The mansion, for that was what it was, sat back on several acres of prime forested land. The four of them broke out of the forest surrounding it just as Astelbania's suns rose to midway in the sky.
The sight was enough to catch Falina's breath in her throat as she stared, wide-eyed at the first rays fo the morning dancing along the polished surface of stone. The stone caught the reflection of the suns and broke the light into a rainbow of prisms which flashed and winked calling the eye to explore the magnificence of each stone, wall and turrett.
"What a wonderful place," Falina said, awe in her voice.
Axym snorted. "It's a gaudy show off is what it is, Lassy. Belveir loves to see his his own handywork on display. The man's a genius when it comes to sorcery, mind you he's not at the top but he's close, and he wants the world to know it."
Falina frowned. "Wizardry, you mean?"
Axym shook his head. "Naw, now mind you don't get the two mixed up, darlin. There are two branches now. Well...actually..." He blew a breath out and frowned. "Well, it's complicated. And I'm a dwarf who is more comfortable with axe and fighting than with all that chanting stuff."
Danoa grinned and took up the explanation. "There is a branch that has broken from the Wizard's Tower. The explanation is long and boring, mind you so trust me that it's true. The magic of the Wilders is now called Sorcery and considered it's own branch. It is a fledgeling practice. Not that it hasn't been around for centuries but whoever weilded it was pursecuted and their powers stripped."
"In magic history it is a very dark past," Bahl took up the explanation. "Wilders tend to have a natural affinity for magic. They do not have to use the powders, books and chanting that most wizards do and, therefore, they are feared."
"Aye," Axym growled an interruption,"Stupid, self-centered barstards."
Dannoa's lips twitched just a bit but he held in his smile. "Most elves are Wilders but it is such a part of our heritage that no one questioned the magic. When humans began to have that same naturalness for magic, that was when the Wizards panicked."
"And set a council just to find and kill Wilders," Bahl added.
"Aye," Axym growled again,"Stupid, self-righteous idiots."
"But now Hylenna Al'Barren is championing their cause and she and Weyoun Braxa have made a stand on their behalf. That is a team that is to be listened to." Dannoa's eyes danced as if reliving a particularly exciting verbal battle between the two and the Wizard's councel which was exactly what he was doing.
"Still," Bahl put in his own thoughts,"They have both seen a few assassination attempts for their efforts."
"Which were put down by the Shadowhand," Axym thumped a fist against his hand in pride. "Stupid, near-sighted buggers."
Dannoa laughed out loud at that and nodded. "Truth. And still, I think that, should it come to having to face it without us they just might be up to it."
"Aye, Hylenna has grown into a powerful mage. I remember when she was quite young, on the trip to the towers. That was at the time of the Great Marrokian War." His eyes sparkling, he settled back into his saddle and nodded. "Now, the way it was at that time...."
"Yes, yes," Bahl broke in waving away what Falina felt would have been a very long but very interesting story,"But we don't have time for all that, Dwarf." Axym humphed and scowled at his companion.
Dannoa clapped a hand on Axym's shoulder and nodded to the mansion. "Too true." He said,"But I hear that Kanan has made sure there were some particualarly fine dwarven spirits in stock for a certain friend of his. And a good drink always did ask for a good tale to go with it. I'm sure that we will get to both in good time."
Axym's face lit up and he urged his horse forward. "Well then, what are we waiting for? Let's get going."
With a laugh Dannoa and Bahl took after him and Falina, still confused and not sure how to process the explanation she had just recieved followed only a little bit afterward.
They entered the mansion which was as luxurious on the inside as on the outside. Tapestries and paintings hung next to shelves with odd assortments of items she could only guess had personal significance to the owner for she could not, in her own mind, figure out exactly what the knick-knacks were supposed to be.
Her neck craned around, whipping back and forth as they walked through the front hall and into a large room with an assortment of tables and chairs that were being set up by an assortment of folks all working together.
Elves worked alongside dwarves who were helping humans who were assisting half-elves and all were working at a frenzied pace. Falina reached up to massage her neck which had become sore while trying to crane around to see everything that was going on.
Rubbing tired eyes, she blinked and looked up into the middle of the controlled chaos to see two men speaking earnestly in the middle of the goings on. All the workers were flowing around them and they stood out in the midst of the busy hive of activity.
One man was dressed in red robes, the other in blue armor. The mage was a small man with white hair whose head bobbed up and down as the other man was speaking. The knight in blue armor was tall, broad shouldered with a thick head of dark hair and whose face, while not classically handsome, was filled with character and determination.
Falina felt her heart skip a beat and she swallowed hard. This must be Kanan of legend, a knight of Marrokeville, THE knight who had been exiled and then rode to save his homeland in the Great Marrokevillian War gaining honor and prestige and a place in history even at his young age.
There was more to the story, Falina knew. She had heard her step-mother telling the tales about a wizard's quest where Kanan's daughter had lost her life or something but she had not really paid much attention to it, thinking it too romanticised to bother with.
But now the Blue Knight was standing not ten feet in front of her. And he was turning around as the robed man pointed toward them. His eyes, blue as a glacier, were looking at her and she felt as if he was looking right through her. If she had not been hemmed in by Bahl and Dannoa she might have sunk to her knees at the intesity in those eyes.
Kanan nodded to the mage and stepped toward the group. The workers automatically parted for him and he made a clear path to where they stood.
Grasping Axym's arm just below the elbow in a brotherly gesture of greeting, Kanan smiled at him. Falina thought that his smile would send any woman's heart aflutter. It was surely making hers do a drum roll. Looking away, she caught Bahl looking at her, a look of amusement on his own face and she wrinkled her nose at him and deliberately turned away.
Was that her imagination or did she feel his side shaking against her? She turned back to glare at him sure that he had been silently laughing at her.
"Axym," Kanan was saying, pulling her attention away from Bahl. "How are you my friend?"
"As good as I can get," Axym said with a wiggle of his eyebrows. "I heard a rumor that you might have something special for me."
Kanan's smile widened. "I might. But you'll have to suffer through the conference first."
"Bah," Axym's frown threatened to permently embed in his face. "Stupid idiots. Like talking is gonna make any difference. Action is what is needed, Lad. Straightforward and leaving no doubt about what we intend."
"True," Kanan nodded."But we need to talk about what action to take before we take any."
Axym shrugged and then his demenor changed and he eyed Kanan shrewdly. "And speaking of talking, hows that God-Son of mine? Heard from Hardister that he's talking away though, got his mother's gift of gab."
Kanan's eyes lit up at Axym's words and he spoke with pride in his voice. "You need to stop by sometime, Old Friend. Kyle keeps asking for you and Hylenna is about to put a silence spell on him if he doesn't quit asking where his Uncle Axym is."
Axym's laughter broke out loud and long and had clapped his knee. "Aye, I'll do that then."
Kanan turned to Bahl and gave a bow of his head. "It is good to see you again. You do not come often enough to these meeting."
Bahl shrugged. "I am not one for crowds as you know."
Kanan bowed his head once again and turned to Falina. Taking her hand in his own, he brought it to his lips.
"My Lady," His voice was filled with respect and Falina swallowed hard. For a man like Kanan to be, basically, treating her as an equal...it put sevearl types of butterflies swirling away in her stomach. "It is quite a pleasure to finally meet you."
Falina opened her mouth to speak, found she couldn't and then snapped her mouth shut again.
Without showing that he had noticed anything amiss in her manner, Kanan's next words encompassed the whole group.
"I know you are all probably tired and would like a bath before we gather." Falina nodded her head at that. She would LOVE a bath not to mention a nap on a honest-to-goodness bed. Not a cot. Not the hard earth...a bed. Signalling a beautiful elven woman. "Doria will show you to your rooms and you can join us when you have properly rested and refreshed yourselves."
The lady smiled and curtsied so gracefully that Falina felt akward and gawky beside it and then Axym, Bahl and she were led upstairs, Falina's mind whirling with everything that she had heard and seen.