The light house had appealed to Danek the first time he saw it. Sturdy and tall it marked the entry to the inner docks and the Red Harbor. Seeing it shooting out from the monotone hilly landscape appearing along their right gave him a whole new sense of euphoria however. The adventure had come to and end at last. He was home! As he stood up, the wind caught hold of his short, amber curls, forcing him to sit down again. Despite this, one could not argue that the day of their arrival back to the capital was a fine one. The sun stood high in the azure sky and the water blooms marking the beginnings of spring were covering the surfaces of the stone walls of the docks.
They were passing the light tower now. Looking up, he saw the guards above look down upon them and put their right fists to their chests; the greatest salute you could get off a roklavian. The town had prepared for them. Most likely tipped off by one of the many birds the Jarl had sent off late the previous day, they had draped the harbor and even the Freedom Square with banners in the national colors. He was astonished to see that they even had managed to switch the flame of the Torch to red, the color of strength.
Looking around, he spotted his Jarl, deep in conversation with the lásemen, explaining all about the different views of the city in a murmur. Councilman Bogdán on the other hand, was standing up in the ship just ahead of their own, happily waving to the crowd assembled on shore. Most of his fellow champions mimicked him, and possessed by a sudden urge of juvenile happiness he cried out, from the bottom of his lungs, only to hear his voice echoed back hundredfold.
As they reached the docks, ropes were thrown down to them which they attached to pegs in the water, before disembarking and taking the steps, Valdemar, Virion and Meira in the lead, up onto street level. Applauds issued from the crowd, as the Jarl raised his hands into the air, and shouted, “my dear Marubans, we have done it!” Further clapping issued at this statement. A group of marblers came bustling forward amidst the ovation, led by a freakishly tall woman with thick black hair. She approached the Jarl while the rest of the officers formed a passage for them to follow, towards the square. Valdemar nodded at what the woman said, then beckoned the party forwards.
As they entered the square, again to a round of applauds, the rest of the council came into view, standing behind a long, beautifully patterned carpet, leading from the east entrance of the square to where they stood, and all over stood people, men, and women, and children, human and marubi alike, only held back by the marblers, forming a continued passage for them. The council stood on a newly erected wooden stage at the foot of the Torch, where usually the fountain poured, with the Statue of Protection looming over them with its large shield casting them somewhat into shadow. The marblers followed them until they reached it, and proceeded to stand in a semicircle around it. The champions were told to stand in a line before the stage, while the officials walked up onto it, shaking hands with the other council members, and turning to the expectant crowd.
First up, Valdemar stepped into the middle of the stage, and put his hands together ceremoniously. “Marubans!” he cried out, “my dear marubans! Over the last weeks, these brave, young souls have shown a never subsiding thirst to accomplish what no man has ever managed before them. They have tackled giants! They have split arrows with arrows! They have gone and unequivocally proven to the North, that they, you, the people of Maruba, are none to be underestimated!” A great cheering came at this, so the Jarl paused to let the words sink in before continuing. “I am however, most displeased, my dear citizens,” he continued, “that while our fierce champions delivered above all critique, the ruler of Roklavia, the woman you all know as Valentina I, cancelled the diplomatic arrangements before they even had time to commence.” Angry muttering spread like wildfire around the square, but the Jarl raised a hand to usher silence.
“All is not dark however,” he said, “while there is little doubt that the roklavian withdrawal was most cowardly, I managed to get a deal across before that time!” The silence intensified. “A new migrational pact has been agreed upon!” Valdemar finished with great satisfaction “It has long been our hearts’ deepest sores to go on without our loved ones, some of whom, were lost to us in the time of the hellish uprising. A new agency will be implemented from next full moon however in both capitals, to match names and descriptions to bind severed families back together. Once a match is made it shall be permitted for all free citizens of both nations to move across the sea one direction or the other, to reunite.” One standing outside the east wall might have thought a bomb just went off midtown, that was the extent of the cacophony that greeted the last announcement.
Catching a glance from Vitéz however, Valdemar cleared his throat, and said, “Marubans, I could go on further into details, but I do believe that our champions deserve an introduction!” With those words, Bogdán took his place. “First up, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to present to you, first up onto stage, a young man who’s shown a skill with mallets that few believed of him. Although finally defeated in the quarter finals by the berserker of Smergrad, Antonio Cladovoi, he single handedly fought through five rounds of opponents of all shapes and sizes from every corner of the high north! Petyr Askovic!” The man farthest to the left jumped up onto the stage to receive the ovations of the crowd. He had a fine golden mustache that Valdemar quietly thought would serve him well one day when he sought to settle down with a woman. After bowing for the umpteenth time, Petyr stepped back and stood at the back of the stage, allowing for the speaker to continue. Bogdán continued to summarize the deeds of each champion in alphabetical order. After each name the crowd cheered and clapped, and medals of service were handed out.
When all of the people who’d participated had been called, Valdemar once again took the stage. “Never forget, marubans, that this day shows why every man who gets to call him- or herself a Maruban, ought to do so with pride. Walk tall, marubans, and never forget! Qi juat’v nhi bonh!”
The crowd began dispersing and together with an escort of marblers, the party began moving up the main street towards Fehérvár, where the champions would be enjoying a feast before dispersing themselves. The Jarl and the lásemen walked a bit behind the others. “What do you think so far, my good Virion?” he asked the young man.