenograg a questioning glance, she speaks to the short elder directly. "My greetings to thee and to all Rellugai. Your journey has been long and full of sorrow. You are honored guests here and shall partake of Our table." The tall older man straightens up from his bow and turns to talk to the other two standing men. The shorter one speaks to the prostrated laborers, who return to their feet. He then addresses Luthien and Roland in his own language.
"Samuj, War Chief of the Rellugai," translates Xenograg, "thanks you for your hospitality. Accompanying him are Genbak, Teogi’s son and now a chief; and Inhuut, most respected of the Rellugai medicine men." Inhuut bows again and gracefully despite his age. "Inhuut understands Your Majesties’ language enough to translate in one direction," continues Xenograg. "I will translate the Rellugai language for you." Xenograg nods to Samuj. The war chief walks among the laborers giving orders. The leathers, wools, and furs are taken from the litter and laid out upon the throne room floor for inspection.
"These…gifts are given as tokens of good will and appreciation to Your Majesties." Xenograg glances at Inhuut, hoping his near-error in translation did not offend the medicine man. Any hint of this being tribute would be a diplomatic catastrophe. Lord Benjamin does the appraising of the leathers, wools, and furs. Meanwhile the Rellugai women give Xenograg the rings of knotted rope. The Darelir makes a quick inspection of them, then approaches the thrones.
"Majesties, I hold here the second of the Rellugai’s three gifts," Xenograg begins. "Rings of rope denote ownership of animals, one knot per head." Xenograg holds out the four rings to Luthien and Roland. "I present to you one hundred steppe ponies and fifty horses, including some mares." The inclusion of mares is the true gift, allowing independent breeding. Roland takes the rings from Xenograg. Each is approximately a foot in diameter. No two have the same number of knots. Whatever system of record keeping used will have to be explained later.
Xenograg steps back off the throne dais. Chief Samuj, bowlegged from a lifetime in the saddle, swaggers over to and begins speaking with the general. The Rellugai language is a tonal language that seemingly lacks a beauty of expression. After a minute of conversation Xenograg bows his head to Samuj and turns back to Luthien and Roland.
"The last, and finest, gifts to be presented here today are borne by these guardsman," and Xenograg gestures the two elves forward. "Because they are weapons. For each of Your Majesties there is a sacred hammer and a quiver of sacred arrows. They were hallowed by Inhuut himself and have great power against the forces of Darkness." Xenograg pauses to allow Inhuut to translate his words. "Each weapon is made for a specific individual only, and tradition demands that the war chief bestow it upon the recipient." A low mutter begins in the court. Any trepidation that the captain of the royal guard may be feeling does not show on his face. Xenograg continues after only a moment. "Would it please Your Majesties to come down and receive these great gifts?"