Freeday, Harvester 21, 552 CY (50 AN)
Having organized the preliminary parts of a wedding ceremony, Dhavita and Margot decide to inform their friends and associates. They first find Sati, so that Dhavita may tell her of the wedding plans. Sati asks if the wedding is as sudden to Dhavita and Marguerite as it seems to her; Dhavita says it was. She seems pleased at the development, though.
Khuna and Margot find Croitus next as he returns from wallowing in the river. She tells him of the development, and though he seems uncomfortable with the prospect of being at a modestly-sized celebratory gathering, he makes some vague assertion that he will be there. Wandering through town, Khuna and Margot spot Nobody and Resh, returning from their hunt. Upon informing them, Resh says they will speak with the local butcher to have this prepared for a wedding feast. Nobody asks if she may attend adorned as her people traditionally do for weddings; Khuna agrees.
As Khuna and Marguerite begin shopping for appropriate wedding outfits, they run into Vianibrar, who says he has heard the news and is quite happy for both of them. He asks if he may borrow Marguerite for a few hours to assist her in wedding preparations, and Khuna and Marguerite both agree. Khuna then continues to shop for herself.
Preparations continue until just before sundown. As Dhavita and Sati approach the field to the east of town, they note that a woven mat of leaves and grasses — Nobody’s handiwork, as is later noted — has been placed before an archway that has been erected, and Abbot Aelius is there to receive the wedding party. A small but notable crowd has gathered, largely appearing to be scholars from the university. Croitus, Nobody, and Resh are all present; Croitus appears to have acquired some manner of ill-fitting and gaudy outfit, while Nobody is nearly nude but for the flowers and leaves she has braided into her hair.
Dhavita approaches Abbot Aelius, and after a brief pause, Marguerite and Vianibrar walk across the field. Marguerite is clothed in a long, cream-colored jacket with a similarly-colored top hat, blouse, and skirt, accented in orange. An orange veil, attached to her top hat, covers her face. Vianibrar walks her to the archway, then takes his place beside it, sitting cross-legged and unslinging a sitar from his back. He briefly apologizes, claiming it’s been a while since he played the sitar, and then begins playing.
Abbot Aelius keeps the ceremony relatively short, opening with a brief prayer and quickly offering a renunciation of any previous marriages entered by the two present. They exchange vows — Dhavita about how she didn’t know that a relationship could be like this, Marguerite about how Dhavita’s love freed her — affirm their marriage, and kiss.
Afterward, the feasting begins. As Nobody and Resh commissioned a large amount of food preparation, the feast continues well into the night, even as additional people arrive having heard about the growing party on the edge of town. Headmaster Jepson presents Dhavita and Marguerite with a gift: two red bezoars, or toadstones, to be used as bindi; Dhavita and Marguerite accept them thankfully and adorn them immediately. Dhavita and Marguerite speak to everyone in the crowd, making introductions. Croitus, having apparently heard that wedding gifts are traditional, awkwardly gives the pair a large cooking pot. They accept it graciously, and as he seems lonely, Marguerite asks if he wishes to dance; he declines, saying he is fine by himself. When asked, however, Nobody deigns to dance with Dhavita. Apparently, during the night’s proceedings, the group makes quite an impression on Ianrry Chandler, Captain of the Guard. He notes that if they wish to remain in Duchy Jepson, he might have jobs available for them with the local guard. Resh expresses an interest.
During the proceedings, Nobody makes a point of introducing herself to Vianibrar’s tattooed friend, evidently named Ekaterina.
As Dhavita seems hesitant to leave Marguerite after just getting married, the group agrees to postpone the journey to Vonseloth for a day.
The next morning, everyone awakens to find the tavern serving leftovers, as there seem to be plenty. So that Khuna may spend the day with Marguerite, the others decide to get provisions and horses for the journey tomorrow. Resh, however, does note to Khuna that it seems a bit odd for her to be so emotional about her former slave-master. He admonishes her to tread carefully.
Nobody also runs into Ekaterina, who apologizes for any curtness she may have shown at the wedding when Nobody asked about her tattoos. She received her tattoos from the same source Nobody received some of hers, revealing a large tattoo of a peacock on her back. The adventuring party known as the Shields of the Sorrowfell purchased her freedom in exchange for information she had, and now she works with them. Things are better now, but the past is still something they carry with them.
The rest of the day passes pleasantly.
Meanwhile, back on Harvester 21, Southie rides north. As he rides, he catches sight of a piece of paper stuffed underneath his saddle. Reading it, it appears to be a note from Croitus, indicating that he still wishes to aid Southie’s cause, and that if he returns after their tasks are complete, he will assist him. He stows the note and continues on his ride. While passing through farmland, he is ambushed by a small raiding party of gnolls. Although his dire boar is wounded in the battle, Southie makes short and bloody work of the gnolls, torturing the last to death when he will not reveal the location of his fellows’ camp. He impales two of their severed heads on his boar’s tusks as a decoration, and then rides onward, trying to track the gnolls, concerned that they are threatening Duchy Jepson.
He quickly becomes lost, and camps the night in an unfamiliar field.
The next day, he manages to track the gnolls back to a large encampment containing, perhaps, several dozen. When he finds it difficult to approach without being seen, he leaps into the fray, hoping to kill a couple of gnoll guards before they can raise the alarm.
They are brutally slain, but one summons the others before being killed.
Southie then retreats to a defensible position in the hills. The gnolls, armed with bows, fire volleys of arrows at him, but he manages to find cover. He then charges into the fray, killing a handful of gnolls before catching sight of their chieftain and challenging him. He orders another volley of arrows before charging through the throng to meet Southie. They regard one another, then enter battle.
Although the gnoll chief is a potent warrior and manages to disarm Southie, this prompts Southie to tackle him to the ground and begin biting him, savaging him with his sharpened teeth. A bite to the thigh becomes fatal when it severs the femoral artery.
As the gnoll chief gasps his last, Southie rises and tells the gnolls he is their chief. They are evidently not cowed by his display of force, and shower him with a volley of arrows, which he only narrowly escapes. He retreats to plot his next move.