As Misha concluded the award ceremony, there was a great scuffling below the balcony, as hundreds of people wanted to be the first one out. Valdemar could sense that more people than him had been caught by surprise by the sudden change of heart from Valentina. He was in a rather grumpy mood, having been awoken very early indeed, by a messenger, who, at spotting the rage on his face, very quickly spit out that he was very sorry to have to tell them that the meetings and remaining events of the tournament were cancelled.
Intending to persuade the queen otherwise, the maruban party had arrived first of all to the arena, however there was no sign of her, and she didn’t show up after that either. When Misha began speaking, and Valdemar realized that Valentina intended to omit being present, he’d dispatched Bogdán to find her and demand an audience, but a mere half hour later the councilman came back telling him of guards keeping the tower on lockdown.
This was all very odd in Valdemar’s opinion, but curious as he most certainly was of the reason behind the queen’s abrupt change of heart, he was sure anyone other than him would be seen as a trespasser and going in person was not happening, he was too loathed in these streets for that.
As the officials stood up, Valdemar turned to face the glum looking king Wesley. “Well, I had expected more from this!” he said, “there’s no point denying it! Anyway, farewell, my good Jarl!” They shook hands. “If ever you’re in Maruba…” Valdemar began, “likewise!” the viking king replied with a nod, before turning and stomping out, followed by the gigantic figure of Erik.
Clouds were towering up above the clocktower when they finally stepped outside in the brisk mid-morning of the city. They bowed and greeted the keelish officials and king Alexander farewell as well, and began looking for the contender exit, to find their team. They found them halfway there, chanting hysterically with Danek and Artyom, who’d won the swimming competitions the day before to few marubans’ surprise. Beside them walked two young people clad in green, one of whom had a brand new bow on his back. “A fine show, my good lásemen!” Valdemar exclaimed, “I have rarely seen such skill!” “Thank you sir,” Virion replied with a shadow of a grin.
“And here are the marubans of the hour!” he went on, “lads, I have told you a hundred times yesterday, but I will say it again, I, along with the people you represented here, are to you ever grateful. I know that we planned on a longer visit, but we’ve shown them what we’ve got. We’ve shown them that being a maruban is strength! Thanks to you, and now I refer to the rest of you also, we have shown the world that we belong on the front line of things. No more shall we be the little pushover state we began as, no. Ladies and gentlemen, from this day, Maruba is something greater.” Something gleamed in Valdemar’s eyes as he said this, but he went on. “Now, I have never particularly liked debts that remain unpaid, so I suggest we stroll down to the pub, take a last round, on the state, and set sail. The heirs of Lásenor are of course welcome to join us for the drink?” Meira nodded, and the party set off down the main road towards the harbor.
Artyom, now walking on his own feet, came up to the Jarl. “My Jarl, would it be possible for us to stay another day? Only, I haven’t seen my family in so long, and one night really wasn’t sufficient for splitting once again.” Valdemar looked at his champion, and he felt compassion for the boy. “There’s really no point in straggling behind, boy.” he said, after a few seconds of quiet thinking. They broke off as the keelish airship flew past above them. When it had disappeared he continued. “The longer we stay the harder it will be to leave.” Artyom looked like he was about to argue, so he added. “My word is final Artyom, I mean it. I will however permit you to go say farewell. But don’t linger! We’ll wait in the Rusty Spoon, alright?” He bent closer and added in a whisper, “I’m not too verbal about it here, as the meetings were cancelled, but I have managed to bury the hatchet with this place, at least on a legal level, which means that they are welcome to settle in Maruba if they please, without legal repercussions. Councilman Menekvés should be beginning constructions of the new Nyugat block by the next full moon, so they will have residences.” Artyom shone with delight, bowed to his knees, and left in a trod back up the road.
The party entered the pub and settled themselves at a couple of sturdy wooden tables in a corner overlooking the large hearth opposite. Throwing their cloaks in a heap, they each ordered a large mead and chatted away the minutes. Valdemar was sharing a table with the lásemen, Danek and Jaromír. They discussed the events of the tournament, speculated the reason for the cancelling, which was a topic that self evidently spiraled into wild imagination within minutes. In the end, Danek was telling the amused northerners of how he’d bet anything the old witch had been assassinated by someone at the tournament, and that the state was doing a coverup.
The subject eventually ebbed out however, to be replaced with the future. “What’s next, my good Virion?” Valdemar asked. “I’m not sure exactly,” he replied thoughtfully, “the queen asked us to go out into the world and represent Lásenor, which we’ve done, I hope you agree.” He stroked his chin. “I guess we head home,” he said eventually, looking at Meira. “Why not honor us with a visit in Maruba, your grace?” Valdemar proposed. “We can arrange a transport back to Lásenor afterwards, and then we could discuss this potential route in more detail?” “With all due respect, your lordship,” Meira said, “we have been away for a long time already, maybe it’s best we return home at this time.”
“Could you excuse us?” Virion interrupted, nodding apologetically before tugging at Meira’s arm to follow him. The pair of them stood up and went off towards the bar desk. “Meira,” Virion began, “maybe it’s not a bad idea. I mean I get that you’re homesick, but…” “What?” Meira asked, eyebrow raised, “going to Maruba?” “Yes! As of now, no one in Lásenor except for your mother knows of our engagement. Wouldn’t it be great to announce it next to the news of a new trade route?” Meira frowned. “Maybe… but… I mean… oh alright then! But let’s be quick there, mother’s birthday is in a moon and a half and she wouldn’t forgive me missing it.”
And so, the pair came back and announced their decision to the group. Artyom returned shortly afterwards, and together they walked out into the gloomy afternoon and onto the now rather empty looking pier. It was clear that most other participating teams already had left port. Boarding the two ships which as promised had been readied for them for departure, the marubans and the lásemen left the imposing city of Smertangelsk behind. As Valdemar saw the top of the clocktower’s angel disappear beneath the horizon, he pondered that, however wrong this trip had gone, Valentina had kept her word in one regard; this had been the greatest tournament the north had ever seen.