Greetings again from The Green Castle!
Good folk and kindly visitors, I confess I was once again waylaid from the blog : a sudden stream of travel commitments relating to business and then a call from relatives had me travelling the length and breadth of three principalities, two earldoms, various places within my own dominion and a couple of decidedly ramshackle provinces for week after week. What a relief to return to a bedroom that does not move!
While it is true that the travels – with a very small party comprising only my Assistant Chamberlain, a tireless scribe, a few sturdy guards, a cook with some experience working in trading caravans and a few general ‘camp hands’ to help with packing etc – offered an escape from the noises and dusts of the last frenzied stages of renovation works, the long days on the road became very arduous. Sleet, hard rain, hail and some bitter winds (for this was no mid-Summer jaunt!) tested the horses and handlers quite badly and all were very glad of any and all towns we passed through, to make use of inns, a town mayor’s place and then at the spacious estate of my distant relatives. Fortunately, the weather improved from that day on.
The business was not as hard as I first expected, but nor was it exciting or even particularly profitable – merely necessary. The visit to the relatives was a more revealing experience, in that I had not seen or met or even written to them in some years and was most curious about the supposed importance of their call.
Their estate home was on the slopes of some picturesque foothills that supported many lush vineyards and orchards. Beyond the orchards lay sizeable lightly-wooded grasslands and a small lake. The air was light, almost fizzy, and was blessedly free of that malingering odour of repeated visits by trolls – for which all in my travel party were exceedingly relieved! My keen-eyed Assistant Chamberlain could see a farmers’ hamlet in the near-distance, which he took to be an encouraging sign we were close to our arrival place.
We were even closer than that, for soon after announcing the hamlet, a young man in a smart but well-worn riding suit and seated comfortably on a roan mare, came to meet us and assure himself I was one of the distant relatives. Then he turned the horse and rode ahead to show the final way to the Estate of the Family of Doringen-Masserhl.
At the Estate house, we were given a formal and distant sort of reception and shown to roomy guest quarters. Food and drink were set out for us, which was welcome after the outdoor travels. I was assured that at the evening meal everything about the request to visit would be explained in full, and we were to feel at ease to rest for at least the next three days. (Why did that suddenly remind me of an old proverb involving fish? I was too tired to try remembering an answer)
The evening meal was a very substantial nine-course affair that included prize local produce from the vineyards and orchards we had seen, plus cheeses, meats, stews, game platters, fruits, hearty dark bread, a wide range of condiments; small decorated cakes and honey-glazed raisins provided the dessert, along with a potent almond-based spirit. Conversation covered general introductions, information (and a few good-natured boasts, once the wines had started to work their magic) about the surrounding area and the usual sorts of gossip at dinner parties involving relatives who had not met for many years.
Among all that activity, that lasted for many hours: the Senior Man of the House, Honorary District Prefect Arjony Melridis Sefaxon Doringen-Masserhl IV, kept his word about telling the reason for the call: it was to ask about my level of knowledge and understanding of the nature of certain old deeds that connected his estate to properties in my dominion, which I inherited from my father and uncles. He was not at all pleased that I could not quickly furnish a detailed account, nor that I did not happen to have a ready history of the connections in question. For my part, I was not impressed by this set of haughty requests given without any notice in the call that had been delivered to me. For the sake of even distant familial links, I offered to have a search made at my castle as soon as I returned, and for scribes to prepare a comprehensive report, which would be delivered to the estate by fast mounted messengers. I also extended an offer of return-of-hospitality at my castle and he seemed moderately willing to accept this, but while agreeing his eyes were making it clear an additional distancing process had started.
The remainder of the visit passed well enough, with visits to various parts of the estate and related towns and hamlets, fair weather, riverside picnics, an intriguing meeting with a herbalist who had a knack for story-telling, more dinner parties…and yet, on the last full day of the visit I had an uncomfortable feeling the District Prefect would be pleased to see my party and I leave and remain on noticeably distant terms afterwards. His family and friends would not miss us and the household staff would soon forget anything particular about us (apart from those on the receiving end of the cook’s best informal efforts at diplomacy among estate staff…which nearly cost him an expulsion from guest quarters and I was not amused at how much advocating I had to do on his behalf!). I mused on this strange family experience for a large part of the ride home, but eventually found my disappointment evaporated the day before the Assistant Chamberlain called out that he had seen The Green Castle in the distance.
Warmest regards from the Resident Nobleman!